Christ is Risen!

When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality,
then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
  “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”
-1 Corinthians 15:55-57

“Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!”
-St. John Chrysostom, “Easter Homily”, Circa 400 AD.

Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen indeed!
These words are said at the beginning of every Easter service at Edwards Church. They are known as the Paschal Greeting and are being said all around the world today. In Greece, they say “Christos Anesti, Alithos Anesti”. In Spain and Latin America, ¡Cristo resucitó! ¡En verdad resucitó!,  and in Chinese  耶穌復活了,真的他復活了 (Yēsū fùhuó-le, Zhēnde tā fùhuó-le!)

However we say it, this day connects us to the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ that calls out to us through the ages. It connects us to a group of scared women who were the first witnesses to the resurrection and left the tomb “sore afraid”, and to whom the men in their lives did not listen.

It connects us to those who are hurting and whose hope for healing seems distant; it connects us to those who are struggling and for whom faith is their last garment of protection against the cold, against cynicism, against despair.

That Christ is Risen means our stories are not done, that God still has more in store for us, even when all seems lost. On this April Fool’s Day, if there is a great joke in Christianity, it is that the forces of evil, disconnection, and isolation think that they have won.

But they haven’t, for Christ is Risen,
Christ is Risen, indeed.

Prayer: Oh Risen Christ, Oh Heavenly God! There are days to mourn, there are days to weep, but today is a day when we are reconciled with you and we can celebrate. Even as we encounter the suffering in this world, we do so with the faith that you are with us. Your holy name be praised on this day and evermore, for Christ is Risen!

On Guilt and Shame

Preached on Good Friday, March 30, 2018, at First Baptist church of Framingham, for the ecumenical Good Friday Service. Note I first learned of this distinction between guilt and shame through the work of Brené Brown.

Feel free to listen along! Note that I do improvise slightly from the manuscript as seen below, but not much.

Scripture: Matthew 26:69-75

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”[h] Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Tell me if you ever heard these words growing up from a mama, Grandmama, or an auntie after you did something: “You should feel ashamed of yourself. I brought you up better than that.”

Now, our Grandmamas and aunties and mamas are so often full of wonderful wisdom, so it pains me to have to disagree with them, but I will right here.  I wish that instead of emphasizing the shame that should feel when we do something bad, that instead we were taught to feel more guilt.

This may seem hairsplitting, but guilt and shame are two very different things. We feel shame when we feel bad about who we are as a person, and we feel guilt when we feel bad about something we’ve done. Think about that difference: feeling bad about who we are as a person, verses feeling bad about the things we have done.

Shame happens when we are concerned mostly about ourselves. Guilt happens because we are concerned about others. Shame says that I, that we, can never be good, that we will amount to nothing. Guilt tells us to pick ourselves up, shake the dust off our shoulders, make right what we did wrong, and do better in the future.

In this scripture passage, Peter denies Christ three times in words that I’m pretty sure all of us have said at one point or another “Oh, I don’t know that guy.”  “Oh, I’ve got nothing to do with those folks.” And with the crowing of the rooster, Peter remembers what Jesus said that he would do exactly that.  In that moment, Peter feels guilt.

He feels guilt because in denying his friend, his teacher, the messiah, he has hurt him. No, worse, he has betrayed him. Maybe not as bad as Judas did, but when no one is speaking up for you, staying silent is a betrayal.

And yes, Peter might have felt some shame, a sadness that he had become the sort of person who would do such a thing. But we also know that shame would not be the overriding factor in Peter’s life. For Peter did not fall into the pit of shame that said he would never do any good in this life. No, Peter, who three times denied Christ when Jesus needed him most, wept bitterly over how he had hurt Jesus, and then picked himself up, and went on to do marvelous things in Jesus’ name.  He went on to baptize, to do miracles, to found and lead the church in the city of Rome.

The hurt he had done others did not prevent him from making amends, from doing good to others. Instead, it inspired him to do good and to reconcile with his God and with his friends. Through the grace of God, the shame that might have plagued him was banished, and his guilt transformed into a sincere motivation to do good.

So I ask us- when are our Peter moments?  And what will we do with them?  Will we wallow in shame, convinced of our innate badness? Or will we allow God to work in our lives, to banish shame and  through God’s Grace transform our guilt into faith and hope, so that we can do the work of love in the world?


The Body of Christ, Y’all

Now y’all are the body of Christ and individually members of it. –1 Corinthians 12:27

In the Sunday Morning Bible Study, lately we’ve been going through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  The church in Corinth is a troubled one; we believe this is so because the advice that Paul gives throughout the letter points to a church that is divided by wealth, spiritual gifts, and factionalism based on favorite leaders.

I believe that many of the church in Corinth’s problems have, at their root, the problem of hyperindividualism.  Members of the church saw themselves as followers of Christ as solo practitioners, disconnected from the spiritual needs and gifts of their fellow church members.  Over the course of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Paul time and again urges mutual deference, care for each other, an interconnectedness that is put to the forefront in this famous metaphor about what and who a church is.

I put in “y’all” in the Bible translation to draw attention to the fact that each person of the church is not the body of Christ- yes, we are individually members of it, but the church is one of those things that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Through our relationships of mutual accountability, caring, and respect, we live out being the body of Christ present on Earth. Let’s make space for each other, so we can become whole and holy as the church.


Prayer: Dear God, ground of our being, remind us that each of us is a part of you, and that we need each other as we grow closer in Holy Communion to you.  Let us remember that this faith is team sport, and that we all need to help each other get across the finish line. We pray this through your son, whose body we are one in.  Amen.

–Rev. Shane Montoya

The Wisdom of Humanity

“For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.“   —1 Corinthians 1:25

“Faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ sets an inquiry in motion, fights the inclination to accept things as they are, and continually calls in question unexamined assumptions about God, our world, and ourselves.”

~Daniel Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding

I’m a geek, a nerd, an academic, an intellectual. Those who know me know that I’m pretty unapologetic about these aspects of my identity. I love church history and reading academic theology. I sit at the proverbial feet of a long line of thoughtful and faithful theologians, pastors, and committed Christians, trying to make sense of the Gospel and it’s relationship to the world around me.


So it hurts when I see Christianity maligned as an anti- intellectual faith. I think Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Catholic Priest and formulator of the Big Bang Theory would be surprised to learn of this.


That said, the heart of faithfulness is not in the head, in proper formulations of the Trinity and in nigh incomprehensible academic speech, but in the closeness of the human heart to a God who wants to know us.


One of my professors once said that we should strive for a “complex religion, but a simple faith.” I strive for a simple faith, focused on Jesus Christ’s birth, ministry, life, death, and resurrection. I also hope that this faith doesn’t end discussion, but rather serves as the beginning of all my questions.



Prayer: God of Wisdom beyond our understanding, may we have a simple faith in you, and a religion that recognizes the complexity of the world around us. We pray this through the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ. Amen. 


        –Rev. Shane Montoya

Kyrie Eleison: Lenten Devotional for Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Psalm 107: 1 O give thanks to the LORD, for God is good; for God’s steadfast love endures forever.

At our Ash Wednesday service, we drew upon the wisdom of our Eastern Orthodox cousins in faith, who showed us a new understanding of the word “mercy.” In the words of Benjamin Williams in his book, Orthodox Worship:

“The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil; a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for ‘Lord, have mercy,’ are ‘Kyrie, eleison’ that is to say, ‘Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.’ Thus mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal a very Western interpretation but to the infinite loving-kindness of God, and his compassion for his suffering children!”

How beautiful! What if we had a God who was less a judge, and more a divine doctor, tending to our wounds?

What space could we make for another source of healing in our lives? How could we be a source of healing to others?

Prayer: Oh, Divine Physician, may your divine mercy and lovingkindness heal our wounds. May we learn from your example and heal others and this world with the same mercy you show us. In the name of the most Holy Trinity, who has given us life, who has overcome death through the resurrection, and who has continued to sustain, provoke, and heal us, Amen.

–Rev. Shane Montoya

The Many Paths

Psalm 25:4-5 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

I get really frustrated when I’m lost.  When I’ve missed a turn on my GPS, or I can’t find a restaurant I’m supposed to be meeting a friend at, I get angry.

It would have been much worse for the ancients who wrote these psalms, who had no GPS, no iPhone, no maps and no compass to navigate with.  There was a reason people stuck to known paths and trails.  Robert Frost might have had the privilege of taking the path less traveled, but in ancient times, it could have meant death.

I think this is why there’s so much imagery in the Bible about God’s ways, paths and roads.  In a time and place where life was often chaotic and short, a well-made road was predictable, and could last a long time with the right maintenance.

For progressive Christians like us, sometimes sticking to the path can feel conformist, old fashioned, boring, traditional. Sometimes it is. Sometimes the road deserves to be torn up and made anew, because it was filled with bigotry or hatred.

But God reminds us in this Psalm that the road to God’s truth is not contained in one path.  It reminds us that God maintains many faithful roads, and has created many spaces where God’s truth is taught.

For a good and faithful road that leads us to where we need to be, we give thanks and praise.

Prayer:  Creator of Paths, we know your truth in Jesus Christ, and that there are many paths through him that lead to you. Sustain us on our ways, for we know that the roads can be rocky and full of traps and travails. Redeemer of the nations, be with all the travelers of the world.  Amen

Making Space for a Clean Heart

Note: This was first published on Ash Wednesday as a Devotional for Edwards Church’s Lenten Devotional series “Making Space”


Ash Wednesday- The First Day of Lent

Psalm 51:10

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Prayer: Oh God, I am before you in the midst of my faults, my false bravado and false humility. See me for who I am, and strip away from me all that separates me from you. Give me the strength to create space for you and your love in my life, and help me to be the child of God you want me to be. Amen.

Ash Wednesday is the day in the Christian liturgical calendar (our calendar of holidays and seasons, separate from the secular calendar) that begins the penitential season of Lent, which ends with Easter Sunday, this year on April 1st. In church services all around the world, Christians are being marked with Ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead, as a visible reminder of God’s warning to humanity in the book of Genesis that:

“By the sweat of your face

you shall eat bread

until you return to the ground,

for out of it you were taken;

you are dust,

and to dust you shall return.”


Our Lenten theme this year is “Creating Space”, and Ash Wednesday is all about Creating Space.

Ash Wednesday functions as our once a year reminder of the great truth of humanity; today we are alive, but some day we will die. It’s not something we typically like to talk about in polite (or impolite) society. Reminders of this sort don’t help sell cars, or generate Youtube views. They don’t help win elections for politicians or pack people into megachurches.


No, instead, reminders of our mortality strip away all that we surround ourselves with to make ourselves feel safe, to feel comfortable. It strips away our technology, our false bravado and our false humility. We are vulnerable, totally and utterly exposed. All of our faults, our fears, our secret shames and our guilt are as an open book to our God.


This, of course, is utterly terrifying.


But one of the God’s miracles is that God see all of this, all of us, and not just in spite of our vulnerability, but because of our vulnerability and mortality, manages to love us dearly. Through Jesus Christ, we are God’s beloved Children, and God has felt firsthand our grief, pain, and loss. God has even felt the fear of death while he was on the cross, crying out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)The great irony, of course, is that God had not forsaken Jesus in that moment, just as Jesus Christ does not forsake us in our vulnerability and in our mortality.


As we make our spaces for God on Ash Wednesday, and throughout the year, we should keep in mind that this is not something we do alone. God has already made a space for us, a bountiful table spread before us, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23).


Thanks be to God!



Christ on The Cross


Matthew 27: 45-46

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 “Where was God?”

Sometimes it’s easy to see God.

In our children, learning and playing in Sunday School.  In a nature walk in the trails behind the church.  Heck, sometimes even in Church.

Other times, it’s much more difficult.

Last week, there was news of a chemical weapons attack in Syria.  Over 50 people were killed, including children.

“Where was God?”

I don’t know the answer to that. Not definitively.

There are answers, of course.  Too often, our answers are to transform God into a cosmic tyrant, causing untold suffering in the cause of a nebulous plan, or into a Deistic shell of a God, too weak or unwilling to prevent such suffering.

I think there is a third way.

To get there, we have to remember that Jesus suffered on the cross.

Theologically, Christ on the cross is the work of God that shattered the ultimate power of sin and death.  Grace and Eternal life would thereafter be available to all.  It is thus the ultimate cosmic victory, of love over death.

But the Cross is also the most personal and intimate of moments in the life of Christ.

It tells us not that suffering will be avoided, but rather that God will be with us.

Christ on the Cross is also with every addict who feels withdrawal. It is with everyone who has felt the sting of the death of a parent, a child, a sibling, a friend, a lover, a teacher, a confidant.

It is with everyone who struggles to get out of bed in the morning, because they just don’t have it in them anymore.

The Cross is in every Immigration and Customs Holding Center. It is in Syria with the victims of Chemical weapons, dying of suffocation as Christ did.

The work of the Cross was complete on that hill outside of Jerusalem.  But it is also ever ongoing, as Christ suffers alongside all those who suffer.

For those in the midst of suffering, bearing the brunt of physical pain, of persecution, of grief or death, this might be of small comfort.

But where there is God, there is hope.

For we are not just a faith of Good Friday, but of Easter Sunday as well.


A Meditation on the Acclamations

One of the traditional acclamations of the Christian faith is that “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

This paradoxical, messy statement is at odds with the mostly human Jesus that many liberals and progressive Christians know. The Jesus who would vote reliably democratic, welcomes all to his table, and then goes back to heaven, leaving us to govern ourselves and make our own destiny.  A Jesus who would never confront us, only confirm  and love us, and who never suffered violence or hatred.

That is not the Jesus of the acclamation of faith.  That Jesus suffered as a scapegoat to political and institutional violence.  He broke through the emotional barriers of the people surrounding him, confronting and often confusing them.  He was scrappy, homeless, and was a loud personality. He cajoled, joked, cried.  His final words to his followers were to love each other fiercely as he loved them.  As he died, his mother and his friends wept around him, bringing their pain, frustration, and sorrow to the foot of the cross where he emptied the last of his ego, his humanity, even his God nature back unto his God.

That could have been the end of the story.

But it wasn’t.  It was only the beginning.  Jesus’ resurrection, physically and within the hearts and memories of his followers, started something new.  Hope would not be in domination, but in community.  Trust God before you trust your government or your master.  Things will not go well at times; in fact, they might be downright terrible.  But in those dark times, the steadfast love of the God of Israel and the God of the people of the new covenant would be with you always, leading you from the exile of loneliness and despair on eagle’s wings.

That could have been the end of the story.

But it’s not. Christ will come again.  I do not think it will be in fire and brimstone as described in the book of Revelation.  I think it will be something closer to a the way that the mystic Theresa of Avila tells us about Christ in the world today; that Christ has no hands, no feet but ours. I believe that when we as an individual and as communities become the embodiment of the living God, not dead and buried, but alive right here, right now, ever hopeful and faithful for the future, and ever present to our realities on earth, that Christ will have truly come again.