Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Week | "To Show People Jesus"

Tuesday of Holy Week | Janine Schenone, All Saints Church in Pasadena

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” These are the words of the Greeks who have come to the Festival of the Passover in Jerusalem. They have seen Jesus riding his colt toward Jerusalem, and they approach Philip. Then Philip tells Andrew, and then Philip and Andrew tell Jesus. And then Jesus addresses the crowd with his speech.

These Greeks who ask to see Jesus are on a pilgrimage of sorts. They’re travelling to the holy site of Jerusalem for Passover. In many cases, pilgrimages are to sites of martyrdom, and that is somewhat true in this case: they are visiting a site of impending martyrdom, as Jesus makes clear in his speech to them.

One of the most visited pilgrimage sites is Canterbury Cathedral, which became famous after the martyrdom there of Thomas Becket in 1170. People come from all over the world to see the cathedral, the place where Becket was murdered by King Henry’s knights. And then they go down into the crypt where his body lay. An artist has suspended a sculpture of a man’s form from the ceilings, and it looks as if it has been made from nails that have been soldered together. Pilgrims go down into that dimly lit crypt and look at the body raised into the air, and then they emerge again into a brightly lit nave with a ceiling several stories high.

Really, those pilgrims are coming to see Jesus. In fact, the mission statement of Canterbury Cathedral is four short words: “To show people Jesus.”

How exactly does one do that? How does one show people Jesus when we seem far removed? Whom do we approach to say, “We wish to see Jesus”?

I would like to say that we show people Jesus in acts of compassion and social justice, in acts of radical love and acceptance and forgiveness. But recently, I was speaking about discipleship to a group of teenagers preparing for Confirmation, and I spoke about the importance of this type of service. They challenged that idea. They argued that anyone can perform these acts, so these acts were not necessarily a sign of being a Christian disciple.

Now of course, I had not argued that there was anything exclusively Christian about these actions. Certainly, people of other faiths and people who practice no religion also perform acts of compassion and social justice and demonstrate the radical love of Jesus. They are being children of the light. Jesus doesn’t say that everyone must join and practice a particular religion.

So when I ask myself, “How do we as Christian disciples show people Jesus?,” I think about those teenagers’ objection. What is unique about following Jesus? It has to be more than radical love. It has to be more than wise teachings. It has to be more than a devout love of God.

What is unique about Jesus? The Cross and the Resurrection. Why do people go to sites of martyrdom, sites where someone’s life has been sacrificed in a Christlike way that inspires others to journey there? They go to see the Cross and the Resurrection.

In 2012, I went on a brief trip with some classmates to El Salvador to visit various churches and mission efforts there. And while we were there, we visited two sites of martyrdom: the Jesuit house at La Universidad Centroamericana where six priests and two women were slain, and the convent hospital chapel where Archbishop Romero was shot while celebrating the Eucharist. While we were in the brightly lit chapel with white tiles all around, a guide showed my group where Romero was shot, and where his body had fallen on the ground behind the altar.

I felt very drawn to that spot. Very drawn. I waited until my classmates and other visitors had left the chapel, and then I knelt behind the altar and placed my hand on the cold while marble where Romero fell, where the pool of blood had been. But I wanted to get even closer. And so I prostrated myself on the marble and laid my heart where his heart had been, where his blooding aorta had been.

I can’t explain why I did that. I have never done anything like that before. But I think I wanted to get closer to the place of martyrdom. I wanted to be one with it. I wanted to see Jesus.

There were resurrections as the result of these assassinations. The international community put great pressure upon the Salvadoran government to end the civil war and the persecution of the poor and of the Church. And the liberation theology of the martyred scholar priests caught fire and spread throughout the world. It led to a rebirth of the Salvadoran people, and to a worldwide acceptance of the same liberation theology that before had been considered suspect, too closely tied to Marxist ideology and Communism.

These things came about due to the Cross and the Resurrection. How appropriate that these things happened in a country called El Salvador—which means “the Savior” in Spanish.

“To show people Jesus” does not mean  merely to speak of Jesus in witnessing and proclamation or to do mighty acts of charity, healing, and inclusion that signal God’s providence. It’s something deeper and more mysterious. When people ask me where my Christian faith comes from, I could spout stories from the Gospels, all that I learned in my childhood years of religious instruction, the wonderful examples of Christian discipleship that my parents and others have provided.

But these things are not the source of my faith. They are human sources of wisdom, which, as you can see, Paul is not so enthusiastic about. We can read tomes and tomes of theology and still not be able to see Jesus, much less show him to others. Here is one of the major sets of works by the great theologian Thomas Aquinas: the Summa Theologica, or “Summary of Theology.” He attempted to answer every possible question about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, humankind, and creation. And a few months before the end of his life, he stopped writing. He is reputed to have said on his deathbed, “Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears as so much straw.” His writings did not show Jesus—not completely.

And here are the many volumes of Karl Barth’s major work, Church Dogmatics, which he also worked on until he died. And yet he, for all he wrote, admitted that human wisdom was incapable of knowing God directly. He believed that Jesus Christ was the one pinpoint of intersection between the vastness of God and God’s wisdom and the human mind and spirit. Through Jesus, we could know God.

When people ask me about my faith or what I think about Jesus and his divinity, they are asking me to show them Jesus. And so all I can do is to explain how Jesus—God—came to me, often in times of despair or loss or tragedy, but also in moments of peace and quiet and joy. I can describe the effect these visitations had upon me: how I felt companionship, love, comfort, and an assurance of God’s presence in my life. I felt resurrected. At other times, I have felt Jesus spurring me on, encouraging me to go where I thought I could not go.

In short, I have seen Jesus in the Cross and the Resurrection. All of the human knowledge that I have acquired has bolstered my faith, challenged it, and developed it. But none of that knowledge explains why I lay down on the marble at that chapel in El Salvador to be one with the memory of the spilled blood of Oscar Romero. None of that knowledge explains why I never miss Palm Sunday or Good Friday, as painful as I find the descriptions of Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. And none of it can explain the spiritual high I feel on Easter Vigil and Easter morning. Or the excitement I feel at baptisms. Or the fellowship and peace I feel in the Eucharist, which is in part a memorial of the spilled blood of Jesus.

In all of these things, I have been shown Jesus. And it is the Church’s privilege in Holy Week, and throughout the year, to show other people Jesus.

The Gospel According to Debby Boone

My lastest Huffington Post offering -- wherein a procrastinating preacher hits homiletic pay dirt on Facebook. Seriously.

For parish clergy, Holy Week is full employment time. Here at All Saints Church in Pasadena we have 24 services between 7:30 a.m. Palm Sunday and 1:00 p.m. Easter Day -- and even with a boatload of brilliant colleagues it is a week-long plate very full of liturgy, pastoral care and preaching. It is pedal to the church metal time and there is no time to waste.

So of course, faced with the looming writing deadline for my Good Friday sermon, I was on Facebook -- scrolling through pictures of kittens and puppies, updates from clergy friends about how busy they were and past dozens of "must-see" videos.

But since I didn't have time to watch a video, I kept scrolling past the one entitled "You light up her life: Debby Boone on LGBT acceptance." It had a great picture of Debby Boone (who is married to my good friend and Los Angeles clergy colleague Gabri Ferrer) and lots of comments like "must see" and "brava." But I didn't have time to watch a video -- even one that was only a minute sixteen seconds long. I had a sermon to write and it wasn't going write itself!

Read the rest here.

Wednesday of Holy Week: Holy Week Hump Day

On this Wednesday in Holy Week the lesson appointed from the prophet Isaiah reads like this in the contemporary language translation “The Message:”
“God, has given me a well-taught tongue so I know how to encourage tired people.”
And what a timely message for this Wednesday in Holy Week – Holy Week Hump Day, we might arguably call it. For as we reach this mid-way point in the week between Palm Sunday and Easter I look around and I see an awful lot of tired people. And I’m not just talking about a garden variety “Oy, what a week I’ve had” tired … I’m talking about another kind of tiredness … of a deeper kind of weariness.

We don’t have to look further than the latest CNN bulletin on the polarization in American politics or the latest blog post on the infighting in the Anglican Communion for the most recent example of one part of the human family oppressing and marginalizing another part.

It comes from those who yearn for political leaders who offer hope rather than hype. It comes from those who desire church leaders more committed to the Kingdom of God Jesus came to proclaim than to the Institutional Church they are determined to maintain. And it comes from those who wonder if we can ever become the human family we were created to be. Where, oh where, is there a “word to sustain the weary” in all of this?

And I’m remembering a reflection I wrote a few years ago on the gospel story of Jesus tossing the moneychangers out of the Temple in a fit of righteous indignation.

I wrote then: If we’re not righteously indignant we’re not paying attention.

As we follow the life and example of Jesus may we be given the courage to challenge the civil boundaries that keep us from being a nation where liberty and justice for all really means all. And as we follow Jesus this week in the way of the cross may we also be given the grace to take up the cross of righteous indignation and take ON those religious authorities who presume to say who qualifies and who doesn’t to be gathered into God’s loving embrace.

That post engendered this comment from someone named Jesse:

I used to be 'righteously indignant' but now I'm just tired. Some days I just want to lay it all down and stop. But here’s what keeps me going. One of the reasons I joined TEC was the sense of welcome I 'perceived'. I have to tell you I wasn't thrilled that the local Episcopal priest was a woman but when I met her and we talked and I told her my story, that woman gave me the energy to go on fighting the fight to be a Christian.

The priest who gave Jesse the energy he needed to go on being a Christian – even though he wasn’t thrilled she was a woman -- knew what it was to strengthen the weary … to encourage the tired. And even through cyberspace we can reach out and encourage each other – especially on those days when we, like Jesse, want to lay down whatever burden we’re carrying and just stop.

And I am reminded that I learned in seminary that the preacher has a two-fold job description: to comfort the afflicted -- and to afflict the comfortable.

So today, on this Holy Week Hump Day, I want to suggest that it isn’t just a job description for those who preach from a pulpit but for those who live out the Gospel in hundreds of different ways in our daily lives and work.

Yes, if we’re going to follow Jesus we WILL be … we SHOULD be righteously indignant about any number of things. And that indignation will lead us to afflicting the comfortable in their power and privilege – to challenging those who wage war and who perpetuate bigotry: whether it’s lighting a candle at a peace vigil or signing a letter on the lawn it IS work we have been called to do on behalf of the Gospel.

But on the other side of that coin is our call to comfort the afflicted – and today I want to call us to remember not to neglect that half of our “job description.”

God doesn’t promise we won’t be weary. But God promises to be with us in the weariness. And God promises to send prophets like Isaiah and pastors like Jesse’s with words to sustain us when we’re weary – to encourage us when we’re tired. And so, like the prophet who is called to both afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, let us commit ourselves – each and every one of us – to not only receive those words of encouragement when we need them but to offer them to those who yearn for them: wherever and whenever we can. Amen.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday of Holy Week: We Wish to See Jesus

Time flies when you’re having Lent.
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The season that began what seems like “just yesterday” with the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday has brought us already to this Tuesday in Holy Week – to the time author Nora Gallagher writes of as "the hinge between Lent and Easter ... between the guilt and shame, the inertia and fear that bind us to the past and leave us in despair and the love that lures us toward hope."

"The love that lures us toward hope." I love that line: for it speaks to me of the love of God so great that it triumphs over death ... a love that continues to "lure us toward hope" these 20 centuries after the death of the One who came to show us how to "walk in love, as Christ loved us". Was it that love -- that hope -- that lured those we read about in today's Gospel of John? The "Greeks" who approached Philip in Jerusalem with the plea, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus"?

A brief historical “contextual” note: when John says "some Greeks", he doesn't mean folks who hang out in Athens and are related to Zorba. To the 1st century hearers of the Gospel "Greeks" meant "non-Jews" - foreigners - Gentiles. No wonder Philip had to go check with Andrew first ... did you notice that in the text? "They came to Philip -- who went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus." As one of the commentaries I consulted noted: "... evidently being dubious how they might be received." No automatic welcome for these guys: these Greeks who wanted to see Jesus.

But see him they do. Crossing all sorts of boundaries -- breaking a whole list of deeply ingrained cultural rules -- Jesus teaches them the same way he has been teaching his disciples all along. Did he think about the words of the prophet Isaiah appointed for today? “It is not enough for you to do my bidding, to restore the tribes of Leah, Rachel, and Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I will make you the light of the nations, so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Maybe. John doesn’t tell us what Jesus thought, but he does tell us what Jesus said: "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also ... Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." Then John, the gospel writer adds, "He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die."

In those few sentences is the essence of the Gospel -- the Good News Jesus came to give the world and the world couldn't hear: Follow me ... do as I do ... I have come to show you the way to live in love and community with God and each other.

NOW the Kingdom of God is in your midst ... and it is for ALL people.

Yes, he said all this to indicate the kind of death he was to die; for the inevitability of the crucifixion must have hung heavy in his heart these last days. But if we settle for John's explanation at face value, we miss the power of this text for us today. I believe Jesus said all this to the Greeks who sought him out in Jerusalem -- lured by love and hope -- not ONLY to indicate the kind of death he was to die, but to indicate the kind of life we are to live.

"When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself." And how will he do that? I'm jumping ahead in the story a bit, but come Pentecost we will hear again of the coming of the Holy Spirit ... the birth of the Church called to be the Body of Christ in the world ... called to take up the ministry of Jesus on earth.

So if the church is indeed the Body of Christ here on earth, how good a job are we doing with those who come to us as they did to Philip saying, "Please, we want to see Jesus?" Let me tell you about my friend ... a woman I've known since the 7th grade who lives in Toronto with her husband and three children. After many years without a faith community, she wrote me that she started going back to church. "Only it's not exactly church," she said. "It's at a church but I don't go on Sunday yet ... I go Wednesday night and meet with other women. We pray and sing and support each other. And they read from the Bible, but it's so wonderful ... they don't beat you up with Jesus, so it hardly feels like church."

"They don't beat you up with Jesus" -- what an indictment! Yet in the church she grew up in Jesus -- the Jesus who yearns to draw all people to himself -- became for her a stumbling block, a barrier to faith rather than a lure toward hope. My friend never knew that there was a choice between the Jesus of Judgment and the Christ of Faith and so I pray that this community she's found will be a gateway for her -- that she can finally "see Jesus" - just as those Greeks in Jerusalem did: can see for herself that "draw all people" means her, too!

Thankfully, All Saints Church has a long history of offering a voice of hope to those who come saying "Please, we want to see Jesus" – who come looking for a place to encounter the Lord of Love rather than the Letter of the Law. It is a history with deep roots in our Anglican heritage – for the Episcopal Church is a product of the glorious 16th century experiment intended to end the bloody feud between Catholics and Protestants in England during the reformation – an experiment that resulted in a church where orthopraxis (common practice) was valued over orthodoxy (common belief).

The significance of that experiment, my Church History text tells me is that “it was able to hold the vast majority of the people together, despite being a compromise few would have chosen." And there you have it: Anglican Traditionalism.
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It seems to me that as 21st century Anglicans facing the very real challenges in front of us we would be well served to dig more deeply into our 16th Century roots ... to claim with enthusiasm the heritage that has historically given us the ability to live with disagreement ... to honor the tension of diversity and focus on the things that bind us together rather than allow ourselves to be distracted by the things that threaten to divide us.

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world," said Ghandi. When we do that, then we truly follow the Lord who told us not only what kind of death he was to die but what kind of life we are to live.

And if I have "an agenda" – and I do -- it is an agenda as old as Isaiah and Andrew, of Jesus and the Gentiles. It is the agenda of a Lord whose love lures us toward hope – of the one who yearns to draw all people to himself – of the Jesus who took time, in the last days before his crucifixion, to reach out to those Greeks who came to him -- not sure if they'd be welcome. It is the Gospel Agenda and it is begging to be fulfilled – and we are the Body of Christ who have been charged with fulfilling it in our generation.

And so, in this Holy Week, I pray that God will give us grace to commit ourselves to being "… the change we wish to see in the world" – to persevering in the proclamation of God's Good News to all people -- in spite of the setbacks and the obstacles; of the challenges and the costs -- as we journey with Jesus and claim his "agenda" as our own. Amen.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday of Holy Week: A Practice of Presence

Monday in Holy Week Homily preached by Nathaniel Katz | All Saints Church, Pasadena 12:10 p.m. service

For me, today, the day after Palm Sunday, is spiritually the most challenging day of the Christian calendar. It's hard to know just how to approach this day. We have just come off the emotional and spiritual roller coaster that is Palm Sunday – palms waving in our hands, smiles on our faces, voices joined in singing joyous hymns. 

But very quickly, the tone changes as we read the Passion account and confront the sadness and horror that comes after Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. When we departed this place, it was in silence.

There is a profound silence - a liturgical silence...a spiritual silence - in Holy Week between Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday. For four out of the 7 days of Holy Week, have a fairly clear sense for what we're meant to do. We have special services we attend. We know what to expect in those sacred spaces. 

These three days that come between Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday we're left to fend for ourselves. Even the Book of Common Prayer - that one stop shop for all our Episcopal spiritual needs, isn't quite sure how to handle this day. The collect of the day appointed for this Monday in Holy Week is the same one to be read each and every Friday throughout the entire year. 

Of all the times to be silent...On a day when we can find ourselves so full of nervous energy from the anticipated tragedy, and nowhere to place that energy. We find ourselves desperately in need of a purpose, if not a distraction.

There is one person who knows what to do - Mary. Mary recognizes what the others in our Gospel reading do not - that time with Jesus is short. There is no time to be wasted in his presence. She recognizes what Jesus' presence means - that the God of creation has become present among us - so that we may be known to God and God may be known to us - not just intellectually, not just theologically, but personally, intimately.

There is no price tag that can be placed on that presence - a point that Jesus makes quite clear not just to Judas, but to all those assembled, and to us sitting here 2000 years later. 

During Holy Week, it can seem like there is a price to be exacted - for our sins, for our frailty, for our complicity in the denial and betrayal of Jesus. It can feel as if we're meant to figure out what that price is - guilt, sacrifice, penance.

What we learn in the Gospel today is what God truly wants of us in our lives - and especially during these next three days...God wants our presence, our love, and our affection. 

Mary's act is one of absolutely intimate affection. She lavishes Jesus with oil worth nearly an entire year's wages. But then she gives entirely of herself. She gives of her own body, using her hair to wipe Jesus' feet. Jesus is pleased with her affection. But more specifically, he is pleased by her intention. 

Mary has discovered God's deep desire for her through Jesus. And in this fleeting moment, Mary has found a way to express her understanding of God's desire for her, a desire expressed through Jesus.

Mary was blessed with insight...insight that no one else in that moment possessed - not even the disciples who had traveled with him...not even her brother Lazarus whom Jesus had just raised from the dead. Poor Lazarus, he just made it back to the land of the living and they're already plotting to get him back in the grave. 

Here, today, on this Monday of Holy Week, we benefit from Mary's insight, passed down to us by our ancestors in faith in this scripture we read. Mary teaches us that this week is not about punishment, but presence.

In these three days, we meet Jesus in his last days with us here on earth. We must remember that when we enter Holy Week, the events of the past become for us our very present reality. These are our precious few moments to meet Jesus in our lives with desire and affection before he takes his earthly leave. 

This is our time to be fully present to the God who came to us - the God who came out of desire for each one of us in the form of a helpless infant. This is our opportunity to embrace the Christ-child who has grown into our messiah – and to embrace him with all the affection we can muster - holding our God close in a loving embrace, as if it was our last.

There is one more lesson that Mary teaches us today. She teaches us that we are meant to use all our senses in our encounter with God's presence. These days are not just to be lived in our head. They are meant to be an encounter. That encounter with God's loving presence can and should be heard, touched, tasted, smelled...
It is a lesson we hear in the last verse of the great hymn for this week "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life my all. - Isaac Watts

We are meant to make use of all that we have – both within and without – in our affectionate encounter with God in our lives, and most especially meant to do so in these coming days.

So, I invite you into a practice of presence over these next three days - be present to God within you, be present to the God you encounter in the world. Be generous in lavishing affection upon Jesus wherever you find him - in your friends, in your co-workers, within yourself. Channel the affectionate intention of your ancient sister Mary. In doing so, we may find ourselves in this Holy Week truly transformed through the events to come rather than beaten down by them. 

That is God's ultimate desire for us - to be transformed beyond all our worldly expectations. That is why God bridged the ultimate gap by coming to us as Emmanuel - God with us

Monday in Holy Week: Letting Good Deeds Go Unpunished

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

John 12:1-11
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
Monday in Holy Week:

“No good deed goes unpunished” was something I grew up hearing my Aunt Gretchen say – usually with a frightening degree of relish in her voice and usually as she was launching into a long, gossipy story involving one of her Altar Guild or Daughters of the King cronies. Thinking back, “see these Christians, how they love one another” was not exactly what got modeled for me in my early growing-up days in the church … it was more like “see these Christians, how they fight and argue over things like women priests and prayer books, over who gets to sit in which pew and sing which hymn.”
And what I heard as a grade-school altar guild groupie hasn't changed much from what I hear as a fifty-something church blog junkie.

And so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that “No good deed goes unpunished” comes to my mind as an appropriate sub-title of the gospel story appointed for this Monday in Holy Week – the story of Mary's extravagant outpouring of precious perfume as a gift to Jesus earned her a tongue lashing from Judas. It's a story not only told in this Gospel according to John ... and what all the tellings of the story have in common is that the good deed – the gift she offered – was judged and rejected by those surrounding Jesus who thought she should have made a different choice.

Mark says, “They were infuriated with her.” Matthew says, “They murmured against her.” (And if I got to choose I think I’d pick the nice honest infuriation anytime over a bunch of murmuring going on!) Either way, her best offering was deemed unacceptable by the community that surrounded Jesus … there was no way they were going to let her good deed go unpunished.

And then Jesus intervened.

“Let her alone. Why do you criticize her?” he asked – and then challenged them to look beyond their “either/or” mind-sets and embrace what we like to call “both/and” thinking – that feeding the poor is always important but so is taking care of each other: that in doing what she did – offering what she offered – she gave not only a gift to Jesus but an example to us of risking to give abundantly, to love extravagantly.

What an example for us to claim on this Monday in this Holy Week. And what an antidote to the “either/or” challenges that seem to face us every time we turn around – not to mention the “no good deed unpunished” contingent who are all too ready to leap in at a moment’s notice with what we shoulda, coulda, oughta done instead …

The climate of polarization that continues to grip the American Culture, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are prime examples. I'm thinking this morning of a friend and parishioner who shared with me the experience of being part of a day of dialogue that brought together folks from different congregations and contexts for “conversation across the divide.” They started by going around the table and naming what were, for them, Jesus’ core moral values.

“Peace” said my friend.

“Not at any price,” immediately retorted a woman across the table from her, “what about security?” – throwing down the “either/or” gauntlet … and letting her know it was going to be a long day across the divide!

The idea that we have to choose between peace and security is, I believe, a false dichotomy that puts us in “either/or” land – but it is a place where many people dwell: like the disciples either murmuring at or infuriated by those of us who have a different perspective. Bridging that divide is tough – hard, hard work – but it’s work we’re called to do. And, I’m happy to report, its work my friend hung in there and gave it her best shot for the rest of the weekend.

Were any minds changed? I suspect not – but – like the woman who anointed Jesus -- she did what she could.

In our Anglican Communion family the either/or du jour seems to be “justice or unity.” Can we find a way to respect the dignity of every human being and fully include all of the baptized in the Body of Christ and still maintain unity? And there are LOTS of good deeds not going unpunished as those working, striving, strategizing and advocating for a way forward through the hard ground of our differences run up against just how hard it is to hear the gospel “both/and” voice over the dominant“either/or” narrative.

Sadly, it is a narrative even the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to have internalized, based on his recent suggestion that we have to choose between the full humanity of LGBT people and the murder of Nigerian Christians. No wonder Jesus wept.

And yet the collect appointed for today is full of “both/ands” -- joy and pain/glory and crucifixion/the way of the cross and the way of life and peace. For the “way of the cross” is by its very nature a both/and – a way we walk throughout our spiritual journey and a way we walk in a most intentional way this Holy Week.

May we be given the grace in these holy days ahead to walk with the sure and certain knowledge that the One who walked this way ahead of us walks along with us as well. And may we be given the grace to treat each other gently along the way – letting the good deeds of others go unpunished as we work to proclaim together the Good News we have been given to share. Amen.