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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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I have always loved words, and especially the way that words could open up stories for me. I could travel to far off places, or meet characters that took risks. I loved learning about new things in adventures or mysteries, and especially stories that gripped me with detail. Stories get into our lives—I know that I can have my mood impacted by a book I am reading—and they can shape how we think about the world.

Words are important. And so when we are encouraged to read on meditate on God’s Holy Word during this season of Lent, I find it very comforting. We are being encouraged to read and hear the stories of our faith again in a new way and to think about the plots and characters and words given to us in Scripture.

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I learned the 10 Commandments by heart when I was in Sunday School. I can’t remember what I earned when I could say them from memory for my teacher—a sticker perhaps, or maybe a treat—but I knew them cold. The shortened version, that is. The same one that we used this morning for the Decalogue. When we get to the Fourth Commandment, it’s simply “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.” Which, of course, is the first sentence of that commandment, and what it gets distilled down to. But then it gets 3 more verses to explain it and giving reasons as to why the sabbath should be remembered. You may have noticed that it’s one of the longer commandments. One of those with the most air time.

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Whenever I hear the gospel passage we read today, I just want to ask, Peter, what were you thinking? Just a day or two earlier you aced the exam and got a gold star on top of it because you realized who Jesus was, that he was indeed the Messiah, the Christ. And now you had to go and spoil all that because Jesus decided to make clear what being the Messiah really meant. Rather than keeping quiet and thinking about what Jesus had said about being rejected and undergoing suffering and ultimately being put to death and then rising again, you had to open your mouth and let loose. Did you think somehow this would change things? That Jesus would come to his senses after you set him straight? Did you expect him to say, “My bad. I take it all back. Peter here is right. Now who’s got the weapons so we can sack the Romans?” Or did you just not think at all and start rambling on with your heart running out ahead of your brain?

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For some of us, the season of Lent offers not consolation but guilt.  We come face to face with ourselves, and we imagine God looks us over and finds us lacking.  We’d rather not spend time coming to terms with who we really are and where we are on our spiritual journeys because, perhaps, we wish we were someplace different.

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