The Resurrection of Our Lord!

Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

The Lord has Risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!   That is how we traditionally begin our Easter Sunday worship.  It is a confident, joyful, celebration.  But the actual human beings who make up the story of the resurrection?  Not so much.  Part of the reason we head towards celebration so quickly (well apart from the fact that we know how the story goes!) is that we concentrate on nouns.  For example: Sunday (first day of the week), stone, entrance, Master, tomb, pieces of linen cloth, Simon Peter, two angels, etc..  What if we looked at the emotions instead?

The story starts in grief, and you have to imagine the participants are wrung out and tired.  They’ve experienced the terrible, tortured death of their teacher.  Mary sees only that the stone has been rolled away and Runs to find Peter and the other disciple.  They run with excitement to see the tomb empty.  What are they feeling now?  Relief?  It says that they believed based on the evidence of the cloths lying in the tomb, but their belief is not complete, it won’t be complete until the experience Jesus in person. 

Mary is still grieving.  She alone truly enters into her grief, expresses and experiences it.  Courtney and I can tell you that trying to bypass grief is not healthy.    Mary is not celebrating the empty tomb, she is not celebrating the resurrection.  She is convinced that someone has stolen the body.  We can only imagine her emotions as she is presented with two angels.  Fear comes to mind, perhaps shock, or amazement.  Then a voice.  Someone she had not heard coming.  She must be scared to death.  But she actually gets to see Jesus.  Isn’t that wonderful?  Isn’t her joy now complete?  Not yet.  She thinks he’s a grave robber!  I would imagine she is scared out of her wits, yet she really wants to find Jesus’ body, so she asks where he put it.  Amazing bravery for a woman, by herself at the tomb of a friend and teacher when confronted by a dirty, gardener who looks as though he moves dead bodies around!

Finally there is joy and happiness.  What causes this euphoria?  Jesus speaking her name.  In some Gospels the disciples know Jesus by the way he feeds them, the way he breaks bread.  Here Mary knows him because she is known, she is addressed personally.  Relief, joy, confusion, true fear?

Now the final emotion, desperation. She clings to his feet so that he can’t even move.   Jesus has to tell her to stop being so clingy.  Ultimately she is obedient.  She lets go, she goes forth as the first evangelist and tells the other disciples, “The Lord is Risen!”  However they do not answer back with enthusiasm.  We’ll hear about that next week.  They continue to be filled with fear, and lock them selves up in an upper room far away from the Jewish authorities. 

How might we create an Easter worship celebration that recognizes the true width and breadth of human emotion?  That’s out goal.  Don’t get me wrong, I like dressing up, and love trumpets and celebrations.  Let’s do all that, but let’s admit that we don’t get the whole story, we still hurt and have doubts, we are still looking for proof positive of the resurrection for those we love.  We still live in families that are messed up and trying to make a go of it.  What is the good news for those who are living through such wonderfully messy lives of faith?

Quotes for the Week

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”           John Green

“Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue”  Anne Lamott


 “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”     Anne Lamott

 “Now she and I sit together in her room and eat chocolate, and I tell her that in a very long time when we both to go heaven, we should try to get chairs next to each other, close to the dessert table.”                    Anne Lamott

Lesson John 20:1-18  (The Message)

1-2 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, breathlessly panting, “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him.”

3-10 Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home.

11-13 But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been laid. They said to her, “Woman, why do you weep?”

13-14 “They took my Master,” she said, “and I don’t know where they put him.” After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him.

15 Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”

She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”

16 Jesus said, “Mary.”

Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!”

17 Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her.

Questions for the Week

What does the resurrection of Jesus mean to you?

What parts of your life are waiting for resurrection?

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Devotional for April 13, 2014: Hosanna!


Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

Bible Background 

This week we head backwards a bit in the Gospel of John.  This Sunday, Palm Sunday is to set the stage for all that is to come and for some places we have been.  Rewind to six days before Passover.  Rewind to before Jesus washes the disciples’ feet but right after Mary has anointed Jesus feet. Rewind to before our denial and trials.  Remember that there are plots and thoughts about how to stage and get rid of Jesus.  For this Sunday we back up to when Jesus is just revving up towards Holy Week.  God is doing something pretty crazy this week.

That is where we enter today.  So often for Palm Sunday we celebrate and then move on instead of recognizing the political act that Jesus is taking on.  Because of Passover, there are more people in the city of Jerusalem then there is any other time of year. This sets the perfect stage for something different.  Marcus Borg suggests that Pilate is processing in at the same time in another part of the city. Pilate represents power and prestige.

Jesus is intentionally creating a political and revolutionary scene.  He takes on the prophecy from Zechariah and rides in on a donkey. The donkey represents peace and a different world rather than power. And in John the people actually take down Palm Branches to celebrate this act.  Palm Sunday is not just a fun parade; it is the scene that becomes the central conflict for the entire week.  It is a political and religious demonstration.  While Pilate rides in to demonstrate force and military, Jesus rides in to demonstrate peace and a new kingdom.

Is that what the crowd came to see? What where they seeking?  Roman rule was becoming more and more of an empire and oppressive force.  Jesus didn’t come to take over Pilate’s system, he came to replace it.  Isn’t that what the crowd came to see and to celebrate? Isn’t that what I claim to celebrate when I claim to follow Jesus?  If I am following Jesus and crying Hosanna, I am proclaiming a different way.  A way of peace.  A way of finding where the Empire doesn’t touch and bring that marginalized space to light and life.  A way that isn’t about violence and oppression but about equality and a new kind of ruler.  When we come to this procession, we are actively participating in a new hope, a new way of being.  We are not coming to a parade to watch but to a act of change and new life.  Unfortunately we will still need to wade through betrayal and death to realize where we stand today.  But then we will have the promise of new life next week.

Quotes of the Week   

“A procession is a participants’ journey, while a parade is a performance with an audience.”  ― Rebecca SolnitWanderlust: A History of Walking  

“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” ― Thomas Jefferson  

“To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing” ― Raymond Williams 

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Apple Inc.

John 12: 12-17 (NRSV)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,                                                                                                                                                         “Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
the King of Israel!”

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”


His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.  So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify.

Questions for the Week

What are you seeking when you come to see Jesus?

How does Palm Sunday set the stage for Holy Week for you?

Would you have come to see the procession?


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Jesus Is Condemned

I’m struggling to come up with a different paradigm for the suffering of Jesus.  Or to put it another way, “Why did Jesus have to be tortured and murdered?”  Was it necessary for Jesus to suffer in order that I might be “saved”?

The prevailing theory about Jesus’ death and torture is sometimes referred to as “substitutional atonement”.   That is, God is angry with humanity (because of the sin of Adam and Eve) and someone had to pay the price.  Jesus, being the perfect, “Lamb of God” without sin or blemish was the only one who could pay this price.  Now, God can love and embrace us because of what Jesus made possible.  This is the biblical, and especially, Pauline understanding of why Jesus had to suffer. And I thin I’ve made it pretty clear how regularly I disagree with Paul.

But, if we get rid of that theory, what are we left with?  Let’s start with the facts, especially as laid out in the Gospel of John:

  • Jesus upset the church-state powers of Israel.  He turned over the tables of the money changers in the Temple complex.  There is no more certain way to challenge a powerful institution, than to interrupt it’s money making endeavors–just ask Martin Luther, who questioned the Roman Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences.
  •  Jesus states plainly in the Gospel of John that God wants to institute a new way of relating to people.  The temple isn’t going to work, we don’t need a priest between us and God, we can access God directly, even call God “Daddy”.  God’s word has become flesh and has moved into the neighborhood.  We can know God without: temple sacrifices, priests, tithes, or any religious institution.  In fact, according to Jesus, religion is over.  Jesus boldly states that HE forgives people their sins, and tells his followers to do the same.
  • Jesus demonstrates a part of God who would come to us and celebrate with us when we are filled with joy, and mourn with us when we are sad and depressed.

I believe it was for these reasons that Jesus was killed.  He was murdered by an occupational army which cared more about peace, or lack of disturbance, than it did about truth.  These powers were encouraged by the religious leaders of the day who felt threatened by Jesus and wanted to have him out of the way.  They had a vested interest in keeping things the way they were.

I’m captivated by the Roman soldiers in this story.  They are bullies by profession.  You get the sense that they take pleasure in tormenting Jesus.  It’s easy to look down on them and judge them.  But how are we similar to them?  Most people if placed in the right situation with someone in authority telling them it’s OK will participate in similar actions.  To stand up to power when it is being abusive is not easy.  I don’t do it well.  I like to go along and to keep the peace (until it gets so bad that I totally lose it and become as abusive as the abusers!)

Jesus has come down to earth to show us a new way to know God.  Daniel Erlander in his book, “Baptized We Live” says that when Jesus said yes to suffering he was saying yes to: Absolute trust in God; Dedication to human liberation; Solidarity with human pain; and Freedom to be human, weak, and vulnerable.

Quotes for the Week

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hands of (another) . . . There are just some kind of men who–who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results”              Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

“Humanity is a cross.  Most people on earth suffer from hunger, poverty or oppression.  The few societies which are ‘well off’ are plagued by an emptiness never filled by frantic grasping for more and more or by futile attempts to keep what they have.”                      Dan Erlander, “Baptized We Live”

“The healing power of even the most microscopic exchange with someone who knows in a flash precisely what you’re talking about because she experienced that thing too cannot be overestimated.”         Cheryl Strayed

“I saw that you can’t do anything for anybody.  We can’t save each other.  Or ourselves.        “What have you left, then?  Isolation and despair!  You’re denying brotherhood!”                  “No–no I’m not.  I’m trying to say what I think brotherhood really is.  It begins–it begins in shared pain.”      Ursula K. Le Guin

John 19:1-16

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”
Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

Questions for the Week

Where in your life are you suffering right now?

How are we called to be in solidarity with those who are oppressed in this world?

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Devotional for March 30, 2014: Speaking truth to power


Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

Bible Background 

Barbara Brown Taylor writes in one of her sermons, “According to John, Jesus died because he told the truth to everyone he met. He was the truth, a perfect mirror in which people saw themselves in God’s own light.”  This moment when Jesus and Pilate confront seems to be a pinnacle of the Jesus story.  All along Jesus has told us that he is the truth in John and now Pilate asks him head on.  “What is truth?”  Jesus doesn’t need to respond because the answer has already been given to us.  As we continue to look at what it means to be a disciple in this journey, we have to talk about what it means to speak truth to power when Jesus is that truth.  We are called to speak out and to work for social justice.  What does that mean when Jesus embodies truth?

Now we could have a long philosophical discussion about the meaning of truth and what is true.  Here is what we know through our Christian lens.  Truth comes from God.  Notice I did not say fact comes from God.   When truth comes from God, it has to come through the whole grace and perspective lens.  In order to interpret truth, we must consider what God values.  God lifts up the lowly, the marginalized, the places the empire does not touch.  Truth has to reflect that.  Jesus did.  Everything he embodied lifted up those who were forgotten.  This is why Jesus is embodied truth.  He is.  This is why he doesn’t need to answer Pilate and why immediately, in that silence we are reminded that we must speak up.

In that very moment, we are called to speak to the power that Pilate is.  Pilate is the governor of the area.  He has been placed for one reason for the Romans.  He has been put in that place to keep order in the region.  He is not to judge.  He is just to maintain.  In that face of that kind of authority, truth can seem daunting but Jesus knows that all he has to do is to be in order to create change in that power structure.  What must we do to speak truth to power?  Truth is God’s love, God’s grace and the constant lifting up against what the empire values.  Truth is a constant conversation.  Truth is what we know all along if we read what Jesus does.  The Gospel of John is constantly playing with what truth is and all John keeps coming up with is that truth is Jesus and we are following it.  Because we are following it, we have a call to continue to fight for it.

Both denominations call us to social justice because in becoming the people that highlight where inequality resides, we are speaking truth to power.  It is time to do so again.

Quotes of the Week                                                                                                                                               “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” ― Oscar Wilde

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.” ― William Faulkner                                                                                                                                       

 “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” ― Flannery O’Connor 

John 18: 28-40 (NRSV)   Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”  They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”  (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Questions for the Week

How would you define truth?

Are you called to a life of social justice? If so, why?

Is it difficult to speak truth?  Could you answer Pilate?


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Devotional for March 23, 2014: Peter’s Denial


Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

Bible Background  


This cartoon cracks me up. I am pretty sure I have said these same words as I exude lemon qualities. For me, this perfectly illustrates the basics about denial. The definition of denial is “the action of declaring something to be untrue (Google dictionary).” This is what we are talking about today.  What happens when we deny the things about ourselves, who we are, and what is happening around us?  The story we are going to read today in John is about Peter; Peter who will go to the ends of the earth for Jesus, Peter who should be called Rocky since he is so solid, Peter who follows Jesus from the very beginning and Peter who represents us so well.  Peter ends up denying Jesus three times because he has fallen into the rest of the culture.  His fear wins.  The culture of fear around him wins.  His discipleship wanes.

We are not so different from Peter.  During Lent, we get to face head on what we have been denying all along.  Even when we proclaim we are not bitter we may be denying what separates us from Jesus.  The culture around us is telling us all sorts of things.  The culture is telling us that if we just buy into this or that and make ourselves into something other than who we are, denying who we are and what we need to face, we will be better and more whole.  In reality, in order to be a better disciple perhaps we need to face our fears and doubts and fess up to who we are.  Our fears will not make us better people, facing them and claiming them just might.  What would happen if we claimed our bitterness, our brokenness, our confusion, our grieving hearts?  Could we more fully become disciples and claim that?  Maybe only then will we find true restoration to God’s loving embrace.

Here is the good news.  Jesus doesn’t deny who he is or that he claims us as disciples.  Even though Peter denies Jesus, Jesus allows Peter to be one of the first to see him in the resurrected life. God does not deny us and gives us grace to claim who we are over and over again.                                                                                                                                                 

Quotes of the Week                                                                                                                                             “You are all things. Denying, rejecting, judging or hiding from any aspect of your total being creates pain and results in a lack of wholeness.” -Joy Page

“Fear is inevitable, I have to accept that, but I cannot allow it to paralyze me.” ― Isabel Allende

“Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.” ― Paulo Coelho

I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.” – Garrison Keillor

John 18: 12-27 (NRSV)  So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.  Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people. Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.  The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”  Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.  Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”  When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”  Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”  Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Questions for the Week

When have you been in denial about who you are?

When have you been separated from God because of fear?

Do you relate to Peter? Why or why not?

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Washing Feet:The Servant Life

Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

This Sunday, we are washing feet.  This is such an intimate activity.  Our feet are a part of our bodies we do not like people messing with.  They are ticklish, they are dirty, they are not pretty, and they take a lot of abuse.  These are not the attributes we like to present to the world.

There are feet that are beautiful.  My granddaughter, Willow, has beautiful feet.  I want to hold them and kiss them.  My feet are another matter.  Walking has made my feet fat.  They have many calluses; I don’t always cut my toe nails when I should.  My ankles crack and creek from the many times I’ve sprained them playing basketball; I use to have high arches, but they have succumbed to time and gravity.  I don’t like showing my feet to people, and I certainly don’t want to present them to Jesus.

But that is exactly what we are called to do in today’s reading–to present our dirty, sensitive, ugly, abused selves to Jesus.  So often we want to get our acts together first.  I’ll present myself to Jesus once I’ve had a pedicure, once I’ve gotten my act together.  But Jesus longs to embrace us just as we are, warts and all.  And he wants us to do the same for others.

I love the part of this reading where Jesus asks his followers, “Do you know what I have done to you?”  They have had it.  If Jesus takes the place of the lowest slave and does the worst job imaginable for them, what is our excuse?  And Jesus does this knowing that one of them is going to turn on him and betray him.  Can you imagine what you would do if you knew that someone was going to betray you, that you would be killed because of it?  I would want revenge!  But Jesus feeds Judas, and washes his feet.

It is always jarring to me to read this passage in John and then continue in my readings to the book of Acts, where the disciples maintain that they are too good to wait tables!  Say what?  Apparently they didn’t know what Jesus had done to them.  I wonder if this week we might not offer to wash one another’s feet.  I know it makes us uncomfortable, but I think that is the point.  It is a symbolic action of presenting all of the parts of our life in front of Jesus to have him wash them.  It is a beautiful symbol of being able to start over, to honestly present the worst parts of our life to Jesus, and to see that he will take them on and make them (and us) clean.

Quotes for the Week

“My mother told me I was dancing before I was born.  She could feel my toes tapping wildly inside her for months.”    Ginger Rogers

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”               Mahatma Gandhi

“Everybody can be great . . . because everybody can serve.  You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace.  A soul generated by love.”        Martin Luther King Jr.

“It’s a pleasant thing to be young, and have ten toes.”  Robert Lewis Stevenson

Lesson: John 13:1-17 (NRSV)

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord– and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

Questions for the Week

What is one thing about yourself that you find un-presentable?

Where are you called to serve in the world?

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Devotional for March 9, 2014 (First week of Lent): Raising Lazarus


Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

Bible Background                                                                                                                                                                 We have ventured into the season of Lent. In the Christian calendar, Lent is a period of forty days in which we repent, reflect, and prepare for new life in Easter.  It is a time of pruning, a time of grieving for what was and looking forward to what will be. It is a time to look towards new life.  At the CoOp we will be using this season to delve into what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Narrative Lectionary brings us into Lent with a story of renewal and grief all wrapped up into one. This story offers us so much in our journey of faith.  First of all, we are offered promises of what is to come.  When Jesus first hears about Lazarus, Jesus takes his time to get to the scene. Jesus doesn’t rush off to meet the family or to save Lazarus from death. Jesus knows that there will be new life and there must be a process to this scenario.  God will work in God’s time and all shall be well.  We are promised this kind of new life.  We are promised renewal and restoration.

When Jesus arrives on the scene, he weeps.  Martha and Mary are grieving. Jesus weeps.  The representation of God in human form breaks down and grieves with Mary and Martha.  God grieves with us.  When things are dying around us.  When life is not what it seems it should be.  When we face our darkness head on.  God grieves deeply with us.  Jesus doesn’t offer answers to why or where he has been. He just grieves with the family. He grieves with us.  We can count on that throughout our Lenten journey.

Jesus then commands Lazarus to come out! In the midst of our death, we are called forth into new life.  When we have reached the edge, we are called to activity.  As if that is not enough, Jesus yells to unbind the one who has been restored.  Those around the new life are called to participate in restoring.  If we are not the one with new life, we still have a job to do.  New life is God’s business but not God’s business alone.  To be active disciples, we must participate in the new life.  We are co-creators and co-restorers in this journey.  God’s work is ongoing. Inasmuch as our journey starts in admitting our own deaths it also begins in restoration and renewal.  We are given new lives of active participatory faith.  How we will we live this call out during the season?  When we answer the call to where God draws us in, we are also saying yes to this journey towards another death and resurrection.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Quotes of the Week                                                                                                                                                         “It is always quietly thrilling to find yourself looking at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before.” ― Bill Bryson  

Genius is the ability to renew one’s emotions in daily experience.” – Paul Cezanne

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.  Delicious Ambiguity.” ― Gilda Radner

“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.” ― Albert Schweitzer

John 11:1-44 (NRSV)Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”  But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazaruswas ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”  The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”  Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”  The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin,said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f]Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,  and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.  He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus began to weep.  So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Questions for the Week

Where do you need renewal?

What does it mean to co-create with God?

How does affect you to know that God weeps with us?


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