I am intrigued by the Emmaus road story. It’s full of all kinds of potential. So I had the brilliant idea to google “walking down the road” for lyrics as a place to begin, plenty of choices, none particularly good starting place; so I tried “walking down the street” more opportunities, no better starting points. So I’m going back to stumble forward.

Last Sunday’s Gospel was another Gospel lesson from John, what’s that 4 of the last 5, in a year of Matthew? Oh well.  When you peel away all the doubting stuff, you find a journey story, as the disciples move from unbelief to belief, and later Thomas moves from unbelief to belief. In effect it’s a road trip story. Sunday’s Gospel from Luke (are ever going to get to Matthew?) is also a road trip story, a journey down the road, also a journey from unbelief to belief.

In years past I’ve focused on Jesus being made known in the breaking of the bread, and the importance that has for Eucharist centered churches. A part of that story is the intimacy of the table and potential such intimacy imbues.  This morning I am draw to a similar potential imbued by intimacy unique to long journeys.

On several occasions on a road trip of a few to several hours I‘ve experienced space and time in which all (well for safety sake most) of the world fades away and you are in singular relationship with a traveling partner. On one such occasion my wife and I got into a fierce discussion about different wall in different houses my parents lived in; on other occasions discussions lead to inspired realization, mostly about myself, born risk only possible in singular intimacy.

It’s the first day of the week, everything that has happened is either exuberant rumor, Jesus is risen, or raw truth, Jesus is crucified. To discuss either is full of risk. Nonetheless when a stranger joins these two disciples, they engage in risky conversation. As a result they come to inspired realizations. My sense is those realizations inspired them to take more risk and invite a stranger to join them at table where they come to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

I am sure you trust in the transforming power of sharing Eucharist. I am sure you invite others to join you. But I wonder if we are willing to engage strangers on the intimate journey that give rise to inspired realization?

Emmaus is a story of coming to know Jesus. It’s also a calling to walk with another sharing the Good News of our risen Lord and God.


do not be impetuous in time of calamity.

Today’s Daily Office from the Old Testament is Sirach 2:1-11; verse 2b reads: … do not be impetuous in time of calamity. Last night strong storms raked across Arkansas, two towns: Mayflower and Viola were hardest hit. Their tragedy is amplified; about a year ago Mayflower experienced a oil pipeline break that did much damage and is not yet settled. Three years ago Viola was devastated by a tornado, and if I’m hearing correctly a school which was destroyed, that has only recently been opened is once again damaged.

I can think of two impetuous responses.  One is to wonder: “What have they done?” It’s a version of the disciples’ question in John 9: “Who sinned?” Jesus answer is “No one – life happens, let the works (glory, presence) of God be revealed. (My lose translation.) We can reveal the work, glory, presence of God by providing needed assistance.

Needed assistance is the second source of impetuous responses. Jumping in your car/ truck and heading off to help with no idea of the needs, no idea if your skill sets are necessary. This is time to recall Paul’s point that all governments are instituted by God for the good of all people. Now is a time to trust in those structures, and collaborate with them. As for our church, I’ve challenged our vestry to prayerfully consider using ministry support funds to support recovery operations thorough our Diocesan structures, (who have better information streams).  

I invite us all to continue to offer prayers of grace and strength for those whose lives are tragically disrupted; and prayers of thanksgiving and protection for first responders on the scenes of active search and rescue operations.



Commissioning, believing, and signs

A sermon for Easter 2

Acts 2:14a, 22-32, 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31, Psalm 16

Good morning it’s good to see you this 2nd Sunday of Easter a week after our Lord’s resurrection. Except it’s not, no I’m not talking about  the millennia or so that’s past in John’s Gospel it’s later that night, just hours after Mary, Peter and the unnamed disciple saw the empty tomb; just hours after Jesus spoke to Mary just hours after  Mary’s shares the tale. John writes that they are gathered behind locked doors because they are afraid of Jewish leaders. Makes sense, it’s all very fresh. Elisabeth Johnson posits they are also afraid of Jesus; they’ve been nothing but miserable failures; in Jesus’ hour their actions are nothing but denials and desertions. [i] Having just learned Jesus is walking about I’d lock the doors too. But locked doors don’t matter.

All of sudden Jesus is in the room; we don’t know what the disciples expect; however, a greeting of shalom – divine peace Jesus breathing in their faces; and commissioning them probably isn’t what they expect.The familiar words in this part of the story are forgiving and retaining of sins, which we, largely thanks to institutional warping and the reformation’s interpretation of sin miss-hear. First of all the commission is that we are sent just as Jesus is sent and Jesus is sent to do the work of God which is all about restoring all God’s people to relationship with God. So it makes sense that retaining and forgiving is all about Godly relationship. Gail O’Day notes that for John, sin is a theological failing, not a moral or behavioral transgression [ii]  as Jesus says: I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he. [iii] To forgive sin is to make known the love of God that Jesus himself has made known [iv] which is what we are commissioned, sent into the world to do. In short when our witness leads to belief that’s forgiveness; and when it does not its retention. And belief brings us to Thomas.

For whatever reason, Thomas wasn’t there. When the others tell him, he says he wants proof, just like they had, well … may be a little more. It’s very important to know the word ‘doubt’ never appears in Greek, it’s always belief and unbelief. When Jesus appears he says to Thomas do not be faithless (unbelieving) but believing. [v] Thomas’ response to Jesus’ offer is My Lord and my God! a profound confession that for the first time puts trust and relationship with Jesus together. [vi] O’Day notes Jesus offers Thomas what he needs, himself, and that’s what brings Thomas to belief. NT Wright summarizes the whole scene: touching is possible, seeing is enough, believing is best of all. [vii]

Now all of us want the best, so all of us want belief; however, no one, since early first century, ever had the possibility to touch, or see or even hear, so what is our source of belief, and how valid can it be?

Validity is the easy part, Jesus asks Thomas, as he asks Nathanael way back in chapter 1 [viii] Have you believed because you have seen me? only now he continues Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. You and I are among those who have not seen and yet believe; you are among the blessed.That leaves us with source of belief, and John actually tells us the answer.

 In the last two verses [ix] John changes voice, he begin speaking directly to the audience, speaking directly to you. He tells you, the signs in his book are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. We can easily understand miracles as signs. There are some in John’s Gospel account, many fewer than in the synoptic gospels. More interesting is understanding Jesus’ resurrection as a sign. The difference between seeing a miracle and seeing a sign is to see beyond the glitz, the super natural to see the truth: that Jesus is God’s anointed the Christ, the Messiah; that Jesus is our Lord and our God. This is what leads to Thomas’ profound confession. It’s not the physicality of miracles that lead to faith, it’s the truth they reveal; thus firsthand experience is not significant. What is significant is that we know the stories; that we know scripture whose power lies in making the presence of God in Jesus available to the faith community in each successive generation. [x] The same is true of our witness, which is only about sharing the transforming presence of God in creation in Jesus, and in the Spirit.

And now we are back to the beginning, not of John’s Gospel story, but of our worship. A colleague of mine blogged this week:

my question to you, dear reader, is this, “what does your life show that you believe?” If those two things aren’t matching, how can you change your life to better fit what you believe about God’s dream for his creation? [xi]

 It’s born of today’s collect in which we pray “…that [we] may show in our lives what [we] profess…”

Sometimes we live as we profess often we don’t. For many reasons we get anxious or threatened. Johnson writes:

The natural thing to do when we are feeling anxious or threatened is to hunker down and lock the doors, to become focused on our own security rather than the risky mission to which we are called.

Our trouble is, as she continues:

… is that Jesus cannot be stopped by our locked doors. Jesus comes to us as he came to the first disciples. … [and] he keeps showing up. As he came back a week later for Thomas, Jesus keeps coming back week after week among his gathered disciples — in the word, the water, the bread, and the wine … And he keeps sending us out of our safe, locked rooms, into a world that, like us, so desperately needs his gifts of life and peace. [xii]

John’s almost final chapter assures us all we need to come to believe that Jesus is God’s anointed, is revealed in our Holy Writ.

That brings relief. It also sends us out into the world to share the story, so others may come to believe. That is always a challenge, for lots of reasons, like life happens; nonetheless it’s true; our calling is to share with all the world that Christ is risen, Alleluia; and our prayer is for all the world to answer in fervent faith: [hand to ear]  Christ is risen indeed Alleluia!


[i] Elisabeth Johnson  John 20:19-31 Commentary by Elisabeth Johnson – Working Preacher – Preaching This Week (RCL) http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1991 1/4 RCL|Narrative|Evangelio|Index, Commentary on John 20:19-31, 4/23/2014
[iii] John 8:24 (NRSV)
[iv] Johnson, ibid
[v] King James John 19:27
[vi] Johnson, ibid
[vii] N. T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays, Yeas A, B, C Morehouse Publishing, 2012
[viii] John 1:48
[ix] John 20:30,31
[x] O’Day, ibid
[xi] Steve Pankey, Draughting Theology, Walking the Talk – Why I blog, April 24, WordPress,2014
[xii] Johnson, ibid

Every day, go.

A sermon for Easter

Acts 10:34-43, Colossians 3:1-4, Matthew 28:1-10, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

A couple of nights ago, they built a fire, it was cold. This morning, it is cold. So why are Mary and Mary going to Jesus tomb? Unlike other Gospel stories, in Matthew’s Jesus is already properly buried, more importantly, the tomb is sealed, and under guard; the frightened Jewish leaders really want to make sure this Jesus person, stays dead; makes you wonder, if they wonder if there is any chance, the tiniest chance, Jesus’ teachings are true. So, why did they go? Matthew doesn’t tell us. But then again.

Ah I see. ‘See’ has many meanings, one is the result of looking, all that amazing stuff that happens when light strikes the backs of our eyes and rods and cones do whatever it is they do and our brains make sense of it all and we see. Then again, ‘I see’ can express understanding or perception. In Greek the word translated ‘see’ can also carry the meaning ‘to consider’ and Melinda Quivik posits ‘to keep vigil.’ [i]

So, Mary and Mary could be going to: look at, to keep vigil, or seeking to perceive, and to understand. Just perhaps, like the Jewish leaders a couple of days ago, they too they wonder, though hopefully, if there is any chance Jesus’ teachings are true.It’s interesting that none of the men have such inquiring vision.

When they arrive they are surprised. There is suddenly a brilliant flash of light, and an earthquake. It is so terrifying, the guards are frozen, unable to interfere with the women, which is why they are there; so much for  the best laid plans  of entrenched authorities in their efforts to thwart God’s works.

An angel, a divine messenger, who is described very much like Jesus transfigured on the mountain top, which Mary and Mary don’t know, but we, and Matthew’s readers  know, or should know, speaks: don’t be afraid, you are looking for Jesus, he isn’t here, go – and see; then go tell the disciples  to go to Galilee, Jesus is already in his way. In fear and joy, and in this case ‘fear’ is the scriptural meaning of awe; in fear and joy they go. Equally suddenly Jesus appears greets them, and Mary and Mary worship him; then Jesus repeats the angle’s instructions to tell the disciples to go to Galilee and he will meet them there.

 Some initial observations:

  • It is not wise to try to thwart God’s works.
  • The brilliant clothes of a divine messenger reaffirm Jesus identity as divine.
  • When you are in God’s, or Jesus’ presence the ground will shake,  if not literally then metaphorically, the foundations of your life will be shaken.
  • Worshiping Jesus supplants worshiping the emperor, or any other secular authority.
  • Courage is not the lack of fear, it is the ability to act any way.
  • The word ‘apostle’ means sent. In all four Gospels women are the first sent to share the good news, the gospel, of Jesus’ resurrection. Women are the first Apostles! Therefore women have an equal share in the church continuing Jesus’ ministry.  Not news for Episcopalians, but it is for others. It’s also scriptural referent for equality of genders, and yes that extends to pay; but I wander.

What caught me up this morning start’s in Bp. Benfield’s Easter message, a copy of which is on the table in the hall, he begins saying that Easter is not a historical event. He continues:

  [we] celebrate is what happened to the people who found the tomb empty. They started seeing the risen Christ in all sorts of places and faces… [ii]

 The second inspirational seed comes from Scott Hoezee  [iii]  as he explores the implication of Jesus message to the disciples to go,  in particular to Galilee. Why Galilee, why not some place in Jerusalem?

The disciples are already there, and it is a long trip, a couple of days, to Galilee. Moreover, Jerusalem is where the Temple, the home of God on earth, is. It is also the capital, the seat of all secular authority. Wouldn’t you start there? I would, most revolutionaries would. Then again Jesus is all about something else,  endless surprises. Hoezee continues noting: The first Easter began with a long journey. There is no reason our continuing Easter experiences won’t include journeys of some sort or another.

Easter is a morning of many surprises, two are paramount. The first is the angelic pronouncement of the empty tomb, Jesus – the Christ – is risen. The risen the living Christ, literally is transforming all creation, the entire cosmos. Note I said transforming, meaning the work is still on going, meaning we are works in process. I know that is good news, I don’t know about you, but my process is still in process.

The second is GO! Mary and Mary the least likely apostles are sent to share the good news, the Gospel, that Christ is risen. Even more of a surprise is that you too, not the most likely apostles, are sent to share the good news, the Gospel, that Christ is raised. I don’t know about you, but every time I realize this I get blinded by the light, and my whole world is shaken, because Easter is not a historical event,  it is an everyday event.

Every day our resurrected Christ meets us on whatever road we are on and sends us on to tell it out He is raised, and everything is being made anew. And that really is good news. Alleluia!






[i] 4/19/2014 Matthew 28:1-10 Commentary by Melinda Quivik – Working Preacher – Preaching This Week (RCL)

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1990 1/3


Commentary on Matthew 28:1-10

Melinda Quivik

[ii] Bp. Larry Benfield, Arkansas, 2014 Easter Message

[iii]Scott Hoezee,  cep.calvinseminary.edu http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php

This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching

You are about to die and be raised in Christ!

A Sermon for The Easter Vigil

Genesis 1:1-2:4a [The Story of Creation], Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 [Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea], Isaiah 55:1-11 [Salvation offered freely to all], Zephaniah 3:14-20 [The gathering of God’s people], Romans 6:3-11, Psalm 114, Matthew 28:1-10

This evening Sarah will be baptized. The Vigil readings give us the opportunity to explore how Baptism’s roots   go far beyond Jesus all the way back to creation.  The place we’ll start is Paul; he tells us we are baptized into Christ’s death, not a real comforting thought. Paul’s reasoning is simple:    when we die because we are connected to Jesus death by baptism, by baptism we are connected to Jesus’ resurrection, and we will as Paul writes: walk in newness of life.  It’s a story captured in a baptismal liturgy of a remote people whose fonts look like small water-filled coffins; and whose children are plunged into them as the priest shouts:  “I kill you,” and who witness their children are raised high as the priest proclaims:  “and raise you in Christ!” It’s dramatic;  almost as dramatic as the connection baptism has with all of scripture. So, off we go, and plunge into the darkness of chaos.

And that what it was, all darkness and chaos, but also the lack of reason the lack of relationship the lack of love. The first thing God does is to show up, ruach – wind, spirit, or breath; and then God sings, harmonics of love burst forth first in light, not illumination, but presence a declaration I am here! And then there was all sorts of stuff, including the light of illumination, by which we see the world, and by which we perceive truth.

On the very last day we are created. Two bits are critical. One is that we are created in the image of God; that doesn’t mean we look like God; it means we bear, or carry, God’s image into the world. Imago Dei Signifier, it’s not as poetic as I’d hope, but you get the point.  Second: God makes us male and female in God’s image. I, she, we, are all forged as Imago Dei Signifier; none more so than any other, for sum of us all is less than a mere passing of infinite love.

The last thing God does is to call us to vocation. We are to:  fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over … over every living thing… Remember this is an agricultural vocation, tilling the earth. To subdue and dominate is to bring forth earth’s bounty. This is a calling to be stewards, the care takers of every living thing.

Famine drives the Hebrews into Egypt. They survive, they grow in to an overly prosperous people, and the new Pharaoh enslaves them. God calls Moses, to lead the Hebrews from slavery to freedom. It requires a dramatic set of signs, including the death of every first born Egyptian. They are making their way out of Egypt when Pharaoh decides: Nope this isn’t going to happen. and sets out after the Hebrews, who panic. Why? Have they already forgotten all those divine signs, I guess so, Pharaoh seems to have. Or do they not quite trust God and faced with death, reflexively turn back to the deceptive ways of worldly power? Moses tells them: Do not be afraid, stand firm, and witness the salvation God will provide for you today. They do, and witness a massive technological failure, it’s amazing what mud will do to the best we can think up, and the Egyptian army drowns as they dance to Miriam’s song on the shores of the sea. You would think it be unforgettable.

And it was ~ sort of. They enshrine Miriam’s song in liturgy, but pretty much forget everything else. Half a millennia later Isaiah is preaching to Judah, who’s trying to establish their own destiny. Isaiah questions their tactics, their reasoning, and their theology; here they go again, not trusting God. He asks: Why do you spend your money at Macy’s, Dillard’s or Land’s Ends? Why do you seek bargains at Wal-Mart, or Dollar General? What do you think you’re really going to find at Amazon or E-bay?  Thirsty? God provides living water, ~ no charge. Hungry? God provides bread and milk ~ no charge. Isaiah is pointing to the covenant that originally linked them to God. He’s telling Judah God wants to reestablish that covenant. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s God’s way.Isaiah also lets them know God has no worries, what God seeks, God will see.

Another hundred years and this time Zephaniah is speaking to God’s people. The message is the same, trust God, the emphasis is different: God is in your midst, gathering the outcast, healing the sick and broken, transforming shame to praise darkness and chaos to light.

And now we are three days after monumental divine failure, the messiah is dead, crucified at the request of his own people, at the hands of Rome. Mary and Mary go to the tomb. They witness: an earthquake, the appearance of an angel, the guards freeze in fear. They see Jesus and he tells them to go tell his disciples, he will meet them in Galilee.  

We do not know what they expected; none of the above was on the list. I’m not sure what we expect, yes we know about Jesus’ resurrection, but we don’t expect Mary and Mary to be the first apostles, but they are, they are the first people sent to bear witness to the resurrected Jesus.

All of this is what we are baptized into. The end point for us is the promise of resurrection. Our entry point is our sharing in Jesus’s death. But the foundation, is laid all the way back in Genesis, with light that brings light, that shapes us as Imago Dei Signifier, that calls us to tend every living thing. At the Red Sea we witness God’s continuing refrain:  Do not be afraid, stand firm, and witness the salvation God will provide for you today. Through prophetic voices we hear God’s offer of living water, bread and milk, and covenant life. Through prophetic voices we are prompted to trust God to take care of all the details. And just as God provided a vocational calling so does Jesus’ we are called to follow Mary and Mary to go and share Imago Dei in a crucified messiah now risen from the dead, who brings us into complete covenant relationship for all eternity.

It’s not a job I’m up to, but neither was Moses, or David, or Isaiah, or Zephaniah, or the disciples, or Mary or Mary; but that’s God’s way. And the truth is they carried God’s image, after all we have it, that being said, we can trust God to trust us.

Sarah, you are about to die and be raised in Christ!  so welcome to the church, the body of Christ, as Imago Dei Signifier, to live in light,  stand firm, trust God and go about tending to all creation. It’s not what anyone would expect, but God’s ways are not our ways, and our risen Christ, is the eternal witness.




At the edge of the abyss

A sermon for Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22:1-11, Hebrews 10:16-25, John 18:1-19:42

It is finished: three years of ministry, three years of teaching, healing, and signs of power. It is finished: three years of increasingly tense encounters with Jewish authorities. It is finished: arrest in the dark of night, the all night trials before Annas, Caiaphas, and Pilate, and Peter’s denials. It is finished: the mocking abuse of soldiers and police, the Jews desire for the release of Barabbas – Bar – Abbas: son of – father. It is finished: the Jews’ proclamation they have no king but the emperor, and crucifixion on a cross. It is finished.

It is finished Jesus, the intenerate rabbi from Nazareth is dead. Two marginal, mostly secrete followers, remove the body, prepare it with myrrh and aloes, wrap it in a linen cloth, and place it in a tomb. It is finished. There is nothing left to do; the messianic hope is gone; the promise of restoring the House of David is vanquished, the potential of glory is lost, the ring of Hosanna has dissipated, It is finished. There is nothing left to do. The hopeless stand at the edge of the abyss, they ponder ~ what’s next; all their bearings are gone; they’ve no clue how to orient themselves.

I recall the moment our landlord, justifiably, pulled our lease. Plateau Gymnastics was gone. I may well have thought It is finished! I know I stood at the edge of the abyss. I knew what was next: the myriad detail of closing a business. Still, I was lost, unable to find my bearings. It is finished. There is nothing left to do. The edge of the abyss is terrifyingly real. ‘Nothing’ is an all-consuming experience.

Some of you have similar experiences; unexpected death, unanticipated diagnosis of severe illness, job loss, financial collapse, the failure of a long perused dream or ideal. You know the feeling; it is finished!  There is nothing left to do! Today we recall the moment when all creation knew it is finished! When all creation knew there is nothing left to do! Today we recall the moment the cosmos stood at the edge of the abyss. We bring our collection of  it is finished experiences with us. Through these experiences we connect with the cosmic moment.

I expect all of us want to move on. We have this urge to swap stories of how we moved on; or not. We have the desire to tell each other “It will be alright.” never knowing, or saying what ‘alright’ is. None of us – none of us is eager just to be just to exist at the edge of the abyss, when everything is done, when there is nothing left to do.

But that is exactly where we are. It is exactly where we should be. The cross shaped abyss, like some divine black hole, strips us naked, sucking away all pretense of: glory, power, wealth, position, privilege, success, accomplishment, knowledge, wisdom, wit, piety, and righteousness, it sucks away all pretense ~ until it is finished; there is nothing left: ~ except ~ ourselves ~ our souls and bodies just as God created us.

My hunch is~ we should stay here awhile. My hope is~ we will. My prayer is~ we can.



A Sermon for Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-17, 31b-35, Psalm 116:1, 10-17

Jesus you have given us everything we need. We have seen the signs and wonders, you have done. We are amazed at your quick wit, and by your subtle grasp of Moses’ law. Jesus, we are continually astonished by how you reach back to retrieve a long buried meaning of God’s word. Sometimes we are more than a little frightened by your confrontational style especially when you take on the Pharisees and Sadducees.

And Jesus, you know we are a bit confused by some of your teachings; especially when you speak of your relationship with God; or when you mention being lifted up; and all this glorifying God’s name stuff; not to mention your ranting on about rebuilding the Temple in three days. All these teachings are complex, they are hard to grasp.

Nonetheless, Jesus, we are exuberant. Remember the thunderous acceptance you received as you entered Jerusalem? You looked so much like a triumphant Legatus entering Rome.

We are so hugely hopeful that you really are the Messiah, descended from David’s royal line even if you have never really acted like it.

And now Jesus, at the celebration of the Passover Supper, the memorial of God’s mighty act to free us from Egyptian oppressions, now is the perfect time. Act now Jesus, free us from Roman oppression. Act now Jesus, and everything will be restored to its proper place. Israel will be the center of God on earth, you will sit on David’s throne, and we -well – we will be your top advisors and ministers. Act now Jesus, and all will be as it is supposed to be, as it has been written by the prophets.

What is this Jesus? You are washing our feet? Yes, we know Peter is over reacting, but Peter always over reacts. But still, we don’t get this Jesus, help us out here. Please!!

What? You will only be here a little longer? Where are you going? we didn’t quite get that. Besides, you can’t go now! All is ready, you all but said so. What? what do you mean we can’t come with you? Where haven’t we been you? We’ve been all over the place with you Jesus! even through Galilee. 

A new commandment?  All right, we knew it finally marching orders. Give us your commandment Jesus!

What?? love? love each other? like what? like you? like you love us? just now, by washing our feet. This really is how you want everyone to think of us!!

Oh my!! You really do expect us to wash each other’s feet. You really do expect us to love each other. You really do expect us to love the others. Oh my!!



Divine Discomfort

This week our Ministerial Alliance holds noon time services that includes a light lunch, inviting people to prepare for Easter in the midst of their daily lives. Every day we hear from a different preacher, in a different church (not the preacher’s),  are inspired by different music and are served an interesting variety of  simple lunches.  It is church as I expect we should be a multitude of people with widely varying religious beliefs joining to hear differing perspectives, everyone respecting the other.

Today is Maunday Thursday and if your observation is focused on Jesus establishing Eucharist, or Foot washing there is an element of the unexpected, a surprise that begins to reshape the disciples understanding of who Jesus is; and it is uncomfortable.

May your day be blessed by those who experience faith is different than you, so that your faith may be unexpectedly expanded, especially if it begins in divine discomfort.



Evenets of last week

I know it’s Holy Week and expectations are postings to be in that realm; however, the events of last week bear sharing.

Late Tuesday evening (last week) I received a phone call for chaplaincy help at a grizzly industrial accident. In listening to the people involved, particularly one person at the accident site, I heard “There is no job here that isn’t dangerous.

Wednesday morning the Ministerial Alliance meet the newest police recruits. They introduced themselves to us; we in turn introduced ourselves to them. Every pastor thanked them for placing themselves in harm’s way, that we might live safer lives.

Saturday afternoon I presided at the Burial rite of a much beloved man. The church was packed far beyond anything I’ve witnessed before. At the reception I had a conversation with the deceased’s brother in law, who is an intriguing person. He was an officer commanding a nuclear submarine off the coast of Norway during the Cuban missile crisis. He mentioned thinking about family as they waited. Yet another incident of people who put themselves and their families in harm’s way so we can live safer, better lives.

These are but three examples of many ways many people give of themselves (literally) for others, for us. I wish it wasn’t so; however, it is and I am thankful for their response to calling. It gets me to thinking of how the church might be about the work of creating time and space in which all God’s people and live safer, better lives, all the time. Maybe this something to say about Holy Week after all.



A sermon for Palm Sunday

A sermon for Palm Sunday

Isaiah 50:4-9a, Philippians 2:5-11, Psalm 31:9-16, Matthew 21:1-11, 12-17 *

It is the best Saturday Night Live bit ever, and its presented years before SNL was, years before TV was a glimmer in some scientist’s eye. Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem leaves no authority unscathed.

Ever since Jerusalem got conquered the first time, there is a tradition of the conquering king or general entering the city mounted on war horse and parading through the city, with troops behind, as a symbol of dominance. It’s common throughout the history; look at depictions of conquering forces, and most always there is a parade of some sort. I recall seeing photographs of German forces parading through Paris in WII. Jesus mocks it all. He enters Jerusalem; riding a donkey the colt of a donkey, (no he’s not riding two animals like a circus artist, that’s all a poetic structure Matthew muddles up). [i] However, he chooses Zechariah’s prophecy because of its reference to a king’s humble entry, a reflection of Jesus teaching about humility. The donkey also evokes the story of Solomon riding David’s mule to Gihon to be anointed King over Israel. [ii] The cloaks being spread before Jesus draws from the celebration of Jehu becoming king. [iii] The palms and tree branches are reminiscent images of Simon Maccabeus entry into Jerusalem after driving Antiochus Epiphanes [iv] from Jerusalem [v] and Judas Maccabeus purifying the Temple[vi]  by removing all foreign idols and so on. [vii] At one level, everything draws from Israel’s history seems to be, as Matthew says,  been spoken through the prophet. However, it’s also parity against the established order who shares the same history; even speak similar words, but whose behavior does not reflect the righteousness and justice God demands.

Immediately after entering Jerusalem, Jesus goes to the Temple and starts throwing tables and coin boxes around. We imagine Jesus totally disrupting the whole place. Not likely, one: the Temple complex is just too large, two: had he disrupted everything he would have been arrested on the spot; no government tolerates a disruption of the flow of tax dollars.  It’s also common for us to miss that the buyers are also driven out! [viii] So if this is not about dishonest bankers, what’s going on? The key is the phrase robbers den which is a place robbers / thieves retreat to,  it’s a place of safety. Jesus is referring to  Jeremiah’s charge [that was] directed against those who came to worship in the  Temple”  [ix] after returning from a day of thievery,  murder, adultery, swearing falsely, offerings to Baal, and going after other gods that you have not known, [x]  Douglas Hare writes:

The allusion to Jeremiah … suggests that the market represents to Jesus the secularization of the temple by worshipers (buyers and sellers) whose lives do not conform with their religious profession but who claim nonetheless to find security in their religiosity (“We are delivered!”). [xi]


Having made a mess of things, and made yet another parity of establishment behavior Jesus turns to the margins of society, by healing the blind and the lame. This healing does not allow them into the Temple, they are already there. It does demonstrate a proper work of the Temple, healing – restoring to wholeness and the extraordinary inclusiveness of God’s House. [xii]

The children get it, they sing about it, drawing attention to Jesus. The chief priests and scribes, a combination that ought to get our attention since they are not natural allies, take offense. So much so, they are drawn into a week long series of confrontations with Jesus.

A historical note: When Matthew writes his Gospel account, the Temple has already been destroyed by the Romans. There is no discussion about it being rebuilt. There is lots of discussion of what will take its place. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ humble entry, his reference to purifying the Temple, the proper use of the Temple, and the powers at be misuse of the Temple shift[s] the focus from the temple itself to the Lord of the temple. [xiii]  Jesus himself replaces the Temple as the locus of God’s presence. [xiv]

There are always two steps to homiletics: first is exegesis or the explanation of texts; most of the above. So we now have a more informed milieu of the context in which Matthew wrote, and in which his original audience received his gospel. The second step is to ask: So what? Hare notes that throughout history this story has given rise to fierce anti-Semitism that is grossly misplaced. He continues:

We are best served by taking the passage as challenging us to self-criticism. Does secularism invade our churches? Do we use our religion as a source of security instead of allowing ourselves to be remade by it? [xv]

We have journeyed with Jesus into Jerusalem for the last time. This week, we walk with him to Golgotha. It’s a time to shed all our pretenses, a time for naked truth, a time to discern do we see with eyes clouded by established values, do we speak, or not, with voices of exclusion, have we prepared praise for ourselves? or do we see, do we sing, with the delight of children, Hosanna, save us, Son of David.


* St Stephen’s extends the Gospel reading of the Procession into Jerusalem for the Liturgy of the Word, and end the day’s worship with the Passion Gospel.


[i] Douglas R.A. Hare, Interpretation, MATTHEW A BIBLE COMMENTARY FOR TEACHING AND PREACHING, James Luther Mays, Editor,  Patrick D. Miller, Jr., Old Testament Editor, Paul J. Achtemeier, New Testament Editor, John Knox Press, LOUISVILLE, 1993 
[ii] 1 Kings 1:31
[iii] 2 Kings 9:13
[iv] Illustrated Bible Dictionary: And Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature.
[v] 1 Macc 13:51
[vi] 2 MAcc 10:7
[viii] Hare, Ibib
       Boring, ibid
[ix] Boring, ibid
[x] Jeremiah 7:9
[xi] Hare, ibid
[xii] Hare, Boring
[xiii] Hare, ibid
[xiv] Boring, ibid
[xv] Hare, ibid