Sermon :: April 30, 2017

Luke 24:13-35

13Now on that same day [when Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene,] two [disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

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Sermon :: April 16, 2017 – Easter Sunday

Matthew 28:1-10

1After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

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Sermon :: April 14, 2017 – Good Friday

God of the accused and the accusing, who made the mouth, the ear and the heart of all in conflict. May we turn ourselves towards that which must be heard, because there we will hear your voice. Amen.

This prayer begins a series of prayers called a Collect by the Irish poet and theologian, Paudrig O Tauma. It is the stations of the cross Collect and I’ll be sharing a few of its prayers today. It begins with this hard truth, that what we often try to avoid will often be the place we hear and see God at work. And what do we try to avoid more than death itself? What do we run from, distract ourselves from, or avoid the discussion of more than death?

Yet, here we have it described in graphic fashion in the very scriptures that give us hope. And we often forget about it. We often skip to the end of the story. We move ahead to Easter, to the resurrection, to new life quickly and deliberately. I wonder if this is why the gospel writers spent so much time describing Jesus’ death and so little time writing about his resurrection. We want new life, we want to believe and hope in death being defeated, but we often want to skip over the embodied death that precedes it. We want the rising without the falling.

 

God of the ground, whose body was – like ours – from dust, and who fell – like we fall -to the ground. May we find you on the ground when we fall. Oh, our falling fallen brother, may we find you, so that we may inhabit our bodyselves. Amen.

The faithful life of Christ is an embodied life. It isn’t one to just speak of God’s love, but to show it. And this embodied love takes on a different look than what we want or expect, just as Jesus’ power takes on a different look than what we want or expect. In the face of the untouchably sick, Jesus touched and was touched – lepers, blind men, bleeding women. In the face of society’s oppression, Jesus befriended and allied himself – tax collectors, prostitutes, the religiously impure. In the face of violence, Jesus worked for the good of those who actively and passively worked to kill him – the religious elite, Roman soldiers, the disciples who fled. Killed at the hands of the violent and power hungry, we find Christ on the cross, his body broken. His love and power were so complete and full that in the face of violence, his answer was the opposite. His kingdom, not of this world, does not play by the rules of the empire, so here we find him.

 

Jesus, our Lord of death, you have gone where we have not yet gone. We honour your death with art. May we also learn from our fear, because fear didn’t save you from anything. Amen.

Fear. How often we can relate to this primal emotion. In the days following this death, we know that the disciples hid away. Death and fear go together, even still today. In our world, we fear and we fear a lot. And not just the emotion of being afraid, but fearing, to our very core. Fear of intentions and religions. Fear of neighbors and strangers. Fear of action and inaction. And this fear, fear of death itself, makes us fear life itself.

As the disciples hid away, hearing “It is finished” ringing through their ears, they must have certainly agreed. It was finished, they were finished – finished with the movement, finished with the traveling, finished with the struggle of resisting the empire, finished with disappointment and confusion. They hid away, just as we hide away. But Jesus did not. Jesus, despite the fear he surely felt, was not governed by it. Regardless of if he knew what would come next, he willing, steadily walked forward. He embraced life, all life, even the lives of those who took his. And it seems so backwards and foolish. It goes against our instincts.

This radical, embodied love is the path of Christ. And we try to do the same by loving those who we fear, loving those who we don’t trust or understand. In the face of fear, we work to choose love. In the face of violence, we work to choose life. In the face of greed, we work to choose generosity. And when we fail, which we will and do, we need just look to the cross, where we find that “It is finished” declares the end not of life, but of death and fear and sin. Through death, death is buried.

We move to Easter, we move to the resurrection, but without this day, without this sacrifice, there is no new life. Paudrig O Tuama’s Collect, the prayers at the Stations of the Cross, calls us to steadiness in Christ’s work, just as Jesus demonstrated what that can sometimes look like. We see death, yes; today we see death. But we do not see fear. We call this Good Friday, not because of Christ’s death, but because Christ’s death puts death itself, fear itself, sin itself in its grave.

Jesus of the unexpected, for at least some of your life this was not how you imagined its end. Yet even at the end, you kept steady in your conviction. Jesus, keep us steady. Jesus, keep us steady. Because, Jesus, keep us steady. Amen.

Sermon :: April 9, 2017 – Palm Sunday

Matthew 27:11-54

11Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
15Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
24So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
32As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
38Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’ ” 44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.
45From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

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Sermon :: April 3, 2017

John 11:1-45

1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

28When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

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In 2015, Disney and Pixar released a children’s movie called “Inside Out”. In it, we meet a girl named Riley just as she and her family move from a small town in Minnesota to San Francisco, California. She misses her friends. She misses the places she used to eat. She misses her stuff (the moving truck was delayed in arriving with all their belongings). And she really, really misses hockey. But this isn’t just a story about Riley and her life changes. This movie is a story about her feelings. Her brain is controlled by one of five different emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness. At this point in her life, only one feeling can use the control panel of her brain and Joy is the one constantly trying to drive the bus (so to speak). If you’ve watched the movie (and I suggest you do – it’s great, even if you aren’t a child anymore), you know what happens next. Joy and Sadness end up getting lost, Riley tries running away (that’s an idea that Anger came up with), and in a plot twist ending only Sadness can remove the bad idea and get her back home with her parents. While Joy thought Sadness was basically useless, it was this “negative” emotion that brought Riley back to her new home.

I think that sometimes the church is a lot like Riley. We like the good emotions, obviously, but often that comes at the expense of trying to ignore, deny, or purge all “bad” emotions (note the air quotes). We read all about the joy of the Lord, we like to sing the upbeat happy hymns, and we talk about the resurrection as though death doesn’t still cause us grief. But the Christian life is more than just a self-help, feel-good, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, fake it until you make it sort of life. And I think that this can be really frustrating for some people – we like to feel happy, but we can’t always be happy. Some of us spend our whole lives chasing happiness and advertisers and politicians are quick to tell us what we need to do or how we need to vote to make that happen. Churches often fall into this trap, too, and we can begin to be a place where only happiness is allowed to exist. The joy of the Lord definitely exists but that doesn’t mean that as followers of Christ we’ll always be happy.

Our readings today are a pretty clear illustration of that. Just taking a quick glance at the reading shows a wide range of emotions and Jesus doesn’t seem to avoid any of them, either in himself or in those around him. We read that Jesus was “greatly disturbed”, which means he felt anger and indignation. We also read that he wept with his friends – he knows the grief and sadness we face. He felt frustrated. The people around him felt wonder and doubt. And Jesus doesn’t seem to care at all about all these emotions he’s feeling or those around him. He doesn’t shy away from them.

And I have to believe that this was intentional, to some degree. I mean, if he had come immediately to the help of his friend, Lazarus, he could have avoided all these negative emotions, right? Yet he didn’t. It seems that Jesus doesn’t just redeem people, but also emotions, too. He breathes life into our life.

I love the images used in our Ezekiel reading today. The dry bones, waiting, listening for the Word of God. But we have to notice something – just because those bones grow new tissue, muscle, skin, and hair doesn’t mean that they are any more alive than they were before. Not until the breath of the Lord enters them do they begin to move, speak, or live. This prophecy then explains itself, that God will bring up from the grave those who feel like dry bones, that the Holy Spirit will enter them and they will know God. They will know God.

This is a vast departure from the gods and idols of our world – unfeeling, unknowing, and impersonal. They will know God and now, 3000 years later, we do know God, however imperfectly. We know God through the person of Jesus. Jesus is the lens that makes visible the invisible. Jesus is the way that we see and know God.

And here’s what our gospel tells us about God today – that God is not some distant, far off, unfeeling deity. Jesus (and by extension, God) feels what we feel and just as Jesus redeems the whole cosmos, Jesus redeems our human experience. Jesus felt the pain and bitterness of losing a beloved friend to the grave. Jesus felt frustration and anger at the state of the world. Jesus felt loneliness and hunger. Jesus feel joy and friendship. Jesus felt and that is what drove him to the cross for you.

Taking on the human experience, God placed humanity above purity, mercy over judgement, wholeness over segregation, and life over death. God takes the dry bones and breathes life into them – eternal life that comes by God’s own Spirit and Word. God feels your pain and your happiness and God has redeemed it all. There is no one that God has not died to redeem and that includes you.

In a way, our gospel reading today tells us what will happen to Jesus, it gives a foreshadowing. And I think that it’s beautiful. Jesus enters into grief and pain, attending to the death of his friend, and Jesus call him from the grave. In a few weeks, we’ll hear how Jesus switched places with Lazarus. Soon, Jesus will be the one suffering and dying. Soon, Jesus will be the one betrayed to death by his friends. Soon, Jesus will be the one rising from the grave by the Word and Spirit of God. And this points us to this truth: that God is in the business of taking dry bones and breathing life into them and God knows what that feels like.

In the movie Inside Out, Riley realizes that happiness might be preferred, but that every emotion has qualities about it that make it indispensable from the human experience. You can’t be happy all the time, but we don’t have to be. We can experience the full breadth of emotions confident that Jesus has felt them and that God is present with us through every one of them. If you are feeling happy today, God is with you. But if you are feeling something else, something you’d rather not feel, my Word for you today is this. God feels it with you and God has redeemed you regardless of how you’re feeling. God is with you. Amen.