Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017

Easter Sermon, 2017, scripture Matthew 28:1-10--here for the appointed texts


Green Blade Riseth From the Buried Grain

The stars produced the light long before it was seen.
The music was written before it was heard.
The seed was planted before it bloomed.
The grapes were plucked before the wine.
The wheat was threshed before the bread.

We were loved before we knew.

Upon first kick in the womb. Before our consciousness awoke. Long before we were met by the arms of the one who would hold us in our time of need and beyond.

We didn’t know then, what we know now.

But the seed was planted. The grapes were plucked. And we were welcomed.

With a love that was there before we knew.

A love that was there while it was still dark. 

A hope that emerged before the stone was moved.

It was the day before the knowing. And deep in the earth a seed sprouted and forced its way through the cracks and water sprung forth. And the resurrection happened.

It happened. While we grieved, while we fasted, while we cried aloud to the sky—my God, my God, why have you forsaken us.

Even then, when all was lost and we knew not what we would find. It happened. New life there before we could recognize it in our own lives.

And, in times like these, in times when I fear when times when I sorrow. The hope that springs forth from knowing that, even in these times, the seed will sprout, and the grain will grow, and he will live--this is this the hope that sustains me. And it is a hope that cannot be taken away.

Poet Denise Levertov, whose life was shaped by World War II, lays claim to this hope in the face of those who would deny it in her poem, “The Fountain”

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water
to solace the dryness at our hearts.
I have seen

the fountain springing out of the rock wall
and you drinking there. And I too
before your eyes

found footholds and climbed
to drink the cool water.

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.
That fountain is there among its scalloped
green and gray stones,
it is still there and always there
with its quiet song and strange power
to spring in us,

up and out through the rock.

Don’t say he is dead, because he walks amongst the living. Don’t say he is lost, because he has found us.

Speak, rather, to what we know--which is that when we walked upon the path we found him there. He greeted us and we knew him.

We knew him, even whilst we did not know the moment that had brought him here.

A moment left secret in scripture. The moment that precedes our notice.

The precise moment in which Jesus rose from the dead and shed his linen wrappings and left behind the death of the grave for the hope of the living.

Like the seed, like the spring, like the music, like the light. We did not see the moment of creation but we do see the life that has come.

The life that has come to us in this moment. This moment that transformed death, and its instruments, into life and a new creation. 

All would be made new, but we knew it not.
We have been told, but our hearts knew it not.

And, so weeping we stood at the grave where Alleluia would become our song.

An Alleluia sung with fear and joy.

Because the death we feared to know had become the life we feared to hope.

Fear and joy.

As we flee the grave in pursuit of the life that has gone ahead of us.

Fear and joy.

Because, we know enough to hope—but not enough to trust without seeing for ourselves. So we pursue the life that has gone ahead and in our pursuit find our own life waiting.

Greetings Jesus says.
I was waiting for you.
I knew you would find me.
And, although you are afraid, you need not fear because I am with you.
Now and until the end of the ages.
So go, and tell others.

Tell them.

That tho' they thought to bury me.
I, like a seed, have sprung forth.

And, caught by the wind.
I have become WE and we have spread throughout creation.

They thought to bury me, but forgot I am a seed…

And, now that seed has sprouted.

Sprouted into a body comprised of millions.

Sprouted into the smallest babe and the most grizzled of elders.

Sprouted into you and me, them and us. Sprouted.

And, so Easter sprouts up where the seeds have blown and life emerges from the deepest of tombs.

We are the seeds of this new Creation. We are the body of Christ.

And, God has planted us so that we might become the body set free from the grave, so that we might become the ones whose love endures all things.

We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!

And, everywhere that there is darkness. Everywhere that there is despair. Everywhere that there is weeping.

In that everywhere,

Easter people stand in witness and in love.

Love before we knew.

Hope before we knew. Life before we knew.

The seed needs the earth and the earth needs the seeds.  

And from those seeds an Easter people have emerged. 

Easter people in the midst of war. Easter people welcoming the children, sitting with the lonely, Easter people searching for the lost. Easter people holding the hands of the dying. Easter people lamenting and crying out. Easter people dancing and singing. Easter people kissing. Easter people loving. Easter people cradling a newborn in blessing. Easter people protesting. 

Easter people facing our fears and proclaiming our joy…leaning into the love that risks all, hopes all, welcomes all.

We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!

So let us sing. 

Let us sing the song that was written at creation and revised according to our need.

Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen!


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Good Friday 2017

The narrative of the Passion can be found here


The Summary of the Gospel Hangs on a Barren Tree

A colleague, in the ordination process, was confronted by an examiner who asked “what is the summary of the Gospel of John?”

She did not know.

Three years later, after concluding her seminary degree, she was asked this question again.

What is the summary of the Gospel of John?”.

Her reply?  The summary of the Gospel of John is love. 

And so, on this night, let us sit in that place and consider the love of the one who first loved us.

And in that consideration, I offer a poem, written by Anglican Priest and Poet R.S. Thomas (poem title “The Coming”)

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

Consider the love of the one who first loved us.
Let me go there he said. And in reply, came a yes that would transform all. Yes, you can go. Yes, you can go to that place of yearning and of pain. That place where the people remember me yet, and where their memories cause them to lament the unfulfilled promises of their ancestors.

This night, in this quiet place after the rending, we are reminded of the extent to which God went in response to our need. And so, we keep vigil alongside the God who hangs upon the bare tree that holds all of our sorrows and all our hope.

We keep our vigil and witness the flogging and the nailing, the scourging and the taunting. We keep our vigil with the one we’ve denied and the one we’ve embraced--the one we’ve scorned and the one we’ve lauded. 

We keep our vigil and participate on this Friday we call Good.

This Friday when we enact the passion through our own participation we are reminded that what we recall in this liturgy is not some quaint and instructive historical reenactment, but rather, a claiming of our place in God’s story. A story that is now, a story that is still happening.  

It is happening in Syria, it is happening in Afghanistan, it is happening on the banks of the Hudson, in the halls of our Capitals, and on the streets of St. Paul. The story is still happening, and we are still in need as we find ourselves living in a world that all too often exploits and denies the belovedness of all of God’s children. 

In the now, we live and die in the midst of brokenness.  In the now we experience the betrayal of those who once stood with us and the denial of those who swore never to leave us.

This moment of crucifixion is our now, it is our past—the crusades, the persecutions under Diocletius, and the weaponizing of scripture for our own means—and it will be part of our future. But, crucifixion is not the end, not now, not then and not in the what will be. Because the broken now has been healed by a reconciled then.  The broken now holds the hope that healing will come.  The broken now was healed for then and for all time when all those things which separate us from God and from each other were rendered powerless at the foot of the cross.  

The foot of the cross, the cross, that place where God and all of humanity are brought together and are united into one body, one body broken and yet more perfectly restored. Without the cross we could not be the body of Christ…because this, as theologian Jurgen Moltmann writes, is the place where “our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross” and on this night, “Our faith must be … born of nothingness, our faith must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way no philosophy of nihilism can imagine.”

So, tonight we are invited to taste the nothingness out of which our faith has emerged. We are invited to hear the gasp of forsakenness, to cry out crucifixion, and to stand at the cross...

Yet, as we taste the nothingness, we find within it the power and potential for a new creation. For, just as Creation emerged out of the chaos that was the nothing before creation, a new Creation emerges from the nothingness of death upon the cross.

So a day of death, becomes a day of love. And, from this place of love, we keep the vigil that so many of Jesus’ friends failed to keep. Standing with Mary the mother who would not leave her son, with Magdalene who wept by his side and with the beloved disciple who assumed the responsibility of the son. Standing with Joseph of Arimathea and Simon of Cyrene—the unlikely bearers of the cross and the corpse. We stand with them—companion to those who watch and weep, those who keep a vigil and stay even to the last.

We stand, we stay, we weep, and we hope—and we do so knowing that we are not alone. The cross has brought us together with each other and with Christ Jesus, God has heard our cry at the foot of the barren tree.

On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

The summary of the Gospel of John is love.