Monday

Nobody talks about the ninth day:,
Six for creation, seven for rest,
eight for resurrection, nine

The women needed to market
the men were short of money, time
to mend their nets and bridges

Centurion ordered more
crucifixions, slightly distracted
snappy with his crew

Pilate washed his face
arrested by a new
wrinkle in the mirror

Herod continued mad
Caiaphas conventionally
politic and pious

Mary’s heart enlarged by stress
engorged with grief
enflamed with ecstasy, belief and disbelief

Jesus, within sight of home
wading over water, still
perfectly ambiguous, waits

Posted in Holy Days, poetry, prayer, story | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Adaiah, the Easter bat

A sermon for Easter morning at the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio

No one really knows what happened inside that tomb between late Friday afternoon and early Sunday morning. There are people who think they know. They’ve written whole books about it. But no one was there. No one really knows.

The soldiers at the cross knew that Jesus had died. They made sure of it.

Joseph and Nicodemus, his friends, and Mary, his mother, wrapped his body in linen cloths, just as Mary had wrapped him in swaddling cloths when he was newly born. They laid him into that tomb, a cave really, hacked out of the rock; they laid his body down as gently as Mary placing her baby in a manger for his bed.

Then, they rolled a large, heavy rock across the mouth of the cave, sealing it shut. No daylight could get in, no sound could get out, and there was no way for anyone to know what was happening between Friday afternoon, and early Sunday morning, when the women came back for Jesus’ body.

At least, that’s nearly true. But this tomb was a cave, remember? And what lives in caves?

She was a bat, and her name is impossible for humans to pronounce, because we can’t do bat noises any more than bats can do human speech. But roughly translated, her name was Adaiah.

Adaiah was sleeping in the shadows when the men came with the body in a shroud. She heard the women weeping outside. She watched the men wipe away their own tears before they went back to face the weeping women. She panicked, as suddenly a great stone was rolled across the doorway, and she was sealed into the tomb with a stranger, and more importantly, nothing to eat!

It was nearly twilight, the time of day when Adaiah would expect to wake and stretch her little batty wings, swoop out of the cave and almost immediately stumble across a nice cloud of midges, perfect for a light breakfast, like a jolt of coffee to her little bat body.

Instead, she was trapped, and she was hungry. She looked at the shrouded body, and said, “So now what?”

No one knows what answer Adaiah heard, although some people have written whole books about it. But they don’t speak bat language, and Adaiah couldn’t speak human, so I don’t know why they thought they could speak for her.

At any rate, very early on Easter Sunday morning, when Adaiah should have been about dying of hunger, instead, when the stone rolled away and the light let in, the little bat flew out in great excitement. She saw the women coming back for Jesus’ body, and she swooped and hollered at them, “He’s alive! He’s alive!” But they couldn’t hear her. They would have to find out for themselves.

All of the other bats had gone back to bed for the morning, so Adaiah told the birds, and you know what birds are like, they told everyone – and Adaiah told a small fly, who was so surprised that she didn’t just eat him that he described it as a miracle.

When Adaiah returned to the tomb, her cave, the man was gone. The angel who had stopped by to pass on the message that Jesus was alive, he was gone. The women he told were gone, and all that was left was a linen cloth. Adaiah snuggled into its folds, remembering those wonderful three days when she had witnessed the deepest mystery of God, and dreaming of glory.

***

Actually, I think that the only people who do know what happened during those long hours between Friday night and Sunday morning are those who have been to the tomb with Jesus.

The people who have been locked away from the light for what feels like eternity, by circumstance, by illness, by depression.

The people who have laid a child to rest, wrapping her as though in swaddling clothes, kissing her goodnight.

The people who have been harrowed by life, who have found themselves in hell. They are the ones who know what happened in that tomb.

We live in difficult times, when terror and strife tear up the Holy Lands and our own relations. So did Jesus.

We are shocked and numbed by violence, visited on the innocent, borne by Jesus.

We live in a divided nation, a divided world; so did Jesus.

We are trapped in our racism, Romans still crucifying those who are not citizens of the supreme empire, let those with ears understand. We who live by the gun are dying by it, as Jesus predicted in the garden. We who will not love one another, love God’s grace above ourselves, are scattered in the imaginations of our own hearts.

We live with fear, we live with faith. So did the disciples of Jesus.

The promise of the empty tomb does not stand alone. It is the answer to the question that the sealed tomb poses: what happened? How could he die? Where is God now?

The empty tomb assures us, he is risen. And where will we find our resurrection?

We find it in the voices of our children, shrill, demanding, and close to the kingdom of heaven. We find resurrection in the faith of the dying, in the resolute announcement of alleluias at the graveside. We find resurrection here, in the bread and the wine, the Word and the sacrament.

Sometimes, like the women coming to the tomb in the early morning darkness, we are so fixated on the rock in our way that we are hardly able to grasp that resurrection has, indeed, happened. We are so certain that it could never happen to us, for us, on our watch that we are speechless. We are so frightened that no one will believe us that we hide the good news even from ourselves.

But as our preacher at last night’s Vigil reminded us, God does not depend upon us for resurrection. Whether we notice it, whether we are ready for it, whether we expect it, even whether or not we believe it, Christ is risen.

If we live in the light, we will find him in his glory. If we are sealed in the tomb, we will find that in the darkness, resurrection is already beginning, and he will wait with us until we are ready to roll back the stone of grief and leave our own grave clothes behind.

It may cost us our denial, our despair, but resurrection is always already waiting.

Wherever we seek him, Christ is to be found, because he is alive. The promise of Easter is that wherever we find ourselves, Christ is already resurrected and expecting us. He has gone ahead of us to enlighten the way of life. There is nowhere, and no one, who is beyond the reach of his mercy, his love, his wounded and whole heart.

May each of us find the resurrection that we need this Easter, and rejoice in the mystery of the Risen Christ.

Posted in Holy Days, lectionary reflection, sermon, story | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Fool’s Easter

Holy fool does not know
when to repress his mirth,
how to lie low
while others mourn;

anointing his body spicily,
they wind him back into the earth:
Hush, fool, for we buried you
deeper than god.

Posted in Holy Days, poetry, prayer, story | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Denial

Is there any place on this earth
where that damned cock won’t crow?
Once, and all at once pandemonium,
panic sets in, the dogs of war cry
havoc, unleash every sin
of omission, commission, revision, recidivism

While the civilized world,
fuelled by burnt coffee, turns its foamy tricks,
one, serving, asks for a name. I am not Peter,
no rock, but Aquarius.
Water finds its own level,
moulds itself to any cupped hand

Denial leaks dirty brown staining,
smearing my misspelt name. I need to find
that strutting bird before it strikes a second time

__________________

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of hte high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” But he began to curse and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” At that moment the cock crowed for a second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:66-72)

Posted in Holy Days, lectionary reflection, poetry, story | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Betrayal

Loose lips sink kisses
drunk on Communion wine
love’s drowned by desire

______________

Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man.” (Mark 14:44)

______________

Giotto di Bondone, Kiss of Judas [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Posted in haiku, Holy Days, lectionary reflection, poetry, prayer, story | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Palm Sunday 2018: outsourcing peace

A sermon for the Palms and the Passion, Lent 2018, the day after the March For Our Lives

What did that first Palm Sunday procession look like?

It was not a polished affair, a carefully planned liturgy with robes and roles assigned, hymns practiced and printed …

It was a street demonstration. It was a rabble, searching its collective memory for chants that made sense, which everybody knew, a makeshift melee … It was a protest march. In respectable eyes, it looked like an invitation to a riot…

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan wrote in The Last Week: what the gospels really teach us about Jesus’ final days in Jerusalem:

Two processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year 30 …

On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Idumea, Judea, & Samaria entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers …

Pilate’s military profession was a demonstration of Roman imperial power and Roman imperial theology.

That imperial theology said that Caesar was equal to God, because of his might, because of his reach, because he could stand his ground against anyone, because his word was law and could not be gainsaid, because he was well-armoured, well-armied, because, simply put, he was the emperor.

Jesus, on the other hand; Jesus was the real deal, and if you are God, verily and truly, you do not need nor want weaponry to wipe out the people you have made in your own image. If you are God, verily and truly, how will you exercise your power over the people?

Christ Jesus … was in the form of God … he humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross (Philippians 2)

God, it seems, would rather suffer death than deal in it; would rather use the infinite love of which creation was born to rescue even the most unworthy and unfaithful image of God from destruction. God has the most sympathetic heart.

It is tempting – it is so very tempting to make comparisons between Pilate’s parade and a modern commander in chief’s show of military might for its own sake; to compare Christ’s slung-together protest to a student demonstration of the value of life over iron, of the image of God over the inventions of a warlike people.

And I do believe that the gospel supports such demonstrations of love. If not, I wouldn’t have been downtown yesterday with a couple of bishops, a handful of deacons, a bunch of priests, hundreds of lay people, including some of our own, following the example of children who tell the truth in love about what kind of life the gospel calls us into.

But as ever, the gospel goes further: further than we almost dare imagine.

Borg and Crossan, describing those competing parades, write:

Jesus’ procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, the glory, the violence of the empire that ruled the world. Jesus’ procession embodied an alternative vision, the kingdom of God …

This king, riding on a donkey, will banish war from the land – no more chariots, war-horses, or bows. Commanding peace to the nations, he will be a king of peace.

It is hard to follow the Prince of Peace into battle. It is little wonder that by the end of the week, the crowd was cynical and Peter was depressed, and Judas … Judas had been flipped and radicalized in the worst way.

The way of the cross demands such love, such love as gives its all to God, to a neighbour, even to an enemy. We are capable of such love, because we are made in the image of God, made out of that very self-giving love…

But we are easily distracted, by Pilate’s parade, by Caesar’s certainty, by the ease of lying to a servant girl, “No, I am not one of them … I will not step out of line…”

It is hard to stay with the Prince of Peace, but I learned a valuable lesson years ago from a philosopher named Tony whose day job was selling burglar alarms. Tony was selling my parents an alarm system, but before he sealed the deal, he offered them an out, and a warning: “If you install this system, you will never feel safe without an alarm again. Never.” If you outsource your peace of mind, you will never know a moment’s peace.

I thought of Tony again this morning, sitting at the stoplight between the highway and the neighbourhood, where a lawn sign advertised a “concealed carry course” offered by one BullsEye-Ken.

If we outsource our peace, to politics or Pilate, or to the superstition that a small piece of metal, tucked into a pocket, supplies; if we outsource our peace to any but the Prince of Peace, we will know no peace of mind, no freedom of spirit. We will forget how to fly, remain earthbound.

But if we can hold on to our hosannas, the faith we have in the king of peace who comes on a donkey, playing at parades with the children; if we can only keep that faith, we will be lifted up.

The comfort, and the conviction, is that Jesus has already done the heavy lifting. All we have to do, for one week (one week at a time), one Holy Week, is to follow in the way of the cross, to know the radical transformation that God has offered us.

It flies in the face of the regular, the respectable, and the regal. It undermines the imperialism of the established regime. It is the kingdom not of Caesar, but of God. And if ever it was, that kingdom is now at hand.

______________________________

Marcus J. Borg & John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach Us About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem (HarperOne, 2006)

Posted in current events, Gun control, gun safety, lectionary reflection, sermon, story | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Revolve

Our silence blinding noise
our haste a purpling bruise
our invention miscarried
justice moebius-stripped
somersaulting
our balance blurred and silver
leaving lightning after-burns,
devils dancing

our defence a deformed pitchfork
our hope embalmed
our light eclipsed
out darkness undermined
our world caught-mid-spin
neither void nor full
its gravity outsourced
your iron heart its pole

Posted in poetry, prayer | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment