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GLORY, GLORY! What a party!

We had our last night of GLORY for the school year. In two days, the kids will be out for summer vacation, and we wanted to send them out on a high note. We brought in 10 – TEN – large pizzas, banana splits, and watermelon, and then went outside for a glorious time of Flip the Whip!

Don’t know that game? Well, you should! It’s great fun. You put a dab of spray whipped cream on your finger tips, then smack your arm at the elbow to make the blob fly into the air, and then, of course, you try to catch it in your mouth! It was pretty windy tonight, but the kids were game to try and try again!

And then we gave the children fidget spinners and Rubik’s cubes – regular and pyramid shaped – to keep them challenged over the summer.

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Easter Day on the Rosebud …

It was a magnificent Easter on the Rosebud, starting with Sunrise services at Trinity Cemetery in Mission and Holy Innocents Cemetery in Parmelee, followed by services at Church of Jesus, Rosebud; Trinity, Mission; Holy Innocents, Parmelee; Grace Chapel, Soldier Chapel; St. Paul’s, Norris, at Tiwahe ed Wacikiyapi, Norris; and St. Thomas, Corn Creek.

We baptized another 19 people, including one young boy, Kollin (pictured above), who spontaneously decided he wanted to be baptized at Trinity, Mission, and then came to Holy Innocents, Parmelee, to assist in the baptisms of his cousins; one adult; several babies; and several young children.

And then, to make it all the more holy and enjoyable, we blessed the marriage of Twila and Roger, who couldn’t have been more pleased to stand together before the altar of God.

Easter blessings!

• • •

Easter Vigil on the Rosebud …

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Oh, my, we got to kick off Easter with a wonderful Great Vigil that included NINE baptisms and 86 people for a raucous celebration tonight! We welcomed into the household of God Ezra Elise’iana, Aidyn, Kylan, Tiana, Gunner Jr., Julianna, Brandon, and Eli. Welcome, little ones!

• • •

Good Friday on the Rosebud …

Good Friday artworkEvery year, the Rosebud Episcopal Mission participates in the ecumenical Stations of the Cross walk through the town of Mission. This year, there were about 40 or so people who joined together to remember the darkness of this day 2,000 years ago.

Following the 1-mile walk through town, we gathered this day at Christian Life Fellowship, where six of us took turns preaching the Seven Last Sayings of Jesus. Because we only had six preachers, I preached twice – first on Mark 15:34 – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? – and then on Luke 23:46, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Geraldine “Sweetie” Provencial, who at 8:30 this morning posted on Facebook about the tragic loss of her son, Justin Casey “Boo” Provencial one year ago today. These sermons would not have been the same, or had the same impact, without Sweetie’s grief and love.

One sermon in two parts (by The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley) 

Good Friday 2017

Rosebud Ministerial Association

First sermon: Mark 15:34:

At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, Lema sabachthani?

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

We all know this feeling, don’t we?

That feeling of abandonment, of enkataleipō, of having our connection with someone or something separated, of being abandoned, of having someone we love desert us ..,

We’ve felt it right here on this Rez in just the last year …

We heard that cry when little Serenity, all of 11 months old, the child who delighted the nurses and doctors at the Castle with her playfulness and joy and tenacity, lost her fight with leukemia, and we had to bury her tiny body …

We heard that cry when Justin, known to his family as Boo, died with his friend Trey in a car accident not a mile from Boo’s home, and was found by his own father …

We heard that cry when Little Cesaer, not yet 4 years old, was mistakenly run over and killed by his mother, who was going to the store to get more fireworks for her children, and did not know that her baby boy had scooted out the door and was running around the back of the car to get to his normal spot in the back seat …

We heard that cry a few weeks later, when news swept across this Rez of the terrifying accident in Corn Creek that killed Kayden and Bryer and Jenna and Katie and Jordyn, and left Hunter and little Payton critically injured …

We heard that cry when Babe … and TJ … and Kari … and Jewels … and Alvin … and Billy … and Terry … and so many others lost their lives to the dreaded disease of suicide …

We heard that cry when Lucas’ family finally found him after searching for seven days, with no answers yet as to what really happened …

Every single one of those cries has been like Jesus’ – a boaō of desperation and deep, soul-splitting anguish …

We have heard those cries, and we have issued those cries ourselves …

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

Jesus’ boaō – his use of Eloi instead of Abba – these are cries of desperation that enable us to catch the tiniest glimpse of what it must have cost Jesus to die for our sins,(1) to die for us.

It cost him not just the physical pain, but for at least a little while, a total separation, a total  abandonment by God. And that separation, that abandonment? It teaches us something about how much the Father and Son love us – so much that they are willing to sever for a time their love for each other(2) in order to demonstrate their love for us.

Yes, we know this cry of abandonment. We know this cry of desperation. We know this feeling of desertion.

In our moments of deepest despair, we, too, hurl forth our boaō, we, too, live with the pain of separation …

I ask you to listen to the words of Sweetie Provencial, who lost her son Boo a year ago this morning, and who just a few hours ago wrote:

A year ago today was the last time I would hear my son say “By mama, mommy, mother, mom..(he sure had a way with words)… he copied that little man on a TV show that stars as a baby but is an adult – it was an annoying voice, lol! Justin always imitated different characters, even Pee Wee Herman’s laugh. He would do that while tapping my shoulder and stand right by me. God took Justin from us. Justin was a special person on this earth to so many people. He was 23 years old; he was still learning and living. I asked God why; I did fall to my knees. My son, the pain is like no other that I felt in my entire life. I can tell you one thing, (one) sure thing though, when I cried in sorrow, asking God why and where my son was, if he was in God’s hands – I’m a mother, it’s what we do for our children …. At the time, I was in the deepest sorrow. I saw my son laying there at the funeral home. It was unbearable, I was numb, [I] couldn’t even talk; the lump in my throat was like a ball of fire. I asked God again, so many why’s and where’s …

In that moment, Sweetie, like so many others, knew exactly what Jesus felt on the cross, that enkataleipō, that total separation … Like Jesus, she, like so many others, issued the same boaō …

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

(Silence)

• • •

Second sermon: Luke 23:46:

Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

There is no boaō here, not in Luke’s Gospel. Instead, Jesus’ “loud voice” is megale, meaning “great” or “huge,” in the widest sense.(3) This is not a cry of despair, as we found in Mark’s Gospel – this is a deliberate act to make sure that all who had ears to hear heard this cry … a cry of determined faith.

And there is no Eloi here, no formal “My God” spoken from the distance of desertion and abandonment. No, in Luke’s Gospel, we hear Jesus use the familiar term for Father; we hear Abba, a term of love, a term of trust. Mark’s cry of desperation is replaced in Luke with the intimacy which shows that no matter how bleak the moment, death is no out-of-control enemy slaying Jesus, because Jesus  knows his Father is present with him(4)

And with that knowledge, Jesus is able to paratithēmi – to entrust to someone for safekeeping, … especially to “entrust someone to the care or protection of”(5) his whole life, his flesh, his very Incarnation.

In doing so, he surrenders literally what he has prayed daily: From Psalm 31, “Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth.”

As a devout Jew, Jesus is able to let go of the pneuma, the breath of God that inspired him at birth. He has prayed these words every day at the end of each day. Now he prays them at the end of his life – his physical life – in order to begin the rest of his life., the Life that the Father has to offer in his own presence.

Whereas in Mark we heard desperation, in Luke we hear determination. In the former, we are abandoned. In the latter, we are reassured.

In the latter, we hear the promise of life everlasting … the promise that God is not only with us in this life, but that we will be with God for the rest of our lives.

Listen again to the words of Sweetie Provencial, to the rest of her story on the day Boo died:

I asked God again, so many why’s and where’s … at that same moment, the funeral director came straight towards me and pulled me aside. She says, “Here, this was in his front left pants pocket.” I [saw] it was a crucifix with a few of the beads. For me, that was a direct answer from God: My son is with God and all who already passed on. [A]t that moment, all I felt was peace and calm. I think about that moment all the time – that is how I have been getting through this sorrow of grief. I miss my son; we feel a great emptiness. He was one of a kind; he will be in my heart forever. Not one day goes by that I don’t think of him. We will all meet up again, I know we will. Say a prayer for my son today, Justin Casey Provencial (RIP). Forever in our hearts and memories. My son….

On Good Friday … especially on that first Good Friday, the one that occurred about 3 in the afternoon, outside the gates of Jerusalem, about 2,000 years ago … we are not yet supposed to know the rest of the story. We are not supposed to know – yet – about Easter.

But we do know this:

We can entrust ourselves to God, we can paratithēmi everything we have and everything we are …

Because we are not alone. We are never alone.

Amen.

(1) Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, http://www.jesuswalk.com/7-last-words/4_forsaken.htm

(2) Ibid.

(3) http://ww.jesuswalk.com/7-last-words/7_commit.htm

(4) Ibid.

(5) Ibid.

Stations of the Cross Walk in Mission on Good Friday 2017

• • •

• • •

Good Friday Liturgy with Stations of the Cross @ Trinity, Mission

• • •

We cannot look away. Do NOT look away.

A sermon preached on John 19:1-42

by The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley at Trinity Episcopal Church, Mission

In the past few weeks – heck, in the past few days – we have, once again, seen the darkness that threatens to overcome the light that has come into the world.

We have seen innocent families with their innocent children poisoned in the middle of the night – by their own leader.

We have seen cruise missiles launched – in the middle of the night – as a show of strength.

We have seen barrel bombs dropped on innocents, and regular bombs dropped on hospitals.

We have seen men drive trucks into crowds of innocent people.

We have innocent allied troops mistakenly killed by their own innocent allies … this not once, but at least twice.

We have seen our Coptic sisters and brothers in Christ slaughtered by bombs as they worshipped in Egypt on Palm Sunday.

We have seen yet another school shooting, with an innocent teacher gunned down by her estranged husband, and an innocent child who struggled with joy to overcome a rare disease killed because he happened to be standing near the teacher, and another innocent child severely wounded because he also was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We have seen the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat – on Maundy Thursday.

We have seen a young British woman stabbed to death on this very day in Jerusalem by a young Palestinian man whom authorities said was mentally unstable, but whom the Israeli government has labeled a terrorist.

We have seen threats made – by all sides – that could result in war – unimaginable nuclear war.

We have been warned that because a drug that was never supposed to be in the hands of a state government is about to expire, the state of Arkansas is planning to put six men to death by the end of this month.

And today, we have seen – yet again – an innocent put to death by the state, cheered on by crowds that only a few days ago proclaimed this innocent man to be the new and long-prayed-for King, betrayed by one who was his own follower, deserted by those who claimed to be his closest friends, all because his message of love was seen as a threat to all the powers that were.

We have seen, and are told we will continue to see, darkness in the world.south-dakota-country-side-sunset-chrystene-anderson

Good Friday is good, we are told, because Jesus was willing to – and did – die for us.

But with all the darkness in the world, and all the darkness that threatens to come, it can be hard to believe that.

In the beginning, the Apostle John tells us that darkness could not overcome the light that came into the world in the incarnate being of Jesus, Son of God.

And yet, here we are, on the Friday called Good, nearly overwhelmed by all the darkness that surrounds us.

Yes, what came into being was life, and the life was the light of all people.

But there are days – and this is one of them – when the light seems only to flicker, and even to go out.

As columnist Michael Gerson wrote in today’s Washington Post,

Consider how the world appeared at the finish of Good Friday. It would have seem that every source of order, justice and comfort – politics, institutional religion, the community, friendship – had been discredited. It was the cynic’s finest hour. And God Himself seemed absent or unmoved, turning cynicism toward nihilism. Every ember of human hope was cold. And there was nothing to be done about it.(1)

With all this darkness in the world, it is easy – far too easy – to simply look away. To pretend the greater world does not exist, to hunker down with our tiospaye, with our oyate, and refuse to even feel anymore, to even look any more, at the world about us.

We are so close to being totally overwhelmed by the darkness of the world that we are like ostriches, sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that by doing so, no one will notice our great big butts sticking out for all the world to see.

Darkness descends.

And we want to hide away, to look away, to pretend that it isn’t so.

But on this day – on this day – we cannot look away.

For if we look away today, we will miss the ultimate sacrifice of one innocent man, the sacrifice that through death gives us life.

To be clear: Jesus’ whole life is an atoning sacrifice. The cross simply crystallizes that for us.(2) Sacrifice, as Bishop Jake Owensby writes, is not just the blood penalty required to satisfy God’s sense of justice. It is also a freely given, deliberate offering.(3) And Jesus offered his whole life – every moment of it – freely and deliberately. By preaching and teaching. By healing. By giving food to the hungry and water to the thirsty and sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf and a voice to the mute, by making the lame leap for joy and the dead rise again.

And because Jesus offered his whole life to us – and then literally his actual life – we cannot look away. We cannot put our heads in the sand. We cannot pretend the rest of the world is not out there, suffering from the darkness that threatens to overwhelm them.

We cannot say, We will look at the cross on which God’s sun hung, but we will not look at the world in which God’s children suffer.

For the suffering of Jesus – agonizing, extreme, and yet freely given – is what binds Jesus to us and us to Jesus. Jesus, whom we proclaim as Lord and Savior, did not look away from the darkness of the world in which he lived and moved and had his being.

Which means we cannot look away from the darkness of the world in which we live and move and have our being.

We. Can. Not. Look. Away.

Not today.

Not ever.

(1) Michael Gerson, What Good Friday teaches us about cynicism, Washington Post, 14 April 2017

(2) Jake Owensby, Refusing to Keep a Safe Distance, jakeowensby.com.

(3) Ibid.

• • •

Maundy Thursday on the Rosebud …

On this night, Jesus had his last meal with his disciples, and then was betrayed, arrested, and tried by the Jewish leaders who feared him so much.

But first, he washed the feet of his disciples and gave us his new commandment: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

So that’s what we did: We washed each other’s feet.

And we talked about love.

Maundy Thursday 2017, Sermon by The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 

When I lived and served in Sudan, we knew the situation – the brand-new peace that ended a 23-year war – was deteriorating. We knew that the peace the people had prayed for and worked for and fought for was in danger of ending, that it was so fragile that the slightest little bump in the road would shatter that peace in nothing flat.

Now, I didn’t get to stay in Sudan continuously for four years. The government of the United States had labeled the government of Sudan a “state sponsor of terrorism” – which meant the two governments were enemies, and that my time was very circumscribed. I was under watch continuously by the Sudanese government, and was thrown out every three months, simply because I was a white, female, American, Christian priest – I had five strikes against me before I even set foot in that faraway land.

So, on one of my many trips to the United States, as a relatively realistic person, I knew that I needed to take care of some things before I continued my service in Sudan. And one of those things was my funeral. I was not being morbid; I was being realistic, because dying in Sudan was actually not that unlikely, given the high rates of disease (and I’ve had some doozies!), or of getting hit by a wild driver (if you think we have bad drivers here, go to Sudan, where the rules are something like this: If you are a pedestrian, you have the right of way, and drivers need to stop. If you are a driver, you have the right of way, and to heck with pedestrians – get out of the way!). Or of driving along one of the four paved roads in all of South Sudan at an incredible rate of speed and hitting a goat (bad), a donkey (worse) or a camel (really, really, really bad, often fatal to both the camel and the driver).

So I knew I neeed to plan my own funeral, the service that *I* wanted. So I did. I planned, and consulted, and read Scriptures, and looked over the prayers, and tried out various hymns, and looked for preludes and postludes, and wrote down the dismissal I wanted use (it’s in Arabic, by the way …).

Now, when you are planning a funeral, you can look right in the prayer book, and it will show you exactly which Scriptures to use, Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament and Gospel.

But you know me, heaven forfend that I should follow all the rules. I know the rubrics, the instructions, in the prayer book. And I know for a fact that I do not have to use one of those Scriptures. And I didn’t want to use any of them.

So I chose another Gospel …

I chose tonight’s Gospel:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

Because that’s how I want to be remembered. I want to be remembered as someone who – at the very least – tried to love.

And not just any love.

But Jesus’ love … the kind that is right up to the point of death. Right up to the point of laying down my life for you …

That was the message I wanted conveyed, should I die in Sudan … that I had tried to love, even when loving was not a safe thing to do.

Because I am convinced, to the depths of my being, that when we come face to face with God, in that moment when we transition from this life to the rest of our lives, there will be only one question that God will ask:

Did you love?

I don’t believe that God cares one whit about anything else. I believe that God cares only that we love.

My prayer is that I will be able to reply, “Lord, I tried.”

I want to be able to say, and to explain if need be, that I tried to love, even in those moments when I did not want to love.

And I want to be able to admit, “Screwed up lots of times, Lord. Sometimes by accident, sometimes by default, sometimes, even, I am ashamed to admit, deliberately. Sometimes, I got in my own way, and sometimes my own way got in the way.”

And what do I hope to hear in return? What do I desperately hope to hear in reply?

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Whether I deserve it or not, that’s what I want to hear.

Jesus laid down a new commandment: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.

It’s not easy, this kind of loving, because it means we have to love someone even to the point of death … of our death.

But Jesus was clear: This is a commandment. This is not a suggestion. It’s a commandment!

And this, my friends, is what I strive to do. However imperfectly, however poorly, it is my goal. Every single day.

As we begin our time of foot-washing and bread-breaking and wine-drinking, of a shared meal around the table, of betrayal and arrest and torture and condemnation and crucifixion and finally, the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I ask you … I beg you … I implore you:

Love one another.

Even as Jesus loved us.

Right up to the point of dying for each other. Amen.

• • • 

It’s almost mission team time!

Soon and very soon, we’re going to have mission teams … lots of mission teams … arriving here on the Rosebud. These groups come from all over the United States, determined to learn about the Lakota culture, to build relationships, and to help. Sometimes, the groups hold Bible camps. Sometimes, they work like crazy on our projects all over the Rosebud.

Whatever they do, they bless us with their presence, their joy, their willingness to learn and play, and their work.

For a foretaste of what they will be doing this summer, take a look at last year’s great and glorious work.

We worked on our baseball field at the Bishop Hare Center so that the Boys & Girls Club ball teams could have a safe place to play, on a good field …

We ran several Bible camps, also known as Sports & Arts camps, where our children walked on water, planted flowers with seed balls, played, painted faces, worshiped, ran around and enjoyed meeting people from all over the country …

Our teams worked on nearly every single church on the Rosebud West: St. Thomas, Corn Creek; Holy Innocents, Parmelee; Tiwahe ed Wacikiyapi, Norris; Church of Jesus, Rosebud; St. Paul’s, Norris; Grace Chapel, Soldier Creek; and Trinity, Mission. Our teams scraped, painted, fixed roofs, played with snakes, and fixed floors. By the end of the summer, all of our churches had been spiffed up, thanks to hard workers!

For nearly four weeks, nine teams worked with Danny Gangone to re-side two trailers belonging to an elder in Mission. It was quite the job, more than we planned on, but through hard work and perseverance, Mary Haukaas and her family have spruced up trailers to live in!

We partnered with the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s Society, the women’s shelter on the Rosebud, to make their grounds and buildings more beautiful so that the women and children living here know that someone cares for them. The job required a lot of fence painting, building a peace garden and a pergola, painting rooms, and cleaning up the playground for the children. Nine different teams worked at the shelter in order to share hope and love with those who desperately need both.

When a hail storm hit late one evening, our mission team was right there to help Senior Catechist Erroll Geboe handle the damage to his house. We only needed a few volunteers to suit up and head out in the rain, but suddenly, the whole team was in the shed, gathering materials and ready to help. Big thanks also go to Sandy Tucker at Ace Hardware, who re-opened Ace just to allow us to buy more supplies.

And then there was the firewood … lots and lots and lots of firewood. Our #FirewoodfortheElders Program has been a smashing success. Every single group that comes to the Rosebud learn to cut wood to keep our elders and children warm during out extremely cold winters. Last summer, we managed to cut more 10 cords of wood … which lasted until December. Since then, we have cut another 30 cords of wood, and given away a total of 23 of those cords.

Following a tragic accident that took the lives of five of our young people, and seriously injured a teen-ager and a small child, two of our teams came together to help us hold a Vigil for the Rosebud Reservation community, which was in shock. In less than 24 hours, our teams designed, built and painted cross boxes for the accident victims; made candles for the Vigil; gathered everything we needed to comfort the community; set up the Todd County High School football field; and cared for the 600 community members who showed up to grieve together. These two teams, from St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Barnstable, Mass., and Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans, worked hard to comfort all of us who were so deeply grieving …

After the Vigil, in between all the other work we do, we held our Fourth Annual Children’s Festival, a four-hour party to bring joy and games and food and gifts to the children of the Rosebud. Once again, we had hundreds of children show up …