Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sermon, Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday never ceases to amaze me.  We, disciples all, gather for a simple meal together.  In one sense this is yet another potluck in a long line of potlucks.  But this one always has a different feel to it.  It has the feeling you get when you meet with someone for the very last time.  It has that feeling because it's kind of true.  We've read the script ahead of time and we know how this ends.  We know that, once we part ways, we will never see this person again.  We know what's coming, but we try not to talk of such things, thinking maybe this time will be different.  And it amazes me that even though we know the script, we still come.

After the meal we hear Scripture readings and move into the ceremony of foot washing.  Many people don't like this, and I would ask you to examine why you don't like it.  Is it because you don't want to swallow your pride, humble yourself and wash the feet of a friend or stranger?  Is it because you are overly self-conscious about what St. Paul referred to as a “lesser member” and don't want to publicly expose your feet?  Is it because you don't want to swallow your pride, humble yourself and submit to having another serve you in a very intimate way?  Or maybe it's your way of keeping Jesus at arm's length, insisting that I don't need to fully submit?  It amazes me at how humbling this experience can be.

From there we move into the church for the week's final Communion.  This is the day when this act coincides most closely with the Last Supper.  Bread is taken, blessed, broken and given.  Wine is taken, blessed and given.  The meaning and remembrance of the Passover is given a new meaning through these acts of Jesus.  I am amazed at this, and I am amazed that Jesus is present with us in the bread and wine, making them something more than bread and wine.

After Communion, while the choir recites Psalm 22, the altar is stripped.  Everything that we hold dear as symbols of our faith and symbols of the Eucharist is removed from our sight: candles & crosses, flags & banners, patens & chalices, prayer books & hymnals, linens & veil.  The last of the remaining consecrated bread and wine are consumed and the candle is extinguished.  I am amazed at how easily we remove the presence of God from our lives.

When it's all over, I sit in an empty church that I have helped strip bare; and I am amazed.  I sit in an empty church where all our precious symbols of God have been taken away and none of you made a move to stop us; and I am amazed.  I sit in an empty church and admit that this stripping, this rejection, is what I, what we, wanted; and I am amazed.

I sit in an empty church that I helped strip bare, remembering that I, too, said, “Crucify him!”  I sit in an empty church knowing it was I who rejected and abandoned Jesus.  I sit in an empty church feeling his eyes upon me; and I am amazed.

Even with all that – with the cries to crucify him, with rejecting him, with willingly removing everything about him from my life, with knowing life might be easier without him – there is still a small voice that speaks to me saying, “I did it for you.”  And I am amazed.

As we enter the Triduum, as we move through the drama and playing our part from rejection to crucifixion, death and beyond, how will this night and these events amaze you?

Something awesomely consistent

I was pointed to this youtube video by Honey Maid (the graham cracker people) today by a link over on Slacktivist.  I thought I'd share:

As we move through the Triduum with it's time of rejection, crucifixion and death and toward Easter day, may this video remind you that Love wins.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Muppet Christ, Superstar

A friend sent me an e-mail with this link:

Muppet Christ Superstar cover art

Listen at your own peril and/or amusement.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!

Thou art the King of Is-ra-el, thou Da-vid's roy-al Son,
who in the Lord's Name com-est, the King and Bless-ed One.
All glo-ry, laud, and hon-or to thee, Re-deem-er, King!
to whom the lips of chil-dren made sweet ho-san-nas ring.

. . . Then all the disciples deserted him and fled . . .

Jesus stood before the governor, Pilate.
"Are you the King of the Jews?"
"You say so."

"Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?"
"Crucify him!"
"Why, what evil has he done?"

They led him away to crucify him.
Then Jesus cried with a loud voice and breathed his last.

Who was the guilt-y?  Who brought this up-on thee?  A-las, my
trea-son, Je-sus, hath un-done thee.  'Twas I, Lord Je-sus,
I it was de-nied thee: I cru-ci-fied thee.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Of Holy Week, Quiet Days and House Blessings

Next week is Holy Week, and, like always, it's both busy and wonderful all wrapped up into one.

My schedule includes the obvious (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday x2, Holy Saturday, Easter Vigil and Easter Day) with a reaffirmation of ordination vows thrown in on Wednesday.

My incredibly awesome parish secretary has everything organized and ready to go for the week, so it will be as unstressful as possible.  This being my fourth Holy Week here, we've pretty much got this down now.

I don't preach on Palm Sunday; I let the Passion speak for itself and I allow almost a sermon-length period of silence after the reading for the congregation to sit with it.  That means that I have most of the prior week to work on other sermons and other things.  The number one thing I've been working on is a quiet day to be held in May for our D.O.K. chapter.  I know ... May is a long way off.  But if I get it done now while I actually have some spare office time, it will be a good thing.  I think I finished it.  I'll spend some time mulling it over between now and then, but the bulk of the work is done.

I also have a parishioner who is challenged in a variety of ways but has moved out from his guardians' home into his own apartment.  He would like a house blessing, and that is set for after Easter.  I need to get to work on the liturgy for that.

I need to make a hospital call today for a man who's been diagnosed with cancer, meet with the Usual Suspects about our joint Good Friday service, and carve out time to go visit the majority, if not all, of our shut-ins next week.

And we're off .....

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sermon; Lent 5A; Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:1-45

In last week's sermon I told a brief story about my COM asking me where I experience God.  My answer, if you recall, was in the communal worship of Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist.  There is something important about worshiping in community.  I find it both comforting and challenging at the same time.  For me, this is the best place to worship God, and it is the place from where I most often draw spiritual strength and renewal.  And it may be how I have avoided the problem some priests have of not being able to worship when they are “on the clock.”

Another story I want to share with you is about the time Mrs. Ref and I were visiting the campus of SWTS trying to decide if that was where we should spend the next three years of our life.  I remember visiting a few classes, taking a tour of the grounds, touring student housing, meeting with professors, having an “honesty session” where we heard what seminary was really like, and attending worship.  And I remember sitting in the chapel alone and praying.  It was while I was sitting there alone in that holy place where thousands had been before that I was overcome with a strong sense that this was, indeed, where I needed to be.  God was calling me out of where I was into a new place and into a new way of being.  It was a call I heard in my bones and within the core of my very being.

Here's a question for you: Where do you hear God speaking to you?  When you pray, or when you spend time discerning a particular path, where or how do you hear God speak?  Where and how we hear God is important.  It's important because God often challenges us to move beyond what we “know” is right to a place where we feel something is right deep within us.  God will challenge conventional wisdom or teachings we have heard all our lives and steadily move us, sometimes kicking and screaming, to a place where God can work best through us to proclaim the Good News.

This is that still small voice that isn't heard as much as it is felt.  Or maybe it's the feeling of being thunderstruck.  Or maybe it's being smacked with the holy 2x4 like Saul.  God didn't speak to Saul with a well-reasoned argument – God affected his entire being to the point where he knew in his bones that his persecution of those who were different went against God's will.  And that encounter with God changed Saul's very being.

When God speaks to us, he speaks to our very being.  When God speaks to us in a way that touches our very core, we will be changed.  Oh, we may fight and argue and kick and scream; but deep down, we know in our bones that we are answering God's call.  We are changed.  We will be changed.  We will move into a new way of being.  We experience a resurrection of sorts to a new life.

Today's first lesson is one of the most famous passages in all of Scripture.  It tells of Ezekiel's vision of a valley of dry bones.  The gist of this passage is that it is a prophecy of release from Babylonian captivity and a return to the Jewish homeland.  It's a resurrection prophecy directed to those captured and exported to Babylon.

In today's gospel, we heard another famous resurrection story, the story of Lazarus.  There is a lot going on here, and a lot to question.  Did Jesus let Lazarus die simply to make a point?  Was Lazarus truly resurrected, or was he merely resuscitated?  What is resurrection?

Both of these stories have enough depth to them that they could keep the adult ed group busy for a long time.  But for today, there's only one thing I want to focus on.

In both stories, the valley of dry bones and the raising of Lazarus, the people who were raised are definitively, and without a doubt, dead.  It's possible that the valley was an actual battle site between Israel and Babylon where thousands of soldiers lost their lives.  But whether an actual battlefield or just part of Ezekiel's imagery, the bones described were dry; and dry bones are long dead bones.

Lazarus also was definitively dead.  He had been dead four days.  In something I recently read, it was stated that in Jewish thought three days was required to certify a body dead, and it took four days for the person's soul to officially cross over to the realm of the dead – or something along those lines.  The point that John is making here is that after four days, unlike Westly, Lazarus was not mostly dead but all dead.

Say to these bones: Hear the word of the LORD.
He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

How does a valley of dry bones and a four-day old dead man hear anyone speaking to them?  The same way we hear God speaking to us: in our bones.  We hear God speaking to the very core of our being.  It is a voice that isn't heard so much as it is felt.  It is a voice that has the power to change us.  It is a voice that challenges us into a new way of being.  It is a voice that will compel us to move from death to life.

As we approach the last days of Lent and begin to look forward to Easter, how and where do we hear God speaking to us?  As we pray, are we listening with our ears or in our bones?

Because it just may be that God's call to new life, to a new way of being, to resurrection, can't be heard with our ears but is instead felt deep in our bones.


Thursday, April 03, 2014


Noah, the movie, is getting some big press lately; not the least of which is the expected gnashing of teeth from the right wing christianistas about how it's not true or faithful to the story as told in the Bible.

I was reading an article about it on Religion Dispatches and came across this:

Glenn Beck, for instance, notes that “the biggest problem for me was Noah himself… I always thought of Noah as more of a nice, gentle guy, prophet of God.”

"A nice, gentle guy, prophet of God"??  Really?  This quote from Glenn Beck, probably more than anything else he's said, should be proof that Glenn hasn't actually read the Bible.  A nice, gentle prophet of God?  I'm not sure there is such a thing.

I've pretty much come to the conclusion that if the right wing christinistas are screaming about how awful and unfaithful something a movie is, then it's probably worthwhile seeing.