Showing posts from April, 2019

A New Creation - A Sermon for Easter Sunday (Isaiah 65)

Isaiah 65:17-25

“Christ is risen! Shout hosanna! Celebrate this day of days.”  [Brian Wren, Chalice Hymnal 222].   Death had its say on Friday, but this morning we gather to celebrate the good news that life reigns victorious in the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, death has lost its sting.   
We’ve already heard the Word of the Lord from the Book of Isaiah. The prophet speaks to people who have returned from exile, to find that things at home aren’t going as well as they had hoped. It’s in the midst of grief, that the people receive word that God “is about to create new heavens and a new earth.”  Because God is getting busy with acts of creation, the people needn’t remember former things, like the exile. Instead, they can “be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating.” 
Like the returning exiles, the followers of Jesus had reason to grieve on that first Easter morning. They assumed that their teacher and leader lay dead in a tomb, having been executed by the governing authorities …

Eastertide -- Liturgical Meditation (Fuller Theological Seminary)

This meditation for Eastertide comes from Fuller Theological seminary, and as we experience Holy Saturday, living in between cross and resurrection, may it be a blessing.

+ “Death and Resurrection,” portraying the night before and the morning of the resurrection of Jesus, marks the beginning of the season of Eastertide. The scriptures are drawn from Matthew 27-28, John 19, and 1 Corinthians 15. It was filmed by FULLER studio at Paymaster Landing in Imperial County, California. The audio for this video is in French, and the subtitles are in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean—a poetic way to represent the primary tongues of our community. For FULLER studio: Lauralee Farrer, director; Ron Allchin, producer; Nate Harrison, director of photography; Timothy Kay, cinematographer; Patrick O’Neil Duff, editor; Simon Castagna, narration; OX Creative, titles.

The liturgical calendar spans the life of Christ in a single year—from anticipation (Advent), to hope (Christmas), to transcendence (E…

Woman, Here Is Your Son- A Good Friday Meditation

The meditation below was shared as part of a community Good Friday Service at Community of Christ Church of Troy that focused on the Seven Last Words of Christ. I was tasked with reflecting on the third word from the cross -- "Woman, here is your son." My colleagues spoke to the remaining six.

John 19:26-27

25b Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.********
The mother of Jesus stands before the cross in the company of several women, along with the Beloved Disciple. This is the second time Jesus’ mother is mentioned in the Gospel of John. In both cases John doesn’t name her.  Jesus simply addresses her as “Woman.” 
On the first occ…

Behold the Love, the Grace of God (Barton W. Stone)

It is Good Friday. I will participate in a community service focused on the Seven Last Words. My word will appear later today. With Good Friday in mind, I recently took notice of a hymn that has been present in my denominational hymnal that was written by Disciples ancestor Barton W. Stone that speaks to the suffering and death of Christ. It's not that I've not seen it, I just didn't take note of it. Regarding the message of the hymn, I should note that Stone did not embrace the traditional penal substitutionary understanding of the atonement. I invite you to ponder it as part of your Good Friday experience. 

Behold the love, the grace of God, displayed in Jesus' precious blood; my soul's on fire, it yearns to prove the fullness of redeeming love.
The cross I view---O wondrous love! My sins expire, my fears remove; my native enmity is slain I'm reconciled---I'm born again.
Our God is love---O, leap, my soul! Let warm hosannas gently roll! Love gave a son to save our …

At Table -- A Homily for Maundy Thursday

1 Corinthians 11:23-27

In a moment we’ll gather at the Table of the Lord. We’ll break bread and share the cup together. We’ll do this as two congregations from two different denominations. There was a time when this kind of gathering would be impossible. You might gather to sing hymns or hear a preacher, but the Table was different. It was open only to the insiders. There are still traditions that “fence the Table,” but fortunately that is not true here. We can gather at the Table to remember the meal Jesus established to unite his people in love.  
This meal of remembrance is rooted in other biblical meals, including Passover and the “feeding of the 5000.” We might want to add other meals including the meal Abraham and Sarah shared with the three strangers at the Oaks of Mamre. These strangers were received with hospitality, and in return they delivered a promise that the covenant God wished to establish with Abraham would include Sarah, who was to bear a child through whom the nations…

Gathering at the Table in Unity? - A Holy Thursday Reflection

We have come to Holy Thursday (also known as Maundy Thursday). Now things get really busy, especially in Protestant churches, which generally get started with Holy Week observances on Thursday. Many of us will gather this evening to participate in a meal of remembrance, breaking bread and sharing the cup with the assumption that the one who died on the cross and then was resurrected is sharing this meal with us. Unfortunately, there are still many fences standing that keep us from truly celebrating a meal of unity across the Christian community. Things are better today than they once were, but it's still possible for Christians to gather and not be able to share the meal Jesus instituted. My congregation will be sharing a Maundy Thursday service with our Presbyterian neighbors. That's a good thing!  I will be sharing the Word tonight (I plan to post my homily later so you can come back at 7 PM EDT to read it!).  I will note the importance of unity, though I don't plan on …

Fire and the Sacred - A Holy Week Reflection on the Notre Dame Fire

The picture above, taken by Philippe Wojazer, is powerfully symbolic. Though fire threatened to destroy this iconic cathedral, it has survived, and standing in the midst of the ruin is the altar cross gleaming powerfully through the smoke. This photo has become viral, and its understandable. 
I've not been to Paris. and therefore, I've not been to Notre Dame. To this point Notre Dame is not a sacred space that has spoken to me, except from afar through photos. Nevertheless, I understand the power of sacred space from being in other sites. During my 2013 trip to England I was able to take in such sacred spaces as Salisbury Cathedral, Bath Abbey, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's London, and though much smaller Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. At least in Christian contexts nothing in the United States is nearly as ancient as these sites, but we do have sacred spaces that speak to us. They might be our own places of worship. Still, Notre Dame has been standing at the center of …

Easter and the New Creation - Lectionary Reflection for Easter C (Isaiah 65)

Isaiah 65:17-25 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
17 For I am about to create new heavens
    and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
    or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
    in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
    and its people as a delight.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
    and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
    or the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
    an infant that lives but a few days,
    or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
    and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
    they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
    and my chosen shall long enjoy the wor…

Knowing Our Faith (Justo L. González) - A Review

KNOWING OUR FAITH: A Guide for Believers, Seekers, and Christian Communities. By Justo L. González. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Company, 2019. Xiv + 156 pages.

Augustine and Anselm, among others, spoke of faith or belief seeking understanding. That is, we first believe and then over time we deepen that belief through study and experience in the Christian life. In recent years, it seems that this premise has lost its shine. There seems to be a growing aversion to doctrine and dogma. We speak of orthopraxis instead of orthodoxy. I’m all for orthopraxis. What we do as Christians demonstrates the truth and depth of our confession of faith in God. But, unless we pursue a rather anti-intellectualist version of our religion, it will be important to know our faith. We needn’t agree on every point of doctrine, but it is helpful to a healthy Christian life to know a bit about what we profess. Although I hear stories of those who first understood and then believed, I’ve not met them…

Entering the Gates of Righteousness -- A sermon for Palm Sunday (Psalm 118)

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 

Last Sunday we joined Jesus on the pilgrim trail, marching to Zion and singing  “Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, we shall go rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.” As we took this journey toward Zion, we heard the call to sow seeds of kindness in a world filled with anything but kindness. Sowing seeds of kindness might seem like a small and insignificant effort, but when we bring in the harvest and gather up those sheaves of grain and take them to the Temple something powerful could happen. 
That pilgrim train we joined last Sunday has reached the gates of Zion. It’s Palm Sunday, and Jesus is in the lead. We wave palm branches as we sing “All glory, laud, and honor, to you, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring!” Yes, “You are a child of Israel, Great David’s greater son; you ride in lowly triumph, Messiah, blessed one!”  Some of us lay our palm branches along the way of this festal procession. We welcome Jesus as he …

Who's Running the Show? -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Who is running the show? That is an interesting question, especially when it comes to religion. As part of the Protestant "Mainline," I know that once we played a dominant role in society. That is no longer true, and hasn't been true for some time. Martin Marty, who knows the American religious scene better than almost anyone, having been engaged in the study of it since before I was born, speaks to our situation in this Sightings essay. In this essay he offers some important insights he gleans from a newly published book by Mark Wild, which focuses on the heydey of liberal Protestants and our fall -- the so called "boom and bust." It is a sobering picture, but one we need to be aware of. Having a son who went to film school, I appreciate his use of the the phrase "show runner" (the person who produces a film/show).   I offer this essay for your thoughts, especially as we who are part of this liberal Protestantism seek to discern a path forward. Are t…