This affirmation of the resurrection has become very important to me over the many years.  It became a go to remark at funerals. It speaks to the hope in us that nothing in all creation or history can “trump” resurrection and grace.

Frederick Beuchner writes, “The New Testament proclaims that at some unforeseeable time in the future God will ring down the final curtain on history, and there will come a Day on which all our days and all the judgments upon each other will themselves be judged. The judge will be Christ.  In other words, the one who judges us most finally will be the one who loves us most fully.”

In hope in spite of the facts.  John

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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)

WEDNESDAY OF EASTER IV

May 15, 2019

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JOHN 10 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

 

The Feast of the Dedication (Hanukah) commemorated national deliverance from the pagan Syrians. The Feast and buildings filled with meaning by prophecy would be a great place to launch the revolution. Some of his detractors could have become supporters if he played to their fears and ego inflation. He turned his back on variety of revolution when the Devil first suggested it back in the Wilderness.

Jesus passed on starting the popular revolution. Those who longed for violent revolution never understood what Jesus was about. These are the Sheep deaf to the Shepherd’s voice. There were sheep who did learn the language of the Kingdom. These Jesus knew and cherished. Granted many sheep did not clearly hear the Shepherd’s voice until after the resurrection. But they that did hear his voice followed (and do so today). What we do know for sure is that our self-absorbed egos do need to die. When we die to self-absorption it is amazing how clearly we can hear the voice of the Shepherd.

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

FRIDAY OF EASTER II

May 3, 2019

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Thomas, Apostle of India

JOHN 20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Following John’s chronology, this reading falls a week after Easter.

He wants to experience this for himself. A week later, things are a bit calmer, when Jesus appeared the second time.  He materialized right in front of Thomas inviting just the scrutiny that Thomas claimed he needed.  In fact, it turned he didn’t need it at all.  He was clearly Jesus, Thomas knew at almost a cellular level.

“My Lord and my God” is pretty clear where Thomas came down on the issue. Between Easter Day and Pentecost, there must have been some mighty long conversations, lectures and holy power point presentations as Jesus got the disciples ready to carry resurrection everywhere.  Having done that, he ascended, instructing them to stay together and in one place (I like to think he smiled at Thomas when he said it) until the Spirit comes.  They did and The Holy Spirit did.  More about that later.

After Pentecost, Thomas went on down to Alexandria, sailed across the Indian Ocean never to return.  The story is that he preached resurrection, lived resurrection and dispensed resurrection to the point a local priest (isn’t it always) brained him with a dye bat.  You can think what you like about such tales and doubt much about them.  However, in this case when the Portuguese arrived in Indian there were Christians there to meet them. In Goa, the church was a little odd by Western practice, but clearly they preached the same resurrection. They heard the Good News from our favorite doubter very soon after the resurrection.  They called themselves Mar Thoma or Saint Thomas Christians.  Though, I doubt he much cares any more about that doubting moniker, shouldn’t we at least give the guy a break.  For crying out loud.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

j

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

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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