Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Don't Just Have a 'Happy Easter' ... Have a Real Easter ... Have Mary's Easter" -- a sermon for the Sunday of the Resurrection

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is set free!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead. For Christ, having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Christ be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!

I’m not going to wish you a happy Easter this morning.

Because I don’t want us to just have a happy Easter.

There's nothing wrong with a "Happy Easter." You've probably said it a hundred times already today. Happy Easter. Happy Easter

And every year, we wish people a Happy Easter, but this year I'm hoping we can set the bar a little higher than that.

Those words we just prayed are from the Easter Vigil homily of St. John Chrysostom. Those are not words about a "Happy Easter."

Those are words about an Easter where the joy starts at the tips of our toes and wells up through us and spills out ... not just out of our lips but shoots out the top of our head!

That's the kind of Easter I want us to have.

Not just a "Happy Easter."

I want us to have a real Easter.

Really, I want us to have Mary’s Easter.

Because Mary’s Easter is the Easter of which John Chrysostom sang.

Mary's Easter changes everything.

John’s Gospel tells us that three people went to the tomb that morning. Three people saw something unexpected, something amazing.

But only one person was changed.

Only one person didn’t just go back home.

Only one person had an encounter with Jesus that was so profound that she had to go and tell everyone about it.

That’s the Easter I want us to have. That’s the Easter that is worth having.

I want us to have Mary’s Easter.

Because Mary’s Easter changes everything.

We don’t know a lot about Mary Magdalene from John’s Gospel. Tradition identifies her as a prostitute, and whether that’s true or not, we can suppose she had a hard life of being scorned and used by others. But the only real truth John’s Gospel tells us about Mary Magdalene is that she loved Jesus deeply and she was faithful to him to the end and beyond.

On Good Friday, Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother and aunt when all the other disciples had fled in fear. And now on Sunday morning, it is Mary alone who comes to the tomb while it was even still dark, comes to perform her last act of loving devotion in preparing Jesus’ body for his final burial.

What we know about Mary is that she allows herself to love Jesus so deeply that she does not protect herself from the pain of his crucifixion or the pain of his death.

She allows herself to look pain and death square in the face … not fleeing or cowering … but feeling every agonizing ounce of it.

What we know about Mary is she allows herself to love—a love that leaves you wide open. That leaves you vulnerable. Vulnerable to the pain that happens even when love goes away.

Mary comes to the tomb this morning expecting to find the broken body of her beloved Jesus waiting for her tender care. But instead, she finds the stone rolled away and the body gone. And in her deep grief and confusion she runs and finds Peter and John.

And Peter and John race to the tomb and see what Mary reported. Yep, sure enough, the body is gone. Don’t know what it means … but the body is gone.

But here’s the thing. Neither of them. Neither Peter of John are changed. They see Jesus isn’t there. They believe he is gone. They turn and go back to their homes.

But not Mary.

Mary doesn’t leave.

Mary stays.

Mary stays … and weeps.

We don’t know what was going through Peter and John’s minds and hearts. They were back on the road too fast. But we do know about Mary. Because Mary doesn’t hide her pain. Mary lets it all out, and she doesn’t care who sees it.

Even when she sees two angels, she doesn’t even blink. She doesn’t say “Oh my God … angels! What’s going on here!” The only words she can speak are the lamentation of her heart. The only song on her lips is the Blues.

“They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

All she can say is her pain. Because she is at the end of her rope. Her pain is all there is.

And it is at that moment that Jesus appears.

It is at that moment, with Mary at the end of her rope, weeping, in pain and not caring who knows or sees it. It is at that moment that Jesus calls her by name.




And Easter happens.

And her joy is full. That joy that starts at the tip of your toes and wells up through your body and out your lips and the top of your head.

Easter happens.

And Mary’s Easter changes everything.

What changed Mary…. What caused her to leave that tomb and not just go back to her home with the other disciples but to go and tell, to go and tell everyone she could about this amazing thing she had seen and experienced, was Jesus meeting her at her most vulnerable, Jesus meeting her at the heart of her struggle, at the heart of her pain. Jesus taking her Blues and turning it to Gospel. Meeting her and touching her and calling her by name.


I know you.

I know your pain.

I love you.

That's Easter.

There are a few things we all have in common here this morning. We have all chosen to get up out of bed and come to church on Easter morning. Some of us are here all the time. Some of us are here for our yearly pilgrimage. Some of us haven’t been here in a long, long time.

Yet, we have this in common: Each one of us has a story that brings us here. And that story is the most beautiful and precious thing about us.

The story of what we have lived, the story of what we have survived. The story of all our triumphs and tragedies. It is raw and it is real. Some of it shared, much of it is only known in the silence of our hearts.

And at the heart of each of our stories, I wager, there is a common theme that runs: a deep desire to be known and loved. There's also a shadow of that theme: that we fear that if we are known, we cannot be loved.

And this heart of the story is terrifyingly beautiful … because it is absolutely real.

In that real place, Mary truly encounters Jesus this morning. And that is the place where we encounter Jesus, too.

If we open ourselves up and allow ourselves to love, allow ourselves to be vulnerable with one another, Jesus will show up and call us by name, loving us more deeply and delighting in us more joyfully than we can possibly imagine.

Calling us by name.





I know you.

I know your pain.

I love you.

And I’m not going anywhere. Not even death can tear me away from your side.

I’m not going to wish you a happy Easter this morning.

Because I don’t want you to have a happy Easter. I want us to have something so much more amazing than that.

I want us to have a real Easter.

Mary’s Easter.

Because Mary’s Easter changes everything.

And so what if, this Easter, we don’t just peek into the tomb and say “Yep … he’s gone. Don’t know what it means … but he’s gone.” And then just go back to our homes.

What if instead we open ourselves up to have an encounter with Jesus that is so profound that we have to go and tell everyone about it? What if we dare to be real with one another, to let loose our fears and our tears and our hopes and our dreams – trusting that when two are three are gathered in his name, Jesus is in the midst of us? .

If we open ourselves up and allow ourselves to love, if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with one another, we can, like Mary, trust that Jesus will show up and call us by name and love us more deeply and delight in us more joyfully than we can possibly imagine.

That’s an Easter worth having. Alleluia! Amen.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Archbishop Welby, Dietrich Bonhoeffer & 21st Century Spirituality

A sermon preached at the 7:30 am Eucharist on Wednesday, April 9 at Christ Church Cathedral by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman

This Lent, you've been looking at a different kind of spirituality each week. You've talked about Ignatian spirituality, Franciscan spirituality, last week Michael Angell was here and preached on the spirituality of the Anglican poet John Donne. 

And so when I asked John what he wanted me to cover, he said, "Why don't you do something about 21st century spirituality?" OK, I thought. That's not as easy. There's not a book you can go to to read about it. The first question we really need to ask is -- what is it?

And so I've been thinking about it. What is 21st century spirituality? Is it digital spirituality? Is it logging into Mission St. Clare every day on my smartphone or praying with Facebook? Is it Starbucks spirituality? Deep conversation over a mocha latte?

And then I thought about those other spiritualities. Ignatian, Fransciscan, Benedictine. Each of those developed as a response to the world around them. It was individuals and communities asking the question: How do we take the world around us and live in it in a way that centers us in the divine?

So how do we do that today?

What is a spirituality for an age where we are are more connected than ever before?

...for a time where people reject institutional answers and branding ... not doing or believing something just because the church says?

...for a time when we are more aware of complexity than ever? When we are connected to one another globally and recognize the interrelatedness of our actions from a molecular level to a cosmic level and everywhere in between.

And while I was thinking about this, The Archbishop of Canterbury went on the radio and blew up the internet in a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

Archbishop Welby was doing a radio call-in interview, and he was asked a question about same-sex marriage. And he answered that question in the context of our global relationships. Now, agree or disagree with his answer ... this is a new thing we have to consider.

When William Temple was Archbishop of Canterbury in the first part of the 20th century, first off, he probably wasn't doing many live radio interviews, Secondly, his comments weren't being uploaded direct to YouTube for the entire planet to watch within the day. But thirdly, and probably more to the point, his own thoughts and beliefs were not being deeply effected by his experience of multiple other cultures and societies and his sense of the ripple effects of his words on them.

We are aware of one another globally in ways we have never been before. And that makes our lives so much richer -- but also so much more complex. And it makes the impulse and temptation to try to make them simple even stronger.

Today is the Feast of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the 20th century's great theologians and a martyr for the faith. And here is the Gospel reading we just heard for his feast day:

The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I always thought this was a great reading for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a deep and careful follower of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. But in the end he was martyred for being part of a plot to kill someone … Adolph Hitler. And he joined that plot in large part because he did this work of sorting, of recognizing that often there aren’t black & white, simple easy answers but that there is a ton of gray and we need to sit and sort through and work out our salvation with fear and trembling and in the end try to follow Jesus as well and as fearlessly as we can.

In the end, that can lead us to some bold actions. Actions -- like plotting to kill someone in the name of Christ's love -- that are not bereft of deep contradiction.

Maybe 21st century spirituality is a spirituality of discernment - of this kind of sorting. We drink from the information firehose of the internet. We are increasingly reactive. We think and act at the speed of the internet because we can, and because more and more we are expected to. True sorting and reflection is becoming a rarity.

And what has happened this week with Archbishop Welby is a perfect example. What got reported out was a soundbyte -- "You can't allow marriage equality because people in Africa will be murdered."

And with that soundbyte, the world was off to the races. People on the right are lauding him, saying that finally here is someone who is holding onto true orthodoxy and rejecting the false gospel of the left. People on the left are calling him an idiot and a Neville Chamberlain and a coward.

It occurred to me it might be helpful to do something unusual. To go beyond the soundbyte and listen to and reflect on what he actually said (you can watch the video of the entire show by clicking below):

The segment that has caused the nuclear reaction is this: as part of a conversation about same-sex blessings, the announcer responded to an answer that the Archbishop gave about same-sex blessings and said

Announcer: A Gay Christian listening to you there, may have heard the message that he or she can't marry their partner in their church because of the conniptions it would give to some African, dare we say, less enlightened people in Africa. 

Archbishop Welby: Well, I don't think we dare say less enlightened, actually. I think that's a neo-colonial approach and it's one I really object to. I think it's not about them having conniptions and getting irate, that's nothing to do with it.

It’s about the fact that I’ve stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of Christians who’d been attacked because of something that had happened far far away in America, and they were attacked by other people – because of that a lot of them had been killed. I was in the South Sudan a few weeks ago and the church leaders there were saying please don’t change what you’re doing, because then we couldn’t accept your help and we need your help desperately. We have to listen carefully to that, we also have to listen incredibly carefully to gay people here who want to get married and also to recognise that any homophobic behaviour here causes enormous suffering, particularly to gay teenagers, something I’m particularly conscious of at the moment. And we have to listen to that very carefully and work out what we do.

Announcer: Can you imagine a day when two people of the same-sex will be married in an Anglican church here?

Archbishop Welby: I don’t know. Personally, I have a real, I look at the Scriptures, I look at the teaching of the church, I listen to Christians around the world and I have real hesitations about that. I’m incredibly uncomfortable saying that because I really don’t want to say no to people who love each other, but you have to have a sense of following what the teaching of the church is, you can’t just make sudden changes.

I'm wondering if Archbishop Welby isn't giving us a model of 21st century spirituality.

First of all, he is being true to the vows that he has taken. We ask our bishops to stand in front of God and the church and, among other things, to:

Boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ, enlightening the minds and stirring up the conscience of your people.

Guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church.

All of us -- the baptized, deacons, and priests -- are called to boldly proclaim the Gospel, but only bishops have to balance that with a vow to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the church. The first thing Archbishop Welby is doing here is remembering the vows he took.

Second, he is letting himself be deeply moved by a broad variety of human experience. He is standing at a mass grave in Africa and listening deeply to the voices both of people in Sudan saying "please don't change anything" and of LGBT Christians saying "please change this now" and recognizing both are deeply pained voices.

Third, he is holding this experience in tension with the Gospel and the historic teachings of the church. He is following the Anglican way of starting with scripture, taking it seriously (though not necessarily literally) and then interpreting it through the lenses of tradition, reason and experience.

Finally, he's trying by example to lead a Church in that work of sitting down and sorting. Realizing that there is good and evil ... but that like the struggles that led Dietrich Bonhoeffer to plot to kill Hitler ... there are complexities that must be dealt with and even if a bold choice is made there are those who would have legitimate and even convincing arguments on the other side (as Christian pacifists have had with Bonhoeffer).

I don't think 21st century spirituality is unplugging. And I don't think it is some reactive ADD spirituality either. I believe it is actually wonderfully Anglican spirituality.

*Taking seriously the vows that bind us to God and each other in Christ.

*Taking the depth of connectivity that our life offers and diving into it ... not with anxiety, but with deep listening, deep prayerfulness and deep care. Allowing ourselves to be deeply moved by a broad variety of human experience.

*Taking all this and holding it in tension with the Gospel and the historic teachings of the church.

*Finally, through prayer and conversation and this work of holy sorting and being fearless in the face of contradiction and nuance, determining what action God calls us to that takes all these things into consideration.

It is the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Justin Welby and all of us. It is the work of the Kingdom of God ... drawing in a big net and sitting down and doing the hard, holy work of sorting; working out our salvation with fear and trembling. Not being afraid of deep relationship and nuance. Of considering our call and considering one another.

It is the work of ultimately trying to follow Jesus as well and as fearlessly and as lovingly as we can.

It is a work that, far from leading us in paths of self-righteousness, leaves us all humble before the cross of Christ.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Lazarus is Dead" - a sermon for the 5th Sunday of Lent

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, April 6, 2014

Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead."

Jesus does something incredibly powerful in this morning’s Gospel. And it’s not what you think.

I'm not talking about raising the dead.

I'm talking about telling the truth.

Three words that Jesus said. Three words that Jesus was completely unafraid to say. Three words that made everything that happened after he said them possible.

Lazarus is dead.

Think that’s not so hard to say? Think again.

A recent article Forbes noted that nearly one-third of all Medicare expenditures come from the 5% of beneficiaries that die each year. The 5% most critically ill people, all of whom end up dying, eat up 30% of the resource cost. And 1/3 of that cost happens in the last month of life.

The author notes "It seems that no matter how much money you use during that last year or month, if the person is sick enough, the effort makes things worse. A lot of the money being spent is not only not helping, it is making that patient endure more bad experiences on a daily basis. The patient’s quality of life is being sacrificed by increasing the cost of death."

So why do we do it? Why do we pour such huge amounts of money into fruitless attempts to prolong life? Largely because we're afraid of the words Jesus was unafraid to say.

We're afraid to say:

"Lazarus is dead."

We are afraid of death, so we do everything we can to postpone and deny it. Most of us don't even use the word, "death." In fact we'll use anything to avoid it.

There are the common euphemisms

Passed away


Gone to a better place

Then there are the more creative ones:

Caught the big bus

Took a dirt nap

Basted the formaldehyde turkey.

And we start it early on. We don’t tell our children that their dog died, we say that she “went to a farm upstate where there’s lots of room to run around.”

Even doctors and nurses ... maybe especially doctors and nurses ... rarely say the word. In my hospital chaplaincy in seminary, deaths were called "Bradys."

“We had a Brady on two last night.”

In three months, I never once heard the actual word death said by a doctor or nurse despite witnessing death on almost a daily basis.

We fear death so much, we cannot even bring ourselves to say the word. And that’s why our efforts to try to provide health care in this country will never succeed as long as we treat it as a public policy crisis or even a humanitarian crisis. Because at its root, it is a crisis of faith.

As a nation, our fear is greater than our faith.

It’s not surprising. One of the byproducts of being the wealthiest society in the history of the world is that we are used to being able to control everything. And the more we live with the illusion of control, the more we become convinced that we should be able to control everything, the more we fear that which is beyond our control.

Death is the ultimate thing that is beyond our control. No matter what we do. No matter how much we strive for immortality through plastic surgery or fame or constant activity or any other means under the sun, death will find us.

And as Christians we know this. We even have beautiful, poetic words that affirm this. We began Lent saying, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” We have words that fearlessly claim death as a natural transition from life to life. But instead of living those beautiful words: "For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended," instead of proclaiming fearlessly “all we go down to the dust, but even at the grave we make our song, Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia,” instead of stepping out in faith with some of the most powerful words and certainly the most powerful truth our faith has to offer, mostly, we live in deep fear of the one thing that is an absolute certainty for us all.

And so the most remarkable thing that Jesus does in this story isn't raising Lazarus from the dead. The most remarkable thing that Jesus does, the thing that makes everything else possible is Jesus tells the truth. Jesus simply calls the patient.

Jesus says plainly: “Lazarus is dead.”

Jesus shows us how to live fully as the image of God that is each of us, and that means having faith that is greater than our fear. Jesus shows us who we can be, too. And so we notice that not only is Jesus unafraid to say his friend his dead, Jesus is not afraid to weep for his friend's death. Jesus is not afraid of anything, because he truly believes what we have all been promised -- that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the reach of the most powerful force in the cosmos ... the love of God.

All this Lent we have been talking about healing. But today we come face to face with those times in life where healing is no longer possible. Where Lazarus is not sick or asleep or woozy but dead. Lazarus is dead. He is in the tomb. Don’t move the stone because that body is going to stink. It’s over.

OK Jesus, what do we do now?

Well this morning, Jesus tells us. Jesus says don’t be afraid. Jesus tells us to say the words and speak the truth. This morning, Jesus calls us in the face of those scariest of things that are beyond our control to trust boldly in that love of God that is the most powerful force in the cosmos. Trust boldly enough to call the patient when death has occurred. To look ourselves and each other in the eye and say:

Lazarus is dead.

Sometimes Lazarus is a loved one with terminal illness who desperately needs to be able to meet death face-to-face with dignity.

Sometimes Lazarus is a marriage where the sacramental mutual love departed long ago and is never coming back, and life needs a chance to be changed, not ended.

Sometimes Lazarus is a faithful pet who has loved us long and whose death is our final act of merciful love in return.

Sometimes Lazarus is a friendship that has been so deeply damaged by betrayal that all that is left is to go our separate ways.

Sometimes Lazarus is a way of life precious to us that needs to die so that some new way of life can emerge.

One day Lazarus will be me. One day Lazarus will be you.

And it’s OK. All we go down to the dust. But Christ’s song is ever on our lips. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Being able to say “Lazarus is dead” is the key to everything that comes next. New life simply cannot emerge until those words of truth are said. Until those words are said, we are trapped in that place where maybe we haven’t admitted death but there certainly is not life.

Like those who pour their life’s savings into keeping the respirator going for one more week of agony, when we don’t acknowledge these deaths we actually make it worse. When we hold on to that which is already gone, we actually sacrifice our life by increasing the cost of death. Because as long as we keep holding on desperately to life when Lazarus is already dead, there can be no resurrection. As long as we do that, as long as we fear those precious words “Lazarus is dead,” we cannot grasp on to the new life that God has in store for each and all of us.

This is not easy. It was not easy for Jesus, and it’s not easy for us. Death is deep loss and we grieve loss, and Jesus does, too. Jesus wept over Lazarus. And we too should grieve these deaths. And we should hold onto each other and love each other through that grief. Because our grief is not a sign of faithlessness -- precisely the opposite – our grief is a sign that we are created in the faithful image of a God who weeps where there is pain.

But in our tears, we can still have hope. In our tears we will always have hope.

Because yes, Lazarus is dead.

And we can say those words. As followers and trusters in Jesus, we are strong enough in our faith to say those words that others fear to say. We are strong enough and faithful enough to weep as we say them because we don’t fear sorrow either.

We can say, “Lazarus is dead,” because we know the rest of the story. Not just Lazarus’ story but every story.

We can say, “Lazarus is dead,” because death is nothing to fear.

We can say, “Lazarus is dead” because we know that life is changed not ended, because even at the grave we make our song, because nothing, not even death can separate us from the love of God. Amen.