The Smiling Heretic's Blog

Easter :: Alleluia!

I always get anxious trying to come up with a sermon for Easter Day. After all, this is one Sunday when there will probably be more guests in worship than usual and thus a great opportunity is provided for me to really WOW the congregation with a sermon that will change your life!

It is also very tempting for me to dig deep into the texts we’ve been given today and glean from them some bit of wisdom that I may whip into words of such erudite profundity that everyone will be awed by the sheer magnificence of it all.

I guess I could talk up the women at the tomb who, upon hearing that Jesus was risen, just as he predicted, went and told all the disciples the wonderful news. When Peter saw so for himself, he just went home. My guess is that he was sulking because the women were right.

Palm Sunday :: Crosses?

“The cross stands empty to the sky.” [The Hymnal 1982, 182]

Wait a minute. That doesn’t make much sense. Quoting from an Easter hymn on Palm Sunday? What’s up with that?

Well, that is kind of where we find ourselves today isn’t it? After all, every Sunday is a celebration of the day of Resurrection. And today, the day in which the church commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem while also hearing of his passion and death—evoking in worshippers the disparate emotions of elation and grief—begins with an empty cross. In fact we truly begin with no cross whatsoever at all! For it is not until the horrific events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion that we even think of the cross.

So let’s at least just spend a few moments in remembrance of the procession into Jerusalem. Let us raise our shouts of Hosanna, Lord! Hosanna! Let us wave our branches of palm and cheer the One who saves. And let us bow our heads and bend our knees before the One who reigns on high! We’ve so little time to be happy. Now’s our chance. We’ve no time for any kind of cross right now.

Lent 5 :: The end of Life?

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“In the midst of life we are in death.” [BCP, 484 & 492]

One of the harsh realities of life is the understanding that death comes to everyone. At no time is this more poignant than when looking out the windows of a hearse and seeing that the world hasn’t stopped to grieve the loss of your loved one. Life continues despite the reality of death all around. And thanks be to God for that!

As Christians, we are a people who believe—no, who insist—that death is not the end of life. It is but the beginning of new life. We may look to the past and remember those who have gone before us or those events in the life of the community which have been foundational for its identity, but our heart is ever fixed on God who makes all things new and to Christ into whose victory over death we have been reborn in the waters of baptism. Death, decay, and brokenness are therefore rendered meaningless by the One who overcomes death, renews creation, and heals our hearts.

Lent 4 :: Forgiveness a’int easy

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“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you…”

The color purple has been used for two millennia by the church as symbolic of the royalty of Christ, in whose name priests and bishops pronounce God's forgiveness to penitents. Hence the use of purple was traditionally reserved for the liturgical seasons of repentance—Advent and Lent—in which the people of God are reminded of their need to rely on the grace of God offered through the forgiveness of God.

You know, sometimes asking for forgiveness can be almost as difficult as it was for 1st c. Palestinians to make purple dye [a rather labor intensive process utilizing the glands of a carnivorous sea snail!]. Think of how the Prodigal Son in today’s Gospel passage must’ve felt when he first saw his father after his foolhardy adventure away from home. He had every right to suspect that dear old dad would read him the riot act. Asking forgiveness in that context seems a herculean task indeed. And granting forgiveness is likewise not an easy thing to accomplish: just ask the older brother about that!

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