Worship on a Wilderness Road

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Texts: Acts 8:26-40; 1 John 4:7-21; St. John 15:1-8


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who abides with us. Amen.

It’s not an ideal situation, that’s for sure. If I were to sit down and plot it out, for maximum impact, it’s not how I would draft it. (Probably why nobody’s asked me to add to the canon yet.) But here it is: the first conversion of a Gentile to the Christian faith recorded in Acts. To be certain, Christ’s ministry attracted Gentile attention (the Syrophoenician woman in Mark and Matthew, and in Luke the Gerasene demoniac and the Roman centurion). But today, we see the Church for the first time open its arms to someone born outside the heirs of Abraham.

That’s a controversial enough proposition – it raises quite a few arguments in chapter 10 and again in chapter 15. But add to that the setting – outside of Jerusalem, with just a few people, the Ethiopian eunuch, and Philip – and it becomes downright odd. Up to this point, the Church’s ministry has been dominated by stirring speeches to large crowds (like Peter on Pentecost or Stephen as he’s martyred). It’s just a normal day on a road in the wilderness.

Continue reading “Worship on a Wilderness Road”

The Good Shepherd

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Texts: Psalm 23; St. John 10:11-18


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

Every year, on the fourth Sunday of Easter, we mark what has come to be called Good Shepherd Sunday – reading through part of John 10. Arguing with a group of Pharisees, Jesus says that he is the shepherd, that the sheep hear hisvoice for they know him (we read that section last year). In today’s text, he clarifies: he is not just any shepherd but the Good Shepherd.

Christ isn’t merely some hired hand who runs off at the first sign of trouble but rather the very one who seeks out the lost sheep, who wades into the swift waters to rescue the drowning, who crawls through the briar patch to free the ensnared, who fights off bandits and wrestles wolves to save the lambs.

Far from the clean-faced and bed-sheet-clad shepherds of modern Nativity plays, Christ is the shepherd who, to quote Pope Francis, smells like the sheep.

More than that, Christ is the one who lays down his life for the flock.

Continue reading “The Good Shepherd”

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.

Continue reading “The Resurrection – Myth Meets History”

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.

Continue reading “Come Out From Behind Your Locked Doors”

“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.

Continue reading ““Mary!””

An Incarnate Ascension

A Homily for the Ascension of our Lord

Texts: Acts 1:1-11; St. Luke 24:44-53


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus, the Risen Lord, who ascended into heaven and will return again on the last day. Alleluia. Amen.

Forty days after the Resurrection, after having walked the earth – an assurance that the Resurrection is a physical, bodily event, that we too shall be raised not just as disembodied spirits floating in the air but in a real, fleshy way – our Lord ascended. And this too was a physical event; just as he stepped down from heaven and became Incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary, taking on humanity in its fullness, so too did he ascend in his incarnate body.

It must have been quite a sight to behold, the Son of Man taken away on the clouds.

If this were a movie, the music would swell. We’d get tight shots of the apostles’ faces as they watch. John would have a serene look of contentment, Peter would cry a little, Thomas would look on in wonder. And then, just as the score reached its crescendo, Christ would disappear into the clouds and we would have a hard cut to black, a title card, and the credits.

The end.

But this isn’t a movie, and this isn’t the end of the story. Continue reading “An Incarnate Ascension”

Not Alone

A Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Texts: 1 Peter 3:13-22; St. John 14:15-21


Grace to you and Peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who will not leave us abandoned. Amen.

Last week, we read Christ’s words to the disciples: Do not let your hearts be troubled.

Spoken on the night before his crucifixion, his words stand in stark contrast to the situation at hand: everything was about to get much worse.

When Philip asked how we might know the way, just hours before Pilate would sneer, “What is truth?” on the eve of his death, Christ boldly asserts, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Today, we pick up on the very heels of that narrative. Continue reading “Not Alone”

The Good Shepherd

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Texts: Psalm 23; St. John 10:1-10


Good_shepherd_01_small

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

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we set out to read through a familiar passage – one we’ll read in its entirety over the three years of the lectionary cycle.

Today, Christ tells us he is our shepherd – and, spoiler alert, next year, he’ll clarify that he’s not just any shepherd but the Good Shepherd.

Christ isn’t merely some hired hand who runs off at the first sign of trouble but rather the very one who seeks out the lost sheep, who wades into the swift waters to rescue the drowning, who crawls through the briar patch to free the ensnared, who fights off bandits and wrestles wolves to save the lambs. Continue reading “The Good Shepherd”

Breaking Bread

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

Text: St. Luke 24:13-35


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who is known to us in the breaking of the bread. Amen.

Chuck Reese, editor of the magazine The Bitter Southerner, once said:

When a small town community in the South prepares to come together to honor someone who has passed away, something clicks in the brains of the community’s cake bakers. They get to thinkin’. They remember li’l acts a’ kindness done for them by the departed. They remember what she loved ta eat. The li’l things she said ta them o’r the supper table. And then they take all that information and bake the exactly right cake. And the cake stands on the table a’ the funeral home kitchen not merely as solace for the grieving, but as a tribute to the one who’s gone away.

In the South, food is not just something we eat. Continue reading “Breaking Bread”