Beyond Wood and Stone

Rev. Elisabeth's Cedar Park Blog site

Month: April 2012

It’s that Shepherd again!


The fourth week of Easter is always “Shepherd Sunday”, in all three lectionary years!!

(Those compilers of the Lectionary must have really liked this metaphor of God and of Jesus!)

This Year B version of Shepherd Sunday uses as its texts,   John 10:11-8 and Psalm 23. You can find them(and the passage from Acts)  at this link:

It makes life as a preacher a bit challenging though…. how many times can you preach on ‘dumb, ornery sheep’ without it getting, well, repetitive??    This time last year, our interim minister, Rev. Ron, was off on sick leave, and I stepped in to preach…”Shepherd Sunday”, so I’ve already done the “sheep are stupid, and we’re the sheep” sermon.  I don’t think I should do it again so soon, do you?!  So here I sit, Friday morning, asking myself what I shall discover in the texts this year.  The danger, for someone with a very low threshhold for boredom (that’s me), is to seek novelty for novelty’s sake, rather than “host the text” long enough for deep wisdom to emerge in our mutual encounter.

I used that phrase last week “hosting the text.”  It’s a gift from a friend and colleague from BC, Rev. Ed Searcy, who attributes it to his mentor, Walter Brueggemann, one of my favourite authors on the interpretation of Scripture. “Hosting” these texts for a few weeks has helped me to appreciate the beauty of the cadences of the  23rd Psalm, and its power to speak into the Shadowed, Death Valleys a word of confidence in God.

The Gospel reading it seems to me is a double layer cake (rich dark chocolate, with subtle hints of coffee, and red wine).   Although John situates this “I am” statement of Jesus in themiddle of his teaching and healing ministry, and therefore before his death, it is really a word of ‘confidence in God’ (like the Psalm), spoken to the small, embattled, newborn, community of John in the years after  Jesus’ death, and also likely after all hell broke loose in Jerusalem, Judea and Palestine in the wake of the Roman destruction of the city, temple and any last pockets of Jewish (and new Christian) resistance to Roman rule.  Those were tough times, they were fraught with anxiety and danger. Followers of Jesus had no friends to protect them from Rome, or from the continuing Jewish religious movement.  Where would they go? Was Jesus still worth following in this climate of persecution?

In this context, the promise that the risen Christ is one who has already laid down his life to keep God’s Dream of abundant life available to all, takes on fresh potency.  God’s Dream is worth the agony for them, as it was for Jesus.  (This is NOT about Jesus paying some hostage price, but simply living passionately a dream, and a love for God and God’s people so intently that he would  spend his life for this passion and dream.)  Resurrection is only powerful if people somehow experience the power of life over death and fear for themselves, and these words are meant to help that first community, and ours,  ‘connect’ with that power of life over fear and even death,  the power of Love and Life that outlasts crucifixion and funerals, that we experience in the aftermath of the death of a loved one,  or even a revered one, such as a Martin Luther King.


Shepherd was a metaphor that worked for Judeo-Christians in the first and second century. Perhaps it’s not such a ‘realistic’ analogy in our day, so we have to work a little harder to get the fullness of its meaning and potential.  “I will never leave you, or lead you astray” is at the core of this message from the risen Christ to them, and to us.     If that’s what it means, I’m okay after all, that “it’s that Shepherd again!” He’s a welcome, presence after all.


See you Sunday, or on the comments page!



Earth Day April 22

Worship at Cedar Park tomorrow (April 22) will celebrate Earth Day, alongside organizations, groups and events in 175 countries around the world.   See you there!

The Moderator of the United Church of Canada, Mardi Tindal, will be hosting a live interactive webcast at 3pm Eastern on Sunday.  You can find the link to the webcast here:   The page also includes links to sites that suggest various ways to rise to the Earth Day challenge of living with respect in creation.

Resurrection happens!

On Easter Sunday morning, the congregation were agents of transformation and resurrection.  We had used a plain cross for our Palm-Passion Sunday  and Good Friday worship services the week before, but on Easter morning, each person in the congregation came forward with a daffodil to transform the symbol of death into a glorious testament to the Resurrection.

After the Service, the cross stood proud and joyful on our lawn for the rest of the day.


Thanks, Tom Kingsbury, for this photo.


Holy Week 2012

My calendar in the Minister’s Study at the church tells me that this is “Holy Week.” The ‘holiest’ week of the Christian Year, as it keeps time with the last week of the human, earthly life of the Rabbi from Nazareth, Jesus, son of Mary. With great fanfare, jubilation and participation we Cedar Parkers ushered in this Holy Week with our Palm procession around the church, and together, “all ages” participated in worship – with 23 individuals (not counting the 28 or so in the choir!) helping to lead in worship!  It was glorious mayhem, and truly a ‘work of the people’ fit to worship God!

But we didn’t stay jubilant for long; we “walked through Holy Week”, marking the passing time of each day, using the Gospel of Mark as our guide. We watched and listened as Jesus  taught about the Dream of God on Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesday. We helped to prepare his Passover meal in the upper room, setting out haroset, bitter herbs, lamb, an egg, parsley and salt water, unleavened bread, and wine.  We went with Jesus to the garden of Gethsemane to pray on Thursday evening, we watched Jesus get arrested for talking about God’s Dream, and be dragged off to the Temple prison, and then to be handed over to Pilate to be executed. The choir sent shivers down our spines with their striking, poignant – yet- hopeful anthem “Christus Paradox.” And we left the sanctuary in quietness, moved.

What moved us? Participation of our full community in an act of worship? Yes. Great singing, and helpful visual aids to the service? Yes. The story itself, told with lots of action, and taste, and touch, and smell? Yes. I also believe we were moved by how like real life this ancient, middle eastern, almost mythical story is when you get close to it.  Moved because in that cross we saw our own crosses. Moved because we too know the taste of tears, the sting of hurtful words, the sense of powerlessness in the face of injustice, the easiness with which some life is  extinguished.  And I know for me, I was moved, because in the company of the community I serve,  I know I felt God close by.  That’s the only way such a horrible week – the metronomic inevitability of a politically expedient  execution – could possibly become ‘holy’.   When God and humanity, for a few heartbeats, recognize one another in the face of suffering love.



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