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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May 13, 2018 - Seventh Sunday of Easter - "While I was Still With You"

I was excited before the service to hear the run through rehearsal for Creator's Pentecost celebration next week by the youth. Both Anelise and Sonnet practiced the Glocal music for next week when the youth will lead the congregation through these songs. Anelise helped us lead the congregation in the music this morning.

Today's service was somewhat bittersweet in large part because of the Gospel reading. There are obviously verses throughout the New Testament that grab mind and heart. These are times we read with understanding and awe God's words of authority and love for the world.  At other times we are moved when, through the word, Jesus speaks as an individual who shares our common humanity and connects with something real within us. An example would be the lament on the cross "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Here, in John 17:11, the words of Jesus, just before his arrest, are particularly and profoundly grief-laden, "And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world". This is a reminder, on the last Sunday of Easter, that even though Christ is risen there is a sadness mixed with joy knowing Jesus is no longer in the world in the same way as we are - the flesh and blood Emmanuel God with us.

Today Pastor Ray's sermon continued to explore the metaphors in the Bible used to describe God or how God can physically manifest to us. He preached about hearing a keynote speaker in Colorado, an Episcopal priest - Lauren Winner - who wrote a book called Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God. She is familiar to many in our congregation as one of the Animate Faith presenters from several years ago. (Session 6)

In Wearing God, Winner’s draws her readers to the biblical images that have captured her attention and awareness: God as clothing, as smell, as laboring woman, as flame.  To start off with - thinking of God as a woman in labor seems somewhat appropriate for a service where we are celebrating Mother's Day today.

To continue with the other metaphors, her thoughts regarding clothing could be summed up in a line from her book "God clothes. God is our clothing. And, finally, God draws us into the act of clothing, by instructing us to clothe others."  To underscore this she references Genesis 3:21 and what God generously does for Adam and Eve just before they are expelled from Eden. God shows love and gives them protection by functioning as a tailor or seamstress in this verse, "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them."

Winner becomes fascinated with the intimacy of how God clothes us and and what inspiration can be drawn when we ponder God being tied to our clothes. God as near to us as our clothes is something she aspires to believe even though she admits that faith is elusive for her. Also, in Genesis, the God / clothes intimacy is inextricably bound to shame of our bodies. God understands us in that shame on a level that is uncomfortable to accept.

Winner also cites Paul, who wrote in Galatians 3:27 "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." This lends credence to thinking about clothing as "fashioning" both individual and group identities or, conversely at times, serving as a barrier to the building of those same identities.

The next verse is a more recognized verse "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." To think of this with the clothing overlay that cones from verse 16 takes our understanding of this familiar verse in different directions. Actually this is a heads up and a fine reason why to all wear red next Sunday.

Another intriguing way of meeting God she wrote about, and that Pastor Ray spent time preaching about, was through aroma. There are many passages that reference God and aroma. Early on in the Bible aroma is cited as a reason for God's promise not to curse the ground. We find this in Genesis 8:21,  "The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done."

I appreciate what Winner pursues in her book, Many of the God metaphors used in the Bible are not part of our daily life. We don't see shepherds, kings, vintners or potters regularly in our everyday life as 21st century Americans. Sharing directly what does connect with our life and captures our modern imagination can lead to new, insightful understandings. For example, with Pentecost still in mind, when I read about fire in her subtitle I immediately recall my first dramatic Pentecost worship at Creator.

The intern at that time, Amanda Zentz, during the service came into the sanctuary with a bowl of fire. Connections, associations and the experience of the Biblical event that were triggered by this instantly filled me with excitement. Typically when these Acts verses are read during Pentecost the familiarity with this post-resurrection beginning of the church leads to domesticated responses, even when hearing the detail of divided tongues of fire seen on the disciples. The actual experience of fire in the sanctuary instantly burned all that domestication away.

Jesus often started his teachings with, "The kingdom of heaven is like..." and would allude to something the crowd would know from their daily life. Often we need to be taught the Biblical images which do not come from our daily lives but are rather mediated through these teachings. How often are we told, this is how people, in the time of Jesus, would have responded to his teachings. Any insight that relies on this is, at heart, derivative. We have to learn and trust in the teaching to understand the metaphor. We end up a step removed from encountering what Jesus was communicating to those around him.

Often, being Christian, we accept tradition like we may experience architecture. This is not something to be changed. We marvel at the structure of what has come down to us. We learn what makes it beautiful and why. There is another approach to take, however. We could accept our religious traditions as we would gardening traditions that have come down to us. We can think of the knowledge and wisdom we inherit as ways that have worked in the past to grow in spirit. Those inherited traditions need to be adapted to the conditions of the current "gardening" moment - to the soil, to the surrounding plants, and to the overall state of the whole garden.

Pastor Ray pointed out the two words that are used the most in today's gospel are given and world. This morning he emphasized the word for world is the same as in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world". This helps to reveal that God is not drawing a distinction between the world and what is holy and sacred. The world is not separate and apart from what is considered holy. God loves the world, recognizes it as good and holy and, through us, the body of Christ is God's current expression of that love in the world.

The prayer Jesus makes in John 17:15, "I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one" seems to follow from this understanding of what we are, by nature, as the body of Christ alive in the world today,

You have a choice:
see God as here or not;
see salvation, or see only
human courage; see the divine
subtly at work or see chance.

Lauren F. Winner 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

May 6, 2018 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Friends, Breathing and Abiding in Love

Unexpected insights on today's Gospel (John 15:9-17) came from both the Sermon and the Children's Time before the readings.

First, Pastor Ray asked the children if they like swimming and received an enthusiastic yes from all. A few volunteered they were taking or about to take swimming lessons. Our pastor admitted he liked swimming too but was a bad swimmer. He asked if anyone was ever afraid of the water. The children said no. Pastor Ray talked about how he tended to sink unless he had a water noodle to help him float. He proposed that God helps us to like a water noodle which the swimmer can trust keep the swimmer afloat - to be able to just rest in God, to float, to not have to struggle to float.

The children however, with recent swimming lessons behind them, thought this cast aspersions on their ability to handle themselves in the water. In their minds they had graduated from using noodles as a crutch and insisted they were not scared of sinking. The congregation laughed because this was not going the way Pastor Ray wanted. Two of the girls were a little put out by the congregation's reaction at that moment.

The insight came gradually and quietly from our God of surprise and reversal in contemplating this with the gospel reading. Certainly Jesus was not portraying the God who acts as a spiritual noodle to us in this passage.

Although this metaphor is one part of how God is revealed in the world, here the words of Jesus are, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." Jesus, as it were, is commanding us to be spiritual flotation devices for others. He did not call us servants but friends. Jesus exhorted us to act, not only from a position when we were weak and when we need to trust God to help us but rather to understand and act when we were in a position of strength to help others.

Even the swimming / drowning brought up in this spiritual context is rich with other associations. In many songs and poems God is associated with water, the ocean of love, or the source of life we cannot do without. Certainly how someone would be saved from going under if this is the association we have would be significantly different than simply insuring that they could float. 

In his sermon Pastor Ray centered in on the father-image of God that may be problematic to some. He asked about the images others in the congregation had of God. He wondered if any people thought about the Sistine Chapel gray-bearded old guy-in-the-sky. Truthfully we didn't stray far from the other Biblical images, for example mother-hen and God as an image of love.

The apophatic / cataphatic argument immediately came to mind. Do we talk about our knowledge of God through affirmation of the properties and qualities we know (cataphatic) or by not speaking of God directly or defining what God is not (apophatic)? The Parable of the Gardener told by Antony Flew is an illustration of a few of the issues driving the importance of the argument:

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, "Some gardener must tend this plot." The other disagrees, "There is no gardener." So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. "But perhaps he is an invisible gardener." So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Well's The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. "But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible, to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves. At last the Skeptic despairs, "But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all? 

Like any good parable this operates on many levels and, because of the Children's Time, a new level came in the services as another insight. How is the apophatic / cataphatic argument changed if God is a God of surprise and reversal? It became clearer to me that the God attributes we normally use to understand God are, by definition, inadequate. Instead, imagining God as event may be helpful as another method of understanding. Our liturgical practices may be the ways that human beings organize experiences of the event called ‘God.'

The parable suddenly opened up with new meanings. At first, perhaps, the same issue remains. How do we know if an event is God revealed or not? Now, however, the clearing itself takes on a new importance. The very existence of the clearing could be the physical revelation of the breath of God in the world. Normally the gardener and the plot have separate existences apart from one another. Imaging God as event begins to open new possibilities.

Together we are the reflection of God. We live within God's world. When we breathe in our life together deeply we follow the way Jesus commanded in these verses from John. We become the breathing life in Christ's body, however we want to create that vision in our thoughts.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

April 29, 2018 - Fifth Sunday of Easter - Abide in Me as I Abide in You

Pastor Ray drew attention to verse 4 "Abide in me as I abide in you" of today's gospel as key to this Gospel reading.

Before this his sermon stressed the intimate nature between vintner and the vines and branches in the vineyard. The vintner, to do the work of tending and pruning correctly, must know each plant and what contributes to each branch's health and what does not. The fruit we bear and what we contribute in this life does not come from our doing but because we branches of the vine, tended and pruned by our vintner-God. God’s love, presence, and pruning are gifts. The acts of throwing away and burning what does to contribute are not pointed out by Jesus as threats or punishments. Rather these are described as the ways that demonstrate God's concern and are designed so our world will bear more fruit and glorify God.

By saying "I am the true vine" in this passage Jesus also changes the Old Testament understanding as expressed in verses like Hosea 10:1 "Israel was a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit." Jesus, not Israel, will now be understood by Christians as the true vine.

The sermon, however, made the true beauty of mutual abiding apparent. Any assumptions humans may make about how Jesus abides in us and others are not necessarily correct. Jesus, as the true vine, may abide with someone who is not a follower of Jesus in a very different way than those who do profess. This is about freeing individuals to chose the best of what they can offer using the gifts they are given.

What an individual experiences as a saving, liberating and abiding presence in the midst of our day-to-day world functions as the true vine. This is the true promise of abundant life that challenges us to expand our love and understanding of God functioning in the world through the body of Christ.

The promise of "abiding" in Jesus is not made for its own sake, nor an end in itself. Jesus imagines and promises a dynamic and changing life for the disciple community. Vines are pruned and cleansed. Branches that wither and die are removed. This points to a constantly changing community that is called to be up and doing. This is a relationship of purpose and power.

This call to "bear fruit" may sound judgmental to our ears, but only if it is heard as the call of some distant or judgmental taskmaster. This taskmaster vision of God is compelling because this is powthat Martin Luther attempts to free us from. This is not about the works God dictates we do but what God promises. This is the God we pray to in the Lord's prayer as "Our Father..."

Such a promise invites us into the abiding relationship in which vine and branches are held together by the one whose glory is seen in his being lifted up on the cross for us and in a Father who also is glorified when those who abide in that Son are revealed in the faithful bearing of fruit in service to the world.

God's discipline allows us to trust that we can act through generous and abundant self-indulgence in how we share the fruits of what we have been given in the service of ourselves and others.

Monday, April 23, 2018

April 22, 2018 - Fourth Sunday of Easter - Good Shepherd Sunday

We acknowledged again today that we are Easter people and it was fitting since we are in the season of Easter. Should the reminder in this season quicken something more within us - does the season make us more alive, receptive and responsive when we affirm our underlying identity?

Today's Liturgy was the African / American liturgy. The hymns were mostly congregation favorites. Pastor Terry Moe and Pastor Deb (who went to seminary with Pastor Ray) worshipped with Creator today. They had attended a cluster's community organizing event this weekend in the Gorge. Both commented on the speed and the energy that came across in the congregation's music.

"It was fun trying to keep up..." was Pastor Deb's observation. "...and so different from where I am going to preach wnext Sunday here they insist on grand processionals with slow, stately organ music playing." 

Pastor Ray preached about we benefit from Easter being more than one Sunday of the year and that we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday during each Easter season. He spoke about the images that are too easily conjured up in our heads on this day - beautiful images. Jesus in a pure white robe with long flowing hair. Pristine, well-behaved sheep on a sunny day in a perfect pasture are with him. Perhaps he is carrying a lamb.

Yet this is hardly the life Jesus lived, nor what he promises of what life is like in other passages, nor does it match the expectations he sets for his followers as far as a future vision to serve as a guide.

Hearing the voice of Jesus is difficult in these verses. Hard to begin with because of our familiarity with this language. Verses like this can lull us into a beautiful life vision and promise. Yet this voice is calling for us to be more than sheep who need to be protected. We can gather as a congregation for strength, but it is not just to protect individuals or of those we recognize as part of "our flock". The voice of Jesus to my ear is no longer that commanding or exclusive. This brings me to a final reflection that I will use to end this post.

The language describing the Good Shepherd situation is also not as reassuring and comfortable as it seems on the surface. The shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. This is a noble gesture but also leaves the sheep without a primary defender against the wolf. The threat remains. How the wolf is stopped when the shepherd is dead is unresolved. Whether it is a hired hand who abandoned the flock or the shepherd who has died for them, nothing changes the continuing, inherent menace to the sheep.

I pointed this out to someone after service today. He lit up with this suggestion, "But Jesus conquers death at Easter" I tried to imagine that wolf / shepherd fight 'continuing' after the shepherd's death. My mind created some strange scenarios.

For many reasons, I don't hear Jesus calling his followers only to be passive sheep needing protection. This leads to another difficulty in this passage when determining how to stop the wolf. With a Good Shepherd image in our minds it is hard to imagine what Jesus is calling us to do. Quite simply sheep do not become shepherds. However, we read in Matthew 16:24-26:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?    

To save sheep's lives from the wolf, the followers of Jesus should become shepherds themselves. This is a more subversive, disruptive message than we normally hear in thee words. Some may not recognize the voice in this invitation. To me this is a promise that there are different levels - different speeds - Christians are asked to be in their lives. This is as it should be. We don't always need to be the shepherd that Jesus is, but it is clear he desires his followers to be more than protected sheep.

The comforting verses and images of Jesus as the Good Shepherd do provide a challenging thought that might sometimes get lost. The good shepherd decides who is in the fold, we do not. "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold." (John 10:16) The Pharisees and the disciples alike thought that they knew who the chosen ones of God were. But this shepherd tells them, and tells us, that there will be "one flock, one shepherd" and it is God, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, not we, who brings together that flock.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

April 15, 2018 - Third Sunday of Easter - The Reality of Jesus and the Resurrection

What happens when we search for or try to prove the reality of Jesus and consider it as the primary foundation for Christianity? Today's gospel, Luke 24:36b-48, is a passage concerned with an appearance of Jesus to the disciples after the resurrection.

Photo by Ron Houser
Pastor Ray told two stories about Jesus being present in our lives in his sermon. One was about Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread and best known for organizing new pantries all over San Francisco to provide hundreds of hungry families with free groceries each week. She was inspired after a mysterious communion experience she wrote about in her book:

What happened a few minutes later is a mystery. I still can't explain my first Communion; it made no sense. I was in tears and physically unbalanced: I felt as if I had just stepped off a curb, or been knocked over, painlessly, from behind. The disconnect between what I thought was happening—I was eating a piece of bread; what I heard someone else say was happening—the piece of bread was the “body” of “Christ,” a patently untrue, or at best metaphorical statement; and what I knew was happening—God, named “Christ” or “Jesus,” was real, and in my mouth—utterly short-circuited my ability to do anything but cry.

All the way home, shocked, I scrambled for explanations. Maybe I was hyper-suggestible, and being surrounded by believers had been enough to push me, momentarily, into accepting their superstitions: what I’d felt was a sort of contact high. My tears were probably just pent-up sadness, accumulated over a long hard decade, and spilling out, unsurprisingly, because I was in a place where I could cry anonymously. In fact, the whole thing must have been about emotion: the music, the movement and the light in the room had evoked feelings, much as if I’d been uplifted by a particularly glorious concert or seen a natural wonder.

Afterwards she thought to herself 'Now that you’ve taken the bread, what are you going to do?". The urgency of answering that question propelled her to start a food pantry that has literally given away tons of fruit and vegetables and cereal around the same altar where she had first received the body of Christ.

The other story was of Pastor Ray's personally returning to Christianity after years of feeling excluded, which was a chance meeting with a Lutheran pastor's wife who was dancing in a gay bar was in.

His sermon emphasized the doubt and fear of the disciples as stressing how Jesus can meet us wherever we are in our journey and that we do not need to be ashamed of any doubts or fears we harbor in our hearts about Jesus and what we may have to do.

When I read Take This Bread and when I heard the author give a keynote address at the Oregon Synod assembly in 2010 I was impressed by her words and how she stressed the disconnect between what she thought was happening and what someone else said was happening. That disconnect made her cry. This description invokes for me the moments where I have felt God's presence. I experience the world as I rationally encounter it every day and simultaneously experience God's presence which is just as immediate and just as "real". I was just as overcome with emotion when that happened, only I was given joy and emotional well-being instead of tears to express my gratitude.

Another important component of her life story was community. In the story above she described possibly being surrounded by believers was enough to push her, momentarily, into accepting their "superstitions". This is all about credulity and our tendency not to be too ready to believe that something is real or true. We view gullibility as a danger in our lives. Nobody wants to be open to a con.

So after all this Sunday worship threw me back to the messiness of resurrection that I wrote about throughout Holy Week.

The music today was all familiar to the congregation. We sang the African and American Folk Mass liturgy with Eric leading the congregation together with Matt, Valentine, Shirley and myself.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

April 8, 2018 - Second Sunday of Easter - Worship at Cascade Church Portland - The Miraculous and Mundane

This week I attended worship at Cascade Church Portland on SE Woodstock.

The congregation starts by socializing with a coffee and fellowship time. Turned out this can be helpful for someone attending for the first time like me. I talked and was able to worship with someone who showed me the ropes and shared what worship at Cascade was like for her. Plenty of meaningful testimony about this church.

Worship started with a band - cello, guitar, drums and vocals - leading the praise music. The contemporary songs intentionally evoked strong emotions and lyrics that adeptly mixed personal perspective (I and my) and references to the larger community (we and our).

The worship structure basically moved from music to prayer then back again. Communion was included (although I understand this does not necessarily happen weekly). The communion balanced being both individual and part of a community, like the music did. We were invited to take bread individually and then saved the wine we received to share together after the communion music was complete. Structurally, for the congregation, the importance of the message seemed to be highlighted.

Leroy Barber presented the Sunday message. His passion and insights regarding the Gospel John 21:1-14 lesson were apparent in this Sunday's teaching. This was the last of Cascade's Word Made Flesh series which the church focused on during Lent. After making people aware of the speculation that this was likely addendum material in John, he grounded the importance of the Miraculous Catch of Fish in a number of ways. I will choose three:
  • The context of the church year - Emphasizing this is a story about us and the temptations that come to us after the high holy days. He connected this scene to the days between Resurrection and Pentecost where there is a pull to go back to our old lives and trusting our own ideas of what is sensible, rather than acknowledging that our lives are transformed and waiting to know what Jesus wants us to do and where God wants us to be.
  • The context of leadership.- Peter does not necessarily want to be the leader of the other disciples. He has made some mistakes so he doesn't necessarily feel worthy but they follow him to fish, just like they did before. This may be practical and reasoned but it is not the path that Jesus chooses for Peter and the disciples to serve the world.
  • The context of other Gospel lessons - Particularly Luke 5:1-11 when Jesus first calls Peter and Matthew 4:18-22. The disciples have gone through a similar experience when Jesus first called them and yet there is something new. He also talks about this coming just before Jesus reinstates Peter with the repeating the question Do you love me? three times.
Leroy's comparisons to Luke 5:1-11 Jesus Calls His First Disciples were particularly helpful. The Miraculous Catch of Fish echoes the call of the first disciples with the instructive similarities and differences. When Jesus calls his first disciples they start at the shore doing a mundane task, When they follow the command of Jesus to fish once more the experience of excitement and the miraculous is palpable in the description:

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.. 

Nets are breaking and the boats are sinking because of all the fish that have been caught. The disciples were astonished. None of this happen in the John's Miraculous Catch of Fish. They are now more experienced in answering the commands of Jesus and are changed from when they were initially called. The disciples found it hard to wait for what God would have them do and, instead, involved themselves in the more sensible and mundane work they were doing before they followed Jesus.

I also appreciated the emphasis on important details in John 21 that don't immediately catch the readers attention. A detail that Leroy stressed was their shared breakfast:

Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

Leroy asked us who caught the fish Jesus had already laid on the coals. Those fish did not come from the disciples own effort, but rather from the Lord who cares for the disciples. Next Leroy pointed out that Jesus wants to combine the fish they had just caught with the fish the Lord had provided. There is a benevolence, gratitude in his gesture that stresses their efforts are important and are to be combined with what God has given.

I cherished how this stressed the importance of God's grace together with, and not apart from, our response to that grace.

Monday, April 2, 2018

April 1, 2018 - Easter - Resurrection is a Messy Business

Today was the culmination of the theme of Holy Week this year where there was an emphasis on an understanding that religious purity does not need to constrain our celebrations that honor God's being there for us and for being the creator who made us who we are.

Pastor Ray didn't give his sermon on the Mark 16: 1-8 Gospel printed in the bulletin, He was spontaneous and instead preached on the Easter Vigil Gospel reading John 20:1-18 that spoke to his theme.

Pastor Ray preached about how messy the business of resurrection can be. His core insight came from Mary's mistaking Jesus as a gardener. This also cleverly played into Easter falling on April Fool's Day. Pastor Ray observed that Jesus was not playing an April Fools joke on Mary by disguising himself as a gardener.

Holy Week started with Maundy Thursday and the image of God loving everything about us, including our dirty feet. For Easter Pastor Ray presented us with Jesus who was so dirty, after what he had went through during the passion story and Crucifixion, that it would be natural for Mary not to recognize him as Jesus and, instead, mistake him for a gardener; an occupation involving dirt.

I appreciate the benefits of this insight. The beauty that Mary does not recognize Jesus until he calls her name is highlighted and the spiritual truth of that is an extraordinary take away for me of this Easter service. I also appreciate that a focus on not being dirty can keep us from Christian mission. We can see this coming up in Jewish purity laws because we do not follow them.

Unfortunately when the spiritual is explained in physical terms, physical credulity can quickly become strained. Whenever we come to faith by emphasizing the importance of the empty tomb truly being in the physical world, the result becomes messy.

Take this particular insight about the physical story emphasizing the dirtiness of the resurrected body of Jesus. First off, the body was prepared before the tomb and ,even if it were not, would dirt, bruises and abuses on a body coming through the resurrection be enough to obscure the identity of Jesus from Mary after a verbal exchange? Secondly, what is Jesus wearing for this mistake to occur (which begs the question was there a miracle as far as clothes to wear was concerned?) I could go on but a final observation on this. Jesus has gone through crucifixion. All the wounds and marks made must either no longer be on his body or they are ignored by Mary when she doesn't recognize Jesus.

Messy indeed. I do not argue against the empty tomb. At issue is how much life-experience reality must be either ignored or our focus turns to all these trivialities. We can simply try to dismiss them but when emphasis is given to physical body resuscitation as a central tenet of our faith, our Christian story must inherit this messier resurrection. We quickly are forced to fall back on the mystery and / or assert God can do anything. However, when we resolve the messiness in this way it limits the rational substance of any argument going forward.

Certainly something simpler is what Easter is primarily about for most people. There was our usual brunch between the 8:30 and 10:30 services where contributions go to sending our youth to the ELCA churchwige Gathering that is in Houston this year,

Creator sang many of the songs we traditionally sing on Easter. Jesus Christ Is Risen Today, All Are Welcome to open the service. Now All The Vaults of Heaven ResoundsThine is the Glory and Alleuluia! Sing to Jesus are on our traditional list closing with Alleluia! Jesus is Risen.

The choir sang a medley of He is Lord, All Things New (which featured a solo by Sonnet), and Up from the Earth. Matt  did a great job choosing the material, rehearsing and directing the choir which was a little light in number this year.

So, once again I am reminded of past Easter sermons and something I truly believe - Resurrection is a gift from God and received by faith. The messiness remains but messiness does not need to deter faith