Monday, April 21, 2014

A little fun

Came across this today and it made me laugh:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Real Sermon

The earlier post from this morning is pretty much a standard sermon that every preacher gives today.  After all, what else can you say today?

But I did preach a sermon.  I won't post it here because it's unpostable.  But it entails the story of creation through resurrection.

If you can imagine that story, you've got the sermon.

Blessings on this holy day.

Sermon, Easter Day

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the day we live in every day.

The crucifixion has happened.  Easter day and the resurrection are but the promise of tomorrow.  But today, Holy Saturday, is where we live.

Peter and other disciples went back to work, not knowing what else to do.  We get on with our lives, sometimes not knowing what else to do.

It was during this "getting on with our lives" period when this happened:

Mrs. Ref and I were doing our obligatory grocery shopping this afternoon.  We went shopping after the Holy Saturday service and after we had prepped the church for Easter.  So, like Peter, I was in my work clothes (i.e. wearing my collar). 

The checkout girl was doing her job and making small talk with us.  She looked at me and said, "Are you doing anything for Easter?"

I resisted the urge to say, "Are you serious??" and instead said, "Working."

"Yeah, me too."

It's Holy Saturday.  The crucifixion was yesterday.  The resurrection is but a promise of tomorrow.  And most people get on with their lives as if nothing was changed.

How do the events of yesterday and the promise of tomorrow shape your life?

Sermon, Good Friday

Good Friday is a hard day.  It is the day when the consequence of our actions are made manifest.  Last night we humbled ourselves and washed another's feet; or maybe it was that we humbled ourselves and allowed our feet to be washed.  Then we moved into the church, received our final Communion meal of the week and either watched or participated in the stripping of the altar.

Last night we told Jesus we didn't need him in our life, and we removed everything that reminded us of him.  Today we participate in his execution by either actively shouting, “Crucify him,” or by standing idly by, not wanting to get involved.  Our level of participation varies, but our culpability remains constant.

Make no mistake – we are culpable.  In reading John's version of the Passion, it might be easy to blame “the Jews,” or the Romans.  But we must remember that John, like all gospel writers, had a political agenda that shaped his story.  And if we use this passage as a basis for anti-Semitism we are missing the point by a wide margin.

Instead of using the crucifixion as a reason to condemn others, or using it as a basis for sentimental piousness, the crucifixion should make us aware of the suffering of others, especially those who suffer at the hands of those in power by virtue of their money, their politics, their gender, their sexuality, their race or any number of things that allows one human to dominate another human.  We may not be actively pounding the nails, but all too often we are the ones standing idly by.

The reading from Isaiah is referred to as “the suffering servant,” and is often used as a prophecy for Jesus and his crucifixion.  In that passage, Isaiah writes, “By a perversion of justice he was taken away.”  There is much talk in Christian circles about this trial of Jesus being just that – a perversion of justice.  Kangaroo court and illegal also get thrown into the mix.

If Good Friday is to teach us anything, it should give us an understanding of cruelty.  It should teach us that the pain and suffering of the innocent, outcast, different and other are not the will of God.  Perverted justice should appall us as much as it appalls God.  Pain and suffering can have meaning, but that meaning is lost if we don't learn from it.

If the pain and suffering of those killed by the Nazis – Jews, Christians, gays, crippled, Gypsies and more – are ignored, systematic ethnic cleansing can and will rise again.  If the pain and suffering of those fighting for equal rights in the 50's, 60's and into today are ignored, then we will too easily fall into the trap of “rights for me but not for thee.”

Yes, we gather today to contemplate those mighty acts by which his pain and suffering redeemed the world.  But we must also look on those shameful acts that crucified an innocent man and ask, “If they were shameful then, are they not shameful today?”  Anytime we allow people to suffer injustices, either because we actively participate in their marginalization or because we stand idly by, then we are on the wrong side of the cross.

This Good Friday we remember more than any other day that Jesus died for our sins.  And that is a good thing.  But we must also remember that it was at the hands of an unjust system.  And that is a bad thing.  We must also remember that unjust systems are still in place today.  And that is a very bad thing.

As we contemplate the death of an innocent man we name as Savior, maybe we should also spend some time contemplating whether or not we've learned anything.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sermon, Maundy Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something awesomely consistent

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

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