Sunday, April 11, 2021

SERMON: "Everything Worthwhile"

The Second Sunday of Easter
Sunday, April 11, 2021
Luke 24:13-35

1.

These two disciples—at the end of Luke’s Gospel—they’re headed away from Jerusalem, away from the action, away from the destruction of Good Friday and the confusion of Sunday morning. And you really can’t blame them for this. They’re disappointed and sad. They’re understandably anxious that the violence, that the cruelty of that weekend won’t stop at Jesus’ cross. So they’re off to Emmaus. Rehashing details. Working through their grief.

When a stranger catches up with them.

And you notice in so many of these resurrection stories, that the Risen One is a stranger. In John’s Gospel, the Risen One’s a gardener, doing what gardeners always do. And here, in Luke’s Gospel, the Risen One’s a pilgrim, a traveler, a stranger. Just like the two of them. Just like all the others on the road that day. Heading home, maybe, after a long day of work. Wandering the roads, maybe, looking for a place to sleep. But it’s this ordinary stranger, this tired traveler, this pilgrim who questions the two of them, and then shares his own experience, his own questions, his own hopes with them. And along the way, they’re moved by his commitment, they’re inspired by his curiosity, they’re persuaded to invite him to dinner.

So—maybe this is the first Easter lesson. We discover Jesus in relationships. Right? And what we discover about Jesus, what we discover in relationships, is changing, evolving, deepening all the time. If Jesus is that pilgrim in the road, then Jesus is the old friend now, whose pain you’re asked to witness, and bear, these days; and Jesus is the refugee now, whose hope you’re invited to nurture these days; and Jesus is the colleague now, whose question, whose bewilderment puzzles you, but draws you deeper in conversation and wonder.

And it’s not just individual relationships we’re talking about. We encounter Jesus, we meet the Divine, in relationships with whole communities, in collaborative relationships with friends at the New Roots Church, for example, or the Seacoast Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition, for another. We discover Jesus in relationships: as we listen to one another, as we bear one another’s pain, as we open our hearts to one another’s wonder and joy and faith. You’ve all got stories about this. I know you do. The empire’s tomb couldn’t extinguish Jesus’ light. The empire’s violence couldn’t contain Jesus’ love. That love is everywhere we are, and in every soul, every story, every stranger we meet on the road.

2.

So they invite that stranger in for dinner, and not just for dinner, right? They invite him to stay with them, to abide with them, to make their home his home for a bit. This is a little community that’s come together on the road out of Jerusalem, in the shadow of all that violence and fear. And he goes in with them, to stay for a while, to share a meal. And it’s there—over that meal, at that table—that their eyes are opened at last, that he breaks bread and passes it around, and their eyes are opened. This stranger is their teacher. This stranger is the one who died on Friday. This stranger is the Risen One.

And of course, being a good story, it takes a sudden turn. Because just as soon as they recognize this stranger, just as soon as they see Jesus in him, he vanishes from their sight. Poof. He’s gone. Or is he?

Monday, April 5, 2021

SERMON: "Gospel of Resurrection"

An Easter Meditation
Sunday, April 4, 2021
Mark 15 – 16


1.

When Joseph rolls that awful stone into the opening of Jesus’ tomb, the story slams shut. The gospel story. The story of radical beatitudes and merciful reunions and fabulous feasts. The story of reparations and redistribution. When Joseph rolls that stone into the opening of the tomb, the story of Jesus slams shut.

And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph and James, her sister, her friend, her accomplice in this project—they see where Jesus’ body is laid to rest. They see where that awful stone is set.

And their pain, which is our pain, the grief of this little beloved community is excruciating and familiar. Empires crucify prophets. Generals carpet bomb peasants. ICE agents pull parents from children. Mass incarceration passes racism and poverty from generation to generation like a virus. And Derek Chauvin kneels on the neck of George Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds. So many crosses. And every time, the story slams shut. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph and James, they’re watching all of this. They’ve been watching all along. And they see where the stone is set. The streets of Minneapolis. The opiod crisis in Ohio. And the desert, and the border, and every detention center there.

It’s a gentle, generous voice they’ll never hear again. It’s a brave friend, a bold believer they’ll never touch again. And there can be no memorial service, no funeral, not now, not for this prophet, not for Jesus. Sounds familiar, right? So many of us, so many of our friends have known just this kind of grief, just this kind of deprivation and denial this year. Circumstances are such, protocols are such, that we can’t even gather to tell stories, to laugh hard and long, to give thanks and praise God. On Good Friday, Jesus is taunted by his captors, and abandoned by his brothers. Two days later, he’s dead and buried and his tomb—sealed tight by a terrible stone.

2.

But friends, there’s a moment here, there’s a moment in this story that changes everything. For Mary Magdalene, for her accomplices that morning, and for us. For our own beloved community in New Hampshire. For our world. The gospel says that they “looked again,” and when they looked again, they saw that the stone, which was large and awful and lodged in place, the stone had already been rolled away. Already rolled away.

You can call this a miracle, if you need to. You can call this unusual, if you have to. But this morning, I want to call this the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of resurrection.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

POETRY FOR HOLY WEEK: "The Soul's Beginning"

A poem a day, for Holy Week:
my practice of attentiveness and watchfulness.

The old basin sits, cracked and chipped, at the intersection,
Where the hallway meets the dining room, and guests
Simply can't avoid it; not if they're here for supper anyway.

They can go around it, of course, if that's their thing--
Around it, ignoring the brave and brittle chair at its side.
Eventually, though, the old host points in that direction.

One eye on the door you entered, another on the table,
You pull at your socks, pulling one, then the other, off.
This seems to take forever, but doesn't bother him in the least.
He's smiling, as if he's sat just there, in your place, many times.

Distracted by biscuits set out, or an apple pie in the oven,
You're not looking when he pours out the pitcher,
All that water, cold and clean, and it finds every pore,
Every muscle, every nerve's ending and soul's beginning.

And the toe you stubbed this morning before breakfast
Now wiggles with delight, you're sure of it;
And you had no idea toes could do that kind of thing--
Wiggle with delight, welcome grace, embrace the future.

But he's passing the plate of biscuits now, and it's heavy,
A holy kind of heavy--like the continents of the planet,
Round and warm and alive, moving around the table, 
From your hand to hers, from hers to his and back.

And you find yourself watching the door, the same one,
To see who might be arriving now, whose feet wait to be washed,
Because that inconvenient intersection is holy ground.
You're sure of it now.
And you can't wait for your chance.

Maundy Thursday
4.1.21
DGJ

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

POETRY FOR HOLY WEEK: "Jesus of the Jubilee"

A Holy Week practice, tuning the mind and heart
to the rhythm of days, to the fertile ground of our story, to grace.










The earth is your table, these seven continents, 
Oceans spread like a single cloth in blue waves, 
Teeming with life, seen and unseen, scented with salt.
This is my Body, you say: this earth, this table, this communion.

To this holy table, which is not to be guarded,
Which is never to be possessed, only to be shared,
We come to feast, we come to share, we come together.
I am the Vine, you say: my heart, my gospel, my vision.

And as we gather, many branches, many in oneness,
We look around, we watch carefully at your table,
As you instructed us to do in the Galilean fields:
Who is missing?  Who doesn't know?  Who hungers still?

And what can we do to repair the roads?
And what can we do to open the doors?
And what can we do to extend the table?

So that all the children can feast here,
So that all the children can share this harvest,
So that all the children can touch the earth and know.

This table is ours.  
This table is our birthright.
This table is the sanctuary where justice 
Is broken like bread and joyfully passed
From hand to hand, heart to heart.

3.30.21
Tuesday of Holy Week
DGJ

Monday, March 29, 2021

POETRY FOR HOLY WEEK: "Off-Road Discipleship"

As the years go by, I've adopted this little poetry practice as a way of moving into Holy Week, and down the path...there's much work to do this time of year...but the practice helps me stay in the rhythm of sacred steps...

Travel the path only your eye can see,
Walk the steps only your soul can find,
And someday, somewhere, somehow
You will leave the trail they told you to take.

That moment will shock you (and maybe them),
As you pull inconvenient branches from your face,
And brush leaves and tears from your eyes--
You may not see, yet, what your heart knows.

Breathing, you are befriended by the breath
That broods first when newness is near.
On this pilgrimage, your own pilgrimage,
The namelessness of all beginnings beckons, calls.

Know this, pilgrim: yours is not a new path,
Nor are you forever alone, forever wandering off.
Ancient as the wise river running the green forests,
Searching for the wild sea, trusting that very journey,
Your faith knows the hymns of prophets,
The whispered benedictions of ancestors,
And the broken alleluias of so many other pilgrims.

There is, just ahead, a circle waiting for you now,
Preparing a table of plenty for your arrival:
Your name is known to us, your question--a blessing.
In the clearing ahead, you will find us rejoicing.

Monday, Holy Week,
Poetry as Practice
3/29/21
DGJ

Sunday, March 28, 2021

POETRY FOR HOLY WEEK: "The Mount of Olives"

He says, Follow,
and we will learn to sing songs
that make the birds blush and the hills dance.
He says, Follow,
and we will lay down our weapons,
take up palm branches and kindness,
offer our lives as our witness to hope.

He says, Watch,
and we will see new patterns in the sky,
new pathways to communion and respect.
He says, Watch,
and we will learn to bow to one another,
and kneel before the needs of our friends.

He says, Truth
is no longer (and never was) a threat,
but is instead the life we weave together,
of compassion and compromise,
of confession and covenant,
of courage and koinonia.

With grateful, broken hearts, we follow,
to seek salvation in the very frailty 
that sanctifies our procession, 
and this scented spring, this Mount of Olives.
We are no army, and we bear no rifles, no clubs.
We are simply and only beloved, joined in faith,
resisting every certainty, seeking only peace.

Shalom.

These branches, our lives,
these hopes, our intentions,
these holy prayers, our bread and wine.

Shalom.

A Poem for Palm Sunday,
in a practice of Holy Week poetry.
DGJ / 3.28.21

FILM: "Time"