Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter 2 A - Psalm 16

Psalm 16
I wrote this three years ago but since I drove past Pottsville I thought I'd take a day off and reblog. 

Pauline Hopper went home to heaven this week and the body she inhabited for ninety-one years was laid to rest this afternoon in Pottsville, Texas. The boundary lines have fallen for her in a most pleasant place which was cause for our hearts to be glad and our spirits rejoice. That is not to say we gloss over grief or deny the reality of loss and pain. No. What we do is deny death the last word for our loved ones and in celebrating their passing for ourselves as well. We do not grieve as those without hope. We will not be abandoned to the shadow existence of Sheol. We will know pleasures forevermore and the fullness of joy in God’s presence. In the meantime funerals remind us that we have been gifted with another day in the land of the living to make the present look a little bit more like the future as we wait for our boundary lines to fall in the most pleasant of places.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter 2 A - Acts 2:14, 22–32

Peter’s Pentecost sermon addressed to those familiar with the story of salvation is a fitting text for the first Sunday after Easter. Known by those “in the know” as low Sunday, it is the day when the pew and parking space of the faithful is not occupied by the twice a year crowd.  Maybe if the story was more dramatic people would stick around for another round sans trumpets, choirs, lilies and eggs hidden by bunnies but the truth is the story could not be more out of the box. It was impossible for death to hold him in its power is how Peter puts it and I can’t imagine it gets more dramatic than that. The message has had over two thousand years to mature and so while preachers and every week pew people might be tempted to lament a Sunday with space we might be better served by going back to the beginning when even those who knew the story had to hear it again.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Feast of the Resurrection Year A - Matthew 28:1-10

Matthew 28:1-10
Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!”  Really? The first word of the resurrection is “hello”? Of course it was said with an exclamation point and I’m guessing a pretty big smile, even so “Surprise!” might have been more fitting for the occasion. After all the two Marys expected to find a dead friend and instead are met by an earthquake and an angel and a very much living Jesus. There is no way to prepare for that and I’m surprised they didn't respond like the guards and faint dead away at the sound of his voice. But maybe in the familiar salutation the crucified and resurrected Jesus was not so surprising. That’s true for those of us who have been schooled in this story from birth and cannot remember a time when we didn't consider belief in the resurrection a matter of life and death. But for an ever increasing segment of our society this Sunday will come and go without so much as an Alleluia. That’s not to say the sale of Peeps and Chocolate bunnies will suffer but the real meaning of the day, at least the gathering that has defined Easter for you and me, has largely been lost. We can lament that fact, especially as it relates to our children, or blame someone, especially those who are not like us, or repackage the message in ever more creative ways, or preserve the status quo until the last one left turns out the lights. But then maybe the ancient story still has some life left in it and what turned the world upside down in the first century can shake up ours as well. It was not form or creed or convention that convinced people a crucified peasant preacher refused to stay dead and revealed the love of God for all creation. It was the conviction of two women who took hold of his feet and worshiped and then told the story to anyone who would listen, even disciples locked behind closed doors. As it was then so it is now. The first word of the resurrection is “Hello!” 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Feast of the Resurrection Year A - Colossians 3:1-11

Colossians 3:1-4
Paul’s resurrection perspective “if you have been raised with Christ” might be better understood as “since” you have been raised…” Of course the laundry list of behaviors and attitudes to be put to death reads like the “Thou shall not” that the law demanded but could not accomplish (even with the threat of God’s wrath raining down on the disobedient) but I think that misses the point of these passages. Being raised with Christ is a done deal. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in (Jesus), and through him to be reconciled to all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19, 20) In the new reality of the resurrection all the old ways of being have no place. Even the divisions of race and creed and culture have been erased. That’s because the earthly ways all hearken back to the disobedience in the garden where wanting to be “like” God meant we became less than human.  Dwelling on earthly things that have been put to death is like trying to live life in the grave which makes no sense. But since we have been raised with Christ our humanity has been restored and getting rid of earthly things is not a way to escape wrath but the only way to embrace grace and therefore not a measure of self discipline but the exercise of true freedom.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Feast of the Resurrection Year A - Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
“There are shouts of exaltation in the tents of the righteous for the strong arm of the Lord has triumphed” is spoken during the graveside service so that “I shall not die but live” might be true for the dearly departed as well as the “blessed are they that mourn.” (Matthew 5:4) That is the only way that the day you lay a loved one to rest could possibly qualify as “this is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it”. That is not to say our rejoicing denies the real loss we experience but that our hope in the chief cornerstone denies death the last word for us and for the one we commend to Almighty God. So we grieve, yes, but not as those who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) I had the incredible privilege to witness such a death today as David Ball passed away peacefully surrounded by those who loved him. There was no denying the real grief of the last two days or the overwhelming sorrow as it became clear the only real option left to his family was to let him go. But it was the love of those who surrounded his hospital bed that turned a Baylor ICU room into a sanctuary, a sacred place, holy ground, where the saints on this side of the divide prayed and cried and sang David over to the saints on the other. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Shouts of exaltation? Oh, yes. Yes, indeed.