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.
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.
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)
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Readings for: Day 352 – Wednesday, December 18: Hebrews 1 – 6 Day 353 – Thursday, December 19: Hebrews 7 – 10 Day 354 – Friday, December 20: Hebrews 11 – 13
I can hear Harriet say, “Now Pastor, you know the Bible is very clear on who is supposed to make the morning coffee!” “It is?” I would reply and she would start laughing. “Of course, it does . . . He – Brews!”
Harriet was a beloved church lady at my last call in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and she was always full of whit and humor. Yet always filled with a deep and sincere passion for our Lord. Unfortunate for me, but a blessing for her, God called her home while I was serving there and we had a wonderful celebration of life, filled in with her whit and humor.
As I think of Harriet and her passion, Hebrews comes to mind as it is full of passion and love for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. From its opening words:
“Long ago, God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he as spoke to us bay a Son!” (Hebrews 1:1-2a)
Much like the eloquent words to the beginning of the Gospel of John, the unknown author writes beautiful words that connect Jesus Christ, to the ancient of days through the Order of Melchizedek. Now you may be asking, “who is that?” Over and over again, the Letter to the Hebrews refers back to this peculiar named priest, but know this isn’t the first time we’ve heard his name. Look back with me to Genesis 14:
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” (Genesis 14-18-20)
Long ago . . . Hebrews starts out, and we are connected to the first priest of God. Little mentioned. Little reflected upon. Still important to the story as Abram is blessed by God through Melchizedek. A blessing that is then poured out to us through Christ who is the completion of the line of priest. Christ is the perfection of everything God created, and through the cross we are forever united into the priesthood of all believers.
Reading for: Day 351 – Tuesday, December 17: Philemon
There is no way to skirt around this. There is no hiding the obvious. There is no easy way to hide the fact that in order to read and understand Philemon we are going to have to deal with slavery.
Now that that is out of the way, let me add, I am not a proponent of slavery. It is an unfortunate dark stain in the history of our country, and a horrible reflection of the world especially in our ability to mutually care and respect one another. It saddens me that in some circles and black markets of the world slavery and indentured servant-hood still exists. As a basic God given gift, we were all created equal in God’s image, and we all should be working hard to end what should have ended years ago.
That being said, in order to understand Paul’s urgency in writing Philemon, we have to ask the question, “If you were a slave owner, and one of your slaves ran away, who may have physically stolen or harmed you in some way shape or form in their flight, what would you do upon their return?” Not an easy question to ask. Not an easy question an answer, and chances are if we were going to answer truthfully, we probably wouldn’t be overly kind to them upon their return.
With that mindset, we now insert Paul’s letter. Treat him as a “beloved brother” (v. 16) for I have become like a “father” (v. 10) to him, and he is one with us “in the flesh and in the Lord.” (v. 16) Ahh . . . great words. You can only wonder if they worked. I pray that Onesimus was welcomed as warmly as Paul encourages Philemon to act. Paul then goes on to promise to repay Philemon for any “wrongs” that Onesimus has done, and to ready a guest room for Paul is soon to visit.
For me, this is one of those letters that makes you want more. What happened next? What is the story beyond the story? We do know that Onesimus plays a roll throughout Paul’s travels and is referred to several different times. So he’s a key part of the growth of the early church. More importantly, this letter reminds us, that we are all created one in the eyes of God. We are all called to treat one another as sisters and brothers in faith. As Paul writes in Galatians, no longer are we defined as slave or free, male or female, young or old. Or as the children’s song would have us sing, “red, yellow, black, white, we are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Even as we begin a new year, may you remember to love all God’s children, as God loves us!
We made it to 2020! Honestly, I’m still waiting for the day when we are living like the Jetson’s. In my youth, watching the morning cartoons, I thought maybe by 2020 we’d be there. Great stuff of dreams, and my son said, “Dad that’s for 2100.” I’ll never see it, but maybe his dreams will come true!
So as we start a new year together, what is the biggest news? We made it through a Year of Scripture! I know Christmas got me bogged down and I didn’t finish posting but I will, I promise. Even though I didn’t blog every day, I made time to open my app and share my own personal time of reflection with God. I even took a screen shot to show a perfect streak! And the verse for the day, seemed fitting. “Everything beautiful.”
So the question is now what? We’ll I’m hoping to do a few different things.
One . . . to keep up with my daily reading. The You Version App has plenty of different reading plans, which Wendy and I are going to pick and share together. Right now we are working on a six day plan on “Making a better us.” Hopefully, together we can continue to read and grow in love and relationship with one another and with God. Two – I’m hoping to keep up with my Blog, and to use is as a sermon summary, or sermon starter. I Know many of you faithful readers aren’t here on Sunday and may appreciate so of my “other thoughts” that go in to Sunday’s Message. Perhaps it will be a good Sunday – Monday connection that we all need.
In the mean time, I’m going to finish sharing my thoughts on the last few books of the New Testament and close out the Year of Scripture. Then we’ll see how the Sunday Connection thing shakes out.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. (Luke 2:8-18)
From our family to yours, a Blessed and Merry Christmas!