Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter 2016

Christ is risen! The tradition in Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches is a greeting and response. “Christ is risen.” “He is risen indeed!” It’s a liturgical formula, like ‘the Lord be with you’/‘and with your spirit.’ But it’s also the center point of Christian faith. On Good Friday we stay awhile at the foot of the Cross, and it is right that we should do so. But even that we only do because we know the ending. If that were the end of Jesus, we would not venerate His Cross. We would not wear crosses around our necks and hang them on our walls. We wouldn’t have a religion at all! St. Paul said it bluntly and honestly: if Christ isn’t risen, then all the rest of it is junk, or, in his words, ‘we are the people most to be pitied on earth.’


But you know what? Christ is risen!

My invitation to you is to set that fact right at the center of your life. Whatever you worry about in life, whatever hurt you bear… I’m not going to stand here and tell you to just get over it. That would be to ignore Good Friday, and we don't do that. But if you put the Risen Christ at the center of your life, you’ll have hope. And you’ll have perspective. Whatever comes, God’s going to work it out. Maybe not the way you expected. Maybe not the way you asked. Maybe not on this side of death. But He will. The Resurrection means it’s never too late, and it’s never hopeless. It’s the story of a man who was saved three days after the nick of time.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Holy Thursday 2016

A little language diversion? We usually call this ‘Holy Thursday,’ but you might occasionally hear the term ‘Maundy Thursday,’ especially in Britain. That comes from the Latin ‘mandatum,’ which means ‘mandate’ or ‘commandment.’ And what is the mandate Jesus gives us on Maundy Thursday? 

“You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example, so that as I have done to you, you should also do.”
Duccio di Buoninsegna: Washing of Feet, detail.


This day is one of those days that packs so many meanings, you have to choose something to focus on in the sermon. It’s about the ordained priesthood. It’s about the gift of the Eucharist. It’s about the Agony in the Garden. It’s about the betrayal of Judas. All of these aspects are essential to Holy Thursday. If you like to think musically, it’s as though the whole year introduces different motifs and variations. Now we are arriving at the finale, and all the motifs return, weaving together, leading up to the climax of Easter Morn.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Caught: 5th Sunday Lent 2016

Here’s a little hint for reading the Gospels, and especially the Gospel of John: when the time of day is mentioned, there’s often a symbolic weight to that. It’s easy to pass over such a detail, but when things are happening in the dark of night, or under the noonday glare, or at breaking dawn or falling dusk, usually you can find meaning there.

This story happens in the Temple early in the morning, at daybreak. Think for a second about daybreak, that time when the sun rises and casts a bright light on the decisions you made in the dark of night. The things that seemed like a good idea at the time… or, if not exactly a good idea, at least relatively harmless. Or, if not harmless, at least easy to get away with. Or, if not easy to get away with, something you simply need. Or, if not something you really truly need, something you want badly enough that you decide to give yourself a pass this once. Adam and Eve reached out to grab the forbidden. We all have. And like Adam and Eve, we talked ourselves into it, or allowed ourselves to be talked into it. "The Commandment is arbitrary and repressive," says the serpent, "and God is kind of a jerk for insisting on it. It’s just a stupid rule, and why should you follow it?"

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Road Watcher: 4th Sunday Lent, 2016

The Father saw him coming a long way off… which means he was watching. How many times a day, for how many months, did he look out over the road, straining his eyes… is that someone coming? Is it him?

How many times was he disappointed?… no, it’s not him. It’s not the one whose place is empty at the table, it’s not his lost son. But still he watched. He looked out over the empty road, hoping that this day he might come home.