O my God, you are here… but always you are where we are, and always you love us, calling us each by name. Amen.
On this Good Shepherd Sunday Jesus tells us that he “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” Well, that’s a metaphor, no matter what sheep-like sounds we might make at odd moments or how much we might sometimes behave like sheep. It’s still a metaphor. We’re not sheep. I feel quite confident about that as an unequivocal statement. But though we are not sheep, we do respond to this picture of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. We respond because he says he has come so that we might “have life, and have it abundantly.” God really wants us to get the most out of life. If we love life, if we choose life, we respond with joy to the one whose deepest desire is to give us life in abundance. If we do not love life, if we choose death, then we respond more readily to the enemy of the Good Shepherd, the thief, who Jesus says, “Comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Continue reading →
One of the things that I remember from studying the early centuries of the Church is the mistaken accusation in some parts of the world that Christianity taught cannibalism when the liturgy spoke of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
This was not the case in the controversy that the Jewish leaders were having with Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum that we heard about in today’s Gospel.
Instead, Jesus was faced with simple incomprehension. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52) Continue reading →
Mark’s Gospel is famously compact, moving breathlessly from one scene to another in rapid succession. Immediately he did this and straightway they did that.
Mark’s Gospel is also famous for having not one, not two, but three possible endings. Possibility #1 is the women fleeing trembling from an angel at the empty tomb because they were afraid. End of story. Possibility #2 is a later addition called the “Shorter Ending”: “And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” End of story. (An odd detail: they “told briefly”.) Possibility #3 includes some very brief references to three resurrection appearances followed by what we heard a few moments ago about snakes and poison and such. End of story. Continue reading →
The gospel tells us that two followers of Jesus were walking and talking as they made their way to the village of Emmaus, a distance of about seven miles from Jerusalem. Only a few days had passed since the tragic death of Jesus, and the confusion, fear, disappointment, and grief of that time still weighed heavily upon them. Some of those closest to Jesus had contributed to the tragedy; he had been betrayed by one of his own disciples, denied by another, abandoned by his followers and allies, who had fled for their lives. Furthermore, the body had apparently gone missing! Some women who had visited the tomb had reported a strange encounter with “two men in dazzling clothes” who had greeted them with the amazing news that Jesus was not there, but risen! They had reported this “dazzling experience” to the disciples, but the disciples took it to be “an idle tale” and sent them away.1 And now, as these two were walking along, they were trying to make sense of all of this, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, trying to work through their grief and confusion, trying to find some point of light to illumine the darkness and despair that had overshadowed their hearts. Continue reading →
One of the oddities of the Gospel of John is that there is no “institution narrative” like in the other Gospels. In John’s account of the Last Supper, he says nothing about the bread and wine, but tells us instead about Jesus washing their feet. What I think this says is that the early Christian community connected with John’s Gospel thought that it was too important, too sacred a thing to put down in writing—lest if fall into the wrong hands?
But John is otherwise laced through with all kinds of references to the Eucharist. Jesus is the bread of life, the true bread, the living bread which came down from heaven. We must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Those who eat the living bread will live forever. Continue reading →
Feast of St. Alphege, Abbot of Bath, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Martyr, 1012
Some of you may remember that a few years ago I spent Holy Week and Easter at Canterbury Cathedral. During one of the liturgies on Maundy Thursday I was seated up in the sanctuary near the High Altar. At one point I looked down at my feet and found that on the floor beneath me the name Alphege had been incised into the floor. When I asked later I found that this was not simply an inscription but was the actual place where St. Alphege, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1006 to 1012 was buried. Today marks the 1000th anniversary of Alphege’s death at the hands of Danish soldiers. Continue reading →
Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1—2:2; John 20: 19-31
I have a “Doubting Thomas” question this morning and an imaginary answer from God. But that comes later.
What comes through loud and clear in these almost 2000 year old texts is a tremendous energy, an irrepressible enthusiasm. And, especially, an urgency to tell others about this extraordinary event of the resurrection of Jesus. (“These are written so that you may come to believe…” “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands…so that you may have fellowship with us…so that our joy may be complete.”) There is an irrepressible impulse in these writings, an urgency to share with others. Continue reading →
Each year as we celebrate Easter and the season of Eastertide we are given the opportunity to renew and refresh our experience of Jesus’ Resurrection in the lessons and hymns and prayers of our worship. Our Eucharistic hymns also remind us that every Sunday is a commemoration of Jesus’ Resurrection.
Year by year we can hold the mystery of that great event close to our hearts, and learn again to treasure its meaning for each of us.
Several of our hymns remind us each time we sing them that Christ feeds us in the Holy Eucharist, and in our other prayer and worship as well. That is also part of the mystery for us to think about and cherish.
When we look at the ending of Mark’s Gospel read today I think we can recognize that it is much more abrupt than those of the other Gospels. It seems to be a synopsis of the experiences related in the other Gospels. For that reason we need to focus more on the fact of the Resurrection, rather than the details of the various accounts of the several appearances. Continue reading →
The apostles continued to do the miraculous work of Jesus, such as we hear in our lesson today from the Acts of the Apostles: the man, born lame, who has now been miraculously healed. There is a touchstone that the apostles used to effect the healing: Jesus’ name. So we read, the apostles had “faith in [Jesus’] name,” and “[Jesus’] name itself made the man strong.” There is power in a name. Continue reading →
The body would have begun decomposing very soon after death, both because the Jews did not practice embalming, and because of the Middle Eastern heat. The normal practice was to wash, then anoint the body with spices, including myrrh and aloes, to mask the smell of death. Then the body would have been wrapped, head to toe, with linen swaths and finally, the body shrouded with a linen garment before it was placed in the tomb. But nothing could mask the grief, then as now: the sadness, the tears, the questions without answers. All of this would have gone on during the visitation at the grave, where they rolled the stone away. I’m not speaking here about Jesus’ death; rather the death of Lazarus – Jesus’ beloved friend, brother to Mary and Martha. Jesus visits the tomb of Lazarus, and it is Jesus who weeps.1
This story of the death Lazarus is told in the Gospel according to John not that long before the story recording Jesus’ own death. In the case of Lazarus, Jesus looks into the tomb and proclaims with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And you may remember what happens: there’s a resurrection. Lazarus is brought back to life! Continue reading →
Today is the glorious culmination of these days of Holy Week. Today our Lord Jesus Christ has been raised gloriously from the dead. Alleluia!
Today is a day for rejoicing. He is risen! Alleluia!
It has been a wonderful Holy Week this year. But during the week I thought back to one particular Holy Week I once spent as a parish priest in England, when a friend of mine came to stay for the whole week. Richard and I used to teach together, and it was great to have him to stay. But Richard was not a person of faith. It was a very strange experience to be immersed in all the preparations and liturgies of Holy Week, and then to go home to someone who wasn’t really very interested. Perhaps some of you have that experience, with a spouse, a child, or a close friend. I actually used to feel a bit of a failure. He and my other non-believing friends know me so well – so why don’t they believe? I can’t be a very effective Christian – and a priest as well! Continue reading →