Monday, October 16, 2017

I AM... The Champion!

Image result for Jesus face on the coinMatthew 22:15-22

The Question about Paying Taxes

 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.


As humans we take things and put our stamp on them. We take things and make them our own by our image or perhaps by our signature. We take things and claim them as our accomplishment. We win trophies and get certificates and claim credit for our mental, physical or maybe even shear work ethic and claim it as our own accomplishment.

When I think of what Jesus said in this passage about giving to the emperor the things that are the emperor's and the things that are God's to God; I can't help but to realize that none of it belongs to the emperor or to myself or to anyone else. We fool ourselves into thinking that what we have done is a result of how great we are. Win the race... was it due to God or to me? Get rich... was it due to my hard work or a result of what skills God has given me. Win the championship game... should I point skyward and then take the cheers for myself?

In this passage of Scripture, I hear God's call to clarify to myself that what I do and say and act, in the end, has no justification for God's loving act of sending Jesus into this world to save me and all people from sin, death and the devil. I cannot take, or even stake claim, through my own efforts, for a righteous judgment of God through my actions.

All I have is a gift from God... I owe it all to God to respond in love and joy to the gift God has chosen to give to me in Jesus. It's not because I won the game, the race, the job or anything else that makes me deserving of this love from God.

I'll give what I need to give to society in order to maintain order, but I owe all I have to God.

And that's great, if you ask me! Thanks be to God!


Lord, I see your face all over everything in this creation of your's. I see your face alone... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Image result for stop siPhilippians 4:1-9

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.


What rich words are used in this passage. What depth of meaning and human compassion is present also in these words of encouragement and direction. Even the address... "my beloved," contains the passion of  Jesus. Here we are told to keep it up, to keep on keeping on.

In this passage Paul cheers on those Christians that are struggling. Paul lays out many truths and ways that we can deal with our wrestling both with God, with one another and with the devil. If we pause and see the joy God has surrounded and wrapped around our struggles in life we can feel how close God is with us and even beside us or even wrestling with us. God's love is present. If we stop and give thanksgiving for all that God gives to us. Stop... really stop and think about it. Forget the struggle for a moment and give thanks to God. If we but stop and look around at friends, family and those God has placed in our lives and give thanks for presence of God and of people. When we stop we see God.

Stop and wait and see. Stop and wait and taste. The meal is here. The water feels so good in the forgiveness of baptism. The sweet taste of the fruit of the wine and the joy in the actions of God in the blood of Jesus bring about resurrection and joy and everlasting like.

We don't win the fight and win the prize. The prize has been set before us through the grace of God in Christ Jesus. And as we wait... we rejoice... we see... we know of  the presence of God in all of our life journey.


Lord, as I wrestle in this life you have given me. As I wrestle with the sins I commit. Stop me and let me realize your presence, your joy, your resurrection, your body, your blood, your encouragement; that I may rejoice in love towards you and those you give to me each day. Lead me today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What a Feast!

Image result for a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,    of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
Isaiah 25:1-9

Praise for Deliverance from Oppression

O Lord, you are my God;
   I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
   plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For you have made the city a heap,
   the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
   it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
   cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
For you have been a refuge to the poor,
   a refuge to the needy in their distress,
   a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
   the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
   the song of the ruthless was stilled.

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
   a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
   of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
   the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
   the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
   and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
   for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
   Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
   This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
   let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.


Protection and salvation... through the storms of life we received protection, relief and salvation.

But before the protection and the relief and the salvation... doesn't this imply that we will struggle, wrestle, deny and possibly turn our backs? God permits us to see our sin. God permits us to smell the stench of our sin. God wrestles with us and touches us and we feel the pain in our flesh. Yet God also heals us and protects us and saves us.

Yes, God leads us to the feast of life... everlasting life in and through Jesus after the cross and into the light of the resurrection.

In knowing this truth we respond in love towards God and in love towards one another. We respond in action and in prayer. We gladly jump right back into that baptismal waters to daily seek forgiveness and grace and new life to live each day in God.

Wait on it... believe and trust in God and wait on it. The feast is coming...


Lord, I look forward to that great feast to come with all the saints. I look forward to Sunday and I look forward to the feast of your Kingdom come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Who's in and Who's out?

Matthew 22:1-14
Image result for crowd of all types of people
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’


So when I put myself into the shoes of one of the slaves that went into the streets to gather all whom they found, both good and bad, to come to the wedding feast; I have to wonder, why does the king toss one of these people out of the banquet? I kind of get it, that when the king invited guests that made up excuses not to come, that he was mad; but when the king decided to invite all the people, why didn't he stipulate only the good?

Perhaps it wasn't my duty as a slave to decide the good from the bad. Perhaps I was sent to call and offer an invitation to any and all of the people in the streets. Perhaps the duty to decide good from bad was not my decision to make, rather it was the decision of the king to make.

When I bring these thoughts home to my own life, here and now, I seem to make the connection, that I am to invite all people to the kingdom of God and to hear God's Word. I am to invite friends, enemies, people of all races, nations and religions. Perhaps God has sent me to invite and not to decide who gets an invitation and who doesn't. It seems so simple, yet in my sinfulness and rush to judge people, becomes so hard.

Perhaps I have sinned in my invitation to God's Word. Perhaps? No... I have sinned! I have sinned by what I have done and by what I haven't done. I must return to the simple message that God gives to me... just go invite! God will deal with the rest.

I see in this passage that it's not my works or my judgment or my righteousness that determines the good from the bad. I can only come to righteousness through the grace of what God has done through Jesus on my behalf. I can only come to the banquet when God places on me, the robe of Jesus life giving death and resurrection. I can't come on my own good works because I... myself... my sinful self... cannot save myself... only through Jesus can I have life eternal.

It's not my place to judge. It's not my call to determine the good from the bad. My place is to listen and do what God has called me to do in the world in which God has placed me today. And that's more that enough for a lifetime.


Lord, forgive my judgmental attitude towards others. Help me to hear your call and respond in deed to what you have graciously given to me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Think About the Son

Image result for Vineyard owners sonMatthew 21:33-46

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

 ‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’

 Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
   and it is amazing in our eyes”?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’

 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.


What about the son? The son was sent to these evil people. The son was killed!

Somehow this sounds so familiar. I don't think of myself as one who would kill but in some way I am guilty. How many times have I killed Jesus? How many times have I rejected him in public and hid my devotion to Jesus? How many times have I failed to love God and to love my neighbor? It's a common sin.

God gives us everything. Everything we have is from God. And we live in this vineyard that God has given to each one of us. We live and love and laugh and suffer and sin. But we still live by the gracious nature of God. God has given us everlasting life through the very Son he sent to us in our vineyard and we killed him.

We have another chance that God gives to us as well. We can choose to turn from this death we have inflicted upon God's Son and accept the gift of life through Jesus. And just as the thief on the cross we can live in paradise with the Son.

This is God's world. Our life belongs to God not to us and our selfish desires to rule and overpower those God has given to us.

Lord, heal me from my selfish desires to own my life, my land, my will, my way and my people. Give me a humble heart that I may give all of this up and do your will and follow your call in my life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Teach me Lord!

Image result for teach me o godPsalm 25:1-9
Prayer for Guidance and for Deliverance

Of David.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. 
O my God, in you I trust;
   do not let me be put to shame;
   do not let my enemies exult over me. 
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
   let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. 

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
   teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
   for you are the God of my salvation;
   for you I wait all day long. 

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
   for they have been from of old. 
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
   according to your steadfast love remember me,
   for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! 

Good and upright is the Lord;
   therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 
He leads the humble in what is right,
   and teaches the humble his way.


This portion of psalm reminds me to trust in God and to seek his guidance and teachings all through my life. It reminds me that I am a sinner and in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. This psalm reminds me that my life is not about me, or only for me, but is also for God and those God gives to me in life daily.

This psalm reminds me that God will show me the way that I am to act out God's love towards God and towards my neighbor. 

In my sinful nature God comes to me as a teacher I can trust and learn from. God opens up to me the lives of so many people from the Old Testament thru the New Testament that are examples of God's hand in the lives of his sinful people as they attempt to do God's will, learn God's teaching and seek to understand God's salvation.

I think God also makes a story out of my life and the lives of so many people that I am personally familiar with, that shows me God's action of love in their lives and God's direction towards salvation.


Lord, as I trust you in this life you have given me, may I do your will and walk in your way as you desire for me to do with all of the people you give to me day after day. Create a life in me that has it's own unique story of the glory you deserve. Forgive me when I fail and teach me in my wrongs all along the way... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, September 28, 2017

It's Just Not Fair!

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge"? 3 As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

25 Yet you say, "The way of the Lord is unfair." Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26 When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27 Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28 Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, "The way of the Lord is unfair." O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.


It's just not fair! I've heard this before. I've probably said this before. But wait! What is fair?

The only thing that is fair in life are the meadows and the woodlands. (That's a joke)

If I think of life from my perspective; sure things are not fair. But who promised that things would be fair? I don't remember this being a promise by anyone. If I think of life from God's perspective (which I can't really do... but let's just pretend a minute), things aren't fair either. God created me and you and all that exists. God gave all to us. And I ruined it, you ruined it and so did everyone else. So, God sent Jesus into this world in flesh and blood to clean up the mess I made and to save me from my sinful self. That's not fair.

Really we all deserve eternal damnation and hell for our turning from God's perfectly fair ways towards our sinful unfair and selfish ways.

I cant' point my finger at you or anyone and say that all of this unfairness is due to you. I'm the one that sinned. It's not fair because of me. Likewise, you can't point your finger at me or anyone who lived before me or after me and blame the unfairness on me or them. I must take responsibility for my own sin and confess and repent before God.

But, thanks be to God that God is gracious and loving and merciful and wants me to have a new heart and a new spirit. So loving is God that Jesus came to take on my sinfulness that I am responsible for and saved me... you... and all of us.


Lord, you are more than fair. Forgive my sin and create in me a new heart and a new spirit... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Think before you Click

Matthew 21:23-32

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" 24 Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' 26 But if we say, 'Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." 27 So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28 "What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' 29 He answered, 'I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir'; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.


It's like I tell my grandson, and remind myself so many times; think before you act. How many times do I not take my own advice. How many times have I said something or texted something or posted something in a case where I did not think before I acted? How many times have I not considered another point of view? How many times have I not thought of the other person and how they would take my comment? How many times have I acted, only to find out that my actions did not help but rather hurt. I really don't think I'm alone in this sin. I think this sin is one of those sins, that, if we all paused to reflect upon, would find ourselves guilty. This sin is one of those sins where we come together and before God to confess and seek forgiveness.

This passage makes me think of how we can be so political in our actions. We want to get the angle or some behind the scene purpose of a question and carefully craft an answer that will keep us out of trouble or lead the outcome to some outcome that we desire. Politics plays into so many things these days, that we are suspect of spin all of the time.

Jesus! Of course John was sent from God to proclaim the way. Of course, I want to be the person that does the will of God. Sure, I may pause to think about it and seek to know what God's will and call for myself in this life consists of and follow that will. But... my sinful self holds back. I want to answer yes and run the other way. I want to sound good and Christian, but my weak backbone chickens out and I pause or delay or procrastinate myself into total inaction.

This passage of scripture points out the difference between actions and words. John acted on God's will and way in his life. John went and proclaimed and baptized. John may have questioned God at some point, I don't know. But I do know that God acted on God's will in his life. John respected God's authority in life and went and did what he was told. Did John do it all perfectly? I suspect not. But God has a way of using our imperfections to God's glory and to God's plan.

John wasn't about tricky questions but about action. The chief priests and elders seemed to try to trick with words but Jesus responded with action. Jesus responded in his life, ministry, word, teaching, suffering, death and resurrection. Thanks be to God that Jesus was sent for action to save all of us from sin, death and the devil not with political stunts, spin and deception.

May my life and your life and the lives of all God's people be a faithful response to what God has planned for each and all of us. May we think through the love we have been given, one for another, before we respond. May we all be sure to respond to the greatest gift of all through Jesus, our Savior.


Lord teach me your will and your way. Teach me to think before I respond. Teach me to love the other. When I fail... forgive me... correct me... send me into this world to do your will in my life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, September 18, 2017

We're all grapes hanging from the Vine

Matthew 20:1-16

1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, "You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, "Why are you standing here idle all day?' 7 They said to him, "Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, "You also go into the vineyard.' 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, "Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.' 9 When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, "These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' 13 But he replied to one of them, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last."


On first impression I think of how thankful I am to be even given a daily wage for my work.

On first impression I associate the landowner with God.

But then...
Perhaps the landowner is not God. Perhaps the landowner is a person that wants to rule over the workers of the day. Perhaps the landowner is just another arrogant person of power and riches that humbles the workers who have spent all day in the vineyard by showing them that they are no more than peasants who can easily be paid just as much as the workers who only worked a short period of time. Perhaps the landowner is showing the peasants that money is no object and the peasant life can easily be paid for by the vast difference in the rich style of the owner verses the poor wages of the needy peasant lifestyle.

That view kind of turns it all around. It brings to light passages of the disciples playing out the status of who will sit on the right and left of the seat of Jesus in the kingdom to come. It brings to light the view of Christians today who lord it over other Christians that only their viewpoint is the correct and godly viewpoint. It brings to light how all of us try to lord our positions and opinions in life over another of God's creation's position and life.

I tend to think now of my status among the peasants and the workers of this world. We all are in need of the salvation that only God can offer. My position if landowner or peasant, first or last to work, doesn't depend on what wages I think I deserve, but depends on what wages Jesus, my Savior has given to me on the cross.

Yes, Jesus took on my sin and the sin of all the world to make all peasants and landowners righteous before the sight of God. We are not made righteous  through our power, prestige, wages, or even being first or last. We are made righteous by the blood, the suffering and the death of Jesus on the cross to take away our sin and free us to live a life of grace with God now and forever. May all people come to live in this harmony and common confession before God in this life we live, here and now. At least... live in the grace of God happy and joyous with our place in God's kingdom.

Lord, so many times I take my position and opinion and force it upon another. So often I want that gap over another person that makes me feel that I am more powerful or richer than that sill peasant. Stop me in my tracks to see that all people are created in your glory and that I am here to live the gracious love you have given to free me through Jesus. Forgive me for the times that I separate myself from those you give to me and lord my religion, my opinion or my monetary place over another. Renew me and send me into your world to live in harmony and grace today, tomorrow and forever. --- Amen

Friday, May 05, 2017

Jesus? Where!?

John 10:1-10

Jesus the Good Shepherd

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


So, what's with, sheep, shepherd, gate, gatekeeper, strangers, thieves, bandits, and wolves?

Jesus tried once (the first paragraph), but they didn't get it and I'm not so sure that I get it. So, Jesus tries again. Now Jesus bluntly tells them and me that he is the gate. No guessing this time.

But what does all of this have to do with Easter? Why this passage during this season of the resurrection? Someone in their ultimate wisdom decided to add this Gospel passage to our Easter readings... but why?

The previous chapter, John 9, was about the blind man that was born blind that Jesus healed. The Pharisees were checking out Jesus' healing of this blind man and got upset with the blind man's testimony and threw the blind man out of their presence.

With the passage above it's almost like I am the blind man now. Why is Jesus telling parables like this that seem so simple? But then again... it seems as if so many of us are blind to Jesus after the resurrection. So many of the early witnesses to Jesus resurrection didn't recognize him as the risen Christ. I think of last weeks Gospel about the walk on the road to Emmaus.

Do I, do you, do any of us really recognize Jesus? Am I blind to Jesus?

I say that I recognize Jesus but am I just saying that? Do I really recognize Jesus in my daily living? Do I follow him to pasture and trust him? Do I see Jesus as the resurrected One? Am I tricked by the thief and fall into sin, death and hell?

I think in this is the Easter story. Jesus died in my sin. Jesus rose victorious from my sin.

I spend too much of my life attempting to defeat sin, death and the devil. I can't defeat sin, death and the devil. Only through the gate of Jesus who defeated sin, death and the devil do I have a chance. And in this is the Easter story. If I open my eyes... if I see the gate... if I listen to the Shepherd and ignore the voice of the thief; I will be saved. Not by my action, but by the loving action and grace of God through Jesus Christ, my Gate to salvation and my Shepherd to follow into the pastures of this world.

Thanks be to God!


Open my eyes, my ears, my nose and all of my senses to your presence, Lord Jesus. You are the gate to salvation and I will follow you into this world you have set me in knowing that you alone can lead me in life. As I live this eternal life here and now I look to you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, April 16, 2017

“The Loudest Cry Never Heard, Yet Heard Loud and Clear” (A Tribute to my Mother-in-Law Patricia Hawkins)

“The Loudest Cry Never Heard, Yet Heard Loud and Clear”

(A Tribute to my Mother-in-Law Patricia Hawkins)

by Bill Lynch


As I looked from the bottom of the bed that my mother-in-law, Pat, lie upon; I observed close family members gathered. Pat was struggling to breathe and was surely close to the end of her earthly walk. Amy, my sister-in-law had discovered a piece of paper in one of Pat’s Bibles detailing a few hymns and some scripture passages to be read at her funeral. One of those hymns was “The Old Rugged Cross.” Upon hearing this the Hospice Nurse sprung to action and found the Hymn on a phone. Before you know it a phone was laid upon Pat’s shoulder. You could see Pat barely tilt her head to hear the words and music.

The Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross
The emblem of suff'ring and shame
And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

Oh, that old rugged Cross so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

At his point in the song I detected Pat slipping away from this world and into the waiting arms of Jesus as her spirit eased. Did she stop breathing? I think so… but who am I to know for sure. It appeared to me that through this song Pat was letting go with all of her might of a shout that none of us could hear. But a shout that surely Pat wanted all of us to hear.

Yes, for the past year Pat had lived a voiceless life. No words from her lips. She mostly me that wide eyed scared stare that I would get in the past, like oh no, my smart ass son-in-law is here! Ever since I became Pat’s son-in-law we would have a great time of teasing. Pat was one in the family that kind of got my teasing and didn’t take it as hurtful. Speedy, Pat’s husband, would always get a kick out of it when I would tease Pat as my ol mother-in-law. But Pat hadn’t said more than a few words this past year. Yet in the midst of this hymn that she chose, I could hear the loudest shout of all to all of the people in this room at this time and to all of her family and to all who would listen.

You see Pat died on the Friday before Good Friday to the tune of “The Old Rugged Cross.” During the second verse I could hear Pat in her spirit proclaim, “Listen to this! It’s through the cross we are saved! Get it you guys!”

And then… and then… Pat slipped away as we all stood a watched and listened and some of us sang along.

So we listened, watched and sang on…

In the old rugged Cross, stain'd with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To pardon and sanctify me

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

In Pat’s spirit I could still hear her proclaim through these words, “See! Jesus will take care of you because he came from above and came to you to live with you and to be your God. Jesus will forgive you and make you holy.” Now listen and listen carefully…

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true
Its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then He'll call me some day to my home far away
Where his glory forever I'll share

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

And there it was! The loudest shout I have ever heard from this soft, small, easy speaking lady in my life. Pat in her spirit proclaimed through the loudest shout, “I’m called away to my home far away. Follow me through the grace, the love, and the resurrection of the One who came to me and will come to you, right to and through that old rugged cross!”

Yep! I hear you Pat. I hear you loud and clear this day. Pat, thanks be to God for your voice that has returned!

As the week progressed through arrangements, funeral and burial, I couldn’t help but listen to those shouts I thought I heard. Doubt presses in. Did I hear that or not? People around me didn’t seem to hear what I heard. Maybe I didn’t hear it.  Maybe the people nearby on that Friday evening heard something else?

In the middle of the week I stopped by Pat and Speedy’s burial site. Straightened some flowers and thought about the fresh dirt on the grave. You are dust and to dust you shall return. Goes for Pat right now and definitely applies to me always. God formed me out of mud, dirt and clay and I can plan on my return. But there is more. Yes, there is more.

The cross is such a dirty thing. Dirty, sweaty and blood covered. Have you ever looked at rotten wood? Soft and dirty and moldy. All of this thought of dirt and blood and the cross. I hear the hymn once more in my mind; The Old Rugged Cross…

Maundy Thursday comes and reminds me of the command God gives to all of his disciples. We’re here to love one another. Isn’t that what Pat did with her loud cries never heard? She loved all of those present and those not present who could receive her cry. Listen… get it you guys… get the cross… there is salvation in the cross… believe!

And Good Friday comes. It’s been a week now. As I sit in a Good Friday service I glance at my watch. It was last week… at just about this same time that I heard Pat’s cry. I listen to the words telling about Jesus crucifixion. I’m guilty too! Yes, I am guilty of putting Jesus on that cross… The Old Rugged Cross. No doubt that I would have done the same thing or something worse had I been there in that same day.

Today, we have the full story. We know the facts. History recorded what happened. I remember the cries of Pat as she died. God came to save me through that Old Rugged Cross. Believe!

Now Saturday, just over a week ago it was that I saw Pat die from the foot of that nursing home bed. I think of Jesus in the tomb. Dark, silent, death. Stone cold still death. Someday my body will be stone cold. Someday I will be in that tomb, that vault, that urn. Someday is here for Pat. There is more to be said. We are called. We are called here and now to follow Jesus. Yes! I will follow Jesus to the cross and to the tomb. But there is more…

Glorious Easter Sunday. I listen to the sermon and throughout the service I think of Pat. I hear and agree with how I expect death. Yes, on Good Friday, I expect death. But God changed all of that. On Sunday as I was in the midst of death; thinking of Pat’s death just days ago, I hear that cry from the grave. Wait! Even Friday over a week ago as I was at the foot of Pat’s deathbed; I expected death! And on Good Friday I expect the death of Jesus. The death that I caused Jesus, through my sin, to suffer and die. Death and the dark tomb of the wee hours of Sunday morning. God does something that changes everything. Jesus comes to life. As I expected death, God brought life.

I think back. That’s it! Pat gave one more shout. That Friday as I watched Pat die, I expected death. But no! No! In the death I expected I actually saw life! Life because of Jesus death. Life because of Jesus suffering. Life because my sin, that Jesus became on that cross, was put to death knowing that through his death I may be made alive. Through Jesus death, Pat is made alive. Through Jesus death, all are made alive.

Did you hear that loud cry at Pat’s deathbed? Right when we expect to see death, God shows us life. Yes… that’s what I saw that Friday. That’s what I heard from a little lady that didn’t have a loud voice even in her heyday and had no voice at all this past year. I hear you Pat. And yes I believe.

Thanks be to God!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Broken Branches

Micah 6:1-8
1 Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. 3 "O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord." 6 "With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

I look out of my second floor office window and I see broken, separated branches clinging to the tree from which they have been separated. Life no longer flows to these broken branches from the source of life that the tree has to offer. Yet... these branches cling to a Y in the tree. They cling only to be blown and separated at some time. Perhaps the wind will not blow them loose and the leaves of life will no longer be present in the dead wood of the broken branches.

The broken and separated branches are witness to my thoughts on scripture. These very branches see me through the glass of the window, pondering God's meanings in scripture. Broken branches that hear my cry to God... why of Lord? What dear God would you have me do after this reflection on your Word. Broken and dead branches that hear my prayers for family, nation, friends and myself as I walk through this life. Dead branches that are there as I question what God would have me offer to him, the creator of all things.

In the passage above, God has the people witness to the mountains the controversies that God's people bring before God. Not unlike the dead and broken branches that are witness to the goodness God has freely given me. God has brought me forth from my sinfulness and given me life. God has taken me in, as an illegal alien, into his family and chosen me and marked me with the cross of Christ forever. God accepted me in my broken, dead and separated state of being and God made me wonderful in his sight.

The broken, dead, illegal alien that I am has been redeemed. What does God want from me? I see it above... God wants me to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with him and those he graciously gives to me in my life. Me... the broken... the dead... the separated branch that I see outside the window of this second floor upper room. God has saved me and requires me to love the separated, the illegal alien, the dead, the broken, the neighbor that God will give to me. In this I am deeply humbled. Yes... God has promised to graft me in to his life giving eternal life of love for all creation.

Thanks be to God that hung on that dead wood of a cross, broken wood, separated wood, yet wood that only Jesus could bring to life in his suffering, death and resurrection. God has made that dead and separated wood the symbol of the gift of eternal life through Jesus. Yes! Thanks be to God!

Lord, lead me as I humbly do the work that you require... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Rejoice and be Glad

Matthew 5:1-12
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The squirrel came down out of the tree. One squirrel was followed by another squirrel. Both scratched on the surface of the lawn. Both squirrels were looking for some food on this warm January day. Following the squirrels closely behind was the robin. The robin? In January? Yes, the robin on this string of warm January days. Was the robin confused? Maybe but the squirrels were followed by the robin anyway. The robin scratching on the surface of the lawn in the exact locations that the squirrels had just scratched.

From my vantage point of a second floor home office; I didn't witness any food for any of these animals being brought up from the earth. Just the same, all continued in the search. Robin and both squirrels came to the earth in search of food to eat.

As disciples of Jesus, we too come to him. As disciples of Christ, we follow Jesus in search of food. We come to Jesus looking for the Word he gives to us. We listen and we take in his words. Yes, we follow Jesus away from the crowds to the mountains. We follow, we listen, we learn and we act out in the will that Jesus gives us.

It's food that we don't appear to be taking in but later through our actions the sustenance and the fruit of the food that Jesus feeds us becomes apparent in how we love those that are the crowd. Jesus feeds us the knowledge of the blessing. The blessing of those in the crowds in the foothills and the plains below the mountain.

As the squirrels come down followed by the robin to partake of some food that I cannot see. We, as Jesus' disciples, come down from the mountain to the crowds. Filled with the love of God. Fed by the fruit of love.

God blesses us as his disciples. God has made us holy and sends us to those people in the crowd, maybe the crowd itself, of which God blesses and makes holy. May we take that blessing, that being made holy, freely given to us, to those God presents to us and to the crowds.

 Yes, we come down in love for God and in love for those blessed people in the crowds that God gives to us each and every day.

Lord, you abundantly bless those in the crowds... the poor, those in mourning, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted and the reviled. Yes... you bless them with your love and salvation. May I, being fed with your Word, go into this world and meet the people that you present to me with your love and your blessings... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's all about the Light

John 1:29-42
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, "After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." 32 And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God." 35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" 39 He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed ). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter ).

It's not about me...
Nope... this life is not about me. It's not about how good of a Christian I am... it's not about if I have the correct interpretation of Scripture... it's not about what I think... it's not about what I do or say... it's not about how I may disgust someone else... it's not about how I bark into the wilderness... it's not about the clothes I wear... it's not about the food I eat... it's not about my self-esteem... it's not about how I think and judge other people... it's not about how I think you ought to live your life... it's not about my opinion... it's not if I'm liberal or conservative... it's not if I'm Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Baptist... it's not about me!

This life is about Someone else.  This life was given to me. I am physical and I am spiritual. God made me wonderful but it's not about me. It's all about God... it's all about Jesus. John was sent into this world to point to the Light. John was sent to point to Jesus. It's not about me or John or you or anything or anyone else. It's all about Jesus.

The Light comes into the world...
I was born into this world. God came into this world from heaven. God came to all of us as a Light to lead us to salvation in Jesus from sin, death and the devil. Without this Light we are lost forever and damned eternally to hell.

So we hear John. We look, We see. We see God's Light in Jesus and see the source is from outside ourselves yet somehow mysteriously from inside ourselves. A Light that permeates the physical and opens the spiritual. A Light that brings the Holy Spirit. A Light that comes into the world, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A Light that is God. Light of Light.

What are you looking for?...
I seek... I long for... I desire with all my heart this Light. This Light that will lead me and guide me and call me and gift me with all I need in order to point all the world right to this very same Light. I'm looking for what the Light would have me say or do or act. Yes... I'm looking for the Light to shine brightly through me to all the world so that all I do is to the glory of God.

Nope... it's not about me... it's about the Light!

Come and see...
Jesus... where are you staying? A cry all Christians must ask at some time, And Jesus says... "Come and see..."

So I come to see. I let the Light in as I see. I open my eyes to look out into this world. I let the Light in as I open my eyes from my own selfishness and let the Light come in so that I can see.

It's not about me or how "right" I think I am. It's not about me or how wise I think I am. It's not about my opinions or how I judge. It's not about what I think of how another person is handling their life, their religion, their decisions, their very being. Nope... it's not about me. It's the Light that shines outside of me and into me and through me.

It's about the Light that Jesus has called me to come and see.

Jesus, as I open my eyes to see your Light may all my selfish desires be blasted away by your glory.

As I humble myself and uncurl from all of my self-righteousness to your glory. May I let your Light shine in and through me.

It's all about you after all. Lead me so that my life may reflect your Light to a dark, selfish, power-hungry, hateful world. We need the Light... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen