Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-16 - Entering into the season of Pentecost leads us through Trinity Sunday. Much of our attention at church is centered on Jesus and God, but the role of the Holy Spirit is just as important. The presence of God's Spirit is eternal stretching all the way back prior to "the beginning."
Let us consider how this Wisdom can impact our hearts and lives TODAY and, through us, the hearts and lives of others around us TOMORROW.
There is much more to be said. Will we listen?
John 13:31-35 & Acts 11:1-18 | The church has existed for almost 2,000 years. The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, God's Anointed (Christ), created the reality of the Spirit of God being available to all. The thing is...it took some time before the church realized that the Spirit of God was available to ALL.
In our world of religion, dogma, and theological sparring we often forget that the whole thing was always about bringing unity between all people to one another and God. We often find that we have drawn lines, built walls, and created exclusive circles with our pride, fear, anger, and confusion as our true lords.
The world is all about boundaries, borders, and divisions. The Spirit is all about breaking boundaries.
Let us revisit the story of Peter as he retells the story of an encounter he had with the house of a Roman centurion and the Spirit already active in their lives.
Let us consider how we are called to "Go" and BE the good news in flesh to ALL.
Luke 15 - Some religious leaders and Bible experts were grumbling about the kinds of people Jesus was establishing relationship with around the table. Why is the joyful healing and celebration of some a nightmare for others?
We read Luke 15 and try to understand all that is happening in the story. There is 1 father and 2 sons. Typically, we reduce the whole point down to one son and leave it at that, but there is SO MUCH MORE going on here.
What does it mean to be a child?
What does it mean to be a sibling?
Let's revisit the story with fresh eyes and ears to see what kinds of new life the Spirit might unlock within us.
Luke 24.13-35 - In our second week on this passage we focus on the first recorded meal of the New Testament and comparing it with the clear and alluded to partner text from Genesis 3--the first recorded meal in our scripture.
Comparing the "opening" of the eyes from these two meals allows us to understand how our Gospel writer is speaking to the church of his/her own day and ours as well.
Understanding the framework the overall Gospel narrative is presented speaks to the calling we have today as individuals and as a church body.
What does a resurrected Jesus mean for you and your world?
How will you approach the table and your calling?
Luke 24.13-35 - The first story of the Resurrected Jesus occurs in a mysterious way: to disciples who have decided to abandon the mission. This rich passage offers us a look into ancient worship practice and a story all too familiar for us all. In our first of two weeks examining the story we consider where we have become distracted in our own journey--our own walk in the Way.
Where might Jesus be walking with us unrecognized waiting to encounter us and bring us back into the life which we have longed to live?
Luke 24:1-12 - The story of an empty tomb is not a new story, nor is it the point. Our story is of the resurrected Christ among us now, but do we tell that story? We preach a Crucified Savior, but I wonder if we have stopped looking for our Resurrected One. As the church, we must look within to understand ourselves before we can look beyond to understand others or our world.
Let us consider looking for life through the Resurrected Jesus.
Let us look for the living among He who lives.
Mark 16.1-8 - The original and most trusted ending of our oldest Gospel is quite peculiar. Attempts have been made to undo this peculiarity by adding to the original ending. There is a theory that the ending of Mark was passed along originally just as we have it today, "they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid." What do we do with a resurrection story that has no resurrection?
Let us consider what it means when the end is not the end.
Let us consider what it means for us to finish the story.
John 13.1-17, 31b-35 - Our 4th Gospel tells the story of Jesus' final meal with his disciples unlike the other three. The meal takes place on the night before Passover and there is no meal described. Instead, building off of the ongoing development of this sacred festival, we are taken to a scene which happens after the meal. The washing of the disciples' feet is ground-breaking if we but understand its significance.
Let us walk through the bigger story which this scene takes place to understand more of what is happening after this meal.
Let us consider just what Jesus has done for his disciples, what he has done for us, and what we are called to do for one another.
Jesus rides into Jerusalem at the week leading up to Passover. He rides in as a Messiah and the people love it. Of course the religious leaders (Pharisees, Zealots, Sadducees, and scribes/scripture experts) do not want anything to do with what is happening: Jesus is doing everything wrong by their expectations.
Sadly--inevitably--most of the crowd shouting "Hosanna!" on Sunday will be shouting "Crucify him!" on Friday.
What happened over the few days in between to create such a swing of attitude?
What did they think would happen?
Who did they expect?
...perhaps it's time to consider, "Who do we expect?"
Throughout the first part of our third Gospel people have been asking, "Who is this man, Jesus?" Finally, Jesus addresses his identity. He then completely subverts the entire idea and expectation of his identity as Messiah.
Who is Jesus to you?
Who do you say Jesus is?
Jesus approaches a man who has been waiting by a pool for 38 years. Jesus knows he's been there a long time, but asks, "Do you want to be made well?" After hearing the man's response Jesus invites him to receive new life.
In our Lenten Season we continue analyzing our relationship with God through Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is ongoing and requires are constant desire to grow ever so deeper into God.
Do we sometimes fall asleep to this reality?
Do we grow comfortable with life to the point where we no longer desire to grow/change?
Do we want to be made well?
Jesus is wrestling with the expectations of many whom he encounters. Even John the Baptist, his second cousin, is beginning to doubt about Jesus because his expectations are not being met. Some religious leaders are skeptical because Jesus is not acting like a holy Messiah of their expectations. It seems that only the "sinners" are open to Jesus.
A particular Pharisee, Simon, invites Jesus to his home for a meal. An uninvited and unexpected guest disrupts the whole occasion which leads to a fascinating and challenging conversation between Jesus and Simon. It's from this conversation that we confront our question, "Do you see this woman?"
Will we see?
Will we resist?
Will we let go of our expectation?
Will we accept the peace offered?
Matthew 14.22-33 & Luke 8.22-25
Rembrandt's "Jesus Calms the Storm" is a wonderful piece that illustrates our passage from Luke. You can find it HERE.
The Church, as I often envision it, is like a boat. The Gospel writers offer us stories for the church through a boat image as well. Amidst the storms we can find ourselves lacking faith. Jesus asked and Jesus asks, "Where is your faith?"
Let's walk through these stories and consider which side of the boat we reside on: the side of faith or the side of panic.
"Where is your faith?"
Jesus meets a man plagued by demons. Everything about the man is wrong, in the eyes of a good Israelite, but Jesus looks beyond and asks him, "What is your name?"
Names are of great significance in the Bible...and in our day.
Names possess power, intimacy, connection, identity, understanding, and much more.
In our time of wrestling with the questions of Jesus, in the time of Lent where we evaluate our relationship with God, we must spend time considering our own identity.
What is your name?
We begin the Lenten Season by understanding that Jesus is not the great "Answer Man." Rather, Jesus is the great "Questioner." So...in the season of self-examination we will spend time with the questions from Jesus himself. Faith is a journey and Lent points out this aspect of faith as good as anything could. So let's journey together.
We begin with his question to the first disciples in the 4th Gospel we call "John."
"What are you looking for?"
If we are following after Jesus, have we wrestled with this question?
Where might the question take you?
The Transfiguration of Jesus is more than a story on top of a mountain. Every account of Jesus' transformation is coupled with his descent from the mountain into a chaotic scene. The point is clear--Jesus came to offer freedom/liberation/freedom/good news. The Gospel writer offers this truth in a parallel story of Jesus with Peter, James, and John on a mountain in prayer. Jesus never intended to remain on the mountain because there was a mission to be lived.
We often find ourselves caught up in the temptation to remain on the mountain rather than SEE ALL THE PEOPLE. The glory of God, while certainly seen on the mountain, was never the glory Jesus came to bring. The crowd is ASTOUNDED by the glory of God Jesus reveals through the great exodus from slavery to sin and death.
Will we work hard to remain on the mountaintop experiences of our faith?
Or will we descend and engage the mission of bringing freedom to people in the way of the cross of Jesus?
In our third week we come face to face with some serious invitation into a way of life that runs directly counter to our cultural instincts. Our temptation is to water this teaching down and qualify it so that we are not faced with the actual choice to engage it as it is offered. We all do this.
If we can begin from the proper place of relationship with God, the invitation makes more sense. If we can understand our identity as a child of God first, then the teaching becomes more clearly a direct invitation into a better way of life that we should all strive for.
The crowd is faced with many questions.
Will we follow Jesus into this radical agape?
Have we become too comfortable with our world of reciprocal relationship?
In our second week we encounter Jesus coming down from the mountain with his disciples and, again, encountering the expectant crowd who were seeking healing/salvation from their afflictions.
Jesus raises His eyes to the disciples and proclaims a prophetic imagination about the new reality/Kingdom/Reign that is breaking into the world through Him. This monumental great reversal upends the world as we know to bring it right-side-up and out of it's upside-down state.
But not everyone is ready for this new reality. Not everyone in the crowd will receive the justice/judgment of God. Some are too hard-hearted to consider an alternative way. After all, many people find the injustices of their world quite comfortable for themselves when they are on the side of benefit. Not everyone welcomed the good news of Jesus.
Are we ready to welcome it now?
Do our own expectations threaten our ability to be conformed to the way of God's Kingdom reality?
Do we cling to money, status, full stomachs, and an unjust world?
Do we live among our community as a people who serve God alone in such a way that people see the truth of this rightside-up reality of Jesus Christ?
We begin our series "See All the People" at a time when the church is anticipating a significant time of Special General Conference. Our series is not focused on this vote concerning human sexuality, but we cannot pretend as if it is not also on our minds and hearts in the days to come.
In our passage, Jesus calls the first disciples. This calling is not about a personal relationship with Jesus. Rather, Jesus invites them to come and be all about "catching people alive." They are invited to follow him and commit their lives to something well beyond themselves.
In a world where we search for significance and meaning, we often find ourselves starved. Jesus offers us the opportunity to follow Him as a part of the church--to let go of everything in order to follow in His way of life, healing/salvation, and truth.
Are we like the crowd pressing in on Him?
Are we like Simon Peter, James, or John?
Will we continue to press in hoping for what WE seek?
Will we leave everything we know and embrace what He seeks for us?
Love. We love God, our family, our homes, and tacos. In our culture we wrap up all sorts of meaning into four letters. In Paul's time, the word is agape. We read "love" but what Paul is referring to is something entirely different than anything romantic, nostalgic, sentimental, or sensual. Instead, agape speaks to a "self-giving" active interest in the other. God revealed this agape for us through Jesus' incarnation, birth, death, resurrection, and ascension. We are called to BE LOVE in all that we do. Are we ready for this kind of agape life? Have we understood where this story begins in our lives?
In a world where independence and self-reliance are heralded as virtues...Paul calls the church to be in need of one another. In a world where we make a name for ourself, the church invites us into an eternal family where we give all of ourself up...to be...a member of the very body of the Messiah/Christ. This strange idea is illustrated by Paul's use of the body and its many parts/members. Let's revisit the image to see how we can be renewed in our minds, hearts, souls, and bodies. Will you receive the Word with open hands? Will you accept the call to be needy?
Like a beautiful symphony, the church is a group of people working together with their unique gifts to follow the leading of the director by the will of the composer to work in partnership with the wind/breath to create rich and meaningful music. We all have gifts. We are all gifted for others. Like the church in Paul's day, we sometimes measure ourselves in comparison which causes some to feel less worthy and others to feel more worthy. This is not how the symphony of our faith is meant to be played. If you proclaim "Jesus Is Lord" with your entire being (not just your lips), then you are gifted. So what is your gift? Will you join in and help us create the symphony of faith in Jesus' name?
The story of Jesus' baptism in our 3rd Gospel offers some compelling meaning that we can apply to our own lives--after all, that was the point of the author. We are all offered the gift of God's grace and defined by God as "beloved." When we fully grasp this message...it changes everything. The image offered by John the Baptist of the work that can be accomplished when we receive the presence of Jesus in our lives, and the transformation that comes through the work of the Holy Spirit, is beautiful and often misunderstood. Let's revisit the story. Let's reconsider the grace. Are you ready to accept your identity as beloved? Are you willing to let Jesus bring the work of the Holy Spirit into your life?
Isaiah 60:1-6 & Matthew 2:1-12 The story of the Magi is as familiar as it is unfamiliar. We often miss the crucial details of the story so that we can fit it into the Nativity scene of which it never sought to belong. The mysterious and wonderful arrival of these strange travelers speaks of a faith that is coming to light through the presence of Christ. We celebrate this meeting of the Gentile world with their Savior on Epiphany Sunday. Again and again those that we would expect to celebrate the arrival of God's King instead seek to cripple and kill. Again and again those we would never expect show up and offer all that is right: honor, praise, and a lack of expectation. Will we FIND Jesus in our world today? Will we approach him as a Herod...or a traveler from the edge of the world?
Luke 2.41-52 Jesus as a boy is lost. His parents are searching. When they find him, he was not where they expected he would be and he did not respond the way they anticipated. Is this story so unique? Have we wandered down the road of our everyday lives and simply assumed Jesus was walking with us? Have we bothered to check if we are heading in the right direction? Will we SEARCH? Are we ready for the unexpected when we find him?
Luke 1-2:7 We walk through the first couple chapters of the Gospel we call Luke to consider the underlying message in light of our series. All of the people we think will act appropriately struggle. All of the people we think will act inappropriately seem to understand and be willing in ways that are faithful. The presence of Jesus Christ turns the world upside down, so to speak. Let's consider the opening stories and the faith of its characters to ask ourselves some important questions. Do we make room for what God is bringing into our lives and into the world? Do we have rigid expectation or are we truly willing to allow our lives to be done with as God says?
Zephaniah 3.14-20 & Luke 3.7-18 All kinds of people came to be baptized by John the Baptist. Common people, tax collectors, religious leaders, soldiers, and even Jesus come. Many ask, "What shall we do [to live into the way of God]?" John gives different groups different answers with the same underlying message. We must hear the message of justice and grace. We must put it into action with everything we DO. Do you approach God asking what God will do for you... or do you approach asking what you can DO?
Malachi 3.1-4 & Luke 3.1-6 John the Baptist calls his fellow citizens to Prepare the Way. The way of God is equity. Mountains are brought low while valleys are risen up. All paths are to be made straight. This is very counter-cultural...sometimes even for the church. We are given the Holy Spirit to be the very presence of the Divine within us. Scripture talks of the purifying power of fire and the Holy Spirit is THE fire of purification given so that we might be made perfect. While our human nature may lead us to resist the flame, the spiritual thirst we have draws us into the fire to be REFINED. Are we willing to step into the fire? Are we willing to let go of all in our life that does not truly give us life? Are we willing to let the Holy Spirit make that distinction for us?
Jeremiah 33.14-16 & Luke 21.25-36 Christmas is coming!! But it's not here yet. We take our time and celebrate Advent in anticipation of the "coming" of Christ. We retell the story of the birth as we begin a new liturgical year in the church, but we also tell of the eventual final coming and all of the comings in between. We sometimes get too excited and move into Christmas too quickly. We will heed the words of the Baptist to "Prepare the Way" by understanding all that the comings of Christ mean for us today. We begin at the end. Jesus tells us to "STAND" when the world seems to be falling apart. The new age is coming. It's already arriving. Do we live in a way of preparation?
Revelation 1:4b-8 We go back to the introduction of the letter we call Revelation. The author, who calls himself John, begins the letter with an offer of Grace and Peace from God, The Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ. When we understand all that this introduction has to say, we come to a grand realization about our reality here today. We are all invited to become something more through the love and work of Jesus Christ. Are we ready to understand and accept this wonderful news? How will we respond?
Hebrews 10:11-28 There were days when sacrifices were offered regularly by everyone day after day, year after year, over and again to ensure right relationship with God. The author of Hebrews shows how the sacrificial giving of Christ on the cross offered the final sacrifice ever needed. We all have right relationship with God because all that was ever needed has been accomplished. Can we accept this good news? Can we let go of the guilt and shame that we so easily acquire and pile on each other? Can we be confident in our faith and become the church we were always meant to be?
Hebrews 9:11-28 According to the author of Hebrews, Christ's work on the cross brought the final victory for reconciliation. Using symbology from first century sacrificial religion, the author offers us a theological understanding of Jesus' death to bring security to the church across all time and space. What does this victory mean for us today? How does this theology become a part of our every day faith?
Revelation 21:1-6a We celebrate All Saints Sunday with a series called Dwellings. Today's focus is on the HOPE we have in the certainty of God's plan to make all things new. All the earth will be joined together with God so that all of us are in the very presence of God. With the certainty of the future, we can dwell in the present with a hope that overcomes any and all circumstances.