Rev. Charles Hoffacker
In 1960, Geoffrey Brindley left his job as a machinist to live in a cave in the Yorkshire Dales where, he claimed, he received a message from God. As a result, he dressed in a brown robe and sandals and walked the streets of the northern English city of Bradford come wind, rain, snow, or shine. He spread good cheer with a wave and a smile for everyone he saw. He did this for more than five decades. Most people knew him simply as the “Jesus Man” of Bradford.
Geoffrey made friends all over the city and regularly stopped at homes where his hosts served him a cooked dinner. People recalled stories of his cradling them as babies and singing to them. Later, they would bring their own babies to him.
Such was the affection for the Jesus Man that 23,000 people signed a petition in 2012 asking that he become an Olympic torchbearer. He modestly declined the honor.
When an interviewer asked him why he lived as he did, Brindley replied, “I just like walking.” And whenever it rained, he added, “I get wet.”
Brindley died in 2015 at the age of 88. The news was met with collective sadness. People paid tribute to a “gentle spiritual man.” He was buried from Bradford Cathedral.
There are countless ways to live a holy life, but to be known as the Jesus Man over many years, however it happens, must be a sign of grace.
Rev. Mary McCue
St. Mark (and the other Apostles) are commemorated in the front of our church and in the back. The mural in the front shows him with his symbol, a winged lion. The stained-glass depiction, in the choir loft, pictures him as well. He is called the Evangelist.
We celebrate his feast day today.
St. Mark was probably born around 5 AD in Cyrene. Legend says he was the servant who filled jugs with water that Jesus converted into wine at Cana. Legend also says he was the servant who filled up water jugs for the Last Supper. When Peter escaped from Herod’s confinement after being arrested, Mark served as his interpreter and traveling companion. In that role, scholars hypothesize, he wrote down Peter’s sermons. These served as the basis for the Gospel of Mark, believed to be the first written Gospel.
After he left Peter, he traveled to Alexandra in Egypt. There he founded the
Church of Alexandria, and served as its first Bishop. The Coptic Catholic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church and Greek Orthodox Church all trace
their origins to the Church of Alexandria. He is believed to be responsible for
some of the liturgies still prayed in those churches today.
It is believed that Mark was killed by angry Alexandrians, who feared he was turning the people away from their traditional beliefs. They put a rope around his neck and dragged him until he died. He was interred in Alexandria.
In 828, the relics believed to be his, were stolen and brought to Venice. They were re-interred in what became the Basilica of St. Mark in that city.
Let us give thanks for the life of St. Mark.
Zachary Baker Rodes
Today the Episcopal Church commemorates the life and work of one of 20th century’s most underrated Christian thinkers. Toyohiko Kagawa was born in 1888 and his parents died while he was still quite young and sent away to school by his family where he was taught by an American missionary couple.
He would eventually convert to Christianity, which would lead to his extended family disowning him. He would learn at Kobe Theological Seminary and then Princeton Theological Seminary. Upon returning to Japan, he would settle with his wife, Haru, in the Kobe slums, living among and working with the poor. He became a passionate defender of the poor and women’s suffrage, and a committed pacifist and labor organizer. In 1921, he founded Co-Op Kobe, the largest consumer’s cooperative in the world which still in existence today.
His classic is Brotherhood Economics, in which he lays out his belief in an economic order that transcends capitalism, communism, and fascism. He wrote over 150 books, most of which have not been translated into English. He was nominated for the Noble Prize in Literature in 1947 and 1948 and the Peace Prize in 1954 and 1955. He died on April 23,1960 at the age of 70.
"I read in a book that a man called Christ went about doing good. It is very disconcerting to me that I am so easily satisfied with just going about."
Rev. Charles Hoffacker
Founded in 1977, October Books in Southampton, England calls itself “more than a bookshop.” It sells political and current affairs books, fiction, children’s titles, food, and fair-trade products.
Several years back, the store was struggling to pay increasing rents, so launched a campaign to raise $400,000 to buy an old bank building a short distance down the street in order to have a space of its own. The money came in, some of it from people who had been shopping at October Books for forty years, and the building was purchased.
The store then faced a new challenge: How could its entire stock of books be moved to the new location without spending a lot of money or closing down for long?
October Books put out a call for help. People responded. On a Sunday afternoon in October, over two hundred people formed a line from the old location to the new and passed books from hand to hand, more than two thousand titles. The transfer took one hour.
Those who participated ranged in age from children to what the English call pensioners. Cafes brought cups of tea to the volunteers. Passersby asked what was happening, then took places in the line.
People want to be part of something bigger than themselves, building it through cooperation with others.
Rev. Mary McCue
Alphege (or AElfheah in ancient Saxon) was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a bloody death.
Born around 953, he was first a monk, then an anchorite (one who withdraws from the world to focus on prayer or the Eucharist). He was noted for his piety and austerity. That, and his devotion to St. Dunstan, an Archbishop of Canterbury, brought him to the attention of church authorities.
He was first named Abbott of Bath, then Bishop of Winchester. Named Archbishop of Canterbury in 1006, he maintained his devotion to St. Dunstan, but also launched new liturgical practices and became noted for his dedication to care of his community in a time of political and secular violence. In that, he was like a later Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket.
According to Canterbury Cathedral archives, Becket revered the memory of Alphege, and preached a sermon about him and his example. Alphege was captured by Danish forces in 1011, and Canterbury was plundered and burned. Though ransom was arranged for him, the Danes demanded additional ransom, which Alphege refused to pay. He was then murdered by the Danes in 1012.
Thomas Becket was murdered by soldiers of King Henry II in 1170. Some say he prayed to Alphege while he was being slain. Both slain Archbishops are memorialized in Canterbury Cathedral, where both their bodies are interred.
May they rest in eternal peace.
Zachary Baker Rodes
In today’s Gospel reading from the Daily Office, we read of Luke’s account of John’s ministry immediately preceding the start of Jesus’. As we know, John was also baptizing but the key difference is that only the Messiah will baptize “with (or in as some translations say) the Holy Spirit”. John has simply, as he says, been baptizing people with water.
As we know, water is a cleansing force. We bathe it, we wash things in it, and with the Holy Spirit, we are baptized into a new life in Christ. But that is not all that the Messiah will do. He will also “gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
In this Eastertide, we are ever contemplating what our baptism means to us, for it is the way in which we have died into Christ and then been born also into his Resurrection. While Pentecost is still weeks away, what are we doing now to live into a life that is filled with the Holy Spirit? One that is proclaiming, just like John, the “good news to the people”. My hope and prayer is that you as an individual, and collectively as a community, can further feel the movement of the Spirit in our lives and what that leads us to do as Christians.
Rev. Mary McCue
Zeno of Verona, whose feast day we celebrate today, was a monastic, an educator, a renowned baptizer and a reformer.
He was probably born in the year 300, and probably died about 371 or 380. (Records were not that good back then.) Zeno received a classical education for his time, and first turned his talents into helping children with their schoolwork and throughout his career, found time to continue helping in that way.
Zeno spent years as a monastic before being called to be Bishop of Verona. As a bishop, he baptized many, formed a convent for women, and reformed Agape feast practices. He is also remembered for forbidding groans and wailing at funeral masses.
Though he was persecuted for his beliefs during the reigns of Constantine II and Julian the Apostate, he enjoyed some political support. Emperor Charlemagne and his son Pepin, King of Italy, endowed a basilica he built –widely believed to be first basilica in Christendom.
Today, he is remembered in the Church of San Zeno, built in the twelfth century and refurbished in the thirteenth and early fifteenth centuries. His symbol is a fish, perhaps because he was an avid fisherman throughout his life, who was said to have performed miracles while he was fishing. More likely, the fish is his symbol because of his achievements in baptizing many people.
Rev. Charles Hoffacker
In December 1950, United Nations troops, including United States Marines, were evacuating North Korea. But what about the Korean refugees who were waiting to flee? North Korean troops would certainly view them as American
sympathizers and slaughter them.
Leonard LaRue, captain of the cargo ship SS Meredith Victory was asked if he would help. He did not hesitate to get involved. Without an escort, his ship traveled past enemy submarines and stayed in harbor for thirteen hours. He and his crew of 35 hurried on board 14,000 refugees.
The Meredith Victory still carried its original load of jet fuel. It lacked so much else: food, heat, sanitation facilities, lighting in the holds, mine detection equipment. There was no doctor or interpreter on board. The only weapon available was LaRue’s pistol. Yet the ship made it safely to a small South Korean island in time for Christmas. No one died during this escape. The Meredith Victory adventure remains the largest ever human rescue by a single ship. Among the refugees were the future parents of the current South Korean president Moon Jae-in.
Within a few years, Captain LaRue left the shipping business and entered a Benedictine abbey in New Jersey where he eventually became Br. Marinus. He avoided celebrity status and devoted himself to prayer and service. Br. Marinus died in 2001.
Although usually with much less drama, all of us are given opportunities to impact lives in one way or another. What opportunities will you have to do so today?
Rev. Charles Hoffacker
Today is the Wednesday in Easter Week. The first reading at the Eucharist, Acts 3:1-10, recounts how shortly after Jesus rose from the dead, Peter and John heal a lame man at the Jerusalem temple and publicly declare that Jesus is back. The bystanders are amazed by what is happening.
The authorities quickly arrive and arrest the two disciples on the charge of announcing the resurrection of the crucified criminal Jesus of Nazareth. Peter and John did this both by preaching and by healing a handicapped beggar in his name. They experience pushback. These disciples end up in big trouble for making the world more like God’s kingdom.
When we act as they did, when we do something for the love of Jesus that makes lame people leap and heartbroken folk rejoice, then our intervention, whether fruitful or not, is likely to produce pushback from the powers that be or their front men.
Don’t be surprised when this happens. Expect it.
Above all, don’t let pushback slow you down or turn you around. Remember something Jesus said shortly before his death and resurrection, something he must have said with a smile: “Take courage; I have conquered the world.”
Rev. Mary McCue
Today is Monday in Easter Week. We have just experienced sacred liturgies
commemorating “the lows and the highs” of Jesus Christ’s life on earth, his
death and his resurrection. Now, the legacy of Jesus will start to emerge,
as stories are told and, eventually, written down in the Gospels. It is a time of emerging faith. It is the beginning of Christianity. We heard, in the first reading at the Easter Vigil, the story of Genesis – how God created the world from a formless void veiled in darkness, how light appeared, to rule over the day and the night. How vegetation was created.
And “God saw that it was good.”
These two creation stories are, of course, thousands of years apart in time.
Even so, they are guideposts for us. They show us that God is working
powerfully among us and with us, and creates great things for us –
the Earth. The sky. The plants and fruits. His Son.
Easter is a time of new beginnings. Let us use this time to begin again ourselves, to re-discover our faith, to rejoice in all that God has done for us. Above all, let us rejoice in our Savior, who we have just mourned for and suffered with and triumphed with this past weekend. Let us never lose sight of the light – the light of Jesus.
Thanks be to God.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington