Living Resurrection: WEEK THREE

A New Life

Click here to read Colossians 3


In week one, we explored the fact that the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith and that through the resurrection a whole new reality, a new world has begun. Last week, we reflected on what that means for our  lives as Christians. Through our baptism, we have died with Christ and been raised to newness of life. The process of dying and rising is the paradigm that defines so much of our spiritual journey. In week three, we will explore how we live this resurrection life in the context of community. How do we treat one another? How does the resurrection change our lives and our relationships with one another?

Living Resurrection Life WEEK THREE

Mother’s Day Prayer

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Many of you have asked about the prayer I offered on Mother’s Day. The prayer is one that I have revised over the years, but here is the version I prayed on Sunday. 

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Almighty God, we give you thanks and praise for how you have created us and called us into relationship with you as your beloved children. As a mother cares for her children, you also care for us and even when we have wondered far from you, you long to gather us together, like a mother hen gathers her baby chicks under the shelter of her wing. 

Today, we give you thanks for our mothers who gave us life, who cared for us, comforted us, loved us, and helped us become who we are today through both their strengths and struggles. 

We pray for those whose grieve because their mothers have died and for those who never knew their mother’s love. 

We pray for those whose relationship with their mother is strained or broken.

We pray for mothers whose “hands are full” with children at home and for those with “empty nests”; for those who have become mothers through adoption, marriage, guardian ad-litem, and foster parenting.  

We pray for women who struggle with infertility, like Sarah and Rachel; and for those who have experienced loss.

We give you thanks and praise for all the women who support and encourage others like a mother.  For women who serve as teachers, mentors, aunts, neighbors, pastors, and leaders in our community and around the world. 

Pour out your blessing on all women that they may be filled with wisdom and grace; strength and patience; and unbreakable love, through your son Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

Known By God

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“My sheep know my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”

2.38 billion. That is the current total number of active users on Facebook throughout the world. 2.38 billion. That’s nearly one-third of the entire population of the earth. And if we take into account that only half the earth’s population actually has access to the internet, that percentage grows much larger. Of those who have access to the internet, nearly seventy percent are currently active users on Facebook. And when we begin to include smaller social media outlets such as Twitter and Instagram and Discord, that number only goes higher!

Of course, there is a host of reasons why so many people actively engage social media.  For some it’s a way to stay in touch with friends and family.  For others it’s a way to stay up to date on news and current events. For nearly forty percent of Facebook users, they say it’s simply a way to fill up spare time. But whatever the pragmatic reasons might be, I am convinced more than ever that 2.38 billion people log in to Facebook every day because deep within the human spirit, there is a need for connection; there is a need to know and to be known.

But I fear that what we are slowly discovering is that the connection, the knowledge, and the relational dynamics that we experience through digital and social media don’t actually fulfill and satisfy the deep longing of our souls. In fact, scientists have fairly consistently demonstrated that the parts of the brain that are stimulated through digital communication are different from the parts of the brain that are stimulated through face to face, physical contact with another human being. It can be the same content and the same information, but our emotional, psychological (and I would say spiritual) response is different when we are truly engaged and communicating with one another. Deep within the human spirit, there is a need for connection; there is a need to know and to be known.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus returns of the imagery of shepherds and sheep to describe his relationship with those who have chosen to follow him. And he says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” I know them. I understand them! I perceive their needs! I discern their thoughts! I recognize their hurts! I know them! These are not just comforting words. This is not just a nice idea. This is not Hallmark channel spirituality. Jesus is making a profoundly significant spiritual claim. I know my sheep! And if we look back at the life of Jesus, we discover that this is something that Jesus has actually embodied throughout his ministry.

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Living Resurrection: WEEK TWO

A New Beginning

Click here to read Romans 6


Last week we began our study by exploring 1 Corinthians 15, in which Paul lays the foundation of the Christian belief in resurrection. Paul clearly states that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Jesus has not been raised. And if Jesus has not been raised, then our faith is futile. It is equally clear that for Paul, the resurrection is not only about our future hope, but is a present reality. We are already participating in resurrection life, but there is a fullness yet to come, a day when this mortal life will be transformed and we will be clothed with heavenly bodies. This week, we turn to Romans 6, in which we see the connection between the death and resurrection of Jesus and our own identity as baptized persons. Through the waters of baptism, we have died to the old life of sin and are now called to live as slaves to righteousness!

Living Resurrection Life WEEK TWO

In the Boat

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Six years ago, this week, I had the amazing opportunity to spend ten days in the Holy Land. And, as part of our pilgrimage, we spent an entire day on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. We began that day with a silent prayer walk from the Mount of the Beatitudes where the Sermon on the Mount was preached down to the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. At the water’s edge, we came to a quaint, stone church dedicated to the Apostle Peter. It’s a small church, not much to look at, but it is significant because the church itself is built around a large slab of ancient limestone. In front of this slab of limestone is a sign that reads “mensa Christi,” which means “table of Christ.” That limestone table marks the spot where, according to tradition, the disciples hauled ashore their abundant catch of large fish (153 to be exact). That was the spot where the risen Christ set up a charcoal fire and cooked the disciples a breakfast of fish and bread. That was the spot where Jesus re-commissioned Peter, and said to him, “feed my sheep.” As I stood and stared at that ancient limestone table, I realized that that table was the place where those first disciples were fed, restored, and commissioned as witnesses of the resurrection.

But after our visit to St. Peter’s Church, our group of pilgrims got on a boat and we sailed out into the middle of the Sea of Galilee. And I found myself thinking about the disciples out on the water in their fishing boat. I thought about the fact that they had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. But when Jesus tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, their nets are so full, the disciples couldn’t even haul their nets into the boat.

And as I was looking out over the water of the Sea of Galilee, it occurred to me that everything I had seen back on the shore at St. Peter’s Church, everything that happened around that limestone table, was dependent on what happened in the boat. The experience of being fed, restored, and commissioned was only possible because the disciples first obeyed the voice of Jesus and cast and cast their nets on the other side of the boat. In other words, it all started in the boat.

So, this morning, I want you to imagine that you are in that boat. I want you to feel the spray of the Sea of Galilee on your face. I want you smell the mustiness of the old, damp wood and the fishing nets that have been used for generations. And then ask yourself, “What does the experience in the boat teach us about our spiritual life as followers of Jesus?”

The first thing the experience in the boat does is remind us that we have a tendency to return to what is familiar. In today’s ‘gospel Peter says, “I’m going fishing!” Now remember, Peter has seen the empty tomb. Peter has encountered the risen Christ, not once, but twice. Peter has heard Jesus say, “Peace be with you!” and has received the very breath of the Holy Spirit. And yet, after all of that, he says, “Hey guys, I’m going back to work!” Why? Because we have a tendency to return to what is familiar. Peter is probably felt like his life was a bit out of control. And so, he returns to what he can control.

We do the same thing. We return to that which we know. We return to what is safe and predictable. When things are out of control, when life is crazy, we have a tendency to return to what is familiar. But God doesn’t let us stay there very long! Continue reading

Living Resurrection: WEEK ONE

A New Reality

Click here to read 1 Corinthians 15

During this first session of our six-week study on “Living Resurrection Life,” we covered chapter 15 of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. This passage represents one of the most extended theological reflections on the resurrection in entire New Testament. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that the resurrection is the very foundation of the Christian faith. Here is the outline for our first session. 

Living Resurrection Life WEEK ONE

The Shalom of God

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One of my earliest childhood memories takes place the living room of my home where I lived when I was about three years old. In the corner of that living room was a large ceramic jug with a handle on one side. It seemed that nobody ever moved that particular jug. It just sat there in the corner collecting dust. But on one particular occasion my parents were out for the evening and my two older brothers were left in charge. Now, I must have done something to annoy one of my brothers, because at some point a high-speed chase ensued around the perimeter of the living room. To this day, no one remembers the precise sequence of events, but somehow or another that large ceramic jug was tipped over and the handle snapped off and was lying there in several pieces on the floor. My brothers stopped and looked at the broken jug. At first they thought, “Well, we can always blame Doug!” but they knew they would still get in trouble, since they were the ones left in charge. And so, we did what any sensible group of kids would do
when they don’t want to get in trouble – we simply glued it all back together.

Now, our cover-up was successful for several weeks, as long as the jug sat undisturbed in that far corner of the living room. But one day, my mom decided she wanted to move that particular ceramic jug from one side of the room to the other. My brothers and I watched in horror as she picked up the jug. At first the glue appeared to be holding. She walked several feet. We thought she might make it. But by the time she reached the middle of the room, the handle broke off and the jug dropped to the floor where it crashed into hundreds of pieces. I won’t give you the details of what happened next.

Now, the story of that broken jug is, of course, a fun family memory. But, for me, I’ve also come to think of that broken jug as a metaphor for the experience of life, because we all experience brokenness to some degree or another. And so often our attempts to fix or repair that brokenness are temporary, at best. We can hold things together for only so long before another experience of trauma or hurt or disappointment comes upon us and we find ourselves once again trying to pick up the pieces of our lives. And in the midst of that cycle of brokenness, there is a longing for wholeness. When we look at the world around us, there is yearning for something more, a yearning for that wholeness, that completeness, that fulfillment that right now seems like only a dream.

This morning, at the beginning of today’s gospel reading, it is still Easter day. The disciples have locked themselves in a room because they are afraid. You see, the atmosphere in that room is not yet filled with joy and hope. No one is quite ready to shout “Alleluia!” at this point in the story. The disciples are confused; they are afraid; they are grieving; they are physically, emotionally, and spiritually broken. But the risen Christ walks right into their brokenness. Jesus walks right into their fear and confusion. He walks rights into their grief and despair. And he says, “Peace be with you.”

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