Today’s passage from John focuses on Jesus the good shepherd (John 10:11-18). The imagery is iconic, with our Lord described as the guardian shepherd. Jesus repeatedly uses the metaphor of shepherds and sheep to emphasize the way in which he cares for us, his spiritual children prone to straying. Jesus is not just any common shepherd. Instead, our Lord describes himself as the one who is willing to die for his sheep. Flocks are valuable assets. In one sense this means that shepherds will do what they must to protect their investment in their wool-producing animals. And yet Jesus is more than a simple shepherdRead More →

Be encouraged and do outreach are the combined elements from Luke 24:36b-48, today’s lectionary focus. The resurrected Jesus is gathered with his closest followers as the time nears for his departure for heaven. The stage is set for a new era, one without Jesus walking the earth but with his followers empowered by the Holy Spirit (which is the shared essence of both humans and God). At first, the apostles perceived Jesus as a ghost, and so the savior needed to again prove that he was their Lord. In the context of this marvelous story, the drama and sense of wonder emerge. The end ofRead More →

Today’s message covers one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. The apostles were gathered together, minus Thomas, and the air dripped with expectation. A miraculously appearing Jesus revealed his physical wounds and convinced those gathered that he was real. There’s two major points to discover in this encounter, the power of forgiveness and Thomas’ doubt. As to the power of forgiveness, the Bible sums-up the situation: “ ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain theRead More →

God bless you this wonderful morning and welcome to Easter, the most joyous of all Christian holy days. Easter emphasizes life over death and hope over despair. Jesus’ triumph demonstrates how love and light crush hate and darkness. This lesson is more significant than ever given what’s happening in American culture. It’s not fake news to proclaim that God’s eternal message lives within each of us, waiting to be activated as we embrace God. Jesus’ flesh and blood have long since left earth yet the loving, self-sacrificing principles he demonstrated are eternally active. Easter is a reminder that death is not the final word. ThroughRead More →

Welcome to Palm Sunday, a time of faith-filled joy. Today’s celebration begins with the significance of Jesus’ entrance through Jerusalem’s gate. Ultimately, what we celebrate is God’s entrance into our hearts and minds. Jesus’ highly public donkey ride into Jerusalem encouraged his supporters, who recognized in him a man of promise and possibility. The crowds adoring Jesus might have known him as the populist prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. Perhaps these admirers even considered Jesus to be the Messiah who would set them free from Roman-occupation. But all was not well. The Jewish and Roman leaders would notice of a fervent crowd and perceive itRead More →

Today’s lectionary includes a key theme of life from death, nicely illustrated by Jesus’ parable of the grain of wheat. “Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Jesus makes a curious claim in this verse. A literal problem emerges in that grains/seeds don’t die before they germinate. If a seed is dead, then it becomes a dry shell devoid of life. When interpreted metaphorically rather than literally, Jesus words make sense. A grain may appear dull and lifeless, yet lockedRead More →

The first part of today’s message comes from Ephesians 2:1-10, where Paul talks about the spiritual status of his audience prior to their conversion: “You were dead through the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). The passage emphasizes how lack of a spiritual life results in a living death. A contributing factor to the peril Paul mentions is a distracting illusion, one which tries to substitute a busy, materialistic existence for true spiritual life. The good news is that God offers a rescue plan, a redemption through love, mercy and grace which restores spiritual health. The distractions and idols of day-to-day living often result in theRead More →

Today we’re highlighting a controversial story about Jesus, a moment in his ministry that portrays him in an entirely different light. All four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John reveal a peculiar incident that echoes through time. Jesus wasn’t simply mad, he made a weapon and attacked. What we’re exploring is the only recorded episode depicting Jesus as physically aggressive. This topic isn’t easy, and is best avoided by those who don’t want to share a troubling exposé. Despite the temptation to ignore it, we must not run and hide. We’re brave enough to hit this situation head-on (as Jesus did–literally). The setting forRead More →

Despite being the closest of friends, Jesus and Peter didn’t always get along. One day there was a disagreement between the two that resulted in a public rebuking of Peter. The situation started when Peter responded to Jesus’ talk about suffering and death. Peter rejected Jesus’ stark topic and pulled him aside to tell him so. Jesus would have none of this and responded with a surprising name-calling of “Satan” against Peter (Mark 8:33). Jesus escalated the situation by calling the crowd and declaring to them that anyone who wanted to follow him must deny self.  Peter must have been grimacing on the sidelines asRead More →

Welcome to Lent, a period of forty days leading up to Easter. Lent need not have anything to do with dietary restrictions or eating fish on Fridays. No, that model of participation is disappearing and for good reasons. The mechanical rehearsing of church liturgical holidays does little to promote personal vitality. Spiritual seekers increasingly realize that reflection and spirituality should occur throughout the year and not simply within a calendar-driven ritual. But whatever you think of Lent, issues in today’s message highlight ongoing challenges and opportunities. A familiar lectionary theme returns today in Mark 1:9-15, which is a version of Jesus’ baptism. This is aRead More →