It was still dark when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. If you read the resurrection accounts in Matthew, Mark, or Luke you’ll hear that a group of women came at dawn, or just after the sun had risen. But in John’s account Mary goes to the tomb alone. And she goes when it still […]
I am not sure if the sermon below is a sermon at all, sent as it is from my isolation to yours: not preached but written, not heard but read. There is no communal response, no chance to affirm or disaffirm that the gospel has been preached. CHMF sermons open themselves up to the conversation; […]
Jesus doesn’t pray for himself by himself. Instead he prays for his friends in their company. “I am asking on their behalf… protect them from the evil one” (13:9, 15). Jesus is single-hearted, wholly for his disciples, worried about their future, desperate for God to watch over them. Life seems unbearable, unimaginable, without them.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Jesus offers these words to his friends on his last night with him. Their evening together began with Jesus, taking the feet of his disciples into his hands, pouring water over each one and scrubbing them clean, then with a towel massaging them dry. As they ate their last supper, Jesus tells them that he loves them, that he will miss them, that he will always be with them, in their hearts, in their love, in their lives together, through the Holy Spirit, the divine comforter, the divine advocate, the presence of God.
We hope for a world where he can thrive, where our neighbors and the children of our neighbors experience the fullness of life. We believe in the God of life, in a world held in God’s hands, like Jesus holding his disciples close, Jesus holding us close, washing us with love, refreshing us with peace.
I dream of other worlds, ones like this one, with all of you there, but there’s something different, one difference that changes everything, the collapse of the old and a beginning for the new, like, for example, a world without guns, with no more weapons, without arms manufacturers and dealers, without rockets flying in and out of Gaza, a world without border fences and prison walls, a world without corporations making money off of detention centers and ankle monitors and bail bonds, a world without pollution, without factory waste dumped into rivers, without fossil fuel emissions, without the slow violence of environmental racism, a world without cancer, without disease, without sicknesses that sneak up on the young and lead to their death. I dream of worlds that still have all the people we’ve lost—your people and my people, your friends and mine, all our loved ones, even the ancestors we never met.
After the crucifixion, the disciples had heard the news from Mary Magdalene—that Jesus was alive. That was last week. In our passage for today, a week has passed, a week after Easter morning. A week since Mary saw Jesus outside the tomb. A week since she rushed back to the others to share the good […]
Early on Easter morning, before dawn, Mary Magdalene visits the tomb. She had seen Jesus crucified the day before. She was at the cross—there for his last breath, there when they pierced his side, there when they took him down, there when they carried his corpse away for burial. Mary has lived for far too […]
In the 1950s, a guy named Bill Bright came up with a roadmap for evangelism called, “The Four Spiritual Laws.” This statement of faith became a foundational document for North American evangelicalism. There are a lot of problems with it—and there are a lot of problems with Bill Bright, like that he was one of […]
There’s an old story—it’s probably a legend—about an evangelist who travels to Indiana, to farm country, to share the gospel, to convert people to Christianity. He meets a Mennonite at the general store. The evangelist says, “Sir, are you a Christian?” And the Mennonite responds, “I’m not the best person to answer that question. You […]
“Everything happens for a reason.” That is the title of a book by Kate Bowler, a professor of history at Duke Divinity. Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved) came out this week and I, like many others, heard her interviewed on NPR. I know that Kate happens to be a friend […]
This is a risky conversation, here at Jacob’s well in the land of Samaria: Jesus, a Jew, and this woman, a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans are kindred peoples, distant relatives, both tracing their lineage to Jacob, the patriarch of Israel. Samaritans and Jews are cousins, but they are not friends. There is tension between the […]
Jesus is a Jew, part of God’s people. And as a faithful Jew, he takes a trip to the temple in Jerusalem for Passover, the festival that remembers Israel slavery in Egypt, and God’s salvation, God’s liberation, freedom from the shackles of bondage, their forced labor, their economic exploitation. When he arrives in Jerusalem, walking […]
Last week we read the opening scene in John’s Gospel. A man named Philip found his friend, Nathanael, and told him about a rabbi, a new one who was passing through town, an itinerant rabbi. This was not unusual in first century Judaism—rabbis would emerge, their ministry gaining a following, then perhaps fizzle out. If […]
A few years ago I worked sporadically as a farmhand down the road in Efland. Most days I helped pick vegetables, gather eggs, and pitch in with whatever chores were on hand. Fickle Creek Farm is fairly small, with a wide variety of crops and livestock and a resulting bevy of tasks that change with […]
Second Sunday of Easter Last week, on Easter Sunday, Isaac talked about Mary, the first preacher, about Jesus’ noncoercive call, and about naming. I carried this message about the mother of our faith around with me this week as I thought about the message Mary brings to the disciples, about what happens next, when Jesus […]
Easter John 20, verse 1: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,” it says, “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed.” It was still dark. The dark night of Good Friday lingered into Easter morning, two days after his death. And Mary […]
“Surely we are not blind, are we?” (John 9:40). That’s what the Pharisees, the city leaders, ask at the end of the story, after they’ve spent a long chapter questioning a young man whose sight has been healed—the leaders questioning everyone who has anything to do with him, blaming the man’s parents, condemning Jesus, accusing […]
Jesus desires. He insists on himself. At least, this is the Jesus we find in our gospel reading this week. This Jesus knows what he wants, and he pleads for it, our mother hen longing to gather us in, for her beloved to be with her where she is. Jesus yearning for the pleasures of […]
Revelation 5:13, “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing…” Psalm 30:4, “Sing praises to the Lord, O you faithful ones, and give thanks to God’s holy name.” Last week I stayed in a refugee camp in […]
Fifth Sunday of Lent They say, when reading a Bible passage, that you should find yourself in the story, that you should try on one of the characters. See which one fits the best. So I did that a few times this week, with this passage for today, and I think I’m in trouble, because […]
I realize that I am dating myself with the description, but I am old enough to remember spinning my favorite album without a trace of irony, and with no notions of superior sound quality. I had an early 80s standard issue Fisher Price record player, about the size and shape of a small briefcase, a […]
All Saints Sunday Jesus gets there too late. He gets to Lazarus too late. “Lord,” Mary says—this is Lazarus’s sister Mary—she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). If only Jesus got there in time, a week earlier, then he would have been able to lay his […]
There’s a passage in a novel that I think about when I preach these days. It’s from Marilynne Robinson’s book, Lila. The main character says to the preacher, she says: “What do you ever tell people in a sermon except that things that happen mean something? Some man dies somewhere a long time ago and […]