Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

“Why can’t we just celebrate Palm Sunday?” That’s a great question to ask as many congregations gather to celebrate “Passion Sunday”, where the text for the day cram all of Holy Week into one day. We’ve got all week to celebrate the Passion, so for today, should Jesus be allowed one day where all the world can praise him.  I believe so, and that being the case, this is it!

As he comes down from Bethphage, as the disciples are sent ahead to bring the donkey and its colt, as Jesus rides through the city gate into Jerusalem, everyone praises him!

Hosanna to the King of kings!
Hosanna to the Lord of lords!
Hosanna         Hosanna         Hosanna in the highest!

This is a day of thanksgiving, this is a day of praise, this is a day worthy of proclaiming.  For as Jesus enters Jerusalem, for once he is recognized for who he is. 

King of kings
Lord of Lords
Son of God.

For that all the people should praise him. For that his name needs to be recognized. For that his name needs to be heard. For that his messages needs to be seen by all the world.

For this is the time when we need to let all the world know that Christ has come . . .

That Christ has come to us, in a time of uncertainties

  • To bring healing to a world plagued by virus and disease
  • To bring hope to a world that seems hopeless, isolated, and alone
  • To bring to life the promise that better things are coming, New restored, resurrection life stands in our future.

Christ has come . . .

  • To show us how to love our neighbors as ourselves.
  • To show us how to forgive as we have been forgiven.
  • To model how we care for one another even as the Samaritan, the outcast, offered care to a stranger in need. 

Indeed, Christ has come. As he rides on in majesty, we realize that this day . . . in fact every day . . . is his day. 

And so with all the crowds gathered along the city street, with the rocks and stones that could not keep silent, with all the earth, with all of the heavenly host we praise his name saying:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna         Hosanna         Hosanna in the highest!

The Spear

John 19:28 – 42

Six hours after being lifted high on the Cross, Jesus speaks, “It is finished!” Then he bows his head and breaths his last. While we are witnesses to these things, something else is taking place behind the scenes at the same time.  For the Sabbath was approaching, and this was not just any Sabbath, this was the Sabbath tied in conjunction with the Passover. These were high . . . high holy days for the people of Israel.

With that the Chief Priest appealed to Pilate, and he then gave the order to have the legs of those being crucified crushed with the same hammer that had driven in their spikes and nails. Now the end is near! With broken legs, the weight of the crucified body would crush their lungs, causing quick death for those on the tree.

Yet , as the guards approached Jesus, they found that he was already dead.  A prophecy was fulfilled:

He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken. 
Psalm 34

To be certain that Jesus was dead, the Centurion approaches, spear in hand, and with one quick thrust forces it up through his side. 

The end . . . it has already come and gone.  Or has it?

As the spear is withdrawn, now standing by the side of its guard, blood and water begin to flow from Jesus side.  These are signs of Life . . . even in the midst of death. 

As blood and water flow, we find two symbolic reminders of life that abounds in Christ. Life that is freely given to us.

Let’s remember, that blood and water are the very essence of life.  You and I cannot live without them.  God, through Christ’s death and pierced side, pours them out upon us, and upon all the world to receive this life sustaining gift.

Let us also remember what else they represent. 

  • The Water’s of Baptism, where we first encounter God’s grace poured out upon us. This water washes us clean from our sin and the eternal punishment that should have been ours.
  • The Blood that is Shed, as Jesus invites us to gather around the table to break bread and lift a cup, here we celebrate a covenant of hope and forgiveness through the cup that we share.

Yes indeed the end is near, but as the spear pierces Jesus side . . . as blood and water flow . . . we are reminded that new life, a transfigured life that is soon to be found.  See death is not the end. Thanks be to God, through the death and resurrection of Christ, we are the ones who are transfigured.  We are the ones who receive new life.  For the water, flowing from Jesus side, through the font of baptism, has claimed us as Children of God. And the Blood, flowing from Jesus side, through the cup that is shared, welcomes us to the eternal banquet that has no ending.  Indeed . . . these are blessed things!

These are blessed things that remind us that the end is just the beginning of a great big beautiful tomorrow!

The Hammer & Nails

Matthew 27: 27-54

On this fourth Sunday in Lent, I would like you to ponder a quick question . . . how many nails played a part of the Crucifixion? Think about that just for a moment. 

Most of us are going to say 3 . . . and three might be correct. It is the traditional image of Jesus, arms outstretched with one nail in each hand, feet crossed with one nail driven through each foot. That would make a total of three.

However, some of us might say 4 . . . and most scholars believe that might be a bit more historically actuate. Arms outstretched with one nail thorough each wrist. Then one nail for either foot, through the side of the heal, into the side of the cross, almost in the pose of riding a bicycle. This would have heightened the pain, as the nail went though the bone, and severed the major nerve that runs through the foot and leg.

But a few of us might even say 5 . . . and five you might think?  Yes five . . . that is probably closer to the right answer. Two in his hands. Two in his feet. One for the sign nailed above his head. That sign, often forgotten is still important.   It’s message is still crucial to the crucifixion . . .  so that nail still counts, making a total of five nails.

And those five nails . . . tell a story as well. Just as the Crown of Thorns told the story, of how Jesus’ death is connected to the Garden of Eden and the sins of all humanity.

The nails tell another story . . . They tell a story that reminds us of who Jesus is and why he came.  For what shape can you make with those five nails? Laying them out one by one? Interweaving them one over another? Maybe you’d get something like . . . a star.

33 years before Jesus was hung on the tree, there was a symbol of hope that lit up the night sky.  It beckoned the shepherds. It guided the magi. It accompanied the angels.  As that bright light shone down on all the earth hope was born.

As Jesus came into the world, he was placed into the hands of a carpenter.  Joseph . . . Jesus’ earthly father, and with that we can imaging that Jesus was a carpenter as well. Following in dad’s workshop, following in his father’s footsteps, with hammer and nails in hand, covered in sawdust.  Splinters in his fingers, and blackened fingernails nails from missing the mark. 

Jesus was a carpenter destined for the cross, which means from birth to death . . . nails were a part of his story.

All Activities Postponed

Greetings families and friends of First,
Under the guidance of the CDC, the President of the United States, the Ohio Department of Health, our Governor, and the Northwestern Ohio Synod Office, the Congregational Council has decided that all group gatherings located within the building are postponed for the next eight weeks. These gatherings include but are not limited to:

  • Sunday morning and Wednesday evening worship.
  • Leadership Meetings.
  • Confirmation, High School, Children’s Church, First Communion, and other youth classes.
  • Adult Bible Study.
  • Youth Group Activities.

There is no doubt that these are challenging times, and that these decisions directly impact our ability to gather together as a community of faith, especially as we move closer to celebrating Easter. While we may not be able to physically gather together, I give thanks that there are alternative means that enable us to continue to offer our thanks and praise to God in the midst of these uncertain times.

  • Our Sunday morning radio broadcast will continue on WTTF, 93.3 FM.
  • We hope to live stream our Sunday morning service on Facebook Live. If you aren’t following us on Facebook, now is the time to do so. Follow us here!
  • The Bulletin, complete with hymns and readings, will be available for download as a PDF file on our website. I also hope to include them as part of my weekly email message. If you haven’t visited our website recently, you can also listen to portions of the previous week’s service and find a summary of my sermon on my blog. It’s another great resource for you to use. 

If you know of anyone who does not have email, please spread the word. Please share this message and these resources with them. It’s more important now than ever that we stay connected, for this is still a great time for us to be the church. That being said, if you know of someone, or if you and your family, are in need of prayer or assistance, please contact the church office (419-447-1323) or me personally ( We will do our best to extend God’s gifts of love and grace as we journey through this together.

God’s Blessings, stay safe, healthy, and well!
Pastor Bailey

Let us pray . . .God of the resurrection and new life, we entrust to your care the needs of the world as fear, anxiety, and worry consume the lives of many in the midst of the spread of Covid-19. Be present with all those who have contracted this virus. Be with families who grieve the loss of loved ones, have suffered loss of work, or are surrounded by doubt and fear. Be with medical personal who work to provide care and comfort, and technicians and labs who work to provide a cure. Heal us! Comfort us! Bring us the hope and joy that only you can bring! Amen.

Soup Dinners are Canceled

With the recent mandate to close all restaurants and bars in Ohio, the decision has been made to cancel our Soup Dinners for the remainder of Lent. At this time we plan on gathering for worship as planned at 7:00 p.m., however as the world continues to adapt, know that these plans may be subject to change as well.

Please know that we have been working hard to create a safe and inviting environment to gather for worship. However, if you are uncomfortable attending, or if you feel ill in any way, shape, or form, please say home.

God’s blessings stay safe, healthy, and well!

The Crown of Thorns

Matthew 27:11-31

As we’ve reflected on the Pieces of the Passion in our LEGO Lent, so far our stories haven’t had any physical implication. Sure, Jesus spoke of the coming torture of the cross. Sure, Jesus felt the sting of pain as Judas kissed his teacher and friend, betraying our Lord. But now there are physical consequences, as the Crown of Thorns is placed upon Jesus’ head.

Can you imagine . . . .

  • The discomfort . . . as those first few spars began to tug on his hair?
  • The pressure . . . as it was forced snuggly on his head?
  • The pain . . . as the thorns began to cut into his skin?
  • The searing agony . . . as they embedded into his scalp?

What rightfully should have been a crown of glory, what should have been a crown made of the purest of gold, what should have been a crown covered in the rarest of gems, what should have been a crown fitting for the King of kings and our Lord of lords, what should have been is a far cry from the vines of the brier patch that are now weaved into a crown of mockery. 

But why thorns? 

From the very beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, back when everything was perfect and beautiful just as God intended, in entered into the world as Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. The eyes of both were opened. Now they realized they were naked and afraid. Fear and anxiety crept in.  The unknown stood before them.  It was the world’s first pandemic and we have been battling it ever since.

As God approached Adam and Eve hiding in the brush, asking the question:  “Where are you, What have you done?” With one excuse after the other, God listens . . . then God condemns:

  • Eve with painful childbirth.
  • Adam with the toil of heavy labor and hard work
  • The serpent to crawl on his belly being despised by all mankind
  • And the ground . . .

 We don’t often think of the ground as being condemned, but the very earth that bore to life the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is condemned: God says: “cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.” Genesis 3:17-18

These thorns and thistles, woven into a crown are a reminder of the sin once committed by Adam and Eve.  The same sin that you and I find ourselves in bondage to day after day.  Thousands of centuries after the banishment from the Garden of Eden, the sin and Adam and Eve, take the form of a crown, and are carried to the cross on our behalf.

Covid-19 Preparation & Response

Yes . . . We will gather for worship!

As the world around us continually changes and adapts to COVID-19, I am reminded that it is a good time to be the church in the world. If there is ever a time that we need to be gathered as the body of Christ, it is now. In the midst of fear, anxiety, and concern of the unknown, we live in faith finding strength together in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (4:6) Our request . . . that all things be entrusted to God’s continual care including the health and well being of each and every one of us.

As we consider the health and well being of all those around us, and our call to gather as a people of faith please know that we have taken several steps to insure your safety and well being while we gather to worship. These measures include:

  • The Worship Space has been thoroughly disinfected and will be repeatedly cleaned each week.
  • Designated seating areas have been created to maintain the suggested six foot radius between families.
  • The Sharing of the Peace will not be exchanged publicly among those in attendance.
  • Offering Plates will be located at the entrance to the Nave to receive your gifts.
  • The Distribution of Communion will be modified to minimize significant hand to hand contact, and hand sanitizer is available before receiving the bread and wine.
  • There will be no fellowship hour following worship.

Together, we have been working hard to create a safe and inviting environment to gather for worship. However, if you are uncomfortable attending, or if you feel ill in any way, shape, or form, please say home! Fortunately, our worship service is broadcast live on 93.3 FM where you can listen in and offer your thanks and praise to God from the comforts of home. God’s blessing as we gather for worship, and stay safe, healthy, and well!

A prayer for healing:

Jesus Christ, you traveled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.

Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care. Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from helping one another. Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.

Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.

Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.

Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.

Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.

Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.

Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace.

Jesus Christ, heal us. Amen

Written by Kerry Weber
America Magazine: The Jesuit Review (March 2, 2020)

Judas' Betrayal

We move into the Second Week of Lent and our LEGO Lent takes us to the Betrayal of Judas. There will always be questions of why? Or the pondering of what Judas did it for? Obviously there was the price of 30 pieces of silver exchanged, but beyond that, what was Judas thinking?

United Methodist Pastor, Tim Smith wrote in a Sermon from 2013 (yes it is always good to read what others are preaching) that there are three distinct reasons why Judas may have become the betrayer.

  1. Greed:  Which makes sense. Hearing the story from Matthew 26:6-16 where Jesus is visiting the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany. As the jar of ointment is broken and poured over Jesus, Judas becomes very vocal: “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.”
  2. Fear:  On multiple occasions, Jesus has said to his Disciples that they will experience the same fate.  Jesus has spoken openly about the Cross.  We know that it’s coming. Yet to the disciples this is scary, and according to Jesus it may likely be their fate as well.  Perhaps, Judas may have thought, “If Jesus is out of the way . . . then we don’t have to worry about that type of fate.”
  3. Rebellion:  There are many who believe that Judas wasn’t content with this peaceful, loving Jesus.  He wanted rebellion.  Even his name, might lead us to believe that as Judas Iscariot may have been one of the Sicarii.  This was a fanatical group of nationalist who wanted to free Israel from the oppression and rule of the Romans.  Think terrorist in our own day in age. With that mind set, Jesus wasn’t living up to his promise of new life and freedom, so Judas did what was natural to him. He rebelled.

Whatever the reason might be.  There is the Garden of Gethsemane, just after Jesus had finished praying . . . the deed was done. With one Kiss, Jesus was betrayed and handed over to the chief priest. The Crucifixion was now close at hand.

As we journey through our LEGO Lent, we recall God’s obedience to the cross by adding one small brick to our story broad. LEGO money . . . as a reminder of Judas’ betrayal and the 30 silver coins offered to Judas by the Pharisees.

Blessed Lent!
Pastor Bailey

Week Two of LEGO Lent

Lent Begins

This year as we begin our journey to the Cross of Christ I can say that I am excited about Lent. Seems odd to say, but it’s true this year I’m excited about the walk to the Cross! I hope that you can share my enthusiasm as we are taking on a special theme for our Sunday Morning Worship Services. Perhaps as we gather to worship it will take you back to your childhood, I know it does for me, as we set out to reflect on LEGO Lent.

Yes that is right, those tiny LEGO bricks have found their way into our worship service as each week a few blocks will help tell the story of Jesus’ Passion and Death. Following worship, you’ll even receive your very own bricks to build your own “mini-kit” to help you remember the great love that Jesus has for you.

This week . . . the Cross.

Long before Holy Week begins, Jesus speaks of his death on the cross. It’s a fitting place to start as we begin our walk toward Good Friday and the glories of Easter. I hope you can make it join us for worship. If not, be sure to listen in on our Worship tab for each week’s message and how LEGO Lent reveals how LEGOS Explain God’s Obedience to the Cross.

Year of Scripture – James

Reading for:
Day 355 – Saturday, December 21

As a Lutheran Pastor, I’ve got to deal with the obvious . . . If you know anything about Martin Luther, than you have probably heard that Luther commonly called James “the epistle of straw.” Luther didn’t like James. He didn’t feel it was worthy of being included in the Bible. He disagreed with it’s theology, and thought it was rather pointless of a reading/writing.

Why would Luther feel such a way?

The simple answer revolves around the three “Sola’s”. These Latin pharases, “Sola Scriptura”, “Sola Gratia”, and “Sola Fide” translate accordingly to by Scripture Alone, by Grace Alone, and by Faith Alone.” For many these three statements define the heart and mind of Luther, and it certainly reflects well Paul’s words to the Ephesians, “You are saved by grace through faith.” However, James challenges that thought process by including this little thing called “works.”

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
(James 2:14-17)

You can see where one may struggle with this. However lets be clear, works alone do not provide the means to salvation. Only Jesus can do that! This is where Luther struggled with James. However, I believe James makes a valid point, works are important, because they are an expression of our faith. If we are living out our baptismal covenant, Faith calls us to action to care for the least of these. That is our “work” as James would remind us. Simply saying “I believe” is not enough, but sharing our faith in our actions and care for one another is our moral obligation as followers of Jesus Christ.

So lets get to work in the name of Christ!

Pastor Bailey