Friday, January 29, 2010

Epiphany 4c - Conclusion

Which of the following four items does not belong to the group?

A: Jeremiah 1:4-19
B: Psalm 71:1-6
C: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
D: Luke 4:21-30

Answer is C.

The messenger Jeremiah is blamed for the message. The psalmist is threatened by the wicked, unjust and cruel. And Jesus, the home town prophet, is treated as such. The epistle with its poetic description of a still more excellent way seems too sweet to belong. But if you place “Love is gentle and kind” in the context of the conflicted Corinthian congregation it belongs with Jeremiah and the Psalmist and Jesus. Love that bears, believes, hopes and endures is not sentimental but suffering. Love that does not insist on its own way is emptied of power to take on the form of a servant. Love that keeps no records of wrongs forgives those who “know not what they do.” Love that never ends dies that others may live. So if C is understood in light of A,B, & D then the answer is E or none of the above. And Love will tell you if you really want to pass the test… Go and do likewise.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Epiphany 4c - Luke 4:21-30

The sermon that began so well has taken a turn for the worse and Jesus has no one to blame but himself. Somewhere in the well speaking and amazement his gracious words have taken on an edge and the home town crowd is not amused. At first glance it looks like Jesus is provoking without provocation. So maybe Luke the historian left out some details. Maybe there’s a heckler in the last pew or shouts of “prove it” when Joseph’s boy claims his father is a higher power. On the other hand Jesus is not doing something here that he won’t do elsewhere and for the next three years a lot of places will begin to feel like home. Before we judge the home town crowd too harshly we might ask ourselves what words of Jesus might prompt us to do him in? It’s more likely given our ability to rationalize hard sayings and contain the difficult in dogmatic boxes nothing Jesus says can upset us very much unless of course it’s about someone else. Then we puff up with self righteous pride and use Jesus’ words to throw the less pious or too pious or not pious enough off the hill upon which our rigid theologies are built. The word of Jesus is that God stepped outside the boundaries of God’s own people to bless a foreigner and an oppressor. In the same way God will not be contained within our constructs of who is deserving and who isn’t, who belongs and who doesn’t and even who is saved and who isn’t because that belongs to the one who climbed another hill and didn’t come down until he was finished.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Epiphany 4c - 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1 Corinthians 13:1-13
It doesn’t matter if your language is laced with love if your words fall on deaf ears. And if Paul’s second letter to the conflicted Corinthians is any indication they were not convinced by this still more excellent way. Forty years later St. Clement begins his letter to the same congregation “My dear friends, take care to do good and virtuous deeds in unity before him, and be citizens worthy of him; or his many good works towards us may become a judgment on us all” and ends it with “let us not be in two minds, and let us have no doubts about his excellent and glorious gifts.” It sounds like the noisy gongs and clanging cymbals are still drowning out patience, kindness and rejoicing in the right. It is a sad commentary on the church that conflict comes so easily to those the living God has loved into being but maybe that is because knowing in part and seeing dimly lends itself to limited love. But if with our limited vision we fix our eyes on the limitless, who emptied himself, taking on the servant’s form, suffering the criminal’s death then insisting on one’s own way is much harder to do. In the shadow of the cross the love that bears, believes, hopes, and endures moves the mountain of arrogant pride and selfish ambition and then faith, hope and love really does abide in us. I think in that moment we know all there is to know and see face to face the one who died that love would never end.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Epiphany 4c - Psalm 71:1-6

Psalm 71:1-6
We will only recite the first six verses of Psalm 71 but I imagine Jeremiah knew the whole psalm by heart. It is a good psalm to know, especially when you’ve been thrown down a well and left for dead and maybe have begun to doubt the promise of your call, “they shall not prevail against you.” So it is not a psalm to be recited lightly. No, this is a psalm that is cried, or shouted, or in silence groaned. This is a cry for help in a time of trouble, a desperate plea for providence when enemies, the wicked, the unjust, the cruel are prevailing with a vengeance. It is not a psalm one wants to recite for real so we will chant the appointed six verses and move on to the epistle. But there are those, too numerous to number, for whom these words are more than a liturgical element in a Sunday service. Maybe those of us who live in warmth and comfort and safety, blessed by lives of relative ease, could speak this psalm on their behalf. Maybe in the polite chanting of six verses we could remind God and ourselves of the desperate plight of peoples oppressed by war and famine and disease and earthquake and flood in places where the wicked and the cruel and the unjust are free and the innocent are enslaved. And maybe in our remembering we to whom much has been given will live up to much being required and not wait for God to act but do what we were created to do, act on God’s behalf which, of course, is how God answers a plea for help.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Epiphany 4c - Jeremiah 1:4-19

Jeremiah 1:4-19
This is not the kind of call a prophet wants to receive. Given a choice a prophet, or a pastor for that matter, would prefer visions with a happier ending and keep the wickedness and judgments to a minimum. That is because truth telling is never easy for the one who has to tell it or for the ones who have to hear it. So while it might be good news that they will not prevail against Jeremiah the bad news is they will try. In the end Jeremiah will die in obscurity and Judah will receive the judgment he foretold. So where is the good news for those of us who prefer fairy tale endings over tragedy? As difficult as it may be to tell or hear it, the good news is in the truth telling itself. That is because truth is always good news even when it is bad. It is only when we tell and hear the truth about ourselves; that we have exchanged the truth for a lie to chase after idols of our own design and worship at the altars of our ego that we have any hope of finding our way back to the greater Truth. The greater truth is that Jeremiah comes before Jesus. In the end he will die in agony and we will escape the judgment we deserve for sin could not prevail against his sacrifice. When God does the telling there is pardon after judgment, return after exile, life in death and even the tragedy has a fairy tale ending.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Epiphany 3c - Conclusion

This morning I sat down in my writing chair at Roots Coffeehouse, powered up my lap top and got ready to write when I began to experience technical difficulties. First the wireless network didn’t network as in Elvis has left the building. Then a not responding Word refused to, well, respond. Then just like magic the technical difficulties disappeared and everything was as it should be. It’s no secret that I love the wired world but I don’t have a Geek bone in my body and depend on the wires to work without any help from me. The exiles might have known a thing or two about rebuilding the ruins but they needed the Law that is Love explained to them. God’s joy is your strength. The psalmist may have known a thing or two about the perfect law of the Lord but needed to be cleared of hidden faults. The Corinthian congregation may have known a thing or two about speaking in tongues but they needed to be taught the language of love where the many value the one and the one the many for the sake of Christ. And while the hometown folk thought they knew a thing or two about Jesus it was Jesus who knew all about them. And if they could have heard what he said, that the promise was fulfilled in Him then maybe the pregnant pause would have given birth to Good News and sight and release and recovery. As it is he had to do all the work without any help from them or us. And while everything in our wired world is not as it should be there is in the promise fulfilled a hope of how it will be which means we work for what can be.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Epiphany 3c - Luke 4:14-21

Luke 4:14-21
I was invited to preach at the congregation where I was brought up, Grace Lutheran, River Forest, Illinois, during their 100th anniversary year. Grace is a large congregation and has produced numerous pastors over the years so I had every reason to believe most of the people there would not know me or remember that their bringing me up was sometimes hard on both of us. Not so with Jesus. I imagine there was standing room only in the synagogue that day and everyone knew why they were there. Jesus does not disappoint but finds the words of promise that were the hope of those who sat by the waters of Babylon and wept and the longing of the oppressed under the new management of Rome. For a moment between the reading and the sermon there was silence, every eye fixed, every breath held, every ear attentive. As soon as he spoke the spell was lifted and in the verses that follow the SRO crowd rejects the promise fulfilled and turns ugly. But in the pregnant pause before he spoke, where anything and everything is possible, the scripture was fulfilled. Maybe that is where freedom and recovery and restoration are real for us as well. When in silent expectation hope is not diminished by attempts to rationalize or explain. Such waiting faith believes God is intimately aware of our deepest need. Such waiting faith believes the good news of grace for all the impoverished, held captive by circumstance beyond their control, blinded by sin and oppressed by fear. We hold onto such hope with radical trust that the proof is not in the pudding but in the promise itself. And that calls for patience which is not a virtue easily gained, but is well worth the wait.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Epiphany 3c - 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Maybe Paul never looked into a mirror that wasn’t dim because although the nose might be necessary, more often than not the eyes think it’s too big. Truth is most people can find fault with one body part or another and wish the weaker parts could be dispensed of more easily. And on the flip side thinking of oneself as Adonis means Narcissus is not far behind. It may be that judging oneself either too harshly or inaccurately is where mistreatment of the body begins and why these words of Paul have too often fallen on deaf ears. When we cannot recognize our own worth we are blind to the worth of others. But if I see myself through the eyes of Christ as worthy of God’s affection and choose to live into that identity then I believe it becomes more difficult to deny others the same honor. And so each member values the other because each member is valued by Christ. And to dishonor the other, to think or speak ill of them, to plot and plan and even pray for their downfall is to scorn Christ himself. In the end it is God who is grieved and injured when the body behaves badly towards itself. But it was the grief of God over a creation gone horribly wrong that led Christ to the cross. In love that is the still more excellent way his body was broken to make ours whole and his death is our life. So treat yourself well today for your body belongs to Christ. And remember that the body part that had the nerve to sit in your seat last Sunday is dear to the heart of Christ as well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Epiphany 3c - Psalm 19

Psalm 19
I practice yoga three nights a week and if it weren’t for the mirrors around the room I’d think I was quite good at it. That’s because the pose often feels more right than it looks. So while I am pretty good at breathing and I can nail the Savasana or corpse pose, I need to see myself in the mirror to straighten my back on a deep forward bend or really sit into my chair or sink my head below my shoulders and get my doggie down. Of course the mirror can’t do it all and I don’t need to look to know my crow pose is never getting off the ground. The perfect law of the Lord is more than a list of do’s and don’ts. If it were then we could detect our hidden faults and check them off one by one. But as it is we are guilty not only of the hidden but the obvious or as another version states, presumptuous sins. And so the law of the Lord is like a mirror revealing our spiritual posture. There are corrections we can make once warned but that only gets us so far, which is why we need a Rock and Redeemer to revive the heart of our Savasana.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Epiphany 3c - Nehemiah 8:1-3; 5-6; 8-10

Nehemiah 8:1-3; 5-6; 8-10
The exiles, including the lay reader's nightmare list of names in the omitted verses, have returned from captivity to begin the slow process of rebuilding Jerusalem which includes reestablishing the rituals of faith community. Outside the gate the preachers preach and the people respond with liturgy, Amen, Amen, lifting hands and bowing down. But when the ritual reading is explained and the people understand they begin to weep and wail and mourn. They weep because they know who they are in the light of the law and how they have grieved the One who brought them out of exile. They weep because they are afraid that God knows what they know. But there is another lesson to learn and if they had seen it coming they would have laughed out loud and shouted alleluia. God is not grieved. God is not angry. God is not weeping. This is God’s day of rejoicing and it is because of them. Surprise! So dry your eyes and wash your face. Break out the bubbly and forget your diet for a day for you are the joy of the Lord and that is your strength. That is a good lesson for us as well. As long as we think of the joy of the Lord as an emotion we have or can get we will inevitably end up weakened and weeping. But since the joy of the Lord is about us it is constant and can never be diminished or depleted and therein lies our strength. In God’s joy we endure. In God’s joy we persevere. In God’s joy we hope. And yes, in God’s joy we rejoice. The only thing to do with that kind of strength is to share with those who have nothing prepared because, of course, that is what God has done for us.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Epiphany 2c - Conclusion

I spent a week in Port-au-Prince in 1997 and stayed with missionaries in PĂ©tionville in a house with no electricity or running water. We spent the days in the slums meeting people and witnessing their struggle to survive. It didn’t take long to be overwhelmed to the point of despair at the plight of the poor in a land with little left to offer. At times I would just begin to weep, mostly when I thought of my life and of home and of Joshua, then two years old. Truth is I felt guilty for winning the lottery by not being born into abject poverty like the vast majority of humans on this planet. And along with that guilt was absolute hopelessness because there was nothing I could do to help the people who very quickly came to mean something to me. But the people I was feeling sorry for felt sorry for me and in a tar paper shack sanctuary they prayed and danced and sang and shared the joy and peace of the Lord like I had never known and I wept again because for a moment the slums of Port-au-Prince felt a lot like heaven. And then God who through the week had seemed so distant in the face of such suffering spoke the Gospel to me. “They will be first in the kingdom and you will be last.” And at that I really did weep for the joy of it. I left everything I brought with me in Haiti including the guilt and hopelessness because this present suffering is not worth comparing with the joys that are to come. And because that is true we do not wait for that day with idle hands but through acts of kindness, charity, mercy and love bring the future into our present. And in the face of this present disaster we are called in hope to do more than just pray for the people of Haiti who deal or no deal are loved by God.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Epiphany 2c - John 2:1-11

John 2:1-11
I ran out of time this morning so I’m writing this with one hand while giving platelets and plasma with the other at Carter Blood Care. Talk about multi-tasking! Time has run out for the bridegroom as well and sooner or later the guest’s goblets will go dry and the party will be over for good. Mary is determined to do something about it and counting on those things she has treasured in her heart she asks Jesus to serve the good wine before his time. John records this as the first sign of many and even though the other Gospels remember more immediate first signs, like healing diseases and casting out demons, turning water into wine is the sign for the time to come. It might not seem so in a world where more important things than wine run out, where as in Haiti a surplus of sorrow and suffering beg for God to heal and exorcise evil before filling the carafe with cabernet. But the miracle of water into wine is more than a story of good timing for a worried wine steward and it is Mary who gives it to us. Like Jesus in the garden she asks for what she wants and accepts his rebuke, even as Jesus asks for what he wants, “Take this cup from me” but accepts “Thy will be done.” And so Jesus in faith will leave the garden for the cross and Mary, with every reason to believe the answer is no, tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” She has no idea what he will do but believes he will do something. Faith in the face of jugs gone dry is what is called for in the face of circumstances that drain reserves, sorrow that consumes joy, questions empty of answers, which is why water into wine is a sign of the time to come. Without knowing how or when we believe God will do something as Isaiah imagined; a feast of rich food and fine wine for all people where God dines on death for when his time finally came the One who asked the cup to be taken from him is the One who filled it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Epiphany 2c - 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
I do not want you to be uniformed, brothers and sisters. I imagine that line didn’t go over so well with the sisters and brothers in Corinth. They imagined themselves not only very well informed but well endowed, thank you very much. But like noisy gongs and clanging cymbals they were all show and no substance and the gifts meant to bless and unite were used to curse and divide. But pride always corrupts the good gifts of God and blinds the puffed up to their spiritual poverty. Divisions follow as one claims spiritual superiority over the other and the church that is the body of Christ performs communal amputation upon itself. It is a sad state of affairs that despite centuries of being informed congregations continue to be led astray by idols that make a lot of noise but cannot speak the language of love. So being informed is not enough, just like knowing it is a good thing to do doesn’t lead one to a healthy diet and exercise. But sometimes the mind informs the heart and that knowledge leads to repentance which heals divisions within us as the Spirit activates spiritual gifts for the healing of the body of Christ. Of course it is never that neat or easy but the good news is that after centuries of informing people who prefer idols that make a lot of noise the church is still here, the Gospel is still being proclaimed and lived as the Spirit hasn’t given up activating gifts.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Epiphany 2c - Psalm 36:5-10

Psalm 36:5-10
You save humans and animals alike. While we depend on God to do the first Lisa and I have been helping God do the latter for some time. We haven’t limited ourselves to cute animals either and until they played dead for real we shared our TV room with a couple of homeless possums. God saves in that way as well. Salvation is not only for the cute and the cuddly. All people are invited to take refuge. All people are invited to the feast of abundance. All people are invited to drink from the river of God’s delights. That is because the steadfast love of God extending to the heavens, stretched above the clouds, plunging to the depths of the ocean has no limit. We are the ones who qualify and quantify making a list and checking it twice to exclude the naughty and welcome the nice. It is our capacity for love that is limited, not God’s. And it is that same limited capacity for love that leads some to leave the invitation unopened or discard it as irrelevant. But God’s love remains steadfast waiting to save those who are satisfied with less than life and light. When in each of us God’s waiting is rewarded our capacity to love becomes more like God’s and as those who know limitless love with upright hearts we become part of the saving. And that is how this lover of BIG DOGS has come to love ugly circus dogs as well.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Epiphany 2c - Isaiah 62:1-5

The people to whom these words are addressed have grown weary of hope. They were promised a return to Zion with singing but when they got home the only song they could sing was a lament and Lord knows they know that song by heart. The burning sand has dried up the promised pool, the haunt of jackals is still just as dangerous and the ruins they will have to rebuild are inhabited by hostile residents. It will take more than hope to make Jerusalem hospitable to the prophet’s vision. And maybe that is how hope works. We might prefer the fairy tale close your eyes, click your heels three times and no place turns into home, but truth is hope just gets us to believe again that not all the songs we will sing are in a minor key. And so the forsaken who have returned to a desolate land change their tune and start singing as those who are the delight of the Lord in a land that is married. But what if the prophet’s vision is beyond our ability to hope? Truth is all the visions of the future are beyond our ability to hope which is why God sings lead and we just sing along.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Baptism of Our Lord - Year C - Conclusion

Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-17,21-22

The Baptism of Our Lord affords us the liturgical opportunity to remember our baptism which is a good thing to do. It’s not like being re-baptized, which we would say is not such a good thing even if you were only sprinkled when you were so young you thought it was just another bath. At least that’s true for Lutherans who believe baptism is about God and not the believer because the baptism comes before the believing. Of course we baptize big people who know what’s going on but like Cornelius in Acts who spoke in tongues before he and his whole household was baptized sometimes with God the cart shows up before the horse. So this Sunday those of us who can’t remember the day we were “saved” will remember that we are baptized which is the same thing. Martin Luther thought that was such a good idea we should do it every morning, like brushing your teeth or washing your face. That’s because I am baptized claims God’s Word through Isaiah, I have called you by name you are mine. I am baptized hears the Voice in the terrifying and terrible as strength and peace. I am baptized claims the promise that like Peter and John in Samaria someone laid hands on us and we were sealed with the Holy Spirit. And finally I am baptized means we are marked with the cross of Christ and forever joined to the crowd of witnesses because being baptized joins us to the death of Christ so that we might share his life. So remember your baptism even if at the time you thought it was just another bath.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Baptism of Our Lord - Year C - Luke 3:15-22

It was a time of expectation, like when the planets line up in a way they haven’t for a long time and won’t ever again in one’s lifetime which of course must mean something. In that kind of time a voice crying in the wilderness attracts attention and even casual conversations end up speculating about cosmic events. Most of the time the time has not lived up to the expectation but this time the expectation couldn’t live up to the time. They expected a Messiah exactly like John, even though he told them he wasn’t him. But with speeches full of fire, with clothes, diet and personal hygiene like the prophets of the past he was a figure to behold. And so the people heard his hell fire brimstone exhortation as good news and in the verses preceding these change their ways to escape the wrath that is to come. No wonder Jesus gets lost in the crowd. He can’t follow that sort of act and unless you were close enough to hear the voice or happened to be looking when the dove landed he would have looked like one of the crowd dipping in the Jordan hoping to come up clean. But if you were listening and looking your expectation would have been met by something you could never have expected. Though the voice declared him the beloved Son he was baptized like one of the crowd. That’s why expectation can never live up to Incarnation which in the end burns our chaff and saves our wheat.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Baptism of Our Lord - Year C - Acts 8:14-17

The Word of God spent some time in Samaria and promised a thirsty woman there would be a day when Samaritans and Jews and all true worshippers would worship God in spirit and in truth. And when He spoke the truth about her she came to believe he was the Truth and the whole village followed suit. As Jesus ascended he told the disciples they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. It took things turning ugly in Jerusalem to get the believers to hit the road and so Philip came to spend some time in a Samaritan city. Through signs and wonders and proclamation the Truth came again to Samaria and the whole city rejoiced and was baptized and the church sent Peter and John to seal the deal. It took truth telling in the first instance and persecution in the second to bring the Word to the Samaritans in a way that led to the gift of the Spirit and maybe that is true for us as well. First the truth about ourselves; we are thirsty for something more but satisfy ourselves with something less until we are parched. And like persecution that scattered the believers we are driven by the knowledge of our need to renounce all that draws us away from God and so be refreshed by the Water of Life, the Spirit of Truth.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Baptism of Our Lord - Year C - Psalm 29

The voice of the Lord is LOUD. Glory! Many people experience God in the beauty of nature; sunsets, mountain tops, misty lakes at dawn and the like. They are generally experienced in solitude and bring a sense of peace and contentment. I’m not sure I would equate the blessing of peace with a voice that strips a forest bare. But the psalmist imagines the glory and splendor of God in the terrible and terrifying. Making Lebanon and Sirion skip like a young bull is just a poetic way of saying earthquake and flashing fire doesn’t need to strike twice to get you diving for cover. This image of a terrible and terrifying God evokes praise not only from nature but from the heavenly beings who know a thing or two about terrifying and maybe that is the point. This voice cannot be ignored or denied and all the forces of the universe are obliged to respond. But for those who belong to the Voice hearing God in the terrible and terrifying means the terrible is less terrifying for God present in the whirlwind and the earthquake is our strength and peace. And when from the cross God cried out with a loud voice even death had to sit up and take notice and admit it was finished. And that is a blessing of peace indeed. Glory!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Baptism of Our Lord - Year C - Isaiah 43:1-7

Isaiah 43:1-7
I was the Spiritual director of a Via de Cristo retreat weekend years ago when Isaiah 43:1 was a prophetic word for me in a way Isaiah could not have envisioned. We have a meal with the staff before the weekend begins and someone had placed table mats with Isaiah 43:1 at each seat. While I was confident the weekend would go well I immediately assumed that it would be a difficult one, as they sometimes are, for I wouldn’t be told to not be afraid unless there was something to be afraid of. And so I was, well I suppose, afraid. As it turned there was nothing to be afraid of and the weekend was as close to perfect as it could be. It may be our nature to turn good news, “the waters shall not overwhelm you,” into bad “Wait a minute. There’s going to be a flood?” but it is not our birthright. We were created by God, redeemed, called by name, to belong to God as precious, honored, and loved. Our human nature would have us measure good news like do not be afraid by our own capacity for courage and that means the good news is diminished even if we really are brave. But when as those who are precious, honored, and loved we measure the good news by God’s capacity to save then the good news really is good.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bonus Track - April 2008 newsletter from my last ankle injury

A few weeks ago I injured the peroneal tendon in my right foot and had to stop running and playing racquetball. To keep in shape and ensure a steady supply of endorphins, I endured the tedium of the stationary bike while my tendon healed. Runners hate stationary bikes because they don’t go anywhere. At least the treadmill makes an effort and if it weren’t bolted to the floor it might actually burn some rubber, but to have to sit and peddle and watch Good Morning America was more than enough motivation to make sure this never happens again. This brings me to the current conflict in my new found fitness life.

As you might remember from a previous newsletter I am now a sports shoe junkie because each sport requires a different shoe to protect you from injuries to things like your peroneal tendon. (Who knew?) So the question is this: Which shoe is to blame for my injury and does this mean I have to go online and buy some new shoes? (Yes, please.)

My ASICS GT-2130s with the IGS (internal guidance system) DuoMax Support System and PHF (Personal Heel Fit) claim that the injury must have happened on the Racquetball court. My Adidas Court Stabil 2’s with the adiPRENE insert providing forefoot propulsion efficiency and protection from harmful impact forces claims it was the downhill run later that same day that caused the injury.

I’m not sure which is to blame, but I believe it is time to get some new shoes. (Oh yes! Yes! YES!) Unfortunately, Lisa, love of my life, says my injury was due to user error and until the user gets smarter and remembers he’s 51 not 15, the shoes shall remain the same.

You have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. Psalm 56:13

The fragrance of Easter Lilies still fills the sanctuary with sweet perfume and one can almost hear the strains of organ and orchestra and voices lifted in praise singing, Jesus Christ is Risen Today! We have heard from many of you that the experience of the Paschal Triduum, The Great Three Days, with the addition of the Easter Vigil (Thanks to Intern Pastor Megan for bringing that to us) culminating in the joyful celebration of death’s defeat by the crucified and risen One, was a life renewing resurrection. For that we praise God.

So now what? How do we extend The Great Three Day movement from death to resurrection in our everyday? I think it is embracing both words spoken to you this Lent as you were marked with the cross, first with ashes on Ash Wednesday – Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return and then with oil on Maundy Thursday You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

“Remember you are dust” acknowledges the reality of our flesh destined to decay and die so that we do not think of ourselves more highly than we ought and presume that we can save ourselves. However without the second statement the first would lead only to despair. That we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ means the destiny of our flesh has been overcome for Christ has indeed delivered us from death and our feet from stumbling that we might walk in the light of new life. Or in other words, Jesus more than makes up for user error.

Christmas 2c - Conclusion

Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:1-18

Josh and I began 2010 at L.A. Fitness when it opened this morning at 8 AM. He went to lift weights and I went to play racquetball. I played a few games, losing badly but gracefully, when suddenly my right ankle decided it was done and refused to play any longer. I wish I could say it was after diving to return a shot or some other insane move but I can’t remember anything that could have caused it. One minute it was fully functional and then it said, “I quit.” In the past I would have just kept playing because I’ve been that stupid in the past, but now I’m older and weaker if not wiser so the rest of me said, “I’m done as well.” Dale and Butch offered no sympathy and said it was just because I was losing but I always lose to them so I ignored their taunting and limped off the court. I’m hoping my ankle ache is only temporary and will be better tomorrow so I can go to boot camp, but the last time this happened the only exercise I could do for a month was the stationary bike and we all know that doesn’t get you anywhere. The texts for Christmas 2c were written to encourage people who were waiting and hoping and praying that the pain and suffering of their present would not be permanent. Jeremiah imagines for those held captive a day of return with rejoicing where the young dance and the old make merry. The psalmist sings in a snowstorm of security and peace and plenty for Israel. Paul and the Ephesians, facing imprisonment and violent persecution, are encouraged by the word of hope. You were chosen before the foundation of the world and destined for an imperishable inheritance for the praise of God’s glory. And in the Gospel the Word upon whom all the promises of God depend shines into the darkness of death itself and is not overcome. Last week we sang of Bethlehem, the hopes and fears of all the years have met in thee tonight. That is not a bad way to enter 2010 for when this Hope meets our fear hope springs eternal – even if for the time being my ankle won’t.