Sunday, April 26, 2009

3 Easter B - 26 April 2009

3 Easter B - 26 April 2009
Acts 3:12-19; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24: 36b-48
James V. Stockton

It happens that I am not the person that perhaps many folks here today were expecting to hear and to see. Some of us here, myself included, were prepared to welcome the ministry of our guest preacher, but he called me Friday evening to let me know that he was unable to come. So, while I was prepared to come and participate in ECR’s Work Day yesterday, looking forward to a time of good fellowship, vigorous labor, and savory food, I needed to take yesterday to prepare a sermon, this sermon, in fact. I apologize for any disappointment at the absence of our scheduled guest preacher; and I pray that my preparations have been adequate.

Today I shall call upon my oath from my years in Scouting. Actually it’s the Boy Scout motto rather than the oath, which is much longer and which escapes my memory. As any of the Scouts from our own troop 1407 will tell us, it is the Scout motto that is quite appropriate today: “Be Prepared.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

2 Easter B - April 19, 2009

2 Easter B - 19 April 2009
Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1-2:1; John 20:19-31
Marie Butterbaugh

The other day, standing outside Christ Chapel at the Seminary, I found myself watching as the Texas winds buffet the nearby tree limbs. Swaying hither and thither, the new green leaves swirl as they scatter about. Looking closely, one tree especially catches my eye. In its’ branches rests a rather large bird’s nest. Watching this nest swinging back and forth as the wind’s tempest continues, I begin to think about faith. Surely it is faith that initiates the building of such a nest. The faith that winter will turn to spring. The faith that believes from the depths of despair experienced on Good Friday comes new life through Jesus’ resurrection. I think about the faith of Thomas.

From the Easter narrative, we know that John, the other disciple, comes to tomb. He sees the linen cloths rolled up. Jesus is not there. He believes. Mary Magdalene hears the angels’ question, “Woman why are you weeping?” She encounters the risen Lord and at first she doesn’t recognize Him. Jesus speaks. Mary believes. She does as Jesus instructs. She goes to tell the disciples.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday B - April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday B - 12 April 2009
Acts 10:34-43; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; John 20:1-18
James V. Stockton

What is so good about the Good News is Jesus himself. Christ is the Gospel. Not the author of the gospel, not the subject about whom it is written, Christ is the Gospel itself. Once people have this one simple but mysterious idea in place, the remainder of Scripture and the teachings of the Faith and the traditions of the Church really rather nicely fall into order behind it, or more accurately, rise up from it.

This is not to say that all the rest of it becomes easy or unimportant. Quite to the contrary, the questions of the Christian faith and religion are numerous and fascinating for many people. This is why some of them are in church today, just like you and me, still asking questions.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Vigil B - 11 April 2009

Easter Vigil B - 11 April 2009
Matthew 28:1-10
James V. Stockton
That it still matters that Christ is risen, that he is risen indeed, is happily demonstrated in the presence of millions of people gathering in Churches this night and tomorrow morning. “His resurrection is God’s ‘Amen!’ upon the person of Jesus.” So writes theologian Edward Schillebeeckx in his book, Jesus: an Experiment in Christology. He goes on: “Jesus, who had announced the imminent reign of God,…despite the contradiction of his rejection and death, had not…been wrong. B]y raising him from the dead, God has now identified Himself… [w]ith him, who during his life had identified himself with…the coming rule of God [upon earth],…Jesus Christ is himself the [reign] of God.’

People today still celebrate God’s Amen upon the person of Jesus. Humanity still seeks the reign of God upon this earth and at this time. These truths are blessedly evident in the fact that people everywhere are gathering at the conclusion of the Way of the cross of Christ. And considering that, after all, what ends is the way of the cross, what a surprising conclusion it is! Through the introspective challenges of the season of Lent, through the poignancy of Holy Week, many have ventured into the experience of the first followers of Jesus.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday B - 10 April 2009

Good Friday B - 10 April 2009
Isaiah 51:13-53:12; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:37
James V. Stockton
Pilate’s remark, maybe a question, maybe sarcasm, maybe resignation to a self-serving belief that truth is just for na├»ve do-gooders and political dupes: Pilate’s remark: ‘What is truth?’ It shows up on the one of the oldest fragments of scriptural texts ever found.

In fact the discovery of this little bit of ancient writing, small enough to hide in the palm of your hand, overturned the long-held assumption among biblical scholars that John’s gospel must surely have been composed much later in history than the other three. Its sophistication, its appreciation for mystery, it all seemed to generations of scholars that John’s gospel must have been written in the very late second century or early third. Then this bit of papyrus, this fragment of a piece of a page of a gospel, comes along, and challenges their assumption. And like good scholars, they ask, without sarcasm or resignation, what is the truth? Because the truth matters.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday B - 5 April 2009

Palm Sunday B - 5 April 2009
Isaiah 50:4-9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47
James V. Stockton

Of all the Sundays of the year, it is today that the challenges of being a follower of Jesus Christ rise up with plain and inescapable clarity. While each of the gospel writers tells the story, this year’s reading, today, from Mark the evangelist, tells it in a way that is the most straightforward. The truth is left to speak for itself. And perhaps ironically, the truth is found in Jesus’ decision to say nothing more. “But Jesus made no further reply,” the gospel tells us, “and Pilate was amazed.”

“The Passion is really the mystery of all mysteries the heart of the Christian faith experience.” So writes Episcopal priest and author Cynthia Bourgeault in her book titled The Wisdom Jesus. She goes on, “The spectacle of an innocent and good man destroyed by the powers of this world is an archetypal human experience. It elicits our deepest feelings of remorse and empathy (and, if we’re honest, our own deepest shadows as well).” As such, the Passion, as the Rev. Bourgeault notes, “has long been a popular subject of devotion…” as the literature and artwork attest that have grown up around it. “The Passion is quite manipulable,” she notes. It’s been used to stir anger and scapegoating… to fuel anti-Semitism, to induce [feelings of] personal guilt.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rector's Study April 2009

From the Rector's Study ~

“Live!” says God to the world. “Live! You are free, so live!” That inward journey upon which we entered some forty plus days ago has a destination. While we may rightly understand that we never really arrive there, yet it’s also true that the end point of our journey is always with us. Christ is alive, and so we too arrive at life. We live. Jesus has been raised beyond the finality of death itself. This Jesus Christ has made a journey from the glories of divinity to the struggles and joys of his own life among us as one of us. Christ’s journey has been always toward you and me and all humanity.

As trying as our forty days’ journey through Lent may have been, and as rewarding, Christ’s own journey has been far longer, far more challenging, and surely far more richly gratifying in the end. Our journey has taught us again that the journey inward to ourselves is a journey upward to God, for the more closely we draw to our true selves and to one another, the more closely we draw to God. Any soul-searching solitude, whether at Lent or any other time in our lives, will reveal to us that God is with us more surely than we’d ever supposed. Christ is raised from death and from everything that whispers of it.