All posts for the month April, 2020

Easter 3

April 26, 2020 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl

Acts of the Apostles 2, 14, 22-33 + Psalm 16 + 1 Peter 1, 17-21 + Luke 24, 13-36

It is a good guess that the people in this Gospel were fleeing the death and danger they had witnessed in Jerusalem. It was a violent and bloodthirsty mob that had roamed the streets and shouted for Barabbas. After filling in this stranger who joins them on the road, Cleopas, who is doing the talking, says something very important: “Him they did not see.” It is a summary line that fairly well describes what has been going on since Jesus came from the desert and was baptized. Through all the time he was among us, even on that short walk from Jerusalem, no one really recognized who he was except a lone centurion at the foot of the cross and a criminal hanging beside him. Everyone else kept hanging on to their hopes that an omnipotent messiah was going to come and restore Israel to its former glory. In their minds, and therefore in their eyes, there was no room for the God Jesus revealed: a God of self-giving and suffering love.

Perhaps their hearts had to be broken before they could give up that narrow idea of God who would punish and condemn those who oppressed God’s people. With the breaking of their hearts, their closed and limited ideas broke open as well allowing a different perception of God’s ways that was more inclusive, more merciful and loving, and more present to them than they had been expecting.

All of us who have suffered broken hearts can learn something from these broken-hearted pilgrims. We can learn to listen. It is a skill in short supply these days, but they did it well. They listened to Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus “opened the Scriptures” to them, which means that he broke open their closed minds trapped by society’s ideas about power and victory. He explained to them God’s choice for an alternative that was more about service than power, more about mercy than revenge, more about other than self, more about love than pleasure, and more about life than death.

Perhaps when dreams are broken and our lives are shattered by tragedies we can become more open to discovering the truth that God’s ways are not ours, that there is, even in suffering, always the hope we that we, disciples of Jesus, have in discovering that the one who suffered for us suffers with us, and those who are one with him in a blood spilled broken body will rise with him. Luke preserved this story for us to tell on this day to assure us that even when we try to flee from suffering or evil someone is with us along the way; and that even though the tomb is empty, our hearts and our lives are never empty when stay with each other and discover that when the scriptures are broken and the bread of Christ’s body is broken, our brokenness shall be healed, and it will never be said that we did not see and recognize him in each other.

Easter 2

April 19, 2020 During the Pandemic Isolation in Naples, FL

Acts of the Apostles 2, 42-47 + Psalm 118 + 1 Peter 1, 3-9 + John 20, 19-31

10:00am Live Streaming from St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, Fl

The locked doors of that room are probably as important as the story John tells about Thomas and his apostolic friends. Fear often does that to people, so does anger. They lock themselves up. They hide. They build walls. What is revealed here by the living Word of God is that locked doors, walls, minds and hearts closed up are nothing to Christ Jesus. He comes in anyway, and if we read this carefully, he comes more than once until he has everyone’s attention, trust, and faith. There comes a point when hearing this Gospel at which we can no longer talk about “them”, or those apostles, because we’ve all been there maybe more than once. Perhaps, some in this assembly are still there: locked up, closed up, sealed up, and maybe even, fed up. We shut people out because they hurt us, talk about us, and somehow offend us. We shut God out because something happens we don’t like or we don’t get what we want. We close our ears and shut our eyes so that we do not hear or see God asking something of us that is too much, and not in our plan.

That is what was happening in that upper room. God had asked something of them, and they were afraid, not of the Jews, and not even were they afraid of Jesus, but they were afraid that God was asking them to become believers, to trust that even though they did not understand, they could believe and could live as they had been taught to live without any fear of death. God was asking them to abandon their old ideas about power and privilege that came with their mistaken expectations of a Messiah. What Thomas and his friends discovered in that room they had turned into a prison is that faith is an either-or. It is either God or – the rest does not matter. They had to choose, and the choice was frightening. Choose anything other than God or you lose out; both them and their choices are lost. Jesus broke into their presence inviting them to live life as he did, to the fullest.

There is something radical, political, social, and personal going on here. Being a Christian is not some assigned label that we are stuck with forever. For too many people, that claim is an excuse for mediocrity. It takes a whole life to claim that name. It means making a choice day in and day out, a choice to be real, an authentic person who has a relationship with God. That relationship may very well mean leaving the safety of a calculated way of life for a reckless, wholehearted life of faith in Christ which very well may mean standing up and speaking up when something political, social, or personal is wrong.

These people pray, and they know that the function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.  They have an on-going conversation with God. They talk about their sorrows, their joys, doubts and pains, and inevitably they arrive at gratitude. They do not just read the bible. They live it, and sooner or later they come to understand that empty tomb, and with that understanding, all fear is gone, anger is silenced, and they become open to grace, open to life, open to others for that’s the way it is in the Kingdom of God.


April 12, 2020 at 10:00am St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, FL Live-Streamed

Acts of the Apostles 10, 34-43 + Psalm 118 + 1 Corinthians 5, 6-8

John 20, 1-9

St Peter the Apostle in Naples 10:00am

It is a story we have heard and shared in this holy place many times, but perhaps never with more hope than we do today. As John tells it, there is not a lot of Joy being shared, and certainly not much excitement except for the all running around. If you sit with this Gospel for very long, there are a lot of inconsistencies, and if we put ourselves right into the scene, there are way more questions than answers: like, “who rolled back the stone? Why is the cloth that covered his head in a separate place? Why did John tell us it was still dark? How could she see anything in the darkness? Why did John wait for Peter? Now anyone who has read John’s Gospel up to this twentieth chapter knows that logic is not John’s strong suit, and nothing is ever as it appears to be.

One thing is sure, John is leading us deeper into this mystery with ever deeper questions than the ones I just came up with. If we’re going into this mystery, we have to go with Mary into the darkness, because that’s where everything has happened that matters over the last three days. It all happens at night, and even when Jesus is crucified, the sun goes dark, and its night again. If we let our scripture filled minds work with this image, we might end up back in Genesis when darkness covered the earth and creation began, because that is exactly where John wants us to be, at the dawn of a new creation.

Understanding that this Gospel is proclaiming a new creation is what we find in this mystery. That empty tomb is where we belong. That empty tomb is what gives us an identity and a reason for our existence as church. Believing that we belong to the new creation is the hope we proclaim with the news that Christ has Risen. That Spirit the Creator breathed into creation at the beginning comes again to breathe new and eternal life into us and into all for this new creation. This news could not come at a better time for us as we are driven into our homes with some fear and confusion about what this all means. Yet, we are much like the three in this Gospel, people of “little faith” – but maybe that’s just enough, because a little gives us something to grow on, and grow we must.

It seems to me that right now, all scattered about, hiding in our homes, away from the company and communion we share as a church, we must grow in wisdom and grace. I have always liked to imagine what went on inside that tomb before the stone moved. I like to think that God the Father shook his son awake, looked at him and said. “Enough rest. Get up now. There is more to do. We’re not finished yet.” With that, a son obedient unto death was also obedient unto life, and so, he got up returning to get us up, to wake us up, to stir us up so that unlike that first man and woman, we might get it right this time here in the new creation.

Christ is Risen. In spite of our “little faith, our sometimes-timid witness, our confusion and doubts, so shall we.

Ezekiel 37, 12-14 + Psalm 130 + Romeans 8, 8-11 + John 11, 1-45

Prepared during a time of self-isolation during the pandemic.

The three men invited to the Garden by Jesus are the same three who just, weeks before, went with him up a mountain to witness his glory. They like what they see on that mountain, and Peter says: “It is good for us to be here.” The next time Jesus climbs a hill, they will be nowhere in sight. Those disciples who once argued over who gets to sit on his right or his left are all gone somewhere, replaced by two thieves on his right and on his left. That crowd shouting, “Hosanna” has changed its tune now crying out: “Crucify him.” With these scenes and thoughts in mind, we enter into a week we call, Holy to celebrate and observe the Passover.

That solemn yet joyful entry into Jerusalem is for the sake of Passover. At first it is for the sake of a Passover past and remembered, but it becomes a new Passover for the present and the future. They fast. They sacrifice a lamb. They eat the flesh of that lamb never alone, but with friends and family. They tell the amazing story of the Covenant to which they were invited by a God who loved them first with a love that knew no limit to forgiveness. That Passover celebration was never finished that night. Before the fourth and final cup of wine, Jesus leaves the room, and there begins a new Passover. He prays first with his Father about that last cup which will finish and seal the covenant while the three who were so anxious to be with him before now sleep. They are gone as the sacrifice begins. When the Lamb is sacrificed and its blood poured out for the new covenant, they are hiding almost dead like Lazarus until they are called out with news too good to be true except that it is true. “I thirst” says the Lamb of God, and with some wine on a stick, he drinks the last cup and says, “It is finished.” The Covenant of love and mercy is sealed.

With this Passion proclaimed, and our remembrance of that Passover Supper in an upper room, yet to come, one Lent comes to an end this week, but another has just begun. What we began on February 26 of this year was our annual fast calling us to give up, give away, and refresh our relationship with God. What we may have given up for Lent in our seasonal fasting seems insignificant when compared to what we are giving up now. Some call it “Social distancing”. Others, like me, call it “Physical distancing”. Regardless of the word, there is a very real experience of distance that finds us calling each other by phone, texts, and email waiting and watching for all of this to pass over. While we wait and watch, a hunger stirs in our hearts for companions, for neighbors, friends, and the community of faith where we are fed by the Word of God and the Bread of Life. It will do us no harm to experience this fasting if we remember who we fast with and what we fast for. The Covenant we share gives us an identity as God’s people. It means we are a people formed through sacrifice and love even though we often leave the “sacrifice” part up to others. Many in this Covenant with us have suffered and fasted before, and they still do today out of our sight. Christians in refugee camps, our brothers and sisters in the parts of this world where Mass is forbidden, and those who have gone before us in concentration camps and prisons have suffered this hunger before and remained faithful and hopeful. While we fast from the Flesh of the Lamb of God, and while we long for him to come under our roof again, we wait in confident hope that like those people who once followed Jesus into the wilderness, we will be fed again and with abundance. In that hope, we keep a vigil now and watch and wait for that day when we may rise up together to sing Hosanna and shout Alleluia.