Maundy Thursday and Malchus
2011-04-21 by David von Schlichten
Sermon on Maundy Thursday
on Thursday, April 21, 2011, Year A,
The Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten
(word count: 929)
I don’t actually mind being a slave a whole lot. My master is Caiaphas, the current high priest. I mean, I’d rather have my freedom, but it’s not so bad being a priest’s slave, because you don’t have to do as much outdoor manual labor. I basically just follow him around all day, and he’s often indoors. I pour his wine for him, get him his food. I help with slaughtering animals for sacrifices and with clean-up. I work long days, but many slaves have it worse.
And Caiaphas is pretty good to me. He gives me extra meat from the sacrifices for me to take home to my family. Sometimes he’ll give me a few silver coins to spend any way I want. He never whips or hits me, and occasionally we have conversations about God and keeping the Law. He’s very smart and knowledgeable. Everybody thinks Caiaphas is strict, and he is. He’s one of these guys who acts all severe but who really is a softie.
Except when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth. Caiaphas has a lot of love in him, but he has no love for this Jesus guy. “His teachings go against the Law of Moses!” Caiaphas says. “In my day, people respected the Law of Moses. This Jesus claims to be the Messiah! Bah! Young smart alleck doesn’t know the first thing about God.” Man, can Caiaphas rant. His face turns all red. Sometimes he spits a little when he gets talking.
“Sir, remember your health,” I tell him. “It’s not good for you to get all excited.” I can usually get him to sit down. I give him a glass of wine.
Then, often, his face will melt from anger to sadness, and he’ll say, “I just worry what’ll happen to our nation. If this Jesus gets out of hand, the Romans will see him as a threat and will crush our nation. This country is going to pieces. It didn’t used to be like this.” When Caiaphas gets talking like that, his face looks so old and haggard, worn-out. The wrinkles and creases in his face become more obvious. A tired, scared old man.
The raising of Lazarus was the last straw for Caiaphas. “Jesus is becoming so powerful that the Romans are going to storm in and wipe us all out so that we don’t threaten their authority.” Caiaphas said. Then he added with the calm that comes from making up your mind about something, “What we need to do is kill Jesus. Get him out of the way so that the Romans back off. With one clap of his hands, he added, “for the sake of all of us, this Jesus must die.”
Caiaphas made arrangements with Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ followers, so that we could arrest him without the public around. Tonight, then, was the night, the night of the Passover. This Judas guy showed up just as we were finishing out seder, the Passover meal.
Caiaphas stood up and greeted him and said, “Are you ready to take us to him?”
Judas nodded, staring at our table that still had food and wine on it from our seder. He said, “We just had our Passover seder. Jesus washed all our feet, and then he gave us bread and said it was his body and gave us wine and said it was his blood, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. Body and blood shed.”
Caiaphas snorted. “What’s all that supposed to mean? Body and blood shed?”
Judas looked at Caiaphas and said, “It means he’s on to us.”
Caiaphas stayed behind to get ready for Jesus’ trial but had me go along with Judas to help with the arrest. A crowd of us made our way. We went to Gethsemene with our torches, Judas leading the way. The air was muggy. The moon was full. I could see him in the distance, lying face down on the ground. As we got closer we could see some men lying asleep a few yards away. Then one of them sat up, shook the others. Now they’re all up, including Jesus. He turns and faces us, calm, as if he’s been expecting us. We have our torches. My heart’s speeding up. Judas steps forward and kisses Jesus. That’s the sign. We move in to take him.
One of his followers pulls out a small sword. Flashing in the torchlight. I go for my dagger, but he slashes at me. I drop to my knees in shock. I can feel the blood gushing out of the side of my head. My ear lies on the ground in front of me. My mind shocked blank. What has just happened does not make sense to me. It’s like a dream. Unreal. I can hear throbbing in my ear even though it’s been cut off. I hear Jesus yelling at the disciple to put away his sword.
Jesus kneels down in front of me. This dark face with a broad nose and glistening eyes. He has a mole on his left cheek. He touches my wound and the throbbing stops. He stands up, and the guards take him away.
Somebody checks on me. “Are you okay?” I touch the side of my head. My ear is back.
“That Jesus guy healed your ear,” the person says. “That disciple cut it right off, but now it’s back on. Can you hear okay?”
I nod. “Yes. I can hear. Everything is loud and clear.”
Good Friday and Earth Day
2011-04-18 by David von Schlichten
The two are on the same day this year. Perfect.
Human sin has ravaged nature and Christ has died to redeem ALL creation, so I find myself wanting to preach on environmental issues on Good Friday this year.
We humans tend to embrace this false bifurcation that regards humanity as separate from nature, but humanity and nature are all part of the same thing: God's creation. Moreover, our fall and redemption are intertwined, as we see from Genesis to Romans 8 to Revelation (new heaven and earth).
One year ago this week was the BP oil spill - a perfect example of how human sin hurts nature and of how harm to nature hurts humanity, because humanity and nature are NOT separate from each other.
Christ's death on the tree saves the cosmos while also challenging us humans to focus on self-sacrifice in the name of helping ALL the needy, human and nonhuman.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
Free Sample for April 24, 2011
2011-04-17 by David Howell
Preaching John 20:1-18
by Anna Carter Florence
The angels said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"
It’s kind of a foolish question—asking a woman in a graveyard why she’s crying—which in retrospect maybe wasn’t so foolish. Because she could have answered a lot of things, couldn’t she?
Why am I crying?
I’m crying for his body, nailed to a cross.
I’m crying for his body, laid in a tomb. But what she said was this: I’m crying for his body, stolen away. They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.
Oh, they’ve taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve laid him.
That’s something we hear a lot the first semester in seminary, after the biblical department has had its way with the students.
Oh, they’ve deconstructed my Bible; they’ve taken away my Jesus, and I don’t know where they’ve laid him.
But I’ve heard it in youth groups, too, when the teenagers start losing what little idealism they had, and coming to terms with the world we’ve left them:
Oh, they’ve ruined my planet with violence and hypocrisy; they’ve taken away my Jesus, and I don’t know where they’ve laid him.
And I hear it in the church, whenever a group of people gets scared that things are going to change if we do this or that, and what if we don’t like it? What if we can’t tell whether those changes are Christian or not?
Oh, they’ve desecrated my church with heresies; they’ve taken away my Jesus, and I don’t know where they’ve laid him.
I don’t think the church in our time is weeping for a crucified Jesus. I think the church is weeping for a stolen body, and a desecrated tomb. They’ve taken away my Jesus; oh, they’ve taken him away. Do you hear that where you are, that weeping and wailing? It breaks your heart, even as it makes you crazy.
When you’re crying over a stolen body, everyone you meet is a potential thief. That’s where Mary is. Jesus appears right in front of her, and she can’t even recognize him in the state she’s in. She thinks he’s the gardener, and that he did it!—which is major textual irony if I ever saw it. "Sir," she begs him, "if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." She might as well have said, "Look, I won’t press charges. Just show me the body, and we’ll pretend it never happened." I guess that’s what you do when you’re crying over a stolen body. You hope you can strike a deal and pretend it never happened. You hope you can put the body back and no one will get hurt. Do you hear that where you are?
When you’re crying over a stolen body, I guess that’s what you do, and I guess that’s what you hope for. Look, just put it back, and no one will get hurt.
I think we in the church have been living this pattern for quite a while: suspicion, accusation, secret deals. A lot of foolishness, and not very biblical, if you read this text, because the story isn’t nearly over. Two things happen. The first is that Jesus calls Mary by name. And the second is that he won’t let her hold onto him.
When you’re crying about who took your Jesus away, I guess there’s only one thing that will stop you. Mary. MARY. You have to hear him say your name. I don’t know why, except that maybe we can’t see resurrection any other way. And you have to see it; you have to see it, because it’s not like you can explain it; if you could explain it, Jesus would have said, "I believe you’re operating with a false hermeneutic, Mary. Sit down and let me interpret these events for you."
No; you can’t explain resurrection. It addresses you; it calls you out. Mary! That’s all he had to say, and she knew. There isn’t any guilty gardener; there isn’t any stolen body. There’s a risen body! And what are the first words out of her mouth? A confession: Rabbouni!—which doesn’t mean "teacher" at all, but, my Lord. My Lord!
We can guess what she tried to do next. She tried to embrace him: that’s the second thing that happens. Because he literally says, "Stop holding onto me; stop clinging to me." See how fast it happens? You go from seeing resurrection to confessing your faith to grabbing it with both fists. And the next thing you know, the emphasis is shifting from my Lord to my Lord; mine! There sure is a lot of that going around, people suffocating other people with their own clenched confessions.
Do you think that’s what’s going on in the church?—a lot of weeping over who stole the body and desecrated the tomb?—but also these moments of absolute clarity when we know we have been addressed; and we see what resurrection looks like?—so we make our confession, and then we can’t help it; we start to cling to it, and control it, and defend it, and measure people against it, until before you know it, we think we can judge what resurrection looks like. Before you know it, we aren’t holding onto anything but the Jesus of our own expectations. Do you think that’s what’s going on in the church?
He won’t let us do it, will he? Don’t hold onto me. Stop clinging to me.
It is the first post-resurrection teaching:
You can see the risen Christ, but you can’t cling to him.
You can confess your faith in Jesus, but you can’t own him.
Don’t cling to him. Go and announce that he is risen, he is risen indeed!
Happy Easter, sisters and brothers.
Do We Really Need to Preach on Passion Sunday?
2011-04-15 by David von Schlichten
On Passion Sunday, I don't preach a regular-length sermon. I preach an introduction to the reading of the Passion, the real sermon of the day. Some of you probably do likewise.
How do we set up the reading of the Passion? It really needs no introduction, but I feel like I should say something. What if, on Passion Sunday, we just put aside the sermon?
I don't know. If I must say something, then perhaps the best set-up would be a poem or brief meditation that clears people's minds to focus on the Passion.
Maybe I'll write a sonnet that calls for people to shove aside other thoughts and put themselves into the story. Fourteen lines of clear-your-head and get-ready. Then I'll shut-up and let the Passion do its work.
How about you?
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
Income Tax, Philippians 2:5-11, and Passion Sunday
2011-04-11 by David von Schlichten
We have to pay those pesty taxes to help support the programs and people who keep our nation going. That is, part of living in a community is paying taxes to help run that community.
Through his kenosis (Philippians 2:7), Jesus pays the highest tax of all. King Christ empties himself that we might be filled.
In response to this donkey-riding, cross-carrying, self-emptying king's sacrifice that pays for our salvation, what do we pay to show our gratitude, to show that we are citizens of the kingdom of God?
Foot-washing is a good start.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
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