Saturday, March 31, 2012

Palm Sunday Homily

As a friend said on Facebook , this is the perfect service for this weekend: “Welcome to the King of Kings!  We will honor you forever!  April Fools!!”  Every year this service jars me – the immediate movement from Hero Worship to Crucify Him - this year it took us 32 minutes to get from there to here.  This morning we get the Cliff notes version of the story, but throughout this week, we will actually get to see and experience what comes in between - the What that Happens between there and here.  On Thursday, Friday and Saturday we will see how we got from there to here and beyond.

And we know how it will end.  So why bother?  Jesus knew how it would end also.  Why did he bother?   He bothered because he loves us. 

God has been singing a love song to us all though Lent.  Have you heard it?  It was no accident that we spent the first four Sundays of Lent reviewing the different Covenants between God and the people – we learned out history with God – we learned who we are to God – that we are Beloved.  We've had a different verse of that song each week:  In week one, we heard "I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth" as God made a covenant with Noah. Week two was "You shall be the ancestors to a multitude of nations" as God made the covenant with Sarah and Abraham.  Week three was "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." Week four, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son." Last week was "I will put my law within them and I will write in on their hearts – I will be their God and they will be my people."   Today we had the words directly from Jesus "I am the Messiah, the Son of God" - he gave himself up.  This week we will add: By this shall the world know that you are my disciples. And we will have the examples of foot washing and the institution of communion.

 Jesus already knew what would happen – and he loves us enough to show up and ride a colt.  He loves us enough to be an example of being non-violent in the face of injustice.  He loves us enough to feed us every single week – week in and week out – with his own body and blood.  He loved us enough to walk among us, because without Holy week, that cute baby is just a cute baby - the wise teacher is merely a wise teacher, the miracle healer is just a healer - This Week changes everything.  Without This week, This Story is just another story. 

Come this week to walk with Christ and the disciples – Come hear and experience different versions of the same story.  You’ve come this far: Remember that you are Dust and to Dust you shall return.    Come - Finish your Lent this year with a strong understanding of who Christ is – for you, for this community and for the world.  Come and let God sing you the rest of this love song. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sermon 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Collect:  Almighty God, you seest that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul – it is a lovely collect for the day and a great summary for the readings today.  Today is one of those glorious days when all the  readings and the Collect inter-weave beautifully.

I don’t know if you have noticed or not, but throughout this Lenten season, we have had Covenant readings in our Hebrew Testament first readings.  The First Sunday of Lent, we had God making a covenant with Noah: “Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  A flood is certainly an adversity which may happen to the body – and God promises to protect us from an earth-encompassing flood.  What do we have to do to uphold our end of the bargain?  Nothing – the rainbow is the sign that reminds God.  There is no Rainbow Bat signal that we have to flash – it just happens – God makes the rainbow happen and restricts the flood.  Who does this covenant affect?  All of us – every human on the earth.  Some may perish periodically in floods, but never again has there been a flood that covered the entire earth.  When I first saw the previews to Evan Almighty a few years ago, I wondered if the writers had forgotten this covenant.  “Defend us from all adversities which may happen to the body.”

On the Second Sunday of Lent, last week, God made a covenant with Abram and Sarai, who became Abraham and Sarah. Abraham became the father of the three major religions who worship the same God: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity: “you shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations…to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”  And three major world religions followed.  What do we have to do to uphold our end of this covenant:  nada.  “Almighty God, you know we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves.”

This is the Third Sunday of Lent, and we have more covenant language: the Ten Commandments.  This is a covenant between God and the Hebrew people.  As Christians who descend from the Jews theologically and scripturally, we inherited this covenant.  The Quran does not have the Ten Commandments – it has similar teachings, but not in this form like we have it in both Exodus and Deuteronomy.    Do you see how the field is narrowing each time?  All people with Noah; Jews, Muslims and Christians with Abraham, and now Jews and Christians with the Ten Commandments.   And this is where we got to the question: How do we uphold our end?  What is expected of us?  Jesus later narrows it even further for us as Christians as we hear in our opening proclamation every week in Rite I, “Love God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbors as yourselves” – the Summary of the Ten Commandments – simplified.  That’s all we have to do to uphold our end of this covenant – simple enough - ha.  “Keep us from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul.” 

So what does all this have to do with Jesus getting angry in the Temple?  God could only be found in the Temple in those days – it was where God lived for the Hebrew people.  We have no concept of how pervasive that thought was for them – God lived there and they went to visit God there as a show of obedience and sacrifice.  Only certain people were allowed to be in the same space as God.  What we know that they did not, was that Jesus incarnate is God.  When He was walking among them, God was out of the building (maybe God had never truly resided there for long), but now God walked and talked and got angry.  I actually like this portrayal of Jesus because I can so clearly see both the fully human and the fully divine here.  Jesus sees the gauntlet people are expected to walk through to get to God, and knows that HE is right there.  Jesus tried to tell them that HE was the temple – the body for God – but they would not get that- really get it – until after his death.  When the curtain of the Temple is torn in two later – it signals that God has left the building, once and for all.  The Holy may visit there, but will no longer ever be thought of as living there.  Ironically enough in John’s gospel, Jesus turning over tables, driving out the money changers, and proclaiming to be the Temple is what made the powers-that-be mad enough to start conspiring to kill. 

We know that God walked in the body of Jesus – we also believe that the Holy Spirit lives in and moves among every person here.  We know that God is not only in a building or a room.    We can look historically and faithfully to see how much God loves us – the covenants point us there.  What kind of clearing out have you been doing in your Lenten discipline?  What have you driven out of your life to make room for the Holy Spirit to dwell more fully there?  What practice have you chosen to help you see God more clearly in this season?  I have begun a practice of writing prayers to God – kind of like journaling – and I am a whole 6 days in so far.  Sigh.  The psalmist reminds us that God’s laws are perfect and sure and clear, and pure – sweeter than honey.  I know that when I pressure myself to exceed God’s laws, I stress myself out.  God does not do that to me – I am reminded that God loves those foolish enough to believe as Paul reminded us today – and that the strength of God is enough to keep and defend me.

And why?  Why does God keep us, defend us, and bind the holy to us – as human beings, as people who believe in Jesus Christ, as spirit-bearers in the world?  Why would God do this?  I’m giving you the soap opera ending - That answer comes next week – you’ll know it when you hear it… Amen.