SERMONS

Maybe they were too hasty. Peter, and the other disciple who ran with him to the tomb after Mary shared the news that Jesus’ body was no longer there. They ducked in and ducked out. Maybe if they’d stayed with their grief a little longer, there in that early morning dawn, they, too, might have met the resurrected Jesus as Mary did, where she knelt weeping in the grass. Then again, maybe Jesus had always intended for it to be Mary who would come to know the good news first.

A woman in patriarchal man’s society and world; a woman would be the first to have Jesus open her eyes to the truth that the resurrection was real, that death and hell had been conquered and Jesus was alive. There’s a popular Christian song with the lyrics, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I want to see you.”

But we can’t see Jesus, at least not on our own. Jesus has to say Mary’s name for her to recognize that he’s not the gardener, but her teacher and the Messiah – Savior of the nations, come. Jesus is always calling to us in this life; not just as the fifty days of Easter begin, but every day; Jesus is always calling to us in this life, always busy naming us. Julius. Rochelle. Ben. Klaus. Zhanna. Lisa. Gwen. Rebecca. Doug. Christine. Paul and all of you, and even me!

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Today I want to invite us to think about our bodies and buildings, especially our corporeal, or physical bodies and our church buildings. And I want us to think about change. Most of all I want to invite us to think about how Christ’s radical work of resurrection on the cross not only makes change possible, but claims us and this whole physical world, including our personal bodies and buildings, for the purpose of change.

Now…the Church has not always been so good in our approach to human bodies. We haven’t always been so good with our buildings, either, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The scriptures were codified and written down during periods in history when people such as the ancient Greeks and Romans and Jewish peoples had radically different notions about how bodies work, and therefore these fantastic treasures we call scripture have murky and mucky human handprints all over them with regards to perspectives on human bodies. Places where scripture makes it sound like the body is all bad, and we should hope and aspire to spiritual purity untainted by the body.

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Today’s gospel lesson is one of parables from Jesus shared most often. Sometimes called the Parable of the Prodigal Son (placing our focus with the younger son who goes off to waste his portion of his father’s fortune on dissolute living), or the Reliable Brother (placing our focus with the older brother who has always done what he was supposed to, and is jealous when his father not only forgives his younger brother, but kills a fatted calf in his honor), or the Merciful Parent (placing our focus with the father, or parent, whose love for both sons knows no bounds).

Of course, all of these readings of the scripture text are true. That’s one of the wonderful things about scripture, namely that there is always more to be discovered with the aid of the Holy Spirit, the gathering of community to let these texts wrestle with us, and an open heart and mind. There is always more. Today, though, I’d like to draw our attention to how Jesus is using this parable, the story that he tells in order to reset the focus of the community and to remind us of the restoration power of God through community. Let’s dive in by considering why Jesus tells this parable in the first place.

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Today’s gospel lesson starts with some hard news, then shares practical wisdom, and finally a larger than average dose of hope.

Folks are gathered around Jesus – there was just something about Jesus that made people want to get close to him; folks are gathered around Jesus and some of those who are present tell Jesus about some Galileans – Jewish people from Galilee - whose blood had been “mingled (by Pilate) with their sacrifice.” In other words, Pilate had killed these Galileans as they were making their sacrifices at the Jewish Temple, fulfilling the practices of their faith.

(deep sigh) It’s hard to hear about people getting needlessly killed. These Jewish Galileans in Jesus’ time, or the Ukrainians and Russians being killed in this current war, or the Syrians and other people being killed in the ten-year civil war that has been raging in that country, or how about when we hear of all the children dying of hunger and malnutrition in too many places around the world.

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We are called to build a prophetic Church for an all too often warring world.

Yes! We are called to be prophets and peacemakers and to lift before the world a vision of what could be possible, were we to confess our sin and brokenness – all that separates us from the love of God and from our fellow humans. We are called to lift before the world a vision of what could be possible if we lay claim to the love that transcends differences such as race and class and culture; age, gender, sexual orientation; citizenship in different countries and even religious differences, with the help of God.

As Christians the foundation of our prophet and peacemaking identity is found in how God in Christ has connected us to God’s own self forever – through the promise made possible by baptism that grafts us onto the promises made by God to Abraham so long, long ago, when God said that Abraham’s descendants would be more numerous than the stars.

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