Tag Archives: Jesus

Easter

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Second Sunday of Easter, Faith United Church of Christ, Muscatine, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 4/7/13.

Mark 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?”

When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!)  Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled.

But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.[aHe has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.”

Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.[b]

[a] Or the Crucified One         [b] In most critical editions of the Gk New Testament, the Gospel of Mark ends at 16:8.

Mark 16:1-8, Common English Bible (C) 2011

That’s a wrap.

In the most ancient editions of the Gospel of Mark (which was the first gospel written), it all ends here:  an empty tomb, terror and dread.  No sighting of Jesus.  No sign of the rest of the disciples.  No more words.

To end on a note of fear is neither uplifting nor hope-filled.

And yet it’s my favorite ending.  It leaves so much to the imagination.  It recognizes that whatever happened and whatever comes next cannot be fully explained.  It is a matter of faith.

Clearly the woman talked about what they saw and heard at the tomb.  Jesus must have met them and the other disciples – including Peter – in Galilee.  Otherwise there’s no story.  Jesus would have been forgotten like the now unknown traveling preachers, teachers, healers, magicians, and story-tellers of his time.

The tomb is empty.

Jesus is risen!

Now what?

No matter where you are on life’s journey of faith or non-faith, from whatever religious or cultural tradition of your past or your present, may you have peace in your life this day and every day,  Teressa

Unwilling to Understand

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Photo:  TLClark, 4/14/19.

It’s Palm Sunday.  But the sermon I heard this morning could have been given any Sunday of the church year.

I remember exactly one phrase:  “unwilling to understand.”  It fit beautifully with whatever the Deacon (we were worshiping with Roman Catholics) was saying.  But I’ve already forgotten the exact context and that’s OK.  Even when I’m the preacher I don’t necessarily remember the sermon.

How often are we willfully unwilling to understand?
Whether it’s the changing climate or the plight of the refugee,
whether it’s the rising water or the post-storm debris,
whether he is an unknown immigrant or a well-known relative,
whether she was born recently or decades ago,
whether they live a world away or just down the street,
whatever the situation
it’s ever so much easier to simply ignore what is reported,
to look away from what is shown,
to shut mind and heart to what is revealed,
so we can pretend it is – or they are – someone else’s problem.
I know I’m guilty.

Meanwhile we Christians say we follow Jesus – one who did not ignore what was going on around him.   Jesus did not look away from the people before and beside him.  He did not shut his heart and mind to the great needs of the world.

Lord, make me willing to understand.  And willing to act.

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Photo: TLClark, 4/14/19.

The Golden Rule at Church

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 7:12 NRSV

“Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.” – Luke 6:31 CEB

Love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)  But sometimes what we call kindness or think is a kindness is not experienced by another as such because it is not kind.  It is an insisting on our own way (see 1 Corinthians 13:5).

I’ve long said church – my church, your church, all church – would be perfect if it didn’t have any people.  But then it wouldn’t be church.  (sigh)

We human beings are a contentious lot.  We are eager to get our own way.  We frequently forget – and too often choose to ignore – the Golden Rule:  do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Getting church right is hard, hard work.  It’s been that way for a long, long time.  Just read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians to get a glimpse of the turmoil in the early church.

And yet the church – the body of Christ – in all its imperfection continues.  There are many faithful leaders – ordained and lay.  There are countless loyal followers of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit still sheds wisdom on those who have ears to hear and hearts to heed her teaching.   The same God who created “in the beginning” is still at work doing a new thing.

Some days I believe it.  Other days I don’t.

Which is why we need each other.  Some days I keep the faith for those who struggle.  Other days I’m held through the struggle by those keeping the faith.

May it be so for you.

Without Love

“If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing.

“If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 CEB

Did you read the text above?  Really read it?

The guy sitting next to me at church Saturday evening harumphed – an audible, derisive sort of scoff – at the truth of it.  He was genuinely surprised to hear this sort of thing coming from the Bible.

It’s great imagery.

Say what I will but words without love are just noise.  And it’s not just about the tone or the sincerity; it’s about being truly genuine and coming from a place of deep compassion for the persons – every single one of them, friend and foe alike – who will hear what I say.

Look into the future if that’s your thing but if you don’t see through eyes of love you might as well be blind.

If my generosity isn’t fueled by love, I’m not being generous.  I’d add that if there strings attached, it’s neither generous nor a gift.

The apostle Paul – formerly known as Saul, now known as St. Paul – is writing to a church divided and is calling for unity.  The body of Christ – the sum total of all the followers of Jesus – is ONE.  It’s made of many parts, all equally good, all absolutely necessary, each with different gifts.  To treat any individual as less than, to ignore or dismiss another, is simply not the way of Christ.

How we treat each other – within the church or not, Christian or not, matters.

It’s something to consider.

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Hearts at Faith United Church of Christ, February 2013. Photo: TLClark

Christmas: Home by Another Way

We’re home.  And we came by another way:  Highway 20 instead of Interstates 90 or 80.  As we crossed Iowa, I remembered travelers near the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew.

MagiMagi from the east journeyed to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem to honor “the newborn king of the Jews.”  There may or may not have been three of them.  They may or may not have ridden camels.  They were not exactly welcomed by King Herod – though Herod pretended otherwise.  When they found the newborn they presented three gifts.  Warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they headed home another way.

Joseph heeded a dream to avoid Herod’s wrath by taking the family to Egypt.  This is the first trip for Joseph and Mary as Matthew tells the story; there is no mention that they had to travel to Bethlehem.  So, I wonder, did they call Bethlehem “home” for awhile?  Eventually Joseph took the family from Egypt to the land of Israel but it didn’t feel safe there so they settled in Nazareth.  In both instances, they made their way to another home.

Life is like that.  Sometimes it is a journey of going from and returning to the same address.  The house itself remains the same.  The travelers themselves may be changed by the trip – what they saw or who they met or an experience they shared.

Other times life is a matter of leaving – even fleeing – what is no longer healthy, life giving, life affirming.  Sometimes you have to move to a new place, begin again, create a new home.  Like it or not, travelers are changed by this kind of journey.

The good news is that no matter where we are or where we go, we are never alone.

Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the Lord’s house as long as I live.   Psalm 23:6 CEB

Jesus:  “Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”  Matthew 28:20b CEB

Childhood Home

My childhood home. Photo taken when I went back there to help my parents pack to move.  Though they lived there for more than 45 years, it is no longer home.  Photo: TLClark, May 2017.

Christmas: Shepherds

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I’ve been thinking about Shepherds since Christmas Eve.

Shepherds.  Providing for every need:  clean water, good food, safe shelter.

Not just the men (and women?) who seemed to simply leave their flocks in the fields to rush off in search of a baby in a manger.

Shepherds.  The men and the women who shepherd congregations.  Through the high holy days and the mundane every days, through great joy and deep sorrow – providing water and food and shelter.  Offering rest and healing, play and opportunities to learn.  Sharing story and art and music and movement and so much more.

Shepherds.  The women and men who care for our children – at home, in day care, at school and more – providing water and food and shelter.  Offering rest and healing, play and opportunities to learn.  Leading and teaching with story and art and music and movement and so much more.

Shepherds.  The women and men who care for our elders – at home, at care centers, in hospice and more – providing water and food and shelter.  Offering rest and healing, play and opportunities to learn.  Using story and art and music and movement and so much more.

Shepherds.  Feeding and sheltering and caring for others.  And being fed and sheltered and cared for by others (including the Great Shepherd)!

Thanks be to God.