The Risen Jesus: A Punchline

The Risen Jesus: A Punchline

Jesus is Risen, Jesus is Risen indeed! This year we celebrate Easter on April Fool’s but for us the resurrection of  Jesus is no joke. The Resurrection isn’t just a metaphor or a nice symbol we reference to make us happy. It is a true and assured hope that there is Life after Death. That Death is not the end, but it is a beginning for us as we continue to learn and trust in Jesus Christ.

How does the resurrection change our lives? What difference does it make that we worship Jesus, who lived, died and was resurrected? As Luther might ask “What does this mean?”

It means that we can live unafraid of death and all that it brings with it. Many live in such a way that they will do ANYTHING to avoid pain, aging, illness and death. They go to extraordinary lengths to deny the inevitability of it, fooling only themselves and a few select others who are in on the game. We use drugs to lessen the impact of what’s coming, or we choose inappropriate and (ultimately) damaging lifestyles, or we try to fool ourselves into acting or looking much younger than we are, or we are simply paralyzed by fear into a kind of stupor that keeps us from doing or being anything.

It also means that we can live free from sin’s power. Has someone done something to you that still controls your heart and mind? Have you done something that has clouded or affected your whole life? Have you allowed prejudice or fear to warp your heart so that you cannot love and forgive? Trusting in the resurrection, you can let all that go. You can move forward toward something new, toward new life. When we trust in Jesus we trust in life itself as he told us “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” He proved this to us on Easter Sunday.

We are called to embrace the resurrection life Jesus offers us. Our true selves are found in Christ and in God our creator.  Embracing the resurrection life also means embracing the cross like Jesus. As Jesus told his disciples. “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:15

In following Jesus, we die to ourselves (our ego) so that Christ can live in us. Someone told me that a good acronym for what ego really is Edging Grace Out. Just imagine if we didn’t edge out God’s grace in us. Imagine if we let God’s grace edge out sin and death in us and in the world around us. That is the hope of the Resurrection. That is the power of God’s grace that is able to overpower sin, death and evil. God is doing a resurrecting work in you right now. What can we as a community do to celebrate this resurrecting work?

Lenten Journey

Lenten Journey

This March we are full swing into Lent. It is a time of reflection as Jesus makes his way toward the cross. The number 40 is a significant number through the Biblical Story, a symbol of struggle and transformation. 40 days and nights of the flood in Genesis with Noah. 40 years in the wilderness with Israel and Moses in the Torah. And of course, Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness facing temptation.

As we experience Lent this year, I realize that many of us are going through our own wilderness and trials. With health, finances and family circumstances. God walks with us through it all. This Lent on Wednesday evenings, we will encounter the voices and experiences of people who knew Jesus through dramatic monologues. These moments from the Gospels will help us see Jesus as a friend and teacher. As human and one who cares for us deeply. My prayer is that you will experience Jesus in new and profound ways this Lent. 

Every year is unique and different. This year Lent has me thinking about our journey as a congregation toward the Cross and the Resurrection. We can’t have resurrection without death. Resurrection is a change. It can be a change in perspective or a significant change in life. Every person goes through moments of change. As Christians we are called to live a daily dying and rising. Death is a normal part of life and we try our best to trust God in it, because we know that we have hope in the Resurrection. As a community of believers we are also called to a continual dying and rising. People leave, programs change or stop for various reasons and yet God sends us new people, new ideas, new ways to begin.

Questions to ponder this Lenten Season:

  • What does dying and rising look like in your daily life?
  • What are we holding onto that needs to be let go of?
  • How do we properly say goodbye to the people and things in our life?
  • Do we ignore the pain of loss rather than share it? Do we listen to others in pain?
  • What does sharing pain look like positively? Negatively?
  • What are the new things that are happening? How do we embrace them with joy? With sorrow?
  • In the midst of everything, do we trust God?

These are big questions! Let’s explore these together. I’d love to hear from you. God is in the midst of it all.

Questions about Mark’s Gospel

Questions about Mark’s Gospel

Gospel of Mark represented as a Lion

The Revised common lectionary has a cycle of readings that focus on 1 of the 3 Synoptic Gospels. This year explores the Gospel of Mark in depth. With only 16 chapters it is the shortest of the Gospels. Take some time to read this gospel in Lent. Take note of what sticks out.

First, one of the characteristics of Mark is that it is a Gospel of action. The word “Immediately” comes up about 41 times in Mark and 11 times chapter 1 only. God’s work of Saving grace is available to us now. The Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus is here. The question we must ask ourselves is how do we respond to Jesus? Do we wait, or procrastinate, saying will listen or get to it later? If we are honest we say no. Or we just don’t quite get what Jesus is asking of us. We are in good company. The disciples had a hard time grasping what Jesus is doing too.

Second, Mark’s Gospel focuses on the Authority of Jesus as the Son of God or the Son of Man. Jesus is clearly identified as the Messiah or the Christ. He challenges authorities, the devil, the religious establishment, and the local government. What are your expectations of someone who challenges Authority? The disciples had many expectations for who Jesus was and what he was about. Jesus also urged his Disciples to remain quiet. What is Jesus waiting for?

Third, Mark’s Gospel spends a long time on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the Cross. The Cross is central to the story of Jesus. It makes everything become clearer. As you read Mark’s gospel keep the cross in the background. How does thinking about the cross change your thoughts on what the disciples and others are saying? How do Jesus’ and others actions move us toward the cross?

My prayer for you is that you know Jesus deeper in your exploration of the Gospel. May Jesus comfort you, confuse you, convict you, and most importantly may you know the Jesus is with you. Amen.

Trusting God and making plans.

Trusting God and making plans.

How quickly a year goes by! January is always a time for new beginning. For me, in particular, is it is filled with joy and celebration as Caitlin and I celebrate our Anniversary at the beginning of the month (Jan 2) and at the end of the month as I celebration my ordination (Jan 30) and the beginning of my call at Community Lutheran 2 years ago.

Each year presents itself with new tasks and challenges. I am excited to see where God is leading me and I pray that the ears and hearts of those around me are also are open for surprises ahead. January brings with it some great opportunities for growth. I have been surprised by the many things God has done. Often not according to plan but still delightful. Trusting in God requires us to make plans but be open to change. We desire change and be stuck. And we can content with life and hope nothing changes at all.

At times life can seem overwhelming and it can feel like we are spinning our wheels. I am reminded of the prophet Jeremiah who tells the people of Israel who are in exile “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) God has a plan for us even when we are still trying to figure it all out. We can trust in God and we can trust in those God as surrounded us with.  We can make plans and dream dreams about what the future might hold. They plan big or small. Simple or complex. Some plans work, others fail. Nothing is certain. Yet, we are a people of faith and no matter how good our goals we are called to Trust in God. Let us start off this New Year relying not on our plans or visions but on God’s Grace.

Preparation as an act of Faith

Preparation as an act of Faith

Advent is here, the beginning of the church year. While all the stores, radio and television channels become all about Christmas way too early, we take a step back from the Christmas rush to prepare and ponder what it means for our broken world to wait for a Savior. For us, the birth of Jesus is not an afterthought. The birth of Christ is the beginning of the Good News that “God is with us”. John 1:14 tells us And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” With the weight of all that is happening in the world, we sorely need grace and truth that comes from Jesus. Through Jesus, we find that we are loved by God and we are called to a greater purpose be God’s light in the world. This love is meant to be shared with the world and bring redemption. Advent is the season we celebrate and prepare for the Good News found in Jesus.

We celebrate advent using several colors. In some traditions, the color of Advent is blue as a symbol of hope and Jesus’ royalty. In other traditions purple and rose symbolize the coming Kingdom and the need for repentance as we hear from John the Baptist and Jesus: “Repent for the Kingdom is at hand.” Both are true. Jesus brings hope, but he also reminds us that God comes to shake things up in our lives.

We celebrate Advent not just to remember the hope of God’s people waiting for Jesus long ago, but also as God’s people who wait for Jesus to come again now. We are still waiting!

It was around this time two years ago that Community Lutheran was searching and preparing for a new pastor. What were they feeling? What were their hopes and dreams? What would change? While they waited, I was going through some of my own preparation; wondering and waiting as Caitlin and I thought about our future in a new place with new people.

I invite you to reflect upon a time of waiting in your life. What was it like to anticipate change? How might that be similar to us as we wait for Jesus? While we wait for Jesus, know the Holy Spirit is with us and beside us, guiding and preparing all of us.

This year I chose the theme is Waiting for Jesus: Faith, Hope, and Love for my weekly devotional teaching. What does it mean to wait in Faith, Hope, and Love?

As I begin thinking about a new year, lots of things pop in my head. A year full of possibility something planned other things have yet to even be thought of. God is calling us to new adventures and down a few paths untrodden and unknown. We are reminded that Jesus Christ comes to us as Emmanuel “God with Us.” Let us rest in this promise.

I hope that this Advent and Christmas, Christ makes himself known to you in a meaningful way. Have a happy and blessed celebration here in our community and with your family.