The Smiling Heretic's Blog

Palm Sunday :: God’s Hesed

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“God’s steadfast love endures forever!”

This day we are not mere passive recipients of Christian Worship. Truth be told, for a Eucharistic community as ours, we can never fully be passive recipients in worship. But today, we are invited to go all out. To let our hair down. To act even a bit crazy by waving Palm fronds high overhead as we greet the One who comes in the name of the Lord.

[Other actions of the congregation during Holy Week and Easter…]

• Feet washing

• Altar stripping

• Cross venerating

I used to get paid pretty good money for playing in Easter extravaganzas in the 1970s and 80s equivalent of today's mega churches. I somewhat enjoyed those no-holds-barred events, but I felt kinda bad for the congregations, which were like much more of an audience at an off-off Broadway Musical than a worshipping congregation. They had no part to play. Oh they clapped and cheered at all the right places, but in terms of really being present, part of the action, they were not. Just passive recipients of a religious spectacle ala the mystery plays of Medieval Europe.

Lent 5 :: Seeing Jesus

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“Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

What do we show people who may say this to us?

Do we show them the High Priest of Hebrews? Dressed in long flowing robes with a mighty turban on his head? Or perhaps some medieval wizard like Gandalf or Merlin with a long white beard, carrying a wooden staff and wearing a rumpled, pointy hat? Do we point out the “priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”? Wait! What?

Or do we point them to the One who bore our sins on the cross, high and lifted up? Who wants to take away your sin if only you will give your heart to him right here and now… Come kneel with me in prayer and accept Jesus as your Lord and savior!

Well, of course, we Episcopalians would probably never respond in such a way to someone who asks us about Jesus. At least certainly not in the kneel-with-me-now-and-accept-Jesus sort of way.

Lent 4 :: Snakes Galore!

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"And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…"

First off, let’s look at that strange passage in Numbers regarding the bronze serpent… 

Explain the grumbling… Against Moses and God

You think this is bad? I’ll show you bad… Snakes

Isn’t it true that when we are not happy with something, it always gets a bit worse before it gets better?

Story of my dog dying, my house getting broken into, losing my job all in two weeks’ time

The people repent and ask Moses to intercede

Bronze snake “all who look upon it may live”

Story of Nicodemus.

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Dialogue about being born again/from above

After Nicodemus shows his continuing confusion, Jesus says, ““Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Lent 3 :: Cleansing the Temple of Injustice

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"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O God, my strength and my redeemer."

Today [Yesterday 7 March, 1965] marks the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday

• Voter rights for Blacks

• Death of Deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson earlier in February

• March from Selma to Montgomery [the capital]

• State Troopers [including posses of white men over the age of 21, called up by the sheriff] barred the way off the Edmund Pettus Bridge

• 17 Marchers were hospitalized

• Images of the melee went viral worldwide

• This helped to spark the Voter’s Rights Act of 1965

We also hear today of Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple

• Jesus in Jerusalem for Passover

• Comes to the Temple and sees the exchange of money and the buying of animals for sacrifice

Lent 2 :: Imitatio Christi

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[Note: I do not often write out my sermons, but I do use notes. From time to time people ask me for these, so I thought I’d share by putting them here on my blog!]

"After being baptized by John in the river Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves." [F. Buechner, Whistling in the Dark: An ABC Theologized, pg. 74]

Story of those--Abram and Sarai--who spent a lifetime asking themselves what it meant to be them.

• Call from Ur of the Chaldees in Haran to go to an unknown place following this unknown God.

• He and his family left

• Home

• Family

• Land

• They even left their other gods

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