Happy Birthday

Today is my x’s xth birthday, since the photos are too large to email, I’ve posted the greeting and photos here, for x and for all to enjoy.

Photos made especially to celebrate a good birthday, when I cannot be there in person to celebrate with everyone.

Life

is full of

opportunities and pathways.

Some of the best moments are available to us when we take time to notice the small, less traveled side roads.

Whether you find those moments or not the golden blessing of Christ’s light will always be there for you, long after the sun has set on any times of you life.

The water of life is yours, in great quantities.

and also sprinkled drop by drop where beauty transforms life from mundane to precious.

When one does not notice those moments there are still the telltale signs of blessings left behind.

Life will bring many great things your way, some will grow and die; always there will be something new beginning, promising great things for your future.

Enjoy all the blessings of each day, especially this day as you are celebrated.

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!

Home, of Sorts

This Spring …

This is the neighbourhood of Home

All views taken one at a time

giving an accurate account

of beauty in a nutshell,

a life well lived,

of wonderful solitude

which has broken on the May long weekend

with a rather full camping area,

with only a few that do not show

fellow campers and the land the respect due.

Today it is so dry there is a province wide fire ban in place

Though this is the first

as yesteryear’s extreme’s become

today’s normal, and

today’s new extremes become

tomorrow’s normal.

Hang on!

It’s going to be a rough ride for the next 50 years!

First Break in Nice (Thick) Ice

Back when the ice was just breaking up, the reflection of light and cloud make the water and shore jump.

Birch White Goldenized

The Birch Show Their Colours Well

Mud Mirrors

Even the huge puddles of spring mud and snow melt pick up the the light of the sky behind the trees’ reflections.

Spring Moon Rises at Sunset

The moon ascends into the evening sky, brilliant white against the gold and blue of sunset.

Predawn Moon Going Down

Just days later the moon settles in the west as the dawn touches the east.

Sunrise Moon Setting

And settles closer to the water as the early morning breaks.

Open Cold Water

Waves and White Water return as the wind churns up the lake touched still with small patches of snow and ice.

Surviving Rodents

The few brush left with partial birch trunks, long since food for the beaver who keep the lake level high, stand out in the gold light at sunset.

Sol Plays with Aqua

The water and the setting sun play with each other in familiar yet newly wonderful manners almost each night.

Ugly becomes Gorgeous

Even the junk, abandoned, and starting to be trashed camper cannot help but shine with the immense wonders of the setting sun.

My favourite of late

The reaching thirsty trees along the shore silhouette wonderfully against the blues and oranges of the sun set reflecting remnants of light on the water.

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.

April Ends; Spring Sprongs

Waiting, waiting, waiting …

and just when I thought it was safe to put away the winter jackets, the wool socks, take off the ice tires, bring out the canoe, lighten the setup, burn little if any wood for heat …

This comes down all morning long

http://www.prwebs.com/Life/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/20190430_065138.mp4

The Winter Sky is Falling, right into our Spring.

along with the temperature buried below freezing.

That leaves room for less wet, less bugs, less allergies so it is not all bad.

After cutting wood in comfort, not too hot, not too cold, and making some good progress stacking cut pieces to split later …

And after enjoying the snow free and sunny afternoon as the snow of the morning completely disappears…

I finally pull out the canoe, reattach the supports removed last fall to be sanded and varnished with a fresh coat to stop the break down at the attachment points.

The wood has been water stained, but the new coats of varnish should help them last a few more years.

Delivery is more difficult since the trailer is no longer available, wood furnace in a shelter tying it up.

So atop the truck, slow progress toward the lake, supper late, and finally delivery to the water.

Canoeing into the sunset wonders.

Wonderful to be out on the water again, though I did need a warm jacket against the biting wind. A vest and hoodie did not cut it.

Red Sky Sailors Delight; but here it still snows the next day, nicely like small cool ash melting on impact with the brown bare earth.

Later I watched as the sun set and left a red sky for the lake to reflect back on.

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!

Good Friday Success

What was once alive, once green, once bright, is now in these days dead, withered and dark.

There is only a faint hint of days long distant in the most recent of times.

What is it to succeed

and leave a legacy?

To overrun others, destroying them with lies, in order to have more, in order to cover up one’s sins?

Or to suffer rumours and lies that destroy one’s reputation and finances leaving one homeless?

This day, Jesus answered God’s call to submit himself to death, a torturous death, and to die.

Did Jesus succeed? Did Jesus destroy others, or did he allow others to try to destroy him, and respond with grace and forgiveness?

If more of the world knew Grace and lived it well, more people would succeed …

in bringing the basics of life to others with their sacrifices.

The world may seem dark, especially in these days when we remember that God died, and remained so, for three days.

There is only the reflection in our memories of the light that has guided our paths. But there will be a great light, that will shine in every darkness, and bring justice, restitution, and new life to those who are destroyed by others lies.

And for those who have destroyed with lies … may God have mercy on them.

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