Here Comes The Bride?

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, October 15, 2017, Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year A, Matthew 22:1-14

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.”
In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

Good morning.

In the spring of 1999… April 7 to be precise… I met my future bride at Billy’s House of Blues in Grand Rapids.
It was a Wednesday and the band Karmic was playing.
I can remember what Jodi was wearing and what I was wearing. I remember what I was drinking. I remember the next week and meeting her again for a concert at the old Intersection in Grand Rapids, to see the band Umphrey’s McGee. I remember meeting her family for the first time. I remember a few other things while we dated. For instance, we would meet up in Manistee because after we both had moved from the Grand Rapids area, Manistee was the half-way point.

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The Grape of Repentance

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, October 1, 2017, Pentecost 17, Proper 21, Year A, Matthew 21: 23-32

“For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Good morning.

Last week I was in Texas. I had a lot of assumptions about the way things would go when I arrived. I left Monday the 18th and returned Tuesday the 26th. I saw
The Ocean.
The smiles of children.
Pelicans diving for fish.
Hope in the eyes of those who have experienced great loss.
A parish experiencing the Eucharistic Liturgy as usual.
A dead cow stuck in a fence.
Miles and miles of brush and debris piled 15 feet high.
The tears of those who feel hopeless. Hundreds of volunteers who had given their time to lend a hand.
Michiganders being hugged by those that we were able to assist. Cockroaches.
Lizards.
Sweaty workers.
A bishop getting his hands dirty. Devastation like I have never seen my entire life.
Morning prayer in a parish in defiance of hopelessness.
Some of these things I assumed I would see.
Some of them I expected.
Some of them totally shocked me and jarred me into a new reality.

I had many assumptions.

I usually have assumptions. I usually have expectations… I guess we all do. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the generosity of humankind. Other times I am disappointed with those around me. Occasionally, I am upset with the action or inaction of God, the creator of the Universe.

What did you make of the gospel for today? Did you giggle at Jesus and how clever he seems here? Did you think, “Yea… give it to them Jesus… He’s so smart.He’s not falling for it.”

Did you find yourself relating to one of the sons in the parable? Did you think about a friend, or sibling or an acquaintance that you giggle about?

“That is so, Betty… she commits but then can’t follow through.” Or, I am done making plans with so-and-so. She always cancels. I wish she would just say ‘no’ to begin with.”

When I was younger… I never, ever do this now…. I used to always think that I was the good guy. That I was the one who would do what is right. The rest of the world… the rest of the Church… were a bunch of hypocrites. “Do what is right Church. It isn’t that hard,” I thought. Sometimes I’d even say it as a perceived prophetic act.

Then I’d shake my head at the ne’er-do-gooders and high five my buddies doing real ministry. We had it all figured out. We were so glad that we had what it took to make a difference… We assumed we were right. We assumed we were the good guys.

What about this… when you hear this gospel… when you hear this pericope from Matthew… do you assume Jesus is justified? Do you assume he is right? That his snark is “just telling it like it is.” Do you make assumptions about the good guys and bad guys? About the chief priests and elders? Are they the bad guys?

And how about the sons in the parable? Are those the only two options? I am kind of rooting for a son who says he won’t do it and then follows through with it. Then I could truly insert myself into this story 🙂 “Sorry Dad, I’m going fishing… Why don’t you ask if my sisters are busy.” The story ends with me really fishing and the grapes rotting on the vine. But at least I was honest.

Well, I need to confess. The first few times I read this text… the gospel text for today… I imagined myself next to Jesus. At his right hand… standing up against injustice. And maybe I do that from time to time. Maybe you do. Maybe we all do it more than I assume. More than I remember… more than I give us credit for. Maybe…

I find myself, often times, in the gospels relating to those on the outside. I assume that Jesus is speaking to everybody else. But not to me… not me and the prostitutes and the tax collectors.

I assume I’m on the good guy team. In my head, I am on the margins…

Interestingly… at least it is interesting to me… Jesus is judging the actions of the chief priests and elders against the message of John the Baptist.
Who preached a message of repentance…
who lived an ascetic life…
who ate locusts and wild honey…
who wore clothes made of camel’s hair…
who was beheaded…

And honestly…that description of John…. What he stood for… how he lived… that doesn’t sound very much like me at all. Other than being hairy… I don’t resemble John the Baptist at all.

And so I wonder… after reading this text… and trying to set aside my assumptions….

Am “I” willing to pick the grapes that only grow in the vineyard of repentance?

That was the message of John. That is what Jesus is criticising the chief priests and elders over. That’s what the parable is about. Will the folks with the power submit themselves to repentance? Will they make themselves vulnerable enough to examine themselves and submit to the kingdom of God? The question is…
“To whom will you kneel?” To which Kingdom do you kneel?
To whom will you pay homage? Which Kingdom deserves your respect and allegiance?
Who holds the authority?

And the beauty of the Kingdom of God… the beauty of the Prince of Peace… The beauty of this upside down rabbi… is that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. The beauty is that this prince… this kingdom… busts open our assumptions of how things should look.

It busts open our expectations of power and persuasion and prestige. The Prince of the Kingdom of God is the kind of Prince who serves the subjects… who washes their feet… who gives up power and prestige… who follows the path of his cousin John, who called for repentance and… who both died a martyr’s death. That’s surprising. That doesn’t fit in with our assumptions about a prince or a kingdom.

It is shocking and forces the reflective follower to examine life in a different way.

So I leave you with a few questions… “What do the grapes of repentance taste like?” Are they easy to pick? Are they sweet? Are they the Honeycrisps of the grape world? Are they best for making Eucharistic wine? Are they exactly the nourishment that relief workers need in their Texas lunch boxes?

Or, are they bitter? Are they hard to pick? Is the vineyard overgrown with brush and overrun with bugs? Are there snakes in the grass and is the sun too hot for picking?

My guess is that we will all be surprised when we taste the grapes of repentance. So, when you buy groceries this week, pick up some grapes. If you don’t like to eat grapes, consider buying them in their liquid form. Examine them for blemishes. Chew them slowly. Feel the texture and taste all of the flavors. Look on the package at where they were grown and imagine who picked them. Share them with a friend or spouse. Remember the message of John the Baptiser who cleared the way for the announcement of the coming Kingdom.

Amen.

The Brick and Mortar of the Kingdom of God

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, September 3, 2017, Pentecost 13, Proper 17, Year A, Matthew 16:21-28

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Good morning. It has been a gorgeous week this week, hasn’t it? Fall seems to have arrived early. I’ve seen some red leaves on 115 and the mornings have been cool. The salmon have been in the river for a few weeks now and they never get it wrong. All indications look like we will have a lovely fall and a wonderful winter here.

This past week, I took our kids to school to meet their new teachers and to have an ice cream cone. I went to a BBQ and feasted on ribs and sausage and had a margarita. I made some visits to parishioners. I had some meetings at church in the library and drank a few cups of coffee. I had the oil changed in the Prius. We met with the bishop. I cleaned the house. I read. I went to “Shop and Save” to get groceries. I played a couple of board games. I walked the dog. I prayed. My cousin is in town from Arizona and so I fished on the Betsie River. It was a pretty normal week. It was a good week. Not too memorable. Plenty of work to do and home life activities to fill the hours.

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Make Room In The Boat and Take A Nap

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, August 13, 2017, Pentecost 10, Proper 14, Year A, Matthew 14:22-33

“It is a ghost!”

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… Amen.

Today’s sermon is brought to you by the motion sickness medicine: Dramamine. Powerful, fast relief from motion sickness when you need it most.

Trust me… Dramamine will really knock you out. Makes you fall right to sleep. And now we know the rest of the story from Mark 4 when Jesus was sleeping in the front of the boat while the storm tossed the boat around… Only Dramamine could make a person rest so easily in the middle of a storm.

My first experience with Dramamine was back in 1997. My brother, Josh, and I had driven my Dodge Omni to Gulf Shores, Alabama, during Spring Break. There were many adventures to be told from that trip, but those are for another day.

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Let It Rot

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, July 16, 2017, Pentecost 6, Proper 10, Year A, Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom…”

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Good morning. I have always been fascinated by things that are rotting. When I was young, maybe 8, I remember taking a plastic wheelbarrow out to the tiny street we lived on.

I was so excited because I and my friend Sasha found a rabbit that had been killed by a car. I was sad and mesmerized.

I scooped it up and brought it to my mom to show her… I mostly did it because I was interested in rot… in things that were rotting.

I also started playing football at age 8… the same age as when I found that rabbit… I went to the same school for 13 years, K-12, in the same building… in Allendale.

The school had an old gravel track. It wasn’t good for much except for collecting puddles and letting football players run laps.

The track circled the football field and on the northern side of the track, there were woods.
It was the closest place for the janitors at school to discard the grass clippings for the school.

Every time I’d run around the north side of that track I would hold my breath and run as fast as I could because I hated the smell of rotting grass. But I was still fascinated by the rotting. Why did it smell so bad?

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Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2017: What Craigslist Can Teach Us About The Trinity?

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, June 11, 2017, Trinity Sunday, Year A, Matthew 28:16-20

“When they saw him,”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

Friday was the last day of school for most of the kids around here. It was the last day of school for my kids anyway… Last day to set our alarms to get up for school. Last day of making our lunches the night before… Last day of picking out our clothes beforehand… Last day… And because of that, our family was able to travel to the center of the state to get a chicken coop. It was all very exciting because when you buy something on Craigslist and make an agreement over the phone before you’ve seen the actual product, you never really know what you might find at the end of a long trip.  

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Grilled Cheese and Resurrection

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, May 14, 2017, Easter 5, Year A, John 14:1-14

“if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

In the name of God the Father and Mother, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit… Amen…

Good morning.

Alleluia… The Lord is Risen… The Lord is Risen Indeed

Happy Easter. I trust you have been appropriately feasting. Don’t give up now… No diets… no fasting… you can do it… Keep that champagne flowing… keep your glasses filled with that sparkling grape juice. Buy an extra box of chocolate…. Sleep in a little longer than normal… Take a nap. We only have three more weeks until Pentecost. Lamb and Ham aren’t just for Easter Sunday… So get to Honor meats or your local butcher and get cracking. Feast… feast… feast…

When National or Sentimental Holidays coexist within the liturgical calendar, our task as preachers become a bit of a sticky situation. If we say too much about the particular holiday we may catch flack, if we say too little, we may catch flack. Either way, on Mother’s Day, I’ve come prepared with my flack-jacket.

I remember my preaching professor really drilling it home that Mother’s day is not a part of the lectionary calendar… “Don’t you dare let your sermon be about Mother’s day,” he said… “But don’t you dare leave it out either…”  With this being my first Mother’s Day among you, I hope to use this day as a lens through which we see the lessons from this morning, within their proper context of The Holy Eucharist… through the lens of Thanksgiving.

So I find it fitting that our gospel this morning came from the Johannine community, where it is believed that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was most likely living. Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Theotokos, or Mother of God…A mother who found herself in a socially-compromising position and yet was called to the task of caring for God until he could accept his own calling as the Son of God…

And so I think it is pretty fascinating to think about Mary and where she lived out her days after Jesus was gone. Also fittingly, the Gospel of John was written to comfort that community that was feeling abandoned, a people who had lost and suffered much.

It was written as a reminder to the people that the Divine had not abandoned them but that they were, in fact, God’s people and that Jesus would soon be sending the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  

And as I slow down and contemplate the Mother of Jesus, I can’t help but think about my own mom. Her name is Nancy and she was most definitely not the mother of God.  I think she is here today, somewhere. Having raised me, I am planning on presenting her to the appropriate Church Council, to consider making her a living Saint.

Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are memories of my mother or of other moms from my neighborhood feeding me. For the record, the dads did this too, but in my context, there was something special about the way that the moms did lunch.

This was especially true in the summertime or on Saturdays. As a child,  it seemed like wherever I was in the neighborhood when lunchtime came, a group of children would find their way into a house or on a porch for some kind of sustenance. But my mom’s lunches were always the best and everybody in the neighborhood knew it.

I think 95% of the time, my mom served grilled cheese. It always had a side of carrots or apple slices or canned pears immersed in sugary syrup. Occasionally she would make a mistake and put celery on our plates but would make up for it by putting some peanut butter next to it… We would eat quickly… and then go back to the task of play that was before us. They are good memories…

Moms, or at least the Moms in my neighborhood, know that children need to eat. Moms know that they have a unique role in the beginning of life to carry the God-given image-bearer in their wombs until it is time for them to meet the world. They know that they will likely be the primary caregiver of these little humans. That they are charged with creating an atmosphere where their children can learn and play and grow into the men and women, God is calling them to be.

I imagine that is likely how Mary thought about her role as Jesus’ mother. And so the pain that she likely felt at his death was probably overwhelming, to say the least.

But after the resurrection, at some point the disciples, including Mary, in the midst of their shock and joy, began to try to wrap their minds around this Paschal mystery that theologians have been writing about for 2000 years.

The gospel of John is definitely a particular theological work with its own theological slants. The other three gospels were so similar they call them the synoptic gospels. They most likely drew from one or two other sources, written down for their own specific communities. But the author of John had a very specific way that he wanted the reader to think about the meaning of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. A particular way to try to talk about the saving acts of God through Jesus.

In fact, the lectionary now has us going back in time… We are transported back to the portion in John called “the farewell discourse.” It is kind of smushed between the last supper and Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane.

The Resurrection definitely needs theological context. That’s why we have this reading in Easter. I suppose that’s what happens when a human being was dead and then is somehow, mysteriously, alive again. The disciples would have gone over and over again in their minds and in their conversations about things that Jesus had said and things he had done to try to grasp even a sliver of what it could possibly mean.

Remember the sermon from last week and the stories about Philip raising people from the dead. Resurrection is mind-blowing. It is not natural…  Humans need to make meaning of this sort of thing because it is the opposite of natural. We don’t know what to do with Resurrection.

And the author of John, definitely wants the reader to know that Jesus was connected to God. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you why that would be. There would have been plenty of folks who would have been quick to report this news differently. Plenty of people who genuinely and honestly could not believe in the resurrection.

Most scholars believe that John was written or completed around the year 90. It was written much later than the actual events being written about. Most of the readers, would not have ever met Jesus nor would they have even been alive for the resurrection.

And remember, each of the four canonical gospels had their own influence and audience. Communities would most likely have had one of the gospels or portions of gospels that would influence their theology and the lens through which they viewed and re-remembered the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

And, as you can imagine, there was a lot of conversation about the death of Jesus. Was Jesus just another martyred prophet? A failed teacher who was guilty of treason and insurrection? A rallying cry for those who opposed the Romans and hoped to overthrow the Roman oppression?

Well, for the Johannine community… the community that had John’s account… John’s gospel… they were definitely grappling with their place in history and in the life of God.

Remember that as you read John, that the community still very much considered themselves Jewish. They are a Jewish community who has been displaced after the destruction of the Temple, by the Romans, in the year 70.

Because Jews who followed Jesus had been kicked out of the Temple and the synagogue by the Jewish majority… by those in power, which left them with no place to practice Judaism… no place to worship… no place to fit…

They must have been hoping that at some point they would be let back into the Temple.

God’s very dwelling place.

The only place that God lived.

But when the Romans destroyed the Temple… the only Temple… they would have felt desperate… would have felt crushed. And after that destruction, the Johannine Community would have been thinking, we need a written account of what we remember… what we believe…

So why did the Johannine community feel compelled to write this down? Most scholars believe it was written in order to com-fort

a specific Jewish community who followed Jesus… Christian Jews.

Now I give all of this background because, I think, it is essential to understand this history if we want to avoid an anti-semitic or supersessionist interpretation.

In recent history, the Western world certainly has been guilty of this. Western Christians have often lumped ourselves in with the Johannine Community and “cast stones”… at the Jewish people as a whole. Which is NOT helpful and certainly not the way of the Jewish Jesus.

As we read John, we are invited to see God in the person of Jesus. To experience the indwelling of God made mortal.

The gospel, as you recall, begins with John’s prolog… in the beginning was the word… and the word was with God… and the Word was God…

As Episcopalians the theology of the Incarnation is essential… We see Jesus as the human manifestation of the Divine… and as followers of Jesus, you and I, we,  are therefore called to also offer our bodies… our Temples… as dwelling places for the Divine… We are to offer space for the Divine to fill us and to overflow through us.

And, fittingly, we come to the story of the stoning of Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles, the Protomartyr… the first of all martyrs. He was a deacon… placed in charge of distribution of donations to those in need. In carrying on the Kingdom of God which Jesus declared and died for. It is a part of our lessons for today because Stephen is an example of what it looks like for a follower of Jesus to be filled with the Divine. To really embrace the Kingdom of God.  He is an example of a true disciple. Two weeks in a row now, we have stories of martyrs, two stories of what happens when you not only experience the resurrection but embrace it.

This is a scary proposition to me.

It is scary because if I’m honest, I have a hard time seeing similarities between my life and the life of Stephen the Martyr and it makes me wonder, “what aspects of my life still need to be resurrected?” “What must I do to fully embrace the resurrection?”

But the beauty of this story is that it is a testimony to Resurrection in the life of Stephen.

Because of his faith, Stephen knew that death was not the last word. Death was not the end. Not even death could get in the way of the coming of the Kingdom of God.

I am not endorsing martyrdom… though I think the case can be made… but what I am advocating is that you and I… when we are at our best… as Christians… as Disciples of Jesus… as Episcopalians… we will live lives that will not compromise until Justice abounds in the lives of all of those around us… will not compromise until justice abounds specifically in the lives of the poor and the marginalized.

When we are at our best… that those around us will at times, feel like they need to put their hands over their ears because they are tired of hearing about a Kingdom that refuses to marginalize… about a kingdom that refuses to leave people behind…

And our hope is that they won’t stone us like Stephen… but that they too will pick up the torch which Jesus left behind… that they will also live into a reality where there is plenty.

Where there is more than plenty…

Because in God’s Kingdom, there is more than enough. There is more than enough and there is room for all to embrace that reality.

And so now, I invite you this week to examine your own lives.

As a testament to the Resurrection of Jesus, look for people in your circles, your own neighborhoods, that need to be fed.

And as an act of Revolution and Resistance and Resurrection… offer them… something to eat.

I mean that literally and figuratively…

Find an organization today that you can either physically feed hungry people… or an organization that you can pay for meals to be provided…

Go online and offer micro-loans to moms on Kiva. K-I-V-A.

Make a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development…

write a check to the Deacon’s Discretionary fund….

There are people who need the comfort of mother’s milk… and you and I can offer that, with our wallets, “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

And… or… identify someone that finds themselves in a place in life where they feel isolated and marginalized… someone who questions their own worth… that wonders where they fit in this world… a modern day member of the Johannine Community that needs to be reassured that they are loved and belong to the Creator of the Universe.

Those folks need mother’s milk too. They too, need to be comforted and need to be embraced by the reality of the radical inclusion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And you and I can offer that milk to them around our dinner tables.

All of these actions can be resistance to all kingdoms that oppose the Kingdom of God.  These actions will be actions of restoration and healing…

of reconciliation, between God and humanity…

Your response to your own taste of God’s goodness…

And these actions, will literally and metaphorically, usher those who need it most, from death into life.

St. Philip’s, may we continue our legacy of advocating for the margins in the community and around the world…

Alleluia the Lord is Risen..

Amen.

 

The Kingdom of God Has Leveled the Playing Field: All Are Equal

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, April 30, 2017, Easter 3, Year A, Luke 24:13-35

“But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Amen.

Alleluia. Christ is Risen.

“The Lord is Risen Indeed. Alleluia”

Good morning. I am so grateful to be in this place at this time. I was just reminding my kids yesterday, that we live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I love watching the trees turn from blossom to bloom. I’m excited for my first full summer up north. I’m not sure that I’ll ever grow tired of the sunrise and sunsets that meet us with each new day. New life is everywhere.

Now, I hate to disappoint you all, but I haven’t caught a fish since good Friday.

You should know, the main cause is the fact that Jodi and I have been sick since Holy Week.

I have mostly recovered, unfortunately… she’s still sick.

But that’s only part of the reason for my fish-lessness.

I did go fishing on the pier once this past week. But I’ve got to tell you I was “blanked”.

Zero fish.

Zero bites… that I know of.

I mention this because when I fish on the pier, or when I fish from shore, there are lots of chances to miss fish.

So, if you’ve never done it before, the fisherperson casts out, up to three lines. The sinker pulls the bait to the bottom, and then some floats in the bait, lift the bait back up off the ground a few feet. So the bait hopefully stays at the correct depth, while the fisherperson sits and waits for a fish to bite.

But there are so many scenarios that could keep that fish out of your freezer. Here are a few of them…

Maybe there are no fish in the area for whatever reason.

Maybe there are fish there, but they aren’t feeding.

Maybe they are feeding but not on the bait that you are fishing with.

Maybe your line is tangled and because you can’t see it underwater, you fish with it for 4 hours with no chance for a bite.

Maybe your bait is too old. Maybe your bait is too fresh…

Maybe your bait is floating too high… maybe it is down too low.

Maybe you hook into a fish and the fish breaks your line.

Maybe you miss a 9-pound steelhead with the net and instead knock the hook right out of the mouth of the fish as your wife is trying to land a monster.

Maybe, maybe, maybe…

But there is one other reason a fisherperson may come home empty handed that is by far the most painful reason…

You stop paying attention for just a minute… you look up at the lines and you discover that you are in the middle of a bite or your rod is straight up indicating that you completely missed a bite.

Occasionally, you can make this mistake and you still get to the rod in time to set the hook.

But most of the time another fisherperson will let you know “Hey buddy… you got a fish on.”

This is absolutely humiliating.

To avoid this kind of mistake there are a few fishermen I know that use alarms or bells.

Some fisherpeople giggle at this idea. They consider this kind of technology to ruin the purity of the endeavor.

But, I am here to tell you, that bells and alarms have put many fish into the freezer for my family and for many of my friends.

But without those alarms or bells, the person fishing has to really be paying attention.

They have to really focus.

They must dial in all of their senses.

They must forget about the rain or the cold… forget about the sun… turn their phone off… keep conversations to a minimum… the first priority must be to watch those rods.

If not, it is a long walk back to the car.
With every tourist or pier walker asking you “How is the fishing”…

Or your spouse asking you, “How many fish did you catch.”

If you don’t pay attention, you will definitely miss the action. You will definitely miss what is happening all around you.

That’s the point of the gospel today isn’t it?

Earlier in the 24th chapter of Luke, some of Jesus’ disciples who were females, discovered the empty tomb and were visited by two angelic figures.

You know the story… they run back and tell the other disciples… who question the women.

In fact the text says, “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” It sounded like a fish-tale.

This whole aspect of the story is intended to elevate the disciples who could see the truth… the female disciples… and to poke at the men in whom the power of the patriarchal society rested.

The underlying message is that the Kingdom of God has leveled the playing field.

All are equal.

Societal wisdom is deconstructed and rebuilt with a new reality.

In fact, maybe the point of this pericope, the section about the empty tomb… is that those who hold less power and find themselves at a lower cultural status, are in a better position to notice the Resurrection and to be immersed in the Reign of God.

Maybe…

And so, skeptical disciples carry on, immersed in the truth of the tomb rather than the truth of the resurrection. They have chosen or are subject to, the reality of Good Friday over the reality of Easter Sunday. They have literally chosen death over life… They have chosen or maybe just remained in the only reality that they can comprehend.

After the women report the facts, Peter runs to the tomb to see for himself, and the rest of the disciples carry-on in literal disbelief of the resurrection.

And we still haven’t even touched the text for today.

The text says, that same day, two of his disciples were walking to a village called Emmaus. “Talking with each other about all these things that had happened.”

The text makes it apparent that those traveling to Emmaus have not been persuaded by the women about the resurrection. They are fully aware of the persistent reports from the disciples who were females, but would not… could not believe it.

In fact, they seem content to keep Jesus in the realm of teacher and prophet.

They have resolved that he was not the redeemer they had hoped for. Because, what kind of redeemer… what kind of Messiah… what kind of Lord could he have been,

if the authorities could torture… humiliate… shame and kill the one they had so much hope for.

It seems Jesus would just go down in the books as another prophet killed by his own people.

Another teacher killed because of his ideals.

And Jesus, who still has not be recognized says, “How could you be so foolish to think that Jesus would overthrow the system without suffering. How foolish to think that he would be able to accomplish anything without being put to death.”

And yet… they are still blind. They still cannot see that Jesus is present with them.

They cannot fathom resurrection… they cannot comprehend salvation and redemption coming from any other place other than through the sword… they cannot see reality… right in front of their faces… The stone has not been rolled away for them… They are still stuck in the tomb.

But… there is good news. They are curious enough about the truth and about life to beg Jesus to stay with them.

This is surprising to me because Jesus, a stranger to them, just called them fools.

These disciples have been on quite a journey… honestly doing, I believe, the best that they can…

and…they hide after the crucifixion… they refuse to take the word of the women who have spoken with the angelic figures… they scramble to get out of town…. They are unable to recognize the man that they had spent so much time with as they walked together on the road to Emmaus…

And now… in the breaking of the bread… they can finally see reality for what it is.

They are finally flooded with understanding and wonder and amazement. They remember the last time that Jesus broke bread with them. As he served them… As he washed their feet…

It must have been a remarkable thing for those disciples to experience. My hope is that they were overwhelmed with gratitude and joy because their friend was once again with them. I hope that any shame was washed away by the joyful celebration of life over death. I wonder if that mystery and surprise of new life were enough to carry them forth as they changed the world forever.

I suspect that it was. Well, that and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

What an incredible story. Even those who refused to or were not able to see resurrection when it was apparent, even those who ridiculously could not… would not acknowledge reality… even those stuck in the tomb… were able to experience the resurrected Jesus.

And that is still true, today. We can absolutely place ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually… where we can see new life. We can train ourselves to focus on life… we can put away all distractions and keep our eyes peeled. We can intentionally place bells and alarms all over our lives so that we don’t miss it… when resurrection happens.

In fact, if you are having a hard time seeing new life… If you are having a difficult time seeing Resurrection… A hard time seeing the presence of the divine in your life… the good news is that we can experience the very real presence of Christ…. Today… in just a few minutes. Soon, he will be made known to US…. in the breaking of the bread.

And the acolyte will even ring the bell to grab our attention so we don’t miss it.

And that will act as a catalyst for you and for me. On Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday… while we are at work and we hear a story from a co-worker… Ding ding… Sanctus bells.

Or when we hear a story from our children, grown or in elementary school, about some success or challenge overcome… ding ding… Sanctus Bells.

Or when we encounter that person in our lives that we find it difficult to be around… ding-ding… Sanctus Bells.

Resurrection is all around us, St Philip’s. New Life is here! My prayer for us this week is that we will not be kept from recognizing resurrection in our personal lives, in our common life, or in the world around us.

“Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.”

Amen.

 

The Great Vigil of Easter: “The darkness he called Night”

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, April 15, 2017, The Great Vigil of Easter, Year A, Matthew 28:1-10

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Amen.

Friends… it is good to be with you on this night. On this night that is cold and damp… this night that is dark and somber. It is good to be with you on this night in which we remember and reflect on what God has done for us. As we remember the life and death of Jesus.

That’s what humans do when there is death.

We gather together and we remember. We tell stories… we pray. We try to give thanks for the time we had with the loved one who is gone.

I’m sure you have very vivid memories of these types of gatherings. I’m sure you can remember the location of the gathering. Was it at a funeral home? Maybe a friend’s house or the house of a family member? Maybe it was at your own house.
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A Week is a Week: Palm Sunday Sermon

Sermon by the Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, April 9, 2017. Palm Sunday, Year A, Matthew 26:14- 27:66

“So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Amen.

Good morning.

The past week has been a difficult week for me. Maybe the most difficult week that I have had since we arrived last August. I spent hours tossing and turning. Wrestling with the kinds of things priests have to deal with. Will they get mad at me? Will they like me? Whom will I offend?

But priests have to make these kinds of landmark decisions from time to time. We need to put on our big boy (or girl) pants and make the call…

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