Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday: Do I Have a Volunteer?

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009

It’s Easter morning. We stand with the women as dawn breaks. The tomb is empty. A voice cries out “He is not here. He is risen!” It is the moment where everything changes. And if you’re like me, for most of your life you’ve been told that whether or not you can call yourself a Christian depends on how you answer one question at this moment.

Do you believe?

I wonder if more harm has been done to the cause of Christ by any one question than by the litmus test that so often gets imposed by that one: Do you believe? Harm both by what has been done to people who answer “No” or “I don’t know” but perhaps even more by it so often being seen as just as much of a conversation ender when people say “yes”

It’s just simply the wrong question. It’s not the question the women were asked that morning, and it’s not the question that faces us. The question of the empty tomb is not “Do you believe” but “Do you trust?” “Do you have faith?” And even though those might sound like the same thing, there is a difference between belief and faith. There’s a difference between thinking something is true up here, and putting your life in its hands. Maybe this story will help explain what I’m talking about.

There once was a man who was a great tightrope walker, and word got out one day that he was going to stretch a line across Niagara Falls and walk from one end to the other. And so a great crowd gathered to watch this amazing event. And the man stood at the end of the rope and said “Do you think I can walk from one end of this rope to the other and back again, across this raging falls.” And there was silence because the crowd didn’t think he could do it.

And the man stepped out – and he walked across the falls and he turned around and walked back again. And the crowd went wild.

“Now,” He yelled down to the crowd. “Do you think I can walk from one end of this rope to the other and back again, across the raging falls – blindfolded.” And this time from the crowd, who was beginning to believe in this man, 10 or 12 voices came out shouting “Yes, we believe.” And the man said, “Great!”

And the man put the blindfold on and stepped out – and he walked across the falls and he turned around and walked back again. And again the crowd went wild.

“Now,” He yelled down to the crowd. “Do you think I can walk from one end of this rope to the other and back again, across the raging falls – blindfolded and pushing this wheelbarrow!” By this time the crowd was really getting worked up, and immediately from down below came all these shouts of “Yes, we do.” “Yes, we believe.” And the man said, “Great!”

And the man put the blindfold on, grabbed the wheelbarrow in front of him and he stepped out – and blindfolded and pushing that wheelbarrow he walked across the falls and he turned around and walked back again. And the crowd was about ready to explode.

“Now,” He yelled down to the crowd. “Do you think I can walk from one end of this rope to the other and back again, across the raging falls – blindfolded and pushing the wheelbarrow with somebody in the wheelbarrow?” And the crowd with one loud voice shouted up to him, “Yes, we believe.” And the man said, “Great!”

“Do I have a volunteer?”

There’s a difference between belief and faith. There’s a difference between thinking something is true up here, and putting your life in its hands. That’s faith.

Too often following Christ is cast in terms of belief, in terms of saying “yeah, I think that is true!” or alternately, rejected by people who say “No, I just can’t believe that.” And that’s SO wrong.

When we do that we allow following Christ to be reduced to a series of statements. But following Christ has never been about that. It’s why when we renew our baptismal vows in a few moments we won’t just stop at the creed but make promises about how we live with Christ, with each other and with the world. Following Christ has always been about embracing a life and a relationship, it’s about being awed and seized by terror and amazement as the women were at the tomb this morning, not about picking the right answer on a true/false test.

And this Easter morning THAT is what we celebrate. We celebrate that we are not just a community of belief but that we are a community of faith. That we are about getting in that wheelbarrow.

I LOVE this morning’s Gospel reading. The women, faithful to the end not because they believed in some set of propositions but because they loved this person, come to the tomb, their hearts heavy and breaking, and find the tomb empty. And a strange young man dressed in a white robe tells them a bizarre story. “Do not be alarmed;” he says, “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He is not here.” It is the Easter message. It is a joyous message, but it is also an earth-shattering, life-shaking message. And you’ll notice, what the young man doesn’t ask the women is “Do you believe?”

He doesn’t ask “Do you believe?” because this isn’t a quiz show. This isn’t “Alex, I’ll take tomb robbery or resurrection for $500.” He doesn’t care whether they believe or not. He wants to know something far greater. Do you have faith? Because a risen Christ is not just a proposition to be believed but a life-changing, terrifying, amazing relationship to be embraced. And so the young man’s question wasn’t “Do you believe?” but “Do I have a volunteer!”

And here’s the wheelbarrow those women were invited into that morning. He says, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him!” Now Galilee wasn’t just a random rendez-vous point, that was back home. Back where their lives were. The next step with Jesus wasn’t storming the palace gates, it was going back home. Back to the ordinariness of their lives. Maybe they would have rather stormed the palace gates, because going back home meant going back to the people whom they loved, people whose opinion they valued. People who they really didn’t want to have thinking they were completely nuts following some dead guy. And a risen Christ who would meet them in Galilee was bound to insist that when they got back there, it wasn’t going to be business as usual. The love that led Christ to the cross, well, that was probably going to be the love he would be depending on them to spread now.

And so what I love most about this Gospel reading is what happens next. Faced with this incredible, perplexing and on one level really terrifying news, they react in an utterly human way. They completely freak out. We are told that “they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Now what you might not know is that this is how the Gospel of Mark originally ended. Imagine that! Imagine telling the whole story of Jesus life and ending the Gospel that way, “and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” The end. Maybe why they kept adding new, tidier endings that had the resurrection appearances and the disciples spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth because, well, this way was just too bizarre for people.

But the thing is, I think they got it right the first time. Years ago, I heard Martin Smith, former prior of Society of St. John the Evangelist, preach an amazing Flower Festival sermon right here in this Cathedral where he said this is the way the Gospel should leave off – without a tidy ending. Because we write the rest of the story every day of our lives. We, the body of Christ, write the story.

We, the body of Christ, every day of our lives are standing with those women at the empty tomb. And if we’re paying attention, the question before us isn’t “do you believe” but “Do I have a volunteer?” Will we seek and serve and meet Christ in our Galilee, right here in the midst of our ordinary lives. Will we do more than just say “we believe” … will we get into the wheelbarrow.
Will we do things that others fear or even think are nuts – share our wounds and stories, love the outcast, stand up for the unpopular. Will we go out into a Good Friday world, a world where calling yourself a Christian more and more often is inviting ridicule or at least a quizzical look, and show that world that being a Christian isn’t about a narrowness of mind but about a infinite expanse of Spirit. That it’s not about rules it’s about relationships … and that we’re going to love this world as Christ loves us and we don’t care who thinks we’re crazy for doing it.

It’s Easter morning, and we stand at the empty tomb. And if we’re paying attention, we are amazed and terrified. But the risen Christ is out there. Not asking, “Do you believe?” but calling us home to live and learn and love. He won’t promise it will be easy. He won’t promise people won’t think we’re nuts. But he does promise that he’ll never leave us, and that he’ll help us never leave each other. He does promise that if we don’t just believe but have faith, together we can change the world.

Do I have a volunteer?


The wheelbarrow story is one I stole from Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina, who says he stole it from Ed Rodman, one of the institutions of peace and justice and faith in the Episcopal Church. Ed probably stole it from someone else, too. Such is the nature of good stories!

Great Vigil of Easter: Light in the Darkness

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on the Great Vigil of Easter, Saturday, April 11, 2009

This service, the Great Vigil of Easter, is probably my favorite liturgy of the entire church year. In fact, our former bishop, Hays Rockwell, used to call me “one of those vigil zealots” … and I’ll wear that mantle proudly. I love liturgy that engages all the senses, that drips and explodes with sights and sounds that truly embody the height and depth of the God we praise and the life we embrace.

Most of all in this service I love the transition from deep darkness into an explosion of light. I love that we link this not just with the end of Christ’s descent among the dead and bursting forth on Easter Morning but with baptism, which is how we participate in the same thing. Dying to an old life and rising to a new.

Now the vigil service I’ve always wanted to go to is the one my friend Angela told me about from her time living in Russia. Angela went to a Russian Orthodox vigil that was held just before dawn on the Volga River. The river was still frozen, but they had cut a huge hole in the ice a little bit off the bank and stuck a ladder down through to the water. And when it came time for the baptisms, just as the sky was beginning to lighten, the candidates descended into the icy waters, and they were fully immersed and baptized and then ascended the ladder, again into their new life in Christ as the sun began to break over the horizon.

So, Bill, Andrew, Jonathan, just so you know … you got off easy tonight.

But even here in this amazing and in its own way ancient space. The play of light and darkness we have just participated in. Beginning in total darkness and then the bursting forth of the light of Christ, light never burning so bright as when it is in deep darkness. And that fire, it felt like it was going to bore through your eyes if you started at it too long. And then it spread among us and we sat, like some ancient tribe, hearing the stories of generations past and listening to heavenly sounds that were the echoes of the angels that have trod before and the distant sounds of the Easter angels approaching from beyond the horizon.

And then we joined with those to be baptized in promising amazing things. Most profoundly put in a formula of six questions that have been answered by those coming to Christ for more than 1600 years. Three renunciations and three adhesions.

In the ancient Church they would start out by facing West, and they’d say the renunciations.

Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God? – and actually, when they said “Satan,” they’d spit … I think altar guilds made them quit doing that. But they’d say I renounce them.

Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God? I renounce them.

Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God? I renounce them.

But then the really amazing thing happens, and we did it here tonight, and that’s the adhesions. In the ancient church they would physically turn around from west to east, literally turning to a new life and the questions would come. And listen to these questions that the baptized have answered for more than a millennia and a half.

Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your savior?

Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?

Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?

I do. I do. I do.

It is the dying to an old life and the rising to a new. So the Easter event isn’t just about Jesus, but about us as well. We are bound up with him in his death and we are committing with each other and to Christ to live into the new life of his rising. Committing with Christ and each other from this point forward to have it not be same old, same old. To live newer and richer and deeper. And the lights come on and we sing Alleluia. And day breaks and the bells ring. And Christ is risen and so are we.

Traditionally, this service is done just before dawn, so the glorias coincide with the breaking of the day. So when people leave a new day really has dawned. And that’s wonderful and rich because we feel the hope of the new day, everything does seem bright and new, like the new-fallen snow before the comings and goings of city life turn it gray and dingy.

But tonight, that’s where we part company from tradition. For various reasons, like many, we don’t do this service in the pre-dawn hours but the night before. And that means that though the lights are on and trumpets blaring now, in a little while we will leave this place not to the brightness of the new day, but once again to the darkness of the night.

But maybe that’s even more appropriate. Maybe that is the richest observance of all. Because when the trumpets sounded and the glorias and alleluias burst forth, it was glorious and made our hearts soar, but our troubles didn’t magically disappear. Our pains and fears didn’t melt away. We will leave this service this evening and go back to lives that are essentially the same as when we left them.

But there’s a gift there. The gift of an opportunity for the worship not to end but to continue. Precisely because we’re not leaving this place into the brilliance of the new morn, but into the darkness of night, we have the chance to be what we began this night by celebrating, what we became in baptism, what we are called to take out into the world. The light of Christ. The light of Christ that shines in the darkness.

Remember that first fire as night was falling and as we were gathering. Remember how brilliant it was cast against the darkness. How much more light it seemed to cast than the candles in this well-lit room. That is us. The Light of Christ. The Body of Christ. And if we can bit by bit, holding each others hands and gazing into each other’s eyes for strength, try to live that new life of wondrous love. If we can join hands and head back home into that world where our children are struggling in school and out. Where we have parents who are aging and far away. Where we have jobs where every week the pressure seems to get greater and the paycheck seems to cover less of what it takes to get by. Or maybe we’ve lost our jobs altogether and don’t know where that next paycheck is going to come from. Or maybe we’ve got classes that feel like they’re going to consume us and a job someday is only a hope and a prayer. Back home where we share the silence of sitting in bed together and letting the TV talk at us instead of talking with each other because it’s too hard or we’re too tired or we just don’t know where to start. Or maybe it’s a world where we know all too well the morning show on the radio or Jon Stewart and Jay Leno at night because they are the only voices that bring companionship to an empty home.

Back home to a world that feels an awful lot like Good Friday, but with the dream and hope of being Easter people.

If we can join hands with that light of Christ burning in our hearts and in our eyes, with the voice of Christ ringing through tongue and pen and head back into the world and our worlds, even though our lives and problems might be the same, maybe we’ll be different.

Christ is risen. We have been bound to him in his death and risen with him to new life. And what makes that worth celebrating isn’t that the darkness has magically gone away, but that as we head back out into it, Christ’s light goes with us and shines through us. Not dispelling the darkness, but providing a beacon of hope of safe passage through it for us and all who see us.
Alleluia. Amen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday: The Cross is Safe - No Lower to Go

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Good Friday, April 10, 2009

There is no safer place in the world … than the cross of Jesus Christ.

Let me say that again … There is no safer place in the world, than the cross of Jesus Christ.

That’s really hard to believe. Maybe it even seems completely crazy. How can the cross of all places be safe? We just heard the story. The cross is a place of abandonment. The cross is a place of ridicule and shame. Of pain and despair. The cross is a place of death.

The cross of Jesus Christ is a place of everything we fear, a place of everything we spend our lives, our time, our energy and our money, trying to flee from and protect ourselves against.

And that is why … there is no safer place in the world … than the cross of Jesus Christ.

Because the cross of Jesus Christ is the only place where there is nothing left to fear. All there is, is Christ. And in Christ’s arms … well, in this world, there is no safer place.

You see, when it comes down to it, all fear is about loss. You show me a fear and I’ll show you how it’s a fear of losing something. Losing your job, losing your family, your friends, your marriage. Losing physical or mental function, losing peace respect, self-confidence. Losing your child, losing your freedom, losing your life.

And we spend our lives building walls to protect all the things we fear to lose. Walls inside which prevent us from telling truths and living boldly and loving and being loved deeply. Physical walls which divide and lock up and gate our buildings and communities and keep us fragmented as a city, as a nation, as a world. Walls which keep us safe from the risk of loss but also shield us from the incredible liberating joy of truly living, of truly being together. And we rationalize building these walls by appealing to the conventional wisdom that everything of value can be lost and that if we do not build the walls, if we do not protect what we fear to lose we will have nothing and we will be nothing.

But that conventional wisdom is a lie. And we know it because of what happens this day.

We have just heard the story. Jesus had done everything he was not supposed to do. He had refused to build any of the walls and in fact dedicated his life to tearing those walls down everywhere he could. Under threat of loss of everything anyone valued, he refused to stop speaking the truth, he refused to stop reaching out to and loving absolutely everyone, he refused to be one iota less of the person God made him to be.

And the story of the passion is the story of every one of our fears being realized in his life. It is the ultimate worst-case scenario. Afraid of losing your friends and family? Jesus lost his and even suffered the ultimate pain of being betrayed by one of them. Afraid of losing respect and position? Jesus was mocked and ridiculed publicly, stripped naked and marched through the street. Afraid of losing your sense of peace and well-being? Afraid of losing physical function? Jesus was beaten, forced to carry a cross until he could no longer lift it, had nails driven into his wrists and feet and his body wracked and broken. Afraid of losing your life? Jesus died.

Crucifixion was meant to be an object lesson for the people. A horrible public display of everything that the people feared the most so they would stay within the walls the Romans had built to control them. An example to all that there was no God but Caesar and there was no Gospel but the conventional wisdom of fear of loss.

But we are here today/tonight because we know that is not true. Because what emerged on the cross this day was the deep truth, the deepest truth. The truth that Pilate could not understand and casually dismissed. The truth that Jesus came to testify to not at the palace but from the cross.

The truth that there is one thing more powerful than fear, one thing that casts out fear every time. One thing that can never be taken from us and of which we never need to be in fear of losing. And that one thing is what remained on the cross when all else had been lost -- God’s perfect love for us. Love without bounds. Love without fear. Love in which we can never be separated from one another or from the lover who creates, redeems and sustains us.

Love we will never lose. A love other than which we need nothing else.

The cross is the place of absolute freedom, the place where we have nothing more to lose and thus nothing more to fear. The place where all that we need can never be taken away … the perfect love of God in Christ.

And that’s why there is no safer place in the world … than the cross of Jesus Christ.

And this day and every day we gather, we come here to proclaim that we are people of that cross. And that means we can live that freely. It means we can live without fear because we have already counted everything as lost. It means all the “Yeah, buts” mean nothing. What is holding us back? What do we grip onto so tightly that we don’t want to risk? Let it go. Embrace the cross.

Get down on the cross. There is no safer place. There is no freer place.

That safety .. that freedom. It does sound pretty good doesn’t it? The cross is starting to sound a little better. But let’s be honest, this is still scary stuff. We can say there is no safer place than the cross, but living it? Well, we’re not there yet and the learning curve is pretty steep. But that’s why we gather here together. Because we have the chance to help each other live this … and that’s by being incarnations of God’s love for one another. By saying, “you can get down on the cross with me … because I’ve got your back.” And “I can get down on the cross with you, because I know you’ve got my back..” We’re in this together.

The cross for Jesus was solitary. Not for us. Jesus was the Body of Christ … but we are not individually the Body of Christ … we are the Body of Christ TOGETHER. This isn’t about finding the strength in yourself. This is about embracing the cross together.

It’s about saying I love you enough to show you who I really am. I love you enough to say “I love you.” I love you enough to set aside my fear of not being good enough, to open up myself and set aside my fear of being made fun of or ridiculed or being told I’m not good enough or embarrassed … or all the things that happened to us in elementary school on the playground that we’ve lived in fear of ever since … or the things we saw happening to other kids on the playground so we’ve controlled our lives so they would never happen to us … or all the things that we have done to others first so they couldn’t do them to us. We can let go all of that … together.

Our road to the cross is one that would be so hard to walk alone, so it’s a good thing we’re not supposed to.

But that’s not even the best news. The best news is the safety of the cross is not just for us to rest in but to live boldly and joyfully out of. The best news is the safety of the cross of Jesus Christ, if we will flee to it together and embrace it and carry it before us, can not only free our spirits and change our lives but change the world.

The Roman Catholic Church has a ritual of sending for missionary communities that culminates in equipping the new missionaries with cross or crucifix. Roman Catholic theologian William Frazer sees a deep significance to this act.

He writes, “The way faithful Christians die is the most contagious aspect of what being a Christian means. The missionary cross or crucifix is no mere ornament depicting Christianity in general. Rather, it is a vigorous commentary on what gives the gospel its universal appeal. Those who receive it posses not only a symbol of their mission but a handbook on how to carry it out.” (quoted from Transforming Mission by David Bosch)

The safety of the cross, the freedom of the cross is not just about my salvation, not just about our salvation, but the salvation of the whole world. About the coming of a kingdom where perfect love casts out all fear. We gather on the cross, we embrace its safe love, we answer its call to live boldly and fearlessly not just for ourselves but so the world can see and know that it can live boldly and fearlessly, too. That there’s no need to be afraid of losing anything that really matters. So the world that sent Jesus to the cross to kill him can turn and embrace the truth he proclaims.

That there is no safer place in the world … than the cross of Jesus Christ.


I am indebted to my friend and mentor, the Rev. Victoria Sirota, for the phrase "The cross is safe, no lower to go" and much of the foundational content of this sermon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday: Crash, Annie and the Body of Christ

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2009

I’m a baseball nut, and one of my all-time favorite movies is Bull Durham. How many of you have seen it? OK, for those who haven’t, let me tell you a bit about it. On the surface, it seems like just a movie about minor league baseball, but really it’s about two people who are at crossroads in their life, who feel that everything that has been familiar to them and has given meaning to their lives is either slipping away or is about to be taken from them. It’s about two people who are at that time in life when you stop feeling like you’re going to live forever and you start realizing the phrase “the rest of your life” has a clock ticking inside it.

On one hand, there’s Crash Davis. Crash is a longtime minor league catcher, and baseball is his life. It’s all he’s ever known, he can’t imagine life outside it, and for as long as he can remember his dream was to play in the major leagues. And one year for 21 days … the 21 greatest days of his life … he was there. But now he’s reaching the end of the road and he finds himself not at the top – in the majors – but at the bottom, with the Durham Bulls of the Carolina League. And the only reason he even has that job isn’t because the major league club thinks he has a future, but because they think he can help the future of someone else, some new hotshot pitcher.

On the other hand, there’s Annie Savoy. Annie has always been a free spirit. She teaches at the local community college, but mostly she’s a fulltime life-long spiritual seeker who latched onto what she calls the "Church of Baseball" as one of many philosophies she has embraced and whose maxims she can spout as a way of making meaning from her life and keeping control of it. And every year, Annie chooses a player on the Bulls to be her lover/student. To “give him life wisdom and help him on his way” is how she puts it. But she’s careful never to let anyone get too close. But as the years have passed, this “religious practice” has seemed more and more empty. The meaning isn’t there any more. And she feels like she’s losing control.

What Crash and Annie don’t want to admit to anyone, much less themselves, is that they’re scared. They’re not young anymore, and remaking themselves doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun and they have no idea how they’d do it even if it did! Each in their own way, they’ve spent their whole lives keeping other people from getting too close, and while that’s helped them keep control, it’s left them facing these crossroads alone. Until…

They find each other. And at first they fight because they’re so much alike and on one level that makes them so scared of each other. But then they fall in love. And the struggle of Crash and Annie’s love is that of two proud people letting down their guards and not just admitting that they need each other but inviting the other into that space inside where they have been living alone for so many years. And when they finally do it, when they finally let down their guards and put themselves out there and let each other in and embrace each other, man it is a seismic event. The richness of the lives, the dreams, the pains, the joys that come together as Crash and Annie, well, crash into each other, man it just flows off the screen.

But where the quake really leaps off the Richter scale, where the intensity of the intimacy reaches its peak, is not in some x-rated scene that’s only on the DVD versions, but a shot of what can’t be more than 15 seconds in Annie’s bedroom, where Crash is sitting on Annie’s bed, gently holding her foot in his lap and with a loving, even slightly impish smile on his face, painting her toenails.

About 10 years ago, Harlequin asked movie critics to pick the top 10 all-time most romantic bedroom scenes, and right there on the list, right up there with the steam of Kathleen Turner and William Hurt in Body Heat, Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North By Northwest and even the sultry morning after of Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh in Gone With the Wind was Kevin Costner as Crash Davis gently, tenderly, intimately, joyfully, painting Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy’s toenails.

There’s something about the feet.

“Then Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head.”

This night we do something we do no other night of the year. We wash each other’s feet. On one level, we do it for a pretty simple reason … because Jesus set an example and told us to follow it. The Gospel reading makes that clear enough. And, usually, we primarily see it as an act of service, and yeah, sure, it is. But it is so much more than that.

I’m not sure why, but there’s something about the feet. They’re intimate and private. That’s why that scene with Crash and Annie is so powerful and that’s why this night is so powerful, too. I really don’t know why it is. Maybe it’s because for most of us our feet bear the weight of our lives. You don’t just let anyone give you a foot massage … and I’ve had a pedicurist tell me that their job often is more like a bartender than anything else, they spend so much time listening to people’s problems.

Washing feet is not just about an unpleasant, humbling task and it’s certainly not just about podiatric hygiene. It’s about letting what happened between Crash and Annie happen among us. About letting our guards down and letting each other into our lives in an intimate way. It is literally putting ourselves, the weight of our lives, in each others’ hands. That’s why Jesus said to Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” It’s not about washing feet. It’s about saying “Unless you let your guard down, let go of your fear, let go of everything and let me in, you can’t experience who I am and what I bring.”

And it’s no accident that Jesus does this immediately after his last supper with his friends, the moment of the first Eucharist. Because both the Eucharist and the footwashing are different ways of saying the same thing. It was like Jesus, after sharing the meal said, “Let me put it another way” and began to fill the basin. Because the Eucharist is also about experiencing everything Christ is and all Christ gives by letting go and letting each other and Christ in.

Think of what happens when we gather at this table. We come forward and gather round and present our gifts --- sure, the bread and the wine and the money we offer --- but those are mere signs of something greater, what the Rite I service expresses in those beautiful words, “we offer and present unto you, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies.” That’s not about holding back and giving a little. That’s about taking all of us, the parts we usually show and especially the parts we don’t … and laying it right there on the table. And two things happen at that point.

The first is that Christ, whose life is on that table, too, sees our lives, embraces our lives and tenderly lifts them up, all our tragedies and triumphs. All our wholeness and brokenness. All our pain and all our joy. All our Crashness and all our Annieness and wraps them up with his and calls it holy and gives it back to us new.

But the second is that if we are really to enter into the Eucharist. If we are really to have a share in Christ together, it can’t be just about “me and Jesus.” And so when we gather around that table and lay our lives, “our selves, our souls and bodies,” tragedy, triumph, wholeness, brokenness, pain, joy, Crashness and Annieness on the table, if we’re doing it right, Jesus ain’t the only one who sees it … we all see it, too. I see yours and you see mine and we all see each others’. And then as we leave the table fed with new life, we have the opportunity truly to be the Body of Christ. Because having gazed on the holy chaos of each others lives, we can take each others’ lives gently into our laps and cleanse them, kiss them, even paint their toenails … but mostly just be with them. See each other for who we really are, and just BE with each other.

That means the Eucharist is more than just a personal filling station … though it can certainly be that, too. It means the Eucharist is nothing less than a vision of God's future. We heard in the Epistle reading a few minutes ago the first record we have of the church’s Eucharistic practice. But we really started the reading a few verses too late. If you go back and read it from verse 17, Paul talks about how as the Corinthians gather for the meal, each one needs to be willing to give precedence to the other. Everyone should be waiting on everyone else, attending to the lives of others.

A few years back, I heard Rowan Williams talk about this passage from Corinthians and our need to have peripheral vision when we come to the Eucharistic table.

He said: “When we come to the Eucharistic table, the needs of the neighbor come first. We must look sideways as well as forward, and as we see others fed we ask, 'How may I be part of Christ's feeding of them?' Because the first thing -- and sometimes the only thing -- you know of the person next to you at Eucharist is that they are Christ's guest. It is imperative to ask, 'How may I join in Christ's nourishment of them?'"

That’s about not just coming to Eucharist but living Eucharistically. And what we do here tonight, both in washing one another’s feet and sharing our lives and Christ’s at this table, is a sign of that Eucharistic life, of God’s future for this world and for this Cathedral community. A future where we aren’t just looking forward but also always looking sideways. And it is a glorious future.

It’s a future where we don’t need to hide who we are, where we don’t need to closet the parts of our lives we think others might disapprove of or not understand. Where we can share our joys and triumphs without worrying about offending and share our pain and fear without worrying about rejection. Why? Because we know the person next to us at this table is looking not to ridicule us but to be a part of Christ nourishing us too. A future where each of us can look sideways and ask that wonderful question. And like Crash and Annie, find that it is in caring for the other, being a part of Christ nourishing the other, that we find meaning, deep joy, and even love for ourselves.

And as we find that, we will naturally, enthusiastically and maybe even contagiously realize that this is WAY too good to be kept to ourselves. And we will go out into the streets and our schools and our workplaces and tell people of this new life we’ve found and we’ll bring them to the table, too. We will be the blood of Christ and Christ at this table will be the heart, drawing us to it and pumping us out and drawing us to it and pumping us out.

It is our future. And it is out there waiting for us. And there have been places in this community where that future has already been and even now is being realized. Where friendships of 30 years or 30 days give an abundance of life. Where prayer groups have sustained and even brought joy where there was nothing but pain because people have had the courage to let down their guards and actually tell people what they need prayer for. Where lecturing and debate has given way to listening and conversation. Where we have reached out in love and not fallen back in fear.

It is our future. A future that grows out of the best of our present and past. And it begins here at this table, and here at these chairs. With you and you. And me and you. And you and you. And you and you! And you, bishop, and me! Washing each other’s feet and feeding each other’s hearts. Always having that peripheral vision and asking the question as we see one another “How may I join in Christ’s nourishment of them.”

It begins like Crash and Annie, with us letting down our guards and letting each other in and discovering the joy of the embrace. It might be scary at first, but we’ll get the hang of it. And as we do it will be a seismic event that will send waves of love from this place to, well, who knows how far. And by this everyone will know that we are Christ’s disciples, because we truly will have love for one another. Amen.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday: "The Lord Has Need of It"

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Palm Sunday, April 5, 2009

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethpage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’”

I love Palm Sunday, because on Palm Sunday we give ourselves permission to have our liturgy really be what we say it is … what it really should be every Sunday. A celebration.

And that’s what I want us to ponder for a few minutes this morning. Because we have all next week to walk together through the passion Gospel we just read. In fact, if I had my way, we wouldn’t even read that on Palm Sunday. Come back Thursday. Come back Friday. We’ll walk that road together then.

But this morning we are at the party. And we are celebrating exactly what the people in Jerusalem were celebrating. That the deepest most amazing, abundant life we could ever know. A life so amazing it couldn’t just be contained by words trying to describe it but could only be expressed in the living Word, Jesus the Christ, that that life is here. Right here. Right in the middle of us. This is the moment. We’re not just waiting for Christ to come. Christ is here.

Now this isn’t new. Christ has always been here, right here in our midst, whenever two or three are gathered. And today we get to answer the question that can be the question of our whole lives.

If Christ is here. Right here. Ready to explode into our lives in new and amazing ways. Ready to change our lives and change the world. Ready to show us just how amazing and dripping with meaning and joy our lives can be!

If Christ is here, how do we respond to that?

Well, I think we take a clue from those people in Jerusalem that day. They didn’t lament that they didn’t have choirs and horns and fine silks and luxurious perfumes. They didn’t say “we don’t have enough … we just can’t do it.’ No! They brought what they had and they used it to CELEBRATE Christ … to have an amazing joyful celebration. Why? Because Christ was there and they knew that meant life was about to change. Did they know how? No. Was it about to change in the way they probably thought? No, probably not. But that didn’t matter … they still got it right. Something amazing was happening. Christ was there. This called for a party.

So the disciples used what they had – cloaks and clothes, leafy branches. They brought what they had and said to Jesus “use this.” And when there were things they needed that they didn’t have, they went and asked for it … asked for it the way Jesus told them …. with a simple statement and a promise.

The simple statement : “the Lord has need of it.”

The promise “and he will send it back immediately.”

That’s what not just this celebration is, but what our whole Christian life is. It’s opening ourselves up to respond to the life-changing presence of Christ by letting go of all that we are and all that we have and using it to honor Christ and trusting in the promise that nothing will be lost, that all will be returned to us … and that in fact it is in the act of giving that we discover the life that is worth celebrating.

With all that I have and all that I am, I honor you. If those words sound familiar, it’s because they’re straight from our marriage service. That’s what couples promise to one another when they commit to share their lives together. Why? Because we have found that when we do it right, when we use all that we have and all that we are to honor another and the other returns that trust and love, that what we receive then is a deeper and more abiding joy than we could ever have just on our own.

You know, if I could compare Palm Sunday and really all of our liturgy to one thing, I would say that it’s like a first kiss.

Just take a moment and think of a first kiss in your life. Take a second. Hold that image in your mind but also remember what that felt like in your whole body, hair to heart, stomach to toes.

What were you feeling? Come on, this is audience participation part of the program. What were you feeling?

A first kiss is spontaneous, wonderful. pulse-quickening, risky. It’s offering who we are in excitement and love.

Have you ever leaned in to give a kiss but weren’t sure you were going to get kissed back? Yeah. Take all those things and add fear. ‘Cause kissing is risky. What we’re saying with a kiss is “I love you” … and “I love you” is the riskiest thing you can possibly say because you are putting your heart on the line and giving the other person the opportunity to do whatever they want with it.

And yet that kiss when it’s returned … man, it’s the best thing going. There is NOTHING like it in the world.

And that’s what we’re about. We’re about doing what the people of Jerusalem did this day … offering what we have to a Christ who did the same … who offered himself in love to the world and gave the world the opportunity to do what it willed with him.

And we do it, we kiss Christ, we offer our lips to the world the same way those people did. With who we are and what we have.

Think of those words ‘’with all that I have and all that I am” What is that for you? Think of all your money. Think of where you live. Think of all your possessions. Think of all your gifts and talents. Think of your voice or the words or art that can pour from your head and heart through your hand onto paper or clay. Think of the story of your life. Now combine what you have and are and you have and are and everyone else at all three services today and all those who aren’t here, and all those who haven’t found this community yet but will soon and you’ve got the picture of what we’ve got to work with to throw this party, to kiss the world. This has the potential not just to be a little shindig but the blow-out bash of all time!

Now when you think about offering something important to you in love, I know the question that is on my heart is what will the response be. Will I be kissed back. And the promise of Christ is YES … I will kiss you back and it will be the best thing ever.

Where is that promise? Look at what the disciples said to the people. “The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately!” Look at what Christ said after the resurrection: Lo I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.

We don’t need to be afraid. And we do have something to celebrate. Christ is here. Right here.

And Christ’s presence reminds us that we are at our heart more than just a church, even more than just a community of faith. We are a gathering movement of proclamation and celebration. A movement to kiss the world and transform it with Christ’s love. And my friends, it is time to get moving. All of us. Together.

So what have you got?

Are you an artist?
Are you a writer?
Are you a builder?

The Lord has need of it!

Are you a great friend?
Do you have a wonderful listening ear?
Can you balance a checkbook?
Can you fry up some fish?

The Lord has need of it!

Can you fix a car?
Can you pray?
Can you write a letter to your Senator?
Can you teach a child to read?

Do you have money?
Do you have time?
Do you have a song in your heart?
Do you have a story to share?

The Lord has need of it! And you don’t need to be afraid. You’re not going to lose anything. The Lord has need of it and will return it to you immediately. Return it to you in a life you can’t beat anywhere.

This is not the time to hold back. This is not the time to say “Yeah, But…” This is the time for Hosanna. The journey of Holy Week is the journey of Christ right into the center of power … where we get changed and the world gets changed. If we are not just going to walk with Christ into the center of power, the center of the way things are … but if we are going to be that Body of Christ on that journey into the center of the way things are and let Christ work through us to turn them from the way things are into the way things oughta be, now is the moment.

It’s a celebration. It’s a party. It’s a chance to do just the best thing we can possibly do. Take what God has given us. All that we have and all that we are and use it to love Christ, to love each other, to love the world.

It’s a celebration. It’s a party. And the best news is we’re all invited. Come as you are. Bring whatever you have. Don’t be afraid. The Lord has need of it and will return it to you immediately.

It’s a celebration. It’s a party. Now is the time.

Hosanna. Hosanna. Hosanna.