Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Bread of Life. Amen.
When last we saw Jesus, he was taking a leisurely stroll across the waves after feeding the five thousand. According to Saint John’s account, Jesus had taken the disciples to a remote location, but the crowds followed them, as they are wont to do. With a sly look, Jesus asked the disciples where they could find food to feed five thousand people; Philip pragmatically pointed out that six month’s wages wouldn’t be enough to feed so many people, and Saint Andrew found a kid with five loaves and some fish – before quickly reminding our Lord that such a small meal was nothing compared to the size of the crowd. Of course that didn’t stop Jesus: he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it out to eat. And not only did it feed the entire multitude but they had twelve massive baskets of large chunks left over. As Jesus retreated further away from the now-sated crowds and his disciples sailed back across the lake (with Jesus miraculously following on foot), the multitudes were left with a burning question. They gave chase, and this is where we pick up today: the people have once again pressed in around our Lord and the disciples, and the people want to know what all this means! Continue reading “The Bread of Life”→
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who abundantly provides for our every need. Amen.
Last week, the lectionary did something a little weird: it skipped over the main event. Remember, if you will, the disciples came back from their big trip and the crowds swarmed around them; so many people flooded the area that the disciples “had no leisure even to eat.” To get away from the people, Jesus and the disciples sailed to a secluded place, and the crowds followed them. Even though the throngs put a damper on the whole “quiet spiritual retreat,” Saint Mark said Jesus had mercy on the crowd because “they were like sheep without a shepherd,” and then…nothing happened. The text skipped forward something like twenty verses and the disciples were back in a boat! It left us with a big unanswered question: what happened?!?! What did it look like for Jesus to shepherd the flock, to “have compassion on” the crowd?
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who claims those whom the world has rejected. Amen.
To my mind, one of the most satisfying feelings in the world is re-visiting a story and making new connections. I’m sure many of you have a favorite book or movie: one to which you return frequently and are always surprised to find some new detailed contained within suddenly grab your attention.
A good tv show or movie is worth watching once. We all know what a beach read is – a bargain book that you take with you on vacation. It might be worth reading once while listening to the waves and trying to keep an eye on the dog or the kids.
But a truly great movie or book is worth revisiting time and time again. Each time through, some new detail emerges, a new theme grabs your attention. The second, third, tenth time through, you’re still catching subtle foreshadowing, shades of irony, jokes that are set up three episodes before the payoff, plot lines discretely seeded in the first pages that culminate in the final chapters. Notes that start subtly but soon dominate the score, meaningful echoes that play out at different levels. Continue reading “From the Beginning, with the End in Mind”→
This past Sunday was the Feast of Corpus Christi, not commonly observed outside the Roman Rite (owing to debates on how to understand “real presence” in the Sacrament), but one on which Pope Francis offers profound this profound reflection on the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist:
As he did with his disciples, so too today Jesus asks us, today, to prepare. Like the disciples, let us ask him: “Lord, where do you want us to go to prepare?” Where: Jesus does not prefer exclusive, selective places. He looks for places untouched by love, untouched by hope. Those uncomfortable places are where he wants to go and he asks us to prepare his way. How many persons lack dignified housing or food to eat! All of us know people who are lonely, troubled and in need: they are abandoned tabernacles. We, who receive from Jesus our own room and board, are here to prepare a place and a meal for these, our brothers and sisters in need. Jesus became bread broken for our sake; in turn, he asks us to give ourselves to others, to live no longer for ourselves but for one another. In this way, we live “eucharistically”, pouring out upon the world the love we draw from the Lord’s flesh. The Eucharist is translated into life when we pass beyond ourselves to those all around us.
Update: For more on the Feast of Corpus Christi and the practice of Eucharistic Adoration in the Lutheran Rite, consult Fr. Frank Senn’s writings here and here. And a special thanks to the Rev. Robb Harrell for reminding me of Fr. Senn’s work on the matter.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the True Vine. Amen.
The college students were getting ready to deploy to, as their trip leader called it, “the devil’s home turf,” a place of “24/7 spiritual warfare” – that’s right: Daytona Beach. Their mission, should they choose to accept it: to evangelize the heathens of Bike Week and Spring Break, bringing them to a point of decision and “accepting into their heart” Jesus Christ as their “personal savior.” The instructions were clear: start with innocuous questions like, “Who’s the greatest person you know?” or “What’s the greatest thing that has ever happened to you?” If the answer is anything other than “Jesus Christ” or “Getting saved,” it’s time to kick the conversation into high evangelistic gear and lead that person down the so-called Romans Road. Continue reading “Faithful and Fruitful”→
Texts: 1 Corinthians 11:23-36; St. John 11-17; 31b-35
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who gave unto us a new commandment: love one another. Amen.
It’s been quite a week — the tension and turmoil have been steadily building since Sunday. We saw Jesus enter into Jerusalem during what must have been the city’s most chaotic time, just before Passover as pilgrims from across the world flood into the holy city, in a political rally that set Rome’s teeth on edge.
After the Triumphal Entry, the Gospels show us a more confrontational Christ: cursing fig trees, turning over the money changers’ tables in the Temple, openly arguing with the Sadducees and the Pharisees, preaching more apocalyptic sermons. Last night, we heard another prediction of Christ’s death, echoing the words we heard the second Sunday in Lent and setting the stage for all that will follow over these next three days. It’s just in the past few days that the plot to kill Jesus finally came together, coming to a head yesterday – on Spy Wednesday – when, according to tradition, Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Jesus.
Lent is nearly over; Holy Week, having just started, will soon be wrapping up. We are approaching the holiest days of the Christian year: the Paschal Triduum, the Great Three Days. After forty days wandering through the wilderness, and a week in Jerusalem, we have reached the most sacred time: the three-day long period leading up to the Great Vigil of Easter. During this time, we hit our spiritual low point followed almost immediately by our highest; we mark our most solemn fast followed by our most joyous feast.
Over these three days, we gather to worship through prayer, singing, the reading of Scripture, and the celebration of the Sacraments. We gather, depart, and gather again. The three primary services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil just after sundown on Holy Saturday form one complete liturgy. Continue reading “Paschal Triduum: The Great Three Days”→
Grace to you and Peace from God our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who has called us to be born again. Amen.
John 3:16 — this is sort of THE Bible passage for our culture, isn’t it?
How many of you were expected to memorize this at some point growing up? I know I was — it was almost a rite of passage in youth group. And how many of you still have it memorized? In that way, it’s sort of up there with the Ten Commandments.
How many of you have received a tract or a pamphlet with this verse in it? Or seen it on a bumper sticker? On a billboard? A t-shirt? On a sign at a sporting event?
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who came to confront the powers and principalities of this world. Amen.
Throughout the Gospels, we see Christ engaged in a struggle with spiritual forces: driving out demons and forgiving sins. Even at the start of tonight’s reading, Jesus and the disciples are performing exorcisms and miraculously healing physical ailments. But then it takes a turn into the political realm.
The political climate in ancient Judea was complicated to say the least. Governed by King Herod the Great and ruled, ultimately, by Rome, the Jewish people had seen their century of relative freedom under the Maccabees fall away. The palace intrigues of the Roman world are famous, retold in Shakespearean tragedies and modern television dramas, but the political scandals of Jerusalem are just as captivating. Herod was nothing short of a monster: he murdered rivals, priests, and even his own wife and children. He utilized a secret police force to suppress opposition. He curried favor with the Roman oppressors to secure his own authority. Continue reading “Jesus Came to…Confront the Powers and Principalities”→