Babel, Undone

A Homily for Pentecost

Texts: Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21


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El Greco’s Pentecost, 1596

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends the Holy Spirit upon us that we may be one. Amen.

Confession time: I’m not good with languages. My pronunciation is terrible, I have no ear for accents, and, worst of all, I don’t devote the time to studying them that proficiency demands. It’s a shame, too, because I’ve always actually really liked languages, especially the history of how they evolve and borrow from one another. Over the past twenty years, I’ve studied French in middle school, Spanish in high school, German in college, and Greek and Hebrew in seminary.

In fact, I took a full two years of German in college. When my parents were stationed there my senior year, I excitedly went to visit them in Heidelberg, and I was confident that my semesters of anguish would producing stunning results. First night in country, we went out to eat at a local restaurant; I placed my order in my most polished Deutsch:

Ich moechte einmal Radler und ein Jaegerschnitzel bitte.

…only for the waiter to respond in perfect – but frustrated – English. So much for that idea. Continue reading “Babel, Undone”

Revelation, as Told by Saints Peter and Flannery

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Texts: Acts 11:1-18; St. John 13:31-35


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Peter’s Vision, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who has given us a new commandment. Amen.

“Love one another.” Such a simple, straightforward commandment. And yet like all of God’s Law, this one convicts us of our own sinful shortcomings, revealing how rarely we live into the life that our Lord intends for us. It seems odd that the lectionary should place this passage on Maundy Thursday and then, this year, bring it back around so quickly. It’s been, what, a month since we read it last?

But perhaps there’s some wisdom in this: to keep this perfect Law ever before us, a reminder of our need for God’s forgiving grace and a guide of how Christ intends for us to live in response to our redemption. As if to say, “On Maundy Thursday, you were forgiven your sin, given the new commandment, and fed with the Bread of Life. Let’s check back in. How have y’all done living into the gracious new life of Christ?” Continue reading “Revelation, as Told by Saints Peter and Flannery”

Hear the Good Shepherd’s Voice

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Texts: Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; St. John 10:22-30


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

We’ve been dropped at the end of a familiar story: “I am the Good Shepherd,” says our Lord. (Indeed, this is Good Shepherd Sunday, and over the three years of the lectionary cycle, we make our way through the entirety of this extended metaphor. This time last year, we read that more famous portion of the text.) The Lord is our shepherd – not just any shepherd but the Good Shepherd. Christ isn’t some mere 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 ensnarled, 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 smells like the sheep and lays down his life for the flock.

Hearing this imagery, the crowd is… Continue reading “Hear the Good Shepherd’s Voice”

“Tend My Sheep”

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

Text: St. John 21:1-19


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Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the Great Shepherd who sends us out to tend to the flock. Amen.

Christ is risen, has sent Mary to proclaim this Good News, appeared to the apostles, and even to Thomas. So – as many pastors have asked – now what? Or, in concretely Lutheran terms, “What does this mean?” Continue reading ““Tend My Sheep””

A Good Day?

A Homily for Good Friday

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


 

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

It’s all gone wrong, hasn’t it?

Somewhere over the course of the week, things have undeniably 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.

Things certainly started out on a promising note. A protest, rich in messianic imagery, carved its way through the City of David. The King, it seemed, had returned at last. And as the Passover approached, expectation was high that God would once again deliver captive Israel.

The entire Gospel – No! The entire covenant! No! All of history! – had been leading up to this week – so much so that St. John devotes nearly half of his Gospel to the events in Jerusalem.

We were finally at the crescendo and something exciting was about to happened – the world was about to turn.

And then…

suddenly…

it didn’t.

Everything came crashing down. Continue reading “A Good Day?”

Eat. Drink. Love One Another.

A Homily for Maundy Thursday

Texts: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; St. John 13:1-7, 31b-36


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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 turmoil has 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. The soldiers were sharpening their spears already on Sunday, and the tension has only grown.

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, even predicting the destruction of the Temple, that jewel in Jerusalem’s crown, that staple of Judean identity. The religious leaders must be furious – if this upstart rebel isn’t silenced, the Romans will see to it that the Temple actually is torn down.

It’s just in the past few days that the plot to kill Jesus finally came together, coming to a head yesterday. Last night, on Spy Wednesday, we read that missing portion of tonight’s text, in which Judas Iscariot went out to betray Jesus.

In the midst of so much chaos, Jesus sat down with his closest disciples for a meal. Continue reading “Eat. Drink. Love One Another.”

“Do Quickly What You’re 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. Continue reading ““Do Quickly What You’re Going to Do””

A Good Shepherd in the Lenten Wilderness

A Homily for the Fifth Wednesday in Lent

Text: Saint John 10:1-18


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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 four words: “I am the Good Shepherd.” It’s such a familiar text, connected with so many rich symbols. 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. Continue reading “A Good Shepherd in the Lenten Wilderness”