Saturday, April 25, 2009

3 Easter Yr B

When Tom and Willie 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 like 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 couldn’t really learn about the object, or the animal, or the fossil without encountering it, just standing back and looking at stuff not only is boring but doesn’t really register in the learning centers of the brain because you haven’t accessed all the important learning centers, like touch, smell, taste etc.

Jesus seemed to know all this. This story follows right after the Emmaus story. Be known to us in the breaking of the bread. His 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 he 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; Jesus had to show them that he wasn’t an apparition, 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. Touch and see. Smell and feel. Remember who you are.

Resurrection and resuscitation is 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 live of God’s people. We are shocked and surprised. We wish to believe and yet are wary of belief. Resurrection is not about us. Resurrection is about God. Resurrection is about being united with God, being made one, and whole. Resurrection is about being re-membered. Put back together as a new creation. Starting over, starting again, being cleansed, being made new, being made whole. God does all this through this shocking and amazing thing called resurrection. And God begins the new creation with the resurrection of Jesus, and we are participants in the new creation.

Touch and see; the evidence is in front of our eyes if only we put ourselves aside and see the truth. The evidence is in the truth we know and live every day. The evidence 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 evidence is in the transformation of a broken body into a healed body. The evidence 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. Touch and see.

Another part of the moral obligation is that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in Jesus name to all nations. We are to proclaim repentance and God’s forgiveness. We are to turn back to God, we are to be forgiven for missing the mark, and we are to help others do the same. What an amazing gift we have to give to others. We can help people lay their burdens down. Their burdens of self-criticism, their burdens of greed, their burdens of self-doubt, their burdens of perfection, their burden of not being good enough. All of these burdens which cause us to miss the mark. We can help people see that they are created in God’s image, they are loved absolutely and abundantly, they are the delight of God’s life, and they can turn to God and say, forgive me, and thank you.

Touch and see the new creation. Our call is to show people this reality. Our call is to be witnesses of these things. So how do we go about doing that? Bearing witness to God’s amazing and abundant love for us, as evidenced through the amazing and shocking resurrection, is all about the reality of communion, eating together, and healing. These things we do together are not as a result of our perfection, but are of God’s grace, they are sacraments. And sacraments are an outward sign of an inward reality. We gather together to be sacrament to one another, and we are sent out into the world to witness as sacrament to others.

We gather together and share a meal, a meal of bread and of wine, that are made for us into the broken and resurrected body of Jesus. We are made into a body by the bread and the wine, to witness to a fragmented and broken world of the wholeness and healing that is made possible by the broken and resurrected body of Jesus. What we do here and what we are made into here has everything to do with what we do and who we are at work, at school, and at play. What we do here and what we are made into here make sense only as we go out into the world to bring peace and healing and grace to every aspect of the lives we share with others.

God has already inaugurated the Kingdom, the new creation has begun. Get busy with what God is doing.

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

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter

I have seen the Lord! Mary says to the other disciples and friends. I have seen the Lord! After a night of death and destruction, of sadness and fear, of waiting and crying, Mary delivers this good news. Alleluia. Christ is risen! is the acclamation we shout.

We have walked with Jesus to the cross. We have watched and waited with one another. We have traced our story through the covenants between God and God’s people, the promise shown by the rainbow in the sky, the commandments given by God in the wilderness. We have read about the signs and wonders that point us to Jesus, the Son of God. We have witnessed violence and destruction, pain and sadness. And our journey takes us to this place of hope, this resurrection.

Today, this Easter day, is the inauguration and fulfillment of God’s amazing and abundant love for God’s creation. God has done something absolutely new and amazing, God has freed creation from the bondage of sin and death, God has raised what was dead, God has brought creation back from isolation and sinfulness, God has filled humanity with grace and love.

Jesus begins this new creation that God has promised for each of us. If we but look, we can see the evidence all around us. But like Mary, we sometimes cannot see. Mary saw Jesus standing there before her, but did not know it was Jesus. Remember the story of the monks at the monastery? When they began to look for Jesus among them, when they began to believe in their own value and worth, and divinity, they were transformed. Look for Jesus among us. Look for Jesus in yourselves. God has already begun the transforming work among us. We are Easter people.

The evidence for resurrection is astounding. Where there is death and destruction, where it seems there cannot possibly be new life, new life surprises us. It usually does not come as we expect. Sometimes God does need to knock us upside the head so that we open our eyes to the new life that erupts around us. And always we need to die, we need to die to greed, to selfishness, to control, in order to make room for the absolutely new thing that God has in store for us.

Last Sonshine Saturday we read a story called Hope for the Flowers. It’s about two caterpillars who wish to find the new life that they feel coursing through their bodies, but can’t see. They can’t see it because it takes dying first. But once one of them weaves her cocoon and becomes a beautiful butterfly, her friend also is able to let go of the struggle of getting ahead, getting to the top, getting more, and dying to all that to become the beautiful butterfly he was created to be. This morning, just to remind ourselves of that, we have butterfly kites to take home.

The intensity of Holy Week helps us to shed our skin, to die to getting ahead, getting to the top, getting more. We are able to turn around, set ourselves for resurrection, and for the reality of the death that must precede new life. This is the journey on which we accompany Jesus, and Jesus accompanies us.

Jesus has done the transforming work with his love, on the cross, and in the resurrection. We need to live as Easter people. We need to see each other with transformed eyes. We need to look at one another with the reality that God has already done the work, and each of us is a new creation. A creation that contains the amazing grace that makes each one of us of value and worth, the messiah is one of us; Jesus is one of us, maybe even all of us. Treat each other with extraordinary respect because we are filled with God’s extraordinary love. Treat yourself with extraordinary respect because we are filled with God’s extra extraordinary love.

Something wonderful has happened. God has graciously interrupted our world. God has come into our lives, to call us back into relationship. God has made it possible for us to be transformed, to live in freedom, to be liberated from sin and death. God has made new what once was dead.

To walk in newness of life is all full of verb, of action, of creativity; to create life, to become more than just me, or just you, but to become a body. This is where grace happens. The pain of loss is surpassed by the bliss of love. The suffering of spirit or body is surpassed by the happiness found in relationship; the relationship God calls us into, and the relationship of family, friends, and community. The alienation and isolation of different-ness, is surpassed by the joyfulness of being marvelously made in God’s image.

New life in Christ is the something wonderful that Easter is all about.

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

Easter Vigil

Something wonderful has happened. God has graciously interrupted our world. God has come into our lives, to call us back into relationship. God has made it possible for us to be transformed, to live in freedom, to be liberated from sin and death. God has made new what once was dead. Alleluia, Christ is Risen! Is the acclamation we shout to the world.

This is the work that Jesus does. Because God gave up all power to come and live as the powerless, we, you and I, are made new. Because God became one of us, to live, suffer, die, we have new life, we can live a the life we have been created to live.

Tonight, at this Great Vigil, this amazing celebration of resurrection, we remember who we are, and whose we are. We rehearsed the story of God’s activity in the life of God’s people. We remembered creation and blessing, we remembered turning away from God, we remembered being called back to God, we remembered being made a new people, and we remember restoration and resurrection. We give God praise and thanksgiving that we are new, we are transformed, we are free. And we are re-membered, through the gift of the bread and the wine, we are one body, one spirit in Christ.

Tonight we have recommitted ourselves to living a transformed life. Tonight we have promised again to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers. We promised to persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin to repent and return to the Lord. We promised to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. We promised to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves. And, we promised to strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being. That is a lot to promise and this is an awful lot in one night. But just think about what Jesus accomplished for us in one night.

Because of what Jesus accomplished for us, we are called to live a transformed life, a life that is in among this world, but is no longer slave to sin, but free to be in relationship with God. There is some instruction in our reading from Romans. There we hear, “therefore we have been buried with Jesus by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” This is an ethical admonition. To walk in newness of life. And Romans goes on to say, “We know our old self was crucified with Jesus so the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved.

Lent shows us that Jesus joins us in our suffering and pain, and in our alienation and isolation, and that is what being baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection is. Jesus does not take that away, Jesus joins us in the midst of all of our pain and joy.

Transformation, new life, does not mean the absence of suffering and pain, or the disappearance of being alienated or isolated. Transformation and new life made possible by God living in our midst is about just that, living in this world, with all of its challenges, its difficulties, its injustice, and being able to respond to it creatively.

To walk in newness of life is all full of verb, of action, of creativity. To create life, to become more than just me, or just you, to become a body. This is where grace happens. The pain of loss is surpassed by the bliss of love. The suffering of spirit or body is surpassed by the happiness found in relationship; the relationship God calls us into, and the relationship of family, friends, and community. The alienation and isolation of different-ness, is surpassed by the joyfulness of being marvelously made in God’s image.

New life in Christ is the something wonderful that Easter is all about.

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

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

On this night we remember. 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 be macabre, 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 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 these burdens, 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? I surely hope 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, who has such faith in us, is a God in which I can place my love, my loyalty, my attention.

You see, what Jesus does at this moment is to let evil wreak its fury upon him; he negates its power and takes it out of the world with him. 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. On the cross, Jesus ultimately collects all of the violence of this world, takes it and holds it so that the stream of hate and hurt will flow no farther. Jesus takes in all of our pain and our suffering, all of our betrayal and lies; all of our isolation and sadness, and Jesus contains it. Jesus’ life and death says to our world, it all stops here. It all stops with me.

Jesus’ last words in the gospel story we heard this evening, are “it is finished.” What is it that Jesus accomplished?

Not to take away pain and sorrow and isolation. The reality that you and I know, is that to be human is to feel, to feel pain, to feel joy, to feel isolation, to feel intimacy. And, being human means being born to die, and only a God who is willing to share that can actually help us face our own mortality and that of those we love.

Death is real and grief hurts and sometimes we just have to sit in the silence and cry and wait. The reality of incarnation, the reality of Jesus is that Jesus holds our grief, Jesus contains our pain. Jesus is the vessel in which all of humanity can rest assured in unconditional acceptance. Jesus is the chalice in which our lifeblood is poured. Jesus is the bread that contains the fruit of our sweat. The cross does become the place where transformation is possible.

But for right now though, are left to sit in the silence and cry and wait. 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 yet, as we sit in the silence to cry and to wait, we sit with this company. The disciples sat together in the silence to cry and to wait. Our only comfort right now resides with one another, with these relationships to each other and to God. Hold one another, grieve with one another, and remember, give one another the gift of hope.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him. Amen

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday Yr B

I consider the liturgy of Maundy Thursday a gift. It is a gift of time, and a gift of remembrance. In our hurry up and get the next thing done world, when was the last time you put aside some time to wash someone’s feet? In the skip over the hard stuff because it might hurt world, stopping to remember the incredible sadness of these events seems foolish. Our liturgy invites us into being present, being present to one another as we bare our feet to have them washed, and as we bare our souls to have them cleansed and fed. Stop, and listen. Stop, and serve. Stop, and smell. Stop, and eat.

Jesus’ foot washing is a radical activity. Foot washing was a common practice when guests arrived for a meal, it was an action usually performed by slaves or low-status servants. It was an onerous and demeaning task because it meant washing off human and animal waste. No matter how well a person bathed, sandals and feet inevitably became smelly and dirty in the process of walking to a meal at another's house. And then, particularly here in John, to wash another's feet is to wash away their actions, foot washing is a parting gesture performed by Jesus and urged upon the disciples, they and we must forgive one another as Jesus first forgives, they and we must love one another as Jesus first loves. Peter completely misunderstands that Jesus is talking about discipleship.

The gospel from John tonight concludes with the words, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Jesus speaks of discipleship in this distinctive way in John, having love for one another. We have heard the stories of the Old Testament all through Lent, the great stories of promise and covenant. What is radically different about this new covenant, this new commandment in the gospel of John, is this aspect of discipleship, love one another.

Jesus, teacher, rabbi, friend, knows that the end is near. In this part of John’s gospel we have event after event of Jesus trying to impart all of his teaching to the disciples, story after story that shows Jesus’ friends what discipleship looks like. Discipleship looks like love and forgiveness, and in the context of 1st century Mediterranean culture, love and forgiveness are radical. It is honor and power that has been valued, Jesus shows something else entirely.

It is a good and right thing to do for us to wash one another’s feet, but it cannot be just symbolic action. It needs to be sacramental, it needs to be an outward sign of an inward reality, it needs to be the way we live our lives in the church and in the world. The hard part about love and forgiveness, the hard thing about discipleship, is that the world we live in does not necessarily reward love and forgiveness. Just look at what happened to Jesus.

The other piece of what we do this night is to celebrate the meal Jesus shared with his disciples, the meal in which he said, do this, for the remembrance of me. Everyone eats, no one goes hungry. When we break bread together, we live in the reality of the radical nature of love and forgiveness. We live in the reality of the radical nature of coming together not for solace only, but also for strength, not for pardon only, but for renewal. The grace that is present in this meal heals us, makes us whole, so that we may go out and show forth God’s love and forgiveness, God’s reconciliation. Something amazing happens, risen lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread.

Foot washing and Holy Communion, two radical ideas. Washing dirty feet, and eating together with people we may or may not like, people we may or may not agree with. These activities are a sign to the world that something is different; the ways of the world are not the ways of those who follow Christ.

On this night we hear Jesus’ words, do this in remembrance of me. Every time we remember, we bring forward to the present a reality that was lived in the past. Bringing that reality forward makes it real again. This observance of foot washing and Holy Communion brings the reality of what Jesus did to our present, so that the power of who Jesus is is made real. Risen lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread. We not only remember, but we are re-membered, we are put back together, we are made whole.

Stop, and listen. Stop, and serve. Stop, and smell. Stop, and eat.