On the Other Side of the Grave

ERH Sermon photo 05 05 2019

A sermon on John 21; Third Sunday of Easter

Haven’t we been here before? Is it just me who has some deja-vu? There’s a fire, there’re lots of questions aimed at Peter, he seems to be getting defensive as the line of conversation continues — this just happened, didn’t it?

Yes, there are significant similarities with the scene outside the courts the night before Jesus’s crucifixion, it’s a generally-accepted interpretation that these parallel narratives have a relationship to each other, and that’s what I’m curious about this morning. What does it mean to link these two events, what do we learn about how God works — what do we learn about his character — through this scene on the beach in early morning?

If,perchance, you weren’t at a Good Friday service a few weeks back, just like I missed them, here’s the story we’re working with. In chapter 18 of John (vs. 15-18; 25-27), as night wears on, Peter stands with servants and officers gathered outside by — you guessed it — a charcoal fire. He’s asked three times, once by each of three different people, “you’re one of that man’s disciples, aren’t you?” “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Each of the three times, Peter quickly and easily says, “oh no, that wasn’t me.” Now Jesus had told him that this would happen, that Peter would deny Jesus, and that it would happen before dawn came, “before the rooster crowed” (John 13:38). Understandably, Peter wrankled at this prophecy when Jesus gave it at the Last Supper table, just a few hours before these events unfolded.

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What do we mean when we say, “He descended to the dead”?

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In a bit of a jab at my bishop and my diocesan communications director, who assigned an impossibly obtuse phrase of our Apostles Creed, I have composed on the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas blog a post which uses The Princess Bride and Monty Python and the Holy Grail as its primary texts to explicate this affirmation.  find it HERE

(image via)

Sermon, Last Sunday of Lent

IMG_1081Today’s sermon preached at St. A’s, the raising of Lazarus and Grandpa Chuck’s death.

Sermon Audio

It is because of my grandfather’s death that I stand before you this morning.

During a particularly difficult moment in my ministry, my grandpa Chuck, after whom Charles is named, fell ill and breathed his last. We were living in South Carolina at the time, far from snowy Minnesota, but I still visited him a few times in his last weeks and was even there to give him last rites the day he died.

Back home, I was struggling with my call, feeling stonewalled at every turn, denied at every door, frustrated with pouring so much effort into what seemed like a bottomless chasm. It was more than exhaustion, or a period of thankless plowing through; I was suffocating, like a flame submitted to a snuffer, gasping for enough air to keep breathing. In some ways my depression felt very much like death. Continue reading

Will Good Really Win?

 

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It’s been a hard week to have the tv on, or listen to the radio, or even to read the morning paper. Each day has carried fresh horror and violence, from religious extremism to the effects of mental illness, from random and tragic natural disaster to carefully planned and executed extinguishing of life.

One of my coping mechanisms when faced with a relentless barrage of bad news is to escape to another world — that is, to Netflix.

This past week, I’ve been in 1950’s Madrid, observing life at a department store, cheering on the seamstresses and delivery boys who work day and night, and shaking my fist at the selfish and scheming minority shareholders in the company who leaks scandals to National Enquirer to hamstring their opponents and make furtive phone calls from the smoky back rooms of bars.

Late in the season, I realized that this series’ power over me had less to do with scintillating dialogue or all-consuming love stories; the real center of this show is the fight between good and evil. A piece of me knows that because it’s a television show, and because it’s the love-lorn-style drama it is, that eventually, good will prevail. It’s a long road, and I know it will take till the very last episode, but somehow, the honest and good will win over the dark, and evil and scheming.

Back in the real world, I wonder, when a child at Disneyworld encounters an alligator — will good really win?

When a member of Parliament loses her life in broad daylight — will good really win?

When yet another friend is diagnosed with cancer — will good really win?

And these are to say nothing of the ache still present in Charleston a year later, and the raw wound in Orlando today.  And refugees from Syria, and mothers and babies in South and Central America living at the mercy of Zika.

How on earth will good ever win?

This is the same question that Elijah asks God in our Scripture passage this morning. Continue reading

While we have breath

2013-09-03 11.13.17On Sunday, I preached a sermon about finding a solid foundation in this world (spoiler alert: I testify that it’s Jesus). On Tuesday (bleeding into Wednesday), I met a saint who lived it.

Paul Kalanithi

I don’t have to regurgitate his biography here, he gave his own testimony in a book recently released, When Breath Becomes Air. His story is of spending decades preparing for the future–degrees and schooling–and then finding that the future won’t happen. As he travels through stages of grief, reflecting on the investments he’d made in his 30-some years, he finds, I think, that there isn’t too much he would have done differently.  Continue reading

Friday Icon

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This week, I’ve been thinking about the thief on the cross to whom Jesus promises, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).  It’s never too late to start over.

As the shine of yoga-camp-life wears off, and we’re traveling, my new healthful routine gets to having cracks in it and my body and soul feel the un-balancing starting to set in.  Instead of starting the day with psalms and meditation, I’m eager to get going, feed the animals, start the coffee, then suddenly I’m showering and driving to work, the day long-since begun and no quiet time to speak of.

How important it is, though, when I know not what a day will bring, to spend a bit of time waiting and asking to be filled up with strength and compassion for the day ahead–though I’m blind to the future, God, the giver of all strength and compassion, is not.  Indeed, God knows exactly what I will need.  God knows what a day will hold and exactly what I will need to survive, thrive, and serve him well in it.  Why not give him a chance to fill me up before it begins?

And I must remember, it’s never too late to start over.  Of course, a new day with its morning light and freshness is a natural, comfortable moment to start over, but it can be anytime of day.  The thief on the cross started over at the very last possible moment, and it still wasn’t too late.

The Three Crosses (Rembrandt) via