Seeing the Lord

John 20:19-31

The Gospel Lesson the Second Sunday of Easter is always John 20:19-31 and the story of Thomas missing out on seeing the risen Christ that Easter evening.  When told, by the other disciples, that they had seen the Lord, Thomas says, “I won’t believe it until I can touch his scars.”  A week later he made sure he was present with the community of disciples, and sure enough he saw the Lord.

Thomas did not see the risen Lord the first time, because the resurrection of Christ makes no sense apart from the community of his disciples. Read more

God Abstracted

Matthew 4:1-11

Lent begins with Jesus fresh from the waters of his baptism, being led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  At baptism, Jesus is reminded that he is called as God’s anointed, the Messiah.  But what kind of messiah is he going to be?  It is in the wilderness, where everything is stripped away, in prayer and fasting that Jesus seeks to clarify who he is and what he is going to do.

Satan, the Great Deceiver, shows up to steer Jesus away from God’s call upon him and uses three of the greatest temptations for those who want to change this world: economics/money – turning stones to bread; religion – spectacular religion which will make the crowds want to follow you anywhere; and politics – to get the power to make things turn out the way you want. Read more

Truth Dazzles Gradually

John 1: 29-42

At age 51, Noah Adams, a host on National Public Radio, abruptly decided he had to have a piano so he invested in a new Steinway upright – a financial commitment that provided extra incentive to practice.

Adams tells this delightful story of his first year of learning to play the piano in his book, Piano Lessons.  Yet learning to play was a daunting task, particularly given his already demanding schedule.  He found it difficult and frustrating; he couldn’t simply sit down and make the beautiful music he wanted.  There were scales to learn, and basic rhythms to be mastered.  Initially, he decided against going to a teacher, trying such shortcuts as a “Miracle Piano Teaching System” on the computer.  A friend’s warning proved to be prophetic: “You might be learning music with that computer, but you’re not learning how to play.” Read more

Signs, Sheep, and Shepherds

Luke 15:1-10

Our church’s logo is a shepherd’s staff, based upon the parable of the lost sheep, along with Psalm 23 and the Good Shepherd of John 10. We’ve had this shepherd’s staff with our congregation’s name written beside it out front on our sign since 1979 and it is on our letterhead, Sunday order of worship, and website. This shepherd’s staff is a constant reminder to us and to others of our vocation – who we hope to be and are called to be. More than that, it always reminds us who God is.

Our congregation began in 1968 as a gathering for lost sheep, black sheep, burned-out and beaten-up sheep, with a few old goats thrown in, as well. A lot of us were lost, but here, by the grace of the Loving Shepherd, we’ve been found. Furthermore, because of our own experiences, we have sought to make this congregation a body, or flock, where other lost sheep can find a home. Read more

Knowing the One Thing

Amos 8: 1-12; Luke 10: 38-42

Luke tells us that Jesus goes to the home of Mary and Martha.  They welcome him into their home and Martha gets busy doing the many things a good hostess does: preparing food, setting the table, straightening the room, picking up the newspapers that have piled up, and on and on.  Meanwhile sister Mary sits in front of Jesus listening to what he has to say.  Martha, understandably frustrated says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister just sits there while I do all the work?  Tell her to get up and help!”  Jesus replies, “Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things: there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part …”

Several years ago I attended a national meeting of about two hundred clergy from around the country and representing various church traditions across the ecumenical spectrum.  In preparation we were asked to name what we considered the major obstacles to our church members’ growth as disciples.  Without a close second, church members’ busy-ness was easily agreed upon by clergy as the number one problem keeping them from growing in Christ. Read more