Sunday, April 13, 2014

Resurrection Sunday. An Easter Homily for 4.20.14

Resurrection Sunday
Easter Homily for 4.22.14
John 20:1-9 
Year A
(revised from a homily first posted 4.8.12)

Darkness covers the land; early morning still waits for the sun to show itself. Perhaps, the morning birds have just began their songs.

We see a lone figure, a woman, walking on a dusty path, and through the murk she worries: "Who will move the stone from the grave tomb so I can anoint my friend?

When she arrives at the tomb she is brought up short -- the stone has been moved for her! She moves to go inside and discovers, to her horror, that someone has stolen the body!

The text reads: 
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him."
That was the cause of great concern, so much so that St. John tells us:
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Someone must have stolen the body; they had to have stolen the body because he's gone and everyone knows: Dead is Dead.

I don't have to tell you, death is the great bringer of fear and dread, do I? Death means the end of sunrises and family and smiles and nature, and knowing, especially knowing. Death is, well, the end of all. Death is the thing that brings us to our knees. Death overcomes all hope and eventually makes us cower, cornered in fear and loathing. Everyone knows this! To both the ancients who wrote and read these words, and to we post-moderns as well, nothing could be more sure than death.

And so it was with Jesus. His followers had hoped that he was the promised one of Israel, but they now knew this was impossible. They now knew, beyond any doubt, that Jesus of Nazareth had been politically executed by the Romans, and he was not Messiah, for how could one follow a dead Messiah? Jesus was dead, beyond all doubt dead. And to them the dream, the miracle and messages, were just as dead as their leader...

And yet...Something is not quite right.

The burial clothes weren't quite right. The cloth covering the face was setting by itself. And why would a body-thief bother to take them off at all?  (N.T. Wright)

St. John writes:
Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.The New Living Translations interprets these verses 8-9 like this:Then the other disciple also went in, and he saw and believed -- for until then they hadn't realized that the Scriptures said he would rise from the dead.
From these small clues, the other disciple (who is John) believed that Jesus had risen from the dead! So he begins to shout it out loud and rejoice? Well, no. Verse ten tells us, 
"Then [Peter & John] went home." 
 Say what? They went home? How could this be? But, really, this makes sense.  Even though John believed (and maybe Peter, too, although we aren't told),  he is quiet in what he believes. Remember, dead is dead, and who would believe him?
JOHN: "Jesus is alive!" OTHERS: "Really! How do you know?" JOHN: "The grave clothes we arranged funny." OTHERS: "Oh. OK, sure John. You'll be alright..." 
Our text actually ends with verse nine, but I want us to wander a little farther into the story. Let's hear what John has to tell us about Mary, for you see, Mary didn't go home:
Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels sitting at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. "Why are you crying?" the angels asked her."Because they have taken away my Lord," she replied, "and I don't know where they have put him." She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn't recognize him. "Why are you crying?" Jesus asked her. "Who are you looking for?" She thought he was the gardener. "Sir," she said, "if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him. "Mary!" Jesus said.She turned toward him and exclaimed, "Teacher!"
 Mary is crying because, well...that is what you do at tomb where they've laid a friend, especially when some fiend has stolen his body. When I think of all the tombs of all the ages and all the tears and all the broken hearts, I am undone; I really am overwhelmed.

But, suddenly, Mary looks in and sees men at the foot of where Jesus was lying in death's repose. They ask: 
"Why are your crying?"
Why am I crying? I can almost see Mary's incredulous look: 
They've taken the dead body of my LORD, and I can't find him."
Suddenly she glances over her shoulder and sees the gardener, who asks her:
 "Who are you looking for?" Mary says: "If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him."
To which the gardener replies, 
and immediately, at the voicing of her name, she recognizes the sound. It's Jesus' voice. It's Jesus' sound! He's alive! 

Oh Brothers and Sisters, can this be true?
Can death, that great bringer of fear and dread, really have been defeated? Were we premature to say that we are at the end of sunrises and family and smiles and nature and especially knowing? Have we fallen to our knees too soon, doing death's bidding by cowering in fear and loathing before we have heard the rest of the story? 

Here, then, is the message: Death does not have the final word! Empire and evil cannot hold the fear of death over our heads, causing us to corner-cower and do their bidding. Jesus, who is the Jewish Messiah, by the power of the HOLY Spirit, has broken the power of death. Jesus who is the one and only Son stands victorious over the bonds of sin and death. 

Oh, Brothers and Sisters, have you too heard the one who knows your name? Have you too heard that voice calling you that speaks true-truth through the ages, finally coming to you with the subtle whispers of hope? 

Can you hear his words? "
"Death, where is your sting?" "Grave, where is your victory?"

Brothers and Sisters, this is a day of rejoicing; this is the day to weep, but not as those who have no hope! This is the day to sing and praise and be thankful, for the LORD is alive, and because of that everything has changed, everything is made new.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Desperate Struggle Of A Flesh & Blood Discipleship. A Homily for Passion Sunday, 4.13.14 from Matthew 26.

Homily for 4.13.14
Passion Sunday
Year A

THE Gospel Lectionary reading for this Passion Sunday is an extended passage from St. Matthew's Gospel, only a small portion of which we will examine today. 

I have chosen these particular pericopes because they offer us a deep forage into a dense Christian discipleship based upon a solid rendering of the human condition. Said another way, these verses force us to cross over the line from an idealize psudeo-discipleship to what it actually means to follow Jesus in a flesh and blood world of failure and loss. Or, said still another way, these renderings from St. Matthew give us a concentrated snapshot of the dire humanness of Jesus’ disciples and the response to his own humanity as well.

To get underneath the skin of these texts I will examine three difficult questions which I would ask you to bravely answer within your own heart. All these questions are impertinent, for they exceed the bounds of sermon propriety, and so I apologize beforehand.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Three Homilies from John 11

Three Homilies 
from John 11:

GOD's Plans & Our Plans. A Homily from John 11 for the 5th Sunday of Lent.

The Raising of Lazarus: A Lesson In Trusting GOD. From John 11

A Funeral Homily For A Man Who Died Young.

GOD's Plans & Our Plans. A Homily from John 11 for the 5th Sunday of Lent.

Homily for 4.6.14
5th Sunday of Lent
Year A

The Lectionary Gospel reading for the 5th Sunday of Lent takes us to the grave, in fact beyond the brink of death, to one of the most startling miracle accounts in the New Testament. Here we are in fact confronted with the power of Jesus in raising of his friend Lazarus from the dead. 

Of course, there are many insights found here in this narrative, besides the Lazarus miracle, many more than we have time to open this morning. So, let me attempt to share two insights from the text, and then, at the close, I will offer some thoughts on the Lazarus miracle. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

NO Homily This Week

Hey Gang:
Sorry, no homily 
this week.
The Pastor is 
on vacation...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

LEARNING LENT FROM THE WOMAN AT THE WELL. A Homily for 3.23.14, the Third Sunday of Lent, from John 4:5-42.

Homily for 3.23.14
3rd Sunday of Lent
Year A

The Gospel Lectionary reading for today, this the third Sunday of the Lenten season, brings to us rich and evocative account of Jesus' confrontation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.

You know the story, of course. Jesus, journeying from Judea to Galilee chooses to go through Samaria, not always the safest of sojourns. In the heat of the day he stops at Jacob's well near the village of Sychar, the disciples having left him to find food. A Samaritan woman who was coming to the well for water is asked by Jesus for a cup of water from the well, and the spiritual encounter begins.

For today's homily I want us to think through three ideas that will open to us the meaning of Jesus appointment with the woman, and then at the very end we will apply these insight to our Lenten journey.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Discovering Jesus On The Mount of Transfiguration. A Homily for 3.16.14, The 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A, for Matthew 17:1-9

A Homily for 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A
See TEXT below Matthew 17:1-9
March 16, 2014
(revised from a post on 3.14.11)  

TODAY is the Second Sunday in the Lenten Season, and the Gospel reading from the Lectionary for today offers us the rather mysterious account of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

What are we to make of this strange text that includes glowing raiments and conversations with long-dead people from Hebrew history? I would suggests there are at least three insights which offer us a perspective on this Gospel account. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Learning Obedience by Following Jesus into the Lenten Desert. A Homily for 3.9.14 from Mt.4:1-11 for the 1st Sunday of Lent, Year A.

March 9, 2014
1st Sunday of Lent, Year A.
(revised from a Homily posted on 3.13.11


Today, the Church begins the Season of Lent. 

You will recall, of course, that the Lenten season brings to us a time of heaviness, a time of serious heart-preparation for holiness which by design turns our attention toward Resurrection Sunday. This means Lent involves personal soul-searching and an honest, clear-eyed assessment of the state of our relationship with the living, risen Christ.

The goal of Lent leads us to seek the living Christ and to renew our love for him by practicing Christ-likeness. Thus, the practices associated with the Lenten season include fasting, the denial of the self, Godly repentance, daily conversion, sharing our resources with the other in need, and a renewal of simplicity in life. 

In short, Lent is about self-sacrifice and the way of the cross. Not the homily we've usually come to expect! You know, five easy answers to ten difficult problems.

It should be noted that this Lenten emphasis on a personal renewal toward the Christ actually fits very well as a continuing invitation to follow-on after Jesus that we've heard from these past few Sundays when we have been thinking-through the Sermon on the Mount. Lent continues the Sermon's call toward doing the will of the Father and walking the Jesus-way.

With Lent, however, the emphasis shifts from Jesus' sermon to his wilderness sojourn. Here we see Jesus paused, in hesitation, not immediately practicing his kingdom project. In fact, we see Jesus being led from the glorious, mountain-top moment of his Father's profession -- "this is my beloved son," and his Father's direction -- "listen to him," straight to a time of stillness and solitude and intense struggle.

Does it surprise you that the Father saw the need to prepare Jesus' heart for the treacherous journey which lay ahead? Does it surprise you that Jesus needed a period of quiet soul-provision before GOD, prior to his mission project?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Living Without Worry In A World At War With Itself. A Homily for the 8th Sunday Ordinary Time from Matthew 6:24-34 for March 2, 2014

March 2, 2014
8th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A.
(revised from a homily first
posted on 2.27.2011) 


The Lectionary Gospel reading for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time ends with these words: 
"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.” (NRSV)
This, coming as it does from Jesus, no doubt offers us wise counsel: 
Live in the moment;  Live for today;  Face only today’s troubles. 
But, one wonders how to accomplish such a noble task when confronted, for example, by a spouse out of work, or a young husband now deceased, or a little child snatched from life? 

How does one continue to love and live in the moment when the stench of desperate life-events keep dragging the heart to the past?

No easy answers here. 

What is called for is a strategy to combat this all-to-natural inclination to despair, a despair that allows our suffering to overshadow our discipleship. From the text we learn what is needed is both a heavy allegiance to the Master and his kingdom project, and a steady faith in the providence of the GOD who is there. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

“Be Ye Perfect.” Holiness In the Midst of Humanness. A Homily for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time for 2.23.14 from Matthew 5:38-48.

February 23, 2014
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A.
(revised from a homily first
posted on 2.13.11) 

 The Lectionary Gospel reading for this, the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time, ends with the words, 
"So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Can there be any more challenging textual call than this? 

We, who inhale corruption and exhale mendacity, we are to be perfect like the Almighty? Like Nicodemus of old we are stupefied in our wondering, 
"How can these things be?" 
Or as Isaiah said when he envisions the LORD in his temple: 
“Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
Yet, there it stands, brilliant and blatant -- You! Be Holy!  

Does Jesus really mean this to be part of my practice, this holiness? 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Being Truly Human: The Pain of Daily Conversion. A Homily from Matthew 5:17-37 for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time for 2.16.14

February 16, 2014
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A.
(revised from a homily first
posted on 2.8.11) 

The Lectionary Gospel Reading for this, the sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, continues in earnest Jesus' teaching called, The Sermon On The Mount

In this portion we are thrown upon Jesus' own understanding of the law fulfilled, or the law as practiced. It is in this section that we hear Jesus transitioning the law from the letter into the heart with his sayings, "you say the law is this, but I say the law is really that."

In fact, let us begin this homily by noticing the stark contrast of these “you say, but I say” sayings, and how they are dense and heavy both for the hearts of GOD'S chosen people (Jesus’ original hearers) and for GOD’s Gospel people (us) as well:

YOU SAY:                         JESUS SAYS:
No Murder                        Not even anger
No Adultery                      Not even an adulterous thought
Divorce for Indecency       No divorce
No false oaths                    No oaths at all
An eye for an eye               No retaliation
Love your neighbor           Love your enemies 

Is it any wonder that for centuries Christians have despaired of the possibility of living in this manner, and have therefore sought to explain away the necessity to bear these statements as practice? Is it any wonder that Christian believers have sought to place these commands at the feet of Jesus' original hearers or at the feet of those in a future, realized kingdom, but not we who live in the present? 

Said another way, to explain away these commands of Jesus -- and I believe the word command is the correct word -- is to undercut the basic impact of what Jesus’ mission really meant. As N.T. Wright reminds us, Jesus did not come to take us to heaven, but to reclaim for GOD this broken world on the brink of destruction. To be sure, we will find that the promise of eternal life is an outgrowth of GOD’s love for us, but we must remember that, in the end, his mission is not about us, it is about GOD. 

The heart of this question, then, goes to our hermeneutical understanding. 
How is the Sermon to be interpreted? 
Simply put, the sermon interprets to humans the reality of true humanness.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Suffering the Loss of Everything to Follow the Jesus-Way. A Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time from Matthew 5:13-16

February 9 2014
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A.
Matthew 5:13-15
(revised from a homily first
posted on 1.24.11) 

The Lectionary Gospel reading for this Sunday continues Jesus’ famous, Sermon On The Mount, by calling upon those who would follow him to consider their current footing in the world as they daily move to take up the cross and to become his  partners in the Jesus-way enterprise of walking circumspectly in the world.

In this text the Master challenges his Hebrew hearers to live faithfully to their vocation as GOD'S chosen people, and by extension this text also falls to his twenty-first century followers to do so as well. We too, somehow, must faithfully fulfill our calling to be salt and light within an increasingly desperate world at war with itself. The church, if it is at all to be church, must give itself away in order to bring glory to the Father in heaven. This text, therefore, puts both those original hearers as well as the current church on the spot. Here we are pointedly asked, were his followers then, and is his church now, faithful to his Gospel?

Please note that we are here building upon the foundation of the the Beatitudes, those powerful promises of blessing, as an occasion to allow Jesus' words to sting us with demand. This demand is nothing less than a final and full allegiance to the Christ, and nothing else, especially not ecclesiastic survival.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Two Homilies for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Presentation of the LORD

The Long Wait. A Homily for February 2, 2014, from Luke 2:22-40 on the Presentation of the LORD.

The Death of Christendom & the Life of the Church. A Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time from Matthew 5:1-12a

February 2, 2014
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A.
The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:1-12a
(revised from a homily first
posted on 1.24.11)

This Sunday's Gospel reading from the Lectionary brings to us the famous teaching of Jesus commonly called The Sermon On The Mount. Here Jesus takes to the mount in the position of the new law-giver and offers to his hearers the outline of his new covenant, which may be characterized as the walk of a new humanity.

These words have inspired and challenged would-be disciples through the centuries, but the question here at the beginning of the 21st century is rather simple: Can they do so again? Can these words inspire us? Or are we past listening? Does this teaching even have anything much to do with us?

At first, this seems to be a simple question of interpretation -- What is meant by what is said? What are we (those of us who live now) to make of Jesus' words?

But the dilemma is deeper rooted. At this late date in Christendom -- given the straits of constriction through which the Christian faith in the West is now passing -- does this teaching have anything relevant to say to us? Can Jesus' teaching touch his disciples who live a world with unheralded greed and war and violence and decadence? Is there any use moving toward what seems to be an ancient life-posture that seemingly offers defeat from the outset in a culture at war with itself?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Long Wait. A Homily for February 2, 2014, from Luke 2:22-40 on the Presentation of the LORD.

February 2, 2014
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A.
The Presentation of the LORD
Luke 2:22-40

The Lectionary Gospel reading for today offers us the account of Mary and Joseph, who according to the law of Moses, presented Jesus and themselves at the temple, and then subsequently heard a surprising prophetic word from Simeon and Anna. 

Mary and Joseph's attendance at the temple was required of the Law, not only to have Jesus circumcised (Leviticus 12:3), but to deliver their firstborn to GOD (Exodus 13:2,12), and then thirty-three days after Mary had given birth to Jesus, she, Joseph and Jesus would bring an offering for her cleansing after childbirth. (Leviticus 12:1-8). 

But, it is here that the routine and the expected becomes the unusual and the extraordinary. As the family fulfills their obligations, the Lord, GOD, offers them a prophetic word from not one but two people, an event that amazes Joseph and Mary. How this must have amazed the couple.

First, was Simeon, who said of Jesus when he saw him:
“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted — and you yourself a sword will pierce — so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
And, then Anna, a godly woman who lived night and day in the temple:
And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
There is so much here upon which to feast this morning, that we are forced to limit ourselves to just three openings into the text: