Take a minute and think about what you were doing the last time you experienced joy. For me, I was taking a walk near a pond and I saw a blue heron standing silent and still in the shallow water, waiting for its dinner to swim by.
Quite often pastors find themselves in the role of officiating funeral services. The purpose of these services is to honor and celebrate a person’s life, and in all the services I have been involved in, I have yet to encounter one in which we talk about how many things a person was able to accumulate throughout his or her life.
Have you ever wondered what it looks like when faithfulness springs up from the ground and righteousness gazes down from heaven? This week I came across Psalm 85, and verse 11 said just that, and as I reflected on that image, I imagined that it would be a little like walking into the heart of a forest during late spring or early summer.
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Jesus and the disciples have been traveling along, off the beaten path. There have been healings and miracles, teaching and tragedy. If you look back in the 6th chapter of the gospel of Mark, you’ll see that Jesus has sent his disciples out to preach, they’ve dealt with John the Baptist, they’ve fed the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and they’ve seen Jesus walk on water and calm the wind, out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. They’ve been working hard, they’ve seen and done some amazing things out there in the trenches. Now they’ve sit down along the road for a bite to eat.
Life is hard. It can be good and blessed and wonderful…and sometimes it can be good for an extended period of time, one good thing after the other, like you’re riding a wave. Other times it’s just the opposite: you wonder when the other shoe is going to drop. What’s next? What now? How can this be? Life can be hard.
For some of us, faith is invisible and impossible. For some people faith is some far-out idea. Occasionally, you and I talk about blind faith. The faith I have in mind for you today is not blind. I am not asking you to do something that is against your good judgment or your good reason. Faith is seeing fully. Sometimes we talk about faith as being some kind of impossible dream or wishful thinking. The faith of which I speak today is not just a pipe dream.
Alice Lee Humphreys in her book, Angels in Pinafores, tells about her experiences as a first-grade teacher. She tells about one little girl who came to school one winter day wearing a beautiful white angora beret with white mittens and a matching muff. As she was coming through the door, a mischievous little boy grabbed the white muff and threw it in the mud. After disciplining the little boy, the teacher sought to comfort the little girl.
I trust in the last 4 weeks as we’ve talked about Travel as a Spiritual Act, the different places where you’ve visited have come to mind. Our emphasis these past weeks as we’ve talked about travel has focused on the people and the relationships we’ve gained, and on the lessons we’ve learned about our similarities and differences.
Whenever Scott and I have headed off on an adventure, he always tells me after maybe a week that he’s ready to go back home. For me, it’s taken about that amount of time to “let go” of the “to do” lists that never seem to get fully done and so my brain starts churning again, like the “pop-up” reminders that keep appearing on my computer.
As we continue this series Quest: Travel as a Spiritual Act, and look at this week’s focus on “reflection”, I decided I would like to share several experiences with you I’ve had—during seminary and afterwards—going to places I never thought I’d go and learning things I didn’t realize I needed to learn.
There’s a saying that was at one time a part of the daily devotions of Jewish men. It goes something like this: “Blessed art thou, O God, that thou hast made me human and not beast, Jew and not Gentile, man and not woman.” This is the context for us to keep in mind as we consider Jesus’ walk through Samaria, and his talk with the Samaritan woman.
Once it finally happened, it happened quickly. Each plague wore Pharaoh down. Each time, he would say the Israelites could be released from the captivity that had enslaved them for all those years, but then he’d change his mind. By the time the 10th and final disaster happened, we wouldn’t be all that surprised if Israel had given up hope that they would ever be released.
A hunter wanted to show off his new dog, so he invited a friend to the lake to see what his dog could do. The owner took a decoy duck and threw it out as far as he could. His dog ran across the top of the water all the way out to the decoy and carried it back. After three times, his friend seemed unimpressed.
I'm sure most of you have heard of an oxymoron. It's a Greek word that means "pointedly foolish." You make an oxymoron when you put two words together that are complete opposites. They contradict each other. Some of my favorite oxymorons are "clearly confused," "act naturally," "open secret," and "jumbo shrimp."
Thomas Wheeler was at one time the CEO of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. He and his wife were driving down an interstate highway when he realized he hadn’t paid close enough attention and needed gas.
One of my family stories involves a little girl born of a young woman who fell in love with a soldier before the end of World War 2. The young woman, without the knowledge or approval of her family ran away with the man and planned to marry him as soon as possible. Before that could happen, her aunts somehow located her and took her back home. When her pregnancy was discovered, she was promptly deposited in a home for unwed mothers in a different city.
This is Trinity Sunday, the last in a series of Sundays of the Liturgical Year (beginning with Advent and continuing to today) that lay out our salvation history in the life, death, resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
There are at least a couple of books entitled The Road; the first one I began reading because I read it was is a classic and among the top reads of the century, so I thought it would be a good choice. I decided about halfway through that just because a book is called a classic doesn’t mean I have to like it or finish reading it, so I stopped and picked up a second book with the same title.
Our daughter ran in high school. Her two main events were the 800 meter run and the 3200 relay. Over the years I watched a lot of relay teams passing off a lot of batons, and as you might expect, there is an art in doing that well. Both the one who hands off the baton and the one who receives it needs to be confident in what they’re doing and in what their teammate is going to do, in order that the race can continue as seamlessly as possible. The outcome of the race depends upon their ability to make a good exchange.
I check out one of the news outlets daily summaries each morning so I have an idea of what’s happening in the world. It’s too easy for me to get caught up in what’s happening here and now in my own space, and doing that helps me to look out a little further into the larger space of what’s happening in the world.
Perhaps you and I take for granted the opportunity to learn in this day and age. In this nation we consider it our “right” to receive a basic education so we can make choices that will help us be successful in our lives.
It is officially the fourth Sunday of Easter on our liturgical calendar, sometimes called Good Shepherd Sunday, and the texts are filled with shepherds and sheep. The imagery of God as the Good Shepherd isn’t unique to Psalm 23, God is often described as a shepherd who leads, protects, comforts and nurtures God’s people.
Hearing that announcement can fill you with a sense of peace and comfort knowing that you have a group of people who love you and are ready to stand by you through thick and thin, or it can cause you to shutter as you wonder: Oh, my! Will I be like that someday?!
Poor Thomas. All these years later, he’s still most known for his weakest moment. It’s sad. Still, we can’t honestly think bad of him, can we? He’s us in a whole lot of ways: that little voice inside us that resists easy answers to hard questions about faith, who might like a little proof, even though we realize that proof and faith don’t always work very well together in the same sentence.
It’s a familiar story that we read from out of one of the Gospels each year. We hear it from different perspectives; different details that don’t exactly fit together like pieces of a puzzle—and yet somehow they all tell us the mysterious story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Palm Sunday 2021. It is a day of mixed emotions, isn’t it? I am so pleased to be able to come together face-to-face in a sanctuary this a.m. Last Palm Sunday we were in our 3rd week of online services only, and none of us had any idea at that point that our best option for the next year would be to gather online only.
There are times when it feels like you’re “large and in charge” and things are going your way—just the way you always hoped they would be. You’re calling the shots, setting the schedule, making the decisions. And then something happens and the rug is pulled out from under your feet. It all changes in a heartbeat.