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It's Not What You Know or Who You Know...

Its Not What You KnowEaster Sermon on John 20:1-18 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas on April 1, 2018

We have all heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” This was certainly true for Mary Magdalene in our Easter text. Mary Magdalene was streetwise and independent. She knew how to survive in a man’s world. But it didn’t matter what she knew in the eyes of the privileged and the powerful of her day—she was a nobody.

Until she met Jesus, she didn’t know anyone who took her seriously—who listened to her, who valued her, who loved her. For Mary Magdalene, it really was true—it wasn’t what she knew, it was who she knew that made the difference in her life.

But now that “who”—Jesus—was dead, and her life was turned upside down. That is why Mary went to the tomb so early that morning. She couldn’t imagine life without knowing Jesus—without the one and only meaningful relationship she had ever had. Mary Magdalene rose before the sun on that first day of the week to go to the tomb to grieve the one she had lost. Mary gingerly picked her way through the darkness of the pre-dawn, with tears in her eyes and grief in her heart.

But when Mary arrived at the tomb, she was met by an astonishing site. The stone that sealed the tomb had been rolled away. Jesus’ body was gone, and only grave cloths remained. Mary stood at the tomb weeping, thinking someone had taken Jesus’ body away. Mary couldn’t imagine that Jesus was alive—raised from the dead. It didn’t matter that Jesus had mentioned it so many times. Mary knew intellectually about the possibility of resurrection: she knew Jesus raised the widow’s son at Nain; she knew Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead; she knew Jesus raised Lazarus after he’d been dead 4 days; she heard Jesus himself say a number of times that the Son of Man would be killed and 3 days later rise again.

And yet, there she stood at the empty tomb with Jesus’ body gone—and she was more distraught and dumbfounded than ever because the resurrection was not real for her. Even a conversation with angels didn’t make it real for her! As Mary wept, she turned around and there stood Jesus himself--living and breathing and speaking! Mary sees Jesus with her own eyes. Mary hears Jesus’ voice with her own ears: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

Mary has all the information she needs to trust that Jesus is actually alive: in addition to an empty tomb, folded grave cloths and angels, Jesus himself stands before her and speaks to her. But the evidence before her isn’t enough. It’s not what she knows about resurrection, and now it’s not even who she knows—Jesus is right in front of her. Mary is more confused than ever, thinking Jesus is the gardener!

So what is it that finally makes the resurrection real for Mary? I did not fully understand what it was until my husband’s grandmother had a series of strokes many years ago, and we traveled to Philadelphia to visit her. We learned that Grandmother wasn’t doing well—her memory had been damaged and her activity was severely limited. Dan knew he couldn’t expect much, if anything from this visit. He didn’t know if she would even know who he was.

As we walked into the room, his worst fears were confirmed. Grandmother was lying in bed asleep, and this woman who turned the world over every day, and whose family never ate a store-bought loaf of bread or cake, didn’t even look like herself. She looked all of her 93 years, asleep with her jaw slack. With tears in his eyes, and grief gripping his heart, Dan touched her arm gently and woke her up. He said, “Grandmother, it’s me, Danny.” She opened her eyes and looked over at him. In a familiar voice—a voice that had read him stories, a voice that had said prayers and tucked him in bed at night, a voice that had called him to the dinner table--in that familiar voice, Grandmother looked at Dan and with the delight of recognition, she said, “Oh, you sweet boy.”

In that moment, it didn’t matter what Dan knew about her condition; it didn’t matter who she had been for him before. What mattered was that he was known—known by someone he thought he had lost forever. And that’s what happened to Mary. It didn’t matter what Mary knew. It didn’t even matter who she knew. What mattered on that first resurrection morning was that her Lord—the one she thought she had lost forever—her Lord looked at her and in a very familiar voice; a voice that had said, “your sins are forgiven," a voice that had prayed with her, a voice that had called her to the table--in that familiar voice, Jesus called out her name, “Mary!”

Only when she was known by Jesus, did the resurrection become real for her. For the resurrection to be real in any of our lives, it’s not what we know—it’s not even who we know—it’s Who knows us. On this resurrection morning, our Risen Lord stands before each of us and says in a familiar voice—a voice that has said, “your sins are forgiven,” a voice that has prayed with us and for us, a voice that has invited us to the table with the words, “This is my body….This is my blood”--in that familiar voice, Jesus calls each of us by name: Carol, Dale, Shirley, Tim, Gail, Ollie.

We’ve all come here looking for something. We have all come hoping to make sense of Jesus’ death, hoping to discover some truth about God, hoping that, for us, the resurrection might be real. But underneath all that, we really came looking to be found—to be completely known by the Savior who calls each of us by name. We came to restore a relationship that maybe we feared was lost—perhaps we haven’t been praying, or  haven’t been to church in a long time, or we can’t let go of guilt or shame, and we thought our chance for God’s love was gone. Or perhaps we come every Sunday, but never really believed Jesus died for me, personally.

We each came today to be known intimately by name—by Jesus. No matter who you are or who you know; no matter what you have done or what you know—Jesus died for you, and this morning, he calls you by name. There’s nothing he wants more than for you to receive his love, to be in a relationship with him, to engage in a daily conversation with him about the details of your life and the desires of your heart.

The banner on the altar says, “All Are Welcome” and that means you! You are welcome at Jesus’ table, to be forgiven, to be released from guilt, fear and shame, and to be loved just as you are, right now. Because Jesus knows you—Jesus knows your pain and worry, your struggles and fears, your hopes and dreams. 

So come to this meal to behold our risen Lord. As you walk forward, say a prayer—“Lord, I turn my whole life over to you, come into my heart anew.” Let’s practice, repeat after me: Lord, I turn my whole life over to you, come into my heart anew (I even made it rhyme so it's easy to remember!). Brent and I will be serving the bread of Communion. If you don’t have a nametag, give us your name as we give you the bread, so that you can hear Jesus call you by name, and say, “this is my body given for you.”

With Mary Magdalene, we leave this Easter Garden today, realizing that it’s not what we know, it’s not even who we know, it’s Who knows us, and you will never be forgotten or alone, ever again. We can join Mary, running from here saying, “I have seen the Lord and he knows Me by name!”

Image: St. John's Bible, featured print by Donald Jackson

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Good Friday Tenebrae with The Seven Last Words

Good Friday Tenebrae Service with The Seven Last WordsGood Friday Tenebrae Service with The Seven Last Words given on March 30, 2018 at St. Luke's.

If you did not have a chance to make it to any Holy Week worship services, you can read the following passages, reflections and prayers in preparation for Easter.  

The First Word: Father Forgive them for they know not what they do

Reading: Luke 23:26-28, 32-34

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Reflection: A reading from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If you’ve ever really forgiven somebody, forgiven some real wrong, all forgiveness is suffering. If you say I forgave and I didn’t suffer, it wasn’t’ really that serious a wrong. But if you have ever really, truly been wronged, and you have forgiven it, then you have suffered. Because all forgiveness is a form of suffering. If someone has wronged you deeply, there is an indelible sense of debt, an injustice, a feeling you can’t just shrug off. And once you sense this deep injustice, this debt, there are only two things you can do. One is you can make the perpetrator pay—you can find ways to make the perpetrator suffer and pay down the debt, or Two you can forgive.

Prayer: As you forgave those who harmed you, and those who silently watched, help us to suffer forgiveness for one another. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

The Second Word: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

Reading: Luke 23:35-43

And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into[d] your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Reflection: Lignum Vitae, a poem by Bernard Fyles

What wood is this?

Olive or oak, cedar or pine?
Unsuited for the cabinet makers’ art
Unfit for turning, inlay, elegance,
too warped for any honest use,
door frame or ladder or carrier’s cart.

What wood is this?

Sold cheap to minimize the grower’s loss.
Too many knots, too twisted,
no good except for firewood or a cross.

What wood is this?

Rough joints, rope lashings,
hold it together for the task ahead,
and the carpenter’s hands
that might have shaped it
as they shaped the world
are made to drag it through the streets instead.

What wood is this?
It is the wood of death,
the wood of life.

Prayer: As you offered words of promise to the criminal, may we also hear you offer words of promise to us. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

The Third Word: Woman, behold your son! Behold your mother!

Reading: John 19:25b-27

But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag′dalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Reflection: A Reading from Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love by Sister Ilia Delio

Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! I wonder how many of us look on the cross as the “mirror of eternity”—a reflection of eternity in the crucified Christ. We rarely think of eternity hanging on a cross unless of course we understand that eternity is God, God is love and God’s love is expressed in the crucified Christ. God is revealed as all-embracing, out-pouring love in the figure of the crucified Christ [in whom] we see a reflection of the eternal God who is the fullness of love. Gazing on the crucified Christ as a way of encountering God can be difficult because we are not attracted to crucified bodies or suffering humanity. To gaze on the crucified Christ is an embrace of the heart—a desire to allow the otherness of God’s love into our lives. It is difficult to see another person’s suffering, if we have not come to terms with our own suffering which opens us to receive the blessing and presence of God.

Prayer: As you helped Mary, your mother and John, your friend, remain in the embrace of your heart, help us to experience your love in suffering. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

The Fourth Word: My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Reading: Mark 15:33-35

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “E′lo-i, E′lo-i, la′ma sabach-tha′ni?” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Eli′jah.”

Reflection: Lead, a poem by Mary Oliver

Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing.,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.

Prayer: As you cried out to God in anguish, help us to cry out to you, trusting you hear, and understand. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

The Fifth Word: I thirst

Reading: John 19:28-29

After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth.

Reflection: A reading from, Mother Theresa’s Devotion to the Thirst of Jesus by Edward Sri

In the chapel of the Missionaries of Charity—the order founded by Mother Theresa, there’s a crucifix with the words, “I THIRST” painted in bold black letters next to it. Mother Theresa said these words, “I thirst,” were a constant reminder of the purpose of the Missionaries of Charity. "We have these words in every chapel of the Missionaries of Charity to remind us what Missionaries of Charity are here for: to quench the thirst of Jesus for souls, for love, for kindness, for compassion, for delicate love."

Ever since her call to serve the poorest of the poor in 1946, Mother Teresa insisted that the Missionaries of Charity were founded "to satiate the thirst of Jesus," and she included this statement in the founding Rules for the new religious order: "The General End of the Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for Love and Souls."
Mother Theresa says, “Why does Jesus say ‘I Thirst’? What does it mean? 'I Thirst' is something much deeper than just Jesus saying 'I love you.' Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you — you can't begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him."

What specifically is Jesus thirsting for in us? He longs for our love — our attention, our ardent devotion, the total entrusting of our lives to Him. Mother Theresa says, "At this most difficult time He proclaimed, 'I thirst.' And people thought He was thirsty in an ordinary way and they gave Him vinegar straight away; but it was not for that thirst; it was for our love, our affection, that intimate attachment to Him, and that sharing of His passion. He used, 'I thirst,' instead of 'Give Me your love'. . . 'I thirst.' Let us hear Him saying it to me and saying it to you.”

Prayer: As you thirst for our love, our attention, our ardent devotion, help us to quench your thirst with our lives, with our total trust, with our intimate attachment to you. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

The Sixth Word: It is finished

Reading: John 19:30

When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Reflection: O Come and Mourn with me Awhile, a poem by Frederick William Faber, 1849

O come and mourn with me awhile;O come ye to the Savior's side;
O come, together let us mourn;
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

Have we no tears to shed for him,
while soldiers scoff and foes deride?
Ah! look how patiently he hangs;
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

How fast his hands and feet are nailed;
his blessed tongue with thirst is tied,
his failing eyes are blind with blood:
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

His mother cannot reach his face;
she stands in helplessness beside;
her heart is martyred with her Son's:
Jesus, our Love, is Crucified.

Seven times seven he spoke, seven words of love;
and all three hours his silence cried
for mercy on the souls of men;
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

O break, O break, hard heart of mine!
Thy weak self-love and guilty pride
his Pilate and his Judas were:
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

A broken heart, a fount of tears,
ask, and they will not be denied;
a broken heart love's cradle is:
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

O love of God! O sin of man!
In this dread act your strength is tried;
and victory remains with love;
for he, our Love, is crucified.

Prayer: As you finished the demands of holy love--a body broken, a soul crucified—help us to find our wholeness in you. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

The Seventh Word: Father into thy hands I commend my spirit!

Reading: Luke 23:44-46

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed;[b] and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Refletction: Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?

1. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

2. Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

3. Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

4. Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

5. Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Prayer: As you enter the realm of death, may we trust that you usher us into the realm of life. Join our heart to yours, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Closing Prayer by Howard Thurman

Lord, open unto me
Open unto me — light for my darkness.
Open unto me — courage for my fear.
Open unto me — hope for my despair.
Open unto me — peace for my turmoil.
Open unto me — joy for my sorrow.
Open unto me — strength for my weakness.
Open unto me — wisdom for my confusion.
Open unto me — forgiveness for my sins.
Open unto me — love for my hates.
Open unto me — thy Self for my self.
Lord, Lord, open unto me! Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

 

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Forgiveness & Freedom in Foot Washing

Sermon for Maundy Thursday, March 29, 2018 on John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Forgiveness and Freedom in Foot Washing

Foot washing—it’s a little uncomfortable, isn’t it? I’ve only done foot washing once or twice in my many years of serving congregations for this reason. We feel too exposed, it’s too intimate—we don’t want anyone seeing our feet up close and certainly not touching them.

If we had a third Sacrament, most of us think it would be coffee and donuts, but many scholars and church leaders in our tradition say that it would actually be foot-washing. We could have a baptistmal font there and foot washing fountain over here. (Whew! Good thing that didn’t happen!).

But why foot washing? This was an essential practice in the Middle East because walking was the primary mode of transportation. The roads weren’t paved and the only shoes were sandals, so the moment you walked out the door, your feet were getting dirty from the arid, dusty ground. Foot washing was an essential act of hospitality--any time a guest arrived at the house, it was the job of the slave or servant to wash the feet of the guests. If the household had no slaves or servants, it fell (of course) to the woman of the household.

So you see why Peter protests when Jesus kneels down to wash his feet—Jesus is assuming the position of a slave—the very bottom rung of the social and economic ladder. They had just called Jesus Lord and Teacher who can heal and calm storms--and a man to boot—Jesus didn’t belong on the floor doing a slave’s or a woman’s work.

Jesus says Peter, the disciples and us—must be willing to receive Jesus’ hospitality and service in order to be a part of him. That’s why it’s uncomfortable—it not only takes humility for Jesus to kneel on the floor and wash feet, but it also takes humility and vulnerability to receive it, especially for us, since we don’t need to wash people’s visit when they visit our house. We take their coat, offer them a seat and give them something to drink—no feet are involved unless we ask them leave their shoes at the door.

And foot-washing the way Jesus does it requires even more from us—it’s actually harder than we thought. Are you ready?

You’ll notice that our passage is missing some verses, and those verses are the ones that tell us what Jesus really means. Jesus foretells that one of them will betray him. He takes a piece of bread and hands it to Judas Iscariot, saying “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

The passage says that Satan entered Judas and he left them and went out into the night. This is the dramatic moment of the passage because the night symbolizes that Judas has gone to the dark side (for you Star Wars fans). Not only that, Peter is beside Jesus and will deny him; the rest of the disciples sharing the meal with Jesus will abandon him. The only exception is that in the Gospel of John, John stands with Jesus’ mother Mary at the cross.

Nearly every last one of them will fail Jesus in some way. So it is in this setting of serving those who will betray, deny abandon him that Jesus gives them a new commandment: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Jesus isn’t saying love your family, love those who are good to you, love those who love you back--all of which are good things to do. Jesus is saying—kneel on the floor and wash the feet of your enemy—the one who has betrayed you; serve the one has denied you; love the one who has abandoned you. We have heard this in Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

That’s easier to do when they’re far away—enemies in another country over there somewhere. But here Jesus says, show hospitality to and serve those who have betrayed you, denied you, abandoned you; wash their feet, show that kind of love. That’s how others will know that you follow me—because you love and serve those who have hurt you.

Perhaps you, like me, have a had a relationship where you felt hurt, abandoned or betrayed. It’s hard to let go of that kind of pain and the anger. One such person came up in my prayers this week—the Spirit showed me that I was still hanging on to some of the hurt.

The painful truth is, I’m not sure I’m ready to wash this person’s feet, but the miracle of God’s love is that Jesus still washes mine—Jesus loves me and serves me and forgives me—even though I don’t deserve it. And because Jesus loves and forgives me today for hanging on to resentment, I know that through the power of his Spirit working in me, I can forgive this person, and finally let go of those remnants of pain.

Jesus kneels in front of all us tonight, ready to wash us clean of sin and doubt and hurt and resentment and unforgiveness. Through his power working in us, we can be healed and even love and pray for those who have hurt us. If there's someone in your life that you are struggling to forgive, then I encourage you to start praying for that person every day, so through Jesus' love and power, you can be set free from anger and resentment. That’s the hard, soul-work of following Jesus—opening ourselves to being transformed by his love, to love, as he loves.

Yesterday I had lunch with the pastors in this northern are conference of our Synod. One of the pastors told us about giving the children’s sermon in the preschool this week. He had a picture of Jesus doing the foot washing and asked the children who were those people with Jesus. One little kid couldn’t say the word, “disciples”, so he said, “the di-bibles.”

Perhaps that’s a better pronunciation of the word! I can’t remember who said it, but I love the saying, "Your life may be the only Bible some people ever read." We’re not just disciples, we’re "di-bibles"—the only bible some people may ever read. "By this everyone will know that you are my 'di-bibles,' if you have love for one another." When through Christ, we can forgive, and even enter the freedom of serving our enemies, that's a life--that's a bible--that shows forth Jesus.

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The Passion of God's Love: A Palm Sunday Reflection

The Passion of Gods LovePalm/Passion Sunday Sermon after the congregational reading of Mark 14:1-15:47 on Sunday, March 25, 2018 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

It’s difficult to say, isn’t it? Crucify him! Crucify him! From the distance of 2000 years, it’s easy to convince ourselves that had we been there at that moment in history, we would not have felt it or said it. It’s easy to imagine that we would not have betrayed Jesus like Judas, denied him like Peter, and run away like the other disciples. It’s easy to believe that we really would have stood with Mary and the other women, as Jesus suffered and bled and died.

But saying those words, Crucify him! Crucify him!—pops the bubble of our idyllic picture and our self-deception. Crucify him. Crucify him. When we say those words out loud, ourselves, we have to admit that we do not want a God who dies. We do not like a vulnerable, seemingly weak God who will not fight back, who will not upend evil and oppression, who will not use the power he possesses to get the bad guys.

Because we love superheros who fight back—whatever your flavor of vanquishing hero—The Jedi, Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman, Wonder-woman, The Flash, Super-Girl, Spider-Man, Thor, Black Panther, DareDevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, DC or Marvel. The most popular movies and Netflix addictions (including my own—I’ve seen them all) are of superheroes crushing the enemy—and it feels so good when those enemies are finally beaten and victory reigns.

But that is not our God. That is not this Jesus. We crucify him too, because he does not behave like the superhero-God we crave. Why does he just take it and not fight back? Do a miracle or something, Jesus—anything to show the Romans, the religious leaders, and the people that you hold the power of God!

But he doesn’t. Instead, Jesus just takes it—he absorbs into his body and into his being, the worst humanity can do. Bullying, torture, mockery, abandonment, suffering, death. It’s as if his life has come full circle—Jesus was born among the beasts of the stable to now take on that which is most beastly, most vile, most broken in us.

Instead of fighting back, Jesus returns violence—not with violence—but with love—a love that absorbs the worst of who we are, widening his arms as if to embrace us in love, as he dies. God’s ways are not our ways. Love is what God does because Love is who God is. And violence is not the pathway of love. God will not assert power over and against us by force because that is not love.

Even when we try to kill God, God loves the worst of who we are, to show us the best of who God is—love, a love that is much greater than even death itself. On the cross, we behold a God who created us out of love, for love, to live and die in love, and to return to love. Ramon Llull, a 13th century Spanish mystic wrote this dialog on God’s love:

They asked the Lover where he was from. He replied, 'from love.' 
What are you made of? 'Love.' 
Who conceived you? 'Love.' 
Where were you born? 'In love.' 
Who raised you? 'Love.'
What do you live on? 'Love.' 
What is your name? 'Love.' 
Where do you come from? 'Love.' 
Where are you going? 'To love.'
Where are you? 'In love.' 
Do you have anything besides love?
He replied, 'Yes, sins and offenses against my Beloved.'
Does your beloved pardon you?
The lover said there was mercy and justice in his Beloved, so he found shelter between fear and hope [in love]. 

We may have shouted, Crucify him—but Jesus responds with a love stronger than violence and hate. Jesus responds with a love stronger than death. So bring the worst, and the best, and all of who you are, and come to the table of love, Holy Communion. This table of forgiveness was set by love, in love, for love, for you, for-ever.

Receive the greatest power in the universe—God’s love—trusting that Jesus is the only superhero we need.

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