Sunday, April 27, 2014

Homily: The Second Sunday of Easter [April 27, 2014] Washington National Cathedral

If you've ever lived in a clergy household, you know that while Easter is a joyous festival for everyone, for those of us who work in churches it is also exhausting.  Don't get me wrong.  We love Holy Week, Easter, and all the special services we hold.  But they do take it out of one.  After last Sunday's Evensong, someone said to me "Christ is risen!" I said, "I know.  I saw it happen four times."

When the final service of Easter (or Christmas) is done, the cleric slinks home and begins to unwind.  Various clergy do this differently, but last Sunday I decided, rather unwisely, that I would decompress by starting to watch the HBO series, Game of Thrones, from the beginning.  My son Oliver, whose tastes are remarkably similar to mine and therefore highly sophisticated, had told me recently that he had begun watching the series and really loved it.  So on that recommendation I came home last Sunday and watched season 1, episode 1 of Game of Thrones on demand.

I gave up after about 20 minutes.  Who were all these people?   There were the Starks, the Lannisters, the Targaryens and then the barbaric Dothrakis speaking some weirdo made-up language. It kind of looked like Medieval England and kind of like the old west.  My wife Kathy walked through the room regularly asking, “How can you stand this made-up mythological stuff?” I was too tired and confused to make sense of the story and its characters.  I gave up.  That night, I talked to Oliver on the phone and told him of my disappointment.  He said that I needed to give Game of Thrones at least three episodes.

So after a night's sleep I gave it a second try.  While my adorable but skeptical wife was out of the house I watched the first three episodes back-to-back.  I am now hooked. I am a full-blown Game of Thrones junkie. The world is watching season 4.  I am galloping through season 1.  I am late to the party, but consider myself one of the family.  Look for me soon to be wearing all the requisite Game of Thrones insignia wear. I’m trying, as well as I can, to catch up with a story in which I’m still way behind. In that respect, I’m just like Thomas in today’s Gospel.

According to John's account, Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them as a group.  Everyone else has had an experience that he was not in on. Like a latecomer to an episodic TV series, Thomas needs to catch up rather quickly.  In his most oft-quoted remark, he says, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." [John 20: 25b]

If we want to understand Thomas, we need to hear both what he is and what he is not saying.  Enlightenment rationalism, nineteenth century empiricism, and twentieth century existentialism have given rise to many attempts to claim Thomas as the first skeptic. I've heard many sermons over the years that make Thomas an intellectual hero and treat this story as a parable of faith and doubt.  As important as those concerns are, they are not central to the story on its own terms.  Thomas is not so much a hero as he is simply a latecomer.  He wants to be brought up to speed.  Touching Jesus is the quickest way to do that. His request to examine Jesus’s wounds as proof is exactly like binge watching the first season of Game of Thrones.

So listen again to what Jesus and Thomas actually say to each other:

Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" [John 20: 26b-28]


Thomas is trying to understand whether the person before him is or is not Jesus. When he wants to know if the man claiming to be Jesus is real, he asks to see the marks of the nails in his hands and the wounds in his side.  And when Jesus wants to prove that he is who he says he is, he points Thomas's hands to the places where he has suffered.  What we often miss when we hear this story is the connection between Jesus's credibility and his wounds. 

One of the reasons why Christians have always treated Holy Week—from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter—as a whole is that the resurrection of Jesus makes no sense if it is not grounded in the reality of his suffering and death.  Without Good Friday, Easter is merely a sentimental celebration of spring.  And as wonderful as spring is—especially after this last winter we’ve been through—it cannot contain the meaning of Easter.  Spring is lovely, but it’s nothing compared to the resurrection.

So Jesus’s wounds in this story are not some kind of parlor trick.  They are central to who Jesus is.  The whole drama of God being involved in human life and experience—especially in human suffering—is represented by the wounds in Jesus’s hands and side.  Those nail and spear marks remind us, as nothing else can, the extent to which God is willing to go to love, bless, and heal us.  Like Thomas, we know who God is by tracing the wound marks in the flesh of Jesus.  This encounter with us at the cross has cost God something.  Yet even still Jesus comes to us and proclaims, “Peace be with you.”

Our relentless focus on the “I won’t believe it unless I see it” aspect of this account from John’s gospel has obscured for us some of the story’s bigger truths. Listen again to how it starts:

When it was evening on the day of Resurrection, the first day of the week . . . Jesus came and stood among them and said . . . "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." [John 20: 19-23]


“Peace be with you.”  “Receive the Holy Spirit.” “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.”  This is not so much a story about faith and doubt as it is about woundedness and mission.  The risen and wounded Jesus sends his companions out to spread the news.  We know who he is because his wounds establish his identity.  And it is precisely because he is wounded that he can send his friends out on a mission of peace and forgiveness.  “Peace be with you.”  “Receive the Holy Spirit.” “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.”

Just as we can miss what this story is about, so we can forget what Easter itself is about or what the church is here for.  Easter is about the triumph of God’s suffering, wounded love over human enmity and hate.  It is about the ultimate victory of empathy over power, of community over empire.  God comes into human history not as Caesar but as a Palestinian Jewish peasant.  God engages with human beings not as subjects but as companions.  In response, people take Jesus to the cross.  In dying on the cross, he experiences the depths of suffering that each and all of us can know: physical suffering, persecution, oppression, grief, loss—they’re all there in those three hours on Calvary.

One week after Easter, Jesus comes among his companions and wishes them peace, sends them out in love, and gives them the authority to forgive each other and the world.  One week after Easter, Jesus comes among us and wishes us peace, sends us out in love, and gives us the authority to forgive each other and the world.  All of us have suffered.  And each of us is offered a choice this day: we can dwell self-protectively in isolation or we can allow our wounds to open us up to the suffering of others.  If we do the first we will perpetuate the cycle of retribution and violence.  If we do the second we together will heal and bless the world.

Let us use this day and this hour to remember what Easter is finally about.  You are wounded.  I am wounded.  So are those we who have injured us. They too are wounded. Remember who Jesus is, what he suffered, and what he says to us this morning: “Peace be with you.”  “Receive the Holy Spirit.” “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” We have been given authority to let go of our own wounds and extend forgiveness to others. As Easter’s greatest and ultimate gift, let us take that wounded authority and use it to spread peace and forgiveness both as near and as far as we can.  Amen.












Saturday, April 19, 2014

Homily: The Great Vigil of Easter [April 19, 2014] Washington National Cathedral

            Spoiler Alert.  The phrase for tonight is “Spoiler Alert”.  There’s nothing worse than having the plot twists of a story you are following revealed by an overeager friend or broadcaster.  Last Monday as Kathy and I were driving we heard an NPR announcer tell, in detail, the surprising developments in the seventh season opener of Mad Men that aired the night before.  The problem is that we’re still back in season four.  The reporter did not seem hip to the fact that, with the advent of web streaming and DVRs, people don’t watch TV in the same way they did in the era of Ed Sullivan and The Fugitive. I couldn’t reach the dial fast enough.  Luckily I’m so far back in the story that I didn’t understand the shocking details.  Still, though, they’re stuck in my head like the earworm of a bad Top 40 song.

            So:  spoiler alert.  I’m going to say a bit now about a movie: All Is Lost.  I saw it last week and it has stayed with me for days. It’s one of those films that you see and then find yourself thinking about when you thought you were doing something else. But I promise you I won’t say anything that might give the ending away.

            All Is Lost is the J.C. Chandor movie starring Robert Redford that depicts a man’s struggle to survive alone in a boat at sea.  It’s a powerful, if hard-to-watch, film treating a number of issues:  our ambitions, the illusions brought on by modern affluence, our trust in our things, human arrogance in regard to nature.  But tonight for us All Is Lost is most powerfully about the tenuous relationship of life and death. Near the beginning of the film, we hear the main character say this:

I'm sorry... I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried, I think you would all agree that I tried. . . . All is lost here... except for soul and body... that is, what's left of them... and a half-day's ration.  . . . I fought 'til the end, I'm not sure what this worth, but know that I did. I have always hoped for more for you all... I will miss you. I'm sorry. [J. C. Chandor, All Is Lost]


Spoiler alert: I can’t tell you how All Is Lost ends because it ends ambiguously.  The ending is a beautiful and fitting ending, but it is one that is open to multiple interpretations.  According to audience surveys, one-half of those seeing it think it ends happily; the other half think the reverse. [Kind of like American politics.] For almost two hours we have watched a man struggle against the elements, against human indifference, and against himself.  At the end we know that there is more to the story, but we don’t know exactly what that more might be.  We thought it was over, but now it is not.  Spoiler alert.  Even when we think it’s finished, there is something new before us.

We think it is over, but now it is not. You could say as much about the two great feasts of freedom, Easter and Passover. In some sense, tonight’s liturgy, the Great Vigil of Easter, is the church’s way of observing Passover.  Tonight we move, with Israel, from slavery into freedom.  Tonight we move, with Jesus, from death into life.  Easter is the Christian version of Passover.  It is the day on which we proclaim that it isn’t over when we think it is.  It is the time we realize that even when all is lost there is something more.

Let’s think first about Passover.  The Jewish holiday observes the Jews’ journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land of Canaan. Our Exodus reading tonight begins with them being pursued by Pharaoh’s army on their way out of Egypt.  The people complain: “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?” [Exodus 14: 11b] All, it appears, is lost.  But there is more to the story.  Moses stretches his hand over the sea, the waters part, and the Israelites pass through the Red Sea “on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.” [Exodus 14:29]  All appeared to be lost.  But then it wasn’t.

From that day to this, Passover has been the central holiday for Jews around the world.  It is the primal celebration of divine and human freedom.  It’s not only that people are set free; so is God.  Just when you thought God couldn’t do a new thing, there it was.  At Passover God demonstrates that something dramatically new and living can emerge from something we were sure was old and dead.

 We Christians observe Passover at Easter because the earliest Christians were Jews.  We tend to talk a lot about the Passover meal on Maundy Thursday, but the Easter Vigil asks that we remember the Passover event itself. In an astonishing expression of God’s creative power, the enslaved Jews were set free from Pharaoh and Egypt. When the earliest Jewish Christians tried to understand what the resurrection of Jesus meant to them, they turned first to Passover for an analogue. The resurrection is our Passover. In another astonishing expression of God’s creative power, the whole human family is set free. The Jews were enslaved by Egypt.  You and I have been imprisoned by sin and death.  But now, in Jesus, we’re not. We think it is over, but now there is more.

What that “more” might look like is, of course, open to interpretation.  When we say that Jesus’s resurrection liberates us from sin and death, we mean at least two things.  We mean that we’ve been set free from sin and its power.  That doesn’t make us immediately perfect or pure, but it does mean that who we are is finally good.  We are set free from the power of sin, and so we are able now to live lives of hope and compassion and grace.  The kind of life that Jesus lived is now open and available to all.  We are not tied to our old story.  We can take on a new story.  Dying to the old story and rising to the new one is what really happens in Baptism, which we also celebrate tonight.  When we renew our Baptismal Covenant together we’re stepping in to a new and risen life in which our old habits and failures and betrayals no longer define us.  We are stepping in to the liberation from the power of sin.  We are being taken up into God’s astonishing creative power and letting it become the governing force of our lives.

And that’s how it is with the power of death, too.  The resurrection of Jesus frees us from the power of death.  It doesn’t free us from death itself—even Jesus, you know, had to die—but Jesus’s new life empowers us to live lives freed from the tyranny of the fear of death.  To be honest, even after a lifetime of serving the church, I don’t know precisely what that means.  But I do know that just as God and Jesus stand with me in my woundedness, just as they accompany me in my joyfulness, so they will accompany me as I pass from this life to what lies beyond.  I don’t think that means I’ll be spending eternity watching Mad Men episodes with my wife and son and my boyhood pets eating Hostess Twinkies in my heavenly Barcalounger in the sky, but I do think it means that God’s astonishing creative power is not done with me—that we all will be caught up into God’s ongoing life as it works out the cosmic drama of love and redemption in the world.  At Easter we are set free from sin.  At Easter we are set free from death.  First it was one way and now it’s another.  That’s what dealing with Jesus and Jesus’s God is like. God’s most characteristic trait is the power to surprise.

This Lent I have been living with some words from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians.  This text has always meant much to me, in part because it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s favorite passage of scripture and one to which he returned regularly during his captivity in a Nazi prison. It’s a passage about God’s radiance, about us, about things being first one way and then suddenly another.  Here it is:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. [2 Corinthians 3: 17-18]

Spoiler alert:  all is lost.  And then it isn’t. Before Easter, we saw God and ourselves one way.  Our old story was caught up in sin and death. Now, after Easter, we will see it all another.  Our new story is one of life and compassion and hope.  Just when you thought it was over it turns out there is more. Tonight we make our Passover from slavery to freedom, from sin and death to love and life. You and I “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”  It was one way and now it’s another.  All was lost, and now there is more. Christ is risen.  Happy Easter.  Amen.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Homily: Good Friday [April 18, 2014] Washington National Cathedral

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.      

We gather this afternoon at the cross—the symbol we approach to offer up and contemplate the meaning of our suffering.  Human life is characterized by goodness, community, and love.  It is also marked by aggression, loneliness, and loss.  The story of the Garden of Eden is as much an expression of our wish as of our memory.  We long for an existence without the presence of sin, death, loss, and pain.  But our experience of the world tells us otherwise.  Human beings bring Jesus—God incarnate, exemplary human being—to the cross. And here we witness the worst kinds of suffering that human beings can inflict on each other.

            In a BBC Radio interview, the writer Amy Bloom talked about growing up the granddaughter of Eastern European Jews who had fled the pogroms in Lithuania for the U.S. early in the twentieth century.  To the surprise of the host, Bloom explained that her grandparents never talked about their lives in Eastern Europe before coming to America.  “How do you explain their reticence?” he asked.  She responded,

“They were not part of the Oprah generation. They didn’t feel that if you told everybody how terrible your life had been, somebody would give you a car.  They thought that if you told everybody how terrible your life was, they would probably ask you to go back.”  [BBC Radio 3 Nightwaves 3/8/10]


You and I inhabit a culture where so many people complain so vocally about their problems.  But on Good Friday, it is not wrong for us to consider our own suffering. Because we have imaginations, we can construct a possible life without struggles or trials, persecutions or pains.  And because we are limited and finite, our experience of life will usually fall short of achieving those dreams.  If the cross means anything, it means that God has taken on and experienced our sufferings and our losses.  So if God has experienced human suffering, that suffering must now count for something.  God knows what it is like to be you and me.  It is OK to acknowledge that life doesn’t always give us what we want from it.

Today is the day in the church year when we walk with Jesus from arrest and trial to his death on the cross.  Like Amy Bloom’s Eastern European Jewish grandparents, Jesus as we meet him in John’s Gospel does not say much about how terrible his life has been.  But even seeing it from the outside, as we do, we know that this is not the ending to his story that Jesus had asked for or imagined.  But it is one he could have predicted.  The choice, for Jesus, was always about keeping faith with who he was, doing what God had appointed him to do.  As one who loved and healed and taught and gathered people to his open table, Jesus risked offending the systems that would keep people subjugated, alienated, and alone.  As one who loved life and lived it abundantly, his very exuberance proved a dangerous way to live in an oppressive and fearful climate.  But even a cursory reading of the Gospels will convince you that Jesus loved the life that Good Friday demanded he lose.

As you and I take our places at the cross today, let us remember that we are engaged in a drama where the ones with power seek to deploy it while the one with real authority refuses to use it.  Jesus is given over into the hands of wicked people not because God is cruel but because God stands with those who get run over by life.  God refuses to wield weapons against us.  And God reaches out to us to lead us into a new way of being with each other. A way, in the words of Northrop Frye, “based on trust instead of threats.”

In the crucifixion of Jesus, God has experienced human suffering at its most painful and profound.  God has stood with us in the worst kind of human experience.  This act of solidarity means two things for us.  First, it means that the one we pray to is not some distant powerful cosmic king.  The one we pray to is a lonely, dying man of sorrows and griefs. That one hears us in the way a cosmic king couldn’t but a fellow sufferer would.  Second, it means that God calls us to stand together with Jesus and with all those who suffer.  So, because of the cross, these two things are now true for us. The God we pray to is one who knows what it is to be us, to be weak and fragile and lonely and lost.  And that one goes with us as we walk with Jesus to his death and then on to new and risen life.

Here is how Paul puts it in a reading from his letter to the Philippians that we read earlier this week:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death--

even death on a cross.


Jesus went to the cross because he knew that it was more important to take the form of one with no power and no status than it was to insist on his own dignity.  It was more important to Jesus to stand against the forces that destroy life and belittle human beings than it was to have the titles and symbols of power which Caesar and Pilate and Herod so desperately claimed.  Jesus did not want to die.  But the freedom and compassion with which he lived gave him no other choice. And it is because he emptied himself to death on a cross that you and I can choose today to live as he did—a life based on trust instead of threats--too.

            It is toward freedom and compassion, toward trust and hope, that God beckons you and me this Good Friday.  We can live as free and compassionate people because Good Friday is not finally tragic.  We can live as trusting and hopeful people because love is more powerful than death. The story does not end today. What comes next is Easter.  Here is Paul again:

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:5-11]

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.      





Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Homily: The Fifth Sunday in Lent [April 6, 2014] Evensong St. Martin's, Philadelphia

            There are many ways to think about Lent.  For some, this is a season for special service or study; for others, it is a time to give up something cherished as an action of self-denial; for some, it is simply a time to feel bad about yourself. Whether our Lenten discipline is oriented toward self-denial, spiritual reflection, or community service, Im convinced that most of us experience the season routinely, forgetful that Lent is primarily and ultimately oriented toward Easter.  We give up things, we take on things because that is how we are supposed to spend the days in late winter and early spring. Its a convenient way to pass the time between spring training and opening day.

            Lents true purpose is not to promote self-denial for its own sake.  Lents true purpose is to focus us on how God leads us toward Easter. Because we human beings have short attention spans, it is easy for us to forget what Lent is primarily about. When we're in the middle of a wilderness, we can tend to forget the destination of the journey. We get lost, and in our confusion we lose our bearings.  As Dante reminds us at the beginning of the Inferno,

At the mid-point of the path through life, I found
Myself lost in a wood so dark, the way
Ahead was blotted out. The keening sound
I still make shows how hard it is to say
How harsh and bitter that place felt to me

Merely to think of it renews the fear. [Dante, Inferno, Clive James translation]


The readings for tonight remind us why we observe Lent in the first place.  We observe Lent not because we are supposed to feel guilty or overburdened. Surely modern life can make us feel that way without the seasons help. We observe Lent because we are trying, as best we can, to get ready for Easter. Lets hear how our passages from Exodus and from Romans might help us prepare.

Tonights reading from Exodus shows Mosess conversation with God immediately after his encounter with the burning bush. You remember that the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, and at the depth of their suffering there Moses received this call from Yahweh to lead his people into freedom:


Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying: I have given heed to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” [Exodus 3: 16-17]


            Just as it is easy for us to lose our way in the middle of lifes dark wood, just as we can forget that Lent serves to point us toward Easter, so it is easy to forget the point of the whole religious enterprise.  Gods deepest will for you and me human beings is that we be freein this case, free from servitude and oppression, in other senses free from all those things that enslave or enchain us.  Israels journey with Yahweh from Egypt to the promised land has always been what we call a type”—an allegory, an imageof the larger journey toward human liberation.  Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea and 40 years in the wilderness.  His successor Joshua led them through the Jordan River into the promised land of Israel. Jesus, the new Moses--whose name is actually a variant of Joshua--leads you and me from various kinds of slavery through the wilderness of suffering into the promised land of new and risen life.

            This reading from Exodus helps to reorient us toward what is finally meaningful and true about our joint and personal spiritual process.  We human beings find ourselves in various kinds of oppressive wilderness.  For some it is actual enslavement.  For others it is the virtual enslavement of poverty, violence,illness,  or addiction.  For others yet it is the enslavement of comfortable, isolating affluence and materialism.  Gods will for us is that we be fully alive, not on our terms but on Gods.  Real life, full life looks like the life we see in Jesus:  embracing, compassionate, liberating, free.  What Moses saw in the burning bush and what you and I see when we look at Jesus are the sametheyre images of what it means to be set free from the bonds that constrain us.  Lent is the time we look those bonds in the face and let God come in and liberate us to a life that is fully human and free.  Lent is the time when we get ready to step into the implications of Easter.

            And our second reading, from Pauls letter to the Romans, gives us a sketch of what that free and compassionate Easter life might look like. As Paul exhorts us,


Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.


That hurts!


 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. [Romans 12: 14-18]


            Just as we can become confused about the purpose of Lent or the destination of our spiritual journey, so we can become disoriented about the goal of the Christian life.  Because we live in a highly subjective age, we tend to think that its all about what we think or feel.  But the great spiritual teachers have always taught us that its all finally about how we act.  The Dalai Lama sums up his religion in one word:  kindness.  Pope Francis says, in his Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) that our genuine encounter with God makes us fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. [Evangelii Gaudium section 8] And we attain the fullest truth of our being when we escape our relentless subjectivity  and are able to live in communion and community with others.

            When Paul exhorts us to live peaceably with all he is speaking as one who knows the reality of the kinds of violence of which human beings are capable.  I serve a faith community at Washington National Cathedral that has, as have you here at St. Martins, felt the call to stand against the epidemic of gun violence in America and to stand with and for both  the victims and survivors.  Yet again this week we witnessed another public shooting at Fort Hood in Texas.  Christiansbe they first century Christians or twenty-first century Christiansstand for peace and nonviolence not because we are naïve about human evil but because we are entirely realistic.  We know we have no alternative. We follow one who died at the hands of malevolent human violence.  We understand that people can be fearful and angry and dangerous and cruel.  But we understand something else as well.  We understand that all human beings are preciousnot only the innocent but also even the violent ones.  We treat all with loving respect and compassion because doing so is in the spirit of the Exodus and resurrection freedom to which we are moving with Moses and Jesus.  We do so because we seek to live in Easter, not Lent.

            During the season of Lent, as a way to remind myself of Lents final meaning, I often reflect a portion of 2 Corinthians that was Dietrich Bonhoeffers favorite Bible passage.  In a way it connects with the Exodus reading we heard tonight because it concludes a meditation by Paul on how Moses had to look at God with a veil over his face to protect himself from the radiance of Gods glory.  But now, says Paul, we can look Jesus right in the face.  We can take the veil off.  Here is what he says:


Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. [2 Corinthians 3: 17-18]


By walking with each other and Jesus in Lent toward Easter, you and I, with unveiled faces, are being transformed into the image of God from one degree of glory to another. This wilderness is real but is not our permanent condition.  The violence and confusion that enslave us will finally pass.  Lent will give way to Easter.  Let us live into Easter now by repaying evil with good and living peaceably with all.  As we do that, we will, from one degree to another, see with unveiled faces the glory of the risen Christ.  Amen.