Thursday, August 21, 2014

“Never Alone” Easter 6 (May 25, 2014) Rev Martha Daniels

Acts 17:22-31
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, the One who is over all of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands,  and is not served by human hands, as though God needed anything, since God gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for God and find God—though indeed God is not far from each one of us. For ‘In God we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now God commands all people everywhere to repent, because  God has fixed a day on which God will have the world judged in righteousness by one whom God has appointed, and of this God has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

John 14:15-21
Jesus said, ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Creator, and God will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees God nor knows God. You know God, because God abides with you, and will be in you.
”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in God, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by God, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”


Will you pray with and for me? God of Grace, pour out your blessings on this time; give us all the wisdom and courage to speak and hear and share and be your truth and love for us. Give us hope and strength as we seek your justice for all your people. In all your names, amen.

Paul was a traveller—a travelling evangelist, actually. Here he is in Athens, one of the cultural capitols of the day—something like New York or Vancouver or Los Angeles—where new thoughts are thought and new religions born and creativity allowed to flourish. The Areopagus was both a place and a group—an elder’s council, named for the place where it met, Ares’ Hill. They didn’t have legislative power—they made no laws and didn’t govern Athens—but this was the place where new ideas were shared and tested. Sort of a Speaker’s Corner, if you are familiar with that spot in London where anyone can speak on anything. Paul points out a curious thing—among all the gods and goddesses and demi-gods and goddesses worshipped in Athens with statues and temples, there is one quiet pedestal that is empty, with no statue. The dedication is to “The Unknown God.” Paul seems to think that the Athenians are covering their bases, just in case, but I think there is more to it than that.

The Athenians are recognising that there is more to divinity, to being God, than humans can grasp, and so while they worship specific gods for specific things, they know that there is divinity that is all-encompassing, not linked to only women, or only warriors or rulers or the home. This is the Unknown God. Paul does approve their worship, but he says that the Unknown God is not unknown at all, but is the one God he worships. He points out that the Greek poets had known there was but one God, and that humans longed for union with that one God—In God we live and move and have our being.

When we look at what the writer we know as John is saying, though, he seems to be at odds with Paul’s statement.  He says that the ones who keep God’s commandments are the ones God loves, but Paul says that everyone is close to God.

To understand this, we have to look at the historical context.  Acts was written before the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem—the most devastating event in Jewish history, and surely the signal, people of the time thought, for the return of Jesus. The setting in Acts, then, is one of anticipation—Christ will come back and judge the nations, just any day now! Thus the sense of urgency for Paul, to tell all the people he could about Christ, the appointed and anointed one.

The gospel of John, however, was written in a different time, when the temple had been destroyed and Christians were facing persecution and division, being barred from synagogues for heresy, and fearing for their very lives.  They have been expecting Christ to return anytime, to no avail—not even the destruction of the Temple brought his return—and they are afraid and discouraged. What is left for them? What are they supposed to do? How long are they expected to wait for Christ to return? Now what? So in John, it is vitally important to claim only one God, and to encourage the people who are fearful, discouraged and uncertain by reminding them that they have a unique knowledge of God, and that God is with them always, even in the midst of this persecution and strife, even when God cannot be seen. It is a different perspective, a new way of understanding Christ as having returned in a different way than what was expected. No, Christ didn’t come back in a thunderclap, or as a baby, or as an avenger. Christ—or God, for they are the same—is present with us as Spirit, the Spirit of God, always present, always loving.

And this is the commonality between Paul and Acts—God is with us, God loves us. We may not always recognise God’s presence, we may call God by another name, even—that Unknown God—but God does not leave us. We are not orphaned—we have a loving Parent who is present with us even when life is difficult and painful and more than we can bear. God is with us in those dark hours, although we might not believe it. Because we love God, and God loves us, we are never alone. This is not a Hallmark card love, either—puppies and hearts and lace. This love is the love that stands strong through hurricanes of despair, through the gut-wrenching pain of betrayal, the soul-numbing grief of loss, and the dark night of fear. This love can bear us up through all of this, strengthened by the strife and horror and uncertainty.

God is with us always—known or unknown, in fear and in hope, God’s love surrounds us, holds us up. Even when we can’t see God’s presence, or even name God, we are not alone.

No matter how difficult your road becomes, in spite of uncertainty, of fear, of loss, know that God walks that road with you and loves you. No matter who you are, where you are, what you fear, remember this. God loves you, God loves you, God loves you.

In all God’s many names, amen.

Easter 5 (May 18, 2014), Rev. Martha Daniels

Psalm 31
In you, O God, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your names sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Holy One, faithful God. My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

John 14:1-14
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In Gods house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.And you know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, Teacher, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to God except through me. If you know me, you will know God also. From now on you do know God and have seen God. Philip said to him, Teacher, show us the Creator, and we will be satisfied. Jesus said to him, Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Creator. How can you say, Show us the Creator? Do you not believe that I am in God and God is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but God who dwells in me does the works. Believe me that I am in God and God is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Creator. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that God may be glorified in the Child. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.


Will you pray with and for me? Loving God, sometimes we get lost in this confusing world. Remind us that you are with us always; you have prepared a place for us, a place of welcoming love. Teach us to see with your eyes, to be your hands and heart and spirit in this world, to do your works in this world. In all your names, amen.

This gospel reading is one of those hard ones that we dont really like to preach, because it sounds so harsh. No one comes to God except through me. We all know people who are not spiritual, or spiritual but not religious, or of a different faith altogetherthey are good people, some of them maybe better people than we arehow can we say that they do not know God?

There are a couple of different ways of looking at this. If we look at it literally, then we have to say, Well, sorry, to our Muslim and Hindu and Jewish and non-practicing friends. You are out of luck. If we look at it in a more nuanced way, though, if we look at this whole passage, then we can say, Many paths lead to God. How can we be so arrogant as to believe that we have the one and only waythat we can limit how God acts and works in other peoples lives? Thats the path I choose to take. I have known too many good peoplekind, fair, loving, wise, generouswho are not Christians, to think that they cannot know God. They may have other names, or no name, but they cannot be the people they are apart from God. They may not think of themselves that way, they may not take God into their calculations at all, but they do reflect the love of God in their lives.

God cant be pinned down to one place or time. When Thomas says, But we dont know where you are going, how can we follow you? Jesus tells him that he himself, Jesus, is the way they will get to the place they need to be. Theres no need to look for Jesus, Jesus is already thereand here, and in Lebanon and Burma and Johannesburg and London and Mexico City and everywhere there are people. We only have to open the eyes of our hearts to recognise Gods presence in every place and every person.

This can be pretty easily done with people we know and see regularlyour family, our friends, our co-workers and neighbours. But it can be harder when we move outside those comfort zonesacross town, across the country, around the world. How do we, how can we reach out, beyond those comfort zones, to the rest of the world, to people we dont even know?

As you may have guessed, I have several opportunities for us, ways we can reach out to the world, see God in others, and allow them to see God in us. Two people are in need of human communication, of that reassurance that people care. One is a seven-year-old named Roger in Bolivia.  The other is a person named Len, in prison in California, who feels called to support LGBT prisoners with reminders of Gods lovehe is asking for our support though prayers and letters of encouragement. We have also been offered the opportunity to provide worship at a local assisted living facility. These are all ways we can reach beyond our walls here at the church; we can be the presence of God for others through shared worship, through letters of support and hope and simple human contact.

If Jesus taught anything, he taught that we are to serve each other. These are a few ways we can do that, ways to move beyond our comfort zone of caring for friends and family and our church community. Those are, of course, very important. But I am asking us to take another step, to venture out a bit, beyond what we know.

Remember Jesus said, The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. We have been called to do the works that Jesus didto comfort the sick and dying and lonely; to encourage people who are struggling, to visit those in prison, to feed the hungrywhether physical or spiritual hunger.

What we do here is wonderfulwe are nourished by spiritual readings and discussion and music and prayer. But we must do more with itwe need to reach beyond ourselves, beyond this community to the world beyond our doors and share that love and acceptance and encouragement we know here with others, so that they can know it too, and see Gods presence.

Here is my challenge to youto each one of you here. Write one letter, share in one worship service at Victoria Manor; Roger, Len and the residents at Victoria Manor need and want to know that they are not alonethey are hoping to hear God speak through our voicesthe encouragement and support and hope and caring of Jesus, shared with our sisters and brothers.

Some of you grew up in the church, or a church environment. One of the first songs I remember singing in youth group and Sunday school was "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love." As a kid, I always thought of that in terms of getting along with the people in the group, in the church--my friends and family. But it means so much more--"we will work with other, we will work side by side, and we will guard each one's dignity and save each one's pride, and they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, they will know we are Christians by our love." That love is not just for the folks here in church--that is very important, of course--but the other half of that equation is reaching out to the rest of the world.

Christians have gotten a lot of baud press lately  from Fred Phelps to various politicians claiming to speak for, they claim, " all true Christians." But that is not the final word--you and I can snow that they are not the only ones with a claim to the name Christian--we can offer another vision of who Christians are, how they behave and what they do.

We have so many opportunities to show and share love and encouragement--write a letter or two; take church to people who can't get to church. Maybe you have some other ideas too--share them with me and John and Jason, and maybe we can get others involved. There is so much to be done, my friends--let's roll up our sleeves and get to it.

And they will know we are Christians by our love.

In all God's many names, amen.

“Can You See It?” Easter 3 (May 4, 2014), Rev. Martha Daniels

Luke 24:13-49
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, What are you discussing with each other while you walk along? They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days? He asked them, What things? They replied, The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him. Then he said to them, Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory? Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over. So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us? That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon! Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, Peace be with you. They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, Have you anything here to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with youthat everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what God promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.


Will you pray with and for me? Holy One, sometimes we cannot see beyond our own fear and sadness and pain to the healing and joy we are offered. Teach us to be open to your possibility, to move beyond the limitations we are so certain of, to the realisation of your presence with us. In all your names, amen.

How many of you remember the movie Field of Dreams? I love that moviepartly because of the baseball, partly because I like almost everything Ive ever seen with James Earl Jones in it, but also because it reminds me that we are not always aware of everything around us, that sometimes we cant see what is right in front of us.

For those of you who havent seen it, a quick recapKevin Costner plays  Ray Kinsella, a farmer and baseball fan, something he inherited from his father, who idolised Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Chicago White Sox, even though Shoeless Joe was implicated in the throwing of baseball games in the 1919 World Series. He hears a voice in his cornfield saying, If you build it, he will come. He builds the field and waits, while his neighbours tease him about plowing under his corn for a baseball field, and his brother-in-law Mark  warns that he will lose money and the farm by doing that. Then one night, he hears a ballgame being played and goes outside to find the 1919 Chicago White Sox in the midst of a game. He contacts the famous baseball writer Terence Mannplayed by James Earl Joneswho at first wants nothing to do with him, but eventually agrees to accompany Ray to find Archie Moonlight Graham, a young player who washed out of the big leagues and became a doctor. Ray and Terence bring Moonlight back to the field, where he joins the team. When Rays daughter is hurt, however, Moonlight leaves the baseball fieldthus becoming the old doctor againin order to save her. Terence then joins the team in the cornfield, telling Ray that he, Ray, has to stay and help raise his family. Ray then recognises the catcher as his father, and they play catch together as a long line of cars forms on the road leading to the farmthe field was built, and they are coming to watch the team play.

Now, one of the interesting things is that the brother-in-law cant see the players or hear the sounds of the game for most of the movie. Rays daughter, who loves baseball too, can; and so can Rays wife Annie. When people believe, they can see the players and enjoy the game. In the end, Mark, Rays brother in law, can also see the players.

Sohow many of us are like Mark? Do we recognise the wonders all around us? Or are we like Cleopas and the other disciple, so wrapped up in their grief that they couldnt recognise Jesus, even though they spoke to him for a long while?

The love and presence of God are all around us, all the time--whether we are aware of it or not, whether respond or not. We can take Mark's position, that we don't see, that it is impossible, that such things don't happen--long-dead baseball players from Chicago don't show up inq a cornfield in Iowa. Or we can understand that there is more to the world than we can grasp, and see with the eyes of hope instead of despair.

Mark was looking at the cornfield with the eyes of facts and numbers and stark reality, the negative viewpoint that said, "This is not the best financial use of that field." And then he saw afresh, thorough eyes of hope, open to possibility--and saw the baseball players, and understood the possibilities of the world.

The disciples going to Emmaus that day were also deep in the glass-half-empty place. The very person whose death they were mourning was walking beside them, talking with them, and yet they could not perceive that it was him. They finally do--after he has explained everything to them--and they recognise him when blesses and offered bread to them--an act of hospitality and caring.

Can we open our senses to the presence of good, of blessing, of hope in our lives? It can be very easy to focus on the difficulties, the troubles we have, rather than on what is good. We see the cornfield when we could be watching a baseball game; we see a stranger rather than our dearest friend.

This week, look for the baseball game; remember to see a dear friend instead of a wise stranger. God is present all around and among and through you--in the shared laughter of friends, in the love of children, partners, family; in conversation and healing; in the gift of ourselves, given to others in service.  Be open to that presence of God, the blessings of love and care -- they are what the world seesks, and what we can offer. In all God's names, amen.

“Called By Name” Easter Sunday (April 20, 2014), Rev. Martha Daniels

Colossians 3:1-4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

John 20:1-18
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Teacher out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.  Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.  Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Teacher away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Creator. Go instead to my brothers and sisters, and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Creator and your Creator, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Teacher!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.


Will you pray with and for me? Loving God of good surprises, open our hearts to your Easter joy; give us grace to recognise you in the everyday, to hear your voice calling our name. May all that we speak and hear bring us closer to an understanding of your love for us. In all your names, amen.

I love John’s version of Easter morning. The two disciples, running to the tomb, afraid that what Mary said was true, confused, maybe even panicking. And then—nothing! Just the empty graveclothes, and an empty tomb. John says, “and they believed—“ but he doesn’t say what they believed…that the tomb really was empty? That maybe Jesus wasn’t dead?

But Mary—she stays there, crying, afraid of what it means—that someone has stolen Jesus’ body, and she and her friends can’t even mourn him properly. She is wrapped in her sorrow, grieving her teacher and friend.

And then—someone is speaking to her, she doesn’t know who, but it doesn’t matter because Jesus is dead and even his body has been taken…she has nothing left of her hopes; so what does anything else matter? Unless perhaps this person knows where Jesus’ body was moved to—maybe a different tomb? Maybe Joseph of Arimithea had second thoughts and decided it was not a good idea to let them use his tomb for Jesus…

And then the person calls her by name, and she recognises Jesus.

Do we miss the joys of life because we are too focused on the sorrows? Yes, there is a lot of grief in the world—we have all lost loved ones, friends, partners, siblings, parents; there are earthquakes, wars, hungry children, murder, theft, lies and deception, greed and corruption. But there are also joys—the relationships we shared with those who are gone; the relationships we share with those who are here; simple enjoyments such as good food, a walk by the river, the lovely sights of animals and birds and fish in the parks and in the woods, the sheer pleasure of a good book or movie; of conversation with friends.

We can become too focused on the grief of Lent and Easter—we can become stuck on Saturday afternoon, mourning Jesus, wrapped up in the great sorrow of his crucifixion. It is easy to forget, sometimes, that there is joy in the morning—the sad walk to the tomb to anoint a dead friend becomes a dance of joy for a resurrected Saviour!

Mary couldn’t see it at first, either—her heart broken, she was so immersed in her grief she couldn’t recognise Jesus when he stood before her. But there he was—all her sorrow turned to joy in a moment, seeing her beloved teacher and friend, hearing him call her name.

This is the moment that most moves me…when he calls her by name, speaks tenderly to her, in the voice she finally recognises—he calls her by name and she sees him, really sees him.

We all have had Good Fridays in our lives—none of us has had lives without grief or terrible loss. It can be hard to remember a time without that sorrow; and it can be hard to let go of it, because it feels like letting go of the sorrow is letting go of the one we loved, or the work we miss, or the health we no longer have, or the relationship that has ended. But when we let go of our mourning, when we look up from our sorrow, then we can hear our name, spoken in love and promise—of all that still is, even though we thought it was gone.

I am not Pollyanna—I know sorrow can tear your heart apart. I know there are no easy answers; no magic wand. But that is the other side of love—without love, there is no grief. Our very love makes the grief deeper. But that same love can carry us through those days of pain; that same love is what made days bright for us before, and it can do that again.

Don’t stay with Saturday afternoon—step into the Easter light of the morning and an empty tomb, and a beloved voice calling your name.

In all God’s names, amen.

“In Between Times” Palm Sunday (April 13, 2014), Rev. Martha Daniels

Philippians 2:1-13 (John)
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to deatheven death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Sovereign, to the glory of God the Creator. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyednot only in my presence, but now much more in my absencecontinue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Matthew 26 and 27 (selected verses)
Then one of the Twelvethe one called Judas Iscariotwent to the chief priests and asked, What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you? So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?
He replied, Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.


Will you pray with and for me? Eternal One, pour out your grace on us. We so often hesitate, torn between wanting to follow you and our own human desires. Give us the courage to do what is right, not what is most comfortable. Teach us patience to wait through the between times, until you are made manifest once more. In all your many names, amen.

We are almost to the end. The last week of Lent, the lead-up to Good Friday and then Easter....but we aren't there yet. We are remembering the events of Good Friday today because some of us will not be able to attend Good Friday services, so we include that today--because without Good Friday, Easter is not so joyous.

Palm Sunday--such a joyful day! Jesus enters into Jerusalem, the crowds cheer him, there is celebration and hope, the people looking forward to Jesus taking over and making everything right. They weren't quite sure how, exactly, but wasn't he the child of David, a miracle worker and wise teacher--surely he was the one foretold, the Messiah!

And no one more certain than he disciples. They had journeyed with Jesus, seen him do so much and teach so wisely...some of them had even seen him transfigured on the mountain, talking with Moses and Elijah, symbols of the Law and the Prophets, greater than either, glorified by God's own voice. They knew, beyond doubt, that Jesus would take over and make everything right, just as the prophets had promised. And so they too, sang and rejoiced in the streets.

And then Jesus is arrested--and makes no move to resist or run away, makes no defense when he is accused, goes quietly to his torture and death. 

The disciples, Jesus' friends and family, are confounded and confused. How can this be? He has the power--why does he not rise up, why not resist, why not smite his accusers down, begin the revolution against Rome, become the saviour of his people?

We stand on the other side of Easter--we know already that the tomb does not mean the end. We can't really separate ourselves from that knowledge. But we can try to put ourselves in the place of the disciples.

Can you remember a time when you were in a good place, work or school going well, relationship great, things just generally seeming to be on an upswing, and then suddenly all the wheels fell off? I remember a time like that for me--I was in what I thought was a wonderful new relationship, I had found part-time work to supplement my time at the church, so I had a decent income, I liked the house I was living in, I was busy and happy...and then, boom, it all fell apart with the news that I had cancer. I couldn't even grasp it at first, it just didn't fit--everything was going well, how could I have cancer?

I think the disciples felt much the same way. Jesus had been teaching all over, he had more and more followers, he had been performing miracles, and showing in so many ways that he was Messiah. Things were looking good--the crowds of Jerusalem were even behind him, welcoming him to the city with celebration and joy. And then... a crowd of soldiers rushing in, the arrest of their teacher--they ran in fear, and hid, because it got even worse... Far from being hailed as Messiah, Jesus was crucified, executed. Everything was going so well, how could he be dead?

I know now that everything was going to be OK--no, chemo was no fun, nor was radiation. But I made it through and am cancer-free for five years now, knock wood.

We know that Jesus did not stay in that tomb--that he rose again on Easter. But the disciples didn't know that, any more than I knew that I would be OK.

Remember that this week--we can look forward to the Easter joy, they had no idea what was in store. Try to remain in that place of doubt and dread, for even a little while...because that fear makes the place fo the Easter joy.

in all God's names, amen.