June 11, Trinity Sunday

Pastor Frank Senn

Festival of the Holy Trinity. Year A. June 11, 2017

Text: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Matthew 28:16-20

As we enter into summertime and can get out into God’s world it seems appropriate to begin with the creation story from Genesis. It’s also good to look more deeply at what this so-called priestly account of creation really says. Sometimes it helps to be literal, that is, to pay attention to words and phrases and how they get translated. In this regard I would point out that the Hebrew text does not say “In the beginning God created.”  It literally says, “In the beginning when God began to create...”  The text suggests that creation is an ongoing activity.  Nor does Genesis teach creation out of nothing. The Genesis text indicates that there was already something.  The earth was there but without solid form. Modern cosmology tells us that our planet was a fiery ball spun out from the sun. To the ancient Hebrew lack of form meant chaos, and the ancient Hebrews equated chaos with evil. The ongoing work of creation is God’s effort to bring order out of chaos, because chaos – evil – persists, as we know all too well. What God did in the work of creation was “good” because it countered the persistence of evil.

We’re at the beginning of the summer vacation season. For a lot of people this also means vacation from worship.  In this regard I would point out that the priestly author of the first creation account in Genesis is really building a case for weekly Sabbath observance.  God’s work on the six days leads to God’s rest on the seventh day, a day which God blessed and hallowed. That’s what the six days are all about. They represent work days and they are a lead-up to the seventh day, a day of cosmic rest. The Jewish and Christian traditions have held that the proper human response to God’s rest is for us to also rest from our usual work. But this doesn’t mean that we do nothing. The purposeful use of the Sabbath is to worship God and study God’s word.  To turn to God is to turn away from evil, at least every seventh day.

But this is Trinity Sunday.  Why is the first Genesis creation story our reading on this particular day?  Where is there a reference to the Trinity in this Old Testament text?  You might think: well, the text says that God created through his life-giving breath, and by his word, his self-communication.  These become personified later in the Bible as the Holy Spirit and the Logos, identified with the Son. So on this basis we can affirm that the God of creation is the Holy Trinity. God the Father creates by means of his Spirit and through his Word, incarnate in Jesus. “Through him all things were made,” says the Gospel of John.


But the church fathers saw the Trinity more explicitly in verse 26.  “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind [the Hebrew is “adam”] in our image, according to our likeness.”  Who is God talking to when he says “Let us make”?  Is this just the so-called “plural of majesty,” like when the queen says “We are pleased?”  If so, why isn’t this expression used elsewhere in the Bible?  Is God talking to the heavenly creatures?  Did they have a role in helping God to create humankind?  No, they have no such creative power.  The only solution is that God is talking to Godself.  God is a plural personality.

Moreover, the text goes on to say that God created humankind plural: male and female.  Humankind is created to complement and complete one another, just as God in three persons complements and completes Godself.  While there’s a lot of discussion today about gender being on a sliding scale, this isn’t about gender (which is a cultural construct); this is about biology.

In the years before I retired I had a weekly evening Bible study group at Immanuel, Evanston. We began “In the beginning” with Genesis and worked our way through the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book. We made it through the Books of Kings and Chronicles before the time came for me to retire. But I’ll never forget that when we completed Genesis, one of our regulars said, “Why, this book is all about sex!” Yes, it is. Begetting is about procreation. In the unfolding story it mattered who gave birth to whom.

Genesis 1 says that humankind is created in the image and likeness of God.  In our need for one another we reflect the being of God.  You can go in both directions with this.  You can say that the fact of human sexual polarity and complementary points to God as a community of persons, and you can say that God as a community of persons creates humankind in his own image as a community of persons. As the second creation story in Genesis 2 says, adam is not meant to be alone.  It is not good to be a self-contained organism which proceeds to develop itself.  In order to develop and mature, we must have a partner, a companion, a “thou” to relate to my “I.” 

Usually “I” and “thou” find expression in the marriage of a man and a woman.  That’s not the only kind of relationship in which complementary and community can be experienced, but it is the most fundamental one.  Yet even marriage can fail to attain its God-given potential if the couple lives only for each other. There are a lot of things people can enjoy with each other: in no particular order there’s work and vacation trips, music and art, sports and sex...and more. But in their love for each other, a couple does not reach their fulfillment when the two make their companionship an end in itself and are just taken up with each other.  Marriage doesn’t exist just for its own sake; it also exists for the sake of others, including for the sake of children.  The blessing of God on marriage is found in the command, “be fruitful and multiply.”  And if the gift of children is denied through no fault of the couple, God sends other blessings and gives other responsibilities; for God is always the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

If marriage is in trouble today as an institution (and it is in the Western world, especially in Europe where fewer and fewer couples want to get married and have children or they have children but don’t want to get married), it is because we continue to be more focused on "me" than on "community". We’re more concerned with what I want, and what I desire, what I think I deserve, what I am afraid of, than with what is best for my partner, my family, my city, my nation, my world. While there may have been one generation called the "me" generation, the truth is that every generation is the "me" generation—from Adam and Eve on. Marriages stumble and crumble over issues of "me" over against "you". Families have difficulties and dissolve over issues of "me" over against "you". Conflicts at work, tensions in neighborhoods, gang violence, hatred and intolerance between races, wars between nations, all get their start with issues of "me" over against "you." That’s what we’re experiencing in our nation now with an intensity I’ve not known in my seventy-four years. How will this divisiveness ever be reconciled? If “me” over against “you” has been with us since the beginning, what hope is there of ever overcoming these tensions and conflicts?

Our hope, of course, is in Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Our hope is that as we sinners are reconciled with the Holy God through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, we will be reconciled and restored to our brothers and sisters as well — so that through the cross of Christ humanity will be gathered into one, to live in peace with God, with others, and with the creation of which we are a part.  Medieval images of the Trinity depict the bearded Father holding up the crucified Son with the dove of the Spirit as the bond between them.  It is worth noting that devotion to the Trinity, which resulted in the establishment of Trinity Sunday as a universal festival, emerged during a time of plague and warfare, of suffering and death. It’s like people needed the fullness of God to cope with the brutality of life.


Pope Benedict XVI, who as Joseph Ratzinger was truly one of the great Catholic theologians of the twentieth century, writes that the answer to this "me" against "you" or "I" against "Thou" is the Trinity, "that ultimate unity in which the distinction between I and Thou is not withdrawn, but joined to each other in the Holy Spirit. In God there are three Persons, and so God is precisely the realization of ultimate unity. God did not create an individual person so that he might be dissolved but so that he might open himself in his entire height and in his innermost depth — so that the Holy Spirit embraces the individual person and is the unity of the divided persons." In practical terms, says Pope Benedict, "the Church in the deepest part of her nature, is the overcoming of the boundary between I and Thou — the union of all persons among themselves, through the radical transcendence of self, into eternal love.”

The Church is humankind being brought into the life of the Holy Trinity through word and sacrament.  For this reason Jesus sends us forth to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything that Jesus has commanded.  In entering into the life of the Holy Trinity through Baptism, our "me" against "you" is replaced with Holy Communion—a relationship with God and others that transcends our self‑centeredness and is fused into that new creation that is called the Body of Christ. This new relationship requires truly a death of the old me-centered Adam in Baptism, so that, as St. Paul writes, it will now be not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. How does Christ live in me and in us together except by eating and drinking, ingesting and digesting the divine Godhead, present for us in the earthly gifts of bread and wine which we received in faith as the Body and Blood of God incarnate in Jesus Christ. In Holy Communion we together, every Sabbath Lord’s Day, turn away from evil in the world – the world reverting to chaos – and face toward God, taking our places at the table of God’s kingdom where there is always room for one more.  Amen. – Pastor Frank C. Senn, STS, Evanston, IL

June 4, The Day of Pentecost

Kristin White

The Day of Pentecost – June 4, 2017

In the forward to a collection of her sermons, the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor writes of her wish that she had been called to some other vocation. “All it takes is one day’s headlines to make me wish I had gone into a more practical line of work,” she writes. “I would like to know how to close a wound or set a bone. I would like to land an airplane full of rice and chickens in the Sudan…But no, I am a preacher – a public speaker of the gospel – and the story is all I have.”[1]

The headlines of these past days – from teenagers leaving a concert in Manchester, to Coptic Christians on a bus in Egypt; from three men trying to protect girls on a MAX train in Portland, to people walking on London Bridge, which must have felt like it was falling down – well. I do not share the same wish as Barbara Brown Taylor, because I have never wanted to do anything more than the vocation to which I am called, right here with you. But I will confess my desire for some good old fashioned deliverance from what feels like a siege on our world and on our souls. I will confess my desire for God to step right in, Old Testament style, in the language of the psalms, with some smiting of evil and terror and general meanness; with some – God help us – protecting of what is innocent and beautiful.

I have joked (not joking) on occasion about wanting some of those Wonder Woman bracelets that can deflect bullets and swords and all manner of bad things. And I have to tell you, as Grace and I sat in the theater yesterday watching that movie, my desire for those bracelets has not lessened. And my wish for a superhero God who puts things right, who delivers us out of so much that is wrong…well, that wish has not lessened either.

I don’t know what kind of God the disciples wish for when they lock themselves away in that upper room, but I can only imagine they are hoping for some kind of deliverance, some kind of protection, some kind of escape from so much that is wrong.

God does show up, but those disciples don’t get delivered anywhere after that crazy moment of Pentecost.

They are locked away, out of fear that what happened to Jesus is going to happen to them. And God blows into that room with wind and fire. God the Holy Spirit lands on them, bestowing the sevenfold gifts that the prophet Isaiah promised: wisdom and understanding, counsel and courage, knowledge and reverence and wonder.

The disciples speak words they don’t know, confusing the people who do speak those languages, because they know the disciples aren’t native, aren’t fluent. The people hear and understand and are confused by their understanding…so they chalk it up to new wine. Except that it’s only 9:00 in the morning.

Even after all that, though, the disciples still don’t go anywhere.

A crowd of people hears Peter proclaim the faith, hears him connect the works of Jesus to the promises of David, the father of the faith. They hear and are converted and baptized. They continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.

They go on to become a community, those earliest Christians (who didn’t even call themselves that, yet). They share their gifts, they help and heal each other; they fight over money and food, they experience signs and wonders; they screw it up, and then reconcile and begin again. Through it all, they would have to use the gifts that the Holy Spirit had kindled within them: wisdom and understanding, counsel and courage, knowledge and reverence and wonder. They have to use those gifts, and share them, or they wouldn’t have made it.

Here’s what did not happen, though: they didn’t have a superhero God step in to smite the bad guys and scoop up the good ones, to deliver them from everything that is terrifying and tragic.

The disciples are still plagued by attacks from without, by fighting within.

When Jesus shows up in the gospel of John, he doesn’t carry the disciples away to safety. He doesn’t take them out of the hostile city where they are hiding, doesn’t build impenetrable walls around the house that holds them. Instead, he breathes the Holy Spirit into them, and sends them out into that very city, to face what will be. “As the Father sent me,” he says, “So I send you.”

Paul writes to the church at Corinth in our second reading today, a community that is fighting and stumbling its way toward becoming church. Paul names their charge: “You have gifts that come from God, to be shared for the good of everyone,” he writes. “Wisdom and knowledge, healing and the working of miracles, prophecy and discernment.”

“We are baptized into one Body. We are many members, in Christ.”

The Holy Spirit does not blow into that gathering of scared and heartbroken people on the day of Pentecost to carry them all away. Instead, the Holy Spirit gives those scared and heartbroken disciples gifts that allow them to stay put right where they are. The Spirit gives the promise of the Paraclete: the promise to come alongside, to abide through it all. And because the disciples receive those gifts, because they allow themselves to be sent into the very spaces that terrify them, they become agents of miracles themselves.

Sometimes the stories of the bible feel so far removed that they become almost caricature. We know how it turns out, right? Noah’s boat is finally going to hit the shore. The Israelites will be able to get through the Red Sea on dry land…and Pharaoh’s soldiers will not. The wise men will go home by another way. On that third morning, the stone will be rolled away from the tomb.

I don’t tend to feel the same immediacy with scripture that I do with the headlines. After all, I know, now, what it’s like to be on a bus in the Middle East with 40 people on our way to a monastery. I have ridden the MAX train in Portland many times. I have taken my daughter to a concert. I have walked on a bridge on a crowded summer evening.

That was then, I want to say, and this is happening right now. And we don’t know what’s going to happen next, we don’t know how this is going to turn out.

And what about those Wonder Woman bracelets?


And we worship a God who is faithful.


“As the Father sent me, so I send you,” Jesus says.

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” Paul writes.

My friends, the story may be all we have, but the story is everything. Because the story is promise. And the Promise of Pentecost is not deliverance from, but accompaniment with. Those disciples don’t go anywhere when God the Holy Spirit blows and blazes into their midst. They stay put, and God works through them to build the beautiful and broken Church that abides, even now. They stay put, and God equips them and stays with them through it all.

The Promise of Pentecost is not that we will not suffer, or that God will magically deflect every obstacle…bracelets or not. The Promise of Pentecost is that God equips us with good gifts that allow us to stay put: even and especially when we’re afraid. It’s the promise that “in the Holy Spirit, God comes to us to be with us and for us, to use all that we have and (all that we) are”[2] because God so loves the world.


[1] Barbara Brown Taylor. Gospel Medicine. Boston: Cowley Publications, 1995. xi.

[2] Thanks to David Lose for this essay that set the frame for my sermon, in addition to the quote http://www.davidlose.net/2017/05/pentecost-a-with-not-from/

May 28, The Ascension of our Lord

Pastor Frank C. Senn

Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

            Goodbyes are never easy. I’m coming up to the fourth anniversary of my retirement from active pastoral ministry and resignation of the pastoral office at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Evanston. I wanted to give the congregation time to digest the fact that I would no longer be their pastor and give the parish leadership time to prepare for the transition to an interim situation.  So I announced my retirement at the annual meeting of the congregation in January, and set the official date as of the end of June. Then over the next five months we had the last this and the last that. Finally, we had the really last day, and since Mary and I were not moving away from Evanston I took off to Singapore to teach in a seminary there to completely get out of their sight.

I think the story Luke tells at the beginning of the sequel to his Gospel, The Acts of the Apostles, served the same purpose. It was a dramatic way for Jesus to impress on his disciples that he would no longer be among them in the way they were used to relating to him. This story of Jesus’ ascension belongs to Luke. You won’t find it in the gospels. It’s entirely Luke’s story, and the church built a festival on it, just as we built a festival on Luke’s story of the Nativity of Jesus.

            I think a case can be made that Jesus’ ascension---his return to the Father in heaven---took place on the day of his resurrection. In the resurrection narrative in John’s Gospel Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, once she recognizes him, not to cling to him because he has not yet ascended. And then he commissions her to go the disciples and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Note: Jesus didn’t tell Mary Magdalene to tell the others that he had risen from the dead but that he has ascended to God.  

So in John’s Gospel the resurrection and ascension seem to occur on the same day. Yet we know that Jesus appeared to the apostles that evening and again eight days later when so-called “doubting” Thomas was with them and again along the seashore in Galilee where he has breakfast waiting for the fishermen disciples. So where had Jesus been when he’s not appearing to disciples? Presumably in heaven, which I think we may imagine as another dimension rather than some place up in the sky.

            I think we see the same thing in Luke’s Gospel, the end of which we heard proclaimed today. The myrrh-bearing women go to the tomb early on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion to prepare his body for a proper burial. They find the tomb empty. Two men in dazzling clothes tell them that he has risen. Then that afternoon Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, explains about himself as prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures, and is finally recognized at the supper table when he breaks bread and says the blessing. Those two immediately run back to Jerusalem and tell the others. But suddenly Jesus appears among them all in the room and eats in their presence to prove he wasn’t a ghost.

At this point our Gospel reading for today begins. Jesus explains that everything he has done has been to fulfill the Scriptures and he commissions these disciples to be his witnesses to the nations. But they are to wait in the city until they are clothed with power from on high---the Holy Spirit. Then he leads them out as far as Bethany, blesses them, and withdraws into heaven. If we didn’t have the sequel to this Gospel, we would think, as in John’s Gospel, that Jesus’ ascension occurred on that event-filled day of resurrection.

But we do have the sequel. Luke tells Theophilus and his other readers that Jesus appeared to the disciples “during forty days” (a good biblical number) “speaking about the kingdom of God.” Then, while they’re still thinking that it’s about the restored kingdom of Israel (even this late they don’t seem to “get it”), Jesus departs from them. And they stand there with their mouths open gazing up at the sky. Is that it? Is Jesus finally gone?  Is that what this story is about: showing the disciples that they shouldn’t expect to see him any more the way they were used to seeing him?

When I left Immanuel and went to Singapore, was I gone for good from Immanuel? Not quite, because I was invited back to the congregation’s 125th anniversary banquet in the fall. Was Jesus totally gone from the disciples and from the earth? Not quite, because in the 9th chapter of Acts he appeared to Saul the Pharisee and converted him into Paul the Apostle to the gentiles. Well, he needed to have someone who would get his gospel to the nations.

So we wonder: why does Luke tell us this ascension story at all? Leave-takings can be rather depressing if you think you won’t see that person again. Last Sunday I attended the monthly Bach Cantata Vespers at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest, where I am technically a member. It was an observance of the Ascension of our Lord, which was actually this past Thursday in the liturgical calendar---forty days after Easter Day, according to Luke’s chronology. The choir sang a stirring setting of Psalm 47 by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Psalm 47, which we sang this morning, is a royal enthronement psalm and it has been applied spiritually to Jesus ascending to the throne of God. Vaughn Williams’ setting of the words “God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet” with choir, organ, brass, and timpani would have shaken the roof of Westminster Abbey as it did at Grace Lutheran. Then came Bach’s Ascension Oratorio after the Gospel reading, also with full orchestra including brass and timpani, and it was something of a let-down.  Because while there were brassy praise choruses sung by the choir, right in the midst of the biblical story Bach had the alto singing (in German),

Ah, remain still, my dearest life,

Ah, do not flee so soon from me!

Your departure and your early leaving

Bring me the greatest suffering.

Ah, do then remain still here;

Otherwise I shall be quite beset by grief.

With these pietistic words Bach brings in the human reaction to Jesus’ departure. He sees in the ascension story a narrative that has become very familiar in our modern age: the one about a God who is deliberately distant from those who need him, and who seems to have abandoned his people to their own inner resources, as if no Holy Spirit has been sent, as if we each of us must now invent our own spirituality, our own morality, our own religious practices, as if there’s nothing set down in the gospels and two millennia of tradition to draw upon?

I think it’s important to recognize the legitimacy of the experience from which this lament arises. Many people do feel that Christ has indeed left the stage. A Catholic friend once told me that she had stopped going to church because of the abuse of children by the priests. She couldn’t understand how a Church full of the Spirit of Christ could allow such a thing. For her, any residual sense of Christ’s presence in the world has now disappeared. And who can blame her, or any of the victims of abuse, for seeing things that way?

Yet, this morning I would bear witness to another way of reading the Ascension story, another way of understanding why Jesus departed from his disciples and from the earth. For there is a bigger story here in Luke’s account, and I believe that if we can only allow ourselves this enlarged vista, then even the very real “fact” and “experience” of divine abandonment will turn out to be something other than what it appears to be.

And it is this: yes, by virtue of his Ascension into heaven, Christ is indeed no longer present as a particular human being who occupies and is limited by a particular place and time.  But he is nevertheless, also by virtue of the Ascension, more abundantly present and active than he had ever been before. And this not as some kind of ghostly presence who hangs in the air but never takes form. No, Christ remains present in a material body: in the Eucharist.

In Jesus the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, God has a body. And that body shares in Christ’s divine nature, which includes omnipresence. God still relates to us body to body in the body of Christ. And that body of Christ is present wherever the words of Christ are proclaimed: “This is my body.” This is me.

In the bread and the wine we receive the body and blood of Christ according to his word. In a kind of spiritual biochemistry we take his body and blood into our bodies. This can be a more intimate and a more saturating presence than we experience with another human being occupying a space next to us.

Robert Orsi, professor of Catholic Studies at Northwestern University, has chronicled case studies of victims of priestly abuse in his recently-published book, History and Presence. He calls what happened to these victims “events of abundant evil.” Yet many of these victims continue to come to church and receive the Host, the sacramental body of Christ, from the hand of a priest, even though they may have suffered abuse at the hands of a priest. Believing that this bread is the body of Christ, perhaps they have a sense that ingesting the body of Christ gives honor to their dishonored bodies.  This was a feeling I had when I was a young adolescent receiving first Communion at a time in my life when I had all sorts of young adolescent body issues. I wasn’t feeling very good about my body when I was thirteen going on fourteen, but I had been catechized to believe that Christ’s body and blood is really present in the bread and wine and if his holy body was coming into my body, then my body was honored by his presence.

Moreover, we share the same spiritual biochemistry with all others who receive the body and blood of Christ from the same bread and cup.  If we receive this sacrament we are bodily in union with Christ and with one another. The church becomes the interpersonal body of Christ. Working through the means of grace, the word and the sacraments, the Spirit whose coming we celebrate next Sunday makes the Church the body of Christ in the world, so infusing and shaping its life and work that the mission of Jesus continues in the Church as a real and tangible Christ-presence for the whole world.

And in the meantime, it’s good for us who have to live in the meantime to know that Christ has indeed taken his place at God’s right hand – the position of clout, we would say --, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.”  God has made Christ “the head over all things for the church, which is his body. Eastern Orthodox worshipers are reminded of this every time they enter their church building and see the icon of Christ the Pantocrator, the ruler of all things, in the apse or in the dome overhead gathering all his people under his rule.

Christ abides with us in the bread broken and the wine poured out for the life of the world; in the Scriptures read and preached; and in the stranger, the widow and the orphan we are called to meet in our ministries of care. Christ has indeed ascended to the Father…so that he can be present everywhere and to everyone now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Pastor Frank C. Senn

May 21, The Sixth Sunday of Easter

Kristin White

John 14:15-21


I wanted to be able to call myself a downhill skier.

They were the risk-takers, the ones with the tan lines around their eyes where there ski goggles had been for a sunny day on the mountain, the ones with the lift tags – sometimes many of them – a seeming badge of honor and proof, on the zipper pulls of their ski jackets.

We, the Uffelman Family, we were a cross-country skiing people. We were cautious, economical, as we did our skiing under our own steam through quiet and undisturbed countryside, at a pace both measured and safe.

As a freshman in high school, I wanted almost nothing more than to walk down the hall on a Monday morning, and join the cool kids, as I saw them, talking about the powder conditions at Mt. Bachelor over the weekend.

Mostly, I wanted that lift tag on the zipper pull of my jacket.

Somehow, I talked my dad into taking me to that mountain on a cold Saturday in January of 1986. I paid for part of the expensive lift ticket. I got the coveted tag. My dad was a good sport about it; he taught me the basics of what to do, from getting off the lift at the top of the run, to learning how to fall without hurting myself (that was the goal, anyway). And so we skied, and I fell, and it mostly wasn’t horrible, but I didn’t love it.

And then it was the end of the day, and the one lift I hadn’t gone on yet was called the Black Diamond. I don’t know that it’s still the case now, and maybe it’s that way everywhere, but in January of 1986, the Black Diamond was the highest and the most difficult ski run on Mt. Bachelor. I had been skiing for the better part of one day at that point. And I decided that that day would not be complete until I could not only walk into school the coming Monday morning with the lift tag on my jacket, but to be able to do that while talking about my time skiing Black Diamond.

I have no memory about how I convinced my father that this was a good idea.

But we rode the lift up, and I slid down the off-ramp at the top…the really, really high top.

Did I mention that we Uffelmans are a cautious people? I am, anyway. And I already had that stupid lift tag.

I looked down the mountain at the place I needed to ski in order to be finished with this ridiculous endeavor, and I just stopped. I couldn’t. My dad tried to encourage me, probably to the point of frustration on his part, but I just couldn’t bring myself to it.

And then it was dusk, and there were no more skiers on our part of the mountain. The lifts weren’t even running anymore, or else I would have made the case for riding back down on one.

A guy from the ski patrol showed up, seemingly out of nowhere. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s do this together. I’ll stay with you.”

And he did. He stayed right next to me, showed me how to take that mountain bit by bit. He waited for me when I fell. He talked with my dad all along the way.

He wasn’t annoyed that I, a brand new downhill skier, had done this thing that was so clearly beyond me – or if he was annoyed, he didn’t show it, so points to him for that. He just stayed with me all through that thing I didn’t think I could do, all the way to safety. When we finally got to the bottom of the mountain, just outside the lodge, he wished us well and skied off.

Jesus’ disciples are in a space of fear and confusion and sadness in today’s gospel. This is still his farewell discourse, a continuation of him saying goodbye to his friends before the betrayal and arrest that loom ahead of him.

“If you love me,” he says, “You will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”

The Greek word for advocate is paraclete. It means “one who has been called to our side.”[1] The one called to witness. The one called to be our companion.

By Jesus’ own words, this is not the first paraclete – this will be another. Because the earlier advocate is Jesus: look at the ways he has lived his life and ministry called to people’s side. Sure, the healings and the miracles. But also the walking with people from the Galilee to Jerusalem. The taking up of children in his arms. The noticing of people whom others would disregard. The times he sits and eats with wealthy people and prostitutes, with tax collectors and Pharisees. Again and again, Jesus comes alongside people. He sees them and he knows them, and he wants to be with them. He sees us, and he knows us, and he wants to be with us.

In promising another paraclete, Jesus promises that what the Spirit will do is what Jesus has already done – things those disciples, those friends of his, have already seen and tasted and heard and felt.

“The world will no longer see me, but you will,” Jesus tells them. “Because I live, you also will live. I in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

One of my seminary professors used these five chapters marking Jesus’ farewell in the gospel of John, when he taught biblical Greek to his students. There are comparatively fewer vocabulary words here, they just get rearranged and repeated a lot. This passage is a prime example, the “I-in-you, you-in-me”-ness of it contributing to a kind of poetic, mystical, dare I say “spiritual” quality.

But what if it’s not that?

I’m a little flinchy about asking this question, but what if Jesus is actually being, well, literal?

What if he means this in practical and real ways? “If you love me, you will show up and wash each other’s feet, and feed people who are hungry, and shelter people who are homeless. And I will ask God to send another Advocate to come alongside you, as witness and companion. The world might not see me, but you will. Because I live, you will live; because I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”

What if this description shapes our very presence in this world? What if the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives has a claim on how we live as disciples?

Because I live, you will live.

I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

“This is the Spirit of Truth, the Advocate, Jesus himself dwelling in (us), and among us.”[2]

You don’t need me to tell you that we live in a fearful and confusing time – so much is unfolding in these last days, all at a furious pace, and channel by website by posting by tweet, we’re being shouted at about what to think and how to feel and who to blame.

What a blessing, then, what a blessing we can find, in those people who show up and come alongside us, alongside those we love.

Thanks to Debbie Buesing for doing that in your ministry at St. Augustine’s, which we celebrate today. Thank you for your leadership as witness and companion, for loving the children and youth and families and everybody else in this parish. Thanks for building a ministry of wonder at what might be possible, with God’s help, and then working with others to make it so.

And thanks to the many of you who continue the good work Debbie has begun, coming alongside our young people, teaching them to explore the stories of who we are.

Lift tag and tan lines and Black Diamond stories or not, we need paraclete ministry in this life. We need people who show up and say, “Come on, let’s do this together. I’ll stay with you.” Because whatever our circumstance, we all face moments so scary that we can’t quite bring ourselves to begin, or times painful to the point that it takes our breath away, or those that are profoundly joyous, or just bewildering, or even so amazing that we need somebody else to be there and say, “yes, this is really happening!” We need each other. We need people who will show up as witnesses and companions, people who will come alongside us until we make it through.

“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me,” Jesus says. “And those who love me will be loved by my Father; and I will love them, and will reveal myself to them.” May it be so. Amen.




[1] Linda Lee Clader. “John 14:15-21, Homiletical Perspective.” Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 2. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. 491.

[2] Clader, 493.

May 7, The Fourth Sunday of Easter

Kristin White

The Fourth Sunday of Easter – May 7, 2017

John 10:1-10

Bishops carry croziers, the name for that fancy long crook, a sign of their symbolic role as shepherd of the people. Last Saturday in Indianapolis, John and I and about 1500 other joyous people got to witness, for the first time, a woman: the retiring tenth bishop, Cate Waynick, hand her crozier to another woman: our friend, Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, now the eleventh bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis.


Today we celebrate what churchy folks refer to as Good Shepherd Sunday. Our lessons revolve around Jesus as the good shepherd – the one who promises to leave the 99 in order to go find one lost sheep, and then to carry it home over his shoulder; the one who must go to care for his sheep who are not of this fold, and who promises to return.

We just prayed and sang the 23rd psalm, those most-familiar words: “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside still waters…surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” We will sing, “Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless,” and “The king of love my shepherd is.” Language of the good shepherd will weave its way throughout our prayer and worship.

The tricky part of all this is the parallel. I don’t find it all that difficult to imagine Jesus as the good shepherd – tending, leading, and caring for his flock. The hard part is that those who follow him are the sheep. And sheep are most often – and mistakenly, I believe – described in unlovely ways…as smelly, messy, and dumb. So who wants to be compared with that?

I come from cattle and sheep country, a place where wars actually raged between cattle ranchers and sheepmen (as they were called) in the 1890s.[1] They all grazed their livestock on the same open lands back then. And cattle ranchers didn’t like sheep, because sheep eat everything – so the ranchers saw the sheep as stripping the land where they hoped to have their animals roam and be fed. And many of the ranchers held the sheepmen in a certain amount of contempt, not just because they couldn’t stand sheep, but because the shepherds did things differently. Cattle are driven from behind, back then always by men on horseback, with whips and shouts. You can’t do that with sheep; they’ll get scared and try to run around behind you. Sheep have to be led by someone who is in their midst. So instead of riding horseback, shepherds have to walk with their animals. Sheep don’t follow strangers, and they won’t go anywhere without being led there by someone they trust, who goes ahead and shows them that it will be okay.

Today’s gospel testifies to the wisdom of those who follow. “The sheep hear his voice,” Jesus says as he tells people the parable of the good shepherd. “They follow, because they know his voice. Those who came before were thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.”

No, this gospel does not hold up that “smelly, messy, and dumb” trope for the sheep who follow Jesus. Those who follow in this gospel passage have their own wisdom, their own discernment. They know how to listen, and whom to trust.

And that’s important, because there are thieves. There are bandits. There are those who push and jostle and shout.

It matters, the wisdom and discernment and trust of those who follow.


In 1915, the Indiana Ku Klux Klan organized itself with a focus on prohibition, education, political corruption, and mortality. Klansmen opposed immigration, wrote and supported laws to limit the number of people moving to this country; it was hostile to Catholics and Jews, was avowedly white supremacist.[2]

By 1922, Indiana's KKK was the largest organization of any in the country, averaging 2,000 new members a week between 1922 and 1923. Membership would grow to 250,000, with nearly one third of all white men born in the United States and living in Indiana joining the ranks as Klansmen. By 1925, Klan membership counted the governor of Indiana, more than half the elected members of the state legislature, and a majority of ranking state and local government officials. People who wanted to run for any office at any level learned that they had to get KKK endorsement if they hoped to get elected.

Thieves and bandits.


So what does it say, just fewer than 100 years later, that the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis would call a black woman to take hold of that crozier?


Last Sunday in Godly Play, the children heard the story of The Good Shepherd and the World Communion. The good shepherd leads the sheep from their fold out into the pasture, and then to the table of the good shepherd, where the good shepherd is in the bread and the wine. The telling of the story has the priest eventually stand in the place of the shepherd, the sheep exchanged with the people – children and adults.

Teddy LaRosa has heard the story of the good shepherd in Godly Play every year since he was 2 ½ years old. And Teddy knows that the first kid to get to the parable box during response time gets to re-create the story for himself. So by Teddy’s re-creation, the shepherd doesn’t go anywhere. You can see it on your bulletin cover: closest to the table is this angelic, faceless god-like figure. And the priest is there with the children and the people and the sheep. All creation gathers for the feast, that they might have life, and have it abundantly.

There’s wisdom and discernment in those who follow, a reciprocity of trust with the one who leads. We listen for each others’ voices. We know each others’ names.

I can tell you that there was a claiming of Jennifer as bishop last Saturday in Indianapolis. Members of the black community from all over the country, and beyond – lay people and bishops and priests and deacons – gathered to mark the moment of Jennifer’s consecration, standing with joy to sing together the gospel music of “Total praise.” I can tell you that women came from everywhere to mark that day as well, and the image of the retiring bishop giving her crozier to the new bishop, all under the watchful gaze of the very first woman made a bishop of the church, who happens also to be black, is one I will cherish for the rest of my life. I can tell you that the people of Indianapolis chose Jennifer and called her; they trust her, and they know her to be their leader.

Teddy’s re-creation resonated there, again. God was at that table. The good shepherd hadn’t gone anywhere. There were adults and children, together for the feast. And Jennifer was right there in their midst.

There’s wisdom and discernment among those who follow, trusting that Christ comes to us, that we may have life, and have it abundantly.


[1] https://oregonhistoryproject.org/articles/historical-records/central-oregon-range-wars/#.WQ9cobzyvow

[2] a great deal of information about Indiana’s Klan history can be found here: http://www.theindychannel.com/longform/the-ku-klux-klan-ran-indiana-once-could-it-happen-again

April 30, The Third Sunday of Easter

Deacon Sue Nebel

            You probably did it the first time as a young child, and probably many more times again as an adult.  You stood at the edge of a lake, a pond, or maybe just a nice deep puddle.  You stretched out your hand and dropped a small stone or a pebble into the water.  Then you stood there, watching intently, as a small circle formed where the stone had dropped and disappeared.  Then gradually more and more circles formed, spreading out on the surface of the water.  Smaller ones in the center, surrounded by increasingly larger ones. I don’t know about you, but I never fail, even as an adult, to be amazed by the sight of those circles.

            The stories of the experience of the Resurrection are like those circles.  They begin small and get bigger and bigger.  At the Easter Vigil and on Easter Day, we hear the stories of the discovery of the empty tomb in the early morning. Not many characters involved. Some women and an angel or two.  In the version of the story in Matthew, two women, Mary Magadalene and another Mary the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body nowhere to be found.  They rush off to tell the others.   In the account in John, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb alone. Stunned at what she finds, she runs to tell Peter and another disciple. The men rush to the tomb to check out what she has said. In both stories, we have the first post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus. In Matthew, he appears to the women and the disciples.  In John, Jesus appears only to Mary Magdalene and she then tells the others, “I have seen the Lord.”  The empty tomb.  The stone dropped into the water.  Circles starting to form.

             In last Sunday’s Gospel lesson, Jesus appears again. By now, it is evening.  The disciples are in a house, somewhere in Jerusalem, gathered in fear.  Jesus comes to them.  He shows them his wounds and breathes on them.  And then the words, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  The hint of what lies ahead. A bigger circle is forming.  The disciples will not remain in this small place.  They will not sit still, paralyzed by fear, and do nothing.  Jesus is going to send them out to do the work that he started. 

In today’s Gospel lesson, this one from Luke, another post-Resurrection appearance. A  larger circle. Jesus now appears to people who are not part of the small group of women and men closest to him.  On the road outside of Jerusalem, Jesus joins two of his followers who are headed  to the village of Emmaus, some seven miles away.  They do not recognize him. They are discussing the extraordinary events of past few days. When he asks them what they are talking about, they are astonished that he does not seem to know about what has happened.  So they recount the events.  Then Jesus begins to teach them, interpreting the scriptures for them.  As they approach the village, they invite Jesus to join them.  At the table, Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them.  Suddenly, they recognize him, and in that same moment he disappears.  They say to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was interpreting the scriptures to us?” Instead of staying in Emmaus, they return to Jerusalem to tell the smaller group of disciples what they have experienced.  Jesus teaching them on the road and how they knew him in the breaking and sharing of bread.

Scripture and shared meal. Key elements in this story.  The pattern of the earliest days of the Jesus Movement.  People gathering in homes to share a meal.  Telling stories about Jesus. Wondering and talking together about the meaning of all that he taught them.  Then going out from those gatherings to spread the good news about Jesus. To live out his teaching to love another.  To build the Church.  We have come a long way since those early days.  The church has become a huge, complicated institution.  We have taken the simple pattern of word and shared meal and dressed it up. Made it grand with vestments and music. Scripture read from lecterns.  The stories and teachings of Jesus proclaimed from the center aisle.  The meal, the Eucharist, begins at a large table, front and center with elaborate coverings and silver vessels.  Words that remind us of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples.  Words that give expression to layers of meanings we have given to the simple actions of sharing bread and wine.  “This is my body, which is given for you.”  “This is my blood of the new Covenant.”  “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Word and Sacrament.  The framework, the basic structure of our common worship.  It is probably most familiar to us in what we do each Sunday morning when we gather here.   With some variation in seasons like Advent or Lent, we follow the same pattern, week after week.  We listen to the Word. We share the bread and wine of communion. This is how we learn about Jesus.  This is how we come to know and experience Jesus as a living presence in our hearts and in our lives.  It is our road to Emmaus experience. Not a one-time, heart-burning-within us moment, but something we do over and over again. The familiarity of its pattern shapes and grounds our faith.  It strengthens us to go out from this place and continue the work that Jesus and those early disciples started. 

Yesterday was the consecration of Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows as Bishop of Indianapolis, a grand event with all the pomp and circumstance the Episcopal Church can muster.  Lots of people from our diocese were there.  Kristin and John White, Andrea Mysen and Rene Brandt and Sadie and Ascher among them. At the same time yesterday, I was at the funeral of Rebekah Rimkus. She was the wife of Bill Rimkus, a deacon in our diocese.  A time of sadness, honoring a woman who had died of brain cancer at the age of 63.  Two very different liturgies, yet both taking place within the basic framework of Word and Sacrament.  A framework that is pliable, flexible.  Opening up to include unique elements. In the consecration: an examination of Jennifer, testimonials to the validity of her election, the giving of symbols of her new position.  In the funeral, space for a eulogy given by one of Rebekah’s daughters, a poem as one of the readings, interment of her ashes in the parish columbarium.  

The consecration of a new bishop, a beginning. A funeral, an ending.  Beginnings and endings—and everything in between.  Framed by familiar ritual of Word and Sacrament.  That is our life in the Church.  Within that structure, we welcome new members and say goodbye to others who are leaving to continue their life’s journey in another place.  We bless pregnant women. We give thanks for newborn babies and adopted childen.  We baptize, we confirm and receive people into the Episcopal Church.  We marry couples. We recognize and commission a variety of ministries. In all of those events, we hear the Word and share the meal. .      

Two people in the fading evening light, heading from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  Encountering a stranger.  Then the dawning light of recognition: it is Jesus.  Known and experienced in hearing the scriptures interpreted and in the breaking and sharing of bread.  A small, simple beginning.  What a long way we have come since then.





Easter 3; Year A

Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-3,10-17; 1 Peter:17-23; Luke 24:13-35


April 16, Easter Day

Kristin White

John 20:1-18

Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have designed it that way.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is hard to find. It’s in the Christian Quarter, just inside the walls of the Old City. I can tell you that I managed to find it three times – two of them in the dark, and on my own – but I couldn’t tell you how. I wandered down what seemed like a side street, which emptied into another, got thoroughly lost on one of those occasions and asked directions from a kind vendor who must have guessed I didn’t have a clue about where I was, and eventually found the church…a different way, each time.

There’s no grand entrance. If you were here for last night’s Vigil, you would have seen on the cover of our bulletin a photo of the archway to the plaza outside the church. It’s marked by an Israeli Defense Force checkpoint and camera, by a hand-painted sign, with a sign above that urging orderly behavior – no pushing or running.

The church was under construction when our group made pilgrimage in January, which added to the chaos. But that church strikes me as a place that probably always has a certain amount of chaos and complication anyway.

In the second century, the emperor Hadrian built a temple to Venus over the site believed to be Jesus’ tomb. By some accounts, he did that to deny Christians access to the place they had been returning to worship since the time when Jesus was resurrected and ascended.

In the year 325, the emperor Constantine, the first to officially tolerate Christianity, reclaimed that space. He called for a church to be built that would enshrine Golgotha, the place of Jesus’ crucifixion, and the tomb, also the place of resurrection.

It’s a big space, as you can probably imagine. And it has been shared for a very long time by different churches – the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic, the Roman Catholic are primary, though Syrian Orthodox and Egyptian Coptic and Ethiopian Christians also hold sway. The key to the church has been held by a Muslim family, the Joudeh family, for 850 years. Their “new” key is 500 years old. A member of that family unlocks the doors to the church every morning at about 4:00.

It’s a big church, with a long history, held dear by many people who have to find a way to share. You can imagine the chaos and complication in the years between 325 and now. There have been fires and fights, persecutions and restorations.

At any given moment, you might walk in the door, next to the marble pillar where pilgrims have traced and carved crosses for centuries, see people laying rosaries for blessing on the anointing stone just inside, hear an orthodox priest chant evening prayer as folks light candles at the place of the crucifixion, join a line that may take an hour, may take much more, to enter the Aedicule, the shrine of Jesus’ tomb.

Chaos and complication are good words for today’s gospel as well. And I’ll confess that, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have designed it that way, either.

Mary goes in the dark of the early morning to that very place where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands, to find the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. And then she runs back to Peter and the other disciple, and they all run back to the tomb, and somehow it’s important to this gospel writer to say who runs the fastest.

The linens are there, and Jesus is not. The other disciple, the one who runs faster than Peter, sees and believes. And the two disciples go home.

In the midst of all the chaos, all the complication, Mary stands weeping.

Two angels ask her, from the tomb, “Why are you weeping?”

“They have taken my Lord,” she says, “And I don’t know where.”

And then it’s him. He’s right there, but she doesn’t realize.

“Why are you weeping?” Jesus asks Mary Magdalene.

“Just tell me where he is,” she says.

And he says her name. And she knows.

Left to my own devices, I would be inclined to build an orderly and well-signed church, on a main road, with one primary liturgical act going on at a time. Left to my own devices, I would probably wish for a believable and logical story of faith, some kind of provable if-then story, where justice is clean and the moral is clear. Left to my own devices, the gospel we share on the busiest day of the church year would be approachable, recognizable; not chaotic, not outrageous.

It’s a good thing I’m not left to my own devices. Because we need something bigger than that.

Because as hard as it was for me to wander and get lost and found again in the early morning darkness on the way to that church built over the space of cross and tomb, I needed the chaos of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I needed to trace my fingers among those centuries of crosses in that marble pillar at the doorway. I needed to look at the mosaic of Jesus’ body being placed in the tomb (Mary, his mother, helps carry him; she holds his head so tenderly). I needed to see that, at the same time that people wept and prayed at the stone where many believe Jesus’ body was anointed for burial. I needed the frustration of standing in line but not actually ever entering the tomb. I needed the mystery of words chanted in a language I do not know, at the place where Jesus hung on the cross.

We get moments, I believe, where something reaches into the depths of who we are, to the place where both doubt and faith can be found.[1] And in living into the logical everyday, the easily anticipated, the clean and the orderly, I’m not entirely convinced we can see the need for those moments. But chaos? Complication? Confusion and frustration? Well, maybe those disrupt our lives enough that we can find that doubt and faith are not so very far away from one another. In fact, maybe it’s even the case that our doubts bear witness to the power of what it is that we proclaim today.[2]

Because maybe the realities which hold no doubt for us, are also not “large enough to reveal God to us.”[3]

I'll say that again: Because maybe the realities which hold no doubt for us, are also not “large enough to reveal God to us.”[4]

In the complication and the chaos of this day, the Christian faith makes a mighty proclamation, the same ancient claim we will sing as one of our hymns at communion: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.

It’s massive and chaotic and incomprehensible. It’s the kind of statement you can get lost inside of. And maybe that is a necessary part of it all, a testimony that we are not best left to our own devices, this Easter day, or ever. Because “what we proclaim at Easter is too mighty to be encompassed by certainty, too wonderful to be found only within the borders of our own imaginations.”[5]

She goes to the tomb in the early morning darkness, and he’s not there. And there’s chaos, and running, and the disciples go home. But Mary stands weeping.

“Why are you weeping?” the angels ask.

“They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where,” she says.

“Why are you weeping?” Jesus asks.

“Just tell me where he is,” she says.

And he says her name. And she knows.

Jesus will go on to reveal himself to the disciples – in a locked room; and again with Thomas, whose doubts bear witness to his faith; and once more at day break on the shores of the sea of Galilee, which is the place you can see on the cover of your bulletin this morning.

Thank God. Thank God, on this Easter Day and always, for the chaos and complication that tell us again and again that we are not left to our own devices. Because they’re not big enough to contain God. Because the risk and the promise are so much greater.

Because Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.

Alleluia. Christ is risen.



[1] Martin Copenhaver, “Pastoral Perspective” Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 2. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. 374.

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

[5] Copenhaver, 374

April 14, Good Friday

Deacon Sue Nebel

It has grown so quiet.  It all seems so long ago, the noise and commotion of the morning.  The drama of the confrontation between Jesus and Pilate. The arguments and backpedaling of Pilate and the Jewish leaders. Both sides trying to rid themselves of responsibility for condemning Jesus to death.  The shouts of the chief priests and guards, demanding that he be crucifed.  Later, cruel taunts hurled at Jesus as he hangs on the Cross.  Now it is over.  Jesus and the two criminals who were crucified alongside him are dead.  The crowds have dispersed, rushing off to reach home before sundown.  The women and the Beloved Disciple waited until the bodies were lowered to the ground, so that Mary could hold her son one last time.  Surrounding the grieving woman, the others then led her away.  The soldiers too have left, carrying the bodies of the two other men, probably to a common grave.

In the fading light, two figures. Joseph of Arimathea, a Jew of high enough standing that Pilate has granted his request to be given the body of Jesus.  And Nicodemus, who has become a follower of Jesus.  The two men move quickly with their burden, because the body must be buried before sundown.  In a nearby garden, they wrap Jesus’ body in spices and cloth and place it in a new, unused tomb.  The women will come later, after the Sabbath, to complete the preparation for burial. Their work done, the two men depart. Darkness settles over the garden.  

Darkness, despair, grief.  With the death of Jesus, all hope seems lost.  What now?  His followers promised to be faithful, to journey with him and then did, all the way to the Cross.  What do they do now?  They do what people have done for ages in the face of unexpected change or loss that upends their lives.  In need of a sense of order and structure in the midst of confusion and chaos, they turn to the rituals of their traditions.  They engage in actions that enable them to conclude one part of a story and take the first awkward steps forward into an uncertain future.   

 Like the early followers of Jesus, we too have promised to follow Jesus.  We made a promise in our baptism, a promise that we renew from time to time.  We pledged to accept Jesus as our Lord. To be loyal, faithful to him.  To follow him.  To journey with him on a path that will lead to the final days of his life.  It is where we find ourselves now.  Last night, we entered the Triduum, the Great Three Days.  The long liturgy of our Christian tradition that frames the events of these days.  Last night we remembered Jesus’ last night with his disciples.  We became part of the story.  We shared a meal. We heard Jesus’ words as he shared bread and wine with those at the table with him.  Words familiar to us in the ritual of the Eucharist.  We washed one another’s feet, following the command that he gave to the disciples.  Today, on Good Friday, we follow Jesus through the next part of the journey—the path to the Cross. Crucifixion and death, the rock-bottom part of the story. 

Like the early followers of Jesus, in the sadness and upheaval of this day, we too turn to ritual.  Some of it familiar, some of it unique to this day.  In few minutes, Kristin will bring a wood cross forward and place it here at the foot of the steps.  We will then have the opportunity to come forward and pause for a moment at that cross.  To honor it.  To affirm it as the central symbol of our Christian faith.  To embrace the Cross and its story as part of ourselves.  

Then we will turn to other, more familiar rituals: prayer and communion. Actions that are part of another baptismal promise: to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.  It is what we do each time we gather for worship.  Listen to the stories of Scripture, offer prayer, and share the Eucharistic meal.  Today, opening our hearts and minds to the wider Church and the vast world of which we are part, we will pray the Solemn Collects.  A collection of biddings and responses modeled on ancient prayers of the Church. They are used only on Good Friday. Then, finally, we will share communion, but not in the usual way.  No bringing forward of gifts.  No Eucharistic Prayer.  No consecrating of elements.  Instead, simple prayers and then a sharing of bread and wine saved from last night’s liturgy.

With some sense of order restored, we will depart in silence. To continue the journey and move forward. To the next part of the story.





Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42