For April 27, 2014, 2nd Sunday of Easter Scripture: Acts 2:14a, 22-36 and John 20:19-31
Then 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." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" ~John 20:27-28
Doubting Thomas...how many people have been accused of being a doubting Thomas? The phrase is never used in a positive light, but as way to chastise someone for having to little faith. It seems unfair to me that Thomas is characterized by his doubt as if it is a negative attribute. Jesus does not condemn Thomas - so why should we. When discussing this last week on our Pulpit Fiction Podcast, my co-host Rev. Robb McCoy said, "Doubt is the pathway to faith. Doubt leads to questions, and to investigation and to wondering and to discussion. It is through doubt that we come to a greater understanding... I don't want blind faith. I want a hard-fought, well-earned, forged in the fire kind of faith, and I think Thomas is a model for that." As we head into the Easter season, do not huddle behind locked doors in fear, but go forth boldly, asking questions, seeking answers and loving all.
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And while they were eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me." And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, "Surely not I, Lord?" ~Matthew 26:21-22
“Surely not I, Lord?” This rhetorical question of the disciples may echo our response to this night. Surely we did not betray Christ. And yet, in many ways we are all betrayers of Jesus. There are times when we all deny, abandon, or betray our Lord, times when we opt for what we know instead of trusting God. We often read and hear the teachings of Jesus, but we do so with a grain of salt. “Do not judge”, yes but there are some people who are just …wrong. “Take up your cross and follow me”, yes but what if I get hurt or lose my reputation? “Do not worry about tomorrow”, yes but I have real things to worry about. “Love your enemy”, yes, but surely Jesus did not mean terrorists. Everyday we compromise the gospel in little ways, sometimes in ways we don’t even realize, and thus everyday we betray Jesus. Every time we rely on so called “common sense” over and above the Gospel we declare “My will be done!” Every time we try to assert our power over God’s, we refuse His cup. Thus outlines our struggle. We struggle to see God’s will above and beyond our own and to follow that will; To trust in God even when such trusting does not make rational or cultural sense; To trust in God even if it mean losing our own life.
For April 13, 2014, Palm Sunday Lent 6A Scripture: Psalm 118 and Matthew 21:1-11
There is an old gospel hymn that asks the question, "Were you there...?" It asks were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Were you there when he raised up from the dead? Were you there?
This is a difficult week. It contains the central story of our faith: the anticipation of Palm Sunday, the fellowship of Maundy Thursday, the heartbreak of Good Friday, the waiting of Holy Saturday and the risen hope in Easter. I hope you will join me and together we will sing Hosannas and wave palms this Sunday, we will break the Bread of Life and share the cup at Thursday's Potluck Service, we will weep together in the shadows of Friday night's Tenebrae Service and wait for the dawn...
When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother, Lazarus, would not have died.'... Jesus wept. ~ John 11:32, 35
I will never forget when my pastoral mentor told me that my ministry would be much less stressful and more effective if I could only realize that I was a failure. A failure?! I was hurt and surprised to hear this pastor that I looked up to and came to for support tell me that I was a failure. Her point was not that we cannot accomplish anything or that all our efforts are in vain, but that we all fail, even when we succeed. We disappoint those around us. We succeed, but not the extent we want to. We have success in one area of our lives only to let another suffer. In short we are not perfect, but God loves imperfection: Abraham the adulterer, Noah the drunkard, Moses the studderer, Jacob the liar, David the murderer, Matthew the tax collector, Saul the Christian killer, prostitutes, lepers, and on and on. The key is grace. Grace means that even though we fail at times, we are never defined by our failure. Grace means it is ok to fail, because we know failure does not have the final word. Grace recognizes that we are not perfect - so cut yourself a break. Grace recognizes that what the world calls failure, being beaten, stripped, mocked and crucified, may be God's greatest achievement.
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