Texts: Romans 8:22-27; Acts 2:1-8

The records don’t show who he was speaking to, but Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said this: “You are being baptized today as a Christian. All those great and ancient words of the Christian proclamation will be pronounced over you, and the command of Jesus Christ to baptize will be carried out, without your understanding any of it. But we too are being thrown back all the way to the beginnings of our understanding. What reconciliation and redemption mean, rebirth and Holy Spirit, love for one’s enemies, cross and resurrection, what it means to live in Christ and follow Christ; all that is so difficult and remote that we hardly dare speak of it anymore. In these words and actions handed down to us we sense something totally new and revolutionary, but we cannot yet grasp it and express it.” (Written while imprisoned in Tegel, 1944).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor and theologian in Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s.  He was one of the few voices in the German church who spoke out against the rise of Hitler and the persecution of the Jews.  He helped found the Confessing Church and an underground seminary which...

Texts: Acts 10:44-48, Matthew 13:33

For today’s focus I’d like to borrow an idea, a phrase, from John Paul Lederach.  If you haven’t heard of John Paul Lederach, let me build up his credentials a bit to show why it’s worth listening to his ideas.

John Paul is an international leader in the field of conflict resolution.  While immersed in the work, he came to see the limitations of the framework of confliction resolution, proposing instead a larger framework of conflict transformation.  That shift itself has been widely influential in the field.  He has worked extensively in Nicaragua, Colombia, Nepal, and the Middle East.  He has sat at the table with militias and gangs, impoverished rural women, and high ranking officials.  Rather than treat conflict as a set of presenting issues and problems, he has developed methods of drawing out the stories of those involved to get at what they want, and what they need.  He tells organizations and foundations investing in peace they should think in terms of decades rather than short term projects whose immediate results are more easily measured but whose long term effects may be minimal.  He’s a professor of International Peacebuilding at the...

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!”...