“Lord, if you had been here …”

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A
John 11:1-45
Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lent 5 – Year A 2011

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

Martha, grieving her brother,
    says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Actually, I’m pretty certain she didn’t say it the perfectly calm tone of a church lector
    reading the Scriptures on a Sunday morning.
Rather, I think she would have said it a bit more emphatically, sadly, angrily, emotionally:
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
If you had been here …

This isn’t just Martha’s comment, question, plea, either.
We share this sentiment with her.

Read More


Third Sunday in Lent
John 4:5-42
Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lent 3 – Year A 2011

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

“But I’m a creep.
    I’m a weirdo.
    What the hell am I doing here?
        I don’t belong here. I don’t belong here ….”

So sings one of the alternative rock anthems of my youth, a song called “Creep,”
    by the massively successful but never quite mainstream band Radiohead.
“I don’t belong here,” they sing.
How do we determine who belongs anywhere?
How do we determine who does not belong?
And more – what does it say about a generation, my generation, Generation X,
    when one of its defining songs laments not belonging here … or anywhere?

Read More

Our temptation: to trust sin more than we trust God

First Sunday in Lent
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lent 1 – Year A 2011

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

On this first Sunday in Lent,
    we begin with sin.
And not only do we begin with sin, but we begin with the beginning of sin.
In our first reading, we are introduced to The Fall,
    the Biblical account of how sin entered into the world.
To hear the author of Genesis put it,
    our first sin was to disobey one of the laws that God gave to man.
Now, in this brand new creation, God had already given several laws,
    perhaps not formally formulated or laid down in written code,
    but God put man in the garden of Eden
    with the expressed responsibility to till the land and to keep it,
        a form of law, a command, to care for the earth that God has just made.
And, too, God laid down one prohibition:
    Man was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Read More

What is this Cross? (Good Friday)

Good Friday
John 18:1-19:42
April 2, 2010

What is this cross that bears the body of our Lord,
    a body bloodied, beaten, bruised, and broken?
What is this cross that carries within it such terror –
    torture, death, and destruction?
This cross is a meeting ground,
    a place of encounter,
    an intimate intersection of the human and the divine.
It is here at this cross where we see God most clearly,
    and indeed, where we see ourselves most honestly, as well.
The cross is a window to our God, and a mirror to ourselves.

Read More

Being a son means also being a brother (Lent 4, Year C)

The Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
March 14, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

I think it says a lot about the church and our Western culture that this magnificent parable
    of forgiveness, restoration, and celebration
    has been narrowly and unfortunately named, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” …
    as if it were only a story of a morally-lax, wayward boy.
There’s so much more to this story
    than just the wide-eyed wanderlust of a disrespectful son …
    but too often we can do little more with this story
        than wag our finger at the younger son in grand self-righteous fashion.
This story is one of three in a row found in Luke chapter 15
    that Jesus tells about finding things that were lost –
        a shepherd who lost but later found one of his sheep,
        a woman who lost but later found one of her silver coins,
        and in this parable, a father who lost but later found one of his children.
And in each story, finding the lost results in some over-the-top celebration.

Read More

Citizens of Heaven (Lent 2, Year C)

The Second Sunday in Lent
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1
Sunday, February 28, 2010

Grace to you and peace from the one who is, and who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

Philipi was a government town, a Roman colony in the territory of Greece.
It was governed entirely by the laws and customs of Latin-speaking Rome,
even though it was surrounded by Greek territory and customs.
Lots of retired military men had settled there,
    and the imprint of Rome on this settlement was clear.
There was a grand forum that hosted Roman Games, not unlike Rome’s own forum,
    and numerous Latin-inscribed monuments lining the main road,
    testifying to the prosperity of this crossroad.
This was a city whose residents were proud of their Roman citizenship,
    who identified as members of the Roman commonwealth,
    even as they found themselves in an outpost on Greek territory.
And so, when Paul tells them that their citizenship is in heaven,
    it could have been received both as an affront –
    what do you mean our citizenship is in heaven?  We’re citizens of Rome! –
    and as a sensible analogy, for these people understood what it meant
        to live according to the laws and dictates of different place, another reality.

Read More

Daring to Treasure Christ (Ash Wednesday, Year C)

Ash Wednesday, Year C
Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
February 17, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

What are you giving up for Lent?
Some are giving up chocolate, others give up soda, others give up snacking altogether.
One friend of mine used Facebook to announce to the world that for Lent she was giving up Facebook.
In college one year I gave up all music except for Gregorian chant,
    setting aside my collection of 80's and early 90's electronic and techno pop hits.
But surely its not all about giving up stuff …
I know of some people who are taking on new disciplines,
    including exercise, or better sleep schedules, or healthier eating.
These are all good and wonderful things, for sure.
If we were to abide by these commitments,
    we'd find ourselves healthier and stronger,
    both physically and emotionally.
But when did the Lenten fast become a tool for self-help?
These things sound more like New Years resolutions than they do acts of penitence or spiritual fasts.

Read More

Dying to Live: A Parable in Pixar (Lent 5, Year B)

The Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B
March 29, 2009

John 12:20-33

Grace, Mercy and Peace be to you, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Letter to the Hebrews begins with this famous line,
"Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 
but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son."
I’m convinced that God speaks to us primarily through his Son,
and most evidently through the church and its ministry of Word and Sacrament.
But . . . but I’m also convinced that God is at work beyond these walls, too,
speaking to us Gospel messages and giving us glimpses of his Kingdom 
through the popular culture, through various events and circumstances, 
through the stuff of our daily life.

Read More

The Church is a Messy Emergency Ward (Lent 2, Year B)

The Second Sunday in Lent, Year B
March 8, 2009
Mark 8:31-38

In the name of Jesus, who underwent great suffering, who was rejected, and who was killed.  Amen.

I’m intrigued by the split between private and public in today’s Gospel reading . . .
The passage opens with Jesus describing what will happen to him –
    rejection by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
    and then his own death.
Not quite cheerful stuff.
Not quite “shout from the rooftops,” “Go tell it on the mountain” material.
And yet, despite the unpleasant nature of this news,
    the Scripture tells us that Jesus says these things “quite openly.”

Read More