Spirit in the material world

The Feast of Pentecost; 31 May 2020; Pentecost A (RCL); Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23.

When this shelter-in-place all started back in March (March 22, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, was our first virtual service), I though that perhaps my Pentecost, we might be gathering for in-person worship again. That was optimistic. We are still weeks, if not months, away from in-person worship. It has been an event-filled eight weeks so far.

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The glory of gift

The Seventh Sunday of Easter; Easter 7A (RCL); Acts 1:6=14; Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11, John 17:1-11.

Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel has been called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. In it, he consecrates himself to God on behalf of his disciples, and consecrates them to God on behalf of the world. Since John doesn’t actually narrate a ‘last supper,’ this prayer serves as the consecration of himself as ‘the lamb of God’ who takes away the sins of the world, and provides the feast that atones.

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The open door

Fourth Sunday of Easter; Easter 4A (RCL); Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10.

This Sunday is familiarly know as Good Shepherd Sunday, and the Gospel reading is always from the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel. Some years, we actually hear the portion of the chapter in which Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” Not this year. This year, Jesus says, “I am the door.”

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Into exile

Third Sunday of Easter; Easter 3A (RCL); Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17;1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35.

I wonder to what extent Luke wrote this story with the history of Israel in mind. The two disciples are walking away from Jerusalem when Jesus joins them and begins to interpret Moses and the prophets to them. It was in the Exile in Babylon that the exiles began to compile the books of Moses and the prophets. It was there they began to become people of the scroll. After the interpretation of Moses and the prophets, and the breaking of the bread, the two disciples run back to Jerusalem, mirroring the hope of the great restoration that shaped so much of Second Temple expectation.

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Closed doors

Second Sunday of Easter; 19 April 2020; Easter 2A (RCL); Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31.

The reading from John’s Gospel seems more relevant this year than ever. Here we are, locked in our houses with the doors closed for fear of COVID-19, and Jesus comes and stands in our midst anyway. And if we’ve ever needed the assurance that the resurrection happens despite our fear, this is the year.

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If you had been here

Fifth Sunday of Lent; 29 March 2020; Lent 4A (RCL); Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45.

This is puzzling episode in John’s Gospel. Why does Jesus delay two days? Why does Thomas say, “Let us go die with him?” Is he speaking about Lazarus or Jesus? Why does Jesus grandstand for the crowd? There is so much misdirection in this passage, it will require digging to figure it out.

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Virtual worship

This past Sunday (22 March 2020) was my first experiment at virtual worship. As the leader, it felt odd to stand in an empty church, and read all the words. I don’t know what the experience was like on the other end (and I haven’t got the courage to go watch myself!). Preaching was a very different experience. Usually, it feels like a dialog, as I follow the reactions on the faces of the people present. Without that, I was much more dependent on my manuscript.

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Who sinned?

Fourth Sunday of Lent; 22 March 2020; Lent 4A; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41.

Greek drama works a bit like Shakespearean drama – the critical bit happens in the middle scene. This chapter and the next forms the center of John’s Gospel, so it feels like something really important. And right in the center of this chapter comes the crisis.

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Drive-by communion

In this weird time, I’ve heard people asking about the possibility of drive-by communion, ya know, like Ashes to Go. Theologically, I have some real issues with the idea.

In the tenth century, a major shift took place in Latin Christendom. A ‘debate’ took place between Paschasius Radbertus and Ratramnus of Corbie. Up until that debate the phrase ‘corpus verum’ (the real body) referred to the Church, and the phrase ‘corpus mysticum’ (the mystical body) referred to the bread and wine of the eucharist. After that debate, those referents of those phrases switched: corpus verum began to refer to the bread of the eucharist (cf. the hymn ‘Ave verum corpus’ – a twelfth century hymn), and ‘corpus mysticum’ began to refer to the Church.

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COVID-19

Bishop Duncan-Probe of the Diocese of Central New York has asked us to suspend in-person worship after services yesterday (March 15, Third Sunday in Lent). As I stood at the altar giving voice to the eucharistic prayers of our little congregation, I caught my breath a couple of times, thinking this would be the last time we would break bread together for who knows how long.

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