Text: Acts 8:26-40

One of my favorite family vacation memories from childhood is when we got lost in Harlem…driving in our large baby blue station wagon pulling a pop up camper.  We did emerge, eventually, with an extremely clean windshield.  Multiple times us kids watched in amazement as someone would come from the sidewalk toward our car, voluntarily wash our windshield while we were locked in traffic, behind a red light, then wait patiently by the window.  Fortunately, my dad knew this meant they expected some payment, which he always did.  It was disorienting, and wonderfully re-orienting to a world larger than rural Ohio.  It turned at least that part of the vacation into something more like a pilgrimage. 

This is a story about pilgrimage.

A pilgrimage is different than a trip, or a vacation.  It’s different than tourism or site seeing.  The difference is mostly in how one approaches the journey.

TS Elliot wrote about pilgrimage toward the end of one of his long poems.

With the drawing of this Love (capital L) and the voice of this Calling (capital C) We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where... 

Text: Luke 24:36-49

Around this time of year about a decade ago, Abbie and I and little Eve and even littler Lily were waiting, hopefully, for thousands of small openings in the soil of our backyard.  We had just bought a house in Cincinnati that winter.  The house fit our needs just fine, but the backyard needed some love.  The previous September, during the windstorms of Hurricane Ike, before we owned the house, a massive silver maple from our yard had fallen across several properties.  Many of the branches and cut up pieces of trunk were returned to the yard we’d purchased.

Also the family who lived there before us had a large playset roughly the size of a McDonalds play land.  It had taken up a good chunk of yard.  A neighbor later told us they were pretty sure it actually was a used McDonalds play land set.  It was gone, but its large footprint was grassless.

We cut, chopped and stacked the silver maple, and rototilled the yard that wasn’t actually a yard to loosen up the soil.  We spread grass seed, threw out some straw covering, and welcomed the rain that soon came.  Moisture and...

Texts: Isaiah 25:6-9; Mark 16:1-8

“Where, o death, is your victory?  Where, o grave, is your sting?” 

These are the words that the apostle Paul uses to exclaim the joy that continues to overflow from the events of that first Easter morning.  When he wrote them, he was likely echoing the passage from Isaiah read earlier, putting his own spin on a Jewish theological idea.

“God will swallow up death forever!” 

Isaiah proclaims this as he casts a vision of salvation that includes imagery of a rich, abundant feast and the laying aside of funeral clothes and the wiping away of every tear.  This mountain-top picnic where all people will gather to throw off their sackcloths and ashes and rejoice in the long-awaited salvation is a vision that speaks to a humanity hounded by the spectre of death in all its myriad forms. 

It is a little early in the day for “well-aged wine” like Isaiah suggests, but many of us have certainly shared an abundant feast this morning, perhaps with some well-strained orange juice.  And it has become our tradition here at CMC to declare along with congregations all over the world, “Alleluia, Christ is risen!...Christ is risen, indeed!”...

Texts: Leviticus 25:1-7; John 12:12-33


There’s no way around the violence of Jesus’ death.  The piece of street theater we refer to as the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday is the beginning of a week of intense confrontation between Jesus and the religious and political authorities.  It’s a tension that had been building throughout Jesus’ public life.

There were times Jesus had proven to be more strict than the most stringent interpreters of Scripture.  Like arguing that not only should the people obey the commandment “Do not murder,” but that whoever holds resentment in their heart toward another person is in the same category as a murderer.  At other times Jesus made proclamations as radical and liberating as any freedom fighter before or after him.  Like when he stood up in the synagogue of his hometown in Nazareth and declared that, like Isaiah, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him to grant release for captives, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  The year of the Lord’s favor, the Jubilee: when debts were forgiven, slaves set free, and wealth that had accumulated into the hands of the few was...

Texts: Deuteronomy 15:1-18; John 12:1-8

This is week five of Lent, and so the fifth angle we’re taking on Sabbath.  So far we’ve focused mostly on Sabbath as a personal practice.  To review: Sabbath is a sanctuary in time, a certain sort of space-time sacred architecture.  Sabbath is a way of practicing freedom by ceasing from all that tries to enslave us: to-do lists, consumerism, self-importance.  The invitation into Sabbath is not so much like an exasperated Voluntary Service worker ripping up the creations of a persistently active child with the words “this is what happens when we don’t follow the rules,” as it is a way of enjoying that which has been created.  And Sabbath is a way of remembering, remembering original blessing.  That we are blessed and beloved not because of what we do and what we produce, but because of who we inherently are, children of the Creative Spirit whose image we all bear.

If you’re just now joining us, that’s the last month in summary.

Sabbath is personal, but it’s not merely private.  Sabbath practices have broad implications on our collective life.  Sabbath shapes the economy of relationships between people, plants and animals, oxygen and carbon,...