Author Archives: Sandy Bach

Shackles

16-18 One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling everyone’s attention to us by yelling out, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!” She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And it was gone, just like that.

19-22 When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them and pulled them into a court with the accusation, “These men are disturbing the peace—dangerous Jewish agitators subverting our Roman law and order.” By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood.

22-24 The judges went along with the mob, had Paul and Silas’s clothes ripped off and ordered a public beating. After beating them black-and-blue, they threw them into jail, telling the jail keeper to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape. He did just that—threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them.

25-26 Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose.

27-28 Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway, when Paul stopped him: “Don’t do that! We’re all still here! Nobody’s run away!”

29-31 The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas. He led them out of the jail and asked, “Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?” They said, “Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you’ll live as you were meant to live—and everyone in your house included!”

32-34 They went on to spell out in detail the story of the Master—the entire family got in on this part. They never did get to bed that night. The jailer made them feel at home, dressed their wounds, and then—he couldn’t wait till morning!—was baptized, he and everyone in his family. There in his home, he had food set out for a festive meal. It was a night to remember: He and his entire family had put their trust in God; everyone in the house was in on the celebration.  (Acts 16:16-34 The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson)

My name is Mantic.  I was the slave girl who had the spirit of divination.  I had believed that I was given this gift by the Roman god Apollo.  I was a pythoness with oracular power.  My owners made a lot of money because of me.  They used me until I was used up; in more ways than fortune telling.

The first time I laid eyes on the Apostle Paul I saw something I had never seen before.  He wasn’t like anyone I had seen; he had a spirit within him.  It was like mine, yet different.  And then I knew.  He was a prophet of the Most High God.  A God I had never met before, but was superior to all other gods, nonetheless.

I watched for awhile as Paul and Silas walked around Philippi, visiting with people.  Sometimes in earnest, but always with joy, even laughter.  Finally, I couldn’t help myself.  I had a spirit of proclamation.  So I proclaimed.

“These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!” 

I listened to them speaking to others.  They spoke about freedom from a life that shackles us.  For me, I was shackled to men who used me and my talent.  I wanted to be free.  I didn’t know what else to do.

So, I followed them relentlessly.  When I wasn’t professing for my masters, I was following these men of God around, making a spectacle of myself and them.  They sure were patient!  It took days to break through.  Finally, Paul turned around and ordered the spirit out of me.

“Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” he said.  That’s all it took.  I was free.  No more spirit of pythona in me.  I could find a life of my own.

I hadn’t thought things out very well.  My owners didn’t need me any more.  They dumped me by the wayside on the way to getting retribution from the men of God. 

Now, you’ll notice that this scripture text never finishes my story.  I’m as invisible in that story as I was to my masters.  I was invisible to Paul and his followers; I’m even invisible to you, aren’t I?  Do you wonder what happened to me?

I continued to follow these men.  My former masters grabbed them and took them to the market place.  Now, I may not be very educated, but I do know the customs and the laws about slaves.  I was property.  My owners had a legal right to take Paul to civil court.  The charge would have been impeding on private property and preventing them from earning a living.

That wasn’t enough for my masters.  They were so angry that they set out for revenge.  They used their Jewishness against them.  Isn’t it amazing how we turn on those who don’t look and act like us?  Then they accused them of not being proper Roman citizens.  Their was nothing to back up these charges, but they sure got the attention of the mob in the market place. 

Then they lied by accusing them of unlawful behavior.  They called them atheists because they only worshiped one God.  They accused them of cannibalism because they ate the body and drank the blood of Jesus. 

Others joined in and soon their was a mob out for blood.  No who’s enslaved, I wondered?  They weren’t interested in the truth.  They refused to listen to their defense. 

What these men didn’t know was that these men of God were Roman Citizens.  What the magistrates permitted was illegal.  Later Paul would demand a public apology, but the beating and jail time took place anyway.

I watched the men during the beating.  I followed them to the jail and slept outside the jail walls.  If I was very quiet, I could hear singing.  Even at midnight!  They were singing!  Some of the other prisoners joined in with them.

Then came the earthquake.  Afterwards, I heard that the jailer had his sword out ready to take his life because he assumed everyone had escaped.  Once again, it was Paul who saved the day. 

I saw the jailer take Paul and his friends to his house next door.  He cleaned the sores.  The men loved the feel of the cool water on their skin.  His wife put out a meal that smelled delicious.  Then Paul did something strange with the water.  It was called baptism and everyone in the household received it.

Since that time, I’ve learned a lot about God and his son Jesus.  I may have lost my pythona, but I learned that I had a Spirit within me that I had always had and it never left.  Eventually I was baptized and joined the house church here in Philippi.  I learned a new trade, but I never forgot my ability to read people and to see their pain.

Since that time I’ve seen many people in shackles.  My former owners were shackled by money and greed.

The crowd wore shackles of hate and bigotry.  They wore chains that attached them to anyone who would tell them what the problem was and that they and only they could fix it.  Mob mentality ruled that particular day.

The magistrates were shackled by politics.  Keep the peace or lose their jobs.  Keep the peace because someone else was in line for their job.  They were shackled by the greed for power.  They were shackled by the fear of losing their power.

Paul and his friends may have been shackled by leg irons, but they were the only ones who were truly free.  They followed Jesus and his teachings.  Worldly power and greed and corruption weren’t important.  Freeing others from their chains was all they wanted to do.

I’ve learned since then that God is in charge.  Lies, innuendo, and false information hold a lot of power.  But, eventually, the lies are replaced with new lies that spin the truth. 

I’ve learned that God will have His way.  It may not be on our time table, but God is ultimately in charge. 

How about you?  Do you need an earthquake?  Does your world need to have their shackles released? 

Perhaps, while you sit in the dark, stinky dungeon, you could begin praying and singing.  I suspect Paul will join you.

And while you wait for the earthquake, remember that change is always occurring.   God is always at work. 

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

 

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God Makes Straight with a Crooked Line

During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district[a] of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.  (Acts 16:9-15 NRSV)

Imagine Paul and Silas and Timothy, perhaps even Luke, relaxing after a long day’s journey. They discuss the events of the day. One thing leads to another and they begin reminiscing.

“Remember when we attended the Jerusalem Council?”

“Boy, that was some debate, wasn’t it?  Thank God the right decision was made to attend to the Gentiles and not require circumcision.”

“And then we decided to journey through Asia Minor.  We had such a grand plan, didn’t we?”

“If memory serves me, we planned to first visit the new churches in the south and then travel north and plant new churches up there.”

“That’s when we met you, Timothy.  You joined with us for the church planting.  And we kept running into dead ends.”

“I remember it well.  I couldn’t figure out what kept stopping us from entering those towns and attending the synagogues.  You helped me understand that God moves in mysterious ways.”

“And then Paul had that dream.  A man from Macedonia was calling to Paul to come spread the word in Europe.  That was strange!”

“Remember when Paul got us up in the middle of the night?  He hustled us out the door and on to that boat before our first coffee!  We knew this had to be God’s call, though, when we arrived on Samothrace a day later instead of three or four.”

And that’s how the three men arrived in Philippi.  They had tried to spread the word in new parts of Asia Minor, but the Holy Spirit kept saying, “No.  Not there.”  Philippi became the first new church plant in Europe.

They stayed in Phillipi a few days becoming familiar with it.  One of the things they discovered was that there was no synagogue.  No problem, they’ll go outside the city gates by the river.  They’d be sure to find some Jews worshiping there.

This had been a strange journey and it continued in that vein.  They don’t find any men praying by the river as they had anticipated.  Instead, they discover a group of women praying.

Paul and Silas and Timothy joined them.  Then Paul sat down to teach them.

The leader of the group was Lydia.  A businesswoman, she was a dealer in rich purple cloth only available to the wealthy.  She was her own woman in a patriarchal society; strong and astute.  She was a successful businesswoman with a home and servants of her own.

Lydia wasn’t Jewish, but she was a  gentile God worshiper.  Paul’s words fell on a hungry heart and she gave her heart to Christ. She and her whole household were baptized.

Then she insisted that they stay with her.  Did I mention she was a strong woman?  Lydia would continue to support the Philippian church.

When have you looked back and seen the hand of God at work?  Did that journey take many twists and turns?  Did you have false starts and road blocks and closed doors?  Yet, looking back, doesn’t the road appear straight.  God made straight with a crooked line.

Life is like that.  We have a well-thought-out plan.  We’ve gathered the resources we’ll need and we’re out the door, so to speak.  It falls flat and we wonder, “what happened?”

It’s disorientating.  Isn’t that what God wanted us to do?, we ask.  It was a good plan!  A perfect plan!  Do we need to work harder?  Pray harder?  Plan better?

Probably not.  The plan could have been perfect, and God may put it to use some day.  But not today.  Today God has a vision that needs your attention.  Right now.

But we have no resources to do that!  We have no money.  Not enough people.  The energy will run out.

That’s God’s problem.  Just move forward.

But, we’ve never been there.  It means crossing boundaries.  As much as I want to be a Christ-like presence for people, how can speak to people who aren’t like me?  How can I relate.

Let go and allow God’s words to be your words.  Just move forward.

Yes, you’ll feel as if you’re out on a limb.  That’s where God does his best work.  When we’re not so sure about the outcome or the roadmap is a bit vague, we tend to look up and out.  We listen better to the Holy Spirit’s whispers when we feeling our most vulnerable.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important.  You may never know what results come from your action.  But if  you do nothing, there will be no result.”

When have stepped out and made a difference?  Was it that time you paused in the produce section to visit with a stranger and you spoke words that seemed to feed her hungry heart?”

Maybe it was the time when you felt a compunction to shop at a store you hadn’t been to before.  Outside the door of the shop you ran into an old friend you hadn’t seen in years.  Thirty minutes later, you walked to the parking lot together and your friend admitted that he, too, had felt the same compunction to come to this place.  As you drove away you realized that you had received a word of encouragement that only God new you needed.

That delay in traffic that sent you to a new place; that answered prayer that turned out vastly different from your expectations; the risk you took to use scripture to comfort someone.  Each time you acted, you crossed a boundary.

The Holy Spirit lives, moves and has its being, not by our wants and desires, but its own vision.  We try, God says, “No, not there.”  Then we receive a message and the world of ministry opens up to us.  It’s scary.  it’s exhilarating.  It’s exciting.

That’s how God’s kingdom works.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


Easter Reverberations

21 I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea.

I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband.

3-5 I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”

6-8 Then he said, “It’s happened. I’m A to Z. I’m the Beginning, I’m the Conclusion. From Water-of-Life Well I give freely to the thirsty.

(Revelation 21:1-6  The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson)

“I am making all things new.”

How many times do we hear God say those words in scripture.  We saw God in action when he spoke creation into being.  We saw them in the many covenants God made with God’s people.  God freed God’s people people, provided in the wilderness, brought us back from exile.  God continually works to make all things new.

The ultimate, so far in history, is a child born to a poor family, revealed to the most reviled in society (shepherds) while heaven’s messengers announced “tidings of great joy.”  That child grew to bring us the same message, but this time he put feet on those words.

When he died, he was risen again to defeat death.  We would think that we’d have nothing further to worry about.

And God continues to be at work.  So today we read in Revelation these words, one more time:  “I’m making all things new.”  God continues to redeem and provide and liberate.  The promise is that God is at work in God’s creation because in the end, God will bring it to conclusion.

Not with destruction, but with a new heaven and earth.  The old will pass away and the new world order will be ushered in by none other than God.

What have we to fear?  God has a plan and God will continue to work that plan.  Our place in creation is set.  What have we fear?

Well, war, poverty, immigration, food insecurity, illness. To name a few.

Daily we see a backdrop of evil, hurting and injustice.

The hope is this: God really does continue to be at work.  God really does continue to make all things new.  Our world is getting better because people like you refuse to ignore the issues and get involved.  Whether writing a check or hands one.

We help make the difference through prayer and discernment.  We allow God to use our gifts and talents and our passion to move forward.

God will dry every tear.  God is making all things new.  God will break down the chasms and walls that keep us separated.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


A Promise We Can Trust

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;[a]
    he restores my soul.[b]
He leads me in right paths[c]
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[d]
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely[e] goodness and mercy[f] shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.[g]

Psalm 23 (NRSV)

The Shepherd’s Psalm.  Many of us memorized it as children.  We carry its words with us in dark times.  Perhaps we don’t remember it word for word.  Yet, we know the phrases that hold meaning for us.

“I shall not want.”  What would you want for if it wasn’t for the shepherd?

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” (KJV)  We need those words when a friend or loved one dies.  There are also times in our life when we feel as if death’s dark shadow will overwhelm us at any moment.  The Psalmist reminds us that even in these moments, the shepherd won’t abandon.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me…”  Follow me.  Lead me.  Cover me.  Goodness and mercy is everywhere we can possibly be, because the shepherd never abandons.

What phrases stand out for you?  Read the Psalm again, slowly.  Read it out loud and listen to the phrases.  What stands out for you?  Close your eyes for a few moments and consider those particular words.  Why do they hold meaning for you at this time and in this place?

Read through it again.  Slowly.  What is the Shepherd saying to you?  Sit quietly for a few minutes.  Allow the words to speak to you.

Now, one more time.  One more reading.

If you were able to go deep, you’ve experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit speaking to you words you probably needed to hear.  Were they comforting words? Guiding words?  Stirring words?

What will you do with what you’ve discerned?  How will you respond?  Write it down and carry it with you this week.

The 23rd Psalm provides peace and comfort, even serenity.  It’s words can be trusted and believed.  The Shepherd doesn’t let us down, but provides for our needs and gives us rest when we need it.  Believe these words.  Rest in them.  Feel their comfort.  And when you’re ready, go out to live your faith, knowing the shepherd won’t let you down.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


Faith Inferiority

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision[a] a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul[b] and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”  (Acts 9:1-20 NRSV)

How did you become a Christian?

Perhaps you had a dramatic experience on your own road to Damascus.  Perhaps you had a specific date and time when you gave your life to Christ.  Or you may not remember a time when you weren’t a Christian and since your infant baptism you have steadily grown in your knowledge and faith.

Whatever you’ve experienced, I suggest you’ve had many moments in your life when you experienced the eye-opening.

One of the surprises in this text is the person God calls.  While the disciple Steven was stoned for professing Jesus as Lord, people laid their coats at the feet of the very person who had organized the stoning, Saul.  There’s no question what kind of man he was, “breathing threats and murder” (v. 1).  He was a first century terrorist.

And that’s who God chose to spread the Good News.  Out of all of the people of the day, it was Saul that God chose.  Saul had been pursued by a God who never abandons anyone.

Does that make your calling from God inferior?  Is the lack of a burning bush or Damascus Road experience significant?

Not in the least.

If you did experience a major moment like Saul, what does it mean to you?

Ron sat in the choir loft one Sunday morning listening to the sermon.  When he happened to look up he noticed a shadow on the opposite wall that wasn’t usually there.  He knew that no one else saw what he did and he realized it was Jesus.

When he related the story to us later, he said, “I don’t see myself honored to have received this sighting.  Instead, I wonder if I had been running so long, that God had to get dramatic.  I respect others more who didn’t need a sighting to follow our Lord.”

God forgives betrayers and doubters and deniers and murderers.  God doesn’t call the worthy because no one is worthy.  We don’t earn it.  We are called into the experience and invited to say, “Here I am, Lord.”

The Good News is that our God is merciful.  God offers mercy and forgiveness to a wide variety of people.  We resist the Good News because we think we’re not good enough, that we have to earn it.

But, Christ hopes we will look at our own moments of conversion and how our own blindness has been lifted by a forgiving, merciful God.

What are your moments of conversion?  When have felt the peculiar presence of God come in and un-blind your eyes to truth?  That makes your experience with God just as important as anyone’s else’s experience, even Saul’s.  God pours out Godself in love and mercy.

We can’t begin to know the mind and heart of God.  What we know is that we have experiences of God more often than we may realize.  When you gained insight that changed your views on that heated topic; when God whispered your name; when you look back on a past experience only to realize that God was involved all along.

How you experienced Christ’s call doesn’t matter.  How you responded and answered the call does.  Saul could have said no.  Ananias could have said, “Are you kidding!? Not on your life!”  But both said yes.  And the world changed forever.

Every time you answer with, “Here I am, Lord,” you, too, respond to the life-changing grace of God.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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!


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