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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

 

 

FRIDAY OF EASTER WEEK

April 26, 2019

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Jesus appears by the sea – James Tissot

JOHN After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples

 

Janet Brooks Gerloff

The Last Breakfast – Janet Brooks Gerloff

Here we join the last breakfast.  Jesus is cooking by the time the guys came in from fishing without anything to show for being wet and cold.  He must have walked down to the water, shouting the question all fishers hear as the boat nears the dock, “Boys, didn’t catch anything, did you?” “Nothing,” the glum reply.   Chuckling, Jesus said, “Throw the net on the right side, there’s fish to be caught.”   To which, John thought, “haven’t we been here before? It’s the Lord!” Peter not to be outdone dives into the sea getting to the beach first.

 

 

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The Last Breakfast – James Tissot

The grill was hot. Jesus called for fresh fish and they ate right there.  It’s like a group of buddies had serve as pall bearers for the best among them, only suddenly there he is alive but changed and all for the better.  If death can’t stop him, what can stop any of them?  Sated with food, they lay around like a pile of puppies.  The scene is irresistibly attractive, the kind rising from a genuine religious experience.  Oh, there were issues to tend and a whole world to save, but on that clear cool morning they were at peace, together again.

By the time John writes this text, only he remains.  His brother, James was the first to fall.  Now he will be the last.  Sons of Thunder, bookends of the Apostles.  In the high altar mural in the church here at Saint John’s is the old John.  He’s not crazed exactly, but clearly he has seen something.

And he did.  I’m grateful for his Gospel.  Wish there was Volume 2.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

TUESDAY OF EASTER WEEK

April 23, 2019

JOHN 20:11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 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 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Mary was a long way from Magdala.  Jesus changed everything that day when by his simple word of power contradicted the shaming, mocking voices in her head and silenced them.  She had never heard them again.  Yes, she had come a long way.

Many people once healed will often go and live near the healer as though their healing might relapse.  Mary did travel with Jesus, mostly because she loved him.  Perhaps if he were a different man, there might have been hopes for them, but Jesus is not just any man and his work is more important than anything else.  So Mary listens, supports and loves.

View ffom the cross

View from the Cross – Tissot

She collapsed at the foot of his cross, too overcome to stand, and laid there in the dust.  Blood rolled down like tears, dripping from his feet onto her head.  She did not move.  Groans for three solid hours assailed her senses.  “Jesus said,  “It is finished,”  and it was.  The rest of the story is Mary’s story.  It is your story.  I claim it as my own.  It is never exhausted, cannot be used up.  It is the measure of the Kingdom of God available to any who accept freely without cost and without measure.

When Jesus said,   “I is finished,” he wasn’t kidding.  It was and is and ever shall be, world without end.  AMEN

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John