Saturday, April 30, 2011

trusting the risen Christ

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Today's reading is a favorite of mine because doubt and questioning have always been important parts of my faith. Thomas wants to see Jesus with his own eyes. Ultimately, seeing Christ in scripture and alive in the lives of brothers and sisters has helped me trust him more in my own life. I don't get to put my finger in his wounds, but I do get to see his healing presence in someone recovering from addiction. I get to see his transformative spirit at work in the lives of children with loving teachers. I have not seen Christ in the flesh, but I have found blessing as I have grown in faith.

God bless,

John 20:19-31

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Risen indeed

Good morning sisters and brothers,
This is the second half of the story we read yesterday, of Jesus appearing to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Today they return to tell their story and find that they are not the only ones to have met the risen Jesus. Then Jesus himself appears. Notice that Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes. Here Luke is setting us up for the second half of his story, which is the Book of Acts. Luke tells the story of Jesus in the flesh in Luke. That story continues with the spread of the gospel by the Holy Spirit's power through the church in Acts. Since Luke wrote both books, the way he tells the story of Jesus anticipates the Acts story and the Acts story continues Luke's Gospel.
Blessings on the end of the week,

Luke 24:33-49

33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.

44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Emmaus Road

Good morning brothers and sisters,
I wanted to remind you briefly of the memorial service for Ann Gammariello at Laurelton on Saturday, April 30 at 10:30. Come and celebrate Ann's life and offer some comfort to her family.

This is a favorite Easter story. Luke is the only Gospel writer who tells it, and it takes place Easter afternoon. When might we be seeing Jesus but not recognizing him? What allows us to recognize Jesus in our lives?

God bless,

Luke 24:13-32

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?”

They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

a final feast

Good morning friends,
Today's readings is a beautiful passage from Isaiah that gives us a vision of God's future redemption of the world. We don't know when God will bring history to its completion, but the images we get of that completion remind us that in the end things work out beautifully. Those images remind us that God can bring new life our of death and peace out of trouble. Knowing that the end will be wonderful gives us courage to live our faith now because we know that the suffering and hardship that are so widespread now will not have the last word. In that way this vision of the end is like the resurrection; death will be swallowed up forever and God will wipe away all our tears.
May that hope give you courage and joy in your ministry today,

Isaiah 25:6-9

6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
7 And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
8 he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Resurrection from a different angle

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Today's reading gives us the story of Jesus' resurrection from John's Gospel. Each Gospel tells the story a bit differently, and this is probably my favorite. I love how Mary is the first to see Jesus and how she recognizes him when he says her name. Jesus calls each of us in different ways. How will you hear his voice today?

God bless,

John 20:1-18

1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.‘” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Monday, April 25, 2011

this is the day that the Lord has made!

Good morning friends,
Today's reading is from Psalm 118, which was a praise song in Israel for the crowning of a king. This is a great fit for today since Jesus shows that he is God's king in his resurrection from the dead. Today is a great morning to praise the Lord for the resurrection. It's easy to feel like the excitement of Easter is over and to loose momentum in our faith. The resurrection is a beginning, not an end. Christ has broken free for all of us, so we are free to begin again with joy, hope and love.

God bless,

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!

2 Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”

14 The LORD is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the LORD does valiantly;
16 the right hand of the LORD is exalted;
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18 The LORD has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.

20 This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.

21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Risen indeed

Hallelujah! Christ is Risen!
We get two different perspectives on Christ's resurrection in our readings this morning like we get two different perspectives in our worship. First we get a very simple, outdoor service celebrating Christ's resurrection in the beauty of nature as a new day dawns. That will be at 6 am at the end of Duran Park. It's parking area "B" but you won't actually see that sign if you're coming from the Culver side. Then we have the more detailed, but still straightforward and lovely service at 10 at Laurelton. During that service we'll have the pleasure of welcoming a new member and flowering our cross.

The readings follow the services in a way. Our first reading is a basic summary of the good news of God's love in Jesus that Peter shares with a group of gentiles who have gathered to hear his message. One of the things I love about the preaching in the New Testament is that it's not complicated or pretentious; instead it's right to the point of God's love. Our reading from Matthew is also fairly straightforward, but instead of an overview of Christ's ministry we simply get an snapshot of that first Easter morning. I hope your day is starting with joy and that God brings about a new awakening of life within us today.

God bless,

Acts 10:34-43

34Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ — he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”


Matthew 28:1-10

1After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

waiting on the Sabbath

Good morning brothers and sisters,
As a quick reminder, tomorrow morning we'll begin our celebration of the Lord's resurrection with a sunrise service at the east end of Durand Eastman Park (parking area B) at 6 am. We'll continue worship with our joy at our 10 am service at Laurelton with great music. If you have a chance, it would be great to bring a cut flower or two to decorate our cross out front.

Today we hear that of all Jesus' disciples three women and a man named Joseph were the only ones who stayed to see him buried. While the religious leaders scheme to guard the tomb, the disciples, including us, wait. May your waiting today be blessed.

God bless,

Matthew 37:55-66

55Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him.56Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

57When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

62The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” 66So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

to the cross

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today takes us to the depth of Jesus' love for us at the cross. The disciples have fled, sentence has been given, and Jesus is mocked and nailed to a cross. Spend some time with this story and in prayer with Jesus today. Let the reality of Christ's suffering and the truth of his love sink into your heart. If you want to open your Bible for something to read along with this try the first 12 verses of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Jesus took on all this suffering for us to set us free to love God and love others. Thanks be to God.

To help us enter the story, if you're free during the day there is a Good Friday walk that pairs stations of the cross with what God is doing in the city now. The worship walk starts at West Avenue United Methodist (right at Bull's Head, West and Chili) at 8:45 this morning. There's a group leaving from the church at 8:15. We're also worshiping at Laurelton at 12:30. If you work a more traditional schedule, St. Ambrose (Culver and Empire) is sharing the passion story through mime at 8 pm. Whether on your own with prayer and silence or in worship with others, spend some time with the story today. Jesus loves us and this dark day shows us how much.

God bless,

Matthew 27:32-54

32As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

38Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God's Son.’” 44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

45From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And 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?” 47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Good morning brothers and sisters,
A quick reminder that tonight at 6:15 we have a potluck supper and worship to remember Jesus' last supper with his disciples. If you have a chance, please bring a plastic basin and towel. I'm looking forward to the evening and getting into this powerful piece of Jesus' story.

In our reading for today we're a little further ahead of the story. Pilate tries to have Jesus released for the Passover, but the religious leaders convince the crowd to have him crucified instead. As we let this story sink into us we realize how deep God's love for us is.

God bless,

Matthew 27:15-31

15Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted.16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

24So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

blood money

Good morning brothers and sisters,
First, tonight we are not having Supper and Scripture, but we are meeting at the Boulevard at 8 to continue our ongoing discussion of The Shack. For this week we are discussing up through chapter 15. Tomorrow night we are having a potluck supper at 6:15 with worship to follow to remember Jesus' last supper with his disciples. I hope to see you there.

Earlier in Holy Week Jesus criticized the religious leaders for scrupulously following the details of the law while missing the big picture. In this passage we see a striking example of this behavior. The leaders are careful to avoid putting Judas's returned money in the treasury because it is blood money and would pollute the temple treasury. At the same time, they don't seem at all disturbed at having spent the money to get someone arrested, not do they seem bothered by Judas's remorse and recognition that Jesus is innocent.

Before we condemn the religious leaders, this passage invites us to look at ourselves. How do we shift blame to others? How do we focus on purity in minor details while missing major areas of injustice in our lives? How do we condemn the innocent? I'm so grateful Jesus always welcomes and forgives us.
May this week take you deeper into Christ's love,

Matthew 27:1-14

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. 2They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

3When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. 6But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” 7After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. 8For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, 10and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

11Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today's reading takes us to the chief priests home where Jesus is condemned and abused. After many attempts to present false witnesses the leaders can't get two to agree and without two witnesses there could be no condemnation. Finally Caiaphas, the Chief Priest gets what he needs from Jesus. Here we also see Peter come to the test. He claimed in the Garden that he would rather die than deny Jesus. How do we stay faithful to God when we're tempted to deny our faith?

Blessings on your day,

Matthew 26:57-75

57Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. 59Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, 60but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’” 62The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” 63But Jesus was silent.

Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, 68saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”

69Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” 71When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” 73After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. 75Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Monday, April 18, 2011

in the Garden

Good morning friends,
As we begin Holy Week I want to remind you of an opportunity to begin the week with a powerful worship service focused on Christ's arrest and death. Tonight I'll be part of an ecumenical Tenebrae service at St. Ambrose beginning at 7:30 pm. In a Tenebrae service candles are extinguished as the service goes on, so the growing darkness mirrors the sorrow of the story. It should be a great service and a great way to get into the story of this holy week.

Our reading for today picks up where yesterday's left off. This week in our daily readings we'll read Matthew's passion in full. After eating a last supper with his disciples Jesus went out to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray for strength as his arrest approached. He sought support from his disciples, his friends, but they couldn't stay away with him. The story is familiar to many of us, but as you read it slowly let it really sink into your heart. These passages are often where Jesus feels most human to me, and we see a vision of how deep his love for us is.

God bless,

Matthew 26:36-56

36Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” 40Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

47While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. 50Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

51Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?” 55At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palms to betrayal

Good morning sisters and brothers,
With Palm Sunday we begin Holy Week, the most intensive period of Lent and the heart of the Christian year. It is a week of highs and lows as our two readings for today show. We start with a huge crowd welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem as a king. Before long, though, Judas agrees to betray Jesus to the religious leaders, and the leaders arrest Jesus to have him executed by Pilate. Jesus is crucified, buried and rises again in triumph. All that happens in a week. The great thing about Holy Week is that we have worship opportunities throughout it that help us get into the story. I usually need concrete reminders to help my spiritual focus, and Holy week gives us just that. Much of the week is dark as we have to confront betrayal, abandonment, suffering and death. But that darkness helps us realize the depth of Jesus' love for us and makes the story real. The darkness also helps us see the true glory of Easter.

I urge you to take advantage of this week of preparation to deepen your faith, to get into the story of our Lord's last week. Our worship schedule is on the website and will be in our bulletin. Here's the short version:
Monday: Ecumenical Tenebrae service (focusing on Jesus' passion) at St. Ambrose, 7:30 pm
Thursday: Maundy Thursday (remembering the Last Supper and Jesus' arrest) Potluck supper at 6:15, worship at 7
Friday: Ecumenical stations of the Cross tour starting and ending at West Ave. United Methodist (Chili and West) 9:30-11:30, worship at LUPC, 12:30pm
Sunday: Easter Sunrise service at the eastern edge of parking area B of Durand Eastman Park, 6 am; Laurelton Easter worship 10 am here with flowers for the cross.

Blessings on your Holy Week,

Matthew 21:1-11

1When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”


Matthew 26:14-35

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

17On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

20When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 25Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

26While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

30When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

31Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night;
for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’
32But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.” 34Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” 35Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

let the same mind be in you

Good morning friends,
This morning my other workplace, Rural Metro Medical Services, says goodbye to one of our coworkers, Darcy Kipphut, who died suddenly on March 27th. Please keep Darcy's family and friends in your prayers today and in the days ahead. Our passage for this morning is one of my favorites. Many biblical scholars believe Paul is quoting a hymn that would have been familiar to the church in those days. In any case, the image of Jesus pouring his Godliness out to become humbly human and then to go all the way to the cross for us is overwhelmingly beautiful. In that humble emptiness Jesus received the name that is above all names. One day everyone will recognize and worship Jesus, when we see him face to face. For those of us who are blessed enough to know Jesus now we feel confidence because of God's amazing love. Many people don't have that assurance yet, which is why we want to share the good news that God loves us. Christ's love is amazing and there's nothing that love won't do.

God bless,

Philippians 2:5-11

5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death —
even death on a cross.

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Friday, April 15, 2011

messengers of the good news

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Paul makes two important points today. The first is that even though God's grace saves us, people can't usually come to Christ without hearing the good news about Jesus. That's our role, telling the story and inviting people into that story with love. The second point he begins here but finishes a bit later. Israel has heard the message about Jesus, but mostly hasn't responded. He quotes Isaiah here to say that part of what God is doing by allowing gentiles to respond to Christ's call while allowing most Jews not to is making Israel jealous. We'll see how that argument progresses. For us today the more important piece is to own our role as messengers while remembering that we don't harass people to believe, we simply present the story. Our message will be much more appealing if (as we talked about on Wednesday) it shows through our lives; if they "know we are Christians by our love."

God bless,

Romans 10:12-21

12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 14But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

18But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” 19Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 20Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

confess and believe

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Paul contrasts the righteousness we sometimes look for in the law, righteousness we think we can control, with the true righteousness of trusting in God. Rather than counting on our ability to follow the law we simply trust in God's love to save us. Paul lays out two steps to be joined to Christ's righteousness by faith. We confess (or proclaim) with our lips that Jesus is Lord and we believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead. When we confess that Jesus is Lord we refuse to be ruled by other masters that try to claim our ultimate allegiance (sin, wealth, beauty, popularity, etc). When we believe in our heart that God raised Christ from the dead we know and trust that not even death can defeat God's love. That is a powerful combination, and it frees us from everything that seeks to separate us from God. Trust in the Lord and he will give you peace.

God bless,

Romans 10:1-11

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. 4For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

5Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7“or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

surprising welcome

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Today's reading lifts up God's freedom to bring whoever God wants into his people. Gentiles who didn't know God can come to God through Jesus. In Christ the doors burst wide open and love pours out to everyone. At the same time, this radical change from relating to God through the law to coming to God simply by trusting his love trips lots of people up. This is the same thing that tripped the religious leaders up when Jesus was with them. He welcomed tax collectors and sinners because they came to him with trust and a humble longing for God. At the same time he had mostly criticism for the religious leaders because they trusted in their own practices to make them righteous in God's judgment.

The same lesson applies to the church. We are called to put our trust in Jesus instead of in our standing in the church. God welcomes all so we can trust that welcome today.

God bless,

25As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they shall be called children of the living God.” 27And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; 28for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.” 29And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us, we would have fared like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah.”

30What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; 31but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. 32Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33as it is written, “See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

potter and clay

Good morning friends,
First, I'd like to remind you that Jack Dennis's memorial service is tomorrow at 2pm at Laurelton. Please keep Betty and the rest of their family in prayer in this time of grief.

Our passage for today picks up on the end of yesterday's passage where Paul talked about God's choice of Jacob and rejection of Esau. Today he tackles the question of whether that kind of choice is unfair. He argues that God has the right to choose to have mercy on whoever he wants. Like a potter can make whatever he wants and is free to make some pots for everyday use and others for holy use, so God can choose to have mercy on some of God's creations and not on others. The time God waits to judge creation is to allow those who are far away to repent and to come back to God. God is loving, so let's take the time we have to seek God's path.

God bless,

Romans 14-24

14What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

19You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; 23and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Israel's election part 1

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Paul lays the groundwork about salvation by God's grace during the first 8 chapters of Romans. In chapters 9-11 he turns to a problem that troubles him deeply: the salvation of Israel. God chose Israel as God's covenant people long ago, but most Jews didn't accept Jesus as the Messiah. Paul spends these next chapters wrestling with that reality. In our reading for today he takes one approach: not everyone descended from Israel (Jacob) is really an Israelite. He makes this argument with a parallel argument: Abraham received the promise from God, but not all his descendants were part of the covenant. This line of argument is troubling because it opens the possibility of cutting off people from God's covenant. Fortunately, this is not where Paul ends his consideration. The truth is that God's blessings in Jesus extends rather than restricts God's loving covenant.

Blessings on your new week,

Romans 9:1-13

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

6It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, 7and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. 9For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” 10Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. 11Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

dry bones and a sealed tomb

Good afternoon friends,
Sorry I didn't get this out earlier today. If you were in church you heard Carl preach a great sermon on the story of Lazarus. In reality, both stories today have a similar message. Ezekiel prophesied when Judah went into exile. Even though the temple was defiled by invading armies and the people were driven out of the land God promised them, their story was not over. God can give life even to try bones, even to dead bodies. Trouble, hardship, separation and even death threaten us, but they never have the last word. God's love is stronger than any force that threatens us.

Blessings on your Sunday,

John 11:33-45

33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.


Ezekiel 37:1-14

1The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

7So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

11Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Good morning brothers and sisters,
This morning we launch into another of John's extended stories. John sets the stage by introducing Mary, Martha and Lazarus and announcing that Lazarus was ill. Jesus gets ready to go to him and the disciples warn him of the risks, since the religious leaders have become violent in their opposition to him. Here we see a different side of "Doubting" Thomas. Thomas is ready to die with his Lord. We wonder too, why Jesus says he is glad Lazarus is dead. We'll see how the story plays out from here.

Blessings as you finish your week,

John 11: 1-16

1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

If God is for us, who can be against us?

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Paul has spent lots of time building the case for grace. We could see today's reading as the climax, the point he's been building towards. "If God is for us, who is against us?" If God loves us enough to sacrifice God's own son to bring us back home, what could possibly keep us away from God? There are plenty of things that threaten to separate us from God, but there's nothing as powerful as God's love for us. One day God will bring us all safely home. Ultimately, we've got nothing to worry about, so we can focus on living our faith with love every day.

God bless you as you live today in love,

Thursday, April 7

31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

all things work together for good?

Good morning friends,
The eighth chapter of Romans is a powerful source of comfort for many because it reminds us that God's love is stronger than anything that threatens us. At the same time, some people have felt our passage from today used as empty comfort when they faced tragedy or oppression in their lives. They have been told, "All things work together for good, so you just have to accept it cheerfully." The reality of human life is that we often face things that are not good. We face situations that God calls us to work to change. But even in the worst situation, we are not alone. God's Spirit works inside us guiding us to God in prayer and bringing good even out of evil. We can trust God's love for us as we follow God's calling to make the world a better place.

God bless,

Romans 8:26-30

26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

groaning in hope

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today Paul writes that we aren't meant to be God's slaves who obey out of fear. Instead we are God's children who seek to do God's will out of love. When we open our spirits in prayer to God, the Holy Spirit living inside us joins in our prayer calling out to our Father in heaven.

As things are now, being children of God is hard because we also feel a separation from God. We are separated because the world we live in is still in rebellion against God, even though we have come to rely on God. The world itself feels that separation too, Paul says. The land and seas are torn up not only by the pollution our sinful greed pours out, but also by the fact that our separation from God brings the world with it. One day our separation from God will be healed. Until then we, who know we are God's children, groan as we wait for the full reconciliation of the world with God. The Spirit strengthens us to wait with hope.

God bless,

Romans 8:14-25

14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Monday, April 4, 2011

flesh and spirit

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Paul talks today about where we put our priorities. He argues that if focus on "fleshly" things we will be earthbound, separated from God, and headed towards death. Christ freed us from that way of life by taking on flesh and being condemned for sin. So now, instead of living according to the flesh and being full of anxiety and jealousy, we can focus on God's calling and the things of the Spirit. This will give us freedom and true life. Christ living in us makes us able to do this.

Blessings as you navigate your priorities today,

Romans 8:1-13

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. 12So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A new king and true vision

Good morning friends,
Our first reading completes the story of the man born blind but healed by Jesus' love. The Pharisees began by investigating the miracle, but they finish by closing their minds and driving the man out from the synagogue. The man is not intimidated, but keeps telling his story honestly. It's interesting too that Jesus, who has been absent since healing the man, comes to find him only after his expulsion from the synagogue. Our Lord really has a thing for outcasts; I pray we would learn that too.

Our second reading tells the beginning of the story of King David. The Prophet Samuel anointed Saul as king years earlier, but Saul turned away from God and was rejected. God then seeks a new king who will follow him.

Blessings on your Lord's Day,

John 9:18-41

18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”


1 Samuel 16:1-13

1The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.” 7But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Was blind, but now I see

Good morning friends,
Today and tomorrow we're reading a favorite story of mine. This passage will also be our second reading in worship tomorrow. Many of the stories in the Gospels are snapshots of Jesus in action, told very briefly. In healing stories Jesus tends to see a problem, heal and then move on. Here we get an extended look at a healing in detail. We realize that the healing is just the beginning because such a change makes a difference in the person's whole life. Enjoy the story and let it sink into you so we can explore together tomorrow.

Blessings on your weekend,

John 9:1-18

1As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Friday, April 1, 2011

I do not do what I want

Good morning friends,
I wish I had a really clever April fools message for you, but I don't. Today we do want to welcome Amy Fowler, our new Presbytery Leader, as she starts her new ministry with us to build a stronger church in our region.

Today Paul continues his musing on how the law provides an opportunity for sin to grow strong in us. He uses himself as an example: he wants to follow the law and do the right thing, but often the sinful desires inside him lead him in a different direction. I know that's an experience I can relate to. So the law is good, but still if cannot free us from sin. We need God to free us, and God frees us through Jesus Christ.

God bless,

Romans 7:13-25

13Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

14For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.