Sunday, March 27, 2016


Antonio Correggio, Noli me tangere, c.1525
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Acts 10: 34-43;  John 20: 1-18

Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  (I Cor. 5)

Friends: Grace and peace to you, blessings, joy--all the riches of God’s favor, on this First Morning of the world.  And as we take the opportunity every year to brush up our Greek with the ancient greeting of this day and all the season ahead.  You might say, the text of the first Christian liturgy:  Christos anesti! Christ is risen!  And the reply, Alithos anesti!  He is risen indeed!  [Let’s give it a try . . . .]  Century after century among all languages and peoples and nations:  Christos anesti!  Alithos anesti!

So,yes: Easter blessings, and in abundance.  Wonderful to see you.   Choirs singing, trumpets ringing.  Welcome Happy Morning!

Christianity as a religious “system” might seem to be a fairly complex subject.  Just down the block at the Pittsburgh Seminary there is a fantastic library with multiple floors filled with rows and rows of shelves, centuries of books and journals—and that doesn’t even begin to touch the vast and expanding universe of what you find once you step out electronically into the digital space: theology, philosophy, ethics, and art and poetry and all the rest.  And more blogs than there are stars in the night sky!  But in the household of Cornelius the Centurion, in Acts 10, the first account of the missionary outreach of the Church to the gentile world, St. Peter gives his testimony in just a few words.  And I think most effective Easter sermon.  “They put Jesus to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

All the rest is really just icing on the cake.  All those journal articles and blogs and theological tomes—two thousand years’ worth.  On this morning of all mornings, we would settle in right here with Peter.  Keeping our focus straight and true on what needs to be said.   The elevator speech and executive summary.  On the old Dragnet TV show Detective Friday would say, “just the facts, ma’am.  Just the facts.”  Let’s find out first what most needs to be said.  As we heard in Luke in last week’s Palm Sunday gospel, if we were silent, the rocks and trees and rivers and seas would need to shout the news.  And what the truth is, the truth that we would know and proclaim not just this morning but every morning of our lives, and today of all days it must be presented with clarity:  to say simply, that the story we have heard is true, and that it matters, that it makes a difference.   “They put Jesus to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day.”

So it’s one of those little phrases in the liturgy: Morning and Evening Prayer, the Baptismal Service: in the Apostles’ Creed--something we may zoom through on a Sunday morning without pausing to reflect on just what it is we’re really saying.  “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the Communion of saints, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting.”  But we hear Peter with clarity and then we need to pause this morning and remind ourselves with clarity that this is not poetry.  The most ancient expression of Christian belief.    “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”  Just the facts.  And this the most important fact of all.  Otherwise we are just foolish, as St. Paul says in First Corinthians 15, “if Christ has not been raised,” then this is all just a fool’s errand.  A waste of time.  A delusion.  But today, with clarity, founded on the sure testimony of witnesses.  “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”   His body first.  And then, because we believe that—and then your body too, and my body.  “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”   

It’s difficult--hard to hear, hard to say, hard to believe, no question.  The understanding of the New Testament is that it is a spiritual gift to do so.  It’s a matter of grace.   To hear the testimony, and to find in our minds and hearts that we know it to be true.  That we can say it, we can believe it, because God has already moved in our hearts to make that possible.  What Peter says here in Acts: he appears to “to those chosen by God as witnesses.”  But once it is possible to know, to believe--once it is possible for us to see him, it becomes not simply possible, but necessary.  As the old hymn says, “I can’t keep from singing.”  Again-if we were silent, the rocks would need to cry out the news.

So whether we’re hearing the Easter story for the first time this morning, really hearing it, or whether we’ve know it almost by heart, trusted in it, believed in it all our life long, that’s the one key thing to know, the “take away,” the bottom line. Why we’re here today or ever.  What did the preacher have to say this morning?  What every preacher needs to say, or else keep his trap shut. Peter’s sermon.  “God raised him from the dead on the third day . . . .  He is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead . . . .  Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  If we hear nothing else, hear this.

And so, the voice of breathless Mary as she rushes from that precious moment in the Garden to find her friends.  If “Christos anesti!” is the beginning of the earliest Christian liturgy, perhaps we would call this the first Christian hymn.   On Mary’s lips, singing from her heart:   “I have seen the Lord . . . .  I have seen the Lord.”  The beginning of Christian life and identity, discipleship, stewardship, worship, formation, outreach, mission, pastoral care and community.  Where it all begins, where we all begin.  The life of the church: one, holy, catholic, apostolic.  The song of those chosen by God as witnesses:  “I have seen the Lord.”  I believe in the resurrection of the body.

I sometimes say, you’ve probably heard me say before, that perhaps a natural first response to the Easter acclamation, “Jesus is risen from the dead,” might be something like, “Wow!  Lucky for him!  Lucky for Jesus . . . .  Everybody else I’ve ever known who has died has stayed dead.  If that’s not the way it is for Jesus, then wow--great for him!”   But what we announce today, this news of Easter, doesn’t end with the unexpected and very strange report that the one who died has now risen from the dead.  That’s just the beginning.  What we would announce today is that now, because of what we know now about Jesus, things are different for us.  I believe in the resurrection of the body.  His body first.  The sign of God’s vindication.  The great victory.  And so then, our bodies.  Our bodies.

Peter says it here in Acts 10.  That it’s true as the Prophets have said, as the Scriptures have promised, as God has intended from the very first hour of creation.  We’re not here this morning to puzzle over the reports about the appearance of Jesus after his burial in some detached way, as neutral observers.   We are here because here, in this resurrection we discover our death and our resurrection.  And it really is my prayer this morning that this is true deeply for you, and that it will become more and more true for you, for each one of us, as we grow together in the knowledge and love of God.  We listen to the story over and over, in the words of Scripture, in our songs and hymns and anthems and in our prayers.  Let it all sink in.  Let it all sink in.  It is the Holy Spirit who brought you here this morning.  It is the Holy Spirit who is in us already, opening our eyes and ears and hearts to receive this gift.  God has chosen us for himself, to know this truth.

“For since by man came death,” as Paul says in First Corinthians . . . “since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 

May it be blessing for you. Easter Egg hunts and cookies and champagne, choir and brass!  And tomorrow, next week.  Forever.  Jesus, alive!  Risen.  Healing. Renewal. In this life, and for the life to come.  This joyful Eastertide, away with sin and sorrow. The first morning of the world.  The resurrection of the body—his, and then ours.  This changes everything.  The freshness of the Garden.  The first morning of our new life in him. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Holy Saturday

Descendit ad infernos.

Ikon: The Harrowing of Hell

--Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

Down through the tomb's inward arch

He has shouldered out into Limbo

to gather them, dazed, from dreamless slumber:

the merciful dead, the prophets,

the innocents just His own age and those

unnumbered others waiting here

unaware, in an endless void He is ending

now, stooping to tug at their hands,

to pull them from their sarcophagi,

dazzled, almost unwilling. Didmas,

neighbor in death, Golgotha dust

still streaked on the dried sweat of his body

no one had washed and anointed, is here,

for sequence is not known in Limbo;

the promise, given from cross to cross

at noon, arches beyond sunset and dawn.

All these He will swiftly lead

to the Paradise road: they are safe.

That done, there must take place that struggle

no human presumes to picture:

living, dying, descending to rescue the just

from shadow, were lesser travails

than this: to break

through earth and stone of the faithless world

back to the cold sepulchre, tearstained

stifling shroud; to break from them

back into breath and heartbeat, and walk

the world again, closed into days and weeks again,

wounds of His anguish open, and Spirit

streaming through every cell of flesh

so that if mortal sight could bear

to perceive it, it would be seen

His mortal flesh was lit from within, now,

and aching for home. He must return,

first, in Divine patience, and know

hunger again, and give

to humble friends the joy

of giving Him food--fish and a honeycomb.

Good Friday

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday

Psalm 31: 9-16

Let us pray:  O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, who at the sixth hour wast lifted up upon the Cross for the Redemption of the world, and didst shed Thy Blood for the remission of our sins; we humbly beseech Thee that by the virtue and merits of Thy most holy Life, Passion, and Death, Thou wouldst grant us to enter into the gates of Paradise with joy. . . . Amen.

The new (1979!) Prayer Book has us launch into Holy Week on Palm Sunday with the reading of the Gospel  of the Passion from one of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke--and so Luke this year-- and then at the end of the week in the Good Friday service we set the other bookend and read the Passion again, always from St. John. 

As if we didn’t already know this story backwards and forwards.  I guess the message is that we can’t ever know it well enough--that there is always something more to hear in it, some new shadow of meaning.   Something more to be revealed about ourselves: who we are, what our lives are about.  The same mirror, but never the same face looking back at us in the mirror.

The story engages vast and cosmic forces, good and evil, light and darkness.  And yet it is also so intensely particular and personal.  That at each swing of the hammer, pounding in the nails, echoing across the centuries and through the universe in a way that is both absolutely real but also beyond my and our comprehension: that he then, in that hour, knew each one of us, he saw our face, he whispered our name—taking upon himself our sin, taking into himself our darkness.  That he stood in for us while we were choosing to walk our own way—all of us together, each one of us, individually.  One by one by one by one.  Sometimes people will say that when we are near death “our whole life will pass before our eyes.”  In this hour, our lives pass before his eyes.  Even as we so often blithely will do what we can to minimize things, to exonerate ourselves in our own eyes, play games,  with a mixture of rationalization and denial.  Pretending--even as we see and hear the hammers swinging and pounding, again and again and again.  Nonetheless, the message of the day: we are seen.  We are known.  Which is terrifying, but also good news.  On the way to Good Friday.  Holy Week, 2016.  And with prayers that what we begin this morning will enrich you daily through the days to come.

If you’ve been following along in this Lent, I’ve been sharing something of a sermon series--an exploration based on the psalms appointed each Sunday—looking into them for clues about Christian faith and Christian life as we step back in this season every year to refresh our connections, to read Scripture and to pray and to give our faith and life an enhanced focus, with prayer and intention that Lent might be a season of renewal for us.  Healing and blessing . . . .

We’ve had five so far, five Sunday psalms.  On the first Sunday, Psalm 91, the bedtime song of comfort, security, safety.  On the second Sunday, Psalm 27, which is a song of courage.  On the third Sunday, Psalm 63, a song of joy  On the fourth Sunday, Psalm 32, which is set in the context of the gospel  reading of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  A psalm about mercy.  And then last week, on the fifth Sunday, Psalm 126, all about hope.  That the God who has been faithful, will be faithful.  Hope.

And this morning, to bring us to a conclusion for this series, is this section of Psalm 31, verses 9 – 16.  It begins as a prayer for mercy in an hour of deepest distress.  Printed in our leaflet insert this morning.   “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble.”  And I wonder as we have in these past few minutes watched the drama of the Cross in front of us once again, what has that called up in each of us?  Perhaps something specific—or perhaps just a more generalized sense.  Déjà vu, perhaps?  That we’ve been here before, that we know what this is all about.  Is this our prayer, “Have mercy?”  As we would remember things done and left undone.  When we have “erred and strayed, like lost sheep,” following too much “the devices and desires of our own hearts.” As the psalmist sings, “my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing.”  Everything collapses. 

What frames the story of Jesus today is familiar to us also—either literally or figuratively.  “They put their heads together against me.  They plot to take my life.”  Yet even now, and the theme of this last psalm in our sequence, we would reach down deep inside of us, to find trust.  “I have trusted in you, O Lord . . . my times are in your hand ,” and then the prayer, “make your face to shine upon your servant; and in your lovingkindness save me.”

In Matthew 17 Jesus to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.’”

Faith.  That’s the word for the concluding psalm in our series, and as we set out into this week.  Faith.
The first chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews:  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.”   In the words of Matthew Henry, one of the great English scholars and preachers at the end of the  17th and beginning of the 18th century,   “faith proves to the mind, the reality of things that cannot be seen by the bodily eye. It is a full approval of all God has revealed, as holy, just, and good.”   Faith not simply about our intellectual assent to words printed on a page—but to know deep down and through and through what those words actually would mean in our lives.  All at once and in the same moment a relationship—a relationship--that is about the promise of what God will do, and that is at the same time the evidence of what God has already done.   The  source and the purpose of all spiritual gifts.   Origin and destination.  And that relationship is what we are all about this morning, under the Cross, if we are about anything.

So the six thematic points again, from these psalms:  comfort, courage, joy, mercy, hope, and faith.  Signposts on the Lenten journey, or forming a kind of framework or word-cloud of meaning and focus for this season—and perhaps we can bring them forward all together for  the Holy Week ahead as we seek once again to sort out what this story means for us.  Just to take it in.  That he died for us.  The Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep.  That he may live in us, and we in him.  What that’s all about.  Lent and Holy Week and all our lives: comfort and courage, joy, mercy, hope, and faith. 

Let’s kneel and sing this great Holy Week hymn, #164.  Alone thou goest forth, O Lord.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fifth in Lent, Passion Sunday

Psalms 32 and 126

Good morning again—this Fifth Sunday in Lent.  In the old calendar this day was Passion Sunday, the beginning of Passiontide, that two week “mini-season” that will carry us on to Palm Sunday and Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday.  The final stretch of the road from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, the Manger to the Cross.   Passiontide is no longer on the simplified contemporary calendar, but certainly we can hear echoes in the Collect and the Gospel and the hymns this morning. 

For the six Sundays in Lent my project this year has been to reflect on the Psalms appointed in the lectionary each week, to see them as what we might call thematic clues--windows, places where we can pause for a view and perhaps a new perspective, as we would in Lent be with some greater intentionality seeking to find refreshment and renewal in our Christian faith and life. 

So a quick review of the themes we’ve seen so far: on the First Sunday we looked at Psalm 91, traditionally appointed for Compline, the bedtime prayer of the church, as a parent to a little child, and as we turn onto the Way of the Cross nonetheless a song of assurance, security, safety.  That we are resting gently in safety in the arms of God our Savior.  “For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”  Then for the Second Lent Sunday we had Psalm 27, building on that foundation.  Because we are safe in God, we can go forth into the world boldly, courageously.  “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear?”  The Third Sunday it was Psalm 63.  Safe in God’s arms, bold and courageous, with Psalm 63 we sing what it truly means to be joyful .  Refreshed and energized in gratitude for the lovingkindness of God.  Joy isn’t perhaps always the emotion we associate with Lent, but the Psalmist says, “I just can’t keep from singing.”  “So will I bless you as long as I live, and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.” 

Last Sunday Dan was preaching—so that means I’m going to touch on two psalms this morning—briefly, I promise--just to get to the pattern of the six psalms of these six weeks.  Briefly to turn back to Psalm 32, as we read it and heard the Choir sing it last week, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Laetare.  Psalm 32 seemed to me intertwine beautifully with the context and theme of the amazing gospel story of the Prodigal Son.  (For those of us who don’t have the psalter by heart and didn’t bring our service leaflets from last Sunday back with us this morning, Psalm 32 begins at the bottom of page 624 in the Book of Common Prayer.)  

The Prodigal Son, whose story begins in a self-centered rebellion, then to a catastrophe of hitting-bottom, leading to repentance, “metanoia,” that wonderful Greek word that means “another state of consciousness.”  Coming to his senses, his right mind.  And then his return, in fear and humility, probably that long walk back to the family home like swimming through molasses, rehearsing his heartbreaking apology every step of the way.  And of course the sweet drama of restoration.  If the son was prodigal in his wasting of the gifts of his inheritance, the father is even more prodigal  in lavishing forgiveness and love.  That embrace as the Father rushes out to greet his son, who once was lost, who now is found,  I think for many Christians an image that is right at the heart of our experience of God’s loving heart.

“Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away!”  That’s the first line of Psalm 32.  Then almost in parallel with the Prodigal Son story, reminding us of the word in First John that is so often the Opening Sentence at Evensong, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  And the psalmist: “While I held my tongue, my bones withered away.” But then the turning we see in verses five and six—like the Prodigal as he found himself in his desperation, while he was feeding husks to the pigs in that distant land.  “Then I acknowledged my sin . . . I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’”  And the promise and certainty of forgiveness, the joy of the Father as he runs out to meet his son in the road, and before the son can even speak a word.  “You are my hiding place: you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.”

To know and believe and truly trust in the mercy of God for us.  That’s true deliverance.  Looking deep into the darkness of our own sin, our rebelliousness, our self-centeredness, all the ways we have hurt others and that we hurt ourselves, closing our ears to God’s word for us, closing our eyes and turning away—going our own way.  To know and believe and trust in the mercy of God for us.  To know ourselves in the words of the hymn, “ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.”  And then, our own hearts opened in gratitude for what we do not deserve, that we would begin to cultivate ourselves what we might call a “lifestyle” of mercy.  Kindness, generosity.  Graciousness.  Cutting each other more slack than we deserve.  “Great are the tribulations of the wicked.”  That’s how Psalm 32 ends.  “Great are the tribulations of the wicked; but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.”  This way of Lent, to expect mercy, to know and to experience mercy, to find a spirit of mercy within ourselves.

And then with Psalm 32 in one hand, from last Sunday, refreshed and renewed in God’s mercy and forgiveness, we would turn to Psalm 126 this morning, Passion Sunday, and of course with the haunting image in the background from the home of Lazarus of Bethany and his sisters Martha and Mary.  The psalm is printed on page 7 of our Service Leaflet.  I had suggested at the beginning of this series that we might find it meaningful as a part of our Lenten devotional life to take our service leaflet home with us and open it to the page of the psalm of the day and read it occasionally during the week.

 In the context of the 12th chapter of John, our gospel reading:  On Passion Sunday we’re coming to the end of the journey--the last resting place along the road, a pause before we will leap into the crowds of Holy Week with Palm Sunday just ahead.  Jesus and his disciples heading in toward Jerusalem.  They pause to spend the Sabbath just outside the city in the village of Bethany with their old and dear friends, Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha.  The holy quiet of the day of rest, before the coming storm.  The family meal.  And then this holy anointing, always such a stunning vision, as Mary takes the costly aromatic oil, this precious offering, and applies it so gently and lovingly, beginning with his feet.  (Some of you may remember that this was the text for the stunning, beautiful sermon preached by Leslie Reimer over at Calvary Church at the Burial Office for my friend and our former friend and rector Ralph Brooks.  Whenever I come to this part of John I remember that sermon and moment.)  This powerful image of compassion, deep love and service.  Foreshadowing for us perhaps what would happen a few days later, when Jesus would himself kneel down and wash the feet of his disciples.  Anticipating the burial, preparing his body for the tomb.  And something sweet and tender about the detail of the story, as Mary completes the anointing by drying his feet not with a towel, but with her hair.  So personal, so intimate.

And in the background for us this morning, the psalmist in Psalm 126 sings of a glorious memory of ancient times, of God’s promises fulfilled--restoration, renewal, recovery of life.  Return from exile.  True homecoming.  Lifted from defeat.  From death to life.  “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream.”  What God has done.  What we have seen with our own eyes!  And from the depths, the prayer, “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses of the Negev.”  Like the dry washes of the desert that are transformed to become abundant rivers in the rain of spring.  And to offer this prayer in certainty that it is heard, and trusting the one in whom all our trust is placed.  “Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.  Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.”

Hope, even in the hour of darkness.  Hope.  Certainty in the faithfulness of God.   So that’s the word for this morning, getting nearer to the heart, even as we come nearer to the cross. Which would seem to be the sign of hopelessness.  But Christ crucified, as St. Paul said, “a stumbling block to the Jews, foolishness to the Greeks, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
A way of living deeply and sincerely in Lent, a clue about who we are, what is to be revealed in the story of our lives and of our world.  Hope.  In relationships, life situations, world situations, that seem too far gone.  Beyond repair.  “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses of the Negev.”  No matter how fierce the storms, no matter how lost we may seem—O Lord, my hope is in you.

So that’s five Psalms, five Sundays in Lent so far, and the first five keywords for our meditation.  Again: Comfort, courage, joy, mercy, hope.  What God wants for you, what he offers us.  That we may find refreshment and renewal in our Christian life.

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Fourth in Lent, Laetare

Sermon by the Rev. Daniel J. Isadore, Deacon Assistant
II Corinthians 5: 16-21

"We implore you" Paul writes. (Pause)
-          The Greek word, translated into English as "implore," is a form of the verb "deomai."
-          Forms of this word are used in a variety of other circumstances in the NT...
o   For instance, in Luke 5:12 a man with leprosy is reported to have fallen down on his face before Jesus and "implored" Him (a form of deomai) to make him clean...
o   And in Luke 9:38, the father of a demon-possessed boy "implored" Jesus to cast the demon out of his only son...
o   This is, in fact, the same word that the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, the one who had thought himself cut off from God, used when asking Philip who Isaiah was writing about when referring to the “suffering servant,” hoping against hope that somehow, someway, Philip's answer might mean the opposite of what he'd always been told about God’s attitude toward him... (Pause)
These other uses of the verb deomai serve to show us that this word does not translate with a simple "please," or a polite "would you kindly," or "if it is of no inconvenience might you be able to"…
-          There is passion and urgency behind this word...
o   This is the kind of word you use when you know the person standing in front of you can cure the incurable, can do the impossible, can save the un-saveable...
o   This is what you say when something of consequence lies before you, and you need to become a part of it!
o   This is a “life or death” word. (Pause)
That being the case, why does Paul use this word here in his second letter to the Corinthians?
Because something has happened…
-          …something so big, so meaningful, so history-changing that if we fail to take heed, it will be like the leper missing out on his healing, or the demon-possessed-only-child-of-a-man not being made well, or the eunuch passing up God's embrace. (Pause)
Paul has in mind, in other words, a goal for us, a way of responding such that if we were to fail to respond, we would miss out on everything. (Pause)
What is that goal? What sort of response is Paul imploring us to make?
The only way to know is to first understand what, exactly, has happened...
-          We can gather this, at least in summary form, from the surrounding context, beginning in v.14 of Second Corinthians 5...
o   "For the love of Christ urges (or better, "compels”) us on,” writes the apostle.
§  Why?
o   "...because we are convinced that one died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all," Paul continues, "so that..."
§  …they could go to heaven when they die?
·        That’s not what he writes.
§  …so that they could do whatever they wanted without a care in the world?
·        No, the text doesn’t say that either.
§  "…so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them."
§  So that human beings might live a totally different kind of life. (Pause)
o   What ever is he talking about? (Pause)
This is the account of reality and world history according to Scripture...
-          God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is three persons, who have ever lived in a community of pure, self-giving, reciprocal love and enjoyment...
-          This God, for some reason unbeknownst to us, decided to share this community of overflowing love and joy with persons who were not God, and thus creation was born, and human beings as the highest form of created life...
-          Humans were to be the mediators between the Triune God and the creation, sharing in the love and joy of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and spreading that overwhelming goodness throughout the creation.
-          In a word, we failed in this task to participate in God’s life and to spread that life throughout the cosmos.
-          Yet, even though we failed, turning away from God to our own ideas of how things ought to go, God was determined to see to it not only that His intentions were accomplished, but that they would come to fruition through human beings...
-          And so He called Abraham, and promised that through him and his seed, all the nations of the world would be blessed…
-          The promise to Abraham was given to Isaac, and then to Jacob, who became Israel, father of twelve sons, twelve sons which would become a nation, the nation Israel…
-          God called Israel, as He did Adam, to be the humanity that would faithfully live in the joy and love of the Trinity and extend that same Life throughout the world...
-          Yet they failed too.
-          But God would not have His mission thwarted, nor would He leave humanity to rot...
-          So, He rolled up His sleeves and got His own hands dirty...
o   In, through, and as the man Jesus, God stepped into the chaos and the brokenness that humanity had created…
§  He stepped out into the far country as the father did with his prodigal son…
o   … and there He embraced humanity in the flesh, and lived the Life of the Trinity into the very humanity that you and I share…
§  The life of joyful, self-giving love...
o   Though we rejected Him and that Divine form of Life that He lived, He kept right on, taking upon Himself the full weight of our rejection, bearing our sin against Him all the way to death, even death on a Roman cross...
§  He remained faithful to the Father's original commission to human beings to participate in the community of the Trinity and to spread that way of life everywhere He went, and He did so through to the very end...
o   And though He died, He was vindicated in His resurrection from dead, which was a demonstration that the life of Agape, the life of self-giving love, lasts, and that it wins, not only over sin but also over death.
o   After His Ascension to the right hand of His Father, the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to take this Life lived by Jesus in our human flesh and make it available to us so that we…so that each one of you, according to God's original plan, could get on with the mission of enjoying God and spreading His joyous way of being human throughout the earth.
This is what Paul is saying: the age-old plan of God is back on line!
-          Humanity can, finally, get back to fulfilling their original purpose of knowing Father, Son, and Holy Spirit intimately and personally, and then, from within that relationship, bring goodness and joy and freedom and blessing to all of creation.
-          It is now possible, because of Jesus' work and the Holy Spirit's presence, for us to become the very "righteousness of God..."
o   The embodiment of God's faithfulness to His original mission to spread the Trinitarian life throughout the creation.
-          Paul is saying that, because of what has happened, the whole cosmos is back in business!
-          And that we are a part of it!
o   And that there isn't a moment to waste...
o   That it's time to get to work...
This is why Paul is imploring us: because a whole new form of life is now possible as a result of what Jesus has done, bearing our rejection and remaining faithful to His Father...
-          This is what the church is for: to implore everyone to turn toward the Father who has set things right in His Son, and to equip all people to join the Spirit in His ongoing work of spreading this Divine Life of suffering, self-giving love throughout the world.
-          This is why we gather here, each Sunday: to get ourselves oriented toward (to “worship”) God, so that that orientation can permeate our persons and radiate out into every facet of our existence. (Pause)
So the question is, is that what we're doing here?
-          First, do we sense the urgency?
o   Do we recognize that what Jesus did changed the history of creation?
§  …that this event was the most important thing that ever happened on this planet?
§  …that it was done so that we could get on with Life, real life, deep life, the life we were meant for?
§  …and that there is not a moment to spare in getting in on it? (pause)
-          Second, are we coming to understand, more and more, the depth of just what, exactly, Jesus has done, and the possibilities that He has unlocked for us to take part in God’s mission in the world?
o   We can work with God! (Pause)
-          Third, are we working together to figure out, not how to get people in our doors or how to raise more money, but how to help equip people to co-labor with God in their unique situations to share the blessed Life of the Trinity with the world?
o   Are we being formed, day-by-day, week-by-week, into persons who reflect the image of Jesus in their day-to-day lives?
§  …whether in a school or in a gas station, in a home or a hospital, in a law court or on an assembly line?
o   Are we devoting our lives to discerning and practicing how to participate with God in the mission that He has opened up to us?
Jesus, our Lord and Savior, our God, thought that this mission and our participation in it was worth dying for.

Paul, His apostle, implores us to think the same, and to get on with it.