Saturday, April 22, 2017

2 Easter Yr A Ap 23 2017



2 Easter Yr A Ap 23 2017 Audio

Last week we left off with Mary Magdalene running from the empty tomb early in the day and announcing to the disciples, "I have seen The Lord." Today we pick up the very same story, on the evening of the day of Resurrection, with the disciples in a house with the doors locked, and Jesus came and stood among them. But Thomas was not there. Later, when the other disciples saw Thomas, they proclaimed the very same words that Mary Magdalene used, "We have seen The Lord."

When was the last time you missed some really big news? Do you ever claim, "why am I always the last to know?" Imagine Thomas, wherever he was, clearly not with the others. Maybe he was picking up the beer and snacks, it looked like they were going to spend some time in that house locked up, they were fearful of those who put Jesus to death. So Thomas, unaware of what was going on, finally shows up only to find out that he missed the big deal. He missed this alleged appearance of Jesus. And, he's not taking the word of the rest of his friends on this, he wants to see for himself. It's not that he doubts Jesus, he doesn't believe his friends. Thomas wants to see The Lord, he wants to see and even touch the wounds, he wants all the gory details.

But what's even more important is that Thomas does something for us in this story. Thomas, through this experience of seeing and believing, joins us to the beloved community that will never see the person of Jesus in this life. So it is not so much about believing without seeing, as it is about being made part of this relationship with Jesus through the community that is forming. The community of the beloved disciple, as Raymond Brown, a New Testament scholar calls it. We, like Thomas, claim the resurrection. Jesus is talking to all of us, not just Thomas, not just those gathered in the room, but to all of us. And in this relationship, in resurrection, all of us have a different sort of life, a life of mystery and craziness, a life transformed. The gospel writer, John, calls this eternal life. I call it, being Easter People. 

So, the story continues with the disciples locked in this room, afraid. Jesus came among them and said, "Peace be with you." And I'm sure they replied with "and also with you" because they were all good Episcopalians. And then they rejoiced.  Resurrection is about choosing love over fear. Love transforms us, fear strangles us, love creates community, fear isolates us, love wins, fear kills. This amazing occurrence, this truth that death does not win, this truth that even in joy there is pain, is what Easter is about.  

We have walked the forty days of Lent, we buried our alleluias, we confessed our sins, we have been engaged in our spiritual disciplines, whatever they were, and here we are. Singing and proclaiming the alleluias, rejoicing and sharing God's peace, as Jesus first did with us. The sorrow and pain of our lives is no less, you know that, I know that. We live in a world filled with the sadness of lives ended too young, the horror of children across the world dieing because they don’t have enough to eat, the pain of depression, anxiety, and addiction. This sorrow and pain is no different for the truth of the resurrection, but what is different is that we are joined to Jesus and to one another as we walk the way. Jesus says to us, with and through Thomas and the others, believing is not seeing, believing is the gift of finding me in one another, believing is the gift of doing this life together, believing is my body broken for you, so you may be whole and holy. Be not afraid. Fear prevents people from seeing, fear prevents you from seeing, from shedding our old self to take on the new real self. Fear moves us to grasp for the safe and secure rather than reach for the real.

This story, of Thomas who says he wants to touch Jesus' wounds, and then doesn't do it in the end, shows us what is real. Jesus' presence is real. Jesus' wounds are real. Jesus' peace is real. And Jesus leaves us with the real presence of the Spirit. Do not be afraid, we hear at the incarnation, and we hear in this room, do not be afraid, instead, be filled with the spirit. The spirit that teaches us about grace, and forgiveness, and love.

This Easter story, being written into each of our lives is the real story. With Thomas each of us gets to see, to feel, to touch, what is real, and what is real is the amazing love that God has for us, what is real is that this love brings us into relationship with God and with one another, a relationship we call the body of Christ. Sometimes we succumb to the lie that this life is about getting as much as we want, or doing as we please, without any thought on the effect that has on those around us, or even on the living, moving, breathing earth upon which we live. But that is not reality. Reality is that we are all connected. We are all related. Reality is that what I do, what you do, affects the web that surrounds us. That is what this story tells us, we are part of the community of faith, and the communion of saints. That is what Jesus is telling Thomas, the rest of the disciples, and us. 

And this is how resurrection matters. This is how what God does in Jesus matters. We do indeed encounter Jesus at every turn. You show forth the reality that Love wins. You show forth the reality that death does not have the final word. What you do matters to the world and to the kingdom. What you do, what we do has an effect on the world about us, what we do has an effect on the people around us. Like Thomas, we see, feel, touch the pain and suffering of Jesus in our midst. We see our brothers and sisters suffering as the result of natural disasters, tornados and snow storms. We witness the pain and suffering in our community as the result of poverty. We accompany our friends as they sit with family in hospital and in homes and await death and await healing. We are accompanied by friends who sit in vigil with us. We may be afraid, but instead of being immobilized by that fear, we proclaim by word and example that Jesus is in our midst and that Love wins, that new life is possible now. That's the story we write. That's the story that's true. 

Love wins. God brings wholeness and healing to all of creation, including Thomas, and you, and me. 
God re-members us. God puts us back together. God reconciles us. God restores us. Even when it looks like and feels like everything is falling apart, even when it looks like and feels like failure. Peace be with you is what Jesus says to those gathered in that room. Peace be with you, you are now reconciled, you have new life.

The Easter story we write is the story that says yes to God. Because, when we say yes to God, when we open ourselves to Jesus' living, giving action the cross, we enter into a way of life. God is the source, the strength, the example, and the assurance that the story of death and rebirth, new life, is the way into the only kind of life that actually sustains and inspires. Loose your life to find it. 

Let your life, let your Easter story show the world that Love wins. Each time you put your finger into the wound of another, be the agent of resurrection, be the bringer of hope, of new life. Each time you see the pain in the world, be the one who responds with mercy, compassion, and love. Each time you hear words of derision, words that bully and hurt, speak instead words of mercy, of compassion and of love. Each time you encounter fear, fear of death, fear of change, fear of the other, fear of not having enough, remember that Love wins over fear every time. 


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Vigil/Easter 2017




Do not be afraid, Jesus is not here, he has been raised from the dead. This is the Good News, the heart of the Easter message. We have come to the tomb with fear and trepidation, and we hear, just like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, do not be afraid, go and tell that you have seen me.

This is awesome news, Jesus is raised, so God's new creation has begun and we his followers, like the women who first witnessed the empty tomb, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his kingdom come on earth as in heaven. This is a message that is effective now, not at some future time. This is good news about now, it's not about a  reward at the end of life.

And what is the story we tell? What is the story the women told? What is the story the disciples eventually told? The story is Love wins. The story is that death does not triumph. The story is that God, the creator of all that is seen and unseen, the creator of the universe, walked this earth just like you, just like me. This same God, lived, and loved, suffered and died, just like you, just like me. The story is that God loves you so absolutely and completely that your life is changed.

And just what does a changed life look like? What does eternal life look like? It looks like partnership with God, it looks like taking seriously our responsibility to care for the earth and one another in deeply loving ways. It looks like mercy and compassion and justice, because God's dwelling place is now among the people, not in some far off place. You see, when we take that seriously, when we take resurrection seriously, it changes everything. We no longer live for ourselves or for a reward at the end of life, instead we live as agents, as partners with God, creating a merciful, compassionate, and just world, right here and right now. Go and tell, is what the women did, go and tell that Jesus has changed everything. 

Jesus calls disciples, that's you and me, in order to teach us how to be and what to be. Jesus' intention is for us to be growing and changing toward generosity, forgiveness, honesty, courage, truth-telling, and responsibility so that as these things take over our lives we participate with God in creating the world God longs for. The world God longs for, the kingdom of God. Some years ago, in her Easter message, our then presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, asks us, “Where and how will we look for the Body of Christ, risen and rising? Will we share the life of that body as an Easter people, transformed by resurrection and sent to transform the world in turn?”

We will look in all the unexpected places and times for the Body of Christ, because everyone belongs in the kingdom of God? You do, we all do. There is no one outside of God's love, there is nothing any one of us could do that would make God love us any less. Any stories you have heard that suggests what you do, or who you are, or what you look like, puts you outside of God's love are lies. The truth is that God loves you, God loves each and every one of us no matter what. You may turn your back on God, but God never lets go.

We have just spent this holy week in the reality of this life, in the reality of pain and suffering, of love and death. The truth is born out in the story of life, death, and resurrection. There is a pattern that leads to life, the pattern is that we must lose our life, we must lose that which keeps us prisoners, in order to find our life. The truth is that we must die to lies of self importance, the lies of autonomy, the lies of individualism, and rise again to the truth of interdependence, the truth of community, the truth of the Body of Christ. The truth of resurrection shows us that dieing to that which is killing us is the only way to life a live that is worth living.

At the center of the cross are the stories that show us that healing and reconciliation, renewal and return cause God's greatness to shine through the universe. The empty tomb shows us that love, in the end, wins. But, we have a choice. Love demands freedom, we are free to resist, to reject, and to rebel against God's ways for us, we can choose hell on earth. We do that every time we isolate ourselves, give the cold shoulder to someone who has slighted us, every time we hide knives in our words, every time we harden our hearts in defiance of what we know to be the loving, good, and right thing to do. And each one of those choices collects others, our hearts get harder, our minds get duller.

But the good news of Easter is that God says yes. Yes, there is water for that thirst, food for that hunger, light for that darkness, relief for that burden.

But it is up to yo to choose yes. Choose the heart of Jesus. Choose the empty tomb. Choose the love that wins. And like Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, Go and tell.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen.

The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Good Friday April 14 2017



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? 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?

Good Friday shows us that death is real, but it is not the end of the story. We spend so much of our time avoiding death, cajoling God so as not to visit death upon us and our loved ones. So much of the advertising with which we are bombarded tries to convince us that death is somehow optional, if we do this, that, and the other thing, death due to life can be avoided.

And Good Friday shows us 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. It's 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, follow me.

We live this day, and many days, in the reality of this cross. 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. Good Friday shows us that all Jesus says about "love one another as I love you" is true.

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 this 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 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. We do so not to feel bad or guilty about our own humanity, but to be filled with the love that is willing to take our place in death.

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 the foot washing and holy communion of last evening, even the joyous resurrection we will celebrate together tomorrow evening, doesn’t take away the reality of the muck and mess in which we live. We carry our 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, a God who is broken, 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 transformed.

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. Isolation and alienation have no meaning in Jesus’ Kingdom; relationship and connection are gifts.

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 also what this Good Friday is about. We have some experience in this. It is very like when we sit with our loved ones in hospital, as the result of illness or accident, 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, brings us new life.


Amen.