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Showing posts from April, 2014

$3 Worth of Easter

John 20:1-18

I recently read a poem that I couldn’t forget. Now I cannot even remember where I saw it, even though I’ve read it every day. The poet, Wilbur Rees, only published one book of verse in his whole life and he’s not necessarily a poet that you would have heard anywhere else.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
 or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
— Wilbur Rees
Three dollars worth of God. I am not saying that this necessarily applies to anyone here, but there’s something about this poem that kind of gets me in the gut. How much is $3 worth of God?
The poem is from 1971. That’s not that long ago at all, but there’s inflation. We might say …

Caterpillars, Butterflies, and Resurrection

John 20:1-18



Have you ever thought about butterflies and Easter? Do you know why they are associated? Until very recently, I assumed (like many others) that the caterpillar went into the chrysalis, something, something, grew wings, and became a butterfly. That’s not what happens.
Recently, listening to the program Radiolab, I learned that in the 1600s- theologians and scientists had cut open pupae and discovered a white- yellow goo inside. The caterpillar is gone, but no butterfly was yet formed or seemed even evident in any shape, form, or fashion.
They believed that the caterpillar died. In dying, it represented our bodies. The butterfly stood for our souls, light, free, and beautiful. Fortunately, they were wrong about the relationship of the caterpillar to the butterfly. I will assert that they were also incorrect about the body and soul’s separation, since the bodies are also beloved and prized by God.
There is just pale goo in the chrysalis, even one day after the caterpillar for…

Good Friday: Father, Into Thy Hands

Luke 23:44-46:  It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
I’m going to begin a prayer and you help me finish the first couple lines
Our Father, who art… Hail Mary, full of grace… Glory be to the Father… The Lord is my shepherd… Now I lay me down to sleep…
Some of you may not even remember learning the words of those prayers. They stir up from your minds almost automatically. The words feel like a part of you and they slide out of your mouth as easily as breath. When we understand ourselves to pray with the help of the Holy Spirit, these prayers are the way God, through Jesus and the Spirit, gives structure, pattern, and depth to our prayers.
Even children can (and should) learn these words. Does it matter if they fully un…

Maundy Thursday: Subversive Prayer

When we were looking for covers for this bulletin, we found many different pictures of communion ware and elements for celebrating the Lord’s Supper. We found arrangements bowls, pitchers, and towels for washing feet. And then there were these two pictures- the new commandment, the commandment to love one another- distinctly printed over two different families- one black, one white, same poses.
I felt a little surprised. First of all, Jesus is speaking to the assembled disciples. The commandment is, then, transferred from those who heard the words themselves to all who walk the same walk of trust and hope in Jesus. While it certainly applies within a small family context, the call to love one another is far more expansive than that. Rather than show the expansive nature of the call to love with an image of all kinds of people together, this images mask the challenge and subversive nature of what Jesus is commanding of all who follow him. Yes, commanding- not asking- commanding…

Low in the Grave

This song makes me think of my dad, who would make us sing the first verse softly and then JUMP up during the chorus.

His own experience with the song is this: Dr. Jim Blackmore, one of my seminary professors. He was from very humble beginnings in Warsaw, NC. He had been to Southern [Seminary] and was at Edinburgh, Scotland when WWII started. At least the US involvement. He joined the service there as a chaplin and was not required to go to basic training. He served through the war and finished his Doctorate at Edinburgh after the war. 

He was a small man, no more than 5'6". He told us the story of  singing this song with his brother when they were about 8 or 10 years old. They would squat with arms stretched in front of them, then at the "Up" they would jump up and stand with arms out stretched to the side. What a riot to see him demonstrate for the class when he was in his 70s.

I introduced this song to the congregation I serve a few years ago. We crouch low in th…

Sermon Notes: The Truth Among Us

John 18:28-40
Notes:
- The crowd does not enter Pilate’s headquarters because it would have rendered them unclean. They needed to stay clean for the Passover celebration. What’s the central part of a Passover meal? A lamb. (John’s gospel is nothing, if not dramatic.)
- The crowd asks for Barabbas. The gospel writer tells us that Barabbas was a “bandit”. Bandit is the same word that is used in John 10, when Jesus refers to himself as the ‘Good Shepherd’. Bandits are contrasted with the shepherd as ones who want to harm the sheep.
- Why doesn’t Pilate let Jesus go if he knows that Jesus is innocent? Remember Pilate is in a political appointment. He is charged with upholding law and order in Judea. He ultimately decides to have Jesus killed to get things to settle down in his area. They never do.
- It is important to recognize that Jesus gives Pilate a chance to come to him (Jesus) as a believer. Pilate could listen and believe, thus coming into the light. He chooses political expedi…

ReBlog: What is Truth

From RevGalBlogPals: The Pastoral is Political 


“What is truth?” Pilate stared at the tired Galilean Jew in front of him.
Jesus was silent.
Pilate’s eyes widened. “What is truth?” he repeated, more firmly.
Jesus didn’t blink. Or speak.
There were no words to reply. Jesus was answering the question.
Simply by being. The sheer fact of his existence, his embodiment of all that is Holy, answered the question.
The truth is never in words. It was always, is always the Word.
The truth is a person, a person named Jesus, the person we understand to be the Christ.
He is the way, the life, and the truth. There is no other Truth.
This Truth, this person, promised we would encounter him in others.
In the hungry. In the sick. In the lonely. In the imprisoned. In the thirsty. In the outcasts.
The Truth is in them. The truth is never about words.
On Monday, March 24, the non-profit World Vision announced… (click the link to continue reading.)