"Even though I walk through the darkest valley"

"Even though I walk through the darkest valley"

Preachers are cautioned that what used to be baseline knowledge cannot be taken for granted anymore.  While you once could use a phrase like, "Even though I walk through the darkest valley" and your hearers would immediately hear the connection to Psalm 23, that has become too large a leap in an age when people don't grow up hearing the scriptures and/or don't immerse themselves in them regularly.

We are Witnesses

We are Witnesses

Sally came home from the Women's Wanting Wisdom Beyond #MeToo event last night proud to be part of a church like Central.  She was extremely pleased with how the event went and talked about the work that went into bringing it together, the volunteers and staff who designed, coordinated and gave of themselves to put together a sensitive, timely, and hopeful night.  She was excited about the size of the crowd that participated.  And, she couldn't say enough about the young women who spoke, their strength of spirit and ability to share their powerful stories.  It was a great night of church being church, she said.

Closed Doors

Closed Doors

As you listened to the gospel reading yesterday (John 20:19-31), you heard Jesus say, "Peace be with you" three times.  The first was when he first materialized through a locked door and reintroduced himself to the disciples gathered in that room.  The second was as a lead in to his commissioning ("as the Father has sent me, so I send you").  The third peace was offered a week later when he, once again, appeared through a closed door, this time appearing to Thomas.

"He is risen, indeed."

"He is risen, indeed."

Christians might get away with giving the entire Easter season to reminding one another, "He is risen, indeed," if there was any indication that's how Jesus would have us celebrate.  Jesus, however, seems to want us to do something with the news.  The very day that Mary Magdalene and the disciples began telling one another this news, Jesus showed up and started pushing them beyond an interior monologue.  He burst through a locked door to shove them outside the doors.  Of course he was working with disciples made reluctant by fear, so it took a second shove to get them going - see Sunday's gospel reading, John 20:19-31.

A Holy Triduum

A Holy Triduum

Tonight begins the "Triduum" (pronounced Trid-oo-um). It's a Latin word meaning "three days." Of course these aren't just any three days. This is a long weekend, but not in the vacation sense. Over the course of these three days we participate in a single worship service that includes the coming and going (and adding and subtracting) of the congregation. There's no benediction as a reminder that they're all part of a single piece. We gather throughout to consider in mind and heart.

Jumping on the Bandwagon

Jumping on the Bandwagon

After every game, Loyola-Chicago's bandwagon gets more crowded.  I joined it last night.

"Bandwagon" was originally used to describe the wagon that carried the band in circus parades, but it became a derisive term when candidates began renting circus wagons to get their message out.  "Don't jump on the bandwagon" was a way of warning voters against supporting political foes simply because it looked like they might win.

Simeon's Prediction

Simeon's Prediction

When Jesus was barely a month old, Simeon told his mother, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-and a sword will pierce your own soul too" (Luke 2:34-35).  In his years of ministry, many fell and rose and many thoughts were revealed and Mary's soul was pricked, but it wasn't until Holy Week that this prediction proved completely true.

Expected Obedience

Expected Obedience

United Methodists don't use the term "priest" very often.  This is one of the ways we're squarely within the Protestant tradition.  We think in terms of the "priesthood of all believers" (1 Peter 2:9), rather than those who intercede on our behalf.

Still, there is something about having people in our lives who appeal to God for us.  I have no reluctance about Jesus and a human priest, and me all asking for God's forgiveness and provision.  I'll take all the help I can get. 

Faith Matters

Faith Matters

It's commonly accepted that the best-known Christian scripture is John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life").  Important teachings can be mined here: it begins, as does all of our hope, in God's love; God's love is universal; God's love is unfathomably generous and self-sacrificing; God's gift includes the invitation to believe, that is to engage in a relationship with this Son; such a relationship leads to eternal life, which overcomes the power of death. 

Cleansing of the Temple

Cleansing of the Temple

You're familiar with the "cleansing of the temple."  Each gospel tells this story of Jesus entering the temple and throwing over the tables of money exchangers and those selling animals for sacrifice.  In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), this occurs immediately after the hosannas of Palm Sunday and gives the religious authorities greater evidence that Jesus must go.

Taking Up Sides

Taking Up Sides

We've seen another week of people taking up sides.  Depending on where we want "the truth" to lie, we tend to hear the facts in ways that will point to that result.  It's part of the human nature ever since the start.  (Remember how Adam was sure it was the woman who made him eat of the fruit and she was sure it was the serpent who caused their sin.  Remember, also, how God wasn't fooled by any of them?)