Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

Finding Life in a Place of Death

// March 28th, 2016 // 1 Comment » // Church in The Cliff

This was the sermon from Easter Sunday:

When the women go to the tomb on that Sunday morning, they are expecting to find a corpse. Because Jesus died after noon on a Friday, it was not possible to properly prepare his body for burial. The women who had followed him all the way from Galilee returned on Sunday morning to complete the task. They would perfume the body with spices, then tuck it away in a little room to decompose. In about a year, their Jesus would be nothing more than dry bones, collected, rearranged, and moved to make room for another body, the dead piled on top of the dead. The women came to the tomb expecting death.

But a funny thing happened. When they arrived at the tomb, the stone was rolled away. This stone is a large, heavy, wheel-like disc that rolls in a track. It is a cold, hard boundary between the place of the living and the place of the dead.

This is how we like it: death behind a wall where we can’t see it. Underground. Made up and dressed nice. Somewhere in the far future behind years of healthy eating and miracle drugs and desperate surgeries. We live as though life and death are binaries, separated by a wide chasm of good choices. But that boundary is not so thick, not so heavy, that chasm not so hard to cross as we would like to believe. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, the hands of angels move it aside so that we can witness the truth.

The women came to the tomb expecting death and we often do the same. We worry about death. We fear it. But that fear turns in on itself and somehow brings death closer. We buy guns and build walls and pray to Jesus to take us home. But Jesus never left.

The women came to the tomb expecting to find the dead body of Jesus, the man who they followed from Galilee. For three years, they supported his ministry. They travelled the long road to Jerusalem, the road to suffering and death. They followed him because he offered them salvation.  He offered them freedom. He offered them equality. He offered them a voice, a voice that was their own. They came to the tomb expecting to find all their hopes and dreams lying dead, a lifeless body torn apart by a cruel empire.

Instead, they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. It was not what they expected. They were perplexed, anxious, confused. Thankfully, there were some friendly angels in fabulous clothes to remind them of what they already knew: that Jesus told them this would happen. Speaking with the eschatological title “the Son of Man,” he told them that he must be handed over to sinners – for Luke, the wealthy elites who oppressed the common people – be crucified, and on the third day rise again.  This must mean that Jesus was, in fact, alive. They were in the wrong place to see the risen Christ because they were looking in the place of the dead. Where they expected to find death, they found a hint of life.

Both Mark and Matthew tell us that they left with joy, fear, and amazement, but Luke simply says they returned from the tomb and told everyone the Good News. Because the tellers of the tale were all women, the apostles were of course skeptical. You know how women are. They get all emotional and excited. They can’t be taken seriously. They certainly can’t be president. We need the reserved dignity and moderation that is the nature of men.

The Gospel of Luke has been called “The Women’s Gospel.” Luke features women far more than Matthew and Mark. For every parable about a man, there is a corresponding parable about a woman. Yet there is a tension in Luke’s treatment of women. Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza and others have pointed out that, while Luke features women, he does not often give them a voice. Over the course of Luke and Acts, women become less prevalent. The resurrected Jesus does not appear to women in the Gospel of Luke as he does in Matthew and John. The women an empty tomb with an angel and men get the risen Jesus. And yet, here, I think, is an opportunity to read against the text or perhaps excavate things that Luke hints at, but can’t fully live into. It’s possible that Luke is describing what happened after Jesus’ death – the gradual marginalization of women – while suggesting that it should not be so.

Chief in the evidence against Luke is the fact that the women’s account of the tomb is dismissed. Peter believes enough to go check, but his amazement seems required to validate the claim. When Cleopas and another disciple meet Jesus unknowingly on the walk to Emmaus, they cite the women’s account with some skepticism. Though Peter was amazed at what had happened, the takeaway seems to have been that no one saw Jesus. Then he says to them: “Oh, how foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!” Perhaps I am being a generous reader, but isn’t it possible that Jesus is including the women among the prophets here? They spoke with divine beings and delivered the good news of the resurrection. In Cleopas’s remarks to Jesus, he repeats that it was the claims of the women that are in question and Jesus’ response is that they are foolish not to believe the prophets.

Luke’s Gospel has also been called “The Gospel of the Poor.” From the beginning, Luke sets up the story as a cosmic battle between good and evil and the good characterizes the lowly, the laborer, the outcast, where the evil characterizes the high-born, the powerful, the elite. Sinners are rich and the righteous are poor. The arc of the narrative is to overturn the current order to strike down what is high and raise up what is low.  It’s known as “The Great Reversal.” In many places in Luke, women are the representatives of the lowly, especially widows, those who depend on societal support. So if we are looking for the righteous in our world, we need not be restricted to the widow, alien, and orphan, though those are often good places to start. We simply have to find whoever is marginalized in our world.

When we are confronted with the weighty matters of glory, our first step should be to listen to the marginalized, to those who come face to face with suffering and death. When the black community says that they are being terrorized by police, as they did for years before the Rodney King beating, as they did for years before Ferguson, we have to listen. Instead, we wait for video – and not just one! After Eric Garner is strangled and 12-year-old Tamir Rice is shot and Sandra Bland is harassed, arrested, and found dead in her cell, we’re still not sure. We find ways to dismiss their claims, to blame the victim. We advise them on how to behave properly, to be respectful and do what their betters tell them to do.

When queer kids tell us about bullying at school and the rejection of their families that leaves them homeless, we tell them to toughen up or deny who they are. When women speak of their hardship in having their only source of medical care taken away, we tell them to just go to another doctor. When the impoverished cry out for food, shelter, health care, and safe communities, we tell them to move and get a job. When the victims of global poverty and endless war try to do just that, we tell them to wait and wait and wait. When people who experience death on a daily basis – sometimes literal death, but often the smaller deaths of being told they aren’t good enough, don’t belong, or don’t matter – when the suffering cry out to us we turn a deaf ear.

But these are the witnesses to the resurrection. Only by going to the cross and seeking out the dead can we find life. So, for those of us who are privileged – and I would bet that everyone in this room is privileged in some way – we can only see the resurrected Jesus if we walk alongside those who suffer. This is the Gospel. As James Cone says in A Black Theology of Liberation, “there can be no theology of the Gospel which does not arise from an oppressed community. This is so because God is revealed in Jesus as a God whose righteousness is inseparable from the weak and helpless in human society.” If we cannot even listen to those who suffer, we have no part of the Gospel.

We see this Gospel in action. Out of the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Jordan Davis, Sandra Bland – the list, sadly, goes on and on and on – out of these tragedies, we see the BlackLivesMatter movement finally expressing the frustrated dreams of a generation that saw the hard fought gains of their mothers and fathers taken away – taken away in the War on Drugs, trickle-down economics, voter suppression, unequal housing and education – the list, sadly, goes on and on and on. Out of the AIDS crisis that devastated the gay community while the White House denied its existence, we got an organized resistance that fought for same-sex marriage and non-discrimination ordinances, and continues to fight to maintain what has been gained and gain even more for our queer family. Out of this latest in the ongoing assault on women’s rights and fundamental dignity, I believe we will see women empowered like never before. This is not “just” politics. This is the resurrection life.

It is not that this suffering and death is somehow justified or “worth it” or “serve a purpose in the greater scheme of things,” but that it can be redeemed. Those deaths – whether of black people at the hands of police and vigilantes, or of queer people at the hands of parents and closeted bullies, or of women at the hands of abusive spouses or substandard medical procedures – those deaths can never be justified. They are never worth it. But contained within each of these moments of suffering, there is the possibility of new life just waiting to be witnessed and proclaimed and fought for. If we turn our eyes away from death, we never get to see life. If we cover our ears to lament, we never get to hear exultation. If we don’t go to the tomb and we don’t pay attention to those who do, we are fools and we will miss out on the greatest gift in all creation.

The women went to the tomb expecting to find death. But in that cold tomb of despair, they found the hope of new life. This is the Gospel. This is the Good News. This is the resurrection.

Looking For a Miracle

// April 4th, 2015 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Tomorrow is Easter, the day that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the day that, for many, defines what the faith is entirely about.  I have to admit, I always have a little trouble making the shift from Lent to Eastertide, the season between Easter and Pentecost.  Maybe I’m just a Lent kind of guy with a dark turn of mind.  Whatever it is, it is hard to think about the resurrection and still fully experience Holy Week, the memory of the Passion.

As I was brought into the faith, it seemed that the death and resurrection were always spoken of in one breath.  The death was my fault, but the resurrection was my hope.  Put in that context, it is hard to want to focus on the death part.  My church did not observe Holy Week at all; suddenly it was Easter.  However, it is really important to take the death part for what it is, to fully embrace the reality of our limitations, to grieve loss and injustice.

Easter will come, but it is not today.  Today is a day spent in the tomb, hoping for a miracle.  I have every confidence that the miracle will come and I look forward to celebrating it with you.  Tomorrow.

Please join us in that celebration, tomorrow morning at 11am at Church in the Cliff.  After our Easter Sunday Service, we will have a potluck brunch – if you know anything about this church, you know you should not miss that! – and an egg hunt for kids of all ages.  I hope to see you on the other side!

Grace & Peace,

From Death into Life

// April 18th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, DART Stations of the Cross

This is the season when we sit with death and find the way to new life.  Doug Pagitt says that every preacher has four sermons that get preached over and over and over.  I guess this is one of my four.  I’ll take it.

Last night was our Maundy Thursday service.  It was a very Church in the Cliff night.  It was small and intimate.  We ate and drank.  We laughed a lot.  We might have cried a little.  Maundy Thursday is a celebration turned farewell.  It is the Passover meal celebrating the ancient Hebrews’ liberation from Egypt, but it is Jesus’ last Passover meal with his friends.  There is a sweetness in a farewell that we should savor when we are lucky enough to have one.  He knew that he was leaving, going where they could not go, and he asked them to do one thing in his absence: love one another.

Tonight is DART Stations of the Cross.  It commemorates the Passion in words and pictures while riding a train.  I know it sounds odd, but it is oddly affecting.  This is Good Friday.  The name of this day has always bothered me because it glosses over the real pain and loss of the Passion.  It points us forward.  It signals that this is the day that Jesus’ work is done, forgetting that his work is done while sweating blood.  Jesus ached so much for the state of the world that his anguish was literally seeping out of him.  Those who loved him, those who had the courage, saw every step that he took on his way to Calvary.  In the Stations of the Cross, we have the opportunity to do the same.  We do this not for guilt, but for compassion, to feel with Christ and to thereby feel with all those who suffer.  In the Stations of the Cross, we ache for the world; we bleed for it.  Imagine if our concern for the world seeped out of us, unable to be contained.

Then there is the quiet of the tomb.  We must not forget that Jesus was dead.  For some of us, that remembrance might be a day of silence, of prayer, of meditation.  I will be doing some of that.  I’m also going to see Southern Baptist Sissies, the story of four gay men growing up in a Southern Baptist church.  It looks funny and, in some ways, incongruous with the day.  However, in remembering Jesus death and time in the tomb, we must also remember the people that we as Christians have forced into silence and solitude for so many years.  The closet is a tomb.  Fortunately for many, the stone has been rolled away.

What we learn from our queer kindred is what we learn from our own experiences: there is always the promise of new life.  The loss of loved ones, of jobs, moving to a new place, relationships severed, a plan failed, a hope dashed, or just dying to the person others expected you to be – there is always the promise of new life.  The mistake is in thinking that those losses don’t continue to have some claim on us, that they cease to be a part of who we are.  New life is only possible when we contend with death, when we live through it and give it its proper due.

Easter is not exactly Christmas; it is not birth, but resurrection.  It is all the more joyful for knowing the alternative.  The bloom of the wildflowers, the greening of the world, puppies playing in the park, and picnics and potlucks, and the Beloved One of God lives again – life is so beautiful.  So let’s celebrate.

Please join us for the remainder of our Holy Week activities.  We will be handing out prayer cards for DART Stations of the Cross from 5-7pm at Mockingbird Station this Good Friday evening.  Tomorrow, for Holy Saturday, we don’t have any official plans, but I encourage you to go see Southern Baptist Sissies at 2:30pm at the Texas Theater.  Then please join us for our Easter celebration, 11am Sunday at Kidd Springs Rec Center.  Following the service there will be a picnic potluck in the park, weather permitting.  The Kittos have graciously volunteered their house, 310 S. Montclair, if there is rain.

Grace & Peace,

New Life

// March 30th, 2013 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

One of the quirks of doing ministry within the liturgical calendar is that we often have to think about things out of order, so that they might be presented in order.  That is, in the middle of Advent, I really should be planning Lent, in a time of hopeful expectation, planning the mournful journey to the tomb.  The liturgical calendar is designed to provide a flow of life: beginning, ending, and beginning again.  However, I often do not experience it that way.  Instead, I live in that tension, life and death and new life all coexisting pulling my focus from moment to moment.  Today was one of those days.

This morning I participated in the Dallas Area Christian Progressive Alliance’s Good Friday Walk.  The walk this year was dedicated to children who have been killed by gun violence.  We heard meditations from ministers, progress reports from activists, and the testimony of a mother whose teenage daughter’s life was taken.  As we walked, we carried pictures of the dead children.  Mine was a six-year-old boy named James who was killed at Sandy Hook.  We shuffled from park to park in downtown Dallas showing the dead the sights they will never see.  It’s obviously sad – heartbreaking and heartwrenching, really – but it’s also bewildering how we can see these tragedies unfold again and again, yet nothing changes.  The powers and principalities of this world seem to have won – again.

But now is the time to plan for Easter.  The message of Easter is the message of hope.  Jesus was crucified on the cross, humiliated, beaten, tortured.  But on the third day, he walked out of the tomb.  The powers and principalities of this world may have won again, but we are a resurrection people.

By the logic of the liturgical calendar, death and life are separated.  While they play out in a loop each year, there is an orderly progression: birth, death, new life, and final judgment, the triumph of the dreams of God.  But our lives are messier than that.  Death and life are intertwined.  Moments of humor are found alongside moments of tragedy.  As we walked this maudlin walk this morning, we passed a bar playing Frank Sinatra on the loudspeakers: “Each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race.  That’s life.”  An Easter message of sorts.  We are a resurrection people.  Life and death are intertwined, but we get back up.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we celebrate the resurrection, the hope of new life.

Grace & Peace,

Easter Sunday (Sermon and Program)

// April 9th, 2012 // No Comments » // Uncategorized


Sermon: “Go Back to Galilee”

A reading from the Gospel According to Mark, chapter 16, verses 1 through 8:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought perfumed oils so that they could anoint Jesus.  Very early, just after sunrise on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.

They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”  When they looked, they found that the huge stone had been rolled back.

On entering the tomb, they saw a young person sitting at the right, dressed in a white robe.  They were very frightened, but the youth reassured them: “Do not be amazed!  You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, the One who was crucified.  He has risen; he is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  Now go and tell the disciples and Peter, ‘Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee, where you will see him just as he told you.’”

They made their way out and fled from the tomb bewildered and trembling; but they said nothing to anyone, because they were so afraid.

For the Word of God in Scripture,
For the Word of God among us,
For the Word of God within us,
Thanks be to God.

Our friend Christina Holdiness, on reading the e-mails about the series on demons, said they reminded her of the five stages of grief.  Many of the sins – gluttony, lust, pride – represent denial.  Some people are angry.  The fearful person will bargain with whatever authority she thinks can prolong life.  I, of course, get sad.  And, if you successfully dispatch all the demons, putting them under the right order of reason, you have acceptance.  Christina further suggested that this might be the whole function of religion: a way of coping with the fact that we are going to die.  For Christians, Easter, the resurrection, is the highest and most direct means of confronting that reality.

In the church of my youth, Christmas and Easter were the only holidays.  We zip along from birth to rebirth with not much in between but our own degradation.  We are all bad and God is all good, always triumphing over sin and death.  Only high points.  Now we spend Advent anxiously awaiting the time when God will come in and finally, finally fix everything.  All the injustice, all the oppression, all the pain and suffering, will finally go away.  At Christmas, God comes into the world, incarnate, as a real, embodied human being.  Jesus shows up, lives his life, and dies.  In fact, he dies in a horrifying act of injustice, the victim of the very thing he was supposed to fix.  But it’s okay because we have Easter.  Yay, Easter!  Jesus is risen indeed!  In the resurrection, we learn that God ultimately wins, that good ultimately triumphs over evil.  Now, everything will finally, finally be made right.  How’s that working out?  In focusing on Christmas and Easter we forget what we all really know: the beginning of one thing marks the end of something else.

The Christian calendar is arranged like a Mobius strip, the twisted strip of paper that creates an endless loop.  We trace the same ground every year passing through Christmas and Easter, but also passing through Advent and Lent.  People often forget that Advent is not only the time of expectation for the birth of Jesus, but a celebration of the return of Jesus as the eschatological judge, the one who, according to Jewish apocalyptic tradition, will separate the righteous from the unrighteous.  The righteous will inherit a new earth, restored to God’s intentions for justice and peace.  Advent, as much as it is anticipation of the beginning of things, is also the end of all things.

Lent, too, is a meditation on endings.  This Lent, we told fanciful tales of demons that whisper evil thoughts in our moments of weakness.  We mindlessly react to our passions, alternately ignoring them or indulging them.  Instead, it was suggested, we should put what the ancients called reason, but we might call God, in charge.  What ought to die with Christ is the personality, the ego that is only concerned with sustaining itself.  In this death the real person, the spark of the divine within, can come out.  This is the Easter for which we have longed during Lent: the raising of the true self.  Death begets new life.

The early authors of Scripture had this same sense of time.  Perhaps owing to the largely illiterate culture of the day and the rarity of the written word, they expected these texts to be read aloud, over and over again.  John is a great example of this, using internal references that point backward and forward in the text to infuse it with a looping, interweaving structure.  Readers of the Gospel of John are rewarded for continually rereading, plumbing its depths over and over again.  Although Mark has for a long time been considered rustic and unsophisticated, recent scholarship has exposed the brilliant simplicity of the text.

Mark, like John, expects that this text will be read over and over again, though the author handles it slightly differently.  Instead of focusing on repeated internal references, the author of Mark makes use of an inclusio, an envelope structure wherein sections of text and, in fact, the entire book, begin and end with the same wording.  The envelope frames what is contained within.  The text begins in chapter 1, verse 1, by telling us that it is the “The beginning of the good new of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  From there, the only people who ever use the phrase “Son of God” are demons, supposed outsiders.  The disciples have no idea.  At the end, a centurion makes the proclamation, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”  The effect is to wrap the whole of Jesus life and death in this envelope that infuses meaning – that this is the Son of God – into the rest of the text.  Whatever Jesus was doing, it was with God’s authority.

Mark employs a similar strategy in handling the resurrection.  There are no resurrection stories in Mark, no further miracles, no further instructions.  In fact, Mark claims that the women who found the empty tomb did not tell anyone because they were terrified.  The book just ends with instructions to go back to Galilee.  A very smart person, Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles, told us in class that geography is theology.  Though he famously dies on a cross in Jerusalem, Jesus’ mission is in Galilee.  Galilee is a collection of villages around the Sea of Galilee where Jesus grew up.  It was a Jewish stronghold after the Maccabean revolt.  In Jesus’ youth in Nazareth, he might have seen honest, hard labor in the face of poverty and some memory of independence from oppressive occupiers.  In Galilee, he saw the needs of the poor and rose to meet those needs.  And then, as we learn during Holy Week, Jesus travels from Galilee to Jerusalem and gets killed. It should not seem odd that, in the first Gospel, when Jesus dies and rises again, his disciples are told to go back to Galilee.

Like the Christian calendar, Mark loops us back around to the beginning, to Galilee.  When his disciples are scattered, when everyone has given up and the women who were faithful to him are looking for answers, the angel tells them to go back to Galilee.  If you want to understand Jesus’ death and resurrection, Mark tells us to go back to Galilee.  The meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection can be found in Jesus life and mission in Galilee.

There are some obvious specifics about that mission that should be mentioned.  In Galilee, Jesus cast out demons, rebuked the voices of death and shame that divide people against themselves and others.  In Galilee, Jesus healed the sick, restoring them to full inclusion in their communities.  In Galilee, Jesus fed the hungry by the thousands.  In Galilee, Jesus confronted the powerful.  It is no wonder that this is how people remember Jesus.  Of course they remember the horrible death, but they can only remember it in the light of his life and they honor it by trying to live the same way.  As do we.

If it’s not apparent, I have had death on my mind lately.  My classes this semester are nuts-and-bolts ministry classes: Preaching and Word and Worship, which is a course on liturgy.  Recently we have been learning the one thing all ministers eventually have to do: funerals.  This is hard for me.  In the face of death, I feel completely inadequate.  There is nothing I can say that will make things better.  In the best of circumstances the deceased has live a long, full life surrounded by loved ones, but that is not always the case.  One of my classmates told a story of preaching at the funeral of an 8th grade girl that committed suicide.  It’s common in such situations to talk about heaven, to give families hope that she will find peace in the hereafter.  I’ll be honest and say that I find this inadequate.  If there is a heaven, I don’t think that is much comfort for the parent of a 12-year-old girl who has taken her own life.  What can anyone possibly say that makes that better?

Instead, I think Mark’s account of the resurrection calls us to something else.  Like the Christian calendar, it loops back around so that we pass through death and into life, again and again.  Jesus life was so meaningful, so compelling that Mark’s advice is to live it all again.  During Lent, we talked about casting out the demons that wear us down and distract us from being the person God made us to be.  Jesus did not have that problem.  He knew who he was and he knew what he had to do even unto death.  He loved the people of Galilee and he served them in his life and mission.  He loved the people of Galilee and so he went to Jerusalem to confront the people who held power over them.  He mocked them and challenged them and he was killed by them.  For the poor of Galilee, for the poor of Jerusalem, and for the all the poor that suffered under the thumb of Roman occupation, he gave his life.  If you want to know why he died, go back to Galilee.

In being the person that God has for us to be, life and death pass away.  When you have something to live for, you do not fear death.  And when you have something worth dying for, you can fully live. The new life is not merely an extension of the life that we have, but a turning inside out of the life we know.  The resurrection is not some distant hope, but a present reality, a new life that conquers death and limitation and scarcity and fear.  Who knows what drove that little girl to take her life?  It could be mental illness or shame over body image or sexuality.  It could have been abuse.  It could have been almost anything.  One thing seems certain: she could not have known the peace of God, the confidence in her own skin that comes with understanding oneself as God’s chosen.  Not in that moment.  This is not condemnation, but repentance.  The only thing that redeems her death is noting God’s presence with the sufferer and hearing God’s call in the suffering.  New life for her means our lives must be changed.  We must cast out the demons that distract us from the precious lives in peril around us.  New life for her means we must go back to Galilee.

In the rotting skin of the leper, Jesus saw the hand of God.  The leper had probably been ostracized by everyone, shunned out of fear.  More than fear, this culture thought that God caused such maladies because of sin.  Jesus might have reacted with revulsion or fear.  Instead, he chose to heal the leper.  And, as a jab to those in power, those who exclude the leper from the Temple and presumably the presence of God, Jesus sent the leper to the priest to show what he had done.  If you want to know what Jesus death was for, go back to Galilee.

As the first son, Jesus represented his family, carried their authority.  A person’s place in the world was defined by his or her place in the hierarchy from slave to emperor.  When his mother and his brothers and sisters came to him, concerned that he was upsetting the apple cart, he knew who is true family was.  “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  All those things our culture and society claim make us who we are, the status and power and security of familial relationships were nothing to Jesus in the face of God’s claim on his life.  If you want to know what Jesus’ death meant, go back to Galilee.

The Roman Empire promised prosperity to everyone.  According to Roman ideology, the emperor was the Savior of the World.  But those who fished the Sea of Galilee barely fed themselves.  This allowed Rome and their client rulers in Jerusalem to keep people in line, always on the edge of starvation.  Five thousand people followed Jesus into the wilderness to hear him teach, but they had nothing to eat.  He took what the disciples had, five loaves of bread and two fish, and he fed the multitude.  Who’s the Savior now?  If you want to know why Jesus died, go back to Galilee.

In the quest to find the meaning of our own lives, the purpose for which we are willing to live or die, we could do worse than reading about Jesus.  Like participating in the liturgical year, the repetition of Scripture forms us.  Sealing these stories in our minds, engraving them on our hearts, beats back the demonic voices that seek to pull us away from God.  In scripture, we traverse life and death and are reborn to return to the hills of Galilee.

When, like the Apostle Paul, we prefer neither life nor death, we have the courage to be who God made us to be.  In this new life beyond life and death, we stand with Jesus on the shores of Galilee.  In Galilee, we can cast out the demons that haunt this world, that lie to us, telling us we are not good enough and the world is not abundant enough to have peace and justice.  In Galilee, we can stand up to the principalities and powers of this world that divide people by race and class and gender and sexual orientation, that profit off of the sin of the world.  In Galilee, we can feed the hungry and house the homeless.  In Galilee, we can protect the vulnerable and fearful.  In Galilee, we can hear the cry of a child who sees no hope in the life she has.

When our loved ones are gathered around our graves, will they see our spirit in the world we left behind?  Will they see new life in the wake of our deaths?  Will they be inspired to go back to Galilee, to live life as we have?  Every day, we must, as Paul says in Philippians, be conformed to Christ’s death in order to know the power of the resurrection.  We must never forget that death and life are inextricably bound.  We live through the story of life and death, so that we can be free to hear the call of God.  We rehearse the beginnings and endings so that they no longer have power over us, so that we can always begin again.  We can find the meaning of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, as well as our own, in Galilee.  We live through the pain of Good Friday so that, on Easter Sunday, we can see Jesus in Galilee.  We can find new life in the hills of Galilee.