Anytime a single verse of scripture is lifted before us, we do well to read what goes around it. Sometimes that single verse is representative of the meaning of the passage. Sometimes it is being used in ways that are an unfair representation. It's always good to look.
One of our wonderful teenagers taught the children at Vacation Bible School this week that parables use earthly concepts to express heavenly ideas. I like the way she helped the children put that together. It's true that Jesus' parables took what was commonplace - a man who had two sons, a lost coin, a mustard seed and used those to help people get some notion of the kingdom of God. It's also true that the heavenly ideas aren't meant to stay separated from earth or to remain something longed for in the great by-and-by, but to show the in-breaking of the kingdom among us right here and now.
Mark uses the word "crowd" to describe those gathered around Jesus. They were with Jesus when his mother and siblings showed up to restrain him and help him get back in his right mind. A quick review of the people Jesus has been with leading up to Mark 3:20-35 shows us that the crowd likely included fishermen, tax collectors, "sinners," those who had heard about or even seen him heal the sick and cast out demons, and some of those who had been healed. The crowd was a Who's Who of the unwanted.
It is Annual Conference time again. Each year (since John Wesley got things rolling) Methodists have gathered in their various parts of the world and met. Since the earliest days, the conferences have been focused on theological discussion and strategic planning (perhaps more deliberately and directly in the early years than now). Richard Heitzenrater shares in Wesley and the People Called Methodists (a very good and approachable book that is available in the Schofield Library at Central) that the 1744 conference was built around "basic questions: what to teach; how to teach; and what to do" (page 144).
Sundays are about life. Christians have always made Sunday their primary day of worship, as it was the day of Jesus' resurrection. On Sundays we celebrate his resurrection and the promise it gives us for eternal life. We reflect on Jesus' offer for "abundant life" and on stories like the one we'll hear in the sanctuary this week about making lives better, even on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-3:6). In The Well, there will be a reading of St. Paul's explanation of Jesus working in our lives (2 Corinthians 4:5-12).
One of the greatest gifts a person can give to another is to remember the other. We don't want others to remember everything we've said and done (we don't even want to remember about ourselves everything we've said and done), but we do want to be seen, and known, and not forgotten. And, we want that for others we love.
This Sunday will be our second go at John 3 in 3 months. In March, during Lent, the emphasis was on Jesus' crucifixion as the antidote for sin's poison. Just as Moses lifted a serpent before the Hebrews when they were bitten by poisonous snakes and, in their looking upon the lifted one, they were healed (Numbers 21:4-9), so Jesus, lifted on the cross, would be the source of salvation for those who looked upon (or, since, recognized their dependence upon) him.
I find great comfort in Romans 8:26-27 - The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
I am far more interested in the wedding I'll preside over on May 26 than the one 100 million or so people will tune in to watch tomorrow. It's not that I have a problem with all the intrigue around the Royal Wedding; it seems as deserving as the Super Bowl or other similarly watched events. I do wish that Americans' willingness to get up earlier than usual on a Saturday for a televised worship service would translate into getting to a place of worship the next day to celebrate the Holy Spirit. We'll see...
We try our best to be sensitive on Mother's Day. We recognize that not everyone who wanted to have children of their own were able to. We know that some mother-child relationships are strained or worse. We acknowledge that for some, Mother's Day underscores their mothers' physical absence from them (by death or division). We like to remind the church family that every woman has the opportunity to be a mother in the faith for another, regardless of whether they are a mother in the traditional sense of the word.
Yesterday was Ascension Day (the fortieth day after Easter, as referenced in Acts 1:3). This Sunday the sanctuary service will celebrate Ascension Sunday (reading Luke 24:44-53). As I've mentioned before, you'll be hard-pressed to find a greeting card for Ascension Sunday, even though, historically, it has ranked with Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.
These Words from Will began with the purposes of previewing and reviewing Sunday's messages. When I'm not present to hear those messages, the review becomes more than challenging. I can guess what our preachers said, wait until I can listen to the recordings before I write, accept what is reported to me as an accurate description, or opine on something related, if not directly, to the theme of the day. Let's go with the latter.
This Sunday, Central's preachers are bringing up the Holy Spirit - a full two weeks before Pentecost. It's not completely radical, the Revised Common Lectionary assigned Acts 10:44-48 to the 6th Sunday of Easter. I don't know if the logic of the people behind the Lectionary was to start getting the Holy Spirit on our minds before Pentecost or if the inclusion is simply an acknowledgment that you can't contain the Holy Spirit to a single Sunday or season. As Jesus noted way back in John 3:8, "The wind (same word as "spirit") blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes."
There has been a lot of enthusiasm about confirming 22 young new professing members yesterday. It is a joy to see all that life and commitment and promise and those gifts gathered. Knowing the class as I do, if they will hang together and hang with our church, we will remain a good and strong church for the foreseeable future. That will certainly be the case if we continue to show them how to remain close to the vine (John 15:1-8).
Weekends like this one exemplify what is great about life in the church.
Today, golfers will enjoy a beautiful day and time of fellowship together, building relationships in the Body of Christ.
Tomorrow, servants will gather at 7 a.m. in The Commons at Central for a light breakfast, then go in Jesus' name to improve a home and, therefore, the life of its inhabitants through the Christmas in April home repair ministry. There is work for all skills and experience levels. Join us.