Sunday, March 31, 2013

What Part Will You Play in this Mystery?

Isn’t this the most beautiful story ever?  Very early on the first day of the week - on Sunday morning, while it was still dark - Mary Magdalene has come back to the garden tomb where Jesus was buried and finds the tomb empty. 

After alerting Peter and another disciple, who confirm what she has seen but then go home, Mary can’t leave.  She is weeping. And then, amazingly, she sees and speaks with two angels in white inside the tomb.  

And even more amazingly, she turns and sees someone she supposes to be the gardener, but we know that it’s Jesus.  And Jesus comes to her and calls her name and it is then that she recognizes him, for Jesus is the good shepherd who knows his sheep by name... and the sheep know him by the sound of his voice, and they will come when he calls.  

Mary, he says.  Rabbouni! My very own teacher! she answers.

The Resurrection is such a great mystery. Nobody “saw” the resurrection itself - how it happened - but rather Mary Magdalene (and others, depending on which Gospel account you read) found the tomb empty.  There were post-resurrection appearances and experiences, of course, but the resurrection itself is shrouded in holy mystery.

Does that make it hard to believe?  Maybe.  The absence of someone doesn’t prove much, if that’s the kind of “proof” you’re looking for here.  

But experience of things not exactly seen is a significant part of the life of faith.  Just as no one can “prove” love, any attempt to explain the resurrection in human physiological terms eventually comes up short.  

There’s a leap of faith that happens, for us at least, we who did not have the experience that Mary and later Peter and Thomas and the others had.

In the creed we say that we believe that God created all things, things both seen and unseen.  The resurrection itself is a thing unseen.  The presence of God is mostly always a thing unseen.  

We experience Jesus in the Eucharist, and we see the bread and the wine, but Jesus himself remains hidden, and yet present in our midst.  Another holy mystery.

And so we approach these things in story.  The story tells us what we need to know, that something happened in that tomb and something happened to the people who encountered Jesus after his death, and something continues to happen in ways that often remain unseen.

And the story says that even when we think he is not there, God is with us.  The story says that Jesus calls us by name. The story shows us that Jesus, who refused to save himself,and refused to use force or violence but only worked for healing and wholeness, was vindicated by God.  

Jesus lived the way we ought to live, with integrity; without malice or jealousy or greed; without cheating or lying or trying to get ahead; without getting caught up in one-upping other people; without scorn or conceit or soul-sucking cynicism.  

Jesus lived to show us what God is like; he lived to show God to the world.

And after Jesus’ horrible and shameful death, a death he did nothing to get out of, a death which shows what the world is like - a world that works to tear down and kill - God acted in history and raised Jesus up to show us that love that is stronger than death.  And that good will overcome evil in the end.  

And so we are here this morning to say Alleluia, the Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!

But there is more.  Jesus told Mary Magdalene that he must go back to God before his work and life were complete.  He came from God and had to go back to God, opening the way to heaven for all of us.  

And so that means that Jesus is not here to show the world today what God is like. 

That means that now it is up to US to show the world what God is like.  To show the world what love is like and how love acts; to show what a life of integrity is like.  

To show the world that God desires wholeness; that love heals; that touching the stranger and clothing the naked and visiting the sick and imprisoned and feeding the hungry is the work God has given us to do here and now.  

Our God is a living God, and the story is not just a look back at something that happened two thousand years ago.  The story continues.  The sacred and mysterious story of showing the world what God is like.

What part will you play in that sacred story?  

What part will you play?

The Collect for Easter Day

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord's resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Easter Vigil

O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Holy Saturday

Friday, March 29, 2013

Music for Good Friday: Miserere Mei Deus (Alighieri)

The Sixteen, a UK ensemble, sing Gregorio Alighieri's setting of Psalm 51 (Miserere mei Deus), a 16th century composition written to be sung in the Sistine Chapel during Tenebrae on Holy Wednesday and Good Friday.

Your Ways Are Not My Ways, Says the Lord

God, this is an ugly story.  

Jesus has been arrested by a cohort of both imperial soldiers and Temple security police. They take him to the religious leadership, where he is questioned about his friends and his teachings. They take his answers to be smart remarks.  He has not bowed to their authority.  They want him silenced. 

A guard hits him in the face.  Peter, himself afraid of the authorities, denies him.  They take Jesus to Pilate.

Pilate, the local Roman governor, and his soldiers dress Jesus in a crown of thorns and a purple robe to mock him.  And then they beat him up.  They bring him out and show him to the people to humiliate him.  

And the religious leaders and the police force see how he is humiliated and see his face all black and blue and they despise him.  They shout out their demand that Jesus be crucified.  The people also clamor for the death penalty.  They hate what they see.

This scares Pilate. The people are showing their strength as a mob. They are not being docile or obedient after Pilate and his soldiers have flexed their government muscles by beating Jesus up, parading him around in a pretend king’s outfit, exhibiting the public humiliation of a bloody and beaten man.  This “moderate” show of violence should have done the trick.  Should have reminded the people that the government has the power, and this is what they can do with it.

But the people are agitated, perhaps by the smell of blood, the smell of fear, the public display of something shameful.  It is going to take more than this.  Pilate is nervous.

He goes back to Jesus and demands to know where he is from.  Jesus, who has just been beaten by this man’s soldiers is now silent in the face of this demand for an answer.  Pilate says to him, “Don’t you know that I’ve got all the power here?  What are you thinking, man, that you refuse to answer my question?”

So Jesus does answer Pilate.  
But not his question.  He merely states that there is a power higher than Pilate, and that, in truth, Pilate is completely powerless.

Now Pilate is caught between a rock and a hard place.  Jesus has subtly threatened him on the one side, and the people are threatening him on the other. They play a political power card.  They goad Pilate. They shout that they will expose Pilate to the Emperor, the most powerful of the powers that be, at least in Pilate’s mind, if Pilate does not do away with Jesus.

So Pilate stages an even more elaborate show of power.  He brings Jesus back out.  Jesus with the bloody face and the pretend king outfit.  “Shall I crucify your king?” he shouts sarcastically.  He goads them back, he pumps them up.  Pilate shows the people - this is what else we can do:  not only can we beat you up, but we can kill you.

And the religious leaders answer, "Jesus is not our king!  The Emperor is the power WE respect."

Ah yes, this is the correct answer.  This is what Pilate needs to hear.  The religious leaders respect his power, his ruling authority; the people support his power to put troublemakers to death.  This is the answer Pilate must have, the answer all his posturing show of power was meant to bring about.

And then he handed Jesus over to be crucified.  Pilate and the leaders together, with the people jumping in to have their say.  (“Don’t say he IS the King of the Jews but that he SAYS he is King of the Jews.”)  They all share in the power that the use of violence seems to give.

And everybody else stands there and watches.

And at the end of the day, when the Sabbath is about to begin, the soldiers go with clubs and break the legs of the men still alive on their crosses so that they will die more quickly.  

Since Jesus is already dead, they cut him open with a spear.  Because this is a weekday activity, this beating and mocking and killing.  Not something we want to see on the Sabbath, especially around a big religious holiday.  We all need to get home to fix a special dinner and have our religious observances.

This text has been used to vilify Judaism and to justify the killing of Jews in revenge for this act against Jesus.  But this is not about Jews versus Christians.  John was written by Jews for Jews.  There were no Christians at the time of Jesus, and John’s Gospel was born out of a deeply divided community of Jews who were each trying to prove the other wrong about Jesus.

In some ways, John is like a morality play, with stock characters and types.  For John, “the Jews” means “those other Jews” - those in the community who don’t believe what we believe.  The disciples and Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene are the true believers.  Thomas represents doubters, those who can eventually be convinced.  Nicodemus represents the Jewish teachers who don’t understand the scriptures the way John’s community does.  And Pilate represents worldly power.

For John, violence and power are what the bad guys use.  The bad guys (those other Jews, not us Jews) want to kick their rivals out of church.  And what’s more, the bad guys put on elaborate displays of power.  They beat people up and even kill them.  Jesus never lifts a hand, even to defend himself.

Somehow we don’t always seem to get this.  Those who have gone out to do violence to others in the name of Jesus didn’t get that they were buying into the world of Pilate.  

The world appeals to our basest emotions.  The world wants us to be afraid so that we will be obedient and allow someone to have power over us.  

The world wants us to fear the unknown, to despise the one who is weak, to blame the victim, to shut down the one who goes against the grain, and to fight our uneasy sense of vulnerability by asserting our power, using violence - physical, emotional, social - if necessary.  Or approving the use of violence by those who run the show.  Or at least accepting that violence is just something out there that we can’t do anything about.

This story may have taken place 2000 years ago, but it still describes our world.  Where someone who does not play the game by the rules of those in power will suffer the consequences.

We are all caught up in this world of power and violence - physical, emotional, social - in one way or another.  Some of us are implicated as perpetrators.  Some of us have been victims and we may hear this story and feel our own humiliation and pain.  Some of us are just standing by in our own grief.  

On this day, we look at Jesus being beaten, being humiliated, bearing the brunt of the world’s anger and frustration and its fear; we see Jesus betrayed by a man whose feet he washed and deserted by those with whom he ate.  And maybe some of us can see what we have done and some can see what has been done to us or to those we love.

And yet, amazingly enough, this is the world that God wants to save.  Our world that worships power and justifies violence, that thinks the work of the world is for business days and that religious matters are only for religious days.

This is the world to which God sent angels over and over to tell God’s people to fear not!  Don’t be afraid!  Because fear is what gets us every time; it’s what makes us think in terms of us and them, winners and losers, powerful and powerless.

It seems to me, as we look on this wreck, this display, this horrible convergence of hatred, violence, fear, power-mongering, along with brokenness and powerlessness, that this the way Jesus draws us all to himself: gathering us all together the way a crash, a wreck, a smash up so powerfully draws the gaze of us all - perpetrator, victim, and by-stander alike.  Together we are called to stand together and look upon this man the world despised and finally realize that the world’s ways are not God’s ways.

This is not the end of the story, though.  We’re not finished here.  

Tonight we have seen the world’s ways.

But on the third day, we will see God’s.

The Collect for Good Friday

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Music for Maundy Thursday

The Pange lingua (Sing, my tongue) written by Thomas Aquinas, set to traditional Gregorian chant, is a feature of the Maundy Thursday service, which emphasizes Jesus' institution of the Eucharist at the last supper.

Love, Love, Love.

"Jesus, knowing that he had come from God and was going back to God, got up and washed their feet."  He did something his friends considered unthinkable (You’ve got to love that line from Peter:  "You will NEVER wash my feet, Jesus!”). He took off his robe and tied a towel around his waist and served his friends, serving even Judas, the one who was to betray him, by washing their feet.

Jesus could do this because he knew he had come from God and was going back to God.  He had no doubt, no anxiety, no fear, about that.

What would we do, what could we do, if we knew - truly knew, truly believed, truly lived - this?  If we truly knew, believed, lived in the surety that we have come from God and are going back to God, could we do the unthinkable?  Could we do something daring and uncharacteristic?  Could we serve others, touch others, be in relationship with others, even others we might be afraid of, be wary of, be suspicious of?  Could we even wash someone like Judas' feet if we knew that we came from God and were going back to God?

For some reason, we have difficulty believing that as it was true for Jesus, so it is true for us.  (Oh, but he's JESUS!  And we're not.)  And yet, we, too, have come from God and will return to God and so we are safe, we are saved, we are free!  We are free to risk loving and serving not only our friends but strangers and even our enemies.  We are free from self-doubt and anxiety about our salvation and don’t have to spend all of our energy grasping at it as if it were our only possession. God has pursued us through every sort of barrier because God loves us. Salvation is ours if we want it and will receive it. God did not come down from heaven to live among us, to show us how lavish God’s love is, only to pull the rug out from under us. Jesus shows us God, and Jesus loved lepers and beggars and social outcasts. Jesus showed God’s lavish generosity through making hundreds of gallons of wine from plain water and acres of the live-giving bread from a few measley loaves.  Jesus was so full of God’s life-giving love that Lazarus could not stay dead in his presence.  God loves us and God’s love is never used up.  We don’t have to hoard it for ourselves.

And so we are free to love one another as Jesus commanded. We are free to follow the example he set for us here. We will never be condemned for loving and serving in Jesus’ name.

And we are not at all diminished by that love or that service, but rather we are freed to be able to give of ourselves for service in love.   Jesus poured himself out for us and asks us to pour ourselves out for others, but that doesn’t mean we come up empty. Instead we come up full, sustained by the Spirit, sustained by the love that names us as God’s own beloved ones.  That love makes us free to give and give and give. With God, there is always enough and more than enough.

And so, we are, like Jesus, made free by the knowledge that we came from, and will return to, God.  We are made free by the knowledge that God’s overwhelming generosity towards us, if we will have it, knows no bounds. And so perhaps what we would do, could do is to feel free to follow Jesus, who said on this night, after he showed them how to do the uncharacteristic, the daring, the unthinkable, "I give you a new commandment:  love one another just as I have loved you.  The world will see and know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another."

This is the Maundy, the great commandment.  This is it, my friends. This is the last thing that Jesus says to us during this Holy Week, the last word to us before he dies: Love one another as Jesus, as God,  loves us.  This is why we are here again tonight, to hear these last words of Jesus to us. Love one another as I have loved you, for by this loving one another, by this serving others, even others you have reservations about, is how people will know that you are my disciples. Show me, show God, to the world through your actions that are the fruits of this love.

We are safe, we are God's, we are loved.  Jesus loved his disciples who were far from perfect in their understanding and their behavior, he loved even Judas, he loves even us in our failures and despite our flaws. Jesus was able to love so freely because he was secure in the knowledge that he came from God and would return to God.

And so in that knowledge we also can, we also are free to, do something wild and crazy - like love.

Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Darkness and Light

The week gets darker and darker as we move from Palm Sunday toward Good Friday.  Our Holy Week readings come from the Gospel of John, which has as one of its main features the theme of darkness versus light.  

And so when Judas goes out to put into action a plan to betray Jesus, John tells us that it is now night.  It is now the time for darkness and the darkness is closing in on Jesus, who, as John told us at the very beginning of this Gospel, is the light to whom John the Baptist testified. Jesus is the light of the world. Light from light, true God from true God, the only begotten holy one of God.

And John also told us at the beginning of this Gospel that the darkness could not and did not overcome the light. So we know how this will end.

Still, for now it is dark; the dark is closing in; and again we are invited to peer into that dark. 

It’s easy to get hung up about Judas here and to wonder what Jesus means by giving him the bread and telling him to do what he is going to do. In John, Jesus already knows everything ahead of time, so we know that Jesus knows what Judas is about. Judas represents the one who wants to operate in the darkness instead of the light, but he’s not the only one.

And so we are invited to look into that darkness, not so we can look for and blame Judas, but so that we can see that the darkness is not the light and never can be. All throughout this Gospel, Jesus has urged his followers to look for the light and to walk in it, to live in it, to bask in it and reflect it.

And in contrast, today we are invited to look into that darkness and see how easy it would be for us to slip into it ourselves.  To see how we ourselves might be tempted to live there where power and influence and comfort are of paramount importance.  To see that living in the darkness will only bring forth dead and withered fruit.

If we focus on Judas and the betrayal as the act of one man, then we miss the larger picture. Jesus is surrounded by people who want to stifle the love he offers to everyone. They are often called “The Jews” in this Gospel, but of course all of the people in the Gospel are Jews. Peter, James, John, the beloved disciple, Jesus himself are all Jews.

But the ones who are in opposition to Jesus are the ones who are angry that he eats with sinners and challenges their customs. They are angry that he has raised Lazarus from the dead. They are angry about this overflowing love that Jesus shows towards ordinary people. He makes hundreds of gallons of fine wine out of plain water at a wedding. He feeds thousands of people on simple bread and fish. He makes an unnamed lame person walk and restores another nameless blind beggar his sight. He says that he came so that people - all people! - might have life, and have it abundantly.

And some of the people around him just don’t like that.  They don’t like that overflowing grace and mercy.  They don’t like that overwhelming love that goes just anywhere like the mighty waters of justice that roll down over everybody and the everflowing stream of righteousness with which Jesus wants to quench the thirst of the whole world.  They don’t want everybody to be beloved. They don’t want to hear that the poor beggar is not poor because he made bad choices but because the rich have sold out concern for his well being for a pair of cute sandals and the well-fed have pushed aside the hungry to get more food for themselves. They don’t want Jesus to be about extravagant abundant grace and mercy, about oceans of the best wine and acres of the best bread and unlimited indiscriminate love.

And they are not the only ones.

That’s what the dark does to us. It literally stunts our growth. It makes us stingy and small minded. It makes us jealous and fearful. It deadens us little by little.  

The darkness did not overcome the light. Love is going to win. But we come together again this week to look at the line between darkness and light, the line between love and fear, and ask ourselves again:

On which side shall we stand?

Wednesday in Holy Week

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

John 13:21-32

At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples-- the one whom Jesus loved-- was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the festival"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Gentiles are Invited to the Party

"And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself," Jesus says.

And he will be lifted up from this earth. On a cross.

And he will be lifted up from this earth. He will ascend to God the Father, to that realm of divinity from whence he came.

And all people will be drawn.  Today the Gentiles are invited to the party.

But how will that draw all people to Jesus?

Sometimes I think just by the pure spectacle.  It's called a spectacle, that execution, that being lifted up on the cross with everyone watching and some mocking and accusing and taunting.  The passion narrative from Luke tells us that "when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts." Just like a train wreck, everybody comes out to see. They just can't help themselves.

Recall, too, Moses in the wilderness and that odd episode with the snakes.  There is a snake infestation and people are bitten and dying from the venom. And so God tells Moses to make a big snake sculpture and put it up on a pole for everyone to see. And everyone who has been bitten can look upon that snake and they will be healed.

And everyone who has sinned and fallen short (that means you and I) can look upon that bloodied and beaten man and find forgiveness.  Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Forgive. Because we are always going around not knowing what we are doing.

And when Jesus returns to God the Father, the pathway is opened for us to also return to God the Father and to be made whole again ourselves.

And so we look, again and again. Today the Gentiles are invited to the party. Not only the Jews but the whole world may look upon this Jesus and see God and become children of God.  We look so that we may all become children of light and live in the light and reflect the light.

It is for that reason that Jesus has come to his hour, so that we all - everybody! - might become beloved. Because God is love.  And love is going to win.

And yet we're going to have to look.  In hopes that by looking we will decide to follow the one who would die rather than join in the violence. In hopes that we will see what we are capable of in hate and stop, and hold back, because of Love.

Tuesday in Holy Week

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

John 12:20-36

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-- `Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light."

Monday, March 25, 2013


"Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. ... [And] when the great crowd learned that Jesus was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead."

What extravagance. An extravagance of cost, an extravagance of fragrance, an extravagance of gesture, an extravagance of love, and extravagance of life that is so strong it overcomes death.

"So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus."

And so again the extravagance is met with not just resistance but fear and loathing. Too much cost. Too much fragrance. Too much love. Too much life. It was all just too much for everyone.

There was too much love and it just had to be stopped.  It had to be fought against.  It had to be killed.

It threatened everyone around Jesus except for Mary, whose brother Jesus had raised from the dead after four days in the tomb.  For Mary, there was no such thing as too much love or too much life.  There is so much love and life that you can bathe in it.

Plenty fosters plenty and diminishment fosters diminishment.

He came that we might have life and have it abundantly. Amen.

Monday in Holy Week

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

John 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday of the Passion: Will we stand at a distance, too?

Jesus’ friends stood at a distance, watching these things.  

If we too stand at a distance, we risk imagining that all this has nothing to do with us and we have nothing to do with this. And so it is customary for us to take part in this reading on Palm Sunday.  

In this way, we put ourselves into the middle of the crowd that really didn’t know who Jesus was.  To consider our own complicity in the rejection of the Son of God, to perceive our own penchant for embracing the ways of the world and despising weakness and vulnerability.  To see how quick we are to victimize and condemn.

From the cross, Jesus shows us not only what we are capable of doing in hatred, but also what God is capable of doing in solidarity with those who are outcast and suffering - gathering us all to the divine but human self, perpetrators and victims alike, to await the healing and salvation that is finally to come to us all.  But we will not get there if we remain at a distance.

And so, our challenge during this coming Holy Week is to come closer, to venture into that now silent aftermath with our hearts open to whatever healing and forgiveness we are in need of, or need to bestow upon others.  

Our task is to slow things down and go back over what has happened, to go over what keeps happening, with a new perspective.  
Our task is to remember the command of the Maundy: love one another, do this in remembrance of me.  Our task is to look again at this death and to be able to name our needs, to name our sins, to name those we have wronged and to name those who have wronged us. 

To name hatred and violence and suffering and death, betrayal and humiliation, breaking and being broken as that in which we are all caught up, in one way or another.

And then to lay it all down on Friday at the feet of the one who suffered, not so that we would not suffer, but so that we would not suffer alone.  

To lay down our penchant for wounding others. To lay down our bitterness and hatred toward those who have hurt us.  To lay down those things we do to each other that wounds the heart of God.

Crucifixion shows what the world does, not only to God, but to God’s own beloved people.  We are destroyed by mocking and hatred and violence, all of us, victim and perpetrator alike.  We are all of us destroyed by jealousy and suspicion.  We are all of us destroyed by the drive for power.

So let us gird our loins and come closer this week and be humbled and touched and finally healed by God’s love again.

Collect for Palm Sunday

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday Morning Movie: Making a Palm Cross

Every year I say I am going to learn to do this. But so far, I haven't. Still, here are the instructions for making a palm cross. Hope yours looks great!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Thoughts/Where Has the Time Gone?

I haven't done a lot of writing this Lent, unlike most years, but that doesn't mean I haven't done a lot of reflecting. Being an extremely verbal person (take that as you will - I talk too much or I have a great vocabulary or whatevs), I thought (no, felt!) it would be good to take some time off from trying to process everything all the time and just let some things be. And so I've been saying my prayers and watching out for God in the world and looking at images in hopes of relating them to those prayers and that action of God.  I didn't set out for this (not reflecting through writing) to be my Lenten discipline (for a lot of reasons I never got around to deciding on a Lenten discipline) but it turns out to have been just that.

And what it has boiled down to is this, which is neither profound nor permanent but does seem to speak to where I am in life right now: it is very easy for me to live in my head and to become isolated and I have come to realize (allow myself to?) that I long to experience something I cannot plan or manufacture for myself. I need to move toward others to hear about their own experiences and their own questions and the things that they wrestle with.  I need to hear them tell about the grace that moves through their lives. Not so I can answer their questions but so that they can help me answer mine.

Meanwhile, where has the time gone? Reflection of the sort I turned out to have been doing takes me into a more timeless space. But the calendar and to do list now call. We are almost there, to Holy Week, an overwhelming time for many of us. We clergy have calendars and schedules packed with sermon writing and liturgies at which we preside or assist or preach. We visit the sick, we renew our ordination vows, we walk with our congregations and parishioners through this extraordinary time in the life of the church that reflects upon this extraordinary time in the life of Jesus. We are at church in the morning and in the evening and are in conversation in-between about logistics.  We walk through it with joy (being very busy during Holy Week does not make us feel put upon - we are humbled by the privilege we have to serve God and God's church and God's people) and also being aware of the cosmic scope of this whole thing.

And so that's where I am as we approach Palm Sunday. I hope your Lent has been a blessing to you. It's about time to buckle our seat belts for the Holy Week ride again.

Morning Psalm: Psalm 22

Psalm 22

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? *
and are so far from my cry
and from the words of my distress?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; *
by night as well, but I find no rest.
Yet you are the Holy One, *
enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
Our forefathers put their trust in you; *
they trusted, and you delivered them.
They cried out to you and were delivered; *
they trusted in you and were not put to shame.
But as for me, I am a worm and no man, *
scorned by all and despised by the people.
All who see me laugh me to scorn; *
they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
"He trusted in the LORD; let him deliver him; *
let him rescue him, if he delights in him."
Yet you are he who took me out of the womb, *
and kept me safe upon my mother's breast.
10 I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; *
you were my God when I was still in my mother's womb.
11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, *
and there is none to help.
12 Many young bulls encircle me; *
strong bulls of Bashan surround me.
13 They open wide their jaws at me, *
like a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water;
all my bones are out of joint; *
my heart within my breast is melting wax.
15 My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; *
and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.
16 Packs of dogs close me in,
and gangs of evildoers circle around me; *
they pierce my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.
17 They stare and gloat over me; *
they divide my garments among them;
they cast lots for my clothing.
18 Be not far away, O LORD; *
you are my strength; hasten to help me.
19 Save me from the sword, *
my life from the power of the dog.
20 Save me from the lion's mouth, *
my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.
21 I will declare your Name to my brethren; *
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.
22 Praise the LORD, you that fear him; *
stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;
all you of Jacob's line, give glory.
23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither does he hide his face from them; *
but when they cry to him he hears them.
24 My praise is of him in the great assembly; *
I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.
25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the LORD shall praise him: *
"May your heart live for ever!"
26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, *
and all the families of the nations bow before him.
27 For kingship belongs to the LORD; *
he rules over the nations.
28 To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; *
all who go down to the dust fall before him.
29 My soul shall live for him;
my descendants shall serve him; *
they shall be known as the LORD'S for ever.
30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *
the saving deeds that he has done.


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