18 April 2014

Homily for Good Friday 2014

My brothers and sisters, we have just heard proclaimed in our midst Luke’s account of Jesus suffering and death. Words are often insufficient to truly parse the meaning of what we have just received into our minds and hearts, so I will, out of respect for the gravity of today’s readings, speak to you in my own words, and with a few borrowed words, only briefly…

What you are about to hear might, on some level, challenge the way you think about our Lord’s Passion and Death. I offer these words to you, not because what you may already hold in your heart and spirit concerning Jesus’ death is wrong, but because if you have not fully comprehended the depth and dimension of what we solemnly commemorate here today, then you are missing the point.

Today’s observance brings to our mind, and rightly so, extremely painful thoughts. Thorns… whips… nails… blood… death… All this is part and parcel of the Good Friday experience.

But if we focus on the thorns, whips, nails, blood… if we focus on the death, and that is the end of our experience, then we have totally missed the point.

The point is not the suffering.
It's the love that was willing to endure such suffering.
It's important to remember this.

Today, we will behold the cross and, through ritual, express our connection to the love that gives the cross meaning, the sacrificial love that was willing to expend itself that we might have life.

We will receive that same blood, together with the body from which it was spilled, as we partake of the Eucharist.

We do this because of the selfless, sacrificial love of Jesus.

It's important to remember this.

Note: The words in italics in the preceding manuscript are drawn, with permission, from a Facebook post by the Reverend Peter Pearson. He has graciously granted permission for his profound and meaningful words to be used in this Homily.

17 April 2014

Homily for Holy Thursday 2014

Everything is powered by something. Our bodies are powered by the food we consume. Our cars and much of our civil infrastructure is fueled by oil, coal, and natural gas. The ecosystem of our planet is, at its root level, powered by the sun. Everything that exists derives its root energies from something.

The same thing is true in the mysteries we celebrate today. Something empowers us and the mysteries of our faith. That something is sacrifice.

Without sacrifice, there is no sacrament.
Without sacrifice, there is no salvation.
Without sacrifice, there is no love.

For us as believers, it is the power of sacrifice, of Christ’s sacrifice, that empowers us, and all that we do. Or, at least, it should be.

It is Jesus’ sacrifice that gives meaning to the servant act of washing feet. Without his sacrifice, Jesus is being a kind host, one who goes outside of what is socially required to welcome his guests… but when touched by the power of his sacrifice, this servant act becomes one of great transformation – one which is able to melt through the pride that was building in the heart of a man who had, in the last several years, witnessed countless acts of selfless service.

It is Jesus’ sacrifice that gives meaning to the emblem of bread. Without his sacrifice, Jesus is eating a meal – certainly one of great significance – but still a meal… but when touched by the power of his sacrifice, this loaf of bread becomes the means by which the cosmos is restored and renewed to fellowship with its Creator, the broken body of the incarnate Word.

It is Jesus’ sacrifice that gives meaning to the element of wine. Without his sacrifice, Jesus is slaking an earthly thirst in the context of a time-honored ritual… but when touched by the power of his sacrifice, the contents of the cup become the blood outpoured, by which the lentils to the door of our hearts are marked. Our restoration is rooted in this Blood ‘shed… for the forgiveness of sins’.

It is a heart, mind, and spirit attuned to sacrifice that transforms common elements, religious ritual, and printed word into a life-giving connection with the Eternal God who so deeply desires a new birth for his creation.

What does the power of sacrifice do to, for, or in you? How does Christ’s eternal sacrifice actually affect your life? Is this something you have stopped to consider lately? Is it something that enters into your daily consideration of how you live your life? Is it vital to your understanding of yourself and your place in the world? It should be, for without sacrifice, you and I truly have no life.

When, in our lives, we respond to God and reach out to others in faith, we do so by the prompting of the Spirit, who applies the power of Jesus’ eternal sacrifice to our lives… to humble us, to renew us, and to restore us to full fellowship with him and with one another.

On this day, which is different from every other day, we hear again of the establishment of the New Covenant, a covenant which is sealed through blood of sacrifice shed on the cross. May this sacrifice be the sacrifice which empowers us today, impelling us both to an ever-increasing faith, as well as to service to God, and to one another.

The preceding Homily was preached in the Naphtali Isaac Eskenazi Sanctuary at Eskenazi Health on Thursday, April 17, 2014.

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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