Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tearing Down Barriers

Easter Day
Acts 10.34-43; Psalm 118.1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15.19-26; John 20.1-18
Sunday, March 27, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

One quality of the human condition is that, for some reason, we feel a need for barriers. We humans are really good at erecting barriers. Physical barriers to mark out territory and to keep others out – or in. And ideological barriers to define our beliefs and to separate “us” from “them.” One of the great examples of such barriers was the Berlin Wall, erected in 1961. This was a physical barrier separating East and West Berlin. But it was also a tangible manifestation of the ideological barrier separating the political and economic ideals of communism from the perceived evils of democracy and capitalism.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Path to Something New

Great Vigil of Easter
Exodus 14.10—15.1; Ezekiel 37.1-14; Romans 6:3-11; Luke 24:1-12
Saturday, March 26, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

In the past few days, we have been on one hell of a journey. We joined in shouts of “Hosanna!” as Jesus made his triumphal entry to Jerusalem. The palm-strewn road into Jerusalem then took a deadly turn, leading to the palace of Pontius Pilate, where shouts of “Hosanna” were replaced with cries of “Crucify him!” And the crowds got their way, as the road lead from Pilate’s home down the Way of Sorrows, and ultimately to Golgotha, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. And the road now dead-ends at a sealed up tomb where Jesus’ body was placed. For the last two days, we have lived in the shadow of Jesus’ death. Buried in a tomb, his presence is gone from us. Leaving only a palpable sense of emptiness. At times it has felt that maybe this is the dead end. Literally. For death has had its say.

But tonight is not about dead ends. It is about new beginnings. Tonight is about new life!

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Redeeming the Cross

Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22:1-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18.1—19.42
Friday, March 25, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

We have just heard John’s account of the Passion Narrative. The horrifying and shocking story of the last few hours of the life of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. A man who is sinless and without guilt. How this righteous, sinless man was falsely arrested, subjected to a mock trial, found guilty in a miscarriage of justice, and sentenced to execution by crucifixion. By being nailed to a cross – not just a means of death, but a cruel instrument of torture. Said to be the most painful and horrific form of execution ever devised. As we witness these events, we undoubtedly, and rightly, feel such a mixture of emotions. Negative emotions. Shock, disgust, dismay. Now, as we stand at the foot of the cross looking at the innocent man hanging there, how can we not feel a sense of sorrow? And what else? How do you personally react, what are you feeling, as you stand here, looking up at the cross? And what of the cross itself? Particularly in light of what we have just witnessed?

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

A New Commandment

Maundy Thursday
Exodus 12.1-14; Psalm 116.1, 10-17; 1 Corinthians 11.23-26; John 13.1-17, 31b-35
Thursday, March 24, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

For a long time, I thought Maundy Thursday was all about the Last Supper. Perhaps it was because the church I attended during my later high school years only had one service during Holy Week. It was on Maundy Thursday and the highlight was a tableau of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The chancel was set-up with a backdrop that looked like the background of the famous painting. Men in the congregation would dress up in costumes, wigs, and makeup, and sit around a table, posed just as the figures in the painting. During my senior year, I had the opportunity to participate. I was Andrew. During the service, my father would read a narrative about Jesus’ Last Supper. At the appropriate time, the curtain would open to reveal the tableau, while we held our poses for something like five minutes. In the dimly lit sanctuary, we really did look like the original painting.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016


Palm/Passion Sunday – Year C
Luke 19:29-40; Isaiah 50.4-9a; Psalm 31.9-16; Philippians 2.5-11; Luke 22.14—23.56
Sunday, March 20, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

In the short span from the beginning of the service until now, we have witnessed what is undoubtedly the most gut-wrenching, most disturbing, turn-around in Christian experience. We have journeyed with Jesus into his final days. In our acts of worship, we have participated in that rollercoaster experience.

We started our worship experience this morning with the celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Along with his followers, we welcomed him as King and Messiah, with shouts of “Hosanna!” and the waving of palm branches. But not everyone accepts the shouts of adulation, the acknowledgment that this man who rides into town on a colt is King of the Jews. Least of all the temple authorities and the Roman occupiers. Then began the downward spiral that would lead Jesus through a series of events not fit for any human being, especially for a king. A mock trial, being sentenced to death, and crucifixion, which was one of the most horrible means of execution ever devised. Events we collectively refer to as the Passion.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"Good Christians"

The relief of being accepted by God as a sinner can never be known by one who never thought himself unaccepted or sinful. And yet today one is always hearing of “good Christians.” There were no good Christians in the first church, only sinners. Peter never let himself or his hearers forget his betrayal in the hour of the cockcrow. James, stung by the memory of his years of stubborn resistance, warned the church members: “Confess your faults to one another.” Today the last place where one can be candid about one’s faults is in church. In a bar, yes; in a church, no. I know; I’ve tried both places.

—Jerome Ellison, Report to the Creator


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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Blogging About Blogging

Recently, someone asked me about this blog. She asked such questions as “Who is it for?” “Why did I started it?” And the like.

I have to admit I was kind of taken aback. Not at the questions themselves. But at my lack of adequate responses. Actually, I thought they were excellent questions. Ones that I have been spending some time thinking about.

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Coming Attractions

Fifth Sunday in Lent – Year C
Isaiah 43.16-12; Psalm 126; Philippians 3.4b-14; John 12.1-8
Sunday, March 13, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

As we begin the fifth Sunday in Lent, the penultimate week of this season, there is a definite shift in the tone of our readings. Up until now, the primary themes of our scripture lessons have been on repentance. On identifying those areas where we may fall short in our relationship with God and then seeking to turn ourselves around. On turning back toward God. While generally conveyed through specific experiences and encounters in Jesus’ own life, his words and his actions are meant to get us thinking about who he is, who we are, and our relationship with him. And based on that, to realize that we need to make changes in ourselves to strengthen that relationship. But today, that all changes. In many ways, the Gospel becomes all about Jesus. About what is going on with him, and what is going to happen to him.

As we rapidly approach Holy Week just one week from today, what we see in the Gospel reading almost seems to be a scene of coming attractions. Kind of like when you go to a movie and sit through seemingly endless trailers for movies that will be released in the coming months.

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Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Parable of the Lost Elder Son

Fourth Sunday in Lent – Year C
Joshua 5.9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5.16-21; Luke 15.1-3, 11b-32
Sunday, March 6, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

Today’s Gospel lesson, commonly referred to as the parable of the Prodigal Son, is one of those stories that is so well known, so central to our life of faith, that it hardly needs any explanation. It is so foundational to our faith that many have referred to it as “the gospel within the gospel.” In many ways, it sums up what our faith is about. Our fundamental understanding about God and our relationship with him.

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