- Published on Monday, 23 June 2014 07:42
Pentecost is a beginning. 50 days from Easter, it’s the day that we remember when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples with a rushing wind and tongues of fire. It’s the day that we think about what the disciples managed to do over the next hours, years, and centuries as they took the good news of Jesus first to the people gathered in Jerusalem for Shavuot or Pentecost, the Feast of weeks that celebrated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, and later towards the end of the earth. Pentecost is the birthday of the church.
But as we celebrate that birthday this weekend, I’d like us to spend some time thinking about the ways that Pentecost is also an ending. There are two Biblical narrative that I think come to their conclusion on the day of Pentecost. The first is the resurrection of Jesus.
But Easter was weeks ago…aren’t we past that yet? I think that Hollywood in general and Disney movies in particular may have spoiled some of the inherent tension present in the Easter resurrection. In our tendency to think of Easter as the Disney-ending to the Crucifixion story, we lose a lot of the complexity in the Gospels. We think that yes, there may have been some confusion at first about Jesus, and Thomas doubted for a little while, mostly we focus on the doubt-free joyous reunion between the disciples and the miraculously-raised Son of God. (The Son of God that we assume the disciples understood theologically about the same that we do, having the benefit of two thousand years of hindsight.) Easter is over. Jesus was resurrected. The disciples’ grief and confusion is resolved. The end. Roll credits.
- Published on Monday, 16 June 2014 07:57
Many times around the world, the Gospel has taken root in places prepared by the blood of martyrs. Today we read the story of Christianity’s first martyr, Stephen. Before he was killed, he had vividly LIVED the gospel, beginning in a very humble way by becoming one of the seven leaders chosen to supervise the distribution of food to widows in the early church. This was needed especially because they were being neglected in the distribution.
The problem developed in those early days because the Hebrews who were the native Jewish Christians, spoke Aramaic, a Semitic language. The Hellenists, Greek speaking Christians, were probably Jews from other lands who were converted at Pentecost. Those speaking Greek complained that their widows were being unfairly treated, probably because of the language barrier. (Makes me wonder why there were Greek widows. Did they travel with the Greek men for Pentecost? Then stayed in Jerusalem because they were converted? Interesting . . .) So that the apostles could concentrate on preaching and teaching, seven respected Greek speaking men were put in charge. Stephen being one of them. Rather humiliating first job – the widows!
Luke describes Stephen as “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (6:5) and “full of grace and power” (6:8) This is the portrait of a remarkable and godly man. He is also the first besides the apostles whom Luke specifically tells us “did great wonders and signs.” Because the Jewish leaders could only find charges against Stephen by being dishonest they resorted to false witnesses. The trumped up charges of these men ensured that Stephen was taken before the high priest and the Sanhedrin.
- Published on Tuesday, 03 June 2014 09:38
2 Peter 1:16-21
Homilist: Randal Wisbey
There is something innately mysterious about mountains.
This seems especially true for those of us who live in this part of southern California. We can, at times, go for days or weeks without seeing the mountains—especially during the hot, hazy, and smoggy days of summer. However, when they are covered in snow, it is enough to takes one’s breath away. For when these mountains are adorned in white, they look far bigger, far more magnificent. Seven year’s ago, during our first winter here, I remember looking out our bedroom window, catching my first glimpse of them covered in snow, and calling out to Deanna, “We live in the alps!”
There is something within us that responds to mountains. The way they capture our imagination. The manner in which they pull our eyes skyward. The sense of accomplishment when we climb a mountain, the joy of floating weightlessly as we ski down a mountain, or, I imagine, when one jumps off a mountain, the feeling of absolute abandon—and terror! It’s really not surprising that when we experience something extraordinary, we describe it as a mountain-top experience.
Click on the PDF file to read the rest of the homily.
- Published on Monday, 09 June 2014 10:51
Mr. Cleopas:My name is Cleopas. You heard of me this morning in Luke’s gospel. My wife also figures in Luke’s account but, alas, she is not named. Today for the sake of convenience, and because you do not know her name, I’ll call her Mrs. Cleopas. Women were not always singled out in biblical narrative, so one might assume that an unnamed person noted in scripture might very well be feminine. And that, I say, is true even in Luke, who does better than other gospel writers in giving women a place and a voice.
Mrs. Cleopas:Thank you, Mr. Cleopas, for allowing me to appear with you. But what I suggest we discuss is not me but Jesus’ visit with us after his resurrection. For truly we had come to love him, to love all that he seemed to represent for the future of Israel.
Mr. Cleopas: Yes indeed. You cannot imagine how depressed we were. As Mrs. Cleopas says, we loved Jesus and could not believe he was no longer with us. We Followers of the Way believed that Jesus had come to redeem God’s people, but he had died. Did that mean that he and his cause had failed? It was extremely difficult for us to walk that Sunday afternoon after Jesus’ execution. We had hoped that things would have turned out differently. Instead we were left with the Romans still in power, the Jewish leaders continuing to try to placate Rome and her governors, and we mired in despair. Our path home to Emmaus after Passover seemed more than ever dusty and rough. Then suddenly we both were aware that someone new was walking with us. We did not recognize him.
- Published on Saturday, 29 March 2014 20:25
Homilist: Lawrence Downing
This week’s Reading from Exodus 17 records the story I first heard as a child. Where? Cradle Roll? Uncle Arthur’s The Bible Story? (It is not in there.) A sermon? I can’t tell you. It is one of the many narratives that draw again and again back to the Old Testament. Stories are much more interesting than a bone-dry theological discourse, no?
I was struck by the relevancy of the account. How could the timing be better? When I read the passage, we are smack in the throws of drought. A drought, one reporter opined to be, “Of biblical proportions.” Only a slight change in situation between those days and ours: we have no Moses. There is no Mt. Horeb, nor rock nor rod that struck the Nile and, until a few days ago, no water!
These factors are not what caught my attention. No! What stopped me cold was the Great Question that arose from among the People of Israel as they contemplated their demise. They reflected back on the recent water/rock event and verbalized what others only in the safest places dare ask: Is the Lord among us or not?