SAINT JOHN’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH – MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – APRIL 20, 2014
I’m going to tell you the whole/entire/complete (I hope) Good News of God in Christ, here & now! That may not sound like good news. I’m putting this as delicately and kindly as I can when I say, “If some of you showed up more often then I wouldn’t be forced to do this… I’m just saying. Coming on Christmas & Easter is kind of like showing up at the Opera for the overture, leaving and then showing up again for the Curtain calls. There is a lot of story in between. Well, I’m wasting precious hours. Let’s get to it.
Let me begin with fact that the Gospel is really as Good as it says – because it is a comedy. Hang on, all with be revealed.
“The glory of God is a living human being.” Saint Irenaeus –
Let us make Humans in our own likeness, the Trinity purposed.
Adam ≜ Eve (I think God was a little partial to Eve) Things you recall – did not go well. They broke the covenant by eating fruit that gave them insight but not maturity. There was a cover up among the fig bushes and then the eviction notice delivered by an Cherubim with a flaming sword. (On the mural ) Out they went – had children – that didn’t go well either.
Northrop Frye writes, “Since the fall of Adam, man has been born into this middle world, the world of physical nature, the world to which animals and plants adjusted to which he is not. So he’s confronted from birth with a moral dialectic. Either he moves up as close as he can to what was intended to be his state, or he goes down to the level of sin, which is a LEVEL THAT ANIMALS CANNOT REACH.“  Biblical and Classical Myths: The Mythological Framework of Western Culture – Northrop Frye & Jan Macpherson
No wonder we like our dogs and cats better than each other!
Sin is radical…
GRACE IS ALSO RADICAL – COVENANT
God being God did not despair! He proposed a covenant with humans
Noah – This is the Flood the Bible not Flood the movie. Will not do that again – Noah and company got busy repopulating the earth.
Abraham – You will be and I will be yours, for better for worse – through you all the people of the earth will be blessed.
Moses – led the children of Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness – stopping at Mt Sinai – and acquired the 10 Commandments – What Moses learned was that it was easier to get the Children of Israel out of Egypt than it was to get the Egypt out of the Children of Israel.
David – A man after God’s own heart. Not perfect mind you. But a descendent will sit on your throne forever.
WHO SHALL BE CHRIST THE LORD – ANNUNCIATION GABRIEL TO MARY
Angels, Wise Men – you know most of you were here to hear it already.
BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD – JOHN THE BAPTIST
The lamb, the sacrifice to set things right between God and Humans –
BEHOLD THE MAN
Beaten to a pulp – you have seen the Passion of the Christ? Not far off. What Pilate is telling us that he doesn’t know he is telling us is that right here in front of them is the prototype of authentic humanity – that relationship with this very man, grace is released as antidote to the radical nature of sin.
IT IS FINISHED
Jesus’ cry on the cross is the clear and certain truth that what is finished is all that is necessary for each of us to be authentically human. The model is rolling out and is showing up in every show room in creation. You want transportation this is it. Oh, it doesn’t look like much – but it will travel where no other vehicle would hope to go because…
Death is, in point of fact, the only thing that all men and women have in common from the beginning of the world onwards, though all regions and all cultures. And thus Christ reveals what it means to be God through the only thing that we have in common. He does this not simply by dying … rather, he does it by the way that he died. He enables all men and women also to use their own mortality to come to life in him. John Behr
HE IS NOT HERE – HE IS EVERYWHERE – HE IS BEHIND YOU.
…two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, …They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 [in the movie I would produce, one the angels says the other one, “How clear does it have to be,” while the other silently mouths the words behind you. Now watch closely, here it comes, don’t miss it,” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there… and Why?
“Tragedy is the inevitable, while Comedy is the unforeseen”. Frederick Buechner – Telling the Truth, the Gospel as tragedy, comedy and fairytale
Neither she or any of us were we there could have seen it coming. But there it is.
I’m almost done. Forgive me, while I go in for the sale. You know I’m in sales, after all, not management (I don’t do weather – I’m no good at it.) We’ve been kicking the tires.
Herbert O’Driscoll says that we look in two directions in all sermons:
First: THEM, THEN, THERE
Second: WE, HERE, NOW (Where is the now in the sermon?)
The now is that what Jesus did belongs to you and you and me and you and you us to get in turn the key. That is God’s will. What is God’s will? That we grow up. That we grow up!t What we need is a mystical experience
The Historical Events of Holy Week — Events for believing
The Sacramental Life developed from the Events of Holy Week – Events for belonging
There is the absolute necessity for us to experience God.
When a pregnant woman enters the room everybody recognizes the life that is in her. See Gabriel appears to each of us telling us that we are be pregnant with Christ, with new life.
Saint Augustine, “There are many annunciations but few incarnations.”
Meister Eckhart said, “Jesus is always being born, but if Jesus is not born in me what does it profit me?” If that is true then the same question must be asked of the end of the incarnation, paraphrasing, “If Jesus is not resurrected in me (and you) what does it profit me (and you)?
If we never move beyond facts & values we have an impoverished faith, only enough to make us miserable but not whole. For a long time culture – inadequate to do much more than claim membership in the institution – the sort of hatching, matching and dispatching.
Those of us who inhabit this place are different than last Easter.
We clergy are coaches not the paid Christians.
We have taken up the Bible with intention. 200 pledged to read the scriptures daily this year; 80 to read the whole book.
We are studying more,
We are praying more
We are gathering together more
We have come to know better the Risen Jesus in the breaking of the bread…
and as importantly if we have been fed – we must BE bread.
Memphis is starving for this bread not junk food for the soul.
We have come to know that the only reason Saint John’s exists is for people to meet God and your leaders evaluate all things by that measure.
So far as it depends on us there is room for God to act here in and among us.
If you long for more than you have, give us a call 901,323.8597
Dream: the temporary cessation of the waking state.
1. From time to time in this period anything from a single picture or figure to an elaborate story may be vividly perceived, which is in no sense a direct perception of the outer physical world. This happens 4 or 5 times per night. 2. In addition there are periods of conceptual activity or thinking between dream periods. [Parts of the brain never go to sleep]. 3. A third form of dream is the spontaneous image or vision that appears to a person in the borderland or wakefulness when a person is not sure they are awake or asleep. 4. The waking dream or vision consists of dream images that intrude into waking consciousness. The images are not different than the ones in sleep.
From God, Dreams and Revelation – Morton T. Kelsey
The journey is easier at the beginning and the end than the middle when we are far from home and home. As I approach old age I find it hard to remember a time when ministry did not inhabit a large space in my inner life. I was baptized at eight scared into the Kingdom at a Baptist revival. But that was only the outer thing, the thing that hooked my fear and plunged me into the fishpond at the White place over fifty years ago. It was at the same farm that as a three year old I sat in great-aunt Myrtie’s lap on the bank of Anderson creek as my parents were baptized down in the pool formed by a gravel bank.
Thought some might doubt it, I remember it clearly. Like a scene from a movie people were standing and sitting by the water. The grass was green in the way it is in the South before being scorched by the August Sun. Folk went down into the water lost and came up found. I’ve learned since then that found takes a long time. The pilgrimage to God is rarely dramatic it is mostly as an old timer in AA spoke to the wisdom he had gained as he learned “the inevitability of gradualness.”
This was before the Baptist got “baptisteries” those walk-in bathtub artificial kind of “improvements” that keep us from nature and perhaps [they are un-natural which mates poorly with the] super-natural as well. However well intended these innovations, what is gained in convenience is lost in affect. There is something about inconvenience that is comforting in its discomfort. Coming to God is not convenient.
I read once in Anglicans on line that a group of clergy, God help us, were bringing a resolution before the Synod of the Church of England that Easter be fixed on the same Sunday every year. This is about as foolish a proposition as I’ve heard. We will convenience ourselves into nothing at all. C. S. Lewis once said that “the Gospel can be of no concern. The Gospel can be of ultimate concern. The Gospel can never be of moderate concern.” The convenience of moderation has the affect of warm water it is wet but not refreshing.
We are at the midpoint of Lent. It is time to prepare for the Paschal Feast as the Book of Common Prayer states in the second proper preface for Lent. Gradualness will give way to the acute phase we call Holy Week followed by the consequences of resurrection. It happens every year and still I am ill prepared. But then the middle is the most difficult part of the journey, is it not, beloved. JWS