What is right with…?

At the March Presbytery meeting, an amazing thing happened. It was, once again, a vote on a controversial topic that threatens to tear apart the denomination, so emotions were running high. People were speaking, debating, praying, and getting ready to vote. The outcome would mean a winning side, a losing side, and more negativity. There was a feeling of apprehension and anxiety in the air. People were saying the same battle lines over and over. But then it happened.

In addition to “THE TOPIC”, we had a mission speaker (Rev. Doug Baker) who reminded us that whatever the result of the vote, there are good things happening in this denomination, and we have an important ministry. In particular, he talked about an incredible mission program for young people.

It got me thinking. Yes there are problems within our denomination, within our presbytery, within our congregation. There are problems with our jobs, our schools, our nation, our government, even our families. But instead of always looking at what is wrong, let’s consider what is right.

What is right with…
Our denomination
Our presbytery
Our congregation
Our pastor
Our ministries
Our jobs
Our families
Our homes
Our communities

What is right? So here is the challenge. During the month of May, I want each of us to consider what is right. Each day think about one good thing you experienced, or one good thing going on in any of the above list (or your own list). Maybe you can write it in a journal. Perhaps around the dinner table families can share one good thing that happened that day. Couples can pray together at the end of the day, giving thanks for one thing that is right. Maybe we can even post some on the bulletin board, or give a brief testimony or praise during worship for what is right.

On Sunday April 19th, I preached about making efforts to be positive, loving Christians – showing the world Jesus. This would be a great way to do this – to seek out what is right.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8).

He Is Still Risen

he is risenIt is “Easter Tuesday”. Holy Week is over. The Easter Sunday service is over. I took Monday off to “rest”. Okay, actually I had to replace a leaking pipe on the kitchen sink and unclog the shower, but I did take the day off.

Now that it is all over, I want to reflect on the past week. After her first Holy Week, a friend and colleague began calling it “Holy Cow Week”. Holy Week can be grueling. It is not just a few “extra services”. Each service requires energy – physical, emotional and spiritual energy. The Palm Sunday service is filled with pageantry but in our case, shifts into the passion. On Maundy Thursday, instead of a sermon, I do drama – usually a monologue of one of the biblical characters. This year I was Pontius Pilate. Trust me; even a short drama takes a lot of energy to deliver. On Good Friday the service was small and quiet, but reading the passion scriptures is quite emotional. By Sunday morning, I was running on adrenaline, and there was still a big service to do.

The Easter Sunday morning service is always a joyous event. We have extended family, visitors and many members attend. It is always great to see the sanctuary packed – and there is a lot of energy in the room. This year was no exception – and I was fired up and ready. My sermon on Easter is pretty simple – the resurrection happened, and its power and effect are still relevant. He was not just risen 2000 years ago, but He is still risen. This should mean something to us all. God has acted in the world, God is acting in the world and God will act in the world. God is always at work, and we, as His followers, should claim that “resurrection power” as we act in the world as well.

Brothers and sisters, He is (still) risen! He is (still) risen, indeed!


The Vigil

It is early Saturday morning. I’m not able to sleep, probably because I am overtired from the week. The adrenaline is flowing. It has been a very busy week. The Palm Sunday service was filled with a lot of energy beginning with the children processing into the sanctuary with their palms. The service then transformed from the Palms to the Passion.

On Thursday we held two Communion services, one during our Shepherd’s Kitchen ministry, and the other during our Maundy Thursday service. Again, lots of energy extended for those events.

On Friday the church was open for meditation from 12-3 and images of the stations of the cross were projected upon a screen, with music in the back. Friday night we held a quiet service as we walked with Jesus along the way to the cross. While it was a quiet service, it still took lots of energy.

And now, Saturday morning, we wait. Holy Saturday is a day of waiting. Yes we know what happens. Yes we know that Sunday morning we celebrate, but it is a day of waiting anyway.

Many of you might be waiting for God. There might be something going on that is far beyond your ability to handle. Perhaps you have been lifting it up in prayer, but so far, no answers. Well, there is good news. God will respond. God will act. Sometimes we just need to wait. That is the message of today – the message of the Saturday before Easter. We wait.

But come tomorrow…

Good(?) Friday

Why is it called “Good Friday”

My daughter keeps asking this question. She knows what happens. She is now old enough to understand that dead is dead and that killing somebody is wrong. So she keeps asking “why is it called Good?”
Now she knows the Sunday school answers: “Christ died on the cross for our sins.” She knows to say that during the Children’s Sermon, or whenever asked, but she is also smart enough to know that answer is a bit too pat. Why “Good?” cross with shadow

As a pastor, I read the Good Friday scriptures every year. And honestly, every year I choke back my own emotions as I read “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last (Luke 23:46).” Every time I reflect on this, I feel the anguish and torment of my own soul, for I am a sinner. And then something else happens. While I cannot explain it, while I cannot even fully comprehend it, I know. Deep in my soul I know. Jesus died for my sins. And that, my friends, is good.

Where the whole realm of nature mine
that were a present far too small
love so amazing, so divine
demands my soul, my life, my all

On the night he was betrayed…

This is Maundy Thursday. This is the night we commemorate the Last Supper and the giving of Holy Communion to the church. Jesus, on this night, took bread and blessed it as any Jew would – but he made a slight change to the prayer over the bread. He broke it and gave it to his disciples saying “Take this and eat it, this is my body, given for you.” When he did the traditional prayer over the wine, he again changed it “Take this and drink, this is my blood, the blood of the new covenant.”

Tonight we will hear those words again. Tonight we will break bread, we will take the cup. Tonight we will remember as He was turned over to the Roman authorities.

Tonight, as we take the bread and the cup, we will remember.
last supper