Uncharted Territory

Posted by on May 29, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Uncharted Territory

Welcome to Pentecost Sunday, 2020. It’s a different type of Pentecost celebration this year than in the past. However, that doesn’t detract from the importance of celebration this day for the disciples in Jesus time…and for us in our time. Dear Lord…speak to each one of us as we consider your words today. Guide us and direct us, just as you did for the disciples. Thank you for the gifts you give us…for the love, grace and protection you provide. We are your disciples. Amen The Bible reading for today is from Acts 2:1-21. This reading is the extension from Luke’s gospel as he was moving his writing from the actions and teachings of Jesus in the world to the works of the disciples as they moved out to fulfill the commission Jesus gave them. Let us consider the meaning of Pentecost first. Pentecost means “50”. This was a day that was fifty days after the completion of the harvest. This was the day that was fifty days after the celebration of the Passover. It was also fifty days after Jesus crucifixion including the 10 days after Jesus resurrection. The celebration of Pentecost in the age of the disciples took place in Jerusalem. Remember that Jesus wanted the disciples to return to Jerusalem to wait for the Spirit to be given to them. The disciples had been worshiping in the temple after they had witnessed the ascension of Jesus. Yes…there were people who were still there following the completion of the Passover celebration as well as the celebration of the end of the harvest. Luke states that there were about 120 people gathered in the court of the temple, the disciples were in the room where they had seen Jesus. While they were celebrating, a sound like a strong wind came through the people and filled the area. I would expect we could equate the sound to that of an oncoming tornado. That wind caught everyone’s attention. In addition to the wind, tongues of fire appeared on each one of the people and everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit. What significance does wind and fire have? Fire has always indicated the presence of God, since the events of Mount Sinai, when God gave the Israelites the law. In Jewish history, the wind indicates the power of God and the fire indicates the presence of God. Not only did the disciples and people there have tongues of fire on their heads, they began to speak in other languages…as “the Spirit gave them the ability”. (verse 3) Notice that the sound did not go unnoticed. People from every nation were living in Jerusalem and experiencing this happening. In fact, they were a little concerned about the noise and wondered if the people who were speaking had been drinking a little too much wine. Peter begins to address the crowd as a teacher and prophet and explained to them that this was a fulfillment of the event written in Joel 2:28-32, which was God’s fulfillment of the giving of the promised Spirit. Let’s look at a few interesting aspects of this event. First, there were Jews in attendance at this event that were from all countries. They heard their own language being spoken. Normally, the word used for the “speaking” when the Spirit was given to the people was that they were speaking in tongues. However, they were speaking in languages that could be understood by those in the crowd. These foreign languages provide us with a sign of the beginning of a new era in the plan of redemption of...

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Beginning

Posted by on May 23, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Beginning

Welcome to worship on this 7th Sunday of Easter. We are going to be celebrating Jesus’ ascension that occurred 40 days after His resurrection. Yes…there is a day that celebrates only the Ascension, but, since we are in our current situation, we will celebrate that glorious day today along with the 7th Sunday. There are two texts one from Luke and the other from Acts that describe the ascension and the disciples’ reactions in two different ways. The gospel text in Luke reflect the last comments that were attributed to this gospel and then Luke continued the story in the first chapter of Acts. I will read both of these texts for consideration today. The texts are: Luke 24:44-33 and Acts 1:6-14. Also a part of the 7th Sunday of Easter is the prayer Jesus prayed before his arrest. That text is found in John 17:1-11 and I will also quote a portion of it today. At this point in the life of Jesus and his disciples, he had been with them for 40 days after his crucifixion and resurrection. He had appeared to them in the upper room several times and he appears to them again in the text from Luke 24. His appearance was real and not a vision. He asked the disciples to also touch him and he ate with them. Luke states that the disciples were shocked and disbelieving when he appeared. Jesus continued to teach them and in this section, we find that He opened the minds of the disciples to His mission here on earth. In doing this, He showed the disciples that all that happened to him was part of a divine plan. And then, He led them to Bethany and blessed the disciples and was carried up to heaven. What do you think these disciples were thinking? How amazing it must have been to watch Jesus ascend to heaven! They returned to Jerusalem and then I would expect that reality hit them. Now what? They were to wait in the room in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come to them. It was an event that we call Pentecost…or 50 days after Jesus crucifixion and resurrection. We find the disciples going to the temple for worship and praise after what they had experienced. In the text from Acts, Luke includes a portion where the disciples were asking if this was the time Jesus would restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus replied that the time was not for them to know. Rather, he told them that they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit and would be witnesses to the ends of the earth. Jesus was telling them that this was their beginning of God’s purpose to bring salvation to all the earth. It was now that Jesus removed from their minds and purpose the geographical boundaries. The disciples were to go to ALL people. They were commissioned to “go out”…like ripples in a pond. In the Acts text, the disciples were with Jesus on Mount Olivet when he ascended…and then they returned to the room in Jerusalem to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit. The Acts text names all those who were all praying together…even the women who had been involved in Jesus’ ministry as well as his mother and family. After the disciples realized who Jesus was and had their minds opened…they prayed, they went to the temple to worship, their fear appears to have left. They knew that after the Holy Spirit had been given to them, they were to leave Jerusalem and go out to spread God’s...

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We Are Called

Posted by on May 17, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on We Are Called

Welcome, dear friends! I do hope you are all doing well in this very “different” time in ourcurrent year of 2020. I, like you, are hoping that this separation will soon disappear and wecan worship in person together again. Let us open with prayer. Dear Lord…thank you for the opportunity to again be together throughsharing of your words to us. We ask your blessing and strength to those who are caring for ourfriends and family in nursing homes and hospitals. We ask your protection for them as they aretrying stay well and not be affected by the virus. Please protect our firemen, policemen andemergency workers as they continue to protect us when danger threatens us. Be with our teachersand their students as they work to complete a very different school year and look to the future.Bless us in our worship this morning that we may hear your word to each one of us as we workto be your disciples here on earth. Amen. The gospel for this Sunday, which is the 6th Sunday of Easter, is from John 14:15-21. Thispassage is coming immediately after the passage we considered last Sunday. As a reminder, lastweek we saw Jesus comforting his disciples in the upper room where they were staying awayfrom the issues going on during the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. Jesus had just explained to his eleven disciples that He and the Father are one. He was preparingall of them for what they would experience with his crucifixion and his resurrection, as well asHis ascension into heaven. Through the answers to the questions and comments by Philip andThomas, Jesus was giving them all a lesson that they would remember only after theresurrection. Then, they would remember what He had said as they were going out to be Hisdisciples. In today’s passage, Jesus is telling the disciples that the Father will give them another Advocatethat would never leave them. Jesus is also implicitly telling the disciples that he, too, is anadvocate for them and knows he will be leaving them. This Advocate is called the Spirit of Truth that will live in them…as they are followers of Godand part of God’s family. In reality, this is the coming of the Trinity to all. This Advocate willbe a comforter, a counselor and will be a counsel for defense because the world does not knowJesus. This concept is unique to the gospel of John. John has been the disciple who has been with Jesussince the very first call He has observed and has been part of all the healings and miracles Jesushas performed. He was present at the cross when Jesus was crucified and accepted Mary, Jesusmother, as his mother to care for. John is relating to us how Jesus worked with and inspired thedisciples to continue the ministry of Jesus, the Truth, as they carried out their ministry to theworld. In reality, Jesus is saying that the disciples will show their devotion to Jesus and his teachingsthrough following His commandments. Jesus assures the disciples He will not leave them asorphaned as He says He will be with them after the resurrection. He was with the disciples forPage 2 40 days after His resurrection. He also says that no one but His followers will see him after theresurrection. He walked with the two men on the road to Emmaus, who were believers, andunderstood what Jesus was teaching them. He appeared to the women at the tomb, who were hisdisciples, as well as to all those disciples in the upper room. He IS with his followers all thetime. Jesus also assures the disciples that...

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The Way, The Truth and The Life

Posted by on May 10, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on The Way, The Truth and The Life

Grace and peace to you all this 5th Sunday of Easter. Greetings to all of the mothers in our congregations as we also celebrate Mother’s Day. It certainly is a very different way to honor our mothers this year…but it is possible that finding the more “unusual” ways to acknowledge and thank mothers is one that can grow as we move out of our current uneasy situation. Let us pray: Dear Lord….as we come to you this Sunday…still separate, but united in our love for you, be with us. Protect us. Guide us in how you want us to work with your people. We thank you for mothers…those who are with you in your heavenly kingdom, those mothers still with us and those who are working with our children Thank you for those who are working tirelessly to keep us safe and well. Be with us as we listen to your words that we may continually grow as your disciples. Amen Our gospel lesson for this Sunday is from John 14:1-14. In this passage, Jesus is with His disciples in the upper room…before his crucifixion. Just prior to this passage, Jesus has washed the disciple’s feet. He has told the disciples that he will be betrayed and gave the piece of bread to the one who would betray him, Judas. He informed Peter that he would deny Jesus three times during the next day. Can you imagine how puzzled and sorrowful the disciples are at this time? Not only that, but they are afraid as Jesus has told them He will not be with them much longer and they know that the religious leaders and Jews are not happy with Jesus claiming he is the Messiah and will soon learn issues He is facing. Then…Jesus tells them “Do not be afraid.” I can just visualize that the disciples were quite awestruck when He said that. I would possibly have asked the question, “Why am I not to be afraid? When there have been so many disturbing things happening.” It appears that the disciples trust Jesus’ words to not be afraid and do not question Him at all. What kind of example would that be for us? Trust?? Absolutely. While Jesus has been with his disciples in these last few days of His life, He has been teaching them and attempting to prepare them for what is coming. Here, Jesus promises to return to them. He promises them that He will be preparing a place for them in His Father’s dwelling place and infers that He will come back to them. When He states that they know the place where He is going, Thomas voices the thoughts of all the eleven…that he does NOT know where Jesus is going. He wants to understand what Jesus is saying and it is here that Jesus states, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He also says, “No one comes to the Father, but through me.” Philip then asks, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.” Here, you can almost hear Jesus saying, “You mean that you have been with me all this time and you still do not really know me?” I’m sure we would probably react in pretty much the same way if we were in that room. These disciples had been following Jesus for 3 years and they still did not really know Him. Jesus does rebuke him gently and moves right into talking about the link between himself and the Father. Page 2 Let’s discover what Jesus is talking about. The statement Jesus makes...

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Shepherd and Gatekeeper

Posted by on May 3, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Shepherd and Gatekeeper

Our Grace and peace to you all! Have been wondering how you all are doing and I have been thinking a lot about you all and praying for you. Let us pray! Dear Lord….Thank you so much for the care and protection you give to all of us. Please be with those servants who are working in the hospitals and care centers. Be with and guard those policemen and EMS workers who also watch over us all. Thank you for strengthening your servants who are teachers and are working through an entirely new way of teaching our children. This isn’t easy for them, for the students or for the parents. We are so thankful we have your guidance and protection to maneuver through these strange, unfamiliar times in our lives. Thank you, Lord. Amen Our gospel reading for the 4th Sunday of Easter is from John 10:1-10. This section is a very familiar passage to all of us. I’m using it this week as I discovered some very interesting aspects in the story. Some of these items I wasn’t totally familiar with so I learned something…another of Jesus’ revelations to me. This passage is a parable Jesus told to define and explain a concept to all disciples that is often not considered in dealing with people. I know we have heard this before, but it is a reminder that Jesus used parables to tell a story that puts two opposing sides against each other in a very distinctive way. He tells these stories in such a way that it is not difficult to get the difference, but there is no direct criticism of either side, which would cause issues from the listeners. In this parable, Jesus reveals an important detail about His being with the people and why His Father sent him. Jesus begins this parable by talking about the way the shepherds enter the sheepfold. I was curious about what a sheepfold looked like. My thought was always that the sheep were roaming around on the meadows and when the evening came, they were herded into a fenced in area or a barn. Well in looking up what a sheepfold looks like, I found that this place for sheep was a fairly high stone structure that had a small opening at which there was a gate. The picture I found had a person (a shepherd) sitting at the gate watching the sheep in the “fold”. The sheep were herded into the fold…and the gate was closed and the shepherd sat at the gate making sure the sheep were safe and would not escape. Doesn’t the concept of a stone fencing make us feel safer than just a fence? In this parable, Jesus is comparing the true shepherd to false shepherds. Who were the false shepherds? They were the Pharisees. In the Old Testament the shepherd could also have referred to a king or “ideal” leader. However, Jesus was specifically referring to the Pharisees who claimed they were the way to God. Jesus was not referring to Satan in this parable…but to the false teachers. He was also equating false teachers to thieves and robbers who would steal the sheep any chance they had. Page 2 The true shepherd enters the “fold” through the door. Jesus is specific in this parable that the flock of sheep represents those to recognize Jesus as the true shepherd and Israel is the sheepfold. Notice in the reading that the shepherd (Jesus) leads the sheep. He doesn’t drive them toward the fold. The sheep will not follow a stranger, but because they know...

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