Sunday, March 31, 2013

Living Our Alleluias

David Lose, an insightful scholar wrote, “. .no one expected the resurrection. Even though Jesus predicted his death…and resurrection…several times across his ministry, no one greets the news that God has raised Jesus from the grave and defeated death and the devil by saying, “Praise God!”

No one shouts “Allelujah” when they hear that their friend and Lord has been raised to life.
And absolutely no one, upon hearing the news that death itself could not hold the Lord of Glory captive, says,
        “I knew it – just like he said!”1
Giovanni, 1491

Lose comforts our logical, sceptical, brains by titling his work, “If it’s not hard to believe, you’re probably not paying attention!”
    Luke’s Story
Not only does no one expect the resurrection, no one believes it at first. The women come expecting to anoint a dead body.
    They have to be reminded by 2 men ‘in dazzling clothes, to’ “remember how he told you, . .?” they say.

When they run back full of excitment, how do the 11 respond?
    “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (Lose also helps us recall that the Greek word used for the men’s reaction is the root of our word, ‘delirious’. The men thought the women were delirious.. .)2

So if we still have trouble with this day celebrating a story of resurrection that we don’t fully understand, we’re in good company!

Those who struggle with what resurrection means, can find comfort with the disciples who were in the middle of all the drama and yet didn’t know what to think.

It’s actually a bit easier to identify with Mary - in John’s story of the encounter - she’s sad, fearful and confused, wandering in the garden “early in the morning”. She’s focussed on  the missing body and where it went. Who took it?     She may not be hung up with logical questions, but she’s hasn’t transcended to a conception of resurrection either.
It’s only when her conversation -with the one she thinks is a gardener- get’s personal, and the Risen Jesus calls her by name. . .that her grief is pierced by something greater. . . The joy we call, GOOD NEWS.

We can identify with Mary's grief, can’t we?
Because, We’ve known loss, death, emptiness.
At some time we have known the end of all we had our hearts set on.3

At these times of desperate loss, Our need is for the promise of life; life in the face of death.
    It’s more than a vague comfort we seek, that we will see departed family or dear friends again. That is the kind of solace we seek right after a loss. (when someone dies)
What we need when we hit bottom is the promise that there is truly MORE,
    . .more to live for than money,
        more to live for than the security of a home,
            more to life than just the  breaths we take in a short lifetime.
We need what Jesus promised, taught and showed by his living. That there is MORE to life than ..this.

Jesus lived the Alleluia that says, “Yes, there IS MORE”
    every day  of his earthly life. He tried again and again to teach it to those who followed him.
    Jesus’ life of Alleluia
Can you think of places he brought real LIFE (w/a capital ‘L’) into people’s (little ‘L’) lives?
We’ve named some of these before
    =(examples to quick summary from J’ in Luke)
    He healed a bent over woman and one who bled
    He exorcised demons, and healed debiliating skin diseases
    He restored the ear cut off when he was arrested
 And places he taught Alleluia?
    Blessed are. . .

He fed, healed and restored people to community.
All the while telling people they were blessed, when they didn’t feel like it.

    -He showed there was power in HIS community that intimidated authorities who held earthly power.
    -He pointed priorities back to people and basic needs and turned them away from accumulating things and wealth.

He let the world do it’s worst to him, and by his unwavering faith in God’s constant presence, (Into your hands I commend my spirit) his life AND his death said, ‘there’s more to living than you can see’ watch me! .  . .
. .And it’s hard to make logical sense of that.

Jesus didn’t ignore or deny reality. He just trusted in something greater. When Sunday morning came, God raised him, in a way that is also inconceivable - a resurrection. Raised him to a NEW ORDER of BEING. (Not just brought back to human life that lives under the threat of eventual death, but a NEW kind of life.)
God brought ALLELUIA into human life when he raised Jesus.
    Alleluias in life
Where are the places in our world that need a life giving alleluia ?
    Places that need resurrection?

**And where are the places you’ve have seen the touch of a Divine Affirmation of LIFE?  Places where YOU find new life:

    (List places, mountain top, sunrise, face of one you serve, or looking down into the face of the one washing your feet?)

In next couple weeks we hear stories of places where new life broke in and resurrection was discovered as Jesus appears & SURPRISEs, even those who knew him best.

Their surprise became an alleluia of recognition when they met Jesus again. Eventually, that experience of hearing Jesus call their name, or walking beside him became the beginning of a WHOLE LIFE OF ALLELUIAS.
The ones who first only followed him, then lived the Jesus’ Way, believing in something that doesn’t make sense, believing in something that others couldn’t see.

I beleive in many things I can’t see.

I believe that unseen currents make that Dove up there move.
Dove suspended in window over cross.

    Sure, the physics majors can explain why. But even in a dark and still sanctuary on Friday night, that dove slowly turned. And I beleive in the unseen forces that are behind that movement. . Why?
Because at some point (in some physics class) someone told me about these unseen forces. . And I believe.
. . .
Conclusion - I believe
I believe in unseen forces that move suspended objects.
I believe in unseen forces that bring new life out of the ground every spring.
I believe in the God of resurrection, whom we see at work when people leave rehab and return home.
We see it in when a baby is born where none was thought possible.

We see it in the human ability to go on in the face of horror, and tragedy.

We see it when we come up against huge stones in our path that are far too big to roll away - by ourselves. . . And they move aside. . .

That's when this story of resurrection becomes the alleluias we live.

That’s when the unseen force that creates new life becomes our hope for tomorrow.
. . .
Clinging to the promise that ‘life is more than the death we fear’ is a way to live the ALLELUIA of Easter; EVERY DAY.

 And to that I say alleluia, can you?
1.David Lose, 2
3. Thoughts for Sunday: sparked by texts 4 preaching. Re: John

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I need to come up with new posts. Now that I'm not creating the same kind of 'sermon' but allowing the message to come from the congregation, what to put up here? Perhaps some of my outline will spur questions?

John 12:1-8 Mary Anoints Jesus' Feet

What do we already COLLECTIVELY know about this story?
It's different than Mark 14:3-9 (what part of body gets anointed in Mark?) Matt 26:6-13  
In Luke, 7:36-50 ‘a woman’ anoints his feet. But what kind of woman?

Surrounding text in John:
     Lazarus raised
     Plot to kill Jesus...11:45-54.. (and kill Lazarus, “Since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus” v. 11)
     Prophetic words “Is it not better that one should die for the people than the whole nation be destroyed?”
     Followed by triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

 In this setting of Mary & Martha’s family, after Lazarus raised from dead, how would Lazarus feel?
    Martha feel?       Mary feel?    What else do we know about Mary?
Stained Glass, St. Hedwig Parish Catholic Church, Detroit Michigan.
Martha,      Louis S. Glanzman.
Trinity Church, Woodbridge...


Tiepolo, Italian pen and ink

Vermeer, a more familiar painting of the 2 of them
ASK: Why do you think it is hard to find artwork of this scene? (Hint, has something to do with other gospels?)... The ‘sinful woman’ is a dicey, more interesting story...perhaps.
This painting reminds us of the Mary/Martha story in Luke 10:38. Who sat captivated at Jesus’ feet? (scholars not sure these are same two women)

There’s another plotline in the text. What is it?
    Judas: In John's gospel we are only a few days away from his betrayal.

And we have this famous statement by Jesus, “You will always have the poor among you, but you won’t always have me.” v. 8
ASK: Do you remember what Jim Wallis said about this verse? (From Justice for the Poor curriculum, see above video.)

We often face this tension; between money spent in beautiful acts of worship and money spent on behalf of the poor. But Judas' high and mighty concern is discounted ..we can assume this isn’t the point of John’s story.

So if this text isn’t about ‘waste’, and it isn’t about concern for the poor who we are to ALWAYS be helping,
Slide (12) of Rubens anointing of Jesus by Mary.


Anointed for mission and death
The cost: Jesus was ‘anointed’ in baptism for his ‘costly mission’ and now anointed for his costly death with costly perfume.

Stench of death; past and future
The stench: of death has just been lifted from this house when Mary’s brother is raised from the dead by Jesus. Now Mary eliminates the coming odor of death by anointing Jesus for his burial.

Disciples; faithful and not
The truth: These are all disciples around the table. Not just the 12, but Jesus’ closest friends and followers.
This is a Story of one, who is faithful and one who is not.1
    One speaks, one does not.
        One speaks ultimate truth without words, ...
        The other. . ultimate deceit?
And yet, is anyone beyond Jesus’ reach? Judas remains a disciple...until HE chooses to walk away.

Cost of following Jesus
    Story of burning $100
Back to the cost: As Brethren we like to talk about ‘counting the cost’, which makes this a difficult story. It is hard for us to imagine the cost of that perfume = a year’s wages.
$50,000? $100,000?. . .

I read a story of someone who was explaining the meaning of extravagant gifts to God to a room full of preachers. He lifted up a $100.00 and said, “Lord, I offer this gift only to you.” He took out a lighter, lit the $100 bill and they all watched it burn up in an ashtray.
It caused quit a stir. He told them, “Don’t you get it, when we offer a gift to God, it ceases to be of use for the rest of us.”2

Was it “Wasted?”. .
. . . And that was only $100. This gift was worth a year of earning $100 bills over and over and in effect watching them burn away as she poured the valuable perfume on Jesus’ feet.
Good Brethren, tell me, aren’t you wondering...‘why wasn’t this money given to the poor?’
. . .

Mary’s EXTRAVAGANT ACT, w/o words conveys her LOVE. . .
“Either we love generously, EXTRAVAGANTLY, or we do not.”3

Without words she expresses her DEEP LOVE and alludes to the even more costly, extravagant act about to occur.4

Its A powerful story. today we ask this community, inspired by God's own Spirit, what is the meaning for us? What are we meant to take away after reading this story?

We may each take home a message, yet I think the message (I hear) for us as a congregation is our need to feel deep, abiding Love for Christ.
We, YOU, are so very good at understanding what it means to follow Jesus. I see your passion for reaching out in service to others. Each challenge is met with a new way to help.

THIS... Is a bigger challenge for us. To FEEL what Mary felt.
To LOVE so deeply that we STOP counting the cost. . . . .then give all we have to Jesus.

On Sunday, we closed with an old hymn, "My Jesus, I Love Thee" then we heard this verse
3 Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound,h of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair. The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume.
We listened in silence.

Then concluded by watching this video (YouTube)  of a choir on a plane waiting for maintenance who sang this song of faith!
 Give Me Jesus
Or watch it here: 

1 Geo. W. Stroup Feasting on the Word, theological (Louisville:WJK,2009)140
2 Wm. G. Carter Feasting on the word, pastoral (Louisville:WJK,2009)140
3 ibid carter 144
4 ibid, stroup.