Pentecost 12 Step Eucharist St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Little Rock, June 5, 2019 5:30 pm

Pentecost 12 step Eucharist June 5, 2019 St. Mark’s

“When the Day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind.” —Acts 2:1-2.

“ … [Jesus] breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” —John 20:22.

John 14:8-17, 25-27

Barbara Brown Taylor1 describes two versions of Pentecost: the gentle breeze in a later chapter of John, as Jesus breathes directly into the few fearfully gathered disciples on the night of his resurrection;/ and the violent wind of Pentecost described in Acts where the Holy Spirit sweeps in, hovering over the heads of more than a hundred people with tongues of fire. Soon after a following sermon by Peter, 3000 people gathered with them also received the Holy Spirit and were then baptized.

The few disciples at the gentle wind Pentecost are commissioned to take the Spirit breathed into them out into the world. The violent wind disciples are commissioned to fan the Holy Spirit that was released, spread, and poured out into the world that momentous day at nine in the morning. Taylor challenges us in our congregations to emulate the disciples in both Pentecost stories: those of the gentle breeze and those of the violent wind. Both groups are commissioned to find that Holy Spirit within themselves and others, and take it out of their congregations and meeting places out into the world./

Is the message of 12 step recovery a gentle breeze or a violent wind? Since it is a program of attraction, one might consider that 12 step recovery should be a gentle breeze. Ponder that at times it can be move in like a violent wind, especially when someone has a moment of clarity./

Now, if you really are wondering what it might be like that day when the Spirit of love moves through a large room of people who do not have a clue what is happening, watch the video of Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the morning of Pentecost Eve.

Bishop Curry first reminds us that when two people fall in love, nearly the whole world shows up, as it did on that Saturday morning. That is how important love is.

Bishop Curry tells us that love has the energy of fire; and his enthusiastic, passionate words are indeed comparable to the Pentecost flames running through St. George’s Chapel on that morning. Bishop Curry, himself, is so filled with the Spirit that at times he must hold on to his lectern to stay in place.

His body language signals that he wants to move out like the Spirit and directly make contact with the young couple and his whole congregation. As you watch people’s faces, you can tell they have no idea what to do with him or his barnstorming message. They look mystified, amused, indignant, comical, questioning. Some look down at their program so others cannot see what they are thinking. Others glance at their neighbors to seek a clue from them about what is happening. Some almost fall out of their chairs! Some look at Curry as if they are mesmerized.

Perhaps the ones who seem to understand his message best are indeed the royal wedding couple themselves—especially Meghan, who beams radiantly with an occasional twinkle through the whole sermon.

Bishop Curry’s presentation and delivery are not the British style; but his message of love is true to his Anglican and African roots. He speaks out of his African American tradition, drawing from his ancestors in slavery and out of his training in an Episcopal style that Americans modified from the Anglican form. Bishop Curry speaks his truth, which comes from deep inside of him—as all these traditions mesh and kindle tongues of fire from the power of love that sends flames around the world.

Curry is our role model of what it is like to be filled with the Spirit. With Pentecost fire, we have no choice but to speak the truth. Many people will not have a clue what we are saying; but everyone who receives us will be changed in some way.

Curry reminds us that the truth from God should always be about love: loving God, loving ourselves, and loving our neighbor. Period.

Love is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is also the work of Recovery.

1Barbara Brown Taylor, “God’s Breath” in Journal for Preachers, Pentecost 2003, pp 37-40.


Easter 6C An Improvisation on Love in Three Acts, John 14:23-29, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Little Rock, May 26, 2019

Easter 6C May 26, 2019 St. Mark’s

John 14:23-29

An Improvisation on Love in 3 Acts

Act I The Present: this Sunday

‘“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’”

A Little Rock police officer pulls over a car on Cantrell just as the car approaches Mississippi. He asks the driver for his license and registration. “What’s wrong, officer?” the driver asks. “I certainly was not speeding.”

“No, you weren’t” says the officer, “but I saw you giving that obscene gesture as you swerved around the woman driving in the left lane. Then I saw your flushed and angry face as you shouted at the driver in the Hummer who cut you off.”

“Is that a crime, officer?”

“No, but when I saw the St. Mark’s sticker and the ‘Love Lives Here’ bumper sticker on your car, I decided, “This car must be stolen!”

Act II

The Past: Almost 20 centuries ago

‘“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”’

The last supper is over. Everyone’s feet are clean. Jesus’ hands are still wrinkled from washing all of them when he begins what is called his Farewell Discourse. Jesus’ family is gathered around him and he begins reading the traditional dramatic last testament given by the head of a household just before he dies. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’”

Jesus goes on like this for three more chapters, telling his disciples at least 15 times in total that he is leaving them. It sounds like he is heading off to a family reunion with his father and is leaving them in charge while he is gone. He will be back, but meanwhile his director’s cut raises anxiety in his disciples about how long he will be away and how are they going to manage without him. /

Jesus continues: “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.’”

Jesus does make an earth shattering, unbelievable return engagement on Easter Day, but then he again exits stage right!

Act III Scene one

The Present and the Past

“’Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’”

A little while becomes a long while. A long while becomes a lifetime, a hundred years, two thousand years. From our seats in the nosebleed section of the balcony, we are so distanced from this scene that we wonder if we have NOT been abandoned after all.

We know heart wrenching dramas about children left in charge of their families when their parents are absent. They become responsible individuals before they are ready. They grow up sooner than they planned. This may be how the disciples are feeling. /

That night Jesus keeps rehearsing them (and us) for just this kind of separation by talking about love, a new kind of love, not the ethical demand to love one’s neighbor, or to love one’s enemies, but to move off center stage to a love like his that brings a peace which the world cannot give. Loving is the only commandment that Jesus explicitly insists his disciples keep. Ignoring it is not an option./

We cry out! “Jesus, this commandment, this role we are assigned is too broad, too difficult, impossible! If the people of your own community who lived intimately beside you two thousand years ago have difficulty following your direction, how do you expect us today to know how to love each other as you do?” We continually fail, forget our lines, fail the audition for the part. Jesus, we need help. How can we possibly perform this role?”/

Act III Scene 2 today 2019

“’Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’”

The house lights come all the way up!!

Jesus stands up from his director’s chair and looks straight at each of us: “OK, OK, I see you still need more help. Little company, the Father and I will make our home with you. I will also ask the Father to send in my name, a personal manager, an agent who will come and stay and prompt you and remind you of all your lines.

“I am going away, and I am coming to you.” / Not a Sunday matinee visit. Not a weekend pass. Not a one-night stand. The father and I and the Holy Spirit will come to you and make our home within you.

John is telling us about a permanent home. In fact, John refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit at least 26 times in these four chapters making up Jesus’ final discourse. Unfortunately, John is a little fuzzy on the details as he often is. He does suggest that we will know the presence of the Spirit of love within us when we know a peace that is different from the peace the world gives. We later learn that it is a peace that is a fruit of the Spirit associated with love, joy, patience,, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23)/

We begin to digest what we are hearing.

So THIS is how we learn to love the way Jesus loves, because he is now inside of us and he is promising to send the Holy Spirit also to be inside of us. We can only follow through on this otherwise impossible new role to love as Christ loves when we are directed, managed by the Holy Spirit and Christ within, inside of us. /

Jesus doesn’t say to his disciples and us, “I’m going to leave you, but I want you to remember everything I’ve ever taught you by getting up each morning and going over the Sermon on the Mount, word for word, so you won’t forget it, so you will have all my teachings at your fingertips when you need them./

Jesus doesn’t say to John, “John, now I want you to get busy and write a book. Call it the Gospel According to John. That way, everyone will have all my words, just as I spoke them to you. Anytime anyone is in trouble, he or she can just open that book, turn and point to just the right verse, and the answer will be right there. Just look it up!”/

Jesus doesn’t say to his disciples, “Now I’m going to appoint Peter as disciple number one. John, you are disciple number two. The rest of you will need to submit to and follow number one and two. They’re in charge when I leave. Anytime you have some tough question, just go ask number one and he will make a ruling on the matter.”

Jesus does not say any of this. What he tells his disciples and us is that he is leaving himself and the Holy Spirit within us. We now have to learn a whole new way of communicating since God is not only outside of us but now inside us. If we want to talk with Jesus, now we may have to sit down some place quiet, off stage, and listen very carefully for the sound of the wind blowing through us, for the sound of the still small voice that speaks in silence more often than it speaks in those soliloquies that just blurt out of us. Listen for that still small voice that will not go away, no matter how hard we try to ignore it, especially when we hear it in community./ Look for a peace that is very different from the peace the world gives, a peace that develops from relationships, not fear.

That night before Christ dies is the dress rehearsal for the guest appearance of the Holy Spirit, the Father, and Christ within us. Look and listen for them in the quiet places of our mind and body and soul. Connect to them, listen to them, nurture them, share them. KEEP the love they bring to our head and our heart and our soul. When we connect to the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit within,/ then we keep that love by getting up/ out of our reserved seat/ and GIVING it away.


Barbara Taylor Brown, “Good News for Orphans,” Gospel Medicine (Cowley 1995) pp. 79-83.

“Fear and Driving,” Homilectics, May 2004, pp; 26-30.

Richard Donovan, Sermonwriter for Easter 5C, 2004.

Eugene Peterson, “The Story Behind the Story,” Journal for Preachers, Pentecost 2003, pp. 4-8.

William Willimon, “The Living Reminder,” Pulpit Resources, vol. 32, May 2004, p. 31.

Judas, Easter 5C, May 19, 2019, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Little Rock, AR, 5 pm

Judas Easter 5C, May 19, 2019, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Little Rock, Arkansas, 5 pm

John 13:31-35

(“At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.) If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' 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."

I think often of Judas. At the National Cathedral they have statues for all the disciples at the high altar, but for Judas there is an empty nitch. Was what he did so terrible that he should be written off as one of the world’s greatest villains? I don’t know about you, but I betray God every day. I deny him by turning my back on people I meet whom I cannot see the Christ within them. I spend money on personal luxuries that should be used to help the poor. I struggle with an overindulgence in food.

There is a Gnostic gospel of Judas that does portray Judas as a hero, believing that what Judas did was God’s plan and that he was acting on Jesus’ intimate instructions for him alone. The canonical gospels present a different story. Judas becomes more and more evil as you read from Mark to Matthew to Luke to John. Judas is described in John as evil, the devil from the beginning. In Luke the devil enters Judas only at the last supper.

I can’t really go with the Gnostic gospel, but I do believe that Judas might not have been so different from the other disciples? Peter denied him. The rest of them abandoned him. None spoke up for him. Paul, his greatest missionary, persecuted Jesus’ followers. /

Matthew (27:1-10) tells us that when Judas realizes what he has done, he tries to return the 30 pieces of silver he is paid to betray Jesus and then hangs himself. The book of Acts (1:18-19) says that Judas falls on a field he buys with the money and dies a painful death./

What is different about Judas from the other disciples? Judas cannot forgive himself and feel God’s forgiveness for what he has done even after he repents and tries to make things right. This is such a crucial part of 12-step recovery. Realizing the harm we have done to others, making amends, and accepting God’s forgiveness that is so freely given. And we must do this daily. And Judas is our icon of what we will become if we cannot make amends and accept God’s freely given forgiveness and love.

Theologian Morton Kelsey wrote a very practical book more than fifty years ago called The Other Side of Silence: A Guide to Christian Meditation, as well as a revised edition, published twenty years later called The Other Side of Silence: Meditation for the Twenty-first Century. Kelsey believes that meditation is simply the way we set up the conditions to prepare for the God who is seeking us and breaks through to us, particularly in silence. “Doing meditation” involves using biblical stories, dream images, poems, and images from other sources.

Included in Kelsey’s book is a moving poem, “The Ballad of Judas Iscariot,” by the Scottish poet, Robert Buchanan, which I read and meditate on every Easter season. It reminds us that no one is lost or unforgiven or unloved by God. The ballad must have been powerful when sung. The story is of Judas wandering through regions of darkness until he spies a light from a lantern at a doorway. Jesus is holding up the light, and he beckons to Judas to come in and join his fellow disciples who are getting ready to eat. Jesus tells Judas that they have always been waiting for him before pouring the wine.

I offer the poem also to spiritual friends who feel they have done something unforgivable, or that God no longer loves them; and of course, I meditate on it myself when that darkness of guilt or shame or a poor self-image surrounds me as well.

Judas is a reminder of what happens when we cannot accept that we might be forgiven or loved. He is an icon of what it is like when we have difficulty opening ourselves to God’s Grace offered continuously through dark and light times in our life. In all honesty, is Judas’ betrayal of Jesus really worse than denying Jesus or abandoning him or persecuting his followers or denying him as the others did? Judas simply can not ask for or accept forgiveness. Judas has forgotten that the God of his understanding is a loving and forgiving God.

Here are a few lines from this ancient poem

'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Came with a weary face —
Alone, alone, and all alone,
Alone in a lonely place!

He wandered east, he wandered west,
And heard no human sound;
For months and years, in grief and tears,
He wandered round and round,

For months and years, in grief and tears,
He walked the silent night;
Then the soul of Judas Iscariot
Perceived a far-off light.

A far-off light across the waste,
As dim as dim might be,
That came and went like the lighthouse gleam
On a black night at sea.

'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Did hush itself and stand,
And saw the Bridegroom at the door
With a light in his hand.

'Twas the Bridegroom stood at the open door,
And beckon'd, smiling sweet;
'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Stole in, and fell at his feet.

{the bridegroom speaks}

'The Holy Supper is spread within,
And the many candles shine,
And I have waited long for thee
Before I poured the wine!'

{Then}The supper wine is poured at last,
The lights burn bright and fair,
Iscariot washes the Bridegroom's feet,
And dries them with his hair.

Robert Buchanan, “The Ballad of Judas Iscariot”

From Miscellaneous Poems and Ballads, 1878-83.

Joanna Seibert.

Homily at Funeral of Paula Vanderpool

Paula Vanderpool

April 29, 2019 Ruebel Funeral Home with Committal at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Columbarium

We are gathered here as relatives and friends of Paula Vanderpool to share our grief and also to express our gratitude: grief at our loss, at the empty space already we feel in our lives, gratitude for everything Paula meant to us, and everything she continues to mean. It is a day for tears and smiles. /Many of you know Paula much better than I.

When I talk to Paula’s family, they cannot in their sorrow stop the overflow of the love they want others to know about Paula, their gig ee,/ ice cream suppers, wearing your cameo PJ’s, visit to the race tracks when you are 7, especially on Good Friday, visits to St. Louis for birthdays, the butterfly house, movies, purple hull peas, chicken and dumplings, her amazing work ethic, Halloween costumes we may see today, Canasta with Elvis/ and whenever you see the Cone Heads. Andy talks about when he was young that his mom gave him a computer instead of a video game, and it changed his life, leading to his life’s work in computers. Paula’s sister Micki talks about Paula’s love of music and how it gave her an appreciation of music she never knew.

Wendy talked about how just in the past year she and her mom started hugging when they saw each other and how good this felt. She loved going to concerts with her mom and remembered one special time at Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside of Denver and their laughter together. Wendy described her mom as her go to when she had a problem she could not figure out. She described her mom like a little engine that could figure out anything.

Paula’s cancer was diagnosed two weeks ago. Since then her family and friends have never let her be alone. Paula especially had amazing midwives constantly at her bedside these last two weeks, most especially Wendy, Mary Jim, Micki, and Vicki who helped birth her into a new life. They all talked about the morning Paula died when they opened the door to the garden outside her room. They heard a chorus of birds singing loudly, as if they were singing her home./

What do we say to Paula’s precious 11 grandchildren, especially Andrew, Jayden, Wilson, A liss a, Caitlin, Avery, Hayden about someone they so loved and loved them who has gone on to eternal life?/ How do we explain about this next life, some have called the Alsolife?

How do you explain that eternal life is different from immortality? Immortality means you never die. That is what we believe when we are teenagers. Eternal life is a new life, moving into a new room, different from the past. Eternal life is new life, LIKE A new BIRTH, not more of the same old life.

I have already told you this several times, but I will repeat one more time.

The God of my understanding does not give us a loving relationship such as you had with your mother, sister, grandmother, friend and then abruptly stop it. That relationship is still there is some form we cannot understand. It is a mystery. Death is not a period at the end of a sentence but more like a comma where we die and are born, delivered into a new relationship with God AND also with those we love. At times you will feel Paula’s presence, her prayers, her love for you.

Our only clue about what eternal life is like are the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection. The disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection did not always recognize him. He came and went through closed doors. The resurrected Jesus cooked meals and ate dinner with his friends. He did not leave his friends and loved ones abandoned. He told us we were now his body on this earth. Like Mary Magdalene, like those on the road to Emmaus, we will experience knowing and feeling both Paula and Christ here with us, but for some reason we often will not recognize them. We will talk to them in prayer, especially at meals that were so important to Paula. Sometimes we will truly feel them both beside us. Sometimes it will be more difficult, but they are here. Those we love are always near, in death sometimes more than in life. Their love, never, ever dies.

The love of God reached out to you in the life of Paula and will still embrace you in her life beyond death. /

Paula in her living taught us all so very much about hospitality, giving, caring and doing for others. In her DYING she and her radiant smile and twinkling eyes also taught all of us how to LIVE, to live valiantly, courageously, a warrior to the end. /

It is impossible to believe that Paula, her strength, her love and her magnificent hospitality are extinguishable. The God of our understanding would not do this. There is something about a person like Paula that no cancer, no blast of wind can blow out. / In this mysterious universe we know that those who mean most to us mean EVEN MORE to God. In God's way, God will keep them… and because God keeps them, we will never be separated from them,/ or they from us.

So, what do we say to Andrew, Jayden, Wilson, A liss a, Caitlin, Avery, Hayden? Think back to several years ago when you first started to school, maybe preschool or kindergarten, or maybe the first grade? Remember that first day of school and how new and exciting everything was? You were the same boy or girl, but all of a sudden, everything in your life was quite different. Death too is the beginning of something very new and different. That's what it is like right now for your Gig ee, like starting something very new, actually more like a birthing. She will be in a new life, changed,/ in a house with many dwelling places. But she will also be present with you every time you give a hug, laugh together, figure out a problem you previously could not solve, you go to a concert, have an ice cream dinner or eat purple hull peas or chicken and dumplings, or go to the zoo, or the wineries outside St. Louis, or grants farm, or Table Rock lake, or a Cardinals game, or go to the races, or listen to the music she sent you, or see the beautiful costumes she made for each of you. /

Some say that when the body dies, life goes. Our experience is when the body dies that life goes on. This was Christ's gift to us. We know this is true because he has told us/ and we also know it because he has shown us in his life and in the lives of so many others that are still going on.

Today we give thanks for the life of Paula Vanderpool, who to us was a tower of strength, who so graciously cared for us and helped us; who loved us in her hospitality and giving and encouraged us by her example; who looked not on the outward appearance, but lovingly into the hearts of men and women and children; who rejoiced to serve others; whose loyalty was steadfast, whose friendship was unselfish and secure; whose joy it was to be of service. May Paula find abiding peace in God's heavenly kingdom; and with God's help, may we carry forward her unfinished work on this earth. Amen.

Theodore Farris, Death and Transfiguration. (Forward Movement 1998).

Edward Gleason, Dying We Live, (Cowley 1990).

J. B. Bernardin, Funeral Services (Morehouse 1980), p.117.

Joanna Seibert

Good Friday Sermon, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Little Rock, AR, April 19, 2019

Good Friday St. Mark’s April 19, 2019

We are a resurrection people,/ but for today/ we are a crucifixion people. We have come to church in the middle of this day, in the middle of this city, on this most solemn day of the Christian year, to keep watch this holy hour with our Savior on the cross, dying. Today we try to remember Jesus’ suffering and the why of it all as we stand beside Jesus at the foot of this cross. We remember that by his death we learn about a life BEYOND the cross…. Yet Peter Go/mes1 reminds us that Jesus is teaching us that the only way BEYOND the cross is to stand by the cross and GO THROUGH IT.

The story we have just heard from John’s gospel is so familiar that it is difficult to experience it/ and know what going through the cross,/ beyond the cross really means. Perhaps if we look at two of Jesus’ statements in John, we can better identify with this scene.

Jesus’ first words from the cross are to his mother: “Woman, here is your son.” And to the disciple.. “here is your mother.” (John 19: 23-27) Barbara Brown Taylor2 asks if Jesus is looking out for his mother or for his disciple? When the beloved disciple takes Mary home, and when the other disciples come crawling out from under their rocks, they will find themselves in the presence of someone whose contact with the Holy Spirit has been far more intimate than theirs. While the principalities and powers believe they are tearing his family apart,/ Jesus is quietly putting it back together again. /My experience also is that Jesus constantly does this for us. When our sister or brother or mother or father or child is separated from us, Jesus gives us a new and different relationship with them// as well as with another mother or sister or brother—if only we have eyes and ears to see and hear and accept it./

Living through and beyond the cross./

As we try to stand at the foot of this cross with Jesus, I also hear the words of others who have been there.

I think of another friend named Mary. She lost her daughter, Anne, several years ago in a tragic train accident. We met for coffee a few weeks after Anne's funeral. We cried, we laughed. We went over every detail of Anne's service that actually took place in this church. There could have been no more beautiful celebration of her life. Mary then began to talk about the new directions she already felt in her life. She told me how she had spent much time trying not to wear masks in her life, but that this great loss made her even more desiring of not being anything that was false to herself. She was living her life one day at a time. She was not making a lot of plans and was trying to be open to what God had in store for her that day.

She spoke of feeling God's presence throughout the entire tragedy. She wondered how anyone could survive such a loss without love/ and faith/ and community. Then she could barely speak as she softly whispered/ that she had some insight into the thoughts of our Lord's mother, another Mary, at the cross. She could say no more./ Since that day I continue to ponder her words in my heart.

Some of you here this afternoon also know the loss of a child or grandchild. Parents should never have to bury their children. How even more awful to watch your child suffer and die. I think of parents of patients at Children’s Hospital who sit by bedsides as their children die. I have seen there love, sorrow, anger, comfort, helplessness, surrender, as I have never seen in any other situations.

Through Mary and the families at Children’s Hospital we experience a little glimpse of what our Lord's mother might have felt that awful day. Our prayer this afternoon is that each of us may have as both Marys did,/ some awareness of God working in our lives/ even in the face of great tragedy and pain. .

Living through and beyond the cross///

“IT IS FINISHED” is what John records as Jesus’ last words. JOHN 19:29-30a

But, was Jesus’ crucifixion really finished that afternoon 2000 years ago?/ We are gathered here because we are an Easter people. You will notice that all of our crosses in our church are empty, but our world outside is still more like Good Friday. Do we continue to stand at the foot of crosses today and be active observers and participants in Christ’s crucifixion still going on today?

As we try to live into and through this Good Friday, we are to remember that the cross many of us wear is the symbol of an unjust public execution. We more often relate to the resurrection that came out of it rather than to the brutal killing of an innocent man. The cross’ message of resurrection is hope to all who are oppressed; but especially today we must also remember the injustice as well as that great hope our tradition teaches us that can follow horrendous and unjust tragedy.3////

John tells us that after Jesus dies on this cross, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus lay him in Joseph’s tomb. If Jesus were crucified today, might he journey to another place than Joseph’s tomb?

Malcolm Boyd best describes the possible cross bearers of today in the Alleluia Affair.4// Listen carefully with me to a paraphrased version of Boyd’s midrash of what might happen in two hours shortly after three o’clock on this Good Friday, today, when a crucified Jesus leaves the cross.3 //

Jesus will pull his legs free.

The rusty nails that held his feet captive will fall clanking below the cross.

It will not be difficult next to free his left hand, then the right one,

He will slide easily down from the full-size wooden

cross in the sanctuary

of a West Little Rock Catholic church.

Next he walks into the adjoining parish hall.

He passes by Virginia Causey of the altar guild

who faints.

Jesus then washes in the men's room---

He gets the blood off his body--and leaves the building,

He walks down Mississippi to St. Mark’s to the Food Pantry in the Youth Room and later on to St. Francis House.

It is a hot day, so he feels all right in his loincloth.

Jesus has a bit more difficulty disengaging himself from a gold processional cross

in the East Side church in Manhattan,

Yet within just a few moments he is free….

{Jesus} heads south toward the former World Trade Center.

A cab driver moving along Madison Avenue…

sees Jesus, who is still wearing his crown of thorns.

Before he knows what he is doing,

the driver has smashed his cab into the plate-glass

window of an art gallery…./

It is inside a church in Moscow

that an altogether new phenomenon….

is first observed.

Katerina Pavlof has been absorbed in her private Good Friday devotions

inside the Russian Orthodox church.

Now she looks toward the cross…

But to her amazement..

Katerina discovers the bloated body of a young black boy

is firmly nailed to the wood.

He does not look like Jesus.

His face is beaten and swollen beyond recognition.

An eye is dislodged from its socket.

His mother, Mamie Till, like Mary stands at the foot of the cross.

She cries out that this is her fourteen-year-old son, Emmett Till, from Chicago lynched in the Mississippi Delta in 1955./

It is 3:45 p.m. when Carol Kimmel

stops off for a moment of prayer at the National Cathedral

on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington D C.

She is startled to see a woman's body upon a cross,

for she is aware that now all crosses

should be empty.

Drawing closer, she sees that a young child is still clinging to the dark-haired woman.

The tired mother is deeply wailing.

The verger identifies her as a Palestinian Christian refugee living in Gaza.

Twelve hours later inside a Syriac Orthodox church in Aleppo, Syria,

a white youth is found

nailed to an altar cross

that had previously borne Jesus.

The youth tells Doctors Without Borders

that he lives in Laramie, Wyoming….

There are scars of a brutal beating on his body

and his left eye is swollen shut.//



Who is our neighbor? Who is our brother?/

Who is our mother? Who is our son?



AND TOMBS inside and outside of us begin to OPEN UP

AND SAINTS inside and outside of us WHO WERE ASLEEP ARE Awakened.

Joanna Seibert

1 Peter Gomes in The Preaching of the Passion: The Seven Last Words from the cross in Forward Movement Publications, 2002.

2Barbara Brown Taylor, “Mother of the New” in Home By Another Way, pp. 97-99.

3Debra Mumford, “Loving the Word” in The Christian Century (3/14/2018)

4Malcolm Boyd, “The Alleluia Affair” in YOU by Mark Link.