Archive for March, 2016

This Makes No Sense 3-27-16

HE HAS RISEN!

In this sermon for Easter Sunday, taken from Luke 24:1-12, I explore the empty tomb and the angelic proclamation, but recognize that we have yet to see the Lord.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/this-makes-no-sense-3-27-16

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

During my first couple of years of college, I worked part time for a local pharmacy. I had a few different duties in that job, but my main one was making deliveries. The store offered the service of deliveries, a service utilized by quite a few shut-ins around the community, not to mention the three different nursing homes in town.

Now I really enjoyed this job, because the majority of my time was spent driving around town in my boss’ brand new, light blue, Chevy pickup, and keep in mind that this was in the late 90’s right about the time that remote car locks came on the scene. That was always my favorite part of deliveries. First stepping out of the truck and clicking that button, hearing the “CHIRP” of the horn…or on the flipside walking back out to the truck, hitting the button in my hand as I stepped up to door, and hearing the click of the door unlocking.

Except one time…I had just made a delivery to one of the nursing homes…and was walking back out through the parking lot…and as I stepped around the front end of a light blue pickup, I clicked that button…and nothing happened…so a second later when I reached out for the door handle…it didn’t open.

I didn’t think too much of it…and so I clicked the button again…nothing…now things are starting to get weird…but I thought, hey, I’ve still got the actual keys in my hand…I guess I’ll just unlock the door manually…kids, you might not realize this, but there was a time when we actually had to pull our keys out of our pockets and stick them in the car door to unlock it…crazy huh?

But when I tried that…it didn’t work either…and I just kinda stood there for a moment in disbelief…my mind could not comprehend the problem…which I’m guessing by now you have figured out (pause). Wrong truck…there happened to be 2 different light blue Chevy pickups sitting in the lot in that moment…and I was standing at the driver’s door of the wrong one…something that I discovered when I finally had the brilliant thought to click the lock button and I heard the “CHIRP”…from two spots away. (pause) Now I wish I could tell you that this is the only time that has ever happened to me…but I can’t. I did the exact same thing just a month or two ago in the parking lot down at Walmart…when I walked right up to a maroon Chrysler 200…and could not figure out why I couldn’t see the light’s flashing when I hit the unlock button…

Sometimes our minds just cannot accept the truth of what we are seeing…we cannot manage to wrap our heads around what are witnessing or experiencing. (pause)

And now…Easter Sunday…the Resurrection…one of the most important instances within the entire Bible…so important…that it is one of those stories featured in all four gospels…now of course, each account has some small differences in terms of details…but the overarching arc of this event holds true.

Jesus is buried on Friday…everyone waits through Saturday…women go to the tomb first thing Sunday morning…the stone is removed…the tomb is empty…and angels show up making proclamations about what has happened. (pause) That about covers it right? And Luke’s account that we have shared today is no exception.

But one thing about it that jumps out at me…is that the women must have had an experience sort of like what I did when I could not wrap my head around the issue with the car doors failing to unlock…now keep in mind, the women had watched everything happen on Friday…including the removal of Jesus body…and the placement of his body in the tomb…that’s why I included those extra couple of verses at the beginning of the gospel today…there can be no doubt…they watched it happen…and they knew…where the body of Jesus was…they knew where they were going.

And so when they show up early Sunday morning…and they find an open tomb…confusion…for they had seen the stone rolled in front of the door…but all that aside…then they step into the tomb…expecting to see a dead body, wrapped in linen, laying there on the stone floor of this small cave, carved out of solid rock.

But when they step into that tomb…there’s no body…and we hear that they were perplexed…which is really just a nice way of saying that they lost their minds over this. HOW CAN THIS BE? WHERE IS HIS BODY? WHERE IS THE LORD? (pause)
All logic says that his body should be laying there in the tomb…it was there a couple days ago…it should be there now…but…it…isn’t. And all the women see…all they experience in this moment…is an empty tomb…an empty grave…his body was here…and now it isn’t. (pause)

And as they stood there…perplexed…confused…out of nowhere…a couple of angels show up with a pretty question. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”  Imagine being the women in that moment…faced with this question…Why are you looking for him here? “Well duh…he’s dead…this is his grave…where else would he be?”

But then the angels give them the rest of the story…Yes…he was dead…but no longer…and look he is not here for he has risen…Remember his words that he told you…he predicted that this would happen…he told you he would die but then…that he would be raised.

And with that…the divine light bulb goes off for the women…and they remember that Yes…JESUS DID TELL US THIS…and it has come true…and that confusion…that state of being perplexed…that lifts…and their minds and their hearts are filled with faith…with belief…and not just belief in what the angels were telling them…but belief in the promise that Jesus had made…that he would rise again…and filled with this faithful joy, they run off to the disciples and share their experience.

I can only imagine the excitement that the women were feeling and showing as they shared the news…that the tomb is empty and angels appeared saying he is risen…can you imagine it?  (pause) Well something tells me that they must have been pretty worked up, because as we hear…the disciples…the very individuals who you would fully expect to get it…to understand it…to believe it…don’t. Luke tells us that the disciples thought the women were feeding them an idle tail…which is just a really nice politically correct way of saying the disciples thought this was a giant load of B.S…and they don’t believe a word of it.

The only one to even give it a second thought is Peter…and we hear that he runs off to see the empty tomb…only to head off from there in amazement…aka…just as confused as the women initially found themselves. (pause)
So just what the heck is going on here? We’ve got an empty tomb…and we’ve got an announcement of the Risen Lord…but what we don’t have…is a Risen Lord…granted…he shows up later…Later on that day he pops up on the road walking with two random disciples who cover 7 miles without recognizing him, until he breaks bread for them.

We hear somewhere during the day he shows up to Peter…and then later that night…he shows up out of nowhere with the entire group of disciples…who freak out, thinking he’s a ghost…and its not until he grabs a hunk of fish and eats it in front of them that they start to believe that its really him…

But that’s all later…here today…in our joyous celebration of Easter Sunday…there is no Jesus present…and when I realized that…it really made me stop and pay attention…and I began to ask the question…what is it that we are celebrating today? (pause
And the answer…the tomb is empty…and there has been an announcement that he is risen…and at this point…that’s it…HALLELUJAH!!!!! AN EMPTY CAVE! (pause)

But you know what…we all know that’s the not the end of the story…and even though we cut it off there today…it goes on…and we do hear about those instances when Jesus shows himself to his followers…and the interactions they have with the Resurrected Lord before he eventually ascends to Heaven and sends the Holy Spirit among us…and gradually, as those different individuals encountered the Risen Lord, they believed…but Jesus had a message for them…You have believed because you have seen me…blessed are those who have not seen and yet come to believe.

And guess what my friends…that includes us…because look around…Have we seen the Lord? (pause) As much as I would love to say yes…I can’t…can you? (Pause) And yet you are here…and why? Well, because somewhere there is an empty tomb…missing a body…and because someone proclaimed to you that He Has Risen…

Now the funny thing about this…is that there are two possible reactions to this…two ways to respond to an empty grave and a proclamation of Resurrection…we can believe it as the women did…or we can blow it off as a big load of B.S. like the disciples did at first. (pause)
And think about it…doesn’t that pretty much cover the bases of responses? It does for me…because for a long time…I thought it was…and IDLE TAIL…but I kept hearing the proclamation…the words that Jesus himself had said…that he would be killed and then he would rise…and somehow…someway…the Holy Spirit managed to get in my brain…and I believed it. (pause) And since you are here…I’m guessing that you believed it too…maybe even just a little tiny bit…enough to bring you hear today to see if maybe, just maybe that tomb really is empty.

But others don’t…that’s just a reality of the world we live in…some believe this news that we claim as the best news in the world…but some laugh it off…because its utterly ludicrous to think that IF there’s a God out there…that God would become human…and that God would die…or that someone who had died…would come back. It defies all logic…and our minds cannot make sense of it. (pause) Mine couldn’t.

But maybe that’s okay…and maybe we don’t have to make sense of it…maybe we don’t have to understand it…maybe, the tomb just has to be empty…and someone needs to tell us He is Risen…Amen.

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This Isn’t The End Maundy Thursday

This sermon for Maundy Thursday comes from John 13:1-12a, 31b-35. In the sermon I explore Jesus’ words and actions at the Last Supper, and the promises that are made that God’s love for us, expressed through Jesus Christ, will never end.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/this-isnt-the-end-maundy-thursday

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

There are quite a few things hanging on my refrigerator…but one dominating feature is a multitude of family pictures taken each year at Family Camp in Colorado, something many of you are aware that we do annually. We’ve been doing it for a while now too…and so there are 9 years’ worth of pictures hanging there.

I was looking at them yesterday morning…and of course the main thing that jumped at me was to see the changes of my kids as they’ve been growing. But as I sat there looking at the various pictures, I found myself thinking back to last year, and some of the things that were happening behind the scenes of that particular trip out west.

Some of you are aware that we had a health scare about that time…as there was a strong possibility that my wife had developed a cancerous growth in her neck…and for several months, she went through various tests with inconclusive results…and there was a lot of unknown…which culminated on that particular trip. It was shortly after we got home from Colorado last year that we found out that the growth was not cancer, and in the long run everything was fine. (pause)

But up until that moment when the doctor talked to me to let me know it was nothing more than the result of an infection…we were living in the tension of the unknown…and in that time I discovered something about myself. While I am pretty good at sitting with other people in the midst of their dark moments…I’m pretty lousy at sitting through my own…but I wonder…isn’t that the case for everyone? (pause)

And speaking of dark moments…tonight we find ourselves in the midst of about the darkest moment that the gospels have to offer. Maundy Thursday…the night when Jesus reclines at the table of the Last Supper with his disciples…the night he washes their feet as a sign of servant love…the night that he institutes the Lord’s supper (pause) The night…when he was betrayed.

Now interestingly enough…all these different events are tied in together…and though we didn’t highlight the specific passage tonight, its in the midst of what we did read…that Jesus once more predicts his betrayal, telling the disciples that the betrayer is sitting right there at the table with them…and after some further discussion, Jesus looks Judas in the eye…tells him to go do what he must do…and we hear as Judas leaves the table and then the house…that it is night.

Its not daytime, its not dusk, its not morning…its night…as dark as you can get…both figuratively as well as literally. (pause) Jesus finds himself on this night, in about the darkest point he can be…but in the midst of all this…he’s still busy doing the work intended by the father…and we hear, that Jesus loves his own who are in the world…and that he loves them till the end. (pause)

That’s an important phrase…till the end…because if we think about everything going on here in the gospel…it seems like the end isn’t very far off. Tonight is the night when Jesus is betrayed…tomorrow…he’s dead and buried…even the name given to this meal…the Last Supper…gives a tone of finality doesn’t it? (pause) And so what do we make of that phrase that Jesus loves his own until the end? Perhaps we think of the way in which he protects his disciples later on that night…as he leaves them in the protection of the garden and goes out to meet the mob led by Judas…Perhaps we think of the moment as Jesus hangs on the cross, and in the midst of his torment, he provides ongoing care for his mother by placing her in the protection of the beloved disciple…or the way that he forgives the very people that are torturing him…or when he tells the criminal hanging beside him that today you will be with me in paradise.

But then, Jesus dies…and his body is placed in the tomb…and so it seems, by all logic…that the end…is coming right up doesn’t it? It seems that the darkness is about to win…and with it…the love of Jesus for his own in the world…will end as Jesus meets his end. (pause)

And if that’s the case…then the events here at the last supper seem a little strange…because I’m pretty sure that Jesus knew what was coming…he knew what was about to happen…and yet he spends this time, serving his disciples…taking on the role of a slave by washing their feet…and then as they recline at the table…Jesus grabs a hunk of bread and he tears off a piece and before handing it, one by one…to each of his beloved friends he tells them…this is my body…it is broken for you…when you eat it…remember me.  And then after supper is over he picks up the cup of wine…and once more looks them in the eye and says this is my blood poured out for you…when you drink it, remember me.

These seemingly simple acts and words are anything but…simple…because here at the Last Supper…we realize that the supper isn’t over yet…and if Jesus loves his own who are in the world till the end…then we need to realize that its not the end yet. (pause)

You know its funny, my preaching professors back in school harped on us the importance of preaching the day…and more often than not I stick to that…but if that’s the case…then I need to stop right now…because its Thursday…and yes Jesus eats a meal with his disciples…and does some simple yet utterly cryptic stuff…but then then walk out of that supper and I’m guessing the disciples were still confused…and then a little while later…Jesus is arrested…and they run away.

And so if I preach the day…that’s where I stop…with all hope lost…with the first steps happening towards the cross which Jesus has predicted time and time again. (pause) But I can’t stop there…and I won’t…If you were in worship a couple weeks ago, I talked about being Saturday people…of living in the tension between the darkness of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and the joy of the resurrection on Sunday.

And that notion of living in that tension still holds today. Yes, we are in dark time now…and tomorrow is even darker…but we also know what happens on Sunday…because for us the tomb is already empty…and we know…that tonight is not the end…no matter how much it might have seemed like it in that moment. (pause)

I want to back up now to something I said earlier…about how I’m pretty good at sitting with people in the midst of their darkness, but I have found that I’m pretty bad at sitting in the midst of my own. (pause)
I was reminded of that on Tuesday…because Tuesday was a pretty dark day in a lot of ways…none that really applied to me directly…but to a lot of people around me…people that I care about.

If any of you were in town Monday late afternoon…you heard the sirens of the ambulance and firetrucks leaving town…racing north…racing to the scene of an accident that left 3 high schoolers injured and one 14 year old boy dead…I heard the sirens, but I didn’t hear the news until Tuesday morning…that for 3 families, life was shaken…and for 1 family…everything just stopped.

I was also thinking about a family…and specifically an individual…who is watching their mom die…having just gone into hospice…and another family dealing with a painful memory tied to that day.

And I was thinking about a pair of my seminary classmates…a married couple, 6 months into their first pregnancy…only to lose their baby…and finally in the midst of all that stuff rattling around in my head before I even got into the office on Tuesday…then I opened my computer to read the news of two bombs going off in Brussels…40 or so dead, countless more injured. (pause)

All of this stuff going on around me…not really to me mind you…but around me…all these different individuals and families who were experiencing the tragedy…the darkness…and for them in that instant…life came screeching to a halt…the world was ending….and because I care about these people and the world that we live in…it affected me…and so I was pretty moody through the day.

But then the day went on…and I walked out of the office…and I recognized how beautiful of a day it was…and my son and I went out into the backyard to play catch…and as we were out there…I heard birds singing…and cars going by on the highway…and I heard the sounds of the high school soccer practice in the open field down the hill…and later on we walked over the school and I stood and watched a few minutes of a little league baseball game…and I talked with different people…and life went on. (pause)

I’ve noticed this type of thing before…typically on days when I’ve presided at funerals…because more often than not, funerals end up happening on nice days…and outside of that funeral…which is so difficult for those in attendance…life goes on for everyone else…the world might be ending for those individuals…but not for everyone else.

I bring all of this up…because of that promise that we hear about Jesus…that he loves his own…and he is with them till the end…and if Holy Week shows us nothing else…it is this…we haven’t reached the end yet. The world continues…and you know what…the Last Supper isn’t over yet either….because when we receive the bread and the wine…and we hear the same words that Jesus spoke to his friends…we are joining in that same supper…and the love of Jesus is still present in the world. We just need to know where to look for it.

But you know what…Jesus talked about too…I give you a new commandment…that you love one another…this is how the world will know that you are my disciples, whom I love…that you love one another. (pause)

We are the body of Christ here on Earth…we are joined together through the power of the Holy Spirit in ways that go far beyond our understanding…but as the body of Christ we are called to be Christ for one another.

On Tuesday, many different people experienced the darkness first hand…and for them, in that instant, it seemed like the end…but those around them…those who gathered around them with love and support…they were Christ in that moment…continuing to love those who needed it…sitting in the midst of the darkness with those who couldn’t escape it.

That is what we are called to do…that is why Christ tells us to love one another…so that in our moments of darkness that we can’t escape…we can see first-hand that it…IS NOT…the end…and that the love of God is still present…even in the midst of the darkness. (pause)
Tonight Jesus is betrayed…he is arrested…he is tortured…he is hung on a cross and he dies…but the biggest threat to Jesus…the thing he feared the most was being separated from the love of the Father…even for a period of a couple of days in the tomb…but Jesus will do this…Jesus…HAS…done this…to ensure that we are never left alone…because he loves us…till the end…and his love is present whenever we show love and compassion for one another…and we find his love, in our darkest moments, in the love and compassion we receive from those around us. May we realize, both now on this dark night…and in each of those moments when darkness surround us…that despite everything this dark world throws at us…Jesus has promised us…that this is not the end.

If you can see this…then be the light…show the love of Christ for those around you who need it…and if you can’t…then look to those who offer it to you.  We are not alone in this world…for we are the body of Christ…He loves us till the end…so we love too. Because this isn’t the end. Amen.

 

A Piece of that Peace 3-20-16

This morning’s sermon for Palm Sunday comes from Luke 19:28-40. This is the story of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, and features the only gospel account of opposition within the crowd during his entry into the city. I explore the basis of that opposition.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/a-piece-of-that-peace-3-20-16

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

If you get a group of people together who are familiar with the Christmas story and ask them to list out the details of that story…just spit-balling off the top of their heads…inevitably before the list is complete someone will mention Mary riding a donkey into Bethlehem. I have seen this time and again…most recently a few months back when our Adult Bible study bumped into the Christmas story.

Now in itself this isn’t a bad thing at all…there’s only one catch…nowhere in the gospel narrative…not even in a single gospel account…do we actually hear that Mary and Joseph have a donkey on their trip between Nazareth and Bethlehem. While its certainly possible that there was a donkey in tow…the scriptures never mention it.

And so ever since that discussion…there has been an ongoing joke within the group about that blasted donkey…but today’s gospel lesson offers the reprieve…and even though Mary didn’t have a donkey…30 odd years later…Jesus rode one into town. (pause)

All kidding aside, the setting for today’s story is a familiar one…Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry…as Jesus parades into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey…heralded by shouts of joy and hosanna…with people laying their cloaks on the road before him and waving their palms around…BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD….Blessed is the king. (pause)

Certainly this is one of those stories that we have heard before isn’t it? We celebrate this day every year on the church calendar…the lectionary texts highlight it to kick off Holy Week every year…all four gospels feature it in one form or another…and in a rare instance…all four gospels are fairly consistent with the details…but…as per usual with stories featured across the board…not everything is the same is it…and so allow me to point out a couple of differences.

The first one is simply a humorous observation…here in Luke, when Jesus instructs the two disciples to go find the donkey…there is no indication that once the Lord is done with it, he will send it back…it seems that here in Luke, the donkey remains with Jesus…in short, Jesus hijacks the donkey…perhaps to make up for the lack of his mother’s donkey 30 years prior. (pause)

Secondly…and much more serious…the opposition from the Pharisees. Luke alone lists opposition here at the triumphal entry…Matthew and Mark and John…all three of them simply list out the celebration…the joy of Jesus entering the city…and its only in the encounters that come after this that we hear of the religious elite stirring up trouble…But that’s not the case here in Luke…and we hear in the midst of the celebration…the Pharisees…the Biblical Bad-Guys…pull Jesus aside to try to get him to hush up the crowd. “Teacher…rebuke your disciples.”

Now this raises the question of what they are opposing. And if we shoot from the hip on this one…perhaps it seems that they are simply carrying on with their regular response to Jesus…opposing his message…opposing him…and simply sitting there on their Pharisee-high horse. That’s par for the course for this group of people isn’t it?

But what if that wasn’t in fact the case…and what if there was actually something else going on? (pause) That brings me to the last difference here in Luke’s account that isn’t present in the other gospels…the actual words that the crowd is joyfully shouting to the rooftops as Jesus rides into town…Blessed is the king. (pause) Luke not only features the Pharisees squawking…trying their best to hush every one up…but its also the only time that the crowds use the word…king. (pause)

Now at first glance this may not seem like a huge deal…but allow me to set the stage again. Jesus is coming into Jerusalem…which we all know…it is the site of the temple…and as such is the center of the Jewish culture…it is the religious center…and for them, their religious life is tied 100% together with all things political…going all the way back to King David…the one who established Jerusalem as the capital…and laid plans for the temple to be built in the first place.

So that’s where Jesus is coming into…and the timing it pretty important as well…for Jesus is coming into the Passover celebration…one of the three big important festivals in the Jewish culture…and now think about what Passover celebrates in the first place…the time when God freed the Israelites from slavery and oppression at the hands of Egypt…in short…this is a festival that celebrates new freedom…and it is attended by countless Jewish people from all over the known world. (pause)

And one more point…consider the known world at the time…this was the height of the Roman Empire…and Rome controlled everything…including Jerusalem. (pause) And here’s the thing about Rome…once an area and culture was conquered…they fell under something called the Roman Peace…which essentially meant that if you kept your head down…and paid your taxes…and didn’t interfere or talk back…they would pretty much leave you alone…but on the flip side…if you opposed them…well then the Romans weren’t quite so nice.

Now, what do you think they would do if suddenly this little backwater part of the empire suddenly crowned a new a king…and started rallying around this guy, who their religion taught them would toss the oppressors out on their keisters. Something tells me that wouldn’t go over very well.

And so here we are…in Jerusalem…at the start of a festival that celebrates liberation from oppression…and giant crowds have gathered to do just that…and so the Romans bring in tons of re-enforcements including the Governor himself…this guy you may heard of named Pilate…and now…this random dude attracts a crowd of his own, who are chanting about him being the coming King…and not only that, but riding a donkey which just so happens to fulfill the ancient prophecies about how the anointed king would enter into the city. (pause)

Sorta sounds like trouble is brewing doesn’t it? Sorta sounds like the very thing that might just end that Roman Peace that was in effect…sounds like the very thing that might end up bringing the Roman Army down upon them.

And considering all that…who among the Jewish culture would be the ones to realize all this? The cultural leaders perhaps? Those who are prominent in society? Like maybe…some of the religious leaders…the Pharisees perhaps? (pause)

What if the Pharisees…when they tell Jesus “Teacher, rebuke your disciples” they aren’t trying to hush the crowds into denying Jesus…but maybe, just maybe…they were trying to protect them…maybe, despite their error…they actually have Israel’s best interest in mind here…and they are trying to maintain the peace…or at least the peace found in their current status quo. Maybe they actually have good intentions. (pause)

But you know what they say…the road to hell is paved with good intentions. (pause) Because in the end, what happens…First off, Jesus tells them that if the people don’t celebrate his arrival then the rocks will cry out…that even nature recognizes that something big is happening…and there is no stopping it.

But then, Jesus goes on his way…he enters the city…reeks further havoc when he goes into the temple and drives out the merchants…but then spends the next few days sitting there in the temple teaching the crowds. The Romans don’t seem to care…and in fact, its not until the religious leaders trump up false accusations against him at the end of the week that the Romans even get involved…and when they do…they don’t really want to do anything. (pause)

I say all of this…because the fragile peace that the Pharisees were trying to protect…was simply an illusion…there was no peace…they were simply keeping their heads down to avoid the display of power on the part of the biggest schoolyard bully that existed at the time…40 years later…their illusion of peace was gone when Rome utterly destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. (pause)

But Jesus was up to something more…and he knew it…he wasn’t coming into Jerusalem just to celebrate the Passover like a good Jewish man was expected to do…Jesus came to challenge the status quo…and to bring about true peace…not just the illusion of peace that exists here in our present reality…the illusion that disappears the instant someone feels the need to display their power.

Jesus was coming to accomplish something that had never happened before…and through the most violent, horrific, tragic torture and death that you can imagine…he brought about peace between God and humanity…he went through the ultimate darkness to reveal the light of life within our dark reality. (pause)

And maybe…just maybe, the Pharisees saw that coming…or maybe they didn’t and in the end all they were really trying to do was save their own skin…maintain their own illusion of safety…

Don’t we do the same? (pause) Don’t we love to live in denial…to keep our head’s down thinking that the status quo is the only way it can be? We hide from the light of God…because all too often we don’t like what light reveals.

Every morning, when the sun shines through the big east window over in the parsonage, I’m amazed at two things…to see just how dirty those windows are…and second at the amazing amount of dust and dirt that shows up when the light shines on it.

And this is true in our lives as well…because the light of the ultimate truth reveals those things that we’d rather keep out of sight and out of mind…those secrets that we keep…and society for us today…just like the Pharisees back in Jesus day…it dictates what is acceptable and what should remain hidden.

We all have these things…these painful secrets that we hide away…but I want you to know that Jesus desires that you be free of those things…that’s why the light entered the darkness…to drive it back…and take these burdens from us…whatever it is…addiction…mental illness…anger…sadness…depression…all of these things that society has deemed unacceptable…and so more often that not we hide them away…and put on the illusion of peace in our lives…but that’s all it is…an illusion.

But thanks be to God that Jesus took the darkness of the cross, revealing the true light of God…but more importantly revealing those things within us that we can’t hide from God. (pause) And despite those things about ourselves that we are ashamed of…those things that society says are unacceptable…God looks at us, and doesn’t see those things…God looks at us and sees one that he loves…one that he adores…one that he claims as his beloved…and there is nothing that will stand in the way of God making that claim upon us…that’s what Jesus shows us this week…that there is no length he will not go to for us…to establish the TRUE peace within our lives…and within our relationship with God.

And that gives me hope…hope in the face of that crap that lies back in the shadows of my life…hope in the presence of pain caused by the darkness within those that I care about…and even…hope in the face of this dark world that tries so hard to keep us in the status quo.

This hope found in Jesus is true peace…and while this does not ensure that our lives will be perfect…we cling to the hope and the joy that we find in knowing that we are loved and we are accepted…and that in the relationship between God and you…there is true peace.

I’ll take a piece…of that peace any day. Amen.

Saturday People 3-13-15

In this sermon I explore John 12:1-8, the anointing of Jesus. We see even in the midst of life, there is the tension of death present. We live in this reality.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/saturday-people-3-13-16

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

I’ve heard it said that of our 5 main senses, smell is most strongly connected to our memory…that certain aromas can instantly remind of us of certain moments or places or individuals…and I think that’s true. In the very least…I know that my sense of smell keys in to certain things…and I’m guessing that many of these aromas are pretty universal.

Who can deny the smell of a freshly cut orange…or the wonderful aroma of lilac flowers in the early spring…two of my personal favorites are the smells that come up from freshly mown grass or freshly turned dirt…its wonderful.

But on the flip side…sometimes smells, while identifiable, are also pretty stinky…it never ceases to amaze my kids when we find ourselves driving down the road behind a livestock trailer and I’m able to identify whether its carrying cattle or hogs or horses…simply by the smell…Certainly its true…aromas…our sense of smell…its important and strong.

I bring all of this up because today’s gospel appeals to our sense of smell…the anointing of Jesus…and the abundant gift that Mary bestows upon Jesus when she anoints his feet with a pound of costly perfume…and an aroma that fills the house. (pause)
Now I think most of us are fairly familiar with this story…it shows up in all four gospels…and while the details get a little muddled across the gospel boundaries…the basic plot is the same…Jesus is reclining at the table, enjoying the hospitality of his host, and a woman comes in and pours oil on him before wiping his feet with her hair, when low and behold, someone squawks about the waste of resources.

The setting changes…the identity of the woman and the host changes…and the voice of opposition changes across the different gospels…but the story itself remains pretty constant. That being said…a couple of these unique details here in John’s account catch my attention. First off, we hear that the event occurs in the home of Lazarus…and we also hear that it occurs after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Just how long after, we’re not sure…but that story occurs in chapter 11 of John, so it couldn’t have been too long.

And so we know that Lazarus, as he’s reclining there at the table alongside Jesus…sharing this time together with the Lord…Lazarus is experiencing a bit of a unique situation. He’s been dead…but now he’s alive again…one of only 3 people that Jesus brings back…but at the same time…we have no indication that Lazarus is now experiencing life in “THE RESURRECTION.” That life that we are promised will come in the last days…rather, all indications show us that Lazarus, along with those other two individual’s raised by Jesus, were simply experiencing life in the same way that they had before…and in the end died once more…but in the meantime…where do we find him? Here…spending time with Jesus…experiencing ongoing relationship with the Lord…and now let’s put a pin in that and come back to it in a bit. (pause)

The second interesting point that John’s account of this story makes…is Jesus’ response when Judas squawks about wasting the oil…all selfish motivations of Judas aside…Jesus says that she has prepared him for his burial…and that’s what this anointing is all about…its coming right up…we hear that its 6 days before Passover…a few more days and Jesus dies.

That’s coming up for us on the calendar as well…two weeks from today…we’ve got the triumphal entry, which incidentally, immediately follows this story in John…and then we’re off through Holy Week and the glorious resurrection of Jesus…the empty tomb…the risen Lord…cue the trumpets and bring in the Easter Lilies. (pause)

If you’re anything like me, you’re ready for Easter. This season of Lent is just long enough…and just dark enough…that by this point…I’m ready for that empty tomb…and as I think about that…I’m reminded of something an old mentor of mine taught me…that we are Easter people…we are people of the resurrection…and we live in a reality where the tomb of Jesus is empty for he has risen…but each and every year we go through this time…this time of remembrance…this time of preparation…and even though we embrace the promise that we are a new creation…and that we join with Christ in a resurrection like his…we also realize that we have to go through Good Friday before we can get to Easter.

We have to go through Death before we can get to the new life that lies beyond it…and in our story today…Jesus reminds us of that. “Leave her alone, she has kept it for the day of my burial.” (pause) Jesus knows that he has to go through Good Friday to get to Easter…and as much as he might have feared it…and as fervently as he prayed to the Father to allow Good Friday to pass from him…he still took it.

Now here’s the thing…we are promised in the waters of our baptism that we are claimed by God as his children…and we receive the promise that we inherit the gift of the resurrection…we will join with Christ in a resurrection like his, but we also join with Christ in a death like his…and this is not shocking…we all owe one death in this existence and there are no exceptions to that…but in addition…we also experience what I can only call a “little death” each and every day.

Remember that we are forgiven of the sin and pain and darkness that exists within us…we feel it, but we are forgiven of it…and every day, when we sense that darkness and repent of it and turn ourselves back to the one who created us we are that new creation…but by doing this we are experiencing that little death…each and every day. And so, in addition to being Easter people…people of the resurrection…we also realize that we are Good Friday people…because we have to go through the death before we can get to the resurrection.

This is true in the big picture…that we each experience death, but through the promise of God we join in the resurrection…and it is also true for us in the here and now…as we experience the little death of sin and darkness before experiencing the promise of new life in Christ.

Now its important that we realize this…that the gift of Jesus isn’t limited to just some new life out there in the unknown future…that’s part of it…but he has told us that he came to give us life and give it abundantly…in the here and now…

That abundant life is lived with God…in relationship which is made possible again through the death and resurrection of Christ…he has made it possible for us to turn away from the darkness that is still present with our reality and within our individual lives…to turn away from it and return to the path intended for us by the one who made in the first place.

The Hebrew have a word for this…and its connected to something I’ve talked about before. On Ash Wednesday I talked about the word TOV…the GOOD…the way that God made us and desires for us to live…and this notion of repentance…of turning away from that sinful darkness and returning to God…of turning back to the good…back to the TOV…the Hebrew calls this T’SHOOVAH….everyone say that with me..T’SHOOVAH…its one of those words that requires excitement to say…and I think that stems from the fact that its exciting and life giving…it is life abundant when we spend it in the TOV…in the good life intended WITH the LORD. (pause)

Now all that being said…it raises the question…where do we find a life in T’SHOOVAH? Do we find it as Good Friday people…in the recognition of death? (pause) I don’t think so. And do we find it as Easter People…embracing the resurrection that we have yet to fully experience? (pause) I don’t think so. I think we find in the middle of the two…in the midst…in the tension that lies between death and resurrection.

So maybe we are Good Friday people…and maybe we’re also Easter people…but I think we find T’SHOOVAH…when we realize that we are Saturday people…living in the tension between death and new life…between the cross and the empty tomb…a life lived, not perfect, but TOV…GOOD…a life lived in relationship with the Lord. (pause)

And now I’m going to go back to that spot where we put a pin…and Lazarus…reclining at the table with Jesus…having experienced death…literally in his case…but yet to fully encounter the resurrection…and what are they doing? Seems like they’re simply spending time together…abiding together…living life together.

Through Christ, this relationship is possible, because we see in Jesus that God dwells among us…with us…and through Christ, we are drawn to the Father…but not only that…through Christ we are also given the ability to forgive one another…to repair the broken relationships between us as individuals…

This abundant life…promised by Jesus…IS experienced in the here and now…it is found in relationship with God and one another because if you recall clear back in Genesis, when God is making humanity and he calls it TOV, he recognizes that it is NOT good…it is NOT TOV…for us to be alone…and through the reconciling work of Jesus Christ…the work that we are invited into…we live in community together. (pause)

We are Good Friday people…and we are Easter people…and as we see today, we are also Saturday people…and we are all of these rolled into one…we live in the tension between death and new life…a tension that was present within today’s story.

I’m going to wrap this all up with one more thought…remember how Mary poured out the oil…and the aroma of the perfume filled the entire room? Jesus said that she did it to prepare him for burial. This was common…for when a body went in the tomb and began to decompose, it smells…death has a smell and if you’ve been around you know what I’m talking about.

And so, when they put a body in the tomb, they anointed it with perfume…to try and mask the smell of death…but you can’t…the two mix in together…the fragment with the foul…the pleasant with the painful…life with death.

And that’s what Jesus is talking about as he looks towards his own death…the death that makes new life possible. Its all wrapped up together…for Jesus and for us. This is the tension of being Saturday people…and what a blessing to know that we are not alone in that tension…but that we have one another…and we have a God who exists there with us…so let’s live here in the abundant life lived together with God and one another…let’s live on Saturday knowing that its T’SHOOVAH. Amen