Homily – 3rd Sunday of Easter

These first weeks of Easter, we have been asking ourselves a simple, yet profound question, depending, that is, on how we answer it. The question is, “Just what does it mean to me that Jesus rose from the dead?”  Now the answer is simple if we are just responding to a belief system we have long held onto without really asking what difference this occurrence makes in my day to day life.  If you do ask this final question, then, as it is said, “The rubber meets the road,” and the answer becomes more profound.

This past week as I was trying my best along with medication to feel better after a case of strep throat; I can assure you that I wasn’t being too profound!  My prayer was quite simple and selfish, “Please God, be with me and help me!”  I wasn’t even asking to be well as much as I was asking not to be sick anymore! Now, on the other side of a slug of amoxicillin; I am beginning to zero in again on more of the profound.

A couple of things always happen to me when illness strikes, over and above the PLOM syndrome (poor, little, old, me) for which I am grateful; not so much that I wish to be sick, but grateful, just the same, in retrospect.

First, there is humility in realizing that I am not so self-sufficient and strong as I may think—I don’t suffer well—ask Robert.  Second, there is a great sense of compassion that comes over me for the suffering that my sisters and brothers in this world are called to bear with every day, and much of it so much more than my small pains. Now while I don’t at all think that God causes any of us to suffer;  I do think that God uses suffering, which is part of this world, to call each of us to that which is best in us, in humanity!

Simple suffering like I experienced this last week called me to humility and compassion within myself.  Those in this world who are called to more suffering than it seems is humanly possible to bear; the hungry, the homeless, the immigrants, the jobless, the abused and so on, should call the rest of us to seek justice and have righteous anger, working to bring to all, equality of services and basic needs; peace, instead of war, honesty, instead of lies, integrity of mind and heart, mercy and understanding, instead of selfishness and greed.

If we look at today’s readings for this 3rd Sunday of Easter, all these simple, yet profound messages are here as well. Acts tells us in Peter’s voice, “Better for us to obey God than people.”  Doing the “right thing” often comes down to this—choosing who to obey—to follow, even if at times, we stand alone!

Jesus was nothing, if not understanding of what it was to be a human being—our strengths along with our weaknesses.  He looked lovingly upon his apostles, spending a good deal of time, even after his resurrection, helping them to see, helping them to make all the connections between the prophesies and their fulfillment in him.

In the gospel from John today; we see that for a time, the apostles returned to what they knew by rote—many of them had been fishermen.  Perhaps, in the ordinary—every day, they could once again, find their strength, their direction, to reclaim what they felt on a certain day, when Jesus called them and they walked away from their nets and followed him . Talk about asking what the resurrection really meant to them!

These apostles, as their turned-upside-down and inside-out world settled for them, in the days after the resurrection, would find, with Jesus’ help, the renewed call of their brother to live lives of love, integrity, mercy, understanding, justice and equality for all.

What they were ultimately to make of the resurrection; we don’t entirely know.  But on some level, they saw that the process of resurrection had changed Jesus—he could no longer be hurt or scorned.  In addition, he would live on through them, if they allowed it.  If they baptized in his name, taught in his name—lived lives of love as he did, in his wonderful name, than life in its worst sufferings could not stop them as it had not stopped Jesus, as it will not stop us, my friends.

Resurrection, as we have said, is not the same as resuscitation—but a new way of being, of moving beyond this life.  Can we understand it? No, we can’t; but we can trust that a God, who has loved us so well in Jesus, has prepared something wonderful for us, one day, when this life of living simply and profoundly is completed.  Resurrection is about choosing life at every turn—it is the call of our baptisms—it is the call of being Jesus’ follower.    And in the meantime, I don’t think God wants us to worry or fret about it, but to live our lives as best as we can, simply and profoundly, trusting and believing.  Amen? Amen!

 

Homily – 2nd Sunday of Easter

Dear Friends,

So sorry for the lateness  of the homily, but strep throat “found” me this weekend which I finally had diagnosed on Monday at Urgent Care and am now laying low, sleeping lots and taking my medicine. In between naps, I wanted to get my homily out to you all–wishing you all the best, Pastor Kathy.


 

My friends, just as it takes us at least six weeks to prepare for the awesome feast of Easter, it takes that long as well to fully celebrate the mystery of the resurrection. We can’t fully understand this event and that is why we call it “a mystery.”

At the Easter Vigil, I shared a couple Scripture passages—that of Mary of Magdala meeting Jesus in the garden and Jesus walking with disciples on the way to Emmaus to highlight the fact that resurrection is not the same as resuscitation.  A definite difference in how a person looks apparently happens in a resurrected form—or else Mary and the disciples would have known Jesus on first sight.  Scripture tells us that Mary only knew Jesus when he said “her name” and that the disciples only recognized him in “the breaking of the bread.”  This is a mystery that we can only hope, one day, to understand.

The important thing for each of us to hold onto is that Jesus came to show us the way—not only how to live and to love, but how to die and to rise one day.  So much of this we take on faith because we can’t fully understand, but part of the joy we should feel through this season is the hope that this life is not the end.

Jesus told the apostles, and we are ultimately included in this, that he is going to prepare a place for us of which we simply can’t imagine—also a mystery!  None of us can imagine what this will be and sometimes, I am more inclined to think that heaven is not so much a place as it is a state of heart and mind.

Perhaps we enter what we call heaven after we have journeyed through this life striving to become our best selves; when our mind and heart is set on “feeling the joy” only when others—all others, can know the same joy, knowing the happiness of family nearby, caring for one another, only when others, all others, know that same happiness; living in peace with all or most of our needs met, only when others in the world, all others, live in that same peace.

The Easter Scriptures, in the days and weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, with the apostles fully filled with the Spirit of Jesus, are reported to have shown great powers to heal—a mere shadow of one of them passing over an affected person brought a cure.

We can look at these cures as pure power, or we can see them as a result of great faith, or probably, a bit of both.  Jesus was always a bit disappointed when people came to him simply for a physical cure—when they weren’t willing to see his mission about anything more.  Of course, he understood and had mercy and compassion—but I think he really was about changing people’s hearts.

The reading from Acts today records the fact that “through the hands of the Apostles, many signs and wonders occurred among the people.” This statement I’d like to apply to what I just said above—mainly that the power that came to the first apostles and disciples was, I believe, always meant to be about more than curing physical ailments.  Through their hands, through our hands, many signs and wonders can and do occur.  We have the power of physical touch—a calming hand; the ability to physically care for others, to be with them in their need—cook a meal, pick up some groceries, visit a shut-in, take some food to a neighbor, offer a prayer.     I believe we sell ourselves short when we consider these Scriptures speaking of signs and wonders.  Each of us comes upon needs each and every day and we simply need to respond.

The reading from Revelation speaking to John the Apostle and Evangelist on the island of Patmos carries the simple message that was always on Jesus’ lips throughout his ministry, “Don’t be afraid!”  If we forget most of what we read in Scripture; we really only need remember that our brother Jesus was always about caring for our needs, loving us and asking us to love others.  In addition to the words imploring us to, “not be afraid,” Jesus’ other most familiar words coming our way, were, “Peace be with you.” In today’s gospel, we hear twice a wish for peace.

Jesus truly understood his apostles’ fear—he was telling them some seriously profound things—asking them to stretch their faith to its greatest degree.  Faith is truly central in these post resurrection days.  Nothing meaningful can happen without it!

Today’s gospel zeroes in on the apostle Thomas’ lack of faith.  It isn’t enough that his brothers in ministry have testified that, “We have seen Jesus!”—he isn’t going to believe until he can see with his own eyes, touch Jesus with his own hands!  We have to wonder what was going on for Thomas—there must have been a great deal of fear holding him back.

We can compare his lack of faith with Mary of Magdala’s all-encompassing faith. One senses that she was someone who had been so touched, influenced, that is, by Jesus and his love and care for the world, that she simply could not, but, believe.

So, in the end, my friends; I think the question that each of us must face during this Easter Season is, “Do we believe?” And if we do, what are we going to do about it?! Amen? Amen!

 

Homily – Easter Vigil

Dear Friends, 

Happy Easter to all–Jesus is truly risen! Alleluia! Thank you to those who were able to be with us at All Are One this past week for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday services–from Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, to the solemnity of Good Friday to the joyousness of Holy Saturday with the Gloria and the Alleluias returning to the liturgy, it was very good to remember and celebrate our God’s over-the-top love for us in sending Jesus, our Brother. 

I am sending my wish today for all of you who couldn’t be with us to get my in-person greetings last evening and who join us reading this electronic copy. Rejoice today and throughout the Easter Season over a God who has loved us so prodigally! It is wonderful to know, I think, that from the beginning, as we read last evening at the Vigil  from the book of Genesis, our God looked upon us all and proclaimed that we are, “very good!”

Peace and Love–Alleluia! 

Pastor Kathy


My friends, we have experienced many readings tonight from what some might call, “salvation history,” but I would like to call it, the story of our God’s love for creation, culminating in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, our brother.

Tonight, because our service is already longer, I wanted to simply lift up a line or two from the readings for us to hold on our hearts:

  • In the creation story we hear that God looked on all of creation and said that it was very good. For that reason; I chose not to have us read the story of Moses fleeing the Egyptians and God drowning them in the Red Sea. It seems that as the prophets become more involved in the story of the Israelite people, God becomes a much more loving figure and certainly the God of Jesus was.
  • In the reading from the prophet Isaiah, we hear, “come to the water, all who are thirsty.”
  • And in the reading from Ezekiel, we hear, “You will be my people and I will be your God.”
  • We see the compassion of God expressed in the gospel selection from Matthew tonight as twice we hear, first from angels and then from Jesus, “Don’t be afraid.”
  • The epistle from Paul to the Romans speaks in a somewhat cloaked fashion of sin and the truth about being Jesus’ followers—simply that it will mean we have to leave sinful ways behind, striving to be our best selves. But that will come soon enough—now is the time for joy in the fact that Jesus is still with us.

Because we won’t be meeting on Easter Sunday, I wanted to add a few thoughts that are included in tomorrow’s readings that are very significant in understanding this most glorious day.

The Easter Sunday morning’s gospel comes from John 20:1-9. I think it is important not to stop after verse 9 but to continue on to verse 18 as it includes the beautiful encounter between Mary of Magdala and Jesus in the garden.  The reading shouldn’t stop after verse 9 as the story simply isn’t complete at that point.  The reading for the Easter Vigil stops short too and that is why I added verses 8-10 to that reading.

It is significant that these faithful women who stood by the cross to the very end would be the first to see Jesus in his risen state and only an all-male hierarchy would set up the readings in this way, completely discounting the women!

Another point in this gospel that is most significant especially for those who may find it hard to believe in the resurrection and might say, “The body was simply stolen will find an answer in the way John describes the scene at the tomb.  [Simon Peter] observed “the linen wrappings lying on the ground and saw the piece of cloth that had covered Jesus’ head lying not with the wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.”   Exegetes tell us that if one’s intent was to steal a body, you wouldn’t hardly unwrap it first and certainly not take the time to fold up a piece of cloth covering the head!

John also gives us another interesting tidbit in his account of the resurrection—when Mary of Magdala first encounters Jesus, now risen, in the garden—she doesn’t recognize him!  We might ask—how can this be?  Again, exegetes tell us that one apparently doesn’t appear the same in resurrected form as they would, if they were merely sleep and awakened.

The same phenomenon seems to be true in Luke’s account of Jesus joining the disciples the next day on the way to Emmaus.  Just as Mary didn’t recognize Jesus until he did something familiar—saying her name, the disciples on the road didn’t know him either until he likewise did something familiar—when he broke bread with them.

So, my friends, some thoughts to carry on our hearts as we continue now with the blessing of the water and our baptismal promises…..

Homily – Good Friday

My friends, we have just shared with each other Jesus’ Passion and Death according to John, the beloved apostle. John’s gospel is always used on Good Friday because it gives us a different focus than the other accounts from Matthew, Mark and Luke.  We remember from Palm Sunday and Luke’s passion account that his focus was placed not so much on the detail of the suffering, but more on its meaning for each of us as depicted in Paul’s reading to the Philippians—“his state was divine, yet he did not cling to it, but became as each one of us.”

In John’s account today, we simply heard Jesus say, in regard to his own personal needs, “I am thirsty.” His concern isn’t for himself but for his apostles—that they would be set free, or more poignantly, from John’s priestly prayer of Jesus that they could learn to “all be one” and not just with each other, but with all others as they would later share his message to “love God and their neighbors as themselves.” When Jesus does die, the account says, he simply “gives up his spirit.” We very much get the impression that John is trying to give; of Jesus being in control of all that is happening to him. He had the power to avail himself to what would be asked of him and he accepted his fate with no complaint.  As Isaiah said in the first reading; “he did not cry out, even though he was badly abused.”

And even with all the suffering Jesus was asked to bear, we see only the silence with which he carried himself, so the silence built into today’s service is very appropriate.  Isaiah gives the truth to this notion as well—“you were like a lamb led to slaughter and didn’t open your mouth.”  John’s account does not include the purely human moments of the Last Supper or the agony in the garden.

John shows us Jesus as one who suffers, yes, but one who is truly the high priest spoken of today in the letter to the Hebrews—one who stands with us and loves us in all our weaknesses, continually calling us to more.

John’s purpose it would seem is to let us know that Jesus freely accepted his death and did not struggle against it—he lived his human existence constantly showing us how we must live and accepted the consequences in his time for living a life demanding justice for all.

Today, I purposely shortened Isaiah’s reading, leaving off the last 5 verses as these concentrate on a God who apparently “needs” reparation for the sins of humankind. I believe many within our Church, theologians included have moved beyond a God who would ask such a price from a son.  This type of God was not the God that Jesus preached about when he spoke of the Prodigal returning to his father’s waiting arms or the Good Shepherd who left the 99 in search of the one lost.

No, as Irish priest, Tony Flannery said a few years back and I paraphrase, we need a new theology for Holy Week! You will remember that Tony Flannery lost his faculties to serve as a priest in Irish Catholic churches due to his support for women priests.

So, the evangelist, John, further tells us that because Jesus freely chooses death, he can just as freely choose life—the new life of the resurrection.  Jesus knew that his actions, his speech, declaring justice for all, speaking against the practices of his Jewish faith and the state of Rome would cause him to pay the highest price for his so-called treason—death on a cross.

So, we need not look for someone to blame; God, the Jews, the Romans.  Jesus chose life to the fullest, living from his heart mostly and he paid the price for not going along with the status quo, for not keeping silent.

So, my friends, while this is a sad day when we remember our brother’s suffering, and not for our sins, but that we might follow him ever more closely, it is a day to begin in small part, rejoicing for the gift that he gave us, so completely in his life, death and resurrection. Because you see, we can’t think about his dying without remembering his rising. His death carries no meaning without the hope of his rising. And I’ll leave it there for today—–

Homily – Palm Sunday

 

Friends, I could give you some exegesis around the meaning of the readings today as we begin this holiest of weeks and probably, some thoughts will make their way into this homily; but I thought what might be a more meaningful way to go, would be to concentrate on what “this triumphal entry into Jerusalem” meant, ultimately, to our brother Jesus.

This final journey to Jerusalem was the culmination of his relatively short life on this earth. We can only imagine the emotion he was experiencing! If he had been a musician; we might say that this action was his grand opus—the high point of all that his combined humanity and divinity had allowed and challenged him to proclaim.

All the prophets, especially the later ones such as, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel spoke eloquently about who Jesus, as the Messiah would be—one with humanity—with us, suffering all that we would suffer, and we might add—experiencing so much of the good that this life can bring through interactions with others, through caring and giving of himself for the least among us.  Jesus spoke his truth to the powers present in his time, about justice for all. And we know from Isaiah’s words today in the first reading that what Jesus had to say would not be accepted by all—and that there were those who wished to silence him.

Within the time frame of a week; this triumphal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem would end in seeming failure with his death in one of the most horrible ways that death can come to an individual.  We are told by Scripture scholar, Diane Bergant, that Paul’s beautiful hymn of praise to the Philippians seems the best way for us to understand Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection—while he does not minimize it; he also doesn’t spend undo time depicting it.  Rather, Paul really explains the suffering to us and tells us what it means—his state was divine, yet he did not cling to it, but humbled himself, becoming as all humans are.

Within a week, his beloved apostles and friends would all, save a few—John, Mary of Magdala, his mother and some faithful women, leave him in fear.  Two would betray him—one would seek forgiveness, one had missed the message that his friend, Jesus had spoken so many times before—that there is nothing we could ever do that would separate us from the love of God.

Scriptures tell us that our brother Jesus wept over Jerusalem for how they had so misunderstood his coming among them—they wanted a king—and he came as a servant.  They let their humanity, their lust for power and control get in the way of his message of love and care for all.  Even his closest friends—apostles who spent three years with him, hearing day after day the purpose for his coming—to basically show them, all of us, the best ways to live and to love, didn’t get it!  Jesus was always about, “leading with the heart,” not the head, and those in the society he graced with his presence who were women, the poor, the ill and downtrodden got his message—not about power over, but about humility—power with and for others.

His sadness, his sense of failure with so many whom he loved so much would engulf him for a time in his agony in the garden in the space of a week.  But before that; he would spend his last days teaching in the temple, his last times endeavoring to get the message across one last time that “what we do to others, we do to him.”  We can’t say that we love God and refuse to love our neighbor—he minces no words—it’s as simple as that!

The more my friends that we can let these days come alive for us, the more his words will become real and guide our daily actions going forward.

We won’t be meeting on Holy Thursday this year, but it would behoove us to remember the gift of love that this night depicts.  Jesus, knowing all that was before him, spent his last night before his death showing his closest friends, his mother and the other women, no doubt, even though the Scriptures don’t mention their presence, of how he wanted them to live going forward, once he was no longer physically with them.  They should serve each other, beautifully displayed in the washing of the feet. Whenever and wherever they gathered; they should know and believe that he was with them in the breaking of the bread.  And finally, his greatest prayer was that all people should be one, just as he was one with Abba God.  This is why our parish is named, All Are One—our statement to our city and all others that everyone is welcome here, no exceptions!  Jesus’ priestly prayer was all about loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves—that’s it, that’s the message!

We will gather here on Good Friday afternoon in a simple and holy remembrance of a day, more than any other that speaks to the steadfastness of our God’s love for us.  Jesus died a human death the way he had lived his human life—completely and wholeheartedly—always keeping in mind, especially at the end, the all-encompassing love of his Abba for him.  Being human, he doubted and cried out in the agony, in the suffering, but on some level; he knew that life would follow the death and he did it all for us so that we could be steadfast in hope of new life too!

And then on Saturday afternoon, with the Easter Vigil; we will begin our alleluias in that hope.  Amen? Amen!