I found myself carrying my phone around and checking it for the time (isn’t that a statement of our times!?)… I found myself curious about where we were in time, how much longer.
And yes, that was on All Saints’ Sunday.
As people of faith, we mark time.
We live in a liturgical year. Seasons are marked by liturgical events. Some correspond with Calendar dates, some correspond with the Lunar Calendar (Ah, Easter/Passover). Biblically time is marked by 40’s (days for Jesus in the wilderness and Noah on the ark, and 40 years in the wilderness for Moses). We can think of the 7 days of creation and even the number 12. We mark the three days after Good Friday, the 50 days after Easter, the four weeks of advent, the 12 days of Christmas.
We are constantly marking time. Last week in particular my time was marked as a bible study that started the first week we closed the church completed a 31 chapter book. One week at a time, we marked our weeks with a small gathering to talk about the message of hope even in trying times.
We are marking time differently in these pandemic days, perhaps no one other than Dr Fauci knew we were going to be counting time like this for so long.
With hope and lament we realize the differences from now and March.
We recognize with sadness that we cannot do everything that we might want to do and when we might want to do it.
Reflecting back in our bible study, we realized we have had some rough times. We have lost members of our community and we have also had new beginnings, births, weddings, baptisms. New little Joys that we savor and treasure.
We know that we are never alone.
As we enter the month of November we journey towards an American holiday of Thanksgiving and our culture emphasizes gratitude.
We are also living in an election season. A time of waiting and process and potential dispute.
The Days are shorter and the nights longer here in the Northern hemisphere, it’s easy to only see the darkness.
In the christian faith tradition, we light candles as we prepare for Christmas. Our Jewish brothers and sisters light candles for Chanukah, celebrating triumph in trying times. In the season of Advent we hear a lot about light shining in the darkness, reminding us we are never alone we are never without help.
In this season, remember to reach out. You are never alone. We are here for each day each other.
Update on my watch: My watch needed to be turned off and rebooted and re-sync-ed with my phone. I had to manually shut it down and then wait while it reacquainted itself with my Phone. It took time, patience and letting go- the re-syncing takes time to do it right.
Where can you see the seasons right now?
Where can you see the need for light in our anxiety?
Where can you re-sync yourself? Re-Boot? Re-connect?
You are not alone, you are enough, you are connected. Remember to take time to let that “sync” in.
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I will light Candles this Christmas; Candles of joy despite all sadness, Candles of hope where despair keeps watch, Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens, Candles of love to inspire all my living, Candles that will burn all the year long.[i]
What ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
It’s a question I received a lot growing up.
Why aren’t you in the car? Why aren’t you ready? What are you waiting for????
And the reasonings got very creative:
Are you waiting on a written invitation?
Are you waiting for the stars to align?
Are you waiting for the right group of people to sign up first?
Are you waiting for your name to be called?
Are you waiting for ticketmaster to let you in out of the waiting room? (Too soon, Taylor Swift fans?)
Let’s be honest,
We do a lot of waiting.
We wait in traffic,
We wait in lines,
We wait for the turkey to be done,
We wait for our teams to win, sometimes in double overtime, too!
And in our digital world, we have managed to avoid a lot of waiting….
We can now order online in advance, we can pay for it to be shipped directly to us rather than picking it up in person, We can pay for it to be ready— so we can do something else in the in-between time.
And I wonder….
What should we be doing in our waiting?
Some of the digital options allow us to multi-task, I am in no way condemning this concept.
What are we multi-tasking with though?
I am just wondering are we just filling the time we receive with other non- important busy things?
What might we be avoiding?
What might we be burying deep down and “hiding from” in the fullness of our worlds?
When we wait for results…. Are we filling our time and hiding our anxiety and fear of death?
When we “are waiting” for sadness to pass, are we ignoring the need for our own hearts to grieve and be broken open?
They say “Iceburgs you only see 10% of what is going on… 90% is below the surface.”[ii]
Just like the ways we fill out time,
We show what we want to show, don’t we?
We dress in certain ways, we share joys and selected sorrows on Social Media.
Think about it, we can even blur our backgrounds on zoom meetings.
Where might we take the time to unblur the things that our hearts might need us to be still to hear?
Where might we need to wait and know that we are not alone.
Where might we need to be still and know that we are enough?
Where are you taking a moment to plunging deeper?
To share your story?
Where have you found that you have been Waiting and Growing at the same time?
Our Gospel reading today is from the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus is speaking about what is to come and how then we, as disciples, should wait. He reminds the disciples that waiting and change is nothing new in their story. Neither is change that comes with suffering.
Jesus reminds them of how then we should wait. He invites the disciples, and in turn us, to use our time of waiting to be productive. Be ready for the divine to interrupt you. Be waiting and also digging deep to be ready for the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day and also the second coming, when we know not the time nor place.
We wait with hope and expectation.
Trinity Church in the City of Boston is an amazing mass of a building.
And yet, it represents something much greater than what you can see…..
It’s roots go deeper, story runs deeper, it’s identity is (DO I SAY IT out loud?) more than this building.
We gather here each week to worship God, See each other, AND to go deeper in our faith.
In our waiting we gather, seizing each moment to seek a God who loves us and invites us to know that love more deeply.
Each week, we are invited to share a bit of our story, in all its unseemliness, it’s messiness, it’s incarnation (word made flesh)…. And in our waiting, go deeper.
After services on Sunday, we give you the invitation to come downstairs, to gather underneath to go deeper. Sometimes, this invitation is through coffee and conversation. Sometimes, with a lecture. This week we invite you to go downstairs and create. Down below, you will find all the ‘fixins’ to create the traditional Advent wreath that marks time as we wait and prepare for Christmas.
The tradition of Advent Wreaths come from Germany. The story goes that “in 1839, Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808-81), a pastor in Germany, built a wreath out of an old cartwheel to help the children in his mission school count the days until Christmas. He added small candles to be lit every weekday and Saturday during Advent, and on Sundays, a large white candle was lit. Although it wasn’t widely popular until the 19th century, German immigrants then brought the tradition with them to America in the 20th century.”[iii]
We continue to light these candles in the darkest time of our year in the northeastern corner of the northern hemisphere, when there is less and less physical light- our desire as Christians to see the great light in this world IS even more desperate.
We light candles to remind us that even on the darkest night, there is hope in our world.
We light candles to remind us that our loved ones are still with us even if they are no longer at the table this year, that their presence is still very near in our hearts.
We light candles amidst violence and senseless destruction, to remind us that we can be different, we can make change in this world and those lost will not be forgotten.
We light candles as we wait, together, for something more, a love deeper for us that we have yet to fully understand.
The miracle birth in Bethlehem which brought light into the world in the simplest of ways, a baby who threatened Kings and all of the political systems. Hope given to a world in need of healing.
The truth of the matter is, when you dig down deep, we are always waiting.
We are waiting for our name to be called, we are waiting to be fed, we are waiting because we simply aren’t “there” yet.
We are waiting for this world to know and experience the deep love of God that transcends the outer packaging, the social media shininess, the uncertainty and the brokenness.
And as we wait in lines, with grace and impatience alike, we are not meant to be passive.
Rather, in each moment of waiting we have the opportunity to discover and delight in God’s creation, delve into relationships that challenge us and are different.
Waiting is an adventure and while we might fail at doing this with love every moment of the day, the invitation is still there to delve below, to dig deeper and see the Divine….. as we try, try, try again to love God, Love our neighbors, and love ourselves.
What are we waiting for? Our journey continues today, let’s wait with hope and expectation and dare I say it- joy. Knowing that we have work to do.
O Come O Come Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the depths of our lives, give light in this world and help us to wait with grace and patience.
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Tell me a story.
We hear this plea hear from children.
It’s why we crack open a new book of the NYT bestseller list.
It’s what we ask of movie theaters (or Netflix these days). Tell me a story: a beautiful, wonderful story.
A story with a message that gives us hope.
A story that teaches.
A story that surprises us, has twists and turns, engages us.
What was your most beloved story growing up?
What is the story you have memorized from repetitive reading to your own children?
What was the first story you read, all by yourself?
I remember reading my first Nancy Drew mystery book
and my mother reading Anne of Green Gables to me.
Then came The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings
Each of these stories, even re-read now, speak volumes to our desire for hope, belonging, resolution, instruction in the midst of struggle, and a bit of escape from reality.
As Christians, we have plenty of stories in our scriptures.
And while they might not be as concise as Dr Seuss or amusing as David Sedaris, they do offer hope, they give guidance, they remind us that we are not uniquely new in this journey of questions and searching for meaning.
Today we hear a parable, a story, from Jesus.
This is nothing new in the disciples’ time with Jesus.
Jesus is constantly teaching – engaging in dialogue or telling stories. Stories to give direction, hope, guidance through the struggle of every day faithful life.
Today’s parable follows directly after last week’s gospel of the persistent widow and the unjust judge.
And much like any children’s story there appears to be a dichotomy.
Wrong and Right.
The bible is full of these:
A baby born to threaten a seated King (Think: Moses and Jesus)
In Luke we hear of polarity over and over again, outcasts at the table with Jesus, Lepers receiving healing, parables that juxtapose a widow and a judge, one without social standing and power with the powerful.
Banqueting tables that invite all to participate.
Today- a pharisee and a tax collector.
Polar opposites in the vocational field and popularity.
One esteemed in the faithful community and one who was detested.
It is easy to quickly come to the decision that one is better than the other.
Just like the pharisee.
“At least I am not like”……
Jesus sets this dichotomy up to draw our attention to both the individuals and their understanding of the other.
The Pharisee and his understanding that he has fulfilled his duty.
All that he does reflects this faithful action.
The Tax collector and his understanding that he stands there in need of mercy,
so unworthy to even look up.
I think we can easily look to the two and decide where we fall at this moment. We can judge the other, too. If we are being honest we have been both of these characters at some point. Puffed up with accomplishments or depleted by guilt and shame.
If we rest our souls there, I think we might have missed the point.
The bigger storyline has been lost.
In this parable story we have two individuals who have both come to the faith community.
Both are in need of love and mercy
and both are seeking God– using language that they feel allows them to be heard.
The first believes that he is worthy by duty and doing.
The second by being.
What is left out is any sense of connection or community of the two people who are in the same physical space.
What is absent and missed is that God loved them first, before they did anything.
God was there and invited them to be in community.
The Pharisee, eyes cast upward, was not going to sit anywhere near the tax collector.
The Tax collector was attempting to fade into the corner, eyes downcast.
A chasm existed between the two.
I wonder where the common ground was for these two socially diverse people and how the story of their identity became so disconnected.
The common ground of this story is that they both faithfully came to pray, to receive, in a space of divine.
The tax collector is celebrated by Jesus because he was open to receiving while the Pharisee was stuck in duty instead of delight AND the devotion of the tax collector.
When we reside in competition or “better than” mode of life we lose the opportunity to receive, to collaborate and see that without each other we are actually less than being the full family of God.
In hearing of someone else’s pain or misfortune our response should be from the compassionate heart, not the heady space of comparative lack of fortune.
If we pray that we might be one with gladness and singleness of heart, our hearts should hurt when we hear of the misfortune other members of the family, regardless of how proximate or distant they might be.
In our eucharistic service we hold up the one bread and break it into pieces and give it out evenly to all those who receive the body and blood of Christ.
Shoulder to shoulder we gather around the altar rail or you receive in the pew right where you are.
Your educational status does not matter, the accolades you received are not itemized nor do they prioritize our distribution.
What matters is your open hands to receive, your open heart to be embraced.
There is no “At least” in the Kingdom of God, absolutely no competition.
There is instead, absolutely an invitation to each of you to be loved, receive mercy, receive hope, guidance, gladness, and unification despite division.
Each of us is given a chance to reframe the story, to be part of the narrative where repetition and engagement are essential and give life.
I love reading the Bible because there is always a story that fits our situation. Each time I re-read the scripture I hear something new and am given a fresh take on an old familiar and a new way emerges, a way where God is manifested in our midst.
In listening to scripture, we are given space to hear dichotomy and also invitation in the midst our lives, an invitation to find the middle way– the way of deepest relationship.
A way where God is center to each of our encounters.
The Pharisee looked at the tax collector and did not see him as his brother or companion, he saw him as less than. He saw his status only and not his relationship as a brother in faith.
Where can we take a moment to pause and remember our relationship with one another?
How can we make space to listen to the pain of this world in the midst of duty.
How can we, with holy curiosity, delight in the misadventures and mistakes that we did not plan yet found God there in our midst?
Where can we find gladness of heart even in the darkest moments of our lives without resorting to starting a sentence with “at least”…..
Jesus invites us to reshape the easy story of I am right and you are wrong into “let’s get this right together.”
We have to come together, be in relationship, be with one another and delight with compassion for one another.
Even in the midst of this parable, there is the story of hope and engagement that the Bible holds for us. Jesus continued to teach and live that life for us- full of twists and turns for his disciples and in turn, us.
We receive an open invitation to meet in the middle and join our hearts together to love like the God who created us and delights in us so much that his sacrificial love reaches to us in the midst of our duty or our deprecation.
This is the story of which we are all a part.
Tell me a story, share your own story and realize we are all in this together.
Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
O God of New Beginnings
May we be curious and compassionate
Fill our hearts with the joy of new friends
and our minds with wonder of learning new things.
And the knowledge that you are in each of our moments: joyful and sorrowful.
For the shopping of crayons, markers, the exact sort of paper, that crisp snap of the binders, ready to receive the new year’s knowledge.
We return to a routine, sports, schedules, expectations.
Even, loud boiling test tubes, as our closing hymn sings.
The return of school zones and traffic.
Pencils have been bought, school lists completed, first day of school photos taken on doorsteps with new and clean lunch boxes, smiles are big on children’s faces and parents’ too.
Backpacks have been filled with blank sheets of paper, permissions slips signed for the year, excited and anxious children delivered by excited and anxious parents.
A week of excitement, joy and let’s be honest anxiety.
Regardless of if it is your first day of kindergarten or grad school, or teaching as a first-year teacher or veteran.
Everything is new.
Like the pencils that are too big because they have yet to be used and molded by our grip, the first day of school holds so many unknowns and we aren’t quite sure of the space where we fit in.
We hold our breath, parents, teachers, students alike, as we plunge right in- taking that brave first step into the new year, new school, new community.
And we are all in, armed with who we are, a backpack of supplies and a lunch box, the new year begins.
Even if you do not have your own children, you remember those days yourself, don’t you?
The joy of seeing friends after the summer.
The anxiety of where will I sit for lunch and with whom?
The curiosity of do I have the teacher I wanted?
The question of what have we gotten ourselves into?
I imagine Jeremiah today, while called by God as a prophet, might be wondering the same thing.
God said to Jeremiah, “Go to the Potter’s house, I am going to teach you something.”
18 chapters into our time with Jeremiah, this is not the first day of school. Jeremiah has been listening to and sharing God’s message to the people of Israel in exile for quite some time. By now, Jeremiah’s backpack is full of notes, assignments, and projects.
No, today in our reading we are into the first months of school, this is a first field trip of sorts.
And here, at the Potter’s shed, God reminds Jeremiah of the very visual work of the potter shaping the clay. The potter uses clay that is already there.
Taking the clay and re-forming it.
Re-creating, molding it into something new.
External pressure shaping what otherwise would sit there as a lump.
God is reminding Jeremiah that, in the midst of where they are, God is shaping the people of Israel. All that is given to them will mold them, educate them and form them. All that is given to them will transform them, like the potter on the wheel shaping the clay. This is a new day for that clay, a new beginning, a new shape. This message of transformation is what Jeremiah is to share with the people.
This time here will shape you. Like clay amidst the potter’s hands, you will be transformed into something new.
There is a plan, you will be shaped, there will be change.
Ya’ll, shaping clay is not a gentle process, it messy, uncomfortable, not asked for by the clay, and forceful. God is reminding Jeremiah that this transformation will be much like a potter’s work with clay- with great strong guidance and will create something so marvelous that you cannot even imagine the end product.
In our Gospel today, Jesus, too, is speaking to his disciples, his closest followers and they are being taught a new thing. Continuing as a disciple, a follower, a student of Jesus means that there will be messy times, there will be times where the community that the disciples will find themselves will be re-formed. There will be times where all else will push against you.
Life will be hard.
You will have to say NO to some things because of your yes to God.
Both Jeremiah and the disciples are being invited into taking that one marvelous brave step into being fully into the new community that is being formed by God.
Leaving all else behind.
Being shaped by our creator.
Being wholly (holy?) loved for who they are and willing to risk everything else for the knowledge of this love.
You are marvelously and wonderfully made, our psalmist says to us.
(In a short while) We will re-affirm this understanding of our own personhood in our baptisms today.
As a congregation, re-affirming our baptismal covenant with parents and godparents, we begin again with excitement and maybe a little bit of anxiety about starting fresh in the eyes of God’s grace and love.
Each of our baptizand parents are acutely aware of that anxiety and excitement in each of moment of their child’s journey right now. Armed with diaper bags and bottles, they lean into each new day of learning.
In baptism, we leave all else and re-commit our faithfulness to God.
With these promises, we are all in, with our heart and mind and soul. Today’s baptismal moment is also our own new beginning and willingness to start fresh, pencils sharpened, for this new chapter in our own journey of faith.
We know that God knows all of our ins and outs and is on this journey with us and LOVES US.
With Jeremiah, God accompanies the prophet in each of the messages given, the call to transformation and the belief in each person’s ability to be formed anew.
With the disciples, Jesus reminds them that while the journey is not going to be easy, their response to God’s call in their lives and listening to this call (and our call) should guide all of our footsteps.
To all of these calls, we, as disciples, say “I will with God’s help”- just like our baptizands and their parents and godparents starting for the first time on these promises together, we say them together with gladness and singleness of heart, knowing we too will be formed and reformed in this messy and wonderful life of the world to come.
The truth is, those backpacks and diaper bags, while essential tools for our journey, are security blankets like the character Linus carries in the Charles Schultz’ cartoon Peanuts.
What we really need for this journey is right within us, the deep love and beloved-ness of being a child of God. This is what Jesus is asking of his disciples, that is what God is asking of Jeremiah and the Israelites.
To let go of everything else and be shaped by this love.
Friends, you have what you need. Have no fear, take heart and jump in with the deep gladness of this new day to start fresh.
[i] Adapted from Kayla Craig’s “A Prayer for the First Day of School” found in her book, To Light Their Way: A Collection of Prayers and Liturgies for Parents
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also a an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Lord, transform us – not for our benefit, but for the benefit of the world. Do your work in us – molding us, making us, shaping us, changing us, To be the new creation you have called us to be in Jesus Christ. [i]
In the past month, my husband Rob and I have had our lives transformed.
Arriving in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, we have learned how to drive in a rotary, how to successfully survive the RMV (with new license plates and driver’s licenses!), and I am still learning which door leads where here at Trinity Church Boston. A beautiful new space.
One thing that has not changed for us is the heat.
Please do not blame these transplants from Florida for the weather conditions of the past month. We are used to the heat but the heat with centralized air conditioning!
Ya’ll. It has been HOT!
And I don’t know about you, but the heat makes folks cranky.
It’s a real thing.
As Rob and I have settled in we have found salvation in both Jesus and box fans.
Oh that cool breeze in the evening.
AND, we have sought out sanctuary in cool spaces…museums and the movie theaters.
On one of those hottest of hot days a couple of weeks ago we escaped to the divinely cool dark space to watch Top Gun: Maverick in the movie theater and movie did not disappoint.
Growing up in the 80’s in West Berlin, in the midst of the Cold War, Top Gun was a movie that we watched often. For some reason it might have been the only video cassette we owned. The planes, the music, the short quips. The self-assured youthful Tom Cruise, the tragedy of death, and the threat of “the enemy.” We were hooked.
I was intrigued to see how this sequel some 25 plus years later would measure up with my memories. For those who have not seen the most recent movie, spoiler alert, there are a lot of airplanes, A lot of cockpit shots, and decisions that make a difference between life and death.
The storyline struggles with the dilemma of being a rogue hotshot maverick and a team player. Decisions regarding watching out for your family and team and the weight of each decision.
Tom Cruise, as maverick, is still flying planes and his relationship with Val Kilmer, Iceman, has shifted from rivalry to a deep friendship and mentor.
There is a moment in the movie where Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer are talking about the guilt that Tom Cruise’s character has carried with him all of his career and Val Kilmer says sagely, “It is time to let go” the words hang there in silence.
Tom Cruise finally replies, “I don’t know how to do that.”
A rogue maverick who professes that he doesn’t know how to do that radical maneuver of transformation.
In the midst of the comfort of the air conditioning and recliners, my mind finally let go of the discomfort of the heat and wandered from Maverick to the deep truth of this statement.
What is it time to let go of?
Do we know how to let go?
Are we EVEN willing to admit that we do not even know how to let go?
In today’s gospel, I imagine it might have been a little bit hot outside.
We are half way through Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has settled into his walking and preaching and teaching phase and he is just getting warmed up.
Jesus is challenging the disciples and all those listening to be transformed, to not only listen but to let their lives be challenged by the teachings.
Listening to the words of Jesus should indeed challenge us, transform us,
EVEN put us at odds with our family.
Now, some of us may be quite used to being at odds with our family members.
We were born to stir things up, press all the buttons of our loved ones.
All of our lives, we have spoken the hard truth.
AND, Some of us might flee from confrontation like my friend does when he sees a spider, he can move faster than the speed of light.
Today, Jesus has gone from preaching to, as they say in the south, Meddling.
How then do we let go of the things that bind us from living our lives fully?
How do let go of the fear of judgement and criticism that stops us in our tracks? How do we let go of the grief that paralyzes us, hinders our being transformed rather than living in anguish?
How then, Jesus shall we do this?
We don’t always know how.
Jesus, with infinite patience, with infinite compassion, with infinite joy says to each of us, “Follow me, pray with me, watch me, do like me… one step at a time.”
I am here with you.
I love you.
You are needed just as you are.
You belong here
You are called to do more
Right where you are in the midst of the heat or the cool of the evening breeze.
Jesus’ words today remind us that we can be so smart and savy in so many ways. We can predict the weather, we can see the signs.
To this Jesus asks, Why can’t you see the signs that I am here in your midst?
Why do you let the world tell you otherwise?
Have no fear.
This will cause tension in the world, in your family, in your comfort zone.
Speaking truth in love is disruptive.
But lean in……
Here is some reassuring news, ….
Others have lived through times like these before us.
We are indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have endured.
To create this historic space, the leadership of Trinity Church had to lean in, there was much division (oh I can only imagine those building committee meetings!!) and yet this amazing structure is testament to the birth of something new founded on the same truth, a desire for the world to be transformed by the Word of God.
Phillips Brooks, Nicolas LeFarge, Shipley—names that were new, leaning in together to create something new and at the same upon the same desire as those who established Trinity in 1733…that all may be welcomed into the loving embrace of God.
Church architecture is an amazing thing. In the space where the transepts meet the center aisle the roof line comes to a point…it is both the weakest and the strongest point of the space.
While here at Trinity we have the beautiful Richardson Romanesque architectural style with arches and domes, other churches do not have the domes like Trinity. Regardless of domes and arches, in this crossing space, all of the weight of the roof falls upon this space. The roof could collapse if it were not for the fact that it leans upon the opposing side (or in our case, supported by the arch and dome). By leaning in ….the force is redirected, what was once weakness and most vulnerable becomes its strongest and most stable point.
In the church, we gather in this space for baptisms, for weddings, for funerals.
It is where we are most vulnerable
and in our vulnerability we lean in and upon each other for strength.
Jesus is inviting his disciples to lean into him, into his teaching, his love, his being. In their angst and fear and division, his friends are invited to lean into the peace that comes —not through easy living but deep living through a life transformed by love.
God’s love is countercultural,
god’s love will cause division and discomfort….
If we lean in, though,
if we lean forward with love instead of running from that division,
I do believe we can continue and be strengthened together.
Leaning in requires patience and prayer, deep listening and grace.
Leaning in requires us to be willing to hold each other’s stories, honoring them, and be transformed.
To let go of Fear, of anxiety, to breathe in
and listen to each other’s hopes and pain and together see the face of God more fully.
The theologian, Henri Nouwen, says this, “As we keep our eyes directed at the One who says, ‘‘Do not be afraid,” we may slowly let go of our fear. We will learn to live in a world without zealously defended borders. We will be free to see the suffering of other people, free to respond not with defensiveness, but with compassion, with peace, with ourselves.”
God loves us just where we are and calls us in to continue to inquire,
wrestle and grow in love and grace.
How will you lean into this love this week?
Gracious God, do your work in our world – Give to us a vision of transformed lives, neighborhoods, and communities and how we can partner with you to see what can happen when people of faith make an eternal difference – living and loving and giving ourselves fully –heart, mind, and strength – to be the very presence of your love in our world. Amen![ii]
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Together met, together bound
by all that God has done,
we’ll go with joy, to give the world
the love that makes us one.
We live in a world of invitation.
Think about it.
Every commercial out there is inviting you to have the newest car, the best food, watch the hottest new show on television, see the new movie or buy the best deal.
Each moment we have, we are invited into a choice.
A choice to dig deeper or to escape.
A choice to delight or be disgusted
A choice to savor and to seek
A choice to destroy or build up.
In both our Old Testament readings and in our gospel reading today we hear of those who were on the edges. Elijah running from political adversaries who were after his life and the man possessed by a legion of demons. Both seeking solace, both knowing God’s presence. Both seeking a different way of life.
Both Elijah and the demoniac chose to be fully present and receive.
Both are given protection and new life.
Elijah in the still small voice
The demoniac man with freedom from possession.
A choice to listen, a choice to follow, a choice to receive.
There is a book by Martin Copenhaver and Lilian Daniels called “The Odd and Wonderous Calling” a book I received even before I arrived here in July of 2011… which spoke to the windstorms and the earthquakes of ministry, the moments where only possession could be the explanation for goings on and the still small voice of God that whispers the Holy Spirits’ longing and desire for all to be reconciled, all to be healed, all to be restored and how we are called into working together in the most wonderous and odd ways.
This past few weeks has been challenging. My heart aches for those who are wounded and have lost their lives in the senseless tragedies in our world. The storms of brokenness. In those storms we gather, we gather to seek solace and strength to be built up in order to build others up and to transform and heal the brokenness of this world.
In the past 11 years I have been graced to walk with you and gather with you and see the Holy Spirit at work in our midst. It has been humbling and awe-filled. You each have reminded me of what God looks like walking about here on earth.
And it has been in these holy sacramental moments that we have all been witnesses of God’s presence in our lives together.
We gather around this table each week, kneeling to receive. It’s a choice and one that we take willingly, joyfully, acknowledging that we come in need of God’s grace and God’s love.
We have gathered at baptisms, rejoicing as our newest members receive for the first time. Celebrating their joy.
We have gathered at weddings as a couple receives their first meal as a married couple. Supporting them in prayer and thanksgiving.
We have gathered around at ordinations- mine, Deacon Joe’s, Reverend Kathy’s celebrating calls in individuals’ lives. Walking with them in those vows.
Next week you will gather for confirmations— confirming with others their milestone on their faith journey. Welcoming those who are taking this step.
And, of course, we have gathered at funerals, celebrating the conclusion of loved ones’ lives on this earth. Giving thanks for the legacy of love given to each of us.
In each of these moments we have chosen to (as Psalm 43 states it)
go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness; * and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.
5 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? * and why are you so disquieted within me?
6 Put your trust in God; * for I will yet give thanks to him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
We gather to accept this odd and wonderful calling of being a disciple, a follower, of a God who loves so deeply that God invites us to lean in and be found, be known, be loved.
Some days we may feel like Elijah, exhausted by those who disagree, persecuted for speaking truth and we might want to run far from the center of things.
Some days we may be like the demoniac suffering for our entire lives and finally running towards Jesus, asking/pleading for healing, for restoration and receive it immediately.
Wherever we are on this spiritual journey- God meets us right there.
And so we continue to answer this call.
Rob and I are going on to a new space.
Lonnie and the Lacy family coming to be here as your rector.
And all will be well.
AS Father Bill said last week, Change is something that is certain. The corollary to this statement is that God’s love is even more sure and certain and you, at St. John’s, knows this full and well.
The gifted leadership of your vestry and YOU serving on commissions is a beautiful example of how the church truly should be.
Being the church is coming together, accepting the invitation to be the hands and feet of Christ in each and every moment, during tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes.
You, too, have the invitation each day, to receive God’s love, to be fed by the bread, and to in turn “Go out into the world to love and serve the Lord.”
On our pilgrimage to England several years ago, our group of pilgrims found themselves in a church and as we awaited our tour guide to begin our guided tour, we began to look under our feet. There we found the names of the saints who were a part of the cathedral community, literally paving the way for the generations to come.
Each name beloved and etched in stone. One epitath stood out to us and we stared at it a bit. On the stone marking a former bishop’s burial space his name was stated, his dates given and then underneath the simple phrase, “Alleluia On We Go”- no accolades of merit or service, just this simple statement of joy and gladness, reflecting a call in his life. Alleluia, on we go!
God be praised, here is the path and together we go forward.
Each day we are given a choice, in the words of Mary Oliver, what will we do with this one and wild life?
In the example of Elijah and the demoniac, will we respond and listen and be freed to be restored?
As St. John’s you say “Alleluia on We Go” each time that you say “Thanks be to God” at the end of the service.
And for this I give such thanks and praise. For the moments of grace, the moments of love, the moments of learning from each of you and seeing God’s grace and love in each of you.
So dear friends, we have an odd and wonderous call, we have an amazing invitation each day to choose to follow a God who loves us.
Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.—Amen.
“You just don’t understand”
These are words uttered by teenagers as they attempt to find their way in this world
Words said by young adults to an older generation
Words said by older generations to the younger ones
You just don’t understand.
We have all said these words and if we have not said them out loud, we have thought them at least once. “You just don’t understand my point of view, my position, my words, my actions, my heart, my desires and hopes… my—-fill in the blank”
For if we understood each other fully, we wouldn’t do half the of things that we do mindlessly.
If we sought to understand each other fully, we would listen with our hearts and hold out hands to each other rather than clenching our fists and digging in our heels.
Today in the book of Acts, we hear a “close encounter of the holy kind.”
Ten days ago, the disciples have just experienced Jesus’ ascension, his leaving them for heaven and fully ascending to his seat at the right hand of the father and I am guessing they have thought these words of “you just don’t understand, Jesus- we need you here, now, more of you. We aren’t done learning yet.”
Much like children anxious and fearful when learning to ride a bike, begging for those training wheels to stay on, the disciples are fearful, anxious, feeling lost, misunderstood and want what they think would make them most comfortable, most welcome.
Jesus, YOU don’t understand, we need you here.
Gathered together trying to understand, the disciples find themselves in Jerusalem with everyone else. Celebrating the festival 50days after Passover. The disciples are trying to give thanks, trying to understand, trying to find those who might listen to them deeply, sit in the mystery, sit in the sorrow, the confusion and be with each other.
And there in their midst, the Holy Spirit descends and a new comprehension occurs. While their questions are not answered, they are given the ability to speak in new languages. You just heard of all the places people came from, places far more exotic than Boston MA or Cairo GA, even more distant like Uvalde Texas, Buffalo NY, Afghanistan, Kyiv Ukraine, … people, like us, who have gathered with the need to hear the reassurance that God indeed understands our sorrow and grief with the senseless violence and pain of this world.
The Disciples gathered there in Jerusalem were able to share the words of hope, of love, of comfort with those who around them. They shared with a fire not only above their head but in their hearts, a flame ignited to embrace those who are broken, who are in need of comfort, shelter, hope.
The disciples shared this message of a God who binds up the broken hearted and brings down the lofty, equalizes the disparities in words that each person could understand.
Words spoken from the heart to the heart.
Words that invited a conversation rather than requiring a translation, words that made each person feel included and directly linked to God.
Living into the words of Catherine of Sienna, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
When we do not feel understood a distance is created.
Lord, Help us to understand
Help our unbelief
God understands each and every one of us.
God knit us together in the womb and has made us for marvelous acts.
God’s way of helping the world to understand God was to send his son into the world so that we might more fully understand this love that God has for us. Translating to us what healing and wholeness can look like even in adversity, even in the worst of tragedies, even in— you fill in the blank.
Jesus endured all of it and showed us the way of mercy, sacrifice and justice.
The disciples on this Pentecost day welcomed the Holy Spirit into their midst and in so doing heaven came down to earth again empowering the believers to do more than they could imagine, more than they could understand and in welcoming that Holy Spirit each person was able to be the hands and feet of Christ to another.
On Pentecost Sunday, we have baptisms (as we will today at 10am!), we watch as young children (and adults) are bathed into this holy mystery of being a part of the family of God.
Being family is something we are all striving to understand each moment that we live —as we “grow in grace.”
We hear adults make those promises on those children’s behalf and we, as a congregation, will renew our own baptismal covenant promising to live lives where others might come to understand God more fully through our actions, prayers, and striving for justice and peace.
In a world of brokenness where misunderstanding and division lead too often and too quickly to violence, this Pentecost Sunday we need to listen deeply to the invitation of the holy spirit.
Come holy spirit in our midst, disrupt us in our despair, our brokenness, our paralyzed selves and reignite the fire of the call to each of us to go into this world to give comfort, be instruments of your peace, and seek to understand– extending a hand to your beloved child standing beside us, that we all might be one.
In the words of St. Francis, “Help us to understand rather than to be understood.” Help us to be “who you have meant us to be and set the world on fire with your love.”
Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
“If it is not about Love, it is not about God.”
Our presiding bishop is famous for these words. Bishop Michael Curry always brings every single sermon back to we are called and formed by the love of God to do the work of God.
And here is the thing. The love of God meets you right where you are and reminds you that you are marvelously and wonderfully made. Right there in Psalm 139 you hear those affirming words. YOU are marvelously and wonderfully made. FULL STOP.
By the love of God, for the love of God, you are enough.
And since you are enough, beloved, treasured, with that assurance and knowledge. SMILE.
AND share that joy with those you encounter.
Accept and Invite.
Welcome and Connect.
Mission and Ministry.
In our readings today the church is being called to a new thing.
Peter has a vision.
You know things are going to get interesting in the church when someone gets a vision.
When Angels show up in scripture- watch out. You might get invited to exotic locations like a manger or you might end up pregnant…. Peter… Peter gets to eat bacon!
I don’t know about you, but I am all in about those kind of visions. Unfortunately, our cardiologists speak to the contrary, don’t they? Clearly Peter did not have cholesterol issues, remember they walked everywhere and had one of those blue zone diets…aka olive oil and pita bread. But I digress.
Peter’s vision invited change, a new and different thing beginning with inclusion of that which had been excluded. His vision meant a cheeseburger in paradise was in his near future…..oh it must have been a bit of nirvana… and what a joy to be able to share this news.
To run out and share this affirmation to those who had never kept kosher, who never knew that were supposed to keep such traditions and to receive the news that God loved and included them right where they were too!
You know that feeling when joining a new community the “how do I belong?” “How do I fit in” “What are the rules?” (Sometimes it’s as simple as “Where am I in the bulletin?”)- Here Peter’s vision is saying- you are enough and you already fit, just as you are. God and this community has a space for you, come and let your heart lean in and follow Jesus.
Peter’s vision invited the believers in Jesus to think in a new way, to have a new vision, to do a new thing. To invite all into the new understanding of who God was. Can you imagine Peter sharing this with the other 11 disciples and the committee on worship protocols? OOOOH, bless his heart.
“We just can’t – Moses would roll over in his grave” “That is NOT who we are” “ It’s NEVER been done that way before” and the pragmatist “We are going to have to change the bulletins”
Actually, bless theirs- as those disciples’ hearts too were broken open to something new, something different, something that allowed them to breathe differently, to say yes in a different way. An invitation to come and see, be who you are and continue to become who God has called to you to be.
Peter is always inviting a new understanding of God’s love and mercy. Peter who denied Jesus three times was invited to then to be the leader of the sheep, to invite others to fall madly in love with this God who loves Peter unconditionally and is the God of second chances and abundant grace.
And with each invitation comes the opportunity to reflect that invitation back into the community, back into the greater gift.
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus leans into his disciples in that last meal together and reminds them all that not only will things change soon, they will change drastically.
And to this Jesus says, I will be with you, but in a new way. Through each moment that love and care is given to each other Through each moment that there is suffering Through each moment when there is loss and disappointment Through each moment of new birth, new beginning, and deep joy
I will be there in that moment with you.
The love you have seen through me will give you strength and courage The Love you have experienced bringing unique group of 12 together will inspire you to invite others like and unlike you to the community.
Gathering will look different. Mission and Ministry may be packaged differently and will still grounded in the same sacrificial restorative love.
The love of God is the same and expressing that love of God to our neighbors (while it might take a new shape) will be rooted in the same God.
There will be tension, our Lord knew there would be, there will be uncomfortable and heart-breaking moments… BE disciples who listen in love and respond in love.
Oh, change is afoot here at St. John’s and the Diocese of Florida isn’t it?
Yesterday we elected a Bishop Coadjutor of Florida. Your delegates along with 142 laity and 124 Clergy elected Charlie Holt to be the Bishop Coadjutor and serve with Bishop Howard until Bishop Howard’s resignation (we don’t call them retirements) in Fall of 2023. Mark your date, that consecration will be in October of this year at St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville. There will be change coming.
My tenure as Interim Rector will conclude on June 19th, my call to help St. John’s breathe and midwife through these interim times will end. It has been indeed a privilege and honor to serve in this capacity as we walked in faith together and supported the Rector Search Process.
OH the love, the change, the delight that this church is… and there will be a new rector and a new vision. God is calling you into a new space, a new way and yet rest assured this vision is grounded in the same deep love known to us in the breaking of the bread, in scripture, in gathering and scattering that you have always known.
Change allows for new beginnings and an opportunity like Peter and the disciples at the Last Supper to continue on a faith journey seeking as Jesus says, “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.”
In these Holy In Between times, I invite you to bask in the love of God, continue to breathe in the love of God and breathe out the vision that God invites you into a new beginning, a new chapter grounded in love.
For if it is not about love, it is not about God.
What new vision might God be breathing into you, are you ready to breathe out into God’s embrace?
O god, whose blessed son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Be still and know
Be still and
What grounds you? Where do you find your anchor in the swirling storm of uncertainty?
For some it is coming within these walls, the predictability of our liturgy, a space where you can be embraced, held, be who you are and fall apart.
You know where you are and it’s a space where you can get your feet back under you.
For the disciples, the thing that grounded them was fishing.
In the midst of their uncertainty, they claimed their family training their family vocation, where they felt most at home, they knew they could be who they were.
On the water, in a boat, with each other.
Remember how many encounters occur with the divine on water?
Creation began with the waters and the land being separated.
Noah was saved from water in his ark
Moses floated down the same river that his people were later given safe passage through
Jacob met his future wife at a well
Jesus was baptized in the Jordan and it is at the banks of the Galilee that the disciples were called into this new family.
It is with water that Jesus heals the blind, commands others to go and wash, and today, he even uses water to make wine.
This day, the 7 disciples get into the boat, they go back to the familiar, their old habits.
And while comfort might have been granted, peace may have been given,
their labors for fish are in vain.
Their night spent.
Their nets are empty.
Much like Holy Saturday, the waters are still. A new dawn changes things.
On the new dawn, Jesus appears to them.
Sends them fishing on the other side… (Mathew and Luke have this happening earlier in their gospels…. In the midst of Jesus’ teaching. John is doing something different here.)
With this new endeavor, their nets burst with fish, burst with fruits of their labor.
The familiar in a new way.
They are invited again for a meal
Gathering around a fire once again and a spark of life igniting, rekindled.
Recognition of the divine, the miraculous, their savior…….
The old ways transformed through a simple invitation.
Jesus feeds them.
Much like he did before, sitting around and eating fish at the early hour, Jesus is with them once again at table.
Gathering a fire that provides nourishment and affirmation, replacing confusion and denial.
The disciples are ready to listen, to be fed both spiritually and physically again.
In the midst of their confusion and attempts to figure out the past week of Jesus life and death, they hear the familiar voice, the gift of the peace that passes all understanding, the knowledge that they were both beloved and not alone.
Jesus finds them, feeds them, and forgives them for their confusion, their doubts and Peter’s denials.
When a child does something wrong, we correct the action and invite them to try again in a new way. Much like a child, Jesus invites Peter, with love and affirmation, to try again in a new way.
Rather than a profession of faith, Jesus calls Peter into a new action… feeding.
In three years, the disciples have seen the Lord in action
Seen the lord in pain and sorrow,
Seen the lord, now, in resurrected glory.
Now he sends Peter out to feed god’s sheep.
Once famished and fatigued, Peter is now fed, forgiven and commanded to go and feed god’s people.
Return to the water, but in a new way
Return to fishing but fish for people
Return to the familiar to be reminded that we are called to live in a new way, to be family and to bear fruit in new ways, anchored in hope.
Each of us have our own call.
While we may not have been called from fishing as our vocation, we all return to the water. Each time we come into this space we pass by the baptismal font, where we are reminded of the waters of our baptism, the joy of those baptisms we have experienced since, and our own promises that we have confirmed or our parents and godparents made on our behalf.
And we return, we come back to the familiar.
We return to the table, just like the disciples did.
Return to the table to be reminded that we are part of a family.
We arrive fatigued and famished.
We arrive in need of forgiveness
We arrive broken and unconvinced of our own worthiness.
And around this table we are reminded that we are both forgiven and fed.
Around the table we are accepted just as we are. AND with that restoration we are in turn to go out into the world and live that faith in action, feed others.
Perhaps, for you, this is in serving at the Kearney Center
Perhaps that is in praying with our Pastoral Care Shepherds
Perhaps that is in baking cookies for an upcoming event
Perhaps that is in serving in liturgy as a Eucharistic Minister or acolyte
Perhaps that is in smiling at a stranger and wishing them a good day in the midst of your day.
Know this, You have received God’s love, forgiveness, and can be transformed.
Today, our first graders will gather around the railing for Festal Eucharist. All year they have been reflecting on God’s story of love in scripture. They have also talked about their own understanding of God and baptisms. Each time they gathered they opened in prayer and closed with snack….
Much like the disciples, doing the familiar and remembering not only who they are but whose they are.
We gather here in the familiar to be held, to find peace, to be forgiven and to know that God is present.
Jesus accepts us exactly as we are, just as he did with Peter, and invites us to be transformed by God.
We, too, are redefined by a grace and mercy that changes our whole perspective and compels us to go and do, to remember and share that God’s only son came so that he might take our brokenness, bless it and return us restored so that in turn we might do the same.
How might you, too, fish from a different side of the boat?
How might you, too, feed God’s sheep?
What is it you plan to do, in the words of Mary Oliver, with your one wild and precious life?[i]
Will you like peter, jump out of the boat and respond with wild abandonment?
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
O resurrected Risen King, we praise you on this Easter morning with glad and grateful hearts, eager to shout your glory! The Tomb could not hold you. Fill our family with a love that is shared between us and freely given to everyone we meet.
It is soooo good to see you, here in this space, surrounded with Lilies and smiles on your faces. I pray your day today be filled with deep gladness and joy. Thank you for coming and being present, to see the flowers, hear the story, and be present with loved ones or by yourself. Wherever you are on your faith journey, we welcome you into the story, the song, the joy of this space.
If we are being honest, we have all needed Easter tremendously in the past two years.
Easter is the celebration of God’s love for the world, God’s sacrifice of love to redeem the world, to remind us all that regardless of what happens, no one is beyond his embrace. Each of us are all invited into a new chapter, a new beginning once we too, lean in and accept this love.
And while the story of Easter begins even before the birth of Jesus at Christmas, today we find our selves listening to the story of a new dawn and with a bit of a relay and foot race. Everyone is running to and fro.
Running means urgency, compelling, speed is needed.
Running can be grace filled and it can be undignified, it’s pressing, a turn of events that changes all of the next steps. We run when we need help, we run when we are afraid, we run to share good and bad news. In seminary, I was told “never run in your vestments….it makes people anxious. ”
Today, we are invited into the wee hours of the morning and we arrive with Mary Magdalene who most likely walked slowly to the tomb.
Mary expects to find Jesus in the tomb as one should, she should have found the tomb with a large stone in front of it and everything quiet and still. Birds waking up and starting their songs. The space quiet save the noises that occur at dawn.
And she finds the unexpected.
The stone rolled away, the tomb is empty.
You can imagine her fear that someone has stolen the body.
You can imagine her thinking “is this the right space” and retracing her steps to find the right markings for the tomb.
You can imagine her anger at this absence and change in the routine. Expecting the expected and receiving instead the unknown.
And she runs.
She runs so fast that she is out of breath.
She doesn’t run to hide, she runs to friends, to Peter and John.
She relays the information to those who might assist, help her to understand.
Waking them up and shaking them, she uses all of her remaining breath to tell them all that she knows. “They have taken the Master. We don’t know where they have put him.”
They have taken him.
We don’t know.
And the two run.
They run as fast as they can.
John arrives first but allows Peter to go inside first.
Was this deferential? Was this out of fear?
Using all that they have, they go, go as fast as they can to see for themselves.
And they saw the linens folded and left behind.
And they believed.
Believed that something new was happening.
Believed that what Jesus had told them was indeed reality.
Believed that the grave could not hold God.
Believed that there was hope.
Perhaps they walked home… or ran, or talked, or were speechless- in awe and wonder. One thing is for sure the path they took home, while it was most likely the same rocky path they ran to get there, it was different, changed by the fact that the end of their long week ended very differently than they had expected.
Somehow God became a little bit closer in this empty tomb.
Well, Mary lingers at the tomb.
Mary lets her emotions, her tears fall.
Tears of exhaustion from a week of intimate dinner, betrayal, conviction, crucifixion, and now an empty tomb.
She empties herself out with tears right there as close as she can get to where Jesus last was.
In her emptiness, she is met by two angels.
Angels who are curious and comforting to her.
She doesn’t hide her thoughts from them but is open to her sadness.
Jesus meets her where she is, right there with ugly tears streaming all over her face, Jesus invites her to share her pain and her sorrow.
Jesus transforms that sorrow by calling her by name.
Mary, which means “Beloved”
Beloved, here I am.
Mary who lingers wants to linger longer. She is comforted and welcomes the transformed Jesus in her presence and she wants to hold on and have all the answers, sit at his feet again, one more moment, one more answer.
Jesus says to her, “Do not cling to me. Go and share, go and tell that you have seen me.”
And Mary does, she goes, she runs and shares (and her sermon is much shorter than mine today) with four short words she preaches the first sermon, “I have seen the lord.”
I wonder where you find yourself in this story today.
What have you felt has been taken away from you, like Mary who in seeing the empty tomb assumes someone has stolen the one she loves. How do we resolve the unknown?
Your plans have not gone according to what you thought.
Open doors were transformed by diagnosis, expectations were dashed, exhaustion has set in and all you have are tears left.
Are you like John who is in the midst and yet not quite ready to go in, be first?
Are you like Peter, ready to be first, to respond and find out for yourself?
Do you run head long into the mess and see for yourself in order to move forward?
Are you rushed in all you do?
Thinking that if you get in there, you can fix it all?
Or until you see it for yourself, the truth isn’t true?
Belief comes with personal experience.
Beloved ones, the Easter message is that in each of our needs belief is given.
Exactly in the form that we need.
Peter and John needed to see the empty to tomb to believe that Jesus had risen.
Mary needed to see the Angels and hear Jesus call her name to understand more clearly.
Each received the affirmation for them to move forward, to still wonder and also be encouraged, to share an inexplicable smile revealing the knowledge that even in death life is transformed and God’s love triumphs over death.
God’s seeking us out and meeting us where we are comes in the most unlikeliest of ways.
We find God in foot races to see for ourselves
We find God in the midst of our ugly crying and sorrow.
We find God in the midst of our desire to cling to what was before.
God says to each of us, “Beloved.”
Jesus calls our name, meets our foot race foot by foot and calls us to see the new chapter, the new opportunity. The new beginning.
The love of God in turn, transforms our path. The same love that brought us here takes us home with eyes that see the world transformed with hope. Transformed with the assurance that God has not left us but has transformed all that can bind us, that can hinder us, that can limit us.
Brene Brown says “only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the power of our light.”
Mary, John and Peter come to the tomb in the darkness and find light and a new chapter.
As we are sent out of this space “to go in peace to love and serve the lord” with whatever pace you might have, set your feet to take one step at a time.. knowing that you, too, are not alone and that your path is transformed with the love and hope of a God who has lit the path with a love that transforms the world, including you and your path.
And to that we say “Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia.”
Let us pray:
As we throw off the sin and the shame of yesterday, let us dance in the promise of the new morning of today and tomorrow and ever more. Amen
Almighty and ever living God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Lord, prepare our hearts,
To remember that these branches we hold, the ones we cut down, will be made into ashes. Remind us that a life in you is a life that holds rhythms of jubilant celebration an also sorrow and suffering.
Enter our hearts and home, enter our family and our very lives.
O Lord, even as we praise you, we know we are capable of the unimaginable and we sit in the tension of what is to come. AMEN [i]
We live in a world of contrasts and tension.
We just heard the beauty of music proclaim the story of Jesus entering into the city of Jerusalem with crowds surrounding him and at the end of our gospel there are only a scattered few and there is stillness, silence.
We are in the midst.
The story is not finished and neither are we.
Our choir members sang striking notes of beauty proclaiming both the trial, the sentencing to death, the harshness of the final days of Jesus’ life on earth and also the beauty of the moments of hope and salvation given to the least likely of people.
Palm Sunday plunges us into the tension.
A parade and shouts of Hosanna are the pleas of the people, of our hearts, “Save us.”
Save us from those who persecute us,
Save us from injustice,
Save us from the pain of this world.
Our hearts and our minds cry out, then and today.
And what does Jesus do after such a parade, a wonderful festive gathering?
He sits down for a meal, he takes the ordinary bread and wine, steeped in salvation tradition, gives thanks, and then he breaks it and shares it with his closest friends tangibly reminding them of God’s saving nature.
Jesus invites them to hear the words in a new way, in this tension, in this hopeful moment for change, to know that in the upcoming week there will be despair and at the same time hope.
take what has been given to you,
be broken open and
share this message with those who will gather with you.
His message is that all will be well.
Being well in God’s eyes will not look like we might expect.
Be ready for that vision to be different.
As different as a savior riding in on a donkey rather than a noble white steed.
As different as a savior who is convicted to death and dies for humanity rather than killing or even harming another person.
As different as a king who is mocked and scourged and yet lives beyond the power of earthly kings.
As different as a king whose love convinces the centurion of his authority when every else have wandered away, abandoned their friend.
A king who chose to be with us in the most human and intimate of ways that makes us uncomfortable, requires us to take what we have been given and to model our lives after his.
To care unashamedly, to listen and speak love to those we might not want to love.
St Paul in his letter to the Philippians recognizes the divisions and opinions of his little fledgling church and he reminds them, “let us be of the same mind, the mind of Jesus.”
A mind of love, for the greater good.
A love that does not abandon, that sacrifices on behalf of the world, and reaches out to embrace each and every one of us.
A mind that lives in the midst of suffering and endures.
A mind that is reminded each time it is gathered around the table that we are a people of faith who gather in the tension, in the difficulty to take the ordinary and give thanks, be broken open to the unimaginable and realizing the hope that is given to us that we are in turn to share that with those around us.
This week, I invite you to lean into the sadness, the anger, the despair, the tension. I invite you to pray your way through this week, we offer services all week long and even an in person vigil on Thursday night where you can be here and pray. If it is your first time to attend these services or perhaps your 99th, I invite you to come, gather.
Be broken open as we gather.
Know the most difficult times are often the most intimate times for the opening of our hearts
It is in those moments we are able to, in the words of the centurion, declare “truly this man is the son of God” with our hearts, minds, and souls.