my miscellany

Easter V, 2018 — 29 Apr 18

Easter V, 2018

RCL Year B Easter 5
Acts 8:26–40, Psalm 22:24–30, I John 4:7–21, Saint John 15:1–8

In the Gospel today, Christ begins with what people know. People know vines and branches, and they know the intimate connections between them. They know farming and the need to cultivate and to prune to produce an ample crop. So they understand and are persuaded when Christ says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.”[1]

The chilling thing, the scary thing, in this Gospel you find in Christ’s absolute insistence on collaborative effort. Vines and vinegrowers work together. Branches are healthy and productive when they are part of the whole vine. Jesus says, “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.”[2] He says that people who wish to have things their own way are in for a surprise. Rugged individuals who will not share responsibility and reward are going to have trouble finding their place in the harmonious relationship of the vinegrower, the vine, and the branches. Jesus continues, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”[3] I hope you noticed something. Christ is saying that the needs of those who abide in him will be met, but, beyond that, they will be occasions for the glory of the whole enterprise: the glory of the Father as well as the others.

You might think me single-minded, because I mention being a healthy and growing parish whenever I can. Another way of saying the same thing is to say that we control our Parish; now we have to function in the way that allows it to grow. This is a goal that requires collaboration: vines, vinedressers, branches, and leaves—all working together to make our Parish a coherent and sensible place, a place where people can serve God in worship and serve God in the service of others. “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.”[4]

[1] Saint John 15:1-2.

[2] Saint John 15:4-5.

[3] Saint John 15:7-8.

[4] Saint John 15:8.

Easter IV, 2018 — 22 Apr 18

Easter IV, 2018

RCL Year B Easter 4
Acts 4:5–12, Psalm 23, I John 3:16–24, Saint John 10:11–18

If you are like me, it’s hard to keep feeling Easter-ish week after week, especially when the weather remains damp and cool. Easter, not the Day, but the whole fifty-day, eight-Sunday season, including the Day of Pentecost, is about the events by which you and I first became Christians: Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and in which we continue to participate through Baptism and the Eucharist. These fifty days celebrate those two Sacraments, by which we take part in the dying and rising of Jesus to eternal life.

So, here we are, gathered together on Good Shepherd Sunday, a flock who follows Jesus the Good Shepherd. Here we are, called into a new freedom of life in the risen Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here we are, the Christian family whose ministry it is to hold up to our society a better, more perfect, more human way to live. Here we are, people who, by Baptism and the Eucharist, are being transformed into disciples of Christ. Here we are, still in our journey toward God’s home—our true home—often as confused, stubborn, and clueless as a flock of sheep.

But this journey isn’t ours alone. As much as we may complain, as much as we look to other people to minister to our feelings, we have a shepherd. We are led, and we are fed. We have the Good Shepherd, the Patron of this Parish, the one who calls us each by name, who feeds us with Eucharistic food and quenches our thirst with living water. But, the Good Shepherd does more than this. He lays down his life for us, every day and every hour, not just on Good Friday from twelve to three. And in taking up his life again, in rising from the dead, Jesus destroys the power of death in us forever. Not just once. But once forever.

We could not celebrate that in one day, Easter Day, no matter how hard we tried, or how many hymns and processions we offered to the resurrected Lord, or how many candles we lighted. It takes at least fifty days. Come to think of it, celebrating the death of death in us takes the whole of our lives.

Easter III, 2018 — 15 Apr 18

Easter III, 2018

RCL Year B Easter 3
Acts 3:12–19, Psalm 4, I John 3:1–7, Saint Luke 24:16b–48

I saw it last week. An automobile ignored a STOP sign, and, pulling into the intersection of Clay Avenue and Olive Street, executed a U-turn. And, having done that, the car went from whence it came. I find that you can see this commonly these days when once you could not see it. Long before we get to the subject of our society’s regression to the lowest common denominator, we can talk about cutting corners, putting self first, and not taking the time or making the effort to do what is right.

And, meditating on these things, I read today’s Epistle, finding, “Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.”[1]

As great a mystery as the resurrection is, the resurrection is no greater mystery than what this short verse tells us about God. Because the Word became Flesh, because the Son of God became one of us, whenever we do what is right, we become righteous, as the resurrected Lord is righteous.

We could not glimpse this truth without the resurrection or without the Scriptures to guide us. For the resurrection and the Scriptures open to us a world, a realm, and a kingdom, beyond our five human senses. We cannot see it or taste it as if it were ice cream. But that world, that realm, that kingdom is there, just beyond the limitation of our senses and just beyond the limitation of our humanity. Jesus and the Scriptures have revealed it to us. Any full description of human experience must include it. The big picture includes it.

All of which brings me to the subject of our activities today. We are using water and oil, and bread and wine, to walk through the looking glass and to enter that world, that realm, and that kingdom. We use those physical things to go beyond our senses, because the Lord designated them for that purpose. We are “watering a baby,” as some like to say, and we are celebrating the Eucharist. We are presenting that baby to that kingdom and to the Lord of that kingdom, because the Lord has told us to do it, and doing it makes the baby belong to the Lord for ever.

The Lord is never further away than the water and the oil, never more remote than the bread and the wine. But today’s Epistle deepens even those mysteries. The Lord is even closer than that. We are with him just by doing what is right. We can find him, we can discover him, standing next to us, just by doing what is right. This is what we believe. And this is what we pray to hand on to Lucas Todd Whittaker. May he grow, and may we all grow, into “the measure of the full stature of Christ.”[2]

[1] I John 3:7b.

[2] Ephesians 4:13.

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