Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

Bill Mallonee - Slow Trauma“Trauma” generally centers around moments that shatter reality as we know it. It is an engine that propels medical science, psychology, and disaster response. But what about the in-the-trenches impact of life from day to day or year to year? Such struggle is the stuff of spiritual journey, the stuff of sacrifice, the stuff of endurance, the stuff of failure and ultimately the stuff of faith, hope, and love. It is that “Slow Trauma” that Bill Mallonee explores with the ever-deepening poetic voice that has carried him from the “next big thing” status that plagued Vigilantes of Love into something more rewarding and valuable than any industry that seeks to profit from human expression could ever recognize. It is a shame that people might not hear these songs. The good news is that these songs exist: they are begging to be heard and demand to find and audience as listeners become promoters in the age of social media interconnection. In other words: I’m telling you about these songs so that you will tell somebody else. I want you to listen. I want you to purchase. I want your journey to be shaped by the journey of “Slow Trauma”.


These are songs of journey and struggle, of faith instead of certainty. Perhaps it’s the journey of a railroad worker leaving his family as the nation expands westward. Perhaps it’s the journey of a troubadour songwriter travelling that same geographic route while letting go of everything that defined his past in order to take hold of what lies ahead. Perhaps it’s the journey that all of us struggle to understand: a life with no guarantees except that of our own mortality. Perhaps it’s all of the above.

For churched people, it makes perfect sense that these songs first arrived on our doorsteps or devices as the journey of Holy Week was about to unfold once again. These are songs that point toward Easter, toward hope and new life, but get there by the only road available: the way of struggle, suffering, and even death. For unchurched souls, it’s much simpler: these songs are devoid of bullshit. They refuse to offer simple answers to burning questions; they also refuse to give up on what might be waiting over that last hill if we have the courage to seek it out.

Musically, Mallonee brings the sound of a full band to these songs, even while going it alone (save for Muriah Rose on piano and organ). His upbringing as a drummer provides a subdued but solid foundation for guitar work that has continued in recent years to expand into gritty soulful melodic leads that bring a wistful yet buoyant quality to each song. A striking feature of these particular songs are the yearning harmony vocals sung by Mallonee himself.

Over the course of 10 songs, Mallonee takes the willing listener on a journey. The album begins with the 1-minute overture of “One and the Same” setting the scene for all that is to follow. The need to embark on the journey unfolds in the uncertainty of “Only Time Will Tell,” the hesitant restlessness of “Waiting for the Stone (to be Rolled Away),” and the urgent inevitability of “Hour Glass (Only So Many Grains of Sand)”.

“WPA (When I Get to Where They’re Taking Us)” bids farewell to all that is comfortable and cherished while promising to write home regularly. It also touches on the uncomfortable journey that begins at the farewell of the grave: “Tossing you a scrap; throwing you a crust. It’s all ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”

The struggle of the journey unfolds across “Ironclad”, “High~Beam” and “Doldrums in Denver”. With no guarantees, there is a wish to “wind the tape back to the very start” even while acknowledging that there’s not really a home to return to. “High~Beam” is the catharsis of an artist that has come to terms with an industry that claims to want authenticity, but then turns a deaf ear. Grace invades in the form of a pen that keeps writing and a guitar that keeps demanding to be played. Out of that resolve comes the realization—or better yet: revelation—that “whatever is heavy as hell is what you shouldn’t carry”. “Doldrums in Denver” is the cold and lonely place that begs you to continue the journey if only to ensure that it doesn’t end there.

Ultimate hope offers a glimpse of its face in “The King’s Highway (New Set of Wheels).” Staying true to the journey and the reality of struggle, it makes no claim of certainly or on-demand delivery:

Could be soon, could be far;
but that’s not mine to say.
You’ll get a new set of wheels on the King’s Highway.
Just another road song for the radio to play.
You’ll get a new set of wheels on the King’s Highway.

“That Last Hill” offers the final word with the same eloquence that “One and The Same” started the story. As “the final grains of sand fall through the slender neck of the hour glass” and Mallonee reflects on life’s journey during which “it’s funny how things can get so damn misplaced”, he hopes that he will be received kindly at his final destination:

Lord, gather me unto Thyself
when my wayward heart grows still.
I just wanna see over that last hill.

Mallonee’s music continues to offer riches to every listener fortunate enough to have somebody insist that they spend time with these songs. If you have read this far, I must insist that you take time to listen to “Slow Trauma” yourself. Listen to it and invite others to listen. Bill Mallonee admits that the self-promotion necessary to sustain a musician’s career does not feel authentic to him. As an alternative, I can think of nothing more authentic than a legion of listeners taking up the mantle of inviting others into the struggle and the journey Mallonee’s music embraces. Who will you share these songs of grace and truth with?

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Sermon preached May 1, 2011 at Temple Lutheran Church.  Based on John 20:19-31.

Been thinking about scars this week. We all have scars. Every one of us. Every scar brings with it a story, and those stories become a part of who we are. Every single one of us is scarred from the moment we are born. Each one of us carries at least one scar so universal that we consider it a body part: a belly button. A reminder that, even in the moment of birth, we had to adjust to a whole new reality. A whole new life during which we will pick up more scars along the way.

Each scar comes with a story. We could probably spend the rest of the day telling, and listening to, the stories that have left us with scars.

Some of the stories make us laugh as we look back. They make us laugh at our own foolishness. If I lose my hair, I will surely have to explain to people the 2.5-inch scar that barely remains hidden today on the top of my forehead. They will hear a story about a group of 19-year old males (so many scar stories probably begin with such a group!), and all the wonderful ideas we came up with to entertain ourselves. In fact, when we put our minds together, we always managed to come up with even dumber ideas.

One of those ideas was a game we called “Izzy Dizzy”. You’ve probably seen or played this game at some point. It involves standing a baseball bat up and bending over, placing your forehead on the top of the bat and spinning around the bat as many times as you can. When you stop spinning, you then try to walk a straight line.

We came up with the great idea that this was a game we should play in our dormitory hallway. Our dormitory was like a big brick shoebox with a hallway straight up the middle with doorways on both sides every few feet. We decided to place a pile of matresses in the hallway with one matress standing on end like a wall in front of them. We wanted to see who could spin around the bat and then proceed down the hall and jump over the wall and land in the luxourious pile of soft matresses.

Of course, I got to go first.

I bent down, spun around the bat as many times as I could. I started up the hallway, leaning on the wall until my shoulder bumped into a doorway. I stopped and focused on the matresses, which were right in front of me. So I positioned myself and leapt with all my might.

As soon as my feet left the floor, the whole world spun. The matresses flew away in one direction, and into my path came the concrete and steel doorway that I had just bumped into. I bumped into again, much harder and head first.

We laughed all the way to the emergency room as the others described to me what they witnessed, which was that I bumped into the doorway, stared at it, and then jumped as hard as I could straight into it.

Some of the stories make us laugh. Some of the stories are routine and mundane. I spent my college years working in food service collecting scars almost weekly—from burns, knives, and industrial fans to go with the hockey stick scars I collected on my brow.

Some of the stories that come with the scars we carry remind us every day why we call them “scars”.  Some of the stories go back to the darkest moments we’ve experienced. Some of the stories we would never laugh at or forget. Some of the stories we don’t want to remember or re-open. They’re stories we wish had never happened. Even though scars are proof that we have survived–that our bodies have been mended–they still leave us forever marked, reminding us that there are things that irreversibly change us.
And the scars that mark our skin are really just the first layer of scars. They barely scratch the surface, don’t they? Because it’s not just physical scars that we carry through life. Often, the scars that hurt us the most are the ones we can’t point to on our elbow or forehead.

As we gather together this morning, we gather around a story about scars. We hear the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples. A story that particularly draws attention to Thomas and his desire, or perhaps need, to see the scars.

I imagine it’s pretty natural for each of us to relate to Thomas and the doubts he had.  I suspect that the reason Thomas is included in the story is because his story reflects a piece of our own story. The Bible never refers to Thomas as a doubter. Thomas is always called “the twin”, although we never hear about the other twin (the brother or sister). Some of the other siblings among the disciples get mentioned, but not this time. It’s been suggested that Thomas is called “the twin” because he is our twin; that Thomas resembles our own struggle to believe. I find that possibility very encouraging and interesting.

As I thought about the story of Thomas this week and prayed, it occurred to me that Thomas would not have struggled with the idea that Jesus had risen from the dead. Thomas was there just a few pages earlier in the story when Jesus told the disciples that his friend Lazarus had died. It was Thomas that told the other disciples to go with Jesus to Lazarus’ tomb. Thomas wouldn’t have struggled with resurrection because he saw Lazarus come out of the tomb. Thomas did not need to see that Jesus was risen. What Thomas needed to see was the scars. Thomas needed to see where the nails marked Jesus’ hands. Thomas needed to see where the spear pierced Jesus’ side.

It would be reasonable to think this was simply because Thomas wanted proof that this was really Jesus. Maybe so. But I suspect that there was something more that Thomas was seeking. He needed to see the scars, touch them even. Because the good news of Easter was not simply that Jesus was alive, but that the scars were real. The scars tell the story of Jesus. They are permanent reminders of what had happened. Thomas needs to see the scars because we need to see the scars and know that they are real.

Because of Thomas, we are reminded that God has scars. God has scars just like us. Scars that, even after the resurrection, take us right back to that darkest moment and the reality that Jesus suffered the unthinkable.

The gospel of John tells us that the word of God is not a book. The gospel of John begins by telling us that the word of God became flesh and lived among us. The word of God entered into our skin, even the parts with scars.

God has scars, just like you. God knows every one of your scars, and every detail of every story behind them: the funny ones, the boring ones, and the ones that hurt more every day. In Jesus, God has come into our skin. God bears every one of our scars with us. It’s why we are invited, again and again, to this table to receive the presence of Jesus broken for us, poured out for us. God dwelt in our too-easily-scarred skin, so that we could be nourished as we continue to heal.

Our scars do serve as a sign of healing. They are proof that our bodies can mend themselves. But they are also complicated lingering reminders that we have been irreversibly changed. And God doesn’t take away those scars. Instead, we hear the words of Jesus. We hear the words of God in our skin. We hear the words of God with scars: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Jesus sends us, scars and all, to be the hands and feet of God in the world today. We are the wounded hands and feet of Jesus.

And our scars may be just what the world needs to see. The world doesn’t need people who have it all figured out to tell them how to live and what to believe. The world needs to see scars that look just like theirs and feel just like theirs. The world needs to meet wounded broken people who have encountered a wounded broken God who has made possible a love that is unbreakable and goes beyond every scar’s damage.

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Jesus sends us, scars and all.  And there is no length that Jesus not already gone to meet you in the midst of your scars. Jesus is already there. Jesus already bears the same scars, and invites you to come and see, come and touch, come and believe.

It is in the scars of the living Christ that we meet the depth of God’s love for us.

It is in the scars of the living Christ that we meet the word of God in our skin.

It is in the scars of the living Christ that God meets us right where we are. Even the parts of ourselves that we try so hard to keep hidden.

It is in the scars of the living Christ that we meet the good news of the Gospel. Amen.


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From Easter worship on April 24, 2011.  Includes reading the Easter Gospel with children, a song, and the sermon below.

We are among millions of people around the world who got up this morning, at the beginning of this new week, and have gathered together to celebrate that Jesus has risen. Millions are gathering around the world–many at this very moment–to shout “Alleluia” and “Christ is risen, indeed!” as we listen to the story of two women named Mary arriving at the tomb of Jesus.

It’s hard, though, to really experience it in the same way as the women did that morning. We all came out this morning knowing that Easter was here, which is not how that morning of the first day of the week began for those two women named Mary. They weren’t headed out to a festive occasion. They weren’t headed out to shout “alleluia”; they were going to a grave. They were going to a place they wish they weren’t going to. They were going to mourn, to keep vigil. To try to make sense of what had happened.

They arrive at the tomb–and then–all heaven breaks loose! The earth shakes. An angel of the Lord descends with an appearance like lightning. The stone is rolled away and they’re told “Don’t be afraid, you’re looking for Jesus; He’s not here!” Bet they didn’t see that coming, now did they?

I believe that God wants your Easter experience to be no less remarkable. God wants us to experience the living Christ today. That is the only reason we are here together right now. God wants to meet each of us in our lowest moments, just like those women going to the grave of someone they loved. That’s what Easter is all about.

When we have no strength, when we have nothing left and we can’t go on, God comes down–right where we are–and does something completely unexpected. The story that we think is going to unfold is completely changed.  Because God has the final word. And that final word is “resurrection.” God’s final word for us is that Love Wins.

When you find yourself assuming that it’s over. When all is lost. When all is gone. When life is broken and it can never be put back together again.  When you swear that it could never be rebuilt–hold on a minute. Because in that moment Easter has, in fact, just begun. Just as you’re arriving at the place you wish you weren’t going to–when there’s nothing left that you can do–God brings resurrection. God still has the final word that love wins. Resurrection announces that God has not given up. God has not given up on you. God has not given up on your life. God has not given up on this world.

Easter is happening right now–today–in 2011. God is once again inviting us into resurrection. God is once again pointing to a new reality–the reality God has made possible. The reality that love wins. Resurrection wants to be real on this Easter Sunday. God wants to speak that final word that love wins today.

People already gathered today, just like we are right now, in Japan. In the face of unthinkable despair, they placed hope in resurrection, because Easter says that the earthquake doesn’t win. Easter says that the Tsunami doesn’t win Easter says that nuclear radiation doesn’t win. Easter says that love wins.

People gathered by the millions across the continent of Africa and placed hope in resurrection because Easter says that AIDS doesn’t win. Easter says that Tuberculosis and Malaria don’t win. Easter says that extreme poverty doesn’t win. Easter says that love wins.

Armenian Christians are gathering today around the world, including right here in Havertown, Pennsylvania, and are remembering that today, April 24, is the anniversary of the mass murder of 1.5 million of their family members in 1915. Not their distant ancestors, but their parents, their aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends. Still, they gather shouting Alleluia–even through their tears. Because Easter says that genocide doesn’t win. Easter promises them that love wins.

To people in Libya, Sudan, Egypt and across the Middle East Easter says that corruption and violence doesn’t win. Easter says that love wins.

Right now–at this very moment–people are proclaiming Alleluia at Easter worship in Haiti. Their Alleluias that are rich with resurrection life. As one of their pastors put it: they will not be defined by rubble–they will not be defined by the earthquake. They are defined by resurrection, because Easter says that disaster doesn’t win, cholera doesn’t win. Easter says that love wins.

People from North Carolina to Oklahoma are proclaiming Alleluia right now because Easter says that tornadoes don’t win. Easter says that love wins.

To those of us trying to keep afloat in a bad economy, Easter says that the recession doesn’t win. Unemployment doesn’t win. Foreclosure doesn’t win. Uncertainty doesn’t win. Love wins.

To those in the halls of our high schools that fear for their safety and are ashamed of who they are, Easter says that it gets better because bullying doesn’t win. Love wins.

To those lying in hospital beds this morning–and to those who sit next to them hour after hour–Easter says that cancer doesn’t win. Alzheimer’s doesn’t win.
Autism doesn’t win. Chronic pain doesn’t win. What wins? Love wins!

Even to those of us who visit the graves of those we love–who would give anything to have them show up again, even for a moment. Easter invites us to proclaim alleluia because God has the final word, and death doesn’t win. What wins? Love wins!

Love wins. Whatever it is for you that seems to be blocking the light. Whatever it is that is like a stone keeping you in a tomb, Easter says that it doesn’t win. Easter says that love wins. Easter announces that God has not given up. God has not given up on you. God has not given up on your life. God has not given up on this world.

Easter tells us that God has not abandoned us. God has not abandoned this world. Something new has begun to put this world back together. Something new has begun to put your life back together. God’s Amazing Grace has entered this world and wants to change everything. God’s Amazing grace wants to set you free from anything–from everything—that gets in the way of love.

Easter wants to set you free today: set you free to live in God’s love for you, and send you to live out God’s love for the world. Because it is God’s love working in your life—It is God working through you, through us, that will bring about love’s victory. Love wins (a lot of ad lib here) when we feed the hungry. Love wins when we clothe the naked. Love wins when we help the poor. Love wins when we look at another person–no matter who they are, what they’ve done or how different they are from us–and see a child of God. Love wins as we do God’s work with our hands!

How you live your life makes a difference. You can be a part of the new reality that God is creating every day, right here in this world–this world that God will never give up on.

Love wins. That is what Easter tells us today.
Love wins. That is the good news of Easter.
Love wins. That is the promise of resurrection.
Love wins. That is why we shout Alleluia!
Love wins….That is the good news of the gospel.
Amen.

Sermon – Easter 3A – April 6, 2008
Luke 24:13-25 (Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus)
First Communion Sunday at Temple Lutheran Church

Last week, Monica & I were invited by friends down to the Media Theatre to watch a live performance of The Buddy Holly Story. It was a wonderful and fun retelling of the life of a man whose place in music history is equal to anyone across the ages, even though he played an electric guitar and died at age 22.

About halfway through the story there is a scene depicting the chance meeting of Buddy Holly & Maria Elena Santiago. The scene takes places in the lobby of a Manhattan music publisher’s office. Buddy Holly and his bandmates, The Crickets, enter the lobby where Maria Elena Santiago is working as a receptionist. Buddy is immediately taken with Maria and begins flirting with her. Even though Buddy Holly’s star was rising at the time, Maria Elena did not recognize him when he entered her lobby in person. In a comical exchange, Buddy Holly chats her up, asking her about music, and even what she thinks of Buddy Holly. Even as she goes on about how much she loves his music and how her company publishes his songs, he still doesn’t identify himself. He finally lets her off the hook by asking to see the boss without an appointment.

And when she asks him what his name is. He says, “Tell him Buddy Holly is here to see him.” At first she doesn’t believe him, but is then amazed to learn it’s true.

Suddenly, everything about that conversation changed. She was no longer talking about Buddy Holly, she was talking with Buddy Holly. The encounter worked out well: they were married two weeks later. Maria Elena Holly, now in her 70s, remembers it like it was yesterday.

I can’t help but think of that scene as I hear a similar story taking place seven miles outside of Jerusalem as two people walked along toward Emmaus. They were talking about the things that had happened : the crucifixion of Jesus, the burial, and how two women named Mary had astounded them that morning with the claim that the tomb was empty. As they were walking along, Jesus himself comes near, and even hops right into their conversation.

“What are you talking about as you walk along out here?”

And just like Maria Elena Santiago in that music publisher’s lobby, they began to talk openly about the one that mattered to them: Jesus. Words filled with reverence, excitement and great hope. They had absolutely no clue that as they talked about Jesus, they were also talking with Jesus.

Jesus continues the conversation without identifying himself. It’s clear that he knows a lot about the topic. The two travelers are so engaged by this unidentified stranger that they invite him to stay with them, and he does. And at the table, as he took the bread, blessed it, broke it & gave it to them, it was as though he leaned in & said, “Tell him Buddy Holly is here to see him.”

The identity of the risen Jesus is made known in the breaking & sharing of bread.

Everything about that entire conversation changed. Suddenly, they weren’t just talking about Jesus, they were talking with Jesus. “Weren’t our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?”

Is your heart burning today? Does it make your heart burn within you to know that we are not here simply to talk about Jesus, but that Jesus is present…that Jesus is here with you in this world? We make a mistake if we think that we come here so that God can give us some kind of antacid to soothe the heartburn that life gives us. When we encounter Immanuel, God with us, it makes our hearts burn. If that burning doesn’t seem to be ignited within you just yet, it is possible (I would even say probable…I would even say certain) that you are in the same position as the two travelers on the road to Emmaus. You are in the same position as Maria Elena in that Manhattan lobby. You’re waiting for God to be revealed, waiting for God to show up. Maybe you’re just living your life not even expecting God to show up, and, without any advanced notice,
God has simply shown up and is in the process of letting you realize it.

Jesus shows up in three ways in this story. I think all three of them are equally true of how Jesus comes to us today. Jesus first comes to them through the story and scriptures. Through the things they were already talking about, and as Jesus himself showed as he explained the scriptures to them. Jesus comes to us through the story and the scriptures as we open them up and read together. As one of us stands up here and takes our best shot at pointing to Christ in the witness of scripture. As we gather around the story and the scriptures, we are not simply talking about Jesus, Jesus is here with us.

Jesus is also revealed in the breaking of the bread. Perhaps the single most unifying act of Christians from our very beginnings is the simple meal in which Christ is revealed in the breaking of the bread. This meal that we gather for today as we celebrate the open invitation of Jesus: the open invitation that has been accepted for the first time by seven of our children. I remember receiving Holy Communion for the first time, and what I remember the most all these years later is that it was the first time I ever tasted wine. As I left the table, I could feel this warmth radiating in my chest. It was a good warmth. It was as though I left the table saying “wasn’t my heart burning within me?”

That is my prayer for the children that celebrate coming to the table today. In fact, it is my prayer for every one of us: that we celebrate that open invitation every time we come to the table. That we marvel in the wonderful mystery that this is not simply a meal about Jesus, Jesus is present in this meal.

Finally, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus is revealed in a stranger. As we go about our lives, Christ comes to us every single day in the faces of strangers that we meet along the way. And as we allow ourselves to be opened to others, even the stranger, everything can change as we experience Jesus present in our world.

God finds so many ways to show up in our lives. Perhaps it’s because we’re not always tuned in to God’s presence. Perhaps it’s because God will go to any length to get through to us. It certainly seems that way when you hear the story of Jesus.

As you travel today along the road that your life is journeying, be ready. Be hopeful that God will show up and cause your heart to burn. God is already there. You may not even realize it.
In the story and the scriptures, in the breaking of the bread, in the face of the stranger. God is already there.

I leave you with a piece of sacred poetry
Written by Dan Bollerud, a fellow Lutheran from Anchorage, Alaska
Reflecting on this story of Jesus appearing along the road to Emmaus:

I don’t know if it’s true
I have my doubts like everyone else
I’m a pilgrim
a stranger
searching for that
for which my soul yearns
and when I hear the Word
and sing the songs
something happens within me
and I begin to feel at peace
there are times the words seem written
for me
and when I hear them
my heart burns with a peace
and love
and discomfort
I can’t explain
but it is in the coming forward
and taking that piece of bread
that cup of wine
and hearing the words
This is my body
This is my blood
Given for you for forgiveness
For life
that my heart leaps
and I know Christ

AMEN.

Sermon – Easter 2A – March 30, 2008
John 20:19-31
Temple Lutheran Church

I owe much of this sermon’s inspiration to the ELCA Social Statement on Peace.

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

These are the words that greet us as our Easter celebration continues–the words the disciples heard on the evening after the resurrection: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

As word of the Resurrection begins to circulate, we find the disciples locked in a room paralyzed by fear. Fear will make you do strange things sometimes. Fear changes the way you think, behave and relate to others. Fear can cause us to lose regard for the rest of the world and be concerned only about our own safety in the face of what we fear.

Fear is an important recurring theme in scripture. 365 times in scripture we hear the words “Fear not…be not afraid, do not fear”. 365 times. That’s enough times to reflect upon one of them every day of the year. Over and over, the testimony of scripture includes being set free from fear.

Since this is a leap year, we’ll make today’s passage number 366. We don’t hear the words “Fear not”, but we do witness the risen Jesus coming right into the presence of fear and proclaiming peace… “Peace be with you.”

There’s an important connection to make here. Fear is the biggest barrier to peace in the world and in our lives. Fear muddles the work of peace. Fear leads to suffering. Fear leads to violence.

I learned something this past week, quite by accident. Hopefully some of us knew this (I sure didn’t know), but we are nearing the end of a ten-year worldwide focus on non-violence. In 1998, The United Nations instituted “The decade for a culture of non-violence” to occur from 2001 until 2010. In 1999, our church body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pledged to be a part of this decade of promoting peace.

2001-2010. So here we are in 2008, and, well…I don’t know if it’s gone so well thus far.

I imagine that it probably played out a bit like this: plans were probably laid out for the whole ten years. I would guess these plans are probably still in motion today. The decade began in 2001. And then…then came September the 11th. Unthinkable, unacceptable, and unforgettable violence reared its head. Our nation, and much of the world, got into that room with the disciples and locked the doors out of fear.

Fear will make you do strange things sometimes. Fear changes the way you think, behave and relate to others. Fear muddles the work of peace.

The risen Jesus walks right into the middle of that very real fear. This isn’t hypothetical fear. This isn’t the “idea” or “concept” of fear. Jesus walks into a locked room full of people that were convinced that they were the next ones to be dragged out, beaten & crucified. Jesus walks right into the reality of fear and reasserts once again what God is all about: “Peace be with you.”

Jesus…who fulfills God’s promises to the world. Jesus…rejected by humans, but confirmed by God who raised him from the dead in the power of the Holy Spirit so that on earth there might be peace. Jesus…who taught love for one’s enemies. Jesus…who reached out to the oppressed, downtrodden, and rejected. Jesus…who prayed for his enemies, even as they tortured him on the cross. Jesus…who reconciled us with God, even when we were enemies of God. Jesus…whose reconciling love of enemy shows us how deeply peace is rooted in who God is. It’s Jesus…who says “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you”

“As the Father has sent me, so I send You.”

As followers of Jesus, we are called to continue the work of peace. To build the kingdom Jesus came to commence “on earth as in heaven.” Through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit calls and gathers people from all nations to worship and witness to the God of peace. A people who know Christ, sent into the world to make Christ known.

We make Christ known…
…as we publicly gather to proclaim and celebrate God’s Gospel of peace.
…as we keep alive the news of God’s resolve for peace.
…as we declare that everyone is responsible before God to create peace.
…as we equip ourselves to act for peace in our communities & the world.
…as we sing “Let there be peace on earth…and let it begin…with me.”

We are called to be a movement. We are called to be a community of peace. We are the Body of Christ sent in the world. We are God’s presence in the world…a presence that wages peace.

A faithful presence that at times can disturb the status quo. Especially if the status quo is looking to false sources for peace or security. Or if the status quo forgets that “Loving your enemies” includes not killing them. Or if the status quo confuses loving your country with turning your country into a false god. If your definition of peace is a not rooted in the peace that Jesus announces, the mission of God’s church might disturb your peace.

So if any of you are planning to run for president some day, be warned: it doesn’t take a pastor like Jeremiah Wright to get you in trouble. If the church is living out it’s mission, it’s going to be counter-cultural. It will even be seen as subversive and radical. It will be radical about peace, radical about forgiveness, radical about reconciliation. It will be radical about telling the truth.

The heart of who we are called to be as Christians can be heard in these words of the risen Jesus: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” We are sent to be a movement of forgiveness. A community of peace creating bonds among people who are different. A community of peace where we can talk to one another, respect one another, share ideas, hopes, dreams, and values. The Church is a setting of freedom and respect where believers with different perspectives can learn from one another in the unity of faith. No topic should be too controversial or too contentious to discuss as a church. Where better have such discussions?

We live in fearful times during this decade that was intended for non-violence. In the next three weeks in Pennsylvania, and throughout this election year, we will again see and hear those fears used to motivate us. Fear of a recession. Fear of terrorism. Fear of immigrants. Fear of people who are different than me. Fear of a candidate whose race or gender is not the same as presidents 1-43. Once again the candidates and the strategists and the political parties will lick their fingers & hold them up to see which way the winds are blowing. Those winds can be driven by all of these fears, or the church can be the movement that changes the wind. As followers of Jesus, we can walk right into the reality of fear and reassert once again what God is all about. We can wage peace. We can be the body of Christ in the world today.

Jesus sends us into the world. Following Jesus is not a private affair. Personal, yes, but never private. “For God so loved the world” is quite the public statement.

Hear the words of the risen Jesus. Hear the invitation to risk, to an adventure of faith, to being a disciple. Hear the invitation to new birth into a living hope through the resurrection.

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

AMEN.