Struck Silent by Love – Br. Lain Wilson

Isaiah 44:1-8
Psalm 92:1-2, 11-14
John 20:1-9

The summer after I graduated from college, I received a phone call. The caller introduced himself as Agent So-and-so, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

I was struck silent for a moment or two. Not least because I was having a mild panic attack: “What did you do, Lain?!”

After I recovered, I learned that a college friend had listed me as a reference on his application to the FBI. I don’t recall what I said during the phone call, but I do remember two emotions. Profound gratitude—for being thought worthy of this, for being trusted. And a profound sense of responsibility—my testimony, in however a small way, had power.

Testify, witness, confess—these words recur throughout our readings this morning, as does the underlying sense of revealing some truth about God. “You are my witnesses!” God tells God’s people through the prophet Isaiah, after the promise to restore God’s blessings: I will pour my spirit upon your descendants” (Is 44:8, 3). “It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD,” the psalmist sings, “to sing praises to your Name . . . to tell of your loving-kindness” (Ps 92:1-2). And two millennia later, these words by Robert Herrick, whose poem we sang before the service: “All these, and better Thou dost send Me, to this end, That I should render, for my part, A thankfull heart.” Read More

The Last Breath of Jesus – Br. Keith Nelson

Good Friday
John 18:1-19:42

lanterns, torches, & weapons
a sword
a severed ear
a charcoal fire
a crown of thorns
a purple robe
a cross
an inscription
an untorn tunic
a jar of sour wine
a sponge
a branch of hyssop
a spear

These are the non-human witnesses of the passion of Jesus Christ. Most are what a materialist culture would call inanimate objects, witnesses without agency, intention, or sentience. But these disparate, created things have been joined in the devotional mind of Christians over the centuries under the banner Arma Christi – the weapons of Christ, the things he uses to conquer death. They are listed in litanies, depicted on altarpieces, and cluster around roadside shrines. The cross is given the central place, “an instrument of shameful death” transformed by Christ’s passion and resurrection “to be for us the means of life.”

In a lesser fashion, these other created things also share participation in Christ. Drawn into the purposes of the prince of Peace, these so-called “weapons” become by his passion implements of peace and Life. By their strange constellation in the same place, at the same time around Jesus of Nazareth, their Maker has conspired to set us free. Read More

On Being Forged, Shaped, and Fostered – Br. James Koester

We have heard it before. In fact, some of us have heard the Christmas story so often, that like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas,[1] large swaths of it can be recited from memory. Perhaps we can’t recite it word for word in the idiom of the King James Bible, but we know the story cold. If our inner Linus has not memorized it, we can certainly tell the story in our own words, and little would be lost. In fact, in telling the Christmas story in our own words, some parts it might even be embellished, the details highlighted, the emphasis personalized.

We all tell stories. We tell stories to convey information, and many stories are just that, information. We tell stories to amuse, and many stories are just that, amusing. However, we tell stories not just to convey information, or to amuse. We tell stories because stories have power. The most powerful ones are told over, and over again. It is those stories, the powerful ones, that we have in common. It is those stories, the ones in common, that are the most powerful. It is those stories, the powerful ones, the ones we share, that forge our common identity. They shape our corporate imagination. They foster our sense of community and belonging. It is those stories, the powerful ones, that change us, and in turn, are changed by us.

There is something to stories then, especially the powerful ones, that are transformative. These stories that change us, may not be about us, but we nevertheless find ourselves in them, or rather we find ourselves, and we find ourselves in them.

That’s what we are doing tonight. We are finding ourselves by telling a story. Indeed, we are telling many stories. That story, or those stories, are both, deeply personal, and amazingly universal for they have forged, shaped, and fostered us as individuals, even if we think they haven’t. It does not matter if you are a professed Christian, or a casual attender this evening, your life has been shaped by this story, even if you claim not to believe it. That same story is also amazingly universal. It has forged nations, shaped laws, and fostered education and the arts. In either case, a deeply personal story, or an amazingly universal one, the Christmas story is a story of discovery because through it, we find ourselves, and we find ourselves in it. Read More