Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Vigil 2013

I began this year's Lenten journey with these six words: Lent: The Greatest Love Story Ever.  Tonight I offer up: Even Death Cannot Conquer God's Love.

We’ve heard stories of our salvation history, sang songs, prayed prayers, learned about baptism, prayed some more, and here we are to hear more words in the sermon which I am deliberately going to keep short because we still have two more stories to hear: we have the Baptism story and the Eucharist story still to hear and recite and remember.  All of these are remembrances of this Love Story between God and us.

Welcome to the Great Vigil of Easter.  Tonight we have themes bouncing one against another, bumping into another; did you hear them? 
Darkness to Light
Fire and Water
Mystery and Revelation
Fear to Faith
Slavery to freedom
Death to Life
Sin to Salvation

Tonight, at the apex of the Christian year, we tell the story of God and God’s people and we proclaim Christ risen from death to life.  It’s an overwhelming night of words, words, words, words, words.  We now have 50 days of Easter – Thanks be to God – 50 days to try to assimilate all of the these words and stories into our lives – to let them speak to us again this year, because we hear it all differently every year.  We are called again to try to live into our Belovedness as God's people.

Here’s your down and dirty summation of all of the words tonight: God loved us so much that He became one of us so that He might be with us always.  Even death is powerless before God. Even Death Cannot Conquer God's Love.  Alleluia He is risen!!  The Lord is risen indeed Alleluia!

As we consider God’s love for us, let us now turn to the Baptism:

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Prodigal Son and the Elder Brother

This weekend we get one of the most beloved parables in the entire Bible – the Prodigal Son and the Older Brother.  This story has been played out over and over again in other books, movies, songs – if you think about it for a minute or two you can probably hear echoes of this story in scenes throughout your life. 

One of the reasons that it is such a comforting story is that it illustrates the extravagant love that God has for each of us.  At different times in our lives we can remember when we have been lost and needed finding, or have been overwhelmed by the depth of God’s love for us in our darkest days. 

 I know there are some full-fledged younger brothers here  – y’all have the lively stories.  The younger son has gotten the bulk of the attention here – riotous living, squandering an inheritance, falling so low that he considers eating pig pods.  He went away to find himself but lost himself along the way.  By the time he comes to himself, he is stinky and hungry and lonely.  It is a much more dramatic story of hitting rock bottom.  So it is the story we usually talk about when we read this in Luke.  This is the more straightforward part of the parable. 

I suspect that most of us here though may identify more with the Elder Son – I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but I’ve had this conversation with more people than I can count.  Most of the time, we are the older brothers with small side trips into the younger brother’s world.  We’ve done what’s asked, we’ve not complained – and where is the reward for that?!  Where’s the party for us?  We have stories of routine and duty and dang it – we want to be recognized for it!

The Elder brother’s story though is just as dramatic on a careful reading.  You see the beginning of the reading?  Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and Scribes – they have asked how dare he eat with sinners.  In this parable Jesus is clearly putting his sinner friends in the younger brother role and the Pharisees/Scribes in the Elder brother role.  And that’s probably we most of us reside also. 

You see, there are actually two lost sons in this parable.  We know one is found and celebrated, but we are left wondering about the other.  Will we stand on our indignation or soften to the love and forgiveness offered freely?  This is a very important question for all of us to face right here and right now. 

In this diocese, today, this is the crossroad where I believe we are.  Our story of the Episcopal Church’s brokenness is no less dramatic than this parable.  Both sides could claim to be the Elder brother, but could accuse the other of being the younger squanderer.  But both are equally lost to the other no matter which way the story is told.  Both are equally loved by the Father; both equally forgiven.  It is very hard work – it takes discipline to occupy both roles – but it is true – we know it.  We are all sons, daughters, children, older and younger BELOVEDS.  God yearns for the family to be at peace.  May we each do our part to make it so.  Amen.

Transfiguration - Year C

           This weekend we get the Transfiguration readings.  We do a version of this every year right before Lent begins.  Matthew and Mark have their own versions, so it is a bit different each year.  I got tickled this week as I did the readings on this lectionary offering.  One place said not to even TRY to explain Paul’s writings (-:

            We get the story of Two Transfigurations – the first is Moses, and it sets the scene for Jesus.  There are the common denominators that would have led ancient hearers to know that the stories are written to be linked: the mountain, the shiny skin, the fear of the witnesses, and God speaking.  The Psalm reminds us that God appears as a cloud on a mountain – again hearkening to this Gospel reading.  This is one of those unusual weekends when all of the readings fit together perfectly and interweave stories and illustrations.  If you have been an Episcopalian for very long, you have heard sermons on these every year.

            This year as we face the beginning of our Lenten journey through to Easter, I would like for us to consider a third Transfiguration story: our own.  As Episcopalians our Anglican theology allows us to believe that we are constantly being transfigured – constantly being sanctified – to be the presence of Christ in the world.  We believe that we can move closer and closer to holiness.  This is not only personally but as a parish. 

            As we begin the Lenten journey, we are also beginning the ending with Fr Jim.  One of the things that will happen over the next year or so will be efforts to learn who St Martin is – what we offer to the greater world that is unique.  Just hanging out and being the Episcopal church is not enough anymore.  Truthfully it never has been – that’s why Peter and the guys could not just hang out on the top of the mountain – there was work to do.  There still is – one of the things we will be called to do is to “Listen.”  We will wonder together, question together and listen together. 
            Between now and Easter, we will each individually be called into the observance of a Holy Lent with the imposition of ashes on Wednesday.  Each of us will fast, pray and listen to the Holy Spirit and how she moves in our daily lives.  We are going to be called into our own Transfigurations.  To that end, I have an assignment for you.  It’s a bit scary – but all Transfigurations are – I want you to really pay attention to your Lenten journey this year.  I want you to be ready to tell us all about it.  My first weekend to preach after Easter will be the third Sunday of Easter.  On that weekend, I want to hear your stories of Transfiguration – where you have heard the Holy Spirit speaking to you, either personally or about this community.  Your stories will be the sermon that weekend. 

            It will be a long journey – May we, like Moses, reflect the light of the Glory of God as we are transfigured.