Friday, June 5, 2020

Gospel text for Trinity Sunday 7 June 2020

Matthew 28:16-20        The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Reflection       A voice with an accent foreign to us responds to our call for tech support and the thought that accompanies our rising impatience is, “Oh no.”  It is evening and we cross the street to avoid walking past a couple of dark skinned men. A man of color asks a white woman to leash her dog. Instead she calls 911 and accuses him of violating her. A police officer shoots an unarmed person of color because the officer believes this person threatens his life.
When biases and beliefs are translated into action, racism happens.  In spite of our best intentions,  regardless of our desire to be broadminded and open hearted, we stumble over unconscious biases or beliefs that people who do not look, talk, pray, eat or  vote like us are more likely to be dangerous or a threat to us.  Though we do not want to, we feel anxious around them and before we know it our unconscious beliefs or biases are translated into action and racism happens.

A heart rending conversation with a parishioner this week makes the point. I will call him James. James and his wife Sophia are white. They have two biological daughters and an adopted son whom I will call William. William is biracial, clearly of black heritage. Between semesters during his junior year in college William was home and asked his parents if he could drive their new Acura downtown to meet friends. James shuddered at the thought and proceeded to warn William. “If you are stopped by the police who are likely to wonder why a black skinned kid is driving such a nice car,  keep your hands on the steering wheel. Do not move quickly. Do not act smart. Be careful.” Here is the thing, James never felt fear when his white skinned daughters drove his Acura downtown and found no need to give them similar warnings. 

Racism happens not because we are bad but because throughout history (the telling and retelling of our human story from a particular perspective) we have grouped people according to perceived differences. These groupings support practices like colonialism, slavery, segregation, genocide, racial profiling and voter suppression. Each of these expressions of racism is based on deep seated and destructive bias or beliefs that certain groups of people are fundamentally different than others, not only different but in some sense inferior or with particular behavioral tendencies. 

It is hard to admit our biases and beliefs about groups of people. This not only applies to issues of race and ethnicity. Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Rainbows harbor disparaging beliefs about one another while maintaining a sense of their own moral or intellectual superiority. Let us be honest with ourselves. We are imprisoned by our biases and beliefs and when they are translated into action, as we see across our country today, all hell breaks loose.

What are we to do if blaming is not the answer? I must confess I have spent all week asking myself and consulting mentors. This is what I hear. Stop. Stop thinking you can fix it. Start listening. Listen to peoples experiences of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability and class discrimination. Allow yourself to be touched by their stories. Participate in honest discussions of these difficult topics. No need to be defensive. Admit you do not know.

Today I stand in utter unknowing. I have no idea how to lead through this violent wilderness. What I cling to is Jesus’ final promise to the disciples and us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” God is with us so let us have the courage to listen, to learn, to be touched and transformed into people who act consciously and conscientiously for the dignity and care of every single person. 

I just received an invitation from Bp Reddall for this evening. Please consider joining me tonight  attending the bishop’s online Vigil for the Dignity of Black Lives at 6:00 p.m. 


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Friday, May 29, 2020

Gospel text for Pentecost 31 May 2020

John 20:19-23          When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Reflection        What does it mean to reveal our wounds to someone? I believe it means being vulnerable, admitting we have been bruised, injured, possibly disabled and in Jesus’ case, killed. It means we are essentially damaged goods, not idealized specimens of humanity. This is not the picture of ourselves that we want to show the world. We would rather put on airs or armor striving to appear whole and healthy, undamaged and strong, anything but vulnerable.

So we cover our bodies and lock the doors of our hearts hoping against hope to hide our wounds.  We fear that if we reveal them, someone might poke their fingers into them and our fragile armor will crumble. And there we will stand before God and all of creation, stripped of our fig leaf, exposed and defenseless. Who wants to go there? 

But Jesus punctuates the revelation of his wounds with breathy bookends. “Peace be with you. Peace be with you.” God’s peace is with us before we are wounded. God’s peace is with us after we are wounded. There is never a time when God’s peace is not with us because with his next breath, Jesus breathes on the disciples and us saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

How are we to understand the Holy Spirit? There are three sphere of action for the Holy Spirit; in creation and the unfolding of history (the Spirit has always been present), in the Christ event revealed through Jesus (this singular moment), and continuing in the world at large (omnipresent and ongoing). Here is the thing. All three spheres of the divine, sweeping, all-embracing and ecumenical action of the Holy Spirit lean toward one thing;  the transformation of our consciousness and community into the peaceable kingdom of God, inside and out. 

Which brings us to Jesus’ next acclamation. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”Here we note that forgiveness is not solely about being magnanimous toward the person we believe has offended, bruised, damaged or disabled us physically or emotionally.  Forgiveness is above all about its effect on us. For as long as we cling to the sin of others, we are locked in a room defending our wounds which means we lose access to the deep transforming peace of the Spirit of God with us. 

For as long as we lock our doors to cover up the negative emotions associated with our wounds (anger, shame, resentment, hatred, jealousy, outrage), like an infection that refuses to heal, the emotions fester and chafe inside us. But when we reveal our wounds, like a skin leison exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays produces vitamin D that enhances healing, when we reveal our wounds the outreaching, intercessory and unifying power of the  Spirit of God is  released from within us renewing our life and restoring our relationships which of course frees us to experience the peaceable kingdom of God, inside and out.

I believe the life changing success of 12 Step recovery programs that Bill Wilson and his physician, Bob Smith began in 1935 is largely due to the insistence that participants examine themselves and expose the exact nature of their wounds and wrongs. Exposing our wounds to light, releases the power of the Holy Spirit to conceive the peaceable kingdom of God, inside and out. At Pentecost Jesus shows us the way to be at peace with our wounds and receive the Holy Spirit. 

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Epistle for 7th Sunday of Easter 24 May 2020


1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11        Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

Reflection        Please join me mounting a ten thousand feet above the ground perspective from which to scan the course of life and it’s ordeals?

From the beginning of our faith traditions narrative some thirty four hundred years ago, there has never been a time without ordeals and suffering. In the third chapter of Genesis our first named human ancestors succumb to the temptation to aggrandize themselves by “eating from the tree of good and evil,” and the man blames the woman and the woman blames the serpent and our human propensity to shirk responsibility and look for someone to blame for our troubles is born and the consequences of our choices are; shame, hard work and consciousness of pain.  The next thing that happens is sibling rivalry. Cain is jealous of Abel, so kills his brother. Before we wander through seven chapters of the first book of the Hebrew Testament humanity is nearly extinguished by a great flood. 

Here is the thing. The Genesis stories are not historical records of events. They are our ancestors attempts to understand and make meaning from their mysterious ordeals. Why are some people favored more than others?  Why do women have pain in childbirth? Why is there suffering? Why do people die? Humanity’s questions echo from the beginning.

And so the writer of 1 Peter entreats us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” There has never been a generation that did not face fiery ordeals.  But here is the thing. When the writer includes in his exhortation, “to test you,” he is not describing situations designed for us to either pass or fail. Testing means proving or refining. In the text from 1 Peter, testing is being “restored, supported, strengthened, and established.” Established in relationship to something greater than us, a ubiquitous perspective, something that we call God, something that has been emerging through billions of fiery ordeals.

4.5b years ago there was the birth of a planet we call earth. Perhaps we could think of this as the big ordeal that set the stage for the first microorganisms that predicated life 3.5 billion years ago. The earth’s surface broke into rocky platelets that moved and gave birth to the first continent named “Ur.” That was 3 billion years ago. Sex started about 1.7 billion years later with red algae which led to multicellular life but then on two occasions the entire earth froze. A subsequent explosion birthed animals with shells and massive diversification then, you guessed it, the first mass extinction about 450m years ago. Next fish that walked inhabited the single earth continent that then tore itself apart and another mass extinction preceded dinosaurs. We know what happened to them. 

Question is not, “Why are there ordeals?” The question is “How do we choose to walk through ordeals?”  The writer of 1Peter continues with good counsel. “Humble yourselves… Cast all your anxiety on (God)… Discipline yourselves, keep alert.” Because during ordeals we are vulnerable. 

Early Wednesday afternoon, sitting in my office with a laptop recently gave to the church. The thing is, it is a PC and I am a Mac user, so I decided to get it set up ahead of time for our 2 pm Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina  meeting. Much to my relief I managed to get the zoom site running then left the laptop open and continued to work on my own computer. At some point I noticed the image of a beautiful lion’s head looking at me from the PC. I actually stopped and thought about the beauty of this noble beast before closing the laptop and carrying it to the library for the meeting.

At 1:58 when I opened the laptop, the screen was bright blue. No matter which key I touched I could not get past the sea of blue nothing. Depressing the power button failed to turn it off. Time is passing, my cell phone is buzzing with texts from meeting participants wondering where I am. Huffing and muttering things that I shall not write, I grab the recalcitrant laptop and retreat to my office, hoping against hope that I can access zoom and open the meeting on my unreliable Mac. Stomach churning, heart pounding, mind racing, you might think I was being chased by a lion rather than late for a Centering Prayer meeting. And there we have it.

“Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” Humble yourself Debra. Stop being anxious about all the changes and how to lead the church through this Covid-19 ordeal. Put your faith in God and resist the devil’s temptation to assume you have to figure this out, make everything work. Stay alert and know “your sisters and brothers in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.”  

Whether we choose to begin our story 13.7 billion years ago with the massive fiery ordeal that blew space into smithereens, thirty four hundred years ago with our Hebrew ancestors’ attempts to make sense of their mystifying ordeals, or the most recent time the roaring lion showed up to steal our peace or shake our faith, there is no escaping life’s ordeals.

So what shall we do when the lion roars? Be disciplined and alert saying, “Welcome, welcome, welcome. I let go of my desire for things to be different than they are.”


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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Psalm for Sunday the 17 of May 2020


Psalm 66.7-18
Bless our God, O peoples,
   let the sound of his praise be heard, 
who has kept us among the living,
   and has not let our feet slip. 
For you, O God, have tested us;
   you have tried us as silver is tried. 
You brought us into the net;
   you laid burdens on our backs; 
you let people ride over our heads;
   we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a spacious place. 

I will come into your house with burnt-offerings;
   I will pay you my vows, 
those that my lips uttered
   and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. 
I will offer to you burnt-offerings of fatlings,
   with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats.

Come and hear, all you who fear God,
   and I will tell what he has done for me. 
I cried aloud to him,
   and he was extolled with my tongue. 
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
   the Lord would not have listened.


Reflection        Friday morning I received a text, “Got an email from you this morning that looks different. Should we talk?” Having no recall of sending an email to this person, I quickly visited the “sent” folder on my computer and thankfully discovered that I had not. A follow up phone call confirmed, once again the cunning hackers who stole my contacts a year ago have sprung into their shady swindles. By noon five congregants let me know they too received malicious emails, feigning to be me, asking for their discrete help so that I could give money to folks who have been dealing with Covid-19. 

This was not my best moment. I felt “pushed to my very limit, road tested inside and out, driven to hell and back again.” My thoughts were anything but kind and generous. Savage and murderous would be more accurate. “How dare these blank blank people prey on the precious relationship of trust and good will between me and the church?” Every cell and space of my being strained to the psalmists words, “O God, you have proved us; * you have tried us just as silver is tried. You brought us into the snare;  you laid heavy burdens upon our backs. You let enemies ride over our heads; we went through fire and water.” Really, God, are we not enduring enough? Is not Covid-19 enough? Do we really need these contemptible criminals fleecing our faith and good will?

Then I caught myself sounding a lot like Job. You know the story. Job is a man of grand slam success and faithfulness. With ten children, thousands of sheep, camels, oxen and donkeys, he is an admired businessman, beloved employer, devoted father whom even God describes saying, there is “no one like him on earth, blameless and upright.” (Job 1.8)  God’s favor ignites the ire of the Satan (here it helps to recall we are talking about a tale told in the Ancient Near East where stories of wars between good and evil were ubiquitous). Satan provokes a contest protesting, “You (God) have blessed the work of (Job’s) hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.” (Job 1.10) Which is to say, “Why wouldn’t Job be faithful to you, he has everything imaginable. But, if Job lost everything, “he would curse you God to your face.” (Job 1.11) God accepts the wager, tells Satan to go ahead, take everything away from Job except his life. 

Job looses every evidence of his external success; children, livestock, business, friends and community. Although Job insists he is innocent, he never speaks out against God which really infuriates Satan, the enemy who challenges God. “People will give up anything to save their own life. But if you make Job suffer in his flesh…then “he will curse you to your face.’” Betting that Job will persist in his integrity, God accepts the second wager and empowers the Satan to inflict life threatening suffering on Job. And indeed, though his body is covered with oozing boils and Job sends himself into exile sitting on an ash heap, when his wife confronts him saying, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God and die,” Job endures saying to his maligned wife, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God and not receive the bad?” 

Which brings us back to today’s psalm.  “You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water; * but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.”

Now let me be crystal clear. Neither the ancient wisdom tale of Job nor the words of our psalmist are meant to paint God as the grand puppet master, pulling our strings in a pre-scripted theatre production. Let me suggest instead they are meant to inform our relationship with God. Even more to the point, no matter the good or the ill we encounter along the twisted way we call life, God is with us. The question is, are we with God, no matter what? Do we face life with the integrity of Job?

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Saturday, May 9, 2020

Epistle for the 5th Sunday of Easter 10 May 2020

1 Peter 2:2-10
Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner”,and
“A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

Reflection       Acknowledging God as the rock, the foundation of our lives requires a reordering of everything else.

By choosing God we commit ourselves to turn away from competing loyalties.  In Biblical times these competing loyalties or false gods were named Baal, Molech, Ashtoreth, Chemosh, Artemis, and others. Our ancient ancestors carved these gods in wood and molded them in gold. These were the pagan gods in competition with YHWH, the One God of Israel.

Today our false gods have names like  money, religion, politics, rights and freedom, sex, sports, celebrity, drugs, add your own to the list. I believe the idol in position number one is, self.  How do we know these are false gods? Because false gods are things that occupy an inordinate amount of our attention, action and resources. Please underline the word ‘inordinate.’ 

None of these interests; money, youth, religion, politics, rights and freedom, sex, sports, celebrity, drugs or self are false gods in and of themselves. In fact, they can be worthy assets.  Idolatry comes into play when we devote an unwarranted or wasteful amount of our attention, action or resources to them.  It is when we ascribe a surplus of meaning and value to theses interests that they become false gods or idols.

Here is the glitch. By claiming to revere the One, Holy and Living God at the same time we make great offerings of our attention, action and resources to false gods or idols we are effectively condemning ourselves to life in the middle of a combat zone. At best we are restless, at worst worried sick, as our false idols compete with the One, Holy and Living God for our attention, our action and our resources. No peace will be found on this battleground.

What then shall we do? Let me suggest that in an unforeseeable twist of events, the onslaught of Covid-19 addresses our dilemma.  The insidious intrusion of the grim virion shut down historic institutions, power brokering agencies and brought the world to its knees. Recently someone put it this way, “It is as if God sent us all to our rooms!” That image strikes home for me. Too many times I heard, “Young lady, go to your room and write five hundred times, “I will be kind to my little brother.” But I digress.

Here is the startling paradox. The cost of the pandemic is unfathomable to victims, their families, those who lost their livelihood, their homes and their hope. And at the same time, the shutting down of public institutions has created the spaciousness for us to go to our rooms, examine and reorder our lives while the earth is healing her waters, air and atmosphere.

The question is, will we consent to this challenging moment and devote our attention, actions and resources to fostering right relationship with God, our neighbors and the earth? Or, will we join the chorus complaining, looking for someone to blame, demanding things go back to the way they used to be?



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Saturday, May 2, 2020

Acts of the Apostles and Psalm texts for 3 May 2020


Acts 2:42-47        Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
He revives my soul *
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Reflection        Could it be that in this time of stillness, silence and social distance our shepherd, our God is leading us to recognize the beauty that surrounds us? lying down in the green pastures of our homes? being still by the waters of our pools and fountain features? resting in the thick nest of silence?

Could it be that in this time of stillness, silence and social distance our shepherd, our God is showing us a new way of being (not doing) in the world? joining our neighbors sitting six feet apart in the crook of our cul de sacs, raising our cups and crackers in thanksgiving for a community we did not know was there? thanksgiving for the simple pleasure of being present, being alive?

Could it be that in this time of stillness, silence and social distance our shepherd, our God is teaching us the way of holy waiting? offering messages of encouragement by card or call or written in chalk on our driveways? bidding blessings to strangers hand painted on rocks tucked beside cactus and street posts? pausing and being embraced by an unknown person’s care?

Could it be that in this time of stillness, silence and social distance our shepherd, our God is inviting us to look into the mirror and examine the ways in which our personal programs for security, safety, esteem, power and control enslave us? admitting our addictions and confessing our hidden agendas? seeking help and praying for the grace to be healed?  being the source of healing?

Could it be that in this time of stillness, silence and social distance our shepherd, our God sees us as sheep conformed to the status quo? damned by the deception of civil, religious and political officials? confused by contention? provoked by propaganda? bound by our fear of the unknown?

Could it be that in this time of stillness, silence and social distance our shepherd, our God calls us by name?  guiding us along the right pathways? reviving our souls as we pass through the valley of the shadow of Covid-19 deaths? anointing our heads with the hands of Divine blessing?

Could it be that we will emerge from this time of stillness, silence and social distance a new and transformed people? recognizing how quickly the earth heals when we are still, silent and let God be God?  the air is purified, the water is clarified and we are restored to immaculate innocence. 

Could it be that this time of stillness, silence and social distance is God’s way of transforming our hearts, our minds, our lives and our planet? leading us on the pathways of righteousness? anointing our heads with the oil of gladness? Could it be?

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Friday, April 24, 2020

Gospel text for 3rd Sunday of Easter, 26 April 2020

Luke 24.13-35         Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Reflection        Cleopas and his companion are grieving. They followed Jesus to Jerusalem believing he was “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,” the one they hoped would “redeem Israel.” But the religious and political officials handed Jesus over to death. The bereft disciples have no idea where they are going, no picture for the future. They are grieving because all seems lost so they are walking away from Jerusalem, retelling the story of Jesus’ suffering and tragic death.

Are we not much like Cleopas and his unnamed friend, rehearsing the story of our suffering and death as we wander along?  As of today (Friday April 24th) there are 5,769 confirmed covid19 cases with 249 deaths in Arizona, 1,026 cases in Pima County with 70 deaths here. Worldwide there are 2.74 million cases with 192 thousand deaths. Twenty seven million people have filed for unemployment. Financial despair and social distancing have led to mental health crisis. Isolation policies have meant people die alone and loved ones cannot bury and formally celebrate the lives of their dead. And even those for whom covid 19 and stay at home orders  appear to change little  agree, nothing will ever be the same.

Today we  join Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus. We have no idea where we are going. No clear picture for the future. And here is the good news. Jesus is walking with us, present in the midst of all the suffering, death and uncertainty. The question is, how do we recognize his real presence?

To help us along the way, we gather even remotely, at the table with Jesus. We remember the last Passover Supper when Jesus “took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22.19-20)  Then like Cleopas and his companion, the eyes of our hearts are open and we recognize the real presence of Jesus.

We recognize the real presence of Jesus by what he does. He breaks bread and he shares it. Everyone is fed. Everyone is cared for. We recognize Jesus in stories like this one, told to me by a hospice chaplain. The dying wish of a woman was to hear the symphony. Staff who learned the woman had been a cellist reached out to the local orchestra. Playing remotely from their separate homes a flutist, a violinist and a cellist fulfilled the dying woman’s wish. 

Jesus is made known through every healthcare and hospice worker, first responder, care giver and cook, folks who shelve or deliver groceries, house the homeless or sterilize shopping carts, deliver backpacks stuffed with books for children, call and send notes of encouragement to others, send money to the church to be used to help parishioners in need. We recognize the real presence of Jesus by what he does. As soon as our eyes are open we join Cleopas and his companion heading back to Jerusalem to tell our stories of how the real presence of Jesus is made known to us in the actions of self-giving love. 

Perhaps you would like to spend fourteen minutes considering the ways you have recognized the real presence of Jesus while listening to the music of Allegri. 


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