Saturday, April 27, 2019

2 Easter April 28 2019

Audio  2 Easter April 28 2019 Acts 5:27-32, Revelation 1:4-8, John 20:19-31, Psalm 118:14-29

"It is one of the cosmos' most mysterious unsolved cases: dark matter. It is supposedly what holds the universe together. We can't see it, but scientists are pretty sure it's out there." I read that on the Internet, so it must be true. And earlier in Lent, I read or heard, can't remember which, that we know about 3% of all there is to know. 

We want to know so desperately, don't we? We want certainty, we want proof, we want it all. And yet, in faith as in science, the story we tell really only touches the mystery of the universe every once in a while. Our science and our faith is only as good as the questions we ask. And yet the story we tell, whether it is the story of faith, or the story of science, does a darn good job of pointing us in the right direction, describing the reality in which we live. The story of faith, and the story of science, are not mutually exclusive stories, they are stories that describe different things, and yet, they dance together. 

Jesus died, didn't he? And yet Mary, who stood weeping at the tomb, returns to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord.” And we claim that God entered time and space and did something absolutely new, something so amazing that all we can do is sing and dance and shout alleluia! All we can do is try to describe it, try to paint pictures and make music, we can't come close to knowing it. And that amazing thing that God continues to do changes us, transforms us, like Jesus, we are made into something completely new and different.

The doors of the house where the disciples met in fear were locked, and Jesus came and stood among them. Jesus came and stood among them, but until Jesus said, Peace be with you, they did not even recognize him. Well would you? He was dead, why on earth would Jesus be standing among them. Remember the women who came running back from the tomb? The disciples didn't believe them, they didn't believe even Jesus himself until Jesus said these familiar words, Peace be with you. Only then did the disciples realize this was Jesus in their midst. How could this be?   

You see, this story about Jesus appearing to the disciples after the crucifixion and resurrection, this story about Jesus coming back to appear to Thomas, who missed it the first time around, serves to try to show us what resurrection looks like. It tries to show us what this amazing thing that God does, looks like. 

Imagine yourself there. You are in that room, it is hot and smelly and so close, the doors are locked, the windows are barred. You are so frightened, the same authorities who just killed Jesus are after you. You can't eat, you can't sleep, your stomach is in knots. And then, all of a sudden, without any warning, this man, whom you do not recognize, shows up in the room. How did that happen? There's no way he could have gotten in, you locked those doors yourself. Everyone is shaking in their sandals. And then he speaks. "Peace be with you." His hands and his feet were torn from the nails driven into them, his side was pierced. You knew it was him when he spoke again of peace, and forgiveness, when he breathed on you and you felt his spirit. 

Thomas wasn't there that day, and just like you, couldn't believe it until he saw it. So a week later, when Thomas was there, Jesus showed up again. The hands, the feet, the side. You knew you had to tell this story, you knew that God had done something so amazing you just had to tell everyone. 

Here you are, on this day, the Sunday after Easter, your 60th Easter, your 45th Easter, your 20th Easter, your 10th Easter. We gather together here, in this place. Our doors are wide open, we hope and pray each time we gather that God will show up, that God will send us people to whom we may introduce God. The reality is that God is here, God is showing up. The question is do we recognize God? Do we recognize Jesus in our midst? This story we hear today points us to the ways we recognize Jesus in our midst. Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit, forgive the sins of any, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. This is the way we recognize Jesus, this is the way we serve Jesus, this is the way we follow Jesus. We listen to those around us, we listen to their stories, we listen to who they are, and when we do, Jesus shows up.

When people tell the story about Thomas they tend to end with the admonition to believe without seeing. Somehow, believing without seeing gets equated with certainty and faith. But I think one of the mistakes that is made in Christian talk is that belief and certainty become synonymous. Certainty is never a pre-requisite for belief, and certainty is not a product of belief. There is a place for all of our doubt and uncertainty, all of our questions. Even Thomas shows us that. Certainty actually is not really very important at all. The reality in which we live, and the place I began all of this today, is that reality in which we see and experience very little of the total that is possible in human experience. We place our faith in the story that is true, not in the certainty of being right. We place our faith in the story of life, joy, pain, suffering, death, and resurrection, and the God who walks with us in the midst of it all. The God who collects all of humanity's pain, fear, and hate, and takes it into Godself through love. That is not about certainty, but it is about love. 

We practice love and God shows up. That is what this life and this faith is all about. We practice peace and Jesus shows up. That is what serving others is all about. We practice silence and the spirit shows up. That is what prayer is all about. Open the doors, let all who would enter come in. It is Love that wins. Amen. Audio Audio

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Easter Vigil and Easter 2019

Audio  Easter Vigil and Easter 2019
Luke 24:1-12

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they had went in, they did not find the body. The men they saw said to them “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

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, Mary, Joanna, Peter, 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 puts us back together again after we have fallen apart. Reminding ourselves of our baptism, when Jesus claimed us as God's own forever, and we were marked as God's beloveds. 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 the words, he is not here, but has risen, Mary, and Joanna, and the other Mary, and all the other women, knew. They knew that this man that they had known in life, defeated death. They knew that this man they had loved, was all that had been promised. The temple would be destroyed and raised in three days, on the third day rise again. 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 our brokenness back together again. The women realized that death does not have the final word. They knew that it is in dying that there is new life.

Our sadness and grief of Holy Week, our brokenness in life, is put back together in this Easter hope. We are Easter people. And like Mary Magdalen, Joanna, and Mary, Jesus’ mother, on that first Easter morning, 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 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, we are marked and 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.

Now, Jesus dwells with us, and together we are about the business of kingdom building, as Jesus did and does. It is a kingdom in which all are loved, a kingdom in which all are fed. A kingdom in which mercy and compassion rule. A kingdom in which a broken body makes us whole, a 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, it is our work of bearing God's love in all places and all times. It is our work of feeding those who are hungry, because we have been hungry. It is 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, and like the women at the tomb on that first Easter morning, we go to tell others.

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 19, 2019

Good Friday April 19 2019

Audio  Good Friday April 19 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

The people who populate this story, and the events of this passion, the betrayal, the lies, the apathy, the bad luck, allow each of us to enter the story. You and I are these people, we are people who have betrayed and been betrayed, we are people who have lied and who have been lied to, we are people who have shown apathy, and we are people who experience just darn bad luck. We are people who have experienced sadness and pain, we are people who feel isolated and alienated at times. We are human beings who live in the muck and mess of this life. What we do together this evening, and 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.

An image that has been before our eyes this week is the flames and aftermath at Notre Dame. In those images, and in the embers, we see sadness at loss, the loss of history, of beauty. But we also see the cross, with mother and child at its base. We see the light shining through. We see hope, because with every death, comes resurrection, new life, new birth.

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

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday Yr C April 18 2019

Audio  Maundy Thursday Yr C April 18 2019
Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-17, 31b-35, Psalm 116:1, 10-17

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, the other 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. Recently we’ve had the opportunity to watch documentaries of Mr. Rogers, to learn more about his life. But first and foremost, 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.

The act of washing feet is sacramental, it is the outward sign of an inward grace. Something that is sacramental, or a sacrament is not beyond or above us, not holier, not necessarily even mysterious. Sacrament is what shows God’s love and grace: ordinary water, ordinary bread and wine, that invite us into love and relationship.

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, and then we may show that love to others.

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.

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...