I’ve always been enchanted with Isaiah’s vision that we heard described in our reading today. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord,” he writes. In that year when things changed a great deal, Isaiah had a vision of the living God sitting on a heavenly throne high above with the bottom of God’s robe spilling down and filling the entirety of the temple like Princess Di’s long train on her bridal gown back in the day. In that year when a major shift happened in the political realm, God showed up in a new way.

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Oh friends, the Spirit moves in mysterious ways.

On this day we remember the way the Spirit moved over the dry bones of the Israelites, how the Spirit was promised by Jesus to be our Advocate and Comforter, and the way she came down at Pentecost in wind and flames. (And yes, I’m intentionally using the female pronoun for the Spirit because she’s also known as Lady Wisdom throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, and it’s good and right to honor that.) We first hear of the Sprit in the way she brooded over the waters of Creation in Genesis, and she continues to hover and move even now making it from Boston to Seattle just yesterday for those two episcopal elections. And she is here with us today which is why we are wearing red, and holding on to Jesus’ promise that the Advocate will guide us into all truth and be present with us throughout all of our days.

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I am always amazed at how the readings for any given Sunday can speak to a specific event or circumstance taking place in our lives or in our world. Reading from Acts about the selection process for someone to take Judas’ place among the Twelve hits a little close to home. Peter articulates their requirement for the position: the person needed to be a follower of Jesus from the time of his baptism until his ascension. Of the 120 in the upper room with them, only two were qualified. And then they bring forward Matthias and Joseph-Barsabbas-Justus (perhaps known as JBJ?), and Peter has them draw straws or roll dice or play a round of paper-rock-or scissors. And voilà, they have a new apostle. It took all of a day.

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What does it mean to love someone?

When the question was posed to a group of 4-8 year-olds, this is what they said. “Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” (Danny, age 7). “Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” (Terri, age 4).  Tommy, age 6, said, “Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” And finally, this gem from 4 year old Billy: “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

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I’ve always loved the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, that 6-year-old boy with his stuffed tiger that would come to life when no one else was around. Calvin would often play with cardboard boxes he found around his house, and he would turn them into different contraptions. My favorite was when the box was turned upside down, and it became the transmogrifier. Calvin or Hobbes would slide underneath the box and be turned into something else; they would transmogrify. In one strip, Calvin climbs under the machine and tells Hobbes to set it to “Tiger.” (Someone outside the box would need to set the arrow to the thing you wanted to transmogrify into and push an imaginary button, so in this case, Hobbes did it.)

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It’s meager, isn’t it? The end of Mark’s gospel that we just heard, it’s pretty slim in terms of the majestic splendor of Jesus’ resurrection. I’m sure you noticed that Jesus himself doesn’t even make an appearance. This isn’t something done in the other gospels, by the way. In Matthew, Luke, and John, Jesus does in fact appear to the women there in the garden. But while we may want something tangible, Mark leaves it as it is.

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One of the most important books I read for my Doctor of Ministry work had nothing to do with zimzum or the need to make space in our busy lives through spiritual practices like sabbath. The book was I See Satan Fall Like Lightening by French philosopher René Girard—a longtime professor at Stanford University and a Christian. When we come to Good Friday, I cannot help but think of Girard and his ideas in relation to the Passion of Jesus. It’ll be a bit of a journey to get there, but I trust you will see the importance when we arrive at the cross.

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It’s always hard to figure out the tone of the Maundy Thursday liturgy. We come in knowing that we’ll be remembering Jesus’ last supper with his friends, reenacting Jesus washing their feet, and watching as Judas separates himself from the others. We also know that Jesus will give us the framework for the Eucharist—that Great Thanksgiving—when he takes bread and wine and blesses them and shares them with his disciples and then instructs them to continue doing this in his memory. Finally, we know that at the conclusion of the service, the altar will be stripped bare to prepare us for all that will come tomorrow. And yet the liturgical color is a resplendent white, usually reserved for the celebratory seasons of Christmas and Easter, instead of red or even black.

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Today, I’m choosing the road less traveled.

With multiple lessons given to us by the lectionary on Palm Sunday, the question among clergy at any gatherings before Holy Week is this: “Will you preach on the Triumphal Entry text or the Passion?” Not once do any of us assume that a preacher would consider any of the other three texts. Yet after 13 previous Palm Sundays under my belt here at St. Mark’s, I’m choosing to go rogue this morning.

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John tells us that some Greeks—some foreign-born practicers of Judaism—have made their way to Jerusalem to take part in the upcoming feast of the Passover.  While there, they seem to have heard about Jesus and his teachings and the miracles he has done.  Maybe they saw him when he came into the city riding the donkey amid the shouts of “Hosanna!”  Perhaps they overheard someone at the local coffee shop talking about Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead, which happened just a couple of days before.  Regardless of how they found out about him, these people know they want to meet Jesus in person.  So they seek out Philip, the most Greek-sounding name of the lot, and make their request.  “Sir,” they say, “we wish to see Jesus.”

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