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Showing posts from April, 2011

Surprise Greetings (Easter Sermon)

Easter Sunday- Late Service 24 April 2011 Matthew 28:1-10 Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!             When I was prepping for this sermon, each time I read today’s gospel, it made me laugh. Not the part about the earthquake or the angel or the guards who appear dead. No giggling at the women who dare to show up when the disciples are still afraid and in hiding. Jesus makes me laugh.             How does Matthew record Jesus’ words to the two Marys? They are hurrying back to find the disciples and “suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings.’” I come from a family that loved to scare one another. Nothing was better than hiding, even if you had to wait 20 minutes in an uncomfortable position, so that you could jump out and get a squeal from a sibling or, even better, my dad. You can ask my husband sometime if I’ve outgrown that.             Anyway, that’s what I imagine Jesus doing. Seeing the Marys coming down the road, hiding behind a tree and then ju

Technicolor Easter (Early Service Reflection)

Easter Sunday 24 April 2011 Matthew 28:1-10             One of the things that are striking about how Matthew writes about that first Easter morning is how his account involves so many of the senses. The women going to the tomb feel an earthquake. They see an angel, that the stone has been moved and that the guards are laid out on the ground, stunned. They hear a message from the angel. They touch Jesus’ feet when they see him. I’m not sure what they could smell , probably not bacon cooking. Maybe they smelled the damp earth of early morning or the soft dust stirred up by the earth moving.             This account of the resurrection is dynamic, active and all encompassing. Nothing is left behind. I think that’s intentional because God knows us well. God knows that in the face of good news, many of us will try to look behind the scenes and say, “How did this happen? How does this work?” We’re a little bit known, we early people to the tomb, for looking a gift horse in the mou

A Reflection on the Third Word

Third Word: John 19:26-27 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.             Jesus’ mother makes one other appearance in John. Do you remember where it is? At the wedding in Cana. She takes note that the wine is running out and alerts Jesus to that fact. When Jesus says to her, “Woman, my hour has not yet come.” She turns away from him and tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”             In John’s gospel, Jesus’ mother not only already knows what Jesus can do; she knows to expect him to do it. For the Evangelist, the author of the Fourth Gospel, Jesus’ mother believes in the capability of God in Jesus before Jesus does himself. She represents a group of people, of believers, who grasped the truth of the Living Word as John puts it in the Gospel prologue: “And the Word be

Reflection for Holy Wednesday

Gospel for Holy Wednesday: John 13:21-32 21After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." 22The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. The disciples looked at one another. This could mean that they couldn’t imagine one among them betraying their Teacher or they wondered who had caved under the pressure. It’s easy to think the disciples were slow on the uptake or unwilling to believe. It’s harder, though, to realize that perhaps they did believe, but were surrounded by distractions, pressures and emotions- similar to the disciples of today (us). Maybe the disciples were confused or maybe they were afraid they were going to be found out. 23One of his disciples — the one whom Jesus loved — was reclining next to him; 24Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" The disci

Reflection for Holy Tuesday

Gospel for Holy Tuesday: John 12:20-36 20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. There were some Greeks. These are actual Greek Gentiles, as opposed to Greek-speaking Jews, who likely would have already encountered Jesus in his ministry. (Or would have sought him for different reasons.) The writer of the Fourth Gospel is signaling the opening of God’s plan of universal salvation. That is to say that the way of salvation would be open to all people, not only to the Jews. It is important to remember as we read that God’s plan in Jesus is not a zero-sum game, wherein if the Gentiles are included, the Jews must be excluded. As we consider Greek Gentiles seeking Jesus, we are to marvel at the way word must have spread about him and his works. We are to wonder at how

A Reflection for Holy Monday

Gospel for Monday in Holy Week: John 12:1-11 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Jesus comes to eat with his friends. Did they invite him or was he passing through? Either way, this is one of his last moments to rest, to be with the people he loves and to the reality of being bodily present in creation. It is easy to forget that when Jesus walked the earth, he was Emmanuel, God-with-us, among people, plants and animals. While we trust that God’s Spirit remains present with us even now, in these last days Jesus was seeing creation with the eyes of both Creator and Begotten. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betra

Unpasteurized Faith

I didn't preach on the story of Lazarus's resurrection today because I was finishing a sermon series, but I have one thought on the story that was stirred up when I was reading the gospel. This came from the only time I've preached on this text. In seminary, in a preaching class, I gave a sermon as Martha in this story. I began this story with how angry I was at Jesus and his absence at Lazarus's death. Knowing he could have healed my brother, he didn't even choose to be there to comfort him in his hour of need. Angry. The text reads: When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the l

Whither the Good News? (Sermon 4/10)

This is a shorter sermon due to a congregational meeting following the service. I could not quite say everything I wanted to.  5 Lent 10 April 2011 Ephesians 5:21-6:9; John 11:11-27             One the first things to discuss in today’s reading from Ephesians is who the author is or is thought to be. Ephesians and Colossians are called the “disputed letters” of Paul: they sound like him, but on closer examination, they are probably not by him. Paul has a very distinctive theology and his hallmarks are equality of Christians before God, the expectation that Christ going to return any minute and that the church is an institution outside of the structures of this world. Please note that “disputed” does not mean “not authoritative”. Just because we aren’t sure who wrote it doesn’t change its position in our understanding as Scripture.             The author of Ephesians is a little more circumspect about the imminent return of the Messiah. Because it doesn’t seem like J

Sunday Prayer: Lazarus Edition

Merciful God, on this day there are people around the world standing next to graves and outside tombs. They will not see their Lazarus again in this life. Surround them with the presence and consolation of your Spirit. Strengthen their neighbors to share the burden of grief. Help the flame of resurrection hope to continue to burn in their hearts. Be with those whose grief is masked by anger, hurt, fear or pressure to put on a good face. Send your Spirit to cradle them in their fragility, so that they bend, but do not break. God in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Book Review: Half the Church (Carolyn Custis James)

Carolyn Custis James begins Half the Church  by detailing her horrified reaction while reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Kristof/WuDunn). As she details the way women and girls are sold, raped, murdered, and diminished around the world, she wonders not only why the Church universal does not rise up and decry these actions, she begins to wonder what is keeping us from surging forward and empowering women around the world. Thus, Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women was born. Much of the scholarship in this book has its kindling in James' earlier work with which, I confess, I am not familiar. However, I can see that this flame has burned within her and has now become a roaring bonfire. James is clearly a biblical conservative. By this I don't mean that she use the Bible to come to (politically) conservative points, but that she resolves her theological arguments from the Bible or not at all. It's been a

When You Won't See It (Genesis 19)

Lent 4, Year A 3 April 2011 Genesis 19:1-11, Psalm 23, Matthew 10:5-15 What are your first thoughts when you think of Sodom and Gomorrah?             What comes right before this passage? Abraham gets heavenly visitors, hosts them and learns that God has a son in store from him. Abraham can’t do enough for his heavenly visitors. Then the Lord talks to Abraham about the plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham attempts to intercede for the cities and finally God agrees not to destroy the cities if there are ten righteous men to be found.             Then we have today’s passage. Are there any righteous men there? According to the passage, “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom- both young and old- surrounded the house.” The passage draws us in so that we can make the decision that Abraham is asking God to make, “Are there 10 righteous men in this city?”             What happens after this passage? The angels warn Lot and urge him to leave the city

Sunday Poem: The 23rd Psalm

The God of love my shepherd is, And he that doth me feed: While he is mine, and I am his, What can I want or need? He leads me to the tender grass, Where I both feed and rest; Then to the streams that gently pass: In both I have the best. Or if I stray, he doth convert And bring my mind in frame: And all this not for my desert, But for his holy name. Yea, in death's shady black abode Well may I walk, not fear: For thou art with me; and thy rod To guide, thy staff to bear. Nay, thou dost make me sit and dine, Even in my enemies' sight; My head with oil, my cup with wine Runs over day and night. Surely thy sweet and wondrous love Shall measure all my days; And as it never shall remove, So neither shall my praise.                -- George Herbert Herbert, George. "Twenty-Third Psalm." The Poets' Book of Psalms.  Laurance Wieder, ed. HarperCollins Publishers: NY, NY. 1995. p. 32