4th Sunday in Easter

April 30, 2023

First Reading: Acts 2:42-47

42[The baptized] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being 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 Peter 2:19-25

19It is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
22“He committed no sin,
  and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
23When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Gospel: John 10:1-10

 [Jesus said:] 1“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”


         Let me share again another of my favorite tales, Little Red Riding Hood.  A little girl was called “Little Red Riding Hood” because she loved to wear a red cape her beloved grandmother had given her.  One day her mother sent her to her grandmother’s house with a fresh cake and a drink, as the grandmother was sick and weak.  On the way through the forest, she met an evil wolf that pretended to be her friend.  On hearing of her mission, he raced ahead of her to eat the grandmother and then dress up like her to wait for the little girl to arrive.  He would have two meals! 

         Little Red Riding Hood came to the door and knocked.  The wolf invited her in but the little girl had to rub her eyes. Something was wrong.  “Grandmother, what big eyes you have!” “Grandmother, what big ears you have!” “Grandmother, what big teeth you have!”  As the wolf jumped at the little girl, she screamed and a huntsman nearby came to help her.  Grandmother, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Huntsman enjoyed eating the cake and sharing the drink!

         Share – what alerts you that something is wrong?

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


         Easter morning we greeted each other, “The Lord is risen!”  And the other responded, “The Lord is risen indeed!”  Many sang, “Halleluiah, Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”  For six weeks we are now in the Easter Season and bask in the realization that Christ walked through death for us and we focus on passages that support that he lives.  We believe Jesus is alive and active in our world today. People who were alive then saw him.  But also his teachings help us identify him today.  The truth is that we live with our hearts grounded in the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus ushered in but our bodies are still grounded in this Kingdom of this World and all the struggles that plague us.  We grow into the truth of the risen Lord.

           The second Sunday of Easter, we found some followers behind locked doors, scared of those outside and unsure of this resurrection news.  Jesus appeared and it became real.  The third Sunday we walked with two people on the road to Emmaus, leaving all the confusion and discussing all the events.  Jesus walked with them and opened their hearts by giving them a new understanding of God in Scripture and by breaking bread with them.  They returned to Jerusalem to rejoice with others who had “sighted” the risen Christ.

         A new understanding of Scripture and how God is working in our world is emerging during the Easter Season.  For many God is a distant being who may speak through prophets, through experiences of victory like Jericho, or through clouds and signs like leaving Egypt.  God can be found in his Temple or church and in the Scriptures but God is not necessarily a personally involved deity concerned about the common person’s life.

           Easter is a seismic earthquake that reconstructs our whole understanding of how we relate to God.  Like Little Red Riding Hood, we encounter today so many wolves that try to convince us they are grandmother.  They invite us to the good life but in fact their eyes are too big, their ears too big, and their teeth are too big.  They make empty promises.  Easter challenges us to recognize Jesus’ presence in our lives when we no longer have his physical presence with us.

           So today we return to the gospel of John chapter 10 and review our understanding of the Good Shepherd. Our God who created the universe and who incarnated in Jesus, true God and true man, and who rose on Easter Sunday is active and alive today.  This God is the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven. We stand at the door, the gate, to enter grandmother’s house and must decide who is the “real thing,” the “genuine article” calling to us.

“the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. “

         I’m guessing Little Red Riding Hood stood at the door and knocked.  I’m sure we have all seen that famous painting of Jesus standing at the door and knocking based on Rev. 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.”  It is often noted that the door has no knob because the person inside must let the visitor enter.  Today our text has Jesus standing at the door, the gate, and calling us out.  We are not looking inward at our fears and doubts but outward to Jesus who is alive.  Little Red Riding Hood enters and looks at the presence behind the voice calling her to enter.  She becomes confused.  Grandmother’s eyes are too big, ears too long, and teeth too sharp. Something is not quite right. The sheep know their shepherd’s voice.  How?

Grandmother, what big eyes you have!

         Little Red Riding Hood compares the eyes, the vision the voice is painting for her to the voice of truth.  Is the voice calling us to the “good life,” the life of comfort and a space where all our needs can be met by just believing and buying into its message?  All we have to do is have enough faith and pray.  It sounds to me like our commercials that are calling to us to invest in their product for the good life.  It sounds like our politics that call us to vote for their candidate to restore the past and provide a secure future.

         I would propose that the Gospel does not offer health, wealth and prosperity but offers God’s voice.  James 3 gives us clues for recognizing God’s wisdom calling to us:

            “16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above s first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.”

Is the voice you hear appealing to your own personal desires and ego or is it helping you to focus outward to God?

         But so often God seems silent.  During those times that we call “the dark night of the soul,” the body of Christ actively listens with us.  This is 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, and our petitions and find our own voice and identity.  God’s silent voice partners with us and with the community to draw us into voice.

         We listen to God’s voice through prayer, through Scripture and through community because the Good Shepherd knows our name.  For the Christian, there is a personal relationship. After the crucifixion, resurrection, there was no physical Jesus but followers had to learn to listen for his voice. God does not have big eyes to see us better because he knows us and knows us by name.  His voice will call us to look away from the problems that plague us here in the kingdom of this world and will call us to follow him to green pastures, still waters, and a banquet prepared in the unseen future we walk into.

Grandmother, what big ears you have?

         I have often talked about that little voice that sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ears.  Often the message is just plain crushing; telling me the things I fear to admit might be true about my life.  The evil voice focuses on fears and doubts and draws me away from God’s truth and God’s promises to care for us, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  Timothy is far more severe in his admonition to beware of the wolf with big ears that spreads gossip, rumors, jealousy and lies.  It is not the voice of the Good Shepherd.

         “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves  teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-3” 

         Let us ponder for a moment what we spend our time listening to during the week and why.  We need to be aware of events in our world and in our community but when by this information, we feel drawn away from God then we know we are in danger.  One of the big blessings of worshiping together is the music that focuses our minds on eternal truth of God’s love and presence.  Turn to your neighbor and share a word of encouragement.  May we be people this week that say words of encouragement and faith, sharing truth that focuses people on hope and God’s presence.

Grandmother, what big teeth you have!

         The truth comes out.  “All who came before me are thieves and bandits.”  False shepherds seek only to steal and devour.  They are thieves and bandits.  They steal joy, faith, hope and love, the fruits of the Spirit.  This Sunday we return to Jesus’ parable of the Good Shepherd because we, even today need to recognize the Shepherd’s voice.  We do not see Jesus as those first disciples did but we know that he speaks into our world today. 

         I like the story of Little Red Riding Hood because, just recognizing the wolf, the false voices that call to us and make all sorts of promises only to deceive and disappoint us, does not remove the little girl from harm.  The wolf springs on her and she screams.  It is the huntsman who comes to her rescue and kills the wolf.  The voice of the evil one can drive us to despair but as we call out to God, he saves us.  Perhaps our eyes fall on just the right scripture verse that encourages us.  Perhaps our ears hear just the right song that dispels despair. And then those large fangs shrink to manageable size as we realize Jesus is walking with us through the valley of fear and preparing a banquet at the other side.  I would like to think the grandmother, Little Red Riding Hood and the Huntsman sat down and enjoyed a feast together. 

         Having a living savior and shepherd does not mean there will not be dangers and challenges and dark nights of the soul but it does means God walks with us and speaks into our situations.  He is our gate.  The voice of God will lead us from inward turmoil and doubts to outward focus on his presence, from fear of the future to peace in his presence, and from the seen dangers to the unseen power of the resurrection.

The Lord is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed.

Let the people of God say, “AMEN.”

Christmas Shoes

April 29, 2023

OK, I know it is Easter Season for the church and we are celebrating the reality of the resurrection but the resurrection is the culmination of a story that started with the incarnation of Jesus at Christmas.  Actually the story starts in Genesis with the realization that we all fall short of perfection and God’s promise to rescue us.  John Newton tells his story of how he fell short but God met him with grace and Newton also felt grace had allowed him to fail so he would cry out for help.  The song “Christmas Shoes” that I referred to yesterday is still a modern day example of grace.  A young boy goes to the counter to pay for a pair of shoes to gift his mother who is dying of heart disease, possibly on Christmas Eve.  He soooo wanted her to look nice to meet Jesus that night but he did not have enough money.  The man in line helps him.  Grace!

         This second YouTube is a country western version of “Amazing Grace.”  Please enjoy both as you prepare for worship tomorrow.

…too short…

April 28, 2023

“Zaccheus was a wee little man.”

Luke 19:1-10

I love the Christmas movie, “Christmas Shoes.”  A young boy knows his mother is about to die of heart disease and collects soda cans to buy a pair of red shoes on Christmas Eve so she will look “pretty if she meets Jesus tonight.”  He gets to the store and the cashier tells him that he is short.  He doesn’t have enough money.  The guy behind helps him out and a famous song is born.

         Many of us have come up “short.”  It could be a financial situation.  We needed $17,000 to buy a run down house in Los Angeles but could only gather $15,000.  Four years later the house was selling for $100,000.  It could be we don’t get enough points on a test to get the grade we want.  True confessions…I missed one too many questions on a driver’s test once and walked home humbled.  More seriously, perhaps the “other” whom we think is “the one” dates us but we come up short and the proposal doesn’t come.  Heartbreak.

         Jesus in Luke 19 is walking into Jericho with his usual crowd.  Zaccheaus, the chief tax collector, agent of the IRS, wants to see this famous person but is too short of stature and probably despised by most.  He climbs a tree to catch a glance.  As Jesus walks by, Jesus stops and tells Zaccheaus to come down for Jesus is going to dine with him.  Many are outraged that Jesus would associate with “a sinner.”  Zaccheaus is overwhelmed with gratitude.  Jesus summarizes by saying, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” The grace that comes with Easter is not just a prayer of thanks at a meal, or getting more goodies for our comfortable life.  Zacchaeus had wealth.  Jesus reinstated him as “a son of Abraham.”  He is no longer outcaste but belonging.  He is no longer “lost” but found.  Grace not only saves us “from” the wayward way we are living but also saves us to family and future.  “Tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will bring me home.”

         Let us thank God that he not only has our past but also he is walking with us into the future.  He lives!


April 27, 2023

“Tis grace has brought me safe thus far”

(Verse 3, line 3, Amazing Grace by John Newton)

John Newton wrote the famous hymn “Amazing Grace” 250 years ago and it is still afavorite for serious occasions like funerals.  Newton shares his testimony and how he encountered the risen Christ we celebrate during the Easter season.  The word “me” takes the song to a different level. Grace was a very personal experience for Newton.  He is not attempting to express his theology.  “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” fits more into that genre.  The hymn “Were You There” is a deeply touching hymn about the crucifixion and resurrection, focusing on the historical event. “Holy, Holy, Holy” leads us into worship.  The word “me” in the third verse of Newton’s hymn reminds us of the many times Jesus was criticized for associating with “sinners,” people who were tax collector and prostitutes, sinners like “me.” 

         It reminds me of Jesus’ story of the two men who went to the temple to pray.  One was a Pharisee who raised his voice in praise.   “I thank you that I am not like other people –robbers, evildoers, adulterers- or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”  Meanwhile standing at a distance, head lowered in shame, palms beating his breast, a tax collector prayed.  “God have mercy on me a sinner.”  Jesus said the tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home justified. (Luke 18:9-14)  One of the great truths of Easter is that all can experience grace personally, even a sinner like “me.”

         How is God’s grace experienced in the “me” of your life today?  Let’s try to write one sentence expressing how “grace has brought me safe thus far.”

Grace Silences Guilt

April 26, 2023

“Twas grace that brought me safe thus far”

(Verse 3, line 3, Amazing Grace by John Newton)

         Yesterday we were thankful to God because Easter means Jesus is alive and walks with us through “dangers, toils, and snares.”  God does not just sit up in heaven seeing if we live life right, taking notes, and expecting us to become our better selves by ourselves.  He walks with us.  For many the problem of the crisis is indeed huge but living with the guilt of mistakes afterwards is a horrible burden.  I liken it to a little voice that sits on our shoulder and loves to remind us of our failures and our shortcomings.

         King David wrote Psalm 51 after being confronted by his prophet Nathan.  David had an affair one night with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his faithful soldiers.  He saw, he wanted and he took.  He was the king.  He could do what he wanted and no one would question.  But God saw and sent Nathan with a story about a rich man with large flocks who demanded the pet lamb of his poor neighbor because he wanted to feed a guest.  David immediately knew he was the rich man.  Not only had he taken the wife of Uriah but he also arranged for Uriah to be put in a fighting position that resulted in death.  This was not a shining moment in King David’s life.  He immediately repented and sought forgiveness.

         David’s confession: (Psalm 51:1-5)

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.”

         David’s prayer:  (Psalm 51:10-12)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Grace silences guilt because we are forgiven so when the whispers about the past remind us of our failures, remind the voice of the victory of God over all that would accuse us.  Let us ask Him to help us be our better selves he created us to be.


April 25, 2023

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;”

(Verse 3, Amazing Grace)

Easter is about going through trials by the grace of God and arriving safely on the other side.  Jesus went through death that we might go through death and live with God eternally.  John Newton came to faith as he went through a huge sea storm, convinced he would die and realizing it was only by God’s grace that he lived.  All of us are neither strong enough nor good enough to live forever.   Yes, we might be better than some, perhaps even many others, but we are not super heroes. 

         Let us think back on our lives.  There were those near misses as we drove.  There were the fevers we recovered from.  There were the threatening clouds of financial disaster that never rained.  Bad things happen to good people but it also true that if we remember, a lot of surprisingly good things happened also.  My friends hang in there with me on my grumpy days.  That little three year old threw his arms around my neck and didn’t care that the mirror had just told me I was having a bad hair day.  A friend sent me an animated “I’m thinking of you” card.  All of us have been through much but we have received many blessings also.

         King David wrote that beautiful Psalm 23 that helps us put words to the realization that a risen savior was with us through our days and is not some distant deity judging or waiting for us to become good enough.  Circle the words that speak to you about God’s presence “through”…

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”

Psalm 23

“Thus Far”

April 24, 2023

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.”

(Verse 3 of Amazing Grace by John Newton)

On New Year’s Day 1773, Newton, a slave ship captain pleading God for his life in the midst of a horrendous sea storm, and who has now turned pastor, chose as his text for the sermon 1 Chronicles 17:16-17.  In the text, the people of Israel had been given instructions for building a Tabernacle that was portable and could travel with them in the wilderness.  When the Promised Land was entered and a kingship established, David built a house of cedar and realized the dissonance between his house and the Tabernacle so decided in his heart to build the Temple.  God spoke to David’s prophet Nathan with a message for David.  God would walk with David, establishing the kingdom of Israel and it would be David’s son, Solomon, who would build the Temple.  David worships before God, amazed that God is not only promising presence with him but also a future for him and his descendants.  David humbly reflects before God and ponders whom he is that “you have brought me thus far?”  John Newton borrows these words for his third verse as he realizes God’s grace is what has brought him safe thus far.

         Today we have all sorts of resources to trace our heritage that has gone before and brought us “thus far.”  We can research our family tree.  DNA can trace our ethnicity and what percent of what heritage we are.  Newton looks at his life and does not credit his social history or his biological history as factors as determining his life now.  He, like David, sees God’s hand as the determining factor in his life.

         Today let’s allow our minds to travel briefly through the years.  Yes, our family is important.  Yes, our ethnicity is important.  Yes, the decisions we have made are important.  But let’s try to identify God’s hand of grace in our lives and thank him.  He is risen and active in our lives!

3rd Sunday in Easter

April 23, 2023

First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41

14aPeter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed [the crowd], 36“Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Psalm: Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

1I love the Lord, who has heard my voice,
  and listened to my supplication,
2for the Lord has given ear to me
  whenever I called.
3The cords of death entangled me; the anguish of the grave came upon me; I came to grief and sorrow.
4Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
  “O Lord, I pray you, save my life.” 
12How shall I repay the Lord
  for all the good things God has done for me?
13I will lift the cup of salvation
  and call on the name of the Lord.
14I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
  in the presence of all God’s people.
15Precious in your sight, O Lord,
  is the death of your servants.
16O Lord, truly I am your servant;
  I am your servant, the child of your handmaid; you have freed me from  my bonds.
17I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
  and call upon the name of the Lord.
18I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
  in the presence of all God’s people,
19in the courts of the Lord’s house,
  in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah! 

Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-23

17If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
22Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 23You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

13Now on that same day [when Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene,] two [disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  I think today we will go back to one of my favorite Aesop’s Fables:  The Lion and The Mouse.

“A Lion lay asleep in the forest. A timid little Mouse came upon him unexpectedly, and ran across the Lion’s nose. The Lion laid his paw on the tiny creature to kill her.

“Spare me!” begged the poor Mouse. “Please let me go and some day I will surely repay you.”  The Lion was much amused to think that a Mouse could ever help him but he let the Mouse go because he fancied himself generous.

Some days later, the Lion was caught in a hunter’s net. He filled the forest with his angry roaring. The Mouse found the Lion struggling. Running to one of the great ropes that bound him, she gnawed it and soon the Lion was free.”

Question to share with your neighbor:  Why was the Mouse’s plea so foolish to the Lion?

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


         Last week we jumped from Easter morning to Easter evening, from sharing “The Lord is Risen” to hiding behind locked doors, afraid.  Today we go to the gospel of Luke and Easter afternoon. We read of two people walking away from all the action and excitement of Jerusalem, the crucifixion and the rumors of the resurrection.  While some followers gathered behind locked doors in fear, these two people just plain left.  “I’m out of here!” may have been their cry.  When life becomes overwhelming, distancing ourselves from the chaos and all the voices around us is a valid coping mechanism.  In significant ways we become like the little mouse pleading, “Let me go.”  Perhaps we are scared but we are also confused and we need a safe space.  I love to get in my car and drive.  My father went to the garage and his tool bench.  Others go to the mall or zone out in a video.  We have ways we cope with overload.  Our two people in the text are leaving the scene and walking along, engrossed in conversation, talking about all they’ve been through.

God’s wisdom confuses worldly wisdom

         The lion’s first impulse is to kill that mouse that disturbed him.  He has the power.  He has the right.  He is king of the forest and has the authority.  Besides mice are…you name it cause mice are near the bottom of the food chain.  Our knee jerk reactions often are to lash out and get rid of the nuisance.  Pilot washed his hands of Jesus.  The Jewish authorities demand the death of Jesus.  The soldiers were just following orders.  The disciples fled.  Judas committed suicide.  Easter morning and the cry, “He is risen,” makes no sense.  The followers of Jesus at some level understood that Jesus was the promised Messiah but they had their own definition of what that meant.  The Messiah would get rid of Rome and return them to their glorious past.  The followers knew mice should not disturb lions and dead people don’t rise.

     Even we have our expectations of how God should or could or ought to be acting in our world. We even back up our wants with Bible verses that tell us we can have anything from God if we have faith and pray.  For sure we know God is on our side and doubt his presence with our enemy.  So who are the lions in our world today?  Wealth, youth, talent, government and yes, beauty.  If we have one of these we are on the right side of the equation of life and if we are poor, the “other” ethnicity, weak or differently abled, we are at the bottom of the food chain.  Most of us would admit we are somewhere in-between but hoping to climb the respect ladder.  When the tables are turned and Jesus is crucified, dies and is buried but maybe resurrected, the two people are confused and need space to process.

“talking with each other about all these things that had happened”

Confusion turns us inward in discussion with those we trust.

         The lion is amused at the tiny mouse’s plea.  He frees her, not because he believes the mouse can help but because he chooses to be generous.  We hear the Easter message.  Many are willing to be CEO Christians, be baptized and come to church on special occasions like Christmas/Easter/and Other times like funerals or confirmations but the resurrection is not truly integrated truth in their lives.  It might be interesting to talk about but it is not life changing.  Many are on the road to Emmaus and do not even recognize Jesus walking beside them.  We are busy discussing all the things taking place in our world today.

“What things?”

         Interestingly Jesus comes as a presence, not a power.  He wants to know what we are so preoccupied with and what is so confusing.  He walks with us in the events of our lives.  He does not stand outside our reality and manipulate our lives either as he thinks they should be or as we would like them to be.  Jesus travels with us and wants to know what is on our minds.  But what does he do?  He points our two people to scripture.  Jesus is not only the risen Lord but he is also the Living Word.  I find it interesting that he starts with Moses; laying a foundation they would understand from their heritage and drawing them into the present.  He goes from the known to the unknown, from the seen to the unseen.  Part of the problem with confusion and events that challenge our understanding of our faith is the need to go back and clarify our concept of God.  And so Jesus starts with Moses.

         Perhaps as we face situations in our life today, the challenge is to ask ourselves how we think God ought to solve it and then chat with a friend to broaden our understanding of how God might choose to be acting.  Legendary coach John Wooden of the UCLA Bruins is famous for starting his seasons by teaching his players how to put on their shoes and socks.  He took them back to the basics because no game can be won with sore feet.  Jesus took the two people on the road back to the basics, Moses.  I sure would have loved to be a Kleenex in the pocket in one of those people hearing Jesus review scripture!  We have Bibles and can review whenever we are confused.  We have prayer and can talk to God about our confusion and the Holy Spirit sheds light.  God joins us in our questions.

“21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”

         Our understanding of God impacts our expectations of our lives.   As we clarify our understanding of God, we see our present in a new light.  When the mouse chews through the rope holding the lion captive, the lion sees the mouse in a new light and he is set free to be all God created him to be.  The lion has been redeemed and the crucifixion redeemed Israel and all of us too.  The resurrection is not just an historical event we celebrate at Easter.  Freedom for the lion is not just a scriptural assurance that someday he will lay down with the lamb.  It is a reality he lives into three dimensionally, touching and feeling.

         Jesus ate with the two from Emmaus.  “30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.“  Jesus gave us the sacrament of communion.  It is in communion that he tells us the bread is his body broken for us and the wine is his blood shed for us.  He is with us three dimensionally, right inside us as we eat and drink.  We can be assured that he is in the midst of all circumstances we go through.

“35Then they told what had happened on the road,

 and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

         God’s wisdom is not like worldly wisdom.  Letting the mouse go free is counter intuitive.  Dramatic events can overwhelm us and drive us to seek space with others we trust.  We are confused and seek clarification but unlike the world, we do not become the brilliant insightful ones, we become the sharing ones.  Wisdom and clarity come from God in the midst of our lives.  Our joy of discovery is meant to be shared.  The two people had to return to Jerusalem and tell the other followers who themselves were experiencing the risen Christ. The resurrection sets us free to be our better selves, the person God would have us be in our worlds.

         The resurrection turns us from inward fear and confusion to outward awareness of God presence with us in our world, speaking into our dynamics today through his word.  Fear gives way to peace and confusion gives way to clarity. The seen calamities of this world gives way to the unseen presence of God walking with us, helping us to understand, and communing with us.  The lion realizes the mouse is not a silly disturbance and bother but a significant encounter with unseen blessings to be lived into.  The Lord is risen!  The Lord is risen, indeed.

Let the people of God say, “Amen.”

“Amazing Grace”

April 22, 2023

This week we talked about the second verse of Amazing Grace written by John Newton 250 years ago.  He saw his struggles as grace that led him to call out to God and he saw God’s salvation as grace for the undeserved.  It is all “precious.”  We thought of Elvis Presley singing “Take my hand, precious Lord”.  “How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”

     I looked for another musical version of Amazing Grace and the Internet came up with Diana Ross, another icon of the 60s singing Amazing Grace in Budapest.  Enjoy.

         Tomorrow our psalm will focus on Psalm 116.  The writer focuses on how we respond to the gift of grace that Easter offers us.  This popular worship song puts that psalm to music.  Let us release our hearts to worship this morning.

“What Can I Give Unto the Lord”

The struggle is the glory.”

April 21, 2023

(Quote by Angus Starling from The Ghost and the Darkness)

“’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.” Verse 2

John Newton in verse 2 touches on the struggle within us between good and evil.  No matter how hard we try, we often make poor choices and do not live the way we want.  That snarky comment slips out.  We drive past the beggar at the freeway exit and feel guilty.  We shade the truth so we appear more like the hero. 

         Some branches of Christianity believe it is possible to overcome sin and grow into being our better selves.  These people are called “holiness” because the belief is we can become more and more holy – more like Christ daily by the decisions we make.  Luther would be more of the opinion that the struggles describe us but do not change us into being better people.  We will always be simultaneously “saint” and “sinner”.  The credit for when we are able to live as our better selves goes to God and the shame when we make poor decisions must be owned by us.

      The Resurrection assures us that we will eventually be “Saints” living as our better selves, as we were created to be, in eternity.  Easter gives hope, not that somehow we must change but there is victory because Jesus is risen and active in our lives now!

Paul describes the battle this way in Romans 7: 24-25

“24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:24-25

As we set aside a couple minutes to ground our minds in “the law of God” let us ask him for the grace to live as our better selves and make wise decisions today.