The Resurrection – Myth Meets History

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

Text: St. Luke 24:36-48


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord. Amen.

We have spent the past three weeks confronting a radical new ordering of the world recorded in Saint John’s Gospel – beginning on Maundy Thursday with the Last Supper and the new commandment to love one another, followed closely by Good Friday and the entirety of the Passion. Then, on Easter morning, everything changed as we read how Christ appeared in the garden to Mary Magdalene, and then in the upper room to Peter and (most of) the other disciples and, a week later, to Thomas before sending the apostles out with the gift of the Holy Spirit (which we read last Sunday).

Today, we rewind just a little bit and change angles.

We’re reading from Saint Luke rather than John’s Gospel, and we pick up the story late in the day on Easter evening.

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Come Out From Behind Your Locked Doors

A Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter

Text: St. John 20:19-31


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Risen One who has set us free for the Kingdom of God. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today opens on a scene that, until last year’s pandemic Easter, was unfamiliar to most us: in the midst of our Easter joy, as we celebrate these great fifty days, we enter a room full of fear. The disciples, in the wake of the Crucifixion, are huddling in a locked apartment, hiding out of sight. They saw what happened to Jesus, and they are terrified that it might happen to them – that Jewish zealots and Roman soldiers might come after them as well, that they may be forced to bear their own crosses. They have heard Mary Magdalene’s testimony, that Christ is risen, but we can see their doubt. Picture their faces: jumping at every sound, the pit sinking in their stomach every time they hear a group of pilgrims walk by, every time a band of soldiers marches by. In the midst of Passover, the disciples are holed up in Jerusalem, afraid that the crowds outside might turn against them.

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“Mary!”

A Homily for Easter – the Resurrection of our lord

Text: I Corinthians 15:1-11; St. John 20:1-18


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord. Amen.

The world came crashing down on Friday. Expectation had been building for centuries – an anointed one from God, a messiah, would come to liberate the people.

Then entered a wandering preacher from Nazareth with the power to heal the sick, to cast out demons, even to raise the dead; he proclaimed repentance, the forgiveness of sins, and the coming Kingdom of God.

Just a week ago, there was a triumphal parade into Jerusalem, with waving palm branches and shouts of Hosanna! Hope abounded.

But it all withered like a cursed fig tree, and by Friday, Jesus was hung upon the cross, another victim of Rome’s brutally efficient crackdown against any would-be rebels.

“It is finished,” Jesus gasped from the cross.

And had the story ended there, with a lynching tree and a sealed tomb, then there is no good news.

If Christ is not raised, there is no hope.

If Christ is not raised, we are still dead in sin.

If Christ is not raised, let’s all just go back to bed.

If Christ is not raised – really, truly, literally, bodily – then it is all utterly meaningless.

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Breathed His Last

A Homily for Good Friday

Text: Isaiah 52:13-52:12; St. John 18:1-19:42


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Crucified One. Amen.

On Sunday, the disciples marched in a parade into the city, full of hopeful expectation: the Messiah, David’s greater Son, entering into the holy city at Passover! The Kingdom was at hand! It was all so glorious!

But over the course to the week, the disciples watched their hope wither like a cursed fig tree. It all unraveled so quickly: The confrontations in the Temple. The plot to arrest Jesus. At dinner last night, Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray him – and then Judas just got up and left.

And then Jesus told Peter that he, the Rock, would crack under the pressure. And then comes the garden, and they can’t even stay awake.

Then comes the sham trial, and only a few of the disciples follow – and Peter, standing around the fire, denies that he even knows his Lord.

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Love, Service, and a Meal

A Homily for Maundy Thursday

Texts: I Corinthians 11:23-26; St. John 13:1-17, 31-35


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who loving nourishes us with his Body and Blood. Amen.

Cast your mind back, if you will, to just before the beginning of Lent – roughly two months ago, on Transfiguration Sunday. Simon Peter, James, and John climb the mount with our Lord and behold the revelation of his glory as Jesus stands, radiant, talking with Moses and Elijah. Do you remember Saint Peter’s response?

He wants to stay, to build shelters for Christ, the Law Giver, and the Prophet. “Lord,” he says, “it’s good for us to be here.”

How much more so do you think he felt that during the Last Supper?

After the emotional high of entering the city in triumph, things had taken a turn. Suddenly, Jesus was in direct confrontation with the religious, economic, and political powers. He had turned over the money changers’ tables in the Temple, had debated with the Pharisees and Sadducees, and his teachings have taken a turn for the apocalyptic. If the Romans hadn’t been paying attention to this Nazarene preacher before, then the parade into the city and the scene in the Temple had surely drawn unwanted attention from Roman soldiers.

Maybe Peter and the other disciples felt the tension, or maybe they were too caught up in the excitement. But had he known everything that was about to happen – the tears in Gethsemane, the betrayal and arrest, the sham trial, his own denial, the torture, the cross – how much more would he have begged Jesus to stay at the table, tearfully pleading, “Lord, it’s good for us to be here.”

Let us stay at this last supper. Let us eat, drink, and be merry. Don’t go unto dark Gethsemane, Lord, because the soldiers are waiting there for you. But here – it’s good for us to be here.

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“Do Quickly What You are Going to Do”

A Homily for Spy Wednesday

Text: St. John 13:21-32


Grace to you, and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Son of Man who has been glorified. Amen.

When last we parted ways on Sunday, our “Hosannas!” had faded to chants of “Crucify him!” We enter Holy Week, knowing that things are not going to turn out the way we think.

The disciples had been warned that this was going to happen, but they continued to ignore it. They still expect something amazing, some climactic showdown between Jesus and the Roman Empire, one decisive victory, and as they gather for dinner in the upper room, they unknowingly share in one last supper and receive Christ’s final teachings before his crucifixion. We know something’s amiss, and even the disciples are starting to piece it together.

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Hosanna! to the King

A Homily for Palm Sunday

Text: St. Mark 11:1-11


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the triumphant king. Amen.

All is not well in Jerusalem.

It’s a city on the brink. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flood the streets. Riots are an ever-present danger. Roman soldiers are on edge, afraid that radicalized zealots might attack at any point.

You can cut the tension with a knife.

Can you feel it in the air?

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A Good Shepherd in the Lenten Wilderness

A Homily for the Fifth Wednesday in Lent

Text: Saint John 10:1-18


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the Good Shepherd. Amen.

When we think of tonight’s Gospel text, we only hear five words: “I am the Good Shepherd.” It’s such a familiar text, connected with so many rich symbols, memorialized in stained glass and paintings. But we must keep reading to really and truly understand what Christ is getting at. The Good Shepherd, Christ tells us, is the one who lays down his life for the sheep – a very real possibility for those charged with caring for such valuable commodities. Hired hands may turn and flee in the face of danger, but a good shepherd will risk it all to save the flock, even if it means doing battle with thieves and wrestling with wolves.

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Hope in the Ruins

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Texts: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:5-10; St. John 12:20-33


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who fulfills the covenant even when all hope seems lost. Amen.

Things had looked so promising just a short time ago.

King Josiah was on the throne and Judah was turning again to the Lord as the king and priests worked for justice, piety, and reform. The scroll we now call  Deuteronomy, telling again of God’s Law, had been discovered.  Josiah was a new David – but better!

It seemed as though the people, from the king to the priests down to the humblest of farmers, would finally keep their end of the covenant God had made with Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, and David – the covenant that had been broken in every generation. Judah would finally know God.

Maybe – just maybe – Judah would avoid the fate of their northern neighbor, Israel, that had been destroyed by the Assyrians a century before.

Judah had barely survived then, and a century later, Josiah ascended to the seat of his ancestor David, a righteous heir to shepherd the people!

And it lasted – that time of hope and fidelity – for a while.

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Bread of Life

A homily for the fourth week of Lent

Text: St. John 6:27-40


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Bread of Life. Amen.

One year, one week, and two days. That’s how long it has been since we last gathered together to celebrate the Eucharist at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Macon.

Fifty-three some-odd weeks of spiritual hunger.

And this as the economic recession from the pandemic has launched millions of people into poverty, emptied grocery store shelves of the staples, shuttered some food pantries and stretched others to the breaking point.

Over a year of increasing physical hunger.

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