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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Easter Sunday HE IS RISEN JUST AS HE SAID John 20:1-18

Woman, why are you weeping?

John 20:1-18

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him”

“He is Risen! He is Risen Just as He said!”
“I have seen the Lord!”
“I’ve seen him! I’ve seen him! He said my name!”

After you, John, and you, Peter, left the tomb, I stayed. I couldn’t leave. I stood outside in the garden weeping. I bent over, and I looked into the tomb. I saw two men inside. But now I think they must have been angels. They said to me, “Woman, why are you weeping?” I wanted to scream, to shout, to throw something at them. How could they not know? I said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” After I finished speaking, I turned around. I saw a man standing there. He seemed to have come from nowhere, but I thought he must be the gardener. He asked me the same thing the others asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
I wondered why everyone kept asking me this. I said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Then he said, “Mary.” He might as well have said, “SURPRISE! It’s me!” It was him! I said “Teacher!” His face shone like the sun. He looked the same, yet different. I didn’t recognize him because I wasn’t looking for him. But when he said my name, I knew him. My heart knew him. Oh, my brothers, you shouldn’t have left the tomb so fast. I think you would have seen him too.
Oh, I’ve got to go tell some others. Can you believe it? Jesus is alive!
Oh, hello. Did you know Jesus is risen from the dead? You don’t know me? It’s more important that you know Jesus, but I will tell you how I know him. I will tell you what he did for me.
I’m from Magdala. Magdala means tower. It is found on the western shore of the sea of Galilee. It’s on a main highway, and like most towns on main highways, it’s a place where lots of evil happens. I lived there all of my life. I was like most citizens of Magdala, I guess. We’re not known for our morals. I lived a life that I’m quite ashamed of now. By the time I met Jesus, I had seven demons tormenting me. They controlled my life, and I was quite sick both in mind and body. HE IS RISEN
I remember when I first heard of Jesus. Someone came running into town one day and claimed they had met the Messiah. The Messiah! We had hoped for the Messiah so long we had almost given up on him. The man said he had seen Jesus cast demons out of people. I couldn’t quite comprehend why, but I knew I had to find this man Jesus.
I left everything then. I went searching for him. He wasn’t too hard to find at that time. Openly he healed and preached and everyone in the countryside knew of him. Even the scribes, sadduccess, and pharisees. But they didn’t like him.
I remember the day I first saw him. He taught in the midst of a circle of men I knew later to be his twelve disciples. I walked right up to the group, but when I got close enough for them to see me, I couldn’t say anything. I had been taught all of my life that women don’t speak to men in public, esp. important teachers. I just hung my head and tears fell from my face to the ground to mingle with the dust.
He read my mind. I heard him speak to the demons within me. After a struggle all seven of them left me. They had no power to resist this man of God. I fell on the ground. The next thing I remember, I was close to a flickering fire. The firelight shone in his eyes as I looked into them. I had never seen such love. Certainly no man I had ever been near had ever looked at me with love. I knew I could never leave him. I had to find out where that kind of love came from. HE IS RISEN
So I joined the group of women who traveled with Jesus and his disciples. We worked, sewing, weaving, washing for others. We used the money we earned to provide for Jesus.
Soon after I joined Jesus, the Pharisees accused Jesus of having a demon. I wanted to scratch their eyes out. How could this man have a demon? Obviously they didn’t know demons as I did. Jesus stood up to them. He always did. I had never trusted anyone until I met him. I trusted him completely.
Once Jesus mother and brothers came to see him. They could not get to him. I had met his mother before. She came to see him often. But this time Jesus said “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word and do it.” I knew then that I had finally found the family I had never had. James, John, even Peter they now talked to me, following the example of Jesus. Those who didn’t know us often showed the shock on their faces as they heard these men have conversations with us women. Jesus broke down barriers we had never thought to touch. He showed me that I am a valued person, someone worthy of love and care. HE IS RISEN
Jesus treated everyone with the same love and respect. He touched lepers as if they were his close friends or family. He talked to tax collectors as if they hadn’t even tried to rob him. He healed women without a thought that he might be considered unclean. He taught with authority. Everyone had to listen. They just had to. I never even considered going back to Magdala once joining his followers.
After a while, Jesus began to talk of death. His own death. We didn’t listen. We couldn’t understand how the Messiah could be killed. He had too much power. Hadn’t we seen with our own eyes what he could do? Sometimes after he had gone away to pray he would come back with tears and such a sad face. I wanted to comfort him, but I knew I couldn’t. Nothing could. HE IS RISEN
Now that I’ve seen what happened I understand his anguish. I was there as they brought him to trial, as the crowds cried crucify him. I heard the whips lash his precious back. Each time I felt the pain as if it were hitting me. As he stumbled under the heavy beam, I tried to get close to him, to touch him, to let him know I hadn’t left him. The soldiers threw me to the ground. I stood in the crowd as they pounded the nails into his hands and feet. Mary, the wife of Clopas, and I tried to shield his mother, Mary, from the scene. She wailed and couldn’t be comforted.
I don’t know how to describe to you the anguish we felt. We followed Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus to the tomb, to prepare his body with spices. But we didn’t have much time since it was the Sabbath. That Sabbath was the longest day of our lives. We stayed together, the disciples keeping a low profile in fear they too would be crucified. I didn’t care. I would have taken his place. But I stayed near my friends. We didn’t have many words of comfort to say to each other. Mostly we just cried. HE IS RISEN!
We never slept. When finally the first day dawned, the Sabbath over, I could stay in hiding no longer. I went back to the tomb. Maybe just being near his body would bring comfort, and we had to wrap the body better and add the burial spices. Darkness still filled the air. I could barely see. The sun had just barely reached the horizon when I reached the tomb. The stone had been removed. I knew someone had taken his body so I ran to tell the others. Peter and John ran back with me. They ran into the tomb and saw the grave clothes lying there. They didn’t say much, but ran home. I couldn’t leave. Maybe they would bring his body back.
But as I already told you, I found Jesus there that day, or rather he found me.

I wish I could explain to you the excitement, the joy. But you have all lost people you love. Remember Lazarus? How Jesus raised him? Imagine that, but 100 times better! Jesus took our dashed hopes of all that we had believed and made them anew. Renewed. His death devastated us, but his resurrection restores us. I just saw the risen Lord this morning. Now I’m ready to face anything the world has to throw at me. Nothing else matters. Just that he’s alive. HE IS RISEN!

What difference does the resurrection make in your life? It took Jesus saying my name for me to believe that he had risen. And he had told me about it hundreds of times. What will it take for you to believe today? John said he’s going to write all this down so no one forgets. He said he would write everything down so that others will believe in Jesus. I believe. Do you? HE IS RISEN!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Palm Sunday Year C Luke 19:29-47

(photo courtesy of

Finding Ourselves in the Crowd

Luke 18:31-34 And taking the twelve, he said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentile sand will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him, and the third day he will rise. But they understood none of these things; this saying was hid from them, and the did not grasp what he said."

Four chapters later, James and John request that they could sit on his right hand and his left.

Did you even hear what he said, James and John? The son of man must die! He's going to die and all you're concerned about his who gets to be first in line. Does anybody understand who he really is? Why must you put your anticipations upon him? Why can't you let him be himself? Why are your only concerns selfish when your master is about to suffer and die? Is it because you really can't believe anything will ever happen to this powerful man? Is it because all you can think of is that your dreams of a Messiah overthrowing the Romans has blinded your vision and made you deaf? And you James and John, might dare to dream you are able to drink the cup he is about to drink? Surely, you think, surely, if it leads to glory we can do anything...

The rest of the disciples become angry with James and John. Is it only because they didn't think of making the request first? And how does Jesus handle this dispute among his friends? "Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader, as the one who serves."

And they could not understand...they didn't know how quickly Jesus would show them exactly what he meant by that statement...

"Son of David have mercy on me!" Cries blind Bartimaeus as Jesus enters Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. Jesus heals him. His impending week of sorrows does not keep him from having compassion on those who cry out to him.

He prepares to enter Jerusalem, knowing what will happen if he does. They come to Bethany, near the Mount of Olives. Jesus tells his disciples to go into the city to get a colt for him to ride upon. The people are curious; the disciples tell them what Jesus had said...the Lord has need of this colt. It seems perhaps then the curious followed the disciples to Jesus. The people begin to gather. They throw their cloaks on the colt, they spread leafy branches...

This is the man who had heals the blind. Who had fed the five thousand. How many in that crowd had been fed? This is only one with any kind of power. The Zealots had not been able to free them, with their system of vigilante justice, attacking Roman soldiers and officials. Their own religious leaders were so corrupt the common people found no direction from them. Where is God? Surely he must be found in this man acting just like the Messiah prophesied in Scripture. Not all these thoughts crossed everyone's mind, of course, but it is so easy to get caught up in a moment, to get caught up in what the mob is doing

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."

He had said when John's disciples asked him in if he was the Messiah that the lame walk the blind see the hungry are fed...hadn't he said himself that he was the one they were all waiting for? Waving and shouting they followed him into Jerusalem

But the nagging question in the back of their minds continued to pound...why is he riding on a colt, and not a stallion? Echoes of Zechariah 9:9-10 "Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cutoff, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth." But how many people remembered this passage? How many people instead, remember stories of the mighty military power of David, and cry out, "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" Hosanna means Save us! For even in their praises they were asking him to deliver them from what they thought was the worst oppression. They didn't know their true oppression lay in the evil of their own they would show later that week.

He is deliberately showing he is the Messiah, but a Messiah without arms, without weapons, riding down the road of the Suffering Servant.

The people crowded and pushed each other, each trying to get a glimpse of the Son of David atop the colt. Shouting joyfully they stepped on each other's toes, no one minding because their minds were on one last, at last God has fulfilled his promise to us. Nothing else matters because the Messiah has come. Tomorrow Rome will see who is boss. Pilate will be run out of town, his fancy chariots breaking down under the immense speed as the Lion of Judah pursues destroy him. And on to Rome!!! We'll show them. The center of the world will be the holy timeless city of Jerusalem, not the pagan city of Rome. Tomorrow he won't be sitting on a colt, but a white stallion. He will be clad in robes of scarlet...

The gods of Rome will be overthrown by the Son of God, the Messiah. The only true God will show the world who rules...

This is the one who healed you in the past as you lay dying from a serious illness. This is the one who brought you out of poverty and led you to a decent job. This is the one who transformed your life so completely your old comrades don't recognize you...but today, today you say, he let you down. A huge crisis came and went and things didn't go the way you prayed for them to go. Not everything you expected has happened. Yesterday you were waving palm branches, lifting your hands and praying, praising him. Today you cursed him, wondering where he is in all this grief and sorrow. Today you cried crucify him because he didn't live up to your expectations.

But tomorrow has come and all he's doing is throwing out moneychangers from the Temple. He is angry...showing power and the people hope he his beginning his takeover. But instead of heading to Herod's palace he returns to Bethany and the home of his friends.

The week progresses and nothing the people expected happens. And then he is arrested...

Philippians 2:5-11 "who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness...."

Today we want to celebrate...but we must realize in shadow of the palms lies a whip, a crown of thorns, three nails, and two beams. And if you found yourself in the procession crying Hosanna, you might not believe it now, but you will inevitably find yourself in the mob crying crucify him--in only five days!

Lent 5C John 12:1-11

John 12:1-11
Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with 12,000 dollars worth of perfume. Where did she get that money? My first response is a feminist one. It is the woman who understands who Jesus is and the man who condemns her. Did she know he would soon die? Is that why she anointed him? Why did she not save it for his burial? Did she not believe what was about to happen. Those in power sought to kill both Jesus and her brother, Lazarus. Some of you reading this may be facing similar persecution. I have no right to say anything to you about such things. Why are there always powers out there ready to condemn anything generous? One of my favorite movies is Pay it Forward….a movie that illustrates what happens when a person decides to live a life of selfless giving. Somehow the world cannot stand that.
This looks forward to Jesus’ washing the feet of the disciples. Did he get his idea from Mary?

Both "prepare" Jesus for burial -- she by the "anointing" and he by the betrayal.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Lent 4C Luke 15:1-32

Lent 4C Luke 15:1-32

Please note this is not a complete sermon as the others were. I’m simply posting some thoughts and notes before I complete the sermon.

Luke 15:1-7
I have never understood the parable of the lost sheep until I heard a preacher preach it a couple of years ago. His name is Tim Green & he teaches at Trevecca Nazarene University. He illustrated the lost sheep this way:What does it mean to leave the ninety-nine and go search for the lost sheep?If you were the security guard for a high dollar car lot, and you noticed that one car was missing from your one hundred…and you left the lot unguarded in the most crime-infested part of town to look for it…then you would understand the search for the lost sheep.
Luke 15:8-10
A woman loses a coin…she has ten silver coins…now this I can understand. I remember losing a 20 dollar bill once. I think it went down the seat in the car. Never found it. Whoever bought the car must have been happy…I also lost a cell phone down the panel of my van once. See, I understand losing stuff!!!
Luke 15:11-32
The crown jewel of Luke 15 must be the prodigal son story. I know there are tons of messages in this little passage, but what I keep coming back to is the older brother.
I grew up in the church and worked hard on my righteousness…and to understand God’s grace, I must understand that God loves all of us the same…nothing I can do will make him love me more or less…yet God rejoices when one that has left returns…
Lord, I want to rejoice…and remove my jealousy…for I have been the older sibling.