Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sermon: Jesus Prayed For Us

              Scripture describes God’s relationship to God’s people…
messy people like you and like me.
              Sometimes we forget that, we forget that the Bible reports fallible people being loved by a persistent God. We so easily miss the humanness of things.
These people working out God’s desire that we might be one as Father and Son are one,
working out the Spirit’s holy calling to love one another,
working out the strange reality of belonging to God and being in the World.
              I imagine many of the experiences of the early church, feel more like the experiences of the present church, than we would like to allow.
              I imagine we separate out and sacralize the experiences of the early church—distancing them from our own lives, because doing so is easier than hearing how those experiences might hit home.
Might tickle our ears—echo and mirror our own realities today.

              Imagine what Peter is going through here in the first chapter of Acts.
              Imagine what those 120 people are saying to him:
              “Pastor Peter! Pastor Peter! We feel so betrayed by Judas—we thought he was one of us… we thought he would lead us with the 11.
              “Pastor Peter! Pastor Peter! Jesus has ascended and has promised the Spirit. What now? How will we know when the Spirit is acting? Is it already active? Why do we keep WAITING and PRAYING… we need to DO something!
              “Pastor Peter! Pastor Peter! Judas is dead! I mean, we didn’t particularly like ‘em, but he’s dead. Look at his empty seat, there is a hole where he used to be, we’re not whole anymore! Do something!
              “Pastor Peter! Pastor Peter! That empty spot is killing us! It feels like everything is unraveling… how can we continue? Will there even be a church in a few years?”

              Poor Peter. He does what he can, everyone prays together, scour the scriptures until they shine. And then, in his coffee induced delirium he lifts up a chunk of psalm 69 and another chunk from psalm 108, the first is about the guilty being disinherited, the second is about appointing a new person to take the position of the guilty…
“AHAH!” Poor Peter says, “We need to replace Judas, so that there will be 12 again.”
              So, he recommends this to the 120 people gathered together—and they go for it… what do they got to lose?
              Despite there being both men and women who followed Jesus, who witnessed the resurrection
—the first witness to the resurrection, in fact,
Jesus’ own mother, in fact,
Both present there
—Peter grabs two men, and says, “Let’s choose one of these to replace Judas. Let’s cast lots.”
              And they do.
              And we never hear from either Justus or Matthias again.
              They fade away.

              Instead the Spirit comes and shakes everything up: Greeks, Eunuchs, Sorcerers, and Women all are moved into this community, to preach the Gospel, to become like the 12.
              More amazing still, a great persecutor of the Church, one as bad and dishonorable as Judas—Paul—fills that space left empty by Judas’ betrayal and death.
              Paul is grafted into this league of Apostles… like a wild branch grafted onto a tame tree
—he weighs so heavy that he splits open the tree, creating a branch so wide and green that no one knows what to do with it—not least Paul himself… (that’s why he writes so much, right!)
              I imagine Peter, in those quiet moments, at night unable to get to sleep, would ask himself, “How did we get here? What’s God up to? How have we got through all this, despite God acting in places, and ways, and with people, who the 12 apostles found impossible?”
              And I imagine too, he might, on one of those tired, questioning, contemplative nights, have an AHAH moment, find the answer that he should already have known:
              “Did I not eat with Jesus, and after supper, did he not pray, that:
The invisible God, the Great I AM, be made known in him, and him in us.
That Jesus protected us with a fierce motherly love despite being opposed by the world.
That we would testify to God’s goodness found in Christ Jesus.
That some would be set aside and sent to be little Christs in the world, for the sake of the world.”
“I suppose,” he would finish, “Jesus did pray for us, and Jesus’ prayers for his people are continually answered—not as his people might wish or expect, but as His Holy Spirit wills.”

              And here today, as you say, “Pastor, look at that empty seat where my friend once sat” and “My own grandchild has abandoned the church, it is a betrayal!”
Where our Bishop sees the present church as being in the midst of a great unraveling, where the yarn is lovingly preserved, that it might be re-used and made into something new and grand, the nature of which we have not yet seen!
Where our neighbors, and closest partner in ministry, Cross of Life, has voted to close their doors.
Where the ELCA, in a two-day period, has made history by electing our first and second female African-descent Bishops, first in Philly then in Madison, Wisconsin.
Here today, with peril and promise balanced upon a needle point
—like Peter and his crew, like the early church
—we act,
we pray
we dive into scripture,
and do the work of the Church as we most faithfully know how…

—but we also trust that Jesus prayed for us—we know not how or where the Spirit shall move, but she shall
—Jesus prayed for us and surely his prayers shall not fall upon deaf ears.
Jesus prayed for us—Unity, Witness, Sanctity, the great revealing of the I AM’s love for us and our participation in it…
—Jesus prayed for us!
Amen and Alleluia.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Job and Friends, in 3 acts

Job & Friends, in three acts
Act 1:
Job: Truly, in a million different ways, in the midst of all the suffering I’ve experienced, I wish I had never been born.
Eliphaz: Hold up? You’re Job, aren’t you? You teach Wisdom’s ways to people, you have been telling folk that if they are innocent they will not suffer, haven’t you? Now that you are suffering, you’re going to renege on that proposition?
Job: Dude! You are about to make it worse, just shut up. You’re not helping!
Eliphaz: No, Job, let me finish. You are a wise teacher, you know that the foolish are a danger to themselves and to their kids. Haven’t you taught that a fool’s children will be crushed, just as your children were crushed? This is your teaching, now you are experiencing it firsthand.
Job: Eliphaz, do you know why you aren’t helping? Because I didn’t ask for your help, let alone ask for your wrapped up in a bow explanations of human suffering.
Eliphaz: Job, chill! This suffering you are experiencing is just correction.
Job: I don’t think you get how painful God’s “correction” is, how horrible it is to have your children crushed!
Suffering is so strange, you experience the pain and the horror, but also the long boring bland moments, time elongating before you forever.
At this point I just want God to finish the job he started on ol’ Job here—kill me!
Eliphaz: Be of good cheer, my man. God will strengthen you! Surely you will recover!
Job: Why would I want to recover? To be strengthened by God? What would I have to look forward to?
Eliphaz: Like you said before this pity party of yours started, is it not right that we receive both good and bad from God? Good when you are good, and bad when you are bad.
Job: How does blaming the victim help the victim? Huh? I bet you’d kick an orphan while he’s down and think you’re doing the kid a favor!

Act 2:
Job: At this point, it feels like you all are just harassing me. So, let me say it plainly. God has wronged me and won’t answer for the wrong.
Heck, to me, God is an oppressive force, an army besieging me.
Everyone sees me as a stranger.
I’m sick! Why won’t you pity me?
God has struck me, shouldn’t that make you sad… or even afraid… you might be next!
Yet, perhaps… even in all this pain, someone will redeem me, someone will write down all these wrongs and represent me against all my accusers!
Don’t act like dispassionate scientists watching a frog getting cut up in a lab, you are next to be pithed! You will be unjustly punished just as I have been!

Zophar: You’re words shake me, friend, and I feel insulted.
It is my duty to respond as best I know how.
The wicked have a short life!
They will be ignored and forgotten!
This is because they followed the wrong path, they should have lived righteously instead of wickedly, but they didn’t, and are suffering for it!
God is sucking up all their unjust gains!
All that was taken wrongly is being taken back.
Heaven has exposed their guilt, and by extension, your own!

Job: Oh Lord! Just listen to me Zophar, please! Just close your damn mouth for a moment, tape it shut if you have to!
Look around at the world as it is, the wicked prosper! I don’t think you get what I’m saying.
You think I’m proscribing things, but I’m describing them, pointing out the way the world really is.
Don’t you get it, I’m with you, let the wicked burn! Punish the children of the wicked. May God never be late in punishing the wicked, make them suffer now! Because…
Because… have you noticed the existential truth of it all? The wicked die and so do the righteous, and guess what, they are both dead!
I truly understand your position, good people ought to be rewarded for their goodness, and bad people ought to be punished for their badness… but open a newspaper man! The wicked prosper, no one can stop them. Making dogmatic, declarative statements to the contrary does nothing… it certainly does not comfort the suffering!

Act 3:
Job: There is injustice everywhere, but God does not act.
Bildad: Surely that is not because God is weak… for God is, ultimately, all-powerful.
No one is pure before God.
Compared to God, humans are so small.
Job: Well! Aren’t you helping the hurting with such answers.
Bildad: Well, yeah, I am! Don’t you know that God’s power subdues even chaos and death!
God’s mighty acts are so loud we can barely hear a complete word about His wonder!
Job: If God is so powerful, why won’t he give me my day in court?
I really can’t in good conscience ask for anything else. I can’t claim to be wicked, that itself would be wicked. The only right thing would be for every horror I’ve experienced to be visited upon my enemies. God will only be just if he throws all that powerful weight you talk about against those who are against me... including you three.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sermon: Invisible, Love, Courage

Invisible, Love, Courage

         It feels like there has to be a way to consolidate the letters of John… 
the amount of repetition, adding a little chunk to the previous statement, 
and then a little more, 
then saying it all in a slightly different way,
then saying that the reverse it true also…
it feels like these words could be turned into a Venn diagram
—you know, those two circles that have overlapping characteristics… 
One circle is God, one circle is Love and not connected to the two is fear…
or alternatively God, Love, and Courage all are intertwined somehow, right!
         Or maybe it al could be put into an equation God=Love, Love>Fear, therefore God, who is perfect love, casts out all fears…
         All I’m entirely sure of is that God is Loveand that Perfect Love casts out fear, and so there is a connection, a relationships between God, Love, and Courage.
Let us pray

         The invisible God is revealed in our lives, when we love one another.
         The unseen God, “The invisible God, made visible in Jesus Christ” as we sometimes say during Holy Communion.
         It would be easy to equate invisibility, unseen things, with unreal, or at least unimportant, things… 
         But that would be foolish… have you ever seen someone look at their debt payment
—debts, all money really, is an unseen thing, an agreement we all make as a society in order to barter for a wide variety of goods…
         If we think about the ancients at all, we often do so by make fun of the them for being afraid of invisible spiritual forces
—but I can only imagine how silly wewould all look to any pre-modern people,
with all our anxieties surrounding invisible, unseen, monetary forces…

         For that matter, have you ever thought about unseenintentions
Often people try to achieve one result, but end up with another
—to put it simply they fail at their goal.
My intention is to make my loved one happy… the seen result… less than….
Have you ever failed?I know I have.
I wonder what people think of when they see my failures? Do they assume I tried to do things that way? Do they assume my intention was to fail, to fall short? I’m guessing some people do…
a misplayed note,
a poorly spoken word,
failing to make a scheduled appointment,
failing to live up to a promise. 
None of these intentional. Yet, how are we to know this, after all an intention is an unseen thing. At the end of the day we hope to be judged by what’s inside, while so often we judge others by their outsides.
         Or… Have you thought about unseen practice?
Have you seen an experienced artist draw a portrait in under ten minutes?
An excellent butcher make precise cuts in mere seconds? 
While part of what they do is natural talent, much of it comes from hours and hours, days, weeks, months of practice. 
They say it takes 10,000 hours (416 days… by the way) of practice before you can be an expert.
They advise writers to produce 1,000 pages before they even think of trying to write something worth publishing.
All these unseen hours invested to do something well!

         The invisible God is made visible in Love—and not just any love—but the love practiced by Jesus when he washed his disciples feet
—the love we celebrate every Maundy Thursday
—Love, one Another!
Love in a concrete, blood, sweat, and tears, way…
love each other like Christ loved his disciples and he hoped and prayed they loved each other
… that’s the kind of love that makes God known,
that perfects love in us,
that affirms the profound truth that God dwells in us.

         Love… love casts out fear… love… creates courage…
         Let me tell you about the courage of Philip?
         The disciples have been hold up in Jerusalem, but Philip—Philip is courageous, he leaves that place of relative safety and goes to Gaza!
         This Ethiopian Eunuch was way above Philip’s station of life—of high estate, high up as well upon a chariot, towering over Philip—but Philip—Philip is courageous, he approaches this man and joins this man on his journey, you’ve heard of carjacking, right, well he practically Chariot-jacks this Eunuch.
         How to interpret this portion of Isaiah, about the suffering servant, was not worked out at the time, and poor Philip, he was a Deacon, not a Disciple, he was called to serve widows, not preach the word, but Philip—Philip is courageous, he reads Isaiah with the Eunuch and is able to tell him about Jesus!
         Then this man asks that pointed question, “What would prevent me from being baptized” and the answer could have been:
“a lot, actually.” 
Leviticus says Eunuchs may not come near God, and Deuteronomy says they may not be among God’s people… but Philip—Philip is courageous, he trusts in the wildness of God’s love and that the Spirit led him there for a reason and baptizes him right there!
         Yes, the Love of God was at work in Philip’s encounter with this Ethiopian Eunuch, he was of good courage, and for that we too may rejoice!

         Think of it, Philip did not look at the Ethiopian Eunuch’s outsideand his own inside, but instead looked with love!
         Philip practiced this compassion, this looking with love, many times, perhaps he even got those 10,000 hours in
—latter he preaches to and baptizes sorcerers,
he is allowed to live long enough to see his daughters become preachers of God’s word! 

         I pray that we too might practice courage and love, seeing the face of God beyond any visible barrier that might separate us
—God dwells in us, let us love one another, that we might know God.                                         A+A

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd”

         Have you ever thought for a bit about what the Gospel writer is claiming about Jesus today
—have you thought about what it means that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd!”
What does it mean that Jesus says “I AM”? 
What does it mean that he is Good? 
What does it mean that he’s a shepherd? 
And of course, we’re not just throwing up an abstract concept on a blackboard here, what does it mean for each of us, for me and (deacon) and for little Luchiano, who we are about to baptize?
         What does it mean that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd”?

What does it mean that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd”?
         When Jesus says “I Am”which happens frequently in John’s Gospel—he’s saying a lot more than those two tiny words would indicate
—he’s pointing back in scripture to the answer God gave to Moses when Moses asked, “Who should I say is sending me?” Essentially, “What’s your name?” 
To which God responds, “I AM that I AM!”
         God is the only being who can say “I am” and type a period at the end of that sentence.
I need to say, “I am … because of my mom and dad, and my doctors and teachers and pastors and coaches and professors and parishioners and… so on.” Right, there is a whole line of contingency and connection that has led me to be who I am…
But this God of ours, the one who answered Moses, “I AM that I AM” is
the start from which everything springs,
the center of which all that is, seen and unseen, swirls around on account of God’s gravitational pull.

         The Great I AM is the one from whom all good comes.
The Great I AM gives this universe both dynamism and stability
—we can change, and yet there are universal standards upon which change can occur
—we can evolve, and our subatomic particles or quarks or strings or whatever word we want to use to describe the smallest part of a thing
—they don’t randomly part ways or wink out of existence
—because the Great I AM, holds it all in solid but open hands.
And here we have, throughout John’s Gospel—Jesus Identified as the Great I AM.
As we were talking about in Bible Study on Thursday, there is a whole school of thought in the Old Testament that believe observing the world can help us get a glimpse of God’s nature
—creation itself a canvas that says something about the creator…
well, John is saying something even more miraculous
—seeing Jesus, we can see the Great I AM.

What does it mean that Jesus is said to be “Good”?
Jesus is neither hired hand nor wolf.
A hired hand does not own the sheep
—there isn’t that intimate connection between sheep and shepherd
… when things go bad the hired hand won’t claim their beloved sheep
—no the hired hand will abandon, will act the coward, ultimately will not care…
Will not care when wolves come—grizzly maw wiped with blood—terrifying presence—sent to scatter and devour the sheep…

What’s that even mean?What does it mean to be scattered…
scattered people, scattered churches, scattered souls…
Have you ever been scattered?You were so distracted you entered a room… only to have no clue why you were there?
Or in the car thinking so far into the future you don’t notice you don’t have the right of way…
Have you ever been scattered?So often seemingly small things can scatter a congregation or a Church, distrust can be sewn over stupid simple stuff.
Have you ever been scattered?Sometimes it feels like our society is training us not to be a society—but instead an anti-social bunch, tribal, suspicious, and skeptical of everyone all the time.
What does it mean to be scattered—well, I think that’s an appropriate description of Sin—That which separates us from God or neighbor
—that which breaks relationship
—that is Sin, and I fear if we trust hired hands we will be consumed by sin.

But friends, we can trust Jesus Christ… he loves us! He loves us so much that he will lay down his life for us
—as we see in John’s Gospel not one disciples is taken when he hands himself over to the police at the garden of gethsemane…
He sees Sin, that wolf, coming and does not allow his sheep to be consumed by it, but instead he is consumed by the cross on our behalf.
Not only that, we can trust him to take up again that life of his. He rises from the dead, that we may follow. 
He is taken up again and ascends to the I AM, that we all have access to the I AM as a loving parent… he takes up his life again that we might have life with him on account of being baptized in him.

What does it mean that Jesus is the “Shepherd”?
The Shepherd of the sheep
—critters that from the most ancient of times have been used to describe the subjects of a king
…living among smelly critters that head butt
… critters that from a distance you can’t distinguish from Goats
… critters that seem to be most in their element in a group, not alone, for when they are alone they are lost…
Well—if we share characteristics with sheep… then, I suppose, we’re ambiguous to our core—saint and sinner simultaneously
we have a propensity to wound, even our shepherd…
we are not meant to go through this all alone, without community…
It also means our shepherd lays claim to us in a fundamental way.
         He gathers us from far and wide. His voice calls us in, from every corner of the earth
… continually calling us, this Shepherd, who knows us and we know him
—who is connected to us like blood to a vein,
love letter to the beloved,
sun to heat.
One flock, one Shepherd.

         And Luchiano, you’ve been in need of both stability and change… (RIFF)
I’m sure you will face that scattering that wolves bring and hired hands cannot handle…
I’m sure you will yearn for community in times of isolation…
In baptism you will be gathered into the community of Christ,
gathered in from Sin despite all scattering,
weaved into the fabric of the Weaver, the Great I Am, whose face we find in Jesus.
         Luchiano, know that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” That Jesus is the I Am, Jesus is Good, Jesus is ourShepherd, your Shepherd.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sermon 1 John 3

         Sometimes it hurts just to open the newspaper, or turn on the TV, or even ask a neighbor or relative or friend how they are doing…
-       A convergence of countries fighting and meddling in Syria with unclear goals and objectives the likes of which we have not seen since the Crimean War.
-       Chemical attacks in Syria, the likes of which we have not seen since the First World War.
-       The greatest refugee crisis since the end of the 2nd world war, yet last year less than 30,000 refugees were resettled here in America… Half the population of Syria, the center of the refugee crisis, currently displaced, yet we’ve only taken in 11 Syrian refugees in the first 4 months of this year.
-       Tensions rising between global nuclear powers, the United States and Russia raddling saber as would suit a new cold war or God forbid a Hot War of annihilation.
And were it only wars and rumors of war, that would be one thing, but we humans… we contain multitudes.
-Social media, intended to connect people all across the world, being used to create suspicion between neighbors and sew fear among friends.
-Slashed safety nets,
-isolation and mourning,
-Intergenerational antagonism,
-unaddressed griefs and grievances,
-Deeply damaging miscommunication,
-The anxiety of stepping into an unknown future…

it is enough to make you feel like you are on your own, and out of luck, and that the other guy is out to get you…
or at least someone is…

         Sometimes, I just wish I could be like the Apostles! I wish I could heal like the Apostles. I wish I could proclaim like the Apostles.
-Reconnect the severed fibers of our national life,
-re-introduce relatives and neighbors and friends to each other,
-beat swords into plowshares, tanks into tractors, guns into gardens and bullets into seeds to feed the world…
-use the chlorine they gassed folk with to clean up a giant pool where we can hold a swim party in Syria and everyone involved can just talk their problems out.

… I wish I could be like the Apostles, saying “Silver and gold have I none, but I can heal you in the name of Jesus”
and then tell everyone about Jesus and the wonders of his love
—tell his whole story, tell the gospel and have it accompany healing like we see in the Acts of the Apostles today…

… or maybe…
maybe I don’t want to be like the Apostles…
heal and proclaim like them…
after all, there are consequences for their actions
—they are rejected by their religious leaders,
kicked out of where they worship,
jailed, beaten, stoned, killed…
all for healing and proclaiming that Jesus is Lord…
If I was to be like the apostles…
-I suppose I’d be gassed just the same as anyone else,
-Called too political or naïve or a dupe or a traitor if I spoke for peace,
-Branded a meddler or hypocrite for trying to mend broken relationships.
… yes there are consequences for healing in Jesus name and proclaiming that Jesus is Lord
living out the faith, following after Jesus… has consequences…

         And that shouldn’t surprise us, as 1st John says, “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
          Look where our Lord ended up for healing, forgiving sins, and proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come near…
-he was called a law breaker and a drunken glutton,
-chased out of his home town,
-abandoned, betrayed, arrested, killed
no, the world could not know Jesus as the Messiah—the Christ—the Kingdom of God come near
—and neither can it know Jesus’ disciples, those who work in the Kingdom even as they reside in the world
—the Children of God are hidden from the World, even, perhaps, from themselves…

         And yet… and yet we will be known, we will be revealed.
As we read in 1st John: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.”
         When the world does see Christ, we will be revealed as like Christ, as Children of God.
         Oh, we are so often blinded by the world ourselves, so much a part of the world, that it is the Spirit alone who can give us glimpses of what God is up to in our lives…
but we anticipate a much greater revealing
—that what once was seen in a mirror darkly,
what once we had to squint to see
—shall be revealed as Jesus was, is, and will be revealed, as Christ.
         I think that’s what holds it all together for us—this hope.
         I think that’s what held it all together for those disciples as they healed and preached—this hope!
Sure, the good works of Christ and the Spirit
—the Resurrection and the New Life we find in our Risen Lord
—all of that is shrouded, unknown to the world… the world which operates with rules of its own that run roughshod over the calling of Christ…
Sure, it is far from obvious,
those echoes of Easter still among us
Sure, in black and white the newspaper bleeds red
Surebut the Goodness of Christ will be revealed!

-Jesus Christ, who was born to a lowly and frightened peasant girl
—gives us a hope that the Lowly will be lifted up and we will “Be not afraid.”

-Jesus Christ, who healed the sick even when it meant sacrifice on his part
—gives us a hope that all sickness, all suffering, ailments of any sort, will be healed!

-Jesus Christ, who forgave sins, even when religious folk said, “stop it”
—gives us a hope that there truly is forgiveness of all our sins, and with it redemption and life!

-Jesus Christ, who proclaimed the Kingdom of God in his very presence
—gives us the hope that God’s Children will be revealed, and that the Kingdom will come.

         It is with this hope that we follow after Jesus, as did those Apostles.
         It is with this hope that we heal in Jesus name and proclaim him Lord of all
—despite consequences, in the face of a tense, torn up, war-like world that does not know him and cannot see God’s work and will in the lives of God’s Children.
         In the face of all that,
still hope!
Always hope!


Saturday, April 07, 2018

Review of "What Are We Doing Here?" by Marilynne Robinson

What Are We Doing Here?What Are We Doing Here? by Marilynne Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to give this book 5 stars--it is well worth reading, full stop... but it is mainly a series of lectures, and as such it becomes repetitive (I read most of the book in 2 sittings on an airplane).
What follows are the major themes that are continually touched on an weaved together is beautiful ways.
-We choose not to know much about Puritans, who shaped our world in incredibly important ways that we ought to investigate.
-We ignore the connections between the American Revolution and the reign of Oliver Cromwell at our peril (in fact O.C. may explain the red state blue state divide).
-The gaps in knowledge in modern America is like the gap between matter and dark matter.
-Conservative Christianity violates many of the tenets of Christianity.
-Aesthetic is a valuable ethical norm.
-When science is reductionist it debases humanity, especially when popular science is an excuse for obliterating the idea of conscience.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Easter Sermon

          In John’s Gospel Mary arrives alone, she alone is the first to see the good news, first to see the stone slid away, first too to tell of this marvelous thing…
          But, I don’t think she saw the marvel yet, instead it was just one more thing. One more sign of death and defeat.
          The pious and the powerful killed her Lord and Friend and now they pushed for one more indignity—a desecrated tomb…
          So she goes and tells Peter, and he and the other disciple run off and leave her, a foot race more meaningful—it seems--than comforting a sister, comforting Mary…
          Ouch… just another twist of the knife, another reminder that she’s without him… 
without him the community doesn’t care for each other… without him… without him…
          She follows after, and arrives in time for the two disciples to head back home… and there she is, YET AGAIN!, alone outside an abandoned grave…. 
It’s enough to make you cry... He’s been taken, 
he’s been taken, 
he’s been taken… 
“Why are you weeping?” the angels ask
          “He’s been taken.”
“Why are you weeping?” Jesus asks.
          “He’s been taken.”
          But then, her name… 
the voice… 
the man was not the gardener
—that man was no man, that was her Teacher, that man was Jesus!
          And with that, she returns yet again to her fellow disciples, she becomes the Apostle to the Apostles, the first herald of the resurrection, her lips the first lips to launch the Gospel—the first messenger of Easter!

          Then there is the mysterious beloved disciple
—who is often identified with Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, who Jesus brought back to life
—this Beloved Disciple, is already filled with hope, perhaps because he’s already seen the other side and knows that Jesus is Lord of Life, and Death shall not hold sway over him…
          Yes, this hope is the engine that vaults him passed Peter, arriving first.
          This hope in new life through Jesus is the stuff that makes him see and believe
—he is able to look at an empty tomb and folded napkin and trust that they are signs of resurrection.
          This hope allows him to return home, satisfied.

          As upheld by hope as the beloved disciple was, Peter was weighed down with guilt
--he had denied Jesus three times, and that experience holds him down just as Lazarus’ experience of leaving the tomb lifted him up.
          Peter is 2nd in this race with the Beloved Disciple to the Tomb. He’s the first to look in and see, but his guilt keeps his eyes from seeing and believing
—keeps him from taking the empty tomb to mean resurrection.
          His eyes are still closed, he leaves heavier than he came
—heavier until that last moment, when Mary proclaims to him this thing that he saw without seeing—
“I have seen the Lord.”

          Three different experiences of the risen Christ. 
-Mary keeping on keeping on, checking on the body, doing the work that must be done despite the cloud of sorrow that had swallowed her up
—the fog of grief, 
the tears of weeping
—from this solid sorrow… 
Joy, sweet and strong, springs into her life.
-Peter, racked with guilt, unable to see the most momentous occasion in human history
—but then when it is spoken to him by Mary, and even more so when Jesus speaks to him a few weeks later
forgiveness is assure, this guilt is taken away.
-The Beloved Disciple, living in hopeful anticipation, that all dear Jesus had said will come to pass, finds that trust he had given to Jesus confirmed, strengthened by simple signs there.
          Three ways the resurrection, Easter, touched them, made them whole, ushered them into the ages of ages, even life eternal.
          Hopefully their testimonies from so long ago can still help us today… 
help us read our own story, 
tell our own story, 
in such a way that we see how the life given to us by Jesus, the resurrected life we continue to share with him, shapes our story.

-         Like the Beloved Disciple, we can look at our life and ask, “What are my deepest hopes?”
-         Like Peter, we can look at our story and ask, “What holds me down with guilt?”
-         Like Mary, we can be honest, and respond to the question, “What are the sorrows in my life?”
          We can also ask,
“How am I keeping on keeping on?”
“How have I found Gospel in that?”
“Who needs to hear the Gospel?”
“How can I announce ‘I have seen the Lord!’?”

          And like these earliest of Christians, Jesus is here for us with new life, with forgiveness, joy, affirmation of your faith
—your story is and can be… undergirded, soaked, held fast, interweaved… with new life.
          Each one of you here today, everyone within the sound of my voice
—you each have a story of resurrection to tell, to experience, to anticipate, to hope for, to find your footing upon, to put your trust in.

          Kenneth and Keith—you will be more fully joined to that story today through your baptism—entering into Christ’s death and resurrection through the waters of baptism.
Your life will be forever different
—set on a pathway that promise life eternal,
 a path of discipleship
—following after Jesus Christ.
          A pathway containing low points of sorrow and guilt, yes, 
but also paved in hope, joy, and forgiveness… maybe even that you might speak as Mary spoke, “I have seen the Lord.”

         And that’s what I pray for all of us today
-Sorrow turned to Joy
-Guilt giving way to forgiveness
-Hope attained.

Alleluia. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.