February 25, 2024

John 19:25b-27
Matthew 12:46-50

“Water is Thicker than Blood”

On this Second Sunday in the Season of Lent, we are continuing to focus on the final things that Jesus said as he was dying on the cross. Although each of Jesus’ statements is quite brief, our Lenten study so far has already begun to reveal that each one is rich with meaning for our lives as disciples today.

On Ash Wednesday, we heard Jesus pray to God the Father “to forgive [those who were crucifying him] for they do not know what they are doing.” We were assured of God’s unconditional love and Jesus’ capacity to forgive us for the worst things we do. We were also encouraged to live into our identity as people made in the image of God, and to forgive one another from our hearts.

Last Sunday, we heard Jesus in conversation with a repentant thief who was dying beside him. This man also was forgiven, and given the promise of Jesus that “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” We gave thanks for that amazing grace, and the glimpses of “heaven on earth” that we experience today, even as we anticipate the final gift of everlasting life.

In this morning’s … Read more »

February 11, 2024

2 Kings 2:1-12
Mark 9:2-9

“Picking up the Mantle”

Earlier this week, when the Session of First Church had our regular monthly meeting, our agenda included a discussion of a book recommended by the Synod Mission Committee: “21 Things You May Not Have Known About the Indian Act” by Bob Joseph. As we were reflecting on the devastating impacts of colonization on Indigenous people in this country, thinking about how settlers took land, imposed culture, and banned traditional languages and spiritual practices, I thought it would be appropriate to read the Gospel text (the Transfiguration story) from the First Nations Version of the New Testament.

This Indigenous translation of the good story was published in 2021 and dedicated to the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. The publishers pray that it “will bring healing to those who have suffered under the dominance of colonial governments who, with the help of churches and missionary organizations, often took our land, our languages, our cultures, and even our children. As our Tribal Nations work hard to reclaim what has been stolen, it is our hope that the colonial language that was forced upon us can now serve our people in a good way, by presenting Creator Sets Free … Read more »

February 4, 2024

Isaiah 40:21-31
Mark 1:29-39

“Renew Our Strength”

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? It is God who sits above the circle of the earth… who stretches out the heavens like a curtain… who makes the rulers of the earth as nothing… Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

The prophet Isaiah addresses these questions to the People of Israel in exile in Babylon. The people are complaining, you see, that God has disregarded them, that God has forgotten them. I can understand their complaint. Really, I can.

They’re tired. They’re exhausted, actually. And after all the challenges and trials they have endured, after waiting so long for some kind of help,  who can blame them for getting a little bit frustrated with God?

Why are we still living in this God-forsaken place? Why are our enemies still triumphing over us again and again? We thought we were supposed to be your chosen people! Why is this misery just going on and on with no relief in sight?

Those are questions … Read more »

January 21, 2024

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

“It is Time to Live Differently”

As we journey through the seasons of the church year and explore the texts of scripture each Sunday that are assigned by the lectionary cycle, we have the opportunity to focus on different parts of the Christian story.

During Advent, we enter into the experience of waiting. Longing, hoping, waiting for a Messiah to come… waiting for his return, waiting for our world to be put right. When Christmas finally arrives, we enter into the experience of the Holy Family, of the shepherds, and of the angels. We celebrate the gift of God in sending Jesus into our world, almost as if he has just arrived.

And then, at Epiphany, we walk with the wise men to greet him. We experience the “aha moment” – the knowledge that Emmanuel has come – “God with us” for the whole world.

Today is the third Sunday after the Epiphany in our church year. We’re in what we call the “Season of Epiphany,” and our scripture texts contain some wonderful epiphanies of their own. But I can’t help summing them up with one message from God: “It is time to live differently.”

The Greek word that is … Read more »

January 7, 2024

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Mark 1:4-11

“The Voice of God”

The Scriptures this morning proclaim quite clearly that our God is a God who speaks. God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light. God spoke the Creation into being. God’s voice was creative and effective, and God’s voice made the very good world and everything in it.

The Psalmist hears God’s voice as loud, booming, and authoritative. It is through speech that God asserts power over all the Creation and all creatures including human beings. In a world where everything seems to be spinning out of control, people of faith are reminded of God’s power over all the chaos, and God’s ability to bless the people with strength and with peace.

And the Gospel of Mark has God’s voice assuring Jesus of his identity as God’s Son, the Beloved of God. “You are mine. You are loved. I am pleased with you, dear child.”

I think it’s interesting to notice that the Scriptures don’t include a lot of “appearances” of God. It’s usually just a voice. I mean, there are some spectacular visual things that take place in Bible stories when God is there. The burning bush is a great example, but sometimes there are … Read more »