Saturday, May 1, 2021

5 Easter Yr B May 2 2021

 5 Easter Yr B May 2 2021

Acts 8:26-40, 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8, Psalm 22:24-30


What an amazing passage from John. This is filled with good news, promise, and such encouragement in difficult times. There is so much to consider, and all of it is based on the fundamental claim of the intimate relationship Jesus has with his followers, and the promise that we are intertwined, never left to wither. 


A branch cannot live by itself, apart from the vine. We cannot untwine ourselves from Jesus, there is no separateness, no vine apart from the branch. We are intertwined. The word that John uses is meno, a Greek word translated abide, or sometimes dwell. This is the primary designation of relationship in John’s gospel. This is the fundamental claim of the intimate relationship we have with Jesus. This is one of John’s themes. And it is the promise of what Jesus is leaving with the disciples, never severed, never to go away. 


This is a symbiotic relationship. The closest I can come to trying to understand, and remember all metaphors will fail eventually, is pregnancy. When I was pregnant with Tom, my firstborn, my doctor was telling me about eating. I must have been worried about something, now I don’t even remember what. He said, the baby is a parasite, it will take its nourishment from whatever I eat. I’m not sure I appreciated his using parasite, but I do appreciate the intimate relationship between mother and baby in the womb. 


What happens during this miraculous process? Science tells us that within the mother’s womb the placenta transfers oxygen and food from the blood of the mother to the blood of the embryo. Reversely, it transfers waste materials from the embryo to the mother. The fetus does not have to breathe or eat because the oxygen and food it needs is brought to it via the placenta. This new life uses the mother’s lungs, digestive organs and kidneys to sustain it during development.


As I think of how God devised such a beautiful and intimate connection, I realize that the message of the vine and the branches is also one of incomparable intimacy. It paints a picture of a symbiotic relationship. Symbiotic simply means life together—a life that Jesus wants to share with all of us, those who walk the way of love. Listen to the way Eugene Peterson in The Message translates this, I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.


Another really amazing phrase in this passage is the I am statement. We have heard I am statements in the Old Testament, when Moses asks God’s name, God’s response I AM. John uses a number of I AM statements, all followed by a predicate nominative, do you remember that from your high school grammar class? I am followed by the shepherd, the bread, the light, a path, a gate. But this one is different, Jesus adds another clause this time, and you are the branches. Not only do we hear another I am, the culmination of all the I am’s that precede it, but this time we hear who we are as well. You are the branches. The symbiotic relationship is complete, fulfilled, and aspirational. 


So first of all, being connected makes following Jesus, and the claim on our lives to love, conceivable and probable. Loving one another and loving our enemies is possible because of this symbiotic relationship. We are not alone, we don’t love alone, because of this relationship loving is possible. So what about the part that says “apart from me, you can do nothing.” Hear this as a statement of affirmation. This verse challenges our sense of being self-made men and women in the world. And yet… maybe after a year of pandemic and racial reckoning and political paralysis, maybe this is the year we can hear that affirmation more accurately and with fresh appreciation. Embedded in these words is a promise. It is precisely because everything we do depends on Jesus that we can count on doing something meaningful. Jesus’ words here remind us that it’s not up to us. It never was. It never will be. Thanks be to God. And Jesus’ words here remind us that it is the connectedness that supports, affirms, and empowers us to do the work that God calls us to do.


And secondly, it is this symbiotic relationship that makes it possible for the disciples to carry on after Jesus dies, is resurrected, and ascends. It is this symbiotic relationship that makes it possible for you and me to carry on after the trauma, the grief, the displacement, the chaos that is present in our lives most especially now, but really, always. This symbiotic relationship means that we do not wither, in fact, we may bear fruit, give birth.


Remember, by declaring their allegiance to Jesus by following him, Jesus’ followers have been thrown out of the synagogue, maybe even their families. They have been kicked to the curb, relegated to the margins. So this relationship that John describes, this intimate, intertwined and connected relationship, comes to Jesus’ followers as a promise in a very difficult time. Do not be afraid, connected to the vine you will have life. 


But what’s more, because you and I have read to the end of John’s gospel, we know that Jesus leaves another advocate, whom we call the Holy Spirit. This is grace upon grace, when Jesus leaves, the disciples will not be left alone. They are part of the vine, intimately related, having abundant life, bearing fruit. We are not left alone, and we are in this together.


Bearing fruit means engaging for ourselves as individuals and as the church in those activities and tasks that recognize and invest in the goodness of God’s love by spreading that love to the neighbor whom we are called to love. The specifics of bearing fruit, what that love actually looks like is varied. Sometimes it is taking part in already vibrant community ministries, sometimes it is creating something new, sometimes it is quiet and contemplative. But what is most important and what this symbiotic metaphor shows us is that we are not self-made. We are individuals, yes, but the reality of the Christian life is that all that we are and all that we have are as a result of the abiding grace of God. 


It is such a wonderful image, isn’t it? Being intertwined with Jesus in this way. And yet, it implies a claim, a moral imperative. Bearing fruit, co-conspiring with Jesus to love flows from this relationship. Go out and be love. It’s already possible, we don’t have to conjure something up, we have to go out and do the love that is already present. And that is Good News. Thanks be to God. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

4 Easter Yr B April 25 2021

4 Easter Yr B April 25 2021

Acts 4:5-12, 1 John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18, Psalm 23


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. The words of this 23rd Psalm may be the most familiar words in the bible. The image of Jesus the Good Shepherd may be the most familiar image in the bible. It is depicted in artwork and in music and in beloved stained glass. We describe congregations as flocks, we describe pastors as shepherds. It isn't the only image of Jesus, but it may be the most comfortable. However, Jesus is also the bread, the light, a path, a gate, a vine. No matter how beloved, the Good Shepherd image is one among many that John presents to us.


Each one of the images that is presented to us about who Jesus is, the shepherd, the bread, the light, a path, a gate, a vine reveals something about the fullness and the wholeness and the extent of Jesus' invitation into the reality of the gift of God's love, the gift of God in our midst. Each of these images invites us in a different sort of way into how we might be related, how we might be in relationship, and what that trust is like and what it is about. This image we have before us today, this image of the Good Shepherd, helps us to see the fullness of God's investment in God's project of calling all people to God's self. We have in this story comfort and trust and guidance and we are called by name.


Hear the sound of your name as the one you love speaks it. Hear the sound of your name when your best friend in all the world is on the other end of the phone. Remember the sound of your name when your mom called you for dinner, or maybe used your entire name when you did something you shouldn’t have done, KATHLEEN ANN MONSON, or when she sang you to sleep at night. Even remember the sound of your name when used in anger, or in fear, KATHY, get out of the street! Or when your beloved calls out to you. When you hear your name like this, you know the one who is speaking it knows who you are. They’ve known you forever, they knew you before you were born, they’ve expected your homecoming, they named you, they love you. 


Hear the sound of your name as this one who loves you speaks it. You were called into being before you were born. Your name was spoken at your baptism. You are called to be the person you were created to be, the minister you were created to be. Kathy, follow me, you’ll be fed at green pastures and by still waters, I will guide you along right pathways, and be by your side through the valley of the shadow of death. I will feed you and fill you. You have been anointed for the work I call you to do. 


Who is this Good Shepherd that we follow? What makes the Good Shepherd good? For that we need to look at another story, the one that precedes this Good Shepherd story in John. Remember, location, location, location. It is what precedes the Good Shepherd story that tells us who this Good Shepherd is. In the story of the man born blind we have the sign that points us to the Good Shepherd. Jesus heals the man born blind. It’s an unprecedented miracle. And if that’s not enough, it is also an invitation to the possibilities of abundant life, as are all the signs in John. You have heard me speak of the themes in the gospel of John, and here is another one, grace upon grace. The granting of sight sign is grace, and what it signifies is grace upon grace. This man born blind has literally been in the dark, and now is in the light. The man born blind has moved from unbelief to belief. The blind man listens to Jesus’ voice and follows Jesus’ direction. The blind man first hears Jesus, just as Jesus’ sheep hear the shepherd’s voice.


And what happens to the man born blind once he is no longer blind? He is thrown to the curb, cast aside, marginalized, and Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls to him, just as he calls to us, just as he calls to each and every one of God’s beloveds. That’s what makes the Good Shepherd good, no one is outside the Good Shepherd’s embrace. 


Jesus is the shepherd, calling my name, calling your name. Come, come with me, walk with me into this amazing place, run into my arms, into my embrace, this place of love, this place of life. Jesus says “I am the door, come through this door, here is a place of protection, of nurture, of sustenance, this is a place created for you.” And when our eyes are opened, when we hear and recognize the voice of the one who creates us, and comes to be with us, and loves us, we run through that door. 


And what’s more, is that Jesus does this again, and again, Jesus calls his followers by name, but not just you and me, Lazarus as well. You remember, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Jesus arrived at the tomb of his friend, and Jesus wept, and Jesus called to Lazarus, Lazarus, come out! In hearing his name, Lazarus came out, and was unbound, set free. Lazarus, the one who was dead, is now alive. 


But not even just you and me and Lazarus, Mary as well. Mary stood weeping at Jesus’ tomb. She bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, sitting where Jesus should have been. She did not know where Jesus had been taken. 


She turned around and Jesus was standing there, but she didn’t know him, she thought he was the gardener. Until he spoke to her, until he called her name, Mary! She turned and saw him, teacher! Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” I have seen the Lord!


Lazarus lives! 


Mary proclaims!


We hear Jesus call our name, we recognize Jesus is the door through which we too can see God’s presence with us, making us into a beloved being. Giving us sight that enables us to see Jesus in our midst, in ourselves, in one another. Giving us sight that enables us to proclaim, like Mary, I have seen the Lord!


And what’s more, what’s even more over the top, more abundant, more amazing, is that Jesus, the door into God’s embrace, God’s love, is not exclusive or judging. This not about keeping people out, this is Jesus inviting people into new life, abundant life. “I am the door” is to invite people in, to recognize God in the flesh that is Jesus’ new and abundant life. To hear the voice of the shepherd, to walk through the door that is open, is to follow Jesus into Life, abundant life. Life in the here and now and life eternal in the resurrection. Life in the here and now and life even when Jesus leaves us. You are enough, see Jesus, recognize Jesus is God with us, walk through the door, and receive life, abundant life. 


Jesus is the gate. And every sheep, everyone, is welcome. There is no priority of worth in God’s kingdom. All of us, those who are in pain, grief; those who are just messed up; those whose lives are just fine; those who need more and those who have all they need; those who just can’t believe. You, you are welcome, Jesus is the gate, Jesus is the shepherd, Jesus is the love that wins. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

3 Easter Yr B April 18 2021

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3 Easter Yr B April 18 2021

Acts 3:12-19, 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36b-48, Psalm 4


When my kids were little boys, we would love to go to the Science Museum in St. Paul, MN. It was a great museum because you could touch and feel everything. I suppose that means it is designed for kids, but I’ve always liked it too. There would be boxes that you would put your hand into and touch whatever thing was in it and try to figure out what it was. Was it soft or hard, hairy or smooth, round, square, oddly shaped, squishy, slimy, all of these were important questions to figuring it out. You can’t really learn much about anything, whether it’s an animal, or a fossil, or even a person, without really encountering it. Just standing back and looking at stuff not only is boring but doesn’t really register because you haven’t accessed all the important learning centers, like touch, smell, taste etc. Jesus seemed to know all this.


This story begins that day of resurrection, two of the disciples were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was, not until they invited Jesus to stay with them, and as they were sitting down to their meal, Jesus took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And they recognized him. Our Eucharistic Prayer C repeats this refrain, we say “Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread.”


Be known to us in the breaking of the bread. Jesus’ appearance in this story at the end of Luke, his words touch and see, even having a little fish snack, should bring us right back to the meals Jesus shared with his friends, he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Appearing to his friends like this, after they watched him die, after they watched him being taken down from the cross, after they watched him being laid in the tomb, must have been so much more than shocking. They thought what they were seeing was an apparition. And Jesus had to show them that he wasn’t a ghost, but that he really was Jesus. So he reminds them of what they did together, he reminds them of the meals they shared, he reminds them that each time they bake the bread, each time they combine the wheat, the water, the yeast, each time they smell the bread baking, each time they bless it and break it, they are to remember. This is how we remember our loved ones, isn’t it? We remember the time we spent together, the things we did, the touch and the smells. Touch and see. Smell and feel. Remember who you are. 


Resurrection and resuscitation are not the same thing. This is Jesus that these followers are feeding. It is not a ghost, and it is not some sort of resuscitated Jesus, a Jesus who narrowly escaped a horrific death. This is the resurrected Jesus, the promise and fulfillment of God as revealed in the story of God’s activity in the life of God’s people. We are shocked and surprised. We wish to believe and yet are wary of belief.


Touch and see; the truth is in front of our eyes if only we put ourselves aside and see it. The truth is in living each and every day. The truth is in the seeds that must be buried in the ground and be created new before they can erupt from the ground to become the wheat that becomes the flour that becomes the bread that becomes the body of Jesus broken for us. The truth is in the transformation of a broken body into a healed body, not a perfect body. The truth is in a life lived in pain and sadness with the constant striving to acquire and have, and the transformation of that life into a life in service to others.


God has begun the new creation in Jesus. God has inaugurated all that God has promised 

with the resurrection of Jesus. You and I then are participants in the new creation, or the Kingdom of God. There is a moral dimension to resurrection, and it is not about being good in order to go to heaven. If we are in fact re-membered, or put back together as the Kingdom of God, as Jesus’ body was when he appeared to his friends, we have a moral obligation in the here and now. We are called to revere and care for our physical bodies, God will make them new at the resurrection at the fulfillment of time, but what we do with them today bears on being created in God’s image. We are called to revere and care for the earth on which we live, as a living, breathing body that sustains human life as well as animal and plant life. And we are called to revere and care for all of God’s creatures. We are created in God’s image, every one of us. We have a moral obligation to treat each other as God’s image. When we look into another’s face, we see the face of God.


I must say, in light of the seemingly endless violence against people of color in our country in these days, somewhere that has been lost. You all know this, but it never hurts to remind ourselves, that all bodies have value because they are created in God’s image. No body is worth more or less than any other body. Black bodies, brown bodies, indigenous bodies, gay bodies, trans bodies, Christ's body. There is no hierarchy of worth or value. 


When we speak of love, love wins, Jesus died for love, we are not speaking of a feeling. We are speaking of the activity of Jesus de-marginalizing all those who have been thrown to the curb, thrown down and beaten. This love challenges us to engage the world differently, and to figure out ways in which we contribute to a community in which all bodies are treated with respect, not because any of us deserve or don't deserve it, but because our bodies are created in God's image.


God calls us to show people this reality. God calls us to witness to these things. Bearing witness to God’s amazing and abundant love for all of creation is always about being in relationship with God and showing forth God’s love. It is nothing more than that, but it is also nothing less. We are called forth into the world to proclaim God’s love and God’s forgiveness. We are called forth to be God’s hands and feet of love. 


Alleluia. The Lord has risen indeed: Come let us adore him. Alleluia.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

2 Easter Yr B April 11 2021

2 Easter Yr B April 11 2021

Acts 4:32-35, 1 John 1:1-2:2, John 20:19-31, Psalm 133


Ah, Thomas, the one who has gotten the bad rap all these years. What if we understood Thomas as a believer, rather than a doubter? What if we regard Thomas as one who must have his own experience of the risen Jesus, just like all the other disciples? Thomas, who asks Jesus for what he wants, and to whom Jesus gives what Thomas needs. 


Thomas hears Jesus’ voice and proclaims, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas stands in for all of us who will not see Jesus but are invited to believe or encouraged to continue to believe. Thomas must have his own experience of the risen Jesus; Thomas must encounter Jesus on his own terms, so that we, who will not see Jesus, may encounter Jesus ourselves, and believe.


This story that we read today, about Thomas and other followers of Jesus, is the third in a series of encounters with Jesus. The first we read on Easter morning, when Mary came to the tomb in the midst of her grief, in the midst of our grief, and wept. Jesus called her name as he calls all our names and she proclaimed, “I have seen the Lord”. The second and third are these stories today, Jesus appears to his followers and says, “Peace be with you.” Thomas misses all this excitement, so Jesus shows up the next time with the same words, “Peace be with you.” Three encounters with Jesus, three proclamations of belief, all so that we may believe as well. 


You see, that’s what the gospel writer wants for us. John tells these stories so that we may hear Jesus call us, and we may believe and follow. 


Mary hears Jesus call her name, Jesus calls to Thomas. Earlier in John’s story Jesus calls to the blind man and to Lazarus. Jesus even calls all the sheep by name. I know something about what that’s like. On hot summer nights, when every kid in the entire neighborhood was out playing kick the can, my mom would yell out the back door, Kathy! and I’d come running. I heard my mother’s voice and recognized that I wanted to come running into her wide and wonderful and protective embrace. Jesus is like that in this passage we have from John. Jesus calls our names, and we come a runnin.


Hear what John is saying to us? Throughout the fourth gospel we hear Jesus call our name, we hear Jesus call to the blind man, we hear Jesus call Lazarus out of the tomb, we hear Jesus call the sheep, we hear Jesus call Mary, and Thomas, and you, and me. We hear Jesus call us into this amazing and abundant love. We hear Jesus call us into an encounter that changes our lives. We hear Jesus call us from fear into joy.


My mom held the door open wide for me to come running in. Jesus is not just holding the door open for us, but Jesus is the door through which we find love and life. Listen to these words, “the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. Jesus don’t need no door, Jesus is the door, Jesus is the gate through which the sheep move, Jesus wants to have this relationship, wants us to walk through this door, so that we may believe and follow.


Because that’s it, right? This whole experience we have just had, this Holy Week, this suffering and death and resurrection, is all about this relationship, this encounter with Jesus, so that we may believe and follow. So that we may believe, not in some sort of magic, or some sort of rules and regulations, but so that we may believe in the love that wins, the love that knows no bounds, the love born from grief and trauma, the love that gives itself for us, the love that makes us whole.


And into this relationship, this knowing that touches us in our broken hearts, we run. We are followers of Jesus, we are part of the Jesus movement. This is what the gospel writer John wants for us, to encounter Jesus, to hear Jesus call our names, and to be in relationship with Jesus and held in those arms that heal. And then, follow. In doing so we help to change the world from our nightmare to God’s dream.


In these stories the disciples are beginning to comprehend the Incarnation, God who walks this way with us, and they are ready to change the world, even though they don’t know it yet. The energy of God, the Holy Spirit, has been breathed into them.


How do you hear Jesus call your name? How does Jesus open the door of your heart and heal it? Because that’s what this is about. It’s not about being a perfect disciple. None of Jesus followers were perfect disciples. Peter, the one who denied Jesus, Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus, Thomas, the one who wants to feel and touch Jesus, Mary, the one who anoints Jesus with the very costly perfume. All of the people who populate these stories are people just like us, people who have at times turned our backs on those who love us, people who at times have succumbed to our addictions and the things that control us. We are people who have been broken by the world’s will and ways. We are the people who are not perfect, and who are loved perfectly by the one who is the door to wholeness and healing.


We hear Jesus call our name when we remember who we are. We hear Jesus call our name in the voice of one who says, I know who you are, I know you have been pulled apart, and I love you anyway. We hear the breath of God blow into our hearts and souls; Peace be with you.


It is in being put back together again that belief grows. Not in perfection, or having it all together, or even in having it all. Jesus takes on our imperfection, the fragments of our lives, and puts us back together again, rearranges our dust so that we may be whole and healed. And it is possible for us to love again. It is possible for us to love our neighbor.


And, like the followers in our story today, the followers who were afraid, confused, disoriented, and sad at losing their friend, we followers gather together in the confidence that the breath of God inspires us, that in the prayers, and the song, in the bread and the wine, Jesus is in our midst. And like those first followers, we too have to leave that room and help change the world from this nightmare to God’s dream. Love God, love one another, show it! Amen.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Easter April 4 2021

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Easter April 4 2021

John 20:1-18


It's been a long, hard year. We look to the next few months with hope, anticipation, and excitement as we see ourselves gathering again, as we see ourselves hugging and singing again. And I for one am so ready for all of that. And yet, as a person who has experienced personal grief, as have many of you, and a community and country that have experienced massive grief, it does us well to look back so that we can find the place we choose to be in today, and step into our future not with a wish for everything to be better, but real hope that all things will be well. Mary, in John’s story of Jesus’ death, will help us find ourselves and revel in the joy of resurrection and ascension. 


Let’s take a look at Mary and what she has to say to us and to the world. She comes to the tomb, after watching and witnessing Jesus’ death on the cross, believing this was the end of the run, the end of the story, the end of her life as well as Jesus’. Imagine her there. Mary, the outlier. Mary, scorned by most of Jesus’ friends as well as the culture in which she lived. Mary, who when she was with Jesus, mattered. When she was with Jesus her life held value and meaning. This Mary understood heartbreak. Many of us have watched a loved one die, but none of us have watched a death so violent as this death on the cross. Her sadness and grief were tremendous. We meet her here, at the tomb. She had come early in the morning after what must have been a sleepless night, only to discover that the body, the one she loves, was not there. She ran back to tell the others, they arrived at the tomb and confirmed what she had seen and yet, they returned home.  


Mary stood weeping. Mary stood weeping. Three little words, three little words that encapsulate so much of our reality. It could be any one of us, we have wept. We have wept for our loved ones, we have wept because our hearts have been broken as we have been absent, one from another. We have wept in disappointment. We have wept in frustration. We have wept in loneliness. We have wept at the oppression and mistreatment of people of color. We have wept in the midst of storm and fire. We have wept. These are holy tears, and they recall for us Jesus’ tears at the grave of his friend, Lazarus. 


Together with Mary we stand in this space that is filled with sadness, and with hope, and joy. Why do you weep? Who are you looking for?


Name them, name them as Jesus named Mary. Name those who we love but see no more. Bring joy and love into your heart as you see them, as you remember them, and you learn to fill your broken heart with their memory. Revel in the tears and the heartache.


And then, listen. Listen for the one who calls your name. In the darkness of that morning, Mary saw those angels in the tomb, and they wondered with compassion about her tears, she named her grief, they have taken him away, I do not know where he is. Crying in the darkness of that tomb, Jesus, stands before her, unrecognizable, and breaths, Mary. Mary. 


As you hear this, remember the other time we heard Jesus calling our names. When we are lost and cannot find our way. When we are broken and hurting and in need of healing. When we feel like we’ve come to the brink, and Jesus calls our name and brings us home. The shepherd calls our name, and we hear the voice of compassion and love. This is what Mary hears, this is what we hear. And contained in that name, Mary, is all of Jesus’ love for her, and for us. Jesus’ love saturates our grief. Mary is filled with the assurance that Jesus is right there with her, we are filled with the assurance that Jesus is right here with us, can we hear? Can we see?


Mary wants to hold on to Jesus, isn’t that what we want to do? When those we love die, we want to hold on in our grief. But Jesus is very clear with Mary that he will go, and after this very real resurrection Jesus will not leave her, or us, alone. And Jesus does not want Mary to hold on to him; he tells her to go and tell the others. And she announces to everyone, “I have seen the Lord”. 


There is power in these words of Mary. Power born of grief, power born of compassion, power born of brokenness. Mary, beautiful Mary Magdalen, was an outlier, her power was not as a result of authority or control, her power, maybe even her super power, was in compassion and sight, born out of derision. 


Mary’s words are spoken to those who follow Jesus, those who gathered in fear in the early hours of that first morning, and us, who gather in joy on this most beautiful Easter day. “I have seen the Lord.” The light is breaking through, the dark does not win. 


This is the way of Love, this is the path we are on, the path from darkness to light, the path from death to life. 


As we look back at where we have been, where have you seen the Lord? Who are the Mary’s who have called out to you, “I have seen the Lord?” Where have you seen compassion and love? Who has called your name? Is there someone who has grabbed your hand and pulled you back, and said, “you are loved?”


Mary’s words are stunning, they are filled with hope. You see, not only do we look back, and see all the times when we have seen the Lord, we stand in God’s presence today. I look out on all of you, and I can say, “I see the Lord.” I see the hands and feet of the one whose love causes us to love the Mary’s, the outliers. I see the hands and feet of the one whose love causes us to love one another. And I see the hands and feet of the one whose love causes us to say to all who have ears to hear, Alleluia, Christ is Risen. The Lord has risen indeed. Alleluia.

Good Friday

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Good Friday April 2 2021

I think Good Friday is such a confusing day. Is it a day of mourning, or a day of rejoicing? Is it a day to be sad, or is it a day of forgiveness, love, and compassion? It is all of that. It is time out of time, it is unexpected, in it the system is broken, Jesus is broken, we are broken. What is good about Good Friday? 


I think what is good about Good Friday is that it shows us the true story about death. That there isn't just one death that each of us must die, but there are many. Over and over we must die to that which is killing us, over and over, to truly be ourselves, we must lay down all that gets in our way of the loving relationship that God desires with us. And that is good, and very different than what the world tells us is good. And it is different for each of us, the stuff that gets in our way, the idols we worship, the dependency on ourselves, security and safety. God says, lay that down, and don't pick it up again. Walk with me, depend on me.


We live this day, and many days, in the reality of this cross. You have been carrying your cross around with you all during lent. The cross that reminds you of God's love for you, the cross that reminds you that it is through death, and for Jesus, death on that cross, that you receive full and new life. The cross that reminds us of Jesus' brokenness, of our brokenness.


Good Friday shows us that something must die before the green and growing thing can take root and bear new life. Good Friday shows us that forgiveness is about pruning that which is dead anyway, so that God can affect in us the new life that God promises. Good Friday shows us that the work Jesus does on the cross matters, that God's love for humanity, and the healing that love affects, saves us. 


Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is Lord, not my will but yours be done. Giving up our will is not a bad thing. In our culture that is all about you, all about what you want and when you want it, obedience becomes a bad word. But it is being who God wants us to be that is a good thing, and that requires that we die to whatever it is that holds us hostage, whatever it is that is killing us.


Good Friday shows us holy dying, it is not easy, but it is a part of life. You see, the truth is that being human means being born to die. Again, none of us gets out of here alive. Jesus’ life, and suffering and death on a Roman cross not only show us how to do it, but Jesus, on that Roman cross, takes our place. On this night we remember all this. We enter into the story of the passion.  We hear the story in the voices of those who were with Jesus that terrible night. We do so not to glorify Jesus’ death or any other death, we do it so that we may be healed, we may be reconciled, that we may have the absolutely new and abundant life that God offers in the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.


The people who populate this story, and the events of this passion, the betrayal, the lies, the apathy, the bad luck, allow each of us to enter the story. You and I are these people, we are people who have betrayed and been betrayed, we are people who have lied and who have been lied to, we are people who have shown apathy, and we are people who experience just darn bad luck. We are people who have experienced sadness and pain, we are people who feel isolated and alienated at times. We are human beings who live in the muck and mess of this life. What we do together this evening, and even the joyous resurrection we will celebrate together on Sunday, doesn’t take away the reality of the muck and mess in which we live. We carry these crosses, they are part of who we are.


So what does happen when we walk the way of the cross with Jesus, when we enter into the events of this holy week and this holy day? Why do we all show up all these evenings to walk the way of the cross with Jesus? We grow toward Holy Dying and transformation happens. I surely hope we are changed by our encounter with the people on the way, the people in the stories, and by the amazing love that God has for us that we know because God is willing to be one of us. Because only a God who is willing to be one of us, a God who has such faith in us, is a God in which I can place my love, my loyalty, my attention.

What changes? Jesus does not fight violence with violence, hatred, or revenge. Love wins. Jesus takes on all of our betrayal, all of our lies, our apathy, all of our pain, sadness, loneliness and isolation, and Jesus defeats it, not by resisting it with the sort of violence that was visited upon him, but by absorbing it and removing it through the power of love. 


And Jesus’ dying on the cross looks to the world like failure. Jesus suffered, Jesus died. But Jesus did not fail. Jesus redefined death and life. Death does not have the final word; death does not have the victory. The Word of God has the final word.


What Jesus did on the cross was to make it possible for us to have new life, a life that our words cannot begin to describe, a life that our minds cannot begin to imagine. What Jesus did and does is to make it possible for us to be make whole, to be put back together again, to be loved wholly and completely. 


Winning and losing have no meaning in Jesus’ Kingdom; love and forgiveness are gifts. Success and failure have no meaning in Jesus’ Kingdom; sharing and walking together are gifts. Even isolation, and have felt isolation deeply, has no meaning in Jesus’ Kingdom; relationship and connection are gifts, even through zoom and live streaming.


Death is real and grief hurts and sometimes we just have to sit in the silence and cry and wait. Can we do that? Can we sit in the pain and loneliness with those who suffer? That is what this Good Friday is about. In these past days, and weeks, and months, we have more experience than we would wish, in this. It is very like when we sit with our loved ones in hospital, or at home, waiting, quite unsure of what to do or what to think, silence and sadness and tears, are our only activity. 


Too many Christians want to go straight from the garden of Gethsemane to the garden of the empty tomb without going by way of the hill of crucifixion and the stone-cold body. It seems too painful to sit in silence, waiting and grieving. And yet nothing of the reality of Christ’s victory over evil on the cross, or our faith in the resurrection to come soon, must be allowed to shield us from the awful brute fact that Jesus died. And that death, that brokenness, makes us whole.


We have come through so much, heartache, sadness, and we look forward to joy, hope, love. For now, we wait.


Tonight, we sit in the tension, of life, death, and new life. Watch, and wait. 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Palm Sunday Yr B March 28 2021

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Palm Sunday Yr B March 28 2021

I have chosen to say a few words at this spot today because it makes more sense to me to talk about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, and then to receive the story of Jesus' passion in silence. Liturgically, we do something very odd here. We begin our worship together with waving palms, with the parade, and with Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, and we end our worship in quiet, as we prepare for the unfolding of this passionate story through out the week. Please know that it takes all week to hear this story, to participate in this story, to be able to approach Easter and resurrection. This week carve out time to participate, you all have full lives, but this week, of all the weeks of our lives, is the week to be present, to show up.

It’s been a year of slowing down, paying attention, being quiet. We have had so much pain and suffering, deaths due to COVID, gun violence, plain old ordinary disease. And we tell our stories, our stories about our loved ones, and about those we don’t even know. Stories about the last time we were together, about the last things they were doing. We grieve and are sad, we cry, we wait, we celebrate their life. We’ve always done these things together, and this last year has challenged our togetherness, challenged us to experience being together in new and different ways. And this week will be different. But it doesn’t change the reality that this death is a family death, and using all the means at our disposal, we need do it together.  


But for this moment, I need to reflect on the Palm of Palm Sunday. Jesus and the disciples and thousands of other pilgrims have made their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus enters Jerusalem as a rock star, hailed as the king. Not Caesar, not the appointed Roman governor. But a new king--one for the poor, for those without voices, for those left behind. Jesus is hailed as King, yet riding on a colt, or a young donkey. Jesus is welcomed into the city, Jerusalem, and people shout "blessed is the one who comes in the name of The Lord – the king of Israel" for now. They lay down their cloaks, holey as they are. And for the time being, we are all willing to follow. But are we also willing to follow into trouble, controversy, trial and death?


The donkey, the disciples, the display. When we look closely we see the people gathered for this parade, this march, this entrance into Jerusalem. They are not the important and powerful, but the poor and marginalized, maybe even the young, all Jesus' disciples. This very important but very brief story shows us that Love does not win by the world's standards. Jesus comes as the fulfillment of the nation's hopes, answering our longings for a king who would bring peace to earth from heaven itself. Jesus brings the peace that surpasses understanding, and much of what is about to unfold in the next few days will be the price that is paid to bring it. Jesus’ disciples, of course, have seen things that have changed their lives forever and have raised their hopes. Indeed, our lives our changed.


This is not about the powerful Pharisees, grumbling about what will happen if the authorities in Jerusalem think that there's a messianic demonstration going on. This story is not about the powerful or wealthy people of the day, it is about the Kingdom of God in which the last will be first and the first will be last. It is about the woman who anoints Jesus with a very costly ointment of nard. It is about Judas, one of the twelve, one of Jesus’ friends, who makes a choice of power and greed over love. It’s about Peter who denies his love for Jesus. It is about bread and blessing, it is about prayer and emptying, it is about betrayal and it is about love. 


Love wins by God's defeat of evil, and our participation in the new life made possible by the work of Jesus. God gives up Godself for us, those God loves, thus empowering and emboldening us to do the same. 


This is the holiest of weeks. We have prepared ourselves throughout Lent for this journey with Jesus. We come to this Passover festival with Jesus' disciples, we come lean and fit, free of all the stuff that has held us hostage, as that is what our Lenten discipline has done for us. We have carried our own cross with us, by the cross traced on our foreheads, we have remembered who and whose we are. We have left behind that which keeps us prisoner to the world's wants and wills, we have disassembled brick by brick the walls that we had build to shield us from God's love. We make this journey with Jesus, and revel in the pre-Passover party. 


Rejoice in this moment. This moment of welcome, when the shouts of "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord – the King of Israel” are heard throughout the cosmos. This moment is fleeting. It turns quickly to the terrifying shouts of the crowd, "crucify him." 


After the story this morning, we will sit in the silence for a time. As we leave today, we enter into a Holy Week. Please don't wait to come back until Easter, come back to walk these steps to the cross with Jesus. The Service of Darkness will be live streamed on Wednesday. On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday you can come into the church, on Thursday to participate in foot washing, in communion, and in laying the altar bare, and on Friday in prayer. The Good Friday service and passion reading will be live streamed on Friday evening. These things are on our journey to celebration on Saturday and Sunday. Please be a part of them. Let us now hear the word of God.

5 Easter Yr B May 2 2021

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