041020 Good Friday
Hebrews 10:16-25 (ESV)
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
The Full Assurance of Faith
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
It is often asked, “What is so GOOD about GOOD FRIDAY?” What is GOOD is the assurance of faith that comes from the cleansing of our souls through the loving human death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is because of this human death that the divine Jesus can emerge.
Today, as the clouds cover Golgotha the darkness turns to light just as Jesus described. It was a dark day in the life of the world, but it was a glorious day for divinity!
There is nothing good about human death. Those who experience it will tell you grieving is not a pleasant activity. It is slow to start, and it lingers on for a lifetime. Yet, somehow, we can get on with the worldly routine somehow. It is repeated everywhere in the world that those who have gone before us will not be forgotten. Jesus is the pinnacle of this remembering. Yesterday we discovered Jesus knew this better than anyone. He put in place the most sacred of acts all, Holy Communion.
At 3:00 o’clock on Friday “It is Finished”. In fact, it is just beginning. As Jesus’ human life is ending, his divine life is beginning. We are blessed to recognize this transition. Upon recognizing this transition, we are transformed into followers who are protected by our faith.
Looking past the immediate to the more global, we are able to discover the GOOD in all things.
040920 Maundy Thursday
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NIV)
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Maundy Thursday represents the most Holy Sacrament of our faith, Communion. It is the harsh beginning to the glorious resurrection. It starts with Jesus teaching servant leadership by washing the disciple’s feet. Next, he teaches humility and unconditional love by explaining the betrayal of Judas and describing the denial of the disciples. In all of this, Jesus institutes and ritual of bread and wine as a method of remembering who he was and what he was teaching.
Each of can create the same symbol of remembrance by offering a graceful prayer before a meal or a prayer of thanksgiving during our daily routine. Jesus made it a symbol of r holy remembrance. Take time to remember Jesus in everything you do. He invited you to the table, invite him into your life.
041220 Jesus Has Risen
Epistle: Acts 10:34-43
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
This Ends the Reading of Our Epistle Lesson Today
GOSPEL: Mark 16:1-8
Jesus Has Risen
16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.[a]
This Ends the Reading of Our Gospel Lesson Today
Lord of the Risen Christ, we come before you to worship the miracle of the resurrection. You love us so much, you sent Jesus to teach us the way, the truth and the life of a Holy people. Allow us to hear and act on your words. AMEN
Our purpose today is EASTER: It is the time in our liturgical year we lift up the Resurrection as the fulcrum of our faith. Each year we work our way through the liturgy of the scripture come to this. I believe this year will help us understand the meaning of EASTER more clearly. The world is so consumed with sickness that it has put commercialism and to some degree greed, on the back burner. We now know it is possible to exist without these things. From now on we can safely concentrate on Jesus Christ and the miracle of the Resurrection without the interruption of news agencies and commercial advertising.
What is the Resurrection? It is the separating moment when the human Jesus becomes the divine Jesus. It is the time we celebrate all that Jesus did in his human ministry and we reflect on the entire divine Jesus story from Mary and Joseph to the garden of Gethsemane. We meditation on the power of God and focus and strength of Jesus. We spotlight Jesus’ teaching and the Acts of the Apostles.
Peter says, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” Reading this carefully one might wonder why Peter is just now realizing the Awesome Power of God and God’s quest for universal discipleship. One might wonder how we fit into this elaborate plan and how our role should play out?
In talking with several people regarding the current social distancing decrees, one said, “Now I understand why pets run out the door the moment you open it.” The idea of being limited is foreign to humans. The human nature is to be free. The oxymoronic feature of humans is our inherent nature to place others and even ourselves in captivity. We are often blinded by the competitive nature of humanity. We push and shove others out of the way so we can be first. In this hyper focus we confine ourselves to the competition rather than to our quest to be faithful people.
Our practice of faith calls for us to contemplate and discern. We cannot do these things in a constant state of distraction. Keep looking to God for answers. Seek the obvious in front of us. Investigate the not so obvious.
We now recognize taking care of ourselves and others is more important that anything else we do. 35% of the work force has been furloughed. The remaining 65% are taking great risks to keep us safe. For the 35 percenters’ in an indeterminate state contemplation and discernment are all we can do. What comes from these acts of faith may be the most valuable things of our century. Listen to these folks. They have a new insight that may how we see the world.
Jesus was one of those who changed how we see the world. His insight was subtle. He seldom shouted or created large displays of his power and divinity. Even the disciples didn’t see his divinity right away. Judas went as far as to betray Jesus for a mere 30 pieces of silver. Peter denied knowing Jesus to save his own skin. The disciples went into hiding after Jesus was crucified. They lock themselves in a room to protect their narrow view of existence.
Easter is the time for us to look out into the vast world, not lock ourselves in the confines of a building or our minds. I have seen many lamentations about the limits of celebrating Easter because of the current national crisis. At the same time I have seen many reflections about celebrating the resurrection regardless of our ability of gather or the building in which we do so.
The EASTER could be the purest of my lifetime. I have been amply awarded time and space to REPENT, REFLECT and RECONCILE. I have been able to shift my routine in such a way that it opens my eyes to the true need of my family, friends, neighbors and church. I am being prepared for the best part of my ministry on earth. I am thankful for this world crisis in the sense that it has slowed down what is before me for the betterment of those around me.
Christ has risen. He has risen indeed.
The renewed Christ within us will be better than the Christ we knew. The resurrected Christ before us makes us new again.
040520 The Journey PALM SUNDAY
GOSPEL: Matthew 21:1-11
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
PRAYER: God of all creation, you have made this day for us. We are so blessed. As we take in these words help us to know you better and help us to know the PASSION better. Amen
Our purpose today is “The JOURNEY”: The journey is ours to take. It will take us where we must be today. I remember as a child that preparing for a trip was a huge hassle. All the packing and loading the car, making sure there was food and entertainment for everyone. The maps would be set out and off we would go.
Best laid plans!
My father was an adventurer in his own right. He was not the go into the jungle type, he was more of a “let’s see where this takes us” type. I inherited this gene and proudly have passed it on to my son. My old seminary buddy Pastor Jon Eastwood used to say, “Mike is taking the circuitous route.” My father drove my mother crazy with this. This characteristic drives most people nuts. Alisa never really knows where we are going. Sometimes she says, “I really don’t know where we are now.” My response is always, “We are on the earth.” That is the same response I give even if I am lost. It gives me enough confidence to get where I am supposed to go.
In the “Entering Jerusalem” story Jesus instructs two of the disciples to get him a donkey colt. He doesn’t give them a lot of details; they trusted him so much they just went and got the donkey colt. The difference between Jesus and me is that Jesus always knew where he was going, me; not so much. The similarity is, we rely on God to take us where we must go.
Relying on God has somehow been in my nature as long as I can remember. It bodes me well. I am not as nervous as others about things. That is not to say I don’t get frightened or nervous, because I do. It’s just that I have a place to go when I am feeling those feelings. Church is like that; it is a place to go. It is a place for all.
Jesus had a place to go. He knew what was in store, yet he went anyways. “THE JOURNEY” holds a unique place for each of us. It is our potential destination. God has readied that place for us. In John 14, Jesus says, “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Talking to the disciples, Jesus believed they knew where he is going, but he quickly discovers they have no idea.
In this peculiar Lenten time, it is difficult to know where we are going. But our UCC slogan helps us; “No matter who you are or where you are on your journey, you are always welcome here.” We are always welcome in God’s House. Even if it is not the church building, we worship in! God’s house is everywhere on this earth. Like the disciples, we often don’t know where God is taking us. This is where faith comes in.
Even as I sit to write these sermons, I have no idea what to say or where to take this message. Remarkably, as I read the scripture before me and I begin writing, things become clearer. Just by stating our PURPOSE, something happens that transforms my ADHD brain into a thoughtful and meaningful medium for God. My learning here is stating a PURPOSE each day is important. Alisa asks me each day what I will be doing. At first, I was put off by that, but quickly I realized that is the voice of God to start my day. Listen to God’s voice no matter how it sounds or who’s voice it is attached to.
As always, I remind people that Palm Sunday is only the beginning of a horrendous week of ignorance, greed, opinions and dastardly behavior that includes flogging, spitting, mocking and finally death to Jesus. Jesus, however, is focused on THE JOURNEY. He knows his human life is coming to an end and in a moment of pure humanness, he begs God to make his journey go in a different direction. God’s plan, unlike my father’s and mine, is firmly set and unchangeable.
Celebrate the beginning of Jesus’ JOURNEY into Jerusalem with palms and hosannas it is the right thing to do. It is also a time to prepare yourself for THE JOURNEY ahead. Each day of this next week has significant meaning in the Resurrection story. Take time to look at the scriptures relating to Holy Week. Remember the cleansing, the servant leadership and grace of Jesus in the Upper Room as he creates the sacrament of Holy Communion. Remember the soldiers and their duty to Rome. Imagine how conflicting that could have been for some. Remember the offering of a fresh tomb by a stranger. Remember the astonishment of the women at the tomb and the puzzlement of the disciples as they ran there. Remember, so you don’t forget.
Easter is right around the corner. Today is a time to remember. Soon it will be the time to rejoice at what Jesus overcame to be the divine Christ.
Go in PEACE
050320 What is Good
Epistle 1 Peter 2:19-25
19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:9)
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” (Isaiah 53) but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
This Ends the Reading of Our Epistle Lesson Today
GOSPEL: John 10:1-10
The Good Shepherd and His Sheep
10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
This Ends the Reading of Our Gospel Lesson Today
From you comes our praise in the great congregation; our vows will pay before those who fear you. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek you shall praise you LORD. May our hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to you LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. Transform us in this day. Infuse us with you love O, God. AMEN
Our purpose today is Invitation: To speak in a natural way about their faith and heal the hurt. Recently, INVITATION has been key to our worship. Those who have Facebook have shared the INVITATION to join us on their Facebook pages and we have received acceptance from people in many places. This past week we had folks who are relocated somewhere else join us and express how nice it was to be reminded of home. This last week our Facebook page was seen by over 700 people. You see INVITATION is not only important, it can be genuinely satisfying. Keep up the good work.
Today we are learning from Peter and Jesus the importance of determining right from wrong especially as it applies to INVITATION. Peter explains Jesus’ plight. He speaks of the critics and their hypocrisy and the pure and divine nature of Christ. He takes time to do this because he separates Jesus from the rest of us by quoting Isaiah 53. (“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:9) Perhaps most importantly, he describes Jesus as a leader from the front. It’s his example we must follow. As that leader he INVITED people to follow him, he didn’t insist.
You and I are not so lucky as to be pure and divine like Jesus, we are smitten with a weakness for evil. We are challenged each day to discern right from wrong. This is often difficult because the line between the two is paper thin. Also, each time we must decide whether to open our mouths or not we are challenged by this right and wrong concept. Remember there were two characteristics Peter described in Jesus, sinlessness and a careful use of words.
These right and wrong decisions become the eternal struggle of humanity in our current culture. Everyone sees themselves as right, yet sometimes suffer from being wrong. As we discussed last week, we have to be critical in our thinking. Over my checkered career I have learned critical thinking as a skill. Skill acquisition is not inherent, it is developed through learning.
The idea of INVITATION is one of those places were critical and clear thinking are imperative. Inviting the wrong people to the party could be disastrous. BUT! Who are the wrong people? Jesus helps us to understand the choosing process here. “anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” Some denominations have made the gate almost impossible to enter. This causes a huge divide in the world church. The INVITATION is simple; come as you are and enter through the gate!
Jesus suggests there is a right and wrong way to enter the sheep’s pen. One who, “climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” demonstrates the wrong way to enter the pen and will certainly disrupt things. The harder question for us today is what is the right way to enter the gate? Even more important, where is the gate. We know who is there to open it for us? The gate is in our hearts and minds. We are responsible for believing in Jesus, Jesus never demanded we believe.
Peter describes Jesus’ suffering and explains his purpose. Purpose and intent are so important to critical thinking and INVITATION. Why do we extend an INVITATION? Is it to impress or advance ourselves or is it to genuinely enjoy the company of the INVITED? WHAT IS GOOD is the later.
One of the blessings of a community of faith is the enjoyment of the community and its participants. Who are the participants of our community of faith? We are discovering many both new and old and far and near. I am so touched by the friends of Plainville Christian Church.
The way to enter the gate of the sheep’s pen is through our belief in Christ, the resurrection and our genuine concern for others. I am occasionally required to explain; attendance in church is not mandatory for entering the gates of heaven. The requirement is believing and doing good. In fact, there may be some who have had perfect attendance who might be in jeopardy of not entering through the gate!
Through the Lenten time we were supposed to repent, reconcile and reflect. In this fourth week of EASTER we are being asked to review our Lenten work. We are called to reflect on our behavior each day to determine right from wrong.
Peter says it best, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”
By Christ’s crucifixion we were taught to discern when it is the RIGHT time to apply pressure. He understood it would be WRONG for him to object to the events laid out for him. We too must consider when to object and when to be silent. Moreover, we must determine when to speak up rather than to turn away.
These are the intellectual tools required for discipleship and stewardship. We are the proprietors of Christendom. At the end of this month we will celebrate the entering of the Holy Spirit to the masses through Pentecost. In these weeks before, I INVITE you hone your skills of critical thinking and genuine INVITATION. I am convinced you will be totally satisfied with the results.
GO IN PEACE