Opening our Minds

Posted by on Apr 26, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Opening our Minds

Grace and peace to you all! It is always such a pleasure to prepare thoughts for us all to consider as we live in the world God gave to us. Welcome to the 3rd Sunday of Easter…not “after Easter”, but “of” Easter. Why this, you ask? Easter begins with Jesus’ resurrection and continues all year long…and especially in this strange year, we need this promise and celebration in thankfulness for what our Lord did for us. Easter gives us hope and reason to bring the good news to all of God’s people. The gospel lesson for this 3rd Sunday of Easter is from Luke 24:13-35. I always look forward to when it comes around in the “circle” of readings for our worship and consideration as I can just visualize what is happening when these men are talking and Jesus comes to them. In this section, we have the story of the Road to Emmaus. It is one of the many stories that Luke chooses to include in his gospel because he was looking toward bringing the word of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. He included many of Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection as he realized that there were many experiences followers of Christ could/would have. The two men in our reading had just left Jerusalem on the day that Jesus had risen from the dead and had heard Mary’s message from the angels to tell the disciples He had risen and they were to go to Galilee. These two men were not in the locked room with the 11 disciples…they had been in the streets through the Passover celebration. At the point where this passage begins, these two were on their way to Emmaus, about 7 miles from Jerusalem. It’s entirely possible they felt a need to just walk a little to consider what they had heard and seen. This is not totally different from what we would also probably want to do. Clear our heads and reason out what had happened. While they were discussing the events of the past couple of days, a person joined them in their walk and asked what they were talking about. They stopped walking. Cleopas was surprised that someone would ask that question and thought this person was probably the only one who didn’t know what had happened. So, he went on to explain the activities of the past several days. Jesus was asking these men to expand the details of their conversation…tell more. Were they being a little like we often act? We are willing to talk about the “bare minimum” details and then make a judgment from that….be it true or false? Jesus began to tell these men that the resurrection was more than a vision that some people were saying it was. Jesus was telling them that the events of the past days were a reality. Another interesting fact of Jesus’ relating the events was that He tied the events to the Old Testament…the words of Moses and the prophets. These two men had heard the Old Testament prophets and Moses many times from their worship in the Jewish temple. The Old Testament foretold the events that took place there in Jerusalem. Page 2 Let’s look briefly at two verses that tells what the men may have heard and seen on Good Friday. The first verse is from Psalm 22:1 that says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Where would these people have heard those words? Yes…from Jesus on the cross, namely in Matthew 27:46…when Jesus spoke those exact words in agony on the cross. There...

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See to Believe?

Posted by on Apr 19, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on See to Believe?

Grace and peace to you today! Let us pray…Dear Lord…thank you so much for the gift of salvation you gave us when you rose on Easter morning…and in 40 days ascended to your Heavenly Father. Thank you for the gift of life and promise that you would always be with us, guiding, teaching and protecting us. Amen Our gospel lesson for the 2nd Sunday of Easter is from John 20:19-31. The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. The reading for today from the Gospel of John begins the day after Jesus rose from the dead and when Mary Magdalene and the other disciples found that the tomb was empty. Mary, Peter and John (the disciple that Jesus loved) had come back to this room to tell the disciples that Jesus was not in the tomb and that He had appeared to them. The disciples are still locked in this room, because they are fearful for their life at the hands of the Jews…as they were known as Jesus’ followers. These followers had been in this room since before Jesus was nailed to the cross as they had all left the crowds and escaped to safety. The only one who had viewed the crucifixion was John who was the disciple that Jesus spoke to personally to ask him to care for Mary. While these disciples are cowering in the room, suddenly, Jesus enters the room. The door isn’t opened. Jesus walks in speaking “Peace be with you.” Can you imagine how thankful and joyful you would feel to hear those words from Jesus after the horror that they had heard about? Not only that, but they saw the wounds in Jesus hands, feet and side. Were they expecting this? I truly believe they were surprised and awe struck. Why, do you ask? Because even though they had heard about the Messiah coming and rising from the dead when the prophets’ and Psalms were read in the temples, it was hard to realize this type of miracle could really happen. I believe they were skeptical of what had been written in the Old Testament. Then, Jesus said to them, “As my Father sent me, so send I you.” He was commissioning them to be disciples to the whole world. He breathed on them…authorizing them to forgive sins of the people they were teaching. One disciple was not in attendance at this time. That was Thomas. Many have called him “Doubting Thomas”…but I prefer to say that Thomas was skeptical of what the disciples told him. This man, Thomas, had been with Jesus and the other disciples when they heard that Lazarus had died. He told his fellow disciples that they should accompany Jesus, no matter what the danger. (John 11:16) Tradition states that Thomas brought the gospel message to the east after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. But…for right now, let’s consider what Thomas said to his fellow disciples. He said he wouldn’t believe unless he actually saw the wounds of Jesus. He wasn’t totally different in his outlook from the disciples who didn’t believe Mary, Peter and John when they told their fellow disciples that Jesus had appeared to them and he wasn’t in the tomb. They, too, were skeptical. The skepticism was eliminated when Jesus appeared to them. Now…one week later, Thomas is again with his fellow disciples. This time, Jesus comes to them. He greeted them with “Peace be with you” and offered to have Thomas touch the wounds on His hands and feet. Thomas did not need to touch Jesus….he immediately declared,...

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I Will Come Back

Posted by on Apr 12, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on I Will Come Back

Our readings for Easter Sunday, 2020, come from Matthew 28:1-10 and John 20: 1-18. As I am reading, please imagine that you are a part of this experience, seeing what the disciples and Mary see when they go to the grave. We see Mary and the “other Mary” coming to the grave where Jesus was placed to anoint the body, as they were not able to do it on Friday, because of the Passover. In John, it is noted that Mary saw the stone moved. In Matthew, the two women experience what could be described as an earthquake they though opened the tomb. Matthew says that the angels came and the guards fell down…not quite sure why…the brilliance of their appearance? Possibly. However, they saw that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb. In John’s gospel, Mary turned and went back to the place where the disciples were staying in Jerusalem to tell them that Jesus body was gone. Peter and John rushed back with Mary to the tomb to see for themselves. John looked into the tomb, but did not go in. Peter, however, did go in. Now…let’s pause there for a minute. In Jewish practice, when the “master of a house” has been dining with his family, if he is done eating, he wads up his napkin and throws it on the table indicating he is done eating and wants no more. However, if the “master of the house” folds his napkin up and lays it by his plate, he is indicating, “I am coming back.” What the disciples and the two Marys’ saw was the wrappings that had been around Jesus had been folded up. They weren’t messed up…thrown all over. The wrappings were neatly folded and placed on the stone. Jesus was indicating He was coming back! The disciples and the Marys’ were shocked by the appearance of the tomb. The disciples immediately returned to the room they had been living in through the Passover celebration as well as the horrible experiences of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. They thought that Jesus’ body had been stolen. However, the orderly arrangement of the wrappings clearly indicated that it wasn’t a robbery. Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb weeping….when she heard a voice speaking to her. She saw someone, but did not recognize the voice or the appearance of this person. She only recognized the voice when Jesus said to her, “Mary”. She called him, “Teacher” and clung to him. Jesus had to tell her to release him from touch as he had not yet ascended. He also told her He would be with them for awhile and that He was going to His Father and their Father as well as His God and their God. The Matthew text reveals to us that Jesus told Mary to return to the disciples and that He was going to Galilee and to tell the disciples to leave Jerusalem and travel to Galilee, the last stop in Israel before going into Gentile territory. You say, OK…I know that story and have heard it many times, but what about now. What is this to me? Well…if you had been at the crucifixion and had seen all of the horrible things that had been done to Jesus, I expect you would have the same reaction as Mary, Peter and John. Would you have wanted to go to the tomb to anoint the body? Would you want to do what was necessary to honor someone who had died so horribly on the cross that you had followed as a disciple? We,...

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Will this Make a Difference?

Posted by on Apr 8, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Will this Make a Difference?

In reading the crucifixion descriptions in Matthew, Luke and John, I was struck by a fairly small group of examples of conversion and/or people changing their minds and acting differently while they were observing the events of Jesus trial, mistreatment and crucifixion. Let’s look at a couple of these events. One of the people would be the person of Judas. Now, Judas had been with Jesus as a disciple and the one who kept the “purse” to pay bills. He was skeptical of this man and decided he could help out the scribes and elders of the Jewish faith by accepting money to betray to Jesus to capture him and begin the trial. However, once he had observed the cruel manner in which Jesus was treated and the false type of trial Jesus was put to, he changed his mind and returned the money. He was so riddled with his guilt he hanged himself. (Matt. 26:23-25, Matt 27:2) Then…we have Peter, another of the disciples. Peter had asked Jesus to wash his whole body when Jesus was washing the disciple’s feet…as a way of telling them they were to serve others. Jesus indicated that in the coming days, Peter would have a difficult time, as he would deny Jesus three times. I’m sure Peter didn’t believe him, but this was the one disciple that did not disappear once Jesus was arrested. Peter followed along in the crowds to watch the events take place and denied three times he was a follower when people questioned him about this. He heard the cock crow and “went out and wept bitterly”. He knew what he had done. (Matt 26:31, Matt:26:69-76). We do know that Peter became a leader, confessed his wrongs and was one of the first to go to the tomb to see what Mary had told them about the empty tomb. There is another example of “conversion” on the cross. Remember the story of the two criminals who were crucified next to Jesus? The gospel of Matthew in chapter 27:38-44, that the two men were testing and taunting Jesus along with the centurions, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” However, in the gospel of Luke 23:39, it is recorded that the one criminal taunted Jesus, along with the soldiers, but the other one rebuked that person and asked Jesus to “remember him”. He realized his mistakes and was assured by Jesus he would be in paradise. One thing we really do not know but wonder about is when Jesus died and there was an earthquake and darkness fell on the land (Matt. 51-54) and the curtain of the temple was torn. Did they realize what that signified? One of the centurions did…when he stated, “Truly this man was God’s son.” In Luke 23:48, the writer states that upon seeing this, “the crowd returned home, beating their breasts”. Normally, this meant repentance. Now, you say, “What does this mean for me?” We read these sections of the gospels many time and have heard them. What DOES Jesus crucifixion mean for us? What difference will it make for us now? What will you do now? Will you share these stories with others who need to hear the promise Jesus gives? Will the world (and our friends) see hope when they see God’s people? Will the world see that the church is not just a building…it is all of us. Will we and others find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection? Will we and others find Joy when we are dejected and wondering when our current issues...

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Palm/Passion Sunday – beginning of Holy Week

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Palm/Passion Sunday – beginning of Holy Week

Sermon for Sunday, April 5 Grace and Peace:  Our reading from the Gospel today is from John 13:1-17; 31b-35 Yes…this part of the Gospel of John  is written after Jesus has entered the city of Jerusalem on the donkey with the palm branches waving.  I chose this section to talk about today because I feel it has encouragement and hope for us as we are fighting this strange virus with the isolation it has brought.  This section comes after Jesus and his disciples have traveled to Jerusalem and while Jesus has healed a blind man, ministered to the Samaritan woman and stayed two days in her community because her testimony about Jesus spoke to many people, and finally He raised Lazarus from the grave.  These are but three of the “lessons” He was giving to his disciples in preparation for his crucifixion. Please imagine yourself in the room with Jesus and the disciples.  Jesus wanted time with just His disciples as he knew that the time for him to be crucified had come and he wanted to give them His assurance and the honor they would not be getting from anyone else as they did the work He asks them to do. Jesus begins by washing the feet of the disciples.  This is an action that was not done by a host to the people who had been invited to share a meal with him.  This action was administered by the servants to clean the feet from the dust that had collected on them.  This action is a parable of Jesus’ for him to illustrate the saving and ethical significance of His death.  Jesus took off his robe and took on the role of a servant.  The cleansing of the feet can be equated to cleansing of sin and preparation for following Jesus as a life-giving, loving service.  He is asking them to imitate the teacher.  He acted this parable to have his disciples remember it as they were ministering to the people. If a person refused to have his feet washed, he would not be part of the kingdom.  The cleansing and confessing of sins indicated a new birth.  With feet washed and sins forgiven, the disciples and we can walk in the light Jesus knows what is in Judas’ heart.  He knows that Judas has accepted money to betray him.  In fact, the betrayal by Judas fulfills Psalms 41:9.  Judas is not clean and has not believed.  Now…what does this signify for us?  The foot washing of the disciples….the participation in the Lord’s Supper (just as the disciples did) is a commissioning by Jesus to love, accept and serve others.  Jesus states in verses 34 and 35, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is a sacrificial love…a l love that guarantees cohesion and acceptance. In our day and in our situation, how will we be able to love others as He has loved us.  Let’s think of a couple of examples.  When we are no longer “in physical distance”, what will change in our actions toward people?  Will be able to really appreciate the love and acceptance of a friend?  Will we thank the people who teach and work with our children?  When we are in a room full of people, how will we view those people?  Will we thank God for the gift of community?  When we celebrated the beginning of...

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