Saturday, March 30, 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

my sermon from today

If you'd like to follow along in the bible we'll mainly be in John 18 and 19 but I'm going to quickly walk us through the events of Jesus' trial and execution using all four accounts.

So Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph on Sunday and went straight to the Tempe to scope it out for the next day. On Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday he entered into serious conflict with the authorities and basically stirred the pot of conflict and anger against him all those three days. On Thursday, before the usual time to celebrate the Passover feast, Jesus joins with the 12 in the upper room to share that memorial meal, but also to teach the disciples, to institute the Eucharist, to wash their feet, to warn them about what was immediately ahead, and to pray his high priestly prayer--to, as we saw last night, love them to the end. It is during this meal that Satan enters into Judas and Jesus sends him away to do what he is going to do.

After the meal Jesus leads his disciples through Jerusalem. He takes his time. The washing of the feet, the sermon preached to his disciples at the Passover Meal and the prayer, in John, is 5 chapters long. If you account for the institution of the Eucharist, which John doesnt include, you have a considerable time in the upper room. Then the leisurely walk through the city. Then they go across the Kidron Valley to what John calls a garden. Jesus is taking his own sweet deliberate time.

Now, none of the other gospel writers call this place a garden. Mark and Matthew give the proper name of a particular place, Gesthemene. Luke use a more general and well known broader appellation, Mount of Olives. But John, using the unspecified, allows this garden to stand as a type, an opposite of another Garden standing at the beginning of time. In that garden the first man walked in the day, in the light, in beauty, in plenty, in peace, in joy. But, there in that garden, surrounded by everything his heart could desire, he chose to walk, and then, to stand, and to be comfortable, and to talk and carry on and commune with wickedness, with Satan. In a single moment, with no struggle, no thought even, he gave over his whole self, the whole earth and all of his children to death. Jesus comes into this second garden. Now it is night. Now there is struggle and pain. Instead of a moment we have a long difficult time. Rather than parlaying with Satan, Jesus seeks the face of his Father. He prays three times, perhaps in three hour blocks--can you not, he reproaches his sleeping friends, pray with me even one hour? In each hour of prayer his will bends more fully to the will of his father. Matthew records the movement in prayer. First, he asks that the cup might be removed. The second time of prayer, he shifts, if it cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done. The anti type of Adam who stood in conversation with Satan, no struggle, no hint of consideration and then reached out and took that which seemed good to him, Jesus struggles and prays and weeps and bends his will to accept the cup the father gives him.

And at night. All of this at night.
So what of Judas? What has he been up to?
Well, remember that the rulers and authorities had been trying to arrest Jesus for a while but had been unable to. It is a reasonable speculation that they have not made plans to kill Jesus at this time. There isnt time before the Passover. They are probably afraid of him--both his own power and his effect on the crowds. They are biding their time and considering what to do. But then who should come to them that night, in stealth, but Judas. They have already formed a relationship with this man, so close to Jesus, the holder of the money, for heavens sake, but still ready to betray and inform. Judas comes with interesting information. Jesus, he might have said, has just been talking about death. He seems to expect to die. He might be in an arrestable mood. Moreover, he is this moment on the Mount of Olives with only a few friends so there would be no crowd if they want to make an arrest without an outcry.

In the intervening hours of Jesus' meal and teaching, the prayer, the walk through Jerusalem, and then the hours of prayer in the garden, there have been rushed and wicked goings and comings across the city. Caiaphas had to get an arresting party together. He very possibly went himself to work a deal with Pilate that he would rubber stamp a capital punishment. He had to wake up the 71 strong Sanhedrin and get them ready to hear this case. He rousted his Father in Law, Annas, and got him ready to work. It is as though, with a word, with a will, the city leaps to do his will. The Lord determines the time and course of his death, and those who hate him most leap to obey.

As the preparations are completed, Jesus is confirmed in prayer. Angels come and minister to him, to strengthen him and comfort him. When he is ready, the arresting party arrives. He comes forward to meet them but, strangely, it seems like they don't know him. He asks them whom they they are looking for and instead of saying, 'you' they give his name, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus responds to them, the Greek is literally, 'I am'. It is possible he gave this name in Hebrew. That might explain why they draw back and fall to the ground. He has to ask them again who they seek, giving them time to recover themselves. He says again, I am, and then he commands that they let his friends go free. Notice they obey. Certainly they would have wanted to gather the disciples in as witnesses, but they let them go. The Lord stands, sovereign, his arresters obey.

In the chaos of the moment, Peter strikes out with his sword. Put it away, says Jesus to Peter. The flaming sword blocking the way into Eden, the Tree of Life, is sheathed. Jesus leaves the Garden resolutely, he is not driven away.

Once arrested, Jesus is taken to Annas, who ought to be High Priest but who isn't at this time, where he is illegally questioned directly. In Jewish law in the first century, the accused never had to speak out against himself. That his why Jesus says, 'why do you ask me? Ask those who heard me.' He is letting Annas know that he knows the law and will not testify against himself. From there he goes to Caiaphas. Caiaphas is the High Priest put in place by Rome. Here, in front of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin many more laws are broken. Remember, they haven't had very much time to get themselves together, and so to execute Jesus before the Passover they are going to have to illegally try and convict him. The first illegality is that this part of the trial happens in the middle of the night. Trials were to be conducted in the day in order to avoid the appearance of injustice and evil. Secondly, there were very strict rules about who could be a witness and the job of the witness. In Matthew 26 we can see that the court wastes a lot of time trying to find witnesses. Legally, the witness of a crime was bound to arrest the perpetrator and then serve as the prosecutor in the trial. It then would fall to the Sanhedrin to either defend or find defenders for the accused. Here they can't find witnesses who agree and no one comes to Jesus' defense at all. Finally, it was illegal in Jewish law to convict with a unanimous vote. A unanimous vote bespoke mob emotion and rule, a court in which the accused could find no friend, no defender. The unanimous and therefore illegal vote to convict Jesus comes through a masterfully brilliant move on the part of Caiaphas. The High Priest was never to speak in a capital trial, such as this one, yet here, in desperation, he stands up and puts Jesus to the most sacred oath, the oath of the testimony, I adjure you by the living God, that he is not only the messiah, but also the Son of God. Alone, neither title is troublesome. Any Jewish person could claim to be the son of god in an ordinary sense, and the Jews expected a human political messiah, not a divine one. Taken together, the one interprets thr other and the one who takes them claims to be divine, of one substance with God. As a pious and true man, Jesus willingly takes the oath and strengthens it by reiterating the image in Daniel 7. Remember, he is not bound to speak, but he does. He willingly goes forward, step by step, to death. Caiaphas tears his robes and cries 'blasphemy'.

From there, in the early morning, Jesus is taken to Pilate. Here, there is good reason to believe that Caiaphas expects a rubber stamp for his night's work. This might be so because it seems like the Chief Priests are thrown into confusion by Pilate's questioning and try to appeal to their own goodness as a reason to proceed. Why would Pilate change his mind? During this same night, his wife has had a troubling dream about Jesus, and so Pilate, a weak and superstitious man, decides to try Jesus for true. John ironically notes that those who delivered Jesus to Pilate would not go in to Pilate's headquarters for fear of being defiled before the Passover. Having been caught off guard by Pilate's intention to hold a real trial they change the convicting charge from blasphemy, about which Pilate would not have cared, to sedition against Rome and not paying taxes.

Pilate questions Jesus from the temporal seat of judgment. But it is really he who is on trial before Jesus. He asks the questions and Jesus answers them, but the answers reveal the truth at the heart of the universe, that Jesus is king, the king who bears the truth, who witnesses to it, who embodies it. Pilate looks at the truth and flinches. 'What is truth' he asks. But he doesn't want to know. He takes Jesus back to the Jewish rulers and announces his innocence but the moment of reckoning found him a coward, so when the chief priests protest he sends Jesus to Herod. Herod is curious but cruel. When Jesus doesn't do tricks his soldiers beat and mock him. And send him back to Pilate.

Pilate's next attempt to free Jesus is to compare him with the most notoriously evil man in Jerusalem--Barabbas. The name Barabbas means 'son of a father'. He himself is a type, the worst of men, rightfully convicted of murder and sedition, in prison waiting to die. In a twist that seems to surprisePilate, the crowd chooses Barabbas and cries out for Jesus to die. Barabbas is a real man, an exchange is truly made--Jesus stands in the place of Barabbas and dies instead of him. The righteous man dying for the sinner. What happened bodily and visibly for Barabbas is what is offered to those of us who look on, some 2000 years later.

But Pilate still doesn't want to execute a good man, so he has Jesus flogged, hoping the gathering crowds will come to their senses in front of an obviously innocent and now broken man. His flesh torn, covered in blood, crowned in mockery and robed in contempt, Jesus is stood in front of the crowd. Pilate calls out 'Behold the man'. A man of sorrows, aquatinted the grief. Is there any sorrow like his sorrow? Any suffering like his? The crowd bays for his blood crying, 'blasphemy.'

Pilate is running out of time but he tries one more time to get Jesus speak and defend himself. What sort of person chooses to die? What sort of person goes all the way to suffering without crying out or trying to stop it? This person, Jesus, in his glory, in his power, is so steadfast, all of creation does his will, whether in hatred, fear, or in love. Finally, Pilate sits down in judgment seat, the Jewish Rulers before him, and Jesus. And he says this time, 'behold your king.' And then, in the moment of greatest irony, greatest tragedy, greatest truth, the chief priests cry out, 'we have no king but ceasar.'

And so Jesus is taken out to die. As thousands of lambs are that moment being slaughtered in the temple, the volume of blood so great flowing off the altar that it turns the stream running through Jerusalem red, Jesus is hung between two theives. In the final moments of his life, before he gives over his spirit, his own perfect blood flowing down to accomplish what not one single drop of lamb's blood can do, he says, 'it is finished'.

Done. Accomplished. Complete. The light came into the darkness and conquered he darkness, exposing the hearts of men, shining the truth into a world that doesn't struggle against the darkness, that walks and stands and sits in the way of wickedness, that would rather embrace the thing most hated then repent and turn around, that chooses fear over the truth. We live in this world. It is alive in our minds, in our hearts, it has corrupted our understanding. And yet here comes the man, behold him, he is the king, he comes forward, with power and glory and strength, not flinching, not running away. He comes and embraces the death that is our future. We, imprisoned by sin, like Barabbas, deserving to die, or, like Pilate, averting our eyes from the pain of the truth, or, like Caiaphas, grasping hold of our greatest hate in rejecting Jesus, or like Peter, denying him, or, like Judas, betraying him, we will ultimately obey the king. Yet he, lifted up, dying, his arms stretched out on the hard wood of the cross offers the chance for us to come in humility, love, repentance, willingly. And for those who come now, for those there is no longer any condemnation. The light of truth is married to the grace and mercy of love. Our Lord did this incredible thing out of love, not wanting that you should perish in the prison of your sin. The final people in this moment of greatest sorrow, whom we have not spoken of, looked up at the tree and lived. The thief next to Jesus. The disciple whom Jesus loved. His mother and the other women. I pray that you will leave here this afternoon having looked at the truth without flinching. That you will sit at the foot of the cross and love your Lord who loves you. That you will give yourself to him as completely, as steadfastly as he gave himself to you. If you are his then there is no condemnation, no sin, no darkness, no lie, no wickedness that can separate you from his love. Neither death, nor principalities, nor power can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Behold the man, your king, your God.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

a week to think about Jesus and get really really tired

Holy Week is upon us!
Yesterday we celebrated the Last Supper together in Sunday School. It means everyone taking the name of a disciple or hanger on (because we have more than exactly thirteen people in Sunday School--isn't that great! This year I passed out names like Zaccheus and Nichodemus and, I won't lie, a couple of women, like Mary and Salome. But I made my usual big speech about there not being any women there except maybe to serve and cook the food.) and assigning someone to be Jesus and then sending Peter on John on ahead to prepare....

and then sitting around and eating matzo and grape juice mixed with apple juice. Jesus has to read the words of institution but after that its a total free for all for conversation. This year the little girls all took turns standing up and breaking the bread, or really shattering it every where. And the bigger boys tried very hard to start a food fight but unfortunately were inhibited at ever turn by the phalanx of adults on every side. A good time was had by all, even though many tried hard to cry about Jesus going on from there to die.
So now we're in full Holy Week hysteria.

I wrote down everything that I think I know for sure will be happening and then let Matt try to teach me the Texas Two Step. But the baby always takes grave offense whenever anyone tries to dance without her so we ended up having to just sit and cry for a while. Well, I wasn't crying. Yet. Check back in a few days.

Friday, March 22, 2013

plain old anglican snark

As I was lying face down on the couch yesterday listening to one child read Dinosaurs Before Dawn, giving a spelling test and checking over some math, I also watched a tiny bit of the new ABC Enthronment. I came in on it as the last lesson before the gospel was read and figured I'd had enough as the gifts from around the world were being laid on the altar-- so essentially, I heard some hymns, saw the African dancing, heard the sermon, and did not by any means miss out on the exceptionally weird voice of the woman inducting Welby into the pulpit/see of Canterbury. Well, it's a stretch to say I actually heard the sermon (see above), a few lines washed over me.And I must say, after a decade of watching liberal/episco-Unitarian white boomers pander liturgically to the rest of the true believing world--swaying back and forth and clapping ineffectually, or raising the hands to the latest Native American wind--I am frankly grossed out by all the showcased ethnicity. Archbishop Welby in no wise was made to look more believing or relevant by the dancing and singing. Taken together with his "sermon" (I think scare quotes are more than appropriate), the liturgically enshrined ethnicity showed a hollow husk of a church that once brought the truth into the darkness of a world broken by sin and death, but now is just dancing around in the dark, clapping to songs of a light it doesn't know or understand. So the "sermon". I expect some were really happy that the new ABC was so bold as to say both "Jesus" and "Christ" in church. I used to be one of those people--pathetically grateful that the sermon wasn't about cloning or the Buddha. And he even noted that we should be "reconciled" to God through the cross. But here's the tiny little problem. None of those words mean anything any more. "Reconciled" doesn't indicate the cross to anyone who hears the word any more. It just means that God won't mind whatever we do as long as we agree to women bishops and gay marriage. Those are the two things He, God, really cares about now, and so it's no problem for all the world to be "reconciled" to him. Except if you really believe the old worn out word, "reconciled", can only be applied to the person who dies to himself and clings to Jesus and the cross. No less a Jesus who joins with the Father in wroth against the marrying of one man to another and two women together. If you believe in that Jesus, so much so that you're not willing to play the game, then no reconciliation for you. So color me bored by the sermon. And irritated by the cheesy 'Christ Believing Courage' or whatever it was that his Grace applied to institutions like the NHS along with other so called Christian items, none of which I can remember at the moment. I'm sorry, but societal stability is not what Jesus is most worried about in the year 2013. If you want to know what's really on his mind, your going to have to flip open the electronic device of your choice and dig around for an app called t.h.e b.i.b.l.e and then you have to touch it with with the soft pad of your finger and then touch the little audio play icon in the corner and then try very hard to pry your eyes open and your ears and listen to all the amazing things it says, without your fingers crossed behind your back. All the way through, starting at the beginning and going all the way to the end--not just the lectionary readings. And when you don't understand something you might open a book or get on the Internet or talk to a real c.h.r.i.s.t.i.a.n. But if you don't want to know, just keep doing what you're doing because its working really really well.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

teeth etc.

I happened to be back at the dentist yesterday and the poor state of my poor mouth is rather taking up all the emotional space in my life. I am now on an antibiotic with all kinds of warning labels all over it and I have a tiny special paper explaining where and at what time I am expected to present myself to the Very Special Person who does Root Canals.
'There is life after a root canal,' said my dentist yesterday, 'the name sounds worse than it is.'
'Indeed,' said I, in pain, 'it sounds medieval.'
But at this point I welcome the whole experience if it will really solve the problem.
But also, I was knocked back by the first rather strong antibiotic and so this new one makes me feel even more like everything, good and bad, is being destroyed in my already run down system.
Nevertheless, I will now arise and do school and make breakfast and do laundry. And I will do it all without barely speaking because that is too painful for anything.

Monday, March 18, 2013

oh look, it's snowing again

The dog is asleep on his back with his feet in the air and his teeth all out there. Also, he is on my lap. There is one baby upstairs asleep but the other one is jammed up against me snoring. Alouicious and Elphine are 'trying to earn back their allowance' by cleaning the kitchen, but really they are goofing off and talking. Romulus and Gladys are 'cleaning the sunroom'. All around me are piles of laundry I imagined I would do, along with shoes and bottles and bits of paper and toys and crayons and a lot of other...stuff is too nice a word. Matt is watching some thing about Scientology.And, of course, there is a heavy volume of snow falling out of the sky. Because what a fading upstate town exhausted by sickness and cold weather needs is more snow, and ice. I'm sorry that this blog has degenerated into one big long complaint about the weather. I'm generally a satisfied, happy, contentish type of person. Well, maybe happy is too strong. Not unhappy. But the long stupid snowy winter is proving too much for me today. We're all on our eleventh cold amongst other irritating ailments. Amd the walls are too close, the bickering too continuous, the pile of cleaning and laundry too tall. If only the snow would stick to the brick wall of the church. Otherwise, for real, I'm going to get out there and paint an Italian villa on it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

7 quick takes: church

I happen to be reading Exodus and Romans at the same time--not a bad combination. Boy I really do feel for Moses. His whole life sounds like one endless dinner hour with cranky kids. Yesterday my kids decided not to really eat their lunch and so by dinner the cry was, 'I'm dying!' Except that then when the dinner was served (my week at Shepherd's Bowl so lentil curry a la kennedy) they found they were really only hungry for the bread and cookie and I was suddenly entangled in three or four whiny and complicated negotiations. After a while I did really feel like shaking my fist at the heavens and saying, 'why have you given me this ungrateful people....' On another partially related note, I'm deeply interested in the idea of an Egyptian Meat Pot. It sounds delicious.
I had thought I would be laboring over my curry kennedy with a numb and painful mouth but in a happy twist I was sent away from the dentist with a powerful antibiotic and arrangements to try again next week. Wanted to ask the dentist if she was at all concerned by the terrifying super bacterias coming along and What Would We All Do Then, ha ha, but just kept a lid on it and said thank you.
As the afternoon wore away and the curry melded in to the onion, garlic, peppers, sweet potato, lentils, chickpeas etc. I glanced at my phone and discovered that this relationship is finally over. So grateful. Evil, don't you know, always seems to over step. Really, John Crosson is the outside limit. So grateful.
Have also been reading lots of catholic blogs trying to discover if this new pope will be A Good Thing. Can't really tell yet. Boy some people are already really upset. On the other hand it is so great that he looks so much like the new ABC...and Woody Allen.
It's nearly Holy Week. Did you know? Have you been making plans? Yeah, me neither.
Matt thought he'd be at the passion in Mark by now (in church, he's preaching through Mark). Isn't that funny? Funny funny funny. Srsly, if you are struggling to love the bible or had the book of Mark destroyed for you in seminary, I can't recommend enough his whole series so far. Week by week he unfolds the scripture and brings the person of Jesus into such clear focus. If you have nothing else to do in Holy Week you could lie flat on top of a lot of sicko John Crosson/Jesus Seminar books and listen to Matt preach and be healed of all your various infirmities. For, as Alouicious noted earlier, 'preaching heals the greatest wound, which is not knowing Jesus.'
Don't you just love church? I think I love Holy Week so much because there's just so much church. So much preaching, so much liturgy, so many times to set up the altar, so many things to veil, so many details, so many extra days to see people. In my wildest deems, if you had asked in high school or college what I wanted to do if I could do anything in the whole world, I would have thought (though not said it out loud, because that would have been freaky) 'I want to be in church.' See God can be nice, sometimes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Slowly emerging.
We had some lovely visitors. Stand Firm Family, as it were. All the lovely pictures are on Matt's computer. And you know how it is. You have to go to that computer and sit down and turn it on and go to the Internet and laboriously send the pictures on email and then open them and so on and so I don't have pictures, yet...
And then we were all sick. Horribly and wretchedly sick. The tummy thing. The head, nose and throat thing. The Maybe I'm Actually Going To Die Thing. The Anne Has To Go Grocery Shopping Alone Thing.

But in spite of everyone still not really breathing, there is an imperceptible feeling that Things Are Looking Up. Elphine and Alouicious have plugged out two full days of school cheerfully and industriously. Upon examining everyone's school work I discovered that if we work really really really hard for the next ten weeks we might really finish all our work on the day I imagined we would. Praise be.

I've endured the dentist visit that worried me the most--the one wherein I expected to be told I needed a root canal. After a great deal of suffering and pain I was told that I still have a thin but real amount of tooth before the root and so, for today, I am spared. Tomorrow I go back to have the big gaping hole in a tooth coped with. Turns out there is a real and true reason for me to be in such pain I have to take no less than 9 ibuprofen over the course of 24 hours. And then one more visit after that and I will be in the category of Normal, Basically.

My little tiny tomato and pepper seedlings are coming up and have not yet been destroyed by the 'babies'. They're actually large little girls who go around chattering and holding hands. They play with dollies and dress up and color and have their hair brushed. And if they would sleep all the way through the night we would probably like them.

As for Gladys and Romulus, they do a generous amount of whining and tattling.
On the whole a good measure, shaken tighter, pressed down, flowing over...

And then today we watched the white smoke appear and rejoiced with so many who welcomed the new Pope. Well, I won't lie, Elphine and Alouicious were horribly sarcastic about the news coverage...and wanted to snarkily debate theology. But I finally told them to go away so I could watch it all in peace. And now I'm listening to them all clean the kitchen and bicker gently. So I think I'll have another glass of something, just to be sure. Pip pip.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

sometimes they sort of get it

Gladys wrote another poem this morning. She was irritating me a lot just at that moment, what with the complaining and whining and general sense of total dissatisfaction with reality. I thought maybe if I wrote it down for her she would stop with the whining, which turned out not to be the case. Basically the age of five I have never found to be awesome. Anyway, here is the text of the poem followed by the frame and picture she drew around the original copy. I'll write her commentary of the picture underneath it.
The Bible
By Gladys
An Angel appeared to Mary and said, "Mary, you are going to have a baby. 
You are going to call him Jesus."
And so Jesus grew up and his name was God.
And Satan disguised as a serpent came into Adam's hand and said some bad things about God.
And then he crawled out of Adam's hand so that Adam ate the fruit off the tree; and Eve did too.
You can see Mary with extremely long hair leaning over Jesus to pick him up out of the manger and take him out to show visitors. The other sort of large thing in the air next to her is a lamp. Cowering in the corner at the bottom are Adam and Eve and the serpent who, to me, looks remarkably like a platypus. The top is framed by a sun and two lamps that I thought looked like bees, but I was wrong.  I love how towering Mary and Jesus are.

Saturday, March 02, 2013


Yesterday the remains of last summer's sun flowers in my back garden were pecked over by a couple of those lovely little fat birds that figure so romantically in all the Tasha Tudor books. Do you know, the three waves of guilt that tidal-ed themselves over me were, in order,
Why can't I remember the names of those little birds?!
Why am I not calling a child over here to look at them!?
Why haven't I pulled out the Tasha Tudor books? There they are, but I'm the only one who knows what's in them.
But I just stood there and watched the birds and then went and did laundry.
So spring must be coming. Even though the snow is constantly swirling and the sun room heater slowing dying from over use. And with spring, mud. And with mud, the bulbs coming up. And then the summery little Easter dresses that have the be worn with a heavy winter coat. And also, new Alleluia Cards for the atrium.

Friday, March 01, 2013

7 quick takes

Well, here it is. Friday. And I haven't blogged or done much of anything interesting except
cope with the laundry room. I mean, really really deal with actually doing the laundry, folding the clothes and putting stuff in bins that's just in the way.
Start to make sour dough bread again but this time fail so much as to actually end up throwing it away.
Take three days off from school for six children to have the stomach bug. One after another all the way down the line.
Obsessively read the Internet as disfunction in the anglican communion hots up again.
Get out the blender and make smoothies for the first time in ten years trying to tempt a lot of pallid and emaciated children to swallow something.
Watch another 80s movie with Matt.
Walk up the hill behind the house in between weather onslaughts and find myself thereafter bathing and cutting all the hair off my dog for reasons too vile to write down or remember later.

Have a great weekend and go check out Jen!