Monthly Archives: April 2019

Seeing Jesus

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah,[c] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.  (John 20:19-31 NRSV)

Where was Thomas?  Why was he missing from the group when Jesus showed up?

Perhaps it was his turn to get food for the group assembled behind the locked door.  He had to take the back roads, trying not to be noticed  by the authorities.  His circuitous route delayed his arrival.

When he finally arrived, later than usual, he must have been so disappointed.  He’d missed something momentous!  Rumors had begun that morning about Jesus’ resurrection, but he didn’t believe them.

Now his friends and colleagues have more to report.

“He came into this room despite the locked door.”

“He greeted us just like he used to, ‘Peace be with you.'”

“He told us to continue his ministry.  That God had sent him and now he was sending us.”

“He breathed on us.  We received his Spirit!”

“He reminded us that we have the power to forgive sins or not.”

Thomas couldn’t hear any more of this.  This isn’t right.  People don’t resurrect.  He saw the dead body.  There was no sign of life in it.  It didn’t happen.  The disciples are mistaken.

“I need proof!”  The conversation ended abruptly.

For the next week, the disciples prayed and made plans and prayed some more.  They worshiped, while outside they heard the sounds of the pilgrims to Passover packed up to return home.  They discussed how to go about moving Jesus’ ministry forward.  While, outside soldiers marched passed keeping Roman peace.

And Thomas yearned.  He yearned for the experience of Jesus that his comrades had experienced. He felt as if he’d missed the boat.  His mind shut down to the possibilities of  miracles and new things.  He became confused and dissatisfied.

We know all about yearning, don’t we?  We yearn for an end to abuse of any kind; for an end to terrorism; for diseases to go away and stay away; for political leaders to come together for the good of all; for the end of mass migration from dangerous conditions.

We yearn for peace.  Peace that surpasses all understanding.  Peace that Jesus gave his disciples that day.  Peace of mind.  Well-being.  Peace with our neighbors and enemies.

It finally happened for Thomas.  Jesus appeared.  Despite the locked doors, he appeared and greeted them as always, “Peace be with you.”  That’s when Thomas saw with his heart and fell to his knees.”My Lord and my God.”

As the soldiers marched past the disciples’ hiding place searching out insurrectionists, he received Jesus’ peace.  In the midst of fear over the future, the disciples received peace.  Bolted doors and closed minds couldn’t hold peace back.Thomas yearned to see Jesus just one more time.

We don’t know where he was during Jesus’ first visit to that locked room.  What we can surmise is that it served to increase his yearning.  Despite his disbelief Christ entered in with his message of extraordinarily good news and breathed peace.  Thomas’ response was filled with awe and submission.

Wherever you are in your journey, know this: Jesus can enter locked doors, locked hearts and locked minds; Jesus breathes peace while the world breathes hate and retribution.

Whatever you yearn for,  know that Christ enters in breathing peace.

All glory and honor be to God.Amen.

God Moves…Out of the Tomb

NOTE:  There are several people in the following all too familiar reading.  As you read, consider the viewpoint of one of the women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, or all the rest) or Peter or one of the disciples.

24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.[a] While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women[b] were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men[c] said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.[d] Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.[e] (Luke 24:1-12 NRSV)

The women arrive at the tomb.  They expect to find a body to prepare for final burial.  What they get is two men in dazzling clothes, an empty tomb and a reminder.

What they get is resurrection.

Unexpected.  Unbelievable.  Confusing.

What does it mean?

The women are perplexed and then terrified.  When they report back to the men, they’re met with disbelief.  Peter runs to the tomb and returns home amazed.

What does it mean?

It means that everything has changed.

Should they grieve or celebrate?  What happens now?  Will the apostles return to their fishing boats and their tax collector’s booths?  They feel as they’re standing on shaky ground.  The future that held grief holds…what?

The world has never seen anything like this before.

“We’ve never done it like this before.’  These are the seven deadly words of the Church.  The church watches their numbers move steadily downward.  Churches close while Mega Churches open.  Members come in the front door and leave through the back door.  Arguments ensue about worship style.  Contemporary bands versus organs and pianos.  Hymnbooks are replaced with screens and graphics.

“We’ve never done it this way before.”  Brave churches allow themselves to die.  They give up all the sacred cows: the old-style worship, the women’s Study Groups, the family night dinners, Sunday school curriculum that should have died twenty years ago.

Theses churches risk an early demise.  Doing church the old way isn’t working, so they give it up and turn to God for leadership.  In many cases resurrection happens!  They discover ministry outside their front doors.  A new vibrancy occurs that becomes electric.  Their excitement spreads and they enter into one new thing after another.

Resurrection.  A new thing.  Resurrection. We’ve never done it this way before.  Resurrection.  A future with the risen Christ that begins with amazement and terror.

When you read this scripture whose point of view did you take?  Was it the women?  Or Peter?  Or one of the disciples?

What did you notice?  How does that speak to you?  What did you read in this text that you never noticed before?

How might this change your perspective? your life?  your future?  Perhaps you’re ready to enter into a hazy future that will become clearer with each new step.

Easter people live that way.  Easter people allow the risen Christ to change who they are in order to serve the people Christ loves.  Easter people like who they have become and seek to follow Christ into new places.

Jesus is Risen.  We’re still confused at this new reality that is born every Easter morning.  Change will continue for these disciples and will cost them their lives.  Change will continue for us whether we embrace resurrection or hang onto the past.

We can wander away in confusion or we can continue to live and move and serve our risen Lord day by day.

Christ is Risen!

He is Risen Indeed!

Hallelujah! Amen!

Jesus Moves Us…To Empty Ourselves

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them[a] with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it[c] so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8   (John 12:1-8 NRSV)

It’s a loud, raucous party.

Lazarus sits with his friends, including Jesus, celebrating his return to life. It wasn’t so long ago that he had died.  Jesus brought him back and now Lazarus spends his days with a fresh sense of life and joy.  His priorities have shifted.  His corner of the world is in need of repair and he does what he can to make it a better place.

Martha joyfully scurries from kitchen to table with baskets and bowls laden with food.  She calls out orders to the servants while laughing with her guests at the table.   The wine and food are flowing.  One would think it was the Messianic Banquet at the end of time!

Judas sits back eying everyone with suspicion. He thinks everyone around him is just as much a liar and a cheat as he is.  The purse is getting low and Judas has expenses to pay.  He needs to find a way to make more money.  Maybe he can hit Lazarus up for another donation.  He’s always good for a denarius or two .

Mary disappears for a moment and returns with a pound of expensive perfume.  She kneels at Jesus’ feet.  The party sounds subside as quickly as the cloying perfume odor fills the air.  Within seconds the guests are quiet and watching with a mixture of awe and wonder as she anoints Jesus feet.

Part of the surprise is her hair.  It shouldn’t be flowing like it is when men are present.  Most surprising is that she uses it to wipe the dirt and sweat and fatigue from Jesus’ feet.  You can tell from the expression on Jesus’ face that it feels very good.

He’s been tired of late.  The disciples have noticed him retreating more than usual to be alone.  He’s quieter than usual.  Since raising Lazarus from the dead, the authorities have been out to get Jesus.  He can no longer go out in public.  His life is on the line and everyone knows it.

So when they see his expression of enjoyment and relaxation, they’re happy for him.  They won’t disturb this strange scene.

Judas can’t take any more.  Where did she get the money to buy that perfume?  It should have been used for the poor — the usual talk of an embezzler.  He grinds his teeth with anger.  How dare she!

Who are you in this scene?

Perhaps Lazarus’ story resonates with you.  You’ve experienced hard times in one way or another and you’ve come out the other end ready to reinvent your life.  Ready to pour yourself out to make a difference in your corner of the world.

Many of us probably identify with Martha.  The organizer and worker who loves serving.  Sure, sometimes she overdoes it.  Us Martha’s are like that.  Still, she enjoys pouring herself out to feed others and provide a festive atmosphere.

And then there’s Mary.  Not very good in the kitchen although she’s good in a pinch.  She’s a bit introverted and quiet.  Everyone knows her as the “spiritual” one in the family.  She’s bright.  She’s insightful.  She knows scripture as well as any rabbi.  There’s something about Mary that’s hard to explain.  There’s something about Mary that draws people to her.

We don’t like Judas.  Mainly because we’ve known liars and cheaters.

I worked with a non-profit organization, serving in a refreshment stand to make money for special projects.  We knew we were losing money, but we couldn’t figure out who it was.  The keeper of the treasury seemed to be careful and diligent.  He even reported that he had been so busy working, he had put a $100 bill in his pocket for safe keeping and forgot to put it in the cash drawer before he left that evening.

One night someone else was asked to watch the cash drawer.  Ray was furious.  I stood next to him drawing pop into cups.  He groused and growled.  Suddenly, he pushed me out of his way and I nearly fell to the dirty floor.  He was wrapped up in himself that he didn’t notice what he’d done to me.  Soon after, he was asked to relieve the person at the cash drawer.  Ray was suddenly happy and lighthearted.

He was the embezzler.  He managed to steal over $1,000 from our treasury.  He was a broken man who needed money to make him feel secure.  He was a fake and a phony.  He acted as if he was better than the rest of us.  He really didn’t feel that way, though.  He was too broken.  He was our Judas.

Judas is furious.  You can see that vein in his neck pulsing madly.  His lip curls and he calls out, “Why wasn’t that perfume sold and used to support the poor?!?”  All eyes turn to him.  Even Mary stops what she’s doing in embarrassment.

“Don’t go there, Judas!” Jesus responds.  “She’s honoring me as I head to the cross.  Leave her alone.”  Mary returns to wiping his feet.

“Look everyone.  You know the poor will always be with you.  And you’ve worked hard with me to alleviate their suffering.  I want you to continue doing that.  But, for this evening, in this extraordinary time, let Mary poor herself out for me.”

Jesus’ crucifixion is only a few days away.  He knows what will happen.  This is probably the last good day of his life on earth.  In a few days he’ll pour himself out for Mary and Martha and Lazarus and, yes, even Judas.  In his resurrection, he’ll invite you and me to pour ourselves out for him and his kingdom.

We resist.  That expensive, lavish perfume.  A year’s salary spent on perfume to wash someone’s dirty feet.  We worry about that.  We worry about wasting our time, so we get to work like Martha did.  We worry about a lack of money and start cutting back on mission budgets in order to pay the utilities.

As Lent comes to a close and we enter into Holy Week, I wonder how your Lenten Journey is.  I wonder if you’ve learned something new about yourself.  I wonder if you’ve stumbled along the way.  Did you give up?  Or were able to stay at it?  Whatever the case, it’s good that you put the time and energy into the process.  You’re better off for the effort, no matter the outcome.

There’s a time to be frugal and wise stewards of God’s provision.  There’s a time to hear Christ’s hope for each of us.  Christ hopes for us a life of extravagance with each other; to poor ourselves out for repairing the earth from hunger and want and hurting to filled and loving and beloved.

Jesus was extravagant in healing and feeding and living.  He calls us to be extravagant with our time and energy and resources to pour ourselves out for him.

When we pour ourselves out for him, we are repairing this broken earth.  This pouring out is available to all of us.  Even the broken Judas’ among us.

All glory and honor be to God.


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