the road

faith, jesus, and a conversation on the road

Month: March, 2016

why do you look for the living among the dead?

A sermon for the Easter Vigil, Luke 24:1-12

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

And thus the women are greeted today at Jesus’ tomb. An interesting question posed, for of course they expect to find a dead Jesus laying in the tomb. In fact, they expect that they will need to have the stone rolled back just so they can access the body, to anoint it and mark it ready for the transition from this life into the next. Perhaps these women are looking in the wrong spot. Perhaps this isn’t Jesus’ tomb afterall. Perhaps someone is playing a cruel joke. But, then they are reminded of the words of Christ. Then they are reassured and reenergized that the words of Christ are come to pass, that their teacher, their friend, has died but has risen again.

This is a moment that we must remember. This is a moment that we are all too familiar with. As faithful followers of Jesus Christ, we often stumble, we often make mistakes, we often forget what Christ has said. We often go looking for the wrong thing, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. We miss the clues. We miss the reality that is directly in front of us. We forget to listen and believe, instead relying on personal providence, on personal abilities, on personal experiences that shape and inform, leading us away from that which Christ has said and done. The disciples and many followers of Christ have forgotten what he told them, and Christ just died, so it’s no wonder that we still forget the message that has been passed down.

And that’s ok. It’s our human nature to think we can do it all alone. It’s our human nature to forget the simple teachings of Christ, those teachings which we hear about week-in and week-out, those teachings which we have heard about our whole lives. But it’s not ok to live into this forgetfulness. It’s not ok to accept the fact that we forget and do nothing to change our behavior. We need to constantly and consistently remind ourselves of the teachings of Christ. We need to remember our baptism.

Tonight we will welcome four new members into the family that is the Church when we baptize Charlie, Lana, Josie, and Henry. We are welcoming these children into a family that is a family of choice, not circumstance. We are welcoming these children into a larger community that makes a promise to these children, to their parents, that we will do all in our power to see that these members of our family are raised up in the teachings of Christ. That they are given every chance to hear the word of God. That they will not forget the words of Christ because the love that is constantly surrounding them from this place will always remind them of what they learn here.

Baptism requires a commitment from the parents and sponsors of these children tonight, but it also requires a much bigger commitment from all of you who have gathered here. The parents and sponsors of these children will always love them, will always support them, will always be there for them, because that is what parents and those closest in support do. We, as the people who have gathered here tonight to witness to these baptisms, are agreeing to do the same, even though we have no deeply personal tie to these children, these families, at least not on the surface. Tonight, the whole of us promise to love, to teach, to uphold not just these children, but their parents and sponsors as well, from this point forward. We take upon us the responsibility to be the community for these people. We take upon us the responsibility to be the presence of God in their lives. But what drive us to take this responsibility on?

We take on this responsibility because we have faith in the act. We take on this responsibility because of the promise that is made self-evident in the resurrection of Christ. We take on this responsibility because as baptized Christians it is our duty to live into our baptismal covenant, to support our new members, to support their parents, their family, to share the same support that you have experienced as a member of this place, as a member of Christ’s body. We take on this responsibility because baptism defines us, it defines our relationship to each other, it defines our relationship to and with God, it defines what Christ has done for us in these three holy days.

Paul, in communication with the Romans writes: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?…The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

“You also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

We must not be an empty tomb. We must not be a place where people come looking for the living amongst the dead. We have a vital responsibility as followers of Christ to live into the truth that Christ has left for us. And in doing so, we must do so with gusto, with a vigor and vitality that is unmatched. We must do so in a manner that identifies this place as a place of the living, a place where the truth of Jesus Christ is lived into in our worship, in our outreach, in our ministries, and in our sacraments.

We can achieve this goal if we are willing to step to the plate and tackle the challenges of this human world head on. This is what we are called to do in our baptismal covenant. This is what we are called to do when we promise, with God’s help, to continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to persevere against evil, to repent and return to the Lord when we fall into sin. Establishing a community where Christ lives, vibrantly, requires us to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to respect the dignity of every human being. We do this when we use our voices to proclaim our faith, to proclaim our identity as followers of Jesus Christ, to take ownership of the Good News of Christ and to share that Good News with the world. We accomplish our goals when we do not shy from our beliefs. When we live into our baptismal covenant, we can change the world, because that is what we are committing to do. And, we are not committing to do this alone. We commit to this task with God’s help. We commit to this task of changing the world in one voice with each other. For it is as the community of believers, it is as the faithful followers of Christ, that we can accomplish the goals we hold firm and continually remind ourselves of when we witness this act of baptism.

If we are alive to God in Christ Jesus then we are truly alive. We are living fully into our potential as friends and neighbors. We are living fully into our potential as teachers, support systems, mentors, counselors. We are living fully into our potential as human beings who reach out and hold on to all who come into this place seeking life, for when we live into the promise of our baptismal covenant then this is a place for the living, it is not a cold and empty tomb.

Gathering together to baptise these children on this night in particular, we could do worse than model the example of Peter. As everyone else dismisses the story of the women (because honestly, who among us would believe such a tale), Peter gets up and runs to the tomb. He sees it empty, he believes the women, remembers too the words of Christ, and leaves in amazement at what has happened, and the potential that the future holds. We too should leave this place amazed at what we accomplish together as the followers of Christ. We too should leave this place amazed at the challenge that we commit our very souls to in our baptismal covenant, a commitment that comes with the assurance of God’s help if we are willing to reach out for it. We too should leave this place amazed at the privilege we have in welcoming in four new members of the Christian church, and all of the necessary work that we commit to following through with, to insure that these children, these families, always find a place of love, safety, support, and knowledge, here in this vibrant, alive place.

Jesus Christ is risen. He has defeated death through death. We also defeat death through death in our baptism. As followers of Christ, we must come to this place looking for the living amongst the living. As followers of Christ, we must take the promises we have made, and continue to make, in our baptismal covenant, out into the world, to change the world. And, we start here tonight with baptism.

Amen.

take Jesus in

A homily for Maundy Thursday

The practice of communion is at the center of our worship, today, every Sunday, even when we gather for prayers or just simple fellowship, the practice of communion shapes us, shapes our interactions, shapes our experience of our faith. The practice of communion is what brings me to this point here today, and it is what brings most of you to this exact point in time as well. It is a foundational piece of the practice of our faith. It is a foundational piece of our relationship with God. It is something that’s meaning rests deep in our souls. It speaks to us in ways that nothing else can or does. This is what makes communion such an important part of our faith, but it can also be a barrier when we attempt to move deeper into our faith.

Communion is such a foundational piece of our faith that it becomes a routine, a normal part of our everyday, but the practice of communion, the commemoration of that Last Supper, so intimately shared between Christ and the disciples, is anything but normal. Communion pushes us to come face-to-face with our humanity, our mortality, our brokenness, as we attempt to get a glimpse of the presence of God, here and now. And, that glimpse of God can, and perhaps often does, evade us. Coming to the altar rail, the worries of the day, the worries of the week (both before and upcoming), the general banality of our everyday mind wanderings, work against us in our attempt to experience God. It’s hard to see God, when everything else in your life is blocking your vision.

This is why remembering this Last Supper is so crucially important today. Today we mark the beginning of the Triduum, the Holiest cycle of days on our Christian calendar. Today we mark the beginning of the cycle of life, death, resurrection. We are reminded of this cycle throughout the year, but this week in particular we make a point of emphasizing the deep meaning behind each part of this cycle. We celebrate the life of Jesus, the teachings, the actions that have been left behind for us. We will soon mourn the death of Christ. And, in the end, we will sing with great praise as Jesus is resurrected. The Last Supper then stands as a gateway into this expression of our faith. Communion, acting as the representation of the Last Supper, reminds us of this cycle, reminds us that the story has been completed, and yet, is still happening.

My own experience of communion has formed and re-formed me throughout the years. Growing up, communion was an always part of my faith. But, I began to want to connect to something deeper in the act. A few years ago I read about an approach to communion that has stuck with me, and continues to influence how I approach this table of remembrance each week. This approach reminds me that communion is not about me. Communion is about proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. Communion is about the new commandment that you love one another, just as Christ has loved us. Communion is about living into the model of the disciples, showing that love of Christ for one another.

As I approach communion, remembering everything that I have read about the theology, everything I have experienced in practice, every random church I’ve stepped into and experienced the same welcome at the table, I remember to empty myself before the table. To empty myself of those thoughts that have been nagging me. To empty myself of the daydreams. To empty myself of the to-do lists I have been creating in my head during the sermon. To empty myself of my pain, my anxiety, my general angst. To fully empty myself, for what I am about to take in will fill me to overflowing. When I take the bread and wine, I try to approach this table as if it were my first time, filled with wonder, joy, and perhaps a bit of anxiety about the immense power that can be welcomed in, if I am willing to make room for it in my soul. When you do make room for it, when you clear out all of the junk, completely emptying yourself before the table, you are allowing God, you are allowing Jesus Christ to fill you. To fill you with love. To fill you with hope, faith, comfort. To fill you and give you the grounding upon which you can take this experience out into the world, ready and able to share it with all.

And this is the challenge we all share in. For as individual an experience that communion is in your soul, it is done amongst a community of believers. Together, as that community, as that group of people who so intimately and vulnerably bare their souls at the table of the Lord together each week, we can act as one in sharing the Good News of Christ, in sharing that deep faith that we fill ourselves with each and every week. Today we come to the altar to remember this, to remember Christ, to remember what Christ has done for us, preparing ourselves for this Holy Triduum, preparing ourselves to welcome Christ once more.

Amen.