Day 23 of Easter: Guilt

April 30, 2021

I once heard it explained in a sociology class that guilt is when we fail ourselves, but shame is when we fail our community.  Most of us know that horrible weight of guilt when we are less than what we know we should be, when we do something that compromises our values, or make decisions that lead us down the wrong path.  We have no one to blame but ourselves.  The disciple Peter was guilty and carried a load of shame.  At the trial of Jesus, before the crucifixion, three times Peter was confronted by local people who asked Peter if he was not indeed a friend of Jesus.  Three times he denied.  Love drove him to the trial and fear led to compromise.  Now Jesus is risen and he comes to Peter after Peter has fished all night and caught nothing.  Jesus helps Peter and gives the gift of presence but how is the air going to get clear to restore healthy relationship?  Our past mistakes corrupt our present relationships.

         We know this scenario and know the awkwardness of having to repair a broken relationship.  Who goes first?  How do we confess and repent?  Jesus, after having breakfast with the disciples, turns to Peter and breaks the ice with a question in John 21: 15.  “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”  Jesus goes to the core of the issue.  Love of self or love of God?  Three times Jesus asks the question so there can be no mistake what Jesus is talking about.  Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” twice.  The third time Peter responds, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus does not give Peter a lecture but instead gives him a task, “Feed my sheep.”

         Guilt is so heavy and forgiveness so hard to believe and receive.  It is as the other puts trust in us that relationship begins to grow again, renewed and strengthened.  The skeletons in our closet seem to pop out and upset things at the oddest moments.  One of the greatest gifts that Jesus in the resurrection gives us, is the gift of forgiveness.  We know we have eternal forgiveness with God with whom we are promised to spend eternity – sin has been paid for, but we also given the power to forgive others and ourselves.

         Perhaps there is a weight you have been carrying around deep inside your soul.  Forgiveness is not changing the past but leaving the past in God’s hands to give retribution or to continue directing our future in new ways because of the bad turns we made.  Jesus does not want us to carry those past burdens but wants us to be good shepherds, caring to the best ability for others he brings into our lives.  Resurrection means we can have renewed life and relationships now.

Day 22 of Easter: Health

April 29, 2021

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Peter (John 21: 15)”

Proof of the reality of the resurrection was first seen as testimonies about sightings of Jesus alive, began to pour in.  Later, by the Sea of Galilee, a new level of resurrection power became evident.  The disciples had fished all night and caught nothing.  Jesus calls from the shore to cast the nets on the other side and the nets are filled.  Jesus is not just alive; he is now speaking into lives and changing them in new ways. After the disciples recognize him, come to shore with an abundant catch of fish, and fellowship over breakfast, Jesus turns to Peter.  Jesus does not want to just be recognized as alive but he now starts to bring new life to his followers.  He is now beginning to create a kingdom of people transformed by the reality that he is alive.  Jesus gives hope to the tired, food to the hungry but then goes beyond physical needs to the emotional health of Peter. Peter is carrying a load of guilt.  He denied Jesus at the trial, three times.

         Physical health is important but emotional, social, psychological health is necessary to create a healthy community.  Barriers between people as well as barriers within us are as important as physical limitations like exhaustion and hunger.  The resurrection is about eternal life but it is also about a healthier life here and now.  We can all be riding on the same bus to a destination but if we can’t live together, it is a very uncomfortable ride.

         So how do we define health?  “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  Choose three adjectives that describe each dimensions of health for you today.  For example, I might describe physical health as: energy, strength, and good sleep.  Choose three of your own words to describe each dimension: physical, mental, social.  This is a good place to start prayer for yourself…and for the other with whom you are traveling.  God bless you on your journey.

Day 21 of Easter: Abundance

April 28, 2021

Excitement can discombobulate us.  We might put on a shoe from two different pair in our hurry.  My son arrived at the airport with everyone’s passport but his own and had to return home.  I find the story of the disciples meeting Jesus at the Sea of Galilee after the resurrection, after a long night of fishing and no catch, having funny details.  When a man tells them to cast their net on the other side of the boat and their net becomes loaded with fish, they realize it is Jesus.  Peter is so excited he puts on his clothes and jumps in the water to wade to shore!  They are so excited that they take time to count the fish.  153 fish were caught.  And in the excitement they are afraid to ask who it is because they know it is Jesus.  What a collection of weird facts.  Get dressed to swim?   Count fish in the middle of a celebration?  Fear mixed with excitement?

         John records this as the third encounter between the risen Christ and the disciples (John 21: 7-14).  Interestingly Jesus had a fire prepared with roasted fish on it.  The 153 fish were a bonus, an abundant blessing beyond what was needed.  Abundance.  When Jesus fed the 500 there was abundance left over.  It seems that Jesus does not just want us to survive the night, to break even, to satisfy the minimum expectation but Jesus is in the business of blessing us abundantly.  “I have come that they might have life, and that they ay have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)” For fishermen, fish roasting on a fire and 153 large fish more would certainly bring a sense of abundance. 

         How do we measure abundance today?  Unfortunately for many it is measured by their bank account.  For others it is measured by good grades or good health or famous talents.  Many just want to be loved.  When people can’t sleep, they are told to count sheep.  Perhaps a better challenge today when we feel so confined by masks and disease would be to count the blessings we have.  For a start, name a blessing for each finger on your hand – that’s a hand full.  “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine!”  Try for two hands full of blessing.  You are on your way to abundance!  

Day 20 of Easter: On the Other Hand

April 27, 2021

Have you ever had that feeling that what you’re doing feels awfully familiar?  We were meeting a friend for dinner but couldn’t find the restaurant on Friday so went through the instructions again – three times! and still ended up on a corner that did not seem right.  Frustration.  My daughter and I can put together a do-it-yourself cupboard and invariably the doors are backwards.  We have done it often enough that we just laugh now and start over.  Disciple Peter and friends have returned to Galilee, their home area to wait for Jesus who promised to meet them there, and have decided to go fishing.  That was their profession, their comfort zone.  A night on the Sea of Galilee would feel good after all they had been through.  Right?  In fact, they caught no fish and were tired.  A stranger on the shore yelled at them to toss their nets on the other side of the boat.  They did and the nets were loaded with fish.  John was the first to realize that they had gone through this experience before of fishing, catching nothing, and Jesus telling them to try the other side.  He looked at the shore more closely and recognized the risen Christ. (John 21:4-9)

         The truth is that God’s ways are not our ways but when we are tired and have been through a big experience, it is often that then we revert to the same ole fruitless efforts.  It does not come natural to forgive, to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile.  It does not come natural to spend a day a week connecting spiritually.  We want to play or get other things done when we are not at our profession.  Jesus calls to us and tells us to throw our nets on the other side of the boat, on the other side of a situation. It is often when we look in unexpected places and act in unexpected ways that we find the Lord going ahead of us.

         My kids loved for me to read the story of Balaam and his donkey.  The donkey refused to go forward because the donkey could see the angel with a huge sword blocking the way.  Balaam beat his donkey and God gave the donkey voice.  “Why are you hitting me?  I am trying to stop you from getting in trouble!”  Sometimes when we keep coming to an impasse, we need to try a new approach and to stop and ask where the Lord is in the experience.  

         That dawn long ago, Jesus was on the shore with a fish roasted for breakfast because he knew the disciples were weary from work and needed to eat before he could talk to them.  He knew their situation better than they and he knew their needs.  It is still true today.  We find the risen Christ in the unexpected turns of our lives and he feeds our souls – but it may not be what we expected.  He knows!  He cares!

Day 19 of Easter: Ordinary Time

April 26, 2021

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee) It happened this way:  Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathaniel from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. (John 21: 1-2)” Time has passed and the scene has changed.  Our first sightings of the risen Christ were in and around Jerusalem right after the resurrection.  Jesus had told them he would meet them in Galilee and this next account picks up in Galilee.  The disciples are in a transition period from having Jesus present, being the leader, setting the agenda and focus of attention, but now they do not have that daily structure to frame their lives.

         Perhaps you remember going from college to ….work and having to learn to be your own boss.  Going from work to retirement is a similar transition.  Single to married is an adjustment.  Married to parents is a big shift.  These first disciples had to figure out what life was going to look like.   They started with the familiar.  Peter suggests they go fishing.

         During times of transition, what is the backbone that structures our lives?  Do we organize seasonally as the weather changes drastically in geographical zones but others have less environmental clues. We change clothes for the climate and change activities like plant gardens.  Holidays provide some structure as we see stores start advertising Christmas in October now.  Store decorations change to meet an upcoming holiday or event.  Rituals like weddings, baptisms, and confirmation give rhythm to life.  The disciples went out fishing because that was what they knew how to do.  It was their comfort zone.

         Spiritual disciplines also give structure to our lives.  Journaling in the morning or in the evening is a way to bring closure, a way to park events in a book and process a bit.  Daily devotional readings are ways to start the day on a positive note rather than starting with a list of to-dos that can feel overwhelming before the day even starts.  Many find times of prayer or meditation help to focus minds on the presence of God in the midst of the flurry of life. 

         Mountain-top experiences are spiritually exhilarating and are fun but eventually we come down to everyday life.  This week we will look at how the risen Christ reached out to his disciples during this ordinary time.  Take time to think about ways that you help yourself remember the God who walks with you daily.  He’s there and he cares! 

Fourth Sunday in Easter: The Good Shepherd

April 25, 2021

First Reading: Acts 4:5-12

5The next day [the] rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11This Jesus is
 ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
  it has become the cornerstone.’
12There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

Psalm: Psalm 23

1The Lord| is my shepherd;
  I shall not be in want.
2The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures
  and leads me beside still waters.
3You restore my soul, O Lord,
  and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
4Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil;
  for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
  you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
  and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

Second Reading: 1 John 3:16-24

16We know love by this, that [Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
  18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
  23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

Gospel: John 10:11-18

[Jesus said:] 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for thesheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”


         If I were with you, I would remind us of the children’s song, “I Just Want to Be a Sheep.”

         I just want to be a sheep, baa, baa.  I don’t want to be a goat, nope, cause they don’t have hope.

         I just want to be a sheep, baa, baa.  I don’t want to be a Pharisee, nope, cause they’re not fair you see.

         I just want to be a sheep, baa, baa.  I don’t want to be a hypocrite, nope, cause they’re not hip with it.

         I just want to be a sheep!

         Let us pray:  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


So far this Easter season we have looked at the testimonies of people who saw the risen Christ.  Mary Magdalene saw Jesus at the tomb and recognized him when he called her name.  She responded “Rabboni – Teacher”.  Cleopas and friend saw Jesus that evening, were lead through Scripture by Jesus, and recognized him in the breaking of bread.  They rushed back to Jerusalem to tell other followers who were gathered behind closed doors.  We have no idea how many people saw Jesus then but we know Jesus appeared and was real.  Thomas was not there but Jesus came again a week later and again appeared and proved he was not only risen but had a real body.  Thomas responds, “My Lord and my God.”  We know something is real because it passes the touch test or the taste test.  Our senses confirm reality.

         But many things are real that cannot be seen.  Wind cannot be seen but we know it is real because we see its affect.  We feel it.  Love seems real and we make promises that we hope will last the test of time.  Today’s text is given to us for us to ask ourselves:  Does the risen Christ meet the description of the Good Shepherd given in Scripture?  Is his life congruent with his teachings and all that the Savior was promised to be.  We will look at the title Good Shepherd for this theme can be seen in the Old Testament in Psalm 23 and in the teachings of Jesus in John 10 as one of the “I AM” claims of Jesus.

         Jesus lays out three ways to know a if his claim to be “the Good Shepherd” is congruent with how we experience him in life – beyond touching him and seeing him.  A Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  Jesus says that means that

  1. He does not run away in danger. He knows his sheep and they know him.
  2. He is able to shepherd sheep in many folds.  His sheep know his voice and listen to him.
  3. The Good shepherd has the power to lay down his life and take it up again.

Are Relationship, Voice, and Power observed in this risen Christ?


1“I am the good shepherd.

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 

12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.”

         The shepherd laying down his life for his sheep is often understood as Christ dying on the cross for us.  He did not run away from ransoming us from the penalty of sin – death.  We may die but we do not perish.  We may walk through the “valley of the shadow of death” but we know that he walks with us.  We know that his kingdom is eternal and not of this world.  We hear those promises but they are a bit far off and accepted by faith.  Are there ways that we see Christ laying down his life for us today?  How does that become three dimensional so we can touch and feel and know that God in Jesus is real?  Today.

         The first thing that comes to mind is the model of how parents – and friends for single people – share resources.  They are willing to “lay down”, give away, part of what is theirs so another will be happy. Parents love children even when the child is naughty and immature.  They love them when they are tired and grumpy.  They care for their creation and share with it; even so God cares for us.  We sing “This is my Father’s world” and we can affirm that the sun shines on the good and the bad, on the obedient and the disobedient.  We can affirm that blessings of flowers and nature are for everyone.  God doesn’t play favorites. If the “climate change” people are right, it is not God who is destroying nature but the greed of people, the hirelings, who were put in charge of “ruling over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. (Genesis 1:26)  Nature itself affirms that God gives life and does not randomly take life, shoot people and destroy.  When fire races through an area, it will not be long before new life begins to blossom again.  Nature suffers under the condemnation of sin but it is always growing life.

         But, you might say, that is all pretty much a passive, perhaps automatic relationship.  Good people and bad people like to grow gardens and water flowers.  Nature does not necessarily speak to a risen Christ.  So my second example of the good shepherd laying down his life and not running away like a hireling is the way parents with wayward children are willing to wait in the sidelines while “youth sow their oats” and mature, praying that someday the child will return home.  They often lay down the life of their ego for their children. The parable is the prodigal son.  God does not force us to be good, programing us like a robot or drone. The parent lays down his life, shares of his inheritance before his death, welcomes the wayward child, rewards the faithful child and prays for all the whole time.  Just because I do not touch Jesus right now, does not mean that he is not there.  He is interceding for us.  He is speaking to us through dreams, through the Word, through friends.  He lays down his life by working with us rather than insisting we do it his way and when we stray, he comes and looks for us.

         Direct contact with the risen Lord today is often done through his representatives – the Word, the people, the music, and more.  Does our heart not burn within us like the two on the road to Emmaus when we read the word and a verse speaks exactly to the dilemma we are facing?  Does not our spirit rise within us when we hear the music playing that speaks Christ’s words to our weary souls on Sunday morning?  Does not love enter our barren spirits when we are hugged, embraced and cared for by friends – even when we have blown it?

         Jesus is the Good Shepherd that brings life to our world today and does not run away like a hireling.  He stays in relationship with us.  He speaks daily through his creation, through his partnering with us as we grow and learn his ways, and through his various representatives.  He does not run away like a hireling when we are ugly, sick or grumpy.  He cares and leads us to green pastures, beside still waters and restores our spirit – for his name’s sake.  He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death and prepares a banquet for us in his kingdom.


4I am the good shepherd.

I know my own and my own know me, 

15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

The voice of Jesus today is worldwide, building a universal church that includes people from every tribe and nation and which speaks every language.  Those early disciples did not imagine that there would be followers of Jesus in the United States, half a globe away, even if they had known the world was round.  One of the proofs that Jesus lives is how the early church quickly evolved into a mission group reaching out to the then known world – England, Rome, India, Ethiopia all had early witness and churches.  Our challenge today is molding the great diversity of a living Christ into a universal Church where all are welcome and hear Christ’s voice. 

         “The sheep hear his voice.”  Was Jesus speaking about an auditory experience to be expected by the saved?  The “in” people hear and the “out” or “not-quite-in” people must keep straining to hear. Not likely.  If I have “voice”, it means I have the right to speak, to offer suggestions, to make my opinion known realizing it will be listened to.  It does not necessarily mean I am the only voice in the room or the determinative voice on a matter.  I am not the commander nor am I a beggar, I am partnering with the community.  So listening to Jesus’ voice may not necessarily carry the sense of command as much s the right to comment and contribute, to partner with me.  As I grow older, I realize partnership with Christ is not the same as the power struggles of becoming I had with my parents.  Jesus partners with his sheep, speaking to them, guiding them.  He is not driving and domineering.  He moves them at their pace, looking for food and directing them but never in a demanding way.  He may sing to them and he knows each one.  We hear his voice in all aspects of life.

         But so often God seems silent.  To this response, I think of our modern day active listening slogan – hearing someone into voice.  When God uses his voice through silence, it does not imply absence but focused listening.  As we speak and God listens, we clarify our thoughts, our wishes, our petitions and find our own voice and identity.  God’s silent voice partners with me to draw me into voice.

         Religion is universally identified with prayer.  Here prayer, hearing God’s voice, is linked with Him knowing our name.  For the Christian, there is a personal relationship. After the crucifixion, resurrection, there was no physical Jesus but perhaps followers reflected on the Good Shepherd and looked for voice. Was there personal relationship where the follower has voice?  The post resurrection experiences point to experiences with the risen Christ who knew names, knew histories and personalities, and who personally partnered with follows to accomplish goals. Those qualities still grow in Christians, in you and me today, and direct us to meaningful goals.  We hear his voice through prayer, through Scripture, through music, and through community as his silent voice guides us into our better selves.

         Perhaps a question worth pondering from our text today is to ask ourselves how much time we spend listening to the voice of Jesus and catching up on his news daily?  If we believe he is alive, risen and active in our world, do we tune in to hear his broadcast daily or are we content to receive a Sunday vitamin pill that is being regurgitated by the pastor? I find as a retired person, having time to sit and listen is a great blessing.  I love Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof when he sings about being just a little wealthy  and reflects that then he would have time to sit with the holy men by the Eastern wall and reflect on the words of God.  Jesus is alive, is risen, and does speak today but are we listening?


17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 

18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Power is the third witness to the reality of the risen Christ present in our world today.  Jesus had the power to lay down his life and the power to take it up, to live again.  Jesus walked through death in order to show us that death does not have the final say, is not the end of the road.

         I see this power in hospitals started in his name, hospitals that defeat disease.  I see it in schools that defeat ignorance.  I see it in translation efforts that defeat the barriers of language.  I see it in refugee camps that resettle people running from war and terror.  These efforts are not just generated by Christianity but Christianity does have a long record of reaching out to the needy.

         Personally, faith in the reality of Christ in our world gives us power to do that which we thought was impossible and which the world does not model.  We can forgive our enemies, those who hurt us or abuse us.  That does not mean we keep allowing abuse but we can forgive those who were less than we wanted them to be. We can turn the other cheek more than seventy times seven. 

         Christ alive gives us power to love the difficult to love.  Many parents find deep love for children born with developmental challenges.   Others are able to persevere with children in drugs, children who are wayward and children who are ungrateful.  It is not easy but God gives us the power, the power to take up life again after the death of our dreams.

         That first Easter season must have been a very confusing and emotional time.  The early followers did not have centuries of Christians sorting out theology and beliefs.  They met behind closed doors in fear of being killed.  They were the first to live into what resurrection would mean and how it would shape their future.  Relationship with Jesus would not be broken but would take on new dimensions.  They would hear his voice in new ways – prayer, music, friends.  And they would find new strength and power to face the trials they would face.  Jesus was indeed the Good Shepherd who did not abandon his sheep during times of upheaval.  They would learn to recognize him in new ways, even as we are learning today. 

The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want!

Day 18 of Easter: Be Still My Soul

April 24, 2021

This week we pondered the problem of doubt that Thomas struggled with when he was not present that first Easter evening when Jesus suddenly appeared amidst the followers gathered behind locked doors.  It is like missing the party and feeling left out, absent, isolated by covid.  Doubt wrestles with faith as friends that share the story of this marvelous experience.  Thomas won’t believe until he sees for himself and his faith is like a wisp of hope the size of a tiny mustard seed.  Amazingly a week later when everyone is gathered again behind locked doors, Jesus returns to offer Thomas his hands and side to touch and feel and know that Jesus is alive, risen and active. 

         Doubts eat away our peace and joy.  Katharina von Schlegel, a composer in the German Pietistic Revival in Germany in the 1700s, wrote Be Still My Soul.  Jane L. Borthwick translated her verse into English a century later.  The song was set to one movement from Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia, Finland’s best-known composer.  Three people from three countries and from different time periods combined their talents to develop this beloved hymn. 

         In the midst of doubt, chaos and upheaval, we can be still and know that Christ can walk through locked doors to meet us in our weakness. May you hear Christ whisper into your life, “Peace be with you.” 

Day 17 of Easter: Half full or half empty?

April 23, 2021

One evening a week after Easter, the followers of Jesus are gathered again but there is a difference. Yup, the doors are locked. The difference is that Thomas is present.  He had refused to believe the other’s reports of the risen Christ the week before but showed up at this gathering anyway.  Do you suppose that in the face of his skepticism there was still a glimmer of hope?  Jesus said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can pray and move mountains.  I suspect that Thomas did not have enough faith to yell, “Glory, Hallelujah!” but he did trust his friends enough to try again.  Some days are like that.  It feels like we are holding on by our fingernails, dangling in space, and about to despair of life.  We throw any pills that tempt us down the toilet.  Our imagination runs wild.  And yet we hang on with a whiff of faith.

         On those down days, what is the focus of our faith?  I confess that it is easy for me to bemoan my lack of faith and turn my eyes inward to my limitations.  One of the beauties of this encounter is that inspite of Thomas’ weakness and doubts, Jesus again appears and invites Thomas to touch and feel him, “stop doubting and believe.”  Jesus changes Thomas’ focus of attention from self and his doubts to look at Jesus.  Faith is not something we measure like sugar.  The question is not the amount of my faith but the object of my faith.  When I focus on self, my weaknesses become glaringly apparent but when I focus on Jesus and his ability to walk through death for love of me, my perspective changes.  I do not understand. I cannot comprehend.  How can it be?  That God, in Christ, would reach out to a doubter like me and ask me to touch and know that Christ is real. I suppose that is why it is called faith.

         So where are we looking today?  Is the cup half full or half empty?  Are we looking at the half full version of the news and find Jesus missing or do we look at the only half empty but rising version of life.  Jesus is willing to go through locked doors to answer our doubts. Let us look to him, touch and feel.  And may we, with Thomas, say, “My Lord, and my God.”  John 20:28.

Day 16 of Easter: Absent

April 22, 2021

Covid restrictions make obvious the void we feel when we miss an important event.  My friend watched the burial of her husband from her car as she was not allowed near.  The queen of England, 95 years old, watched as she sat by herself and her husband of 73 years was buried.  Not seeing friends at school daily is hard on social children now.  Or perhaps you missed the grand finale of a program because an important phone call came through just at the climax of the show.  It is so frustrating to miss an event and somehow no amount of explanation makes up for not being there. 

         Thomas, one of the twelve disciples, was not present that Easter night in the room when Jesus suddenly appeared amongst his followers.I’m sure they told him about it.  Perhaps like all the variety of other stories floating around, these reports each had its own version.  Thomas famously refused to believe anyone until he saw for himself, touched for himself, the wounds of Jesus and knew for himself that Jesus was risen and alive. Amazingly, a week after Easter the followers were gathered again and   Jesus appeared again and invited Thomas to touch and see and believe.

         Perhaps our present generation raised on YouTube and instant replays cannot appreciate the feelings of doubt and the questions that swirl in the mind when truth can only be experience by listening to someone’s tale.  Thomas may have believed the saying, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”  He was not going to let his heart get hurt by believing without experiencing.  Once Thomas experienced Jesus, though, he became committed.

         Today maybe you feel the cynicism of being tricked and believing only to be deeply disappointed.  The youthful promises of love grew cold.  Cancer returned.  Your spouse died first and it was never to be that way as you thought of the future.  A child you deeply love has wandered into a lifestyle that has drawn him away from family.  So many things disappoint us that we can understand Thomas’ hesitancy to believe other’s chatter.

         More important than our disbelief and hurt is God’s persistence to reach out to us in our pain.  Someone comes over who understands and is not scared by our grump.  Music seeps into our hearts to calm our souls.  A verse flashes through our memory.  Jesus suddenly appears and says, Peace, touch, feel, do not doubt but believe.  Jesus does not give up on us when we are discouraged.  That is wonderful.  That is an encouraging reminder for today.  When you feel the grump rising, remember Jesus loves you and is right there. The story is not over! 

Day 15 of Easter: Open My Eyes

April 21, 2021

Divine versus delusion, that is a dilemma that befuddles many of us.  We are not alone in our pondering of experiences.  The followers of Jesus are gathered Easter evening behind closed doors, sharing stories of encounters with the risen Christ, when suddenly “Jesus himself stood among them. (Luke 24:36)” Were they seeing a ghost? Were they hallucinating? What was going on?  The followers were startled and terrified.  Jesus asks, “Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see.”  It appears the mind is confused by what the body is experiencing and Jesus immediately links mind and body senses together inviting sight to unite with touch.  Ghosts have no bones so the test at the time on whether something is natural or supernatural was touch.

         Of course today we usually cannot “touch” Jesus with our hands and yet we have spiritual experiences that we need to test and make sure are real.  Several guidelines can be offered. 

         Supernatural encounters will not lead us to contradict the written Word of God that can be touched.  Voices encouraging hate, harm or evil do not originate from God.  James 3:17 further encourages, “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  Human wisdom that comes from bitter envy or selfish ambition is often accompanied by disorder and “every evil practice.”  A rule of thumb I use is that if something is true, it will be consistent advice throughout scripture and from several friends.  Learning to be led by the Spirit requires spiritual growth.  Speaking to an older, wiser person sometimes helps clarify our thinking.  Seldom is the urgent necessary but if the thought is persistent, reinforced by advisors and consistent with scripture, and you are at peace, then a spiritual adventure may be unfolding. 

         Jesus does stand among us and does speak to our human senses today.  I joke that I wish God would send me a fax but I know that he has given me his Word, my friends and a multitude of other avenues through which I experience his love and wishes today.  Often I want my answers right now, now, now and like making a beautiful cake, God is organizing ingredients, mixing, baking and creating an experience I may not even be able to imagine.  The followers could not believe their eyes and with them, we often pray, “Open my eyes Lord that I might see”.  Please enjoy this song for a moment.  i