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?”
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.
May 2, 2019
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.
May 1, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
April 22, 2019
MATTHEW 28:9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” The Report of the Guard 11 While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.
The crowd that bribed the guards with, admittedly a “large sum” of money, are the very ones who plotted to kill Lazarus after Jesus raised him from the dead. Why? Today, the polls they run, focus groups they convene would tell them that the public’s mood was with Jesus. That scared the bejeebers out of them because they assumed that Jesus would behave like they would if given the opportunity.
Jesus did ride into town according to ancient prophecy. Having arrived and the crowd gathered, he did not launch into a stump speech, shamelessly pandering to the worse fears as well as hopes of his audience. I shall resist the temptation to compare this with Presidential politics, but you make your own inventory.
Now….. I’m waiting….. Ok – back to the meditation already in progress.
The political types, ordained or not, never understood what Jesus was about as it is simply counter-intuitive. A kingdom where all are loved, cherished and cared for, simply does not compute. Groucho Marx once said, “I never want to be in a club that would have me.” The priests and such would never be a Kingdom, of God or other, where they were not high and lived up above the ordinary.
How about us? I must admit it makes me uncomfortable sometimes. How about you?
In hope, in spite of the facts.
March 21, 2019
JOHN 20: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. 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 keeping?” 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.
Resurrection Never Crossed our Minds.
Resurrection never crossed Mary’s mind in the dark deserted streets. The garden, very near the skull shaped hill, where, Jesus was hoisted on a rough-hewn cross, splinters the size of the nails in his feet. She barely remembered walking from the cross, walking beside Joseph, an aristocrat, whose generosity saved Jesus from a common grave. Joined by Nicodemus, a Senator, they, their aides and servants, carried the dead weight through gathering dusk across the manicured lawns to Joseph’s new tomb.
She shifted the heavy jar of myrrh in her arms. Myrrh’s complex earthy scent, hinting of foreign lands, was universally used at burial. Its strong odor was useful at such times.
Smell, evokes the most vivid memories. Ever after, the faintest whiff and Mary was in the garden, the stars, dimming at the hint of dawn in the East.
The men had carefully rolled the round stone into its slot across the entrance. She saw them do it. There is a dark hole where the tan stone should be. His body, limbs out of socket, limp as a worn-out rag, covered with blood, was gone. The great stone rolled aside, witness to the absence of tortured remains. She hurdled heedless of feet in the dawn to warn his men that some ghoulish mischief had befallen his body. Romans do not disturb the dead. Nor, Jews, usually. Who would rob a grave on Passover?
Resurrection never crossed the minds of the men huddled by the fire, hiding from the mighty whose henchmen might be searching at that very moment. They flinched at the door knock.
Resurrection never crossed the minds of the two as they left the others walking quickly, suddenly running like school boys; John, the younger by over a decade ran as the young run sprinting ahead only to wait, a quick glance, hesitating, while Peter, as Peter would, barged right in. John followed. The burial clothes of thin linen bands, wrapped in haste; adequately, were quickly finished before Passover sundown.
The burial clothes were more than there; they lay as if Jesus simply vanished, evaporated rising right through them as they collapsed neatly onto themselves in a way, not to be faked. Oddly, the head cloth neatly folded lay near the wrappings, testifying to subtle divine presence.
Resurrection did cross John’s mind and he believed. Suddenly, hideous events on Friday were made new sense, aroused suspicions of glory and strange saying of Jesus were strange no more. His absence translated by hope become coherent to ears that listen, ears that hear. They departed slowly, thoughtfully – wondering if this meant what they thought it meant, unsure but with small bright potential joy in their hearts where before was only despair.
A movement peripheral, a man, [only a gardener would stir so early,]. Passing through the hedge, Mary, voice breaking inquired of grave-robbers … “Mary,” and she knew his voice; it was he, the one who said his sheep know my voice, and saying her name called her clear as ever. Resignation fell away, not as amnesia forgets, but remembering with power a greater vision, redeemed by holy intervention.
She grabbed him, weak with vertigo of deep grief leaping into singular joy in a single bound. Gently, he loosed her hands, telling her he had not yet ascended to his Father; an entirely different order of homecoming, embraced by the peculiar, mystical love of the Godhead.
She must let him go, not for loss this time but for gain, gain for all, for all time. The spare, precise truth, brought Mary and all who will ever believe to his God and their God and his Father and their Father.
Resurrection had never crossed Mary’s mind until, she met Resurrection face to face.
And it was ENOUGH!
Resurrection never crossed our minds in the tyranny of the immediate. I-phones, e-mails, constant litter of data: important to nobody but forwarded by somebody to everybody.
Resurrection never crossed our minds in the routine of sameness, body tired, minds fuzzy with the demands of a new day, while the old day, its red-flagged emails, all caps, shouting, invades the new day.
Resurrection never crossed our minds even in the Week Holy, as the world continued, the relentless, urgency of the trivial, blotting out the ultimate, flattening all affect into numbness.
We slouch into our several pews late, tired, distracted, our minds arriving minutes after our bodies dropped into a seat. Today the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox, the Queen of Feasts: This EASTER lies at the end of a long relay race beginning on that Eighth day of the Week, the day Mary went early in the dark; John and Peter came and went and Mary loitering near the cave met Jesus alive, [changed but somehow the same] – full of resurrection.
Resurrection never crossed our minds when Meister Eckhart said that the savior’s birth is always happening. But if it happens not in us what does it profit? What matters is that he be born in us.
Resurrection never crossed our minds until we, too long removed from that day encounter him who was absent then, only to be fully present for all time. Sometime, somewhere, when we finally hit the wall that defeats the best moves of our egos — when we find something we cannot fix, there
we will meet Jesus and Resurrection will finally cross our minds and he will not only be born in us but resurrected as well…
and it will be ENOUGH!
May that same resurrection cross your minds and give you new life.
In the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
April 20, 2019
MATTHEW 27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. The Guard at the Tomb 62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
After such a hellish week, Joseph allowed himself a massage, before going home to Arimathea for the Passover Feast. His youngest had invited a young man for the first time. When did she get old enough for this?” The banter in his head was interrupted by the voice of the older man lying on the next massage table. “Can you believe,” he said with a sharp intake of breath. “Not so hard, Granicus, I’m old. Where was I? That Nazarene Rabbi that Pilate crucified. You should have seen the look on the High Priest’s face when he learned the Governor, put a placard on top with, “King of the Jews” on it. Joseph interrupted, “what about him.” “He’s dead already. I lost the bet. Given his age I would have expected him to last for a couple of days at least.
Joseph sat up, called for his clothing. Dressing quickly, he walked out escorted by his servants. It didn’t take long to arrive at the Praetorium (Pilate’s residence). The place was deserted. By now even the worst procrastinators hurried to finish the last details before dusk. At sundown the Passover would begin.
Sitting on the Council as he did, literally opened doors for him to meet Pilate. He asked for the body of Jesus. “Very well, if you want to tend the Nazarene’s body, welcome to it. I know you Jews want all three buried before sundown. I’m not sure why you are doing this, but thank you, though you are not doing it for me. It make my life a bit simpler. Bad business this.” And so it happened. In a hurry to get things done but with dignity, Joseph of Arimathea placed the ruined body, wrapped in fine linen, into his own, newly completed tomb. He rushed off to arrive home for the Sedar.
Some were surprised at Joseph’s actions. He was a quiet man and while he was convinced that Jesus was Messiah, he had made no public pronouncements. Such was not his way. It was a little odd, when later someone pointed out to Joseph a verse in the fifty-third chapter of the prophet Isaiah.
ISAIAH 53:9 They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Joseph was too modest to consider that his name came in Isaiah’s prophecy. His family, on the other hand, believed it, cherished the story for as long as they had a collective memory and so do we.
In hope, in spite of the facts. John
April 18, 2019
JOHN 13 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord— and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anothers feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
When Jesus got to Peter with basin and water Peter balked. It’s not that his feet were ticklish, it’s not that someone wanted to wash his feet, it’s because it was Jesus, who he loved and revered, came at him as servant.
In our own day it is all about us. We are self-conscious about our feet. By a certain age feet are pretty beat up. It is not, I have observed, washing feet that is so unacceptable even, no, it’s having our feet washed. That may seem backwards, but the ego inside voice says, “So, if this is going on at least I will be in control.” Sitting in chair when someone not of ego’s choice, touching, handling and, at least symbolically, is beyond a self-absorbed ego’s tolerance.
Soul, on the other hand, while perhaps timid the first time, discovers a peculiar intimacy in the process. Suddenly, one is in a genuine religious experience, and such has an almost irresistible attraction.
Ego, sighs relief, retreating to the pew, having survived an unpleasant experience. Soul is almost unaware of self upon reentering the pew. They are both moved, but consider the dichotomy. Attendance on Maundy Thursday is lower than other Holy Week services and I suspect the push pull of ego versa soul is the reason. Pedicures are not required. So relax, and pardon the expression, but meeting sole to soul is holy.
In hope, in spite of the facts.