“I Still Have Many Things To Say…”

The First Reading from I Samuel 15:34- 16:13

34Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.  The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.  6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

The Word of the Lord.          Thanks be to God.

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark 4:26-34

26He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”  30He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”  33With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

The Gospel of Christ            Praise to you Lord Christ

A homily by Mother Beth – “I Still Have Many Things to Say….” Mark 4

It is difficult to know what to say to you as I am called on to something new.  When we started on this journey in October 2016 I had no idea that God would lead me here to this day at this time.  I remember a familiar reading that I have clung to and mused over in John 16:12-15 and one line in particular stands out to me, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”  I knew from the beginning of this journey that God was leading and that there was more to His plan than what I could see or understand at the time.

The readings from today offer further insight into the great mystery of God and His kingdom and how He plans to bring it about.  In the Samuel reading from this week, the people had called for a King because they wanted to be like the other nations around them.  They wanted to have an earthly leader instead of relying on God and the prophets to lead them.  The people chose Saul – who was every bit the image of a Royal.

HE had the stature and the looks.  IN the reading from today we hear that God has chosen someone else to replace Saul and we get a picture of how God chooses a leader and how different that is from how the people choose.

God chooses differently then we might expect.   We hear in the Samuel passage that “the Lord does not see as mortals see”.   We look on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart. Last week I spoke about God renewing us inwardly day by day and this passage in Samuel fits well with that.  God chooses based on the transformation that can happen or has happened in the heart.   As other have said, He qualifies the chosen – he calls each of us – not because we have it all together – not because we are the best and the brightest – he calls us because he sees the heart and recognizes – surrender and willingness to fulfill his will.   HE calls us not so that we will fulfill OUR plan but so that we will fulfill HIS plan.

God chose David for that very reason.  He knew that David would be willing to seek God’s wisdom and advice and obey and follow God’s direction.  He knew that David – for all his mistakes and missteps – would keep coming back to being open and honest before God.

God will not be controlled.  He does what is unexpected.

One year I planted herbs and when the plants began to grow, it become obvious that somehow a tomato plant had grown as well.  One or two little seeds must have fallen into the packet and I didn’t realize what it was until it was well on its way to being a full blown plant.    Once the fruit came on the plant there was definitely no denying that it was indeed a tomato and not the parsley or sage that it had been planted with.

Today in the readings Jesus tells the people the Kingdom of God is like someone who sows seed and then goes out day after day and discovers that the seed has grown into a plant.   This is the miracle of seeds that you can look into that ground day after day and see nothing and then suddenly, one day there is a green shoot – new life and before you know it – comes the harvest.   Now I realize that farming today is not this simplistic but think back to when you first planted a bean plant in grade school or the first time you planted a flower or vegetable garden from seed.  The early days seem like an endless wait and yet we know that something is happening below the surface of the soil.  The growth is starting on the inside, in the darkness before it is seen above ground.   So we do not lose heart – we walk by faith and not by sight.

In the second parable Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.  It starts out small but grows into something large.  Mustard like many other invasive plants can take over every place it is allowed to go.  This is a great image of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus is reassuring us that the Kingdom will grow and spread – that once it starts – like that mustard bush – it will multiply and spread and it all starts with one seed.

And although we like to think that we are entirely responsible for the spreading or growing of the Kingdom of God, the truth is God does it.  God does what is unexpected and He will not be controlled by people or the church.  God has a mission and He will bring His plan about with or without us.   He wants us to partner with him. He calls us to be open and willing to fulfill His plan.

For so long we as the church have thought in terms of the church being the mission – we have thought that the whole point of all of this was to get people to come to church.  But the truth is, we as the church should be fulfilling God’s mission – to introduce people to God – to provide an opportunity to meet God and to go from this place and live abundantly in our communities.   God’s mission is not limited within the walls of the church.

The beauty of the parable of planting a seed and then going on with the day to day duties of your life is that it shows us the regularity being about the things of God.  It is in our daily coming and going that the true life of faith is lived.   We make it hard on ourselves.  We think it is about a huge evangelistic meeting or that we need to be at the church every day of the week – that is what it means to be called or to work with God on His mission.  But the truth is, God is looking at the heart, He is calling to you and I to live our lives faithfully in the community.  God is doing the hard work – He invites us to be part of the big and unexpected things by planting a seed – by loving each other, by extending to a friend or neighbour, by standing strong in the face of trials or troubles.  He calls us to be part of the big picture by being faithful in our little corner of the field – what little seed has God given you to plant today?

As we faithfully plant those seeds in the lives of others – in the lives of the community, God will be faithful to provide the growth and His kingdom will spread and grow to the ends of the earth.  Amen.

Pentecost V – Don’t you care that we are perishing?

The First Reading from I Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; they were gathered at Socoh, and there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. 8He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.  19Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. 23As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.  32David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” 38Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them.  40Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. 41The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.”45But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46This very day the Lordwill deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”  48When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark 4:35-41

35On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”   The Gospel of Christ     Praise to you Lord Christ

Pentecost V- Homily by Mother Beth

Recently I felt compelled to set a new goal for myself.  I decided that one of my new goals is to get strong – physically healthy and strong but also strong in the way I handle things – brave, if you will.  And of course, as soon as I set that as a goal – as soon as I started talking to a few people about it… do you know what happened?  I had to face some situations in which I had to be strong.

The disciples in today’s gospel are in a similar situation.  They have been listening to Jesus teaching about the kingdom of God and what that is like – that have been journeying with Jesus as he has performed miracles and set people free and then Jesus, at the end of a long day says, let’s go across the lake to the other side.  Let’s move on – Let’s continue our journey elsewhere.

So the disciples get into a boat with Jesus or rather they took him with them in a boat.  “And a great windstorm arose and the boat was being swamped.  But he was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.”

The disciples call out to Jesus – “Don’t you care that we are perishing?”  And Jesus woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”

Notice that Jesus does not speak to the disciples first – He speaks to the storm.  Jesus is God – the creator of the universe – he speaks directly to the weather – to the wind and the sea.

Then he turns toward the disciples and says, “Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?”

Psalm 121 says,  “I lift my eyes up to the mountains.  Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord – the maker of heaven and earth.”

II Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…  I will gladly boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me… for when I am weak then I am strong.”

Once Jesus had calmed the storm the disciples had a first hand encounter with who he really was – they were amazed that the wind and the storm obeyed him.  Only God has the power to do that!   And it is his strength that empowers and enables us to overcome – to stand strong in the face difficult situations and storms in our life.

In the first lesson, we hear the story of David and Goliath.  An encouraging story for anyone who has felt the need to stand up to a bully or to overcome adversity.  At one time or another we have all faced a giant or two.

But let’s not miss some interesting points.  David, as the youngest in his family, has been off tending the sheep while his older brothers have been training with King Saul and the army.  David comes to check on his brothers because his father, Jesse, said that he should bring them some food and check on their status.  While he is there, David overhears – well everyone can hear – Goliath boasting and calling even taunting the Israelite army.   He is calling for a challenger and the soldiers of Israel are afraid to go up against him.  He is a seasoned warrior and he towers over them – he is dressed in full armour and ready for battle.

David has never been in battle.  In fact, he cannot stand when he tries to wear the armour – he is not strong.  But David knows that Goliath is speaking against God – David sees this not as a battle between himself and Goliath but a battle between God and Goliath and he is certain who will win in that battle!

SO while it is ridiculous to his brothers, that David would be so arrogant as to think that he should go into battle against this massive soldier – this Philistine, all David knows is that God has always been faithful to deliver him in the past.  He recounts the many times that he was able to save the sheep from lions or bears.  He tells these stories not to show how strong he is or how smart he is but to encourage King Saul and the others that God did it.  He emphasizes this in verse 37,

37David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.”

He recognizes that it is not his own strength but God’s.  And God who has been faithful to save him in all the other encounters, will be faithful again.

You see my strength is limited, no matter how hard I work at it – and I intend to work at it – there are always things – circumstances that are Bigger than us. We need to be encouraged and reminded that our God is the creator of the universe – our God speaks to the wind and the waves and they obey.  Our God saves the young shepherd boy from the sword of the giant Goliath.

When Jesus invites us on a journey – when he calls us to go with him to the other side, it is His intention to journey with us.  It is His strength that keeps us safe and strengthens us to step out and do the things that we must do to carry on.   He is always with us and when we are at our weakest – that is when we recognize that these things are beyond our own ability – that is when we really recognize that God is God and depend on Him to be our strength and to deliver us.

As we step forward into that strange world of change that we do not like so much – as we begin this next part of the journey with Jesus Christ – let us remember that He is the one who invited us on this journey and that He who is God, the creator of the universe, is more than able to get us safely to the other side.  Amen.

“I Still Have Many Things To Say…”

The First Reading from I Samuel 15:34- 16:13

34Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.  The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.  6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

The Word of the Lord.          Thanks be to God.

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark 4:26-34

26He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”  30He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”  33With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

The Gospel of Christ            Praise to you Lord Christ

A homily by Mother Beth – “I Still Have Many Things to Say….” Mark 4

It is difficult to know what to say to you as I am called on to something new.  When we started on this journey in October 2016 I had no idea that God would lead me here to this day at this time.  I remember a familiar reading that I have clung to and mused over in John 16:12-15 and one line in particular stands out to me, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”  I knew from the beginning of this journey that God was leading and that there was more to His plan than what I could see or understand at the time.

The readings from today offer further insight into the great mystery of God and His kingdom and how He plans to bring it about.  In the Samuel reading from this week, the people had called for a King because they wanted to be like the other nations around them.  They wanted to have an earthly leader instead of relying on God and the prophets to lead them.  The people chose Saul – who was every bit the image of a Royal.

HE had the stature and the looks.  IN the reading from today we hear that God has chosen someone else to replace Saul and we get a picture of how God chooses a leader and how different that is from how the people choose.

God chooses differently then we might expect.   We hear in the Samuel passage that “the Lord does not see as mortals see”.   We look on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart. Last week I spoke about God renewing us inwardly day by day and this passage in Samuel fits well with that.  God chooses based on the transformation that can happen or has happened in the heart.   As other have said, He qualifies the chosen – he calls each of us – not because we have it all together – not because we are the best and the brightest – he calls us because he sees the heart and recognizes – surrender and willingness to fulfill his will.   HE calls us not so that we will fulfill OUR plan but so that we will fulfill HIS plan.

God chose David for that very reason.  He knew that David would be willing to seek God’s wisdom and advice and obey and follow God’s direction.  He knew that David – for all his mistakes and missteps – would keep coming back to being open and honest before God.

God will not be controlled.  He does what is unexpected.

One year I planted herbs and when the plants began to grow, it become obvious that somehow a tomato plant had grown as well.  One or two little seeds must have fallen into the packet and I didn’t realize what it was until it was well on its way to being a full blown plant.    Once the fruit came on the plant there was definitely no denying that it was indeed a tomato and not the parsley or sage that it had been planted with.

Today in the readings Jesus tells the people the Kingdom of God is like someone who sows seed and then goes out day after day and discovers that the seed has grown into a plant.   This is the miracle of seeds that you can look into that ground day after day and see nothing and then suddenly, one day there is a green shoot – new life and before you know it – comes the harvest.   Now I realize that farming today is not this simplistic but think back to when you first planted a bean plant in grade school or the first time you planted a flower or vegetable garden from seed.  The early days seem like an endless wait and yet we know that something is happening below the surface of the soil.  The growth is starting on the inside, in the darkness before it is seen above ground.   So we do not lose heart – we walk by faith and not by sight.

In the second parable Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.  It starts out small but grows into something large.  Mustard like many other invasive plants can take over every place it is allowed to go.  This is a great image of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus is reassuring us that the Kingdom will grow and spread – that once it starts – like that mustard bush – it will multiply and spread and it all starts with one seed.

And although we like to think that we are entirely responsible for the spreading or growing of the Kingdom of God, the truth is God does it.  God does what is unexpected and He will not be controlled by people or the church.  God has a mission and He will bring His plan about with or without us.   He wants us to partner with him. He calls us to be open and willing to fulfill His plan.

For so long we as the church have thought in terms of the church being the mission – we have thought that the whole point of all of this was to get people to come to church.  But the truth is, we as the church should be fulfilling God’s mission – to introduce people to God – to provide an opportunity to meet God and to go from this place and live abundantly in our communities.   God’s mission is not limited within the walls of the church.

The beauty of the parable of planting a seed and then going on with the day to day duties of your life is that it shows us the regularity being about the things of God.  It is in our daily coming and going that the true life of faith is lived.   We make it hard on ourselves.  We think it is about a huge evangelistic meeting or that we need to be at the church every day of the week – that is what it means to be called or to work with God on His mission.  But the truth is, God is looking at the heart, He is calling to you and I to live our lives faithfully in the community.  God is doing the hard work – He invites us to be part of the big and unexpected things by planting a seed – by loving each other, by extending to a friend or neighbour, by standing strong in the face of trials or troubles.  He calls us to be part of the big picture by being faithful in our little corner of the field – what little seed has God given you to plant today?

As we faithfully plant those seeds in the lives of others – in the lives of the community, God will be faithful to provide the growth and His kingdom will spread and grow to the ends of the earth.  Amen.

Easter III – Reminders of the Good News

The First Reading from Acts 3:12-26

12When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you. 17“And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.18In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, 20so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, 21who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets. 22Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you from your own people a prophet like me. You must listen to whatever he tells you. 23And it will be that everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out of the people.’ 24And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days. 25You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke 24:36b-49

36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence. 44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

 

 

 

 

Easter III – Reminders of the Good News by Mother Beth

 

When you have had a bad experience or you have seen something traumatic it can take time to get over that feeling of grief and disappointment.  The customer service industry knows that it can take up to seven good experiences for you to change your mind about a bad experience.    And they are just referring to poor service or a mistake at the checkout.   Some of us have witnessed some horrible things in our time – and although hopefully we don’t focus too much time on it – there are reports of atrocities and evil events all around us being reported in the news, on TV.

So is it any surprise that Jesus makes another resurrection appearance to us in the gospel reading for today?  It is important to be reminded day after day, week after week that the resurrection occurred and that it is still good news for us today.

The disciples, remember, are still reeling from the events of the crucifixion.  As far as Rome is concerned, they crucified Jesus as a statement to his followers – this is what we have done to your leader – much more will we do to you if you do not get into line and do what you should do – obey.

The disciples are unsettled and uncertain about how to go forward.  They were strong when Jesus was with them – He was speaking words of encouragement and cheering them on – leading them forward.  Now they are weakened by doubt and uncertainty.

Of course there have been reports that Jesus is alive.  The women have reported back from their visit to the tomb.  Mary has said that she has seen the Lord.  The two people on the way to Emmaus were in the middle of discussions around the events of the crucifixion and a stranger appeared to walk with them.  It wasn’t until he prayed and broke the bread that they realized that it was Jesus.  They have reported back to the others that they have seen the Lord.

And now we have another opportunity – today in the gospel lesson we hear, “While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them”.  He recognizes that they are afraid and that they have doubts.

He knows that they think maybe he is just an apparition, a ghost.

He says, “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

What does it take for you to be convinced of something?  Sometimes people will say, if Jesus walked in here today, then I would know for sure who he is and I would ask him that pressing question that I have been wondering about?  But the real question is… If Jesus walked in here today, would you recognize him?  Would you believe it was him?

Although we know the truth and we want to believe, sometimes this world shakes us up – Sometimes there is more death and dying going on around us than there is life and living.

It is not that we don’t want to have faith.  It’s not that we don’t want to believe.  We need to be reminded how great God is.  We need to remember that he has conquered sin and death.

Jesus now reveals just how “real” and live he is by asking for food to eat.  He wants the disciples to know – to be fully convinced He is not just a figment of their imagination – He is not just some spirit, ghost or apparition – this is not just a visit “from the other side” – some psychic’s rendering.  He is there in the flesh – present with them – and so he eats to prove his presence – to show himself as a real body.

Then he proceeds to explain what has happened.  That his death and resurrection are the fulfillment of God’s plan from the beginning of time.

Why does Jesus reveal himself to the disciples?  Why does he go to such lengths to show who he is?  So that the disciples will be witnesses.  They will now be prepared to be sent out and tell others what they have seen and heard.

And they were faithful witnesses.  That is proven by the Acts reading from today.  We hear Peter’s testimony “13The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead….“And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.18In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out”

Peter explains that this is the power of God that heals and brings wholeness to the lives of others.  He is able to testify to this because he has seen and experienced it for himself and then also seen and experience its power to transform others.

That is the power of the church – of gathering together – to remind each other of the amazing God that we serve – to remind each other as witnesses to the great things that God has done and continues to do.

It can be hard to keep believing day after day, week after week, on our own.  There are too many reminders of death and not enough reminders of life. Globally, nationally, communally, personally, the presence of death is more palpable than the promise of life.

Life, here and now, is very hard to see. In the end, I think being resurrection people takes some effort, in fact, a lot of effort. And some weeks will demand more effort than others. Jesus knows this reality, our reality. And knows that we need a reminder.

Why does Jesus continue to reveal to himself to us?  So that we can be witnesses with each other about him and his presence in our lives.
So that we can encourage and remind each other day after day.    So that we can reach out to others who have not yet heard or seen or experienced.  So that the good news about life can overcome the bad news in this world.

How does Jesus continue to reveal himself to us?  Through each other.  But more specifically I believe we can see the tangible ways that we experience Jesus in the narrative of the gospel lessons over the last weeks.  On Easter Sunday, we heard that it was as Jesus spoke her name that Mary recognized Jesus and realized the truth of the resurrection.  Speaking someone’s name is a sacred and intimate act.   Can our friends and family trust us to speak their name with love and faithfulness?

In the gospel reading from last week, Thomas was entrusted with the opportunity to touch the wounds of Jesus.  In this sacred and intimate act of touching – Thomas realized the truth about the resurrection.  To touch the wounds is to acknowledge and validate the suffering of another.  Can our friends and family trust us to handle their wounds – to acknowledge or validate their suffering?

In today’s gospel, Jesus partakes in a meal with the disciples.  To break bread together – to sit and dine together is a sacred and intimate act.  Are we welcoming our friends and family to partake in meals with us?  Is our table a place of hospitality and grace?  As we go about our day to day lives, are we faithful to reveal the love of a resurrected Jesus through the ways we interact with each other?  Are we open to receiving the faithful witness of Christ as we speak, touch and eat with each other?

May God make us faithful in these and many other ways to remind each other of the good news of Jesus Christ and may He give us boldness to speak that good news to all.   Amen.

It’s not too Late! by Mother Beth

The First Reading from I John1:1-2:5

We declare to you what was from the :beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.  5This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.  3Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. 4Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; 5but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him:

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John 20:19-31

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

 

It’s not too Late! – John 20—A homily by Mother Beth

Some people believe everything they hear or everything they read.

When you stop for groceries and you’re waiting for the cashier, it’s sometimes interesting to read the tabloid headlines.   Some of the claims are so outrageous and it often causes me to chuckle about how ridiculous that form of media is.  The other day though I saw a headline that made me wonder.  It could have been true – maybe it is true and so that sent me in a search for some information to verify the story.    I asked a few friends if they had heard anything and then I went on a little investigation around the internet.  As yet, no other source has verified the story.

In the gospel reading today we hear the story of the disciples’ encounter with the risen Christ.   First of all we should notice that the disciples are locked up in a room because of fear.  Despite the fact that Mary Magdalene (as we heard last week in the gospel lesson) has seen Jesus and has reported that back to the disciples – they are not convinced – they are afraid.  I point this out because we have often singled out Thomas as the only follower who doubted the resurrection but here we see the group of disciples locked in a room.

Jesus appears extends Peace to them and shows them his hands and feet.

When the disciples relay this information to Thomas – he is leery and declares that he will only believe if he sees for himself the hands and feet of Christ.  But is this really all that surprising?

Mary did not recognize Jesus in the garden – probably because she did not expect to see him there.  The other disciples did not declare the resurrection until they had had a personal encounter – then they said “We have seen the Lord”.  Many people still question the finality of someone’s life until the can see the body and know that they are gone.  Thomas wants to be sure.  He will not put his faith in someone else’s say-so – he needs to know for himself.

It sounds like a tabloid headline – it could be true but, it’s also pretty sensational.  They watched Jesus die a bloody and horrific death on the cross.  Thomas knows that was no slight of hand, it was a brutal and torturous way to die and everyone was there watching.

But Thomas’ need for further proof is good news for us for a couple of reasons.

The good news on this second Sunday of Easter is that God wants to be in relationship with you – He wants to reveal himself to you – it is not too late – the journey is still ahead – you have not missed the boat.

The significance of Jesus showing them the wounds in his hands and side – is that he is assuring them that he is in fact the bodily resurrected Christ – he is not an apparition or a figment of their imagination.  Once they realize that he is the Christ – they rejoice.  But the journey does not end with the resurrection – John goes on to tell us that Jesus says to them “Peace be with you as the Father has sent me so send I you” – Just as Jesus was sent to them so they are now sent to others.  They are commissioned by Jesus to go and to tell others about the forgiveness of sins.

You see they have been locked up in this room wondering what to do – afraid and probably more than a little disappointed — everything that they had hoped for and planned had ended and even once they realized that Christ had been raised, they were still left alone – Christ was gone but what did that mean for them?

But now Jesus appears before them and gives them new instructions.  It is not over – they have work to do and they are motivated by seeing Christ – resurrected – in the flesh – but also his words of commissioning – sending them off to keep up the work of the ministry – to continue preaching the kingdom of God.

And then we catch up with Thomas.  Somehow Thomas has missed the meeting with Jesus and he is not content to just take the others word for it.  HE now insists that he too must not only see with his own eyes to believe – he insists that he must put his hand in Jesus side before he will believe.

The church has traditionally given Thomas a hard time for not believing the word of the other disciples; calling him “Doubting Thomas”.  I, however, am encouraged by his determination to see for himself.

So if you are disappointed today – if things have not turned out the way you had hoped or planned, be encouraged.  Thomas could have thought he had missed it – there was one opportunity and he was off doing something else.   But instead of giving up and assuming that he doesn’t need to know, Thomas insists that he see for himself.

Don’t settle for less than a real encounter with the living Christ – Thomas doesn’t – he is bold enough to admit that he is not interested in just taking the word of the other disciples – he wants the full experience himself – and why shouldn’t he get it – the others did?

How badly do you want to know the truth?  Are you interested in a real experience or content to just take someone else’s word for it.  In the last year we have heard a lot about “Fake News” and we have been inundated with poorly researched information through social media and the internet.  Don’t settle for someone else’s opinion.  Don’t just believe everything you see or hear.  Don’t just pass along or forward those cute little sayings.  Many times we are just too lazy or too tired to do the work of researching to find the truth.    Often it is the same with church, we want someone to tell us the answer but, the truth is to be sought after.  It is good to listen to others but we should not check our brains at the door – we need to seek and find.

Thomas insists on a personal experience – and a week later, Jesus shows up and shows Thomas his hands and his side; allowing Thomas to touch and be sure that He is in fact, present in bodily form.  It’s not too late.  Thomas did not miss the opportunity.  Jesus takes the time to alleviate whatever doubts there are.  Thomas is not content with the reports of the other disciples nor is he content with seeing Jesus.  Thomas wants real connection – he wants to touch the very scars of the Lord, himself.    There is something really interesting about this level of intimacy – touch is an important connection.   Thomas is determined to really prove that this is the same Jesus – the–bodily resurrected Jesus – not some memory or vision but the real thing.

And the good news for us is that the encounter does not end there.  Jesus goes on to affirm those who will believe without seeing.  This is a word of encouragement for those who would read John’s gospel from that time to the present time and beyond.  It’s not too late!

Jesus is speaking to us – encouraging and blessing us – for believing without seeing him in the flesh – for persevering in faith even if we have questions or so called “doubts”.

Thomas was brave to voice his demands – to insist that he get his own opportunity to see and feel Christ.

Are you brave enough to ask God for the assurance that you need?

Do you have doubts that need to be laid to rest?  It is not too late to have an encounter with the risen Lord.  It is not too late to believe.

God wants to hear your concerns and questions – HE can handle them.

And once you’ve had an encounter – the good news is – it’s not over – there is still more for you.  Christ comes speaking peace and breathing the Holy Spirit into and over you so that you might go out and tell others about the forgiveness that you have found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Easter Sunday may be over – the excitement and anticipation set aside but we are not finished – we have not missed the opportunity – there are still many opportunities to be taken and experienced.

This is just the beginning of our ministry – Christ calls us to take up his charge and to go and tell.  The words he uses here are powerful.

23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

God gives us the responsibility to help others come to an understanding of forgiveness.

One commentator put it this way, “Jesus is not giving his disciples some special power to decide whose sins will be forgiven and whose will not. Rather, he is further specifying what it means to be sent, to make known the love of God that Jesus himself has made known. As people come to know and abide in Jesus, they will be “released” (aphiemi) from their sins. If, however, those sent by Jesus fail to bear witness, people will remain stuck in their unbelief; their sins will be “retained” or “held onto” (kratéo). The stakes of this mission are very high indeed.”

The good news is – it’s not too late for us – for God to reveal himself to us – for God to use us.  But it is also good news for those around us – in our homes – in our community – it is not too late for them – God wants us to go out and reveal his love to them – to show them the good news of God’s forgiveness.   To make space for them to have a real encounter and connection with the living Christ.

Easter Sunday may be over – but it’s not too late.

I Have Seen the Lord

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture,that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.  11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Easter Sunday 2018    I Have Seen the Lord, a homily by Mother Beth

Today is the game changer.  This day is the day in the church year that you really have to decide what you believe.  No other faith or religion professes that their leader died and was resurrected.  This claim sets Christianity apart from all the others.  The empty tomb presents the dilemma.  The empty tomb exclaims that Jesus is much more than just a good man or even a martyr who died for what he believed in.  The empty tomb suggests that something much more radical happened.  The empty tomb proclaims the resurrection.  And although many would like to tell you that it is the same for everyone – we all come to faith in the same way – the gospel for this morning reveals otherwise.  We see and hear three different responses to the events.

It was early on the first day of the week and Mary Magdalene has come to the tomb.  Why has she come?  She is grieving.  Jesus was her friend, her teacher, her leader and so she comes to mourn his loss, to visit the site where he was laid – to pay her respects.

But when Mary gets there she notices that the stone is missing and she immediately runs to report this news to the disciples.  She reports, “they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him”.

Mary assumes that something has happened – someone has tampered with the body – moved it so that his followers cannot visit, or mourn.  She wants someone, like the disciples, to know about the problem and to do something about this.  She tells what she sees so that the problem can be solved.

The disciples, Peter and John, set out toward the tomb.  They run together but John outruns Peter and gets there first.  John bends down and looks in and sees the grave clothes lying there but does not go in.

Peter goes right into the tomb and sees the clothes, notices that they are neatly folded and that the cloth from Jesus head is lying neatly by itself.

Now John goes in to the tomb, and the scripture says, “he saw and believed”.

So these two men had different reactions – Peter steps right into the tomb – a look was not enough – he wanted the full experience. This is not surprising if you remember about Peter from other scripture passages.  Peter is the one who steps out onto the water with Jesus.   He is going to make sure that the tomb is actually empty.

John looks in and sees that what Mary has said is true – the body is gone.   And when he steps into the tomb, something happens and he believes.

The two disciples leave the site and head back home.  Mary alone is left weeping outside the tomb.   And as she stands there alone, she looks back into the tomb and sees two angels in white, sitting where Jesus body had been lying.   They ask her, woman why are you weeping?”

She explains her situation to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him”.

You see she ran to the disciples for help saying almost the same thing and yet they came and saw and left.  And Mary remains there with her question.  She wants to know where the body is so that she can mourn – and attend to it.

Mary is not content to just look into the tomb and be satisfied.  Even with the presence of two angels, she asks the hard questions…. Where is he?  What happened to him?

When she turns around she sees a man standing there and she supposes that he is the gardener.   She wasn’t surprised by the angels so why would she be surprised to find a gardener in the garden or a caretaker in a funeral home?

The man asks her why she is crying and again Mary explains her situation. “if you have carried him away,  tell me where you have laid him.”

And Jesus calls her by name, “Mary”.  And it is when he calls her by name that she recognizes him and calls him Teacher.

Mary has an encounter with the risen Christ.    In fact, she is the very first to see and speak to the risen Christ.

And how does it happen?  She stands and struggles with the tough questions.  She asks not less than three times – where is the body?  What have they done with the body?

She is determined to get an answer to her question and instead of an answer she becomes the first eye-witness to the miracle of the resurrection.  Oh, she didn’t see the resurrection happen – no one did but, she is the first to have a face to face encounter with the resurrected Christ.

And of course, she is the first to tell the good news.  She runs back to the disciples and announces, I have seen the Lord!

So the question today for each of us is, what will we do with the empty tomb?  Are we like John able to look in, cautiously step in and then believe?

Are you or I like Peter who goes quickly in to the tomb and sees that there is nothing there and goes home?  Are you and I like Mary who is determined to find Jesus?  She keeps asking the question until she is given an encounter.  She presses past her own grief and dismay to discover the truth about what has happened.

And today maybe you’re saying, I’ve sorted it all out a long time ago.  I know what I believe.  And if that is true then good.  So today I ask you, what challenge does the empty tomb hold for you?  Easter is all about celebrating new life.  It is a time to step out of fear into faith and hope. What does it mean to live as resurrection people; assured the Christ is risen and so are we?  So today I ask you to consider, what ways have we slipped back into an apathy – or sleep in our faith?  In what ways have we let the cold, dark winter slip into our life?   This day we celebrate the new life that is ours through Jesus Christ.  Let’s step out into that life with renewed energy and excitement.

Let’s awaken from our contented sleep with a fresh call to love and minister to those around us.  Because the good news that Jesus is risen is not for us alone.  Mary ran to tell others, may the Lord enable us to do the same.

Today is the game changer.  Today is the day that makes a difference.  Let us live into that difference.  From this day forward, may we live our lives as people of the resurrection and run to tell the news, I have seen the Lord!  Amen.

 

Two Things I Know by Mother Beth

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark 15

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 3Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

6Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom.9Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

16Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort.17And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

21They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left.29Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

33When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

 

Two Things I Know; A Good Friday Sermon  by Mother Beth

Two things I know for sure – “There is a God and I am not Him!” from the movie Rudy.

Recently I mentioned control issues and the fact that I have them.  Many of us have them, in fact – whether we want to admit it or not.  We may be able to surrender control in certain situations – or we may have learned to trust others to take control in certain situations.  I may recognize that I am not a Doctor therefore if I need a doctor and want to get better, I will have to trust someone else who has those qualifications and the letters MD after their name.

But the truth is that in this world it is hard to surrender the control of our lives to someone or something else.  I am not suggesting that we all become fatalists or that we stop being active in our own decision making – not at all – to not make a decision is after all to decide not to decide and to let someone or something else decide for you.

The truth of the cross is that we need a Saviour – everyone one of us.  Things in this world have gone horribly wrong and we need God to set it right.  There is no other way.  And no matter how hard we try or how faithfully we work, No matter how good we are – we cannot save this world – I cannot save myself and we cannot save each other.

We need to be rescued, we need a Saviour!

We hear in the passion reading that that there was a sign nailed to the cross that read “The King of the Jews”.   There were two responses to that sign – the Jewish leaders scoffed and asked Pilate to change it to read – “This man said he was the King of the Jews” and Pilate’s response was “What I have written, I have written”.  Both responses show a misunderstanding of who Jesus is and what is really happening.

Many, including some of the disciples, were looking for a political victor – and earthly king and kingdom to overthrow the political power of Rome.

But Jesus knows, that as much as he loves his people and watches with anguish as they are oppressed – a political kingdom will not be enough – this is a bigger and more important battle than that.  The evil that was in the world – the need to seek out political power through violence and aggression need to be overcome eternally – once for all.

Sometimes I think we are still looking for political power – we want to legislate morality – we want laws and a government that complies with our standards – but Christ’s death is about so much more than social justice and advocacy.  He dies to take our place – he dies to do what no one else has been able to do.  He dies a death so that those that he stands in for will not have to die.  Through him we are reconciled to God – restored and brought back into covenant with the God of all creation.

His death is not just about being kind to those who are on the fringe of society.  His death is payment in full for the evil of this world.  He takes upon himself the suffering and brokenness and sin of mankind.

Pilate smugly, comments “What I have written, I have written” because although he can find no fault in Jesus, this is an opportunity to mock those of the Jewish faith.  This is an appropriate death, he thinks, for the one who would be king of the Jews.  This is the death that Rome would require of someone who the people worship and exalt over the Roman emperor.  Pilate jeers at the fact that Jesus is given to them as a King and yet they surrender him to be crucified.  He laughs at the idea that they have given up their leader.  And yet, the truth is Jesus is King – not just of the Jews but King of Kings and Lord of Lords – very God of very God.

There is so much in this world to pull us one way or another.  There is so much within ourselves – control, the desire for power, the temptation to succeed at all costs to pull us one way or the other.  And the very fact, that we insist on being so self-sufficient – that we are determined to be self-made women or men – leads us to the place where we take the role of god in our own lives.  We decide – we choose – we plan – we plot – we judge – we control.

But the good news of the cross is that Christ has overcome sin and death – the good news of the cross is that Christ has bought us with a price – that we have been ransomed, redeemed and reconciled to God.

“Jesus has come not to offer one more political alternative but the break the stranglehold that the powers have on the world.  HE offers a new world, a world in which God is God and human beings are set free to be human beings.”  NT Wright,  The Crown and the Fire

The good news of Good Friday and the cross of Christ is that God has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves.   There are two things that I know for sure 1.  There is a God and 2.  God’s son Jesus Christ died upon a cross because we all need a Saviour.  Amen.