God's work. Our hands.

Jesus the Good Shepherd

John 10:11-18 The Good Shepherd

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’
 

The voice of Christ calls, not just Lenny out into the world, but each one us out into the world today. To show love not just in words and speech, but deeds and actions as we tend to the scattered flock with God’s amazing love and the voice of the great shepherd who laid down his life for us. We are all called to continue the work of the great shepherd, caring for one another, loving each other, dying a little for each other, opening doors and tearing down barriers, bringing everyone into the sheepfold of God’s beloved flock.

Continue this work Lenny and we will continue that work here at St. Mark’s as we work together in the church to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd. For in that work, goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.

Eating with Jesus

Luke 24:36b-48 | Jesus Appears to His Disciples

 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
Perhaps it’s one of the ways that Jesus continues to show up and ask for something to eat from us. Jesus continues to show up in our world and ask us to remember the power of being a sacramental presence for others that leads to life. Jesus shows up in in frightened and broken times – reminding us of the power of this sacred meal; to forgive, to give new life, to sanctify and bless the work that we do as the body of Christ. And when we find ourselves like the disciples, “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering…” amid the complexities of our modern world – Jesus stands today to remind us of the power of eating together, of experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit to open our minds to the wonder of God’s ability to turn death into new life. For we see in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s love for the whole world. And we see that very same power of death and resurrection unfold each time in our own lives that we get pulled from the pit of despair and placed back on the road to life anew – God’s power to work resurrection in our very own lives.

Encountering a Tangible Faith

John 20:19-31 Jesus Appears to the Disciples

 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

Jesus and Thomas

 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

The Purpose of This Book

 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
The power of this particular resurrection story for us this day, is that if Jesus showed up for the disciples in the middle of their despair and grief – then Jesus shows up for us in our places of grief and uncertainty with these same words, “peace be with you.” Jesus gives us words for anxious times – “peace.” Peace not as the world can give, but only our risen savior can give. And as we continue to live into anxious times – I think we need an experience of Jesus in this way – to be reminded that Jesus continues to show up in our world.

Jesus shows up for Thomas and quietly says to his doubt and fear, “do not doubt but believe,” offering his wounded side and hands for Thomas to experience. It’s in this tactile experience of the resurrection that Thomas comes to believe and know that Jesus is indeed still alive and at work in the world. Not that unlike our own tactile experience with Jesus.

Each week we gather around the table to have our own doubt transformed to believe when we take bread and wine, immersing ourselves in a sensory experience of Jesus. This meal that we call Holy Communion stands as our weekly reminder that God’s love for us finds us in our locked rooms of fear and worry with words of peace, forgiveness, wholeness and love.

Easter Sunday

Mark 16:1-8 | The Resurrection of Jesus

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
So when we face those cliff hangers in the world – places where we say, “O God, what’s next, or it can’t get any worse”– we say this – Christ is Risen. And God is at work to write the ending to this story through resurrection. The world is being renewed each and every day in big ways and small ways as God is now loosed in the world to bring about new life.

Which is why Mark wrote the gospel in this way – so that we might keep coming back, year and after year, wanting more – more life, more resurrection, more hope, more assurance that God finishes the story with love and not fear.

For we know how this story ends – it ends with you and me and the amazing power of God to the impossible – in surprising ways. And this is no April Fool’s Joke – for Christ is Risen. He has Risen indeed – Alleluia.

Rituals of Love and Service

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
The New Commandment
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

And I don’t know about you, but I think this world could use a real reminder of love these days – I find the despair and disillusionment of this world to be ever increasing. So maybe in the madness of the world around us – we need to be reminded of these rituals, to practice these rituals that connect us to the blessing and love of God and follow Christ’s invitation to share this gift of love with each other. Because practicing these ancient rituals grafts us into the unfolding story of God’s salvation for the whole world — and after all – isn’t that what this week we call Holy is all about?

Seeing Jesus through Justice

John 12:20-33 Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

Jesus Speaks about His Death

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
I give thanks this day for all the ways St. Mark’s continues to help this world see Jesus, from our food collections for CNC, special collection envelopes each month for various social organizations, to collecting funds to build a house for people in need through Habitat, to our faith formation activities for kids – to even the potential of a nursery school that would teach kids so very early that God loves them, we all work to show the world Jesus.
At the heart of all these acts though, is the power of a story to be written on our hearts and in our lives. It’s the story that we will tell next week. The story of Easter, of God bringing about new life for all – it is written in our bones and in our lives. Of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, of taking bread and wine, of being betrayed, and forgiving the sins of those on the cross next to him, of laying his life down so that others might live – a story where we see the power of God’s love to heal us and save us all, from the least to the greatest, it’s God’s story of salvation and justice around a cross. And because that story is written on our hearts and in our lives, so much so here, that when people open these doors, or when they experience us out in the world, they see Jesus through our acts of charity, giving, and love as the very face of Jesus. And for that, I say thanks be to God.

God shows mercy and turns fear into healing

John 3:14-16 Nicodemus Visit’s Jesus

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’
For me, it’s a little like Moses taking a snake and putting it on a stick, or Jesus offering forgiveness from the cross…. These are the ways that God is sending us mercy, forgiveness and healing. In a world full of trouble, we are invited as disciples to point people to Jesus – to show them the way to salvation. And sometimes that means taking the thing we fear the most, like a poisonous snake, putting it out in the open for all to see, naming it and being healed by it.
Because when we see that racism, homophobia, classism, sexism, religious intolerance, consumerism and our reckless abandon for the creation and the host of other things that seem to poison us these days are named for what they are – sin, we can begin to experience the mercy of God to heal us, forgive us and call us anew to live in the Kin-Dom of God. These things that we fear called into the light of day are the points that we experience the love of God and the mercy of God because we are no longer captive to sin – we have been offered grace and new life.

Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Concerning Almsgiving

‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

 ‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Concerning Prayer

‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Concerning Fasting

‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Concerning Treasures

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
And no matter how you experience Lent this year, I pray and hope that you at least experience God’s profound love for you. That you might see and feel the power of God’s love to be with you in the broken and discarded places. That this Lent you might meet the God of love who understands even the dustiest corners of your mixed up soul. That you might see God loving you back to life in the power of Easter morning – because God is gathering up the ash and dust of your life, and is breathing new life into it.

WWJD? Cast out our Demons!

Mark 1:21-28 | The Man with an Unclean Spirit

 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
 

And casting out those demons from our lives might get noisy and messy. It might make a scene – but we remember that the Authority of the Holy One, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is not defiled by this work, Jesus takes what is unclean and makes it clean again.

“Come and See.” The Call to Discipleship and Remembrance of the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King jr.

Bible Text: John 1:43-51

A Sermon on the following text from the Gospel of John and a reading from “A Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” penned by the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King jr.

 

n John’s gospel, Jesus’ ministry begins with the call of disciples, who then bring others to Jesus. Philip’s friend Nathanael moves from skepticism to faith when he accepts the invitation to “Come and see.”

43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”