Rev. Peggy  McDonagh
April 24, 2019
Rev. Peggy McDonagh
Minister of Congregational Operations and Worship

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The Journey from Lent to Easter Sunday at SDUC

Rev. Peggy McDonagh, along with Ministry of Families, Alison Demeter, and music director, Brent Tucker, guided St. Davidians through a journey from the shared Passover meal on Maundy Thursday to a service filled with hope and celebration on Easter Sunday. 


On Thursday evening, tables for four were set up in Robertson Hall with a communion table set set in one corner. We each had a votive candle at our place setting along with the words written by Rev. Peggy to a familiar hymn tune. At our table as well were slices of special bread and a glass of juice. At table, we celebrated communion before sharing our potluck supper. From the other three corners of the room, Rev. Peggy, Alison and Brent retold the story of Jesus' passover supper with his disciples. After a delicious feast, we gathered once more around the communion table with our votive candles and, in closing, they were extinguished. The Passion had begun.

Friday morning service found the combined choirs singing from the balcony in what was to be a reverent remembering of Jesus' crucifixion. "This day, we remember Jesus, a man with extraordinary compassion and wisdom; a man with a passion for justice and truth. We remember how a Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem set in motion a series of events that would change the life of his followers." As the story continued, Alison and Rev. Peggy took part in a dialogue that included us as we considered what it meant to follow Jesus to the cross and to reflect on "the systemic injustice of our time, to countries under brutal regimes, corrupt government authorities, to fear tactics used by the powerful and the brokenness of humanity."

"Today, we remember Jesus' courage as we walk with him to the foot of the cross." 

The choirs, singing a cappella, shared their ministry, asking, Were You There? and the service continued. First, the lighting of the candles of Lent and the Christ Candle, then the hymn, O God We call, then a monologue entitled, "A Follower Remembers," reliving a first hand witness to the "special love Jesus (had) for the ill, the blind, the leper, the tax collector, women and children. No barrier stop (ped) his compassion... His actions (taught) us about God's love, acceptance and equality." 

Individuals were invited to join Alison at the front of the circle and from there, they were guided through the Stations of the Cross. As the story was told, an eye witness account was shared with those of us who followed from our seats. The chancel floor was empty and moving in a progression through the Stations, we moved from "Jesus is condemned to Death" to "Jesus Accepts the Cross" to "Jesus Falls the First Time" to "Jesus meets his Mother" to "Simon Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross" to "Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus" to "Jesus Falls the Second Time" to "Jesus is Crucified" and the "Last Words of Jesus." 

We heard the pounding of nails as:

Some watched him nailed and lifted.

Jesus saw his Teacher and Friend gasp in agony.

Jesus has been betrayed by many who know the faithful way but are afraid of the consequences of following that way.

The soldiers taunt and jeer him. They do not even know him. Instead they enjoy the entertainment, watching with amusement the suffering, crying women.

Jesus' body tremors with searing, shocking pain. His breath constricted. Then Silence: Yet through the pain, Jesus speaks:

The Bell Tolls:

"Abba, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

One by one the lenten candles are extinguished.

"Woman, here is your son." To the disciple, "Here is your mother."

Truly, I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise."

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

"I am thirsty." 

"It is finished."

"Abba, into your hands I commend my spirit."

We know, "Life must win!" and that love lives on. It is this never-failing hope in the power of love that makes this Friday good. As we wait through Holy Saturday to celebration the birth of new life of Easter, we leave with love engraved on our hearts. Amen. 

As we remained seated, Kerry, Alison and Christy sang Calvary's Love.


No longer seated in the round, we gathered as the Easter morning orchestra played the first three movements of Organ Concerto in B flat Major (Handel) then once more listened to the trio of Kerry, Alison and Christy. 

"The Resurrection"
16:1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought aromatic spices1 so that they might go and anoint him. 16:2 And very early on the first day of the week, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 16:3 They had been asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 16:4 But2 when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled back. 16:5 Then3 as they went into the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe4 sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 16:6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.5 He has been raised!6 He is not here. Look, there is the place where they laid him.”

Excerpt From: Biblical Studies Press. “NET Bible.” Apple Books.

The orchestra, combined choirs, congregational singing of Messiah (Handel), many little ones for Faith Chat learning about the miracle of dry seeds planted and becoming sprouts and reflections filled with hope and love, we welcomed the new day and season of the church year.

"Easter is about Endings, Beginnings and Hope." 

Mary grieves Jesus' death and what seems to be an ending, however it is a new beginning. Our lives are made up of endings and beginnings. To Paul, Jesus' death led to a transforming power in his life. The festival of Easter to early Christians was the acknowledgement of Jesus' way - a new beginning.

Easter is about Hope. We live in violent times - Sri Lanka bombings, Venezuela civil uprising, Pope Francis' Easter message, but the hope of Spring - new dandelions bring a message of rebirth, of hope. All can be good again. A quote by Lilja Rogers, so short but so powerful was shared by Rev. Peggy in her Reflection: 

First a howling blizzard woke us, / Then the rain came down to soak us, /  

And now before the eye can focus – / Crocus.

Then another. This time a quote of Jack Layton (2011): 

"Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.

So, let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.

Rev. Peggy introduced her initial reflection, entitled, "Easter is about endings" by sharing a poem, written by Ronald Rolheiser, OMI.

Mary Magdala’s Easter Prayer

I never suspected


                        and to be so painful

                        to leave me weeping

With Joy

            to have met you, alive and smiling, outside an empty tomb

With Regret

            not because I’ve lost you

            but because I’ve lost you in how I had you –

                        in understandable, touchable, kissable, clingable flesh

                        not as fully Lord, but as graspably human.

I want to cling, despite your protest

            cling to your body

            cling to your, and my, clingable humanity

            cling to what we had, our past.

But I know that…if I cling

            you cannot ascend and

            I will be left clinging to your former self

            …unable to receive your present spirit.

Her second Reflection following the anthem - Forever We Sing Hallelujah (arr. Heather Sorenson) - was entitled "Easter is About New Beginnings and Hope..." Conclusions reached are that life is worthwhile. Loving, peace seeking, gentle optimism changes the world. Listen... sun, seeds, spring... seeds within us break open.

Live fully and deeply in the garden of your heart.