April Sermons

 

April 7, 2019 - 5th Sunday of Lent

April 14, 2019 - Palm/Passion Sunday

April 21, 2019 - Easter Sunday

April 28, 2019 - 2nd Sunday of Easter

 

 

5th Sunday of Lent  - John 12:1-8

 

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. 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 betray him), said, 5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” 9When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

 

Interpretation of the Word

 

Did you know that the current level of atmospheric carbon is just above 411 parts per million - a level that is catastrophic and rising. While little has been done, the efforts of most institutions both governmental and non-governmental have treated the problem like a math equation. IF we cut fossil fuels by X amount then the increase forest carbon sinks by Y. Problem solved. But the problem has not been solved any better than the problem of a person who counts calories but does not trust in the goodness and value of their own body. We have failed to recognize that carbon is not the problem; that it is only the symptom of an underlying disease of our habits and our hearts, a matter of our affections more than arithmetic.

 

The guiding morality of our day has largely become a kind of utilitarianism, the philosophy of the industrial age that sought to calculate the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Paul Kingsnorth, former deputy-editor of The Ecologist, has noted, “environmentalism is as much a victim of the contemporary cult of utility as every other aspect of our lives, from science to education.”  We have lost our love for the wild, for particular places and people, and instead advocate for abstract “sustainability” that cheers the rise of “renewable” power and electric cars while lithium mines rip open the earth to toxic effect and windmills kill over 140,000 birds each year. If you love the landscape where that mine is or the birds who fall victim to machines occupying their ancient migratory paths, then it becomes clear that we need a return to an ethic of affection.

 

I begin with this today not to make a statement about the levels of carbon, but because our gospel for this Sunday has much to say to this problem of utility. The conflict between the way of Mary and the way of Judas in this story from John’s Gospel seems to represent the two possibilities open to us–the way of effectiveness and utility, of wasted extravagance and the way humility and affection and abundant love.

 

Is it abundant love or wasted extravagance?  As we listened to the Gospel lesson this morning, was you initial thought “what a waste” or “that was a beautiful sign of love”?  Or maybe you thought, of course this is how things played out. Judas is afterall a traitor and Mary has always had an affection for Jesus, so of course she was praised for her devotion and display of love.  Either way, no matter what your initial thought was, you are not alone, commentator alike all share these varied opinions and identifications.

 

This morning we have the unique opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of different disciples.  We might see ourselves as Mary or Martha in the background, unmentioned here, but still on our minds from another rendition of this meal found in the Gospel of Luke, or as Judas.  Now, you might be thinking immediately as I suggest this, “oh I would never be Judas! I’m not a traitor, or a thief. And that may be very true.

 

However, if we’re honest with ourselves, we will admit, at least to ourselves, that we have all thought, at least once, “why are we wasting this money on this extravagant thing, when it would be better saved for a rainy day?”  Or “if we sold these things, that no one uses, that cost us a lot of money each month, then we would have MORE money to help these other people;” but we know, deep down, that we wouldn’t actually give ALL the money, we would save a little back, just in case. So in that instance we are like Judas.  Not being thieves but also not giving all, in extravagant abundance. Being utilitarian.

 

In this moment, Judas is being utilitarian.  He is saying that this perfume, this very expensive perfume, could be more beneficial, if ti was sold and then the money was given to the poor.He has counted the costs, calculated the benefits, and for him, there is waste in using the perfume in this way.  For Judas, the world can be broken down into units of “goodness” and with that, it is now easy to calculate the “best” choice, the “rational” decision, and the most economic gain. He has figured out with the sale of the expensive perfume, a definite number of poor could be served meals, or given beds to sleep in, or have costly medical treatment paid for.  For him, this lump of nard, this fragrant perfume, is an object contained within a market value–easily converted into an abstract price that, if used the right way, could obtain an equally abstract good.

 

Or are we like Martha, in the kitchen preparing and serving the meal?  Making sure that all the arrangements for having such an important dinner guest go just as planned.  Jesus is, after all, the person who just raised their brother, Lazarus, from the dead. So we can imagine that Martha would want for the meal to honor Jesus to be perfect.  She, too, is a bit utilitarian and a pragmatist, who know what needs to be done. With Martha at the helm overseeing the kitchen, their esteemed guest gets nothing but the best, although maybe Mary seems to take this a little too far.  We might even imagine Martha thinking, “That perfume was rather expensive, they didn’t even use the expensive stuff on their brother when he died, and Jesus is living!”

 

Or are we like Mary? Mary who shows us a different way to love. Costs and its calculations do not concern her. Instead, she is guided by affection–love for the one who is before her, whose value is beyond any price. Her love then, is excessive, as is the case with any good gift. The gesture of her anointing is meant not to show just how valuable Jesus is to her, but to show how impossible it would be to fix any value to such a person. This is not about a rational decision but about love and how far she is willing to go to express that love.

 

Mary is overwhelmed by the love she has for Jesus, for what he has done, and for what he will do.  She gives so much more than is necessary, or even ordinary. She gives it all. She loves beyond the limit.  We admire Mary’s love and extravagance, as it is not something we would have likely considered given the opportunity, and what is more is that Jesus praises her actions.  

 

Because the truth of the matter is that quite often we are more like Martha or even like Judas. In the midst of a pragmatic, utilitarian society, we wish to be efficient, to make certain that everything counts and that there is no waste. In the church we look for responsible budgets that make the best possible use of every cent, especially when giving doesn’t seem to match with spending.. This is a requirement of responsible stewardship. However, for this to be true Christian stewardship it must be founded not primarily on efficiency but on an overwhelming love that leads to what others may consider mere waste.

 

We are preparing to celebrate Easter and the events surrounding it. It is a difficult time to be celebrating anything. There are millions of refugees around the world and even next door, who live in miserable conditions, who sometimes do not even have enough to eat. We have turned politics into a cutthroat game in which the purpose is not to serve the needs of as many as possible but rather to amass as much power as one can while excluding those seen as “others.” Throughout the world, all sorts of interests are involved in a runaway race to see who can gain the largest margins of profit, even at the cost of destroying the environment. And the list goes on. It is a list of pain, abuse, pestilence, greed, folly, selfishness, prejudice, and destruction.

How can we celebrate in the midst of such circumstances? How can we spend resources and energy preparing choirs to perform beautiful music, embellishing our church buildings, buying Easter lilies, sending greetings to others, and organizing pageants?

 

Obviously, we can justify some of this on a purely pragmatic and utilitarian basis. If the church has beautiful music, attractive decorations, and well-designed pageants, perhaps more people will come and offerings will rise. All of this may be true. It may even be proper. But this is not the reason for our joyful celebrations and extravagant actions.

The true justification is at another level. Mary spills her perfume with wild abandon for no other reason than this: Jesus is there. There is no calculation here, no consideration for efficiency, no sense that this is a waste. There is nothing but sheer love and gratitude for what Jesus has done. Let’s be extravagant!  Let’s forget the calculations and simply love. Love with our whole beings, love with our heart, mind, body and soul. May it be so today and always. Amen.


Palm/ Passion Sunday

This year we are going to forgo a formal sermon.  Some of you might be relieved after looking at the length of the reading, it is after all one of, if not the longest reading in the Lectionary.  But that is not the reason we are “skipping” a sermon. I have been thinking and praying about this week, all of Holy Week, for some time now, and I every time i read through this passage, there was just SO much to talk about that we could really be here until Good Friday unpacking and digesting its content.  SO in lue of that, because I don’t think those pew pillows will suffice for a whole week of sitting, we are going to listen to the reading of Luke 22:14-23:49, with pauses in between sections where I will highlight some thoughts and reflections, and encourage you to engage the text in a new way. Now, I have to admit that I didn’t think this all up on my own, it is a suggestion from other preachers and teachers, specifically from “The Working Preacher - Sermonbrainwave” and “Dancing with the Word”  SO if you don’t like it… blame them!

 

So let’s set the scene.  In just a moment, we will enter into Jesus sitting with his disciples around a table, eating and relaxing after their arrival into Jerusalem, on a borrow donkey.  Let us step into the text...

 

Luke 22:14-23:49

 

14When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

 

21But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this. 24A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28“You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 31“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” 34Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.” 35He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” 36He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” 38They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”

 

Response #97 v.1            Go to Dark Gethsemane                

 

We just heard the words of the Last Supper that are familiar to us.  The order was different, but it was still that familiar meal. We heard the prediction that Peter will deny Jesus not once, but three times.  Can you imagine how Peter, the Rock, felt!? How would you have felt to have been called out by Jesus as Peter was?

 

39He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 41Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” 43Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. 45When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, 46and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

 

Response #97 v. 2           Go to Dark Gethsemane           

 

After supper, Jesus goes off to pray, did you hear his request.  He plead for another way, while his disciples slept through it all.  Might you have done the same thing? It was an overwhelming day to say the least, and it’s not done yet.  

 

47While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; 48but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” 49When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” 50Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? 53When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”

 

54Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. 55When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” 57But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” 60But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62And he went out and wept bitterly.

 

Response #97 v. 4           Go to Dark Gethsemane        

 

Oh Judas… Well, we knew from last week this was coming.  But hadn’t we maybe hoped it would turn out differently. That he would have had a change of heart?  And yet, even in the midst of betrayal, Jesus continues to be himself, he heals the slaves cut off ear.  In the midst of all of this, Jesus continues to live what he has been teaching all along, even for those who have come to arrest him.

 

Oh Peter.  Jesus wasn’t wrong, and oh how Peter felt ashamed of himself. But given the choice, association and likely death or denial and freedom, wouldn’t we have chosen the same thing?  DOn’t we chose the same thing in difficult situations?

 

63Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; 64they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65They kept heaping many other insults on him. 66When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. 67They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; 68and if I question you, you will not answer. 69But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” 71Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

23Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” 6When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

 

Response # 93 v.1 Ah, Holy Jesus                  

 

Do you wonder what was SO threatening about this itinerant preacher, this teacher, this healer, that leaders of his OWN tradition would turn him over to those who would kill him?  What was it about him that had them exaggerating or giving completely made up charges that they now offer to Pilate? What were they SO afraid of losing? What did they have to gain by making sure that Jesus’ death was by public execution?

 

We might even be able to understand Pilate’s hesitation to get involved at all.  While it was Pilate’s job was to keep the peace, he was more than happy to pass it off to Herod, the local governor.  Herod would do little more than add to the humiliation, before he sends Jesus back to meet his fate with Pilate.

 

13Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” 18Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19(This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” 23But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

 

26As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

 

Response # 93 v.2           Ah, Holy Jesus                           

 

In the choice between Barrabas and Jesus, we once again meet the choice that is always before us.  The choice to continue the violence in the world, as Barrabas did, or to seek to turn the world upside down by peace-filled means, like Jesus did.  The choice is ours.

 

At first blush, it might seem like Jesus and Barrabas have nothing in common, and for the most part we would be right, but they have at least one thing in common.  They both felt the call to disrupt the status quo, one by violence and the other by peaceful means. Both knew that things, as they were, could not stay the same.

 

We too know the world can’t stay the same, so which will be choose?  Will we choose the path of expediency? How much more efficient is it simply eliminate those who have unjustly claimed power than to reach out in love, rather than seek to alter hearts and minds?  Reaching out in love takes time, it takes relationship, and it takes hard work.

 

It is also hard work to literally carry another’s cross, but Simon does just that, which might make us pause for a moment and wonder:

 

Who was this man who had zero preparation for what he was now called upon to do!?  Did he even know who Jesus was? Had they met before? What was he feeling as he was suddenly called from the crowds to carry the cross of Jesus?  Annoyance? Mortification? Empathy? Did he understand the role he was playing? What about after they got to the top of the hill, when he got home and thought to himself what he had just done?  Would he carry the grief with him for the rest of his life?

 

Surely, Simon of Cyrene had no idea that years later we would look to his example and we would talk of modeling our lives of faith, picking up our crosses and following Jesus, after his sacrifice.

 

32Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

Response # 99 v.1           Throned Upon the Awful Tree 

 

Luke does not offer words of pounding nails or torn flesh.  Instead, just the truth that Jesus was crucified. And that in those final hours, Jesus would continue to be himself, and offer forgiveness in a time and place and way that we can hardly imagine.  He didn’t sit upon an opulent throne, instead he hung upon an awful tree, that announced in crude lettering, “The King of the Jews”

 

44It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

 

Response # 99 v.2           Throned Upon the Awful Tree 

 

In these final words we hear that in the temple curtain being torn in two that earth meets heaven itself. That all that separated us from God’s presence has now been destroyed.

 

With his last breath, Jesus speaks aloud his trust in the Father.

 

And that one unlikely one, the centurion, a Roman soldier spoke the truth. That Jesus was innocent.

 

And that the women remained. When many fled in fear there were still those standing at a distance, taking it all in.

 

As we do today...

 

We look on today, along side of those who betrayed; who denied; who arrested and accused; the one commissioned to carry his cross; those who cast lots and openly mocked him; and those who hung on crosses on either side of Jesus. Today, we join all who look on, and we wonder at the meaning of THIS cross for each of us.

 

This is where we are left today.  This is our story to take in, to digest, to wrestle with, and embrace the gift it was and is and is meant to be for ALL who witness it then and now.

 

May you be richly blessed as you do so this Holy Week.

 

May the gift and meaning of the cross find its way into you heart and into your life.

 

May we be Simon of Cyrene, picking up the cross in the way of Jesus.

 

May we be the one hanging on the cross beside him, hearing a word of unexpected promise.

 

May we be the women who stay and watch and wait.

 

And may we be the Centurion who speaks aloud a truth which changes everything.

That in this innocent death, God is at work to make the world new again.

 

Response 102 v.1            Were You There?                    

Amen.

 

Easter Service - Christ is Risen!!  Alleluia!


 

Luke 24:1-12
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.  2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,  3 but when they went in, they did not find the body.  4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.  5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,  7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”  8 Then they remembered his words,  9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.  11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.  12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

 

Guess what? I am not going to try and explain Easter. I am not going to try and convince you that Jesus, who was very dead on Friday, was somehow very alive on Sunday. I can’t explain it, really, I don’t fully understand it. But I do trust it. I do believe it, even if I can’t explain it. Even if I could explain it, Jim Friedrich, a writer for the Christian Century, implores us to not attempt to explain what Easter is. He writes that, “Resurrection is not something that we can explain. Instead it is something that we live and breathe. Easter is a time for us to meet the One who changes everything.”

 

So this year, instead of asking and attempting to answer the question of “what happened to Jesus way back then?” because I can’t answer that scientifically or with a plausible explanation, we will, instead, look at “Where is Jesus now—for us?” And as theologian Gareth Jones suggests ask the question, “When is Jesus? When is Jesus for us?” because Easter is not about our questioning of the resurrection, but a chance for the resurrection to question us. Who are WE now, and what must we become, in light of the risen Christ?

 

1. Where is Jesus now—for us?

 

 

Where is Jesus now? Is he in heaven ascended, never to be seen or heard from again until he comes in final victory? Or is Jesus among us, living a resurrected life in each and every one of us who believes that we in fact serve a risen Savior who is in the world today. Who walks along side of us, who talks to us, not only through Scripture, but through preachers, teachers, our friends and other believers and through the life experiences, that when we look at them, we know we would have never gotten through that on our own accord. Where is Jesus for you? Is he in a kind word that you needed to hear when you were tearing yourself down? Is he in a feeling of peace when we have felt nothing but out of sorts? Is he in the smile of a child? Is he in the long hug from a loved one after a long day or week? Is he in the beauty of creation, when you sit on the back deck and embrace the grace that got you through the day?

 

Because he sure as heck is NOT in the tomb. Jesus is NOT dead. Jesus is alive. Jesus is right now.

 

2. When is Jesus for us?

 

Jesus is now! Which means that Easter is now!! RIGHT NOW! So often we get stuck in the rut of
thinking that since Easter happens only once a year, that it is about celebrating an anniversary, like we celebrate church anniversaries, it has been One thousand nine hundred eighty three years since Jesus rose. This line of thinking sets us in a mindset that Easter is a past tense event. I would like to suggest though, that Easter is a present event, an event that happens each and every day. Something that is happening right now, and tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and 30 days from now and 180 days from now and 363 days from now, on Good Friday next year.


With that, the resurrection is not something that took place only once in the past, instead it is
something that is continually taking place. Jesus is alive. Jesus showed up on the road to Emmaus, appeared in the upper room and is still showing up as a transfigured presence in a world that is heavy laden with absences. Jesus is not gone, his work is not over by any means, and his story is not over.


This means that Easter isn’t something we just remember on one day, once a year, but instead it is something that we live and breathe. We live the fact that Jesus is NOT in the tomb, that death could hold him in the grave, and that he continues to work in the world, breaking in and spreading love around.

 

This can be really difficult to believe though, especially as we see and hear about all of the terrible things happening around the world. We were reminded of the awful sins of the world this past Friday. When we think of the real live events, pulled from recent news stories, we might struggle to see how Jesus can be alive? It seems as though the world has forgotten that he ever lived, let alone still lives.

 

Even after all of Jesus’ predictions, the disciples and the women seem to have forgotten. The women don’t seem to remember until they are reminded by the two figures they encounter at the empty tomb, who say, “Remember he told you…” Only then do the women remember what Jesus had said and they return to tell the disciples, who in turn have also forgotten these details. Even though Peter and the other disciples had been right there are heard the predictions Jesus made, they didn’t believe it until they looked in the tomb. So maybe they needed to be reminded; have their memories jogged. We don’t have that luxury to look in the tomb. We like the disciples need to be reminded that Jesus Christ is risen.

 

We might know the good news, because it is old news. Everybody know that… Of course we know that.

 

We know it like we know today’s date, 4.21.19, or that 5 times 5 is 25. A lot of us know the Apostle’s Creed by heart: “our Lord . . . was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.”

 

But do we know and remember the death and resurrection of Jesus so profoundly that they shape the way we live each day? I confess I need to be reminded.

 

 

When someone has deeply wronged me, yet refuses to take responsibility for their actions and ignores the brokenness between us, I need to be reminded that Jesus was wronged too—and that even his wrongful death was not the end of the story. Instead, he rose in triumph with new life and with healing in his wings. When I have wronged someone else and am dismayed at my own willfulness and lack of care, when I wish I could take something back but it’s too late, instead of endlessly berating myself I need to be reminded that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection mean forgiveness for all of my failings. By the power of his Spirit, I receive grace upon grace upon grace to make amends and start again.

 

When we look at the world around us in dismay and sometimes even disgust, when ignorance and
brutality seem to rule the day, we need to be reminded that this is the world created and loved by
God—and that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to reconcile this world to himself.

 

Resurrection has consequences. The resurrection is MORE than just some idea that we talk about or believe propositionally. It’s something we become, something we “prove” in the living of our stories. Rowan Williams describes it this way:

 

"the believer’s life is a testimony to the risen-ness of Jesus: he or she demonstrates that Jesus is not dead by living a life in which Jesus is the never-failing source of affirmation, challenge, enrichment and enlargement—a pattern, a dance, intelligible as a pattern only when its pivot and heart become manifest. The believer shows Jesus as the center of his or her life."

 

Resurrection is about the healing and restoration of wounded and severed relationships: relationships between God and humanity, between human persons and, ultimately, among all the elements of creation. An Orthodox theologian, Patriarch Athenagoras, puts the case in the widest possible terms:

“The Resurrection is not the resuscitation of a body; it is the beginning of the transfiguration of the
world.”

 

We are to become the evidence of the resurrection. We are to be the very hands and feet of the body of Christ that stretch out to welcome, to heal the hurts, to bind up the wounds, to break the barriers of racism and violence, to stand up to bullies and build up those who have been torn down. We are to live the resurrection as a way of life. It is not just one day, it is every day. It is right here, right now as much as it was back then, long ago, and as much as it will be in the time to come. Remember what Jesus told us, taught us, lived for us, so that we might live it too.

 

You want to know if Easter still means something?! IT sure does! It is
everything. It is life. We are the resurrection! Amen.


2nd Sunday of Easter - John 20:19-31

 

This morning, we gather with the disciples on Easter evening.  For us it has been
a whole week, but for the disciples it has been but a few hours. For them this is all very recent.

 It was just three days ago when their leader and teacher had been crucified before their very
eyes. And then they laid him in a tomb.  For the disciples, still grieving, it has only been a few
hours since they heard the news. A few hours since the women told them what they had
seen.  A few hours since Peter and the beloved disciple confirmed it! A few hours since they
were told that the grave was empty. A few hours since Mary encountered Jesus in the garden.

 

  And it all seems just too terrible, so they lock themselves away. This is where we find them
now…

 

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house
where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
 
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

 

This week, as we just listened to the gospel, who did you identify with?  Did you feel a bit like
Thomas, wanting some proof? Or did you feel like the disciples grieving locked away from the
world?  Maybe you feel the Easter Hope, and are rejoicing that Jesus has made an appearance,
that all that you had heard, was really real?  I’m not saying one over the other is right, because
there are times when we identify with all of these sides of the story. We feel the joy the
excitement, the amazement and the peace the Jesus brings us.  But we also feel the doubt,
feel the need for proof, we need for Jesus to show us that he is really there, is still really real.

 

If we pause for a moment, and look at the disciples, before Jesus arrives, we would realize that
the joy, excitement and peace that the disciples feel, comes only after Jesus appears.  Before
that, they were gathered in fear, trembling with grief behind closed, locked doors. They had
shut themselves in and locked out the world outside. They were afraid for their lives, and very

possibly afraid of losing what little hope they had left.  They didn’t see Jesus anymore and they
weren’t all that sure that they had been on the right path. They weren’t necessarily asking for
proof that Jesus had been resurrected, but they weren’t really living like it either.

 

Today, we are not too different from the disciples, before Jesus appeared to them.  We want
to see the real evidence that the Body of Christ is alive and well today. We want to see that
the Body of Christ is more than a bunch of empty tombs, more than a dwindling number of
congregations that struggle to make ends meet, more than a growing number of churches that
seemingly to fail to bring in new people to support budgets and the mission of the church. We
might actually be more like the disciples, before Jesus arrives and brings his peace, than we
would care to admit…  At times it seems that we are more likely to be locked away in our
buildings afraid of what MIGHT come, afraid of losing what we have, afraid that everything has
changed or will change very soon. We don't like to speak these doubts aloud. Instead we
hunker down, we keep doing the same old things, we lick our wounds, hoping tomorrow will
be more like yesterday and less like today. We want to see Jesus, but we don’t want to BE
Jesus in the world around us. We don’t want our brokenness, our woundedness, to be our
identifiers.  We don’t want anyone to recognize the Body of Christ by the wounds we wear on
behalf of others. Nope, we want to keep the doors locked, and keep that world out, because
Jesus doesn’t seem to be out there anymore either.

 

Maybe that is what Thomas went searching for?  Maybe Thomas wasn’t in the upper room
with the disciples with Jesus appeared because he went in search of Jesus?  Or maybe he was
sent on a coffee and donut run. Maybe he had given up, the dream had died, so why sit
around grieving, best go back and see if he could get his old job back.  Maybe he was dealing
with his grief alone. Maybe there was just too much to process with all those other people
around. Some of us like to be alone to process what is going on in our heads and hearts after
all.  So Maybe he had left the upper room to deal with his grief alone. Maybe he had gone
back to the garden where they had last been with Jesus to weep or to pray, like Jesus had
done. Whatever the reason, Thomas wasn’t there to see Jesus.  

 

So when his friends seek him out, to tell him they have seen Jesus, in the flesh, he is more than
a little suspect.  Ok, he is skeptical at best. Even though the other disciples keep telling him
with a conviction that could only be from first-hand knowledge, Thomas insists that their
testimony isn’t going to be enough.  Too much has happened. He needs to see and hear;
heck, he needs to touch, before he will believe that Jesus lives!

 

Oh Thomas, how we understand that!  You are not alone, we too have been there.  We want
the proof too. We want evidence that Jesus is alive and well.  We want to see Jesus, hear him,
touch him, smell him even. We want evidence that resurrection is real!
Whether we are locked away in the upper room or out in the streets searching, we want to
know: Is Jesus alive?  

 

When Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection, he greets them with “Peace be with
you… Peace be with you!”  We might this of this as a customary greeting of respect, as good
manners in the biblical world. In 1st Samuel, David instructs his men to greet Nabal with,
“Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.”  When Jesus
sends his disciples out ahead of him, he tells them to say, “peace to this house!”

 

Although, with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, this customary greeting of peace
takes on a new significance.  In Jesus’s words of farewell to his disciples, Jesus tells them he
will leave and then return, he promises, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”  later
Jesus adds, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace.” Upon his return,
Jesus’ greeting of peace recalls those earlier promises - and the disciples’ grief over Jesus’
suffering and death becomes for them a joyful reunion in his new life.  Now their fear over
what is going to happen next is laid to rest. Jesus is back! The peace he promised them is now
theirs. The Holy Spirit is now upon them too, just as it had been upon Jesus at his baptism, it is
with the disciples.

 

Jesus greets the disciples, now with Thomas in their midst, again with “peace be with you.”
 This greeting is more than just a “hi, how are ya?” It is assurance to those who doubt, dear
Thomas; it is encouragement to those who have seen and believed, the disciples and friends; it
is hope for those who have not seen yet have come to believe, the church throughout the ages
and today.    

 

Jesus’ peace signals to us that Jesus is here.  That no matter what we may be feeling, Jesus is
here.  When we pass the peace with one another, we are announcing that Jesus is here.  Right
here, right now. The resurrected Christ lives!
There are no locked doors or wandering hearts or skeptical minds that can keep the risen
Christ out.  Those closed doors didn’t stop Jesus. Thomas’ skepticism didn’t stop Jesus. Our
fears and concerns for the future won’t stop Jesus.  Jesus comes and bring peace. Peace that
invades the spaces we are attempting to keep safe. Jesus comes to us beyond our closed
doors, our locked hearts, our despairing minds, and jars us into faith.  This is God’s doing! We
come to faith, by grace. Jesus comes and brings us peace.

 

Peace that we share with one another.  Peace that reminds us that we proclaim a risen Christ,
a Christ that overcomes death!  Peace that gives us hope that we are not just idly sitting here
waiting. Instead it is something we receive and we pass on to others.  Others who might need
to hear that Christ is alive. That the peace and grace and love of Christ is not just for those
locked away, but for all of God’s children to receive and pass on to one another.  So friends, I
say to you: The peace of our risen Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Let us pass
the peace once more. Letting it bring us joy and hope and renewal for the week to come. That

we may see ALL that God is doing, with us, through us and by the power of Holy Spirit who
guides us.

September 17, 2019

 

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SUNDAY WORSHIP

 

Worship Service 11:00AM

Children's Nursery available during worship

Adult Sunday School 9:45AM

Children's Sunday School - 9:45AM


 

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