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Archive for the ‘Homily’ Category

Last night we gathered beneath the shadow of the cross to remember and receive by faith the last hours of our Lord. The Good Friday liturgy begins with a solemn procession, silence, and this prayer:

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.

The prophet Isaiah (52:13-53:12) was read, reminding us that Israel had long been waiting for this servant of God to come and bring deliverance and forgiveness of sins.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the  chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The Passion Gospel was then read by a number of readers. The congregation voiced the cries of the crowd and those who would have Jesus crucified. We stood when he arrived at Golgotha. We bowed when he, “gave up his spirit”

I was grateful to be given the opportunity to preach the Good Friday homily. I spoke on Jesus’ choice to restrain himself in order to be obedient to his Father’s will. His obedience in going to the tree of Golgotha undid the destruction caused by the disobedience of the first humans who went to the tree in Eden and ate of its fruit.

When I spoke of Jesus taking all of the the  sin and wickedness, disobedience, suffering, and sorrow of the world into and onto himself, I was unexpectedly moved emotionally – even to tears. It was the first time that’s ever happened when I’ve preached. As I’ve processed that experience, I’m still not exactly certain what happened. The Spirit kindled something deep within me that I had not planned and was not expecting. I was simultaneously overcome with the reality of the brokenness of this world and Christ’s suffering for it.

Looking out over the faces of the congregation, knowing their stories, their struggles and their griefs, it was as if I glimpsed the devastating extent of the Fall. Internally, I was also aware of the damaging effects of sin in my life and the life of my family. In that moment, I was awakened  unexpectedly to our desperate need for a Savior.

I woke up at 3:15 this morning for some unknown reason and I was pondering this experience. I was gratefully reminded of some words I’d read by Lancelot Andrewes recently:

Give tears then: give the grace of tears.
Give me, Lord, this great grace. 
Tears such as Thou didst give to David, to Jeremiah, to Peter, and to Mary Magdalene. 
Tears gain everything.

We finished the service with The Solemn Collects, the veneration of the cross, and a magnificent rendition of Bach’s passion story according to St. Matthew by Beth Linnartz, Ehsan Samei, and Todd Granger (Aus Liebe Will Mein Heiland Sterben).

Again, what a feast of feasts, these days are! And it’s not over yet! Tonight a number of us from Holy Trinity will gather for the The Great Vigil. Then tomorrow, we will sing, “Christ the Lord is risen today,” with our brothers and sisters at All Saints.

I confess, I am greatly looking forward to the end of  Lent. It has been a long and challenging one in many respects. Not just for me but for those whom I love. I agree with Tom Wright, after such a long Lent, we need more than one day to celebrate the magnitude of the resurrection. “We need days of morning prayers and champagne,” to rightly linger in the joy of this celebration!

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As promised, here is the text from the homily from last evening’s beautiful ceremony.

Jordan and Angie! I speak for all of us here today, your friends and family, in saying, we are honored to share this day with you. It’s wonderful to see the two of you – two people with such incredible gifts and passionate hearts– come together in the covenant of marriage with one another and God.

And, how good and right it is for us to be standing behind this house in this back yard to celebrate this moment.

It has been delightful to watch this story unfold  – how in your desire to live intentionally and incarnationally, you’ve invested so much in getting connected in this neighborhood and in restoring this house.

I was talking to your neighbor Antwan last night. He asked if I thought you were crazy for moving into this neighborhood. No I didn’t. I got that. But when I first visited this house…I started to have my doubts about your sanity. It didn’t have a floor! It was condemned to rot and be destroyed. But with your commitment, your passion, and love, we’ve watched you two take this house with all of its shortcomings and make it beautiful.

And while this house was being transformed, we’ve watched your relationship develop; you’ve experienced challenges, you’ve worked hard together. You’ve put down some deep roots and you’ve grown in love.

The passages from Scriptures you picked for today, speak to these themes of rootedness and growth:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought,for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

“I am the true vine,” Jesus said. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

You know, we hear the word love used so often and it has so many different meanings depending on its context. But in the Gospel reading that you chose for this occasion, Jesus speaks of abiding in his love, remaining, staying, joining in his love. A love that is unselfish and self-sacrificing. This is true love. Not the fleeting emotions that can waver and shift but the kind of love that is described in the Epistle reading you chose for today – the love that rejoices in hope, is patient in tribulation, the kind of love that seeks to overcome evil with good.

We see the ultimate expression of this kind of love embodied in the life of Jesus. In his ministry among us, his suffering for our sins on the cross, and his defeat of death in his resurrection. True love is that Jesus Christ emptied himself for our sake, that just like this house, we might be his renovated and restored –something condemned, restored to great beauty.

This will be the kind of love that is demanded of you in your marriage: selfless, sacrificial love; love that calls you to lay your life down for the other.

It’s a tall task. Just as you were pushed hard at times to rebuild this home, your abilities to love one another well will be tested even more in building your marriage. You will be pushed. There will be challenges and difficulties. There will be days when you don’t feel much like loving or sacrificing for one another.

This has all been so beautifully transformed from what it was. Look around at this yard. It’s been literally transformed.

I want you to mark my words. If you allow it, your marriage will transform YOU. It will transform your lives into something even more beautiful than what you have done with this place; more stunning than what we are seeing today. Because by keeping your vows, by honoring one another, serving and laying your life down for one another, by trusting God with and for each another, your marriage will become a means by which God will make you Holy.

So REMEMBER – pray together.

Be quick to say these words if they are true:
“I am wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.”

I would also like to add, you are not in this alone. Turn around for a moment and look at all these people. All of these people love you. They are FOR you. Take a moment to soak in this.

Jordan and Angie, all of us gathered here today, your family and friends, FOR you. We are here to love and support you.

As much love and support for you as there is, it’s a drop in the vast ocean of God’s love for you. Of God’s support for you.

Believe in the power of what He is doing today. Believe that He is joining you together in a profound, mysterious, and amazing way. The two are becoming one. Believe that today God is imparting grace to you, spiritual power, to strengthen your marriage to overcome anything that would come against it.

Up until this point in your lives, you’ve experienced your relationship with God in specific ways. In just a moment, that’s about to change.

Jordan, God is just about to enter your life in a new and different way. Not for your sake but so that you may love and serve Angie. That you may be an outward and visible sign of God’s love for her, so that she may encounter Christ in you.

Angie, God is just about to enter your life in a new and different way. Not for your sake but so that you may love and serve Jordan. That you may be an outward and visible sign of God’s love for him, so that he may encounter Christ in you.

A profound mystery, this is a portrait of Christ and the Church. This is what it means to be married as Christians.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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