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Rick Morley

Lent’s Final Day

By | Formation, lent2016

Luke 24: 38-53
He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Two things.

First, “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”

Really? Jesus is standing right in front of them, and they are having trouble believing it? I don’t know about you, but I find that a little awkward. A little bit of a letdown. I mean, shouldn’t the disciples be these people of incredible faith, who just believed?

Apparently, Jesus’ movement leaves room for wondering, even when Jesus is standing right in front of us.

That’s good to know.

Second, we have work to do. Here’s where the revolution goes into full swing. We’re to take Jesus’ way of living into the world. Not just to the surrounding towns and villages. Not just to the people who live within our borders. But, rather, “to all nations.”

Jesus has been raised from the dead, and that is truly, truly wonderful news. But, the implications of that are so big, that we’re to take this message out to the people who need it. The people desperate to hear it. The people who need to know the fulness of God’s love.

The people who need to know that when it comes to God, death doesn’t have the last word. In fact, in the wake of the Resurrection, the whole concept of “last word” has to be seriously revisited.

…Oh, and congratulations on reading the WHOLE Gospel of Luke! Well done, and Happy Easter!

Lent: Day Thirty-Eight

By | Formation, lent2016

Luke 24:1-37
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.

I subtitled this Lenten series on the Gospel of Luke: The Gospel that begins like a Broadway Musical and ends like a revolution. You may remember that Luke began—lo, those many weeks ago!—with people breaking out into song at nearly every turn. Zechariah. Mary. The angels. Simeon. So many of the great songs/ prayers that make their way into the the Church’s liturgies of the Eucharist and Morning and Evening Prayer, come from the early chapters of Luke.

But, as we come to the close of Luke, we find the beginnings of a call to revolution. Not a revolution as a call-to-arms, mind you, but rather a call to refashion the world with the Good News of Jesus’ Way of Life, and his Resurrection.

Our bishop, Chip Stokes, said this week that the crucifixion was a “politcal act.” And it was. It was the direct result of the political and religious authories colluding together to silence this man who threatened their authority. And, they almost succeeded.

Jesus, in his ministry, presented a whole new way of living that so captivated his followers, and so scared his antagonizers. In a world that seemed so full of hate, here was a guy who preached love. In a world where so many seek revenge, here was a guy who preached about turning the other cheek. In a world full of fear, here was a guy who preached hope. In a world full of violence, here was a guy who preached peace.

When they crucified Jesus, they didn’t just kill the man, but they killed the message. When they laid his body in the tomb, his followers must have thought: Well, so much for love. So much for turning the other cheek. So much for hope. So much for peace.

But, when Jesus rises from the dead—holy cow, all of a sudden anything is possible. Empire and evil does not have the last word, no matter how scary they can seem.

The revolution begins with this: even when love, hope, forgiveness, life and peace seem to be on the ropes—in the end, love and life will always win.

Lent Day Thirty-Seven

By | Formation, lent2016

Luke 23:32-56
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Lent: Day Thirty-Six

By | Formation, lent2016

Luke 23:1-31
Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Simon the Cyrene didn’t wake up that day planning on being a hero. When he saw Jesus, bloody and beaten, carrying his cross, his first thought probably wasn’t to help out. He wasn’t auditioning for sainthood.

He was ordered to help: “They made him carry it [the cross] behind Jesus.”

Sometimes ministry is just showing up. Sometimes God puts us where we’re needed, and gives us something to do without asking our opinion on the matter. Sometimes we’re thrust into a situation, and we end up helping someone bear their burden, and carry their cross.

Sometimes we stumble upon a broken down person in need, and the person ends up being Jesus.

Sometimes we don’t need to audition for sainthood. Sometimes it finds us.

Lent: Day Thirty-Five

By | Formation, lent2016

Luke 22: 54-71
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” They kept heaping many other insults on him. When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

How many times have I denied Jesus? More than I can number.

I have denied him by my actions. I have denied him with my words. I have denied him by failing to listen to my conscience, and thereby doing the very thing I knew I shouldn’t have—or not doing the thing that I should have done.

And so, when I read the story of Peter, I take it personally.

I am Peter.

And if I were Peter on the night when Jesus was arrested, I am pretty certain that I would have done the same thing that he did. I think I too would have been scared for my life, and I think I may very well have denied knowing him to save myself.

And, I know that I would have walked away from that moment feeling horrible about myself. I would have closed my eyes and I would have seen nothing but Jesus’ eyes looking back at me.

I also would have walked away from that moment thinking that there was nothing I could have done to fix it. Nothing to take my shame and guilt away. I would have thought that there was no way that Jesus, my friend and teacher, would ever have forgiven me.

But, that is where I would be most wrong.