Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sermon for March 30: The Mystery of Easter

The children of our Godly Play class move towards the Mystery of Easter by taking 7 classes to hear the stories of Jesus’ journey to the cross and resurrection. Using 7 pictures of Christ (from Godly Play), it all begins…

Jesus’ Birth & Grown (I)

In the beginning a baby was born. God chose Mary to be his mother. And the Mother Mary & Father Joseph kept the baby close and gave that baby everything he needed to grow.

Jesus is Lost & Found (II)

The baby grew and became a boy. When Jesus was around 12, he accompanied Mary & Joseph and many others from Nazareth to Jerusalem for one of the high holy days. After the celebration, the Nazareans went home through the great high gate, but Jesus was not there. Mary & Joseph searched for him & finally found him in the temple with the rabbis/priests. "Didn't you know I would be in my father's house?"

Jesus’ Baptism & Blessing by God (III)

Jesus grew and became a man, and around the age of 30 was baptized in the river Jordan by his cousin, John. He didn’t want to, but Jesus persuaded him and as he came out of the waters, they saw a dove and heard a voice, "this is the beloved." Jesus then went into the desert, where he stayed 40 days & nights to learn more about who he was and what his work is going to be.

Jesus’ Desert & Discovery Experience (IV)

In the desert there was little to eat or drink and there he was tempted: stones to bread, jump to test God, King over all kingdoms. Jesus said, No to all the temptations. After this, he went back across the Jordan to do his work.

Jesus as Healer & Parable-Maker (V)

His work was to come close to people, especially those no one else wanted to come close to. Healing the blind man. When Jesus came close to people, they changed, they became well. He also told parables to the people.

Jesus offers the Bread & Wine (VI)

Jesus went to Jerusalem one last time. As he rode a humble donkey, he was greeted by people waving palm branches, laying down branches and their garments on the road. In an upper room, the disciples and Jesus shared a last meal. Jesus took some bread and wine and gave it to them, each time telling them whenever they gather, to break bread and drink wine, to do it in remembrance of him.

The One who was Easter & Still Is (VII)

After supper, Jesus went with his disciples to Gethsemane, there he was betrayed, arrested and taken to Jerusalem for his trial. That next day, outside the city walls, Jesus was crucified. Afterwards, he was laid in a tomb. On Sunday, they went to the tomb, found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Jesus who died on the cross, had arisen, and was still with them, esp. in the bread and wine.

One side of the picture is Easter, the other crucifixion. You cannot take them apart, you cannot have one without the other and that is the mystery of Easter.

And that is where the story remembers Thomas, doubting Thomas. Always the last to know. But Thomas is important for you and me. He wants to experience Jesus. The others had, they had seen Jesus, experienced him after the cross. Thomas would not believe until he has own experience. A second time, Jesus appears to the disciples, the doors are shut (a week before they were locked) but there Jesus is with them. He shows Thomas his hands and his sides. Touch ‘em. Don’t doubt but believe. Jesus says. My Lord and my God, says Thomas.

In this Eastertide, as we experience Spring bursting forth, let us remember Christ who burst from the tomb, who entered into a room through locked and shut doors, all to help others know that he is arisen. At every Eucharist we gather together, Christ is here with us and we know him in the breaking of the bread and in the Scriptures from his birth, through his life, death and resurrection. Christ is Risen. Alleluia! Amen.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Genocide Olympics?

China’s Genocide Olympics
Published: January 24, 2008
(The NY Times)

The Beijing Olympics this summer were supposed to be China’s coming-out party, celebrating the end of nearly two centuries of weakness, poverty and humiliation. Instead, China’s leaders are tarnishing their own Olympiad by abetting genocide in Darfur and in effect undermining the U.N. military deployment there. The result is a growing international campaign to brand these “The Genocide Olympics.”

Read the rest here:

Using the broad stage of the Olympics to promote justice
by Emily Bloemker

I believe that the Beijing Olympics, and China’s support of the Sudanese genocide, are issues that Christians cannot ignore. So here are a few ideas: We must educate ourselves, first thing, if we are not already informed. A good place to start is Amnesty International, which is tracking China’s progress in the leadup to the Olympics.

Read the rest here:


I think we should add the current unrest in Tibet to the list of what China needs to stop doing to honor the Olympics that are coming to its country!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

For those intellectually curious...

A great book that looks at the last week of Jesus' life is:

The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus's Final Week in Jerusalem by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan

I have not read all of the book, but what I have read, I liked.

From what I read, I liked how they used the bible (mostly the Gospel of Mark) and our knowledge of the time of Jesus to fill out the days of Jesus' last week.

There are copies available at local libraries. Check it out.

Happy Easter!

This was my editorial in the Monroe Courier - March 20, 2008:

A Time of Joy

Easter is the great celebration of the Christian Church when our sorrow of Good Friday at the death of Jesus on the Cross, turns to joy as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Savior. If Teilhard de Chardin is correct, and “joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God,” then we Christians ought to be the most joyful people around, living in the light of Easter!

That new life that is Easter reminds us that in the midst of our own sorrows, our own pain, that God is still at work in our world and in our lives today. Even as we watch with horror the random senseless acts of violence that seem to be gripping our society, the wars and unrest around the world, and the problems of debt and finances within our own communities and homes, Easter reminds us that death does not have the final word, despair is not our answer, violence and debt are not our rulers. God is in charge and God intends that we live in joy.

We are joy filled because we live in hope. So many of our Easter hymns and poems speak of the dying brought to new life, the winters turning to spring, of God bursting forth from the tomb and the whole world turning upside down. As the old saying goes, “hope springs eternal.” Our God is not held back by stones or locked doors or even closed hearts, God in Jesus comes into our lives with the message of hope, love, joy and peace, seeking out hearts to live in joy and to spread that joy to our hurting world.

As we celebrate and live in Eastertide, we cannot simply celebrate our joy alone. We are called forth like the disciples from our locked rooms to go out and spread the Good News, to help others feel that joy, love and hope in their lives. Who is hurting now? Who needs our help? Our love?

As I pray with my children before they go to bed, I often have my children join me in this prayer:

May I have joy in my heart.
May I find joy in my life.
May I bring joy to others.
May I spread joy through the world. Amen.

This Eastertide, may joy be in your homes, in your hearts, and in your hands.

Happy Easter!

Easter Sermon

Jesus came to visit the Dilbert comic strip and spread the Good News to that office in a Dilbert sort of way. The boss introduces Jesus to Wally one of the workers and tells him if he does what Jesus would do, he can enjoy his retirement. Jesus heals Wally, invites his co-workers to join his team of twelve to save the databases, but he is betrayed by Wally for 40 shares of stock and in the last strip comes back from being downsized. He says to the boss, “I was downsized so I could come back as a consultant to save their pensions…” But in last frame the boss sits alone at his desk, doesn’t seem to tell anyone, and says “I should have written it down.”

For more info. on this, see here:

Thankfully, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who came to the tomb expecting to see Jesus’ body are the first to know he is risen and they spread the Good News! We can only imagine their sorrow and pain. Having known Jesus so well and to see him suffer and crucified on Good Friday. So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to see the tomb three days later.

Their journey is rewarded for the stone is rolled back, a great earthquake has shaken it all, an angel of the Lord appears to them, as the guards shook and became like dead men frozen in fright, and the women learn of the resurrection of Jesus. All that seemed gone on Good Friday, has been renewed on Easter, new life, new hope, new faith! They race back to the disciples and encounter Jesus on the way. But none of this would have happened if they had not decided to go to the tomb. Who would have been the first evangelists?

The women’s courage is a testimony to their faith in Jesus. They had to go that morning, to see the tomb. And they not only see the tomb, but find a messenger of God there, the angel, who reminds them what Jesus said, he is not there, he is raised and will see them again. The resurrection happens and those with courage and faith are rewarded. As they left the tomb they had fear and great joy. The fear was relieved when they meet Jesus, who tells them don’t be afraid, but go and tell...

Unlike the boss on Dilbert, the Mary’s leave and go and tell what they had seen and tell the disciples to go and see in Galilee. Oh would we have the courage of the Marys!

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor and martyr, put it, “From the resurrection of Christ a new and purifying wind can blow into the present world. If a few human beings would really believe this and would let themselves be moved by this in their earthly behavior, much would change. To live from resurrection – that indeed is the meaning of Easter.”

And that is what Jesus intends for us, to live from the resurrection, and live in that joy of God’s new creation and like those Mary’s to go and tell others. If Teilhard (Tayard) de Chardin is correct, and “joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God,” then we Christians ought to be the most joyful people around, living in the light of Easter! For Easter reminds us that in the midst of sorrow, pain, and even violence that God is still at work in our world.

Think of Jesus who was betrayed by one of his disciples (friends), denied by another, the rest of 12 the fled, he was turned over to the representatives of that brutal Rome, tortured, mocked, and executed in the manner that Rome reserved for the worst of its criminals. But God changes everything and transforms Jesus’ death on the cross, into the symbol of salvation of life and hope for all. Even as we watch with horror the random senseless acts of violence that seem to be gripping our society, the wars and unrest around the world, and the problems of debt and finances within our own communities and homes, Easter reminds us that death does not have the final word, despair is not our answer, violence and debt are not our rulers.

God is in charge and God intends that we live in joy. We are joy filled because we live in hope. So many of our Easter hymns and poems speak of the dying brought to new life, the winters turning to spring, of God bursting forth from the tomb and the whole world turning upside down.

As the old saying goes, “hope springs eternal.” Our God is not held back by stones or locked doors or even closed hearts, God in Jesus comes into our lives with the message of hope, love, joy and peace, seeking out hearts to live in joy and to spread that joy to our hurting world. It is what Mary Karr writes in her poem on the Resurrection (from Sinners Welcome):

From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in — black ice and squid ink —
till the hung flesh was empty.
Lonely in that void even for pain,
he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse's core, the stone fist
of his heart began to bang
on the stiff chest's door, and breath spilled
back into that battered shape. Now

it's your limbs he comes to fill, as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.

As we celebrate and live in Eastertide, we cannot simply celebrate our joy alone, it is our resurrected Lord who comes to fill our limbs to reach out to this world. It is his joy that beats in our hearts. It is his love that surrounds us. And we go and tell the Good News!

A couple of years ago four-year-old Hannah Taylor tagged along with her mother to serve dinner at a local mission in Toledo, OH. The little girl could not take her eyes off a frail old man. She could see his feet through the holes in his shoes. Hannah wanted to give her socks to the poor old man, but her mom told her that her small socks would not fit the poor man’s much bigger feet. But that set the four-year-old on a mission.

The next day Hannah and her parents took her to purchase and then distribute socks to the mission. The old man was there. He put on his warm, new socks, looked Hannah straight in the eyes and said, “Thank you, young lady.” Since then Hannah’s Socks has become a full-fledged, volunteer-run, nonprofit organization. In the past year, more than 9,000 pairs of socks have been given to men, women and children in shelters in the Toledo and Cincinnati areas. And it all began with one little girl’s compassion for a poor old man with holes in his shoes. [from Hannah's Socks, Inc. -]

We are called to go and tell the Good News that Christ is risen, to help others feel that joy, love and hope in their lives. Who is hurting now? Who needs our help? Our love? “The Christian life is not one of gloom, but of ever increasing joy in the Lord,” says Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

This Eastertide, go and spread the Good News and may joy be in your homes, in your hearts, in your hands and even in your socks. Amen.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Bach!

Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21, 1685 .

As we commemorate today Good Friday, the death of Jesus on the cross, it would be the perfect day to listen to Bach's St. Matthew Passion or St. John Passion.

You can read more about Bach here:

You can read the lyrics and more about St. Matthew Passion here:

Good Friday Collect:

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March 19: 5 years after...

5 years ago with "shock and awe," we began a war in Iraq.

I was against it then and am still against it. I don't believe it has given us the security or the peace we expected or told would take place. Too many have died and have been injured.

On this 5th anniversary...
  1. Pray for peace
  2. Pray for our men and women who are serving valiantly oversees in a war we should not have been in and for those veterans suffering from the wounds of war
  3. Pray for Iraq that stability and peace may live there and the Iraqi people may feel that freedom and peace that they have so longed for in their lives.
  4. Pray for our chaplains there and for the dwindling Christian community in Iraq.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hoops for Hope: Join EGR's March Gladness!

"March Gladness" - taking the NCAA basketball tournament and turning it into a way to raise awareness and money for relieving global poverty. Here's how it works:

*Instead of an entry fee, there is a small donation ($10) per bracket

*Along with your bracket(s), you designate a nonprofit (must be an official 501(c)3 whose work contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals) that you will be picking for.

*Instead of the winners taking home the pot, all money raised will be given to the designated MDG-related organizations.

Find out more here:

"What One Can Do" - The Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation blog: Hoops for Hope: Join EGR's March Gladness!

I signed up. Go UConn!

Remember to complete your brackets before registration closes at tip off of the first game of Round 1 on Thursday, March 20.

Jesus on Dilbert

Thank you to John for passing along this strip from Dilbert. Quite funny!

See the series yourself here:

The strip ran on 3/8 and 3/11 - 3/14 and can be found in the comic archive.

Sermon : Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion

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

This wonderful poem by RS Thomas, a Welsh priest and poet, reminds me of the Christ who chose to come among us, is the one we celebrated with in his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, who died alone on the cross, a bare tree on a bare hill, as we with arms held out to it, long for him.

Our celebration today of Jesus entering Jerusalem, with palms laid before his path, and our remembering his passion, his last days with the disciples from the last supper to the crucifixion is part of our journey. Our lives are filled with such moments as Charles Dickens said, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” When a cancer that had disappeared, suddenly returns, or a job that was going so well is lost, we all have had our joy turn to sorrow when we have suddenly lost something dear to us.

We began today celebrating Jesus entry into Jerusalem. What joy! What hope! Jesus come riding, approaching Jerusalem on a colt. One that has never been ridden. He comes riding, like a king would do, but he is not on some majestic steed. He is on a humble colt and the people celebrate his coming to Jerusalem like the people did for King David. This scene could not be filled with more hope for a better future for the Jewish people and for all the people. Here comes the new king riding in humility. People lay down palms, their own garments along his paths. They are joyous! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

But the mood changes when we move from the Palms to the Passion of Jesus. The supper with all the disciples turns from a joyous meal to talk of betrayal and denial. On the Mount of Olives, Jesus has his worst night. He prays, he worries, he asks God to take the cup away from him, but only if it is God’s will. The disciples can’t stay awake and its too late, the betrayer is at hand and Jesus is arrested. Jesus is alone. The disciples have gone. Judas has betrayed him. Peter has denied him. Jesus is brought before the Chief Priests and Elders. He is tried, beaten and condemned to death. He is brought before a crowd and they want Barabas, a rebel, a murderer. Before he entered Jerusalem, a crowd, shouted “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” But now a crowd is stirred up, “Crucify him.”

There was not a more terrible way to die. Romans crucified criminals on the main highways so that all would see the horrible fate that could befall them if they broke Roman law. There Jesus is mocked, beaten, spat upon. Simon of Cyrene carries his cross. He is not treated like the Son of God, not even treated as human being, but treated like an animal. He is crucified with two bandits. When this despicable act is done, Jesus cries out and breaths his last. The Centurion watching all of this utters: “This man was God’s son.”

Since we know where the story goes, we want it to continue, but that is not for us today. Today we walk to the cross and the tomb. That is where we stop. In the midst of pain and suffering, of loss and heartache, we stand at the foot of the cross. We cannot bypass it. We must stand, watch and wait. There is no Easter without the cross. We may ask God to let the cup pass from us too. But the answer is the same that Jesus received. For as Christians, we too must drink from that cup.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian who knew what suffering was, who died at the hands of the Nazis in 1945, said, “it is not the religious act that makes a Christian, but the sharing in God’s suffering in earthly life.” I understand him to mean that to live faithfully is to understand their will be suffering but there is always hope too for we are called not just to share in it, but to help transform the suffering, to liberate it from meaninglessness for ourselves and others.

Years ago, there was a massive cave-in at a coal mine in northern England. Twelve miners were trapped behind a wall of fallen rock and debris. When the rock and coal dust finally settled, each of the twelve miners called out his name. No one seemed to be hurt — but everyone realized the seriousness of the situation. All they could do was wait and hope rescuers would reach them in time.

As they waited in the darkness, one miner yelled out, “Timekeeper! Can you tell us how we’re doing for time? How long do you think we can last?” The timekeeper said, “It was ten thirty just before the accident. There’s twelve of us and about 14 feet to this pocket we’re in. If we keep still, we’ve got two hours of oxygen, by my reckoning. We’ll be all right. We’ll be fine.” No one questioned or doubted the timekeeper’s words. They sat quietly, listening for any sound of digging. As the time passed, a miner would call “Time?” and the timekeeper would announce, with a momentary flare of a match, “Fifteen minutes. We’ll be fine, lads.”

The periods between the time markings seemed longer, yet the timekeeper always marked off small increments, never more than 20 minutes — and each time mark included words of encouragement and hope from the keeper of the watch. When it seemed that there were only a few minutes of oxygen left, the sweet sound of hammering and digging was heard. After what seemed like an eternity, a draft of air and a shaft of light broke through.

Of the twelve men trapped, all but one survived. The rescued miners were stunned that the timekeeper alone died. The village priest said, “It’s a miracle that any of you survived! You’ve been trapped down there for over six hours!” As they carried out the timekeeper’s body, one of the miners took the pocket watch from his coworker’s vest. It had been broken in the accident. The hands of the watch were stopped at ten thirty. [From a story by Tony Cowan.]

We can look at the tragic story of the passion of Jesus, and sigh. We can keep it at arms length and not let it touch our soul. Or we can see ourselves there at the foot of the cross, as we can see ourselves trapped in a cave and know the cross offers us hope.

For the cross does not stand before us to accuse us or to condemn us or anyone. The cross stands before us as our salvation. The cross stands before us, beckoning us to come and bear witness. For Jesus said, his disciples are those who take up their cross and follow him. It is to understand that we like so many others have suffered and to reach out in love to those who suffer now in prayer and action, just as the timekeeper reached out to his fellow miners.

The cross may be the ultimate darkness. Where love gets crucified by hate. And yet, the greatest miracle, the greatest gift, the greatest mystery is the darkness does not overcome the light. That hope still exists there. In that mystery, as TS Eliot said, “the darkness shall be the light and stillness the dancing.” And God transforms the cross from death into life. On our journey this week, as we walk with Jesus, may we go there, to the cross, just as Jesus approached his passion with humility. And may we find there our hope and our life and our salvation. Amen.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Micah Challenge

Micah Challenge is a global Christian campaign. Our aims are to deepen our engagement with impoverished and marginalised communities; and to challenge international leaders, and leaders of rich and poor countries, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and so halve absolute global poverty by 2015!

...what does the LORD require of you? To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Part of their mission is a weekly prayer emailing like the one you see below. You can receive it in your email box every week send a blank email to
with the words 'subscribe prayer' in the subject line.


To mark the International Women's Day 2008 on 8 March, our reflection today is on the effects of global poverty on women.

Poverty affects women more than men, and therefore poverty still has the face of a woman. Please click here to see a drawing that tried to capture the discussion on Integral mission and gender at a Micah Network consultation in Malaysia.

In first-century Palestine, the way Jesus treated women was considered revolutionary. Please reflect on Luke 8: 1-3 where we learn that Jesus allowed women to travel with him and his male disciples. He was not limited by the culture he lived in and allowed women to take part in his ministry to the world.


Let us pray:

* That we as individuals and in our churches can be more like Jesus and learn to evaluate our cultural norms through the word of God.
* Our prayer focus today is Micah Challenge in Burkina Faso.

Over the past few weeks the country has seen unrest and violence due to an increase of basic goods prices of over 200%. This may be due to the soaring global food prices which have triggered riots over the cost of living in several Sahelian countries which are highly dependent on imported wheat and rice.

Many demonstrators have been imprisoned without being heard by a judge and there are reports of torture.

Ines Lompo from Micah Challenge in Burkina Faso writes:

· Please pray for our government (the prime minister is attending an Assembly of God church in Burkina) that they will react wisely and effectively to the tension that has arisen by the increased prices and seek to act justly.

· Pray that the root causes of the increase of prices will be tackled.

· Pray for the economic sector of Burkina: for transparency, consumer protection and fair prices.

· Please also pray for our church leaders as they seek to respond to the crisis speaking of truth, justice and mercy.

* Reflecting on the statistic below: Lord, we pray for victims of violent conflicts and wars all over the world. We pray for the women and children in their suffering, have mercy!

Meditate on the Statistics

As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Target 3.A: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

‘At the beginning of the 20th century, 90% of war victims were soldiers and 10% civilians. In the wars of the last decade, 90% of the victims were civilians mostly women and children.’

Source: Newsletter Gender and Armed Conflict, 2007
The newsletter, although produced for Western Asia, provides a good overview of impacts of wars and armed conflict on women and recommendations on how to mainstream these gender concerns.

You can also find them on the web here:

This is what happens...

When your daughter says, "come play!"

Sermon: March 9

Whenever I read or hear the first reading from Ezekiel, my mind always thinks of…

Ezekiel connected dem dry bones
Ezekiel connected dem dry bones
Ezekiel connected dem dry bones
I hear the word of the Lord.

Today, we are getting a sneak peak at Easter. With God putting the Spirit, the breath back into lifeless bones in a valley and Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, we are reminded that Resurrection happens! New life begins even when it seems impossible.

I remember a story...

In her 70th winter, her health deteriorated rapidly. Finally, she had to be hospitalized. The doctor confided to her son that she had only a matter of weeks to live. The son agonized for days on whether he should tell her. Was there any hope he could give her? He decided not to tell her for the time being. Instead, he concentrated on her birthday. He thought he would give her the most expensive and beautiful matching nightgown and robe he could find. At the very least she would feel stylish and dignified in her final days.

After unwrapping his gift, his mother said nothing. Finally, she said, “It’s beautiful, dear, but would you mind returning it to the store? I don’t really need it.” She then picked up a newspaper and pointed to an ad for a beautiful leather purse designed for late spring and summer. “This is what I really want.”

Her son was flabbergasted. Why would his ever-frugal mother want something so extravagant — a purse she could not use for months? Then it dawned on him: His mother was asking how long she had to live. If he thought she’d be around long enough to use the purse, then she really would. When he brought the purse to her in her hospital bed, she held it tightly against her, a big smile on her face.

A half a dozen purses later, the son bought his mother a new purse — for her 83rd birthday.
[Adapted from a sermon by Don Shelby.]

Resurrection happens!

New life is born out of trouble, out of suffering. Ezekiel must have thought that God was nuts in his vision, can these bones live? Prophesy to these dry bones in the valley? Only you know Lord. Ezekiel did trust God and did prophesy and the bone shook, things happened and God said prophesy again. And he did and they were alive. This metaphorical vision was for the exiled Israelites to understand.

For the Lord said, "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, `Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act," says the Lord.”

And of course, God did act, and the Israelites returned to their homeland from the exile, and things were made new again. Resurrection happens in the lives of whole communities. But it doesn’t just happen in big, huge situations, resurrection can happen with popcorn and tears.

“A young man volunteered at a hospital a few hours a week as a clown. Wearing a big rubber nose, a garish yellow, red and green suit, and wingtips almost three feet long, he would bring a little laughter and fun into the long, painful days of seriously ill children. Sometimes the clown-minister meets a child whose pain and fear are too much for the youngster to bear. That’s why he always makes his rounds with popcorn.

When he meets a child who is crying, the clown dabs the child’s eyes with the popcorn — and then pops the kernels into his mouth or into the child’s. Then the two new friends sit together and eat the tears.”
[From How Can I Help? Stories and Reflections on Service by Ram Daas and Paul Gorman.]

All of us have been called in our baptism to take up Jesus’ work, like he did in Bethany: to help others out from their tombs. To sit with others in their tears. He came too late. Martha believed in him. But there was Jesus and his disciples four days after Lazarus had died. And just like we heard with the Samaritan woman at the well, and last week with the man born blind, Jesus asks do you believe? I am resurrection and I am life? Martha gives the strongest statement yet, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."

And what occurs is the greatest of the signs we read about in the Gospel of John. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, calling him out of the tomb. And Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." Resurrection happens, a new life begins for Lazarus. Jesus teaches and the crowd believes in him after the miracle, the sign occurs.

As one author put it. “Perhaps the most powerful wake-up call in this passage is the realization that not even Jesus’ closest friends really anticipate anything at the tomb. Many of us do not expect God to act in our lives. We generally expect God to act only in the realm of our spirit, which translates into an expectation that God will be active in the afterlife, but not with us in the flesh. Jesus stuns this crowd with the news that the life he offers is not just for the future; it begins now. Jesus has come to make this life abundant and to give us eternal life. Resurrection life begins here in this life before it continues into the life to come.” (Anne Robertson)

Resurrection happens.

As God asked Ezekiel to prophesy and to give God’s word to the people so they could have that new life, we are also called to speak about Christ who was crucified and risen who also offers us resurrection in our lives right now. New lives are born all the time, and we too are called to live into this resurrection life, to help restore hope to those who are in despair, to heal those wounded, to reconcile the alienated to God and the human family. For it is God’s spirit that guides us to practice and live into the resurrection in our lives.

For “He who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also give new life to our mortal bodies through his indwelling Spirit.” Amen.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sermon: March 2

Isaiah 55:6-8

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion,
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, *
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

These words from the book of the prophet Isaiah remind us that God will not be put into our little box, nor act in ways that we expect. The perfect example of this is from our first reading.

God had warned the people of Israel that wanting a king like the other countries around them would fit the ol’ adage, be careful what you wish for. King Saul had lost his favour with God because he did not listen to God and did what was evil… now the Lord was sending the prophet Samuel to find a new king. Samuel sought out Jesse and his sons in Bethlehem to find a new king, behind King Saul’s back, of course, so as to remain alive. As Jesse brought his sons before Samuel, the Lord kept saying no, even as Samuel though surely God will pick this one.

When they all passed by, Samuel asked if there were any other. Jesse said, yes, the youngest with the sheep. David came forward and we are told he was ruddy and handsome and the Lord picked David. He was anointed in front of everyone and the Spirit came upon David mightily. The son left with the sheep, surely God wouldn’t pick him…and God chose what he saw in David’s heart, beyond what we do, looking upon human appearance.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.

During their travels, Jesus and his disciples run into a man born blind. What did he do? Did he or his parents sin? The disciples question was certainly part of that day’s understanding, if you suffered, there was a reason. But Jesus tells the disciples, that this is not about sin. He was born blind that God's works might be revealed in him. In other words, hold on, God is at work here, don’t assign this man to the sinners category, don’t push him away…

Jesus spits, creates mud, puts it on the man’s eyes, and tells him wash in the pool of Siloam. Siloam means sent, and the blind man was sent by the one whom God sent to us, his only son. He washes, in almost baptismal fashion and he rises from the waters and he can see. All are astonished! Some aren’t sure if it is him even when he says so. They send him to the religious authorities, who question him at length. When he tells them about Jesus, they scoff at him because Jesus did not observe the Sabbath and healed on that day.

The Pharisees then asks his parents if he was born blind, and they bring the man born blind back again to talk, when he mentions Jesus, they scoff saying Jesus is a sinner. And then the man born blind gives his statement of faith: Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.

He sees what the Pharisees refuse to see and they throw him out, saying he was born in sin! Jesus finds the man after he is thrown out (and just like last week with the Samaritan woman at the well), asks do you believe – the formerly blind man says, “Lord, I believe.” Again, God goes to work and some are unable and unwilling to see it. The one born blind, though, does see, he gets it and he believes.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.

The great thing about this is that we are given a glimpse into the mystery of God, of God working in the world to bring people to freedom, to hope, to the light of Christ! Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians:

Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light-- for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.

We have been given a great gift with the Bible in how God has acted throughout history, with our faith, and with this Church, but we must always remember to use them, love them knowing that God still works beyond what we know or can even imagine today. We need to be open to God’s work in the world about us. We need to have hearts enfleshed with our faith but not hardened by our world that wants to dictate life on its terms, to dictate how God should be or act today.

In our lives, we must be open to God, open to what God might be asking of us, what God might be doing in our lives. It is so easy to think we know what God will do. Samuel thought so. So did Jesus’s disciples. And so did the Pharisees. And yet our God refuses to stay in our little boxes; God continues to work in ways that we don’t always see.

As one author put it, “Some people have excellent eyesight but do not see further than their noses. Some have good vision yet choose to see only a little of the way, the truth and the life. And some have no physical sight yet who see brilliantly along the path of Christ.” (Bruce Prewer)

May we come to see that brilliant path of Christ and follows his ways, being open to what God might yet have in store for us as God’s mysterious ways unfold. Let us be open, not closed in our hearts or our minds in what God might do today. Praying in the words of William Penn: "O Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not [yet] understand." Amen.