Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Great Vigil of Easter Yr B March 31 2018

Do not be afraid, you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.

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 that God calls us together to follow Jesus. 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. 

With this empty tomb everything changed. This man, whom Jesus’ followers knew in life, has been raised. Jesus defeated death. And Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, who had brought the spices, the frankincense and myrrh, the very same spices that were brought as a gift at Jesus’ birth, were alarmed, they were afraid.  

But they knew. They knew that this man they had known in life, defeated death. They knew that this man that they had loved, was all that had been promised. The temple would be destroyed and raised in three days. They knew what it meant. Jesus, was where the God they had worshipped since they were children, 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 Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome suddenly realized that death does not have the final word. They knew that it is in dying that there is new life. And it terrified them.

Our sadness and grief of Holy Week, our brokenness in life, is put back together in this Easter hope. We are Easter people. Our lives sing with the love that creates 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 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 and claimed, we may well be terrified. Awestruck. 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. And sometimes, following Jesus, and loving one another, is terrifying. Like the women who ran from the tomb, saying nothing to anyone, we often wish to keep our mouths shut about this life of love we lead. It is so very different from the way the world would have us live, some days it seems so very hard to be the person who loves neighbors, who stands up for those whose voices are silenced, who says the things others are afraid to say.

But now Jesus dwells with us, and together we are about the business of  kingdom building. As Jesus builds this kingdom all are loved, all are fed, and mercy and compassion rule. In Jesus’ Kingdom a broken body makes us whole, 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, March 30, 2018

Good Friday Yr B March 30 2018

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, 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 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, 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. 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. Tonight, our bread and wine also are broken.

I would like you to hear these words, written by our son, Tom. "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.

Foot Washing and Holy Communion Yr B March 29 2018

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 basin and 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, 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, Peter insists, 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.

One of the people I really miss in our world is Fred Rogers. Mr. Rogers taught us about being a neighbor. Fred Rogers invited a friend of his, in fact someone he had heard singing in church, to be his neighbor on his television show. Francois Clemmons joined the cast of the show in 1968, becoming the first African-American to have a recurring role on a kids TV series. Mr. Clemmons played the police officer on the show. He said he wasn’t really interested in this role initially, because growing up where he did, he did not have a good opinion of police officers. On one episode, Mr. Rogers was resting his hot feet in a plastic pool, and asked Mr. Clemmons, playing a police officer, to join him in resting his own hot, weary, feet. They sat and chatted, as Mr. Rogers did, and eventually the police officer got up to leave and get on with his day, and Mr. Rogers got down on his knees, and wiped dry the feet of his friend. In one fell swoop, Mr. Rogers shows all those watching, who is our neighbor, and how we serve one another.

So that is entirely related to sacrament. You remember, the outward sign of an inward grace. And I've been thinking about those outward signs. 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, washing feet or dreaming 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. Jesus, is here, in our midst, walking with us. Come, be filled with the love that gives everything and takes nothing. And you will know what love looks like.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Palm Sunday Yr B March 25 2018

Palm Sunday Yr B March 25 2018 Audio

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 here.

In this culture of go, go, go, the only time we ever seem to slow down, or even stop, is when a loved one dies. So many of you have been there. We gather, we tell stories, about who they are, 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 eat, and we do all these things together. This is that week, this death is that death, and 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 hailed as a 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 donkey. The disciples welcome him into their city, Jerusalem, and 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 he pays to bring it. His 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. From now on we see them no more. It 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 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 this space 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, and your Easter joy may be complete. Amen.

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 9 July 5 2020

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 9 July 5 2020 Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67, Psalm 45: 11-18, Romans 7:15-25a, Matthew 11:1...