Preaching prep: I’m always inclined to want to defend poor Thomas. And yet …
He only wanted the experience the others already had, after all. And why not? Back when they were debating whether to risk going to Bethany, he’s the one who urged them on, saying, “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” and here he appears to be the only one brave enough to be somewhere other than the locked room.
And yet, this year more than ever, I find myself pondering that blessing of peace: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And the collect: “Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith … ”
I wonder if we don’t skip too easily past the true meaning of peace and reconciliation, which feels so complicated, and settle on the lesson about faith in things unseen. Which feels easier – and which so often seems to lead church people into the temptation of feeling superior to everyone else who isn’t in church.
The dead man’s sister protests: He died four days ago, she says. It will stink.
But Jesus tells them to take away the stone, and they do it.
Then he looks up to heaven, and he prays. He looks back to earth and cries out in a loud voice: Lazarus, come out!
And even in death, Lazarus hears Jesus calling his name. He hears the voice of the one who knows each of his sheep by name, whose sheep know his voice and follow him. He hears that voice, calling to him, Lazarus come out!
I took this photo in 2010 in Copenhagen, at the Church of the Holy Ghost just off Strøget, the long pedestrian street where tourists come to shop and watch the street performers. I’ve been coming back to it all through this Lent. Each one of the three crosses seems to have something different to say about how we hold this mystery. I love the big one on the wall, the sense of the Christ semi-hidden in the wood, emerging slowly, waiting to be noticed by those who have eyes to see. Christ embedded in the stuff of this world, arms open to embrace.
Who in your life has been a channel of faith and grace for you?
Who has shown you what it means to live in God’s love, and inspired you to want to live that way yourself?
We talked about that in the little group that made it through the snow to our Lent study group on Wednesday. We didn’t do the full lesson that was planned for that day, because we’re saving it for the whole group this coming Wednesday. But we did talk about some of those people in our lives who have been most significant in bringing us to faith.
We’ve been talking about what we call the five marks of love, or five marks of mission – not a checklist of things we must do to prove that we’re Christians, but basic things that demonstrate that we are “marked as Christ’s own,” as the title of the program says. These marks are five things that demonstrate God’s love at work in our lives.
The first mark of love is that we “proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom,” which we can abbreviate simply as “tell.”
“So we say to God: Give us bread. Not delicacies or riches, nor magnificent purple robes, golden ornaments, and precious stones, or silver dishes. Nor do we ask Him for landed estates, or military commands, or political leadership. We pray neither for herds of horses and oxen or other cattle in great numbers, nor for a host of slaves. We do not say, give us a prominent position in assemblies or monuments and statues raised to us, nor silken robes and musicians at meals, nor any other thing by which the soul is estranged from the thought of God and higher things; no—but only bread! …
“But you go on business to the Indies and venture out upon strange seas; you go on a voyage every year only to bring back flavourings for your food, without realizing that … [it] is above all a good conscience which makes the bread tasty because it is eaten in justice. …
“‘Give Thou bread’—that is to say, let me have food through just labor. For, if God is justice, anyone who procures food for themselves through covetousness cannot have his bread from God. You are the master of your prayer if your abundance does not come from another’s property and is not the result of somebody else’s tears; if no one is hungry or distressed because you are fully satisfied. For the bread of God is, above all, the fruit of justice.”
~ Sermon 4 on the Lord’s Prayer, Gregory of Nyssa (died c. 394)
Remembering today all those including my ancestors who came here from Ireland as refugees, seeking not just a better life but desperate to avoid starvation due to famine and an unjust system of food distribution. On our trip to Ireland, Chris and I saw many “famine cottages,” little stone buildings abandoned as people died or left in those terrible times, and still standing empty. These immigrants were not exactly welcomed as they arrived here. Nativists feared that they and their religion would destroy America. Part of the stimulus toward creation of a public education system was to advance the assimilation of all those dirty ignorant newcomers – Irish and others who followed – and make them just like “us.” And alas, how well that project seems to have succeeded.
When we talk about character, we mean that particular individual set of qualities that make people who they are. Their basic identity, in other words.
What you know about someone’s character can tell you something about how that person might behave in a situation they’ve never encountered before, a situation that’s unprecedented – that’s the word an investigator used in the movie Sully to describe the emergency the pilot faced when a bird strike took out both his plane’s engines shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia.
208 second later, Sully put the plane down on the Hudson River, without any loss of life.
Later, when the investigator commented on the unprecedented nature of this crisis, Sully was surprisingly cool about it.
“Everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time,” he said.
Those of us who watched the movie together here Friday evening learned something about Sully’s character from the way he handled that emergency.
We learned that he was unflappable under unbelievable pressure, that through skill and experience he had a sense of how to pilot his aircraft almost by instinct, and that he cared deeply about the people whose lives were in his hands – all very good qualities to see in a person you have to depend on in any unprecedented situation involving your airplane.