Courageous Witness

Easter Sunday




Acts 10:34-43

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

John 20:1-18


The story of Jarena Lee, the first woman licensed to preach in the AME Church, is fascinating.  Hired out as a servant at the age of seven and separated from her mother for fourteen years, Lee struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide for much of her youth.  She is convinced that she will never find happiness here on earth.  Then, at age 21, she sets out for Philadelphia, where she finds an AME Church and a caring pastor named Richard Allen.  They quickly become the family she has never had.  Within three weeks, she experiences conversion in the midst of a worship service.  She leaps to her feet and declares that God has pardoned the sins of her soul and she tells of the wonders and the goodness of the God who has clothed her with salvation.   Read more

We Kiss the Cross

Is 50: 4-7
Ps 22: 8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
Phil 2:6-11
Mk 14:1 – 15:47
(image: Clarity – Gwen Meharg)

On Good Friday afternoon, from the back of the bare church, the cantor startles us: “Behold! Behold the wood of the cross!” His baritone rouses us from weariness (Is 50: 4). Slowly his chant, along with the steps of those processing with the supine cross, envelop us in a common pace: Behold! Silence. Step forward. Behold! Silence. Step forward. Eventually the procession stops at the altar. Two people lift the cross vertically and hold it in place as we began the veneration of the cross. Each person makes their way to the altar steps to have a turn placing lips upon peeling bark and returning to our seats. This is the week we kiss the cross.

We do what?! My students, my children, those seeking baptism, my colleagues—I often bear witness to their incredulity at this shocking thing we, the church, are inviting. Yes, we kiss the cross. No, we do not worship suffering. We revere Him who suffered, Who suffers among us now. As in today’s Psalm 22: 24, we “show reverence.” How different the showing is from the sentiment! This is a week of return to care embodied. Read more

Making a Spectacle of Ourselves

Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1-11

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;
Hosanna in the highest!”

In the early days of COVID quarantine during Lent 2020, we at Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis were struggling to imagine, or better said, RE-imagine, how we could celebrate Palm Sunday with so many restrictions. Palm Sunday was the first big holiday that came our way in March. During a midweek evening Zoom gathering, the focus was not on what we had lost, but on what could be done during a strict lockdown. We brainstormed and joked a while before someone suggested a car parade. It was an idea with a slow burn, but the idea slowly took hold in our minds.

What had been a heavy moment shifted rapidly; we laughed with delight as the ideas quickly spilled out of us. With only a few days of planning, on Palm Sunday morning, a large bunch of us in about forty cars met in the church parking lot. We placed a few of our brave young guys in the middle of key intersections to hold oncoming traffic, and then we slowly traveled the streets of our neighborhood honking our horns, shouting the good news. Some of our neighbors came out to cheer and to thank us, some with tears streaming. More than a few drivers flipped us off and yelled at us. Some neighbors stood on their porches in shock at the spectacle we were creating.  Read more

The Time Has Come

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 119:9-16

Hebrews 5:5-10

John 12:20-33

We live in a world that is consumed with time. In our personal lives, this takes the shape of making sure that we have arrived at a particular place at a particular point in time: When does my class begin? When does work shift start? When do I need to pick my kids up from school? When does this appointment, event, or Zoom meeting begin? This is seen in larger systems as well. Trains and buses in large cities arrive and leave at specific times, and we are reminded about this constantly at the platform or the bus stop. In financial transactions, profits are often earned through the precise timing of buying and selling commodities, with any minor variation effectively ruining such gains. In many parts of the world this past week, we were confronted by time by adding one hour to our clocks. We are also attentive to times that are not marked by a moment on the clock, such as charts indicating when we might be eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine. Through all of this, we discover that our lives are dominated by timetables, schedules, and appointments, some of which are posted on office doors or recorded in daily planners, and some of which are simply inscribed in our daily habits. And while some of these time-consciousness matters have been upended, in many cases, they have simply been replaced by others (trading in-person meetings for virtual appointments).

Because of this formation, we may find ourselves somewhat perplexed by Jesus’ declaration in the gospel lesson: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23, NRSV). We might link this statement to our own preoccupations with time, as though a preplanned alarm has just sounded, alerting Jesus to this temporal marker. Like the schedule of our days, Jesus has arrived at his next appointment, right?  Read more

Reminder and Remedy

Fourth Sunday in Lent


Numbers 21:4-9

John 3:14-21

Jesus makes a curious comparison to an even more curious story. Jesus says that “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

The reference is to the story in Numbers 21, where “the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’”

God’s response? “Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people.” Notice that it does not say that God was angry. It does not say that God punished the people. God simply “sent poisonous serpents among the people.”

The people are being led by God and Moses to a land of abundance and to a place where the presence of God would reside with them. And yet they have the brazenness to claim that God and Moses are leading them to die in the wilderness. 

And so if the people will not trust that God is leading them into this kind of world, then God will reveal to them the kind of world in which they already live — a world where poisonous vipers are ever-ready to strike at people’s heels.  Read more