Quote

duck in flight

When I rise up

Let me rise up with joy

like a bird

fallen leaf

When I fall

Let me fall

Without regret

Like a leaf

Wendell Berry

This short prayer, one of the Sayings and Prayers of the Mad Farmer, by Wendell Berry is a favorite of mine.  I have quoted it at many funerals in the past thirty-eight years of my priesthood.  It re-framed walking through the dead and dying leaves of fall.

TUESDAY OF EASTER IV

May 14, 2019

jesus-and-the-pharisees

The Pharisees Confront Jesus – James Tissot

JOHN 10:22-30 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe.

Why are you keeping us in suspense? What they should have said was, “Ok, we didn’t buy what you told us. That was ridiculous! Try again.” “Actually, I did tell you,” Jesus said.  Your problem is that you do not believe.”

Not believing is a problem. I’m concerned by what is meant in our own day. To believe is to assent to the truth of some fact about someone, something or an event.

Washington exhibit

George Washington Madame Tussauds

For example,
I believe in George Washington.
I believe that George Washington lived from 1732-1799.
I believe that George was a pretty good man.
I believe that George was the “Father of his country.”
If I am in Virginia, I might go to Mt. Vernon and see where he lived and is buried.
I might go to the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.
I even carry a few copies of his picture around in my wallet.
I can take George’s name in vain and say “By George” in conversation but such talk is cheap.

 

BUT, that doesn’t have too much to do with how I live my life in 2019 or any other year.. My point is that I can be culturally Christian in much the same way. I can believe all sorts of things about Jesus without being transformed, without living in the Resurrection. No wonder people do not take us seriously. We believe the doctrine of faith, while people seek a way of life. I’m hungry for that myself. Let’s have the manners to pass the bread, having eaten some first.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

MONDAY OF EASTER IV

May 13, 20

 

JOHN 10:22-30 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe.

Temple model

Temple of Herod is in the middle. The columned porticoes run the perimeter of the Temple Mount.   

Pardon me for going on about location but in this case it is part of the message. Jesus walked in the Portico of Solomon. Back story is required here.  The Portico of Solomon is on the Eastern side of the Temple Mount, opposite the Mount of Olives. It is here that Messiah was to return to Jerusalem.

Zachariah 14:4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward.

Jesus certainly knew his scripture.  So did his opponents. Is Jesus making a subtle point here? It wouldn’t be the first time. After Pentecost, the followers of “The Way” as we were known in those days, gathered, where? The Portico of Solomon of course. Why? They wanted to be the first to greet Messiah at his appearing so they looked to find a great seat.

When Muslims walled up the two portals of the eastern gate in the ninth century, Christians took note of the prophecy in Ezekiel 44:1-2: “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.” Torahclub.ffoz.org

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

EASTER IV

May 12, 2019

JOHN 10:22-30 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe.

The Temple proper was not as big as one might think.  Surrounded by vast courtyards, the outer perimeter was anchored by enormous columned porticoes. While silence was deep, full and complete in innermost Holy of Holies, everywhere else there was bedlam.

Multitudes of animals were slaughtered.  Huge pipes drained the blood away. Burning carcasses gave off clouds of smoke. At the same time choirs sang psalms and canticles, while in the porticoes classes gathered. Famous Rabbis held forth. The Temple only accepted a unique currency minted in house. Foreign coins had rulers or gods engraved on them and thus were unacceptable.  The exchange rate was very lucrative as people exchanged profane money for kosher money which they promptly donated.   Jesus cleaned that out one time.  There is really nothing like it in our time. Imagine a huge barbeque, choir festival and graduate school housed at an historical site drawing tourists by the myriads of thousands: all at the same time.

Jesus walked the portico accompanied by his disciples, as did many Rabbis, lecturing as they walked. I doubt Jesus was particularly notable, among the multitude the avoiding the rain and the cold.  His opponents had no trouble finding him, demanding a straight, unambiguous answer.  Yes or no, are you Messiah or not?

Simeon

Over thirty years earlier, the ancient Simeon recognized Jesus in Mary’s arms for who he was.

Malachi 1:14b “the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

 

The massive complex existed to worship the Holy One of Israel.  No one noticed Simeon greeting Messiah and no one is prepared to accept him almost thirty years later.  Why?  It didn’t fit the Messiah of their understanding.  They wanted something else, refusing in their certainty to entertain the idea that perhaps Jesus was who he said he was.

The Gospels tell us that we will meet Jesus somehow in the faces of the poor.  Not what we have in mind, but that does not change the text (Matthew 25:40).  I invite you to join Saint John’s Servants of Christ at Manna House some Thursday morning.  There you will, when you least expect it, encounter the Lord of resurrection in what Saint Teresa of Calcutta called, “one of his distressing disguises.”

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

SATURDAY OF EASTER III

May 11, 2019

LUKE 24:30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Laughing Jesus barry moser
Jesus Rabboni – Barry Moser KJV Bible 1999

For several days we have mediated on the four ritual movements of the Eucharist. Today, let’s look at the fifth.  He took, blessed, broke and gave bread to them. They ate and they went.  The last words of a Eucharist is the dismissal by the waiter (deacon), “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” “Thanks be to God,” we say as we head for the exits.  As I often say, “We are to be for others what we have received at the table.  In other words,

“If you have been fed, be bread!”

 

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John Sewell

FRIDAY OF EASTER III

May 10, 2019

LUKE 24:28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

road-to-emmaus-michael-torevell

He took, blessed, broke and gave the bread.  There is no implication that we should bring a credit card or folding money.  This is free.  It’s on the house. Come on down and bring a buddy; there’s plenty.

Isaiah 55:1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Many years ago I came across this story. It’s like in an evacuation of a town, the beggars (read street people) are left behind. Everything is locked.  However, two men risk body and limb, going out to find food. They jimmied the lock on the back of the convenience store down the street, helping themselves to the food left behind. Satisfied, they loaded up food, drink and first-aid supplies, braving the conditions and return to the group. Why did they do that?  Later, one of them said, “We’re just beggar telling other beggars where to find food. We should have the manners to pass the bread.” It is so.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

 

THURSDAY OF EASTER III

May 9, 2019

LUKE 24:28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

Our Lord took, blessed and broke the bread.    In the Second Rite for Eucharist in the Book of Common Prayer [page 364], the rubrics (stage directions) are emphatic on one point.  After the bread is broken,

The Breaking of the Bread
The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread.
A period of silence is kept.
Then may be sung or said
[Alleluia.] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;
Therefore let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]

emmaus 5

Although this is more often than not ignored, rushing as we are toward lunch, I believe it the most solemn moment of the service.  Why?  On a good day, humidity willing, an audible cracking is heard.  This action, called the Fraction, is the moment when mystically the broken body of Jesus becomes one with all the brokenness in us.  The words of the Prophet Isaiah (53:5) are fulfilled (or filled full), “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

In the face of such love and sacrifice, all we can do if fall into a length of silence. It is my practice at Saint John’s to pause for 10 or so seconds. Speechlessness is the only response to the magnitude of just what God has done for us in the resurrection.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY OF EASTER III

May 8, 2019

LUKE 24:28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

Jacek Malczewski - Christ in Emaus.

After he took the bread, he blessed it. What is it to bless? What it is not, is a baker sprinkling powdered sugar on the loaf emerging from the oven. To bless is to give, not just sweetness on the surface but deeply in the molecules, even the DNA of that bit of creation. Blessing is more concrete than abstract. To enjoy life having survived a day longer. That is blessing.

Fr. Matthew Fox entitled a book, ORIGINAL BLESSING, contending that blessing was the intention of the Creator, existing long before sin, enduring long after the “stain of sin” disappears from the fabric of humanity.

Claus Westermann instructs us, “God in the Bible relates to humans by deliverance and by blessing.” BLESSING IN THE BIBLE AND THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH. The Eucharist ”re-presents” the resurrection as both. . While there is a lot of “Junk food” for the soul to be had, Eucharist is the most important meal you eat all week. It’s good for you, nary one empty calorie

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

TUESDAY OF EASTER III

April 7, 2018

emmaus

 

LUKE 24:28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

It is no accident that at supper that night in Emmaus, Jesus performed the four ritual acts of the Eucharist. This would not have been lost on any who heard Luke read in the early church to now.

He took the bread. The Word took on flesh, mortality and morbidity. He took on cold, fear and the slings and arrows of human sexuality. He as much as we, felt deeply. He cried, chuckled, and anger was familiar. Yet he did not sin. Suffering was his companion and death his foe. He died and pulled the fangs of meaningless dying.

All this and more, he took on when he took the bread.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

THURSDAY OF EASTER II

May 2, 2019

Tissot Thomas

Thomas sees Jesus – Tissot

JOHN 20:24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Thomas was called the twin back then. Aside, nobody has a clue about the twin thing so beware of scholar’s theories. Aside over. He got past being called twin (almost nobody calls him that anymore), only receive, “doubting” in its place. Doubting Thomas is much worse than Thomas the Twin. Don’t you think?

In addition, he gets a bum rap as well, to this day. He went out Easter night. Why? Nobody knows. So supply your own notion, I do. Maybe he got sick of disciple’s paranoia, jumping at a log cracking in the fireplace. Perhaps, he got the short straw when they ran out of beer and was out getting a few cases to tide them over. He could have needed fresh air. We know he was out, period.

I ask you, why should he accept the word of this crowd given their state of mind? Add terror to grief and you get hallucinations, maybe? Thomas wanted to experience God directly, not hearsay. There’s a reason the courts are unimpressed by such. Who could blame him? I’ve noticed in the years of my ordained life, soon 37 years, a growing, progressive hunger of people to experience God for themselves.

I will tell you that for the thirty-seven years of this gig, one trend is that people want to experience God themselves.  Don’t settle for any secondhand edition it will not fix the slow leak in our souls.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John Sewell

 

 

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