Fear Not!

“Fear not!” The angels always say. “Be not afraid!” says Jesus. And you know, what? It’s always too late! Fear has taken hold of whomever the recipient is every time those words are spoken. Imagine if it were you. An angel shows up out of nowhere all bright and shining and scary as hell. There’s … Read More

May I Have This Dance?

I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.   John 17:23 Perichoresis Something within me denies my arrhythmic feet.      A voice challenges:           DANCE! Follow the steps of falling snow,      the … Read More

The One Who Missed It

First the women and then the others boldly proclaim “I have seen the Lord!” except for the one who missed it You stepped into their locked-up grief and spoke Peace to those gathered in pain, hidden in fear until You gifted them with Your breath making them agents of forgiveness, disciples in the way of … Read More

There’s More to the Story

I used to think that Easter was the easiest Sunday to preach. The story tells itself and there’s so much else going on in the service that a brief sermon highlighting resurrection couldn’t go wrong. However, as the years have gone on and my ministry has changed, I find Easter a particular challenge.

Cape Trip May 2010 103

This year in the Easter worship service there will be no musician, just me and my IPOD. Moreover, I feel the need to communicate the Gospel in a way that people wrestling with various mental health crises and symptoms might actually hear. I can’t spend too much time with the specifics of the Easter story because someone will ask out loud why Jesus doesn’t appear to us the way he did to Mary. Some others might volunteer that they, too, have seen angels. Someone else will ask where the tomb is and if it’s still empty. I’ve come to understand that these tangents are likely on the minds of anyone paying attention to the story. Yet, none of this is helpful, really. The issue at hand is not what happened on that first Easter morning, but on what is happening now.

I want people who come to chapel service to hear a word of hope, to know that the resurrection is for them, and to experience forgiveness and acceptance at a really deep level. Yes, I know this is a lot to put into one sermon. This message of Jesus’ radical love is essential. Too many people tell me that they do not feel “good enough” for God to love them. They tend to believe the basics of the Gospel message except that they somehow exclude themselves. They conclude that Jesus couldn’t possibly love them even though he seems to love everyone else.

Somehow in the midst of the unbelievable story of the empty tomb, I have to make it believable on a personal level. Beyond believable, I have to make it real and livable today. A group of people will gather in a chapel without all the fanfare of a traditional church Easter celebration and they will look to me to say something that eases the suffering in their own lives.

The question that keeps echoing through my thoughts is this:  Who are you that you alone would be excluded from the love God has for the whole of creation?

With the scent of anointing oil and spices lingering in the air, women weeping, and angels in white, I think we forget that the tomb was empty. It wasn’t empty for no reason. It wasn’t empty for Jesus’ sake. It was empty for us, all of us. You know—God so loved the world. It really doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done or not done, what diagnosis you carry, what job you do, how much money is in your bank account, the size of your house, the car you drive, your gender identity, your sexual orientation, your relationship status… none of this matters because God loves us whether we believe it or not.

The appropriate response to “Christ the Lord is risen today!” perhaps ought to be “Thanks be to God!” Now let us go and live our lives in gratitude and as a testimony to the power and grace that conquers death with the promise of new life.

RCL- Year A – Easter – April 20, 2014
Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6
Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10

Take Your Gloves Off and Touch These Wounds!

The story of Thomas and his insistence on seeing the risen Christ for himself is one of my favorites. I’ve long believed that Thomas has been rather short changed. He wasn’t so much full of doubt as he was full of healthy reason. He didn’t have a couple thousand years of tradition to fall back on. This risen Christ stuff was brand new. I’d have insisted on seeing and touching those wounds for myself; any reasonable person would do the same.

I remember the first sermon I preached on this passage. I was fascinated by the fact that Jesus identified himself by his wounds, not by the experiences he shared with those gathered in that room. He held up his wounds. Back in my seminary days, I focused on each of us needing to look for Jesus in our own woundedness. I don’t know if it made a whole lot of sense to those who heard that sermon, but for me the idea of Jesus identifying himself through his wounds was a healing one.

But these days I am far less concerned about my own wounds than I am about the brokenness in the world. North Korea is making noises that sound a lot like threats of war. Oil spilled through a neighborhood in Arkansas. Fifty people died in an Afghan suicide bombing. Gun control remains an issue even after countless shootings. Monsanto continues to control food supplies.  People remain in denial about global warming and climate change. The economy of the Eurozone continues to falter. This list could go on. We can all add a personal witness to suffering and brokenness to this list pulled from headline news.

But the wounds and the suffering are not really my point. I want to draw attention to how we respond. Thomas recognized Jesus when Jesus held up his wounds. He didn’t have to touch them to recognize Christ. Today, we need to touch the wounds of the world to recognize Christ. Christ is everywhere bleeding, needing us to respond. Most people don’t. We’ve all done it. We’ve walked past the homeless person as we pretend not to see. We distance ourselves from the troubles of our neighbors. We plug in our devices without questioning where the electricity comes from. We spray chemicals into the air without stopping to wonder what they do to the environment. We eat food without reading the ingredients. We turn the channel when unpleasant news comes on.

I say let’s do something different this Easter Season. Commit to responding to some broken, bleeding part of the world and pay attention to how the experience of touching wounds changes you.

Let everything that breathes praise God!
   Praise be to God!

RCL – Year C – Second Sunday of Easter – April 7, 2013

Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 118:14-29 or Psalm 150
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31