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Hope Rising

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24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side,  I will not believe.” (John 20:24-25)
Doubting Thomas. 

For centuries, Christians have affixed this ignominious nickname to the one disciple of Jesus who  wasn't in the room the first time Jesus appeared to his followers after the Resurrection. 

When I was a kid, I was taught this story as a cautionary tale about how I shouldn't doubt when it came to my faith.  

But now when I read it, I don't see Thomas in that light at all.  

When you go back a couple of chapters in the story we find Jesus telling his followers that he was heading to Jerusalem even though there were people there who wanted to kill him.   

And then Thomas tells the other disciples "Let us go now to Jerusalem so that …

How To Neighbor - Week 2: Racism Reconciled

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Today we're going to be continuing the sermon series we started last Sunday, a sermon series entitled "How To Neighbor" As the world grows more connected, our neighbors are closer than ever. You might not share a fence, but you can still share their burdens and joys. 

Each week of this four-week focuses on a different aspect of how to build relationships with our neighbors and how to do good in the context of those relationships. 

Last week we talked about how we need to ask ourselves if we have the awareness, access and ability to step into mission and empower the poor.  

Today we're going to be talking about how we can see racism reconciled.  

First things first.   

There's a question that I need to address before I say another word.  

And that question is, "What authority do I have to speak on the issue of racial reconciliation?  I'm a middle-aged white guy with a whole bunch of implicit bias and baggage.  My hands are not clean when it comes to racial issu…

Jesus Is In The Boat

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The spiritual journey is a constant interplay between moments of awe followed by a process of surrender to that moment.  - Frederick Buechener

The painting below by Rembrandt is entitled Christ In The Storm On The Lake Of Galilee: 


This painting depicts the moment in Mark 4:35-41 when Jesus and his disciples are caught in a sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee.  Throughout the storm, Jesus is fast asleep in the boat.

After frantically trying to solve things themselves, the disciples wake him up angrily saying, "Don't you even care that we are sinking?!!?"

I'm going to zoom in on Jesus in Rembrandt's painting so you can see how he depicted him.  It's awesome:


Does Jesus look upset that there's a storm?  Does he seem particularly frightened?  No!
He looks resigned, actually---resigned to the fact that his followers don't seem to get it.

You see, they are scared to death of the wind and waves, when the One who was present at the moment when God's Spiri…

God Showing Off

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I was having a conversation with one of our church staff members the other day, and we had occasion to reflect for a moment on what most people would have referred to as a series of coincidences.  

Our conversation centered on how seamlessly we were going to be able to connect a sermon series I have been planning to preach with a children's ministry program we will be launching later in the year.  

At one point I said, "Wow, it's almost like we planned it that way!"  Then we both paused and smiled.  "Or Someone planned it that way!" I added.  

To say that "God works in mysterious ways," is probably the biggest understatement in the history of understatements.  

More than once in my life I've had occasion to stand in awe of what seemed like an impossible turn of events... an improbable chain of actions and reaction... a fantastic bit of timing... 

And in those moments I have often find myself praying the following prayer quietly to God:  "Okay,…

Eternal Moments

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Lately, I've been reflecting on how quickly time seems to be moving.  It's already January 10th as I write this, and it feels like Christmas was last week. 

I look at my calendar and can't believe that there are so many things that are on it, so many events, projects, meetings, programs--both personal and professional.  

Sometimes my daily schedule gets filled with a lot of things that I feel like I just need to get through.  When I begin to view my life this way, I will go from one meeting to the next, one task to the next just checking them off the list, trying to finish so I can be done.  

The problem is, I'm never really done.  There's always another list for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. 

And when you think that you can retire when you get to a certain age and start "taking it easy," forget it.  A friend of mine remarked after his first year of retirement that he filled his daily schedule every day and then some.  "When did I ever have t…

Angelus

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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. - Ephesians 5:15-17

In one of my readings this morning, the author referenced a painting by the nineteenth-century French artist Jean Francois Millet--a painting entitled The Angelus.  

The title of the painting refers to a thrice-daily prayer that is still prayed by many Christians around the world.  For hundreds of years in virtually every village and town throughout Europe, the time for praying The Angelus was signaled by the ringing of church bells at 6AM, Noon and 6PM. 

In Millet's masterpiece you can see two peasants praying at the close of the day.  Their tools and harvest are lying at their feet.  In the background you can see the steeple of a church poking over the horizon as the sun begins to set.  


The prayer these peasants are praying is a prayer acknowledging the mystery and won…

Epiphany

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For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people... the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." Titus 2:11, 13

This past Sunday, we started the very long, drawn out process of taking our Christmas lights and decorations down.  It's a sad task, and one that I have never completed at one sitting.  

While we're not the last to do this in our neighborhood, we are among the last to be sure.  It's our custom ]to wait until Epiphany to say farewell to Christmas, which officially ends (according to the historic Church calendar) on January 6.  

Epiphany is a season in the life of the Church that lasts until Lent, and which celebrates the revelation of the Messiah to a world in desperate need of rescue.   Although we may be sad to say farewell to Christmas, Epiphany gives us an opportunity to experience new joy and surprises.  

The lectionary readings from Scripture during Epiphany take us from the arrival of the Magi (wise men), who …