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Sunday, April 24, 2022

A Resurrection Earworm Song

Easter II - April 24, 2023
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Georgetown, DE
Broadcast simultaneously on Sirach 26:10 and St. Paul's FB


You can ask Barbara. She’ll tell you. 


Ever since the Monday in Easter week, I’ve had an earworm. You know? A song that just won’t let you go? It stays in your ear and just won’t go away and plays over and over and over again in your head?  


I wrote about it in Thursday’s “Almost weekly e-news”. I thought that would help to get it out of my system. It didn’t. So, here it is, back again. This time in the pulpit.


This is the Song that doesn’t end

Yes it goes on and on, my friends

Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was

And they’ll continue singing it forever, just because…


I was reminded of this silly children’s song by one of my former seminarians. It’s from the children’s program, “Lamb Chop’s Play-Along” which featured ventriloquist Shari Lewis and her sock puppet Lamb Chop.


Shari tries valiantly to stop the kids and puppets from singing it as the credits roll on the screen, but alas, songs that become earworms never die – they just sound that way.


I love this little song and actually don’t mind the mild annoyance of its visits.  It captures something about the essence of the Resurrection of Jesus that mere theology can’t convey. It’s the spirit of the Resurrection that we see in today’s gospel story of a post-resurrection encounter with Jesus and, in fact, in all the different accounts of that significant event.


In Matthew’s version, the women go to the tomb and there’s an earthquake which rolls away the stone and the guards become “like dead men”.


To hear Mark tell the story, the women arrive and the stone is rolled away. They look in and see a young man to tells the women to tell the disciples to meet the risen Lord in Galilee.


Luke is very careful to name all the women who also just found the stone rolled away. They talk to two men in “dazzling white” who remind them of what Jesus had told them about his death and resurrection. They run to tell the disciples who don’t believe them.


According to John, Mary Magdalene is the only one to see the empty tomb – also no earthquake to roll away the stone – but she runs to get Simon Peter and “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Mary also sees two white robed men and, when she turns, she sees another man whom she thinks is the gardener, but it is, in fact, the Resurrected Jesus.


All four evangelists also tell several different stories to prove that this was, in fact, the Resurrected Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the one who told them that he would die and rise again in three days. They want us to make sure that we know that this is Jesus, in the flesh, not an apparition or vision.

In this morning’s gospel, we read that Thomas actually put his hands into the wounds of Jesus. St. John has him eating a fish-fry breakfast on the beach. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus walks and talks with others on the Road to Emmaus.


Which is important and significant – not to mention dangerous. Indeed, we see in this morning’s reportin the Book of Acts that the disciples were arrested and brought before the High Priest for teaching and preaching about – and as witnesses to – the Resurrection.


So, were the different accounts all fabrications? If the disciples were really witnesses to the Resurrection, why are all their stories so different? If there wasn’t an earthquake, as Matthew reports, how DID the stone get rolled away? Who were those men dressed in dazzling white?

The one consistency among all the reports is that Mary Magdalene is the undisputed first witness to and evangelist of the Resurrection. Why is that? And, why isn’t more made of it?


There are more questions than answers about the Resurrection. It’s a mystery wrapped up in a miracle surrounded by a conundrum and filled with thoughts too high for human understanding.


Franciscan theologian, Richard Rohr, writes, “The true meaning of the raising of Jesus is that God will turn all our human crucifixions into resurrection.”


My friend and colleague, Mike Kinman, writes that we begin to understand the Resurrection when we begin “. . .  to allow ourselves to be gripped not by the power of certainty, but by the power of wonder.”

Franciscan nun, Ilia Delio writes, “Where is this risen Christ? Everywhere and all around us—in you, your neighbor, the dogwood tree outside, the budding grape vine, the ants popping up through the cracks. We are Easter people, and we are called to celebrate the whole earth as the body of Christ."


I love the way author Jonathan Kozol used the term "ordinary resurrections" as the title of one of his books. Kozol has been a passionate voice and champion for the cause of quality public education for America's poorest children.


Bob Morris, an Episcopal priest and an esteemed colleague in the Diocese of Newark, said that there are "unnoticed ways that people rise above their loneliness and fear." He called these "ordinary resurrections."


Kozol writes, "Those words crystallized a thought I'd had for a while in the South Bronx -- the feeling that these kids don't give up as easily as people think. No matter how we treat them, no matter how many times we knock them down, no matter how we shortchange them, no matter how we isolate them, no matter how we try to hide them from the rest of society, they keep getting up again, and they refuse to die."


Resurrection – The power to wonder. The transformation of something bad into something good. Rising above our loneliness and fear. The whole earth as the body of Christ. The ability to get back up again and again, no matter how many times we get knocked down.


There aren’t enough stories in the world to express the power of the Resurrection.


I think one of the best ways to understand the Resurrection is to understand it as a song that was sung at the beginning of creation and continues throughout eternity. It might as well be the song Lamb Chop sang – a mysterious song that could easily be dismissed as silly and childish because it doesn’t end because it was there at the beginning and goes on and on into infinity.


The Resurrection is God’s song of new and abundant life for all. It doesn’t end. Yes, it goes on and on, my friends. Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was. And we’ll continue singing it forever just because . . . .


So, sing it with me. Your turn to have an Easter earworm.


This is the Song that doesn’t end

Yes it goes on and on, my friends

Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was

And they’ll continue singing it forever, just because…


. . . .the ancient Psalmist who sang another kind of song is right: “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30).


And, even at the grave, we make our song, “Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”




(Walking out of the pulpit, singing softly  . . .This is the Song that doesn't end . . . yes it goes on and on, my friends . ..  Some people started singing it , not knowing what it was .... and they'll continue singing it forever, just because . . . .This is the song that doesn't end . ...)


Sunday, April 17, 2022

Risk. Dream. Hope.


St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Georgetown, DE
Sirach 26:10 on Facebook and St. Paul's Facebook Page
Easter Day - April 17, 2022


It’s always so good to see so many faces here in church. Although, occasions like this always remind me of my very first church and the first time I met what is known as a “C&E Christian”.

Do you know about “C&E Christians”? Hang on, I’ll tell you.


I was Assistant Rector at Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland. I had arrived in June. By Christmas, I thought I had visited almost every household in the church, and while I thought I knew most everyone, there were new faces at that midnight Christmas Eve service.


At the end of the service, one man greeted me at the door, introduced himself and said, “You’re new here, aren’t you?” Since June, I said.

“Well then, maybe you can help me,” he said. “The Altar Guild really needs help.” Oh? said I. “Yes,” said he.

“They need some inspiration. Some creativity.” Oh? said I. “Yes,” said he.

“You see, every time I come here, the altar is festooned with either poinsettias or lilies. It’s so boring. They need a change.”


And even though it was well after midnight and I was tired, I realized then and there that I had just met my first unashamed, self-affirming, unrepentant “Christmas and Easter Christian.”


No one like that here this morning, right?


This is our second Easter back in this church building since the pandemic began. We are slowly, slowly, slowly, returning to something that seems something closer to normal. Last year, we were thankful just to be able to be together again in church. Six feet apart. Masks on. No singing. But that was okay. We were back together and that was something beyond sublime.


This year, most of us can see each other’s faces. We can sing the hymns of our faith without masks and with great gusto. The choir is even courageously trying out new mass settings of music.

We can now stand closer together – although, if we get another “surge” of another “variant”, there are still red circles on the floor that will tell us how to “social distance”. And, I think we still have two whole cases filled with antiseptic hand wash.


Not only did we have a liturgical New Fire and a few other innovations (well, for this church), this morning, we have a hard-working Altar Guild who worked HOURS yesterday morning to polish and shine this church, as well as a whole new crew of acolytes and torch bearers and Eucharistic ministers. I could not be more proud of them.

And, this morning, for the first time in three Easters, we will be able to receive both bread and wine at communion. (More on that later.)


Even if it weren’t Easter today, it would still feel like there’s resurrection in the air. This little church is slowly coming out of the tombs and monuments to the past and the silos it built out of anxiety and fear. We are learning, once again, what it means to be a community of faith – to work together toward a common goal, and purpose and a vision and mission, each of us taking our part and working toward the common wealth of the community.


The truth of it is that we came so close to death, you could smell the resurrection. New life now seems to be around every corner in this place and if you listen, you can hear the crackle of excitement and possibility and hope.


In the midst of all this wonder, I am also keenly aware that many of us came to church this morning much like the women in Luke’s gospel came to the tomb that first Easter Day.


Luke’s gospel is very clear that it was the women who were there. He names them: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the Mother of James, and the other women. They tried to tell the others, what they saw – the stone rolled away, the tomb empty, the two men in dazzling clothes who told them that Jesus has risen – but the men would not believe them.


And, after the events of the last three days, who could blame them, really? It’s hard to hope when your heart has been broken by grief. It’s difficult to dream when the reality of your world has been violently turned upside down. It’s impossible to see beyond what is right here and right now when fear and the constant hum of anxiety have scattered thick clouds in your sight.


Some of us are still bearing our own burdens of loss or a sense of having been betrayed or not having been forgiven for something that happened so many years ago we can’t even remember the particulars of our sins – we just know that the forgiveness we seek is illusive and hopeless.


Others of us are anxious about a medical condition, a treatment plan, upcoming surgery. Still others of us are grieving the loss of a loved one – recent or many years past. Holidays can be unbearable for those who grieve. Memories can bring tears or laughter – or a mixture of both.


I confess that I have been grieving these last three days. His name was Lenny. Some of you have met Lenny. He was our 17.5 year old Shih-Tzu. He was a sweet, sweet soul but he had aged terribly in the past year. In addition to his arthritis, he had cataracts and he was deaf. His Vet said that he was in Congestive Heart Failure.


It was time for him to go. We knew that. Our heads knew that. Our hearts told a different story.


What has helped has been telling “Lenny” stories. Let me tell you one: A favorite family story about Lenny involved one of his sisters, Coco Chanel, a sassy Havanese. Coco would come downstairs to the TV room and, if she happened to see Lenny sitting on the lap of one of his humans where she had intended to sit, would devise a fairly simple trick to get Lenny to move.


Coco would suddenly start barking and run up the stairs into the kitchen. Always willing to protect and defend his family, Lenny would take off up the stairs, following her lead, barking at the back entrance kitchen door. At which point, Ms. Coco would literally turn tail and head back down the stairs, jump up on the chair and settle into her human’s lap, leaving Lenny upstairs looking at the kitchen door and feeling very self-righteous for having saved his humans, yet again, from a possible thief or rapist or annoying bible salesman.

Lenny fell for that trick. Every. Single. Time.

His humans thought it very entertaining. They called it “Dog-TV”.


In telling “Lenny” stories, I’ve come to realize that we have learned that particular coping mechanism from church. In church, we tell the stories of our faith every Sunday. We relive the central story of our faith once a year in Holy Week. We actually put ourselves in the story and re-enact the story with our voices and our bodies, with drama and music, walking the steps of The Way of the Cross, waving palm fronds, and actually hammering nails into a cross.


This is how we keep faith alive. This is how we nourish hope. This is how we risk and dare to dream audacious dreams that we might be made whole and be resurrected and find new life as a community of faith. This is how we are able to see clearly that the tomb is not empty – NO! –  but that it is actually filled with possibility and imagination and new life.


All of that . . . all of that . . .the hope, the dreams, the risking and the daring…. is possible because of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. That is why we tell the stories. Again and again. That is why we sing the old, old hymns of our faith. That is why, even in the midst of death and the pain of the loss of a loved one, we can still laugh at old memories and be comforted by them. Be healed by them. Be nourished and fed by them.


Easter is the day when we hear the news again that love has conquered death. Once and for all. Death has not won forever. Only love is eternal. And, no one can separate us from that love – as St. Paul preached, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


So, if I don’t see some of you again until Christmas – or perhaps not until next Easter – I want you to hear that. You may be separated from us, but nothing can separate you from the love of God. Not even you.


Happy Easter, my friends. Rejoice with me. Alleluia! The Lord is Risen.


The Lord is Risen, indeed! Alleluia.





Friday, April 15, 2022

A Tribute to Lenny


In loving memory of Mr. Lenny Bruce Briscoe, first of his name, House of Shih-Tzu, who died peacefully and without pain in the arms of one of his humans shortly after noon on Maundy Thursday, April 14. He was also known as “Lenny-Man,” “Little Lenny,” “Sweet-faced Boy,” “Lenny Wallbanger,” “The Tootsie-Roll Man,” “Lenny Doodles (with the do-do-dodaly eyes),”and “The Last Pup Standing.”

He was named for our eldest daughter's two favorite celebrities: The ribald comedian, satirist and social critic, Leonard Alfred Schneider, better known as Lenny Bruce, and the wearily sarcastic Detective Leonard W. "Lennie" Briscoe, played by Jerry Orbach on the long-running television show, "Law and Order".

Our daughter, Jaime, had gotten him as a birthday present, on November 7, 2004. Lenny was by her side when she died on December 2nd of that same year.

While each one of our pups holds a special place in our hearts, Lenny is inextricably linked to memories of Jaime, which gave him special status in the family. The other pups seemed to know it and understand.

Actually, so did Lenny.

Lenny had come to our daughter from a reputable breeder in New Hampshire. However, Lenny, as we always said in his presence, “took the short bus to school.” What we said when he was out of hearing range was that he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the pack. Turns out, that became one of his endearing qualities.

A favorite family story about Lenny involved one of his sisters, Coco Chanel, the Upper East Side Dame, and Rehoboth Beach Harbor Master, Second of Her Name, House of Havanese. Coco would come downstairs to the TV room and, if she happened to see Lenny sitting on the lap of one of his humans where she had intended to sit, would devise a fairly simple trick to get Lenny to move.

Coco would suddenly start barking and run up the stairs into the kitchen. Always willing to protect and defend his family, Lenny would take off up the stairs, following her lead, barking at the back entrance kitchen door. At which point, Ms. Coco would literally turn tail and head back down the stairs, jump up on the chair and settle into her human’s lap, leaving Lenny upstairs looking at the kitchen door and feeling very self-righteous for having saved his humans, yet again, from a possible thief or rapist or annoying bible salesman.

Lenny fell for that trick. Every. Single. Time.

His humans thought it very entertaining. They called it “Dog-TV”.

Lenny is preceded in death by his brother Bogart who died in 2006, his sister Coco who died in 2012, his sister Sadie Gene, who died on September 29, 2021, and his brother Theo who died on January 8, 2022.

He was 17 and a half years old.

He will be missed by his friend and walker, Auntie Anita, his Uncle Bill whom he adored, and his groomer, Ryan at Wizard of Paws, who, the last time Lenny was there (just a few weeks ago), called us after his grooming because Lenny’s cataracts prevented him from seeing and he was anxious and walking into walls.

He will also be missed by Dr. April Reid and her staff at Peninsula Veterinary Services in Millsboro, whose skilled and compassionate care are partly responsible for his longevity.

Cremation services are being handled by Parsell Pet Crematorium in Lewes. Donations may be made in his memory to the ASPCA or Humane Society or Rescue Organization so that other four-leggeds may find their "forever home".

Or, please consider adopting a rescued pet or making a donation so that someone else can. They make the BEST family members. You will learn more about unconditional love than you thought you needed to know.

This is so hard. He was such a sweet, gentle, delightfully stubborn soul. We’ll miss the click-click-click of his paws on the floor, and the way he used to excitedly scamper into the kitchen for a treat, but we know he’s in a place where he can see and hear again and run without arthritic stiffness and pain, and he’s enjoying all his favorite treats because he has teeth and can chew. There’s a blue pad by the fireplace somewhere in heaven where he can curl up and nap for as long as he likes.

He may not have been the brightest, but he was the star of his own show.

Of your mercy and kindness please keep Lenny’s humans in your prayers as they grieve.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

I Speak Episcopalian

It's mostly during Holy Week that I realize once again that Episcopalians really do have their own language. We have several new members over at the church I'm privileged to serve. I think I spend most of my time answering questions like,

"What is it that they call the person who carries the cross? And, why do they call it that?"

"Why is it called a 'torch' when it's a long candle holder?"

"Here, under the Ky . . . Ky . . RE-A.... it says 'Plainsong'. Is that what that word means?"

"Why do we call them acolytes'? What does it mean?"

"You said to gather in the Narthex. Where is that?"

"You said the extra robes were in the undercroft. I don't know where that is."

But, my favorite question came from a new member, a young woman, who asked, "What are the qualifications to carry the cross in church? Because, you know, well, see? I was homeless for about five years. Yeah, and you know, see? I did some things I'm not proud of, but it was really the best choice between some really bad choices. So, I'm kinda embarrassed and I don't want a lot of people asking a lot of questions so, you know, am I qualified?"

Oh, sweetheart, I said, I don't know anyone in this congregation who is more qualified than you are to carry the cross. I have no doubt that you will be one of the best-qualified crucifers in the history of crucifers in The Episcopal Church.

"Well, I don't know about that, but thank you," she said. "Just one more question: Do I get to wear white gloves?"

Absolutely, my friend. Let's go find you a pair.

These are the best moments in the church. I live for them. I pray for them. And, every now and again, my prayers are answered.

A blessed Holy Wednesday to you all. May all your churches be filled with highly qualified crucifers, as well as people to carry the long candle holders.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Palm Sunday Reflection

 Note: I preached extemporaneously from the center aisle on Sunday. This is my early Sunday morning reflection on Facebook ,

Good Palm Sunday morning, good Christians of the world! And to those of you whose understanding of God is different, good morning to you, too.

It's a chilly morning this morning here at Llangollen, our wee cottage on the Sparkling Marshes on the Small Estuary of the Delmarva Penninsula on the Big Water of the East Coast of these divided United States of America.

It's a crisp 43 degrees outside, air quality is good at 29, UV index is as low as it can get at 0, and the wind is coming from the WNW at 9 mph. The sun is out right now and is predicted to be out most of the day, which will help the temperature rise to a high of 54 degrees. 
It's a great day for a parade, no? 
We're about to have one at church this morning. Well, not a parade, exactly. More like a walk around the church block together. With palms. Big ones. Well, moderately big but not those silly spears that we've used for decades. The ones someone in the church always turns into 'palm crosses'. 
If you've ever been to Jerusalem - or even if you've just been part of a Palm Sunday Service that uses actual palm fronds - you just can't ever go back to those palm spears. 
You just know that they didn't throw down palm spears at the feet of Jesus when he made his entrance into Jerusalem. It makes no sense. Using palm fronds does. 
But it's hard to break old habits. It's even harder to change tradition. And, in The Episcopal Church, the second time something is done, it becomes "the way we've always done it."
Institutional memory is very short. Well, about some things. Everyone will always remember when Jenny Smith broke the glass bowl that belonged to the great-grandmother of Evelyn Jones who gave it to the church which has been used for as long as anyone can remember on Maundy Thursday. 
And, only Maundy Thursday. Well, except for the time someone took it out and used it for the Punch Bowl that was served at The Festive Coffee Hour during The Bishop's Visitation. 
Lillian Johnson, the Altar Guild Directress, was mortified. It was right after that incident that Ms. Johnson started putting locks on all the doors in the Sacristy. You had to get her permission to unlock one of the cupboards or closets and you had to put a check on the checklist of what you had taken out. 
They also say they've forgiven Jenny but you wouldn't know it by the pressing need they have to tell the story over and over and over again. And, the locks are still on all the doors, but to tell the actual truth, no one has touched the checklist in years. 
We're also going to walk in The Palm Sunday Procession while the Bell Choir tolls the bells. Which I think is just a brilliant option to trying to sing, "All Glory Laud and Honor," while walking and waving palm fronds and trying to synchronize the front and the back of the line in the singing of the verses. 
Something happens. I'm not sure what. But, something happens to throw the verse off in the middle of "the crowd" by half a second, which throws the back of the procession off by a full second. Now, you wouldn't think that would be much to throw things off that badly, but, oh boy howdy, does it ever!
The Tolling of the Bells changes all that. It allows you to get everyone safely around the side of the church and up the front steps where the priest can pause and say a prayer. The loud AMEN at the end then tips off the organist to start playing, "All Glory Laud and Honor," which the choir leads and the organ helps us all to keep our proper places while people find their seats in the pews. 
As long as I'm on this liturgical thread, let me just say this: I am absolutely all in favor of the movement to change the order of service for The Sunday of The Passion. It makes absolute sense to have the Liturgy of the Palms, including a sermon, then off you go into the church in the usual way, celebrate Holy Eucharist and then, end the service with The Reading of The Passion Story in parts. 
You can even chant it if you prefer. But do end the service with The Passion. 
Leave the ends ragged. No music. No blessing. No dismissal. Just " . . . and Jesus breathed his last . . .", etc,. and then just silently dare them to not come to church for more of the story on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. 
Either way, it makes The Sunday of Resurrection, Easter Day, even more meaningful. 
Well, that's what I think, anyway. You are absolutely allowed to disagree. Won't make much difference. This has become a movement in The Episcopal Church and the only thing stronger than a Tradition is a Movement. 
I'm just sayin'. 
That said, this is not what's happening at St. Paul's this morning. We are doing the service in the usual way. Because, you see, the infrastructure has been so seriously damaged that the preacher wants to give them a solid foundation of the BCP before she starts moving the pieces around. 
In any event, the sermon will be short. Very short. She's timed it. It's actually less than 5 minutes. She's going to talk about that Last Breath of Jesus. The one which carried him from being Jesus to being The Christ. 
In one breath. That's what it took. 
Well, that and a whole lot of suffering but it happened in the time it took for one last inhale and one last exhale. And, he went from being Jesus to being on his way to being The Christ after three days in the Spiced Tomb (that's pronounced "spice-ED", by the way.). 
But, it started with that Last Breath. Which starts the journey to Eternal Life for all of us. One Last Breath which carries us from this life to the next, just as one First Breath brought us from that life to this one. 
It's pretty profound, when you think about it. Well, the preacher thinks so, anyway. We'll see how it plays in Georgetown. 
Meanwhile, all the major themes of the story of Palm Sunday are playing out in the events being reported in the news all over the world. There's still political corruption in our culture and in religious organizations. Betrayal. False accusations. Denial. Political expediency. 
It's all there. Still going on. Which is why, I think, the story of The Passion is so compelling and needs to be told again and again, year after year. In whatever way makes the most sense.
I hope you have a wonderful day, today. I hope your Sunday of Passion is deeply meaningful and helps you to reflect on the moments of passion in your own life. Your own moments of being betrayed or betraying others or yourself. Your own moments of trial. Your own moments of suffering which led to a transformation in your life. 
Today is the day to do that. Well, it's one day. You may choose another. It's just important that you choose a time in your life to seriously reflect on those themes in your life. 
Why? So that you can become a better person. Because that's how the world changes for the better: one person at a time. 
Why not start with yourself?
Please be safe. COVID is still with us. Wash your hands. Wait a safe distance. If you are going into a large crowd, wear a mask.
Off I go then, into this glorious new day. And, as they say on the streets in Jerusalem, "Boker tov" - as long as it's before midday and then you'd say, "Shalom!"
PS: This is the bloom on the plant our granddaughter Mackie Jane gave to us at Christmas a few years ago. Isn't it a beauty? It smells glorious. 
PPS: Happy 7th birthday, to our granddaughter Ms. Willow Elizabeth. We love you. So very much. 
PPPS: Happy birthday, Anne Lamott. Keep rockin' with your 68-year-old bad self.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

A New Thing


 St. Paul's, Georgetown, DE
Lent V - Lazarus Sunday - April 3, 2022
Sirach 26:10 on Facebook livestream


Some of you know that I was in Southern NJ yesterday to preside at a wedding. Well, it wasn’t exactly a wedding. That had actually happened two years ago. At the height of the pandemic. On Zoom. 


We set it up with the Town Clerk to be present and sign the marriage license while I conducted the service – which took place in North Hampton, MA – from my home in Delaware, while the family of the bride gathered in PA and the family of the groom gathered in VA and friends from all over gathered from where they were.


They now have a home that they own, and a 9-month-old son, and their lives are filled with diapers and teething medicine and toys and sippy cups which they try to balance with work demands and schedules and daycare and changing COVID rules and regulations.


“Life,” they said, “is crazy. It’s totally not what we expected. And, we wouldn’t change a thing.”


We came together so they could renew their vows and receive a blessing in person and celebrate their commitment and love and joy with their family and friends.

One of the people there was a 20 year old man who was – I kid you not 6’10” – who told me that I had baptized him 20 years ago. I looked up at him – waaay up – and said, “I don’t know what I put in the baptismal water but whatever it was, it worked.” He was a Big boy. Freshman in college. Basketball, of course.


The celebration was, in a word, wonderful. 


Some might have decided to be pragmatic and just let the whole thing go, but not these two. They dressed in their wedding attire – she in her gown (which still fit after having a baby) and he in his suit (which still fit after all her cooking) – and they had the service and the reception in the venues they had previously chosen and the food was amazing and the music and dancing and frivolity were exactly what one would expect when you have a gathering of wonderfully crazy Italians, Greeks and Turks.


COVID has caused stranger things to happen but the power of love to adapt and create and redeem never ceases to amaze me.


This morning, we hear the Prophet Isaiah say, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth,” and then he asks, “do you not perceive it?” And, we see concrete evidence of it in the Gospel lesson from St. John.


Lazarus has just been raised from the dead and understandably his sisters, Mary and Martha, and Jesus and the disciples have gathered to celebrate. They have a celebratory meal, after which Mary – maybe Mary of Bethany or Mary of Magdala, we can’t be sure – pours expensive nard on the feet of Jesus and wipes them with her hair.


No one knows it yet – well, no one but Jesus – but things have been set into motion. No one but Jesus can feel it but something in the cosmos has shifted. Something is about to happen, do you not perceive it?


When a couple makes a commitment to a new life together, when they make vows to each other before God, God does a new thing and suddenly, new paths open up. Life takes a new direction. 


Everything they thought they knew doesn’t make sense anymore and yet it’s exactly what they knew would happen. Things they were confident about are now a worry. One part of their life is dying, but they sense something new is about to begin.


Jesus had made a commitment to God to be the vehicle of change and transformation in Salvation History. He raised his friend Lazarus from the dead but he did so on the Sabbath which the Pharisees strictly interpreted as a violation of the law.


Suddenly, new paths opened up. Life took a new direction. Everything he thought he knew began not to make sense and yet it’s exactly what he knew would happen. Things he was confident about were now a worry. One part of life was dying, but he had a clear sense that something new was about to begin. New life. Eternal life.


And, he wouldn’t have changed a thing – not even the parts that hurt.


I have come to believe that one of the most powerful forces in the universe is the power of the human heart and mind and soul to make a commitment. Jesus teaches that “what is bound on earth is bound in heaven.” I have seen that truth at work too many times to deny its veracity.


If you look at your own lives you will see that that the only way you have been able to achieve that which once looked impossible – that which you couldn’t have even dreamed might happen – did because you made a commitment to something. You might not have achieved that particular thing, but it opened paths of possibility which brought you to where you are now.


This church has made a commitment to be open to new life – new possibility – even if it means parts of it have to die. We have made a commitment to rebuild our infrastructure which has taken lots of hits over the past five years. 


We have made a commitment to reach out to our neighbors and welcome them, which means stretching ourselves in ways we’ve not ever before experienced. We have made a commitment to strengthen and deepen our faith – to edify ourselves – so that we are able to carry out what God has in store for us.


It's a journey that will bring us to what Martin Smith described as “the crucifyingly obscure boundaries of our faith’.


God is saying, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”


Years of benign neglect and over two years of COVID lockdown have presented unique challenges. Stranger things have happened but the power of love to adapt and create and redeem never ceases to amaze me. We have seen that happen in this community of faith.


Next week is Palm Sunday and then begins Holy Week. We are about to enter a journey of the heart and soul and mind by entering the story of the Passion of Jesus and put our actual bodies where we claim our faith has been.

I promise you that if you make a commitment to walk the steps with Jesus, you will be changed and transformed and never again be the same. You will arrive at Easter Day with the same inexplicable joy that the disciples once knew. You will be ready for the new life which God has created.


God is saying once again, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”