Saturday, April 25, 2015

4 Easter Yr B April 26 2015



4 Easter Yr B Ap 26 2015 Audio

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 the 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. 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. Jesus is the bread, the light, a path, a gate, a vine. There are many. 

Each one of the images that is presented to us about who Jesus is, 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 as 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, or 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! 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 by green pastures and still waters, I will guide 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. 

Each of us are called by name, often lovingly, sometimes urgently, like the sheep, we seek that voice that calls. Sometimes, we wander far and get caught in the brambles, we get hurt, we break our leg. 

But, the radical nature of Jesus the Good Shepherd is that this shepherd gives his life for the sheep. That is the good news of this shepherd. In our passage we hear about the hired hand, the hired shepherd, who leaves the sheep and runs away when danger comes. The gospel writer John, shows us that is not who Jesus is. But you and I are called by name, and this particular shepherd is not like the others. This shepherd says and does something truly radical. “I lay down my life for my sheep." No shepherd does that. 

We are loved absolutely and abundantly. Jesus laid down his life; he suffered and was killed, and was resurrected from the dead. So we follow this shepherd, who shows us and gives us absolutely new life, in laying down our lives as a response to that amazing love. And we are transformed and created new on that journey. The journey is not about the endgame, but about being the body of Christ while we journey together. It is about the love and care we have for each other and the rest of creation. Resurrection is a way of life. We think Easter is a day, but it is not, Easter resurrection is a way of life.

Because of our limited human imagination, we think death is an ending. Jesus, the shepherd, shows us that death is just the beginning. It is the beginning of the new creation. It is the beginning of transformation. It is the beginning of being created in God’s image. Death is painful, death is hard, but the promise is that Jesus takes up our life again; Jesus shows us how to do it. 

If we are to live this life fully alive, fully aware, fully engaged; if we are to live this life called by our baptism, called by name, marked as Christ’s own forever, we must follow the shepherd to the green pasture, beside the still waters, through the valley of the shadow of death. We must follow the example of the shepherd to die to that which keeps us from ourselves, we must die to that which gets in our way of helping our brother or sister, we must tear down the walls that we build around us that prevent us from seeking and serving Christ in all persons. 

This time as I was reading this passage which is so familiar, I was struck by the line "I have other sheep that don't belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd." This has caused me to wonder again about this image of this shepherd. It is so expansive. In addition to this particular flock of sheep that the Good Shepherd protects and calls by name, Jesus calls others we don't even know about yet, by name. That is truly exciting. So I wonder if that is where we might want to focus our energies and our thoughts at this time. Jesus calls not only us by name, but those we don't even know yet. Jesus knows them. Maybe that's what this image of Good Shepherd, and the sheepfold has to do with us today. There is this whole other population of people that Jesus also calls by name, that Jesus also loves dearly and desperately, that are also a part of God's mission of healing and reconciliation in the world. I think the question, or maybe even the call that Jesus has for us today is, how do we go into the world and see and experience all of those whom Jesus calls and we do not yet know? How do we go into the world and find Jesus' presence, Jesus' resurrection, in all of those whom Jesus calls and we do not yet know? How are we a part of God's mission, how are we a part of the work that Jesus is doing in the world, how are we a part of the whole of group of sheep that Jesus calls and loves and includes with God's mission of healing and reconciliation in the world? How might we get on board with God's mission in the world? How are we living as Easter people?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

3 Easter Yr B April 19 2015


3 Easter Yr B April 19 2015 Audio

Let's start with some fantasy casting today shall we? If you were choosing the lead in the next blockbuster about averting the disaster that destroys the earth, the one who saves the world, who would it be? The James Bond type, like Daniel Craig? The Action Hero type, like Lucy Lawless, Xena: Warrior Princess, maybe Harrison Ford, or maybe we'd have to do something animated or computer generated and have Elsa from Frozen. Which one of these could play The Messiah, the one who saves the world? Who would be your Fantasy Messiah?

You may think I'm being silly here, and maybe I am, but the faithful people of the early 1st century were waiting with baited breath and wild anticipation for the one, the messiah, who would rescue them out of their predicament, and at the very least, put them into power and vanquish the Romans and the Greeks and the Temple Priests.  

And at every turn, Jesus, the one they got, was nothing like the Fantasy Messiah they had dreamed about, that they had imagined. Not in life, not in death, not in resurrection. Jesus, the Messiah they got, lived a quiet, non-descript life, grew up to be a teacher, of all things, ended up on a Roman cross, reserved for criminals, and died. To the world, the whole sordid affair looked like failure. 

And then, after death, Jesus shows up in locked rooms, and on roads to nowhere. Jesus shows up, and just as in life they didn't recognize him as the messiah, in death they don't recognize him as Jesus, the one who is God in the flesh. The one who is the incarnation. They were terrified and afraid, they thought they were seeing a ghost. 

They just couldn't believe what they were seeing. Feed me, he says. He shows them the holes in his flesh. Maybe what Jesus is doing here is showing that incarnation again, in the flesh, even after resurrection. Maybe Jesus is showing that God continues to be engaged in the mundane activities, like eating. Because the reality here, and in all these stories we hear after Jesus death on the cross, and the empty tomb, is that no one believed it. Traditionally, Thomas has gotten the bad rap, but really, no one believes it. In the Gospel of Luke, no one believes it. 

We have not read Luke this Easter season, so let's take a quick look at it. Those who went to the tomb found the stone rolled away, when they went in, they did not find the body. The women were terrified, they saw what they thought were two men in dazzling clothes, and they helped the women remember what they had been told about what would happen. Then they remembered Jesus' words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to the rest. In Luke's telling, there were no words of "I have seen the Lord." The response to the women, in Luke's telling, in the greek, is the word that is used is the root of our word, delirious. So in response to the testimony of the women, the disciples say they are out of their freakin' minds. Then, on the same day, two of them were going to Emmaus, while they were on the road, Jesus walked with them and told them stories, they did not believe that it was Jesus until Jesus ate with them. 

When we disbelieve, we are in good company. I have never believed that this life of being a follower of Jesus excludes disbelief. The story we live and breathe, the story of incarnation and resurrection, is inconceivable. Made more so when we try desperately to make it all make sense. 
So what is so compelling about this story that has caused it to be authoritative and enlivening for centuries? It is true. It is true not because it is fact or because it is history. It is true in the way of truth that speaks into the deepest crevices of our broken hearts, it is true in the way of truth that speaks into our deepest joy, it is true in the way of truth that speaks into our deepest hungers that cannot be satisfied by only food, but by food that is shared. Truth is beyond ordinary fact, facts are important but not enough, they do not take you where you need to go. 

Facts do not take you into the hospital room when you know that your loved one will die. Truth takes you there, the truth of love, the truth of pain, the truth of compassion, the truth that something arises out of it that only your heart knows, words can not.

Facts do not take you to the place where you are willing to give your heart to another. Truth takes you there, the truth that together you are so much more than you are alone, the truth that what you want is your beloved's happiness and joy. 

If even the disciples lived in disbelief, if even the disciples believed all this talk of resurrection is freakin' inconceivable, what makes us think we are any different? It is not up to us anyway to believe and not doubt. Even theology cannot say enough about God to make you believe. It is up to us though, in the midst of darkness and pain, to choose love and life. It is up to us, when what looks like loss and failure is transformed into love and life. 

Our disbelief, however, does not stop us from following Jesus. Our disbelief does not change the truth that love wins, not power. Belief finally arises out of the reality of our lives. Faith is the acceptance of disbelief, of doubt. Faith is when we come to the place where we can embrace the truth of love, the inconceivability of incarnation, faith is when we can come to the place where we can trudge through the muck and the mess of this life, and know that in it we are not alone. Faith is when we are freed to love ourselves, we are freed to love each other. Faith is when we accept our freedom to love and serve others, and that love bears us up to do what Jesus calls us to do.

Faith is not in a fantasy messiah, faith is not in a superhero. Faith is in the love that goes to inconceivable heights and depths to accompany us in all that this life throws at us. And then it is in that place that we discover our own superpower, and that superpower is that what was broken is healed, what was dead is alive. Amen                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Saturday, April 11, 2015

2 Easter Yr B April 12 2015


2 Easter Audio 4.12.2015

After a long day of waiting with his friends, the evening of the day his friend Jesus had died, Thomas was nowhere to be found. Maybe he  figured this thing was over and done with, they couldn't even find Jesus' body, who knows what the soldiers had done with it? Who knew he would miss Jesus? Who knew that Jesus would show up, that was absolutely unimaginable, unreasonable, too much to hope for. But his friends told him afterwards that Jesus was with them. That Jesus had said to them "Peace be with you" and had showed them his hands and side where the holes were.

Thomas scoffed at his friends and said, "You're kidding, right? That can't be true. Besides, in order for me to believe you, I'd have to put my hands in those holes myself." His friends shook their heads and walked away, remembering that Thomas was always the one who wanted proof, he wanted evidence, and in this case, he wanted the gory details.

They met together the next week as usual, and this time Thomas was there. They gathered together in the same room that they had always gathered in, and shut the doors behind them. They were still afraid that the soldiers might come after them.

And then, Jesus was there standing among them. How did he get there?How did he get in? All the doors were locked. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you," and then he walked right over to Thomas and looked him in the eyes and said, "Thomas, I know you've always been the one who needs not just to know the facts, but you need to feel too. Go ahead, put your fingers on my hands, feel the holes. Go ahead, feel the holes in my side. Feel Thomas, feel the reality of what God has done."

As I listen to this story over and over again, what begins to make sense is that this story is not about belief, or doubt, or even proof and evidence. When I read this story, I realize this is about recognizing Jesus in our midst in an absolutely new way. I imagine Jesus didn't look the same as his old self. The story says that Jesus said to them, "Peace be with you," he showed them his hands and his side, and then they recognized him, "this is Jesus." This resurrected Jesus was recognized in an absolutely different way. 

He didn’t walk through the door like the ordinary Jesus, the doors were locked. They recognized Jesus in his words, Peace be with you, and receive the Holy Spirit. They recognized Jesus in his wounds. They recognized Jesus in transformation.

Maybe Thomas wasn’t there the first time not because he doubted, maybe Thomas wasn’t there the first time because he already knew. Maybe Thomas was already out doing the work of recognizing Christ in others, maybe Thomas was already out bringing the good news of God in our midst to the lonely, the outcasts, the thrown away. Maybe Thomas already knew that if you want to know that God is real, that Christ is alive and at work in the world, the best place for you to be is out there, in the world. Maybe Thomas was the brave one. 

Resurrection is not about magic. Resurrection is about the reality of the Kingdom of God. Resurrection is about the God who created all that is seen and unseen, the God who created you and me, doing this absolutely new thing in human history. Resurrection is about this new creation that was begun with Easter, and continues as we encourage one another to be active in projects of new creation, projects of healing and of hope. When we are active in projects of healing and hope, we are standing on the ground that Jesus has won in his resurrection. 

According to NT Wright, the former Bishop of Durham, writing on resurrection, we are not only the beneficiaries of new creation, we are the agents of it. You and I, when we are active healers, when we are active hopers, we are living in the new creation, and bringing about the Kingdom of God. Thomas, I think, was already about Kingdom business.

Together and with Jesus, we have journeyed through the dark times, we experienced betrayal and lies, we experienced the suffering and death, and we come to this place today, with Thomas and Jesus’ other friends and know that we are made new creations because of the journey. We are made new creations by what Jesus did, and we are agents of new creation by what we do. 

Do you need to know what is meaningful? Do you need to know what is real? Do you need to know that God is real? Do you need to know that Christ is alive, that sin and death itself are not the last word? Do you need to experience Christ’s presence? Do you want to touch Jesus, and know that Jesus is really right here with you?

Then hear Jesus’ commission to those upon whom he breathes his spirit; you are being sent out, into the world, and specifically into the world’s brokenness. You are being sent to touch those places, to proclaim and participate in the reconciliation and the healing that is Christ’s work in the world, to be the agents of new creation and transformation in the world. You are being sent because you, each one of us about to gather at Jesus’ table right here, and at every other table at which bread is being broken because Jesus was broken for us, are now the Body of Christ, Jesus’ presence at work in the world, called and empowered to do what Jesus did. 

If we want to know what is real, if we want to experience the transformation of Jesus, if we want to recognize Jesus, not only do we do that in this place and at this table, we’ll also have to leave the rooms we lock ourselves in because of fear. We need to do what Thomas did, get out into the world, and insist on touching Christ’s wounds. We can’t sequester ourselves from the world’s pain, we can’t isolate ourselves from our own pain. We can’t numb our pain, or over stimulate ourselves in order to feel something. We can’t keep our mouths shut because we don’t know the words to speak. 

Fortunately, Jesus keeps after us, breathing peace and power to go out there and touch the places where the Body of Christ suffers. Jesus keeps after us breathing peace and power to go out there and show people what is real, where there is meaning. Jesus keeps after us, showing us that pain and sorrow, suffering and isolation, do not need to keep us enslaved to fear. 

How do we recognize Jesus? How do we experience Jesus? How do we know? By getting out there, by going into the world and doing the work of reconciliation, the work of healing, the work of hope, the work of building relationships, by doing the work that Christ does. 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Yr B April 5 2015

Audio Easter

Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him, "Teacher." Mary left and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord."

We have had quite a journey to get to this place, this Easter morning and the alleluias. We followers of Jesus, along with all of the characters who populate this amazing story of love, Peter, Mary, John, 
have accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem with the shouting of Hosannas. We have watched with horror as the events turned violent. We have been implicated in the apathy that allowed Jesus to be condemned and killed. We sat in the silence and waited as we believed with those very first followers, 
that Jesus, the one who stood for love, the one who healed others, was dead. That was the end. It looked like failure. It looked like the light went out. It looked like evil won. 

And Jesus said to her, Mary. With that one word, with that name, everything changed. Mary. And Mary knew. She knew that this man she had known in life, defeated death. She knew that this man she had loved, was all that had been promised. The temple would be destroyed and raised in three days. She knew what it meant. Jesus, was where the God she had worshipped since she was a child, lived now. Jesus, was where God walked, and loved and healed. Jesus, whose body was broken on that cross, now is the one who puts us back together again. Mary suddenly realized that death does not have the final word. Mary suddenly knew that it is in dieing that there is new life. "I've seen the Lord."

"Child of God, take this bread and eat it. It is broken for you because you are broken. Let it nourish you; let it sustain you. It is Christ. Always strive to be like Christ, who was broken to heal our brokenness." (Tom Lutes)

Our sadness and grief of Holy Week, our brokenness in life, is put back together in this Easter hope, on this Easter morning. We are Easter people. We are named, like Mary on that first Easter morning, Marty, Jan, Suzy, Rick, Carolyn, Curtis, and our lives sing with the love that created us, the love that calls us into being, the love that puts us back together when we break apart, when we miss the mark, 
the love that changes our very hearts and souls into a new creation. And on our hearts, with the cursive of the healed scars, is inscribed the words, you are loved, broken, healed, love one another.  

As Easter people we don't ignore the reality of our lives, in all of the happiness and hurtfulness, in all of the care and chaos, in all of the tenderness and terror. It is never one way or the other, it is always a dance of pain and joy. But we do live this life fully embraced and empowered by this Easter reality, your life matters, it matters now. The reality of the cross and the resurrection shows us that our relationships matter, that dignity and respect matter. 

As Easter people we live in the reality that changed the way the we are related to one another. Power doesn't win, love wins. Darkness does not prevail, light shines through. Brokenness doesn't end our lives, it only creates the fissures into which God's love can seep.  

And as Easter people, as people who have been named by Jesus, like Mary at the tomb, we are claimed as God's own. Our hearts and our lives are claimed by the love that heals us, the love that puts us back together, the love that wins. And from that love flows the ministry that God calls us to, love one another. Because, with Mary, we announce to the world, "I've seen the Lord." 

Now, Jesus dwells with us, and together we are about the business of kingdom building. like Jesus did and does, kingdom building in which all are loved, kingdom building in which all are fed. Kingdom building in which mercy and compassion rule. Kingdom building in which a broken body makes us whole, kingdom building in which the body of christ makes us a body of christ.

And that, my friends is hope. Hope that is not magical, or wishful. Hope that shows that there is nothing, not even death, that can separate us from God's love. Even when all seems lost, Jesus says to Mary, why are you crying, and Mary knows that all of her heartache is changed into joy. This hope does not crumble under the weight of expectation, this hope does not dissolve into a sea of despair. 
This hope assures us that even when we cannot see to the other side, new life will emerge, it must, it does, because that is what the cross is all about. We are Easter people.  

As we walk out of the doors of this church this morning, our work begins. The body of christ is at work with God's mission of healing and reconciliation in the world. It is our work of bearing God's love to those who, like us are broken, our work of bearing God's love in all places and all times. Our work of feeding those who are hungry, because we have been hungry. Our work of mercy and compassion, because we know what it is like to miss the mark. 

We are Easter people. We walk this journey of life knowing the amazement of resurrection, and the pain and suffering that precedes it. We are Easter people. We are nourished by the bread and the body that is broken for us. We are Easter people, made whole by the love that wins. 
Alleluia, christ is risen.  

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Vigil Yr B April 4 2015

Audio Easter Vigil

Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him, "Teacher." Mary left and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord."

We have had quite a journey to get to this place, on this night. We followers of Jesus, along with all of the characters who populate this amazing story of love, Peter, Mary, John, have accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem with the shouting of Hosannas. We have watched with horror as the events turned violent. We have been implicated in the apathy that allowed Jesus to be condemned and killed. We sat in the silence and waited as we believed with those very first followers, that Jesus, the one who stood for love, the one who healed others, was dead. That was the end. It looked like failure. It looked like the light went out. It looked like evil won. 

This evening began with the affirmation that indeed the light did not go out. There was flame enough to kindle the new fire, and together we sang it back into a roaring flame. We took solace and strength in hearing stories of salvation history. Reminding ourselves of God's creativity, reminding ourselves of God's liberation, reminding ourselves of the law that is written on our hearts. Reminding ourselves of our baptism, when Jesus claimed us as God's own forever, and we were marked as God's beloved. And here we proclaim the Alleluias. The Alleluias that fill our hearts and our minds with the love of God and each other, the alleluias that ring through eternity, and that shimmer in our own breath and blood. 

And Jesus said to her, Mary. With that one word, with that name, everything changed. Mary. And Mary knew. She knew that this man she had known in life, defeated death. She knew that this man she had loved, was all that had been promised. The temple would be destroyed and raised in three days. She knew what it meant. Jesus, was where the God she had worshipped since she was a child, lived now. Jesus, was where God walked, and loved and healed. Jesus, whose body was broken on that cross, now is the one who puts us back together again. Mary suddenly realized that death does not have the final word. Mary suddenly knew that it is in dieing that there is new life. "I've seen the Lord."

"Child of God, take this and eat it. It is broken for you because you are broken. Let it nourish you; let it sustain you. It is Christ. Always strive to be like Christ, who was broken to heal our brokenness." (Tom Lutes)

Our sadness and grief of Holy Week, our brokenness in life, is put back together in this Easter hope. We are Easter people. We are named, like Mary on that first Easter morning, Marty, Jan, Suzy, Rick, Carolyn, Curtis, and our lives sing with the love that created us, the love that calls us into being, the love that puts us back together when we break apart, when we miss the mark, the love that changes our very hearts and souls into a new creation. And on our hearts, with the cursive of the healed scars, is inscribed the words, you are loved, broken, healed, love one another.  

As Easter people we don't ignore the reality of our lives, in all of the happiness and hurtfulness, in all of the care and chaos, in all of the tenderness and terror. It is never one way or the other, it is always a dance of pain and joy. But we do live this life fully embraced and empowered by this Easter reality, your life matters, it matters now. The reality of the cross and the resurrection shows us that our relationships matter, that dignity and respect matter. 

As Easter people we live in the reality that changed the way the we are related to one another. Power doesn't win, love wins. Darkness does not prevail, light shines through. Brokenness doesn't end our lives, it only creates the fissures into which God's love can seep.  

And as Easter people, as people who have been named by Jesus, like Mary at the tomb, we are claimed as God's own. Our hearts and our lives are claimed by the love that heals us, the love that puts us back together, the love that wins. And from that love flows the ministry that God calls us to, love one another. Because, with Mary, we announce to the world, "I've seen the Lord." 

Now, Jesus dwells with us, and together we are about the business of  kingdom building. As Jesus did and does, kingdom in which all are loved, kingdom in which all are fed. Kingdom in which mercy and compassion rule. Kingdom in which a broken body makes us whole, kingdom in which the body of christ makes us a body of christ.

As we walk out of the doors of this church this evening, our work begins. The body of christ is at work with God's mission of healing and reconciliation in the world. It is our work of bearing God's love to those who, like us are broken, our work of bearing God's love in all places and all times. Our work of feeding those who are hungry, because we have been hungry. Our work of mercy and compassion, because we know what it is like to miss the mark. 

We are Easter people. We walk this journey of life knowing the amazement of resurrection, and the pain and suffering that precedes it. We are Easter people. We are nourished by the bread and the body that is broken for us. We are Easter people, made whole by the love that wins. Alleluia, christ is risen.  

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday Yr B April 3 2015

Audio 4.3.2015

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? 

I think what is good about Good Friday is that it shows us that death is real, and 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.
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 effect 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 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 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 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 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.

One of the things we don't do tonight is to bless the bread and the wine, tonight we eat the leftovers. I would like you to hear these words, written by a young theologian, Tom Lutes. "Child of God, take this and eat it. It is broken for you because you are broken. Let it nourish you; let it sustain you. It is Christ. Always strive to be like Christ, who was broken to heal our brokenness." Amen.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Foot Washing and Holy Communion

Audio 4.2.2015

Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the father. Having loved his dear companions,he continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime. Jesus got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basinand began to wash the feet of his friends, drying them with his apron. 

In this fourth gospel, we hear the story that takes place during the last meal that Jesus spends with his friends before his death. Jesus washes the feet of his friends, and asks them to do likewise. In this fourth gospel, John, the gospel writer points us to two central activities that show us who we are. Washing one another's feet, and eating together. God provides for God's people and God's people serve one another. So it is significant that this is what we do as we participate in these final days of Jesus' life. We eat this meal together, and we wash one another's feet. 

Imagine having been at this particular passover meal. Hoards of people have arrived in Jerusalem for the festival. All clamoring for a place to eat the meal. You, being a friend of Jesus, are in this room, with these people, reclining at this table. Bartholomew, James, Andrew, Judas Iscariot, Peter, John, Mary, 
Thomas, James, Joanna, Philip, Matthew, Susanna, Thaddeus, Simon, and all the other men and women and children who were gathered that night. The meal is spread before you, the unleavened bread, the roasted lamb,and the bitter herbs. And in the middle of the meal, Jesus gets up, he takes off his robe and ties a towel around himself. 

How odd, how extraordinary. He pours water into a basin and begins to wash everyone's feet. They surely needed washing, there are no clean feet in all of Jerusalem after a day of walking about, gathering supplies for the meal, visiting friends and relatives. But who does he think he is? That job is not his, it is the servant's work.  


We call Jesus King. A King, who does servant's work? Something here is astoundingly different. Something here shows us what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Wash one another's feet. Love one another by serving each other.

Recently, I've been wondering about sacraments. You remember, the outward sign of an inward grace. 
And I've been thinking about those outward signs. Water...oil...flame.....bread.....wine..... 
But other things too, wind... dirt.... seeds....   

Sometimes life's events feel so big, and wide, and broad, and overwhelming. The pain and the joy of life bring us soaring to the mountaintops and to the depths of despair. And much of life is lived somewhere in between, in the mundane sacramental moments of making dinner for those we love, or driving our children to dance and music class, or doing our taxes, or taking a bath, or dreaming our dreams. It is in the ordinary Jesus shows us sacred. In the muck and mess that is washed from our feet.

In the ordinary meal, our cracks are filled, our fissures healed, we are made whole. In the mundane washing, we overflow with mercy and compassion. Jesus seeps into our very being, washes us, feeds us, heals us. Jesus shows us who God is, and Jesus teaches us who we are.

Let me wash your feet, take this bread, and you will be healed. Jesus offers love, and forgiveness, healing and compassion. And Jesus shows us how to do what we are called to do. 

On this night, the night Jesus is handed over to be tortured, betrayed by his friend, Love really does win. 

The violence perpetrated on Jesus is hard to hear, hard to watch, because you and I are implicated in it. We have not been perfect. We have judged, we have bullied, we have missed the mark. We have offered ridicule when mercy was called for. We have fallen asleep when we should have paid attention. But, we are loved perfectly. Love still wins.

The gift we are given this night, mercy and compassion, foot washing and food, washes over us, nourishes us, puts us back together. We are re-membered. Come and receive the gift. Come, and remember who you are. Come.

And then go.Go invite others to the banquet.Go, wash the feet of those whom God loves, those who are hungry, those who are thirsty, those who are different than you.

Wash the feet of those whom God loves, with whom do you disagree?
Wash the feet of those whom God loves, from whom do you need forgiveness, whom do you need to forgive? Wash the feet of those whom God loves, you will be re-membered, you will be healed. Wash the feet of those whom God loves, you will be a part of the healing of your world, 
you will witness to the truth, Love wins.