Share this blog!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Easter 4C Psalm 23

I remember very clearly the last time I preached this passage before a congregation. My life, along with the other pastors of our little town, had been threatened. There is something about preaching God leading me beside quiet waters and green pastures when everything inside of me screams chaos and fear.

I have never raised sheep. I have never been close to a sheep other than a petting zoo. Yet I preached this message in a farming community where everyone knew more about farm animals than I did. Sometimes the preacher learns more from the congregation than the congregation learns from the preacher.

What does it mean to have complete confidence in the shepherd? Does it mean I am never afraid of death? Does it mean I know the shepherd will take care of me even if I die? Does it mean the shepherd will care for those I leave behind? Do the green pastures and quiet waters last beyond the grave?

An excellent book about Psalm 23 is A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller.

Easter 3C John 21:1-19

I have preached this passage: the reinstatement of Peter since the first year I began preaching. I travelled with a ministry group in college and all my friends in the group heard me preach this passage more times than they ever wished! Why do I love it so?

I have felt so often like a failure. I have felt like I failed Jesus. No, I did not deny I knew him while he endured abuse at the hands of the soldiers. Yet I know I have let him down.

Perhaps this passage showed me a glimpse of grace that I needed to see. Jesus asked him,"Do you love me?" once for every time Peter denied him. Would Jesus do the same for me? Better yet, would I do the same for others?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Good Friday in Easter Season Oklahoma City Bombing, Virginia Tech

I remember very clearly April 19, 1995. I live in Oklahoma City. The sound of the bomb exploding...the constant jumping at any new reports of friends being found dead, alive, or injured. I was 8 miles away from the Murrah Federal Building.

Yesterday another trajedy struck our nation. How much more can we endure? April 19 was the day after Easter. April 16 was the day after the second Sunday of Easter. I remember my pastor saying that we experienced Good Friday after Easter in 1995. In 2007 we have yet again experienced Good Friday after Easter.

My prayers go out to you experiencing the loss from Virginia Tech directly.

A helpful website for those trying to speak to congregations concerning this event click here

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter 2C John 20:19-31 Resurrection

Good ol' doubting Thomas. Wouldn't you hate to be remembered for your doubts? To doubt is to wonder if something is true. It does not mean you are convinced it is not true. We all doubt.

The other disciples huddled together in the upper room, but Thomas had crawled into a hole to lick his own winds after viewing the crucifixion. Off in his solitary confinement, he had missed the appearance of the resurrected Christ.

Yet when he finally sought the company of the community given faith by the resurrected Christ, his own wounds healed when he touched the wounds of Christ.

Jesus appeared in front of me a few weeks ago. Walking along an urban street on the way to a church conference, a homeless man approached me. He asked if I could spare some change so he could eat. As I pressed a few wadded bills into his hand, I felt a nail print.

As a young pastor, I entered 90-year-old Sadie's house as I heard her "Come in!" I finally found her in the bedroom, her shriveled body bent over thick, yellowed toenails. Arthritic hands could not fold around the clippers or apply enough pressure to get through the nails. My body in advanced pregnancy could not kneel, but I could sit. What a pair Sadie & I were, laughing at ourselves as I sawed on her toenails. As I clipped and sawed, I felt a hole that another type of nail had left.

As for his side, every time I hold a hurting person I feel that wound.

Like Thomas, I have had my doubts. Resurrection is a crazy, wild, unprecedented event that has never been repeated. I can't find evidence that it has happened when I try. When I forget about trying find proof and focus on the needs in my world that I have power through Christ to meet--then my belief resurfaces.

“The question is not to prepare but to live in a state of ongoing preparedness so that when someone who is drowning in the world comes to your world, you are ready to reach out and help." Henri Nouwen

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Easter Sunday Evening Revealed at the Table Luke 24:14-33

Revealed at the Table

Luke 24:14-33

They had seen it. They had seen the crucifixion of Jesus, prefaced by the crowds crying Crucify Him. They had heard Peter’s account of the resurrected Christ. All the events together swirled in confusion. They wanted to rejoice that Jesus was alive, but they had seen him die. So they talked, trying to make sense of everything. Meanwhile someone came up behind them. They did not recognize him.
“What are you discussing with each other as you walk along?” They just stood there, sadness showing on their faces.
Cleopas said, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
He asked, “What things?”
“The things about Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. And how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” But we had hoped…
Haven’t we hoped? Haven’t we all hoped to find meaning deeper than what we see everyday? There must be something deeper, better than the everyday drudgery.
All of our hopes and dreams were tied up in this man called Jesus. But he died! He died! And you can’t imagine our despair. But some say he is alive.
This evening most of us can identify with the idea of broken dreams. All of us have had our worlds come crashing down around us. Whether it was someone we loved and hoped to spend our lives with dumping us or the death of a family member, or a job we had hoped and prayed and worked to get that was denied us. Or maybe our despair is tied up in church. We attend hoping to see something change in our lives and leave disappointed that we were bored stiff. We hope to find meaning in such rituals as communion and singing together (like today) but we admit sometimes instead we feel despair.
THERE’S A REASON WE FEEL DESPAIR. Many communion services we have to admit, remind us of a funeral. Why? Because we stop at the remembrance of the death of Christ! We must not stop there. This do in remembrance of me connects to more than just his death. It connects to his resurrection. Why? Because the world has an earth shattering change between Luke chapters 22 and 24. He dies. Yet he rises again. The whole universe rests on that “yet.”
Jesus shares the supper with two believers AFTER he dies! He sits and celebrates all that has been fulfilled. He shows by this event that every time we come together to share the supper, to feast at his table HE COMES TO US! But like Cleopas and his companion, we must invite him.
When we invite him to come among us, he will reveal his resurrected presence to us.
And if you say, “But I can’t see him,” Remember what he said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who don’t see and yet believe.”
Let’s not give Jesus an opportunity to say this to us, “You’re foolish! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”
May our times together at his Table be party time! Jesus has introduced us to HIS KINGDOM by his resurrection. He has shown us another way to live, an alternate reality. We may try to escape from the nightmares of our own lives by drowning in alcohol, drugs, lust. We may try to forget our own reality by losing ourselves in a movie or TV show or comic book. But the best way to change your reality is to live in the kingdom by responding to this resurrected Christ.
Ask him in. Invite him to come to the table of your life: to sit with you, to walk with you, to eat with you. Invite his preaching of peace and compassion to fill your life so full of love that you have no more room to hate. No room to hate your parents, your boss, or anyone who has betrayed you. Come live a life that celebrates the Table of his love for you. Come, every week as we sing and rejoice that Jesus Christ has broken into history.
What will you say to those who ask you tomorrow “How was church yesterday?” You will say, “Well, you kind of had to be there.” There is no way to describe this! You have to experience it! Why don’t you come and see next week?
He interpreted to them everything about himself in the Scriptures.
He needed an invitation to stay. They wanted him to stay, for they had FOUND THEMSELVES IN THE STORY. “Please tell us more”
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. He vanished.

And they sought his resurrected presence continually.


Were not our hearts burning within us? I invite you to join me in the party of the burning heart. Do you know what it means to have a burning heart? Do you know what it means to have news so exciting you have to share it with someone? Do you remember what it is like to fall in love? You can’t hide it! You may try, but someone is going to see it written all over your face. You think about your love all the time, their face creeps into every conversation. You can’t wait to see them, to touch them, to hang on their every word. Your heart burns.
I invite you to fall in love with Jesus. Invite him to your table. You will see him. And love for him will fill your soul to an extent that you will overflow. Everyone who sees you will wonder. You will tell them that you are in love. You’re in love with Jesus Christ.

That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. Running all the way, found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying:

They told what had happened
Again Jesus came and stood among them.
He came in the midst of telling the story.

Why, you ask, must we tell the story of Jesus over and over? Must we hear every week that he lived, died and rose again? Why must we take the bread and the wine over and over? Isn’t once enough?

The early Christians met daily! You thought weekly was enough? They met daily, praising God, praying, eating the feast, and listening to the apostles’ teaching. Why?

Because the world they lived in was so awful they had to! They had to meet together to be reminded that this present evil age had come to an end. A new day had dawned. The Kingdom of God had come. When the present evil crept into their homes and lives they ran to the Table to remember Jesus. He appeared to them and assured them his presence had shattered the evil. They clung to his feet and begged to stay in his presence. Yet he reminded them he was with them, always, that his spirit had come and set them on fire. Their hearts burned within them and they ran back out into the streets to let his love overflow once more. But the next day, they had to sit at the table with Jesus again.
Come; let us tell His story together. Let us be reminded once again that the evil has been shattered by the presence of the one and only Son of God.