Sunday, March 27, 2016

He is Risen!



Sunday of the Resurrection + Year C                      Fr. Robert R.M. Bagwell+
27, March 2016                                              All Saints Church, Hampton, SC
Acts 10:34-43                                                                                                                                            Psalm 118:1-2, 14-241 Corinthians 15:19-26                                                                                                                                                        John 20:1-18

I saw a humorous cartoon on an Episcopal Church Calendar that show an Easter bunny looking through a book called "the Easter story" and seems perturbed that he does not find himself mentioned in the "story." Despite the world's take on Easter with bunnies and baskets and bows, we gather to celebrate resurrection. 

The Episcopal Service for Burial of the Dead begins in this way: "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die." (in the original text Jesus adds, "Do you believe this?” Do you believe this?  There are our brothers and sisters in the middle east are dying because they believe this!

This morning I am seeking in the midst of this congregation to proclaim this.  Something happened that turned the world upside down on that morning and that something changed time and eternity forever. They said that it was Jesus risen from the dead that gave them the passion and drive to take this amazing news to the whole earth. This is a celebration of belief, belief in a person who has changed the world and changed our lives forever.

In Revelation 21:5, we read: And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. Revelation 21:5  Is that not was the bodily resurrection of Jesus was all about, the beginning of making all things new, beginning with the human soul.   Resurrection is not resuscitation as some try to make it.  Jesus really died and when he arose, he was in a glorified body as we will have in heaven.   For Jesus' disciples their grief, their fear and their tears must have flowed abundantly on that day that it seemed all was lost.  For three years, Jesus had told them, he would rise, and for three years they did not seem to hear him.  The consequences of their deafness were heaped upon them for this was not just tragic, but horrific.

Today we are gathered as the assembly of those who have reaped the rewards of the AAccomplished One@.    Jesus, on the Friday we call Good, with the voice of a Super bowl champion proclaimed  in the Aramaic language,  Atetelestai@ Bit was finished, AAtetelestai' it is finished!" and it was. Salvation is  won. It is accomplished !@  But for those scattered disciples, those women at the foot of the cross with John the disciple, it made no sense, it was literally unbelievable!

On this day, we are confronted with an empty tomb.  The body they believed would be there, was not there!  The last vestige of the person they loved was missing!  When the women came to the empty tomb in this morning=s text, they were perplexed.  In other words they were riveted on some reality that they could not deal with.  For them, the Lord is gone.  The tomb is empty!  He has been stolen away !  They could do nothing to stop the events of His Passion, and now, they could not even get closure! (As this contemporary world likes to say)  Yet Jesus had not left.  He would never leave again.  His death and resurrection made him bigger than life.  Seeing was not believing...but soon, that would change and believing would bring about seeing.Two men, presumably angels, seated in the tomb said to the women but one word in Greek. Egerthe:  He is risen

There have been many  teachers, philosophers, do-gooders over the centuries.  Jesus didn't proclaim something new except to continuously proclaim the kingdom of God. The religious authorities did not receive his words with any affirmation. So much did they fail to receive him that he became a threat, and the High Priest "Caiaphas had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people. "(John 18:14)

In our day it is remarkable that it is amazing that in a culture where we make such a great issue of the cruel death of animals that we can rather impassively hear of the cruel death of Jesus every Sunday without so much as a hint of emotion.Perhaps that is why Mel had to make his movie. The Passion of the Christ.  The shock affect.  The bystanders who did nothing to stop it.           You know it wasn=t their affairBthey didn=t want to get involvedBwhy get themselves in trouble by interfering?  Now of course if it had been us on trial..

You may have gathered that it wasn=t a simple matter at all.  We have learned to expect things. Indeed, we take the death of Jesus for us for granted I fear.  We just don=t get what he did for us. That he didn=t have to do anything!  ]We look at God figuratively and say, Aof course God is good@,@of course God is merciful@.  But do we realize what radical statement that is?  Do we realize how powerful it is that we profess that we are Amade in the Image of God.?@That God has likewise, made Himself into our image?  What do you do with a GodBMan?   Yet he let himself be crucified. At every moment Jesus could have stopped it, but Philippians 2 tells us: Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likenessAnd being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!

How demeaning, stripped naked, how humiliating, God punished by man how amazing, such Divine and inexhaustible love…for you and me. Roman crucifixion was the most cruel manner of execution in Jesus' day.  Many died at the scourging that Jesus survived. Jesus was serious about us.  Yet we dare not assume or presume with God.  Jesus did what we could not or would not so that we can and may will to become what he is.  He lives in those who believe in him.   Jesus did what we could not or would not so that we can and may,  will to become what he is with him, from the moment we enter into that relationship until forever!  He lives within those who believe in him.

No matter the assets we have in this world.  No matter the physical beauty or strength or prowess, the monetary securities or the popularity.  What is all of that when you are faced with your own mortality?   How does it even stack up here? Material things do not have spiritual values and will not satisfy the soulBthat which keeps us going. But the life of ease free of cares is not this life in Christ.  The disciples great sorrow became great strength when Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst and said: "Shalom". Our sorrows also can bring forth great strength. The uniqueness of the Christian faith is that we worship a living founder, not a dead one. And he also has a track record.  Theologian  Frederick Buechner said Ahe really conquered sin and death.  That in Him and through Him, we also stand a chance of conquering them.@What is the fear of death anyway?  Certainly the uncertainty, but what else?  Only Jesus. Only Jesus can satisfy the soul and give give us peace in the hour of our death. .   We say, AJesus destroyed the power of death.@  Rejoice !  To those who enter in faith into that wide gate of God=s mercy, there is no law officer waiting to arrest, no judge in a court room ready to throw the book, no executioner with an upraised axe, rather, there is a welcoming of a child coming home.  We say: Jesus is a friend of sinners. Count me in!

Take Simon Peter for instanceBthe first leader of the Disciples.  Simon Peter had a rough week.  He denied that he even knew Jesus three times! The lives of the disciples were shattered at the cross.  Their faith was tested and found to be wanting. Perhaps later they would look back and see that this worst of times prepared them for the mission yet to come.  Perhaps this trial and affirmation of Jesus from doubt and fear into resurrection was what turned their cowardice into bold proclamation!Did you know that everyone of the apostles died a martyr except for John?  They practically took the gospel of Jesus to the ends of the known world in their times. How many people do you know that you would ever call friend or even associate with if they publically said they didn=t even know you, that they would be embarrassed to be your friend.  But Jesus forgives!  His forgiveness is amazing as is His grace!  When He forgives, it is with authority. When He forgives, it is not simple, not just forgiveness of a debt or a wrong, it is the bestowing of a new identity. A...you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.@ (Col. 3:3) in other words: You=re in ! Pastor Max Lucado once said : In Christ, the last day of your life is the best day of your life. 

I read this week: Athe resurrection Jesus Christ is the glorious manifestation of the victory of love over death.  The same love that makes us mourn and protest against death will now free us to live in hope.@  God has taken the matter into His own hands.  Living in this world requires hope.  Living in this world requires love.  We thank God for the vestiges of it we have, as imperfect as it may be.  The resurrection tells us that God loves.  God cherishes you and me. 

Today celebrates that God has flung wide the gates of His loveBHis mercyBHis grace.  God is not like us, and yet he is.  We are not like God and yet we are.   What our human nature cannot transcend, make right, Jesus made right.  What our image of God likeness could not approach, Jesus has begun the approach for us.  It can be stated with little dispute that no event in human history has shaped the world like the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.   And every human being must respond to the evidence.   For the next few weeks, we will hear the evidence.  Today we face the Empty Tomb.   The tomb is empty, but the whole world is full for HE IS RISEN He is Risen and He will be with each of us if we but call upon His Name.  

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
AMEN

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Crucified and Redeeming Lord

 Good Friday + Year C    
Fr. Robert R.M. Bagwell+
25, March 2016
Isaiah 52:13-53:12                                                                                                                                                                   Psalm 22 
Hebrews 10:16-25  or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9                                                                                  
 John 18:1-19:42

No!  It couldn't have happened.  God where are you? Why God? Why?  I believe that the disciples had such thoughts and others.  What was this?  Shock, disbelief, disillusionment fear, and myriad other such emotions.  But it wasn't about them, what was coming was about every man, woman and child ever born.

Today is the day that changed the world. Heaven and earth, in their respective bunkers,  fought for the sake of heaven to win back the sons and daughters of earth.  All of human history, from the beginning, has led up to this day, that hour, that sacrifice on the altar of a Roman cross.   Think of it!  A wondrous birth in Bethlehem, accompanied by the heavenly hosts praising God and saying glory to God, on earth peace to those with whom He is pleased. Holy men from the East greeted him as the Great One who was coming.  He was born of a woman who had never had sexual relations with a man.  He was proclaimed by a holy widow in the temple and another prayerful servant who had received prophecy from God! He astounded wise men at the Temple in Jerusalem when he was twelve. He gained a following, changed water into wine, caused a voice from heaven at His baptism to affirm him as My beloved Son!  He continued to produce signs, no human could perform including bringing life from death, producing bread and fish out of nothing but prayer. 

The portent of all of this, was that the human genocide Lucifer had intended, the plans of the fallen angels from the beginning suddenly were opposed by an intervention from the Creator.  To all of these signs, the ever jealous, under-performer Lucifer screamed NO!   The rulers of this human race screamed NO!  Nothing like this had ever happened, the darkness exercised its might and Light overcame it.

The axis of  God-story or His-story was winding its way to partial fulfillment. By the time all of this was said and done, Lucifer's plan to thwart God's plan of salvation for the human race, would have been thwarted by the very means Hell sought use to destroy it.  Oops!

I Corinthians  5 tells us "for Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us.  In some sense he is always being sacrificed because, every time we sin, Christ's blood covers our transgressions. The writer to the Hebrews invokes : the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him'


As he wrote in his great work The Crucified God, of professer Jurgen Moltmann, writes: The religion of the cross is a contradiction in itself for the crucified God is a contradiction of this religion.   Yet this transforming reality has changed the world.  Through the horror of the cross, the curse of sin has been broken and we are changed from the inside out. Why do we sing of the cross incessantly, because it is the power for those who are being saved. (I Cor 1:18)

Yes the Resurrection is to be proclaimed, but do not forget what Paul wrote to the Romans: Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength ( I Cor 1:18)

Today our reverent hush, our solemn stillness is not like a funeral home to show respect.  Today our reverent hush is at the wonder, the awe, the unfathomable of what great love. The love of God that brought us home to the God who created us and gave his own son out of love to be The Crucified God.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Passion of Christ for the World

Fr. Robert R.M. Bagwell+Palm+Sunday+Year C  
Isaiah 50:4-9a  + Psalm 31:9-16 + Philippians' 2:5-11 + Luke 22:14-23:56
Today we enter into the remembrance of the week that changed the world. That is not to remember, but to hold up the sacrifice of Jesus to God and ourselves and acknowledge price of our salvation.  A remembrance. This week changed time and eternity and is the only week that out of all weeks is called "Holy", that is, set apart to God as long as time endures. This week is called passion week and today passion Sunday as well as Palm Sunday.  We usually use the word passion in our day to connote  intense feeling, passionate about something or someone. We say we love someone passionately.  We do somethings with passion.  I can only surmise that in those circumstances our feelings are so intensely that it is almost painful. The story of this week has been called "the greatest story ever told." It is.  It is so far beyond the simple bumper sticker Christianity that says God loves you in an almost trite and perfunctory simplistic way although in fact it is profound. A myriad of books written, films made, sacrifices endured, all because of the simple yet profound truth that God so loved the world that he gave, He gave  His only begotten Son.  This is the week that changed the world.  History is revealed as His story, not figuratively but in fact. .

We begin today a bird's eye view of the saga of the human journey, but that journey fraught with highs and lows but ends in exaltation.  Jesus said: In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)  In Jesus, after the pomp of this Sunday, the ultimate purpose of God in Christ will be lived out, graphically, painfully and ultimately gloriously.

Today=s events are the opening curtain to the Passion Play that begins with the entry of admirers and ends with the actions of a lynch mob.  Historians estimate as this was the time of the Passover, as many as 2.5 million extra visitors were in and around Jerusalem.  The priests and the Pharisees apparently did not think Jesus would come openly to Jerusalem as He was being sought by them as a fugitive. But He came as alwaysCopenly and unafraid. 

As He comes, those who have heard of His wondrous acts and His followers began to shoutCAHosanna to the son of David! Hosanna meansCO save us nowCSon of David as they spread their garments and palm branches in the road as was done in the middle East for royalty. The expression Son of David was a Messianic title.  Was this Jesus the messiah? He had come to purchase a people for Himself at a great cost.  The setting was deliberate.  Jesus intended to attract attentionCriding on a donkey=s colt reminding some of Zechariah=s prophecy in chapter 9, verse 9CRejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. But see also Jesus = ironyCthe Jews expected a conquering war hero messiah king on a war stallionCdefeating the Romans. Jesus appears as a King of Peace who conquers the real enemyBsin in the human heart and soulCthat divides humanity from God and one another.   The events of this week are not some sloppy sentimental Valentine loveCbut the love of God at its most powerful moment, unwilling to lose His rebellious creation, no matter what the personal cost to Himself. 

Was this a surprise to God? Did He count the cost?    In Genesis 3:15, in what is called the protoevangelium or the first declaration of the gospel we read:  And I will put enmity (open hostility) Between you and the woman, And between your seed (offspring) and her Seed; He shall [fatally] bruise your head,  but  (And)  you shall [only] bruise His heel  (Amph.) This tells us that God knew from the beginning what the cost of this love for the human race would be.  

Perhaps we have made this Gospel Passion too sanitaryCtoo antiseptic, a Sunday school Jesus if you will.  However, if we could see for a moment our necks on the line, our own lives as the price for our own wrongs, the just deserts of our actions, it would change the perspective. If we would but see our own sentence to eternity=s death row without the reprieve freely granted by God as He adopted us in Christ despite the cost we would see things differently. .  God saw our reality and God did what needed to be done.

Building on this perspective our second reading from  Philippians lays this out for us.  It shows us how Jesus looked upon his mission and purpose and we are challenged to live with the same mindset.  We own Jesus everything.  We can repay him nothing. He did it anyway, because he chose to love us. That is the love of the Servant King. That is the glory that Holy Week reveals to us year after year after year. Why? Because we so easily forget.

No part of that execution of the plan of salvation was accidental.  Scripture reveals an intricately revelatory and planned fulfillment of all that the prophets had spoken.  If we attend the whole four days of the historic Triduum, beginning on Maundy Thursday and ending on Easter day, we  learn of some of those astounding fulfillments, down to the smallest details.  We relive in admittedly a extremely vicarious way, those events that saved us when we were still helpless. Romans chapter five says this: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die,  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God loved so that he gave.  I think Holy Week is a gift and it is profound as it recounts the works of redemption.  It is designed to make a lasting impression on us as are all of the events of this one week called  Holy.

The very real human-ness of these events shows how bewildered even his disciples were, they simply didn't have a clue.  Immediately before our gospel we read, Jesus has gathered with them in the upper room. At the institution of the Last Supper, Jesus says to them how profoundly he has longed to eat this Passover meal with them before He must suffer.  The next thing after they have received his body and blood, they are arguing about who is to be the greatest of their number!  They just don't get it!!!!  Jesus is speaking of his pain and death and Peter boasts about how he will never deny Jesus even to the point of death!   Jesus is trying to point them to profound things that are about to transpire and it's still all about them.   

This is cosmic.  Note what is about to happen, in the course of this week, humanity is putting God on trial!  God is tried and found wanting.  It is but a picture of the human heart even in our day.  Every cry of not fair, every profane use of God's Name or or that of Jesus, every rejection of God is a human judgment on the one who made us. CS Louis wrote a volume called God in the Dock or in American English, God on the witness stand. On the cross humanity rejected the Creator.  On Easter, we loved us, paid the price and invited us to be his children anyway. 

It is passion, love lived out in action. We hear human songs about: what I did for love, love is the answer, even love is a many splendid thing, but do we know what love really is?  When we see that cross on the Friday we call good, on our altars, on our necks, it is a proclamation, a retelling, a constant reminder of unending sacrificial Divine love.  Was that Friday good for God? Not directly, it was good for US!  When he created us in His Divine image, he called us to follow his example.  Today we are here to acknowledge, to reverence and to proclaim that unearned, free gift of God in Jesus.  As we receive this Body and Blood this morning, be reminded of this as our remembrance is a reminder to God that we acknowledge, we believe, we celebrate a love so profound, the telling of it will never end. Love so deep that as the song writer tells us it will never let us go. May we have a renewal of our love for, in and with God. This is our week of weeks!   What began in the village of Bethlehem, now ends on a hill outside of Jerusalem. May we, as His gathered body whose redemption we celebrate this week, have a renewed vision of Jesus, and a profound sense of gratitude as we share in a most Holy of weeks when we celebrate such  AMAZING love. AMEN