Ancient Answers


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The Fire of Love

 

What a wonderful wedding yesterday. Wasn’t it? The pomp and pageantry of British royal tradition with a refreshing dose of American energy. Fabulous! And the African-American Episcopal bishop who gave the homily! And that gospel choir singing “Stand By Me”!

But that African-American bishop, he spoke of love – as one would expect at a wedding. But he didn’t speak of love in the trite, sentimental ways that we expect to hear at a wedding service. He brought fire into that wedding service – the fire of Christ’s love. The Archbishop of Canterbury was seated right behind him as he delivered his homily. He sat very still, and probably saying to himself, “Why can’t I deliver a sermon like this?” But he can’t; he’s British and he’s high Anglican. And let me tell you why that thought entered my mind about the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s because that’s what I was thinking. Why can’t I preach like a black preacher? Because I’m not black. I’m Greek and I’m Orthodox, and I’m boring. I’m supposed to be boring!

The good African-American bishop spoke of love, spoke with love, spoke love. He spoke of love as fire. He spoke of love as redeeming. He spoke of love of God and love of neighbor. He spoke of a love that if it were to exist, there would be no wars; there would be no poverty; no hunger. When love is the way, there would be justice and righteousness for all. “When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary,” he said. He spoke the love that Jesus brought into the world. The transcript of Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon can be read here.

Love is everywhere in the Bible. As examples, here are passages in the writings of John in the New Testament.

John 13:1  Having loved his own, he loved them to the end – εἰς τέλος ἠγάπησεν αὐτούς – to the maximum, to perfection.

John 15:12  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 13:34-35   “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 all people (πάντες) will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Do you hear that last sentence? Is that why there is no peace, no justice or righteousness in the world? Because the world does not see love even in the lives of the followers of Jesus?

1 John 3:16  We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

1 John 4:8  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4:19-21  We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

But who is my brother or sister? you might ask. You really want to ask that question of Jesus? You know what his answer is going to be. Just like he answered the rich man’s question, “Who is my neighbor?”

This is why love is fire. And this is why the fiery American preacher was right on yesterday at that royal wedding. Half the congregation probably didn’t quite know what to do with him. They don’t hear sermons like that in high Anglican churches. They got a bit of a taste of American fiery preaching. And we need some preaching like that to shake us out of our own rut and our own satisfaction with ourselves and our holy tradition and our sense of entitlement. 

Jesus ascended. He carried with him every human experience, everything that makes us human. He carried with him to heaven every human race, every form of human existence. That’s how great God’s love is for humanity. What do we do with that love? Fly flags at half mast? Pray with trite words while doing nothing to prevent the killing of our children? Is that the extent of our love? Where is the fire? Next week, on Pentecost, we will hear of how the Holy Spirit came down on the first disciples after Jesus ascended. And the Holy Spirit came down as fire. Jesus carried our shared humanity to heaven so he can send down fire – the fire that makes the world new, the fire that brings the new heaven and the new earth. That is the dream. That is the fire of love.


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Naomi & Ruth – Two Mothers for Today

 

There are many mothers in the Bible, but few that feel contemporary to us. I offer to you today on this Mother’s Day, the Book of Ruth in the “Old” Testament. A marvelous, short book, with a beautiful story of two women, Naomi and Ruth; a story that we can relate to. I will only focus on the highlights of the story.

In the days after the Jews had settled in Canaan [perhaps around the year 1,200 BC], there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. [Moabites were detested by Jews.] The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

Then Naomi decided to return to her homeland. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. [Very striking in a patriarchal society – instead of the usual “father’s house.”] May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” [Orpah did go back], but Ruth clung to her. Naomi said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

But Ruth replied with some of the most famous words in the entire Bible:

“Don’t press me to leave you. For where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord deal with me severely, if even death parts me from you!”

So Naomi returned home together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Ruth went to work in the field belonging to a man called Boaz. Boaz looks kindly on Ruth. “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!” [Recognition of Ruth’s faithfulness – followed by blessing.]

With a little coaching from Naomi, Ruth and Boaz marry. Ruth bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without [a redeemer]; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Note how the story ends. It ends well for Ruth, and she became the great-grandmother of David, the King. And thus Ruth entered the genealogy of Jesus that we read every year on the Sunday before Christmas. A Moabite, a foreigner, in the genealogy of the Messiah! But it also ends well for Naomi. The people bless her. She has been redeemed from her bitterness and poverty, from the emptiness of her life. Ruth’s faithfulness became the means by which God reversed the outcome of Naomi’s life. Never underestimate what you do for your mother or your mother-in-law! God’s purpose is always what the Hebrew Bible calls ḥesed, loving kindness. This is God’s covenant kindness/love. Even when Naomi told the two daughters-in-law to return home she prayed that the Lord will show them ḥesed regardless of their return to Moabite homes.

God uses Ruth, the outsider, the foreigner, to turn around the life of Naomi. The Moabites were rejected by the Jews – just as the Samaritans that Jesus used as models in his ministry! Naomi and her husband did not stop their sons from marrying Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Tolerance, inclusion – values that every parent, especially every mother must teach her children. 

Naomi, model mother and grandmother:

  • In her bitterness, as a widow and both sons dead, she did not stop blessing and recognizing the presence of God in her life and in the life of her foreign daughters-in-law.
  • An agent of God’s ḥesed, loving-kindness. Mothers are central to God’s covenant with humanity. Never underestimate your role in God’s plan.
  • Do not place burdens on your children and their spouses. Let them respond to your faithfulness with their own faithfulness.
  • Teach and demonstrate inclusive love, acceptance of others, of those who are different. 
  • Encouraging, positive. 
  • Teach your children well, as the CSN song put it back in 1970.
  • Teach your children well, and they will honor you. They will be faithful, as Ruth was to Naomi. Let every day be Mother’s Day!


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Conversation at the Core of Life

 

A Gospel reading of contrasts

Jesus in John’s Gospel is identified as Creator and life-giver – The Logos: All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. In him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:1-5).

Jesus’ thirst was the incentive for the conversation! Was he only thirsty for water? Wasn’t he also thirsty for human interaction, conversation? Isn’t that God’s basic longing? Isn’t that part of why Jesus is the Logos? Why the Bible is the word of God, but also the word of man?

  • Jesus speaks of spiritual thirst – the woman speaks of literal thirst. Another contrast? Or, rather just two sides of the same basic human craving. The well was a place of conversation in that part of the world – especially for women. Water is essential to life. So is conversation! And I don’t mean texting. 

The woman switches the subject to religion. Who is right? We Samaritans or you Jews? Where is the proper place to worship God? Here on our mountain or in Jerusalem? Jesus’ answer is shocking: No place – not yours, not ours. We must worship God in spirit and truth.

The woman is not convinced – this is too advanced for her, too radical, so she finds a way out: “When Messiah comes, he will reveal all things to us.” Which draws a momentous self-revelation from Jesus: I AM, εγώ ειμι. Jesus habitually resisted identifying himself as Messiah – but he does to this Samaritan woman, a woman not of his own religion.

A story in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper told of two native-American teenagers signed up for a tour of Colorado State University. One mother called the police because they looked like “they don’t belong.” She said they were quiet and “creepy” and “really stand out.” “They don’t belong” – that’s what Jews thought of Samaritans, and vice versa. That’s what many Christians today think of people who don’t look like us. 

What was that line by Rabbi Sacks last week? God asks us to see His image in one who is not in my image. If we worship God in spirit and truth, we don’t see differences. We see the image of God. We see the life-giver Christ, we see the Logos who gave life to all people.


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United by our Deficiencies

 

I love reading the Acknowledgments page in every new book that I buy. In his most recent book, Principalities in Particular-A Practical Theology of the Powers That Be, Bill Wylie-Kellermann included an acknowledgment of his church community in Detroit with the following words: “St Peter’s Episcopal Church, place, base, sanctuary, beloved community, hospitaliters, water distributers, and ministry makers, who have allowed me to bend their hearts and ears, preaching on my mentors and the powers.” Beautiful words, clearly coming from deep experience of shared ministry.

The paralytic in today’s Gospel reading had no one to help him, no one to share his pain. He and his fellow sufferers by the pool were in competition, survival of the fittest, win-lose. Nothing shared, nothing sacrificed. As I was reflecting on this Gospel reading, I received an email from Deane in Damariscotta. He can’t come down more than a few times a year, but he stays in touch through emails. He sent me a homily by the British Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Rabbi Sacks is very well known and he sits in the House of Lords in London – that’s the upper house in the British Parliament. In this homily Rabbi Sacks talks about Noah and the flood in the book of Genesis. He makes some interesting observations that are worth repeating.

Genesis 1 tells me that I am in the image of God. Genesis 9, after the flood, tells me that the other person is in the image of God.

This really is a life-changing idea. It means that the greatest religious challenge is: Can I see God’s image in one who is not in my image – whose colour, class, culture or creed is different from mine?

People fear people not like them. That has been a source of violence for as long as there has been human life on earth. The stranger, the foreigner, the outsider, is almost always seen as a threat. But what if the opposite is the case? What if the people not like us enlarge rather than endanger our world? 

Rabbi Sacks quotes a common Jewish blessing in which God “creates many souls and their deficiencies.” A strange blessing: Why should we praise God for creating deficiencies? Rabbi Sacks answers:

If we had no deficiencies, we would lack nothing, and we would never need anyone else. We would be solitary rather than social. The fact that we are all different, and all have deficiencies, means that we need one another. What you lack, I may have, and what I lack, you may have. It is by coming together that we can each give the other something he or she lacks. It is our deficiencies and differences that brings us together in mutual gain, in a win-win scenario. It is our diversity that makes us social animals.

Rabbi Sacks concludes:

Next time we meet someone radically unlike us, we should try seeing difference not as a threat but as an enlarging, possibility-creating gift. God asks us to see His image in one who is not in my image. 

That is a brilliant and truly moving statement. Should I repeat it? God asks us to see His image in one who is not in my image. 

When I preach on the miracles of Jesus I usually don’t focus on the miracles themselves, but rather on the messages around the miracles or hidden in the miracle stories. Clearly the message today is about helping each other in our deficiencies – what did not happen in that pool in Jerusalem. I’m no Bill Wylie-Kellermann, and we’re not St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit. From what he writes in his books, it is clearly a church with a heart for social ministry. Our heart might be a little different than theirs. And our deficiencies might be different, to return again to the beautiful thought of Rabbi Sacks. And that is why we need each other. Let no one be left behind. God asks us to see His image in one who is not in my image. 


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Lessons in Stewardship

 

The women came to anoint the body of Jesus. An anonymous woman had already anointed Jesus, but Jesus pronounced that as a symbolic preparation for his burial. Now his burial has taken place and the women go to the tomb to properly anoint the body of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea had been too much in a hurry to take down the body from the cross before the sabbath started and had no time to do the proper anointing. They don’t know how they will move the stone to enter the tomb, but they go, faithfully.

By the way, let’s deal right here with something you often hear. Atheists and conspiracy proponents tell us that the resurrection is a myth, that the Gospel writers – those four men up in our ceiling – invented all the stories of the resurrected Jesus. If Mark had invented the story we just read, he would not have had women go to the tomb. In the patriarchal society of Jesus’ time, women’s testimony was worthless and rejected at all levels of society “because of the levity and temerity of their gender,” according to Josephus. Yet Mark has women as the only witnesses to the empty tomb! He would never make that up if he wanted his account to be taken seriously.

They encounter a young man in white robe. The usual interpretation is that this was an angel, and that’s the most likely explanation. But there is another possibility. Mark 14:51-52 tells us that when Jesus was arrested: “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” Same Greek words – νεανίσκος περιβεβλημένος – here at the tomb. Could the young man at the tomb be the same young man? Dressed again in white, but now clothed with the radiance of Christ’s resurrection!

I like that possibility. A young man is the one chosen to announce the good news, but a young man who has known Jesus. He is not here, he is risen. But he will meet his disciples in Galilee. Where else, but in the place that was most familiar to them. He is Jesus of Nazareth, after all. This is another tell-tale sign that this was not an angel. An angel would most likely have used a loftier title to refer to Jesus. But Jesus of Nazareth almost takes us right back to the beginning of the Gospel. “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth,” Mark tells us in chapter 1. We’ve come full circle. The kingdom of God’s presence is not in some fantasy land, but right there where Jesus had his greatest joys and greatest troubles, where he was even rejected by his own people in Nazareth!

In Galilee, life will begin again for the disciples. Without Jesus, but armed with his spirit and his resurrection power, they will spread out in all directions to bring the news of what God has done and will do for as long as humans exist on earth.

As you’ve heard me say before, Mark’s Gospel ends in verse 8, with a hanging preposition: εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις· καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν, ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ. Such an ending was unacceptable, so some later editor or scribe added another 12 verses to where Mark had stopped writing. But most early manuscripts end at verse 8. Why such an abrupt ending? We are told not to end sentences with hanging prepositions – a silly, pedantic rule, by the way. But to end an entire book with a hanging preposition? That takes some guts. But Mark did it. Why? Because at the end, the young man is also speaking to us. Go home, go to the place most familiar to you – there you will meet Jesus, in the ordinariness of life. 

Every one of us is a continuation of the Gospel story. And every one of us has his or her own story, our own circumstances in which we live out the reality of resurrection. The Gospel is open-ended; it brings each one of us into an encounter with the risen Christ. Remember what he told to Thomas last week? You believe because you see me? Blessed rather are those who have not seen and yet believe. We have not seen, but we know, because we have been touched, and our lives have found meaning and purpose and spiritual strength. We are part of a family that transcends all human borders and boundaries. And we are here to take care of each other and of our home planet until the Lord comes to fill everything with light. Until then, let us be light.

Today is Earth Day. It is a day that reminds us to be stewards of God’s creation, just as the women were faithful to their stewardship in going to the tomb to care for the body of our Lord. There are people who are trying to create doubt about the damage we are doing to our environment and our precious planet and life on it. But logic, science (real science!) AND our Christian faith tell us to put our hearts to the task of caring for God’s creation. Let’s be good stewards of what God has placed in our care, just as the women were good stewards in their commitment to caring for Christ at his burial. And just as they were surprised by the resurrection, so also we might be surprised to find what our small actions can do for the planet!

We do not worship the earth. Have you noticed the psalm verses that we sing during this Paschal season at the First Antiphon of the Liturgy? They are from Psalm 66:

Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth! Sing of His name, give glory to His praise!

Say to God: How awesome are Your deeds!

Let all the earth worship You and praise You! Let it praise Your name, O Most High! 

Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth! Let all the earth worship You and praise You! The earth worships God, and we worship God together with all the earth and all life on it. We don’t worship the earth; we worship with the earth!


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The Schrödinger Equation of Faith

 

Thomas makes a very strange request: He won’t believe unless he puts his hands in the print of the nails that crucified Christ. The strangeness of this request came to me when I returned a spoiled package of strawberries to Whole Foods yesterday. And right in front of me at the customer service was a lady who was returning two packages of the same Driscoll’s Organic Strawberries. We compared the clear visual signs on our strawberries of mold and spoilage. The lady at the customer service needed no visual proof. She promptly issued refunds to me and the lady. But Thomas needed visual and tangible proof. 

 

It is a strange request because if you hear someone has risen from the dead, you’d be looking for a glorious apparition, some indication of divinity – you won’t be looking for a physical reminder, remnant, of the way the person died!

And yet there is something very profound in what Thomas wanted. He wasn’t looking for the transfigured Christ, who’d be shining with divine glory, who could walk through walls. No, he wanted to see the Christ who was familiar to him, the Christ who was his friend and teacher for a few years. For Thomas, the clearest proof of resurrection would be to see the familiar Christ with the marks of crucifixion still on his body – not erased by some divine transformation. And what if the marks of the nails were no longer on Christ’s body? What if they had been erased, healed, by divine power? Would Thomas still not believe when Christ appeared to him? Good question – and one that we can’t answer of course.

And of course this brings us smack into the heart of so much of the mystery of Christian faith. How can Jesus Christ be both God and man? How can God die? How can Christ be resurrected and still carry on his body the marks of the nails? Not only for Thomas’ sake, but perhaps for all eternity, even in the glory of the heavenly kingdom! 

Mysteries, paradoxes – scientists and atheists like to accuse Christians of resorting to mystery talk when we can’t explain or can’t prove something. I don’t have an argument with atheists; I respect their choice. But I do have an argument with scientists. Scientists should remember their own penchant for paradox and mystery.  The early decades of the 20th century saw the greatest revolutions in the history of science – the theories of quantum mechanics and relativity. The relativity theories of Einstein transformed our ideas of space and time and also, as a byproduct, gave us the equation that produced so much terror and beauty, E = mc2.

Quantum theory tells us that at the core of subatomic reality there is uncertainty. And quantum theory introduced the strange idea that the particles that make up everything can behave as particles and waves! Niels Bohr, the great Danish physicist, was asked how an electron could be both particle and wave. His answer: “We must be clear that, when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry.” Poetry is also the language the Bible uses to explain the inexplicable. And this is why scientists should be a little more careful about what they criticise and mock.

The physicist James Trefil tells us: Instead of thinking of electrons as microscopic spheres circling round the nucleus of an atom, we see them as probability waves sloshing around in their orbits like water in some kind of doughnut-shaped tidal pool governed by Schrödinger’s Equation.

Time-dependent Schrödinger equation (most general form of the equation)

{\displaystyle i\hbar {\frac {\partial }{\partial t}}\vert \Psi (\mathbf {r} ,t)\rangle ={\hat {H}}\vert \Psi (\mathbf {r} ,t)\rangle }

This famous equation is at the heart of quantum theory and describes physical reality in terms of wave functions and probability. Together with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the Schrödinger Equation reveals to us a world of paradox and uncertainty at the heart of all existence. Uncertainty, yet also a precision that is beyond anything humans an achieve: Stephen Hawking estimated that if the rate of the universe’s expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by one part in a hundred thousand million million – catch that? – the universe would have re-collapsed and we wouldn’t be here today.

Poetry, paradox, at the heart of physics. If electrons can be both particles and waves, why can’t Jesus be both God and man? Why shouldn’t the marks of the nails be forever part of the resurrected, glorified Christ? The appearance of the risen Christ to Thomas is in a certain sense the Schrödinger Equation of the Christian faith. 

The resurrection appearance to Thomas also tells us that God’s power is manifested not in spectacular demonstrations of divine power, but in weakness, in pain and in suffering – another paradox of faith, emphasised by Paul in his letters. In the resurrection appearance to Thomas, the reality of the resurrection is in the wounds that Christ bears. The divinity of Christ is demonstrated in the human wounds that he bears. He bears not only the wounds of the nails that crucified him, but he bears your wounds and my wounds, the wounds of all humanity. 


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“L’chaim!” from the Grave

 

Ανοίξω το στόμα μου και πληρωθήσεται πνεύματος, και λόγον ερεύξομαι…”I shall open my mouth and it will be filled with the spirit, and the word will flow forth”…says a well-known hymn of the Orthodox Church.

God asks every one of us to open our mouths to speak and let the Holy Spirit do the rest of the work. So I received an urgent call to speak this Holy Friday evening at the Epitaphios service (the Matins of Holy Saturday).

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” is how Proverbs 29:18 reads in the King James Version of the Bible. But modern translations are far less dramatic: “Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint” (in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible) – more accurate perhaps but not as urgent, not as immediately meaningful.

This past week we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the great Americans of the 20th century, a man who spoke of vision, who dreamed of liberation for his people. But on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, he has been domesticated. His radical message has been co-opted and softened by men who opposed him and the civil rights movement he led. He has been domesticated by statues and a national holiday. That is why Dorothy Day, another great American radical of the 20th century used to say, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”

Χριστός ανέστη και ζωή πολιτεύεται is one of the acclamations in the homily of St. John Chrysostom that we will read tomorrow night at midnight at the Matins of Pascha. Christ is Risen, and Life reigns, Life governs!

Η ζωή εν τάφω, κατετέθης Χριστέ, καί Αγγέλων στρατιαί εξεπλήττοντο, συγκατάβασιν δοξάζουσαι τήν σήν. This was the first of the many verses that make up the so-called “Lamentations” which we sang tonight. The translation we sang is very poor: “In a grave they laid You, O my Life and my Christ, and the armies of the angels were sore amazed, as they sang the praise of Your submissive love.” It sings well, it fits very well the Greek melody, but the translation is poor.

Η ζωή εν τάφω. Our Epitaphios on April 6th.

Η ζωή εν τάφω – “The life in the grave.” There is no “my” in the Greek. It is an absolute, apocalyptic truth that is proclaimed. There is Life in the grave! There is life in the midst of a death culture. And we are surrounded by a culture of death: Death by guns, by drugs, by abortions, by terrorism and wars, by poverty. Politicians and economic systems celebrate the death of the environment and our home planet. Death dominates our movies, music, TV shows, social media. Even our everyday talk.

We are to be the life in this death culture! That is the message tonight. That is the message now! A vision of life that transcends the petty concerns and hatreds that this culture of death instills in us every day, every minute! The vision here tonight is life in the grave. Do not be deceived. The powers of this worldly system have already been defeated by Christ on the Cross – not at the Second Coming, but at the Cross! Saint Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Colossians: And you, who were dead in trespasses… God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it

On the Cross, Christ defeated the powers and principalities. But we are still under their spell, because we refuse to surrender to the message of life that comes from the grave of Christ. From the grave! It is from the grave that Christ communicates life to us. By sharing in our own deaths he communicates life. By descending into the death ruled by the powers and principalities, he shows us how to transcend and how to overcome the spiral of death that seeks to envelop us; not just physical death, but mental and spiritual and relational death! Life is the message tonight. Life and life only – as only a Jew could proclaim. So Jesus the Jew greets you tonight with life. L’chaim! Why not turn to someone near you, different from anyone you came with, and greet him or her with l’chaim.