This final Sunday in May marks the end of the Easter season and the transition to Ordinary Time with the celebration of Pentecost. On Pentecost we remember the pouring out of God’s Spirit on the first Christians. The Divine Spirit empowered them go out and share Jesus’ Good News with the world. The same Spirit lives in us and empowers and guides us. What more essential “tool” could there be for living in a time of Pandemic and social unrest than the Spirit of God in us and with us?
You can view my Pentecost message and a song, “Spirit” by our choir, recorded during this time of social distancing, by playing the video below.
This week I am beginning a new series called Essential Tools for Living in a Time of Pandemic. We begin with FAITH. The vital importance of faith in the Christian life is highlighted in texts such as Genesis 12:1-4; Romans 1:16-17, Hebrews 11:1-16, Matthew 17:20, and Jeremiah 17:7-8. But what is faith? How can we grow in faith? What difference does faith make in our lives? How does faith guide our actions in times such as these? Faith is our living connection to God. Richard Rohr says that “God’s life and love flow into you as soon as you are ready to allow it. That is the core meaning of faith—to dare to trust that God could, will, and does have eternal compassion toward you.” Think about that!
In the coming weeks we will be exploring together other essential tools for living in these challenging and uncertain times: Spirit, hope, love, patience, understanding, and freedom. I have trust that God will grant us what we need for the living of these days.
My text for this Sunday’s message is one of my favorite psalms, Ps. 103. This psalm is overflowing with good news which we desperately need to hear, especially during these hard times. The psalmist powerfully proclaims the steadfast love, mercy, and care of God for all. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all God’s benefits.”
We are living in a strange and challenging time; there is no denying that. And yet over the centuries God’s people have passed through many extremely difficult times and have drawn upon the Scriptures for hope, guidance, and strength. For our text this week, I have chosen one of the true classics of our faith tradition, the 23rd Psalm. I will share my thoughts with you on the passage this weekend with a video message titled, Through the Dark Valleys. In preparation for hearing God’s Word, and as a personal devotion time, I invite you to read it daily. Read it slowly and meditatively, pondering each line, taking in the rich imagery as food for your soul. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for God, you are with me!”
This week we continue our study the first Easter according to John’s gospel with a fishing story and a breakfast conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter. (read John 21:1-19). “Do you love me?” Jesus asks Peter three times. This is his question to us as well. My message is titled, Jesus Comes to Us in Our Discouragement.
In my message this coming Sunday, April 26, we will read and ponder the story found in John 20:24-31 of Jesus appearing to Thomas after he had missed out on Jesus’ appearance to the other disciples the week before. When they told him that they had seen the Lord, Thomas was skeptical until he experienced the presence of the Risen Christ himself. From this he has been given the label, “Doubting Thomas.” Is this fair? What do we know about Thomas? And most importantly, what does he show us about the role of doubt in the life of faith? In this time when we cannot meet together face to face because of COVID-19, I am glad that I can still share my message with you through video.
On the evening of the first Easter, the disciples of Jesus are hiding in fear behind locked doors. Their fear is understandable given all they have been through during the tumultuous week which ended in Jesus’ arrest, trial, execution, and burial. If this happened to their teacher Jesus, they could be next. This morning the tomb of Jesus was found empty, and then Mary Magdalene reported that she had seen the Lord alive, but still they are huddled behind locked doors in fear. But Jesus comes to them in their fear and offers them his peace. And then he breathes into them his Spirit and tells them that he is sending them out to continue to share his good news of God’s love and forgiveness. Jesus’ presence is the beginning of the end of their fears, for as Jack Coe truly states: “Fear cannot stay in the same house as Jesus Christ.” To listen to my message for this second Sunday of Easter, click on Jesus Comes to Us in our Fear(John 20:19-23). To watch the video on YouTube, see below. Hallelujah!
Even though we are not able to gather together physically in our beautiful sanctuary this Easter Sunday due to the COVID-19 virus, we will still celebrate Easter! Alone, sheltering in place, and yet together in the Spirit, this Easter Sunday we will read the account of Jesus’ resurrection as found in John 20:1-18. First the angels at the empty tomb, and then Jesus, ask the brokenhearted Mary Magdalene, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (vv. 13 & 15). Surely, she has many reasons to weep. Jesus has been brutally executed. And now his body is missing. But God is doing something surprising. The tomb is empty, not because Jesus’ body has been stolen, but because he has risen! So also in our present situation, we need to proclaim the good news that God’s love is stronger than hatred and fear. God’s life is stronger than death. “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”
In the gospel of John, Jesus speaks the above profound words to a woman named Martha whose brother Lazarus has just died. My message for this Sunday is titled Life Now and Forever (read John 11:1-45). As our nation and world face rapidly escalating numbers of people dying from complications from COVID-19 in the coming weeks and months we need to remember and trust this truth more than ever: Even though we die, yet we will live, in and through Christ. For he is “the resurrection and the life.” Secure in that faith, we are set free to live our life with conviction, courage, and love.
My message for this Sunday is titled, Peace in Anxious Times. We have many reasons to feel anxious during these challenging times of health and economic uncertainty. Such anxieties are normal, but can easily get out of hand and interfere with our ability to think clearly and act wisely. I find myself going back and forth between voraciously reading all the news, public health and scientific studies I can, and just shutting it all off for a while to take my dog Jesse for a walk, make dinner, listen to music, or meditate and pray. Constant anxiety is debilitating. There is truth in the saying, “Worry is like your rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” We need some rest from our anxieties. We need some peace. In our scripture passage for this week, Philippians 4:6-9, the apostle invites us to turn our anxieties over to God so that we may experience a peace that transcends all understanding. ”Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” In these anxious times I invite you to read, ponder and heed his advice.