Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-31-16

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Scripture: Proverbs 14:7
Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not find words of knowledge.

Thought for the Day: Last year, I received a card on the first day of April. It read, “April Fool!” I believe they were wishing me a good April Fools’ Day, but without the s and the apostrophe, it sure sounded as if someone was expressing his/her opinion about me. 🙂  Growing-up, I dreaded the first day of April. Only once did someone pull off a big fool-making moment, yet my heightened anxiety had me walking cautiously through the day. Today, I take April Fools’ Day as an opportunity to reflect on my own foolishness – it never takes much time to make a list of such moments. Most of the time it is a foolish mistake to which my own confession is followed by laughter at the sheer stupidity of what I had done. It is those other moments that are more concerning – those moments when I cling to my foolish ways despite the damage I am causing to self and others. May this April Fools’ Day not leave me as the April Fool, but as one who has found a bit more wisdom for living.

Prayer: Lead me, O Lord, to that place where honest self-reflection can occur. Take me to that place where I can see the need for change and then take the needed steps to pursue the change. Amen.

SUNDAY’S SERMON

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A New Day Dawns:
The Resurrection of Love

Based on John 13:34-35

Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-30-16

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Wednesday – Jesus comes to the Skeptic
Scripture John 20:24-31

Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.” After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.

Thought for the Day: The great author, Frederick Buechner, writes the following about Thomas: 

Imagination was not Thomas’s long suit. He called a spade a spade. He was a realist. He didn’t believe in fairy tales, and if anything else came up that he didn’t believe in or couldn’t understand, his questions could be pretty direct.

Thomas is often a caricature of doubt and suspicion, and his name is rarely used in an affirming way. Yet in the end, he is the only one who appears to make the greatest confession of faith with the words, “My Lord and my God!” His questioning and hesitations are what give rise to this clear theological statement – affirming Jesus as the I Am.

Back in the 3rd chapter, Nicodemus offered a statement on Jesus’ identity when he said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Martha seemed to glimpse the identity of Jesus in the 11th chapter when she said, “…I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God…”  

Yet neither of these individuals apprehended the fullness of Jesus’ identity like Thomas. So the next time someone accuses you of doubting, questioning or even having a weak faith, don’t panic. You are in good company. In fact, those characteristics just might be what God will use to bring a greater insight.

Prayer: Lord God, continue to provide me with a spirit of passion so that my pursuit of truth doesn’t simply become satisfied with easy answers that rarely answer the deep questions of life. Amen.

ARE YOU GOING TO JOIN US TODAY?

STUDIES AT NOON & 6:30PM

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NEXT TUESDAY AT 7PM

Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-29-16

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Tuesday – A Resurrection Appearance
Scripture: John 20:19-23

It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.”

Thought for the Day: Jesus has never been locked out, but his ability to enter into our lives despite the obstacles we create does not necessarily mean we will take notice. It is interesting how he enters in, not with pomp and circumstance, but with peace. Though the door was locked, he doesn’t bust it down and force his agenda on those inside. With a spirit of meekness, he gently breathes upon them the Holy Spirit. In so many areas of life, we are told to be forceful and bold, using whatever tactics that will bring victory. Ethics and respect for the other are left on the sidelines as they have been trumped by our need to win. Throughout his ministry, Jesus showed the power of proactive humility, unceasing gentleness and servant-love. It goes against everything we are taught – fear of vulnerability and being taken advantage of. Jesus’ death will confirm that very thing, but his resurrection and the history of transformed lives tells an even greater story.

Prayer: Be my guide and encourager, O Prince of Peace, as I navigate life with Jesus as my model. Amen.

LOVE TO SEE YOU
AT ONE OF THE STUDIES

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FIVE WEEK STUDY

Book available at Amazon,
Barnes&Noble & Cokesbury

Wednesdays

Noon & 6:30pm
Begins Tomorrow
 March 30

Tuesdays

7:00pm
Begins a week
 from Tuesday
April 5

Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-28-16

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Monday – Jesus & Mary Magdalen
Scripture: John 20:11-18
Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.

Thought for the Day: Have you caught your breath from yesterday? As I often say, most people celebrate resurrection on Easter, but clergy don’t resurrect until sometime around noon on the Monday after Easter. I imagine Mary went from the heavy breathing of panic when she found the tomb empty -to- near hyperventilating as she discovered the so-called gardener was, in fact, the resurrected Jesus. As a kid, I can still remember entering the church sanctuary on Easter morning, and though I had entered that sanctuary 47 or 48 times in the previous year, there was something different about Easter. I don’t think I was anywhere near hyperventilating, but the heart rate was elevated as I felt the spirit of expectation. On this Monday after Easter, I hope the feelings of Easter morning remain. I have a feeling that Mary continued to have moments in which her breath was taken away simply because she remembered back to that day in the Garden. Those are Resurrection Moments, and we all need to have them beyond that one day when the calendar says Easter.

Prayer: Make me a person of resurrection, O Lord of the Empty Tomb. Make me a person of new life on the other 364 days of the year. Amen.

 

WOW!!

What an amazing Easter!

Thanks to everyone
who helped make it special



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FIVE WEEK STUDY

Book available at Amazon,
Barnes&Noble & Cokesbury

Wednesdays

Noon & 6:30pm
Begins this Wednesday
 March 30

Tuesdays

7:00pm
Begins a week
from Tuesday
April 5

Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-27-16

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Sunday – Empty Tomb
Scripture: John 20:1-10
Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” Peter and the other disciple left to go to the tomb. They were running together, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and was the first to arrive at the tomb. Bending down to take a look, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he didn’t go in. Following him, Simon Peter entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. He also saw the face cloth that had been on Jesus’ head. It wasn’t with the other clothes but was folded up in its own place. Then the other disciple, the one who arrived at the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.  They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples returned to the place where they were staying.

Thought for the Day: Happy Resurrection Day! Today is a day of new beginnings. We tend to think of New Year’s Day as the time to make a resolution to start something new, but today is the day when people of faith declare the power of God to bring life out of death, hope out of despair, joy out of sorrow. No matter what unhealthy habit, spirit of hopelessness or destructive relationship that seems to claim you, today reminds us that we have a partner in the work of real transformation. Resurrection is not a modification. It is not a little tweak or alteration. It is the act of God’s love and empowering grace to take that which is dead and buried, and demonstrate how the story is not over. Let’s make today something more than bunny rabbits and eggs. Let us be a people who are ready to claim the Good News of Easter! Let us embrace the God who desires to see us raised into the fullness of life. Today is a day of new beginnings.

Prayer: It is good to wake to this new day, O Lord of the New Creation. Let me embrace all you offer me so that the newness of life does not become something old. Amen.

Good Morning!

It Is Easter Sunday

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-26-16

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Saturday – At the Cross
Scripture: John 19:23-30

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and his sandals, and divided them into four shares, one for each soldier. His shirt was seamless, woven as one piece from the top to the bottom. They said to each other, “Let’s not tear it. Let’s cast lots to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill the scripture, They divided my clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing. That’s what the soldiers did. Jesus’ mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood near the cross. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home. After this, knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was nearby, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, placed it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed.” Bowing his head, he gave up his life.

Thought for the Day: As we have learned in our study of John’s Gospel (Wednesday Study during Lent), the order and chronology of John is quite often different from that of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke). The crucifixion occurred on the Day of Preparation (John 19:42), though that is the day in which the Last’s Supper occurred in the other three Gospels. John is making a point, as the Day of Preparation was the day when the Passover lamb was sacrificed. Unlike the other three Gospels, John is making a strong push to connect the crucifixion of Jesus and the slaughtering of the lamb. With that, John references “a hyssop branch” that was used to raise a sponge to Jesus’ mouth. Why the reference to a hyssop branch? Well in the story of the Exodus (the story retold in the Passover experience), the people used the branches of the hyssop to mark their doorposts with the blood of the slain lamb. John wants his readers to get it, and he places all these important hints to make sure a connection is made between the execution of Jesus and the slaughter of the Passover lamb. For John’s community, this would make the Crucifixion a story of liberation from enslavement. It is a story of God finding a way. It is God’s announcement that  love will have the final word, and all the Pharaohs of this world (physical, emotional, spiritual) shall not have authority.

Prayer: In a death, I find liberation. In your gift, Merciful God, I am free. Allow me to live and to serve others with the same love you displayed on the cross. Amen.

TOMORROW MORNING
FOUR EASTER SERVICES

7:15 — Sunrise (outside weather permitting)
8:15  — Traditional with Brass Ensemble
9:30 — Contemporary
11:00 — Traditional with Brass Ensemble

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 03-25-16

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Friday –  Scourged & Condemned
Scripture: John 19:1-7

Then Pilate had Jesus taken and whipped. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and dressed him in a purple robe. Over and over they went up to him and said, “Greetings, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. Pilate came out of the palace again and said to the Jewish leaders, “Look! I’m bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no grounds for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here’s the man.” When the chief priests and their deputies saw him, they shouted out, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate told them, “You take him and crucify him. I don’t find any grounds for a charge against him.” The Jewish leaders replied, “We have a Law, and according to this Law he ought to die because he made himself out to be God’s Son.”

Thought for the Day: Have you ever been mocked? I can think of a few times, but there were probably others when I sadly did not recognize what was occurring. In the case of the soldiers dressing Jesus like a king – with the intention of ridiculing him – it would become another means by which the truth of the incarnation was communicated. This human expression of the divine will was not about power, but humility. The I Am enfleshed in Jesus Christ revealed something very unexpected about the nature of God. It was not about intimidation of others. It was not about manipulation. Instead, it was a revelation of sacrificial love and merciful kindness. Over and against the Roman authority that used fear and violence to make its point, the people heard and saw a radical alternative. And as we learn in John’s Gospel – Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9).

Prayer: O Lord of the cross, I am in awe of your love revealed in humility and mercy. My gratitude overflows. Amen.

THIS MORNING

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TONIGHT

GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE

7:00pm in the Centrum

Service of Song, Testimony and Story



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