Vineyards of En-Gedi | 2019 April
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Homiletics Notes / 26.04.2019

Last evening attended the BA senior recital of Karl, our parish cantor, who is graduating from CU in Boulder in voice; he has a rich and big baritone voice. He's been in several operas and recently won 1st in two state of Colorado music fests. I writing this because music is so fundamental to the liturgy and has a great healing power. Easter hymns and chants are particularly reflective of the exultation of the whole Church. There is no doubt that the apostolic church sang together, and apparently invented a whole new repertoire out of their familiarity with Temple music and the religious music of the Hellenistic world. In any event, the recital was beautifully performed, and I was happy that I'd driven the 60 mile round trip to attend. Music heals. Jesus had to repeat the greeting twice. "Peace be with you!" The opposite of this peace is the questioning and doubting mind of Thomas, which is the same as the modern person. We question everything, even as we potentially can know everything from Siri and Alexa. Yet, now we've been told not even to believe them, because the internet has been sown with confusion. This is somewhat like the Church. People come to church for healing, for peace, to participate in the holy, for community, for clarity, and so much more. They also bring all their questions with them, and there are many questions. ...

Homiletics Notes / 25.04.2019

"Great numbers of men and women were added to them." The Luke author continues to reflect the egalitarian nature of the apostolic Jesus movement. Even for Hellenistic culture with its many different social, political, and all sort of "clubs", this would have been unusual to be positioned to include women, and one can imagine other groups. This "neither Greek nor Jew, male or female, slave nor free" quality shapes the horizon of the Jesus community from the beginning. Yet here we are today, still wrestling with this in our culture, where men think and act contrary to this egalitarian attitude and practice. One of the "fears" is that women won't be women anymore and men won't be men. That's a mistaken conflation of the meaning of egalitarian and uniformity. Jesus' resurrection story in John beautifully recreates the scene in Genesis and the giving of the divine breath of life. Here, it is an empowerment for new life in the whole community which built around receiving peace that comes from forgiveness, reconciliation. This peace of Christ creates community and is deeply connected to the Eucharist. ...

Homiletics Notes / 23.04.2019

The Book of Revelations has always seemed to be more a Book of Consolation. All the events and visions prepare the Church for the wedding feast of the Lamb and the Church. The whole cosmos is being prepared for this by a great purification. Jesus appears to John to help him to endure the distress on the way to the reign of God. The vision only looks forward, no looking back. The Alpha and the Omega, once dead, lives forever. The anticipation of the feast begins here in promises and in covenant. The keys remind us of the keys of binding and loosening; death is a binding and life is a loosening. Sin binds us, and forgiveness frees us for this new life, so that we can process to the wedding feast. After the command to write everything down, the second thing the Lord tells us is "Do not be afraid." The proclamations in the opening vision here assure us of the certain identity of the Lord and where we are going with him. ...

Homiletics Notes / 22.04.2019

Easter: many guests, flowers without end, pear tree blossoms, afternoon rain, a fine dinner of lamb, happy greetings, two wedding anniversaries (50 and 62 years), flung baptismal water, renewal of promises, children dressed to the nines, exactly five Easter hats altogether, smiles everywhere, one newborn baby! Ah, we have been so blessed! There's more -- today is Earth Day! This beautiful planet entrusted into our care, scarred by our ignorant and stupid misreading of "and have dominion over it" from Genesis. Saturday, I listened to part of the commemoration and remembrance at the gathering at Columbine High School of the 1999 shooting. A community of great resilience, solidarity, and resurrection shared emotions, visions, and grief for the loss. Easter Sunday, the insanity continued relentlessly in Sri Lanka with church and hotel bombings. Indeed the world has been given over to the Evil One, yet in this world we are sent as the Father sent Jesus to be a presence of reconciliation, forgiveness, peacemaking. New life is breathed into us by Christ and this sends us in the great commission. Like Thomas, we ask ourselves if this can be true. We question, doubt, and deny. The key is in the signs of Jesus, precisely all those things above that I experienced in Easter that his presence is everywhere if but see. ...

Homiletics Notes / 19.04.2019

A fine service last evening for the Lord's Supper, we hosted pilgrim Ann Sieben, walking to raise awareness of the cause of the Servant of God Julia Greeley, a saint in progress from the Archdiocese of Denver. In turn, Ann was served by various members of the parish, in a rather impromptu manner, to meet her needs. She walks on pilgrimage with next to nothing. The self-emptying characteristic is very remarkable. Her visit became a gift from God for all of us to reflect on service to other. I was honored and humbled to include her at the last minute in the washing of feet. i also washed the feet of a couple having their 50th wedding anniversary on Easter Sundar itself. A whole family entering the church as catechumens were foot washed. The president of our pastoral council, now retiring, whose life defined service with great humor, was washed for her journey of faith; her birthday is the Easter Vigil. This and the presentation of the Holy Oils went off very well and surely moved the people to faith and hope. I like the presentation of the oils, the accompanying full chants, and those who present them. The procession over to the old church under the serene full moon grabbed me this year for some reason, moving back and forth from old to new and back again. The night was so still, the procession slow and deliberate. The fourth vision of the Suffering Servant describes the messianic servant in raw terms. "No stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him." Yet we've "prettified" Jesus in our art historically. It is interesting how we always want things to be "nice." We're so often unable to take a raw look at our human reality, our disfigurement, physically and spiritually. God does not choose the sleek, and when He rarely does, they are swiftly taught by grace, humility. ...

Homiletics Notes / 18.04.2019

The I Corinthians reading tonight begins the thread of the self-emptying of Jesus. He deliberately connects the Eucharist to his death. His being handed over and the breaking of the break are the parallels here; the two actions are connected and relate to himself, not in some sort of symbolic way as if a thing of the past, but stand in his place in the same way he exists. For both the cup, he commands that this is what we do in order to remember him, in other words to see his presence in our midst. This is what he tells us to do. He doesn't tell us to go stand in a field outdoors and bow our head and put that "prayer" look on our faces. It is rather this specific action of remembrance in bread and wine, transubstantiated, is at the heart of the liturgical orientation of the Church when at communion. In the same way, too, e are to be "broken" and "handed over." It is obvious to say that the washing of feet is a further sign of that self-emptying quality of service. Whose feet have I "washed" in this past year? That's the homily! ...

Homiletics Notes / 17.04.2019

Attended the Chrism Mass, which I always enjoy. Archbishop's homily focused on friendship with Jesus through the imagery of John 15, the vine and the branches, long appropriated by Precious Blood spirituality. It struck me that the thing that is most loving that we do with friends is to suffer with them. This deep friendship seems difficult, not only because of time and distance, to say nothing of culture. In order to accompany Jesus during this Tritium, there must be this deep friendship. The friends, us, learn to give ourselves away back to the Friend, in the same manner as His own self-emptying is given for us. Ultimately all this is about communion. We see from Peter, Judas, Thomas, Simon of Cyrene, all the Marys, Longinus the soldier, and others the challenges, the steep learning curve of this sort of friendship. So full of ourselves, we come to the cross, the horror of death, and in confronting it, we enter into the great mystery of life. Perhaps we just might glimpse the growing ray of light through the clouds, the coming resurrection. There's a very simple American folk hymn called, "Love Will Roll the Clouds Away," that I have found sustaining. ...

Homiletics Notes / 16.04.2019

Just back from the last RCIA meeting where the topic was the nature and role of suffering. The main question and concern focused on how to understand the value and meaning of suffering. Lots of stories told and heard. While we all know it, it is hard to put one's finger on outside the context of stories and relationships. These two features may after all be the point. Suffering, in some paradoxical way deepens and enriches our humanity and binds us into community. The wealth of biblical readings this week are all about the long history and trail of human suffering, most of it committed by us ourselves in our unjust structures of convenience -- political, social, economic, religious, educational, international, racial, gender, and the list goes on and on. It is because of our free will, that on the one hand enables love, that God allows suffering to go, because it is our very own free will that binds us to choices of sin and evil. The free will of Jesus, who loses his life for the reign of his Father, finds his life given to him. Imagine if he chosen to save himself, and in doing so would have lost everything including still his life There is this great red thread of suffering in the long Biblical tale told from Thursday through Sunday. The Buddha put it succinctly in th first Noble Truth, "There is suffering." At the same time, "a word to rouse them" (the weary, the suffering) must shout out at last by the end of the Vigil and surely on Easter Sunday morning. The songs, chants, music, the homily must be all about life, joy, the great and high communion, the outpouring of the Spirit, the promise of resurrection from the dead. A good Gerard Manley Hopkins poem would probably be better than many homilies that go theological on people, when what they should be served is a "word to rouse them." ...

Homiletics Notes / 12.04.2019

How many times I hear myself saying out loud, "I'm really busy right now" or some such phrase. No more than it is out of my mouth I regret saying it because I'm probably no more busy that anyone else. We are all busy, way too busy. In being busy, we are really expressing a certain "full-of-myself" situation. Being busy and of importance to others gives us meaning in our lives; my calendar is full, therefore, I must be important. Perhaps we dread the empty schedule, or we dread our empty lives. This busy-ness doesn't mean I don't have time for you, because I still say yes to almost everything in a compulsive way. Some of yearn for that "desert" experience, that alone-with-the-alone experience of the mystics as a healing for the business of our lives. This deep yearning, which is also a source of fear to answer to, is fulfilled in Jesus. The self-sacrificing, self-emptying characteristic and manner of being and acting on the part of Jesus runs through Palm Sunday readings and of the entire Holy Week. As Jesus is the suffering servant, so too in some way as disciples we learn to give ourselves away. "The one who saves his life in this world will lose it, and the one who loses his life in this world will save." This is the great mystery of the Pascha. There is no other way. ...

Homiletics Notes / 11.04.2019

A rapidly moving spring snow yesterday evening and last night. Yet it is not even noon and the side streets are dry. It's like four seasons in one morning. Holy week, just like that, rapidly moves us through all the emotions of joy, horror, grief, loss, rejoicing! Palm Sunday's reading from the great Christological Hymn of Philippians moves from one extreme to another, But this sharp range of emotions, in the life of Christ and in the life of the disciple is not merely an emotion, but rather expresses the workings of the will, an unparalleled decisiveness in the dialogue and dynamic of the Father and the Son. At the heart of what seems the Greek rhetorical chiastic structure, is the cross, bookend by a descent into this world and at the other end by an ascent to the Father. As Christ ascends at the end as Lord, the human descends to the knee in adoration and worship. Christ's descent into this world, lifts us up to the world above, heaven. In some sense, the main actor in the entire hymn is perhaps the Father God, in and through him which all this happens. ...