Open TombScripture Passage:  Luke 24: 1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,3but when they went in, they did not find the body.4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”8Then they remembered his words,9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

We have sat in silence in these hours in between, grieving our grief, feeling our despair, and not knowing where to turn.  But in the dawn of the morning, things look different.  The stone is rolled away and the tomb is empty.  He is not here.  He is Risen!  And suddenly, the dawn breaks into full light.  What once was gone is here; what once was dead is alive; what once was hopeless has brought hope and light and life to all.

Last evening was our Easter Vigil.  I guess we’re sort of wimps, so to speak.  We start at 6:00, read through the Scriptures, remember our Baptism, and then share in the Eucharist and it’s Easter!  But for Methodists, that’s pretty good.  The point, after all, is not how long it takes.  But, admittedly, we cut the waiting a little short.  I went early and began to set up for it, moving the worship items piece by piece through the darkened sanctuary.  I prepared the Eucharist and filled the pitcher with water for the Baptismal font.  As I did, I prayed for all of those who would be baptized at St. Paul’s this year, prayed for their lives, for their faith, for their openness.

You know, I think that’s what it’s about, this openness.  Think about it.  The Christian faith begins with an open tomb, an empty cup, and a dry font.  So the stone gets rolled away, the wine is poured into the cup, and the waters of life fill the bowl of our font.  And yet, we spend so much of our lives trying to fill our minds and fill our hearts and fill our lives and fill our wallets.  What would happen if THIS time, we opened them all up, exposing us to the world the way Jesus’ tomb was exposed that day?  What would happen if we were sent into the world vulnerable, open to change, with nothing but our faith? 

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1: 1-5)

You see, that’s where we are–back at the beginning.  God has taken a darkness-covered formless void in the form of a cross and when we were grieving and silent, we did not notice that a wind from God swept over it.  And God, “Let there be light.”  Let the light fill the emptiness; let the light sweep through the void; let the light not push the darkness away but, rather, turn it to light.  And THAT was only the first day.

Each of our days is a beginning.  Each of our days begins with an openness that God fills.  Come and see this thing that has happened.  God has taken this instrument of death and recreated it into life.  If God can do that, imagine what God could do in your life, if you were only open.  So, be open and be amazed at what will happen.

Grace and Peace,


On the Steps of Death

???????????Lectionary Passage for Today:

To read the Passion account assigned for today’s Lectionary Reading, go to John 18:1-19:42

How did we get here?  How did we so quickly move from the teachings on the hillside in Galilee to this?  I guess we kept thinking that he could make it better.  After all, he always made so much sense, always drawing us out of ourselves, out of the life that we thought we were supposed to have.  What could we have done differently?  It was right there, right in our hands.  Life was right there.  Why didn’t we pay more attention?  Why didn’t we dispense with silly arguing over who was greatest?  And what do we do now?  We can’t go back.  Everything has changed.  We have changed.  We are different.

The last three stations are the hardest.  The twelfth station depicts Jesus’ death on the cross.  “It is finished.” As Jesus breathed his last, the temple curtain tore in two, revealing a new world in which holiness was no longer separate and hidden from view.  Trembling and shaking in the darkness, the earth opened to reveal a glimpse of a future yet to be.  And through our grief and tears, God entered the heartbreak and brokenness of the world and in that moment began recreating it.  In this moment, God’s future enters our present.  And in the most unfathomable act of love, the cross becomes God’s highest act of Creation.  Because with it, we and all of Creation are made new.  That which is finished is the beginning of life.  In this moment, our own eternity is conceived.    

Station 13 of this Via Dolorosa has Jesus being taken down from the cross and his body given to his mother.  There is no documentation of this in canonical Scripture.  Perhaps it was skipped.  It is a hard thing, after all because, after all, it is indeed over.  There is a sickening finality to it all.  Why did it have to end like this?  Why did it have to end at all?  We were just beginning to understand.  We were just beginning to get what we were supposed to be doing.  And now it is over.  And then there’s this darkness.  It’s never been this dark at this time of day.  It adds to the pall of our souls.  We have to go back now.  But to what?  After all, deep down we know that he changed us.  How can we live now in the world?  How can we go back?  And yet, in this moment of our deepest despair, we remember that we have found love.  Life will be different because we have found love.

Station 14 is the burial of Jesus in the Garden Tomb.  Joseph of Arimathea, a “secret disciple”, we are told, provided a tomb that no one had ever used.  It was appropriate, this virgin tomb, a fitting ending as someone finally made room.  How can we leave?  We have walked away from graves before and left the remains of a life behind us.  But this…this is different.  And so we strip our altars and we strip our lives and we try to make room for you.  And then we wait.  We wait for you to come.  We wait for you to rise.  We keep vigil and we enter into deep prayer,
knowing the day will come.  And we wait.  We wait for our eternity to be born.  We waited for your coming once before, for your birth.  But this is
different.  Now we wait for our own.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In what seemed no time at all, Bethlehem has become Golgotha, swaddling clothes have become burial cloths, and the manger?  The manger has become a cross.  God did not send Jesus to die but to love.  And he did that to the end.  And somewhere along the way, we have changed.  We haven’t become who we are called to be yet but the road has turned and we know that Life is up ahead.

Where Are You Christmas? (Faith Hill, How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

The pilgrims sit on the steps of death.  Undanced, the music ends.  Only the children remember that tomorrow’s stars are not yet out.  (Ann Weems, “It is Finished”, from Kneeling in Jerusalem, 77)

Grace and Peace,


Can You Feel The Love Tonight?

last supperToday’s Lectionary Passage:  John 31: 1-17, 31b-35

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.2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.5Then 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.6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”10Jesus 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.”11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”12After 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?13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.33Little 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.’34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Can you feel the love tonight?  Can you feel something beyond where you were?  It’s a hard night.  We know what is coming tomorrow.  We have read the story over and over again–the story of loss and betrayal, of the disciples sleeping, of Jesus’ surrender, of Jesus being dragged off to the house of Caiaphas on this very night.  We have over and over and over experienced regret and bewilderment and grief.  But, do we ever remember the love of this night?  They came together for a passover dinner.  I always thought that they were alone, gathered in some sort of stuffy upstairs room with Leonardo da Vinci standing on the side painting the scene for posterity.  But then I saw, even if it was a “traditional understanding” of the place, the Upper Room.  It was big, bigger than I had ever imagined.  What dawned on me was that this was Passover, the community gathering.  Jesus wasn’t just there crammed into some sort of painting with the disciples; he was there with the community, sharing life and and community and food.  But at some point, he sat down with his closest friends and it became intimate.  It become a dinner of love on that last night.  They shared food; they shared wine; and Jesus washed their feet.  Jesus showed them what intimacy and love for another human really meant–that one would become vulnerable, would do for another what perhaps was not the most comfortable thing to do.  Love became not a caring or a sharing but an entering, an entering into the life of another.

This foot washing thing is hard.  It is way too intimate for us westerners.  After all, we are pretty private, seemingly reserved; we honor each other’s imaginary space.  But once a year, St. Paul’s does this at the mid-day Maundy Thursday service.  It’s a small service, intimate really.  I remember the first year we did it.  We were retiscent, hesitant to trust that people would come through.  So, admittedly,  we had a couple of “ringers”.  Well, the ringers came and then the rest did.  I sat there on the floor moved by something that I had never experienced.  I was touching people’s feet.  They had removed their shoes at the pew and had walked barefoot to the seat where we had the plastic tub in which water would be poured over their feet.  It was incredible.

And then Caroline came.  Caroline–in her full Nigerian dress and her permanent posture of prayer.  She came and she sat and she placed her foot in the water.  I picked up her foot.  Caroline and her family were part of the Nigerian freedom movement.  She had come from the tribes and had wanted more.  She had worked hard, always putting aside her own desires for what she thought was important–others and God.   I looked at this older woman’s foot in my hands, deep with lines of life and passion, and I had tears my eyes.  I was holding life.  I was not holding someone’s foot.  I was holding their life.  I was affirming them, praying for them, washing away for them all the things that got in the way of what they so treasured.  As I was gingerly washing Caroline’s foot, she looked up into the ceiling and she began to pray.  They were words that I did not understand and composed a prayer that I understood completely.  It was incredible.  It was love at its deepest level–love for Christ, love for humanity, love for each other, love for God and all that we have together.  Caroline died a few years ago.  She left the most incredible love.  At her memorial service, I remembered that day.  I remembered that day that  was filled with love, that was filled with the Presence of Christ on that night.

You see, love is a funny thing.  It is not perfect.  Jesus knew that on that night.  He and the disciples did not sing “Kum-ba-yah” and then leave.  In Jesus’ life, love meant rejection and exile, frustration and misunderstanding, Presence and turning, welcome and redemption.  This very night, Love would be apathy and betrayal, surrender and pardon.  But, in this moment, love was a bunch of friends who had a dinner together and had their feet washed–feet filled with lines of life and passion.  Jesus washed their feet and held their life.  That’s all love is about.  Love is Life.  Love brings us together in a way that does not subdue us into one but embraces who we are.  Love takes all that we are and creates Love.  Nothing else can create itself.

Ruins of Caiaphas' House, Jerusalem, Israel, 2010
Ruins of Caiaphas’ House, Jerusalem, Israel, 2010

On this night, we take all that we are, sinners and saints, kings and vagabonds, the betrayer and the beloved, the anointed and the one who anoints, the nay-sayers and the ones who miss the signs of the sacred,  the pharisee and the rule-breaker, the faith-filled and the doubter, Caroline and me–we are all here, gathered together showered in the most incredible love imagineable.  Can you feel the love tonight?

Tomorrow we will kneel at the cross.  But, tonight, in this moment, can you feel the love?

Grace and Peace,


If I Could Turn Back Time

Judas BetrayalToday’s Lectionary Passage:  John 13: 21-32

21After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.  31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

Poor Judas!  We take this story so literally most of the time, pinning all the bad in all the world on the one that Biblical translations and exegetical interpretations have branded the betrayer, the bad seed, the evil one, the poster child for the worst sin imagineable.  In fact, Dante’ puts Judas in the fourth level of the ninth circle of hell, the lowest rung of the inferno, along with Brutus and Brutus’ co-hort Cassius.   Me?  I tend to err more on the side of mercy.  Because truth be known, don’t you think that Simon Peter was nervous when he was asking that question.  “Lord, who is it?”  In other words, “is it I”?  “Am I the one that will betray my Lord?”  After all, I’m not sure than any of the disciples really came to the forefront.  None of them stood out that night or the next day as glowing examples of who God calls us to be.  They were scared; they were unsure about their own well-being; and they were certainly unsure what life would hold next.  Maybe some had begun to figure out what was about to happen.  I think most of them were like us, living in some sort of state of denial thinking that we are doing the right thing and that everything will turn out alright.

And don’t you think that all of them, Judas included, looked back on the night the next morning and thought, “If only…if only I could turn back time.”?  (yeah, I know that’s a Cher song!) So why did Judas do it?  Oh, please, why do any of us do what we do?  We all have regrets; we’ve all made mistakes; we’ve all wished that somehow we could turn back time.  The truth is, there is a little Judas in all of us.  But in this same passage, there is another character introduced:  “the one whom Jesus loved”.   This is the epitome of light against the foil of Judas in his darkest hour as his actions usher in the time that brings Jesus’ presence as the light of this world to a close.  There is all kinds of speculation.  Was it someone that we don’t know?  Was it Mary Magdelene?  Or was it, perhaps, even Judas? 

Judas could not live with what he had done. The writer of Matthew’s Gospel says that Judas would end his own life that next morning.  (Matthew 27: 3-5)

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. 

And yet, Jesus, knowing what was about to happen, welcomed Judas to the table; in fact, Jesus welcomed all of them, that motley crew of misfits that never really could get it together and were always in competition with each other, that lot of sinners and saints.  The truth is we are all both–the betrayer and the beloved, the sinner and the saint.   God does not love us in spite of who we are; God loves us because of who we are.  The question that we should ask ourselves is whether or not we believe that anyone is ever beyond God’s redemption, beyond God’s love, beyond God’s power to pick up and recreate.  This night of betrayal does not end that way.  This night ends with love and with life.  Because, you see, when it’s all said and done, God really does turn back time.

Madeleine L’Engle tells an old legend that after his death Judas found himself at the bottom of a deep and slimy pit.  For thousands of years he wept his repentance, and when the tears were finally spent he looked up and saw, way, way up, a tiny glimmer of light.  After he had contemplated it for another thousand years or so, he began to try to climb up towards it.  The walls of the pit were dank and slimy, and he kept slipping back down.  Finally, after great effort, he neared the top, and then he slipped and fell all the way back down.  It took him many years to recover, all the time weeping bitter tears of grief and repentance, and then he started to climb again.  After many more falls and efforts and failures he reached the top and dragged himself into an upper room with twelve people seated around a table.  “We’ve been waiting for you, Judas.  We couldn’t begin till you came. (From “Waiting for Judas”, by Madeleine L’Engle, in Bread and Wine:  Readings for Lent and Easter (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 2003), 312.)

Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, 2010
Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, 2010

So, as you walk through this week, remember that we are all Judas but, more importantly, we are all beloved.  And, remember, that God really does turn back time, so to speak, gathering all of us to the table and recreating us into the fullness of God’s vision for all.  But God cannot begin until you come.

“If I Could Turn Back Time” (Cher)

Grace and Peace,


Splitting Seeds

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comToday’s Lectionary Passage: John 12: 20-36

20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very 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. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.  27“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. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

The twelfth chapter of John contains most of what Jesus had to say about his own death in that Gospel. And this is where we sort of start shutting down, isn’t it?  We liked sitting there listening to accounts of his birth, the stories of his calling the disciples, and those wonderful little parables that fill the Gospel-readings with drama and wisdom and sometimes leaving us with a knot in our stomach as we begin to see ourselves through Jesus’ eyes.  We even liked the beautiful story yesterday of the extravagant anointing of our Savior.  But this…this is coming a little too close to the edge.

Do you remember running through the sprinkler when you were kids?  You want to do it.  You want to feel that cool, refreshing feeling right after you do it.  But it’s that first blast of cold, paralyzing water that takes your breath away that you dread and so you put it off.  And then, finally, you hold your breath and run through it as fast as you can.  That’s almost what we have a tendency to do with the cross.  We dread it as we slowly walk toward it, dragging our feet a bit, not really wanting to experience it again—the memories and reliving of the horror, the violence, the suffering, the pain, the loss, the grief, the ending of all we know.  And as we approach, we then let our minds run quickly through it toward Easter morning when everything will be OK again.

But now is the time for the Son of Man to be glorified.  For, as Jesus says, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just single lone grain, worth nothing; but if it dies, it bears fruit and lives on.  You see, wheat is as a caryopsis, meaning that the outer “seed” and the inner fruit are connected.  The seed essentially has to die so that the fruit can emerge.  If you were to dig around in the ground and uproot a stalk of wheat, you would not find the original seed.  It is dead and gone.  In essence, the grain must allow itself to be changed. So what Jesus is trying to tell us here is that if we do everything in our power to protect our lives the way they are—if we successfully thwart change, avoid conflict, prevent pain; in other words, if we expect everything to go back to the way it was before—then at the end we will find that we have no life at all.

Jerusalem 17This week of remembering is not an historical accounting of the events so long ago;  this is not only Jesus’ journey to the cross; it is ours.  You see, the tide has turned.  Jerusalem is there before us, the cross probably almost fully constructed at this point.  The problem is that we’re supposed to believe without faltering in the cross. We look at that big gleaming cross in the front of the sanctuary.  We see them on the doors to the church and on the sign outside.  Good grief, we even hang them around our necks. But, contrary to what most of Christianity holds out there as “belief”, I don’t think we were meant to worship the cross.  We were meant to worship God, to hunger and thirst in the deepest parts of our being to encounter God.  Well, we can’t see God.  If we could there’d be no need for faith.  But we can see Jesus, the One who points the Way to God.  But this Jesus is more than a leader.  He is more than a teacher.  Jesus is the One on the Cross.  And at that moment, God will do something incredible.  God will take the worst of this world, the worst of humanity, the worst of proof or sensibility, at a cost that no one can fathom…and recreate it.  In that moment on the Cross, God takes the worst of us and the best of God and reconciles them, redeeming us into oneness with God, pouring the Divine into humanity for all time.  But you have to be willing to let go, willing to change; you have to allow that seed that you are right now holding so tightly die away.

So as we walk through this holiest of weeks, remember that this is not Jesus’ journey that you walk; it is yours.  Let go that you might finally see what God has in store.

Grace and Peace,


How Much is Too Much?

anointing-jesus-feetLectionary Passage for Today: John 12: 1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”9When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well,11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Perhaps no one noticed when Mary got up and left the room.  Perhaps no one noticed when she quietly returned carrying a jar full of oil.  But then they noticed…With drama befitting a king, she raised the jar, broke the seal and in one movement, poured the entire bottle onto Jesus’ feet.  Then as the oil slowly runs down his feet and begins to drip to the floor, she wipes his feet with her hair.  The whole house is filled with this overwhelming fragrance. And the empty jar is cast aside.

In our faith understanding, the Sacrament of Baptism is the beginning of our life as a Christian, a new life in Christ, the beginning of a journey toward oneness with God, toward the life of Christ.  The waters of Baptism remind us of God’s ever-Presence in our lives, of God’s claim on us, and of the great love that God has for us that was revealed in Christ.  It is sacramental because it is God’s love made visible for us.  Through this sacrament, we enter this journey with God.  And the Eucharist is, for us, an entering into that Presence of God.  It makes God’s Presence real.  We don’t understand it.  It’s a wonderful holy mystery.  But somewhere in that bread, somewhere in that juice, is the very real Presence of God.

But you can’t help but listen to the story of Mary’s anointing without hearing the same language—Mary took, poured, and wiped.  We will hear those same words this Thursday in the account of Jesus’ last meal:  Jesus took the bread, poured out the wine, and wiped the feet of the disciples, and through these common gestures and such common touch, Jesus shows us what true love is.  And as Mary takes, and pours, and wipes, she shows that same love toward Christ, and as the storm clouds begin to gather outside, this small crowded house in Bethany becomes a cathedral, the bottle that held the oil becomes a font, and this simple meal becomes a Eucharist. Through her touch, through her love, the ordinary becomes sacred.  Mary enters Jesus’ life and he becomes part of her.  Her life becomes an extravagant sacrament that shows Jesus’ love to the world.  And she, with Jesus, is on the journey to the Cross.  And the whole world is now forever filled with the fragrance of that perfume.

So, how much is too much?  Where did Mary cross the line?  Where was the point when someone could have reasonably said, “stop, that’s enough”?  Well, the truth is, I wish I could be more like her, wish I could give all of myself without holding back, wish I could break the jar and break the rules, and do something extravagant for love rather than for the right reason.  Because in this moment, Mary began walking with Jesus to the cross.  In this moment, she abandoned herself and poured everything out.  In that moment she became sacrament.  I don’t think it was too much.

In this holiest of weeks, become sacrament.  Do not count the cost.  Break the seal and pour yourself out.

Grace and Peace,



palm_sunday_roadToday’s Lectionary Passage:  Luke 19: 28-40

28After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

I love Palm Sunday at St. Paul’s.  I love starting on the Plaza out in what hopefully abundant sunlight and just enough of a breeze to cool us off without wrapping the banners around us.  (That happened to me one year as I turned the corner along Main Street.)  It is grand; it is glorious, taking us into the sanctuary with celebration, waving our palm branches and singing the well-known Palm Sunday hymns.   And yet, we know what’s coming.  We know that the celebration will end and reality will set in.  So there’s a sense that we love the processional while wanting to hold back just a bit, stay in the procession just a bit longer, basking in the excitement.

Jesus is in the bustling capital city.  He is no longer in the villages and open country of his home.  The celebratory parade is also a protest march.  The disciples should have known what was happening.  Jesus had already laid it out for them.  But they still did not comprehend what he had said.  At this moment Jesus begins the sharp descent down the Mt. of Olives, winding his way toward Jerusalem.  The road that he walked is a steep decline into the Garden of Gethsemane and then begins to ascend toward Mt. Moriah and then to the place of the temple. At this moment, the crowd sees him as a king, as one who will get them out of where they are.  So this is a parade that befits a king.  “Hosanna”, “the Coming One”, the one who restores Jerusalem. 

Jesus enters.  This is the moment.  This is it.  What they didn’t recognize is that Jesus entering from the east brought them something that they had never had before—the dawn of peace, truth, justice, and love.  What they didn’t recognize is that Jesus had indeed come to restore them not to what was but to what should’ve been all along.  So,sadly, the parade would fizzle.  As it turns and begins moving toward Bethany, toward the edge of the walled city, people turn and go back to their lives.  And Jesus, virtually alone, with a few disciples in tow, enters the gate.  Jesus is in Jerusalem.

Well, of course, we know what happens after that.  The stage is set.  The characters are in place.  The next five days would play out in a way that is, of course, NOT “in a way befitting”.  But, for now, this procession, this entrance, is important.  Processions always are.  They are transitions.  They take us from place to the next. Processions are a call to begin something different, to enter that new thing that God is doing.  Essentially, this Palm Sunday processional is exactly that—a calling to move to a different place.  It is scary because we know what lies ahead.  We know that just beyond those city gates lies a city that will not be kind over the next several days, a city that will certainly not act in a way befitting of who it is and who it is called to be.  It is a city that is not in procession, a city that will attempt to silence the cries to change the world.

Eastern Golden Gate of JerusalemWe are always in procession, always moving from one way of being to another. We are moving from darkness to light, from living with a fear of scarcity to living with an embrace of the abundance that God offers, from self-centeredness to self-surrender, from a certainty of who we are and who we should be to faith in a God who will lead us to a new thing.  In this procession, we are moving from death to life.  There, up ahead, there are the gates of the city. The waters have parted.  The question is, is this the point where we drop out and go back to our lives? Or do we stay in procession, walking with Jesus, walking through the gates, knowing what lies ahead?  Havelock Ellis once said that “the promised land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”  This is our wilderness.  This is our movement from slavery to freedom.  This is our procession to life.  So, keep walking. 

…Our hosannas sung, our palms waved, let us go with passion into this week…It is a time for preparation…The only road to Easter morning is through the unrelenting shadows of that Friday.  Only then will the alleluias be sung; only then will the dancing begin. (From “Holy Week”, by Ann Weems, in Kneeling in Jerusalem)

Grace and Peace,