Good Friday

Growing up in Aztec, New Mexico, there was a long-standing tradition for Easter Sunday morning—the Easter Sunrise service at the Aztec Ruins. It was both one of my favorite services of the year and one that I dreaded.   I loved the service because it was beautiful. It was beautiful to see the sun rise across the hills. It was beautiful because of the ecumenical nature of the service and people from all different churches gathered together to welcome the morning of resurrection. It was beautiful watching our breath in the cold morning air (Sometimes with snow still on the ground). It was beautiful because there was a tendency for little powerful moments to sneak up on us, like the time a jackrabbit came galloping through the gathered worshippers, surprised to see a crowd of people singing together in his usual haunt. It was beautiful.   Then there was the other side of this service. For one, it was a

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The Agape Mystery

We have spent our season of Lent in the shadow of mystery. We have explored such mysteries like the Trinity, the Incarnation, the messianic mystery, prayer, death, and last night at the Maundy Thursday service, we focused on the mystery of Love. As I said last night, some might think last night was the night to focus on the problem of Evil or suffering. In fact, “Maundy” comes from the Latin Maundatum, and means Madate or commandment. You see, the whole focus of Maundy Thursday is on Christ’s last command, “to Love one another as I have loved you.” On the surface, it does not seem too terribly mysterious, but when you look at the Greek word for love used in this passage “Agape” (in Greek there are 6 different words for love and each refers to a unique kind of love), you come to find that what Christ is commanding us to do is a bit mysterious—or at the

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Decoding 800 Pound Gorillas

So this week we return to Revelation! We are going to cover an awful lot of territory on Sunday, but there is a really important reason for that—there are several 800 pound gorillas camped out in the pages of Revelation. Unfortunately, the lectionary skips over said gorillas, but we aren’t going to let sleeping gorillas lie.   I wanted to touch on one of those gorillas here to prepare you for Sunday. Perhaps one of the most memorable images from revelation is the beast marked 666 (Revelation 13:11-18). This image captures so much of the imagination. Funny thing is, there are numerous beasts within the pages of Revelation, and this one is arguably not even the most important. Nonetheless, it is worth some attention to “decode.” So is this some hideous beast that will come about at the end times? No. This beast was emperor Nero. We can say that pretty definitively because of mistakes that we have caught in

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83 ft

83 feet. That is how much water was above my head yesterday morning—83 feet. As I sat there at the very bottom of the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, the panic began to set in just a bit when I realized just how much water was above my head. Looking up, I felt incredibly small and in many ways, completely out of control. If that scuba rig I was wearing malfunctioned, there would have been very few options for how to escape alive. I could feel the pressure of all that water coming down on my shoulders, and I felt small and powerless.   I imagine that was something like the feeling that Zaccheus must have had as he climbed that tree overlooking Jesus. The crowds pushing in around him, reminding him of how small he was. Not to mention, the powerful figure of Jesus that he was straining to see. Not only that, but we know that Zaccheus was

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Tension

If you have been here for Palm Sunday in the past, you know that one of my favorite things to preach on is the tension of this season. On the one hand, you have this exciting and joyous entry into Jerusalem, on the other, you know what is to come in the week ahead.   There is also a tension that must be addressed in the life of the church in this season. On the one hand, it is important to really live into the joy of the Palm parade. On the other hand, many folks have a hard time making it to a midweek service for Maundy Thursday (6pm), and so the one opportunity that some people have to experience the darkest moments of the week is Palm/Passion Sunday. That means this Sunday is filled with an amazing complexity of emotions—the high and the low, the light and the dark, the joy and the pain. This Sunday is a

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All Means All

This week, we return to the gospel of John (12:20-33). Any time you are dealing with the gospel of John, you have to be prepared to deal with a whole lot. Every passage in John is filled with great depth, history, philosophy, tradition, etc. Our passage this week is no different. On Sunday, we will focus on the bit about the seed and losing/keeping your life, as I think it bears the most explaining. However, there is another important piece worth mentioning.   The whole thing begins with a group of Greeks seeking out Jesus. They go to Philip (a disciple with a Greek name who comes from a city in the north that is more likely to be influenced by the Greco-Roman Culture) and ask him if they can see Jesus. This sets Jesus off into proclaiming that this is the “time for the Human One to be glorified.” What is that all about?   Keep in mind, John

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Baggage

This Sunday we will be diving into scripture that has serious baggage—John 3. It is hard not to think about this passage without all the various associations—Born Again Christianity, Guys in rainbow wigs at football games waving Signs emblazoned John 3:16, or how much Belief has become central to Christian thought. How do you begin to compose a sermon on this passage without having to stop off and comment on all of that other stuff?   Well…let’s unpack a bit of that baggage here, so we don’t have to rehash it on Sunday too much. First of all, Belief. Let’s just start by saying that the Greek word that is translated belief, has very little to do with what we think of as belief. As we tend to talk about it, belief means a rational ascent to a set of doctrinal propositions. In other words, our faith is boiled down to whether or not we think that Jesus is God’s

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Peace on Earth?

This week, we continue our journey to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, by reflecting on two other sets of characters in our nativities—the Shepherds and Angels. This week, the plan was to focus on that declaration from the angels to the shepherds, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace to all people.” (or “to those whom God favors.”) I have to be honest with you though, I am having a hard time contemplating peace at the moment… Yesterday, the high school that I grew up attending was attacked. Three were killed, many others injured. I have been a bit rattled since then, to say the least. Aztec is a small town, and everyone knows everyone. It should come as no surprise that I was acquainted with one of the families that lost a child yesterday. The story made the national news last night. I was watching as they did about a 15 second segment showing

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