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Overcoming death

Read John 20:1-18
Death and darkness cannot overcome the light and life that is found through Jesus Christ.
The last word is not suffering, or violence, or betrayal, or death, the last word is love, it is resurrection.
And so Mary gets moving … the empty tomb is not a statement of death, it is not an invitation to look in and ponder loss, rather it is a proclamation of life.
Once Mary can change her focus, she is able to see the amazing thing God is doing.So she goes and finds the disciples to tell them a new story … not one about death, not about the empty tomb … no she tells them about resurrection saying “I saw the Lord!” Notice she doesn’t say “Jesus is risen” no she proclaims her relationship with Jesus.This is our calling church … to seek out those resurrection moments in our daily living … the ones that are hidden from plain sight, the ones that pull us out of stagnation and fear, the ones that beckon us from staring into the empty places longing for the past so we can change our…

Mary and the risen Christ

Read: John 20:1-18
The risen Christ does not dismiss Mary and her confusion, he meets her where she is, he calls her by name, as the Good Shepherd does and tells her what she needs to hear in order to live into the reality of resurrection. She is not to hold onto the tangible Jesus any longer, the old has passed away and before her standing is the new reality, which today we are even still trying to put words onto, to understand and to explain. “Do not hold onto me.”Much has been asked about this … many of us quickly go to a question about physical matter. Is it that Jesus cannot be touched, what was his resurrected body like? What if instead what he means to tell Mary is that you cannot hold onto me … because I need to move forward, you need to move forward, Mary don’t get stuck in the past. We are not to hold onto Jesus, because then we might try to keep him right where we are right now rather than following him where he is taking us, where he is going. Don’t keep looking into the empty to…

Resurrection

John 20:1-28

Who would have thought that death would not have the final word? Yet there were hints of resurrection all through the telling of John’s gospel up to this point,they are sprinkled through the entire cannon of scripture.Foreshadowing and laying the foundation for this amazing culmination.

Into the dead end situations of life, Jesus breaths life and light and it is all grounded in relationship.It challenges the status quo that separates, limits love, and hinders genuine relationships. In the dead end situation of poverty and hunger, where the Roman government controlled the bread rations, Jesus boldly and faithfully reveals God’s abundance by feeding 5,000 men plus women and children with a few loaves of bread and fish.After breaking, blessing and giving, the bounty is so great that they have leftovers!

In the dead end situation of isolation and shame for the blind man, Jesus heals not just the one who was blind but now sees but offers that same healing and restoration to the ent…

Love

Daily reading: John 18:33-40 Holy Saturday 
Focus passage: “So you are a king?” Pilate said. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and come into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.”John 18:37
Jesus began his earthly ministry by announcing “the Kingdom of God is near.” And now as he stands trial he says “My kingdom doesn’t originate from this world. If it did, my guards would fight so that I wouldn’t have been arrested by the Jewish leaders. My kingdom isn’t from here.”
This might be the most difficult passage of scripture to get our heads around. The Kingdom of God isn’t won by violence or coercion, it is won through the unconditional love of God that sustains and supports us no matter what.  
The cross then isn’t an act to appease a vengeful God, but a symptom of a world that solves problems through violence and not through love.
Take time today to contemplate the space between death and resurrection. Seek for G…

Forgiveness

Daily reading: Luke 23:32-38 Good Friday 
Focus passage:Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing. Luke 23:34
Sometimes we find it easier to forgive when someone asks for forgiveness, because then we get the acknowledgement that they have wronged us. But here on the cross Jesus forgives without being asked. Jesus speaks a word of forgiveness because he embodies God and it is the nature of God to forgive. Before he can ask for something for himself, or say something to a follower who may be in ear shot, he speaks to God about you and me, he says “Father, forgive them.”
Even on the cross Jesus is ministering to us. Even on the cross after being humiliated, he does not allow the mob violence and his own execution change who he is. The sins of those killing him do not weigh him down, he is not burdened, or angered, or resentful, he does not yell out to the crowd “hey, I’m innocent! This is wrong.” He does no…

Humility

Daily reading: John 13:1-19 Holy Thursday 
Focus passage:So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing. John 13:4-5
Christ who taught us to serve one another, begins the evening by bending down and tenderly cleaning off the dust from the road, washing and drying the feet of those that have been following him.
Christ seeks out, of empowers and supports even the wavering and often wrong disciples.
In the midst of a highly charged evening, when Jesus is sure that one will betray, one will deny and the others will scatter in fear, he still kneels down and washes.  
We are called even in the stress of our days, to follow the example of Christ; to seek out others, to serve one another and to do it with grace and love.
Be open to these opportunities today.When tasks pile up, or take over and become more important than oth…

Betrayal

Daily reading: John 13:21-30 Holy Wednesday 
Focus passage:After he said these things, Jesus was deeply disturbed and testified, “I assure you, one of you will betray me.”John 13:21
I am constantly aware of the vulnerability we are called to embrace in our faith community and in our closest relationships. I find that I expend a lot of energy guarding myself and yet God gently reminds me that our call is to love God and to love our neighbor and that means that we have to be willing to be vulnerable.
A mentor of mind, Rev. Herb Lynskey once posed this thought at a clergy retreat: “Judas was an answer to a prayer.” He was referring to when Jesus prayed before calling the Twelve.  I struggled with this thought because I like to vilify Judas to put him in his own box. I like to think that I would never be like him, that I would never betray a close friend. But to box him up so nicely keeps me from seeing a part of me I would rather not see. We all have the capability of being like Judas. We al…

Darkness and Light

Daily reading: John 12:20-36 Holy Tuesday 
Focus passage: Jesus replied, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light. After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.” John 12:35
So much of holy week happens in the dark. Jesus shared his last meal with his disciples under the cover of night, took them to the garden to pray in the darkness, was arrested and taken into custody all under the cover of night. He was then placed into a cell, which was most likely a hole in the ground that he was lowered into, dark and isolated. According to Luke, darkness descended upon Jerusalem at noon on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.  
As we remember the stories of Jesus’ last day this week, we hear Jesus urge us to walk in the light and not in the darkness. With the darkne…

What stinks?

Daily reading: John 11:1-44
As we enter into this holy season of Lent … take time to ponder what is it that stinks in the metaphorical refrigerator of your soul?
What is it that clings to you and binds you from living a resurrected life?
What is decomposing and breaking down, creating fertile ground for something new to grow?
Eugene Peterson beautifully translates Romans 8:12 this way:This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.
John shares this amazing story with us because we need it. In our moments of doubt, In our moments of heart break, In our moments of “come and see” In our moments of realizing something stinks.
We all get bound up by the mess in our world, yet, Jesus loves us … Jesus comes to us and weeps with us … and invites us in brining life to our death.

Come and See

Daily reading: John 11:1-44
“Where have you laid him?” “Come and see”
Come and see, the very words Jesus uses to invite curious minds and souls into his community that turns our world up-side-down into resurrection living … “Come and see” spoken almost as an invitation for Jesus to do the impossible, offering the words that perhaps they do not realize usher in yet another moment that will surprise us.
Words of invitation that came from Jesus now come from them, “come and see.”
As they approach the tomb and Jesus requests that it be opened Martha replies “Lord, the smell will be awful! He’s been dead four days.”
Something is going to stink … I can only imagine that Mary and Martha and the entire community are stuck … Death is death Why open the tomb? It’s only going to smell … Why make it worse? Why didn’t you just come when we called? Yet you chose to wait, to abide where you couldn’t help …
Grief can bring out really strange behaviors … Family strife bubbles up and over Dysfunction seems to get highl…

Death and life

Daily reading: John 11:1-44
In this earthy moment of incarnation, with tears, chest heaving, with painful inhalations, Jesus weeps and joins the community in their moment of loss.
While resurrection will come, Jesus makes space for a pause, because our world is full of death and life moments. We need to know that God is fully present in them all, not just at the celebrations, when everything is going right, When there is joy in the room, And love and light and laughter And enough good wine to keep the party going … But when we are covered in the darkness of uncertainty and death … In those life or death moments of waiting for a diagnosis in a space of what ifs Or living into the diagnosis, when the what ifs take on flesh and blood, Or in the moment of great loss; we need to know that we are not alone, We need to have the faith that the psalmist has: “where can I go from your spirit where can I flee from your presence? … If I went to heaven you would be there.If I went down to the grave, you would…

John 3:16

Daily reading: John 3:1-21
“God so loved the world…” because we are prone to perish in this world.  While some see this passage as one that speaks to the afterlife, let us not miss the beauty of John’s gospel.  He often has double meanings to his statements, if not more than just two.  The well of wisdom present here is deep and life changing.  Let us not forget, after all, we are in the midst of a life changing conversation that Jesus has with a religious leader of his time.  This passage expands our understanding to see eternal life as something that is available to us now, not only after death.  It is a new way of life found in the gracious, abundant love of God!

Prayer: God help me to love the world in the expansive, inclusive, all out way that you do.  Blow through the hardened parts of my life, and break down the areas that have become ridged.   Amen.

Wind of the Spirit

Daily reading: John 3:1-21
Nicodemus reminds us all that times we are confused or at least stumbling through or over our own preconceived notions about how God works in our world and who God is.  We all, at times, get stuck on only seeing or understanding things one way and place our world and our view points into nice little boxes. 
What Jesus is trying to explain or teach Nicodemus is that this new understanding happens not on our own, but it happens when the Spirit of God comes and blows through our preconceived notions, knocking our boxes that we place God in open and over.
Here is the visual that all El Pasoans can understand.  Jesus says that “God’s spirit blows wherever it wishes.  You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it is going.”  Even if you can’t comprehend what I am saying, try to experience it, just like you do the wind.
Since injuring my elbow I have begun hiking numerous times a week.  My dog, Ainsely, and I usually do a three hill trek that is about three miles lo…

Expanding our thinking

Daily reading: John 3:1-21
Those who have young children in the home, know that after the kids are in bed, you are able to get much more work done than when they are awake.  Night time offers for us a contrast from our day, it is a time when things seem to slow and quiet down.  It might be the time of the day that you think best, or that you take to spend time with God.
It is under the cover of night that a peculiar dialogue takes place between these two religious minds.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus because of what he has seen Jesus do and he is trying to figure out how what he is doing matches up with his own understanding of God and the words of scripture that he already knows very well.  You see Nicodemus is a teacher himself, someone who not only knows what scripture says, he also teaches it to others.  So he comes to Jesus with sincere, honest questions.  Through their dialogue, a couple of themes emerge; one is centered upon change and expanding our understanding.  We wonder alongsid…

Water and Spirit

Daily reading: John 3:1-21
Today’s passage of scripture contains one of the most well known verses in the Bible.  It is rich with imagery and concepts, comparisons and contrasts, questions and more questions.
The chapter is set into motion under the cover of night, with a Pharisee named Nicodemus seeking out Jesus because he believes that Jesus has been sent from God. 
Incarnation is all about connecting the human to the divine.  The gospel writer John bridges the cosmic with the ordinary throughout his gospel.  It is as if John is elongating the Genesis prologue by reminding us that creation is infused with God’s presence.  The imagery of wind or Spirit that brooded over the watery chaos of creation continues to manifest itself through the beginning of John’s gospel. In the first chapter, John the Baptist is baptizing people with water in the Jordan River.  In chapter two, Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding at Cana and in chapter three, water and the Spirit are linked and set i…

Incarnation matters

Daily reading: John 2:13-25
Through the gospel writer John, we realize that God is indeed present in the ordinary, flesh and blood moments of life, reminding us that incarnation matters.  It is what sets us apart from our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters.  We actually believe that God desired to be one of us.  We believe that God desires to dwell in and among us. We witness to the deep love God has for all of creation not just with our words, but also through our bodies with our actions.  We are called to embody it, to seek out and embody grace, love, forgiveness, and justice because Christ has embodied it for you and for me.  Christ has come to show us a new way of living, one that pulls us out of systems and ways that allow us to remain in darkness and sin. Christ teaches us that God isn’t confined by bricks and mortar.  God is present out in our world and it is up to us to willingly and consciously seek God out.  We are called to go and to partner with others in God’s work in ou…