April 29, 2018

We often wonder why Jesus speaks in parables and metaphor, and wish the message could be a bit more clear. For Jesus’ listeners, the metaphors were often subjects that everyone would understand ... wheat and chaff, shepherds and flocks, and today, vines and fruit. Today’s gospel explores Biblical botany. Jesus begins talking about vines and fruit, and he is speaking the people’s language. Vineyards were common. Everyone understood the hard work required to tend the vines. The vines must be pruned, weeds must be pulled, and the vineyard must be protected from animals and thieves. Even the harvest was a laborious task. The reward was a livelihood for the vinegrower and life giving food and drink for the community.

           But Jesus’ hearers would have had a deeper understanding. Throughout scripture, the grapevine is a metaphor for Israel. Jesus replaces this understanding with a bold statement, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.” Jesus proclaims that God’s chosen pe...

April 22, 2018

The rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in the cathedral of St. Philip. The occasion was the ordination of a fresh batch of priests in God’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. If you have not attended an ordination liturgy, you should. In addition to participating in the full scope of our sacramental life, you should attend an ordination because it is all of you, the Church, who call, discern, and affirm the vocation of our clergy. For those about to be ordained, it is a pinnacle day. After a long, grueling discernment process, years of preparation, and life changing sacrifices, the big moment has arrived. The Holy Spirit will do what the Holy Spirit does, and a new priest is born. If you are the one taking ordination vows, it is easy to imagine it is all about you and the life to which you have been called. Each new priest is eager to begin life with a parish ... the shepherd assumes the flock.

            It is easy to imagine the priest as shepherd of the congregation. The w...

April 15, 2018

            Peter’s speech in our reading from Acts begins by addressing a misunderstanding. Peter and John, in the Name of Jesus Christ, have just healed a crippled beggar. In frustration, Peter exclaims, “Why do you wonder at this?” How can these onlookers be filled with wonder and astonishment at this relatively minor miracle? Peter recalls all that he has experienced while following Jesus. He connects God’s action in Jesus to God’s saving action through all of Israel’s history. Jesus is the servant the prophet Isaiah writes about. Jesus is the “Holy and Righteous One” that the people handed over to death and God raised. Jesus still lives, and by faith in his name, the power and glory of God is present among us. This is the new normal. God has kept his promises. How is it that all of you do not understand?

            For many, it is easier to cling to the rules of the world that we have come to know and rely on. It is easier to expla...

April 1, 2018

            As a family watched the Easter story on television, the child was deeply moved. As Jesus was tortured and killed, tears rolled down her cheeks. She was absolutely silent until after Jesus had been taken down from the cross and put into the tomb. Then she suddenly grinned and shouted, “Now comes the good part!” Brothers and sisters we have journeyed a Holy Lent and walked the way of the cross through Holy Week. Now comes the good part!

            Mary from Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome approach Jesus’ tomb on the first Easter morning. They are still devoted to Jesus, doing what ritually must be done, yet expect to find Jesus dead. Their minds are on earthly expectations and concerns. Their anointing of Jesus’ body was a ritual symbolically similar to the anointing of kings and God’s chosen. It was also a practical matter that fragrant spices would minimize the stench of a decaying corpse. They expected to find...

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