Sunday, March 29, 2015


Palm Sunday

What happened after Palm Sunday that turned events so drastically?

How is it that the crowd – the large crowd that had all of Jerusalem talking – loved Jesus on Sunday and called for his death on Friday?

Let's look at some of the scriptures. (Here, PK sang the hymn Lamb of Glory. You can hear a singing of it here:

Matthew 21:23-27 The authority of Jesus is questioned
23 When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to him as he was teaching. They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority?”
24 Jesus replied, “I have a question for you. If you tell me the answer, I’ll tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things. 25 Where did John get his authority to baptize? Did he get it from heaven or from humans?”
They argued among themselves, “If we say ‘from heaven,’ he’ll say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But we can’t say ‘from humans’ because we’re afraid of the crowd, since everyone thinks John was a prophet.”
27 Then they replied, “We don’t know.”
Jesus also said to them, “Neither will I tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things.

Matthew 22:15-22 The Pharisees seek to trap Jesus
15 Then the Pharisees met together to find a way to trap Jesus in his words.
16 They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him.
“Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are genuine and that you teach God’s way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people’s opinions, because you don’t show favoritism. 17 So tell us what you think: Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
18 Knowing their evil motives, Jesus replied, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they brought him a denarion. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked.
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 22 When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed.

Matthew 22:34-40 The Greatest Commandment
34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. 35 One of them, a legal expert, tested him. 36 “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being,[Deut 6:5] and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.[Lev 19:18] 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16 The plot against Jesus; Judas agrees to betray
26 When Jesus finished speaking all these words, he said to his disciples, “You know that the Passover is two days from now. And the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
Then the chief priests and elders of the people gathered in the courtyard of Caiaphas the high priest. They were plotting to arrest Jesus by cunning tricks and to kill him. But they agreed that it shouldn’t happen during the feast so there wouldn’t be an uproar among the people.

14 Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I turn Jesus over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver.

16 From that time on he was looking for an opportunity to turn him in.

Matthew 26:31-35 Jesus predicts all will fall away
31 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Tonight you will all fall away because of me. This is because it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will go off in all directions.[Zech 13:7]
32 But after I’m raised up, I’ll go before you to Galilee.”
33 Peter replied, “If everyone else stumbles because of you, I’ll never stumble.”
34 Jesus said to him, “I assure you that, before the rooster crows tonight, you will deny me three times.”
35 Peter said, “Even if I must die alongside you, I won’t deny you.”
All the disciples said the same thing.

What happened after Palm Sunday that turned events so drastically?
How is it that the crowd – the large crowd that had all of Jerusalem talking – loved Jesus on Sunday and called for his death on Friday?
Ironic, sometimes, that it’s called “The Passion.” (Greek for suffering)
The heat, the deep love, often a good, worthy characteristic – you can’t play a sport or music well without passion – I fear blinded people as they let The Moment take control instead of maintaining control of the moment.
And truthfully, I think people got carried away by some leaders who were intent on removing Jesus, who questioned and threatened their power.

My word for you today is Consider. Consider how you present yourself. Consider how you respond to situations, how you reply to situations, that you may not be swept up in the perhaps-not-thought-out response of the masses…

And consider that when the crowds on Palm Sunday hailed Jesus as King and shouted “Hosanna! Lord, save us!” that the way things transpired was the way God chose to save us… and consider your response to that.

It may sound trite or cliché, or it may be new again, but we hold these things to be true: that Jesus was the Son of God, that he somehow chose to become human and somehow chose to endure suffering and that somehow in the suffering that he allowed we are offered forgiveness and reconciliation and redemption and hope… he chose this for you. Consider how you might respond.

Behold the man:

Sunday, March 22, 2015


• 5th Sunday of Lent
With Matthew 15:21-28 and Romans 15:5-13

• This scripture story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman is a puzzling and offensive passage… It demands reflection. Ironically we read it on the heels of Jesus speaking about clean and unclean, and here he seems wrong and rude.
• Many unanswered questions… Where’d the woman come from? What happens after this, does she become a disciple? How does she have such faith, she’s a double outsider?
And why is Jesus so cold and mean and insulting?
It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” Saying IDK invites discussion.
Invite opinion. Embrace mystery. Don’t twist the story to make it nice.
• Perhaps shows human side of Jesus (still seeking solitude, keeps getting interrupted) and perhaps it shows growth as Jesus’ understanding of his own mission e x p a n d s beyond him serving Jews only, from Jerusalem, from Israel, to the needful lost of the world. (and perhaps we can learn from him and e x p a n d as well…)

Let me share with you several “take-home points”
• Take-home point: This woman is amazing. She’s a double outsider (a woman and Canaanite, two powerless positions in ancient Israel) but an exemplary disciple. From the sermon on mount, turn the other cheek, and do not repay violence, also other parts we’ve gone over before: welcome the children, blessed are they that give aid to them; also persevere… you might think this woman has heard (and followed!) Jesus’ words.
• Take-home point: Judge not. Judge not who may be speaking God’s truth (the double outsider woman) and judge not to whom you’ll reach out.
Whether they look or talk or think or worship or vote like you or not. This episode is a direct challenge to racism and sexism and other isms that inhibit grace.

• Take-home point: Stand up for the voiceless. Challenge isms.
• In this passage we see that the Kingdom of God expands beyond the “original” bounds.
Jesus reaches out to Gentiles
Matthew speaks to developing communities as Christianity spreads
Ask for God’s grace when it expands into territory uncomfortable for you..

Personal anecdote: I am not Conservative, but I was appointed to a Conservative (yes, capital “C”) church. It was fine because I don’t wave a liberal flag and I do 1) preach the gospel and 2) uphold the teachings of The United Methodist Church.
A member of this church, noticing the theological difference, asked me (without judgment) why I was appointed to the church. I told her “Whether you (or I) like it or not, same-sex marriage is coming to the US. Doesn’t matter what an individual’s opinion is, it’s coming. Maybe just maybe, God wanted me to be your shepherd when that happened.”
We can talk about the compatibility of Christianity and homosexuality another time, but surely we would stand for the rights of non-Christians to marry in the United States… why would a Christian group put a particular Christian interpretation on a civil law and stand against marriage equality?
I believe Jesus was wrong in this passage. And that he expanded… he grew.
And I believe the church needs to grow – to e x p a n d – in the context of marriage equality, to speak out on behalf of those who have no power in The System…

• Hymn 365 Grace That Is Greater

Matthew 15:21-28        (CEB)   03/22/15
21 From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon.
22 A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” 23 But Jesus didn’t respond to her at all.
His disciples came and urged him,
“Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.”
24 Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep,
the people of Israel.”
25 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.”
26 He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread
and toss it to dogs.”
27 She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs
that fall off their masters’ table.”
28 Jesus answered,
“Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.”
And right then her daughter was healed.

Romans 15:5-13  (Common English Bible)                 3/22/15
May the God of endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude toward each other, similar to Christ Jesus’ attitude. That way you can glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ together with one voice.
So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory.
I’m saying that Christ became a servant of those who are circumcised for the sake of God’s truth, in order to confirm the promises given to the ancestors, and so that the Gentiles could glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles,
    and I will sing praises to your name.[Psalm 18:49]
10 And again, it says,
Rejoice, Gentiles, with his people.[Deut 32:43]
11 And again,
Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
    and all the people should sing his praises.[Psalm 117:1]
12 And again, Isaiah says,
There will be a root of Jesse,
    who will also rise to rule the Gentiles.
        The Gentiles will place their hope in him.[Isaiah 11:10]

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Discipleship is Adherence to Christ

• Fourth Sunday in Lent
With Philippians 2:1-11 and Matthew 15:1-20

You know I’m a runner, biker… reader. My favorite book is The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. It’s something of a modern day fable, a timeless story of a young man who sets off on a journey following his heart.
Which is noble and needful and life-affirming. After all, what is life with a heart without passion, hopes, dreams, desires? It is passionless, washed out, tedious.
• However, the heart can be blind, can lead astray. There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is a way that leads to death (Prov 14:12).
A person cannot seek to follow their heart alone…
we need something external, a rule, a system, a law, a community.
• We may tend to paint them pretty negatively, but that’s what the Pharisees had: a rule, a system, a law, a community, because why? Because the heart can lead astray, because the individual unchecked can get lost and lead others – the blind leading the blind.
To be a Pharisee wasn’t a bad thing. It was what you wanted your kid to do, it was honorable. Paul was a Pharisee. Gamaliel. Josephus.
Two problems with Pharisees as often depicted in the Gospels, though:
they elevated the law above God, and they adhered to human tradition instead of to God. They placed some high standards and held others to them.
• High standards are not bad. Lexi’s favorite teacher had high standards, but students wanted to meet them, were drawn to her as an educator. The feeling we get from the Pharisees is that they were judgmental, not invitational.
• One of my favorite Bible verses is John 10:10, Jesus said I came that people might have life abundant. That’s not what we get from the Pharisees, life abundant. Life restricted.
• Jesus quotes Isaiah to the Pharisees… “These people’s hearts are far from me…” What does God want? Heart. And obedience, yes, but obedience follows heart.
• I’ve been reading Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship the last few weeks, and he talks about the relationship between heart and obedience… not as simple as I put it.
But a disciple is one who adheres to the person of Jesus… clings to Christ.
And when you cling to Christ, you do what Christ says,
and when you do what Christ says, you cling to Christ…
• And I say and I know that adherence to Christ means the reading and studying of The Word – the second person of the Trinity… instead of clinging to man-made rules and regulations, cling to Christ… Read, study, keep word, talk to, live and love Christ, learn to think like.
• Hymn 562 Jesus, Lord, We Look to Thee

Philippians 2:1-11 (CEB)
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
Though he was in the form of God,
       he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
      he humbled himself by becoming obedient 
        to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly honored him
        and gave him a name above all names,
10     so that at the name of Jesus everyone
        in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11         and every tongue confess that
            Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Matthew 15:1-20        (CEB)        03/15/15
15 Then Pharisees and legal experts came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why are your disciples breaking the elders’ rules handed down to us? They don’t ritually purify their hands by washing before they eat.”
Jesus replied, “Why do you break the command of God by keeping the rules handed down to you? For God said, Honor your father and your mother,[Exodus 20:12] and The person who speaks against father or mother will certainly be put to death.[Exodus 21:17] But you say, ‘If you tell your father or mother, “Everything I’m expected to contribute to you I’m giving to God as a gift,” then you don’t have to honor your father.’ So you do away with God’s Law for the sake of the rules that have been handed down to you. Hypocrites! Isaiah really knew what he was talking about when he prophesied about you, This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. Their worship of me is empty since they teach instructions that are human rules.”[Isaiah 29:13]
10 Jesus called the crowd near and said to them, “Listen and understand. 11 It’s not what goes into the mouth that contaminates a person in God’s sight. It’s what comes out of the mouth that contaminates the person.”
12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended by what you just said?”
13 Jesus replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father didn’t plant will be pulled up. 14 Leave the Pharisees alone. They are blind people who are guides to blind people. But if a blind person leads another blind person, they will both fall into a ditch.”
15 Then Peter spoke up, “Explain this riddle to us.”

16 Jesus said, “Don’t you understand yet? 17 Don’t you know that everything that goes into the mouth enters the stomach and goes out into the sewer? 18 But what goes out of the mouth comes from the heart. And that’s what contaminates a person in God’s sight. 19 Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adultery, sexual sins, thefts, false testimonies, and insults. 20 These contaminate a person in God’s sight. But eating without washing hands doesn’t contaminate in God’s sight.”

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Not As They Seem

• Third Sunday in Lent
With 2 Corinthians 4:5-12 and Matthew 14:22-36

• If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you attempt?
If you knew you could do something without getting sick or injured… ah, that’s what roller coasters are ;)
• Some of the responses from last week’s Question of the Week:
“What can you do because you are a person of faith?”
- Get out of bed each day.
- Count my blessings.
- Face my fears.
- Live a peaceful and happy life!
- Trust that there is a bigger plan for my life than I envision.
• This passage (Matthew 14:22-33) is generally presented as being about Peter walking on water. But that isn’t the point. That’s not what it’s about. Things are not always as they seem.
• Example: We had three inches of rain this week, then 8” of snow, which led to Route 60 and the aptly named Water Street being under water. My guess (I didn’t read it anywhere) was that the Guyandotte was at least ten feet higher than normal, but truly that is just a guess.
Where’s that water come from? Salt Rock, Chapmanville, Logan? Upstream from us… uphill?
Know what else is uphill from us? Lesage, Gallipolis, Point Pleasant, Parkersburg… via the mighty Ohio. I don’t know whether we actually had Ohio River water ON Route 60, but that’s what it sounded like on WSAZ… the flooding Ohio backed up the Guyandotte. With an overfull Ohio, the Guyandotte had nowhere to empty, so it backed up. And with an overfull Guyandotte, the Mud River had nowhere to empty, so it covered Route 60 and Water Street. Not merely the flow from Logan.
• So. Today’s Gospel reading. Not what it seems.
And really, as disciples, we should get used to Jesus not being what is expected… Jesus going beyond… Jesus being the kind of person who is not stopped by death, and who raises the dead and brings new life.
In today’s reading, Jesus has fed the crowds (who you’ll remember interrupted him as he was trying to get alone to grieve JtB’s death) and sent the crowds and the disciples away… he went up on the mountain alone to pray, leaving the disciples to take the boat across the lake. When he’s done praying, he walks out to the boat on the water. (astounding four words, walking on the lake).
The disciples see him and are overwhelmed with fear,
but Jesus calls to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
By the way, when you’re in a storm, overwhelmed with fear, can you hear Jesus saying those words to you? Be encouraged!
“I AM.” Don’t be afraid.
Peter replies “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water,” and Jesus said, “Come.”
IF IT’S YOU. We’ve heard words like that before, by the way…
If you are the Son of God, command these rocks to become bread…    
IF IT’S YOU. What does Peter doubt right now?
That he can walk on water, or that it’s Jesus?
• The message is NOT “If Peter had had enough faith he could have walked on water…” but rather “If Peter had had enough faith, he would have believed the word of Jesus that came to him in the boat… he would have believed then as he does two chapters later that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.”
• Jesus IS the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, and clearly it was impossible that he should be walking on the water to come to them. This is a passage that demonstrates that Jesus is who he says he is, and who the prophets said he would be, that he is one with Almighty God, and he is present and powerful.
• We often find ourselves in the with Peter.
Clearly it is impossible that Jesus could come to us as he came to the disciples so long ago, right?
And like the message to Peter was not that he could walk on water, the message to us is not that “if we have enough faith, we could overcome all our problems in spectacular ways.”
Faith is not being able to walk on the water – only God can do that – but daring to believe, in the face of all the evidence, that God is with us in the boat, made real in the community of faith as it makes its way through the storm, battered by the waves. – p. 329-330, New Interpreter’s Bible. [emphasis mine]
• God is with us. When the storms of life are raging, God is with us. When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the sea, God is with us. When we’re growing old and feeble, God is with us. When we’re afeared of storm or battle, destruction or disease, God is with us.
When we face temptation or depression, addiction or grief,
God is with us.
When we feel like we can’t be forgiven or redeemed,
God is with us.
• Lord, we believe; help our unbelief.

• Hymn 385 Let Us Plead for Faith Alone (Charles Wesley)

 Matthew 14:22-36  (CEB) Third Sunday of Lent 03/08/15
22 Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. 24 Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. 25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.
27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
28 Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.” 29 And Jesus said, “Come.”
Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”
31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind settled down.
33 Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”
34 When they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 When the people who lived in that place recognized him, they sent word throughout that whole region, and they brought to him everyone who was sick. 36 Then they begged him that they might just touch the edge of his clothes. Everyone who touched him was cured.

2 Corinthians 4:5-12 (CEB)                                    03/08/15
5 We don’t preach about ourselves. Instead, we preach about Jesus Christ as Lord, and we describe ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 God said that light should shine out of the darkness.
He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. 8 We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. 9 We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned.
We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.
10 We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies. 11 We who are alive are always being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies that are dying. 12 So death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.