Saturday, April 07, 2012

Notes towards a sermon -- not quite there yet. Readings are here.

Mary Magdalene – early, weeping burdened with her grief, uncaring of her safety in the streets and outskirts of the city, she walks through the town out to the place where she last saw him in the garden near his tomb. Jesus the man who healed her of her torment, who gave her back her life, who made life worth living, who made all things possible even for a woman who once been outcast as possessed by 7 demons. Walking – to the garden – to be near him one more time. Head down. Eyes swollen with tears.

What’s this – the stone is rolled away? How can this be? She runs to Peter and the other disciple – breathless - she reports what has happened. Peter and the beloved disciple run to the tomb. The unnamed disciple stops short at the edge of the cave – but Peter being Peter barrels by and into the opening. – Sure enough the body of Jesus is gone. The grave wrappings are there – the head piece neatly folded off by itself – as if the owner had sat on the side of a bed – wondering and holding and folding it before walking off.

The disciples return home – nothing more for them to see. But Mary Magdalene stays and looks again into the tomb – has this really happened? This time she sees 2 messengers (angels) sitting on the place where Jesus had been lying. Were her demons returning – was her mind going again? But no -- they speak reassuringly to her.

Now someone else is asking why she is weeping – it must be the caretaker of the garden – the gardener? Why wouldn’t she be weeping – what a question? Her whole life has come to a crashing halt – what else is there but to weep?

And yet – suddenly a word – her name, Mary. Can it be? Yes – he is here – so close – to touch? But no Jesus says do not hold on to me – do not cling to that which you knew before – I must move on into the fullness of life – beyond what you have known – to show you and the world the life that can be.

Once there was another garden – long ago when all creation was one with one another and with God – perfect union. But humans wanted more –they were restless– so they went out to explore and learn and love and live – but somewhere they became divided from God and from one another and forgot how to live in union with God and each other and the creation. They began to cling to things, possess others, use and abuse the creation and one another. Then they became fearful and anxious. Afraid there would not be enough – enough love, enough possessions, enough life. Anxious that others had more which would mean less for them.

So God came amongst us – eating and drinking and healing and laughing and weeping – Emmanuel – God with us – to show us once more that Eden is found in the breaking bread. Fear is conquered by love. Even dying is not the end. Freedom is found when our fears die. Jesus shows the way to break the bonds of the old ways that are not working for us. True freedom is discovering that death is life giving. So do not cling to your previous experience of what you always knew – prejudice, feare of scarcity, addictions to things that only work temporarily to cover the pain. Let those things die so you might have life. Allow the resurrected Christ into you midst – it is already happening – invite God in more and more – see what can happen in your life.

Embrace the fullness of life when death is no longer feared but a path to new life.

Jesus says, Do not cling to me – do not cling to any message you have heard attributed to me - that says you are less than, any message that takes away life – do not try to put God into a preconceived set of ideas -- open your eyes and see the resurrected Christ in your midst. Allow faith to grow and change. See that you are beloved of God – intended to be here in this time and this place – know that the earth would not be same without you.

Today – come to the altar – receive the body of Christ – the bread of Eden – and the blood of Christ - the wine of the Spirit – return to life filled and fed.

Things people say at the end of life. Five top regrets:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

Easter poem by John Niehardt, 1908 (author of Black Elk Speaks)

Once more the northbound Wonder
Brings back the goose and crane,
Prophetic Sons of Thunder,
Apostles of the Rain.

In many a battling river
The broken gorges boom;
Behold, the Mighty Giver
Emerges from the tomb!

Now robins chant the story
Of how the wintry sward
Is litten with the glory
Of the Angel of the Lord.

His countenance is lightning
And still His robe is snow,
As when the dawn was brightening
Two thousand years ago.

O who can be a stranger
To what has come to pass?
The Pity of the Manger
Is mighty in the grass.

Undaunted by Decembers,
The sap is faithful yet.
The giving Earth remembers,
And only (we) forget.

This year – remember.

Holy Saturday: harrowing hell

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday: if it be your will

If it be your will 
That I speak no more 
And my voice be still 
As it was before 
I will speak no more 
I shall abide until 
I am spoken for 
If it be your will 
If it be your will 
That a voice be true 
From this broken hill 
I will sing to you 
From this broken hill 
All your praises they shall ring 
If it be your will 
To let me sing 
From this broken hill 
All your praises they shall ring 
If it be your will 
To let me sing 

If it be your will 
If there is a choice 
Let the rivers fill 
Let the hills rejoice 
Let your mercy spill 
On all these burning hearts in hell 
If it be your will 
To make us well 
And draw us near 
And bind us tight 
All your children here 
In their rags of light 
In our rags of light 
All dressed to kill 
And end this night 
If it be your will 

If it be your will.

Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Maundy Thursday: wash my hands

by Lucy Nanson, New Zealand:

Wash my hands on Maundy Thursday
not my feet
My hands peel potatoes, wipe messes from the floor
change dirty nappies, clean the grease from pots and pans
have pointed in anger and pushed away in tears
in years past they’ve smacked a child and raised a fist
fumbled with nervousness, shaken with fear
I’ve wrung them when waiting for news to come
crushed a letter I’d rather forget
covered my mouth when I’ve been caught out
touched forbidden things, childhood memories do not grow dim
These hands have dug gardens, planted seeds
picked fruit and berries, weeded out and pruned trees
found bleeding from the rose’s thorns
dirt and blood mix together
when washed before a cup of tea
Love expressed by them
asks for your respect
in the hand-shake of warm greeting,
the gentle rubbing of a child’s bump
the caressing of a lover, the softness of a baby’s cheek
sounds of music played by them in tunes upon a flute
they’ve held a frightened teenager,
touched a father in his death
where cold skin tells the end of life has come
but not the end of love,
comforted a mother losing agility and health.
With my hands outstretched before you
I stand humbled and in awe
your gentle washing in water, the softness of the towel
symbolizing a cleansing
the servant-hood of Christ.
Wash my hands on Maundy Thursday
and not my feet.

Maundy Thursday

Notes towards a sermon. Readings are here. Exodus tells of the origins of Passover – Blood on the door posts and the lintel. A spring festival of birth – lambing – a way to ensure safe passage for all being born. All entryways were daubed with blood. Flocks and herds were the wealth of the community – each loss was that much less for the whole group. So all care must be taken to bring new life. The people of Israel were about to be birthed into a new people – a free people – no longer slaves of others. It would be a long infancy – once birth was assured. Jesus – God with us – is born, lives and dies that we might know we are born into freedom. He has painted our doorways with his own blood that me might go out and in and no longer be enslaved to whatever keeps us from living. We are no longer slaves to what the world thinks – we are freed to live into the one who created us. Into the image of God that each of us can be. In the footwashing – Jesus gives us a model of that freedom. Free to take any position in the community to serve God and neighbor. Even footwashing – in those days the lowest dirtiest job. In Eucharist God feeds us with his very essence – simple wine and bread – the fruits of creation. As the seed is scattered on the hillsides and plains, grows into a fruitful crop, is gathered and ground, kneaded and shaped, baked in the oven, then broken again to feed the world – so are we that bread. The grapes grow and are made into wine – the wine of the spirit – the blood of God – infuses our days with the joy and strength to step out in faith. And though we are all followers of Christ – we are also Judas – the betrayer – who dips his bread in the wine along with the others. Remember this as you dip your bread into the wine. We have the choice each day – betray or follow? Always forgiven when falling and renewed to start again. This is what we experience this night – the story of life and death and new life. It is what we know of our lives – lived out in our sacred meal that makes every meal sacred.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Palm Sunday: Hosanna

Readings are here.
Hosanna! We shout at the beginning of our liturgy - waving our palms. I always thought it meant something like Hallelujah but discovered that it means "Save us." Save us, save me! My question today is "Save us from what? for what?" What are the things you wish to be saved from? What do you want to be save for?

The people of Isaiah's time wanted to be saved from Exile. They wanted to be free, have their own country and temple again. They want to be saved from dispersion, to be kept together as a people, to be able to stay faithful to the one true God, to teach their children about God. They wanted to run their own lives, be free from living in a strange land.

The people of Jesus time wanted to be saved from oppression of a foreign government, they wanted a more fair system of wealth. In those days most lived in poverty with a few owning all the land and assets. Many were day laborers - just like those you see waiting on the corner to be picked up to work the orchards, strawberry or bean fields. Always worrying if they would have enough to feed their families at the end of each day. Even those who had jobs lived marginal lives. They wanted to have a life that was more than grinding poverty, to be able to raise and educate their children to have better lives.

The people of Paul's time wanted to learn about this person Jesus who revealed the nature of God as loving and compassionate and freeing. They did not want to suffer persecution for not worshipping the emperor. They wanted saving for a better life.

Jesus comes riding into our lives on a donkey. In the symbols of his day - he is using the symbol of a king returning from battle. Riding the donkey is a sign of peace. The war is over and peace is returning. It is an attempt to show the king as one of the people (reminds me of some politicians h/t to Maria Evans). So Jesus rides in with the message of peace. But this peace is not just absence of war but shalom - that peace of God that passes understanding, that peace that means well being for all people and the creation, the peace that offers life to all and life abundant.

What do you want saving from and saving for?

How do you see Jesus offering new life for you?

What is your prayer to Jesus?