Saturday, June 14, 2014

living in community

Hello sisters and brothers,
Tonight the Presbyterian Church USA begins our general assembly, a meeting held each two years to make decisions and chart a course for the next two years. Tonight we begin the assembly by electing a moderator to lead the assembly and help lead the church. Our neighbor John Wilkinson from Third Presbyterian is one of three candidates for that office. I invite you to pray for the candidates, the commissioners and our church as we seek the Spirit's leading.

Appropriately, our passage for today is about how we live in community, something we always need to remember. God calls us to be a loving community of discipleship, and we always have more to learn about that.

God bless,

Colossians 3:5-17

5Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

repentance, community and new life

Good afternoon friends,
Please remember our congregational meeting tomorrow morning at 9am before worship. We're meeting to elect officers for the year to come at Laurelton. We are blessed with great leaders, both new and continuing, so come and give your support at 9.

In our passage Peter has explained the story of Jesus and the Holy Spirit; now the people respond. They hear about Jesus' crucifixion and feel repentance; then Peter invites them to change their lives and commit to a new way of being. That way of life centers on worship and community. The thing Acts doesn't tell us, but which we can imagine, is that while committing at a deeper level than ever to community, people also continued their jobs and family life, just now as part of a community. I feel like that's our calling for a new way of doing church. Church isn't about buildings or budgets; it's about life lived in faithfulness to God and community with others. Acts gives us a vision for what could be; the question for each of us is how we will respond.

God bless,

Acts 2:37-47
37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Friday, June 6, 2014

figuring out the promise

Good evening friends,
I hope you're enjoying the beautiful evening one way or another. Today's reading continues Peter's explanation to the crowd what is happening. The Holy Spirit has filled the disciples and given them new languages to share the grace of God. Peter explains to them how Jesus fits into the promises God made to David. Jesus wasn't the Messiah people expected: he didn't act like a king, or militarily bring Israel out of Roman captivity. So Peter explains what God told David and how that fits with what he and others experienced in Jesus. The model we see in Peter and the early church of looking at the Bible to make sense of the world is still a good way of thinking today.

God bless,

Acts 2:25-36

25For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. 27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’

32This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. 34For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 36Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

speaking in the Spirit

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Please pray for our search committee and candidates as they gather this evening. Pray for calm nerves, good communication and for God's calling to be clear between our churches and one of the candidates. Our scripture today continues the story of Pentecost. As the disciples proclaim God's power in languages given to them by the Holy Spirit, many are amazed and others assume they are drunk. Peter explains from the Bible that God is sharing the Holy Spirit with all who believe as a sign that, in Christ, the final redemption of the world is getting closer. From our perspective it's hard to imagine Peter's feeling that the end was coming so soon, but our ministry is still part of bringing God's redemption to completion. How are we going to build the peaceful kingdom today?

God bless,

Acts 2:14-24
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

22“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

power from heaven

Good morning friends,
Today's reading starts the story of Pentecost, and is many ways the birth of the church. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive power from heaven. In today's passage that power comes, and the disciples (including women) begin their ministry.

God bless,

Acts 2: 1-13
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Monday, June 2, 2014

Luke's Gospel, part 2

Good evening friends,
Acts begins where Luke's Gospel left off, since it is a sequel, with the disciples watching Jesus ascend into heaven. Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem until they receive "power from on high." In the power of that Holy Spirit, they will be witnesses to God's love in Jesus to the whole world starting from Jerusalem. We continue the calling to use the gifts God gives us for ministry to witness to God's love with our words and actions.

God bless,

Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Sunday, June 1, 2014

sharing the news

Good afternoon friends,
I hope you're enjoying this wonderful weather. Our passage today wraps up the story of the church leader's first conference to decide how to welcome gentiles into the church. Having listened to each other and decided that gentiles could become Christians without following the whole law of Moses, they send a letter to share that news with the communities of new believers. Maybe this is the first church newsletter.

God bless,

Acts 15:22-31

22Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, 23with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.

24Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, 25we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.

28For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: 29that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” 30So they were sent off and went down to Antioch. When they gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31When its members read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

listening and sharing

Good afternoon friends,
Today I'm really excited for Alan's concert at Laurelton with a great picnic lunch for all. I hope you can make it from 1:30-3. The weather couldn't be better, and I know it's going to be a great time.

Our passage continues with the early church leaders discussing how and whether gentiles coming to faith in Christ need to follow the law of Moses in terms of food and circumcision. The outcome is important, but today I want to focus on the process. People listen to each other and take turns sharing their experience. That's a good way to approach most difficult decisions: listening and honest conversation.

God bless,

Acts 15:6-21

6The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. 7After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. 8And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.

10Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” 12The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.

13After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. 14Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. 15This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,16‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, 17so that all other peoples may seek the Lord— even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things 18known from long ago.’

19Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, 20but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.21For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.”

Friday, May 30, 2014

navigating controversy

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
As we think this week about honesty and communication, this passage and those that follow in Acts are helpful. When the church isn't sure what to do about something we're called to pray and discuss with each other the best way to proceed. We find wisdom together as we seek God's guidance. In the case of our story, there was controversy in the church about whether Gentiles needed to become Jewish to be part of the church. As we seek to be faithful to God we are always discerning how to balance God's call to obedience with God's call to everyone.

God bless,

Acts 15:1-5

Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders.

3So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. 4When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”

Thursday, May 29, 2014

the tongue is a fire

Good morning sisters and brothers,
We don't read from James a lot, but it's a really great letter. In this passage James warns about how dangerous words can be. While he seems entirely negative, he also knows that words can help, as he discusses earlier. At the same time, anyone who has ever found yourself hurting after a tough argument or wishing you could take back a hasty, angry sentence can see the truth in James's words. Speech is powerful both for good and for harm, so chose your words with care and love.

God bless,

James 3:1-18

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.2For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle.

3If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire.

The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

wise words

Good afternoon friends,
We jumped into it a bit late this year, but we're having an exciting picnic and concert on Saturday. From 1:30-3 this coming Saturday Alan and his band, the Mighty High and Dry, will be rocking out as we enjoy hot dogs, hamburgers and other delights. If you can, bring a dish to pass, but don't worry if that's not convenient. It's a great time to bring a friend and enjoy a great afternoon of music and fun.

Today's passage from Proverbs offers some fortune cookie style wisdom about wisdom and honesty. In particular I like the focus on how words can be either dangerous or healing depending on how they are used. The way we speak to each other matters. We learn as kids that "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Later on, we learn that isn't really true; words can do a lot of damage. At the same time, Proverbs reminds us that, "The prudent ignores and insult." We can chose not only how we speak to each other, but also how we respond when others speak in negative ways. Words are powerful; use them well.

God bless,

Proverbs 12:14-28

14From the fruit of the mouth one is filled with good things,
and manual labor has its reward.
15Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice.
16Fools show their anger at once, but the prudent ignore an insult.
17Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness speaks deceitfully.
18Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
19Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
20Deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil, but those who counsel peace have joy.
21No harm happens to the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble.
22Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.
23One who is clever conceals knowledge, but the mind of a fool broadcasts folly.
24The hand of the diligent will rule, while the lazy will be put to forced labor.
25Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up.
26The righteous gives good advice to friends, but the way of the wicked leads astray.
27The lazy do not roast their game, but the diligent obtain precious wealth.
28In the path of righteousness there is life, in walking its path there is no death.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Good afternoon friends,
In our passage for today the writer imagines wisdom in human form. It's worth noticing that wisdom is female, and she calls out offering her blessings to everyone who seeks her. The other thing to notice here (and basically everywhere the Bible talks about wisdom) is that wisdom is closely connected with seeking God and doing the right think. Ethics and wisdom are inseparable, and both are available to everyone.

God bless,

Proverbs 8:1-13

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
2On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
4“To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.

5O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it.
6Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right;
7for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
9They are all straight to one who understands and right to those who find knowledge.
10Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold;
11for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
12I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion.
13The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.

Monday, May 26, 2014

seeking wisdom

Good evening friends,
As we remember those who served their country in the armed services, especially those who lost their lives in that service, let us also pray for peace. Today's reading is from Proverbs, which is often attributed to King Solomon. The passage is a poem praising the virtues of wisdom. In the Bible wisdom isn't just smarts; it's ethically engaged, experience-based, intelligence. Solomon writes that knowing God is the root of wisdom. Seeking wisdom is a good goal in all we do as we try to grow in knowledge and faith.

God bless,

Proverbs 2:1-15

My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you,
2making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
3if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding;
4if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures—
5then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
6For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly,
8guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones.

9Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path;
10for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you.
12It will save you from the way of evil, from those who speak perversely,
13who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness,
14who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil;
15those whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Good evening friends,
Today's reading gives us the sobering words of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus' ministry. The reminder here is that how we act matters. To follow God, we need to change our priorities not just with words, but with our actions too. The amazing thing is that by God's grace we can change, so John's call to repentance is good news.


Luke 3:2-18

The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

7John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

forgiveness and supper

Good evening friends,
Tonight, I'm looking forward to Supper and Scripture with mixed emotions. It's the last one for the summer, which means it's my last one at Laurelton. It has been such a wonderful part of my time here: studying scripture, sharing food and fellowship and making new friends. It has been a blessing. If you're looking for warm fellowship and food tonight, come on over from 5:30-6:30 or so.

Tonight's story is a powerful reminder of the amazing forgiveness we find in God. This is one I come back to again and again.

God bless,

Matthew 18:21-35

21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.

26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.

32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

biblical conflict management

Good evening friends,
This passage is what I think of as Jesus' wisdom for conflict management. When we're having trouble with someone the easiest thing is to tell our friends about it, but that generally makes things worse. The scarier, but better way to start is by going to the person we're struggling with. There are plenty of situations in which this isn't an option, especially situations of abuse, but many of our most common conflicts can be solved one on one.

God bless,

Matthew 18:15-20

15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Saturday, May 17, 2014

wrapping up John

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading is a strange one in that it makes a distinction we don't see anywhere else in scripture between mortal sins and other sins. Notice, that it doesn't list or suggest which sins might be mortal, but it does suggest that some sins lead to death and are almost incurable, while others can be fixed with prayer. It would be easy to get carried away with this kind of thinking. Jesus heals people from selfishness, adultery and even persecution, so no matter what John says, no sin is beyond Christ's power. And sometimes the sins that feel insignificant, an isolated unkind word, a slightly selfish choice, can lead to a destructive downward spiral. So while we can learn from John's suggestion that some sin is more serious than others, keep on praying anyway.

God bless,

1 John 5:14-21

14And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. 16If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. 17All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal.

18We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them.19We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. 20And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

perfect love casts out fear

Good morning friends,
Today we continue John's thoughts on love. John gets at some of the things that often worry us about religion. He says that when love is perfected among us, we can face the day of judgment with boldness. That's because when we trust God's love as we see it in Jesus and try to practice that love for others, we learn (and relearn) that God will hold us in God's arms no matter what. Judgment doesn't need to be something we're scared of, because in Christ God's love conquers everything (gently). When our world is so driven by fear, I cling to John's words, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."

God bless,

1 John 4:17-21

17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

amazing love

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Today's reading and the verses we'll get the next couple of days are a wonderful summary of the good news. God loves us, and loves us so much that he sent his son Jesus to save us from our sins. We can wonder and debate all day what it means for Jesus to be the "atoning sacrifice for our sins," but I think it's more helpful to think about what that reveals about the amazing depth of God's love. When we really believe God loves us that much, it becomes much easier to love others.

God bless,

1 John 4:7-16

7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

love in action

Good evening friends,
John reminds us here that love is active, not passive. We need to love with our actions. He also reminds us that not every spirit, not every voice we hear comes from God; we need to use our discernment and wisdom to know God's word from falsehood. Easier said than done.

God bless,

1 John 3:18-4:6

18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world.

4Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

choosing well

Good evening and Happy Mothers' Day friends,
Today's reading from John's letter talks, somewhat confusingly about sin and faith. The key here is to remember that John already wrote that anyone who says they have no sin is a liar. In this passage he says that everyone who sins is a child of the devil and that those who belong to God don't sin. Those ideas feel pretty contradictory, because John comes across as black and white. I think we get past the contradiction by thinking about sin and righteousness ultimately. We're never totally defined by our choices, and we're not totally consistent in our behavior. At the same time, each of our choices plays a role in making us who we are. Each time we chose loving acts it brings us closer to God; each time we chose selfishness, dishonesty and sin it brings us further from God. Doing the right thing is hard sometimes, but each choice makes it easier to choose well in the future.

God bless,

1 John 3:1-13

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

4Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.5You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. 10The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.

11For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you.

Friday, May 9, 2014

mothers and fathers

Good evening friends,
Today's reading is interesting because John clearly addresses people at different stages in their lives. While we don't all experience aging the same way, where we are in our life has a lot to do with the things we care most about. Each stage in our life also brings different gifts, and John sees that in his community. He also talks about the dangers of material concerns. Money and other "worldly concerns" aren't bad in themselves, but they often distract us from what is really important, love. Finally, John talks a little bit in this passage about people who have left the community, presumably in a destructive manner. There are lots of reasons people leave communities, and many of those reasons have nothing to do with, "not being one of us." At the same time, John is writing in a time where faith identity could be a life or death matter, so his focus on the borders of the community may have made sense then in a way it really doesn't now.

God bless,

1 John 2:12-19

12I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven on account of his name. 13I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have conquered the evil one. 14I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

15Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; 16for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.

18Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. 19They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

a new commandment?

Good afternoon friends,
I hope you're finding some way to enjoy this beautiful weather. Today's reading introduces an interesting paradox in John's writing. This isn't the only place he says it, but here he tells his readers that he is giving them a commandment that is at the same time "from the beginning" and new. That commandment is the same commandment Jesus gave his disciples at the last supper: "Love one another." There's nothing new about love; it's been our calling from the beginning, and it is the foundation of faith and of ethics. At the same time, if we truly love others, that always leads us into new understanding and new areas for action. Without loving others, we can't follow Jesus, because he was all about love in his life.

God bless,

1 John 2:1-11

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. 4Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; 5but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: 6whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.

7Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness.10Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. 11But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

admitting our need

Good evening friends,
Today's reading open's John's first letter. Like John's Gospel, we see repetition and a focus on love. Light and darkness, and truth and lies are also themes that come up a lot in this letter. In today's passage John emphasizes that when we admit our sin Jesus can transform us. It truly is an open invitation: as long as we invite God to change us, God will; if we pretend we don't need healing, we'll be stuck right where we are.

God bless,

1 John 1:1-10

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

5This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

pain then joy

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading continues Jesus' conversation with his disciples at the last supper. He tells them they will miss him, but ultimately his death is for their benefit. Change is always hard, but often it leads us to new blessings we can't imagine yet. 

God bless,

John 16:12-22
12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

16”A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 

19Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? 20Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. 21When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. 22So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Friday, May 2, 2014

beloved to love

Good evening friends,
Today's reading brings it back to the basics of the Christian faith. Jesus loves us enough to lay down his life. He calls us to follow by loving others with the same commitment. Easy, maybe not; but it's not complicated.

God bless,

John 15:9-17

9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

abide in love

Good afternoon friends,
Jesus talks about being the vine and we disciples as the branches. While it sounds harsh to think about not being able to do anything cut off from him, if we look at it a different way we see something else. What if we remember that God is love? Isn't a big part of our society's problem that we try to do so much cut off from love? We can produce lots of things that way, but in terms of lives that really matter; many of us are withering because we're cut off from love. What if instead of focusing on accumulating wealth we focus on nurturing our connections to God, to love and to one another?

God bless,

John 15:1-8

”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Good evening friends,
Today's reading shows Jesus promising his disciples (including us) peace. That doesn't mean we'll avoid trouble, but it means ultimately, God's peaceful kingdom will come.

God bless,

John 14:25-31

25”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

28You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

greater works

Good evening sisters and brothers,
Jesus tells his disciples that not only will they be able to do amazing things by the Holy Spirit's power, they will even do greater things than he did. Clearly, we don't save the world, but there are many Christians and we're still empowered by the Holy Spirit. So maybe it's time to stop thinking so much about our limitations and find new ways to live out our calling to love.

God bless,

John 14:12-24
12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” 22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

faith and doubt, part 1

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading (and tomorrow's) doesn't fit with where we are in the resurrection story, because they take us back before Jesus' death. The reason we're reading them is to think about some virtues for "resurrection life" and community life, and the first of those we'll talk about is faith. In this story Jesus is with Peter, James and John. They're coming back to the rest of the disciples after spending some time alone (and seeing a vision of Moses and Elijah). As they return to the group, they find a commotion and a father desperate for healing for his son. The father's plea to Jesus seems like a perfect prayer for many of us who are faithful and also struggling: "I believe; help my unbelief."

God bless,

Mark 9:14-24

14When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. 16He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”17Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.”

19He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” 20And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23Jesus said to him, “If you are able! —All things can be done for the one who believes. ”24Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Friday, April 25, 2014

feed my sheep

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Jesus and Peter share a moment. This is often called the restoration of Peter. Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him; maybe that reflects the three times Peter denied Jesus after his arrest. Jesus calls Peter to follow Jesus and to take care of the flock (the new community called the church). Peter sees his leadership role clearly, but also asks about John's role (the beloved disciple). This is a great invitation to think about our role and calling and not worry about or compare ourselves with others. As we see in Acts, Peter and John both are main leaders in the early church. There's space for all of us in Christ's community.

God bless,

John 21:15-25

15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

20Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” 22Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”

23So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” 24This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. 25But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

breakfast with Jesus

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading is a charming story of the risen Christ making breakfast on the beach for his disciples. It's kind of goofy, but fun, and as it continues tomorrow, things get more serious.

God bless,

John 21:1-14

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.
 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 

4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 

7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 

12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

faith and doubt

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
We sometimes think of "Doubting" Thomas unfavorably. Jesus does offer a gentle rebuke, but also gives Thomas what he needs. I'm sure many of us wish we could have seen what Thomas saw. Sometimes it's very hard to believe the stories of the Bible. Faith and doubt aren't opposites. Our doubts can actually lead us deeper in faith, if we keep seeking the truth. At the same time, sometimes our doubts do get in the way of our faith, if they stop us from moving forward until we know everything. We're always going to have questions and doubts, but as long as we're open, God can speak through doubts and questions too.

God bless,

John 20:26-31

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.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thomas and the gang

Good evening friends,
I hope your Easter was joyful; with beautiful worship in three different sites, mine certainly was. Today's story takes us a little further in the story of the risen Jesus. Jesus appears to his disciples and they aren't quite sure what to do. He gives them a mission and the power to do it. We continue that mission today, with the faith and questions of Thomas and the others.

God bless,

John 20:19-25

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.”

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading finishes the story for Good Friday. The religious leaders have convicted Jesus of blasphemy, but they don't have the right to sentence him to death, so they bring him to the Roman Governor. This story of Jesus' ultimate love for us always blows me away.


John 19:1-30
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. 

4Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 6When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” 7The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.” 

8Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” 11Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 

12From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.” 13When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. 14Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” 15They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.”

16Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus;17and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

19Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 

23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” 25And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. 28After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Friday, April 18, 2014

trial and truth

Good afternoon friends,
Our reading for today picks up after Jesus' arrest. Peter and John follow Jesus to the High Priest's palace and Jesus is tried there. Each of the Gospel accounts tells the story a little differently. I really like the interaction between Pilate and Jesus in John's version here.

God bless,

John 18:17-40
17The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

19Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” 24Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. 

25Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

28Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32(This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

33Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 

37Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. 39But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 40They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.