Showing posts with label Sermon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sermon. Show all posts

Sunday, May 31, 2020

We Need an Apparent Holy Spirit

Day of Pentecost  A May 31, 2020
Gen. 11:1-9Ps. 104: 25-32
Acts 2:1-11      John 14:8-17, 25-17  
Lectionary Link

At 13:16 mark of video. 

Come Holy Spirit.  Veni Sancte Spiritus. Ven Espiritu Santo,Viens Esprit Saint, Komm Heiliger Geist, Ruh al'qdos Biya, 

Pentecost is the event of finding harmony in difference.  It is the day of affirming that people who speak different languages and have drastically different world experience and conditions can come to harmony and peace together.

And so we say in every language today, "Come Holy Spirit," even though we know that the Spirit came in creation and has never left the world.  The Spirit creates the divine environment and so we can know ourselves to live and move and have our being in God.  If the Spirit has always been, why to do pray, Come Holy Spirit? We do so, because it isn't always enough to know that there is a wind; we need to see the leaves move in the tree.  We need to see the Holy Spirit as apparent in human community.

And how we need the peaceful Holy Spirit to become apparent in our human communities today.   On Pentecost, we have been literally "pent" up, sheltering in our homes for longer than the Easter season.  We have been "pent" up in anxiety about the pandemic and its many drastic effects upon human life on every level.  And now the injustice inflicted upon the life of a black man in Minneapolis seems to put us over the top of what we can actually bear without the acting out of frustration about long denied justice and the practice of uneven justice in our society.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.  Be made apparent even as a peace dove calming our hearts.  Today, we need more than our belief in the Holy Spirit; we need the Apparent Effects of the Holy Spirit to be realized in significant ways.

The Holy Spirit can become apparent, if the Spirit has the leader who can unite.  And Jesus Christ was the one who could unite hearts with voices which spoke different languages.

The Holy Spirit is looking today for worthy leaders who can unite in the midst of differences. The Holy Spirit of Peace is looking for us to be the leading channels or instruments of peace as goes the prayer attributed to St. Francis.

There are other spirits besides the Holy Spirit and the spirits of peace that the Holy Spirit inspires.

"Spirits" are the constellation of the energies of group identities which motivate group actions, some are destructive and evil, some are entertaining, benign and beneficial, and some become the vehicle for God's Holy Spirit to be peaceful, loving unifying justice in our world, not just in ideal, but in actual practice.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

Think about all of the group identities which are the "esprit de corps" rallying what people do when they come together.  Think about all of the footage of horrifying dictators who have flamed unities of hatred and bias.  The mob spirit found in our history books and in our world today are truly anti-Christ, because they don't end in inspiring peace, truth and unity.

There are other manifestation of group spirit which are benign and even beneficial.  Colleges, sports teams, school spirit, city pride, hometown spirit are manifestations of esprit de corps in very benign ways.  An esprit de corps which raises money to fight cancer and every sort of illness or malaise can true be a beneficial "mob" spirit.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.  And help us discern what you truly inspire.  And how is Holy Spirit distinguished from the other manifestations of "esprit de corps" in our world?

First, Holy Spirit is permanent.  It is the ground of the omnipresence of God within whom we live and move and have our being.

Second, it is Personal.  We acknowledge on Pentecost the rising in human understanding of the Holy Spirit as a Person of the Godhead.  The reason that we can project Personality upon the omnipresent Spirit is because we as humans are personal, meaning we are connected and related to all that is.  Personality is our highest attribute and if we confess someone greater than we are, that Someone also is at the very least a very exalted Person.

Come, Personal Holy Spirit.  We need you.

The Holy Spirit has had a general permanency since forever, but the Holy Spirit also has "coming out" parties and events.  Pentecost was the chief coming out party of the Holy Spirit.  There needs to be particular manifestation so that we can be renewed in knowing the Great Friend of the universe.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.  Wind, I need to see the leaves move on the tree to reassure me that you are still here.

So we need both the general and the particular apparent experiences of the Holy Spirit to reinforce the belief in the unseen in the middle of all that we do see, touch, feel, and hurt and cry about.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

The Holy Spirit is not just enlightened esprit de corps; the enlightened identity attained by people who want to let the Christ nature become evident in them.  The Holy Spirit is also individual and personal.  The Holy Spirit can be known within each of us as the Clean Heart which the Psalmist prayed for.  We need the Holy Spirit as our Clean Heart because we need the highest authority for our consciences and motives.

We need the Holy Spirit as the experience of deep calm and peace within us, because we know that things on layers above the Holy Spirit can be turbulent and unsettled and even frightening.  We need an internal place of retreat and refuge, not to escape our world but to have an anchor within the tossing waves of the world.

And we need the Holy Spirit as proof of our longevity in Hope.  Hope has made me want more than can ever be delivered in my lifetime.  Is my Hope a taunting God who wants good things that will never fully be my experience?  Or is that Hope the very presence of the eternal Spirit who is saying that I will ride the eternal Spirit, eternally?

Come, Holy Spirit Come, and come in apparent and particular ways for us today.  Inspire and activate manifold creativity to bring an end to this world pandemic.  Inspire and convert leaders who will promote social harmony.  Bring police and minority communities together for the common good of actual justice.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come, even to us the people of St. Mary's-in-the-Valley in specific ways.  Let us discern your manifestations today.  Amen.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Pentecost and "esprit de corps"

Day of Pentecost  A May 31, 2020
Gen. 11:1-9Ps. 104: 25-32
Acts 2:1-11      John 14:8-17, 25-17  
Lectionary Link

Today is the Feast of Pentecost and we might begin by recounting the meaning and the symbols of this Feast Day.  

Pentecost means fiftieth and on the Christian calendar is the 50th day after Easter.  It parallel as Jewish feast of Shavuot, or feast of weeks which is the day after the 7 weeks after Passover.  So, Judaism and Christianity have Pentecosts but they have diverge with completely different meanings.

In salvation history, Pentecost is seen as the "coming" out day of the Holy Spirit.  If Christ is the Word who is God from the beginning, then the Holy Spirit is the Eternal Word translated and spoken in every language; meaning that Christian faith was a strategic plan to make God, through Christ universally accessible to the world, and it meant that an understanding of God could no longer be exclusive to the synagogue for only the ritually adherent members of the Jewish faith.  Although, we see an uneven chronology about the Holy Spirit because according to the Gospel of John, the 11 disciples did not have to wait until Pentecost to receive the Spirit; Jesus breathed the Spirit on them in the Doubting Thomas encounter.    And those pre-filled disciples were speaking in different tongues on Pentecost.

Pentecost is the healing of the event of the Babel tower, when God confused the languages of humanity because a "united" humanity planned a prideful overthrow of God by building a great city with a great tower unto the heavens.  A polyglot world of people was seen as God's punishment; but in Pentecost the revealing  of the Holy Spirit meant that Christ could be known in all languages and hence it was a celebration of a unity of harmony in differences.  Humanity can indeed be united in the right way and the right way is for everyone to come to know the nature of Christ, the eternal Word within them.

What does the use of metaphors tell us?  It tells us that metaphors reach their limitation when one tries to convert poetry into literalism.  So, what is the limitation of Spirit or Holy Spirit?  What does it mean to say Holy Special Wind or Breath?  Or Holy Dove?  Or Holy purifying Fire?  Or Holy Anointing oil?  When we try to speak of Spirit we just keep adding metaphors and similes; but are we getting to substantial insight about the meaning of Spirit?

As you know, I like to go off the reservation of textbook and cliche theology and doctrine because I'm too curious about how and what Spirit can mean and evoke meaning for me in this post-modern age that has brought us to skepticism of skepticism.

A pragmatic and graspable insight about Spirit, is to understand it as the mystery of receiving the identities of our lives.  Our group identities are mysteries.  What do we call group mystical identity?  esprits de corps.  Spirit of the body.  We experience esprit de corps in families, in nationality, in school and colleges, hometown cities and town, with our sporting teams and in our faith communities.   We experience esprit de corps in any significant identity we come to have in our lives.  We admit that it is something of a mystery about our group identity.  E pluribus unum.  Out of the many, one.  How does this oneness of group identity happen?

To understand spirit, we might look at an entire continuum of kinds of identities.  We know that there can be evil "esprit d'corps, known as mob behaviors.  One can see when dictators and prejudiced leaders can create mob behaviors and people will shout and do hateful things as a group which they would not necessarily do as an individual.  A bad "spirit" can possess a mob.  Other public group identities are more benign or even beneficial.  A sporting event or even a partisan political rally can be benign.  A rally of people supporting a cancer fundraiser or patriotic causes can result in a beneficial group "esprit d'corps."  In the Christian context, the diversity of believers in Jesus gathering and uniting in that belief through prayer, teaching, singing and liturgy represent what we understand to be the Holy Spirit of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit can be evident in the effervescence of a gathering.  It is the numerical strength in numbers which shows itself in a qualitative palpable feeling of identity among people.  It is expressed as the mystery of experience another person, as in "whenever two or three are gathered in Christ's name," Christ is present and can be known as giving wisdom and insight within the group experience.

The Bible also includes "spirit" and individual personal self-knowledge.  The Psalmist cried out, "Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me."  It is a goal in life to be "pure in heart."  And we know how hard it is for us to know ourselves as being "pure in motives" in all things.  We also know that in the purity code certain people of wildly erratic public behavior deemed as anti-social were said to have "unclean spirits."  Part of the ministry of Jesus was to whisper people to a place of peaceful "cleanliness of spirit."

But further, the Gospels indicate that Jesus not only invited us to know ourselves as children of God in knowing our heavenly Parent, he also promised that his absence would not leave us disconnected from Him or His Father.  He would send, he would breath, he unveiled that knowing of an inner Advocate, a Spirit of Truth who would help us in the task of replicating the life practices of Jesus with us.

The Feast of Pentecost sums up the very best of knowing within ourselves the Clean Heart of knowing the Holy Spirit within us.  The Feast of Pentecost is a celebration of the spark and effervescence which happens when people knowing the Holy Spirit gather together to reinforce their identity with Christ.  Sparks happen.  It is as though everyone's spirit surfaces and then there is an experience of the further identity of knowing Christ in our midst.  This is why we gather.  This is why we miss gathering now.  We want each person's experience of the Holy Spirit to be evident in a physical gathering so as to realize the group identity of being the body of Christ.   As we celebrate being quite different members in gifts and calling, yet finding enlightened and peaceful reciprocity in pooling our spiritual gifts to make Christ known in our world.

Today, we long for gathered effervescence of the Holy Spirit, even while we make the most of our virtual gatherings.  Don't diminish them and their importance.  The entire holy Scriptures are virtual.  We weren't there when Scriptures were written to their specific communities but by the technology of writing, the Scriptures are virtually available to us and they have been important in the transmission of the presence of God and Christ across history.  And who can we give credit to for this transmission of the Good News of God in Christ across history?  The Holy Spirit, of course.

Let us be thankful for the unveiling of the Holy Spirit for us, as the Clean Heart which we can experience within us.  But also let us renew the effervescent group identity of knowing ourselves socially as the Body of Christ.

We say today again, "Come Holy Spirit, our hearts inspire and enlighten with celestial fire."  Let us know the most significant inner Advocate and affirming presence in our lives today.  Amen.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Jesus Did Not Want to Be an Only Child!

7 Easter Cycle  A      May 24, 2020

Acts 1:6-14        Ps. 68 

 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11   John 17:1-11     
Lectionary Link

Today is the Sunday after the Ascension.  Houston, there's been a lift off and Jesus has gone out of sight....And where did the early church believe that Jesus went?  They believed that he went into the realm of God to be with his heavenly parent and be a High Priest in the heavenly realm.  And what does Jesus the High Priest do?  He continues to live forever making intercession on our behalf.

In the Gospel of John for today, we've read the true "Lord's Prayer;" the other one is actually the disciples' prayer taught to them by Jesus, and he did teach them to address God as "Our Father."

When we read the Gospel of John, we get the impression that the writer walked with Jesus and was so beloved and close to Jesus that he shared with him his words and thoughts.  And if Jesus is a great High Priest who intercedes for us in heaven, the Gospels also presented him as a man who prayed and interceded for his friends while he lived on earth.

The writer of John really felt so close to Jesus, that he knew how Jesus prayed, so much so that we get a glimpse into the heart of concern of Jesus.  This prayer of Jesus expresses the mystical goal of the Gospel program of John's Gospel.  "Father, I ask that my friends might be one, as you and are one."

We sometimes think that this refers to the unity of the church, and it can and does, but more specifically in John's mystical program, Jesus desires that each person come to know the oneness with the heavenly parent as it has been modeled by him.  

Jesus is saying to his heavenly parent, " Father, I don't want to be an only child....let me have many, many, many brothers and sister.  Let them realize their end in life, which is to know themselves as sons and daughters of God.  That they may be one with you Father, as I am one with with you.

So, how are you and I going to realize and know that we are sons and daughters of God and one with our heavenly parent?

We're going to do what Jesus did.  And what did Jesus do?  He prayed.  We pray because we already have taken up identity within the family of God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  What is prayer?  According to our catechism it is living as though all our lives is a continual response to God with words and without words; with unspoken words of our body language in what we do and perform in love and justice.

In John's Gospel, Christ is the Eternal Word from the beginning.  Jesus said that his words were Spirit and life.   And when we make our lives prayer lives, we make our words spirit and life.  We live our lives emulating Jesus who is an intercessor for others.

When Jesus walked this earth, he prayed for his friends.  When Christ rose and ascended, he continues to pray.  And he says to us, " I want to borrow you and your life; I want to pray in and through you continually and make your lives, lives of prayer, and so you will know your true identity as sons and daughters of God, because you will embrace the very same prayer ministry that I have in this world."

Dear friends, don't doubt the image of God on your life.  You belong to God.  And how do you know it and practice it?  You pray, I pray and we all pray, all of the time.  Prayer involves word and Prayer words create.  They name the situation.  They name the need.  They name the normalcy of health and salvation.  They state the deprivation from health and salvation which sin and sickness and this pandemic are.  And words are like votes; if we cast enough of them to invoke health and salvation, we can tip the scales toward majority in the freedom that is in our world and come to realize health.

No matter what happened to Jesus.  He prayed.  Why?  He was one with God the Creator.  And you and I are invited into the priestly ministry of Jesus by living lives of prayer as it has been shown to us by Jesus.

Rejoice today.  We are chlldren of God.  We are one with the Father.  So, let get on with it.  Let get on with making prayer the very vocation of our lives.  Not just table grace prayer or prayer at church; but prayer as our intentional life of responding to God as our Father.  Amen.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Mystical Union? Being a Child of God

7 Easter Cycle A May 24, 2020
Acts 1:6-14 Ps. 68
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 John 17:1-11

The Gospel of John is significantly different from the other canonical Gospels. It was written later and includes different literary forms. It does not have parables; it does not have exorcisms, it does not have the Bethlehem birth story, and the miracles are called signs but it does have very long discourses and is the most significant "red letter/words of Jesus" Gospel. One of the long "discourses" of Jesus is the long prayer in John, chapter 17, which is in fact, can more likely be called the "Lord's Prayer," than the "Our Father," since the "Our Father," could be called the disciples' prayer. Remember the Gospel process involved persons who believe they were filled with God's Spirit, who had the mind of Christ, and who believed that when they spoke in the name of Jesus, they were channeling his words as an oracle of Christ himself. These oracle words channeled through the early preachers/friends of Jesus were then placed in narrative teaching contexts that became the Gospels. In the Gospel writings, there is a distinction of weaved words from the oral tradition of Jesus of Nazareth and the oracles words of the Risen Christ channeled through the early evangelists. John's Gospel is so distinctly different, it seems to involve more channeled words of the Risen Christ and the word are presented in a mystagogic form as a spiritual program for initiates to be on a transformational path to realize the end and goal of human life.

What is the biblical end and goal of human life? It is to recover and live out the image of God as our heavenly parent. Jesus Christ is the one who God gave to this world to help human being realize themselves as sons and daughters of God.

In the prayer of Jesus, which we read on Ascension Sunday, we have a prayer of Jesus speaking in the past tense about his time on earth. And he states his pray wish for his disciples. "Father, I pray that they may be one, even as you are one in me." This is the mystical goal of life. Jesus, told his disciples, if you have seen me, you have seen the Father." And now he wants it to be, "if you see my disciple, you also can see the Father; that is, you can see the image of God upon their lives as they have come into the power to be children of God."

What did the early Christians believe about the Ascended Christ? They believed that he had attained another state of glory, of profound influential fame, the influential fame of being next to God and interceding on behalf of his earthly friends.

You and I should use the interceding prayers of Jesus like our stairway, ladder or elevator to attain what St. Paul said, "be seated with Christ in heavenly places." This is the spiritual poetry of the early church to speak about mystical union with God in Christ in knowing oneself as a child of God.

John's Gospel is the most profound Gospel about the Fatherhood of God. Many of the words of the Risen Christ in the Gospel oracles are about the relationship between Jesus the Son and God the Father. Jesus is the unique Child, unique Son of God to help us realize, or have the power and authority to be sibling children of God.

In our modern era of coming into a fuller appreciation of the equality of women in our social order, but also into our theological symbols, the seeming limitation of "masculine" designation for the divine can seem starkly excluding of the feminine. And in charity, we need to understand the limitation of cultures of patriarchal dominance. Hebrew Scriptures has feminine designations for the divine, even while the masculine often prevailed because of the heavenly competition with the various goddesses of Canaan. In the old order when microscopic things were not yet seen, the contribution of the egg as equal in child birth was not known, and the masculine was given an omni-competence for generating the whole child, who had merely been planted in "soil" of the womb. In the old order, the masculine was the nature of a child and the feminine was but the nurture of the child. Since Paul wrote that in Christ, there is neither male nor female, but a new creation, we can understand the Fatherhood of God in a more androgynous way, as an omni-competent Heavenly Parent from whom we derived and whom we seek to be one with as we seek to perfectly bear the image of our heavenly parent.

The prayer, "that they may be one," has often been reduced to ecclesiastical policy. It is seen as a prayer of Jesus for the unity of the church. And yet there are so many churches which are not in such unity. I think that this prayer of Jesus has less to do with the administrative unity of everyone who calls themselves Christian; no, it has to do with each person coming into the power of being a child of God and bearing in the best possible way the image of our heaven parent and creator.

This is the daunting task of our lives; to bear the image of God into our world as we have been given the perfect example in the life of Jesus Christ.

And how to we bear the image of God into our world? With the practice of love and justice. What does God look like in our world now? God looks like love and justice as it can come to people in many ways through the practice of people who are seeking to bear and live out the image of God in this world.

Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." And what did we see in Jesus? Sacrificial love, honesty and justice.

Now this day, on Ascension Sunday, we note the real absence of Jesus of Nazareth from this world. And what is it that takes the place of the absent Jesus of Nazareth?
The Risen Christ says, "If people see you, then they have seen your heavenly parent." Why? Because the prayer of the Risen Christ is always, "Father/Parent, make them one as you are one in me."

Let us use the power of the prayer of Christ for us, to realize ourselves as children of God today. Amen


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Being Contained as God's Offspring through Jesus Christ

6 Easter A       May 17, 2020  
Acts 17:22-31       Ps. Ps. 66   
1 Peter 3:13-22     John 14:15-21                

Lectionary Link
What is a container?   A container is something that has stuff inside of it.  A container has a boundary, a border and outside surface.  And in many ways we live in a world of containers, entities with outer surfaces which contain inner stuff.

Each of us is a container.  Our outer surface is our epidermis with some "attachments," like hair, eyeballs and finger nail and toe nails.    And we have inside of us all our physiological stuff that is best known by surgeons who actually get to interact with the same.  But we contain lots of "non-physiological" stuff, the stuff of what we call thought, emotions, feelings, sense of self, personal identity, cultural identity and many other things which we have named because we believe that they reside or are contained within us.  Through our cultures we have come to accept the mapping of our interior life, and we inherited the knowing of ourselves as body, soul and spirit in our Christian interior map.

The encounter of St. Paul with the Greeks on Mars Hill in Athens is a telling account.  It instantiate the fact that Paul, formerly, Saul of Tarsus was a man with a background in the Hebrew-Judaic tradition but he lived in the Diaspora as a Roman citizen within a culture that would be called Greco-Roman in composition.

Athens was the ultimate symbolic place of Greek philosophical world influence.  Greek philosophers from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle found a way to hold their beliefs in gods and goddesses even while proposing the very foundation of rigorous philosophical, reasoned inquiry.

Paul is presented, in this account from the Acts of the Apostles as a Christian apologist who is looking for correspondences within the artifacts of the Greek culture.  He encountered the agnosticism in the statute with the engraving, "To an unknown god."  This is quite amazing, since there were many gods and goddesses in the Greco-Roman pantheon, so to honor an "unknown god," was a place for Paul to begin, since it represented a humility of openness that there might be something further to understand about the meaning of the divine life.

And Paul, also adopted a phrase which suggested that the God which the Greco-Roman people did not know was not just another member of the pantheon of gods and goddesses, but rather this God was the ultimate Container.  Paul stated, "In God, we live and move and have our being."  Is there a more ultimate Container than such a God?  Such a container would not have anything outside of it influencing it from without.  Such a container would only be influenced by everything that it contained.  We live and move and have our being in God.  We are contained by the ultimate Container.

And yet Paul also goes on to affirm the special existence of human beings.  We are not impersonal stuff in the great God Container; no, we are offspring of God.  Here again, Paul recognized an insight which came, not from the Hebrew Scriptures but which came from a Greek poet.  And Paul, as a Jew, could agree, because he believed that in the tradition of Adam, we were made in God's image, so we are higher personality stuff; not like a rock, or tree, or even a monkey.  We are higher personality stuff.

God can be regarded to be "unknown."  If God is so high and a different kind of existing being, then such an alien would not be able to be communicated with.  There would be no common language between humanity and such a God.  How does an unknown God become known by human beings?  By discovering a human being who is so magnificent that he is bi-lingual in the life and language of God and in the life and language of Jesus Christ we have such a "bi-lingual" Being.  And if such a being is made known, then we can be directed to find our own "bi-lingual nature," and realize our identity as children of God.

The Gospel of John is about knowing the power, the authority of being children of God.  The Gospel of John is explicit about Jesus presenting God as our heavenly Parent with Jesus as the unique divine Son who bears the image of God in such a profound way as to become definitive of what our relationship with God is to be.

Are we to be trapped in the physical and psychological determinism of our natural parents and cultures? No, the Gospel of John through the oracles of Jesus indicate that we can know our determination by our heavenly parent.  We can know that we are offspring of God, sons and daughters of God.

When parents die or leave our lives, we become orphans.  The Gospel of Jesus is a message about never being an orphan; our heavenly parent never left, never will leave, and never will die.

"So, Jesus, how can we know that we've not abandoned orphans, after you are gone and we are not able to see you?"  "I'm glad you ask," says the Risen Christ, "because I have the Holy Spirit within me to know this perpetual connection with God, the heavenly Parent.  And you are going to have this Internal Advocate too, so that you will have your true parentage always verified."  The Holy Spirit verifies our heavenly DNA.

Let us summarize some Gospel and Scripture insights for today.  1-We and everything else is contained in God as the Ultimate Container.   2-God is a very Personal Container, and we are made as God's offspring because unlike a rock or water, we are made of higher personality stuff.  3-God can be unknown unless we have a divine-human bi-lingual conduit for communication between humanity and God.  4-Jesus Christ is the divine-human bi-lingual Unique Son of God who came so that we could realize the original blessing of our creation in God's image as God's children.

And knowing this Gospel, let us accept our heavenly parentage and let us follow Jesus in learning how to be better in our bi-lingual practice of speaking the language of heaven within our earthly human experience.  The divine language in human experience is best known as love and justice.  Jesus Christ became human and spoke human language so that within human language we might learn to speak that which is most God-ward in human experience and so fully possess our inheritance as children of God.

This is the Gospel we celebrate and offer to all today.  Amen

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Jesus, like a Good Mom Prepared His "Kids" for His Absence

5 Easter a         May 10, 2020
Acts 17:1-15       Ps. 66: 1-8   
1 Peter 2:1-10     John 14:1-14

Lectionary Link
The Gospel of John include oracles of the Risen Christ placed within a narrative of Jesus.  These oracles address the issues which were facing the early Christian communities.

And in today's Gospel reading, we might understand Jesus as a good real estate agent, or a heavenly HUD authority.  We all like to have a place to live, and we may want to have assurance of a place to live in our afterlives.  Jesus, the ideal Real Estate agent, promises, "Guys, you going to be just fine in your afterlife, because in my Father's house there are many dwelling places and I've prepared one for each of you."  Now many of us with Downton Abbey sensitivities would prefer that the Risen Christ still spoke King James English, because in King James English, Jesus said, "Gentlemen, in my Father's house are many mansions.".....which would you rather live in a mansion or a nondescript "dwelling place?"  So, in changing translations do we get down-sized to the low rent district of the Father housing complex?

What is being addressed in the oracle of the Risen Christ in John's Gospel?

The church is dealing with the real absence of Jesus.  Jesus of Nazareth is gone.  How can we still have faith and believe that he is alive.  And what kind of future will we have?  What kind of future afterlife will we have?  Will we have a location in the the afterlife?  Will we have a place to live in the afterlife?  Will we have a home in the afterlife?

What does the Risen Christ say?  “Don't be troubled.  You can believe in me and my Father that we will take care of you.  I will prepare a place for you.  You will always have a home with me.”  On Mother's Day, we associate Mom with preparing a home; and if Mom did it for us, so too we have the assurance of the Risen Christ about always having a home, a location, a continuing self identity no matter what happens.  Our good doubting Thomas states the obvious regarding empirical proof.  Jesus, we can't see where you're going or where you've arrived.  How can we know the way?  And the  Risen Christ says, "I am, in you, the Way,"  I'm your internal GPS guiding system because, "I am, in you, the Way."  "I am, in you, Truth and honesty about your life, about God and your purpose in life."  "I am, in you, Zoe, or Abundant Life.  I am, in you, Holy Spirit Risen Christ life, which is the experience of eternal life within ordinary biological mortal life.  I am, your brother in showing you that you belong to our heavenly parent as God's child."

Again, another doubter, Philip, who is all of us in our "show me" demands.  "Show us our Father, show us our heavenly parent, so that we can know we are God's child."

And what did the Risen Christ say?  "Seeing me, you have seen our heavenly parent...the very genetics of the divine image is in me completely and it is in you too as you see the divine image staring at you through each other.  Don't doubt the higher familial likeness of the divine image on you for that is how you are made."

What was another main concern of the early Christians?  Well, now that Jesus has left the world how can any work as good as what he did get done?  "Jesus, you did it all and you did it best, so what can we do in any comparable way?  What is our purpose and work now?"

What does the Risen Christ say?  "Friends, your work is even greater.  Why?  My work as Jesus of Nazareth was limited to the time that I lived in Palestine, but time still is accumulating in greatness in everlastingness.  So, to keep filling up the time, there is greater work to do and I will no longer be limited to my physical body in Palestine.  I will be the Risen Christ in you replicating and reproducing endlessly the work of the Gospel of the Good News of God's love.  So, friends, you are a part of the greater work as the Gospel rolls on in time in everlastingness.  Don't limit me to the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth; let me be the Risen Christ inhabiting all who want me to work in and through them.  I am the cornerstone to the body and temple of Christ as I will inhabit you to keep doing the greater work into the endless future."

Today's Gospel in short: Mom prepared a home for us. Christ has prepared an afterlife home for us and having faith in this, we can live with all of our other temporary homes on earth.  Second, trust the presence of Risen Christ as our Way or internal GPS guiding us as we intentionally commit ourselves to his path.  3rd. Let us live in the Truth as Honesty about the Risen Christ in us.  Next, let us accept the assurance of eternal life within mortal life.  And let us accept the familial likeness of the heavenly parent on our lives and find Christ in each other.  The Father is seen as we let the Father see through us.  And finally, let us not think that Jesus during his lifetime exhausted all of the work God wants to do in this world.  Let us accept the absence of the physical Jesus as the assurance of the omni-presence of the spiritual Risen Christ, who St. Paul said poetically, was All and in all.  By accepting the absence of the physical Jesus we can commit ourselves to be a part of doing the greater work that remains as we allow the Risen Christ to continue to work to share the good news of God's reconciling love in our world.  Amen.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Being Rightly Related to Power, Knowledge and Wealth

4 Easter A        May 3, 2020
Acts 6:1-9, 7:2a 51-60   Ps. 23  
1 Peter 2:19-25    John 10:1-10                

Lectionary Link

In many ways, life is about our relationship to and with power, knowledge and wealth.  It is a desirable goal to have a right relationship with power, knowledge and wealth.  In our lives, we need good modeling to show us how to have the right relationship with power, knowledge and wealth.

We can come into our relationship with power, knowledge and wealth in at least three ways.  First, in being so dependent that we need all three of these expressed to us in care.  Second, by being presented with a negative relationship with power, knowledge and wealth to expose the wrong use of these human life expression, a kind of aversion therapy.   But finally, we need to experience the best possible modeling of how to express the power, knowledge and wealth of our lives.

I am not sure why we have it in the lectionary, but Good Shepherd Sunday occurs each year in the season of Easter.  It could be that it sometimes coincides with Mother's Day, and who is a better example of good shepherding than a good mother?  But this year, it does not coincide with Mother's Day.

It would be true to say that the desirable expression of the Risen Life of Christ is to live the life of a good shepherd.

The Good Shepherd discourse from John's Gospel models three facets of our relationship with power, knowledge and wealth.

The first being, "sheephood."  Yes, everyone is at times in the role of a sheep.  Why?  Because vulnerability and needing the ministry of power, knowledge and wealth on our behalf is often our life situation.  We can be the most powerful, knowledgable, and wealthy person in the world but still be in need.  Of a good meal, of surgery, of mechanical repairs on our car, a hair cut.  It is being in need of others which creates the balancing of reciprocity that is needed for all societies to function well.  As dependent sheep, we are often on the receiving end of need.  And when we are, we hope that power, knowledge and wealth will be exercise toward us for our care.  And because we all know the experience of human need, this should train us in empathy for others or we may so detest being in need that we may deny that we need help and we may fail to learn the lessons of empathy when we are in need.

Failure to learn empathy in our time of need, can lead to the abuse of power, knowledge and wealth.  In the Good Shepherd discourse, the words of Jesus refers to those who abuse power, knowledge and wealth as thieves and bandits.  Power, knowledge and wealth can be used to exploit the weak, the ignorant and naive and the poor.  People who do not learn empathy and honesty about their own need of other people, can become exploiters.  They are the leaders who are "bad shepherds" who exploit every situation for their own selfish ends.  And in the words of Jesus, he is saying, "Don't be bad shepherds.  Don't abuse your gifts of power, knowledge and wealth; put them at the service of people who are in need."

And that brings us to the metaphor for the proper use of power, knowledge and wealth.  It is the metaphor of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus is the metaphor for the Good Shepherd.  Who is more powerful, wealthier and more intelligent than God and his Son?  How do the Divine Persons of the Trinity use power, knowledge and wealth?  They use them as gifts to us.  And when these gifts are given to us, we in turn need to follow the example of the Good Shepherd in ministering to those who are needy sheep.

May God give us the grace of learning empathy from all of the times that we know personal need.  And may the power of the Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit help us to use our empathy to be good shepherds and minister to those in need.

In this way, you and I can be rightly related to the gifts of power, knowledge and wealth in our lives.  May God, raise us up from the empathy gained in our times of need, to be good shepherds to the people who need our help and care today.  Amen.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Process Your Surprises with the Risen Christ

3 Easter A    April 26, 2020 
Acts 2:14a,36-47   Ps. 116:10-17
1 Peter 1:17-23    Luke 24:13-35              

Lectionary Page
Do you like surprises?  You probably immediately are thinking, well it depends upon what it is.  The pandemic has been a surprise, probably the biggest surprise in our lifetimes and it is so dominating our lives and making us change our former routines for such a long time, we know that there will be a sea change and there cannot be a going back to the ways things were formerly.  It is a surprise which has permanently altered our lives.

What is the main ingredient in a surprise?  The main ingredient for the one or ones who experience it is that it is unplanned.  I am going to have a planned surprise happen to me.  That an oxymoron.

The disciples of Jesus on Easter Day were trying to cope with a very unfortunate surprise. Their friend and mentorJesus, who was a champion and a King, was taken by the Romans and crucified and he was buried.  What kind of Messiah who did all of those wonderful things ends up dying on a cross?  Surprise.  "Well, we have to pack up and go home.  The Movement is dead.  Let get back to our village of Emmaus, even though we've heard some rumors about body snatching in Jerusalem,  it is time to try to figure out what we're going to do next.

Let's just walk in silence and lick our wounds.  But then we're joined by another person walking the route and he joins us and inquires about us and we talk about the hubbub in the Jerusalem and how Jesus was not who we thought he was and he was not a triumphant king like we wanted and hoped for.  Messiahs and kings don't get put on a cross.

But the traveler seems to know his Hebrew Scriptures.  We use the Hebrew Scripture as a template for understanding what greatness means for us and our people.  But this traveler tells us that we've missed something in the Hebrew Scriptures, the part about the Person of God's anointing and choosing, being a Suffering Servant.  He leads us to a different view of the Messiah and what greatness means for God's Messiah.  The Messiah is Emmanuel or God with us, and where is God with us?  Everywhere including in death and after death."

The two disciples of Jesus in their grief were engaged by this unrecognized traveler and they were challenged to change their model for what the Messiah would look like.  They were presented with Suffering Servant model from the prophet Isaiah.

They were so engaged, they invited the traveler to their home for some food.  And as they sat to break bread together, "Poof,"  the incognito Risen Christ suddenly became known to these forlorn disciples.  And they were surprised, this time in a completely differently way.  They had been surprised negatively in the death of Jesus on the Cross; but now they were surprised by this unique ability of the Risen Christ to be with them incognito and then suddenly be recognized and then suddenly spirited away.

St. Paul wrote that the resurrection involves our spiritual body which reconstitutes a fuller incorruptible self.  And the appearances of the Risen Christ indicates that he was in his resurrected spiritual body which could be reconstituted as actual and apparent physical appearance to some, and then be gone.  One could even believe that the love for Jesus and the loss of Jesus caused such a profound grief that it was a grief which invited Jesus to re-appear and encounter those who deeply mourned his loss.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus had a "peek a boo, I see you" encounter with the Risen Christ.  And they were surprised.  They did not control the surprise.  They did not control how the Risen Christ became known to them.  But they, in joy, received the surprise and responded with hope.  "Let's get back to Jerusalem and see if the gang is still together.  If someone can reappear after death, that would qualify as being a candidate for being the Messiah."

The Emmaus Road story encodes the two ways in which we believe that the church is given to known the presence of Christ.  In Scriptures and in the breaking of the bread.  But these two means of knowing the presence of Christ do not exhaust the many other ways that Christ can be known.

One of the narratives of Hope is the narrative of surprise.  Our lives have been given content, timeline, and identity by the surprises in our lives.  Each person has had Christ incognito surprises  in life and maybe without even acknowledging it or knowing it.  Hope also is the creative force that gives us some anticipation about some more surprises of the Risen Christ variety.

One of the first games we teach our babies is the game of Peek a boo, I see you.  Unwittingly, we in this simple game are trying to wean our baby from our visual presence and then surprise them suddenly.  We are trying to teach our babies that even when we are not with them by sight, sound, or touch, we still are with them with profound loving presence.

And that is what God is playing with us in our lives today.  Seemingly absent or incognito and suddenly, "Peek a boo, I see you, I am alway seeing, I love you, I care for you."

I hope that you have known God to be a loving parent playing with you, "Peek a boo, I see you."  God respects the world enough that God created such that even under every stone unturned there can be a surprise, "Peek a boo, I see you, I love you, I care for you."  Amen

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Is Your Experience of the Risen Lord Blessed?

2 Easter Sunday        April 19, 2020
Acts 2:14a,22-32          Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3-9          John 20:19-31 

Lectionary Link 

I love the Doubting Thomas Story which we always read on Low Sunday, the Sunday after Easter.  It is full of too much to preach on in one occasion.

I find it interesting that the writer is shamelessly promotional about the author's own writing and, in fact, uses the Doubting Thomas story to validate Gospel writing as a significant means of making Christ present.  "These things are written so that you may believe...."  

Writing is a Word product.  It is a technology of memory.  If Jesus is gone and if all of the eyewitnesses to Jesus have passed away.  And if there is a broken line of community transmission of oral traditions about Jesus, how does Jesus remain in the world?  Through his appearance in written text.  But can written text really be a valid stand-in for Christ, an alter Christus, as another valid presence of Christ?

This pandemic has required that we practice social distancing and not be present to each other. If we don't see each other, do we still exist?  Do we still believe in each other?  Are we still persuaded about the validity and viability of our parish community?

Word has morphed and created many products beyond text.  Human being speak, but then wrote "picture words," which became writing.  We have artistic representations in pictures.   Then came photography, and  telegraphs, and telephones, and  video,  and now we have the mass promulgation of "live" and recorded video on television.  And on the the internet, we have all of the Word products that give us proof to believe in each other and be validly present to each other.  We might say that all of these alternative ways of connection are not substitute for actually being together, but they suffice during this time of pandemic.  We should not minimize these connection; they may actually intensify and appreciate each other better than if we were gathering.

One can remember the proverbial letters from home to the soldier who in the written letter experiences an intense intense sense of his loved one being with him.  But then on the return to the home of his loved one, he soon takes being present so much for granted that his loved one seems to be absent.

The Doubting Thomas, highlights the differences in the how the presence of the Risen Christ was experienced in the early churches.

The eyewitnesses of Jesus and his post-resurrection appearance may be placed on such a pedestal that their experience of Christ might be regarded to be superior to anyone who did not walk and talk with Jesus.  As eyewitnesses were dying out, how could the experience of Christ be regarded to be authentic?

How many times have we thought, well, I can be excused for my faith, because I did not have the privilege of walking and talking with Jesus.  And I haven't had the same kind of experience that St. Paul had; I was not knocked off my horse on a trip to San Diego and blinded by a bright light from heaven; so there is no reason to think that my experience of Christ is as valid and as authentic as St. Thomas' or St. Paul's.

Can we appreciate how the Doubting Thomas Story is the oracle of Christ in the early church invoked to deal with the inferiority complex of second generation Christians who were not eyewitness of Jesus and who did not even know an eyewitness of Jesus?

Can we see this Doubting Thomas Story as witness to the fact that Risen Christ is confirming blessing and validity upon your experience and my experience of the Risen Christ?

The Doubting Thomas was a good scientist.  "Jesus still lives, if and only if, I can verify his existence according to the standards of science which is empirical verification.  If Jesus is alive, show me.  Demonstrate it to me.  Let me see you Jesus so that you can prove your Risen Life to me."

If Thomas's empirical method was the standard for faith, then there would have been only a few valid Christians.  And not even St. Paul would have qualified as a Christian, if he had demanded the type of Risen Christ experience which Thomas did.  St. Paul had a visionary experience of the Risen Christ.

If Thomas's standard for valid faith is the norm, there would be no Christian faith.  There would be no-transhistorical transmission of the Gospel.

The early church included people who were having many different kinds of experiences giving them proof that Christ was still alive, and such experiences were not eyewitness experiences.  So how could the experiences of all of the people who were not eyewitnesses to Jesus or his post-resurrection appearances be valid and trusted experiences?   How could the early church leader convince the followers of Jesus that they had valid experiences of the Risen Christ.

If we understand this dilemma, then we can understand the writing purpose of the Doubting Thomas event.  This Gospel story is the oracle of the Risen Christ conferring blessing upon the experiences of those who were not eyewitnesses to Jesus of Nazareth.

But the Gospel writer gives us clues about how we can know the presence of the Risen Christ in our lives.  First there is peace.  Jesus said, "Peace be with you."  This is part of our weekly liturgy.  We pass the peace to bear witness to the presence of the Risen Christ.  Another sign is God's Spirit.  Jesus breathed on the disciples and said," Receive the Spirit." Jesus also said that His word were Spirit and that they were life.  We have the Spirit and Words of Jesus with us to validate the Risen Christ in our midst.  Jesus said told his disciple to forgive sins, even though they could retain them if they so chose.  The presence of Risen Christ is known and validated in a community which does not retain sins, but practices forgiveness.

In direct contrast to Thomas' demand for empirical evidence of the Risen Christ, Jesus said, "Thomas, I'm glad that you see and believe, you are blessed.  But what about all of the people who do not see and touch and yet still believe.  Truly they are blessed."  Here we see Jesus conferring blessing and validity upon your experiences of the Risen Christ and my experiences of the Risen Christ.  We do not have to have inferiority complexes about our experiences of the Risen Christ.  Accept your versions of the Risen Christ that have come to you this day as valid, especially if they include peace, forgiveness and the Holy Spirit.

And don't forget about Words.  Words of all sorts.  The writer of the Gospel of John said that you could know the Risen Christ by reading his Gospel words.  And he wrote this directly, "Readers, I wrote this Gospel so that you might believe in Jesus as Son of God and Messiah and that in believing you might have life in his name."  In other words, just by having these Gospel words rearrange your inner lives toward Spirit, Peace and forgiveness, your experience of the Risen Christ is just as valid and blessed as the Doubting Thomas.

Friends, you and I are invited to accept the blessing and the validity of our experiences of the Risen Christ today.  Let us not doubt the confirming blessing of Jesus Christ upon our experiences of the Risen Christ today.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Co-exists with Every Situation

Easter Sunday     A   April 16, 2017    
Acts 10:34-43  Psalm118:1-2,14-24
Colossians 3:1-4 Matthew 28:1-10

We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our Song.  We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our Song.

Easter is our chief identity as Christians and Alleluia is one of our favorite words.  We were an Easter people during the season of Lent, but we fasted from the word, Alleluia.  We did that voluntarily, but in these past weeks the growing threat of coronavirus pandemic has forced upon all sorts of involuntary fasting.

We have had to fast from many, many things that we have been taking for granted.  Imagine, giving up attending church during Lent.  What kind of discipline is that?  We’ve had to fast from each other; we have had to maintain social distance.  We’ve had to fast from going to work,  and for some, fast from receiving paychecks.

Just as we are Easter people when we fast during Lent, so too we are still Easter people in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic.  And how are we proving that we are Easter people during this pandemic?

By caring for one another.  By restructuring our economic infrastructures for the survival of people.  By redirecting our resources so that all can have enough. By redirecting our modes of production so that our medical professional can have enough of the protective supplies and ventilators for their patients.  We are an Easter people in the midst of the pandemic.

On the first Easter morning when the women and men disciples and friends of Jesus were in mourning over his death, they were confronted with his reappearances.  They were shocked by his re-appearances.  They were baffled by his re-appearances.  They could not believe that someone actually beat death.  How is that possible that someone beat death?  Outlived death?

How is it possible that someone proved that there is a kind of personal continuity of one’s life after he or she has died.  Unbelievable.  Baffling.

But slowly and with confidence those early friends of Jesus began to accept the hopeful promise which the re-appearances of Jesus gave them.

And what happened to them?  They took on their new identity.  They became Easter people.  And they invited many, many more people to become Easter people.  And God’s Holy Spirit had this way of confirming in new and more people this Easter identity, this experience of the eternality of one’s soul.

And the Easter people spread throughout the cities of the Roman Empire because the hope was unstoppable for all kinds of people, Jews, and every sort of resident in the cities of the Roman Empire.

But just because the friends of Jesus became Easter people, did their troubles stop?  Not at all.  They had to live and move under the radar for many years to avoid persecution and martyrdom.  Those early Easter people did not rise to the top of the Empire with immediate social status.

One can still be Easter people and live in hardships.  The first Easter did not make the hardships of the world go away.  In a world of freedom, the freedom of the resurrection appearance of Jesus to occur, changed the world.  These post-resurrection appearances gave witness, an anecdotal testimony, to what everyone wants to believe.

Everyone wants to believe that there is no end to one’s personal identity after one dies, especially since we know that most people will be forgotten within a few generations after one dies.

The first Easter did not so much change the conditions of the world, as it changed the hearts of people who began to act with hope.  And people who
act with hope, change their world with optimism, even when everything is not going well, even when there is a worldwide pandemic.

Easter will co-exist with the rest of human history.  Easter co-exists with the experience of the coronavirus and all its devastating effects.

Good and ills are going to come and go, and Easter is going to be with us, no matter what.

We celebrate Easter today to be renewed in our primary identity in life, which is to be Easter people.  In creation, God planted eternity as an image upon us, we have spent lots of time in our times living in alienation from the eternal image of God upon our lives.

And Easter, helps us to find and express our true nature even in the middle of nature which throws at us lots of diverse experiences, including a global pandemic.   Alleluia.  Christ is Risen.  And Christ says to us.  You are an Easter people and alleluia is your song, and especially now in the middle of this global pandemic.

Let us go forth today as renewed Easter people and let us teach our alleluia song to as many people as we can.  Amen

Sunday School, June 7, 2020 Trinity Sunday A

Sunday School, June 7, 2020     Trinity Sunday    A Theme: The Holy Trinity The confession of God, being One God but in three Persons Father...