Sunday, March 30, 2008

John 20:19-31: It’s time to sit out on the front portal

The other night Kay Calvacante and I were going to my house after playing soccer. It was a beautiful evening, about 50 degrees out, warmer than it had been, the sun had just set. As we pulled onto my street just off of Cerrillos, everything was completely quiet. No one was to be found outside, no movement in the street or in anyone’s front yard. Kay said that that is one thing he misses about living in Brasil where he lived for about 10 years; there during the day or in the evening there is movement and activity in the streets, people are out and about.

But not least not so much anymore. Once, it may have been common practice to sit outside, to interact and live life in the presence of others. Know the names of those who live nearby. But not so much anymore. If we sit outdoors in the evenings it’s in the back of the home rather than the front—it’s more quite there—we can read and relax and have a drink without being disturbed; Or better yet indoors: there is climate control, and no disturbing noises from birds, plus there’s a TV indoors, that has a lot of programs. We can lock our doors and close our blinds and escape from the outside world altogether.

John sets up the story of resurrection by telling us of the disciples hiding behind locked doors out of fear. Mary had made it back from the tomb, she had told the disciples she had see the Resurrected Lord!!! But they were still paralyzed by fear.

Going down the street that night with Kay and seeing no one on the streets, you’d think we lived in a pre-Resurrection world. Everyone hiding behind locked doors out of fear.

And without a doubt, had TV’s existed back in Jesus’ day, our story may have gone like this: “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked, the disciples were watching TV. And Jesus came and said, Peace be with you, but he was standing in front of the TV. “Uh, Jesus, you know you make a better door than a window. What’d you say anyway?”

Funny thing is that the disciples still don’t seem to get it even after this encounter with Jesus. They had seen him but a week later they’re still behind closed doors by the time Jesus comes around for a second time. This time Jesus appears to Thomas.

I’ve said it before, but for me Thomas is a real hero. He assures me that it is okay to be pragmatic, a realist; fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Was it because Thomas didn’t believe his friends that Jesus came to him? He had to see Jesus himself, he had to touch Jesus, hear his voice, and then he would believe. Thomas knows that the world is not a safe place; and that the ones who did in Jesus are out there probably ready to get Jesus’ disciples as well. So he demands proof.

We know the world is dangerous, which is why we must stay inside behind locked doors.

The other day when I was in the airport, I was bombarded with security measures:

Your attention please, in the interest of safety, please do not leave your bags unattended. If you see an unattended bag please alert airport security at once.

Your attention please, the current level of threat is orange. Orange is the current level of threat. Enjoy your travels. What the heck is orange?

Going through the security checkpoint: Sir, can you please remove your jacket, your hat, your belt and your shoes before passing through the scanner. Please remove your laptop from your bag; and I’ll need to see your boarding pass.

I’m sure all of these measures are necessary, but it sure does make me suspicious of everyone.

It makes me want to stay behind locked doors…Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands.

Thomas demands proof because he knows the world is disappointing. Thomas experienced this first hand at Jesus’ crucifixion; disappointment with himself for having run away in fear, disappointment with Jesus for not having lived up to what Thomas had hoped. Thomas had been with Jesus for three years and seen some incredible signs pointing to a reality beyond the one he had previously known…water turned to wine, sight given to the blind, the lame made to walk, the forgiveness of sins. This was what Thomas hoped to be really real. But now Jesus was dead… disappointment.1

This is the same disappointment we have all experience when the reality of life has crashed down on us. When we’ve let ourselves down, when others have let us down, when God lets us down: Been praying for so long for that child to get clean…and nothing changes. I’ve been hoping for so long for a job to come along…and nothing is working out. Inability to conceive a child, relationships failing in bitterness, death of someone so close to us. It makes it hard to go outside…"Unless put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side."

I’ll wait for Jesus to appear, and say, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, do not fear, believe.”

It’s hard to tell if Thomas ever does place his finger in the mark of the nails, or his hand in Jesus’ side; Jesus invites him to, but standing face to face with the Risen One, he can only fall to his knees in confession: My Lord and my God. Thomas knows he is in the presence of God; he has been saved and redeemed by God; He has encountered grace. He has known peace.

His reality that was once full of despair has been transformed into a reality of hope.2

One week ago we celebrated the hope of resurrection. It was pretty cool, a friend told me that because of Easter, because of the message of hope, he was inspired to share hope. After church, a homeless couple came by his place looking for a bit of work. Sure, he said, and he had them clean his small front yard; took about an hour and he paid them $40, and bought them lunch. After eating the lunch they made their way down the road, but then a few minutes later strangely, they came back to his house. “Excuse me sir,” one of them said, “we found this dog wandering in the street, would you like to have it?” My friend and a small chihuahau-pug mix, with the cutest little face, an under-bite to make it look tough were staring at one another. A sucker for animals, this dog—now named Fred—found a home instantly. Fred’s become an instant companion on walks and while watching TV. Fred had a collar with no tag, he looked fairly well taken care of; we wonder if this homeless couple had been taking care of Fred, but maybe couldn’t any more, and wanted Fred to have a good home. They knew they had found one in my friend. And it all began with my friend wanting to share Easter hope of grace.

Peace be with you, Christ says to the skeptical, frightened Thomas. Grace comes in so many forms. The unexpected apology of a coworker for not treating you with respect. The undeserved forgiveness of your sibling. The all too often unnoticed tenderness and fidelity of a spouse. But when grace comes, it means that lives are transformed by the mercy of God in Christ Jesus: Peace be with you.3

Easter hope does not mean we escape the realities of this world. But things can be different. Something is new. We can witness to God’s grace, God’s new kingdom, intruding into and transforming the kingdom of this world, and nothing, not work, not school, not our relationships, not even life and death will ever be the same.

When we live life in hope, with grace and mercy, we live as people who believe yet have not seen. Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have come to believe. Our lives are transformed as we see the world differently. We can celebrate Easter not just on one day, but everyday. Easter becomes a way of life, because we become people full of hope.4

Hope for today. Hope that a relationship may be reconciled. Hope that an adoption can take place. Hope that war will end. We can pray for Waldo, or Suzanne, or anyone else when illness comes, and we can hope for life, and we can also rejoice that God has defeated the power of death: Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting. The resurrection did not alter the reality of death. What the resurrection did was defeat the power of death to rob life of its meaning or hope. Where there is life there is hope.

Enough hope and enough courage to move out from the “safety and security” of our living rooms and away from the television, and out on the front portal. Where we can sip on tea, we can read a good book, we can watch kids walk home from school; cars ride by, and folks out walking their dogs without fear, but with reassured hope that our lord has risen.

We can trust: a blessing indeed!

Praise be to God. Amen.

1 David J. Lose, “Realities Old and New,” Journal for Preachers, Easter 2007, pp. 12-14.
2 David J. Lose, “Realities Old and New,”Journal for Preachers, Easter 2007, pp. 12-14.
3 David J. Lose, “Realities Old and New,”Journal for Preachers, Easter 2007, pp. 12-14.
4 David J. Lose, “Realities Old and New,”Journal for Preachers, Easter 2007, pp. 12-14.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Did She Have a Story to Tell

John 20:1-18 Easter, Westminster Presbyterian Church March 23, 2008

This week has been marked by a lot of sobering talk: the 5th anniversary of the US led invasion of Iraq and protests against the war, newly recorded threats from Osama bin Laden and protests in Amsterdam against an Islamic film. Discussions of Gun control in the Supreme court and race in the Obama campaign; not to mention the tanking economy and continuing effects of global warming.1

And in the Church, we recognized the somber events of Holy week:

Last Supper reenactments took place with over 50 people gathering in the Barnes, Chavez-Nadell, and Topple homes to remember Jesus last meal with disciples. Gerzain was subject to eating just beans and bitter herbs, and no ice cream for dessert, and he was the last to wash feet, after over 40 feet had been washed in the basin, the water was a little murky.…??? Later that night some from the congregation joined hundreds on the solemn trek to ChimayĆ³. They came away tired and sore, but some still managed be part of the gathering here Friday night when we remembered the harsh shouts: Crucify Him! Soldiers’ painful blows across Jesus face, and the torment and humiliation of hanging from the cross.

Did anyone notice that is spring?

Almost before Miquela Martinez could hop through our door Thursday evening, she said, ”Chester, did you know that today is the first day of Spring!”

Why yes, we have started playing soccer again out at the train park, and baseball’s spring training is almost over. In our yard, buds are showing on some shrubs and trees that desperately need pruning. I’m pretty sure our heating bill will be less this month than last. I don’t doubt that it will snow again, but I’m tempted to put some tomato plants in the ground. The hints of spring are nice. Signs of hope to be sure.

One should never underestimate the power of hope. This is why we are a little more crowded than usual this Sunday, we dress up a little nicer; there’s a little more pizzazz in the service with bells and children’s choirs proclaiming Alleluia! Today is Easter, which means more than hunting for eggs or eating a nice meal after church. Easter is the Christian message of hope: Resurrection. He is Alive!

On that first Easter morning, a grieving woman and disciples had no reason to hope. They had seen the hostile crowds in Jerusalem. The betrayal of Judas. Jesus stood trial, was sentenced and beaten, and then walked the long path to Golgotha. The woman saw the mocking and cursing, and his side pierced. Their song was, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

I’m sure sleep was hard to come by for Mary the next two nights. Dread and anxiety gripped her heart as she replayed the images in her head over and over. What will she do now without this loved one around? It’s during the middle of the second night that she can’t wait any longer, she’s got to go and see. So, before dawn, she slips out of her house as quietly as possible and makes the 2-mile journey into town by foot—hopefully a moon like Thursday nights guided her path.

She gets to the tomb, the sky is turning grey, she sees the stone—it’s out of place. Fear and nervous curiosity increase her beating heart rate. Something’s not right. The tomb is empty. She runs, and tells Peter and the beloved disciple. They run, the sky turns from grey to white to blue, sunrays are penetrating through the sparkling leaves of the olive trees, and birds are busy.

The men enter the tomb, linen wrappings lying there; the cloth that once covered Jesus’ head was rolled up and placed apart.

The two men found an empty tomb, just clothes lying there; and they went home saying nothing. Where was Jesus? Do they know what to make of this?

I think this may be where our biggest struggle with faith is. We all know death and loss, pain and suffering; our own and that of others. Can we still have hope in the midst of this harsh reality? Can resurrection and life lift us out of despair? We may find the tomb empty, but maybe we’re not really sure what to do with linens and no body. Where is Jesus; has he been raised from the dead? Or will death be the ultimate end?

In December, 2000, I received a call from my mother telling me that my cousin, a year and a half my younger, was missing. His car had been found two hours from where he lived. His clothes were found lying on the ground, folded some feet away from a body of water, but no body was to be found. To this day we know nothing. Many trails lead in many directions but the investigators and detectives have not been able to say anything definitively. Was it suicide? Was he kidnapped or killed? We don’t know. We have grieved this loss; the hardest part is not to knowing. Every night to this day, his mother, my aunt, lights a candle in the front window of the house as a sign of hope that maybe he will show up some day.

It is this hope that gives her strength. Her name is Mary, and were you to ask her, she would say that her deep faith in the resurrection gives her hope as well. Resurrection means that the ultimate power of death has been altered. Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting. The resurrection did not alter the reality of death. What the resurrection did was to defeat the power of death to rob life of its meaning or hope.

Praise God, Mary is still part of the story. She was the first to the empty tomb, and she is the last to leave. The men leave without saying a word. She breaks down and cries, the tears we have all experienced with loss and pain and confusion. She looks up blurry eyed and now sees two angels inside the tomb—a visit from angels in a time of grief…? As she talks to them, a strange man—the gardener perhaps?—is listening in on the conversation with the angels.

Woman, why are you weeping?” He asks, “Now who is it you’re looking for?

She didn’t recognize Jesus. Were her eyes blurred from tears? Was it one of those psychological phenomena in which the brain can only see what it expects to see? No way she expected to see the man she had just seen brutally murdered on the cross walking around with a garden rake in his hand. Or had he really changed? Who are looking for? he asked.

Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where he is and I will take him away. The story once full of drama, confusion and agony, now turns almost humorous.

Mary…,” [“hey, It’s me, look who your talking to.”]

Teacher? Mary doesn’t trust her eyes, but she does trust her ears.

The Word who has come into the world is spoken and heard, first. The Good shepherd has called his sheep by name.“2

Is this the difference that Easter makes in our lives? We have come face to face with human suffering, arrived at the tomb and peered in, and it was there in that moment that a voice called our name. Have we come here this morning on Easter because we have heard our name?

Jesus didn’t appear to everyone after the resurrection. He didn’t walk into the city and shout out to the powers look, you tried to do away with me and I’m back. He didn’t even appear to the two disciples who had rushed to the tomb; not at first, anyway. But he appeared to Mary, to Mary, and called her name.

I don’t really know what resurrection means for most of you. But I do get the sense that you have heard your name called, each in a unique but powerful way. Is that true Elisabeth? Is that right Polly? Has God spoken to you, has God called you by name? Something has happened that inspires the deacons to keep on caring, and the session the strength to lead. Algo se les ha pasado familia Cervantes que les motiva seguir a pesar de tantos obstaculos. Terry, Helen, Sr. Giron. You have heard your name called. The question then becomes, how are we to respond?

Jesus has appeared to Mary, but something is different. She reaches to grab hold of him and to keep him with her. But he tells her that she can’t hold on to him. He must return to the Father.

And that she, Mary, is the one who must go and tell of this news. So Mary must release the garment of security, and get up from that place in the garden. She is commissioned to preach this thing that she had seen. And she did! ”I have seen the Lord.” Boy did she have a story to tell. Go to the others and tell them; Share hope, Share Hope.

Easter Sunday invites our curiosity and doubt, it invites our tears and anxiety. The resurrection invites our ears to listen and our hearts to respond. The resurrected Christ invites each and every one of his disciples to share hope.

If you can but receive the hope, the good news that the past does not necessarily determine the future, if you can receive that, then you will have enough to live for and to die for. The good news of easter is not only that there is life after death; it is the promise of new life before death.”3 In our lives before death, we can share hope. In the midst of cancer, share hope. In the midst of frustration at work, share hope. In the midst of difficult family members, share hope. The tomb may seem empty, but remember just who it is you looking for. He is Alive!

I’d like to share one last Easter story. A little boy was missing school because he was in the hospital. His teacher asked a visiting schoolteacher who worked in a hospital to go visit him and help him with his homework. “We are studying nouns and adverbs in class, and I hope you will help him,” the visiting teacher was told.

When the visiting teacher arrived at the hospital, she discovered the child was in the hospital’s burn unit in very serious condition, and in tremendous pain. She walked in the room dismayed seeing the child in sheer misery. Not knowing what else to do, she stumbled through the lesson, ashamed of herself for putting him through such a senseless exercise.

The next morning, the nurse on the burn unit said to the teacher, “what did you do to that boy yesterday?” Before the teacher could get out her apology, the nurse said, “We had given up on him, but ever since you visited him, he seems to be fighting back, responding to treatment.”

The boy himself later explained that he had given up hope, but it all changed when he had come to the simple realization that they wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?4

O, the power of hope!

In the midst of our doubt and fear, our pain and suffering, may we hear our name being called. May we receive a powerful message of hope and then be commissioned to share that hope with the world, even in small subtle ways, that may make all the difference in someone’s life. This is the miracle of resurrection! The wonder of Easter!

Across even the darkest shadows of life, there shines a light that will never fail.”

Just three days ago, Jesus was dead. And now he is Alive! Thanks be to God. Amen.

1 Adapted from Susan Stambergs Commentary, “Spring in the Nation’s capital,” as heard on Weekend Edition Saturday, March 22, 2008.

2 David Bartlett, The Easter Texts: Hope, Comfort, Courage,” in Journal for Preachers, Easter 2006, pp. 3-7.

3 Joanna Adams, “Good News Indeed,” Journal for Preachers, Easter 2004, pp. 38-41.

4 Adapted from Joyce Holliday story as told by Joanna Adams, “Good News Indeed,” Journal for Preachers, Easter 2004, pp. 38-41.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I'm Ready To Die

Preached March 9, 2008 Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe, NM
Fifth Week of Lent. John 11:1-45; Ezekiel 37:1-14

Did any of you hear this story this week? The mayor of a French village has issued a blunt decree to residents: “Don’t Die!” "It is forbidden for any person not having a plot in the cemetery ... to die on the territory of the village." Offenders will face a "severe punishment." "The first dead person to come along, I'll send him to the state's representative," he said.1

I wonder if this mayor had Lazarus in mind when he considered enforcing this law. Or maybe he was thinking of all of those bones in that body put back together and given new life.

The story of the dry bones in Ezekiel is familiar: “The toe bone connected to the foot bone.”2
We know this morning’s gospel story: Lazarus being raised from the dead.
Were any of you raised in churches that required you to memorize bible verses? Here it is, the verse that you all memorized: Jesus Wept!

Let’s consider for a moment these tears of Jesus. Was it the inability of those around him to see who he was, understand what his life and mission was that got him down? “I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me even though they die will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die;” but they just didn’t seem to get it; well this is confusing.

Was he swept up by the sea of emotion soaking the scene as mourners gathered around the tomb of a dear friend? When Jesus saw her weeping, and those who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.
This may have been in fact a more dramatic scene than at Steve’s house when Brett Farve announced his retirement this week. Maybe?

But I wonder if these tears weren’t motivated by the future events that would soon take place in Jesus’ life. Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead…Perform the greatest sign--power to conquer death itself. And, because of this miraculous life giving act…many believed, so from that day on they powerful leaders plan to end his life. Could this be why Jesus wept? He saw in that tomb of Lazarus…his own future? Was Jesus ready for this moment? Was he ready to die?

Rapper Notorious B.I.G claimed that he was ready to die in his 1994 album released when he was just 22 years old; he was killed just 3 years later. Martin Luther King, Jr, days before he was killed spoke at a rally and told the world that he had been to the mountain top, lived and experienced an amazing life, he had seen the hope for the future. He was ready to die, and he did just a few nights later. Even, our beloved Alice Martinez, 96 years old, every time I visit with her asks and wonders when “St. Peter is coming for her.” She is ready to die. (She has just recovered marvelously from pneumonia). Was Jesus, who was around my age when this scene took place, ready to die? Are we?

We have all lost loved ones. We witness daily the reality of death. No law can prevent it from happening. We know that our lives will end. This is why we have seasons like lent.

The Lenten journey provides us an opportunity to think long and hard about this life, it’s meaning and how we live it. What really matters? It’s a time for spiritual growth, introspection, and searching for God. This is hard to do. I told myself that I was going to pray more regularly during lent. I guess I did a bit more, but not like I’d planned to do. I told myself that I was going to be more intentional about listening to others, and not let the distractions of my own thoughts and things around me win over my ears…Friends were over yesterday and I had a hard time listening to the conversation with the basketball game on in the background. All these things compete for my attention: T.V. (when I’m somewhere there is a T.V) and radio. projects. adds. these things tell me to look out for number one. And the minute I begin to look outside myself and my own problems I get bombarded by a world of hurt and pain and worthy causes that overwhelm my heart and mind to inaction. Every week, our mailbox here at church is flooded by some cause that is worth giving to.

A natural response might be retreat…live in your own little world, turn the T.V. back on and be mesmerized by an alluring make-believe world that calls itself “reality.” Disengage, fall into everyday routines, and become blind to what’s going on around. Numbing effects of meaningless news and meaningless events. Not to mention the paralysis of fear. Is this living? Or a kind of death? But really who wants to face death?

Listen to an excerpt from the poem, “Self help for fellow refugees,” by Li-Young Lee:3

If you happen to have watched armed men beat and drag your father

out the front door of your house and into the back of an idling truck

before your mother jerked you from the threshold

buried your face in her skirt folds

try not to judge your mother too harshly

don’t ask her what she thought she was doing.

turning a child’s eyes away from history

and toward that place all human aching starts.

It is no mistake that before we get to Easter in just two weeks, these passages from Ezekiel and John insist that we leave the safety of skirt folds, and go to a graveyard;4 and there confront the aching we have experienced and pray that God will find us there and give us life. Before we jump to resurrection, we must first face our fears, and move into those unpleasant places of our very existence, Those places where dreams have been buried. Where we have experienced hurt and pain. Where life not longer seems to exist.

Can these bones live? Can these bones live? A forgotten Israel far from its homeland struggling to overcome the pain of exile and seeming absence of God.
Life has been sucked out; there is nothing left but dry bones.

Jesus hesitates before going to the grave-site. He gets the message but he doesn’t go. Jesus doesn’t go. He stays, He waits, two days he delays saying: This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be gloried through it.” For John, the Son of God is glorified in and only in death. So basically he is saying if we go do this thing with Lazarus I will die. Was he ready to die?

Finally, after two days, he tells his disciples: It is time. They’re not stupid, they know that with every step toward Bethany, he’s on step closer to Jerusalem where the hornets are waiting to swarm over him. “You march to your death,” they shout in protest. Until one, Thomas, says, “Let us also go, so that we may die with him.”

This story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead is odd in so many ways for us.
Are we to believe that Christ can bring the dead back to life? Through this miracle are we given a deeper faith? Can we confess with Martha: Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world? For me, something even more significant is that Jesus resigns to the fact that he must put an end to death, not by going around it, but by going right to where it is. Right to the graveyard.

But he doesn’t go alone; disciples are there. Mary and Martha are there. And it is there in the midst of the crowd, tears and wailing, he asks: “Where have you laid him?” “Come and see,” they say. Jesus weeps. These are healthy tears to be sure…most tears are. The words, Come and see, provoke tears.

The very words he spoke to early disciples when asked: Where do you live? He said, “come and see.” These are the same words Philip said when Nathaniel asked: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see. The Samaritan woman shouted to her village after she had encountered Jesus at the well: Come and see!5 Come and see: A call to discipleship. A call for obedience. Come and see. Jesus friends, without even knowing it, were telling him to come and see tomb where he would soon lie. And Jesus wept.6

Come and see is Jesus’ invitation to identify with all of us. Identify with the struggle to live in faithful obedience under conditions of suffering and death; to live in faithful obedience when retreat and avoidance is so much easier…but is not life giving. Jesus knew disappointment, shame, betrayal, and misunderstanding. Should the shepherd ride in the Prius while the sheep walk along on the dirt road? Should the girlscouts sleep on the cold ground in the dark woods while the leader relaxes in a nearby motel?7 Were Jesus not to have gone through these things, would we pray in his name? Would we sing, “Que Amigo nos es Cristo? Would we have a Friend in Jesus, were he unwilling to confront the reality we all must face?8

And so instead he goes to the extreme. He sets the example. He shouts: Lazarus come out. and now, “the path before him is clear: [For] just as the rule of nature demands the death of the seed in order to have life; Jesus shows us that the rule of discipleship demands the giving of life in order to have life.”9 In this graceful act of obedience, yes, Jesus calls the corpse out of the tomb, making room for his own that will soon be placed there.

And yet in some strange way this is a journey that he takes toward life. This step toward death, in the deepest place in our heart, we know is a step toward life not only for Lazarus, not only for the One who would be raised from the dead, but also for all of us!

Through trust in God we are given life in the spirit: the courage and power to face our fears, confront the powers that would subdue our spirits, numbing our lives to a state of nonexistence. Through prayer, our bones rise up and come together, they are given sinews and flesh. Through obedience the breath of God breathes new life in to each and every one of us.

Today we install 5 officers elected in January of this year to provide life to this church. Two of these five have had to face death head on recently. Kathy lost her father in December. And Diane lost her husband, Dick, in January. Even now,

Donna is confronted with cancer taking over her sister’s body. And yet somehow, these three, and all five of these officers, are willing to say here I am Lord. I have heard your call to come, and the time is now. I am ready to die, to give my life in service so that there may be life in this community. Now I don’t want to suggest that by becoming a deacon or an elder the church community takes over your life. I mean you can still sleep. But, it was fascinating to hear the conversation when we gathered here on Wednesday for officer training. Each went around and shared stories that in some way each said: For a long time this church has given me life. People have served on session and as deacons, and it has made a difference in my life. Now I feel like it is time. It is my time to give something back. To give of my life so that there may be life here in this place on 841 W. Manhattan.

This is great group you, the congregation, have elected. This give me hope. May we all experience the joys of life and the joys of relationship, through the gift of your service. May we all be challenged to life and to hope. A life in which we are called to discipleship: a life of faithful obedience. Which means that we are called to die, to give of our lives in love so that we, and others may live.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

James Weldon Johnson
3 As Heard on NRP’s Weekend Edition, Saturday March 8, 2008:
4 Barbara Brown Taylor, “Can These Bones Live?” Christian Century, March 13, 1996, p 291.
5 Fred Craddock, “Jesus Wept” Journal for Preachers, Easter 2000, 36-38.
6 Fred Craddock, “Jesus Wept” Journal for Preachers, Easter 2000, 36-38.
7 Fred Craddock, “Jesus Wept” Journal for Preachers, Easter 2000, 36-38.
8 Fred Craddock, “Jesus Wept” Journal for Preachers, Easter 2000, 36-38.
9 Fred Craddock, “Jesus Wept” Journal for Preachers, Easter 2000, 36-38.