In Mark 1:21-28 Jesus is teaching in a Capernaum synagogue (which is a Jewish house of gathering, similar to a church). Jesus’ message wasn’t simply another ho-hum message: “They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). Jesus’ style and substance transformed him into something of a JC superstar. The response to Jesus’ preaching suggests that he was a charismatic powerhouse, even apart from the miracles he performed. We don’t have a YouTube video of what Jesus said that day, but that doesn’t stop us from feeling the effects. Apparently, the manner andRead More →

The lectionary reading from Mark 1:14-20 focuses on another disciple-building day in Jesus’ early ministry. John the Baptist had been arrested and Jesus was moving forward with his mission of gathering a cadre of dedicated disciples. Jesus’ foundational message to the world was stated simply and with gusto: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). The time was right for Jesus to build his spiritual kingdom. Two sets of fishermen brothers (Simon & Andrew, James & John) responded to Jesus’ invitation as they were working at the Sea of Galilee. TheRead More →

Read John 1:43-51 and you’ll discover how Jesus gathered his earliest disciples. It’s not surprising that Jesus needed followers. Founders of successful sects must have a dedicated cadre of supporters to firmly establishment their movement. In today’s verses, Jesus begins by calling Philip, who then went to find Nathanael and rally him to Jesus of Nazareth. Philip was convinced that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah. Duly excited, Philip rushed to Nathanael, whose skeptical reply questioned Jesus’ origins. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Cynicism is not new, and whether ancient or modern, a jaded attitude canRead More →

Happy New Year! Are you ready to learn from the lessons of 2017 as you enter 2018? As the calendar turns, everyone is invited to put away past negativity while embracing new promises and possibilities.  Let’s prepare ourselves for a spectacular new year of blessings.  Think ahead to this time next year and decide now if you’d like to be a different type of person or in a better situation.  Now’s the time to plan for where you’re going and how’d you like to get there. The exercise we’ve prepared as part of this morning’s service is intended to help everyone start the New YearRead More →

Today’s reading from Luke 2:22-40 narrates adoration of Jesus by two elderly persons, Anna and Simeon, who were wrapping Jesus in great expectations. Speaking of Great Expectations, that’s the title of Charles Dickens’ hallowed, 1861 novel, whose central character is an orphan child named “Pip.” Jesus and Pip have something in common, including an adventurous life amid many colorful characters and situations. In some similar sense, Anna and Simeon in the biblical text remind people of faith how wonderful can be the great expectations of God’s blessings, which can bring joy to faithful people of all ages (and despite the hardship of age and fragility).Read More →

God bless you on this marvelous Christmas Eve. Prepare for the Christ child to inspire and empower you this season and beyond. Amid the holiday cheer looms a relevant and serious question: Do you have a [spiritual] life? Christmas is the time when people often focus on birth, including the manger scene with the baby Jesus and all the pastoral trappings of his ancient family. Even more so in the here-and-now, God wants everyone to embrace the wonders of spiritual life that Jesus’ birth represents. Are you ready for a decisive spiritual transformation?  What better time than now to embrace rebirth, renewal and restoration. Jesus’Read More →

Today’s lectionary message from John 1 continues to emphasize John the Baptist’s unusual role. The sense is that John is proclaiming an attention-demanding message as a prelude or preparation for whom he describes as the true Messiah (i.e., Jesus). John the Baptist’s exuberant announcement of Jesus aligns splendidly with the Advent theme of joy. We may never know for sure just how much of an impact John had on the Judaism of his day. Nonetheless, there was something significant in John’s message and methods because the Bible suggests that John was a public sensation, a messenger of God whose form of baptism and repentance attractedRead More →

Today’s selection from Mark 1:1-8 presents John the Baptist. Surpassing his well-known title, John is more than just a historical curiosity. In the context of the gospel story, John is interpreted as a transition to Jesus. “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way. . . ‘ “ (Mark 1:2b). In their looking back, it is likely that the author(s) who collected and wrote Mark perceived John as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. John’s distinctive teachings may have been interpreted as paving the way for Jesus’ Gospel. What is John’s background?Read More →

Today we highlight Jesus’ talk about a universal cataclysm which will end history (Mark 13:24-37). It’s challenging to wrangle such a depressing topic into hopeful holiday cheer. There’s only so much that can be done to transform the last judgment of death and destruction into an uplifting message. What drives some peoples’ preoccupation with catastrophic biblical prophecies? Financial gain and a morbid fascination with enemies’ destruction feed some of the end-time mania. Sensationalist captains of the apocalypse industry create a self-justifying enterprise that builds egos and bank accounts. The culmination is that the horrible end of history has grown into a lucrative endeavor and aRead More →

 Today’s focus is Matthew 25:31-46, a passage about final judgment. The text reveals a Jesus who, along with angels, will come and gather all the nations, dividing everyone between good and evil, sheep and goats, right and left. Jesus places himself at the center of this psychodrama, saying that he is the king who will decide who gets to pass into heaven or, sadly, into a lake of fire which is also reserved for Satan and his entourage. For those who crave stark dichotomies, the idea of dividing everyone into either good or evil at a final judgement is irresistible. The Bible words suggest thatRead More →