May 31, 2022

Psalm 27

During a very difficult time in my life, our family had to move to Nairobi so my husband could work there.  I was devastated.  I had to leave my home, my friends, and my ministry.  I met a fellow missionary who had experience with Navigators and who challenged me to check her Bible memorization.  I decided to join her and to memorize Psalm 27 as I was waiting for my future to unfold.  The first verse presents three pictures for relationship with the Lord, Jesus.  Light, salvation and stronghold.

         Light helps us see the rocks and holes in the road we are traveling.

         Salvation does not mean there is no trouble but I will survive!

         Stronghold is a place of protection and safety.

Those were powerful images that carried me through a rough waiting time.  As you read this psalm, what pictures speak to your situation?  Perhaps underline them and rephrase them so that they zero in on your dynamic.    Jesus does shed light on my situation, insight that leads to         acceptance. 

         Jesus partners with me and walks with us through my challenges. 

         Jesus is the friend who has my back! 

How would you rephrase the aspects of Christ that help you wait?  Blessings.

Psalm 27  A psalm of David.

The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear?
         The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me to devour me,
         it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out         against me, even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
         that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
         to gaze on the beauty of the Lord  and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
         he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon         a rock.

Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;
         at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and         make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger;
         you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my   Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my        oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.

13 I remain confident of this:
          I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.



May 30, 2022

Psalm 5  A psalm of David.

Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
    with you, evil people are not welcome.
The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.  You hate all who do wrong;
    you destroy those who tell lies.The bloodthirsty and deceitful       you, Lord, detest.
But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow    down toward your holy temple.

Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies—
    make your way straight before me.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies.
10 Declare them guilty, O God!  Let their intrigues be their downfall.
         Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.
         Spread your protection over them, that those who love your      name may rejoice in you.

12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor         as with a shield.

Last Thursday was Ascension Day when Jesus was taken up towards heaven, out of sight of the followers, perhaps in front of 500 people according to 1 Cor 15:6.  The people “returned to Jerusalem” and waited.  Next Sunday we switch to the Pentecost season, the appearance of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1.  It feels like waiting is a theme these days, waiting for Ukraine war to end, waiting for the Jan 6 hearing, waiting for inflation to decrease, waiting for justice, and waiting by the graveside of those lost to violence.  Wow, heavy times. 

         So I decided to immerse our hearts in passages this week that deal with waiting.  Psalms includes many “laments”, people crying out to God because of the wrongs of life.  Let us join our hearts with theirs as they put words to some of the grief swirling around in our hearts.  They remind us that as people made in the image of God that God laments with us over evil and is working for a better world.  Read this Psalm and soak in its truth.  Blessings.

Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 29, 2022

First Reading: 
Acts 16:16-34

Paul and Silas in Prison

16 One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ 18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.

19 But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place before the authorities. 20 When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, ‘These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21 and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.’ 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23 After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ 29 The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ 31 They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ 32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34 He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Psalm 97  

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
    let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
    and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
    the earth sees and trembles.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
    before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
    and all the peoples behold his glory.

All worshippers of images are put to shame,
    those who make their boast in worthless idols;
    all gods bow down before him.
Zion hears and is glad,
    and the towns of Judah rejoice,
    because of your judgments, O God.

For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
    you are exalted far above all gods.

1The Lord loves those who hate evil;
    he guards the lives of his faithful;
    he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light dawns for the righteous,
    and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
    and give thanks to his holy name!

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

12 ‘See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.16 ‘It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’

17 The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’  And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’  And let everyone who is thirsty come.  Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

20 The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

GOSPEL:  John 17:20-26

20 ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

25 ‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  Hold up your pointer finger on your right hand.  What do you think of?  Now hold up your pointer finger on you left hand.  OK.  Bump you hands together and show no fingers on the right hand and two fingers on the left.  One and one is two.  Do you agree?

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.


Today is the 7th Sunday in the Easter season.  Next Sunday is Pentecost.  We are half way through the Church year.  The first half of the church year we focus on who our God is as revealed through the birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Next week we switch to the Pentecost season and our focus changes from who our God is to who we are to our God. 

On Easter Sunday we celebrated the resurrection, the empty tomb. We chanted, “The Lord is risen.” We celebrated that Christ is alive. Easter is not the end of God’s work!  Resurrection, though, was not just an event on a day.  Resurrection was an unveiling of the next phase of God’s plan. Our text today challenges us to understand the goal of resurrection.  As we have followed the Easter texts this year it seems to me we have been building an action plan for our lives today.

I want to start by reminding us of the journey we have been on.  On Easter evening Jesus appeared to confused and scared followers gathered behind locked doors.  We saw that Jesus is not just risen and no longer bound by space or place or time but that he still comes to imperfect followers struggling with fear, doubt and misunderstanding.  He did not rise and disappear. Jesus still comes into our lives not because we are perfect but because he loves us and we need him.

Later Jesus appeared at a fishing trip and helped the disciples to begin to cast a new vision. “Feed my sheep.”  He leads even when we don’t see him all the time.

Then we looked at Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  Life is no longer random.  We are guided.  He walks with us even through the valley of the shadow of death and even in the presence of enemies.

Two weeks ago we were reminded that the kingdom of God does not work like the kingdom of this world.  Jesus gave a new command – love one another, even our enemies.  Our rule book is different than the world’s rule book. 

Last week I asked myself what more is there to understand? God makes his home in us!  Now that is a mouth full.  God makes his home in me… and you.  Somehow we are in Jesus and Jesus is in God.  I’m not an orphan.  I’m not invisible.  I’m not forgotten.  I’m not his robot.  I’m his home. Jesus is there in Ukraine, in the hospital with Covid patients and on the street with those so scared of random ethnic violence. Jesus was at Uvalde. He was with the victims this week and all those grieving. 

Today we come to the peak of the church year as we listen to Jesus’ final prayer for us as he walks from the upper room to Gethsemane.

But first I want to repeat the children’s sermon.  I’m going to use it to focus us today.  Hold up one finger from each hand. As I hold my fingers up I might think of the song, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine!”  I thought of the song “One is the loneliest number you’ll ever do” 1968 by Harry Nilsson.  Now snap your two fists together and raise a second finger on the left hand and drop the one on the right finger.  What happened?  One and one made two.  Let me repeat that one and one, bump, made two.  Now do it again just to make sure we have this picture in our mind.  But…. Is one and one two?  Elementary school children would know that’s true but as you move through math, we learn there is 1 ½ in-between as well as an infinity of other numbers we generally don’t think about.  Today we look at one plus one in God’s mathematics.  Jesus prayed,

‘I ask not only on behalf of these,

but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,

21 that they may all be one.

Today we touch on the mystery of the Trinity and on the mystery of God’s kingdom.  I am leaning heavily on the book As For Me And My Household by Walter Wangerin, Jr, a professor at Valparaiso when my daughter was there.

Genesis 1 starts,  “In the beginning God created…”  God created humanity in his image.  We are made in the image of God.  Genesis 2 circles back and tells of the creation of Eve. “It is not good for man to be alone.”  To be gender appropriate today, we might rephrase it to “It is not good for people to be alone.”  Aloneness hurts.  Aloneness isolates.  This resonates in the news as we hear references like this:  don’t separate children from parents at the border, don’t separate an unborn child from the mother, don’t kill elementary children, don’t create stand-alone monopolies.  “Global thinking” is an in-word and “glocal” is used for matters near us.  We live in community.  God created Eve!  Do our finger trick!  It is not good for people to be alone.

The Pandemic has been so destructive because it has forced isolation for fear of contagion.  People die and suffer alone.  Children miss school friends.  Elders miss youth.  It is not good that we be alone.  We are made in the image of God who is sociological – a God head, one being but three. Bearing the image of God does not make me powerful, Godlike. it makes me social.

         Jesus prays in our text that we “will be one,” that we will be “united.” I don’t think when he prays for oneness that means that we all fly together on United Airlines to get to a common destination, heaven.  So what does he mean by “united?”  “One” can mean different things to different folks.

  • One can mean we are all of the same political party: one in ideals.
  • Or it can mean we are agreed because I allow you to lead because…you are smarter, more education, male, whatever
  • One can be 50-50.  I do half and you do half.  We agree not to argue about the 50% we hold back on.  I acknowledge the other has gifts but I keep part of me hidden or unspoken to keep peace. My kids would say we are one adjacent.
  • Fourthly, according to Wangerin, we acknowledge that one plus one creates something more like three.  I acknowledge the wholeness of the other and my wholeness and that in coming together a third entity is created, the relationship between us.  We are co-laborers, compatible.   Jesus wants us working together, complementing each other with our gifts and ideas, not fighting for leadership, or running over each other. Jesus continues,

As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Perhaps some of us remember those teenage years when we thought that if we found that special other, the right “one,” we would “become one” and together live happily-ever-after.  There are enough white hairs here today and enough scars among us to know the fallacy of romanticizing “one.” (Finger trick).  One and one can mean two people living in one house, not oneness.  We can be together in one church but not be one. It is not just agreeing “that Jesus is our Savior.” Baptism, conversion, or joining a church is only the beginning of our spiritual journey to oneness.  Easter season shows Jesus trying to teach this truth to his followers.  He is not recruiting followers like his earthly ministry.  He is building a kingdom that is united.  We are his people working together, sent by God.

Let’s be clear. Neither is oneness working together for a practical goal.  We are not employees.  The church embraces many tasks but it is called to unity of purpose.  The church includes diversity, social justice and piety, Catholics and Evangelicals, men and women, Jews and Iranians.  We are a body learning to function together.  Resurrection starts that journey and challenges us to learn to stand together so the world knows we are sent by God.  We are learning to obey God.  We are learning to care for the space between me and thee.  We are learning to complement and not compete or dominate.(Click fingers)

The resurrection is the beginning of the process.  We are sent people.  We are not individual agents.  We are the church.  We are a body.  We work with God, sent by him.  Satan tempted Eve to think she could “be like God.”  She could have the same authority as God. She could decide what is good and what is evil.  Resurrection teaches us that we are sent and God decides what is good and what is evil and he gets the credit.  We are traveling from the ideal, perhaps individualistic idea of “God” and “me” to embracing “Trinity” and “community.” Resurrection points us to “we.”

Let’s click those fingers again and ask ourselves this time what this means for me.  Hold up your fingers and bump them together.  One finger is you and who is the other finger?  Listen for God to speak.  God wants us to remember that we are sent from God to ???. (pause) Jesus continues praying.

22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one

Now we run into another big word, “glory”. We are sent but we also create glory.  Somehow by being united we experience “glory” in a way we do not as individuals.  Hmmm, how to get words around this?  I first thought of the Olympics and how the individual athletes get to standup and receive medals.  Then I realized, actually they stand proud with their country’s flag and their country’s national anthem playing.  They are sent and the commentators keep track of how many medals countries are accumulating.  Being sent is not about “me” but about “we.”  Our working together brings glory to our sender, our kingdom, our God.

My second thought was pondering how many times I have stood in awe at the response to Ukraine’s suffering.  We see pictures on the news of the volunteer centers of people working together, of thousands being given refugee status in neighboring countries, of children being incorporated into schools in new languages and maybe of mass graves where people stood together to die.  It touches out hearts. I also think of today, Memorial Day.  People give their lives to defend ours.  We honor them today as people representing the values of our country.  As Christians we stand together as representatives of our God and we bring glory to God.

I have gone on too long today but let me leave you with the picture of us standing on the victor’s stand, waving the flag of faith.  Perhaps the hymn playing will be “Amazing Grace” or one other of your favorite songs.  We represent God who sent us, not because we are the best but because we are his.  He loves and uses us just as we are right now.  The world will know we have been sent and will give glory to God as we follow his leadership.  The resurrection is like the picture of the volunteers in the Ukrainian processing centers, helping those fleeing cruelty and war.  Volunteers are from all over the world to help the wounded. 

         Resurrection is historical truth but it is also a mission statement.  Let us take time today to choose a picture that speaks to us of being sent in a task that gives glory to God.  Jesus concludes,

May (they) be with me where I am, to see my glory,

which you have given me

because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

The people of God said, “Amen!”

“I Will Follow Him”

May 28, 2022

John 21

Contextualization is the process of taking an idea and making it understandable in a different context.  So for example the story in Luke 2 where four men bring their paralytic friend to Jesus but the house is full so they can’t get their friend in.  They go up on the roof and dig through the ceiling and lower their friend into Jesus’ presence.  Contextualization makes the scene understandable to Eskimos who live in igloos or to nomads in Kenya  who have rounded portable houses.

         Little Peggy March in 1963, having just turned 15, shot this song to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. She was the youngest female artist to claim that fame.        I was in high school.  Whoopi Goldberg sang the song contextualized in Sister Act !, leading a choir of nuns in San Francisco – for the Pope.  Love was love for God.  This song still remains my favorite example of contextualization.  I cannot keep my feet still and break into a smile whenever I hear it.

         We pondered Jesus’ encounter with Peter after the resurrection, after fishing all night, after a breakfast and then the end of the conversation.  Jesus told Peter, “Follow me.”  What does following mean to you?

I will follow him
Follow him wherever he may go
And near him, I always will be
For nothing can keep me away
He is my destiny

I will follow him
Ever since he touched my heart I knew
There isn’t an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep
Keep me away
Away from his love

“Ascension Day”

May 27, 2022

Luke 24:50-53

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

I have been thinking more about yesterday.  40 days after Easter Sunday Christians around the world celebrated Ascension Day, the day Jesus publicly ascended or went up to heaven. That was this Thursday, yesterday. It is often pictured as Jesus floating up in a cloud as if he left us.  The writer Luke, continues his account in Acts and adds the fact that afterwards, two men, possibly angles, then appeared and told the followers that Jesus would return in the same way as he was seen leaving.  We live with one of those tensions like God’s sovereignty and people’s free will, or faith and works.  Both are true and we hold them in tension.  My husband would say, faith by mystery not management.  What we do know is that Jesus is eternal, is God and is not walking the earth now with followers gathering.  We have the Holy Spirit guiding within us. 

So, what is the big deal?  The Ascension confirms that Jesus did not suddenly recover from the crucifixion to die again even as Lazarus was raised but Lazarus died again.  Died to die again is another story people believe.  Jesus rose to live forever.  God forever took on humanity.  Ascension is a necessary affirmation that Jesus, the God/Man is alive representing us in the Godhead.

As we think today of the Holy Spirit interceding for us or of Jesus representing our humanity within God, what comes to your mind.  I think how God must be grieving with those impacted by the gun violence of others seeking to impose their will.  Perhaps list five examples of how Jesus’ humanity touches the heart of God e. g. the birth of a child, the death of the children in Uvale, the separation of families at the border or ???  Spend time praying about each issue practically.  Be sure to choose an issue close to your heart too.


May 26, 2022

John 21:16-19

18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

Faith has a price.  Jesus does not sugar coat the truth.  Following him may well mean death, a death on the cross like his.  In fact, Peter did die on the cross in Rome and tradition has it that he was crucified upside down as he did not consider himself worthy to die like his savior.  Following Jesus is not believe and you can move mountains and become healthy, wealthy, and successful.  It is not power of positive thinking.  Faith does involve prayer, to know God’s will.  Prayer does change reality and sometimes miracles happen but often they don’t.  Jesus is a savior not to  take us out of life but to walk with us through life to a better place,  Sharing our story sometimes hurts…us.

         Jesus concludes with, “Follow me.”  Today is Ascension Day when many Christians around the world will celebrate that this is the day Jesus ascended to heaven.  It is seventh Thursday after Easter. This Sunday is the last Sunday in the Easter Season  and the following week we start Pentecost.  We follow a God who incarnates, a fancy word for ‘comes to us,’ and who calls sto us to follow him.  As you pray this morning, ponder what that means to you.  Are you following rules? Ideals? Family tradition?  Today we remember that we believe and follow a God who comes to us, died for us, and leads us in meaningful lives of community.  Blessings.


May 25, 2022

John 21: 15-19

As we sit in an office and wait our turn, we wait to hear our name called.  Jesus, sitting by a fire, cozily having breakfast, addresses Peter.  He uses a formal address, “Simon, son of John.”  I don’t know about you, but when my full name is invoked, authority is speaking.  In Kenya, people, when they meet, would never address someone by name.  As I sat in a clinic and asked a patient what her name was, she would turn to her neighbor and ask the neighbor what her name was.  Names have power.  If someone knows your name, they can curse you.  I was known as “Wife of ….,” or “Mother of …..”  I was never addressed by my name.  It was a shock to return to the States and have the bank teller shorten my given name to a shorter form to address me.  It’s kinda like someone named Susan, might go by Susan, or Sue or Sussie, or even Blondie.  I was Curly to my father.  When my first was used my ears flew open and if my whole name was used, I knew I was in trouble.

         Jesus uses Peter’s name, “Simon, son of John.”  He wanted Peter to pay attention.  Let us ponder this morning ways that Jesus addresses us: my sheep, my lamb, my child, beloved, forgiven, saints… Each title has a different flavor.  Take time to sit with each title for a few seconds and ask yourself what comes to mind.  Listen to what the title calls forth from you and what you are hearing this morning.  You many carry titles you would like to turn over to him from sins in the past.  I doubt he is calling you things so listen carefully for his voice.  Blessings.

“Feed my sheep.”

May 24, 2022

John 21:17

Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Peter, do you love me?”  If it were today, we might suspect that Jesus was somehow memory challenged but Peter knew Jesus was referring to the three times Peter had denied knowing Jesus at the trial.  I can imagine Peter and Jesus sitting around that fire, Peter hanging his head in his hands, and in distress of soul saying, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

         I would expect Jesus to do a review at this point of Peter’s behavior with perhaps helpful hints or a parable or perhaps sharing a Psalm about the Good Shepherd rescuing his sheep when it strays, but Jesus doesn’t.  Jesus just asks a question that goes to the heart of relationship.  “Do you love me?”  Peter, in the face of his failures and mistakes, in essence, says – you know everything about me, Jesus, and I still choose you as my Lord.

         Jesus responds.  Feed my sheep.  Today let us ponder a bit what the word “feed” might mean.  I doubt Jesus was talking about the fish fry in front of them.  I somehow do not think Jesus was talking about theology, making sure others understood with their minds everything about Jesus.  I think Jesus was asking Peter to care for people’s hearts.

         So what feeds your heart?  My head or mind is fed by intellectual stuff but my heart is fed by love, by memories, by laughter, by music, by walks on the beach and more.  List five things that feed your heart and then ponder who you could bless by sharing that same love with them.  Jesus does not ask us to be perfect but to be caring.  Blessings!

“Do you love me?”

May 23, 2022

John 21

We’re coming down the home stretch of the Easter season when we focus on the reality of the resurrection and its implications for our lives.  It would seem that the first thing is to believe it actually happened.  Jesus is not another Super Hero with special gifts.  Last week we look at how Jesus is carefully shepherding his followers into a new understanding of faith.  Jesus invites Thomas to touch the holes in his hands and put his hand in Jesus’ side.  Jesus is alive and he is True God and True Man.  We believe we do not evolve into angels or decline to be bugs dependent on our actions today.  When Jesus meets the seven disciples fishing as they wait for him, Jesus draws them into conversation, especially Peter.  Three times he asks Peter if Peter love him, Jesus.  That was not a random question.  Jesus does not ask random questions to find information but to draw us out!

         Peter had denied knowing Jesus when Peter watched around the fire outside at the trial.  All his bluster evaporated like the smoke from the fire.  Peter was not brave, was not faithful, and did not want to die with Jesus even though he had professed loudly his loyalty.  Peter remembers this and Jesus knows this.  Jesus does not say, “Let bygones be bygones,” or “What’s in the past stays in the past.”  The air had to be cleared because Peter carried spiritual scars that needed healing.  We carry scars that need healing!

         Jesus does not hone in on the details of the denials, though.  He focuses on the key question, “Do you love me?”  Love is not perfect and love is not happy ever after.  “Perfect love casts out fears!”  It has been said, love is a commitment.  It requires forgiveness and seeing the good in the other.  Many love 1 Corinthians 13, often called the love chapter.  I love the closing line, “Now faith,, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.”  May we be more loving today with your help, Lord.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 21, 2022

First Reading:
Acts 16:9-15

During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.

Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known upon earth,
    your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you judge the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has yielded its increase;
    God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
    let all the ends of the earth revere him.

Second Reading: Revelation 21:10, 22—22:5

10 And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.

Gospel:  John 14:23-29

23 Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

CHILDREN’S SERMON: Home is spelled H O M E.  Let’s do a group-think.  What are words that start with “H” that remind us of “home? (Allow people to share briefly e.g. happy, healthy, here, hectic…)

Let us pray.  God be gracious unto us and make your face shine upon us.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


The 6 or 7 weeks after Easter are called the Easter season.  We look at the meaning of the resurrection and the implications of Jesus being alive and active in our world – then and now.  Our texts have been developing that belief.  Jesus did die for sin (and because of sin) and opened the way to eternity with him, with God. But that does not seem to be the end of the story.  The story goes on!  Life did not stop at the crucifixion!  Jesus rose and started appearing to his followers.  Women saw him Easter morning.  He appeared to two people walking to Emmaus on Easter afternoon.  He stood in the middle of followers behind locked doors Easter evening.  He appeared to Thomas and healed his doubt.  He had breakfast with Peter and others and healed the guilt of failure and pointed them forward.  He is creating a kingdom.  The kingdom of God operates under a new commandment – Love one another!  Our texts have shown how Jesus was and is our Good Shepherd.  Last week we were challenged to include “the other” whom we may have considered a stranger.  The Kingdom of God is not just for one ethnicity but for all people.

         I would look at our text today and ask myself and you, what more can Easter tell us about the risen Christ?  What do we need to tuck into our soul today? Jesus tells us, “‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  Jesus is not just our Good Shepherd and our God who leads us to new adventures, but Jesus is also our HOME. 

         I had to stop and think about this because as a child, home was the place I wanted to run away from.  I have many memories of tension and disagreements that cloud the memories of the good times.  So I looked up favorite sayings about home on the Internet and found this shortened list:

  “Home is where our story begins…”

  “Home is the starting place of love, hope and dreams.”

 “Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, and laughter never ends.”

  “What I love most about my home is who I share it with.”

  “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”

  “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

I would propose to you today that faith in the resurrection is knowing you have a HOME!  It is a space where through forgiveness, we are always welcome just as we are.  It is a space of safety and peace where we do not need to worry or be afraid.  It is a space we venture from and can always return to.  Jesus in God makes his home with us!

Home is a space of forgiveness.

“Those who love me will keep my word”

“Keeping my word,” sounds like obedience is a prerequisite to family with Jesus.  Today’s text starts with words that sound to me very much like, “Just wait till your father comes home!” I think I felt that way as a child.  Disobedience meant punishment.  Punishment felt like rejection.  Spanking was still the way to raise children back in the day.  I still remember that last spanking in about 4th grade.  My younger sister and I went to collect our dolls from our friend’s house and were to return in time for lunch.  When we returned, I poked my head in the door and saw my parents at the table and the meal finished.  I quickly jumped out and pushed my sister in.  My father asked me, “Who came in first.”  I pointed to my sister.  Technically I thought I was right but I got two spankings.  One for lying and one for being late!

     The text is very clear that if we love God, we will obey God’s word.  We start our service with confession because we are very clear that we have failed to obey, either deliberately or unknowingly God’s word and will.  I am defeated to keep the law and God knows it.  How can home be a space where I am safe – from others and from myself?  The answer:  Love covers a multitude of sins.  Home is a space of love and forgiveness.  The resurrection assures us of a home that is safe from the guilt of the past, from the accusations of the present, and the fears of future failures.  Jesus died for all those things that separate people from each other and from God and shows in the resurrection that death cannot hold us.

         Jesus comforts the disciples, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”  The burden of the law in God’s kingdom is met with the presence of the Holy Spirit who walks with us, reminding us when we forget and teaching us when we are ignorant.  We forget and we are foolish but when we are home, we are forgiven.

     Often today in the West, we hear this news very individually.  I love the story found in Luke 5:17-26. It is at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  He is teaching and the house is crammed full of people listening.  Four men bring their paralyzed friend on a mat and lower him through the ceiling.  “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’”  Have you ever felt like God is so busy with the affairs of the world, dealing with wars and famines and illness that your little problem is impossible?  Jesus responds to the faith of the paralytic’s friends.  I think that is a beautiful picture of HOME.  Busy, crowded, issues always being resolved but in the midst of all the happenings of this world, Jesus sees me and my friends’ faith and shields us from the critics that are always in the wings doubting us and him.  Home is where I can enter sick, be healed, and be taught by the Holy Spirit.  I do not need to be perfect.

Home is a space of safety and peace.

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

I do not give to you as the world gives.

Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

         Home is a space where we are forgiven and safe.  Home is also a space of peace.  It is a space where we do not have to be troubled or afraid.  On Easter evening the ten disciples (Thomas was absent) and other followers gathered behind locked doors in fear and confusion.  They were trying to get their hearts and minds around resurrection.  By Pentecost that we will celebrate next week, a new dynamic was forming – the Church.   This new “home” was unique partially because people heard God’s message in their own language – language did not divide.  People were representative of the world’s ethnicities at Pentecost.  No tribal fightings.  No war over territories and boundaries.  This new body was forming that had eyes, ears, toes, and appendixes – all had a role to play.  We confess that we believe “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, “one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:5).”  The whole concept of peace was being redefined by the resurrection.

         The story that comes to my mind is the conversion of Saul to Paul.  Saul is committed to wiping out early Christianity but encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Jesus asks him, “Why are you fighting against me.  Why are you so angry?”  Saul who is blinded by the encounter, is ministered to be Ananias, a Christian, whom he had been wanting to kill.  Paul comes to peace with others and with God.  He has found peace not by following the wisdom of the world by killing and eliminating people who are different but by meeting the resurrected Jesus and then living by peace from above.  He lives in harmony with God and people.

         Perhaps the question facing us today is to ask ourselves what is troubling us and making us afraid? Perhaps our guts are silently churning because of world news, inflation, the journey of aging, finances or family conflicts we don’t talk about.  There are so many things that would rob us of the peace that comes with the resurrection. 

         I have pondered how I would rephrase Jesus’ words “peace I give you” into language for my soul today.  It seems to me the Holy Spirit whispers in our ears, “It’s ok.  I’m here with you, working things out.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t fret. I’ve got your back.”


28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.”

Home with Jesus is a space of forgiveness and acceptance.  Home with Jesus is safe from conflict, fear and anxiety.  But Home is also a space of coming and going, freedom and agency.  Jesus promises that he is always with us but sometimes he seems so silent.  We are invited to partner with God in creating the Kingdom of God that the resurrection speaks to.  Jesus says he is returning to the Father but he will return to us.  We have now touched the mystery of the Trinity.  We live in the tension that Jesus says he is returning to the Father and yet he starts by saying he and the Father will make their home with us.  They are present but not seen.

         Home is a space and not a place.  I can be at home with God in my house, in my church, and even in my car.  I have found God in the famine relief camps on northern Kenya, the cathedrals of Europe, the mega churches of the USA and even in the small fellowships like Bethany.  God is not bound by size or place.  His Spirit is with us wherever we travel.

         Home is presence and not performance.  We don’t always see God but we know he is with us.  He does not always manage life the way we would like him to but we know he is still at home with us.  Perhaps it is something like going to college.  Even though we do not see our parents or friends, they are there.  Perhaps it is something like letting our children grow up.  We cannot be with them in person but we wait by the phone for a call or zoom meeting, an email, or any communication.

         Home is a creative, unfolding process working with people, not a factory creating drones to do the wishes of the master.  Home is a base and security we venture from to tackle dreams but it is also a place we return to for a cup of coffee, to report in, to celebrate, and to recharge our batteries.  Home is a launching space and the space where we are always welcome to return and fellowship.  Many homes in this world are not like that.  I have been impressed with all the interviews with people returning to their bombed out homes in Ukraine.  The interviewer often asks, “Why return?”  The response is invariably, “This place is my home.”  My story started here.  My family roots are here.  Here I find meaning.

         Today we read that Jesus promises that as we learn to love and obey his commands, he and the Father will love us and make his home with us.  His Spirit will guide us and we will find forgiveness.    Being at home with God means acceptance without ifs, ands, or buts.  Being at home with God means we are safe from conflict, from worry and from things that trouble us.  Home means we are respected partners with God even when we don’t see him, don’t feel him, and doubt.  The resurrection means he is present and working.  He is whispering to us, “It is ok.  I’m here with you and yours.  I see you.  I care.  I’m for you and yours.” 

29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Thank you, Lord.  Let the people of God say “Amen!”