Saturday, April 26, 2014

Exploring Bright Sunday, Easter 2A

When I was in seminary, I spent a summer serving as a student chaplain on an inpatient, locked, geriatric psychiatry floor.  Along with mental health concerns, many of the patients had diseases that would, without question, shorten their lives.  It could be a grim place at times--and one of the challenges of time spent on this floor was that because it was a locked unit, staff there could become somewhat isolated from the rest of the hospital.  

In order to encourage the morale of the staff, the senior attending physician, would start each morning’s mandatory staff meeting with a joke.

He felt that laughter was an essential component of care giving.  Laughing together encouraged a strong bond amongst the staff and added a degree of levity to our work days that benefited not only the staff, but those for whom they provided care.  

We don’t laugh particularly often in church.  Thomas Cranmer wrote a prayer book, not a book of knock knock jokes...but if we never find opportunity to laugh here, we stand to miss a key element of God’s relationship with us.  For, as our matriarch Sarah says in Genesis, “God has made me laugh; every one who hears will laugh with me” (Gen 21:6). 

We laugh, like Sarah, at the unexpected and the surprising.  We laugh at jokes and slapstick humor.  When we laugh together we are united.  But, there is a certain recklessness to laughter.  The giddy abandon of newfound infant giggles.  The stifled giggles at inappropriate moments.  The snort and spray of a humorous moment and an ill timed sip.  The gasping and waving of hands that occurs when we just can’t stop laughing.  

One of my favorite prayers from our prayer book, found at the conclusion of the order of service for compline, petitions God to “shield the joyous”.  And, I cannot help but think of that prayer when I think of the fine edge where our laughter dances beyond our control.  

And, it is this sense of being overtaken, of being consumed by giddiness, by joyfulness, by joie de vie that I think of today--on this second Sunday of Easter as we continue to declare the absurd truth.

Alleluia, Christ has risen!!  

Senseless, irrational, a cruel joke upon Mary at the tomb.  

The empty tomb, the punch line to some absurdity.  

“Where have you taken him?” she asks.

But, how was she to know the answer to this riddle of riddles?  This joke of jokes.  This ultimate prank upon the death dealers of the world.  God has confounded the world and is it any wonder that Mary and the other disciples were likewise confounded?  

I have heard people quip that “God must have a sense of humor” but when we move beyond that quip we can explore a tradition grounded in God’s joke upon death--that of Risus Paschalis, the Easter laugh.  Traditions of joke telling, picnicking and pranks in the days following the first Sunday in Easter emerged as early as the 13th century.  References to “Easter Monday” or “Bright Sunday” declared this time to be a raucus and  joyful celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

Liturgically this has been expressed in places like 15th century Bavaria through humorous sermon illustrations used specifically to give rise to laughter amongst the congregation.  In the 18th century this custom was prohibited due to “grave abuses of the word of God”

And, just so you know, I hope to avoid grave abuses of the word of God...

And, thus, assuming no heresy is being preached...

I encourage us to a celebration of Resurrection grounded in surprise, in hope, in glory and in sheer joyfulness as we ponder the great gift we have been given.  

Because what has happened is absurd, beyond any reasonable comprehension.  Is it any wonder that in a portion of Acts that the lectionary omits for today (in the interest of saving it for Pentecost) we hear Peter explaining (in what I think is the funniest line in all of scripture), 

“These men are not drunk as you suppose, for it is only 9 o’clock in the morning”  

How strange the words of the disciples must have sounded to the people of Judea!  Words so strange that they are all to easily attributed to drunkenness.  But, in their passion and their conviction, the disciples express a truth that stands outside the bounds of what any would consider reason.  

“this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.”

To have Jesus return from the dead following such a shameful and public humiliation upon the cross would have been counter to all forms of reason particularly in a world in which the dead usually stayed dead, and the social economy was one of honor and shame.  Honor from shame and life from death would have been counter to everything Thomas would have known or believed.  

It was impossible, yet it is true.  Is it any wonder then that Thomas doubted?  

The theologian Paul Tillich describes doubt as an integral part of our life of faith.  Doubt allows that we do not know everything.  That mystery exists, that there are moments beyond our comprehension.  Doubt confronts us with the truth that we don’t know everything...

And, in a world where knowledge is prized and even perhaps idolized--uncertainty and doubt are all too easily seen as character flaws and impediments.  But, it is Thomas’ doubt that allows him to participate in an encounter of intimacy that demonstrated unquestionably God’s power in the world.  It is Thomas’ doubt that furthers the blessing of knowing without seeing.  

And, it is Jesus who says “yes” to Thomas’ doubt--and the answer to that “yes” is proclamation “My Lord and My God”.

For Thomas, doubt meant that he was willing to have the conversation--to grow in faith.  What would it mean to think of faith as a bold act of risk taking?  To celebrate our doubts knowing that it is, in fact, our doubts that deepen our faith?  

Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard writes, "The greater the uncertainty - the greater the risk the believer takes in believing - the greater the faith,"

God in Christ does not operate according to the rules of the world and Kierkegaard writes of the inverted dialectic of Christianity--hope in hopelessness, strength in weakness and prosperity in adversity.  God, breaks the rules of reason and in Christ shame becomes glory and death becomes life.  As Kierkegaard puts it, we must believe by “virtue of the absurd”.

Embracing absurdity runs counter to much of how we operate in the world--we are a people who explore our faith through scripture, tradition and reason.  As Episcopalians we tend to be fairly reasonable!  But, just showing up to church runs counter to reason in this world of ours--church where we proclaim an impossible possibility!  

Which brings us to this day of silliness, this day of finding comic strips in your bulletin, this day of proclaiming the Easter laugh.  

This day of rejoicing for it is the rejoicing which becomes the fruition of Jesus’ promise to his disciples “Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy” (Jn 16:20). 

In our limited vocabulary for the absurdity of God’s grace--laughter and silliness are a rational response to the irrational truth of the resurrection.  People have said that the only things for certain in life are death and taxes--perhaps today we celebrate that the only thing we can be certain about are taxes?  Oh, and the love of God, we can be certain about that as well...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

That Easter Day With Joy Was Bright

Easter 1 Sermon
Year A
St. Clement’s Episcopal Church

i thank You God for most this amazing day
By e e cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Most in this room have always known winter.  The frigid weariness of the cold months, the scarfs, hats and mittens, the crunch of icy snow, the fog of breath.  Most here know that winter always gives way to spring and that summer will come.  

For me however, born and raised on Maui, that knowing requires a leap of faith, an act of trust in the power of the sun’s rays and the ability for the sunken bulbs to spring forth from the frosted ground.  My first winter in my 18th year began on the kind of crystalline clear day that autumn can present.  The sun graciously shining, trees still cloaked in green and the last flowers of summer still jaunty in their beds.  After several days of dusky clouds and drizzling rain, I dressed that morning with glee, pulling on a t-shirt and leaving behind my jacket, eager to step into the sunshine.

But, after only a few steps into that light I realized the warmth of the sun was a lie.  Halfway to my classes I burst into tears, I had never been so cold.  

And, by March I began to worry that I would never be warm again.  

I longed for leaves and for warm skin but the skeletons of trees silhouetted in front of dawn or dusk and the remnants of snow, iced over and brown with the accumulation of a winter’s road grit, taunted me in my yearning.  

But then...

Just when I accepted that this, this, might be all there was and ever would be.

The crocus.

The sundrops.

The forsythia.

The daffodil.

The tulip.

The lily.

The fine dusting of pollen.

The exuberance of the bee.  

Chased by the tilting of the planet in its course, winter collapsed under the weight of the budding trees and the artful delight of the flowers.  

I knew on that first day of warmth that this, this was akin to the resurrection--the college green covered in scantily clad students, frisbees flying with abandon and a winter’s worth of stale air coursing out of every open window.  

Sweeping the dust of the furnace out into the light.

Where the motes sparkle like so many stars.

And in that place where dust becomes light

I saw Easter.  I felt in my heart of hearts the joy of resurrection--the surprising 

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

The planet awoke and new life sprang forth. 

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!!  

Let the heavens and earth rejoice!!

What has been broken has been made whole!

I turn to metaphor, allegory, poetry and hyperbole--searching for the words when there are none that stand to the task of this truth...this truth...this truth!  

Death has been slain! 

And we, receivers of the gift, rejoice.

Ring the bells!  Break the chains!  Tear off the shroud of grief!

The reign of God’s love is here!

The power of sin is no more!

The tomb is empty and Golgotha is merely a shadow on this Easter morning.  

Run, run to the tomb!  See for yourself the empty grave!  

Christ cannot be contained.

“Do not hold onto me” Jesus says

He is not ours, he is for the world.

Jesus cannot be owned or contained--in this box or that

In this church or that

In my arms or yours.

He is for the world 

And we are of the world

And we are Christ in the world.

So break free of the tomb.

Tear down the walls

And embrace a new freedom.  

A freedom without limits or borders.

A freedom meant for all the world to see!  

A freedom that is love.  

A love that is ours, freely given

A love we are called to share most freely!  

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!  

We witness to all that Jesus did

And in resurrection light, all that Christ does in the world today!  

God shows no partiality

The sun is the same, the moon is the same

Shining on all alike

Sinners and Saints

Righteous and Unrighteous

You and you and you and you!

Whoever you are, in all of your fullness

This resurrection is for you

The betrayer

The doubter

The fearful

The addict

The hateful

The lovers

The angry

The scorned

The broken

The sick

The hungry

The criminal

The indifferent

The child

The elder

The joyful

The sorrowful

The victim

The sinner

The saint

The parent

Say yes to the feast! Accept the invitation! 

And, then tell me,

What will you do with this new life you’ve been given?

What will you do with this grace freely given?

What will you do with this love?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Not All of You Are Clean

Maundy Thursday Year A, St. Clement’s, 2014

For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 

Jesus knelt before each of them, cradling each calloused heel in his hands.  Cool water poured over each foot and the dirt of their travels sloughed off into the basin.  The dust, settling out into the water as one by one they lifted their feet, one by one they acquiesced to the care of their beloved friend.  

He showed no partiality and no concern beyond this simple act of love.  An action made radical by the very nature of the one who performed it.  The Son of Man, handling the very water and dirt of creation.  The disciples, rending themselves vulnerable as they presented themselves for cleansing.  

Intimate and awkward.  

They accepted the ministration of Jesus the Christ--and like so many of us they longed for more.  Not just my feet, but my hands and my head!  But, the feet prove sufficient. 

In that intimate and awkward moment.  

In that moment colored by shame and doubt, “not all of you are clean”.

Who, who was it to be?  Who placed his foot in the hands of Christ, all the while knowing that his next action was to be one of betrayal?  

I am sure the disciples wondered--how could they not.  Had they not left all they knew behind to follow this man into the city?  Had they not left father, mother, brother, sister, friend in order to walk with this man who now knelt at their feet?  How could one of this number betray him?

They thought they knew each other.  They thought they knew themselves.

But, who was to know what was to come?  Who was to know?

One of the reasons I value the repetition of our liturgy--the cyclical year in which we celebrate birth, walk through the desert, mourn death, and celebrate new life--is that we don’t know.  

We don’t know what forces will confront and confound us.  We don’t know what temptations will come and what choices we might make.  We couldn’t possibly.    

But again and again we are invited to the altar, again and again we are invited to forgiveness, again and again.  And, in that invitation we live into the truth that we are part of God’s unending promise and in that promise is healing and in that promise is love--and with that promise comes an assurance of God’s help.  And, that help is unstinting, and that offer is ongoing.  And so, tonight, each foot is lifted and each is washed in an offering of love freely given.  For the righteous and the unrighteous alike, for the sinner and the saint alike, for Judas and Peter, for each and every one of us.  

Participants in the offer of love freely given.

The mandate of Maundy Thursday is a mandate of love--a mandate of love that includes all.  

“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.”

John’s Gospel presents to us an image of a community drawn together by love.  Earlier this Lent I preached using the image of tapestry making.  The Warp to the Weft, I repeated again and again.  As a brief reminder, since I do not presume that any of you were there or even remember..

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art website 

“A tapestry is made by repeatedly weaving the horizontal (weft) threads over and under the vertical (warp) threads...Although you cannot see them in a finished tapestry, the vertical warp threads are vital components of each piece—they are the backbone of every tapestry, and provide the support for the weft threads.”

It is what is unseen, the warp, that holds everything together.  

And, when I reflect on what the nature of the warp might be, in the nature of what unites and binds into a community of Christ.  

I am left with the answer of love.  

Love, the warp to our weft.  

Love that holds together a community.

Love freely given.

Love, never withheld.  

So tonight we bare our feet, not as participants in some play or script, but so that we may be reminded of this call to love.  The love that binds us together into the body of Christ.  

The love that calls us to the humble service of others.  

This washing is a remembering and in the remembering we are called to doing.    

But, we miss the point if we stop there in the place of washing the feet of our friends--if we stop in this place of providing loving care only to the people in this room.  

Because the body of Christ is comprised not just of our pew mates.  The body of Christ is comprised not just of those who proudly proclaim their allegiance to this communion or that communion, this denomination or that denomination, this building or that building.  

The body of Christ encompasses those who have been, those who are now, and those who will be.  The Body of Christ transcends our imaginations and impulses and it is in our imaginings of Christ’s unconditional and uncompromising inclusion that we can see the vastness of the love to which we are called. 

With the washing is the remembering and with the remembering comes the doing.  We are called to serve others because the love we express here is just the beginning of love and we are called to ever more.  

In The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky writes

Love people even in their sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth.  Love all of God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it.  Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light.  Love the animals, love the plants, love everything.  If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.  Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day.  And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.  

All embracing love.  Love for the sinner, love for the saint.  Love for those who have betrayed us and those we’ve betrayed.  

It is the love that makes us disciples and it is in living that love that our discipleship is made manifest.  

The dismissal that frequently concludes our services is that of “Go in peace to LOVE and SERVE the world” 

Love is the command.

Service is the love made manifest.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

“The Hand Did It”--A Sermon For Palm Sunday, Year A

Not all that long ago, my three year old made the following claim, “It wasn’t me, it was my hand that did it”.  While stifling a laugh, I explained that while it may have been his hand that had done it, he was the one in charge of his hand.  His hand’s action had been performed on his brain’s behalf--and we can’t separate the action of his hand from him.  

Needless to say, he helped clean up the mess his hand had made.  

Cute anecdote aside, there is something about who we are as human beings that makes us want to pass the blame on--whether that is shame or fear of punishment or something else entirely--it can be exceedingly difficult to claim an action as our own, owning a reprehensible deed and in that owning being honest about our own culpability.

We bargain, we negotiate, we pass the proverbial buck and use the less proverbial but.  The comic strip artist Bil Keane played on the universality of this tendency through his introduction of “gremlins” called “Not me”; “Ida Know”; and “Just B. Cause”, into his Family Circus strip.  The giggles ensued when we recognized ourselves in these declamations of innocence.  

But, the giggles are suffocated when we recognize that we stand this close to the edge of mob violence and recognize that “Not me” must be taken with dead seriousness.  

Biblical scholars, historians, writers and theologians have engaged in centuries of debate about who was to blame for the execution of Jesus.  Some argued that it was the Romans, it being their cross and their legal system.  Others contend that the Zealots, who were so disappointed in Jesus’ perceived failure to overturn their enemies in battle, were to blame.  And, still others continue to place the blame on the Jewish community living in Jerusalem at the time--a blame that led to the persecution and killing of untold numbers of Jews by purported Christians over the centuries.
“Not me”; “Ida Know”; “Just B. Cause”...

We miss the point in our machinations to pass the blame.  Because, regardless of which voices in that moment, in that place and time, called out crucify him--whether they were Jews, Romans, the Jewish Sanhedrin, or Pilate--this isn’t about any particular group or individual needing forgiveness.  Rather, it’s about a crowd of diverse individuals who came together around one issue, united in their hatred as much as they had once been united in acclamation.  As the Gospel of Luke indicates "That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies (Luke 23:12)." 

With the crucifixion the uneasy peace between the factions could go on.  With the united cry of “crucify”, the crowd found something besides each other to hate.  And, oh how easy it is to slip into hate made manifest in acts of evil and persecution.  

In 1973 the results of psychologist Philip Zimbardo’s “Stanford Prison Experiment” were published.  Zimbardo wanted to study the behaviour of “normal” people when those “normal” people were placed with an evil environment.  Participants in the study underwent tests of their mental and physical health and ultimately, 24 individuals who were deemed mentally stable and “the least anti-social” were selected for participation.  Participants were assigned the role of either prisoner or guard and the experiment was intended to last 2 weeks.  After 6 days Zimbardo called off the experiment when it became clear that things had gone too far and the characteristic nature of encounters between guards and prisoners became negative, hostile, confrontational and dehumanizing.  

And, in his explanation as to why this disastrous and dehumanizing experiment went so long...well, Zimbardo had assigned himself the role of prison superintendent--and had gotten so caught up in the evils of the situation that he became not only complicit in them but a perpetrator of them.    

In fact, in a 2011 NPR interview, Zimbardo expressed profound regret that he hadn’t called off the experiment sooner...

Zimbardo concluded from this and other experiments that good people can perform evil actions in response to situational forces--whether those forces are the roles they have been assigned, the authorities to whom they are accountable, or their own desire to “keep the peace”.

This brings me to the crowd.  The crowd that goes from “Hosannas” to “Crucify him”...this crowd of “normal people”.  Submission, obedience, good bureaucrats, insensitivity--and a crowd of normal people becomes a mob--and from that mob of good, diverse people came the shouts of crucify.  

I get it, I get why in that time and that place, the tide turned and the once acclaimed Jesus was brought low.  But, part of why I bring to our attention the work of folks like Zimbardo is our need to understand why we tell this story again and again.  It is not sufficient to let the story rest within the pages of scripture--read in solitude and reflected upon in private.  

Traditionally, in many churches, the passion narrative is read as a sort of “reader’s theater” and the congregation plays the part of the crowd.  I have taken this reading for granted--in many places it’s just “what we do”.  But, in another time and place I found myself in conversation with an individual who argued that it was inappropriate for the congregation to shout “Crucify him!” because he felt it was misplaced blame.  We weren’t there he argued, we weren’t the ones who called for Jesus’ execution.  It wasn’t our sin and to call out “crucify him” would make people feel bad for something that they didn’t participate in.  He felt that to “make” people play the role of the crowd was emotionally manipulative and a cheap trick of sorts. Further, he didn’t feel that people should be made to feel guilty in church.  

Inappropriate he said, and with that, he walked away and the conversation was over.  I wish we’d continued to talk.  To work through what seemed like an intractable difference.  

Because, understanding how easily we too can become “the crowd” breaks us open to the possibility, indeed the truth that we are all in need of forgiveness.  Understanding the possibility that we too can become the crucifying crowd shines a light on the evils that stand in opposition to love.  This is not just about someone else or about some other time, or some other place--it’s about us in the here and now.  The us that is broken and in need of healing, the us that is desperate for reconciliation, the us that has been bound by our desire to keep the peace, the us that has failed to speak, the us that has failed to act...the us that comes to confess each week--things done and left undone, thinks known and unknown...

The us that is forgiven and will be forgiven and has been forgiven.  The us that is loved both at our best and at our worst.  The us that God loves.  The us that is beloved.  The us that anticipates the resurrection even at the forsaken last.  


For reference:  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dem Bones, Sermon for Lent 5A, St. Clement's Episcopal Church

All week the Spiritual, Dem Bones dem bones dem dry bones has been stuck in my head.  Composed by African American author and songwriter James Weldon Johnson, this particular song lists the bones from toe to head and head to toe--each connected to each and each responding to the word of God.  

"Ezekiel connected dem dry bones, Ezekiel connected dem dry bones, Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones, Now hear the word of the Lord."

Structurally, the book of Prophet and Priest Ezekiel, confronts the Israelites--both those living in Judah and Jerusalem and those living in exile in Babylon--with judgment.  Ezekiel is clear that ritual impurity and idolatrous behaviour are to be swiftly condemned and topical headings include such gems as: the siege of Jerusalem; a sword against Jerusalem; Judgment on idolatrous Israel; Impending disaster; Slaughter; disaster; and judgment.

I'm not sure Ezekiel received many invites back to preach...

Yet, what Ezekiel expresses throughout these pages of scripture is that actions have consequences.  Further, the actions of the individual held consequences for the individual alone.

In short, Ezekiel is conducting a vendetta against sin.  Now, we don't discuss sin often in the Episcopal Church--but a google search on "sin in the Episcopal church" turned up some doozies (and I don't necessarily recommend googling the phrase "sin in the Episcopal Church!)--most of the search findings were not particularly helpful to the writing of this sermon...

But, as we continue through Lent and approach it's culmination in our Holy Week observances, reflecting on sin bares some pertinence.  In fact, the liturgy that begins our journey through Lent invites participation with the following:  
"Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of
notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to
the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation
was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set
forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all
Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith."

While I am not aware of notorious sin that has separated the body of the faithful in this particular body...I am aware that part of our understanding of our life of prayer, our liturgy and our God is that we all sin.  The catechism of the Episcopal Church, as found on page 848 of the Book of Common Prayer, teaches that “Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.” Yet, in the midst of sin we are invited again and again and again to reconciliation.  We confess and receive absolution each week and we do so because we are the church.

And, because we are the church and not God, our body can and does break.  And it is the broken body to which Ezekiel speaks in the midst of his castigation of the Israelites.  

The Toe bone connected to the foot bone
Foot bone connected to the heel bone
Heel bone connected to the ankle bone
Now hear the word of the Lord.

God calls us to wholeness and when the dry, broken bones are all that is left, God continues to repair and restore us from that which is left.  And, even when the connections between us are most tenuous, when they are so fragile that the wind can scatter us, the Word of the Lord can breathe life back into us--the broken body made whole once more.  

Central to our identity as Christians, as discerned through scripture and enacted in our liturgy with confession, absolution and reconciliation each week, is this invitation to wholeness.  At its core, Lent is about the broken becoming whole.  Lent’s purpose is the preparation of a people for resurrection and our appointed readings have pointed towards that purpose--In the restoration of sight, living water and new birth--the broken have been healed again and again--and in the breaking there is always hope for the healing.   

A few weeks ago I prepared a presentation on prayer in scripture for the adult forum.  One of the commentators on the psalms of lamentation was clear in his explication that we must lament--because in lamentation we express our dissatisfaction with the status quo and our reliance on and hope for the healing grace of God.  

This understanding of the importance of Lamention, of despair and anger expressed through prayer,  emerges out of our fragility and brokenness.  Lamentation hinges on the truth that we NEED God.   

And, throughout scripture we see God responding again and again to our pain and suffering with healing, wholeness and the constant invitation to reconciliation.

So, when I hear Mary and Martha in their despair and anger, their pain and frustration, I hear lamentation but I also hear an invitation to a life of faith that pins its hopes on new life in Christ.  

Now, I struggle with the narratives describing miraculous healing--I was a hospital chaplain and I have seen the hurt and harm these narratives can cause when taken literally and when a family’s prayers for physical healing seem unanswered.  So, when I turn my attention to these narratives I find myself looking beyond the literal and into the metaphorical--because metaphor allows us to move away from a story bound by time and into a truth that time cannot contain.  

In this story of resurrection, God hears us in the midst of our suffering.  God sees our brokenness and remains in relationship with us in our anger.  God weeps with us in our sorrows and rejoices with our rejoicings.  God loves deeply each of us and shares our grief.  And, even when all hope seems lost, the stone will be rolled away and all that is left will be life.  

Scripture teaches that neither death nor life can separate us from the love of God.  So in our living and in our dying we are participants in a body that is not bound by death--”unbind him and let him go” he says.    

So, here we are, in this Lenten time--members of the body of Christ and surrounded by the communion of saints and cloud of witnesses.  And, the truth is, we are broken.  The other truth is that even at the last the stone will roll away and the breath of God will breathe upon us.  As Paul writes, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death”.  

Let us be participants in reconciliation and in that participation let us come closer to the day when the entirety of creation finds healing and bones are knit together into the shape that is the body of Christ contained within the unending kingdom of God’s love.  

Dem bones, dem bones gonna rise again.
Dem bones, dem bones gonna rise again.
Dem bones, dem bones gonna rise again.
Now hear the word of the Lord.