Pope Francis: The Stones Cry Out!

From Pope Francis’ homily on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion:

Dear young people, you have it in you to shout. It is up to you to opt for Sunday’s “Hosanna!”, so as not to fall into Friday’s “Crucify him!”… It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders – so often corrupt – keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?

Please, make that choice, before the stones themselves cry out.

And from his homily preached at the Great Vigil of Easter:

It is the silent night of those disciples who are disoriented because they are plunged in a crushing routine that robs memory, silences hope and leads to thinking that “this is the way things have always been done”. Those disciples who, overwhelmed, have nothing to say and end up considering “normal” and unexceptional the words of Caiaphas: “Can you not see that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed?” (Jn 11:50).

Amid our silence, our overpowering silence, the stones begin to cry out (cf. Lk 19:40) and to clear the way for the greatest message that history has ever heard: “He is not here, for he has been raised” (Mt 28:6). The stone before the tomb cried out and proclaimed the opening of a new way for all. Creation itself was the first to echo the triumph of life over all that had attempted to silence and stifle the joy of the Gospel. The stone before the tomb was the first to leap up and in its own way intone a song of praise and wonder, of joy and hope, in which all of us are invited to join.

Read the entire text for both sermons at Whispers in the Loggia.

Christ Crucified

A Homily for Good Friday

Text: St. John 18:1-19:42


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, the crucified one. Amen.

It’s all gone wrong, hasn’t it?

Somewhere over the course of the week, things have gone astray.

Sunday, we were cheering a triumphant Christ, and today, we’re mourning a man lynched by an angry mob with the blessing of a brutal empire. Even by the end of worship last week, the shouts of, “Hosanna,” and, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” faded away and the words “Crucify him,” echoed deep in our hearts.

Sunday’s palms are already to turning to ash. Continue reading “Christ Crucified”

Maundatum and Sacrament: Law and Grace

A Homily for Maundy Thursday

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.

In the midst of so much chaos, our Lord sat down with his closest disciples for a meal. Continue reading “Maundatum and Sacrament: Law and Grace”

Jesus Came to…Redeem the World

A Homily for the Final Wednesday in Lent

Text: St. Mark 12:1-11


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who came to redeem the world. Amen.

Over these Lenten Wednesdays, we’ve heard the stories of Christ’s ministry throughout the Gospel according to Saint Mark – the various teachings and miraculous deeds and simple gestures that defined so much of Christ’s ministry. Continue reading “Jesus Came to…Redeem the World”

RNS: Anti-Semitism and the Passion

The Church has a long and tragic history of anti-Semitism, and sadly the Lutheran tradition has played a large role in that story. From Luther’s own writings to Lutherans’ abject failure to oppose Hitler (the responses ranging from mere complicity to out-right collaboration), we need to reckon with and repent of our racism.

As we head in to Good Friday and turn our attention increasingly to the Passion narratives, especially Saint John’s, we are also entering a trying time for ant-Semitism. Saint John often used “the Jews” as a short-hand for religious leaders, especially the chief priests; as we read this story aloud on Good Friday, many will wince at the implications. The Jewish people in Europe were often charged with, and frequently attacked over, the charge of deicide, or the murder of God. For the Church to fully and humbly repent, it is vital that we put John’s language into its full and historical context.

To that end, I commend to your attention Rabbi A. James Rudin’s recent article over at the Religion News Service. The rabbi offers a brief history of Passion plays, their unfortunate anti-Semitic connections, and contextualizes the role of the chief priest as a Roman puppet. As we retell the story of Christ’s crucifixion, Rabbi Rudin reminds us, we must place the blame squarely upon the oppressive hand of the Roman Empire and their agents.

Paschal Triduum: The Great Three Days

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”

A Divine Protest

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.

Can you feel the tension in the air?

You can cut it with the knife.

The world feels like it’s on the very verge of coming undone.

In the shadow of Rome, a divisive preacher arrives riding on the foal of a donkey, echoing the ascension of King Solomon, the Son of David. It was Passover, the city had swollen to many times its usual population, and was full of pilgrims eager for the liberation foreshadowed in the exodus.

For the disciples, this was it. Isaiah had said that the Messiah would free the oppressed, right? And how much more oppressed could you possibly get than Judea under the Roman Empire? The confrontation between the world and God must be at hand. Finally, the Roman oppressors would be overthrown. This was what all of history had been building towards. Continue reading “A Divine Protest”

From the Mount of Olives to Golgotha:The Palm/Passion Sunday Paradox

palmsundayHoly Week takes us through a liturgical and emotional swing, from cries of “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” to “Alleluia!” But that swing is sudden, making that first move over the course of the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday morning. We gather with palms, kids joining in excited because things are so very different this day. And then by the sermon, a pall has fallen over the assembly. Somehow, Christ has been crucified — and we haven’t even gotten to Maundy Thursday yet.

Palm Sunday presents a particularly vexing issue for those involved in planning Christian worship. We begin outside with a collect and Gospel reading, process inside and…have another collect and another Gospel reading. We somehow jump the gun straight from the palms to the Cross. Why? And which text should a preacher take into the pulpit? And what songs should we sing? Continue reading “From the Mount of Olives to Golgotha:The Palm/Passion Sunday Paradox”