Loving Like Jesus

April 13, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Maundy Thursday
Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Jesus is getting his affairs in order.

There’s no Garden of Gethsemane prayer of doubt in John’s telling of this story.

Jesus is clear about who he is, what he is doing, and what is coming next.

In the passage just ahead of today’s familiar story, it says:

Jesus cried aloud: ‘Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. (Jn 12:44-45)

What comes next is a demonstration of what “seeing him who sent me” looks like.

Jesus has had dinner with his disciples before, but he knows that his earthly life is drawing to a close. Words and signs have brought him so far, but he has a few more things to teach. Now he will give a tangible experience, an example of what it feels like to be embraced by God’s love. It’s important to remember that even Judas, the one who will betray Jesus, receives this example of love.

There’s no anxiety in this act. No haste.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (Jn 13:3-5)

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Collective Remembering

April 9, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14- 27:66

On the morning of January 2nd this year my Uncle Harris sent an e-mail to his three brothers and two sisters asking if any of them remembered which year their family moved to a new house, which was just a few blocks up the street from their old house. Providing a few memory-joggers:

  • Harris first thought it was in the 50’s, but a childhood friend suggested it was the late 40’s.
  • He said he didn’t remember going to St. John’s School from the old house, and it opened in 1946.
  • He shared a vague recollection of “a bunch of us walking the antenna down the sidewalk” to the new house. This refers to the big antenna for my grandfather’s ham radio which he used to connect, through Morris Code, with people around the globe.
  • And then there was the Hallicrafter television. They were the first house on the block to have one. He remembered that their dad brought it home – to the new house – and that it had a 6-inch screen.

Can you imagine watching shows on a 6-inch screen?

I guess the adage is true: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

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Shining Light on Suicide

March 26, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
The 4th Sunday in Lent
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41; Psalm 23

When I was growing up my twin sister and I often had slumber parties to celebrate our birthday. One of these in particular stands out in my memory – the summer we turned 13.

After playing games and eating dinner and cake, it came time for lights-out, though that never meant eyes-closed. When the room got dark, the real stuff began, you know, ghost stories, séances, and in my day, the ever popular “light as a feather, stiff as a board.” This is when the whole group gathered around one willing party-goer who laid in the center, as we called upon spirits from beyond to assist us to lift her using only two fingers.

That year, in the wee hours of the morning, amid these mystical endeavors, the phone rang. One of our friends had a premonition that it was probably bad news… not really a stretch in hindsight, but at the time we gave her full creds as the enlightened one.

Sure enough, the next morning my parents called me and my siblings into their room. Their somber expressions caused me to wonder if my Grandma Caldwell had died. She was elderly and had already had several heart attacks. So, you can imagine my surprise when they shared that our cousin Carl was the one who had died. He was in training with the Air Force. His roommate had found him, seemingly asleep on the sofa, in their base-camp apartment. Carl was one day shy of his 19th birthday, and in two weeks he was supposed to get married. Read the rest of this entry »

A Lenten Mitzvah

March 12, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
The 2nd Sunday in Lent
Genesis 12:1-4a; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17

(Gospel Text provided below)

Thursday a week ago I received a Facebook message from a former co-worker. In it, and the ensuing phone conversation, I learned that one of the sons of a close friend in Houston had died. Jonathan was twenty-seven. His death was tragic.

Since the family is Jewish, I knew the funeral would be quick, so within an hour I had a plane ticket and began rearranging my schedule for the weekend. I landed in Houston by mid-morning on Friday, and arrived at the graveside by 2pm. Standing in the bright sunlight, feeling the cool spring breeze, I held tightly to the yarmulke I received fourteen years earlier at Jonathan, and his twin sister, Robin’s, b’nai mitzvah.

After reflections about Jonathan’s life were shared by the rabbi, we recited Psalm 23 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me. We were then all invited to help shovel dirt on the plain-wood coffin that had been lowered into the ground – I went for the big shovel. By 3pm, Jonathan was laid to rest, entombed by the earth and sealed with the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish.

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