Why does Jesus weep?

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Sermons and audio

IMG 2041There’s so much to unpack in this story. It happens just before the final chapters of Jesus’ journey to the cross, and it’s really his great signifying miracle, at least in the way that St. John tells the story of Salvation.

Anyone who hears it is left with all sorts of questions. Why did Jesus tarry? Did he choose to let Lazarus, the person he loved so deeply, die deliberately? What was that purpose? He healed others from afar, why didn’t he heal Lazarus that way too? Why let his family go through the pain and grief of losing their brother?

Someone said that Jesus, calls forth the dead from their tombs by the power of his voice. In this case, he very specifically calls Lazarus to come forth, and only Lazarus. Why didn’t he call forth everyone else buried in that graveyard? Or why not all the dead at once? God speaks in the vision given to Ezekiel of the valley filled with dry bones, and an entire multitude is given new life. Why only Lazarus here? Why not the people we’ve lost too?

Jesus is weeping as he comes to the tomb. Why is he weeping? He sees others weeping, and it disturbs him greatly – maybe even making him angry. Why does he react that way? Why does it make him weep?

The direct link to the sermon that considers these questions is found here.

Luddites: It’s not technology, it’s what it does to human dignity.

Current Affairs / Web/Tech

I’ve misunderstood the Luddites. The point they were making back then is still valid today.

From an essay by Cory Doctorow:

As Merchant explains, the Luddites were anything but technophobes: they were skilled high-tech workers whose seven-year apprenticeships were the equivalent to getting a Master’s in Engineering from MIT. Their objection to powered textile machines had nothing to do with fear of the machines: rather, it was motivated by a clear-eyed understanding of how factory owners wanted to use the machines.

The point of powered textile machines wasn’t to increase the productivity of skilled textile workers – rather, it was to smash the guilds that represented these skilled workers and ensured that they shared in the profits from their labor. The factory owners wanted machines so simple a child could use them – because they were picking over England’s orphanages and recruiting small children through trickery to a ten-year indenture in the factories.


Go read the whole essay. It’s worth it, I promise you.

(I posted this to my other blog, but it’s an important insight and I wanted to make sure more people saw it.)

St. Hildegard of Bingen, Patron of Creation Care?

Religion / Science / SOSc

There’s a lovely article about Hildegard of Bingen by Erin Risch Zountendam posted this morning on the blog “Earth and Altar.” Hildegard, one of the four female doctors of the Western Church, was a theologian, a prophet, a mystic and a naturalist. Her life and her theology is, to my mind, one of the clearest examples of my argument that most scientists are, in truth, mystics at heart – seeking to understand a deeper meaning and connection in everyday experiences.

From the article, “Who is Hildegard of Bingen?”:

Hildegard’s theological writings have proven no less compelling today than in her own. The themes that resonate with modern readers are different from those that interested her 12th-century audiences, but they are no less rich. Of particular interest to modern readers is Hildegard’s relationship to creation. Hildegard is celebrated for her image of viriditas, or “greenness,” which is associated with life, moral goodness, and vigor—that is, with anything fruitful and thriving that the Holy Spirit brings into existence and sustains. The cosmos itself is alive with the electrifying power of God, who says to Hildegard in one of her visions:

“I am the supreme fire and energy. I have kindled all the sparks of the living … I am the fiery life of divine substance, I blaze above the beauty of the fields, I shine in the waters, I burn in sun, moon, and stars. And I awaken all to life with every wind of the air, as with invisible life that sustains everything. For the air lives in greenness and fecundity. The waters flow as though they are alive.” (7)

The incarnation of Christ, too, is described as being brought about by the Father’s “sweet power of green vigour.” (8) This theme in Hildegard’s writing has proven especially attractive to contemporary ecotheologians, as well as to nature lovers of all kinds.

It’s worth your time at some point on this, the first day of Spring. Probably worth your subscribing to their other posts as well!


We were blind, but now we can see

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Sermons and audio

Jesus heals the blind manThis week’s Gospel reading tells the story of how Jesus used mud to give sight to a man who had been born without it. It is another account that will let those with understanding and real insight recognize who Jesus is and what he is doing in the World.

I am following St. Irenaeus, a 2nd century bishop, martyr and commentator’s interpretation of what is happening in this passage. Jesus shows himself to be completing the Creation that God began by finishing the work accomplished on the sixth day by healing on the seventh, the Sabbath, day. Given the narrative that precedes this particular account and what will follow, we are being told something very important.

But more than that, the argument that ensues as result of the healing is an argument over plain visible fact versus interpretation of scripture. It is the religious authorities who are unable to see the truth of the fact standing before them, because they are blinded by their preconception of who God is, and their concepts of the limits to God’s freedom.

It turns out that what was true back then is still true and happening today.

The direct link to the video is found here.

The Third Sunday in Lent – a reflection

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Reconciliation / Sermons and audio

I’m afraid I don’t have a video sermon to post, or even a written manuscript to share this week. I’m at the Spring House of Bishops meeting of the Episcopal Church. We meet at least once a year together, gathering from all over the world (and mostly from North America). The Spring meeting is generally a retreat with just bishops present. We spend our time in prayer, conversation and reflection.

The National Memorial for Peace and JusticeThis year we are in Alabama for our meeting and earlier this week we traveled to Montgomery to visit the Legacy Museum and learn about the history of the Slave Trade in the United States and how that evolved in the post-Civil War era into our institution of mass incarceration. We heard from Bryan Stevenson about the vision he had to create the Museum, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (which is sometimes described as a memorial to people in America who were killed by lynching.) We visited the Memorial and toured some of the historic sites related to the struggle for Civil Rights found in Montgomery. 

One of the points that Mr. Stevenson made again and again as he spoke about the work of the EJI was the importance that truth telling had in the work of reconciliation. He spoke of the need to tell the truth, the need to repent and forgive and of the need to maintain a sense of hope. It was the importance of the sense of hope, that every effort, no matter how small, directed toward reconciliation would matter in some way, that made the biggest impact on me. He told story after story, some from his life and some from the process of opening the Museum and showed us how the events recounted changed someone’s life. None of the stories were of grand events or sweeping change narratives. They were stories of how someone encouraged him on an evening when he was dispirited, of how one person’s act of forgiveness changed another’s life and of how one person’s refusal to stop hoping that things would be different led to making things different.

In the Gospel lesson appointed for today, of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar, Jesus tells her the truth. She doesn’t really understand what he is saying nor do the disciples that follow him. But she understands enough of what he is saying that she tells others that something important is present in him. And that simple act begins a process by which an entire community is changed.

Reading this lesson and reflecting on my experience in Montgomery, I am struck by the power of a simple act of truth telling. It’s hard, even frightening, to tell the truth sometimes. It can be even harder to hear the truth and to face up to what it implies. But a life that is living a lie isn’t really worth very much – and the lie’s impact can be much broader and impactful than we realize. Just like that of the truth. But the truth is so much more valuable and life giving.

I saw that first hand this week. And I do hope that if we as a community have the courage to tell the truth, we can begin to be freed from the hard parts of our history.

If you’re looking for a sermon to read or to use for Sunday, let me point you to this sermon by the Rev. Andrew Gerns. As is typical for him, it’s an excellent take on this week’s Gospel: “We all need watering“.

Why are plants green?

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I woke up this morning puzzling about this… The Sun is green and I’ve wondered for years about why plants reflect the most intense light from the Sun rather than absorbing it. Leaves are green because plants absorb more red and blue light than they do green light. 

Why are they being inefficient?

Turns out the answer – only recently determined – is pretty interesting.

at least sometimes — evolution cares less about making biological systems efficient than about keeping them stable.

If plants were purple or black (absorbing all the green light from the Sun) then any change in intensity (flickering light from shadows) would make the photosynthesis process too variable. It would work great sometimes and it was fail at others. By using the outside light of the spectrum, the process is able to create more stability and essentially correct for fluctuations.

More here, Quieting a noisy antenna reproduces photosynthetic light-harvesting spectra which summarized here: Why Are Plants Green? To Reduce the Noise in Photosynthesis.

This is worth thinking about for a bit… The most efficient answer is, in this important case, the least useful.

Perhaps a church that insists on comprehension rather than clarity has some important reason for existing.

A journey toward a life changing faith

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Sermons and audio

There’s so much to talk about in this week’s lesson from the third chapter of the Gospel of St. John. There’s one of the most well known verses in America today (John 3:16), there’s Jesus’ description of the new birth and his use of metaphor for the action of the third person of the Trinity and for his own crucifixion and there’s the first appearance of Nicodemus. Over the years I’ve preached on all the other ideas but not on Nicodemus. So… 

Raymond Brown points out in his magisterial commentary of John’s Gospel that Nicodemus is essentially the mirror image of Judas. Judas moves from standing in the light to being cast into the darkness in the events of the Gospel narrative. Nicodemus does the opposite, he arrives in the night, and moves slowly but surely into the light of a deeper relationship with Jesus and his Father.

There’s a model for us in how Nicodemus grows in his faith and his understanding. And in this season of Lent, as the light comes back into our days and Spring returns, that model of Nicodemus’ journey can inspire our own.

The direct link to the sermon video is here.

In times of trial, let us find you mighty to save

Sermons and audio

Snowdrop flowers
Each year of the lectionary, when we arrive at the First Sunday in Lent, we hear the story of how Jesus was driven in the wilderness immediately following his baptism and was test by the Satan. The First Sunday in Epiphany we hear of his baptism, and then weeks later we hear of the temptation, but in truth, there’s no gap between the two as the Gospels present the story. The wilderness immediately follows the moment of beginning.

The experience of the wilderness can be understood as a time of taking the measure of who Jesus is, and should be heard in the larger context of the ongoing story of the Chosen People of God. God’s people passed through the waters of the Red Sea and became a nation formed in the wilderness. Jesus goes into the wilderness but has a very different experience – he does not rebel against God and he refuses to put God to the test.

You and I are maybe, at this point in our faith journey, somewhere between the two models. We may not fail the tests as often as we did when we set out, but we are no where near the example that Jesus gives us as he faces trials. But we aren’t where we were, and that’s something important for us to remember. Each year, as we come to our Lenten fast, we can remember what we have accomplished, and use that memory to encourage ourselves as we face the next test of our lives. By remembering, we can see how the Holy Spirit has been part of our life and what the work of the Spirit has accomplished in us. That memory gives us hope to face what comes next – if we take the time to remember…

The direct link to the video is found here.

Listen to the people who have pushed to the edges. The rejected ones are often God’s messangers.

Sermons and audio

A cross of cedar shootsAgain and again in the Bible stories, God’s people misunderstand what God is doing, or what the prophets are saying to them. We end up doing the opposite of what God desires for us – and if we listen to the prophets – we often do that when we think we’re obeying God’s will. Remember how the prophets critiqued the religious leadership of their day for observing the outward forms of the faith and at the same time ignored the real commands of God to welcome the outsider, care for the alien and the marginalized – or to stand with the persecuted. Instead they focused on the length of the fringe on their garments, and making sure they were celebrating the right feast or fast on the right day.

Luckily we’d never do that today would we…?

The point of the transfiguration is that many times in our history we have marginalized the very voices that are speaking God’s words to us, and have lifted up people who misunderstand or who mistake God’s will and focus on the wrong things.

The direct link to the sermon video is found here.

Question: Where to post what


I’m trying to think of how to make best use of my two blogs. This one, Entangled States, has been around for nearly 20 years. My new one, wnknisely.micro.blog is just getting started.

Entangled States has been the place I’ve been posting sermons and long form pieces for years. Over that time it’s built up a group of followers and subscribers. According to WordPress there are about 2,000 people who get posts by email, about 3,500 who get posts by Twitter and another 3,000 or so who follow along on Facebook. That’s about 8,500 people (likely less as I expect there’s some overlap) who get pinged every time I post something. I’m very grateful for those of you who have found what I post interesting enough to subscribe. And I’m intentionally restrained in how often I post as I don’t want to unnecessarily disturb you. I’ve heard from people over the past 3 years that they are particularly interested in the sermon posts and some are using them in their worship, or that those posts, for some shut-ins, have become a sort of church for them.

I’ve been thinking about posting more frequently to the new site. There are things that I might have posted to Entangled States, particularly science news items and random thoughts, but I’m worried about overloading people who aren’t looking for that sort of content. It’s easier to post to the new site, and it’s linked to Twitter and Mastodon so it has some of the same reach. (There’s a way for me to set up email subscriptions there too, but I’m not sure there would be much interest.) I can’t see how many people follow the new micro blog site (which is probably good for my soul) so I have no idea if people even know it exists though, and if there’s something particularly interesting, I’m thinking I may end up cross posting. (Apologies in advance.) You can follow the micro blog directly on Activity Pub (Mastodon is an example of a platform that uses that service) at @wnknisely@micro.blog – and that might make it easier all around for folks.

Let me know if you have a preference about such things? Either reply by email if you get posts through email, or leave a comment here on the blog. (Or talk to me in person if we see each other sometime.)

I’m planning on taking my very first ever sabbatical at the end of this year, and I have some book ideas that I’d like to work on during it. And I’ve noticed that when I have time to write in long form, I tend to have more to say online as well.

(Fair warning! Heh.)