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Saturday, March 29

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 145; Isaiah 43:8-13; John 20:1-18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10; Psalm 138

One of the members of our congregation shared with me the power of a sermon she heard roughly ten years ago. The sermon was delivered one Easter morning and the gist of it was if something bad happens to you, wait three days before responding. The obvious parallel was with the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection. The individual who recounted the sermon told of what a difference it had made in her life since the Friday before she heard the sermon something bad had happened to her at work. She was completely devastated by the event. By the time she got back to work the following Monday, however, things had turned around. She has kept the essence of that sermon with her ever since. In many ways, Paul is suggesting a similar point in today’s passage from 2 Corinthians. In that passage Paul wrote: “These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – The Message). Paul’s words are good reminders of how easy it is to become fixated on the day-to-day events right before our eyes – especially the “bad” ones. Instead of doing that, however, Paul’s words encourage us to step back and allow ourselves enough space to gain a sense of perspective. Think of how many times that has happened in your life. Think about the time, for instance, when you were fired or denied a promotion at work and thought it was the end of the world – only to have another opportunity present itself that you would have otherwise missed out on had you had another position. Think about the time you were consumed in a devastating struggle with an injury and illness – only to gain insights into the human experience and compassion toward others that you might not have known had you remained “healthy”. Think about the devastating loss you experienced that made you want to give up on life – only to realize over time the value of life that led you to a greater appreciation of your loved ones around you. Each of these experiences remind us that there’s indeed “far more here than meets the eye.” Each of these are manifestations of grace in places you would least expect. May God’s generous and gracious spirit help up see beyond the limitations of today so that we can see those things that are truly lasting. Til next time…

Friday, March 28

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 136; Isaiah 25:1-9; Luke 24:45-53; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Psalm 144

One of the greatest challenges I’ve faced over the last six years as I’ve transitioned into life as a parish minister is the constant temptation to respond to people’s needs immediately. Whether the need is a tangible one (i.e. “I need help with food” or “I need assistance with my rent or utilities) or a spiritual one (i.e. “I don’t understand why God would have allowed this to happen” or “What’s the point in going on/”), I often feel like I’ve got to immediately jump into action. Today’s passage from Luke reminds me that when I do that I’m often leaving a spiritual step out of the process. After Jesus takes moment to spell out some of the things that lie before the disciples, he adds these words: “Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (New International Version). Those words reminded me that it’s important to take the time for spiritual centering and empowerment BEFORE we leap into action. The danger if we leave this part of the response process out is that most likely we’ll be responding to the stated need from a place of OUR agenda and OUR commitments instead of God’s. Today, I invite you to think about the way you respond to needs as they present themselves. Do you do what I often do – immediately respond; or do you take a moment and invite God to clothe you with “power from on high”? May God’s spirit help us take a moment to get spiritually ready before we respond to the needs we encounter in our daily lives. Til next time…

Thursday, March 27

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 147; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Luke 24:36-44; 1 Corinthians 15:41-50; Psalm 40

I love today’s lectionary reading from 1 Corinthians because it gives us a broader – more inclusive – understanding of new life in these days following Easter. That understanding is put forth for us in the opening words of the passage. Eugene Peterson paraphrases the words in 1 Corinthians 15:41 in The Message to read: “You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning. Just as there are different kinds of seeds, there are different kinds of bodies – humans, animals, birds, fish – each unprecedented in its form…” Verse 43 culminates these words by noting: “And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection ‘seeds’ – who can imagine what the resurrection ‘plants’ will be like!” This inclusive approach toward the resurrection that draws in pieces of the creation in addition to human beings is powerful because it helps frame for us what a proper spiritual appreciation of the created order could look like. For decades, human beings have run roughshod over nature – often using pieces of Scripture such as early passages in Genesis to prove that we have “dominion” over nature and therefore can do with it whatever we want. And we have. One need look no further than the global warming crisis to see where this approach has gotten us. I wonder what would have happened if we had picked up on the spirit of this morning’s passage from 1 Corinthians instead – and claimed all of creation within the context of resurrection and new life. What a different world we would be living in! While we cannot reverse the hands of time to go back and undo our collective approach toward God created order, I believe that we can make a commitment to live our individual and collective lives differently starting today. I would invite you to do just that. Find some time today to look around you at the “seeds” of the resurrection that surround you (human AND non-human), and then re-commit yourself to nurturing those seeds so that we might get a glimpse of what the resurrection “plants” might look like one day. Til next time…

Wednesday, March 26

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 97; Micah 7:7-15; Luke 24:28-35; 1 Corinthians 15:30-41; Psalm 99

Growing up as a child in the mainline church, I didn’t experience a whole lot of ritual. We basically had just two rituals that we observed; we had a monthly Communion service and an occasional baptism. Outside those two events, we rarely incorporated ritual into our spiritual lives. Needless to say, when I use to experience this morning’s story about the two who recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread it was difficult for me to relate to the story since Communion wasn’t really an experience for me. Instead, it was something we did on the first Sunday of the month that usually made church run 15 minutes longer than usual. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve realized the importance of ritual in our spiritual lives. Rituals help move us to a different place in our spiritual lives – a place dominated not by just one dimension of our being (i.e. the head) but a place where all three dimensions meet (i.e. the head, heart, and spirit). The growing importance of ritual in my life has really helped me unpack today’s story. For encountering the living presence of Christ requires one to move from a one-dimensional approach to our spiritual life into a three-dimensional approach to our spiritual life. Today I invite you to consider what role ritual plays in your own spiritual life. Think about what insights into God you’ve gained through your participation in ritual. (When I say ritual, I don’t mean Communion & Baptism – I mean every sacred act created intentionally to facilitate an experience of God). And as you perhaps consider expanding the role of ritual in your life, remember you don’t need an ordained clergyperson to help you establish and carry out a ritual. All you need is an open heart and a willing spirit. If you pursue those things you might just have an unexpected encounter with God on a level you never knew existed! Til next time…

Tuesday, March 25

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 149; Isaiah 30:18-26; Luke 24:12-27; 1 Corinthians 15:12-28; Psalm 111

One of my favorite post-Resurrection stories is the one that comes to us today from the Gospel of Luke. I love it because it makes a very simple, straightforward point. It’s a point, in fact, that I made during the children’s sermon last Sunday. The point is this: throughout Jesus’ life, he seldom showed up at the times – or in the places – people expected him. For instance, folks expected “good people” to avoid tax collectors like the plague. So where did Jesus spend some of his time? With tax collectors. And others were convinced that “good people” never mixed with those infidels known as Samaritans. So who did Jesus spend time with at the well one day? A Samaritan (a Samaritan WOMAN even – gasp!). Same thing happened in the moments following Jesus’ crucifixion. Folks expected him to be predictable and remain in the tomb. And guess what? He showed up in places like the road to Emmaus! If there’s one thing we can take away from the first post-Easter stories it’s this – expect the living presence of Christ to appear at the times and places in our lives that we least expect it. This lesson is a huge challenge for us modern folks because we live such compartmentalized lives. We have our families in a box over here; we have our jobs and/or careers in another box over here; we have our faith communities in a box over here; and we have our civic and political commitments in a box over here. Each of those boxes becomes a sort of tomb that often becomes a subconscious attempt to keep our faith out of certain aspects of our lives. And then along comes Jesus once again and destroys our beloved boxes. Today, I invite you to open your eyes – and your spirits – to see if you too might have your own encounter with the living spirit of Christ. Oh that encounter may not take place on a roadside – it might occur around the water cooler at work, or in the halls at school between classes, or at home while you are working together on a project instead. Who knows! What I do know is that those encounters will occur at some point if your eyes and spirit are open to them. My hope for us today is that God’s spirit will open us to these unexpected encounters. Til next time…

Monday, March 24

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 93; Jonah 2:1-9; Luke 23:5b-24:11; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Psalm 66

In reading the Lukan account of the culmination of the Easter story, there was a phrase that jumped out at me right away. It had to do with the way the people articulated the charges against Jesus. The last portion of Luke 23:5 puts forth the charge as follows: “[Jesus] is a dangerous man, [he is] endangering the peace.” What struck me about the words is that too often in our society, Jesus is used to do exactly the opposite of that; Jesus is used to justify the status quo. So how do we reclaim this early notion of Jesus as one who endangers the peace? Simple. Put the principles around which Jesus built his life into action. I’ll give you an example of how that happened to me recently. I was in a group that had already passed a statement affirming its commitment to welcome all people into the full life of the community. The issue was raised about whether or not the group should open its doors to folks who were not “legal immigrants” in our country. Now for most folks, this discussion would have been primarily a political discussion. I didn’t see if that way, however. I saw it in another way – in Jesus’ way. All of the stories of Jesus’ reaching across human categories (i.e. the Samaritan woman at the well; the encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman, etc) crossed my mind, and I knew what my position was. It was a position that some were uncomfortable with; it was a position that endangered the peace. As I think about the recent events of Holy Week, I realize that so many times we end up putting Jesus right back on the cross through our actions and attitudes. We do this when we follow the example of the Roman and religious authorities and put our attempts to preserve the peace (what they really mean here is “preserve the status quo”) before our desire to live out the faith of Jesus. In these first days following the Resurrection, I invite you to go out and pay Jesus the best tribute possible: endanger the peace a little as you actually put your faith and principles into practice. Til next time…

Sunday, March 23

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 150; Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18; Colossians 3:1-4; Psalm 118:14-24

First things first: HAPPY EASTER!!! I hope you have a blessed day as you celebrate the new life that lies before us... Now, to other matters at hand.

As I read today’s lectionary readings, wouldn’t you know that the shortest – and by some people’s accounts most obscure passage – caught my eye today. The passage of course was the one from Colossians. Let me tell you why it caught my eye. The very first job I had out of college was teaching English at a juvenile corrections facility. As a result of my position, I spent a lot of time thinking about words and the way they shape our lives. Using that background, this week I realized that most folks think about Easter using one of two verb tenses. One group of folks think about Easter in the past tense – as a historical event, if you will – that doesn’t have tons to do with their life in the here and now. Another group goes in exactly the opposite direction. They think about Easter primarily in the future tense. These folks tend to understand Easter primarily as an event that has everything to do with them (i.e. “Jesus died for my sins so that when I die I will live forever and I will be reunited with my loved ones” – notice how many times the words “I”, “me”, and “my” were used). In the overuse of those two approaches (the “past tense” and the “future tense” tense approaches), lots of folks COMPLETELY forget about the present tense ramifications of Easter – ramifications in the here and now. Thankfully, the author of today’s passage from Colossians doesn’t let us do that. The author wrote: “If you’re serious about living this resurrection life, act like it” (Colossians 3:1 – The Message). Right here! Right now! The author goes on to add that one shouldn’t shuffle around in our day-to-day existence – absorbed only by the things at hand. Instead, one should look up and see what Christ is doing around you. In other words, experience the resurrection life here and now. The beauty of living a spiritual life in the present tense is that if you do it right, it seamlessly weaves the past tense together with the future. On this Easter Sunday, I encourage you to pay attention to what tense you are living your life: past, present, or future. Perhaps with a little help from the living spirit of Christ, you can spend a little more time in the present. Til next time…