The Society of Campus Ministers


It was hard, I tell you, not to spend this whole sermon talking about how lovely sheep are.  As a knitter, this was a real danger for me, and I feel you should count yourselves lucky that I didn’t just devote 10 minutes of homiletical time to describing various sheep breeds and the characteristics of […]

And then THAT happened…

Part of coming to a new church is learning all the new stories of “How THAT happened.”  I unabashedly love this part of the job.  Church stories are generally bananas, and wholly unbelievable to anyone who has not spent much time around churches. Take, for example, the local legend of the Little Old Lady who […]

Pentecost Quiz

UW’s International Student Services asked St. Francis House to make a short quiz to help people learn about Pentecost, as part of a larger, educational diversity project on campus. Thanks to those on FB who lent inspiration to the quiz, which is made t…

See These Bones

Last Sunday was pretty much my first Real Day at work.  My first two Sundays with St. John’s were spent in the whirl of Palm Sunday and Easter, so Easter 2 was my first Normal, Regular opportunity to see how everything functioned when we weren’t concerned with either Welcoming Our New Rector or Celebrating Our […]

Easter Morning: Faith in the Garden

I got to have Easter dinner with a seminary classmate that I haven’t seen since graduation (hooray!  Hi, Ann!) Not only did Ann recommend an AMAZING documentary about people who raise and show chickens (Chicken People on Amazon Prime–go watch it. I’ll wait.) our host also borrowed for our viewing, an 18th century engraving of […]

Easter Vigil: Time Traveling and Tessering

People become priests for different reasons.  Some people crave the power (that is a big let down, let me tell you), some people want to take care of other people.  Me, I wanted to rebuke Jerry Falwell, and also to sing the Exsultet so I could travel through time. It’s always nice to achieve your […]

Maundy Thursday–the grace of receiving

Maundy Thursday is my favorite service, and has been since I was a wee small child.  The acute juxtaposition of the glory and assurance of the Eucharist, alongside the desolation of the stripping of the altar, and the betrayal in the dark. The modern, American, suburban church is bad at negative feelings.  We don’t do […]

There was no donkey

Confession time: In the run-up to my first Sunday at St. John’s, I was feeling pretty good.  I had finished my sermon, I had begun to unpack my mountain of boxes, I had figured out where Wegman’s was–life looked great. When I arrived at church on Sunday morning, I could not get my sermon to […]

Easter Week catch-up

Whew. At some point, when talking to St. John’s, I said that I would begin my official ministry on Palm Sunday.  In the middle of moving cross-country at the end of Lent, I realized that this may not have been the best idea that I ever had. But aside from the whirlwind nature of blowing […]

One and Only Noble Tree (a Good Friday meditation)

Once upon a time there was a forest full of trees, but it wasn’t so much the trees but the one tree that caused the trouble. You know the story. The woman; the fruit; the man. Serpentine transgressions. Was it gluttony, lust, or pride, I wonder. Selective hearing, maybe. In any case, they mistrusted both his words to them and his love for them. It is hard to know which breach was greater: the eating or that, afterwards, they hid themselves from God. Exile, swords of fire.
A friend of mine said, “avocado.” Avocado? Yes, he said, the fruit it must have been or would have been for him; the food that marked the sin. He was probably projecting, but I wonder sometimes what fruit would be ripe enough, enticing enough that I would forget God’s voice to me; that I would dismiss God’s voice to me.
Before too long, the man and woman, formerly of the garden, became fruitful themselves, found with child, but that had long stopped being an obvious good thing. Sibling rivalry. You know how that goes. Fruitfulness turned sour. Competing sacrifices. Because if loving God isn’t a game you can win over and against your sister, your brother, your neighbor why play? That counts as sarcasm; there are good reasons. But it’s fruit again, the parent’s sin, the cry of Abel’s blood. And Abel’s blood’s still crying. Good God, is Abel’s blood still crying.
And every night on channels one through nine, you can see him, you can hear him; they call him different names, but you can still hear Abel’s blood.
And it’s Abram and Sarai, Moses, Elijah, David, Elisha, Jonah, God bless him, and Nahum and all of God’s prophets, God’s judges and kings, the high priests of the people, trying to give God back Abel’s blood.
Sometimes I pray when I hear it, and sometimes I laugh when I hear it; other times, when I hear it, I sink into my sofa and drip through to the ground, the weight of the sadness slaying my tears and as heavy — oh, as heavy — as the flickering light is blue against the wall.
They sprinkled blood, not Abel’s, on their beaten, wooden, doorposts that first, black night called Passover; that first last night in Egypt, just as God commanded. Prefigured Lamb of God. The Egyptians were howling; God, God was faithful, and the Hebrews walked out on dry land. Pillars of cloud. Columns of fire. And the Hebrews walked out on dry land.
But college freshman everywhere will tell you, when they’re talking to you at all, that unexpected freedoms are the hardest kind to handle. And the people who walked free from their mud bricks in Egypt had a hard time believing that the One who had freed them from their mud bricks in Egypt, would keep them, could keep them, from their mud bricks in Egypt. That they would be cared for. That God would bring them home.
And so, in an ironic twist, somewhere along the wandering road, somewhere among the endless, numbered, days that followed, the people who wandered and followed griped one time too many, and God brought back the snake. You know, the one that started the whole mess in the first place. He brought him back. With friends. Snakes to bite their heels. Some of the people were dying.
Moses cried for all of us, “God, make it stop!” and God had Moses fashion a separate snake, this one made of bronze, and put it on a pole; the people were told to look on the pole in order to be saved. And the ones who did were saved. And some millennia later, the disciple Jesus loved, the one called John, he saw that snake, and called it Christ.
Which brings us to a second tree that caused the trouble. One tree from the forest. You know the story. A man. With some women. And some men. They found him in a garden, with their torches, flaming swords. Sound familiar? Exiled Son of God. Or at least that was the goal.
The disciples had swords, too, but there would be no battle here. No repeated spill of Abel’s blood, at least not come from him. The cup first drunk at Passover, now come before the Lamb, and he names his willingness to drink it. And Peter, who would have fought for him, would not, will not, die with him, and the cock crow names the hour.
They gave the man a trial, the people did. Or close enough to one for their intentions on that day. And they dressed him like a king, and pranced before the powers, and the powers lost their power to the madness of the night. The night as dark as blood. The day that looked like night. And they crucified our Lord.
Once upon a time, this mother, she could smile. But darkness knows no friend.
Two trees by which to see the grief, to hear the cries and taste the blood of wars that will not cease. The rivers flowing blood. Our attempts to hide from God. Infernal blue light flickering. But eyes to see and ears to hear pick out a pin-prick hope against the darkness, even on this day, even here amidst the blood, if faint, if far off, glinting. And this is the pin-prick hope — God’s own happy sadness — the moment despair loses hope, becomes futile — this is God’s secret: the two trees are one tree and his wounds heal the first.
The flaming sword extinguished now, Life’s tree holds high its fruit; and Christ himself, pressed, crushed, for us, becomes the very wine of heaven.
Heaven prepares the table for the feast. Even now, heaven prepares the song.