Sunday, March 23, 2008

"If it's true..."

Jesus Christ our Savior, you have delivered us from sin and death. You have brought with the dawn of this day a new beginning and an empty tomb; grant us strength and humility, love and courage, hospitality and faithfulness, wisdom and compassion, mercy and grace, to enter into life, and to welcome into the new life in Christ the stranger we meet who becomes our brother, the foreigner who becomes our kinsman, the enemy who becomes our friend, the opponent who becomes our teacher, the sorrowful who becomes a well-spring of joy: all the fruits of the Spirit we anticipate may we receive with abundance of grace, through your transforming love. Amen.

If the Resurrection is true, Jesus is true: he is indeed the Son of God, the Savior, the one in whom the fullness of God is pleased to dwell, our best hope of seeing the mind of God and therefore the meaning of the universe; and to know him is to have a relationship with him, not an intellectual proposition to demand our assent, but a living Lord to call for our obedience.

If it’s true that Christ is risen, evil has been vanquished. No longer can the powers of this world – Pilate, Temple guard, the coterie of power brokers – none of them hold sway after all. The real power is in God’s hands, the hands of a Savior.

If it’s true that Christ is risen, the gates of death have been shattered, torn from their hinges – he has walked freely through them. Beyond death there is life, new life in Christ. Baptism, the immersion into the waters of mortality and re-emergence into life, shows us that as we die to sin, we are raised to new life in Him.

If Christ is raised, life means something beyond itself. Our petty purposes and grand schemes, the bumps and slingshot wounds of daily life, the deep disappointments of tragic news and wearing sorrow, come around the compass to a new bearing: the compass-needle of our lives now points beyond ourselves; our true direction is found in Christ.

If it is true that Christ is risen, then Jesus is alive – now. You can get to know him – in the breaking of the bread, the sharing of the cup, the anointing, baptism, prayers and peace; you can get to know him through friend and stranger: his image is all around you.

If it is true that Christ is risen, he is offering us a friendship of transformative power: both stern teacher and careful shepherd, he guides us through the painful metamorphosis of our lives into a new life of sacramental meaning and purpose.

If Christ is risen indeed, then we are right to believe in LIFE against DEATH, a revelation of life that is the opposite of the obsessive vision of death and violence so often purveyed in our worldly world, as if it were the end of the story.

If Christ is risen, then the limits are off. If Christ is risen indeed, LIFE is possible – we can do anything through the One who strengthens us.

If Christ is risen, the life of the world – politics, science, art and music, all of it – matters; it is redeemed, it is transformed, it has value and purpose and honor because God has given life value and purpose and honor through the resurrection of his Son.

If it’s true that Christ is risen, then justice is a given. It is going to happen. And how can we do less than work for justice, when God has given his own Son that we might be free?

For by raising his Son from the dead, God has given all of us new life. God sent his Son into the world – bringing his justice indeed – not to bring it condemnation but to redeem it, not to render it meaningless but to give it meaning. For God gave his Son so that who ever put his trust in Him would not perish – would not be sent down to death and shadow – but would be brought into the light and life and love and laughter and joy of the day that dawns today, the new life in Christ that we celebrate on Easter morning. Death no longer can claim the last word; beyond death is the triumph of the Son of the living God: life everlasting, flowing as a river, in the presence of the Son of the living God.

And we are called to enter the new life in Christ now, today, as we speak, on Easter morning: Christ is alive!

And this present moment is the moment of freedom: we define ourselves as we choose life; we define ourselves as his people, children of the day. We live no longer in darkness, no longer subject to the powers of sin, but in the full light and joy of the Day of the Lord.

This is the Day that the Lord has made – the day when behold! He has made all things new – let us enter into that new day, and the work and the play and the love and the laughter, the burden of sorrow shifted onto the broad shoulders that carried the Cross, the joy of his emerging Kingdom present & effervescent in our hearts and in our lives – this is the Lord’s Day; indeed He is risen: Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Amen.


Easter Day
Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 31:1-6
Psalm: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
New Testament Reading: Acts 10:34-43
Gospel: Matthew 28:1-10

A New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 592-3
John Pritchard, Living Easter Through the Year (SPCK, 2005) p. 33-36.


Friday, March 21, 2008

And yet....

We have come by a long road, you and I, my friends. From Cana in Galilee, where we celebrated at the wedding-feast together – remember, “You have saved the best wine for last”. From Cana where we saw the Savior work a miracle – turning water into wine, showing all the wedding-guests that he was like a bridegroom himself and that until some consummation unforeseen by us he would be with us like a bridegroom and we should party like a bridegroom’s friends. As if he himself were the source of love and laughter.

And so we began a jolly company, and made our way along the road as happy as the merry men of Sherwood or the knights adventuring from Camelot. Would we be legends too? The thought crept into more than one head.

But then we saw stranger things. There was the woman at the well, in Samaria, and Jesus was there with her. We had gone into town and forgotten all about him – and here he was talking to this outcast. And he promised her something beyond belief. There at Jacob’s Well he said he had something better to offer, better than that old still water of the well, from which she drew (in mid-day, no less, so no one else was about her as she drew up the bucket): he offered living water, running water, flowing water – and he offered it as if he were its source. As if he were the source of life itself.

Then there was the man born blind, to whom he gave sight – as if he were the source of light itself.

And then he came to Bethany – despite our pleadings he walked into almost certain capture, to see one last time his old friend Lazarus. By the time we got there though Lazarus was a stinking corpse. There was no point in staying there any longer. If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died. Both sisters said that. And then Jesus said, “Lazarus, come forth.” And the dead man walking, bond as he was by his grave clothes, came out and was alive again.

And there we were, with Jesus, just a man no longer – now appearing to us as the source of life and light, of love and laughter. We knew now he was Christ, the anointed one, the Messiah. He was the king of Israel, and its hope. He was our deliverer, our savior: the liberator that God had promised to his people.

He was more than that, to us. He had led us all this way. He was our teacher, and our leader, and our friend. We had journeyed a long way together, and taken the long road. He set his face toward the city, and we traveled with him.

We came at last to Jerusalem.

It was all over. We had a good week, at the start: an excellent week. There was the procession of the palms, the days in the Temple – do you remember the whip of cords, the overturning of the tables? – and the nights outside town, together. There was the anticipation of the Passover, and the invitation to the feast. Then there was a strange incident at dinner. What you have to do, go on and do it. Jesus said that to Judas. What did that mean? We wondered. And then we went into the garden at Gethsemane, and Peter and James and John went apart a little ways with Jesus, and then he went on alone. And then the soldiers came, and we knew what Judas had been up to. But it was too late.

And we ran for it. Peter tried to stop them – for a while. Then he too fell back.

And they took away our master.

We followed, some of us, at a distance. Peter even got into the high priest’s courtyard – by lying.

The women among us were not so obvious about it, and somehow they managed to stay alongside Jesus as he was led to his death. They followed him up the hill, and he spoke to them: “Do not weep for me, daughters of Jerusalem. Weep for yourselves, and for your children.” What was coming – what, that could be worse than what was happening before their eyes?

For the soldiers took Jesus, and handed him over to the executioners, and they nailed him right onto the cross. And he was raised up – and then he died.

It was a quiet afternoon. We hid out, did ordinary things, or kept to ourselves. And wept.

He was gone. The one who had been our teacher, our most beloved teacher, our master, Rabbouni, and more than that, our friend. For he had made us his friends, on that last night if no other, when he got up from washing our feet and came back to the table and ate with us, and reminded us that – that some day he would not be with us when we gathered but he would be there in the midst of us nevertheless, if we remembered him whenever we came together.

And so we promised we would. Little knowing. The moment would be soon.

And now he was gone. Our hope – and not ours only, Israel’s: and not only that, the hope of the world. That hope was gone now; Pilate and the Temple rats had won.

I think.

I know.

I feel it.

And yet…

Good Friday 2008

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 22
Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42

May I speak in the Name of the Son, in the Power of the Holy Spirit, to the Glory of God the Father. AMEN.

Thanks to Steve Moore, Herb O’Driscoll & Esther Davis for good ideas.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

a simple act of service

First let me acknowledge that none of what I am about to tell you is original. I owe it all to three of my brothers in Christ, Paul, Stan, and Jerry.

Jerry was the bishop who saw me through from my first tentative expression of a desire to serve as a priest, to my ordination to the diaconate, my ordination to the priesthood, and most importantly to my marriage with Sarah. He showed me how to serve, and to aspire to be the servant of many. So, thanks to Jerry.

Stan I last saw at his wedding, in the Mount Hermon chapel at a summer camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where he served as leader of outdoor education programs. When I first met him, he was organizing a Sierra Club chapter at our high school, and getting us together to celebrate Earth Day, April 22, 1970. He showed me the importance of Christian faith in the stewardship of the earth and showed ways to be of service there. So, thanks to Stan.

Paul – whom I will speak about for a bit longer than I did of the others – I last saw when I was a seminarian at St. Anselm’s, Lafayette, California, where he belonged. And when I realized who he was, I told him two stories – about himself. Which I will tell you now, he shrugged off – but which were great teaching moments for me. I had seen him first on New Year’s Eve 1968 when he was regional administrator of the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration (FWPCA) in the San Francisco area; he’d pulled together a conference that brought into one room people from all sides concerned with conservation of natural resources, and, a new word – ecology. There they were polluters and protesters alike – complete with jerks from the home office and guerilla theater acts. There was room for all of us under that one roof, and we got a chance to talk, and to learn. (I was a Boy Scout – so conservation was the word that got me in the room.)

I met Paul again – after high school and before seminary – when I was working for a summer in a U.S. civil service job, as file boy for the EPA office in San Francisco.

One day at the end of summer there was an unusual amount of activity among my senior clerks & typists: it was the end of the fiscal year and so the deadlines for getting out some grant letters.

They were all working feverishly against the deadline, as was the head of our division and her assistant. The middle managers all left at 5 – leaving the clerical staff and the senior managers to finish the job by midnight, when a postal clerk would meet us outside the post office to take our mail in just before the deadline.

We worked away, typing and photocopying, and addressing and labeling, into the hours of the evening – until all the copy machines on the floor gave up the ghost.

I know what to do! someone said. We can use the big machine in the copy room downstairs.

Usually it had a team of operators running it full time, but they had gone home, at 5, too. And the door was now locked.

I know what to do! someone said. We can break in through the regional administrator’s office next door.

And so they went downstairs –

-- and the door was open, and the light was on, and there, working late, was the head of the whole agency for the Western United States. The big boss. Paul.

What’s going on? He found out – and got up from behind his desk and ran the copy machine himself until the work was all done and the letters were in the mail and the deadline was met.

I told him, when I saw him those years later in Lafayette, that he had set an example of leadership for me, twice. Gathering the people together under one roof, so they could talk to each other. And getting in there and doing what needed to be done, setting an example and pitching in.

Aaaah, he waved it away. No big deal.

But still I think of Paul when I think of servant leadership.

Maybe there is some one you think of, too.

Of course. We turn from these modest examples of service to a story, a dramatic enactment, of true humility.

It had been a pretty good week, so far, for the disciples. They’d seen last Sunday the Romans shown up at their own game – as Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg told us in their book, The Last Week, the imperial progress of Pilate and his soldiers into Jerusalem was easily made ironic by the same-time scene of their Jesus entering the City on a donkey’s colt, saluted with palm branches, his path paved by overcoats.

This is real leadership, they seemed to say: to come not as judge but as savior, to be one of the people not their overlord.

And then he’d shown them up again, taking up a whip of cords and driving the moneychangers from the Temple. All that, and now, a gathering in an upper room, a meal together – a celebration of the passing over of Israel in Egypt and a hope for similar deliverance in the very near future, from Rome.

More than Rome was at stake, however. And the triumph would not be of this world: it would come only at the end of a long hard road that led to a cross – and only then beyond.

Jesus – the Messiah, as they had begun to think of him; Christ, the King of Kings – now we were at table with him; surely now we were in our element.

And then, he shows them what real leadership means: before he even takes the bread to give thanks and break it, before he takes the cup and shares it, he takes upon himself something that would surprise Moses, shepherd as he was, and even Abraham, the host of the angels. He gets up from his place at the table, and takes on the role of a servant. He does what only the lowest slave in the household would ordinarily do: he washes their feet.

They’d come a long way from Galilee, on foot mostly likely, on dusty roads, through crowds and countryside, village and town. This was no mere demonstration – it was real work. And Jesus does it. He washes their feet.

And so before he takes on that deeper humiliation we will recall tomorrow, he did what was ordinary, and uncelebrated: he served. And he still does.

And he invites us to join him, in his service.


Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

May I speak in the Name of the Son,
in the Power of the Holy Spirit,
to the Glory of God the Father. AMEN.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

this is not the end of the story

Palm Sunday 2008

May I speak in the Name of the Son,
in the Power of the Holy Spirit,
to the Glory of God the Father. AMEN.

Today’s gospel lesson, the narrative of the Passion of Christ, is the sacred story at the heart of the Christian community, providing its identity, its basic definition, and its message to the world. It is a continuous narrative: it gives us an rare opportunity, rare for a Sunday reading, to enter fully into the life and times of our Savior, the time and place where our faith, our salvation, and our new life in Christ, began.

And so, more than words of any preacher, we listen today first and most of all to the words of the Gospel. First, in the Liturgy of the Palms, to the story of two processions on Palm Sunday, as they pass into the festival-keeping city of Jerusalem: from one side of town, the pomp and might of Pontius Pilate, from the other, the peasant procession of the man on the donkey.

Second, in the Liturgy of the Passion, we hear the story of the subsequent collision, in the week to come, of those two opposing streams of humanity.

As the Jews of the city of David prepared for Passover, the celebration of their liberation from a previous empire, the Roman governor and his legion arrived – to keep the peace, the Roman peace, the Pax Romana, that would brook no interference, no uprising in Tiananmen Square or Tibet, nothing that would mar the smooth cold surface of its absolute hold on the world.

And so Pontius Pilate entered the city from the western gate, in imperial majesty, robed and armored, ready to show the velvet glove or the iron fist.

Yet across town at the eastern gate, almost in mockery another procession gathered – a much more popular one, and much more humble. Riding on a donkey and on the foal of a donkey, the humblest of vehicles, with palm fronds waved about him – obtained at no cost from the nearest tree, with coats pulled off willing backs to pave the dusty path before him, came a simple peasant sage, a Jewish mystical messiah, a man of the humble people, a friend of the poor, the discarded, the marginal, the enslaved.

This man brought no glove or mailed fist to wave or brandish. He simply showed his hands, hands soon to be marred by another symbol, one of the worst, of the Roman oppression. (The mark of the nails.)

His parade came through the gate opposite to the one used by Rome. It carried into the city the unworldly savior, the king without visible signs of power, who brought with him a message of unworldly power.

He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Soon he would face his last temptation, the temptation to simply leave it all behind, grab that last chance for freedom and head off into the desert away from it all.

It would be easy to do. At the top of the garden of Gethsemane the hill climbed toward the desert – an escape hatch in the back door. In a little bit of hiking he could be out of town crossing the desert toward – No.

He stayed. All the rest would leave. But he alone was left to bear the weight of the tale that we are telling. He was obedient, even unto death.

If you’re thinking of making a break for it, this would be a good time to go.

The projectionist is changing reels; he is about to load the last scene into his machine.

And you know how the movie ends.

You know, don’t you? The hero does not survive. The villains get him. The crowd abandons him. He is left alone. He is left alone, to die. And he does.

That’s the end of the story, isn’t that right?

If you leave now, just before the last reel is loaded into the projector, you might think so. And you might find out that you have missed something.

Because this is not the end of the story, it is only the end of the beginning.

And the story that is just beginning, the new story, the unexpected story, the story that does not end but lasts forever, is the story of the new life that Christ brings to us, in his life, in his death, in – the next scene, the scene beyond dreams, that will dawn upon us in the glory of Easter morning.

Matthew 21:1-11

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Matthew 26:14-27:66

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

The Passover with the Disciples

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

Peter’s Denial Foretold

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

Jesus before the High Priest

Peter’s Denial of Jesus

Jesus Brought before Pilate

The Suicide of Judas

Pilate Questions Jesus

Barabbas or Jesus?

Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

The Crucifixion of Jesus

The Death of Jesus

The Burial of Jesus

Saturday, March 15, 2008

the dream is ended

May I speak in the Name of the Son, in the Power of the Holy Spirit, to the Glory of God the Father. AMEN.

On the last page of the last chapter of his last book for children, C. S. Lewis wrote:

“The dream is ended: this is the morning…” the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures…had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.


This is not the end of the story. It is only the end of the beginning.

The story began, in this earthly realm, 93 years ago. Allison Morrison lived a long and full life, a memorable one, with memories left behind that we can begin to share today, as you meet each other and hear each other’s stories – of Allison getting together with folks on Friday mornings at Pancake Haus, of Rob and Allison anchoring their pew at the 8 o’clock services, of their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This is the part of the story that we know: but the story continues beyond our knowing, as Allison is received where she is known best of all, in the presence of God.

For each of us this life is only the beginning: death is not the end: life, in Christ, goes on into eternity.

We can share in the presence of Christ in this community together, in Eucharist: Allison and all those who have gone before us, share in that communion, too: in the presence of the Lord.

“Our journey,” Archbishop Sentamu has preached, “is towards oneness with God. As we journey, our calling is to make manifest to everyone the compassionate face of God made visible in Jesus Christ.”

We follow Jesus. We follow him to life in the presence of God. Someday like Allison each one of us will see him face to face. When that day comes, may we be like Peter, who, hearing on Easter morning that Jesus was alive, ran to the tomb to greet his risen Lord. In the meantime, may we run or walk, may we journey, as if Jesus were walking beside us – his presence a forgone conclusion.

“Jesus is in fact the presence of God’s truth and God’s life in the world,” Lesslie Newbigin writes, “and to know the Father means to follow the way which Jesus is, and which he has opened” for us, through the veil between this life and the next, “by his living, his dying, and his rising from the dead.”

The presence of God, the forgiveness of God, the grace of God, are all around us and present to us. It is a matter of us becoming present to Him.

Quite often we may feel his absence, as if he were gone. But even at those times he is right beside us, grieving with us in our sorrow and despair.

Sometimes we may forget how he sees us: the Lord sees the person he made and that he loves. He sees each of us in aspiration – in the Spirit – and sees the child of God within us. However distorted that image may seem to be, from time to time, it is there, shining behind the clouds of sin and desire, of folly and disease, and on the day that the Lord greets us, as he now greets Allison, we will shine with the reflected light of God’s glory and his loving greeting to us.

“Come my child, my beloved. Come home to the place I have made for you. Come to the table – and sit at the banquet – and rejoice in the presence and the plenty of God.”

May God in his grace abundantly enfold you, bringing you into his peace. Amen.

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Edmonds, WA
March 15, 2008

Memorial Service for
Allison Morrison (October 11, 1915 – February 15, 2008)

Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33
Psalm 121
Revelation 21:2-7
Psalm 106:1-5
John 14:1-6

(C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, the last chapter, the last page.)

Archbishop of York, “We journey towards oneness with God“, Monday 12 February 2007
Service of commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Janani Luwum at Westminster Abbey, London

(Lesslie Newbigin, The Light Has Come, Eerdmans, 1982, p. 182)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

dry bones

In the name of the God who lives. Amen.

Imagine a deserted wilderness, an ancient battleground: now desolate, picked over, even the scavengers long fled. It is a wasteland, occupied only by old bones of the once living… It could be Stalingrad, Chancellorsville, or a village in Iraq. It is Israel. Once proud, inheritor of David’s realm, conquered by Joshua, the Promised Land: now desert. The Babylonian army has crushed their hopes – they are in Exile, now, by the rivers of Babylon, and their own land lies discarded, bleak.

What could possibly revive their hopes? What, indeed, but the word of God? The word of Life, which brought forth upon the earth bread, the fruit of toil, all the produce of the garden, all that is, all that we have – Life itself. This is the voice that comes to the prophet Ezekiel.

Breathe – breath the breath of God. And prophesy: and the old bones come to life. Israel returns to the Promised Land. And builds anew. The people return; the land begins to recover, to quicken with new life. Laughter can be heard in the streets, once empty, now full of life, and hope, and light. What could revive the people of God – but the Word of God?

Out of the depths I call – this is the cry of the lost, the abandoned; the desperate soul, in a desert of its own: a prison ward, a hospital cell; a place of abandonment. There is nothing to bargain with.

The soul waits, alone – bereft of any hope … but the original hope, the origin of hope, the Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier of souls. Breathe on me, the soul cries. Make me live, take me out of this desolate place. And God responds – lifting me beyond myself, into a scene beyond dreams.

Jesus has left Jerusalem, where it is dangerous. Hot. They’re after him, now. And so he has cooled off, gone across the Jordan to a quiet place.

And then the word comes after him – from that beloved village, that home where he is at home, where Martha and Mary and Lazarus are, tragic news, and desperation: Lazarus is dying.

Dare he risk it? Can he make it to his friend’s side, in time, before the cops come and drag him away?

He waits.

He waits.

It is not for anything less than the glory of God that he has come, and nothing less will bring him forth, to risk it, to go where certain exposure could take him to his own death. But Lazarus is dying.

He goes quietly. Before he can even get to the village, Martha comes out to greet him – and a crowd follows her.

No entrance through the back door, no slipping in and out – this must happen in full view of the people, of the Jews of Jerusalem: the authorities will hear of it.

Where were you? You could have saved him. I will take you to him.

Jesus wept.

And then, he is there. He is with us. And he brings more than consolation, more than revival: he brings the word of Life. He is Life, and Resurrection, and in Him the fullness of God is pleased to dwell.

And he says the word – as simple as, let there be light. He says,

Bring him out.

And they do – and the dead walks. The forgotten man lives, and is restored to his home.

This is the resuscitation of a corpse, not the resurrection of the last day. Lazarus is not the first-born of the dead, but the last and most wonderful and most dangerous Sign Jesus performs before the powers of the world crush him and bring him down to his death, to his own place of desolation (and from which he will rise to God’s glory).

For now the glory of God is restoration – to see hope once abandoned live again, to see a beloved brother restored to his sisters.

Soon enough a greater miracle will come – Jesus will be betrayed to his own death, and beyond it will come… (the unexpected morning, the dawn of Easter.)

Jesus performs this sign, this miracle: and the cost is his life. Now he’s torn it – now they will meet in council to dispose of this problem.

And he knows it – he knows it. And this too will be to the glory of God. Because beyond their planning, beyond their imagining, is a scene unimaginable to the eyes of the world-bound: the vision of plenty, of abundance, life in God’s new world, in his very presence.

For beyond death and even now God is present with us. And beyond this life we are present with him, no longer seeing through a glass darkly, but face to face.

This new life, this eternal life in the presence of God, does not wait for death or the second coming: it begins now, as God is present with us, in the midst of us… as he was in the dark valley, of the shadow of death, as he was with Ezekiel in the valley of bones, as he is with the prisoner and the abandoned and the desolate, ... he was with Jesus and Lazarus at the side of the tomb unwrapping the grave clothes, hurry – hurry! As Martha waits to embrace her brother, all hope abandoned now all disbelief exchanged for joy.

Mary waits; she has seen it. And perhaps she sees beyond, too: to a day when she will see another beloved one emerge from the grave.

He is with her. He is her master. He is ours. And she waits – as we do – for the day beyond Good Friday, the day of the resurrection, the day when all hope will be transformed in the joy of Easter morning.

Be with us now, Lord, in the breaking of the bread. Breathe on it, and us, that you may be present with us and we with you. Even now.

Come, Lord, restore, renew, & revive your people. Amen.



May you find in Christ crucified
a strength in times of darkness,
a support in times of weakness,
and the assurance of eternal life,
and the blessing of God almighty,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, rest upon you now,
and remain always with you. Amen.

(adapted from David Adam, Clouds and Glory)

Lent V Year A
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45
Psalm 130

David Adam, Clouds and Glory: Prayers for the Church Year: Year A (London: SPCK, 2000)

Fred B. Craddock, John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holladay, Gene M. Tucker,
Preaching Through the Christian Year: Year A (Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 1992)

Barbara Crafton, "If Christ Were Here/Hope in the Dry Bones", The Almost Daily eMo, Geranium Farm

Scott M. Lewis, S.J., New Collegeville Bible Commentary: The Gospel According to John and the Johannine Letters (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2005)

Lesslie Newbigin, The Light Has Come: An Exposition of the Fourth Gospel (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1982)

Herbert O'Driscoll, The Word Today: Reflections on the Readings of the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A, Volume 2 (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1999)

Mary Hinkle Shore, Herman C. Waetjen, Richard Eslinger, Melinda A. Quivik, New Proclamation: Year A, 2007-2008: Advent through Holy Week (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

What would it be like to be born blind – and suddenly receive your sight?

What would it be like to be born blind – and suddenly receive your sight?

Would it be like this: like coming into a familiar place and seeing it as for the first time?

Would it be like coming back into health after a long illness?

Would it be like – discovering a new faith & embracing it & then coming home?

How would your family react? What would the neighbors say? The priests & politicians?

This man was blind from birth: and the question posed to Jesus was, which sinned, him or his parents, that this is his condition? It had to be one or the other, right? But Jesus shows them the way out of this false dilemma. Neither one: he has been born blind in order that God’s truth might be revealed in the world. But they still don’t see it. And so, Jesus goes to work: he makes mud, he who made the world, and he takes this primordial ooze and he spreads it across the man’s eyes.

“Go, wash….”

And then the man returns. Not all of them do. But this one does. And he can see. And his family and his neighbors can see that he can see.

Not a very comfortable moment. For him, for them. Can it be that this man had not sinned? That he was not being punished for some ancient fault? Can this be right? Is it a valid miracle if you do something like this?

So they take him to the experts – the Pharisees. The purest of the pure. They deserve sight, surely.

And oh dear – he says something unfortunate. He tells them the truth. What he has experienced: “I once was blind but now I see.”

And just how did that happen? “Jesus put mud on my eyes, then I washed, and now I see.”

And what do you say about him? “He is a prophet.”

This really upsets the apple cart. If sin is not the result of your fault, if sight is not the gift of the privileged few who – somehow – have not sinned, then what is the world coming to?

Grace. It is coming to grace. And truth, and light, and life, in the revelation of God’s glory in Jesus Christ.

Dangerous, dangerous words.

“One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

They cannot believe it; they cannot accept it. And so they drive him out.

Jesus finds him, and asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Do you trust him?

And the man once blind begins his new life in the light of Christ.

“I came into this world,” says Jesus, “for judgment – for a dividing of the truth – so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”

The experts are revealed in their blindness, their willful folly, their failure, their refusal, to see – it is much more comfortable in the dark with your eyes shut. So they pretend.

The man was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent Jesus while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as Jesus is in the world, he is the light of the world.

And he heals us. And then:

Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. This is what’s next.

The apostle Paul tells us what we are to do with this new life, this new light: Live as children of the light.

“Though you once were darkness, now as Christians you are light. Prove yourselves at home in the light, for where light is, there is a harvest of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Learn to judge for yourselves what is pleasing to the Lord; take no part in the barren deeds of darkness, but show them up for what they are. It would be shameful even to mention what is done in secret. But everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light. That is why it is said:
‘Awake, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon you.’” (Eph 5.8-14 REB)

It takes a while to get used to this new sight. It takes a while to get used to this new light. To be restored to wholeness, when we are used to brokenness, and even more to be made a new creation – this is the promise of Christ Jesus. In him we find a new identity, a new community, new selves and relations. This is proud and painful. The man once blind now has a new life to live. Blinking in the sun, he emerges into the morning. It is a new day.

It is the new day of the Lord. The light of the world is shining. This is the day that the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it.


JRL+ 3/2/08

Sources & Resources:

Lent IV, Year A

1 Samuel 16:1-13, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41, Psalm 23

Frederick Niedner, "Living by The Word: Reflections on the Lectionary", The Christian Century, February 26, 2008, Vol. 125, No. 4, p. 20-21.

Barbara Crafton, "The Almost Daily eMo: AN ASTONISHING THING. FUNNY, TOO. / STILL HEALING THE BLIND", March 1, 2008, The Geranium Farm,