Zofran uses

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine asked on Facebook what we would say if we had to Tweet the Good News of God in Christ Jesus on Easter morning.[1]

You all know what Twitter is, right? It’s that instant messaging service in which you can say whatever you want in 140 characters or less, including spaces and punctuation.

I have to be honest: I have not been a fan of Twitter. I find it to be terribly narcissistic, that most of what goes out to the world is useless, vainglorious nattering.

But Twitter now has a place in our lives. Look at the role it has played in the Arab Spring … in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon and Syria. More than 26 million Americans alone use Twitter … tens of millions more people use it around the world, and tens and tens of millions more people follow it without every posting a thing.

Which means that if we can come up with a really, really, really great Tweet on Easter, we could reach tens of millions. And if our Tweet is really, really, really, really great, we can reach maybe even hundreds of millions of people!

All we have to do is figure out what to say about the Risen Lord in 140 characters or less … including spaces and punctuation.

So here’s our challenge on this Easter morning:

What should we say?

How should we announce the greatness of this day?

The Women arriving at the Tomb, by He Qi.

Should we edit Peter down and say, “Jesus Christ is Lord of all, raised from the dead on day three. He is ordained by God as judge of all. All who believe receive forgiveness”? (That’s 138 characters, by the way.)

Meh … too complex.

Perhaps we could turn to the Psalmist: “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! The right hand of the Lord is exalted! This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”? (That’s 139 characters.) But … that’s not quite clear, is it? And it is very triumphalist. So this won’t work either.

Now we could quote Paul, the apostle who never met Jesus in the flesh, only the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus. His Tweet could read: “You have been raised with Christ. Set your minds on things above where Christ is. For you have died, your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Ha! That one is exactly 140 characters!)

Um … I’m thinking this isn’t the good news we were looking for.

So what about quoting the Risen Lord himself? “Jesus says: Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Ninety-five characters – pretty concise.) Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell people that Christ is risen, does it?

There’s the message from the angel: “Do not be afraid. He is not here. He has been raised.” That’s fairly straight-forward, and it only takes 53 characters.

It is Good News, but is it enough? Does it really convey what we want it to convey? Is it enough to convince people that this is the Good News of their lives? I don’t think so.

So even though we know what the Gospel, the Good News of God in Christ Jesus, is and what it means, we still don’t have a message to Tweet that is good news for our readers.

And we do want to convey good news, because this is our job. We don’t just get the Good News this morning … we have to give it as well. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, on the day he died for us, “It is finished.” He was saying that his work on this earth was done, and now he was turning it over to us.

Make no mistake: This is our job. We have to spread the Good News to a world that does  not know the Good News is even there! There’s a whole world out there that hasn’t quite gotten the message. For far too many people, this day isn’t about resurrection. It’s about Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies!

But Jesus gave us this job, and we’d better get working.

So tell you what.

Let’s roll up our sleeves, and let’s build a Tweet together.

Let’s figure out how to share with the whole world the Good News we receive on this holiest day of our lives.

We can start with the words of the ancient song, the Exsultet, which can only be sung on Easter.

The Empty Tomb, by He Qi.

 

(chant)

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,

And let your trumpets shout salvation

For the victory of our mighty king.

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,

Bright with a glorious splendor,

For darkness has been vanquish’d by our eternal King.

Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church,

And let your holy courts, in radiant light,

Resound with the praises of your people.

That’s a pretty good message, don’t you think?

A little long, though … it kind of blows the 140-character limit.

So let’s reduce it down.

Let’s just make the first part of our Tweet say, “Rejoice!” That’s eight characters – still plenty of room to work with.

But to be effective, we have to be clear why we’re rejoicing.

What is it that makes us so happy on this holy day?

Is it the knowledge that Jesus died for us? For each of us? Personally?

Yes. But what does that mean?

That God loves us, perhaps?

That is why Jesus died for us, you know – because he loved us.

So I think that might be the next part of the message.

God loves you.

That’s another 14 characters, so we’re still in good shape.

But even though that message has been repeated many times before, there are still some people who don’t quite believe that God loves them. Some people don’t believe Jesus died for them, and others say, “Yeah, OK, he died for us, but how does that prove that God loves us?”

Well, we have that answer, don’t we? It’s pretty simple, actually:

Jesus’ tomb is empty.

(chant)

This is the night,

When Christ broke the bonds of death and hell,

And rose victorious from the grave.

The women went to the tomb on the third day so they could anoint Jesus’ body, but he wasn’t there. He was gone. It was the angel who told them the God’s-honest truth: He has been raised from the dead – just like he told you.

In that rising, my friends, God proves his love for us by not just defeating but by annihilating the one thing we fear the most: death itself.

Jesus loved us so much he died for us – for each one of us, right here.

God loves us so much he destroys death for us – for each one of us, right here.

So let’s make that the next part of our Tweet:

The tomb is empty! Jesus Christ, who died for us, is risen!

That takes us up to 83 characters. Meaning, we still have some room to get more of our message across.

So let’s explain some more why this is all Good News.

(chant)

Easter Morning, by He Qi.

 

This is the night,

When all who believe in Christ

Are delivered from the gloom of sin,

And are restored to grace and holiness of life.

How blessed is this night,

When earth and heaven are joined,

And man is reconciled to God.

And there you have it.

The gloom of sin, which leads to death – emotionally, spiritually and physically – has been lifted. Our lives, which sometimes can seem so empty, so pointless, so difficult, so draining, are restored to grace and we are made holy again.

Any separation from God that we may have experienced in our lives is over and done with. We have been reconciled to God. Our relationship has been put to right, we have been brought together, our accounts have been squared. We are reunited with God, and all our differences have been patched up and resolved.

By dying for us, Jesus wiped the slate clean.

By raising Jesus from the dead, God keeps that slate clean … forever.

And that is Good News indeed. Why, it’s such Good News that I think we ought to praise the Lord for it.

So let’s put an “Alleluia!” in our Tweet. We’ve got the room.

And look! We still have some room left.

He Is Risen, by He Qi.

So let’s go back to where we started. Let’s put in another “Rejoice!

Put it all together, and I think we just might have our Tweet. I think we are ready to proclaim to all the world what makes us so very happy on this Easter morning.

Rejoice! God loves you! The tomb is empty! Jesus Christ, who died for us, is risen! All of us are reconciled to God! Alleluia! Rejoice!

And we did it in 135 characters, thank you very much! I think my friend on Facebook would be pleased.

Yeah.

We have Good News to share this morning:

God loves us, and we can prove it. The tomb is empty, Christ is Risen. Alleluia!

And you can Tweet that!

Amen.

Easter sermon, preached at Trinity Episcopal Church, Arlington, Va., 24 April 2011, Year A.

 

[1] The Rev. Mark Delcuze, Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Beverly Farms, Mass., “Tweeting the Resurrection,” 13 April 2011, https://www.facebook.com/mark.delcuze?sk=notes

 

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A man on a mission: ‘It is finished’

Good Friday 2011

“It is finished.”

If you had been standing at the foot of the cross and saw the man you called “Lord,” the man you believed was the Son of God, crucified and dying, what would you think those words meant?

If all of your hopes and dreams were pinned on this one man, the one you had followed throughout Palestine, the one you listened to so closely, the one you watched cure the sick and raise the dead … what would you think those words – “It is finished” – meant?

Would all your dreams be dying up on that cross with him? Would all your hopes die up there as well?

Mary stood at the foot of the cross – Mary, Jesus’ mother. Surely she thought this was the end of all her hopes and dreams, watching her child die.

Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene stood there. Surely they heard those words and thought, “It’s over.”

The beloved disciple stood there. He must have thought, with great heartbreak, “We were wrong.”

What would you have thought, if you had been at the foot of the cross that day 2,000 years ago, outside the gates of Jerusalem, when you heard Jesus say, “It is finished”?

(sing)

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

My brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Good Friday, 2,000 years after that day when Jesus died, we are standing at the foot of the cross.

I want you to pay no attention to the fact that we already know (or, we think we know) the rest of the story. Forget about Easter morning for a moment, and concentrate on what it is like to stand at the foot of the cross.

Stand there … with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, and the Beloved Disciple …

Stand right next to them …

And think about what Jesus meant when he said, “It is finished.”

(sing)

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?


 

As you stand there, with all your hopes and dreams dying, remember:

This is John’s Gospel.

This is the way John tells the story.

Which means …

Which means …

There’s a different take that we have to examine on this particular Good Friday.

In Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels, we hear the wounded and suffering Jesus call out, “Eloi! Eloi! Lema sabachthani?” “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus promises paradise to the thief crucified with him, and then cries out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!”

But in John’s Gospel, Jesus simply says, “It is finished.”

This is no sigh of defeat. This is not a cry of despair.

This is Jesus as John saw him, Jesus a man on a mission from God, a man who knew, from the beginning, exactly who he was, and what he was doing, and why he was doing it.

In John’s Gospel, we see a triumphant Jesus hanging on the cross, doing exactly what he was called to do, clear-minded, with a single, driving vision of which he never lost sight, from which he never wavered.[1]

Nowhere in this Gospel do we hear any pleas for release, any prayers to “remove this cup.” Nowhere does Jesus doubt that this moment on the cross is exactly what God planned, exactly what he was supposed to be doing.

John’s telling of the arrest, torture and crucifixion of Jesus is confident … vibrant … even a bit sassy.

Remember, at the Last Supper, he said, “One of you will betray me.”

At the Garden where they came to arrest him, he identified himself as “I AM,” taking for himself the name of God.

Standing before the high priest and Pilate, he practically taunted them: “You say that I am.”

He gets no help carrying the cross to Golgotha.

On the cross itself, he takes care of last things: To his mother, he says, “Woman, this is your son.” To his disciple, he directs: “This is your

16th century icon

mother.”

After that, knowing that it was finished, he said, “I thirst” – in order to fulfill the Scripture.

He sucked the wine out of the sponge, then proclaimed, “It is finished.”

And then he bowed his head and breathed his last.

Do you hear anything of defeat here?

Any doubt?

Any hesitation?

No!

Because this is John’s Gospel, and in John’s Gospel, Jesus knows exactly what he is doing, every step of the way, every moment of the day.

“It is finished” is not a plea of defeat.

It’s Jesus cry of triumph!

(sing)

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Now … understanding that in John’s Gospel, Jesus is a determined man on a mission from God … standing there at the foot of the cross with the women and the Beloved Disciple … now tell me, what exactly do you think Jesus meant when he said, “It is finished”?

Yes, Jesus died a terrible, painful, brutal, humiliating death. Do not lose sight of that.

But Jesus didn’t look at it that way – not in John’s Gospel.

For Jesus, “It is finished” is a statement of glory.[2]

As commentator David Lose writes,

“The great irony of John’s passion is that in Jesus we see God’s strength, majesty and might revealed amid the pain and humiliation of crucifixion. … John’s depiction of the Passion of our Lord reminds us that, ultimately, Jesus is Lord. Through him, God overcomes any and all obstacles – including death – in order to redeem and restore us.”[3]

Which means that when we hear Jesus say, “It is finished,” what he’s telling us, from that pain-filled place on the cross, is that his job is over.

He has shown us how to live – in love.

And he has given us a vision – the vision – on which we are called to focus, every moment of our lives.

Everything Jesus did, everything he said, everything he taught, every miracle he performed and prayer he prayed was done in the sure and certain knowledge that this is what God wanted done.

Just as Jesus never wavered, so we are not to waver.

(sing)

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Yes, we are called to witness the crucifixion this day, to wonder and cry.

And we should be filled with trembling. We should be trembling all over!

Because Jesus just turned the whole job over to us! He’s given us the whole shebang!

Everything he did? All that preaching and teaching and healing and bringing back to life?

He’s done with that.

Now it’s our turn.

Yes, we should be trembling right about now, because now …

… Now we are the ones who have to do what he did, we are the ones who have to take up our own crosses, we are the ones who have to die to all the things that get in the way of our lives in God!

Now we have to preach the Gospel, the Good News of God in Christ Jesus!

Now we have to teach the world how to live in unity and peace, instead of discord and war!

Now we have to heal the sick and bring life – new life – to all those who live in death! We are the ones who are to give hope to the hopeless, who are to love the unloved, who are to fulfill the dream of God.

So yes, we should be trembling right now, because Jesus just put all his work on our shoulders and in our hearts. And that frightening thought should make us tremble!

Robert Fulgham once famously said, “All I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten,” and in many ways, that is true.

But the reality is, everything we really need to know? We learned it all from Jesus.

That’s why Jesus was so triumphant on the cross.

That’s why Jesus said, “It is finished.”

Because his part – his earthly part of teaching us, of training us, of inspiring us? That’s done.

Crucifixion by Theophanes the Cretan

Jesus had a job to do and he did it.

Now, he’s given the job to us – and trusting us to do it.

So, yeah, we should be trembling – heck, we should be quaking in our boots right about now!

Because we have no more excuses.

Jesus was a man on a mission from God, and he wants us to go on that mission as well.

“It is finished”?

It means that from now on, we have to do the work that Jesus did, because Jesus has called us, because Jesus trusts us, because Jesus is counting on … us.

We are on a mission from God, my friends.

It’s not Jesus’ job any more. His part? It is finished. Over with. Done. Fini.

Now? Now it’s all up to us.

Amen.

Sermon for Good Friday, 22 April 2011, Year A, Trinity Episcopal Church, Arlington, Va.

[1] Professor David Lose, Marbury E. Anderson Biblical Preaching Chair, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., “Commentary on the Gospel,” Good Friday, 22 April 2011,

 

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Tongues of teachers

Isaiah 50:4-9a | John 13:21-32

God, Isaiah tells us, has given us the tongues of teachers, so the question we have on this Wednesday night in Holy Week is this:

What are you going to teach?

What word are you going to give to sustain the weary?

God has told us the Good News that he wants proclaimed. He has given us the words that need to be spoken, especially in this intense period of time, when we are about to face our deepest fears and experience our harshest terrors and most intense grief.

God has called us – each and every one of us here – to speak the truths that need to be spoken, to proclaim the grace that so many are dying to hear.

This is our holy calling, something of which we need to be reminded in this Holy Week.

For God gave us the tongues to teachers in order that we may speak God’s message of love and reconciliation, of justice and peace. God has given us the tongues of teachers so that we can proclaim to the world, to all of God’s creation, God’s dream for us, a dream of lives lived in love, not hatred; of lives filled with enough instead of lives lived in desperation; of fairness for all the people, and not just the select few.

We have been given the tongues of teachers so that we can teach

… even if it costs us … our jobs, our homes, our families, our freedom, our lives.

And God knows, it will cost us to speak God’s word to the world. We know that it will cost us … because we know the world (and sometimes, remember, that means us) does not want to hear God’s message, does not want to listen to what God wants, does not want to live in love or peace, and refuses to give justice, or even just enough, to those in need.

Jesus knew this particular truth. He knew the powers-that-be did not want to hear what he had to say, because then the powers-that-be wouldn’t be in power, would they? For they would have to give up all that they had in order to received all that God had to give.

So Jesus knew what was coming – he told everyone repeatedly that he would die for what he proclaimed, for what he represented, for what he was.

Facing his death, knowing how awful this whole sad affair would be, Jesus said “Yes” to God. Knowing that it would be painful beyond belief, that he would suffer beyond endurance, he still said, “Yes.”

The Lord God opened his ear, and he was not rebellious, he did not turn backward.

Even when he was betrayed by one of those whom he had called to discipleship.

And this is our call in Holy Week as well:

To be faithful, even when we feel betrayed.

Even when we are mocked.

Even when the world rejects us, spits on us, tries to beat us down.

We have nothing to fear. Isaiah assures us of that, proclaiming:

Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together.

Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.

It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

God has called us – each of us and all of us – to proclaim God’s word, God’s will, God’s dream for all of God’s very good creation.

The Last Supper by Simon Ushakov

Our call, especially in this week, this holy week, when much of the world is either looking for chocolate eggs and giant white rabbits or is too frightened and weary to do much of anything but cower in despair, our call is to stand firm in our faith, to proclaim the Word and the love of the Lord to all people, to do the right thing no matter what.

It’s a weary world out there right now, folks. Trust me – bad news batters us daily, the economy scares us, our enemies are trying to terrorize us into submission.

God is calling us to sustain that world.

God has equipped us to do so.

So in this Holy Week, be strong, speak boldly, and live in the love that God has given us.

Amen.

A sermon preach on Wednesday in Holy Week, 20 April 2011, Year A, at The Church of the Good Shepherd, Burke, Va.


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Brand cialis 5mg online

Matthew 26:14- 27:66

In the past two weeks, I have received news of the deaths of two men who were beloved to me, news that shocked me and caused tears to form immediately in my eyes and in my heart.

One friend was the priest who raised me up to priesthood, who in his sometimes gentle and sometimes gruff ways formed me to be the person and priest I am today. Last Sunday morning, I served at the church where he celebrated for more than two decades, and for the first time I was privileged to sing the Eucharist at the table where he taught me so much. As I sang, I thought of Bob, and I smiled, and later told others, “Now I know why he loved to sing at that table so much – it’s holy.” By the time I finished singing the Eucharist, unbeknownst to me, Bob was in the hospital, having suffered a heart attack.

Three days later, he was dead.

The other man was a friend who had counseled me through some tough times, advised me through some marvelous times, and who could talk baseball with the best of them. Russ had served as the chancellor of the Diocese of Virginia for more than two decades and was beloved by all in that diocese. Whenever we met, he would stop whatever he was doing, turn his full attention to me, bestow that marvelous Southern gentleman smile upon me, and wrap me a hug. He had cataract surgery two Tuesday mornings ago.

At home, resting up afterwards, he suddenly died.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Bob and Russ since they died. I know who they were in my life, but as I grieve their loss, I am left to wonder who I was in their lives.

This, my friends, is an important question for all of us to contemplate, this question of who we are. Who are we in each other’s lives, in God’s life, in Jesus’ life?

It is an especially important question to ask today, on the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, as we move from exultation to devastation, from life to death.

Who are we – who exactly are we – in this Holy Week?

Take a moment and consider:

Who are you in this Holy Week? …

Are you one of the people cheering Jesus on as he rides into Jerusalem, waving palms and throwing your cloak on the ground, pinning all your hopes on this man, proclaiming him the Messiah?

Is that who you are?

Or are you one of those in the crowd five days later, caught up in the bloodlust, screaming in a frenzy, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”?

Who are you in this Holy Week?

Are you Judas, a faithful disciple – and make no mistake, he was faithful. Jesus called him, Judas followed, and Judas was with Jesus for a substantial portion of his ministry. Judas was there for the miracles and the healings, the preaching and teaching, on the road and in the Temple. He was present at the Last Supper.  And then … he betrayed Jesus … because Judas’ vision of the Messiah blinded him to the vision of the Messiah.

Judas wanted a Messiah all right … but Jesus wasn’t the Messiah Judas wanted.

Is that who you are?

Or are you Simon, now called Peter, the Rock, who like Judas followed Jesus when Jesus came calling, who like Judas sat at table with Jesus and broke bread with him, who like Judas was in the synagogues and on the street, who just like Judas failed Jesus at the most critical moment, and who just like Judas betrayed the Lord …?

Is that who you are?

Perhaps you are Caiaphas, the High Priest, threatened by this upstart, ragged, itinerant preacher, worried that if he continues to preach this scandalous gospel of his, your people might die as a result?

Or maybe you are Pontius Pilate, who is already having a hard time controlling these stubborn Jews who refuse to honor Caesar (for God’s sake, couldn’t they just go along to get along?), worried that if you don’t do something with yet another so-called Messiah, if you don’t satisfy this bloodthirsty crowd, you will lose both your job and your head?

Is that who are you in this Holy Week?

Are you Barabbas, the murderous zealot already condemned to death and suddenly set free, asking no questions, but taking your freedom and running for the hills?

Or are you Simon of Cyrene, the man who came to town to sell merchandise for the high holy days and who suddenly is dragged into this drama and forced to help this man you’ve never met, about whom you know nothing?

Perhaps you are one of the disciples, so committed to the Lord that you gave up everything to follow him everywhere – except to the cross?

Or are you one of the women, risking your very life to stand at the foot of the cross, knowing that Roman law said you, too, could be executed for the crime of simply knowing Jesus?

Maybe that’s who you are!

Maybe you’re one of the thieves crucified with Jesus, one on his right and one on his left, mocking him to the end, because in the end, all three of you are going to die anyway, and you might just as well get in your licks while you can, right?

Or are you one of the Roman soldiers who beat, taunted and crucified yet another unruly Palestinian causing trouble, not caring about who this man is because you are just following orders?

Are you possibly one of the people in the crowd – a chief priest or a scribe or an elder – taunting Jesus because he refuses to save himself, even though he saved so many others?

Is that who you are?

Are you the Roman Centurion and his cohort, feeling the earth move and seeing the rocks split and the tombs come open, and in great terror proclaiming at the last, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Or are you Joseph of Arimathea, helping to take down the body of your beloved Jesus, and laying him your own tomb, wracked with grief because all your hopes have come to an end?

Who are you in this Holy Week?

….

On this Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, in this sacred week of our lives, I can tell you who you are. I can tell you who we are.

Each of us, at some point in our lives, is every single one of the players just named in this incredible drama.

At some point in each of our lives, we have rejoiced and shouted the praises of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest! And at some other point, we have rejected God … or wondered where God was … or cursed God … or betrayed God …

At some point in our lives, we’ve all put our families, our wants, our needs, our desires, our dreams ahead of God. We’ve made God wait and we have presumed to tell God that God is wrong …

The good news is, those given moments? They are not God’s final answer to our question.

Because God’s final answer is this:

We are beloved children of God.

We can be faithful stalwarts one moment and falling-down failures the next, but it won’t change the essence of who we are, the core of our being.

We are God’s beloved.

And God loves us so much … so much … that God not only sent his only begotten son to live with us, God sent his only begotten son to die for us. For each of us. For all of us. That’s God’s final answer to our question of who are we in this Holy Week.

My two friends, who died so recently, Bob and Russ?

They taught me a lot of things. They taught me that I wasn’t always perfect, that I didn’t always do just the right thing, that there were days when I fell down and days when my friendship faltered – but because they loved me, they never gave up on me. They never abandoned me.

The same is true with God, and this week, this Holy week, is the week when God teaches us the same thing.

We will not always be perfect – even the disciples weren’t.

We will not always do the right thing – even the disciples didn’t.

We will fall down – like Caiaphas and Pilate.

We will falter in our faith – like Peter and the frenzied crowds.

But God does not give up on us. God does not abandon us just because we have failed in some way, great or small.

As you try to figure out who you are in this holiest and most important week of your life, remember the lesson that my two friends taught me.

Remember that no matter what role you play – that of faithful follower or brave witness or even miserable betrayer –

Remember:

God already knows the answer to our question:

We are God’s beloved.

Amen.

A sermon preached at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Syracuse, N.Y., on the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.

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Dear Members of Congress: Stop it!

(Written for McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

Dear Members of Congress:

Apparently, you did not receive the last memo I sent you. So I am writing again, in the hopes that perhaps you will begin to listen a little more carefully to the vast majority of the people of the United States, who are tired unto death of the games you are playing.

Trust me on this: We the people despise being held hostage to someone else’s ideology in general, and right now, we truly despise being held hostage to your ideology.

That little game you played last week, taking us to within an hour of shutting down the federal government?

Not good.

And not professional.

Ladies and gentlemen, we did not elect you to go to Washington so you could play games with our lives. And yet, that is exactly what you are doing.

Many of you claim that you want to “balance the budget,” with which we the people in general agree needs to happen.

But we did not ask you to do this on our backs alone!

Do some programs need to be cut? Sure they do. But is anyone up there paying attention to the fact that some of those programs you, in your ideological fervor, are so eager to cut are the very ones that help us, the people?

Think about it: Cut out funding for Planned Parenthood, which some of you knowingly disparage and about which some of you knowingly make up facts (as though we the people had no idea of the truth) so that you allegedly can protect the unborn and allegedly cut the rate of abortions? Really? First, let’s deal with reality: Less than 5 percent of Planned Parenthood’s funding goes to abortions; not 80 percent, as some of you have claimed, not 90 percent, but less than 5 percent! The rest of their funding goes to prevent abortions! So … if you cut that funding? You run the risk of increasing the rate of abortions!

This isn’t balancing the budget.

This is ideological warfare.

Those of you who are proponents of this cut? Stop it. Stop playing games with women’s lives, stop threatening to cut out the very care they need to protect their reproductive health.

Stop it!

And let’s look at another one of your favorite targets: Public broadcasting. Those of you advocating for this loudly proclaim that NPR is too “liberal.” Fine. So be it. That’s your opinion and you are entitled to that.

But if you cut out NPR, scores of radio stations in areas that have no other options will go off the air.

Now let’s think about this: You make this cut, those stations go off the air, and somehow you still think you can get your opinions out? Who is going to air those opinions? There are no other options!

So, please: Stop it. Just because the whole world does not agree with you does not mean you get to control the world.

Stop it!

What about these proposals to cut funding for Medicare and Medicaid and health care and children’s health care and education, that would undermine labor, that would making going to college harder and tell the poorest of the poor, “Tough luck”? You claim to want to build the economy, and yet you are targeting the very things for which people need help. If we don’t get this assistance, how, pray tell, do you think we’re going to be able to build up this economy?

It is hard enough to get a job and keep one these days (and in case anyone has forgotten, let me give you a basic economics refresher: Jobs, jobs, jobs! You want a functioning, healthy economy? Then we all need jobs!). Cut education initiatives, cut out health care, undermine labor, and pretty soon, you won’t have anyone working for you. No work, no pay. No pay, no purchases. No purchases, and boom! There goes the economy again! So please, stop this nonsense.

Stop it!

Oh, and could we talk for a moment about the environment? Do you recall that God specifically, in creation, asked us to be good stewards of God’s creation? (Note, please: That’s what it means to have dominion over the earth and all the creatures upon it – not to harm it recklessly, but to care for it on behalf of God.) And yet you want to cut the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce the laws that you passed, so that corporations can do whatever they want to God’s very good creation?

Tell us, please, how this is good stewardship. Explain to us, if you can, how this will help the economy. Because even we, who are not elected to serve in Congress, know that refusing to care for the environment means that more people will end up ill, with life-threatening, and in some cases, life-taking illnesses.

Surely you understand that this will not help the economy, right? Face it, the more people you have who are ill, the fewer people you have who are working and thus putting money into the economy. From a purely economic standpoint, this is one of the more ridiculous ideas anyone in Washington has had in decades. Economically (and notice, please, that here I am not bombarding you with moral or theological arguments – we’re just talking about money, plain and simple) this is nonsense! It is cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Economically, this is stupid.

So stop it!

And please, tell us: Are you really serious about this idea of permanently extending tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this land? Even when dozens of those people have said that this should not be done? Is there any decent economic reason for this, any rational explanation?

Please do not try to tell us, once again, that when the rich are richer, their wealth will trickle down to the rest of us. We’ve seen these tax breaks for more than a decade now – and two-plus years ago, while the wealthiest were enjoying their gift from the government, our economy tanked!

Where was the trickle down then?

Where has the trickle down ever been?

Stop it!

And while we the people are on such a tear, let’s talk about one more thing:

Stop playing with the lives of the people of Washington, D.C.!

The District of Columbia is not your personal playground. You attached riders to the latest continuing resolution that told the people in D.C. that they cannot spend their own tax money the way they want.

Excuse me?!

Did I miss something?

You can’t do this with your own states, your own districts, so you decide to take it out on the last colony the federal government owns?

This is shameful, ladies and gentlemen, simply shameful.

I know that President Obama agreed to this; shame on him for this as well.

The people of the District of Columbia are not your slaves. They are not colonists, even though they do live with taxation without representation. Just because you are terrified of giving them the vote does not give you the right to muck about in their lives, in their decisions, whenever you need to score an ideological point for your people back home.

So stop it!

Now, listen: You say you want to cut deficits and balance the budget.

We the people agree.

But we want you to do this the right way.

We want you to find the duplication of programs and funding, and find a way to end that.

We want you to stop the ridiculous funding for defense programs that even the Pentagon says it doesn’t want. If the military doesn’t want it, don’t build it!

We want you to stop these ridiculous tax breaks for the richest of the rich, and for the corporations. We want you to close some of those ridiculous loopholes that allow the richest and biggest corporations to pay little or no taxes, while we the people have to pay our fair share (and often what feels like a heck of a lot more than our fair share).

We want you to invest in the future, which is all of ours.

We want you to keep the covenant that you made with us, the people – the average Joe and average Jane – that you will work on our behalf.

And we the people want you to understand: We do not believe that it is a right or good thing, or our wish, that our assistance to our brothers and sisters overseas should be cut. We don’t spend much overseas anyway, not in the overall scheme of things, but what little we do spend has tremendous impact. Those anti-malarial programs? They save lives. The HIV/AIDS initiative? Ditto.

Again, you want to balance the budget on the backs of those least able to afford it, while sparing yourselves (and yes, we do know that many of you qualify for those grand tax breaks you keep extending – don’t think we haven’t put that together). Economically, morally, ethically and theologically, this, too, is wrong.

So stop it!

Stop attacking those with whom you disagree. Stop your ad hominen attacks on those who work for the federal government. Stop talking about “out-of-control federal bureaucracies” as though you had no part in creating them, and no part in running them. Congress created most of these bureaucracies; Congress makes the laws about what they can and cannot do; and Congress throws a fit when something goes wrong.

Hint: You are Congress!

So, please … pleasestop this nonsense!

The Apostle Paul tells us, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God …” (Romans 8:28a).

We the people would like you, the Members of Congress, to remember this.

We did not put you there to play ideological games. We are not pleased to be held hostage to your egos.

So, one more time:

Stop it!!!

X X X

(The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.)

 

This column was written for and distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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Buspar

John 11:1-45

In 1988, a controversial movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, was released. It was based on a novel written in 1960 by Nikos Kazantzakis, and is, in reality, the author’s and director’s great “What if …?” exploration of the life of Jesus. “What if,” they ask, “Jesus had given in to temptations offered him? What if he hadn’t died on the cross?”

I can tell you that many, many people were quite upset about this movie, because it is very challenging to them. The question of “What if …?” forces you to examine your faith, and to examine everything you know about Jesus.

But regardless of how you feel about the movie as a whole, there is one scene in it that is absolutely stunning in its power, the scene of the resurrection of Lazarus.

In this scene, Jesus goes to the grave of his friend Lazarus, the one whom he loved, led by Mary and Martha, followed by his disciples, surrounded by mourners. Once there, he orders the people there to remove the stone at Lazarus’ tomb.

Remember, Lazarus has been dead for four days by now; Lazarus’ sister, Martha, objects, warning Jesus of the stench. (I do so love the King James Version of this Gospel: “Lord, by this time he stinketh!”) And indeed, when some of the men open the grave, the stench of Lazarus’ rotting body causes everyone present to gasp and cover their noses and mouths, and watching, you find yourself waiting for that next scene, showing people becoming ill.

But that doesn’t happen.

Instead, Jesus takes a deep breath, goes to the entrance, to this black hole cut into the side of a hill, says a prayer to his Father in heaven, and calls to Lazarus: “Lazarus, come out!”

Unlike in today’s Gospel, where Jesus cries out in a loud voice but one time, Martin Scorsese, the film’s director, has Jesus call twice, in a much gentler voice: “Lazarus. Lazarus! Come out. Come out!”

But nothing … happens … So Jesus crouches by that black opening of the tomb, staring into the darkness while the silence – and the tension – builds. The only noise is that of the flies, buzzing around the body in that lightless tomb.

For 15 … seconds … nothing happens.

Jesus stares into the darkness and twice more, very gently, calls out: “Lazarus … Lazarus …”

Still, nothing happens … for another … 10 … seconds …

And then … suddenly …

… a hand shoots out of the grave!

Everyone jumps back in shock, including Jesus …

… who then reaches into the grave with a trembling hand, takes Lazarus by his decaying hand, and begins to pull him out. But Lazarus resists and actually pulls Jesus part-way into the tomb. So Jesus uses both of his hands and braces himself and tugs Lazarus out of the darkness of death and back into the light of life …

… Thus proving, in no uncertain terms, that it is never too late …

… It is never too late for Jesus to reach into the darkness of our lives, into the graves in which we find ourselves buried, to resurrect our lives and to give us new life.

It is never too late for Jesus to unbind us from all that holds us in our graves and in the darkness and set us free

Even when we have been in the graves of our lives so long that decay has set in, even then, it is never too late for Jesus, because we are never beyond his reach.

• • •

Russian Icon. The Raising of Lazarus. 15th century. Novgorod school. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

This recounting of Lazarus’ death and resurrection, which appears only in John’s Gospel, is a story of resurrection, of new life, of being set free – by God – from everything that buries us, from everything that binds us, everything that separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, everything that keeps us from living the life that God dreams of for us.

Face it, we all spend time in the grave, we all live in darkness at times, we all find ourselves bound up … by fears, by anxiety, by grief and mourning, by despair and loneliness.

This is the Washington Metro area, and we know what it means to live with anxiety. We’ve been stuck at Orange Terror Alert since September 2001. We know that, right? For us, it’s just the norm. But anyone who comes here to visit from someplace that is not under Code Orange wonders if there’s something going on that they should know about.

How many of you pay any attention any more?

And how many of you drive on (Interstate) 95, or 395 or 495, and see those signs, “Report suspicious activity”? Really? How do you define “suspicious”? I’d love to report people speeding and weaving in and out of traffic, but I don’t think that’s what Homeland Security has in mind.

How many of you here ride the Metro? I know we take the Code Orange level for granted, but how would you feel if you saw someone get off one of the trains and leave behind a knapsack under a seat? Would you feel anxious? More anxious than normal?

And how many of you receive a paycheck from the federal government? Or have someone in your family, or know someone, who gets one? Talk about anxiety and fear! I don’t get a paycheck a federal paycheck, and I was checking every 10 minutes on Friday night, waiting to find out if the government was going to be shut down, or if an agreement could be reached. How much anxiety and fear did you experience on Friday, wondering if you would have enough money to pay your mortgage come Tuesday, or whether you would be able to make the down-payment on the tuition so your high school senior could go to the college of her choice? Or feared you would not be able to pay your credit card bill? All because our leaders seem to have forgotten that they are supposed to be servants of the Lord, and are not Masters of the Universe?

And then at the last possible second, just in time for the 11 o’clock news, our leaders announced that they would not shut down the government and we could all breathe a sigh of relief.

Oh, yes, we know anxiety here and we know how it can plunge us into the depths of darkness and feel like a grave to us. We know what it means to be bound up.

But I am telling you, Jesus is standing right here … right here … this very minute, with us, calling each of us by name, reaching into the graves of our lives and pull us out of that darkness, using both hands if necessary, so that we can be restored to the light.

Jesus is right here, because he loves us just as he loved Lazarus.

And he is crystal clear: “I am the resurrection and the life.” And all who believe in him have life … because he loves us.

Now, I don’t want you to leave this place today and say that the preacher told you could wander through life, throwing your arms in the air and proclaiming to everyone, “Jesus loves me! Isn’t life great?”

Because Jesus does not pull us out of the grave just so we can wander around and practice happy-clappy Christianity. Because Christianity is not supposed to be happy-clappy. And for darned sure that isn’t what it means to be an Episcopalian. Resurrection is serious business.

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, and he is in our lives, giving us the same gift he gave to Lazarus: new life so that we can go forth into the world to love and serve the Lord!

This new life that Jesus gives us is a life of service. It’s a call to us to delight in God’s will, to walk in God’s ways to the glory of God’s name!

Being set free is not about us – it’s about God and God’s dream for us.

We are set free so that we can exactly what God is calling us to do …

… to feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty …

… to make the blind see and the deaf hear and the mute sing and the lame leap with joy …

… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor not once every 50 years, but every year!

Jesus is standing at our graves, my friends. He has said the prayers over us. And he is calling us – each of us – by name.

He is reaching into the darkness of our lives, grasping our already decaying hands and pulling us … tugging us … dragging us out of our graves …

He is taking us out of that darkness that binds us, and setting each one of us free.

He is calling us …

Lazarus!

Lazarus!

Do you hear him?

Amen.

• • •

A sermon preached on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A, 10 April 2011, at St. George’s Episcopal Church, Arlington, Va.

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Biaxin antibiotic

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs reports that following the meeting of the Episcopal Church House of Bishops March 25 – 30, two letters were issued: a letter from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to the Church; and a letter from the House of Bishops to the Israeli ambassadors to the nations where the Episcopal Church has dioceses or presence. The letters call for resolution of the denial of “Temporary Residency Status” for The Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, Anglican Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

Diocese of Jerusalem Bishop Suheil Dawani and his wife, Shafeeqa, at the 2010 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. Photo: General Synod Communications

The following are the two letters:

To the members of The Episcopal Church

From the House of Bishops:

At our meeting in Kanuga, North Carolina, 25-30 March 2011, we considered the plight of our fellow Christians in the land of the Holy One. Bishop Suheil Dawani, of the Diocese of Jerusalem, has for many months been gravely limited in his ability to function as leader of that diocese. We urge your reflection on the following letter, and your response as you deem most appropriate. Change is likeliest when the leaders of our governments know of our urgent concern.

In every part of The Episcopal Church, your response is most likely to be effective when directed to Israel’s ambassador to your nation, to your national leader – President and/or Prime Minister, and/or to your legislative representatives in your national government.

In the dioceses of The Episcopal Church within the United States, those contacts are:

Ambassador Oren:  embsec@washington.mfa.gov.il
President Obama: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
House of Representatives: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
Senate: http://senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

In the dioceses of The Episcopal Church beyond the United States, we urge you to work with your diocesan bishop if you are uncertain about how to contact the Israeli Ambassador, your President or Prime Minister, and your legislators.

May God bless the land of the Holy One with peace. I remain

Your servant in Christ,

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

_________________________________________________________________

A letter from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church to the Israeli ambassadors to the nations where The Episcopal Church has dioceses or presence

30 March 2011

It is with deep concern that we inform you that the Anglican Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, has been denied renewal of his “Temporary Residency Status” in Jerusalem. This action was taken when the A-5 permits held by the bishop, his wife, and youngest daughter were revoked by the Government of Israel, effective 24 September 2010.

The Government of Israel claims that the permits were denied because of an accusation by the Ministry of the Interior that Bishop Suheil acted with the Palestinian Authority in transferring land owned by Jewish people to the Palestinians, and also helped to register lands of Jewish people in the name of the Church. There were further allegations that documents were forged by the bishop.

Bishop Dawani has vehemently denied these allegations and responded formally to the Ministry of the Interior. He has never received a response. The bishop also sent a letter challenging the allegations and demanding that any evidence to secure the claim against him be made known to him. To date no information has been forthcoming.

The Archbishop of Canterbury received assurances that the situation would be resolved promptly. Other Anglican leaders including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington D.C. (the Rt. Rev. John B. Chane), and the Primates of the Anglican Communion, representing Anglicans throughout the world, have all used their influence individually and collectively with Israeli authorities, without success to date.

Diplomatic efforts through the British Foreign Secretary, the British Ambassador to Israel, the British Consul General in Jerusalem, the State Department of the United States, and the American Consul General in Jerusalem, and Christian and Jewish leaders in Jerusalem have all provided support for Bishop Dawani in his ongoing contact with Israeli authorities, but without tangible results. In terms of discovering the source of the allegations against the bishop, or the restoration of the residency rights which are crucial to his ability to provide leadership of his diocese, and residency in Jerusalem for himself and his family, the Israeli Government has failed to respond. Because of the current situation the bishop is unable to conduct any legal business on behalf of the diocese, and is crippled in his ability to run the day to day affairs of his diocese, which comprises schools, churches, and hospitals in Israel, the West Bank and occupied territories, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

We seek your assistance in resolving this situation as rapidly and completely as possible. The ability of our brother, Bishop Dawani, to lead his diocese is severely compromised. We ask your urgent attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

The bishops of The Episcopal Church, in 110 dioceses and two regional areas in Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Federated States of Micronesia, France, Germany, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Switzerland, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the United States of America (including Guam and Puerto Rico), and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands

 

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Finding hope in Brazil

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop of California, is attending the Episcopal USA – Anglican Church in Brazil Bilateral Meeting this week. He went to Brazil tired and “bracing” himself for long meetings. Instead, thanks be to God, he has been surprised by hope. The people with whom he is meeting – landless young adults, indigenous peoples and Anglican priests – have united in their commitment to Christ and environmental justice. His message now: Look forward to these encounters, where Christ is present and God’s love and hope are made manifest.

From Bishop Marc’s blog: Writing from the Episcopal USA-Anglican Church in Brazil Bilateral Meeting, Day 1, Saturday April 2:

After a long flight from the House of Bishops meeting (March 25–30), through D.C., to Sao Paulo, a regional air flight to Iguassu Falls, and then a two-hour drive to Cascavel, I have to admit that I was bracing myself for what had been billed as an all day “diocesan synod meeting.”

Young workers in the landless movement in Brazil. (Photo by Marc Andrus)

Instead, I’ve been elated all through this warm day as extraordinary groups of landless young adults, indigenous people, and priests of the Anglican Church in Brazil have been coming together in their common commitment to Christ and to the cause of environmental justice.

The young adults were born in the camps of landless agricultural workers, and are taking part in a great education effort, wherein young people teach other young people. These young women and men attend intensive classes at a university in Cascavel for two months — all day throughout the week — and then return to the camps to teach other young people. One of the young men was wearing a red thread around his wrist. I asked what it signified. He replied, “I tied it on my wrist when I began this program, and it will stay on until I complete this work.”

Read the rest of Bishop Marc’s report here

 

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