Touch and See

Posted by on Apr 18, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Touch and See

The gospel lesson for this 3rd Sunday of Easter comes from John 24 verses 36-48. This section is a continuation of a story we considered a year ago, that of the people talking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Jesus is appearing to various people who have been following him and who are considered some of his disciples. He is appearing to them because there is still a tendency for the people involved to consider the appearances of Jesus a vision, rather than a reality. All the disciples are still attempting to grasp the reality and truth of the resurrection. Therefore, Jesus is appearing to them to calm their minds and to help them realize that this occurrence, the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, was written about in many areas of the Old Testament, or as the people of Jesus time heard…the Hebrew writings read in the temples.In this section, Jesus appears again to his disciples and finds them still startled, terrified and thinking they were seeing a ghost. Jesus asks them why they are frightened. He asked them why they still allow doubts to come into their hearts and beings. He says they can touch him to find out that he isn’t a ghost…as he has bones and skin. Then…while the disciples were still questioning what they had heard and seen, Jesus asks them if they have something to eat. The disciples gave him a piece of fish, that he ate in front of them. It appears we have another reminder that the Resurrected Christ is also the Crucified Christ.Then, Jesus “opened their minds” to the scripture. I would expect it would have been in the similar way when Jesus was talking to the two men on the Road to Emmaus. Jesus tells these disciple that everything written about him was in the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms and he fulfilled them all.As a reminder, there are two verses these people may have heard. One was from psalm 22:1 that says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mary and the disciple named, John, heard these words at the cross, didn’t they? The words are recorded in Matthew 27:46. Also, another interesting verse from Psalm 22:18, “they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lot.” This occurred in Matthew 27:35. After teaching them the significance of the Old Testament/Hebrew scriptures, Jesus commissions the disciples to tell all of the need for repentance and that forgiveness of sin is available to all people who believe in Him. He also assures them that he will be with them always, he will never leave them and they will be given power from on high.Let’s look for a little while at the various people these disciples will be teaching and proclaiming the Good News to. I’m sure there will be a variety of people and not all will be agreeable to all they have to say. What are they going to do when they encounter some questions? What are they going to do when someone states emphatically they don’t believe?We know that these disciples are not going to only people of their own race or background. They will be going to people of different ethnic backgrounds, different religions, etc.Are they going to not speak the words Jesus taught them? Are they going to shun the people that aren’t totally like them? How are they going to be able to really preach the truth of Jesus in the light of differences? What are the truths? Repentance from sin. Forgiveness of sin. They...

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Showing and Believing

Posted by on Apr 8, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Showing and Believing

Our gospel lesson for the 2nd Sunday of Easter is from John 20:19-31. This is a continuation of our lesson from Easter Sunday that revealed to us Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. In this reading, which is the evening of the resurrection, we see the disciples still hunkered down in the Upper Room out of fear of the crowds on the streets, which included the Jewish temple leaders as well as the Roman rulers. Mary Magdalene, as well as John and Peter, had told the disciples what they had seen in the empty tomb and Mary had brought them the message Jesus wanted her to give to the disciples. John does not say how many disciples are there, but it can be assumed that all of the women who were following Jesus as well as the disciples were there. These disciples had been in this room since before Jesus was arrested, beaten and crucified. They left the crowds and escaped to safety and the only one who had witnessed the crucifixion was John. Peter had run away when he heard the cock crow and remembered what Jesus had said about his denial of Jesus three times.I am wondering what they all thought of what Mary had told them. Were they skeptical of what she saw and said Jesus had spoken to her? I would imagine they were. Then…suddenly Jesus appeared in the room through the closed, locked door. Jesus first words were, “Peace be with you.” This is a normal greeting but would have possibly been rather shocking to the disciples when they heard it. Here, these people had been following Jesus for 3 years and were just now realizing what Jesus had been teaching them when they were meeting as a small group. He told them countless times he would suffer and die but would ascend to heaven. He states to Mary, “I am ascending to my Father and to your Father to My God and to your God.” Now…he is here with them.Jesus showed them his hands and feet, to release some of the skepticism they had been experiencing. They rejoiced….as what they had seen was that the Resurrected Christ was also the Crucified Christ. Jesus then commissioned them to tell others what they had seen and breathed on them, giving then the authority to forgive other people that they would be teaching and ministering to.The breathing on the disciples was symbolic of what they would experience when they were given the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit could not come to the people until Jesus had risen and had left them. But what we DO see, if that Jesus is acknowledging in action that He is also the Spirit that would be following them in their work. Just look at what we have seen in the past two weeks. We have seen Jesus give us his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper…what he did for all of us. Now, the disciples are receiving the symbolic gift of the breath and blessing of the Holy Spirit that would be given to them (sent to them) later. Now, we come to an experience that occurred 8 days after this first appearance of Jesus. Jesus appears again to them, but this time, Thomas is with them. Thomas had been voicing the skepticism during these 8 days that the disciples had most possibly voice prior to Jesus’ appearance. He wanted to see what they had seen. He wanted to experience what they had experienced. We don’t know if Thomas was in the room when Mary came to them the...

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Marching On

Posted by on Mar 28, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Marching On

Dear Lord…please speak to us as we begin the consideration of this Holy Week with Palm Sunday. May we realize anew the blessings you have given us and that you gave us when you suffered on the cross and rose again. Please be with the people in Alabama who are recovering from a tornado and other storms. We ask your healing arms around the people in Anamosa as they begin their recovery from the tragedy there in the penitentiary there. We would also ask, along with the other Christians, that the tragedy in Boulder, CO, bring healing for the families affected. Thank you, Lord, for your love and for your Son. AmenOn this 5th Sunday we are celebrating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Our gospel lesson is Mark 11:1-11. To begin our consideration of this event, we need to go to the Old Testament book of Zechariah 9:9. This is what is written there: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he., humble and riding on a donkey on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This was the prophecy that Jesus is now fulfilling.Needless to say, the crowd senses the importance of this entrance. They believe this man is coming in the name of the Lord, but they do not understand the actual role of the Messiah as they believe he will reestablish the kingdom of David and free them from the prosecution and hold of the Roman rulers.Let’s look a little more closely at what we see here. Jesus entered Bethany from the Mount of Olives to proceed to Jerusalem. He sent two people to Bethpage to find a colt. There is no specific indication if it was a donkey or a foal of a horse…just that they would find a new colt. This colt had never been ridden. It has had nothing to do with humans and is untamed.The two people are to tell the owner that the Lord needs the colt. The owners gave permission to take the colt. When they brought it to Jesus…and began the ride into Jerusalem, but people watching the procession put their cloaks and the palm branches down on the road. This was not only a gesture of respect, but it was also so that the colt’s feet would not touch the ground or any stones. This was quite apart from human efforts. I had never looked at this practice that way.So…the crowd is watching Jesus process in on the back of this sacred colt….and the colt is sacred because it is carrying the one who comes in the name of the Lord. The crowd is yelling “save us”,…”rescue us”. They feel that this person coming into Jerusalem in a procession resembling a military procession would restore to them the kingdom of David.So…we see: 1) Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a consecrated animal. 2)He rides into the center of the house of Israel. 3) The crowds are shouting for divine rescue. 4) They are acknowledging Jesus as a Son of David. At this point, Jesus leave the parade and we can only assume that the people took the colt back to its owners. Jesus entered the temple…looked around and viewed everything and then took the disciples back to Bethany. I wonder what happened to the people who were lining the streets watching Jesus enter the city. It was really much like some of the visions of parades we see today, isn’t it? People joyfully shouting praise to Jesus, even though they have no idea who Jesus really...

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Call to Action

Posted by on Mar 18, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Call to Action

The gospel lesson for this 5th Sunday of Lent is from John 12:20-33. Jesus is in the process of not only telling his disciples on what they will be seeing in the coming days, but he is also proclaiming the same to Greeks or Gentiles. In other words, he is broadening the scope of his teaching for a reason. This section is really a continuation for Jesus ministry to the public and teaching all the people He talks with. Very shortly, Jesus will be spending most of his time with his disciples as he prepares them for his crucifixion and resurrection. What is interesting to me in the first portion of today’s reading is that we have some people who are not Israelites coming to hear Jesus. These people are Greeks who have given up their former practice of worshiping idols and now want to hear Jesus as they are now believers I also thought it interesting that the Greeks went to Philip first to bring them to Jesus. Philip’s name is from original Greek and his home territory is Bethsaida in Galilee…another familiar territory to the Greeks. They felt comfortable and accepted by him. John presents this picture to illustrate that these people had faith as they had accepted what Jesus was preaching. Philip brought the group to Andrew and the two of them introduced these people to Jesus. Jesus begins talking to them all by saying the time is coming when He will be experiencing the very thing he was put on earth to go through. Jesus is affirming the commitment to His mission here on earth. We see Jesus telling them the parable of the single wheat seed that needs to be put in the ground to die before it can bear fruit. This is not a specific statement that he will be like the wheat seed, but that is exactly what the parable illustrates…and this comes just after Jesus has said that the hour has now arrived. I am not totally sure that either the Greeks or the disciples really knew what Jesus was meaning in this parable…but it is one they would remember after they have heard about Jesus resurrection Perhaps the most important portion of this section is the last sentence where Jesus challenges the people to remove their own self-desires and wishes from their lives and they will then live. He is also challenging them to serve Him and follow Him…and that person will be honored by the Father. He is most definitely asking them all to live as His disciple by dying to themselves. Jesus then begins to talk more specifically about what his own feelings are facing his death and the trials that are coming to him. He prays to God that the Father be glorified…in the actions he will experience. All of a sudden, the whole crowd hears what they assume is thunder, but what really is God assuring Jesus (and the people) that He has already glorified Jesus and will again. This speech from God was mainly for the sake of the people with Jesus. This is also the 3rd time in the gospel of John that we read of a “voice from heaven”. With this statement, God is confirming His authority as well as the fact that Jesus is His Son. So…what do these verses and experiences have to say to us? By the very fact that the Greeks want to hear Jesus…and that they gave up their former lives for committing to Jesus…we see that Jesus was drawing ALL people to Him. His ministry and mission...

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Look up and Live

Posted by on Mar 14, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Look up and Live

The gospel lesson for this 4th Sunday of Lent is from the gospel of John….namely John 3:14-21. I also need to note for you that there is an interesting Old Testament lesson from Numbers 21:4-9 that John, the gospel writer, refers to in the first sentence of his writing.The incident from Numbers is about a time in the history of the Israelites when they were making their way through Mount Hor and Edom. The people were impatient to have to be traveling and were upset with both Moses and with God. They were upset because there was little food and water…they were always on the move and wondered why God had brought them there to only die.God sent poisonous serpent to the people and as the people were bit, they died. However, Moses heard from the people acknowledging that they had sinned by being up set with God and Moses. Moses prayed for the people…and God told him to make a poisonous snake set on a pole and that everyone bitten would look at that pole and live. Moses made the snake of bronze.Jesus states in verse 14 that just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (a story that those who attended worship in the temple would remember), so the Son of Man would be lifted up and whoever believes in Him would be saved. Just before this section, Jesus had been visiting with Nicodemus about being born again. This was at night…and Nicodemus came alone. Jesus tried to tell his visitor about the concept of being born of water and the Spirit, which is baptism. Nicodemus doesn’t understand and Jesus asks him why, being a teacher of Israel, he doesn’t understand what Jesus is saying. His one question to the visitor is, “If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can I tell you about heavenly things?” In verse 14, Jesus states that the Son of Man would be lifted up. This meant that he would be lifted up on the cross to suffer and die for the sins of all people. Being lifted up, this would be a source of healing and life, as the serpent was in the wilderness. In reality, there are two meanings to “lifted up”. The first one was to be lifted up on the cross…and the second meaning is that he would be exalted…as people would receive life through the life-giving death of Jesus.Jesus then gives us the statement in John 3:16 about what he will be experiencing. We all know this verse by heart. Let’s look at it more closely. Jesus speaks of himself in the 3rd person in verse 16. “God gave his only Son….” Some versions insert “begotten son”…but Jesus states that he is God in human form. It is a “repeat” of the first verses of John where John states that the “Word became flesh.”Jesus goes on to say that God gave his Son to the world that he loves. This is not a sentimental love, but a love linked to the giving of Christ to die for all our sins. How many of us would give our only child to die to redeem the whole world? Jesus also states that everyone who believes will not perish, but have eternal life. Jesus did not say that people would have to die to have eternal life. He said that believing in the Son would give people abundant life on earth. Just think…..as the Israelites were bitten in the wilderness by the snake…one look at the bronze serpent on the pole would...

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Connections

Posted by on Mar 3, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Connections

Dear friends…on this 3rd Sunday of Lent, we have some very interesting Bible verses to read and consider. The gospel for this Sunday is from John 2:13-22, where we see Jesus exercising his authority and concern over the misuse of the temple by turning over the tables where merchants were selling things, such as doves, lambs, etc., and taking advantage of the less fortunate people. In the epistle lesson in I Corinthians 1:18-25, we find Paul talking with the Corinthians about wisdom and power of God and especially of the cross and in Christ’s crucifixion. He is also discussing the difference between the Jews and the Gentiles (mainly the Greeks) in their view of society and the cross.The Old Testament lesson from Exodus 20:1-17 spoke loudly to me this week as a way for us to view people and our actions. This section from the Old Testament is a familiar one to us as it is the story about God giving the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel who had been led from Israel to Egypt to escape the persecution and death they faced as followers of God. In these verses, the people have arrived in the area of Mount Sinai. They are now able to settle in this area and Moses has the opportunity to visit with God what they would and would not be able to do….to prepare them for what their work would be. We have normally discussed these verses in the context of positive and negative actions toward other people. We have, in essence, built lines between us and other people…boundaries. In other words, we have looked at these verses in the negative context. Yes…these are rules for us to follow as they were for the Israelites. But, was the context only to be negative? Along with another writer, I saw that these commandments could be looked at in another context. How about if we look at these as definitions for living a greater life than we could imagine? How about if we look at these definitions and suggestions of the kind of people we choose to be?Last week, while a friend and I were visiting on the phone, she mentioned a book she had just heard about called, “The Imaginary String”. Her comments on this book interested me enough to investigate and I ordered the book. This book was originally written as a children’s book about two children who were scared on a stormy night and ran to their mother as they were afraid they were alone. The mother told them that she was always with them. They questioned that comment. But she told them she was always with them…connected by an “invisible string” that is love. The book went on to describe all of the instances that the children were connected to other people, their friends, friends of friends and family who had gone to heaven. They were always connected by the invisible string of love. The children began to realize that they are connected to their friends, no matter where any of them are…and the connections are always there. They began to realize that everyone is connected in some way.After thought and prayer, I realized God was telling the Israelites what they can do to show love and acceptance to their friends and neighbors. These commandments were not rules for separation, but suggestions for people to use themselves to show what type of people they choose to be. What if instead of words like “thou shalt not”….we use the words in this reading of “thou shalt”. Like one writer put it,...

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