Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter Vigil: While it was still Dark

Look out the window for a second
          At 7:16pm today, the sun set…
          It has set the mood…

          With this darkness, we are placed where we find Mary,
where Jesus finds Mary.
          More than that,
where God most often finds God’s people,
where God most often acts on our behalf—either literally or metaphorically…
From the beginning this is where God acts…
          God acts, “While it was still dark.”
          While it was still dark.


          While it was still dark
—Formless and void
—chaos shaded in gray, waiting impatiently.
          In the darkness of the first morning, between nothing and chaos—God acts!
          God moves nothing into something and neutrality into goodness.
          While it was still dark.
          God transforms the formless and trains up chaos!
          Light, Sky, Sea, Fecundity, Time, Life, Species, People, Rest…
          Look out that windowWhile it was still dark, God acted.

          While it was still dark, there on the bank of the sea.
          People afraid, crying out as the Egyptians pressed forward,
people prepared to die.
          On the banks there, a strange darkness
—God a fearful sight, horrific the Angel of the Lord
—a pillar of cloud and lightening
—a thunderous thing standing between God’s people and those who would endanger them.
          While it was still dark, a darkness lit from the inside,
God’s powerful presence
—fire and cloud, bringing his people across the sea on the dry ground.
God saving them from the Egyptians…
          Look out that windowWhile it was still dark, God acted.

          While it was still dark
          In the poverty of Babylon,
 doing work that would not be paid for,
being strangers in a strange land,
hungering and thirsting for freedom, and for home.
          While it was still dark, those who felt forsaken and captured, were found by God.
          Were offered free bread,
free wine,
free milk,
free water,
          Offered words of
          Look out that windowWhile it was still dark, God acted.

          While it was still dark
—the darkest of times emblazed by the violent light of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, three men, faithful, and for their faithfulness punishment.
All the over the top power of Nebuchadnezzar
—his royal court over-stuffed with Satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, justices, magistrates, and provincial officials,
overshadowing the faithfulness of these men,
the band… horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum and everything else,
dampening the promises of God
the wideness of his empire, peoples, nations, and languages,
strangling the hopes of God’s people
          While it was still dark, God enters into the flame, protecting Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the face of brightest, hottest, deadliest flame, four men unbound, unhurt, walk in the middle of the fire…
Look out that windowWhile it was still dark, God acted.

          While it was still dark, Mary goes to the tomb of Jesus her Teacher and friend. The disciples come, they are befuddled by it all—an empty tomb.
          And then there she is, alone again, outside the tomb.
Alone and wondering what it all means.
          Alone, and then,
then the strange stuff of dawn appear, angels dressed in white, and a gardener, all telling her to stop crying.
          Stop crying?
Don’t they know, what she’s lost?
who she’s lost!
          While it was still dark, he answers her righteous, wounded, question.
          Answers her by name, and there he is.
          Her teacher,
her friend,
her Lord!
There, while it was still dark, God acts!
Look out that windowWhile it was still dark, God acted.

          While it was still dark—important words to hold onto.
          It can be dark, metaphorically and literally.
          Dusks and dawns, empty times… chaotic times.
          If you think you live a life without them, you probably are in a shadow so deep you don’t realize you’re in it.
          Yet, the resurrection itself, happened then, happens there!
          Creation, crossing the Red Sea, Babylon stymied, saved from exile!

          Our story, our witness, our reality…
Look out that window,
While it was still dark, God acted
Again! Look out that window,
While it is still dark, God acts!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Sermon: Remember!

Memory is a strange thing once you start to look into it. A memory isn’t so much stored, as shaped and imagined.
In fact, every time we remember something, we’ve created it again, we’ve made something new. There is no solid real memory of an event, only our creative re-interpretation and reflection upon that event.
          Scientist have used this insight, memories get re-made every time we remember them, to short circuit the process in lab rats, thus destroyed particular rat memories forever
—in fact a similar process is currently being used to heal some soldiers with PTSD.
So, in a sense, the only memories we have are reflections upon our previous memory of the thing
—we can only remember what we last remembered,
each time we remember we’ve created a whole new memory.
          And this makes a certain amount of sense when you think about it, when you get caught, fixating on one memory, doesn’t it grow, becoming bigger than the original event? You end up saying something stupid, no one else remembers it, but it dogs you for days, because you keep re-creating it.

          I bring this up, not because I want to talk to you about neuroscience, I have a feeling the children’s movie “Inside Out” could do a better job than I,
but instead I bring up the issue of memory, because Maundy Thursday is all about remembering.
          We’re remembering,
putting together again,
a new collective memory every time we do this! Adding to the memory of what it means
to be People of God,
to be forgiving people,
to be foot washing people,
to be holy meal together people.

Tonight, we remember!

          Tonight, we remember.
          This whole night, is memory.
          Tonight as I say the words of institution, for this Danny and Gianna’s first communion, we’ll be remembering Paul’s words… they themselves a memory
          Paul remembering Jesus’ last meal, Jesus’ last meal remembering the Passover meal.
          Passover, a meal of remembrance, remembering the Israelite’s flight out of Egypt to freedom.
          Each of these memories, putting it all together again,
each of these meals, shifting and holding onto what it means to be God’s faithful people
—re-making our collective memory every time we do it!
Remembering who we are again, and yet for the first time,
because it’s a whole new memory each time!

          Remembering the escape from Egypt
—we are slaves and we are wanderers,
so we will neither enslave, nor mistreat the migrant in our midst.

          Remembering Jesus’ last meal
—He models for us Love.
The love Jesus saw Mary model for him when she wiped his feet in preparation for his burial.
He models for us Love, giving us an example, a physical one
—one we can remember
—who will soon forget someone messing with your feet!
He models what it means to love one another, being friends with one another in such a way that our hands are wet with each other’s muck!
He models the love of a leader
—intimate service leads the way!

          Remembering Paul’s words
—his memory of what Christ does—what this meal is!
He reminds us, like the Corinthian community—that we so often forget to check our social difference at the door…
that we expect what goes on in here in our life together to cling too closely to our culture.
He reminds us, that dividing the table, in any way, by class and cash, like the Corinthians,
or by race, or gender, sexual orientation or political proclivities, is beyond the pale!
All kneel before the altar,
all receive body and blood
—all proclaim Christ given over for our sake.

remembering here together…
remembering this night who we are,
re-creating our collective memory as People of God!

          Remembering our first communion
—forming one of our earliest memories of our Life Together
—a memory, Gianna and Danny,
that I hope you will return to time and time again,
that you will cultivate,
that we… take a moment to look at the people around you here tonight
—that we all together create, and in so doing become the Body of Christ for this night,
this year,
this generation.
          Tonight, we remember.