Finding the Lessons

The latest blog post will be the bible study for the next week. Scroll down to find the bible study for the lessons closest to the upcoming Sunday. The blog will be labeled with proper, liturgical date, and calendar date. Enjoy.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Easter 3B April 19, 2015

"For Luke, to fulfil the hope of the resurrection is to tell the story of Jesus (testimony). That means telling what he did, how he was rejected and then vindicated; and it is at the same time to live it by the power of the same Spirit, by doing good and bringing liberation for all. This includes forgiveness of sins. It is radically simple."

"First Thoughts on Year B Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Easter 3, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"I believe that although the two disciples did not recognize Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Jesus recognized them, that he saw them as if they were the only two people in the world. And I believe that the reason why the resurrection is more than just an extraordinary event that took place some two thousand years ago and then was over and done with is that, even as I speak these words and you listen to them, he also sees each of us like that."

"Recognizing," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"Our experience of life in this world is such that we always have to keep learning what it means to have faith. That doesn't typically happen well when we try to go it alone. Faith is something that thrives and grows in the context of a community."

"It Takes a Village," Alan Brehm, The Waking Dreamer.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

Prayer

God of Abraham and Sarah, God of Isaac and Rebekah, God of Jacob and Rachel and of all our ancestors in faith, you have glorified your servant Jesus and made him the atoning sacrifice for our sins, the source of peace and reconciliation for the whole world.  Open our hearts to true conversion, and as we have known the Lord in the breaking of the bread so  make us witnesses of a new humanity, renewed, reconciled and at peace in your love.  Send us as heralds of the repentance and forgiveness you offer to all.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on Luke 24:13-49





This Sunday we shift from John's Easter message to Luke's resurrection narrative.  Commonly called, The Road to Emmaus, our passage this week comes in both our reading cycle for Year A and Year B.  So if you are having Easter flashbacks you are not alone; and, that may be on purpose!

Jesus appears to two disciples outside the walls; some seven miles from Jerusalem. They are talking about all the things which have happened. In this particular testimony we are watching the transition from the crucifixion and the Easter resurrection become the mission of a new community. In Luke's Gospel we must remember we are marching always towards Pentecost and Acts. We are given in today's lesson a memory of the events. We are reminded of what our story is; and in the author's own way he gives us permission to be somewhat concerned and curious about the past and what lays ahead.

If we remember that this Gospel is written that we may believe and in believing be transformed so as to offer and communicate the same Gospel for others then the purpose of the author is clear. Luke Timothy Johnson captures well the event of conversion in Lukes' testimony. Conversion has a particular meaning for Luke and his community:
The Word of God demands the acceptance of the prophetic critique and a "turning" of one's life. Conversion is an important theme in Luke-Acts, closely joined to the pattern of the prophet and the people. Jesus' ministry is preceded by the Word of God spoken through the prophet John, which called people to repentance. Acts opens with the preaching of Peter which also calls for repentance. Those who enter the people that God forms around the prophet must "turn around. (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 23)
This reception of grace and turning from the course you are walking to a pilgrimage with Jesus births faith in the follower of Jesus. After hearing one comes to believe and one seeks to mold one's life to the shape of the prophet's life - Jesus' life. Here is what Luke Timothy Johnson writes about faith:
In Luke-Acts, "faith" combines obedient hearing of the Word and patient endurance. It is not a momentary decision but a commitment of the heart that can grow and mature. Essential to the response of faith is the practice of prayer. Jesus prays throughout his ministry; and teaches his disciples to pray. Luke also provides splendid samples of prayer, showing a people for whom life is defined first of all by its relationship with God. (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 24)
In the Gospel story we are seeing these two disciples, who have converted, who are faithful, move through the enduring walk post Easter.  They are not unlike all of us wondering and maturing as we make our way with Jesus.  Just as we seem to loose ourselves from the Gospel, Jesus meets us again and calls us back.

So...they are walking and talking about all the events. They are wondering and one might even say wandering. As they do this (reminding me always of the prayer of Chrysostom, "when two or three are gathered in his name you will be in the midst of them...") Jesus is present, physically with them. He engages with them.

The disciples do not recognize him, the text implies they aren't able...perhaps not allowed to know him. We do not know why, it may be that their sadness and sorrow prevents them from seeing who is with them. They are sad because they had hoped in Jesus. The words seem here to play out two meanings. The first meaning certainly is the idea that Jesus was the new Moses to lead his people out of bondage. The second meaning is found deeper in the text and is rooted in the idea the the words used are of a more spiritual nature. Israel, the Abrahamic family of God, was hoping to be delivered. This reluctance to believe, this inability to see the triumph of prophetic revelation in the resurrection of Jesus is a failure of heart - Jesus says.

And, he opens up for them the story. He retells the story. One can imagine if we sat and read Luke all the way through in one sitting that we would hear and rehear the teaching that Jesus had indeed fulfilled all the scriptures and in and through his death onto the other side of resurrection had delivered the people of Israel from bondage.

In this retelling of the whole story from creation until Emmaeus, in the breaking of the bread, and in his very presence with them their eyes are open to recognize him. He then vanishes, he is no longer visible. In an instant realization, and in another moment gone.  Or is he? Are they really left alone?

They then quickly tell others.  Jesus is present in a living Word though as the Gospel itself becomes sacramentally carried by the human vessel - the mouth, the action, the embrace, the love.  In Luke's Gospel the Holy Spirit is coming to help with this work.

So the work of conversion and faith begins its cyclical manifestation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Luke Timothy Johnson remarks on Luke's writing, "As people tell the story to each other, they also interpret the story." They make, in their telling, Jesus present.  And, they have the opportunity for their own lives to be held up against the Gospel message. So then both those who receive the message and the messenger are transformed.  He writes:
Luke shows us narratively the process by which the first believers actually did learn to understand the significance of the events they had witnessed, and to resolve the cognitive dissonance between their experience and their conviction. The resurrection shed new light on Jesus' death, on hi words, and on the Scriptures. The "opening of the eyes" to see the texts truly and the "opening of the eyes" to see Jesus truly are both part of the same complex process of seeking and finding meaning....Luke shows us how the risen Lord taught the Church to read Torah as "prophecy about him." (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 399)
I have leaned on Luke Timothy Johnson a great deal in this passage as I think he does the very best with it. The preacher has many opportunities for topics. I encourage you to think deeply about speaking with your people about how we have come to understand and to know the witness of Jesus both through others, and through our texts. For Episcopalians we read the text in community. It is in our prayer book, it is in our scripture readings, and in our hymns.  We read the texts of scripture on the road to Emmaus, struggling together and inviting Jesus to be in our midst revealing the truth, the way and the life that lies before us as people of the resurrected Christ.


People in church on Sunday, or reading this (like myself) know the business of life.  How many of us, like the disciples, will leave church not to think about the meaning of the good news for our life until next week.  I wonder what would happen if this week we challenged our people to walk in life this week, with their eyes wide open, looking for the risen Lord.  How many times a day will they see him this week?  How many times an hour?  Can our sermons, our preaching, praying, singing open our eyes to the risen Lord in our midst?

Some Thoughts on I John 3:1-8

"The church's integrity wells up from, and is channeled by, God's calling (3:1b; 3:3). To be a saint is to live in the same love by which God has loved us (3:16-18; 4:7-12)."

Commentary, 1 John 3:1-3 (All Saints A), C. Clifton Black, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.

"We get Christian hope confused when we think that our hope is based on now nice we are, or how well we behave, or on some hidden piece of us called 'the soul' that will survive through death and destruction."

Commentary, 1 John 3:1-7, David Bartlett, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2009.

"The author might say today: no amount of doing good deeds and no amount of having impressive spiritual experiences will count for anything if it is not connected to a real change that is relational."

"First Thoughts on Year B Epistle Passages in the Lectionary: Easter 3," William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.



Resources for Sunday's Epistle

In this second section of John's first letter to the beloved community we find that we turn our attention from the work of the pious individual to the nature of the beloved community itself. Using the ancient words we are reminded by the author that we are intended to be called the children of God the sons and daughters of Abraham - made heirs by the work of our savior Christ Jesus. God loves us and has given us this status through the ministry and work of Jesus.

We are promised, no matter what this age brings, that in the end we too will find our place wiht God in the heavenly kingdom. We will come into our fullness and hope becoming like Christ in his glory - perfected. So it is that we believe we are to live a life fitting this promise and in such a manner as it emulates the life of Christ.

The reality is that we are to be working towards the relationship with others. We are to strive for a righteous love of others and we are to undertake to follow Jesus' commandments to love God and love neighbor. We are to be reminded not to judge but to love.

Love One Another:
John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." 
Believe that Jesus is in the Father:
John 14:11 "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves." 
Feed My Sheep
John 21:15ff "Do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep."

In John's Gospel these are the key commandments: Love one another, have faith and see the work God is doing, and feed my sheep. Well, we all know that we will fail. We will fall short of the kingdom and this perfect life. So we depend upon God and throw ourselves back into life, confessing, accepting forgiveness, and attempting to live anew. This is what is meant by walking the way. Attempt righteousness with all your heart mind and soul. Fail righteousness. Confess. Receive forgiveness. Start over.

For human beings we tend to hear the word of righteousness and show how other people aren't doing it. We rarely immolate Christ's life of non judgement, forgiveness, sacrifice, and reconciliation. Yet this is the challenge that the Johnannine community felt was their call - their work. We must become like Jesus and work and be in relationship like Jesus.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter 2B April 12, 2015

"What is more, he keeps showing up. As he came back a week later for Thomas, Jesus keeps coming back week after week among his gathered disciples -- in the word, the water, the bread, and the wine -- not wanting any to miss out on the life and peace he gives."

Commentary, Elisabeth Johnson, John 20:19-31, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2014.

"Even though he said the greater blessing is for those who can believe without seeing, it's hard to imagine that there's a believer anywhere who wouldn't have traded places with Thomas, given the chance, and seen that face and heard that voice and touched those ruined hands."

"Thomas," Frederick Buechner, Buechner Blog.

"In the end, this is not a story of absence and doubt. It is the amazing message that the good news of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is able to break through locked rooms, through the limits of time and space."

Commentary, Lucy Lind Hogan, John 20:19-31, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2012

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

Prayer

One in mind and heart, O God of glory, your people gather to proclaim your steadfast love, to proclaim the risen Christ in whom we are baptized.  Let the peace that Christ bestowed on the first disciples reign now over this assembly.  Let the Spirit breathed on them fill our hearts anew.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on John 20:19-31




Of Course this text appears regularly after Easter in our lectionary cycle. Furthermore, it also appears as the pre-story to the Pentecost lesson from John.  There is a lot in this weeks text for consideration. I do think the preacher's challenge is to fix on one of the narrative pieces and preach fearlessly the resurrection.  So what I am offering today is a little about everything; ending with a few thoughts about where I think I am going with my sermon.

Every time we arrive at the text for this week I am mindful of the prayer of St. Chrysostom which may be prayed as part of our daily office:
Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.
So it is that I cannot begin to think and ponder on John’s Gospel and the appearance of Jesus in the midst of the disciples without also thinking of the risen Christ in the midst of our gatherings and how he is present and what he encourages us, as faithful followers, to undertake on his behalf.

Also I am mindful that the reality that this appearance and the appearance to Thomas a week later occur on the “first day of the week” suggests the presence of Christ on our day of worship and in the midst of the community gathered for both prayer and a meal, the Eucharist in our current practice. Raymond Brown and other scholars are quick to remind us of Isaiah 3.6: “My people shall know my name; on that day they shall know it is I who speak.”

A challenging word comes from the blogosphere via Brian Stoffregen [Exegetical Notes (Easter 2 ABC) by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks Christian Resources]
The purpose of this resurrection appearance is not so much to prove the resurrection as it is to send the disciples as Jesus had been sent. Easter is not just coming to a wonderful, inspiring worship service, it is being sent back into the (hostile) world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to the identity of God as revealed in Jesus.
So there is a sense of a coming, a filling or receiving, and a being sent or going. Not unlike Leonel Mitchel's thoughts that liturgy is always about making and drawing people deeper into Christ and the community of Christ at work in the world. Certainly echoing this liturgical theology and missional challenge are Raymond Brown's (New Testament and Johanine scholar) thoughts on this passage. His notes follow below from page 1019 of vol. 2 of his reflections about John’s Gospel for the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Here he suggests traces of ancient Johannine communal liturgy.

The disciples assemble on the Lord’s Day. The blessing is given: “Peace to you.” The Holy Spirit descends upon the worshipers and the word of absolution is pronounced. Christ himself is present (this may suggest the Eucharist and the spoken Word of God) bearing the marks of his passion; he is confessed as Lord and God. Indeed, this passage in John as been cited as the first evidence that the Christian observance of Sunday arose from an association of that day with the resurrection – an idea that shortly later Ignatius gave voice to: “No longer living for the Sabbath, but for the Lord’s Day on which life dawned for us through in and his death.” (Magnesians, ix 1). (R. Brown, John, vol 2, p 1019).
So it is and with these thoughts that I turn and think more closely upon the Gospel for this Sunday. This is a Gospel which clearly provides some marks along the pilgrim road. John gives us a sense that there is a reality to our being part of a community which gathers, receiving the witness of Jesus Christ resurrected, and then being sent to bear that witness out in the world.

Our Gospel reading for Sunday begins with the disciples behind closed doors because of their fear. Perhaps afraid of the authorities or for those who might accuse them of stealing their messiah’s body they are hiding. The doors are locked. Jesus comes and stands in their midst, right in front of them.

Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you.” Shalom. Shalom Alekem. Yes this is a greeting. It is also an ancient form of saying or cuing the listener or hearer of these words that there is about to be a revelation. They are about to see, hear, or receive a revelation of God. The revelation (as with Gideon in Judges 6.23) is that the Lord is present, the Lord brings peace, and you will not die.

Jesus then shows his disciples his wounds. He shows them the very place of them. While there is some argument between scholars about the different wound sites shown and the different terms and placement between the Gospel of Luke and John’s visitation we nevertheless see that it was a powerful recognition of the Christ crucified. I am mindful that the disciples and those who experience the resurrection had not only a real experience but an understanding that Jesus was himself more fully present that before. The reality of these wounds and the powerful vision they must have created for those whose eyes fell upon them quiets me.

Here then the author and narrator uses the resurrection title, “the Lord.” While I have been using it, we notice in the narrative its first use here. Jesus is recognized but recognized as the risen one, the first fruits of those who have died.

Jesus provides a vision of resurrection. He is present. He gives them a mission. Just as God sent me I am sending you. We may reflect upon the previous chapters, his priestly prayer, and his ministry. Jesus was sent by the father to glorify God. Jesus now sends his followers to do the same.

And, Jesus gives them the Holy Spirit. As if from Genesis we have Jesus breathing over the new creation, new breath to the new Adams and the new Eves.

Then the Lord charges them to forgive. Forgive the sins and know that those which you hold will be bound by them. If you release them, you open your hand and they fall away. If you hold them you hold your hand closed and they cannot go. It seems important to reflect on this a minute. Jesus words here are very different than the legal words used by him in Matthew’s Gospel. Here we have kerygmatic words. Brown writes:

Thus the forgiveness and holding of sins should be interpreted in the light of Jesus’ own action toward sin…The Gospel is more concerned with the application of forgiveness on earth, and is accomplished in and through the Spirit that Jesus has sent…more general Johannine ideas about the Spirit, relate the forgiveness of sins to the eschatological outpouring of the Spirit that cleanses men and begets them to new life… the power to isolate, repel, and negate evil and sin, a power given to Jesus in his mission by the Father an given in turn by Jesus through the Spirit to those whom he commission. (John, vol 2, 1040-1044)
This is the recreation in action. The disciples are given power by the Holy Spirit to be about the work of freeing people to and into the new created order.

Thomas, our dear brother Thomas, missed this historic revelationary moment. And, as we arrive at this time every year we know he will not believe it no matter what is said. So emphatic is he that he will not believe it unless he “throws” his fingers into the wounds themselves. This is a dramatic call for proof if there ever was one.

The disciples continue their stay in Jerusalem and find themselves with Thomas again in the upper room one week later.

Again, Jesus appears and he calls to Thomas. The Lord invites him to see and feel his wounds to reach out and touch them. Some scholars have spent time wondering how this could be so if the Christ was wearing clothes. Was it a loose fitting garment? These suggestions give rise to one of my favorite Brown quotes which I must admit almost caused me to fall out of my chair when I read it. Raymond Brown writes, “The evangelist scarcely intended to supply information on the haberdashery appropriate for a risen body.” (1026)

Jesus also tells him to stop or quit persisting in his unbelief by these actions. While Thomas was a follower of Jesus was a believer in the risen Christ? He is challenged here to change.

What has always struck me, but few preachers have ever remarked on, is the fact that Thomas doesn’t touch the Christ. I have pondered this a great deal. What is it then that changes him. Thomas’ faith is adequate without the proof. That seems the deeper point of the story. One scholar even remarked that John seems himself somewhat skeptical; perhaps not unlike our Thomas. Yet...Thomas comes to believe.

We often get so focused on what it takes to convince ourselves in God and then project it upon Thomas that we miss the narrative’s truth. Thomas believes without the proof.

Brown writes of all four episodes in chapter 20 of John’s Gospel:

Whether or not he intended to do so, the evangelist has given us in the four episodes of ch xx four slightly different examples of faith in the risen Jesus. The Beloved Disciple comes to faith after having seen the burial wrappings but without having seen Jesus himself. Magdalene sees Jesus but does not recognize him until he calls her by name. The disciples see him and believe. Thomas also sees him and believes, but only after having been over insistent on the marvelous aspect of the appearance. All four are examples of those who saw and believed; the evangelist will close the Gospel in 29b by turning his attention to those who have believed without seeing.” (John, vol 2, 1046)
Thomas’ words “My God and my Lord,” are the last words spoken by a disciple in the 4th Gospel. And they are the culminating Gospel proclamation for the faithful follower of Jesus. This statement brings him fully into the covenant relationship with the new creation.


Now that the witness of the disciples is concluded Jesus words are for us. The last and final Beatitude is given for those who would come after. Blessed are those who do not see but have believed. Here is Jesus, with us to the end, offering the last words in the Gospel. We have the opportunity to join the new covenant community, to be new Adams and new Eves, to participate in the stewardship of creation recreated and to take our place in the midst of the discipleship community. We do so through baptism. We do so also by embracing the kerygmatic Word and living a resurrected life. We live by making our confession: My God and my Lord. We live life on the one hand bearing witness to the ever present past of crucifixion and the ever present future of the resurrection life.

The question I am left with today is: can the church honestly be a witness to its own woundedness? Can we as human beings be transparent about our brokenness and shame in order to do the gospel work? Can we hold the faith of the church and hold our questions in tension? Or does the church have to change its theology to fit our doubts?  Can we allow the ancient truths to speak to us and our lives with out deconstructing it to fit our lives.  The work of proclamation is done honestly by being attentive to our own wounds and shame, and we do this by reaching out into the world and offering this good news and peace that we have found.  It seems we must do this as Jesus does in his resurrected life.  We must do this as the apostles do in their fear. We must do this as Thomas does in his doubts.  Only in proclaiming the truth in the midst of our unraveling narrative (not unlike the disciples in their upper room) does our proclamation have integrity.  It seems to me only then, with honest walking, do we do the work of transformation and resurrection in partnership with God.

Some Thoughts on I John 1:1-2:5

"Certainly it would have been an exciting period full of fresh revelation, miracles, and the rapid growth of the church. However, texts like 1 John bear witness to the first century of Christianity also as a time of strife and the splitting of some Christian communities over differences. "

Commentary, 1 John 1:1-2:2, Nijay Gupta, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2015.

"The church need not gaze wistfully for a "someday" to come in order to possess the fullness of its identity. There is no need to wait until there are more members, or more resources, or more of whatever we might believe is necessary to be a good, or faithful, or missional (choose your favorite adjective!) church. "

Commentary, 1 John 1:13 (All Saints A), Audrey West, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2014.




Resources for Sunday's Epistle

There is a lot of debate about the authorship of this text. I remember from seminary that the text is meant for general reading instead of to a particular community and context. I also remember that it is likely that the author of this particular Johannine text is closely related, if not the very same editor, as the one associated with the final edit of the Gospel of John. 

The goal is right teaching focused primarily on a high spirituality with a low anthropology. We might say that the spirit is good and the flesh is bad. If the spirit is truly living in us, proposes the author, then we will see the good works as an out flowing sign of the saving work of God.

As we pick up the argument in this first chapter what we know is that the text tells us there is a debate on the incarnation. Did Jesus truly become human and did he really suffer? Or, as God was it all an act?  

The author is clear. Christ has existed as the Word since before the beginning. This living Word has been present in all of God's creative acts. At the same time this Word comes in very real flesh, lived and suffered with us. In this we have a very real fellowship not only with Christ Jesus but also with the father.

At the same time, the author continues, while the Word is truly human and was tempted in every way as we are, he did not fall prey to sin as we do.  

The author says one cannot live ethically as Christ does and do evil things. God's perfect sacrifice removes from us all sin and so we achieve a holiness of life. When we do fall and confess our wrong doing God will forgive us. We are sinful even though we are redeemed. Nevertheless, our goal to live a Christian life, an ethical life as Christ did, remains our goal.  Given our sinfulness and ability to always fail at this we are grateful for God's forgiveness. 

For those who believe, follow Christ's example, confess when we sin, forgiveness and union with God are ours through the gift of Christ Jesus on the cross. 

God does not promise that life will be easy, that we will be sinless, or that temptations will not come to us. God does promise forgiveness of sins to all those who truly call upon his name. 

The difficulty then becomes the human ability to point out other people's sins rather than focusing on our own. This is our way of dealing with this today. We would rather enter the confessional with our neighbor's list than to be about our own business repent and attempt an honest life of living out our forgiveness. When we are tempted to take the other person's inventory we avoid our own sinfulness by resenting others. The author is clear - God forgives. The ethical follower of Jesus is the one focused on their own living of life rather than upon their neighbor's.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reflections on the Scriptures for the Triduum

Below is a shortcut to the different services and reflections which will now make up the Christian journey to Easter Sunday.

Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, Year B

"It can be easy to "see" the risen Christ in a packed Easter Sunday worship service, or perhaps even in a sunrise or the spring flowers blooming; but where is the risen Jesus when the people return home -- to the drudgery of the same old things? The risen Christ has gone there ahead of them. They will see him."


Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks.
Prayer

This is the day, Lord God, that you have made!  Raising Christ from the dead, and raising us with Christ, you have fashioned for yourself a new people, washed in the flood of baptism, sealed with gift of the Spirit, invited to the banquet of the Lamb!  In the beauty of this Easter set our minds on the new life to which you have anointed us;and ready our hearts to celebrate the festival, with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Mark 16:1-8

Key to the resurrection story in Mark is that Jesus has once again focused on mission.  Unmoored from the cross and tomb he is making his way now to renew Christian mission.  He is on his way to Galilee, that place in Mark's Gospel where the gospel and all good works take place.  All works of power and deliverance happen in Galilee.   No one will be able in the end to keep this movement of the good news of God in Christ quiet.

So as you preach this Sunday I encourage you to encourage your people to break the silence.  To courageously invite, risk loving, and try reaching out with the Gospel message of love.

I encourage you to speak about how the church, the global family of God, the Episcopal Church, too must come unmoored from the tombs of our buildings and the cross of our budgets to take a powerful message out into the world.

We must stop weeping about the empty tombs where we worship. God has gone before us out into the world to do the good work, the loving work, of the gospel.

God loves us and we are freed to love God in return, and to do so abundantly.  We must stop our vigil now, the light has come, Golgotha’s hill top is empty.

What was true of Jesus, the cross, and the tomb is true for our church and for us in this time. We are to give over ourselves completely.

We are invited to journey out and to venture down into the new Garden and new creation that God is rebirthing.  We have freedom and have been redeemed from the cross.  This freedom is purposed for the renewal of God’s relationship with his people and with all creation.

I hope on this Easter Sunday, as you marvel at children in their dresses, boys in their seersucker suits, as you and yours relish the spring day with an abundance of hunting of eggs, baskets, and flowering crosses.  That you will be inspired to allow Easter to be more than a one day event.  That you will inspire your people through your preaching, that we as a church may be inspired to realize perhaps it is all Easter.

This is more than an informative part of your Christian life – your faith.  The message of Mark is that it is a living.  It is a reawakened hope.  It is a part of your being…In other words Easter does not remain a thought but becomes an act, performative.  And, that you and your congregations will
see that as you are freed to love, that you are freed to love generously, that you can risk loving out of abundance, that you can dare to love without regard of what you will receive in return.

I hope your life and your hearts are lifted up on this Easter day. That you will be blessed and that you will love fearlessly and that the world will be changed by our love.

A Little Bit for Everyone



Mark 16:1-8



16When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.3They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.6But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Good Friday, Holy Week, Year ABC



Quotes That Make Me Think


"Today the Master of the creation and the Lord of Glory is nailed to the cross and his side is pierced; and he who is the sweetness of the church tastes gall and vinegar."

Byzantine Liturgy, Triduum, (LTP, 1996)


Sunset to sunrise changes now,
For God creates the world anew;
On the Redeemer's thorn-crowned brow
The wonders of that dawn we view.
Although the sun withholds its light
Yet a more heavenly lamp shines here; and from the cross on Calv'ry's height
Gleams of eternity appear.
Here in o'erwhelming final strife
the Lord of life has victory;
And sin is slain, and death brings life,
And earth inherits heaven's key.

Clement of Alexandria

"In the end, Pilate attempts to crucify the Truth. He places a placard nearby mockingly announcing Jesus as The King of the Jews. The irony is thick, of course, because Pilate has unwittingly announced the truth."

Commentary, John 18:33-37, Jaime Clark-Soles, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2012.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

Prayer

Prostrate on the ground, your Son prayed, O God, that this hour might pass, this cup be taken away.  But then he rose to do your will, to stretch out his arms on the cross, to be lifted up from the earth an to be glorified by you.  Prostrate before you, O God, we ponder the mystery of your saving will.  In this hour of Christ's exaltation, we beg you: Open our hearts to hear the story of our salvation, to stretch out our hands in prayer, to venerate the cross by which the whole world is lifted up to salvation, life and resurrection.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on John 18:1 - 19:42
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Gospel



Raymond Brown writes:  "The other gospels mark Jesus' death with miraculous signs in the ambiance: The Temple curtain is torn; tombs open and bodies of the saints come forth; and an expression of faith is evoked from a Roman centurion. but the Fourth Gospel localizes the sign in the body of Jesus itself: When the side of Jesus is pierced, there comes forth blood and later. In 7:38-39 we heard: "From within him shall flow rivers of living water," with the explanation that the water symbolized the Spirit which would be given when Jesus had bee glorified. That is now fulfilled, but the admixture of blood to the water is the sign that Jesus has passed from this world to the Father and has been glorified. It is not impossible that the fourth evangelist intends here a reference not only to the gift of the Spirit but also to the two channels (baptism and the Eucharist) through which the Spirit had been communicated to the believers of his won community, with water signifying baptism, and blood the Eucharist."

One of my mentors once remarked of how careful one must be when dealing in sermons preached in the midst of the great liturgies of the church. I have come to understand and to agree. When we address the text that is before us we quickly realize that the text itself, and the reading of it in publicworship, is carries a weight which can barely be matched by a few meager words from the pulpit.

The piece that I find the most interesting is the uniqueness of John's Gospel and in particular the last words of Jesus. There is a tremendous feeling of agony and suffering in the last words of the synoptics: "My god, my God, why have you forsaken me?" John's words echo Luke's in their triumphant nature and give us a sense that in this moment we have victory.

Jesus in the fourth Gospel accepts death, in all of its pain and suffering, as the completion of God's plan to unite the world (its earthiness and creatureliness) with the Godhead. The fourth Gospel's death scene from the cross is a song of victory.  It relishes the death of death, the finality of sin, as the falling cross bridges the gap once for all between heaven and earth.

Psalm 22 gives us this victory song:
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver— let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled;
17 I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

The Psalm captures both the defeat and the ultimate victory which is God's. It is John's Gospel thought that is most like the end. The words, "It is finished." are a victory cry and not some pitiful words from a dying prisoner!

Raymond Brown explains it this way, "In John's theology, now that Jesus has finished his work and is lifted up from the earth on the cross in death, he will draw all men to him. If "It is finished" is a victory cry, the victory it heralds is that of obediently fulfilling the Father's will. It is similar to "It is done" of Rev. 16.17, uttered from the throne of God and of the Lamb when the seventh angel pours out the final blow of God's wrath. What God has decreed has been accomplished." (John, vol II, Anchor Bible, 931)

If we combine this then with the images of Brown's above, Psalm 22, we see that the piercing then is the handing over of the sacramental life of the Godly community into the hands of those who will come after. The Spirit which is about to be poured out in chapter 20 is already here prefigured. Be cautious not to move into Pentecost too soon. However, I do think it is important to understand that the work of Jesus on the cross is the culmination of his earthly mission and for John it is the final death blow to the ruler of this world.

Some Thoughts on Hebrews 10:16-25


Resources for Epistle

Paul has been teaching the Hebrews that the Holy Spirit has brought them to faith, and that it is the same Spirit which speaks to them in scripture.  As an example he pulls from a passage that I spoke about in the Maundy Thursday meditation and that is the passage from Jeremiah chapter 31.  
31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
The passage speaks of God's promise for a new covenant.  Paul says that the promise itself is that God's action on the cross, takes away the sins of the past and moves the follower of Jesus towards a sinless life. Craig Koester (Hebrews, Yale Bible, 441), Luther Seminary professor of New Testament, writes that Paul offers to his readers the notion that "God creates a situation in which he does not allow past or present sins to define his relationship with people."  God wills that such a divide is bridged by the cross.

There is justification and reconciliation between God and humanity.  The work on the cross is complete and final.  This is a unique Christian thought.  There is no need for a temple or Colosseum where sacrifices need to be made in order to create a renewed relationship between humanity and the gods.  There is no long list of law that is to be followed in order to fulfill the requirement to bridge the gulf.   God's action upon the cross is what puts and end to remembering the human disobedience.

We are boldly given permission to be in God's presence.  The sacrifice of Jesus, freely given for the sake of his friends and on behalf of sinners is what provides the release. This is new and it is a way of living.  Paul says the sacrifice is made and the curtain removed.

New life is given through the opportunity of putting behind us anxiety, fear, death, and impurity. (Koester, 444).  Instead we are given the opportunity as Christians to live a new life, to participate in the new covenant.  The Holy Spirit gathers us in and sends us out. We are purified by Christ's action and with the character of boldness and hope we are sent out to confess and make known our faith.  We are to "provoke" one another.  [Paul here uses a negative work in a positive sense. (445)  We are to encourage a new life of witness in one another.  Furthermore, this new life is to look like love and good works.

Craig Koester writes, "Love is not simply an emotion, but entails care for others, including strangers and the afflicted.  Love is congruent with righteousness and can be expressed in parental instruction.  Good works of love are the opposite of the 'dead works' of sin....they are the saving work of Christ in the believer's actions. (445)

The Hebrews text gives us both a theological underpinning to the Johannine Gospel of victory.  It defines what that victory is and it offers a vision of what the Christian is to do with their new freedom.


Good Friday Meditation: Boxes
Sometime in the early 1970’s the pop artist Andy Warhol moved from his studio at 33 Union Square West to a larger one at 860 Broadway.

As he looked at the acquired, comic, sentimental artifacts of culture that he had collected from both personal life and business affairs, he came up with a “crack pot filing system.”

Warhol from the time he was 11 had been fascinated with the 1939 time capsule buried at the New York World’s fair. This would be his idea; he would create time capsules.

So, he began to stuff time capsules with the artifacts of his life. Some required no more thought than emptying the entire contents of his desk drawer. Another devoted entirely to his mother contains articles of her clothing as well as correspondence. There is one which contains the contents collected on a Concorde flight in 1978. Still others contain taxi receipts, wig tape, invoices, a slice of Caroline Kennedy’s birthday cake, a 17th century German book on wrestling, a letter from Dennis Hopper, a valentine from the poet Allen Ginsberg, an invitation to the Vice-President’s house warming party, and an angry letter from his florist regarding an overdue account.

By the time he died in 1987 Andy Warhol had filled 612 boxes with the memories, art, artifacts and refuse of his life.[1]

How many boxes have you and I filled? What are in our boxes?

I imagine lives lived and boxes filled with joyful memories, happy times, blessed moments and hope for a future yet to be filed away.

Then I imagine there are lives lived and boxes filled with unexpressed pain, hidden suffering, wounds inflicted, wounds acquired, abuse of body and the bodies of others, and pointed words which can never return.

Sin and brokenness openly and secretly engaged are then hidden away. Late nights, trips, parties, pornography, alcohol, food, and over indulgence purchased with our lives on credit hoping the creditor never knocks on the door.

Boxes more subtly filled. Scarcity of food and resources globally stored by others on our behalf… boxes of wasted consumption. Boxes and bins filled with the refuse of a green planet now in decay.

Lives lived and boxes filled with vivid moving pictures and recorded sound of events played over and over again paralyzing our lives, relationships, and ministries.

Lives lived and boxes filled with a past we store away, peaking at in darkest hours then locking away again the world only seeing what we want to be seen.

Lives lived, boxes filled, -- stumbling blocks each – stumbling stones in our relationships and in our relationship with God … scattered throughout a life’s journey.

The joyous moments we discover will never be enough. The hope not quite what we thought it would be. The highest moments never quite high enough.

How many boxes? How many shelves of boxes? How many storage units of boxes?

Jesus’ journey into darkness carries with it a mass of boxes, each box, one by one, step by step is carried to Golgotha.

Jesus’ binding and arrest in the garden of Gethsemane binds our boxes of violence, betrayal, and darkest fears to the heart of Jesus.

Jesus’ trial before the high priest puts on trial our boxes filled with religious intolerance, religious abuse of power, religious abuse of authority, our tendencies towards conservative and liberal fundamentalisms, and our willingness to diminish faith into meaningless platitudes of inaction masquerading as concern for our common man.

The handing over to Pilate of Jesus opens for scrutiny our boxes of idolatry, scapegoating, our lack of honor, honesty, and onus. We see in Pilate’s courtyard our own willingness to allow others to sin on our behalf, abuse on our behalf, and falsely accuse and punish that our own consciences may be relieved of any wrongdoing and our feasts not spoiled by the true cost of our wealth.

The mocking of Jesus mocks our boxes filled with just enough faith to be respectable. Instead of the crown of our heart we give Jesus a thorny crown of false adoration. Instead of the throne of our souls we wrap Jesus in a purple robe to hide the wounds and lashings of an inactive faith that fails to make our relationships healthy and whole, the wounds of failed family and friendships, the scars of a faith that leaves people hungry and without shelter.

So painful is the work of Jesus, the picking up and opening of our boxes, one by one, humiliation by humiliation, pain by pain, sin by sin, scar by scar that when forced to look upon him we see all that we keep secret. And we do what we must in order to escape the truth -- we reject him.

When Jesus stands before the seat of judgment, upon the stone pavement, our boxes laid open around him, contents spilled and mingled, we are so ashamed that we must turn from him, we cannot bear our countenance, we cannot bear our humaneness bent down and taken upon him our God and our King.

So we say what we must…hoping to close our tiny boxes…hoping to hide again…we say: crucify him. Crucify him.

Lives lived and boxes locked away into the darkest recesses of our hearts cannot be hid before the suffering of Jesus. They are here and now brought out into the open and picked up and carried by Jesus to Golgotha.

It is so easy not to look now though. As he walks to the place of the skull it is so easy to turn away. Much better not to look at our lives carried up that hill. Perhaps the grey sky and the rain will hide what was once hidden. Maybe the mud will cover the remains of our life laid before him on the cobbled streets of Jesus’ walk to the cross. But they are not.

And so when we dare to look at his walking his caring we see that the weight of the cross is the weight of our lives and our boxes, our memories, art, artifacts and refuse. The weight is of those things done and those things left undone and those things done on our behalf.

Each step, then each nail, is a memory now of our pain, and sin, and brokenness.

For those who look now see something different than the death of a criminal. For those who look now see more than the death of a prophet or a wise man. For those who look now see more than just a man on a cross.

For those who dare to look with Mary and Peter and the few gathered we see the death of all that we have believed keeps us from the love of God. We see the death of every event, every word, and every action taken that has kept us from our God’s embrace.

We see the death of our sin.

We see the death of our hypocrisy.

We see the death of our consumption and the death of our indulgence.
And here we see the commingling of Jesus’ suffering with our suffering.

Here at the cross, with Jesus’ body almost lifeless, the pain a pain we wish not to imagine, the last boxes of lives lived are opened. Here are broken open the boxes filled with our pain inflicted by others. Here are our boxes of suffering from illnesses our bodies cannot fight alone. Here are the boxes of physical and mental abuse perpetrated by others on our lives.

And, here are the boxes filled with the pain we carry in our hearts for the death of our loved ones. Boxes filled with photographs of those lost at war, those lost from disease, those lost in tragedy, those lost with lives before them, and those lost after long lives lived.

We see today, again, perhaps for the first time, the bearing of our sins, pain and our own suffering here in this place.

We see our lives laid bare before us and before Jesus and his cross.

We mourn and we weep for Jesus and we mourn and weep for ourselves.

We must let this Jesus go. We must let him go and carry our lives with him into death. We must let him die and the brokenness of this world and of our lives die with him. We must let him and all of our hidden lives be buried in the tomb. We must let him be buried beneath the earthworks of our sin.

That is all, there isn't anymore today. We couldn't bear to see anymore.

So we watch and we listen. We listen for our cue.

And, we hear Jesus say, “It is finished.”

And it is. It is finished.



[1] Box Pop, author unknown, The World of Interior, December 2008, n 12, p 172.

Maundy Thursday, Holy Week, Year ABC


Quotes That Make Me Think

"Infinite, intimate God; this night you kneel before your friends and wash our feet. Bound together in your love, trembling, we drink your cup and watch."

New Zealand Prayer Book

"Oneness in love is the language of intimacy. It applies to our relation with God and Christ (and to their relationship). It is to apply also to our relationships with each other in community."

"First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages in the Lectionary: Easter 5," William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"Fortunately, this passage actually has TWO new commandments: 1) Love one another as I have loved you. And, 2) Forgive one another as I have forgiven you. Christ-like-love is the goal. Forgiveness is the salve that heals brokenness and makes love possible once again."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, John 13:31-35, David Ewart, 2012.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons


Prayer

With joy, O God of salvation, the assembly of your holy people begins the three day pasch, in which Christ manifests the gospel in his own flesh and blood.  Stir our hearts by the example of this Savior, who welcomed to his table even those who would betray, deny and desert him, the Lord who knew their weaknesses yet bend down to wash their feet. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on John 13:1-35
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel


Much like the place of Maundy Thursday as the beginning of Christian Passover or the doorway into the Triduum, our passage is the beginning through which the disciple walks into the important teachings in following chapters which then lead directly into the crucifixion.  This passage is a doorway in John's Gospel for the disciple to follow Jesus to the cross, through the grave and to Easter.

Meister des Hausbuches,
Jesus Washes the Feet of the Apostles 
Most scholars including Raymond Browne see that our passage falls into three distinct sections.  The action in 1-5, the interpretation to the disciples, and the further interpretation to those who read the Gospel and believe.

Section One: The Action
13Now 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. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then 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.

We see a clear Johanine understanding that Jesus is returning to the Father. We might remember the earlier teachings on John wherein I talked about how Jesus clearly is the incarnate word come to dwell in the world.  Furthermore, we see the very deep roots of our orthodox faith which understands that it is Jesus' loving of the disciples that brings them into the family of God.  Despite the work of those that would destroy the community and creatures of God, Jesus will be victorious. He washes their feet. This may be a sign of baptism. What is clear is that Jesus serves the disciples and loves them as if they were his own to care for and tend.  This is the first and essential piece of the Gospel; and it is radical.  Jesus serves his followers.

The Second Section: First Interpretation
We shall remember that this is "Commandment day", this is the meaning of Maundy. Here we have the essential ingredient to all of Christian teachings about discipleship.  While avoiding words that are liturgically connected with baptism Jesus offers this very basic exercise of cleaning and washing.  Jesus is enacting a sign of hospitality. It is a welcoming into the company of God's family, formally in baptism, here signified with the tenderness of a mother or father.  Jesus is uniting all of creation and all of humanity with God. We are being adopted into Christ's household as a person might be brought into one's own home (Genesis 18:4  1 Samuel 25:41; Luke 7:4422:27).  This is the way our community is to be like. Within the covenant community which claims Christ we are to accept the freely given grace of our Lord and share it with others by repeating the act of loving embrace to others.

We know that the outward washing of the body does not cleanse the soul, but it is clear that this love and care is to be a hallmark of the inward grace.  It is the hallmark of Jesus' ministry and it is to be the hallmark of our own lives lived in the wake of Jesus' ministry. The hospitality of God is to be echoed by all who come after him. 1 Peter 2:21, the author writes: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps”.

The Third Section: The Second Interpretation Here it is as if Jesus stops focusing upon his disciples and steps out of the Gospel in order to focus on the reader.  When we welcome, when we open ourselves up to those who have been sent by Christ into the world we too become part of the family.  While certainly Jesus is to be betrayed, nevertheless we are to act in accordance to the witness we have been given. We are to “love one another”.  This is the basic sign of ones salvation and knowledge of God and his Son Jesus.  We witness in this text the breaking of bread and sharing of wine, the emblems of a self-giving God.  We are to love and keep his commandments.  While we often will spend our time in the pulpit on this Holy night speaking of love, it is important to recognize the reality that forgiveness is also part and parcel of the life lived in Christ.

And in a miraculous way, beyond all that pulls at our church, all that works to destroy and condemn us, all that we do to one another in word and action, in our most broken and most divided, it is tonight, this holy night that we pause, and remember to love and forgive. We pause and put down our destruction and remind ourselves of the service and hospitality of our God. We remind ourselves that it is his grace and love which unites us one to another and into the family of God. It is his love which binds us forever. And so, it is on this night that we are challenged to be a better people, a loving people, a hospitable people, a kind people. This is our work should we choose to follow.

"O Lord Jesus Christ, though didst not come to the world to be served, but also surely not to be admired or in that sense to be worshiped. Thou was the way and the truth - and it was followers only thou dist demand.  Arouse us therefore if we have dozed away into the delusion, save us from the error of wishing to admire thee instead of being wiling to follow thee and to resemble thee." Soren Kierkegaard


Some Thoughts on I Corinthians 11:23-26



This section of the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians is dealing with accusations by fellow members of the community that others are abusing the Lord's Supper.  Our theologians have pulled out of the text for us to read on this Holy Thursday the passages that deal with the tradition of the "supper" itself; and Paul's interpretation of Jesus' actions at the Last Supper.

The first followers of Jesus have already formed a tradition and this tradition is given to the Corinthians from Paul.  He provides the words that have been given to him and the meaning that these remembrances are to remind the follower of the first supper and the grace they receive by continuing the tradition.  The elements are offered with the same words we use in our liturgy today.  Thanks is offered, blessings made and the gives are shared.  The bread is broken, literally, and shared.  This is a very different tradition than the Aramaic formula in the Passover tradition. (Joseph Fitzmyer, First Corinthians, Yale Press, 438).  Like the washing of feet in tonight's Gospel from John, it is very clear that these things are done, broken, and given to those gathered - the faithful.

Fitzmyer reminds us (443) that the "new covenant" that is mentions is a reference to Jeremiah 31:31-34.

31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
It is Paul's, and the new Christian movement's, understanding that Jesus and this meal is fulfillment of this ancient prophecy and promise.  For Paul the rehearsal of these things by those who follow Jesus - was essential.

In the last verse we have Pauline material which makes clear his understanding.  Fitzmyer says it well:

The active sharing of the bread and the cup is a way not only of expressing one's belief in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and of commemorating the Last Supper, but also of announcing to others what the death of Jesus has achieved for all Christian believers.  The act of sharing is not only memory and recollection, but above all, proclamation, based on the Passover event of old...this double aspect of the Eucharist, remembrance and proclamation, is not to be neglected....there is no worship without remembering, and there is no liturgical remembering without proclamatory narrative. (444)

Therefore, the remembering and rehearsing of this ancient meal is not simply something God is doing but it is essentially something the one who follows this God does in order to remind themselves of the Gospel narrative.

Chosen on this night of Holy Thursday as our reading, it is has special meaning.  The congregation rehearses and retells our sacred story.  For the preacher it is an opportunity to make the connection between our weekly remembrances and the first supper of passion week.












Monday, March 23, 2015

Liturgy of the Palms B, March 29, 2015

"This Palm Sunday can we get beyond a scrap of palm we never know what to do with, & a feel- good procession that leads to nowhere?"

Marginally Mark, by Brian McGowan, Anglican priest in Western Australia.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

Special Resources for the Reading of the Passion


Prayer

O God, for whom all things are possible, you have highly exalted your suffering Servant, who did not hide from insult but humbled himself even to death on a cross.  As we begin the journey of Holy Week, take our sin away by Christ's glorious passion and confirm our worship and witness, so that when we proclaim the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend and  every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on Mark 11:1-11

Online NRSV Text

"Let us remember, by turning our hearts and minds to the actions of God’s dearest Son, who went not up to joy but first suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified. May God bless us in these days, that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace."

How will you bear witness to Jesus' passion and resurrection?  How will you walk the way with Jesus this week?

One of the first things I want to encourage you to do this Sunday is to really pay attention to the triumphal entry and its narrative offering.  All too often we rush to the foot of the cross! While we certainly have a long tradition of reading the passion this Sunday, we also have a long tradition of bypassing the triumphal entry.

Encourage your people to attend the pilgrim journey through Holy Week.  Dare to preach the passion narrative as it comes. Resist the "cliff notes" version of preaching Good Friday's message Sunday.  Invite people back and invite them into the life journey of Jesus as experienced in our liturgy this week.

So then, what to do with our passage from Mark 11?  This carefully constructed passage parallels 14:12-16; and provides for an understanding that what is taking place is of central importance to Jesus ministry.

He has been very clear from the beginning of his ministry (in Mark's Gospel) that to walk the Way (the reoccurring theme of this Gospel) is to walk towards the cross.  This is true for Jesus' own ministry. It is true in the life and ministry of all those who would follow him.  Here in this passage the pilgrim way of walking leads directly to Jerusalem and to the Temple.  Therefore the way is tied inextricably to the faithful traditions of our Abrahamic ancestors and will in the end unleash God's presence in the world, God's embrace of the world.  The triumphal entry is the point at which walking the way TO the cross arrives on the doorstep of Jerusalem to become the the way OF the cross.

The entrance rite is royal (see Genesis 49:10-11 and Zechariah 9:9).  This is an eschatological and messianic reign that is being unfurled into time.  The stage and the plan are underway and the unfurling of a new creation and new order of living is at hand.

From Psalm 118 comes the imagery of a new Davidic reign.  The gates are open and the people fervently receive their king; yet as the reader know this crown will be laid upon the king not in victorious triumph but complete and utter powerlessness.  The worlds undoing and recreation will come from an explicit rejection of power as this world deals it out and an embrace of forgiveness and grace of which the world had yet to behold.

Note in this Gospel there is not cleansing of the Temple but only an embrace.  Jesus enters, and retires to rest.

And, so we begin. We make our journey. We choose to follow Jesus along the way of the cross. We pledge fidelity not to power which overcomes, but a power which will yield unto death.  Unlike those who met Jesus at the gate, we greet him this Sunday knowing that only complete submission and not a powerful revolution brings about the creative cataclysm.  And, we rehearse, remind, and remake our way to the foot of the cross as a reminder that our Christian way is clearly marked by grace, mercy, and forgiveness - and not by authority, power, and abuse.

So, I charge you to remember, Walk with determination turning your hearts and minds to the actions of God.  A God who went suffered pain, and entered was crucified. By walking in the way of the cross, may you find a blessing, and a way of life, and a way of and peace.