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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.

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Over-the-horizon

Among all my patients in the second half of life – that is to say over thirty-five – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort that was that of finding a religious outlook on life.  Carl Jung – Psychotherapist of the Clergy (1923)

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

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

EASTER III

May 5, 209

Janet Brooks Gerlof Emmaus

LUKE 24:15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

A story has characters. Characters have stories and relationships that are the story. So who are the people and why do they matter.  Cleopas is the husband of Mary, the sister of Mary, mother of Jesus.  I know, “what were they thinking?”  The Holy Family’s family, though not prominent in the Gospels become central in Acts and beyond. Cleo (his friends called him Cleo) is accompanied by an unnamed companion.  Who? Pick one.  For the sake of our conversation, let’s say he is Symeon, Cleo’s son.  Symeon figures large in the early Christian fortunes.*

Cleo said, “I’m done! Let’s go home.” He headed out the Damascus Gate, the sun just past overhead, as they trudged West toward home.  Symeon fell into pace with his father and they walked steadily through the hot afternoon the twenty or so miles to Emmaus.  They were debating, the sense is, very vigorously, rehashing everything that occurred since the first day of a week ago.

Focused on the matter at hand, the men didn’t see Jesus simply step from nothing onto the shoulder of the road.  Falling into step with them, he joined their party but they did not realize who walked with them.

Acabas Emmaus

Why?  It says, ‘their eyes were fixed from recognition.” One tool for Bible study is the question, “Why is this here?”  The church in the first twenty years had a growing sense of Christ’s presence seen or unseen.  They did see him and were blessed to be so.  Jesus remarked that those of us who have not seen but have believed are blessed as well.

Today, Jesus will show up sometime, somewhere, somehow.  Notice your inner quickened sense of awareness, it’s one of the signs.

In hope, in spite of the facts. j

*Chapter 11:1. After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed, it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh (for the majority of them also were still alive) to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James. 2. They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Saviour. For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph. Eusebius (2011-09-15). The History of the Church

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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WEDNESDAY OF EASTER II

May 1, 2019

he breathed on them 2

JOHN 20:21b As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7

Some call this “John’s Pentecost.”  It brings to mind the creation of human beings and their animation.  Breath is necessary. Shortness of breath is cause for alarm. Trapped under water is an awful way to die. Shallow breathing could be a sign of death or laziness.  Singers are admonished, breathe deeply, back straight and chest up to support but not impede the air. Then you can sing. Bear in mind, this will not make you a good singer it merely make singing possible.

Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whether or not one is forgiven or not, seems to me a strange place to start for growing into the full statue of Christ.   It’s like giving a child a gun, which as we know is tragic on a regular basis in 2016.

Icon he breathed on them

He breathed on Them Icon

That being the case, perhaps, we should swear off judging (too much) until we grow up some more.  If I remember correctly, there is something in Holy Writ, about the boomerang of judgement dispensed to someone, circling round to arrive splat (a free loose paraphrase).

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  Matthew 7:2

 

Let’s celebrate the balance of the Great Fifty Days of Easter by fasting judgment. Imagine how much better we’ll look without all that sin retention.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

J

 

 

TUESDAY OF EASTER II

April 30, 2019

JOHN   20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

I’m old enough to remember when Lyndon hiked up his hospital gown showing the press his incision from gall bladder surgery.  There was great consternation at the time. Alice Roosevelt Longworth (Teddy’s oldest) said she was grateful he wasn’t circumcised.  Be not afraid, I do not compare our Lord with Lyndon.

LBJ

However, some think the President was sending a message to Moscow that there was nothing wrong enough with him for them to be excited or worried.  I know, I know, cutting room floor. Hang on, go with me here.  Jesus showed the disciples that he is not merely spirit.  They could see his wounds (and touch them apparently).

Jesus clearly had essential continuity before and post resurrection.  He has the scars to show for it. In fact he will the only resident of heaven without a perfect body. I think, people will line up to see them, the bolder touch them, just to remember what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

MONDAY OF EASTER II

Diognetus 3

April 29, 2019

JOHN 20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

Yesterday we faced our fear.  Today we face our peace.  Facing peace is not much easier than poking our head from under the covers when something goes bump in the night.

What is peace if it is not, “not fear?”  In Greek the word means, “peace of mind; quietness or rest.”  This is not too far from “not fear,” and very acceptable to Ego.  Peace of mind for Ego is everything under control, including people, all living things and inanimate object.  Then, and only then, can Ego take a breather (but only for a minute).

Hebrew peace is, similar, but different in crucial way.  Not defined in the negative, peace, points toward wholeness, complete, but not perfection.  This is peace as progressive maturing integrity. The is the sort of peace that sees the lights of the highway patrol, glancing at our speed, relaxed as the officer speeds toward another motorist.  This peace is a matter of intentional discipline; inebriated recklessness is not our practice. It doesn’t mean that our speed is always spot on as we drive because 90 mph is appropriate if a passenger is bleeding out.

I do not wish you “not fear,” I bid you peace.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John