Monday, April 13, 2009

celebrating easter on the labyrinth

Throughout the season of Easter, the Sunday six o'clock Contemplative Eucharist at Grace Cathedral will be held on the labyrinth. Here's my sermon notes from last night's service.

Happy Easter!

Contemplative Eucharist at Grace Cathedral Sermon Notes
Easter 2009

on Luke 24:13-49

The child of a secular Jewish family, a 20th century leftist French intellectual Simone Weil, was a person on a journey toward truth, she was drawn to Christian theology and most of all to the enigmatic character of Jesus. In her short life, she had deep conversations with mystery. As I was considering tonight’s gospel text I ran across this quote from Weil,
"Christ likes us to prefer truth to himself, because before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go towards the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms."
Tonight, as we celebrate Easter together, as we engage in our own deep conversation with mystery, whether we’re ardent believers, or passionate doubters, people who have heard this story many times, or for the first time may we discover ourselves headed towards truth and falling into Christ’s arms.

This week tells us that we can not get to Easter, with out going through Good Friday, without confronting the painful, confusing, disturbing, haunting image of Jesus’ execution by imperial power and religious oppression. The disciples who met this stranger on the road in tonight’s reading were fleeing Jerusalem perhaps afraid that they too would be arrested and killed if they stayed in the city, that they too would be executed for their subversive activity, for following this one who had confronted the powers, whom they thought would liberate their people. Who can blame them for hitting the road, for getting out of there?

What happened on that road though --- who it was that Cleopas and his nameless companion ran into walked and talked with, offered hospitality to ---- is a mystery to them until that stranger picked up bread, blessed and broke it. When they realized these familiar gestures --- as those of their teacher who had been executed --- he disappeared.

There are many things to say about this story, it is one of my favorite stories concerning Jesus’ resurrection because it is so different from the many other stories of his appearing. What makes it so different and perhaps so comforting to me is because the risen Christ appears to those who fled, who walked or ran away --- I often feel like one who has left... who has walked or run away and still wanders away. This story is for all of us who doubt, who are so often at a loss for what to do, who like Cleopas know sadness and confusion ---

Tonight the Risen Christ appears to all of us as a stranger, a mystery...a fellow traveler...who engages us where we are and fills in the gaps, and opens up our stories and our lives to greater meaning and adventure.

The Christian tradition holds that the Risen Christ is someone we may encounter, lives now and gives us that same strange joy that Cleopas and his companion experience--- The Risen Christ of Easter keeps us going on the path toward wholeness and reconciliation. Who in words, actions, and presence like this labyrinth --- keeps us journeying back toward the center --- toward the heavenly Jerusalem, the realm of God. If one studies labyrinths, you know that those built in the Middle Ages were intended to aid those pilgrims who could not make the difficult and expensive journey it to the holy sites of Jerusalem --- instead they could make the sacred pilgrimage where they were. The center there where the altar stands is sometimes called, Jerusalem, the Semitic root word for Jerusalem means peace, harmony and completeness.

So the Risen Christ is our labyrinth --- the risen Christ is our path and the strangers we meet along the way --- the risen Christ points us toward peace, harmony and reconciliation --- completeness --- the risen Christ arms outstretched brings us full circle.

The disciples who met Jesus on the road turned around, returned ... rejoined the confused and curious community of disciples in Jerusalem and gave something to them, gave them reason for hope, and to keep going...Cleopas and his companion gave those back in the city as they shared their story reason to keep sharing and living the teachings of Jesus.

As we gather in this night to celebrate Christ’s resurrection we gather on the labyrinth opening ourselves up to engage this ancient story, opening ourselves up to the strangers on our path, opening ourselves up to make space for the unexpected. We discover right here, right now reason for hope and joy --- we come finding ourselves moving closer to what we know to be true and real.

Where ever we are on the journey of faith --- may this Easter celebration inspire us to slow down, talk to strangers, share stories and food --- discovering that the Risen Christ is with us.

A few nights ago, as we do each month a group from Grace and other volunteers shared a meal with former homeless persons in the Tenderloin --- during the meal one of the women we ate with began sharing how she was about to celebrate 8 months of being clean --- being sober. By the look on her face and those around her who were familiar with addiction --- you could immediately sense just how challenging and how significant that anniversary really was. That night that meal shared amongst strangers opened up the story of liberation --- of freedom --- for us. We encountered the Risen Jesus in our midst, as we engaged in conversation with mystery and shared our yearnings for liberation.

When do we find ourselves vulnerable, and willing to take in strangers? When in our lives do we risk hospitality, welcoming another into our journey, into our stories, into our struggles and confusion?

Our tradition boldly proclaims that Jesus' violent death was and is not the end of the story --- death, injustice, cruelty, despair, disease, addiction, poverty... all that seeks to bind, trap and kill us is not the end of the story--- the resurrection, the opening up of ourselves to one another, opening our selves to new understandings, new possibilities, to new companions... finding our hearts strangely warmed…this is truth…this is faith... the resurrection tells us we are free to begin the journey again. The story continues ….the story continues to unfold, the journey is forever leading us toward hope --- and new life ---the path leads to harmony, peace and wholeness --- into the arms of Christ.

There are many places we could be on this night in San Francisco --- but for whatever reason we find ourselves together in this cathedral --- where strange stories are shared, and bread is broken.

In the midst of this supposedly hyper secular city Christian theology and tradition tells us that we’re bound to discover the presence of a living Jesus.Tonight’s gospel tells us that no matter how far we run, no matter how confused or sad ---- Christ rises, comes to us as a mysterious stranger, warms our hearts, questions our understanding and reveals truth in broken bread.

Alleluia Christ is Risen!

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