Doubting Thomas

Homily for Sunday, April 23, 2017
Easter 2A
John 20:19-31
“Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God.’”

doubting-thomas-duccioToday’s gospel lesson is the familiar story of “Doubting Thomas.”  (Each year the Second Sunday of Easter uses this lesson, from the end of John.)  As I said last Sunday, doubts are a normal and healthy part of faith.  A healthy place to be is in tension with, on the one hand, the Bible’s stories and Church’s teachings about Jesus’ resurrection, and on the other hand our own doubts and skepticism about the resurrection.  I compared navigating the tension between these to be akin to a ship navigating its way between rocks.  The temptation is, when still off in the distance, to jump ship, as it were – or to try to convince our inner “captain” to turn around or to maybe incite a “mutiny” – rather than sail forward and risk the “rocks” of resurrection.  But I noted that, if we sail forward and learn to navigate the “rocks,” we come to a place where we are not so much concerned about what “really” happened at Jesus’ resurrection, a place where we are not so much concerned either about what may be in our own future after we die, but a place rather in which we are focused on the “now.”  And in this Easter “now” we discover that we can live fearless of death.  Mot that we don’t fear death – I think the fear of death is normal, and I have a hunch that all healthy people have at least some fear of death – but a place in which we learn to live beyond our fears.  And I suggested that it is in this “now” that Mary Magdalene lived, she who was not afraid to be present at the crucifixion or the tomb, and who – as soon as Jesus said her name – was brought back into the “now” such that she could notice – and savor and relish – the presence of the risen Christ. Continue reading

Bones and All

Homily for April 16, 2017
Easter Day
John 20:1-18

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’”
Preached by The Rev. Todd Miller

icon-jesus-christ1“So, Miller,” said my one of colleagues, as he sidled up to me at clergy conference, “Bones and all?”  “Absolutely!” I said, laughing at the way he asked me if I believed in Jesus’ bodily resurrection.  “Absolutely!  Bones and all!”

An answer which is of course the “right” answer, and the Church’s “answer.”   The answer upon which all Christian doctrine hangs – “On the third day he rose again,” we say in the Creed.  The answer upon which all Christian hope relies:  “If Christ has not been raised, then we are of all people most to be pitied,” Paul writes (I Cor 15).  “Absolutely,” I say, “‘Bones and all!’” Continue reading

Changing Season

(Offertory for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 1 May 2016)

road-1072823_960_720Summer is passing, even as our climate here in Massachusetts clings to a pattern of dry yet humid weather that has dominated for much of the season.  The sun tells the tale without ambiguity: this morning it rose after 6:00, and it will be dark by the time my child is tucked into bed this evening.

Autumn leads us into times of harvest and work, thanksgiving and celebration, new endeavors and a new year in many traditions.  As we make our preparations, listen below for a memory of the preceding season in the church year, Easter.  The anthem is the second of Five Mystical Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams (Trinity Parish’s choir returns for the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 18 September).

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A Living Stranger

rembr11Easter means coming to the memory of Jesus looking for consolation and finding instead a memory that hurts and judges, that sets a distance—even an alienation—between me and my hope, my Saviour.  Easter occurs again and again in this opening up of a void, in the absence that questions our egocentric aspirations and longing for a “tidy drama.” It occurs when we find in Jesus not a dead friend, but a living stranger…So the void of the tomb and the unrecognizable face of the risen Lord both speak of the challenge of Easter to a God who is not primarily “the God of our conditions.”  The Lordship of Jesus is not constructed from a recollection, but is experienced in the encounter with one who evades our surface desires and needs, and will not subserve the requirements of our private dramas.

— From Resurrection by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (b. 1950)

The Tree of the Cross

Jesus has shown in his own person all the fullness of life offered on the tree of the cross. For me this tree is a plant of eternal health. I feed on it; by its roots I find stability; by its branches I reach out to others. I rejoice in its dew; I am invigorated by the rustling of its leaves. I freely enjoy its fruits as if they were meant just for me from the beginning of the world. It is my food when I am hungry; it is my fountain when I am thirsty; it is my very clothing, for its leaves are the spirit of life.

The tree of which I speak has celestial dimensions, reaching from earth to heaven, a plant of eternity which is planted in both heaven and earth, the foundation of the universe, gathering under its canopy all the diverse peoples of the world, fastened by invisible nails of the Spirit, so that its link with divine power may never be broken. Continue reading

On Easter Sunday

Sermon for Easter, 2015
John 20:1-18

This morning’s sermon is going to take us to three places: present-day Cuba, interstate 90 between here and Rochester, New York, and Whitehall Chapel in 17th century London.   Let’s begin with present-day Cuba.

This past December, as I was packing for a trip to Rochester to visit my mother, who was dying of cancer, the news broke that the United States had restored diplomatic relations with Cuba.  My memories went back to better times, to the trip that Ashley and I made to Cuba about ten years ago.  We were able to get in on a religious visa through a church connection.   It was an amazing trip, and some of my favorite memories are of the music.  OMG, the music was fabulous!  It was like being on the set of “Buena Vista Social Club.”  Rhythms as only Cubans can do rhythm.  Driving bass riffs that beckoned – compelled! – people out of their seats.  Sultry – or, dare I say it in church on Easter, “sexy” – vocals that ravished the ears.  And wild improvisations by brass or winds that soared overhead like ecstatic geese.   I’d never heard anything like it. Continue reading

At the Great Vigil of Easter

Sermon for Saturday, April 4, 2015
The Great Vigil of Easter
8:00pm at St. John’s, Newtonville

Several years ago I remember inviting a neighbor “to come to Easter at Trinity.”   He had a 7 year-old son whom he wanted to bring to church for the first time.   Now, I remember inviting this neighbor “to come to Easter at Trinity” assuming he’d come to the service at 10:00 o’clock on Sunday morning.  Imagine my great surprise when they walked into the Vigil on Saturday night.  I thought, “OMG, this could either really work or… that young man is never going step foot in church again.”

I happened to bump into young “Kevin” walking to school on Monday morning.  Wondering how things went for him, I paused, took a deep breath and said, “Kevin, it was great to have you and your family at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night.  What was it like for you to be there?”  Kevin said, “It was so cool; it was just like being in Star Wars!”  After I picked up my jaw from off the sidewalk, I said,  “Just like being in Star Wars…?”  “Totally.  The big fire outside and all those candles were just like the Ewok’s village during the victory celebration in the last episode.  Being in that building was just like being in the Jedi temple.  And that costume you wore, you could have been in the Imperial Senate!  And instead of saying, ‘May the force be with you,’ you said ‘May the Lord be with you.’”

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Our Desire for Resurrection

Sermon for Sunday, April 20, 2014
Easter Day

I have a friend who tells an extraordinarily powerful “resurrection” story; perhaps you’ve heard me tell it before, but I’m nonetheless going to tell it again.   This friend used to be a special operations diver in the Navy.  One day his unit was called upon to bring a sunken vessel back up to the surface.  He tells how his ship arrived at the site, how he got into his diving suit, how he was given a powerful hose to blast away a tunnel through the sand underneath the ship’s hull, how a cable was attached to his back that he would run underneath the ship and then, God willing, back up to the surface, and then how he was lowered over the side of the ship and into the water down and down into the dark to the ocean floor.  My friend tells how the operation began smoothly.  He switched on his headlamp and engaged the hose and began blasting away a tunnel through the sand underneath the ship’s hull.  But then, about halfway under the ship’s hull, he started to panic.  Here he was, all alone hundreds of feet underneath the surface, in a narrow tunnel underneath the hull of a sunken ship, and all he could see was the grey of the ship’s hull overhead and the blur of the blasting sand whizzing by his mask.   He began to wonder about what would happen if his headlamp gave out, or if there was a malfunction in his suit, or with his oxygen, or with the hose and he somehow became trapped underneath the ship.  He said that he had such a panic attack that he did something he had never done before – he prayed.  “God, Help!”  As soon as he prayed, he said he felt an enormous peace come over him – “the peace that passes understanding,” he said – and he knew that no matter what happened, he was with God.  He made it back to the surface, and said how wonderful it was to see the light and to breathe fresh air and to see fellow human beings again.  “I went into the water one man, and I came out again as a new.”  My friend experienced resurrection, and he has been a changed man ever since. Continue reading