Easter Sunday 2014

Written by Keith Anderson on . Posted in easter, easter sunday, resurrection

Most people wouldn’t put a four foot wide picture of a cemetery in their living room. But, as of just a couple weeks ago, my family isn’t most people. The picture you see here now hangs in our living room over the couch. And I’ll tell you, it’s a real conversation starter. “Um, is that a cemetery?” “Yeah.” “Huh.”

This photograph has sentimental value to us. It was taken by my wife’s uncle, David Kaufman, a Canadian photographer and documentary film maker, and a wonderful artist. One of David’s passions is capturing forgotten or overlooked or disappearing places.

This picture is part of a series of photos David has taken of Jewish cemeteries in Poland. This one in particular is in Warsaw. You see, Polish Jews were decimated in the Holocaust during the Second World War and so there is no one left to care for these cemeteries. Many are rundown, forgotten, abandoned. In some cases tombstones have been pushed over. A far cry from our beautiful Rose Hill Cemetery, where I’m guessing many of you parked this morning.

But what is stunning about this photo is the way, despite having no one to care for it—out of the midst of death and abandonment, new life springs forth. Look at how the trees have grown up from among the graves and now create this beautiful canopy, with the path leading to the horizon.

Nobody Expects the Resurrection!

Written by Keith Anderson on . Posted in easter, RCL C, resurrection

Do you ever have those moments when you see someone you know, but in a different setting than you expect, and so you hardly recognize them?

I feel like that happens to me a lot. I’m so used to seeing people in a church context that when I get out to the school pick up line, restaurant, or just around town, it takes a minute, more than a minute to recognize them. And the reverse is true. People are used to seeing me at church in a collar. Don’t recognize me at first at the soccer field, out in Ambler. It can be awkward, embarrassing, funny.

Same Faces, Different Places

I was thinking about this recently and then just the other day I had two experiences of it.

On Thursday morning I went for a run at Mondauk Park, which has a one-mile trail loop that goes around it. So, I’m out running going in one direction. In the other direction is someone that sort of looks like Kim Forst, whose daughter, Cecelia, we baptized last month. And this person that looks like Kim is jogging with a stroller. But I’m not convinced its her. Never seen her at the Park before. Anyway, as we run around the trail, we must have passed each other 10 times, and I couldn’t be sure it was her, so I didn’t say anything. But later that day I emailed her and said, “Did I see you and Cecilia at Mondauk Park today. I thought it was you but wasn’t sure. I was the runner in the day-glo yellow shirt.” She emailed back, “Oh my goodness, I thought maybe that was you. But wasn’t sure!” We had a good laugh.

Later that night I went to the Ambler YMCA to go swimming. It’s around 9:30pm. I’m just focused on getting a lane and getting some laps in before closing when I hear someone say, “Pastor Keith Anderson!” I looked up and the lifeguard was Will……. I hadn’t recognized him. I hadn’t even really “seen” him. He was in a different setting, “just the lifeguard”, part of the scenery in the pool deck, and I didn’t even really see him until he said my name.

Seeing someone you know in a different time and place—in a different way—makes it hard to recognize them.

Living Between Empire and the Kingdom: A Sermon for Palm Sunday

Written by Keith Anderson on . Posted in holy week, lent, palm sunday, RCL C

The big news in the religious world in these past couple weeks has been the election of the new Pope, Pope Francis.

The election was quite a spectacle, with the cardinals meeting in the famed Sistine Chapel. The world watching for black or white smoke to know whether we have a new pope.

And when it happens, this person in an instant becomes one of the most powerful people in the world—with great resources, great influence, endowed with infallibility, and appointed for life. The pope is the last of Europe’s monarchs, wielding absolute power, over a small put powerful nation-state. And yet…this Francis (like his namesake, St. Francis) is a humble man with a heart for the poor.

The images and news coming out of Rome since he’s been elected are encouraging and hopeful.

He has only been Pope for 11 days and already he has inspired and given hope to many—even beyond the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

  • Just yesterday he was pictured sitting in the back row of a chapel, praying before celebrating his second mass in two days for Vatican gardeners and trash collectors, and the sisters who run the switchboard.
  • He wears black shoes instead of the traditional red shoes the pope wears, which were traditional symbols of wealth and power.
  • He pays his own bills, rides the bus with others instead of the private car.
  • After he was elected, he called his local newsstand in Buenos Aires to cancel his newspaper subscription.
  • He wears the simple white garb and a cross, nothing extra.
  • In an interview with journalists the day after his election, he said, “Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.”

And just recently there was a news report that “for the first time in living memory, the afternoon mass on Holy Thursday – the day before Good Friday – would be held in neither St Peter’s basilica nor the basilica of St John in Lateran. Instead, it would be celebrated…in the chapel of the Casal del Marmo penal institute for minors and young adults on the outskirts of Rome. During the ceremony the 76-year-old pontiff will wash the feet of 12 inmates, a ritual designed to commemorate Jesus’s gesture to his disciples after the Last Supper.” That is, instead of 12 priests the last four years.

It is a remarkable moment in the church. Francis is trading opulence for simplicity, pomp for poverty, hubris for humility.

It is going to be fascinating to see how things develop.

The example of Pope Francis came to mind for me when rereading the Palm Sunday readings for today. It too has the contrast between the trappings of power and Empire, and the humble Kingdom of God.

Unexpected Gifts – Christmas Eve 2012

Written by Keith Anderson on . Posted in Christmas, christmas eve

Texts: Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2:1-20

Christmas is a time for memories. Memories of special times, special people, and special gifts.

Tonight I want to tell you about one of my favorite memories…of the best Christmas gift I ever received. It’s the Atari 2600. Do you remember this? Did you ever have one? The Atari 2600 was one of the first ever video game consoles. It came out in the early 80’s and had “cutting edge” graphics, like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Pitfall. Pretty primitive stuff. The Atari was the great grand-daddy of today’s X-Box, PlayStation, Nintendo DS, and Wii—the things on many Christmas lists tonight.

Except that the Atari wasn’t on my Christmas list at all. In fact, I didn’t even know what it was. And that’s why its my favorite gift.

Here’s how it happened. I’m, like, seven years old. I wake up early on Christmas morning and fly down the two flights of stairs from my bedroom on the top floor of our townhouse to our family room in the basement—and the Christmas tree. Two flights of stairs and I barely touch a step.

When I get there, I’m surprised. I thought I was the only one up, but my father is already there, sitting by the tree. And he says to me, “Did you see it?” I look at him blankly. “Did you see your present? Upstairs…by the TV.” It finally registers what he’s saying.

So, I race back up the stairs to the living room…and sitting there next to the TV is what remains to this day my favorite Christmas present of all time: an Atari 2600.

At first I didn’t know what it was. I had never seen or heard of an “Atari” before. With its four toggle switches, faux wood veneer, joystick (with just one button!), and three video game cartridges the size of 8-track tapes, I thought it was a some kind of new music player.

My father, who had followed me up the stairs, explained, “You can play games with it…on the TV!” It was the perfect marriage my two favorite things in my seven year-old world: games and TV. We spent the rest of the day (and months) playing Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Pitfall, and more.

Over the last 30 years I have received gifts that were more expensive and more useful than that Atari 2600, but none as endearing to me, none with such a privileged place among my Christmas memories. The Atari itself was great, but it remains precious to me primarily for the way it came to me.

I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t even know what it was. It just showed up, not even under the tree or anywhere near the tree, but upstairs in the living room, so out of place for a Christmas present that I didn’t even notice on my way down.

It was an unexpected gift found in an unexpected place.

Sermon in Response to The Tragedy at Sandy Hook – Advent 3

Written by Keith Anderson on . Posted in advent, culture, death, despair, hope, RCL C, suffering

Texts: Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Luke 3:7-18

This sermon begins the only place it can begin. In tragedy. In sorrow. In darkness. I have watched with you over these last two days the horror and heartbreak that has taken place in Newtown, Connecticut. I won’t go into details for the sake the little ones here among us—and we already know them too well. It is so unbelievably sad. Utterly incomprehensible. It has left us shaken.

And so, it is good to be here this morning. To find comfort in community, shelter under the shadow of God’s wings, to find reassurance that good is stronger than evil.

And it is somehow fitting that we find ourselves in this season of Advent.

Advent is a season in which the light of Christ shines in a dark world. A season in which we wait and hold vigil, a season that readies us to believe again that love is stronger than hate, that a child born in the dark night of violence in a manger in Bethlehem really can change the world. That our suffering can be redeemed.

Today we find ourselves in the full reality of what this season means.

The familiar Christmas Scriptures tells us: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. On them light has shined.” And another, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

It is this promise to which we cling in dark days, and on days when the promise seems so elusive, so far away, so impossible…these are the days when we hold tightest, with anything and everything we have—to any flickers of light, any moment of grace, any inklings of hope.

That is why we have gathered here today: to say that the light still shines and hope remains.

The Stewardship Sermon – Pentecost 24

Written by Keith Anderson on . Posted in stewardship

Text: 1 Kings 17:8-16 and Mark 12:38-44

Widows are special people. Yesterday, we had a memorial service for my grandmother. Ruth was her name. She died peacefully a few weeks ago at the age of 88. Yesterday, at the graveside service in Maryland we had a chance to reflect on her life. She was widowed in 1988 when my grandfather died. She was only 64. Rather than fading away, her world shrinking, as sometimes happens…she retired, moved from Maryland to Florida with my dad, lived with him, helped raise me for a time, then lived with her niece in Jacksonville, her sister in Huntsville, AL and finally back with my dad in Tallahassee. It was a 24 remarkable years.

Ruth never had a lot, but she was loving, compassionate, and had a gift for hospitality. We reminisced yesterday about how she cared for so many people, taking them in, making them family, throughout her long and good life. She was generous with whatever she had at any given moment.

This week, I could not help but think of my grandmother when I read our Gospel reading for today. I imagined my grandmother as the one putting those two coins in the treasury.

Widows are, by necessity, practical people. They are, by virtue of their own experience of loss, sensitive to the needs and losses of others. And if God or her neighbor had need of something, well…I could see my grandmother doing the same.