Thursday, April 21, 2022

Requiem for One Known Only to God April 20, 2022

 It was a truly beautiful Requiem Mass last night for the unknown person whose ashes were unclaimed for 60 years. Afterward we all processed out to the memorial garden for the Committal to finally lay this person to rest.


Censing the Urn
Censing the Urn
The Commendation
The Committal



Placing the ashes in the ground. 


Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter

 


April 17, 2022

 

John 20.1-18

 

 

+ I know that I’m going to be talking about this for years to come, but…

I have found myself these last few days thinking back to Easter two years ago.

Easter 2020 was one of the bleakest Easters I’ve ever experienced.

This church was empty.

The alleluias we exclaimed and sung that day were somewhat hollow.

9 people attended Mass that day—which consisted of the small pod of people who were helping with liturgies at that time, including our fledgling Livestream.

Even last year, although we were in a better place, still did not feel like ‘normal.”

Last year we were all still masked.

Our Holy Week liturgies were still sparsely attended.

Things didn’t feel like “normal” yet.

But, do you notice it this year?

It’s different.

We’re in a different place this year.

For those who attended our Holy Week liturgies this year, you definitely felt it and experienced it.

Our attendance numbers were much better than they even were in 2019.

And we even broke our attendance numbers for the Holy Saturday liturgy.

 

This is what Easter is all about.

Renewal.

Life after what seemed like such bleakness and death and sickness.

I have not felt this level gmailof joy during Holy Week and Easter ina  logn time.

And this morning, to make it even more incredible, we get to celebrate the baptism of Odin Jon Benson.

This, to me, is what it’s all about.

 

If anybody asks me, so what do you love most about being a Christian, I always say, Easter.

 

What isn’t there to love?

 

This is what it’s all about.

 

That holy moment—that moment when everything changed—when God raised Jesus from the tomb was the essential moment.  

 

The Jesus who appears to us on this Easter morning is not a ghost.

 

He is not a figment of our imagination.

 

He is not an illusion.

 

And this story isn’t a fairy tale.

 

Every so often, someone will come up to me and ask that age-old question: “Do you really believe in the Resurrection? Do really you believe that God raised Jesus from the grave?”

 

And my answer is always this: “Why not?”

 

Why couldn’t God do this?

 

And if we look long and hard at what happened on that Easter morning, we realize that what happened there was more than just some vague experience for some ancient people.

 

What happened to Jesus happens to us as well.

 

Everything since that point has been broken open for us.

 

Our old fear of death and dying—that’s all gone.

 

Because now we know that what we once held to be a mystery, is no longer a mystery.

 

What happens to us when we die?

 

We know now, because Jesus has been there already.

 

Jesus has gone there and by going there has defeated death.

 

What seemed to be the end—the bleak and horrible end on Good Friday afternoon—has been broken apart.

 

And what we are faced with is life.

 

Life that never ends.

 

Now, when people ask me if I believe in the Resurrection, I say that I do, but I usually leave it there.

 

Anything beyond my belief that it happened—and that it will happen for us—is beyond me.

 

I don’t understand it fully.

 

I still find bits and pieces of it being revealed to me.

 

I find on bad days or skeptical days that I’m, not certain I believe in it.

 

 

But what I have discovered is that, mostly, I find one deep, strong emotion coming forth in me when I ponder the Resurrection.

 

And that emotion is: joy.

 

In our Gospel reading for today, we find joy.

 

Joy comes to Mary Magdalene when she realizes that it is Jesus, resurrected, standing before her.

 

We can almost feel that joy emanating from her as she proclaims to the others: “I have seen the Lord.”

 

Joy is an emotion we seem to overlook.

 

We think, maybe of joy as some kind of warm, fuzzy feeling.

 

But joy is more than just feeling warm and fuzzy.

 

Joy is a confident emotion.

 

It is an emotion we can’t manufacture.

 

We can’t make joy happen within us.

 

Joy comes to us and comes upon us and bubbles up within us.

 

Joy happens when everything comes together and we know that all is good.

 

This morning we are feeling joy over the Resurrection—over the fact that today we celebrate the destruction of everlasting death.

 

See why I like Easter so much.

 

Easter, however, is what it’s all about to be a Christian.

 

What I talk about when I talk about Easter is that fact that today is truly the embodiment of the joy we should all feel as Christians.

 

Today is a day of joy. 

 

Today, we are all filled with joy at the resurrection and the fact that the resurrection will happen to us too.

 

This is a joy that sustains us and lifts us up when we need lifting up.

 

It is a joy that causes us to see what others cannot see.

 

The Resurrection reminds us that God dwells with us.

 

God dwells within us.

 

And to see God, all we have to do is look around and see God in the faces of those around us.

 

See, Easter is about the Resurrection of Jesus, but it’s also about us as well.

 

That Resurrection is our Resurrection too.

 

What happened to Jesus will happen to us as well.

 

Why?

 

Because God loves us.

 

God loves us just for who and what we are.

 

God loves us, just as God loved Jesus.

 

And just as God raised Jesus up on that first Easter day, God will raise us up as well.

 

No matter who we are.

 

All us, fully loved and fully accepted by our God, will be raised up, just as Jesus is raised today.

 

By doing so, we no longer have to fear things like death.

 

By raising Jesus up, God destroyed our fears of an uncertain future.

 

By raising Jesus up, God brought victory to all of our defeats and failures.

 

See, there is a reason for joy on this Easter morning.

 

In fact, it is joy that dwells with us and among us as we gather here.

 

Joy.

 

So, on this Easter morning, let this joy we feel at this moment not be a fleeting emotion.

 

Rather, let it live in us and grow in us.

 

Let it provoke us and motivate us.

 

Let it flow forth from us.

 

And when you live into this joy—when you let this joy fully consume you—every day with be Easter day to you.

 

Every day will be a day of resurrection.

 

Every day will be a day of renewed life.

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen.

 

The Lord is risen indeed!

 

Alleluia!

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Holy Saturday


 April 16, 2022

 

 

+ We’ve all been here.

 

We’ve been here, in this belly of    hell.

 

We’ve been in this place in which there is nothing.

 

Bleakness.

 

No hope.

 

Or so it seems.

 

It’s not just a bad place to be.

 

It’s the worst place to be.

 

We have been in that place in which we seemed abandoned.

 

Deserted.

 

No one was coming for us, we believed.

 

No one even knew we were here, in these depths of hell.

 

Hell.

 

Holy Saturday is the time in which we commemorate not only the fact that Jesus is lying in the tomb—in which we perform a liturgy that feels acutely like the burial service.

 

We also commemorate a very long belief that on this day, Jesus, although seemingly at rest in the tomb, was actually at work, despite the fact that it seemed he was dead.

 

He was in the depth of hell.

 

 

 

This belief, of course, comes to us from a very basic reading of 1 Peter, and from the early Church Fathers.

 

Jesus descended into hell and preached to those there.  

 

The popular term for this is the Harrowing of Hell.

 

He went to hell and harrowed until it was empty.

 

Whenever I preach about the Harrowing of Hell I always reference the famous icon of Jesus standing over the broken-open tombs pulling out Adam from one tomb and Eve from the other.

 

But there is another image I would like to draw your attention to—a more interactive image.

 

That image is, of course, the image of the labyrinth.

 

One of the many images used in walking the labyrinth is, of course, the Harrowing of Hell. 

 

When you think of the labyrinth, you can almost imagine Jesus trekking his way down to the very bowels of hell.

 

There, he takes those waiting for him and gently and lovingly leads them back through the winding path to heaven. 

 

It’s lovely to imagine and, whether it’s true or not, I like to cling to that image.

 

As a follower of Jesus, I find the story of the Harrowing of Hell to be so compelling.

 

I find it compelling, because I’ve been there.

 

I’ve been to hell.

 

More than once.

 

As we all have.

 

I have known despair.

 

I have known that feeling that I thought I would actually die from bleakness.

 

Or wished I could die.

 

But didn’t.

 

Even death wasn’t, in that moment, the worst thing that could happen.

 

That place of despair was.

 

It’s the worst place to be.

 

Which is why this morning’s liturgy is so important to me.

 

In the depth of hell, even there, when we think there is no one coming for us—just when we’ve finally given up hope, Someone does.

 

Jesus comes to us, there.

 

He comes to us in the depths of our despair, of our personal darkness, of that sense of being undead, and what does he do?

 

He leads us out.

 

I know this is a very unpopular belief for many Christians.

 

Many Christians simply cannot believe it.

 

Hell is eternal, they believe

 

And it should be.

 

If you turn your back on God, then you should be in hell forever and ever, they believe.

 

If you do wrong in life, you should be punished for all eternity, they will argue.

 

I don’t think it’s any surprise to any of you to hear me say that I definitely don’t agree.

 

And my faith speaks loudly to me on this issue.

 

The God I serve, the God I love and believe in, is not a God who would act in such a way.

 

Now, I am not saying there isn’t a hell.

 

There is a hell.

 

As I said, I’ve been there.

 

But if there is some metaphysical hell in the so-called “afterlife,” I believe that, at some point, it will be completely empty.

 

And heaven will be absolutely full.

 

What I do know is that the hell I believe in does exist.

 

And many of us—most of us—have been there at least once.

 

Some of us have been there again and again.

 

Any of us who have suffered from depression, or have lost a loved one, or have doubted our faith, or have thought God is not a God of love—we have all known this hell. 

 

But none of them are eternal hells.

 

I do believe that even those hells will one day come to an end.

 

I do believe that Jesus comes to us, even there, in the depths of those personal hells.

 

I believe that one day, even those hells will be harrowed and emptied, once and for all.

 

Until that day happens, none of us should be too content.

 

None of us should rejoice too loudly.  

 

None of should exult in our own salvation, until salvation is granted to all.

 

If there is an eternal hell and punishment, my salvation is not going to be what I thought it was.  

 

And that is the real point of this day.

 

I love the fact that, no matter where I am, no matter where I put myself, no matter what depths and hells and darknesses I sink myself into, even there Jesus will find me. 

 

And I know that the Jesus I serve and follow will not rest until the last of his lost loved ones is found and brought back.

 

It’s not a popular belief in the Christian Church.

 

And that baffles me.

 

Why isn’t it more popular?

 

Why do we not proclaim a Savior who comes to us in our own hells and bring us out?

 

Why do we not proclaim a God of love who will bring an end, once and for all, to hell? 

 

We as Christians should be pondering these issues.

 

And we should be struggling with them.

 

And we should be seeking God’s knowledge on them.

 

On this very sad, very bleak Holy Saturday morning, I find a great joy in knowing that, as far as we seem to be in this moment from Easter glory, Easter glory is still happening, unseen by us, like a seed slowly blooming in the ground.

 

That Victory of God we celebrate this evening and tomorrow morning and throughout the season of Easter is more glorious than anything we can imagine.

 

And it is more powerful than anything we can even begin to comprehend.

 

In my own personal hells the greatest moment is when I can turn from my darkness toward the light and find consolation in the God who has come to me, even there, in my personal agony.

 

Even there, God in Jesus comes to me and frees me.

 

God has done it before.

 

And I have no doubt God will do it again.  

 

In the bleak waters of abandonment, God has sent the buoy, the lifesaver of Jesus to hold us up and bring us out of the waters.

 

That is what we are celebrating this Holy Saturday morning.

 

That is how we find our joy.

 

Our joy is close at hand, even though it seems gone from us.

 

Our joy is just within reach, even in this moment when it seems buried in the ground and lost.

 

 

3 Pentecost

  June 26, 2022   1 Kings 19.15-16,19-21; Galatians 5.1,13-25; .Luke 9:51-62   + I don’t want to toot my own horn, but for any of y...