Monday, April 25, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Easter: Good Shepherd Sunday

Sermon 4/16/16

Thanks Russ for the great bulletin design!

It’s “Good Shepherd Sunday” again. Why? Because this is the essence of the Risen Christ? Jesus answer to Peter last week:  the proof of love? Feed my sheep. (Cue: Jorma Kaukonen and the Jefferson Airplane’s "O Good Shepherd, feed my sheep…”)

"Good Shepherd"

If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the blood-stained bandit
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep
One for Paul
One for Silas
One for to make my heart rejoice
Can't you hear my lambs acallin
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the long-tongue liar
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the gun shot devil
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

In Jesus' days, shepherds were suspect. They were the only ones who slept outside the gates. They were subject to stop and frisk when they came to town.  The connection back to David was  already nostalgiac at best.

It gives us warm feelings…few of us have any real connection to real sheep. Maybe street fair petting zoos. Wool usually holding sawdust and other detritus…what images serve us?

When we first moved to the city, our apartment building had a lot of school age children. Our porter Kenny would watch the children  on their way to and way back from school…until they were safe.

Jesus is into a q & a with the Pharisees again. Let’s consider that  maybe they’re actually  serious…Are YOU the one? They ask. And his response: I have. I do. I am. Once you are in his hands, you can never be snatched away.

Perhaps the best known passage in the Bible is the 23rd psalm. We used to have a walk around Bible.  Verses we had memorized. Many of us clergy have had the nursing home experience . A room full of resident with Dementia.  Completeley out of it. And then the 23rd Psalm is recited and everyone is
We use it for funerals. Memorials. And baptisms.
Why does it comfort us so? Once you’re in his hands? 
What are your memories? Which image comforts you the best?
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
I want to close with Bobby McFerrin’s Psalm 23. Written for his mother..

The Lord is my Shepard, I have all I need,
She makes me lie down in green meadows,
Beside the still waters, She will lead.

She restores my soul, She rights my wrongs,
She leads me in a path of good things,
And fills my heart with songs.

Even though I walk, through a dark & dreary land,
There is nothing that can shake me,
She has said She won't forsake me,
I'm in her hand.

She sets a table before me, in the presence of my foes,

She anoints my head with oil,
And my cup overflows.

Surely, surely goodness & kindness will follow me,
All the days of my life,
And I will live in her house,
Forever, forever & ever.

Glory be to our Mother, & Daughter,
And to the Holy of Holies,
As it was in the beginning, is now & ever shall be,
World, without end. Amen

PSALM 23:1-6
1The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name's sake.
4Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff-
they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
my whole life long.

Benediction REVELATION 7:9-17
9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" 14I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
GOSPEL JOHN 10:22-30
22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." 25Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. 30The Father and I are one."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Third Sunday in Easter: What do you know?

Sermon 4/17

Today we have one of my favorite Easter stories…

It starts with our impulsive  friend Peter….he’s ready to go fishing again…things didn’t turn out they way he wanted, so it’s back to fishing….he’s going back to the old life as if nothing happened…

They have no luck. No fish. From the shore, Jesus yells out, “try the other side” and without recognizing him, they follow his advice. And they catch fish….lots of fish..153 LARGE ones…Despite many attempts by commentators to explain this number, to be honest, no one really knows….

The disciple  who loved Jesus calls out It’s the Lord! and impetuous Peter does this counter intuitive thing  and puts on his clothes to jump into the water…so are these fishers fishing naked?  Why does he not want Jesus to see him naked? The fact is, Jesus has seen him naked. That is, he has seen the real Peter, just as he is, over and over again.

And so the others drag the fish in…

The next is my favorite part…I call it breakfast on the beach…
Try to imagine this…it’s early morning…..sun coming up….can you smell how it smells on the beach? (I know the Sea of Galilee is fresh water, but I smell salt..) Can you smell the charcoal fire? The fish being grilled?  The smell of fresh bread? It’s almost as sensual as that other John story where Mary anoints Jesus…and the smell of the ointment fills the room..

And like Mary Magdalene hearing her name, this eating together is so familiar, they know him! It’s in the familiar….what he did most often was break bread with his friends…like we did on Palm Sunday with Pastor Jeanie and her volunteers from Sacramento and our friends from  Theatre Dzieci…he was every bit as present at that lunch as when he is when we take communion…

NOW it gets interesting…the 3 questions from Jesus to Peter…why 3? Well, one traditional answer, to make up for his 3 denials…BUT….in Greek (and I’m not one who believes you have to know Greek to fully understand the Bible…with disciplined study and the Holy Spirit, you’ll get what you need to…)  Jesus uses agape and Peter answers with fileo. Jesus is trying to get Peter to up his game ...from friendship to unconditional love...and when Peter doesn’t give in, Jesus finally comes back with fileo and Peter answers with fileo...He meets Peter where he is ….friendship not a bad place to begin…and the instruction? Feed my sheep..

Them there’s this business about the difference between being young and old…right now, in my life,  I’m struck by the similarities between infancy and old age…that dependency.. as my mom works to recover from her stroke.. and my new grandson. Roko…both in need of others to help then with the most basic needs….

And Jesus ends with Follow me…

What’s at stake here is knowing….how do we know? What do we know?  How did the disciples know?…Mary…knew by voice….the others…by breaking bread…(except the one who loved him, who knew him by  by love…)

How does Jesus know Peter loves him? He will know when Peter feeds his sheep…

God first knows us before we know God, like Jesus knew Peter…with all our shortcomings, our failures, our gifts…

We’re called to know, but more to trust…
Not to believe but to follow

That’s our Easter challenge this year….to simply follow….

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Easter 2016: We each must find our own resurrection


And this is our Easter, 2016…

We enter into our newly remade Chapel and marvel at the work that has been done. It started with Jean and her volunteer crew from Sacramento. Then continued with West-Park volunteers. Don and his last team were here late last night until we were all ready. And Pat and Leila came early this morning to decorate. It has truly been a labor of love. And Leila and I have, as usual, dyed eggs to share with people. 

And so our Easter reflection…

Alleluia, Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleulia!

And so we begin our Easter in 2016. As Christians have for milennia. I remember when I worked in Pittsburgh, my neighbor Greek Orthodox priest throughout the whole season of Easter would greet me with a handshake and those words..Christ is risen…and I would respond Christ is risen indeed …

What do you remember? Of your childhood Easters? I remember I never enjoyed Easter as much as Christmas. Two many brooding hours in church the week before. Maundy Thursday. An endless 3 hour 7 last words service… But the word Easter brings images of cool spring to my mind. (And even  the day in Pittsburgh it snowed!) Church. Always a glorious choir and special anthems. At home, an Easter egg hunt for the plastic eggs, filled with treats, my parents had hidden around our yard.  A custom my sister has continued.
There would be lunch…a ham, always….and augratin potatoes….we each received an Easter basket with the two largest items a chocolate Easter bunny and  a giant egg, from the famous Sarris candymakers down the road. And in our earliest years at the old house with a half an acre and room for a garden behind the chicken coop, special child sized garden tools so we could participate in the  gardening. So a feeling of warmth….what images come to your mind?  I will confess, the Easter bunny left me long before Santa Claus.

Before I go on…look around…let this be an image for Easter 2016…a restored chapel….do you remember when we first returned? The ruins? A roof with exposed lath? The last two weeks have all but finished the process of bringing this place back to life…
Don at work...
Keep this picture in your mind…as well as thanks for all who have made this happen….and some very long hours…
When Don's crew finished....

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
It’s a statement…not a question. In a few short words, the why of our presence here…

These are our witnesses…
Mary Magdalene
The one Jesus loved…..

Mary goes because of love. She hadn’t run away from the crucifixion scene like the  others, the men had. She finds the stone rolled away. Stop a minute…..why was the stolen rolled away? To let Jesus out?  Or to let the disciples in? She assumes he’s been taken away. (Not an illogical idea…he was only in Simon’s tomb temporarily)

Peter and the other go running…the one gets there first…sees but does not go in..Peter arrives,  pushes him aside and with his typical lack of impulse control, rushes in.  And then the other comes too…and believed…what did he believe? Other than that Jesus was not there?

Then they go home…what? Why?

Mary is there again. Weeping. She sees two angels …why did they not appear to the men? Were they waiting for her?

And then, my favorite scene, where she mistakes  Jesus for the gardener…Note…there is no halo, no shining robes, maybe blue jean (green jean?) overalls…like the simplest humblest of people…

She doesn’t recognize him until she hears his voice. Hears her name in a way only he said it. And then she knows. (When you hear your name being called, whose voice is it?  A parent? A lover?  Whose voice?) It’s a scene almost as intimate as the anointment and the washing of feet with her hair…only John gives us this intimacy…

She wants to hold onto him, but she can’t….

And so she goes. And announces to the disciples, and so she becomes the first witness…

Resurrection….you know 20-40% of people who lose someone very close  report an appearance of the one who has died…maybe it’s  not so remarkable…..

In Latin America, when names of martyrs are read the people respond, Presente!.....present…here with us even now..

In the end, not about evidence, or proof or persuasion…no external verification…no twitter feeds, face book posts, snapchat or instagram…..

But a witness to what we have experienced…and there will be no other poof…

Have you seen the Lord? What can you proclaim? Each of us must find our own resurrection. Standing together in solidarity but  in the end, find our own.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

And this is our Easter, 2016…