Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Day 2011

The Mousetrap – a play by Agatha Christie – has been running in a London theatre since, well, since this church was founded. Over the years, Herb O’Driscoll tells us, the actors change roles. They come in as ingénue or child actor, mature and take on adult roles, then as they age gradually move to the characters in their middle and later years. Same players, different roles: but all the world’s a stage, and all the people players. Over the years our roles change, and we take on new ones, leaving earlier ones to new people. We change; but the show does –

- Go on.

Thanks, I will.

The show goes on. It is the eternal drama that we are in – the story of the love of God for humankind – and it does not end in tragedy. It is a comedy. It ends in glory – and in joy.

The story began – at the beginning, when Jesus already was, present, as the Word of God, and into the silence spoke “Light” and there was light. It continued through the days of the patriarchs and matriarchs, the prophets, and on down to the days of Joseph and Mary. They raised a son; they called Jesus. And he came to set the people free.

They were oppressed, under Herod, and under Pilate, and under sin even more. He freed them. By his death, his resurrection, and his glorious ascension, he brought home people to their home in God. We take this good news forward with us through time – we are this good news to the people around us – and as we carry the gospel with us we take on roles, to help us give dramatic life to the good-news story, and we pass those roles on to others.

The roles change, the story continues.

There is another show to tell you about – a good one, too. CATS. It was playing on Broadway when I lived in New York. I went to church with a lot of theater people. One of them remarked to me that the producers of that show had decided to start over with a whole new cast. Same show, same roles, different cast. A fresh start, I said, that’s good.

But, he said, a lot of people were counting on that income. They bought houses.

They had counted on things staying the same. But they didn’t. Not any more than things stayed the same for Caiaphas and Annas and the Temple priests and the scribes, and Pilate the procurator of Judea. Things changed, big time. There was a fresh new cast, ready to bring the story to life again – it had gone really, really stale. To be nice about it.

Cast changed, and the story that was told, that had been lost amongst overbearing production values, came to life, once more, in a new and fresh way.

Imagine a traveling troupe of players who toured out of town, three years in the provinces, then at last heading to the capital. Coming into town was a real triumph – a victory parade, premature, but full of life and hope. Then: disaster struck.

The rehearsal dinner, the night before the big opening, ends – badly.

Opening cancelled.

Or – is it?

Three days later the players get a message. The women bring it. They saw him. The player-manager, the one they thought they would never see on stage again, they saw him. And he said, tell them to go ahead of me into the Galilee country.

The real show begins now. That – that was all rehearsal.

Remember what I taught you; remember what you learned. Remember what I showed you, remember what I did – and remember what we did together. You will be doing greater things. For now you must be the good news. Act it out, it’s real. It’s the best story – and the truest – that ever was or shall be.

And whenever you get together, remember me – and proclaim.

Gather, proclaim, celebrate, be transformed, and then go – for I am sending you into the world, to work, to bring life and light and love and leaven, to bring the kingdom of God.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday 2011: God’s plan for our salvation

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus waits with his disciples – Judas, who will betray him, and Peter, who will deny him, are in the scene. Judas brought the soldiers and the police.

In a little while, we will be in a garden again. Jesus will be surrounded by friends, not enemies. Joseph obtains the body; Nicodemus brings spices. They will lay his body to rest in a garden tomb. In between— in between is a long time.

The interrogation by the religious authorities,
the interrogation by the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate,
the public execution at the Place of the Skull, Golgotha, where they crucified him.

It is hard to see a plan for salvation in this: the suffering of Jesus, the servant of God.

Yet it is in this moment of darkness that Jesus triumphs over death.

It is finished. It is complete. It is accomplished.

God has completed his plan of salvation in Jesus at this moment. There is the glory. There is the triumph.

God has turned the world’s violence against itself, has used it to bring about the world’s salvation.

Trampling down death by death, Jesus has achieved his victory.

It is not defeat. It is the end – but it is the beginning of life for us.


A Garden (John 18:1-12)
The Courtyard of the High Priest (18:13-27)
Pilate's Headquarters (18:28-19:16)
The Place of the Skull (19:17-30)
A Garden (19:31-42)


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday 2011

Tonight we celebrate the Last Supper – the Lord’s Supper.

We celebrate the last meal Jesus took with his disciples, on the night before he was betrayed.

Imagine how strange that was – to celebrate Passover – the freedom from bondage of the people of God – knowing that he would himself soon be led as a lamb to the slaughterhouse – and like a sheep dumb before its shearer – knowing that silence was the best course to take – until at last, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

You have said so.

Before that, at the same meal when he blessed the bread and broke it, took the cup and shared it, he welcomed his friends as guests, as a servant would: he washed their feet.

It was a practical act, a gesture of hospitality – and a symbolic act, revealing his priesthood, and the role of the servant of all believers he invites us to share.

We celebrate and remember – thinking, we look after ourselves, and each other – we care – we act like family for each other, both good and bad.

In a spirit of kindness we convey, you matter, you are significant, you are welcome here – not on our own do we say this, we say it in Christ’s love shown for us.

That love is shown us, as an example, that we also should do as he has done – by serving each other and the world.

Tonight he gives us a new commandment – a mandate – hence the word ‘Maundy’ and the action holy – that we listen and heed and carry out his mandate – love one another.

Love one another just in this way: as he has loved us. And what is this way?

What but to come as servants? How we serve the world, how we serve Christ in each other and the world, is how we respond to Christ’s command.

Love one another – for sometimes love is all there is. Hope goes; faith fades; love remains.

When at the end of the meal the table is cleared, the lamp lowered and the candles snuffed, the last of the bread carried away, and the people dispersed, love remains.

Love abides in the Darkness – and soon will kindle new Light.

We leave tonight in solemnity – a procession with the host goes forth; some remain in silent contemplation, remembering – the meal and the man. Remembering his death and giving him glory.

Today I talked with people who know: every day of life is a gift. The gift of light and life and love – from the One who gave All for us – the light of the world, the love of God incarnate – in a human person, who, in these holy mysteries, of bread and wine made for us his body and blood – the One who gave us the gift of life and the promise of eternity – even in his very death. He truly died that we might truly live. Come let us adore him.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Songs that are not Alleluia

We are not ready. There is too much. There is too much going on. There is too much going on here. We are finishing up Lent, managing palm fronds and crosses. We are getting ready for a change of season. And we are trying desperately not to say Alleluia.

Songs that are not Alleluia are required of us today. Close – Hosannas – but not yet Alleluia. So don’t say it – don’t say that word. Not yet.

What sun comes up today is not the sunrise of Easter. It is preliminary, a foretaste of things to come, a hint of what has to happen. For this is the story: that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified, died, and was buried – but it is not the end of the story.

For Jesus it was the end but it was the beginning of new life – for us, for him, for all people. For what he gave to us, in dying, was a place in his kingdom.

In dying he gave us life; he set us free. Like Barabbas we were under condemnation – bound to die. But Jesus stood there and took it. He took on himself our burdens and sins.

Quite how he did it we try to explain – we are full of theories; we call it Atonement. What we know is that through his life and death – his sacrifice of himself – we were made at one with God – reconciled – made right. In ourselves we feel unworthy; we are made worthy in him, through him, and with him to approach the throne of grace.

The throne where we find, seated at the right hand of the father, a friend.

He gave us the dignity of human persons, once lost, now set right before God – and therefore free. No human constraint, no ruler nor principality nor power of this world, can come between us and our God – and the place Jesus won for us and gives us, undeserved free gift, in heaven.

His kingdom is coming, and now is, as we take hold of the awesome fact – God gave his Son that all who believe in him, who trust in him, will find in him, as they dwell in him, everlasting life.

This is redeemed life that begins now – that does not wait – but is already present.

This day of all days as we move from the triumphant procession of the people – waving palms and singing, Hosanna, Son of David, at last he is here, come to set his people free,

This day that continues through plots and scheming, confusion and frustration, betrayal and sorrow, warnings and celebrations,

This day that we come at last to the Cross – and the Tomb;

This day there is too much going on.

How could we be ready? How could we be ready – to open our hearts, to receive the savior, to turn to him who is life?

How could we be ready for what happens?

The one who is our hope, the one who brings us life – must first encounter death – in obedience surrender himself to the guards, endure interrogation and torture, and at the last through wood and nails, suffer execution by the cruel engine of crucifixion.

Only then, after that, through that, not avoiding it is new life won.

It does not look like it now, as the stone is rolled against the tomb, and the soldiers’ guard is set, and the women watch – and wait.

And so we sing songs that are not Alleluia.

Not yet.

[But something new is on the way … Something new is coming: how can we be ready to receive it?]

Lord, you give us life, you give us love, you give us yourself: help us to give our lives, our love, our selves to you; through Jesus Christ who died and rose again for us and who lives with you and the Holy Spirit in everlasting light. Amen.

[Jesus is like Moses in that way: leading the people of Israel, soldiers on their heels, to the edge of the red sea; something held those soldiers back. And in Jesus plunged, passing through the midst of the waters, immersed as in baptism, not going back, not back to the old life of bondage to sin, but through and on to the further shore – and he guides us across the flood tide of life’s fortunes and failings, to our own liberation.]


To Tara Ward I owe the phrase "songs that are not 'Alleluia'" - and I look forward to seeing her use it in a quite different context.


Monday, April 11, 2011

A Thin Place

A long time ago driving down the California coast I found myself looking at a long stretch of sand, rocks, waves, and mountains. And I said: I could look at this all day. A year later I was doing just that – a mile up the hill, at a monastic retreat house. It was an opportunity for rest and renewal, for silence, solitude, and contemplation.

It was there I found a ‘thin place’ – a place where the membrane was perceptibly permeable between the world of sensory input and the world of the Spirit. You could say, I was in a place where I was able to become aware of that thin veil.

The thin place I found there is before an altar – with a great skylight above it pouring down illumination on us as we gathered for Eucharist. And as we sat in meditation, the silence was vibrant.

The air was filtered with light. We could stay there as long as we liked.

At night the space was silent and dark, lit only by an altar lamp and a candle burning by an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

You could sing good-night to her, after Compline. Follow the monks as they singled out, and sing.

At midnight on New Year’s Eve we rang in the new year with the rosary. I built a fire in my cell, in the big patent stove. As the flames roared, old journals seemed ready to burn, old memories ready to become incense.

Something stirred there that was becoming, coming into being more fully, with each moment of prayer.

I go back to that thin place periodically, on retreat. I like to stop on the way and touch bases at other places that speak to me – an old general store with a pot-bellied stove, a rocky outreach into the ocean, and a place of pines and quiet.

But of course we cannot always go back – we never really do go back – but we can visit the sacred again in new places, or old.

One of the most prominent and convenient places to visit the sacred is in the Eucharist. Eucharist is a thin place we make for each other in the intention and the quiet, the prayer and the movement and the stillness, as we come together to hear the Word and remember the gift – and share it, and be still, and know our God is present.

This is the blessing – God is here. God is here.

And we go forth transformed – from thin place and Eucharist. Gradually we learn – the thin place is everywhere. Everywhere the heart is open and God can come. And he will dwell in us; and we in him.

Be peaceful. Be at home. Find the place in your heart where Spirit can breathe, Word can speak, and Creator make new.

Be blessed in the bread and in the stillness. Carry that peace with you – know it is always there, waiting for you. If only behind a veil, God is here.



Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Raising of Lazarus

After the raising of Lazarus Jesus was clearly a dangerous man.

As Bishop Sutton put it, when dead people don’t stay dead the world is unstable. Anything is possible. I may have responsibility to create new possibility.

After Lazarus Jesus is clearly a dangerous man.

But surely he cannot raise himself! The Sanhedrin met late into the night.

What then to do about Jesus of Nazareth?

He is calling us to repent – to change the direction in which we search for happiness.

We may be comfortable with the rulers of the world. We may have worked hard for an accommodation. This will make it impossible to continue!

Caiaphas said unto them, Ye know nothing at all. Do you not see that it is expedient that one man die for the nation rather than the whole nation should perish?

These were priestly words, prophetic words. Soon enough they were to be proved true, just not in the way Caiaphas had meant them. The Temple would be torn down, and all would be swept away of the Sanhedrin and its rule. And someday, Rome too would go.

They were faced with a problem. And they began to see their way to a total solution.

Others since have faced the dilemma of death and resurrection. Over the years of the war and even in the decades preceding it, a pastor in Nazi Germany struggled with the question. What should I do – what should we do – what should the church become – in the face of massive, industrial, institutional evil?

He thought resistance would be enough – nonviolence would be enough. He organized a community, along the lines of an Anglican monastery or (more fancifully) Gandhi’s ashram – a community of believers whose life together was a beacon of peace and a training ground for the future church. But that future would not be a future in which his church could fit. Not as it was. He came to see that. And so – he accepted the change.

What happens?

The raising of Lazarus prefigures the death and resurrection of Christ. It is a sign that points to the working of God’s power in the world. The miracles of Jesus, these wonders he works in the world, are signs pointing to God’s promise of eternal life realized now. Not far away or long, long ago but here and now, among us: God is with us. Eternal life – everlasting life – begins. A new order of the ages now begins – with us. Today, if you like – and yesterday and today and for ever.

That is because repentance, turning toward Christ, a change in direction as we seek for happiness, is to be raised up with Christ – not just once, one day, in a lifetime, but every day, every hour, every minute, every decade. Each moment can be a moment of decision, of discernment. What is God’s call for me now? In this how am I called to be a Christian? How are we called to be Church? How are we called to be the people of God here, now?

Repentance – the essence of Lent, the pre-requisite for reconciliation, the stuff of new birth – means re-orienting from the world darkness to the light of the world, to Christ.

It happens every day. Are we part of it? That is our call and our challenge.

Let’s hear a bit more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a young man, a pastor, teacher, and theologian, when the National Socialist Party took power in his native country, his beloved Germany. He gave a speech on Radio Berlin the day after Hitler became Reichschancellor, to remind the Führer – the Leader – that his power was relational, contingent, limited. For some reason the broadcast was cut off. 

And eventually he came to a strange decision – that loyalty to Germany and loyalty to God required of him a profound disloyalty to the state, as then constituted. Bonhoeffer joined a conspiracy to prepare for the end of the Nazi regime - and to work for that goal. They even were involved - somewhat tangentially - in an elaborate plot to kill Hitler.

It was a difficult and controversial choice to make - one we still wonder about.

No other loyalty finally mattered before allegiance to God and all other loyalties were questioned in light of the Gospel.

For to live is Christ: to die is gain. What does that require?

What is required of you, O Mortal, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? 

To do justice to the God-news calling – but how?

Each of us in each part of our lives, and all of us in our life together, face this question.

What happened to Lazarus was a prefigurement, a foretaste, of what was to come. It was a sign of what was about to happen. It did not in itself change the world. What it did was point to what was really significant - the God-action in the world fulfilling his promise.

What was about to happen would change everything forever.

The life-giving action of God calls forth faith, in Mary and Martha, in the disciples, in us.

What was about to happen was the light of the world shining brightly - the glory of God being revealed - the life source of love pouring itself out for the redemption of the world - that all who believe in him should not die for ever but should have everlasting life.

I AM the resurrection and the life - do you believe this?

Yes, Lord, she said, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, who will carry all things to completion in the last day.

That day is here. That time is now.

And she came, and saw, and believed.

At the tomb of Lazarus death was denied for a time.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer received a sentence of death - and an offer to escape. But he realized that, take it or not, that offer was only a reprieve. Death would be denied for a time. For death to be defeated would require something more. Something essential would be torn away, would be lost forever, would be changed completely. And not by his doing either.

It would be the Cross - the Cross of Christ - carried and borne and suffered on Calvary - that would redeem and save the world - and in that death, that tomb, death defeated forever.

How are we to deny the one who died for us? How are we to accept his gift of life for us?

We are to receive, in this moment of decision, a change - a chance for life to begin anew - and it will require of us not less than everything, as God gave us not less than everything.

Those were heroic times, dangerous times. The times of Nazi Germany, the time of Jesus. But what about us? What about our time, our lives? How shall we now live?

We may seek what is expedient, convenient, useful - as Caiaphas did - we may seek a partial solution, a temporary fix - or we may seek the kingdom of God. What does it mean to us as a church to follow Jesus? To be open to change, in our lives, our hearts, our actions, our behaviors? What we give up and what we gain, by accepting Christ as Lord?

It may mean some simple things - some day to day things - for the decision to follow Jesus is one that happens any moment. It may mean discernment - choosing life - in little ways. It may mean a new attitude toward what we possess, hold dear, cling to - for life.

We may be clinging to something we need to release, let go of, in our search for Christ. Favorite behaviors, activities, choices, preferences, - little things, loved things, favorites - may gladly go by the wayside. This can happen when we follow Christ to life, for life.

For life to begin anew in our hearts may mean every thing, little or big, seems reoriented, redirected, as we change the direction in which we search for happiness: as we repent.

Repent and turn to the Lord. That is the prophets’ call to us. That is the Savior’s gift. That is the invitation of the Holy Spirit. That is redemption, and the new beginning of life.

Together we seek that new life in the name of Christ. It is not easy, it is not ‘safe’ - not in the world’s way of safety, not a contingent, part-time kind of security, but a full, forever, and total gift. The one who gave us life, the one who redeems our lives, is the one who is with us in our lives, coming with us as we journey through the wilderness of this world to the ultimate home, where we become most truly ourselves, as we live into his kingdom.

May we live in Christ, and may Jesus live in our hearts, forever.

In the name of God, source of all being, Eternal Word, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


The Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, remarks at clergy conference, Alderbrook, Union, WA: Tuesday 5 April 2011.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Beginning of Life

The Beginning of Life: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945)

“Hitler executed almost five thousand people after the failure of Operation Valkyrie, the July 20, 1944, assassination plot led by Claus von Stauffenberg.” (The New Yorker, March 14, 2011, p. 71)

Among them was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a gentle, patient, pious martyr to his faith. What set him apart among his fellow prisoners was his continued good cheer and faithful patience, his ongoing witness to the truth and love of Christ, and his willingness to serve.

In his last known words, he sent a message: “This is the end – for me, the beginning of life.”

At that moment of so frequent desperation he claimed for himself the promise of eternity, the hope of the resurrection. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Even in the extremity of his last days he was calm, a prayerful pastor with a peaceful voice. That voice had not always been peaceable: he had called on his fellow Christians to live the truth of the Gospel even when it required of them the sacrifice of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

His sacrifices included his own ideal of pacifism – for he had come to believe it was necessary for some, in that extreme crisis, to give up even that integrity of morals, for the sake of those who would be saved – and so he joined the conspirators who plotted to kill the Führer (Leader) of their own nation.

In Life Together (1939) he asked what it meant to be called into life together under the Word – the word that was in the beginning, the word that was with God, the word that is divine: Jesus, in other words. How do we live under him, under his mercy, his grace, and his sovereignty?

How do we live our lives individually, communally, socially, and globally, under that word? And what can we do, practically, to live as Jesus’ people?

Who is Christ for us today? How are we to live, now, knowing of the infinite mercy of God? Can we give up everything but life in God?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a teacher and pastor. Most of his life, except for brief sojourns in Barcelona, New York, London, he spent – spent fully – in his native Germany. He grew up in a gentle, aristocratic world, but as he reached full adulthood the political landscape in his home country changed. One would be tempted to say it changed unrecognizably – except that Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others came to see in it the face of evil. So they sought more fervently for the face of Christ.

They found it in service – and they found it in each other. Some of them found it, briefly, in the extraordinary gift of community.

In the Confessing Church seminary he led at Finkenwalde, Bonhoeffer gathered a group of dedicated young men, who prepared together, through prayer and study, for service to a beleaguered world. (Life Together was a product of that experiment in intentional community.) It was a seminary ‘on the run’. As it had to be, the seminary community was both settled into place and ready to move – the seminarian was monk and pilgrim at once.

The government shut it down in one place and it popped up in another, for awhile. (My friend and seminary neighbor Beni Witbooi taught in a similarly nomadic – and prophetic – school of theology under the apartheid regime in South Africa.)

Being a people of God on the move essentially is not a new idea.

Look at Moses, who led the children of Israel out of Egypt. A fugitive from Pharaoh, he fetched up at a well in Midian, became a shepherd, learned to find pathways and waterholes in the wilderness, and then returned to the place of danger to lead his people to a life of freedom. He went to the mountaintop and he saw the Promised Land. He did not get there with them, but he saw where it awaited them.

So it was for Bonhoeffer; so it is for many. We may be blessed to see the whole journey, the soul’s progress from exile to freedom; we may only see a part. But we know in Christ’s mercy that the Liberator, the Shepherd good and true, will at last and always, as he already has, break through the bonds of sin and lead us to grace.

May we, whatever we do together to live under that Word which is love and light and life, act in the name of Christ and dwell in the security of knowing we are know by him whose name is above all other names and who calls each of us by our true names into our true identity: Beloved, children of God.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

The Lessons Appointed for Use on April 9, the Feast of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theologian and Martyr, 1945: Proverbs 3:1-7, Psalm 119:89-96, Matthew 13:47-52

The Collect

Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life, you gave grace to your servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and to teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him; Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may receive your word and embrace its call with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


For the Gospel Grapevine (April 2011), parish newsletter of St Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash.


most pure water

Thy word is 'a fountain of most pure water springing up unto everlasting life.' (Myles Smith, preface, King James Bible)

Spring up in me, O Jesus; that I may know you by your word, and by your work in me reveal your glory to the world.


giving up over-scheduling for Lent

What I seem to have given up for Lent is over-scheduling ... with the parish treasurer, the head of Episcopal Church Women, the parish lectionary study group, et alia, weighing in with encouragement.

We had a different kind of Lenten program this year - with lay leadership.

On Sunday mornings we have an able teacher leading group discussion based on Exodus - and "Forward to Freedom", David Adam's meditations on the 40 days (and 40 years) of the journey from bondage to freedom, exile to promise, despair to hope, sorrow to joy.

And on Wednesday evenings we have musicians and a monastic leading us in prayer a la Taizé ... following a simple soup supper potluck we gather in the church sanctuary for a candle-lit icon-rich half-hour with songs, prayers, scriptures, and silence.

What we have given up is "Too Much Information" - with cognitive overload spilling down to us from internet, cable, tube, and paper sources.... it was time to give it a rest.

And rest in silence.

And sacred space.

And ... maybe have some lasting results. Give up over-scheduling for Easter? Pentecost? ... and taking on some new discipline of silence and prayer ...


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Easter Letter 2011

He is not here;
for he has been raised.
- Matthew 28:6

The women had some terrific news — awe inspiring, terrifying, wonderful, splendid, exceedingly good news.

“So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” (Matthew 28.8)

They ran with it - fear and awe and joy mixed in their faces. And they went to the disciples, the followers of Jesus, to give them the best news they could ever hear:

‘He has been raised from the dead!’

Alive! The one they followed, the one they loved, the one they had mourned and lost - Jesus, who was crucified, Jesus, who had died, Jesus, the one in whom all their hopes had been laid to rest - he was alive.

How could this be? Something that shook the world had happened.

God had triumphed over death. Through the very death of the one they called the Messiah, the Christ, death had been conquered.

How could this be? What does it mean for us?

That is the end of the beginning of the story — the story that begins, oh, long before Christmas, the story that carries through the life of Jesus, and through the dramatic events of Holy Week.

It is the story of the love of God for humankind, and of our response, and our call to be with God as the people of God. It is the story of the joy of life – the invitation to life in abundance, in Christ.

It is the story that continues today…

Come share with us in this celebration. Come explore the good news – and its meaning for us.

Come join with us in the great events and celebrations of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter.

Come be welcomed — and welcome others — into the joyful abundant life we share in Christ.

For St. Alban’s people, faithfully yours,

Fr. John

The Rev. John Leech
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
21405 82nd Place West
Edmonds, Washington 98026


Sunday, April 3, 2011

the man born blind

Jesus spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

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

In the name of God, Father, source of all being, Son, eternal Word, and holy Spirit.

What would it be like to be blind from birth? What would it be like to know you would never know the world as others knew it?

What you knew was what you could touch and smell and taste, the feel of wind on your face or rain or sun, the smell of sweat or dung or sweet clover, the taste of - infamy. For many thought that the sins of his parents had been punished by his affliction.

Jesus would have none of it.

Jesus spit. Jesus spit in the dirt.

And he made mud. He made soil - clay - earth. Out of the dust he fashioned something new that had never been in the world.

As in Genesis when God formed a man out of the dust of the earth now something new was being created.

This man - this one - was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.

God will be glorified in this: the action that Jesus takes now.

Jesus took the mud he had made from earth and spit and smeared it across the eyes of the man born blind. Hold still.

And he told him, now go - and wash in the pool of Siloam. So the man went and washed - and he came back, seeing.

He did not see Jesus.

He saw his neighbors - who could not believe their eyes. Is it him? Sure it is. No it cannot be.

So they called in the experts.

The Pharisees.

And these Pharisees were more concerned with keeping the sabbath than with the giving of sight to the blind.

Not restoring sight, mind - giving it for the first time.

But he made something - mud - on the Sabbath. That's work! He broke the Sabbath. A ha!

What do you say about him? You are the one he made to see.

He is a prophet of God.

Get his parents.

Yes, he is our son - but how it is he can now see we do not know.

They did not want to be ostracized - shunned - thrown out of the synagogue.

And so they stuck to what they knew - only what they knew - and did not stick their necks out. Not even for their own son.

Okay, come clean with us. How did this happen? They confronted the man.

Come clean now. Tell the truth. Give glory to God.

You know he's a sinner -

- I don't know that.

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

What did he do? How did he do it?

He is getting a little tired of this. Why do you keep asking me these questions? Do you want to become his followers?

Now that was a little - cocky?

They dismiss him: you were born entirely in sin!

And they throw him out - out of the synagogue, out of the community.

At this point he has nothing left - nothing left of his old life. Neighbors, parents, community - all gone.

One person is left - if he knew where he was. But he has only heard his voice. He has never seen him.

Jesus seeks him out - and finds him.

Do you believe in the Son of Man?

Who is he? Tell me, that I may believe.

The one who is speaking to you now - the one you have seen already - he is the one.

Lord, I believe.

The man called Jesus, the prophet, a man sent from God, is now before him: and he knows who he is.

It is the Lord.

And he worshiped him.

His old life is gone.

His new life has begun.

Jesus explains what has happened. First he says that he has, through his actions and his being, brought judgment to the world.

Those who do not see may see; those who do see may become blind.

It certainly seems so; for the man born blind sees who Jesus is - and the experts miss it entirely. In fact they reject the truth.

And it is there before their eyes. It is Jesus.

Jesus goes on to explain:

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. They hear my voice and they follow me.

Come follow me.


What shall we do with this invitation? We have watched as one man, born blind, lived into full recognition of the one he was dealing with. At first only a voice and a healing touch - he heard it was 'the man called Jesus' - soon his own bearing witness bears fruit in continuing recognition and growth in understanding.

He is a prophet. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.

Who is the Son of Man that I may believe in him? Lord, I believe. And he worshiped him.

We have seen this progression - and the falling away of all earthly supports as the man turned and worshipped the one who had sought him out and given him sight, sought him out again, and given him - insight, salvation, life.

In him was light and life and love - from the foundation of the world to its fulfillment, this is the one who gives those things.

And he stood before him, and then worshiped him.

What are we to do?

How are we 'born blind'?

It is not an affliction to punish us for our sins or those of our parents - so don't beat yourself up - but it is an occasion for God to reveal his glory.

What is it that we are not seeing? Is there something we are sensing, or hearing about? Is there someone seeking us out?

How shall we be ready? And do we want it?

Open our eyes, that we may see - and seeing, believe;
and believing, worship - and worshiping, follow.

Give glory to God - tell the truth. Come clean. He is the savior of the world.

And he is the good shepherd. The one who calls out to us by name, who knows us - and we know him.

And he calls us forth -

- where are we to go, if not to follow him?

Who is going to feed us, if not him? Who protect us, if not him?

Who lead us to shelter? Who provide for all our needs?

But the Lord is our shepherd.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd *
therefore can I lack nothing.
He shall feed me in a green pasture *
and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
He shall convert my soul *
and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness, for his Name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death , I will fear no evil *
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.
Thou shalt prepare a table before me against them that trouble me *
thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full.
But thy loving-kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life *
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

[Book of Common Prayer, 1662]


Lord, open our eyes to your presence,
open our ears to your call,
open our hearts to your love;
that we might give ourselves to you
and walk before you as children of light;
through him who is the Light of the World,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[David Adam, Clouds and Glory (SPCK, 2000) p. 51.]

Thy word is 'a fountain of most pure water springing up unto everlasting life.' (Myles Smith, preface, King James Bible)

Spring up in me, O Jesus; that I may know you by your word, and by your work in me reveal your glory to the world.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

prayer for today

May God who gives grace to us
give us grace to give others

may God who is merciful to us and kind
bring kindness and generosity into our lives
that we may share the abundant love
of Christ with those around us

May we, seeking to do your will,
find it in serving you; in seeking
you to serve you; & find you in the
face of others, friend and stranger

May we, serving you in
others, find ourselves at home; and
find our home in you.