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Look!

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Why are you in church on Easter Sunday?  Come, Look, See.

Maybe you worship most Sundays, or maybe you haven’t been in church in quite a while.  Either way, Easter invites us to come…to sing the joyful hymns, to see the flowers decking the church, to remind ourselves of all that is good and joyful in this life.  There is something in the human soul that longs to celebrate life itself, and thank God for this most precious gift. 

This year Easter is so early that Mother Nature hasn’t yet put on her new spring dress.  Holy Week brought a surprise snowfall and nippy temperatures.  Still, we are so ready: ready for spring, for warmth, for blossoming azaleas and cherry trees; ready to get outside again and enjoy this beautiful part of the world in which we live; ready to do some emotional housecleaning and let go of wintry thoughts and feelings.  What are the old grudges, irritations, and losses you need to let go of and forgive? 

At Easter, God leads the way in this kind of housecleaning.  In a sense, God gathers up all the sin and evil in the world and buries it with Christ in the tomb.  Then on Easter morning Christ rises to new life – leaving behind the forgiven sins of humanity and offering all of us a fresh start, another chance to live as we long to live, “in love and charity with our neighbors, intending to lead a new life” walking in the holy ways of Jesus. 

Can we do it?  Easter says yes…with God as our helper.  Apart from God we can do nothing.  But with God, all things are possible.  My life, and your life, can be renewed.  As the angel at the tomb put it: “Do not be afraid… Look! He is not here; he has been raised.”  If Christ is risen, and we dwell in Christ, then we are risen too. 

I wish you “every good gift” of joy and light and life that God offers this Easter.  JBM





 

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Palm Sunday

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Jesus is indeed on the trail now…in fact, on Palm Sunday, the trail itself is the important thing. Jesus is on the move, heading to Jerusalem. He rode a donkey colt, because the prophet Zechariah had prophesied:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

We love this joyful parade – the last exuberant moment in Jesus’ earthly life. He has arrived at the center of it all – Jerusalem! Here is a time when the people rallied around Jesus and celebrated his strange and wonderful kingship – a slap in the face of the Roman overlords who oppressed the people of Israel. How did these poor people have the nerve to walk with Jesus into Jerusalem? They were risking their lives to be with him. Why? 

So let us gather this Sunday and join them in their love and devotion for King Jesus – a humble king such as the world had never known. A king of love. A king of mercy and forgiveness. A king willing to give up his life for his people. Are we brave enough to come bear witness to this king in our lives? 

Christians everywhere will gather on Sunday with branches of palms, singing “All glory, laud, and honor,” professing our faith in this most unusual king Jesus. Will you join in this witness to the world?    JBM                                                                                       


           





 

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"Sir, we wish to see Jesus!"

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“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 

I’ve always found these words to be arresting.  In John’s Gospel, they are the words of “some Greeks [who] came to Philip,” a disciple of Jesus.  Why did these Greeks want to see Jesus?  Did they want an appointment with him?  A miracle?  A good word? 

When I encounter this passage I am always reminded that these words – “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” – were often carved into the wood of church pulpits, not for the congregation to see but for the preacher to see.  These words remind the preacher of the primary task of all Christian preaching: to speak of Jesus so that he may be seen… encountered by all who hear.  In essence, the preaching task is to bring Jesus to life! The gospel message of God’s love and forgiveness must be brought to life anew every week.  It’s a tall order. 

Yes, preachers have a special responsibility to do this.  But don’t think you are off the hook if you aren’t a preacher yourself, because all of us – all Christian people – are called by God to make Jesus known in the way we live.  When others see you respond to human need, do they see Jesus?  When you speak of people who are different from you – by creed or race or nation – do they see Jesus in you?  When you are called to serve, do people see Jesus?  When you are hurt or offended, do people see how you love and forgive, and think of Jesus? 

I know this is a daunting standard of behavior.  Few (or maybe none) of us measure up all the time.  But spiritual growth means that we are growing into Christlike living…we are on the trail of greater and greater love and compassion.  If we are not moving along that path, we need to pause and rethink.  The world needs to see Jesus, now more than ever, and it’s our job to show him forth.  JBM

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What kind of wondrous love is this?

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Any love that’s easy falls down like rain.
Any love that’s easy goes out with a bad name
Any love that you find on Easy Street can only be a dream…

So goes an old Eva Cassidy song. She’s talking about human love, romantic love, Hallmark-cards-on-Valentine’s-Day kind of love. It’s nice, for a moment. But like snow melting in sunshine, it doesn’t last. It doesn’t hold up. 

But today we are talking about divine love, love that redeems us, love that saves.  And it’s not a love that’s easy. It’s not a gauzy dream, either. It’s real. It’s costly.  And it’s wondrous. And God is offering it to us for free!

But I still look for – hope for – some kind of love that’s easy, that doesn’t cost much, that will satisfy my insatiable needs for affirmation without troubling me to face my own demons honestly, without bothering to change my ways. Maybe some of you look for that same kind of love that’s easy. But we won’t find it. 

Any love that you find on Easy Street can only be a dream…

The love God offers to us is the love of one who cares about us too much to leave us in the shallow waters of delusion. God’s love asks us to be honest with ourselves, and when we are, this love cleanses us, restores us, and forgives us.  Isn’t that what Lent is all about?  JBM
 





 

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Sabbath Rest? You got to be kidding ...

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Lately, I’ve been need a lot of sleep – even more than usual. I’ve had trouble waking up in the morning and facing the day. I’ve longed for the day’s end when I can return home and regroup. They say that this is a common reaction to grief and loss…and I believe that. I was blessed with a 24-hour silent retreat a few weeks ago, and realized how starved I’ve been for quiet, for Sabbath rest. 

This week we hear the Ten Commandments – one of the most often cited, and lease observed, parts of the Bible. In our church they’ve been called “The Ten Episcopal Suggestions.” Americans generally don’t like to be told what to do, or not to do, yet that’s what these commands do. Specifically, they tell us how to order our relationships – the first 4 are about our relationship with God and the holy; the last 6 are about our relationships with other human beings. 

We can’t think about all of them at once, so I’d like to focus on one, the fourth: “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. The commandment goes on for several lines…we might think it’s pretty important! 

But frankly, this commandment is generally ignored by most Christians in our time: we neither remember the Sabbath day, nor keep it holy. We have lost the art of rest, of stillness, of any sort of contemplation. We have forgotten how to stop. 

I’ve been enjoying the daily videos from the monks at the Society of St. John the Evangelist, www.SSJE.org/time , this Lent. They make me squirm. They gently challenge my way of life, and my rationalizations. It’s good for me. The series is about our relationship with Time – a relationship that for many of us is disordered. The first step the brothers suggest is to stop: we must simply stop. They give us a few ideas and questions to try:

Questions:
Stop 1: Sit in total stillness for five minutes today. How does it feel?

Stop 2: Where is your invitation to stop during the day?

Stop 3: What taskmasters do you need to be liberated from to reclaim your dignity?

Stop 4: How do you picture a day spent “being” – as opposed to “doing”?

Stop 5: Where are you drawn when you follow your heart?

Stop 6: Are you content right now?

Stop 7: Schedule a day of complete rest: What does it help you realize about your life and heart?

Well now, do you feel completely overwhelmed? Inadequate? Join the club. We are not good at this. Stopping is foreign to our American DNA. Do we dare try it?        JBM




 

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