1 Peter 2:2-10
“I am the way, and the truth and the life.”
The professor who taught me criminal law was scarcely older than his students. He was brilliant and charming and kind. He and his family had been refugees from Hungary, whether from the Nazis or the Communists I’m not sure. They were Jewish. While still a young man, Paul Bator was diagnosed with cancer, which progressed quickly to his brain. One day he awoke totally deaf, not long after totally blind. Shortly before he died, he wrote a letter to his friends, which one of them shared with me. “Don’t feel sorry for me,” he said. “I have everything I need: chocolate and raspberries and Jesus.” Continue reading ‘Easter 5 May 22, 2011′
On all the Easter Days before I was ordained, when I sat where you sit, listening to Easter sermons rather than preaching them, I always came to church with one great question: Will this fellow, the preacher, say that he believes this stuff – really believes – or will he waffle? Will he (it was always a he in those long ago days) just go on about new life and new energy, resurrection as metaphor or image or inspiring story? Or will he say, Jesus really rose from the dead, the tomb was really empty, he really appeared to his disciples, this stupendous and supernatural thing really happened, and I, preacher man, really believe it, really stake my life on it? Which kind of sermon am I going to hear? Coming to church like you, that was always the question I had in my mind.
So this is my last Easter sermon, probably the last one I will ever preach, and I want to tell you right up front that I really believe this stuff – that it really happened, empty tomb, bodily resurrection, miraculous appearances and all. I really believe it, and I really stake my life on it. So there you have it, and the rest of what I’m about to say is all by way of explaining what I’ve just confessed. Continue reading ‘Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day April 24, 2011′
1 Kings 17:17-24 June 6, 2010
Luke 7:11-17 John L. McCausland
The Bible is peppered with poor widows. Like the two in the readings today, they are almost all nameless. Women in general in biblical society were without rights, including the right to own property. Indeed, they were themselves property, property of the men in their lives: first of their fathers, then of their husbands, then of their sons. And if they were widowed, they depended completely on their children, particularly their male children, to support and protect them. So these two stories tell us something important when they explain that in each case the widows had only one son, and that son was dead. Here we have two women utterly without earthly security, as good as without identity or meaning.
Why is the Bible so fond of these poor widows? I think it’s because you and I, all of us, are in reality just a few steps away from poor widowhood ourselves. Yes, of course, we have legal rights and a social safety net and material comforts beyond what all but a tiny few enjoyed in the time of Jesus. But for all of that, we really don’t have much control over our lives and the world. We have little idea what the world will be like in 50 years, whether there will even be human beings on the earth’s face. And in the shorter range, we don’t know about our own health five years from now, or the security of our children or grandchildren. So the poor widows of Scripture are Everyman, Everywoman, the human condition stripped of illusions — us. Continue reading ‘Pentecost 2 June 6, 2010′
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
Last Sunday Jude Desmarais, our breakfast chef, was out of town, attending his daughter Carina’s graduation from the University of Michigan. So the whole responsibility for breakfast lay on Kourtney Williams, the high school junior who’s been working as Jude’s assistant. She was nervous, but she pulled it off beautifully.
Talking with her about it, I told her of a story that I’d read when I was little in a children’s magazine we got, Jack and Jill. The story was about a little girl who had to prepare dinner for herself because of some emergency absence of her mother. The girl had fixed dinner with her mother present, but never alone. So she went up to the attic and brought down a dressmaker’s dummy – something common back then when more people made their own clothes. She put one of her mother’s dresses on the dummy and pretended her mother was there, giving her cooking instructions. And she cooked her dinner all by herself.
“Do you want to be made well?” Jesus asks the man in the gospel this morning. The man had been ill for 38 years and was lying by a pool in Jerusalem noted for its healing powers – powers attributed to angels who stirred up its waters from time to time. The problem the sick man had was that no one was there to carry him into the pool at the crucial moment, and when he tried to drag himself in he was always crowded out by others waiting to enter the waters. And what does Jesus do about this? He says to the man, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” Which the man does, and he is healed. Then comes the cryptic statement: “Now that day was a sabbath.” Continue reading ‘Easter 6 May 9, 2010′
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
– John 13:34
“If you love me,” says the teenager in the parked car to his girl friend, “you will do what I want.” “Oh, I just love myself!” gushes the woman on the total make-over show as she admires her new face, new clothes and new hair in a mirror. “Love makes the world go round,” runs an old song. And of course, “Don’t you love those Red Sox?” Love, love, love.
Talk about love puts me in mind of the Supreme Court Justice who wrote in an opinion that he couldn’t define pornography, but he knew it when he saw it. I can’t define love, but I know it when I see it. We don’t see it all that often – not real love. But we see it in Jesus. “Just as I have loved you,” he says, “you also should love one another.” Church is not about a bunch of ideas, concepts, rules and regulations, even biblical texts. Church is about a person: Jesus. About learning to see ourselves, to see all life, in terms of the love we see in Jesus. Continue reading ‘Easter 5 May 2, 2010′
Most of the year, talking about Jesus and the readings we have from the Bible Sunday by Sunday is easy. It’s more a matter of what not to say, of focus, from all the rich possibilities – the insights, the applications to our lives, the challenges and the consolations. But then along comes Easter.
Easter is different – radically so. Here is not just Jesus the great teacher, the inspiring example of how to live. Here is no story from ordinary life. The Resurrection is radically discontinuous from everything else. People don’t just rise from the dead. We don’t know what to make of it. Believe it – and if so, what does that mean for our lives? Or disbelieve it – write it off as just a beautiful story, a metaphor for springtime though less tangible than the Easter bunny? Yes, Easter is a challenge to us. Continue reading ‘Easter 2 April 11, 2010′
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. – Luke 24:11
One cold February morning a young man, just 18, woke up in his bed. It was a Sunday and in the distance a church bell was ringing. The young man sat there a moment, then he said to himself quite suddenly, unexpectedly, “I do believe in God and I’m going to do something about it.” And he got up and went to church.
This was a decision he made. He had not been at all sure about God, whether he believed, who or what God was, what God – if there were a God – might have to do with his life. He was far from home, you see, at college, on his own really for the first time. He was being challenged by teachers to think for himself, to make up his mind. “You can’t just go through life in neutral,” one young instructor had said to his class. “You must decide, you must own what you decide, and you must be prepared to defend it and live it out in your life.”
So he went to church, that February morning. And he has never looked back. And it has made all the difference. That young man stands before you this Easter morning. Continue reading ‘Easter Day April 4, 2010′
1 John 3:1-7
It would have been very easy for the first followers of Jesus to have spoken of him simply as a great teacher, a holy man who exemplified everything we should be in our lives. That would have gone down more smoothly in their day, as it certainly does in ours, where many people believe just that. But this is not the Jesus to whom the earliest witnesses testify. They give us this risen Christ—a human being crucified, wounded in hands and feet and side, but a human being raised from the dead, a physical presence who ate physical food and whose physical body could be touched, particularly his wounds. A human being who was thus also the Son of God. This resurrection reality is what the first followers insisted upon, what they were persecuted and died for. Continue reading ‘Easter 3 April 26, 2009′
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
When I was a little boy our family went to the Unitarian Church. In a lot of ways it was a good religious beginning for me. I learned to love and honor God’s creation, to respect other people and their beliefs, to value justice and peace, and maybe most of all to appreciate the importance of rational thought. Unitarianism, at least in its American form, grew up with our Nation in the first half of the nineteenth century. It was about casting off the superstitions and hierarchies of the Old World and building a New World based on enlightened values. But one thing we didn’t have at the Unitarian church, at least the one my family went to, was Easter. Continue reading ‘Easter Day April 12, 2009′
O.T. History of Salvation
Around the church tonight is this wonderful series of quilt-style banners depicting the story of God’s saving work through history. We have six of them now; Nancy Stehno just completed the one over the organ, illustrating a passage from the Book of Proverbs about Wisdom being more precious than gold. Nancy, I hesitate to tell you this, but there are six more we could do, if we draw on both the Episcopal and Revised Common Lectionaries! But, one at a time. That’s the way God works, so you can work that way too.
Actually, there could be more than 12 banners. There could be an infinite string of banners, stretching into the future, because God is working out God’s plan of salvation in every one of our lives, in the world around us, in every event in the news—even the terrible ones. Continue reading ‘Easter Vigil April 11, 2009′