26 May Easter 6

First Thoughts

Theme for ALL

“Love one another, even as I have loved you.”

The lens for all else in this Easter.

May 26, 2019 For Women, too. Easter 6

Having chosen to use the Alternative Gospel from John:

Jesus’ Story and Love, contrary to common practice, included Women.

And Jesus Love Heals; thus we heal one another.

Acts 16:9-15 – Lydia

Acts Thoughts

A women, if you judge me to be faithful, come and stay with me. Response of faith: to provide what is needed: hospitality for travellers, for homeless. Now common? Enough, but in those days, accepting a woman as one of the disciples was a rare act of equality.

No matter our traditions, our culture norms, our expectations; Jesus love reaches all people.

And we are to love as Jesus loves us,

We are to love those whom our tradition excludes from consideration.

Psalm 67 – Let all stand in Awe!

Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5

The city, no more night, only goodness

For the healing of the nations

Revelation Thoughts

In the New Jerusalem, in the City of God, An exclusion: no unclean, only those written in the Book of Life

there no other light needed than the Light of God, no night, no darkness, no abominations, nothing unclean.

[All chaff will have already been burned away.]

The tree produces fruits and leaves, the leaves are for the healing of the nations.

Gospel (alt.): John 5:1-9 Heal one another

as Jesus healed even on the Sabbath

Gospel Thoughts

Our travails last and last: this man’s for 38! years!

And all during that time no one has helped him.

Then in a heartbeat Jesus heals him, even though it is the Sabbath.

Love acts to restore health without regard for expectations and artificial limits (which do not provide health in following them.)

Love one another as Jesus Loves us means HEAL one another, even if the stink of rot has surrounded the illness or circumstance of sin for decades, for generations even!

Easter 5 – 2019 May 19

Jesus’ Story for ALL, Even Gentiles, Rulers

Refrain:

God, who is the Alpha and Omega, says to John: “To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”

Water Alive with Light

Peter Bold and Humble; Attentive

In today’s first lesson we hear again how Peter is a leader in the church, so capable, so vulnerable, and so attentive to the Holy Spirit guiding him. Peter explains, step by step how and why he has gone to non-Jews, and accepted them as followers of Jesus.

Today’s Gospel comes from John 13, which starts with the last super. Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, Peter resists, Jesus says this is part of being Jesus’ follower, and Peter follows. Jesus sends Judas out to betray him, which Jesus says is necessary; God will be glorified in the cross.

Then comes today’s Gospel selection which includes Jesus’ central command, chosen as the theme for our Easter celebrations: that we are to love one another as Jesus loves. By this love we will be known as Jesus’ followers. To this command Peter responds that he will always follow … except Jesus says Peter will deny him three times before the cock crows.

Peter is so confident, yet his failures are so glorious. Peter is so capable; he brings Dorcas back to life. Yet the Holy Spirit needs to change Peter’s direction, with visions and wisdom.

Refrain:

God says, “To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”

Jesus, with his washing the disciple’s feet, and Peter, in his enthusiastic and misguided yet attentive following, demonstrate that in humble service and in humbling ourselves we receive the water of life.

New Jerusalem:

In our lesson from Revelation we hear that the New Jerusalem continually comes down to earth in our midst. God dwells with all his peoples. That’s plural. God dwells not just with one group, one people, but with all his peoples.

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray that God’s Kingdom will come. Luther explained in his Small Catechism that God’s Kingdom will come no matter what, but we pray that it will come to us, in our midst, and through us.

The old has passed away. The New Jerusalem is the city of Peace, where there is no more crying, no more tears, the old tears will be wiped away. We pray that our eyes will be open so that we can see the signs of the New Jerusalem coming down, in our midst.

For Peter that meant that Jesus’ love, which they exercised for one another, did not stop with their small Jewish group. God intends that their and our group, our ‘one another,’ includes all those we have previously excluded.

God sent Peter a sign, that the Gentiles he is called to visit in the Roman city of Caesarea were ‘baptized’ with the HS as were the disciples. This comes after God gives Peter a vision that what God creates is not unclean. Rather all creation is sacred, though mundane. There are no boundaries to God’s love and Jesus’ command is not limited by our definitions of who we are, and who is not us.

Refrain:

All are included in this God’s promise:

To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. In sacred visions Jesus surprises us showing us to whom God gives the water of life.

Whom do we Exclude, Whom God Includes

In 1981 Henri Nowen came to Yale for a few weeks, played volley ball with the new arriving students at the seminary, and ate in the cafeteria. He received students and staff for less than a few minutes each to dispense spiritual guidance to thirsty souls.

Nowen was a Dutch priest, professor, writer and theologian with interests rooted primarily in psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. He knew and shared well that the Holy Spirit finds us in our greatest vulnerabilities, and uses them to demonstrate God’s love, grace, and purpose for us. In his book the Wounded Healer Nowen countered the popular notion that God wants strong, clean, and perfect people to lead the Church of Christ. Rather God uses us as we are, imperfect and wounded.

Nowen knew well, as a popular writer and mentor, that his own soul was thirsty. He went to S. America to live with people of no privilege suffering great persecution. Yet he only first found God’s peace when, after meeting Jean Vanier, Nowen became a member of the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill ON. Paired with Adam Arnett, a man with profound development disabilities, Nowen insisted, “It is I, not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship.”

The founder of L’Arche, Jean Vanier, died May 7 2019. We were reminded of how Vanier inspired so many people to include people with disabilities of all kinds in those we love, not just for their sake, but for the sake of our thirsty souls.

Jean Vanier was born into a family of Canadian diplomats and public servants. He expected to similarly serve and he started on a career as a naval officer. Then led by the Holy Spirit, his life took a different turn.

He was ordained as a priest. While working on his PhD in France, he volunteered to help his mentor work with institutionalized mentally challenged men.

There Vanier met two men and realized what they needed most from him was for him to be a friend. He invited the two men to leave the institution where they resided and live with him. Thus was born L ’Arche, which became an international organization of communities that match helpers with mentally challenged people to the benefit of everyone. Vanier taught so many people that those with disabilities do not burden us with their need for care. Rather they help us recover our humanity, giving us water for our thirsty souls.

Refrain

God says: To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Jesus sends the most vulnerable and furthest outcast to teach us, what the living water is, and how to receive it and to share it with one another.

Who is thirsty b/c we exclude

Who are the thirsty? Who in our cities, villages, and communities, because we have excluded them, are thirsty, needing the water of life?

What are we going to do about it?

Will We Go Out Into the Dark and Bring Christ’s Welcome?

Regularly we pray powerful words: “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” As Luther reminded us in the Small Catechism, God’s good and gracious will comes about without our prayers, but we ask that it may also come about in and among us.

So we pray first, that we will recognize how Jesus includes us, when we are not worthy; that we will recognize that in our humility and vulnerability the grace of God is most visible; that we will recognize that on our brokenness Jesus builds the Body of Christ. For Christ marks us broken people not only as worthy, but also as chosen, chosen to love one another.

We then pray: that we will recognize who we exclude and leave thirsty; that we will change allowing the New Jerusalem to arrive through us for them; that we will give them living water, wash their dusty feet, stoop to give them the necessities of life, listen to them and learn from them the basics of humanity, that we will allow them to give us water for our thirsty souls.

And we also pray: that we will realize that God is glorified in our mundane service, in our being vulnerable to the messy mundane needs of the excluded; and that in our lives of loving service to the most vulnerable outcasts, indeed to all of God’s creation, others will recognize us as Jesus’ disciples … and join us.

We give God thanks that we are so privileged to be the open-armed welcoming party to those we previously excluded.

Refrain

God’s says: To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Jesus demonstrates that in humbling ourselves and in humble service we receive the water of life. The Holy Spirit surprises us with new visions of what the water of life is. God sends the most vulnerable and furthest outcast to teach us, what the living water is, and how to receive it and to share it.

The water from the spring of life showers down on us from the New Jerusalem descending into our midst, invigorating and inspiring us also here and now to be the disciples of Jesus, the one’s known by our love for all of God’s many peoples.

Amen

Love, Like the Good Shepherd

Knowing plainly Jesus’ words is rarely enough. Love is required.

Waffles for Jesus

Two hungry young boys sparred with each other while eating breakfast. Finally they got to the last waffle which they both wanted. Their fight almost got ugly before their mother stepped in:

She said to them, “Didn’t you learn in SS last week that Jesus taught us to share what we have?”

So the oldest boy said to his brother “Joey, you be Jesus!”

Powerful Love, Handle with Care

As we hear Jesus’ voice and follow him Jesus calls us to love one another, just as he has loved us. This love is powerful. It can give life. Peter exercises this love and it brings Dorcas back to life. Jesus promises that no one will snatch us away or that we will eternally perish.

But like Joey’s brother we can also turn this power of love just a few degrees, and it becomes something that destroys instead of giving life. This love should come with a warning label: Handle with Care!

Revelation code Great Ordeal

In our reading from Revelation we hear the code used then to keep people and the writings safe from the destruction readily handed out by Rome to Christians. The great ordeal is code for the persecution that cost many their lives before Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 AD.

Every generation faces it’s own great ordeal. Often the ordeal is not openly recognized, but it sits hidden in plain view like an elephant in the room.

Franz Lost

Franz stood looking at his boss in disbelief. Two weeks before his girlfriend had broken up with him, telling him he was a loser. He believed her because his big investment with all his savings had turned out to be a scam and he’d lost everything. Then he found out that his girlfriend had been seeing his best friend for at least a month and she had taken the money he’d given her to pay the rent. The fridge and cupboards were almost bare.

Then this morning his boss told him he was fired, even though he was good at his job. It was the last straw. He simply did not know what to do.

Shepherd of (dumb) Sheep

When we hear that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, we often forget what an insult it is to be compared to sheep. Sheep are just dumb.

Growing up on a farm with sheep, I watched as my brother showed me how dumb sheep can be. In the evening, herding them into the safety of the barn through a narrow door, my brother put a pitchfork handle a foot off the ground in front of the third sheep coming in through the door. She jumped over the handle as did all the rest of the 100 sheep, even though the handle was already removed after the tenth sheep was safely in the barn.

It is no accident that Jesus compares us to sheep, and that we need a Good Shepherd to guide us to what is important in life, and to save us from what robs life from us.

Franz’ Dark Plan

Darkness

Unemployed Franz came up with a plan, a dark plan. He was done and no one would miss him. He went on to the group chat that he’d been on for a few years, to say good bye, that he was moving on. He could have just headed out on his last walk, but he remembered what Aaron had said.

Aaron’s Light

Aaron, as a young boy, had lived through a pogrom. His father was intent on not just feeding his family, but also on keeping the Sabbath, which always included the lighting of a candle. When their last candle was gone, the father used some of their meager ration of butter and a piece of string to make a candle. Aaron had said it was foolish to use precious food for a candle. His father replied, “Without food we can survive a week. Without faith we wouldn’t survive an hour.” ( SERMONSHOP, August 5, 2000, Bill Adams Trinity Episcopal, Sutter Creek, CA reworked TL).

When Aaron had greeted Franz, they were just strangers in the grocery store exchanging kind words. Then as Franz was paying at the checkout, Aaron came walking back into the store, to thank Franz, and to say good bye.

Aaron was moving to another city, but it was important to say good bye, anyway, as Aaron said so often, “It helps us remember the light of life.”

Moderator interrupts

Remembering Aaron’s words, Franz decided one last visit on-line would be the right way to say good bye. No one on line seemed to notice him saying good bye. Franz was ready to sign off when the moderator popped in and asked him to meet her in a private chat in a half hour. She had something she wanted to get his input on. So Franz waited with his last plan.

As we hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and follow him Jesus calls us to love one another, just as he has loved us.

Price of Love, a Mother’s Love: I’ll go with you.

Even when we seem to be totally lost, the Good Shepherd sends someone to save us, to feed us and give us living water, to protect us from the ravages of sin. The price Jesus paid is high. Sometimes when Jesus sends us to love one another with that love, the love of a mother, the price is just as high.

During the Holocaust the Nazis worked people in concentration camps until they could no longer work, before they executed them. A father and mother, among the many, were crowded in with their two children. The older had a deformed leg since birth. Every day, the mother and two children were taken to one work site and the father to another. One night the father returning to their wood bunk found only his one son. “What happened?” he asked. The surviving child said that his brother had collapsed, so the guards had ordered him to be taken away. He clung to his mother’s skirt, sobbing. She picked him up and, holding him close to her, said, “Don’t be afraid. I’ll go with you.” Mark Daniels, Do Not Worry!

The Watch, a day at a time

As we hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and follow him Jesus calls us to love one another, just as he has loved us. Our love can make all the difference in the world.

When the moderator met Franz in their private chat she said she needed Franz’s help with a project. Franz knew this kind of work inside out. He easily sorted the confused plan of the moderator into something workable.

Franz was about to summarize the modified plan to the moderator, when she had to sign off. She asked Franz if they could meet again tomorrow to finish the plans. The plans turned into some work for Franz, not much at first, but enough to pay for food and rent. Before long Franz was the project’s manager.

A year later the moderator told Franz that she had noticed he was in a dark place, and had kept a suicide watch on him. Franz was surprised that she’d seen through him, but he thanked her, and asked her how he could repay her. She said “pay it forward as she had”. She taught him everything she could about keeping a suicide watch on anyone who seemed to be at risk. It was a skill, she said, that had saved people in more than 5 generations before it saved her, and always people had paid it forward to others in need.

Franz still does not know the moderator’s real name or where she lives. But he knows she kept him alive through the valley of the shadow of death, and more. Against all odds she kept him from hunger, saved him from despair, and showed him how to give life to so many people around him.

As we hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and follow him Jesus calls us to love one another, just as he has loved us. Our love can save lives.

Against all Odds: Jake

In her book The Spark Kristine Barnett tells the story of her son Jake.

At age 2, Jake started to crawl into his shell, because he was autistic. Once this had been diagnosed, everyone predicted what was not possible including that in just a few years Jake would not speak or communicate at all.

Kristine simply would not believe it. She did everything she could to give Jake exactly what he was most interested in, not what others told her she should. Instead she did everything that she dared to do. It was a lonely, difficult, and unrewarding road for years. It seemed it would never end.

Then, at age 16, we see little Jake, a small boy for his age, standing and talking with the professor. Jake then joins one of the groups of college students working on the difficult problem the professor has given them. In his group Jake stands at the whiteboard and writes a bit and then, giving the other students leading questions, entices and invites them to understand what he sees clearly … in a multitude of ways.

Soon one and two students from the other groups come across to Jake’s board. Not too much later most of the students are there listening, eagerly absorbing what Jake offers to them, until first one, then another, and then most of them, nodding understanding, return to their own whiteboards to work through the problem before them.

Jake is one of the most brilliant minds of this century.

And we almost lost him completely.

As we hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and follow him Jesus calls us to love one another, just as he has loved us. Our love can give the world gifts it would otherwise never know.

The Light is Always There

Jesus Knows Us: Breath, be Bold.

Whatever the challenge is that we face, more important than us hearing, following and loving as Jesus does, is that Jesus knows us. Jesus the Good Shepherd will protect us, comfort us, guide us. Jesus knows us completely and still loves us. Then Jesus sends us out to be the voice, the hands, the feet, the rod and the staff of Our Good Shepherd to one another.

Amen

Prepping for the Good Shepherd

May 12, 2019 Good Shepherd
Easter 4

See Previous Post for Themes of Each Sunday in Easter

The one theme for this entire Easter:

Love one another as I have loved you. Jesus’ single command that encompasses everything else that is God’s story of love, encompassed in the life of Jesus, (so that we -finite creatures- can comprehend what God -infinite divinity- wants us to know.)

God’s Light Reflected to Us

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, We are called to love one another as Jesus love us:

We are to be Good Shepherds to one another

Acts 9:36-43

Thoughts

As Jesus is able to bring the young girl and Lazarus back from the dead, so Simon Peter is able to bring Dorcas, Tabitha, back to life after she dies!

Our love can be as life giving as Jesus’.

Handle with care!

Psalm 23

Thoughts

The needs for life, abundant life, of a sheep, (green pastures, still waters) the good Shepherd provides for us.

More: in the dark valley of the shadow of death (the greatest evil) I need not fear, the shepherd’s tools: rod and staff, comfort us.

Table along with my enemies! My cup runs over!

Goodness and mercy shall follow me all my days. I dwell eternally in God’s house.

Revelation 7:9-17

Thoughts

There are those who will survive the Great Ordeal, the silence of Beale Street in every generation. They will be gathered at Christ’s throne!

They will be washed white in the blood of the Lamb!

Shelter, food, water, no scorching by sun, but water of life, and tears wiped away!

John 10:22-30

Thoughts

We, like the Jews, want to know plainly, though Jesus has told and done enough. Like doubting Thomas we want to put our hands in Jesus’ side and feel the nail marks in his hand, but that is not enough. The HS must transform our hearts, teach us to know Jesus’ voice.

Voice and sheep and shepherds and gathering in and gathering to go out to green pastures and still waters.

They will never perish, die but not perish! No snatching, not from God. Jesus is God, one and three persons.

Outline Ideas

We want to know plainly, though Jesus has said and done enough, and there is no more that would help us.

Apologists, trying to argue the existence of God, futile. Every argument for or against God’s existence begins with a presumption that is equal to the conclusion of the argument.

HS transforming our hearts. The gift of faith, the growth of faith, the exercise of responding to faith.

Jesus the Good Shepherd, 23rd and repeated in Revelations:

provides life abundant

protects from destruction and all loss

We are to exercise that same love for one another

Peter brings Dorcas back to life, as Jesus did with talitha cum, and Lazarus.

Our love, as Jesus’ Love, is a life changing thing.

Warning Label Volatile Potential Handle with Care

Handle with Care Negative Potential:

as always, what can be so positively powerful, with a slight twist, a few degrees off from original, and there can be as much destruction as there could have been profound positive change.

Devil is so tempting, looks like Jesus the shepherd, just not.

Sin looks so tempting, looks like good life, it is not.

Handle with Care Positive Potential:

give life, but in the lack of exercise, leave people ‘dead’.

Stories needed of giving life (being the good shepherd for one another), of degrees of destroying life, of withholding means destruction.

Mother’s Day, possibly use stories as above, of mothers in action giving life?

Looking for the Light

Surprises and Visions

2019 May 05, Easter 3

Winston Churchill once said: “[People] occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as though nothing had happened.”

The Light of Christ is alarming, blinding, and demanding. Often we try to control what part of the Light, what part of Jesus’ story, what part of the awful freedom of forgiveness we acknowledge.

Other times we entirely deny the Love of Christ that shines a light into every darkness, exposing all our secrets and revealing every hidden truth. Instead we choose to slip back into the convenient darkness of our daily lives.

The Light of Christ Finds Us in Our Darkness.

Jesus does not give up on us. He keeps showing up to get our attention. Have you seen Jesus talking? Or God giving a lesson? Or have you seen the crimson blood of Christ wash the stain of sin away to leave a person fuller white bright? For 200 years no one in England reported that they had, and then came Julian of Norwich who we commemorate this week.

While the Black Plague, the Peasants Revolt, and the suppression of the Lollards devastated the English countryside, Julian lived a mystic’s life, profoundly assured of God’s care and love as few people in all of history.

In the face of so much evidence that death, raw evil, and sin had the world in its control, she famously quoted Jesus in her vision, “All will be well. All will be well. All manner of things will be well.”

These simple words have given a thin thread of powerful hope to people in the most desperate situations. Among others, I know that it helped a young mother of two teenagers, living in Germany, stay alive. She was struggling to stay sane after years of abuse by her husband, when he had secretly already started another family with a much younger woman.

Julian wrote “God is nearer to us than our own soul”. God sees us as perfect and waits for the day when evil and sin will no longer hinder us.

Throughout these 7 Easter Sundays we keep in mind Jesus’ command to “Love one another as I have loved you.” It will be part of the Gospel in two weeks and we know these words contain everything else in Jesus’ story.

In today’s readings we hear how Jesus continues to surprise people with visions of his love.

Jesus in a vision astounds Saul of Tarsus. A well educated Pharisee and righteous under the law for himself, Saul is dedicated to God. He stones and arrests followers of Jesus to cleanse the synagogues of them. Then the Light of Christ finds him. Saul has a vision of Jesus telling Saul he is persecuting Jesus himself. Blinded by the Light, Saul needs help from others to regain his sight. When he does Saul is baptized as Paul.

After 3 years of study Paul spreads Jesus’ story of the Love of God around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Rome itself. In Paul’s writings to his congregations to encourage their faith we have the earliest accounts of the Christian faith, which we receive, practice and proclaim today.

Our reading from the Book of the Revelation to John reminds us of what danger and persecution the early Christians faced. Any author, carrier, or reader of Words about faith in Jesus, if caught by the Romans, would be put to death. Difficult to produce and therefore very precious, the writings would also be destroyed.

To preserve the writings (and the people) the writing’s content was codified. The codes, colourful and out of this world, were popularly used by Christians but not understood by their Roman persecutors. Today we can estimate much but do not fully know their code. Revelation is the only one of these many writings accepted into the New Testament.

Written to inspire, comfort, and encourage faith in people who were mercilessly persecuted, Revelation has touched the hearts of desperate people through the generations and even today!

Seeing What Others May Overlook, a Mystic’s View.

Today Jesus still appears in visions to people, though perhaps as rare as in Julian of Norwich’s time. I personally know only one sacramental mystic to whom Jesus appears in the ordinary things of creation: in Light, in Truth and in Grace, in visions both troubling and comforting.

This mystic’s experience is quite like the disciples’, who, having encountered the awesome, fearful truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, return to something familiar. They go fishing. Then Jesus appears, hardly recognizable, and asks them to fish on the other side of the boat. The results overwhelm the fishers and their nets, and open their eyes to who has spoken to them. Ashore he feeds them from their spectacular catch and with the bread of life. They leave the nets and resume Jesus’ ministry healing people with God’s love.

In the stories of the Fishers and of Paul, in stories codified to preserve them and in Julian’s visions and counsel, and in the words of mystics of all times, the constant in all of them is the brightly shining love of God.

This Love was exercised at great expense by Jesus for us, and by many who have gone before us and who handed on the faith to us.

Jesus’ love story is not a benign story, it is not a safe story, it is not an easy story to get right. It is always a story of how we are to love one another as Jesus loves us.

At age 60 James Mitchner, a man of grand words and acquaintance of powerful people everywhere, including many US presidents, told a story about the most influential person he ever met.

At 7 years old Jim was orphaned and sent to live with relatives. The couple was so poor both husband and wife worked seven days a week. That first weekend, with apologies, his foster parents set off to work leaving Jim alone. He was bored, bored stiff. He walked around the house. Nothing happened. So when he heard a truck coming down the alley just before noon, he went out on the back step. The truck stopped at each house until it stopped at his house. The driver got out with the truck running, emptied the garbage cans, got back into the truck, and drove on. That was the day’s greatest action.

The next Saturday, again Jim was just as alone, just as bored. Nothing was happening in the empty house. So just before noon he sat down on the back step to wait for the garbage truck. He waited and waited. Finally after an hour of waiting Jim heard the truck. It followed the same routine, stopping at each house until it stopped at his house. The driver got out with the truck running, emptied the garbage cans, got back into the truck and drove on. Lonely Jim was left to go back inside … to boredom.

The third Saturday, same story. Except the truck didn’t come. With nothing else to do Jim sat and sat, and waited. Finally about 3 o’clock he heard the truck. The truck kept the same routine, stopping last at his house at the end of the alley. The driver got out with the truck running, grabbed and emptied the garbage cans, and got back in the truck. But then the driver turned off the truck, walked through the gate and said,

“Hi, what’s your name.”

He answered, “I am Jim and I am lonely.”

“I have seen you for the last few weeks. I’ve thought of you each day and I am sorry I have not stopped.”

The garbage man sat and listened to Jim, not only that day, but each Saturday. James’ foster parents set out chairs for the garbage man and for Jim.

James Mitchner, a man of many words, acquaintance of most US presidents of his adult life, and of powerful people everywhere was most influenced by the garbage man who took the time to turn off his truck each Saturday from the time Jim was seven until he was seventeen.
(story told at Asset Build Workshop – Powell River)

God’s love story was lived out by a garbage man on Saturdays with a lonely child. What followed for James Mitchner was a life of military and civilian travel, adventure, and writing books that inspired a generation and more.

Christ’s Light will find us, shock us, blind us, turn us around, and make us into new people. Jesus’ love will send us into lives of real work filled with real excitement and challenges, even abundantly filled with real adventure, … if not in travels, then in learning, sharing, and bringing abundant life to others. The Light of Christ will repeatedly interrupt our work and dreams, guiding us onward, correcting and even reversing our courses, but always moving us towards loving one another with God’s love in all things.

The only question is what we are going to do with the brilliance of Christ’s Light, the Freedom of God’s Forgiveness, the comfort of the Spirit, the abundance Jesus helps us catch, and the abiding assurance that all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well?

What are we going to do in response to the Love that resurrected Jesus from the dead, and saves us each day?

Amen

The Son’s Light Never Sets, God’s Love Never Ends.

As We Gather…for this Sunday

Born in 1342 Julian of Norwich was a mystic, counsellor, and lay theologian. We commemorate her on May8th. We know little directly about her life, but what we know leaves us to think she was married, lost her husband and children to perhaps the plague. We do know she became sick herself at age 30, thought she would die, received her last rites, and had 16 visions of Jesus.

Julian did not then die, though. She lived on, secluded in a cell attached to St. Julian’s Church, as an anchoress.

What was unusual is that she wrote down short descriptions of her visions. Only later people learned they were written by her.

Though living apart she received people for counselling and became known affectionately by many. Through many years she rewrote her visions adding theological reflections in what survive today as her book Revelations of Divine Love. Her words of counsel have provided inspiration and hope for generations of people. She died at least 74 years old, sometime after 1416.

Easter Themes

Theme for ALL of Easter

“Love one another, even as I have loved you.”

The lens for all else in this Easter.

The Light for ALL, Jesus Love for All

Themes for Each Sunday:

Easter 2 April 28 Doubting Thomas

Jesus loves even those not present, those not able to trust God, not able to believe without seeing. Jesus calls us to love, tend and feed them, too.

Easter 3 May 5 The Light surprises and gives new visions

No matter our lives, even if dedicated against God, God’s light will come and blind us, give us new visions, people to care for us as we recover from the blindness of encountering the Light, send us out to share the light with others.

We may need a code to protect us, but the Light will be heard!

We may think we can ‘go fishing’ (return to normal) but Jesus has so much more planned for us. The light must be shared and heard, by all. Jesus’ love cannot be squashed or squelched or set aside.

Easter 4 May 12 Jesus the Good Shepherd, calls us to care for each other.

Jesus leads us out to green pastures, still waters, through the greatest darkness of life (the shadow of death), comforts us, shows us with words and guides us with miracles of healing, and even though we suffer the greatest ordeals, Jesus’ blood washes us white, even though we die, Jesus brings us to new life.

So we are to be and do for others.

Easter 5 May 19 Jesus Story for ALL, even Gentiles and Rulers!

Jesus’ Story and his love is for all, even those we think are out of bounds, beyond consideration, those we think are ‘unclean’!

Even the rulers of the world, politicians, despots, tyrants, or even benevolent rulers.

Easter 6 May 26 For Women, We Heal All

Jesus Story is also for Women, HS will teach us new things, Jesus heals so also we to heal one another, even on Sabbath, i.e. despite all expectations not to heal or even help others.

Easter 7 June 2 As One, Love All Even our Enemies so that all believe

So that we may be one, Jesus does all this.

So that we may be one, we love our enemies.

So that we may be one, and so that the world may know God’s name and believe.

May 5 Surprises, Visions Easter 3

The light will surprise us and give us visions of Jesus.

No matter who we think is our enemy, even if it be Christ or his followers

No matter our enthusiasm against God, God can and does use us, and all people.

God brings light, it blinds us, we remain in darkness until someone comes to lead us home, to safety, to a period needed for the journey through the darkness of being blinded by God’s light, to the other side, when we can see clearly, believe assuredly, act confidently to give everything, so that others may encounter the Light of Christ, the Love of Christ, the Hope of Christ.

We may need a code, to protect the Gospel, to save the authors, carriers, listeners, and believers from death. But we will worship and praise God on this real world, this dirt of dirt, in all seasons, cold or hot, dry or wet, growing or dying, planting or harvest, surviving or being active.

I am going fishing. We will come along. A return to usual labours. God will use that, too.

God will come to us, redirect our efforts, bring such success we cannot continue, and God will redirect us to fish with the story of Jesus, with the Love of Jesus, among the people.

Acts 9:1-6 [7-20]

Thoughts

Saul thinks he is right, very assured, very judgmental, just oversaw stoning of Stephan.

The Light of Christ enters him darkness of ruining lives, the light is too much, blinds Saul.

Stylized: three days Jesus dead, Saul in darkness, immediately (no Paul reports he spent three years in the wilderness studying before he began preaching.

Takes another follower of Jesus, to bring the light back to Paul

For Jesus has chosen to use this inspired, persistent, driven man to bring Gospel to the nations.

Psalm 30

Revelation 5:11-14

Thoughts

Intro to Revelation needed: a code known to Followers of the Way, so that political Thoughts could be shared, and messages of the forbidden faith, without authorities knowing, so the writings could be shared, read, written back and forth. Most of this literature never made the canon, but Revelations did: a vision of how God uses the events of the world to ensure God’s message carried in the story of Jesus could be shared everywhere, no matter what.

This kind of writing, this code, was well known and used widely decades before the Gospels were written, before the Gospels could survive. Even so we’ve remnants of lost Gospels: the Q source, and others.

Challenge: we have not fully deciphered the code: but generally all creatures represent real people, rulers, kingdoms,

and those gathered around the throne, represent various Xn Churches.

Great words of encouragement for people under great persecution, after WWII, refugees heard this with great hope.

Today, for us, inspiration to rekindle our faith, hope and love for Christ and for one another.

John 21:1-19

Thoughts

Our plans: I am going fishing. We will go with you.

And God has plans for our plans. Love one another as I loved you,

Love me more than these:

feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.

Fish on the right side of the boat. Mission field, the harvest, most needed, most plentiful on the right.

Jesus feeds the fishermen, and the recognize him. Dare not ask who he is.

They dare not ask, know, but they wonder and doubt, and do not dare.

May 12 Good Shepherd Easter 4

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, We are called to love one another as Jesus love us:

We are to be Good Shepherds to one another

Acts 9:36-43

Thoughts

As Jesus is able to bring the young girl and Lazarus back from the dead, so Simon Peter is able to bring Dorcas, Tabitha, back to life after she dies!

Our love can be as life giving as Jesus’.

Handle with care!

Psalm 23

Thoughts

The needs for life, abundant life, of a sheep, (green pastures, still waters) the good Shepherd provides for us.

More: in the dark valley of the shadow of death (the greatest evil) I need not fear, the shepherd’s tools: rod and staff, comfort us.

Table along with my enemies! My cup runs over!

Goodness and mercy shall follow me all my days. I dwell eternally in God’s house.


The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Revelation 7:9-17

Thoughts

There are those who will survive the Great Ordeal, the silence of Beale Street in every generation. They will be gathered at Christ’s throne!

The will be washed white in the blood of the Lamb!

Shelter, food, water, no scorching by sun, but water of life, and tears wiped away!

John 10:22-30

Thoughts

We, like the Jews, want to know plainly, though Jesus has told and done enough. Like doubting Thomas we want to put our hands in Jesus’ side and feel the nail marks in his hand, but that is not enough. The HS must transform our hearts, teach us to know Jesus’ voice.

Voice and sheep and shepherds and gathering in and gathering to go out to green pastures and still waters.

They will never perish, die but not perish! No snatching, not from God. Jesus is God, one and three persons.

May 19 For ALL Easter 5

Jesus’ Story for ALL, Even Gentiles, Rulers

Acts 11:1-18

Thoughts

already, not faith as a gift, but earned by repentance!

Psalm 148

Revelation 21:1-6

Thoughts

“See, I am making all things new.”

To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”

John 13:31-35

Thoughts

We will be known as followers of Jesus, by our love for one another.

IN our love, Jesus and God will be glorified.

What else can we do?

May 26 For Women, too. Easter 6

Jesus’ Story and Love, for Women.

A) H.S. will teach us OR

B) Jesus Love Heals; thus we heal one another.

Acts 16:9-15

Thoughts

A women, if you judge me to be faithful, come and stay with me. Response of faith: to provide what is needed: hospitality for travellers, for homeless.

Psalm 67

Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5

Thoughts

An exclusion: no unclean, only those written in the Book of Life

there no other light needed than the Light of God, no night, no darkness, no abominations, nothing unclean.

All chaff will have been burned away.

John 14:23-29 HS will teach you everything!

Thoughts

Those who love Jesus, keep his word, [and opposite, not love: not keep]

Advocate, HS, will teach you everything

Do not be troubled, or afraid;

rejoice I will return to Father, foretold you so that you may believe.

Gospel (alt.): John 5:1-9 Heal one another

Thoughts

Our travails last and last: this man’s for 38! years!

And in a heartbeat Jesus heals him.

Love one another as Jesus Loves us means HEAL one another, even if the stink of rot has surrounded the illness or circumstance of sin for decades, for generations even!

June 2 Be One: Love your enemies Easter 7

Jesus Story is for even our enemies. Love even our enemies so that we may be one.

Acts 16:16-34

Thoughts

Good News for those oppressing, even jailing us. Jesus’ Story Good for Everyone! Even if we remain in jail to live it, to love even one’s enemies

Psalm 97

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

Thoughts

Testimony for the churches, but everyone comes, everyone calls, the thirst come. Grace with all the saints (God makes us all saints!)

John 17:20-26

Thoughts

All in order that we may be one, with the love of the parent, God, for the son, Jesus.

Loon, Where to?

The signs of spring are well sprung

geese since weeks strut about

song birds galore fill the morning air

fishers drive through no more

the ice with cracks like rifle shots broke up, the wind pushed it to the shoreline and the warmer weather melted it off the lake, except for a few remnants on the windblown shore.

The occasional camper ventures out for a weekend.

Allergies return in force.

But my favourite by far is the return of the loons.

Calm after, Preparation for, Speck of Haunting Beauty

The question is always

where to this day, this month, this year, with this life, precious as Christ has claimed it to be?

The path toward the light at sunrise

Every moment opportunities to do well, do the right thing, are before us.

Which will you choose this day?

Will you walk to the light?

Or will you choose to remain in the darkness of greed, self interest, deception, and destruction in order to just make it through the days you’ve filled with such pain for others, and your own soul?

[replace the above with and fill in your own choice of sin, evil, and darkness – we all have our favourites!]

In the light is truth, grace, health, purpose, and peace.

And profound joy, even in the midst of grief.

Your choice?

The haunting loon returns with all the other signs of spring, by instinct, by the pull of nature, and for pure survival. Humans can choose more than survival and instinct. You can choose new life in the light, and choose to share it with everyone,

Or not.

Easter ‘Sunrise’ Sermon

Easter Early Morning

This wondrous morning, we remember especially God’s victorious response to death’s three-day claim on Jesus. We remember Jesus’ resurrection. And we hope for God’s resurrection response to all claims evil has on us and on all people.

The Proclamation

3x Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen Indeed!

The Darkness Before

This past week, Holy Week, we have remembered Jesus’ story, from the Palm procession into Jerusalem, to his last meal with his disciples as he gave us the New Covenant, … to his arrest and his disciples deserting him, … to the questioning, the scapegoating and condemning crowds, … to his whipping, Peter’s denials, and the mocking of Jesus, … to his torture, and then his death and burial in an unused tomb. Rightfully so his followers are fearful; they hide behind locked doors. All of this is so horrendous and unbearable.

Except we know the next part of Jesus’ story, because we celebrate it each Sunday. We know that Jesus is Risen from the dead, back to life.

The Light

Even though all that evil played out against him and overwhelmed so many people and then even Jesus himself in death … Even so God defeats death.

Yet Holy Week leading to Easter is so much more than that: God did not just step in to defeat the death of Jesus. After all Jesus is not the first to come back from the dead. Death is apparently, – relatively speaking, – easily overcome, one person at a time. Lazarus steps out of his tomb with grave clothes still covering him. The young girl answers Jesus’ call Talitha cumi, and walks away from her death bed.

Today we remember that God does something much, much larger.

The story is more than one resurrection

The story is more than one resurrection. God defeats all evil. All death defeated.

It is not just laying down in one’s own bed and waking up the next morning in one’s own home. It is to be able to do this after living on the streets or in the woods for years, with no bed or home to call one’s own, and then one night having ones own bed to sleep in, in one’s own home.

It’s not just having three meals a day in the senior’s care centre and being able to give an CLWR offering for Easter, which will give meals to people starving in refugee camps who have fled genocide in their home countries. Rather it is as a child having only grass to eat on the walk out of Stalin’s drought in the Ukraine, and having survived years of hardships and hunger when there were no refugee camps. Then in one’s later years being able to make a donation that will feed others who now have no food.

It’s not just a love story of ‘girl gets guy’, and they waltz off into the sunset of life. It is growing up without friends as an immigrant, an outsider. Then evil being defeated means one finds love in the most unexpected place with the most unexpected person against the most unbeatable odds …
in the family of what once was one’s real enemies.

It’s not just Jesus coming back from the dead to live again, although that’s a bit terrific already. It’s Jesus having taken on all Evil and having taken on all the sins of every person who has and ever will live. It’s having taken on the penalties for all that sin along with the big penalty, death for every person. Then it is being brought back to live life. It’s having Jesus take on all that and having defeated it!

Home Run

Jesus’ story is not like just standing at home plate and hitting a home run out of the stadium. It’s standing at the plate, in the bottom of the thirteenth inning, with a full count, down three runs, bases loaded, with all your pitchers hurting, having been put up there in desperation by the manager. You will never be here again, ever, no matter if you play 1000 more games. Then …

That’s like Jesus’ story; his life, suffering, death and resurrection mean so much more than we are able to imagine. That’s like our story or rather we each have a variation of that as our own story.

Our Response

In Jesus’ and in our stories, God defeats all Evil and all death once and for all time.

Or sort of. God makes the promise visible to us, that one day, at the end of this world, new life will be given to all the dead. There will be a resurrection for everyone. That’s when God will put Evil to rest.

God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah took most of their life times before God’s time was right for them to have a child, long past normal time. God’s time to make this promise to us will come.

In the meantime, today we are God’s saints, not because we have done good things. Rather we are saints only because God takes us when we cannot do anything good. God makes us the people who think the thoughts, who say the words, who do the deeds of God’s perfect people. Jesus has pulled us from the grips of evil where we’ve put ourselves, from where we only deserve eternal death. From the darkest valley of the shadows of death Jesus has brought blessed things to us and out of us. These blessing give life abundant to others around us.

How do we respond to Gods’ work in and through us?

Our response can be to delve into Jesus’ story, again and again. Our response can be to learn more and more of God’s purpose for us, communicated by God from outside of time, beyond matter, from infinity. God has compressed God’s will into Jesus’ life story. God has funnelled it to us living inside of time, confined to bodies, living a finite existence. God communicates everything we need to know through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection story. Our response can be to engage with Jesus’ story again and again our lives long.

The Holy Spirit works in us to help us understand what we see and hear. The Holy Spirit works in us so that like Mary in the Garden, we recognize our shepherd’s voice and follow where he leads us.

Like Mary, we see angels but we may not know it. The Holy Spirit helps us fill in the blanks. Like Peter, we may hear the women’s story, even go to see for ourselves, and find the grave clothes neatly folded on the stone death bed. Yet we not understand what it is that we see, or rather what it is that we do not see. The Holy Spirit helps us comprehend the obvious but impossible: namely that God’s limitless creative power has just undone death through Jesus’ sacrifice.

Like the beloved disciple we may hear the women’s story, and see exactly what Peter sees, and we may believe that Jesus lives. The Holy Spirit helps us to grasp how we, as representatives of the human species, just caught a new glimpse of God’s will and our place in creation.

The Holy Spirit helps us continually change the rest of our lives, so that we live as one person in the whole fully changed human project.

We no longer need to compete with each other to succeed. God calls us to the acceptable fast during Lent, giving of ourselves so that others will have life abundant.

Then after Easter, God calls us to celebrate every day, not just how the light of Christ frees us, and how that changes the rest of our lives, but how we are to be Christ’s Light for others. Everyone’s life can be changed. God has a part in the creating the new creation for each of us.

Can we celebrate, even outright dance, the rest of our lives in Christ’s Light?

Yes, we can, if we choose, and not just because Jesus is for us, but because Jesus sends us to share that light with all people, especially those in desperate need around the world.

The Holy Spirit helps us celebrate life with the most difficult people in our lives, whether its a grouchy neighbour, a mean person we have to relate to again and again, a nice but nosy relative, a recalcitrant spouse, or a self-destructive friend.

Yes, we can celebrate and dance through the challenges that come our way, because the Holy Spirit inspires and guides us to understand more and more fully what it means that Jesus lived, taught, healed, suffered, died and is resurrected back to life!

Jesus lives!

Alleluia! For we can, no matter our past or future, live well.

Jesus lives!

Alleluia! For we can, no matter our past or future, bring life abundant to all people!

Amen!

Easter Later Service

Easter Morning Late

This wondrous morning we remember God’s victorious response to death’s three day claim on Jesus. We remember Jesus’ resurrection. And we hope for God’s resurrection response to all claims evil has on us and on all people.

Proclamation

With this profound hope we proclaim together three times:

Jesus Christ is Risen!

Christ is risen indeed!

The Darkness Before

This past Holy Week we have remembered Jesus’ story, from his triumphant procession into Jerusalem, to his last meal with his disciples as he gave us the New Covenant,

to his arrest, his disciples deserting him, and the questioning, … to the crowds scapegoating and condemning him, his flogging, and Peter’s denials, … to the soldiers mocking and torturing him.

Finally we remembered how Jesus died sooner than expected, nailed to a cross … abandoned even by God. His followers scattered and hiding, filled with fear for their lives.

We remembered how they buried him in a rock tomb.

Because the darkness, portrayed in the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, is so deep, embracing everything, and so unbearably deadly, the next part of Jesus’ story is so much more than we can ever expect or comprehend, yet alone completely remember.

Every time we encounter it, we see how much more Jesus’ story is. The Light of Christ outshines such depths of darkness that we are dumbfounded, astounded and awestruck, …

if we listen carefully.

The Light

God did not just step in to defeat the death of Jesus. After all Jesus is not the first to come back from the dead. Lazarus steps out of his tomb with grave clothes still covering him. Jesus calls out Talitha cumi, and the young girl walks away from her death bed.

Jesus story is more than one resurrection

Jesus’ story is more than one more resurrection. With Jesus’ resurrection it’s all evil, all death defeated.

Home Run

Jesus’ story is not just standing at home plate and hitting a home run out of the stadium. It’s standing at the plate, in the bottom of the thirteenth inning, with a full count, down three runs, bases loaded, with all your pitchers used up. You’ve been put up there to bat in desperation by the manager. You are mostly recovered from a chemotherapy treatment three days ago and from surgery on your left shoulder last month. You’re no spring chicken at 65 years old. You will never be here again, ever, even if you beat cancer. There’s is no way you should be here. You just came back to visit the team on the bench.

Then you hit a home run to the utter astonishment of everyone and to the great benefit of a home city desperate for a team that would finally win.

Remember

Remember what Jesus has taught us, just as Jesus taught his first disciples. Remember Jesus’ story. It is also our story, or rather we each have a variation of that as our own story.

Every time we listen carefully we will be astounded and amazed at how God acts out God’s will with love and forgiveness, Grace and mercy, sacrifice and humility for us, and for all people, even our enemies.

What’s Next?

So what’s next for us?

It is easy to come to Easter worship, to be astounded by Jesus’ story and to bask in the music and words and movements of our celebration of life in the worship service and at breakfast. It’s easier yet to then once again walk back out into the world that keeps us occupied, forgetting what amazing things we’ve heard and seen. Who would believe us anyway if we told them someone came back from the dead to share God’s Word with us?

Isaiah’s New Heavens and New Earth

In the OT lesson from Isaiah for this morning, Isaiah speaks God’s words of promise to the exiles in Babylon. They’ve lost everything and been carted thousands of miles from home to be servants in a foreign land ruled by some not so nice people. They are not only servants, but they have years ago forgotten so much.

God creates new

God’s Word comes, not to fix things up, but to create a new heaven and a new earth. God’s words create, just as at the beginning of time. In the new creation we will no longer be God’s wayward people. Instead we will get to remain at home, cry to the Lord in joy and be a delight to God.

It is a Shalom vision of the Kingdom of God: there will be no weeping, no cries of distress.

New creation ends all suffering and need

In this world of Shalom, of God’s Peace, there is no homelessness, no hunger, no conflict or climate-change-displaced refugees. There are no untimely deaths, no violence or destruction or stolen lunches or unrewarded labour.

Even the dog-eat-dog order of the food chain will end. Predators and prey will live together in peace.

God’s new work in Jesus even more: perfect

Yet this vision in Isaiah is nothing compared to God’s work made clear in Jesus’ story that we have reflected upon this Lent and Holy Week.

In truth all things in God’s new creation will be re-created perfect.

Now we have only a foretaste of this new creation, a promise made in Jesus’ story.

Luke: Healing

Luke’s Gospel emphasizes that Jesus came to heal people, and with his death and resurrection to heal all creation.

As humans we often need healing. We often seek help and sometimes what ails us is dealt with. Even less frequently we even see that we are cured. When it comes to the wholeness of creation and our spirits we seem to be lost.

The brokenness of creation is more than we imagine. Our brokenness is more than we can imagine. The healing we need is so much more than we can imagine.

Healing, more than duct tape

It used to be that a good farmer could fix anything except the economy with bailing wire and pliers. Now days we use duct tape and plastic ties.

Which works out just fine until your life depends on the repair.

It’s like carabiners. There are so many kinds available today. I can get two for $1.25. And they work as key chains just fine. Until they do not, and my keys went missing because the cheap, carabiner I hung my keys on did not stay closed. Whoosh, click or slip and the key was goners. So now I use duct tape to hold the carabiner closed.

The fix when our lives depend on it

Which works just fine. But it would not be the fix needed if I were mountain climbing and hanging all my weight plus the stress of the wind blowing against me on that carabiner, tied by a rope into the rock face.

That kind of a carabiner cannot be a two-for-$1.25 purchase. For all the things we might be pleased to repair with duct tape and plastic ties, God asks so much more of us when it comes to our part in the new creation.

When we go through life, expecting that God just uses duct tape and plastic ties to heal creation, we miss out on the marvellous mystery, the eye-popping wonder, and the awe-filled power God uses to create a new heaven and earth for us, in us, and among us.

Sending

After Jesus’ resurrection, God sends us out to share the good news, to voice the prayers of compassion with those who suffer, and to be the hands of Christ that deliver the new creation to all people.

When we listen carefully, do diligently, remember remarkably, we will hear and see Jesus working in ways we hardly understand at first. We will be floored by the amazing tales Jesus has in mind for us to hear and even see for ourselves.

We ask that the Holy Spirit will help us watch carefully, listen intently, and pray fervently, that God’s new creation may come among also us. But most of all we ask that the Holy Spirit help us as we get ready to be bowled over. It not a small fix or even a big fix with duct tape. God creates a new world, a new universe, and even a new you and new me.

We need the Holy Spirit to help us through it.

Ready or not, the Holy Spirit will put us up to bat, with the bases load, in the bottom of the ninth, with the team needing us to hit a home run, and the world needing it even more.

Breath deeply and slowly. Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t forget ….

Christ is Risen!

And that’s just the start of God’s new creation.

God is about to use each of us in ways we could not dream of.

Amen

Good Friday Morning

Scapegoat No, Sacrifice Yes

This morning we remember Jesus’ last hours, as the soldiers, by Pilate’s orders, in response to the crowd’s demands, hung Jesus on the worst instrument of torture, the cross.

The characters

Remember the many characters in Jesus’ last hours. Judas, the soldiers, the High Priests Annas and Caiaphas, Pilate, Malchus, Peter, the crowd, Jesus’ Mother Mary, her sister Mary of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and of course Jesus.

Our part

None of us were present in that horrific drama more than 2000 years ago. Yet we are characters in so many terrible dramas that have taken place in our own life times, dramas that are devastatingly so similar.

Girard, Scapegoating

The French Historian and Anthropological Philosopher Rene Girard identified the similarity that ties Jesus’ last days with our all too common dramas as a common human sin, scapegoating. Girard pointed out that we all greedily strive to have more than just the necessities of life. Thinking that life is a zero sum project (that there is not enough for everyone) we try to take from others so that we will have more. That’s greed. And greed eats at our souls.

What nearly always happens next is worse. Since we cannot tolerate that we would be mutually so terrible to those close to us, we together find an innocent bystander, someone vulnerable and uninvolved, someone who we do not know well and therefore can bring ourselves to not care what happens to them. Without any justification we project all our collective sin and guilt onto that person, condemn them, judge them, and ruin them. Working together we ease the unbearable conflict between us.

Like Joseph’s brothers in the Old Testament getting rid of the evidence of their horrendous sin against their own brother, we exile the innocent person. We’ve attached our sins to that person and then collectively forgotten about them and our sins, so that we can live together in peace. The darkness hides that our peace is bought at the price of an innocent bystander’s destruction.

We are exactly like the characters

In exactly this manner Judas, the high priests, the crowds, Pilate, and the soldiers condemn and kill Jesus. And we do this so often to other people today. We may not use crosses to crucify, because we want to be able to say we are not as bad as those who have gone before us. Instead we use gossip, innuendo, and rumours to ruin innocent people’s reputations, ruin them financially, and drive them from our communities.

Even when we are not Judas or soldiers or the crowd, or the high priests or Pilate, we stand too often with the crowds watching as another person’s reputation and finances are ruined. We watch and are too afraid to interfere. We are even entertained and reassured as if to say to ourselves, “all is well in the world if evil is uncovered in others and they are made to pay. We, though, are good enough for God.”

Jesus, Clear story of God’s intent: the last scapegoat

In truth Jesus came to be the last scapegoat, the last sacrifice needed to set us all free from all sins, especially these terrible sins of greed and scapegoating, of hiding from our own sins.

God led Abraham to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac. But then God interrupts the sacrifice providing a goat instead for the ritual. God says: no more child sacrifice.

Likewise, God led Jesus to the cross, as the last scapegoat ever needed, and to give us Jesus’ life and death story so that we might learn more of God’s intention for us, which includes: no more scapegoats.

Jesus forgives those who betray, arrest, judge and crucify him. God calls us, instead of scapegoating innocent bystanders, to be that same forgiveness for all people.

Yet, we are still in bondage to sin and unable to free ourselves, and we continue to sacrifice others instead of ourselves.

Today we are in the crowd again

Today we remember how we are just like that crowd again, as Jesus is raised on the cross to die a torturous death.

We beg for forgiveness … and time

We ask for forgiveness. We hope we will learn to stop sacrificing innocent people as scapegoats. We pray that God will intervene, transform our sins into blessings, and make God’s will clear also among us, in our words and through our actions.

Even so, we know we will continue to sin, so remembering Jesus’ story, we beg God for mercy, and forgiveness, …

and time for the amendment of our lives.

Amen