stones in the water

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  1. The Comforter

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    John 14: 15-21; 05212017; 6 Easter 

    Early on in my career as a police officer, I was on my way to a call when I heard what no cop ever wants to hear.  Two officers were being dispatched to my own address at one o’clock in the morning!  The dispatcher informed the officers that some guy was banging on our front door, and yelling at the top of his voice!  I reached over to grab the radio, intending to tell the dispatcher I was heading for my home.  But after a few deep breaths, I let go of the radio and sat back in my seat.

    Our house was several miles away, on the far side of the city.  Even with lights and siren, the call would likely be resolved by the time I got there.  My wife at the time was home with our daughter Jenni, who at that time was just an infant.  I knew she wouldn’t open the door until the officers got there.

    As the adrenaline began to recede, I began to think a little more calmly.  I knew the two officers who’d gotten the call and I knew they were competent officers.  They’d been classmates of mine, at the police academy. I’d been on calls with them, and I knew they were both of good character.  I also knew they would treat my family in the same way that they’d treat their own.  I knew they would even risk their lives, if need be, to protect my family.  And so, I slowly relaxed and focused on the call that I’d been given.  I knew the folks that I’d be assisting deserved the same care as my own family.

    As things worked out, the guy who’d been banging on our door had done way too much partying.  He actually lived just a few houses down from us, and he thought his wife had locked him out!  All his hollering and banging on the door was to get his wife’s attention, so that she’d unlock the door.  The two officers later told me the guy’s wife was none too pleased to see him.  He’d had way too many beverages and she said she’d just as soon that he’d sleep outside!

    Character these days is leaving much to be desired.  And so, in those times when we find folks of good character, we find that we’re attracted to it.  I believe it’s always been that way, even back in Jesus’ day.  People with good character tend to be good leaders.  You get a sense that they’re not just in it for the money or just in it for themselves.  They are in it for the long run, because they want to make things better.

    In our story from John’s Gospel, there are great changes coming.  Jesus will soon be crucified, and the community of early Christians will be without their leader.  Some of those folks will gradually wander off.  The Apostles’ time as leaders will be coming to an end.  How will the young church adapt to the loss of Jesus and find a way to pass on his teachings and traditions?

    Jesus knows, of course, that he’ll soon be leaving.  He’s made no secret of how his life will end.  He’s taught the disciples many things, but he knows they’re still unstable.  And so he promises to send someone to help in their transition.  He tells them that he’ll send them an Advocate, a Comforter to be with them.

    The Greek word those two words are translated from is “Paracletos”, or more simply, the Paraclete.  The word “Paraclete” is translated to be a counselor or comforter, in terms of wisdom.  But it also can be translated to mean an Advocate, that is, one with a legal interest.  In that sense, the Advocate is a witness, and testifies for those who find themselves on trial.[i]

    Up to this point in the story, Jesus has been the disciples’ Advocate.  But soon he will be leaving them, and going to the Father.  Jesus knows that he must leave, but he will not leave them helpless.  He promises to send another Advocate, a witness for them.

    The Advocate that Jesus sends them will guide the Christian community into the future.  And so, Jesus models an important quality of a leader with good character; an effective leader prepares his or her people to successfully make it through times of transition.

    Think of all the great characters that were a part of Jesus’ community.  Mary Magdalene, the Beloved Disciple, Peter, whose Letter we heard a portion of today; Mary and Martha, Matthew, and of course old doubting Thomas.  But none of them would be around to teach the next generation.  And so Jesus had a strategy to address the dearth of leaders.  He sent the Comforter, the Advocate, to help the young church hold together.  Or as Jesus said, “teaching them all these words that I have given you.”

    It’s really amazing when you think about it.  Jesus sent the Advocate over two thousand years ago.  And yet the Advocate still walks with us, assisting us in discerning the teachings of the church.  The Advocate is speaking truth to the churches of all nations.  As the United Church of Christ continues to proclaim, “God is still speaking”.

    Of course, it isn’t any secret why we’re hearing this lesson now.  We’re just a few short weeks from the Day of Pentecost. Through the years we have come to call the Advocate “the Holy Spirit.”  The Advocate is an integral part of the Holy Trinity.  Whatever we decide to call it, the Comforter still brings Jesus’ teachings into the hearts and minds of Christians.

    With this gift, Jesus was preparing his disciples for the tough times that lay ahead. He was about to ascend to the Father and he would not leave his people on their own.  Nor will he leave each of us to wander through this world by ourselves.  He is always with us, through the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

    It’s been said that in the year of our Lord, 1520, the great Spanish Sea Captain,  Ferdinand Magellan, battled for an entire year to find a passage around South America.  At the very southern tip of the continent, in its icy waters, he encountered some of the worst weather found anywhere on earth.  He battled raging seas, towering ice floes, not to mention a mutinous crew.   When he finally made his way through those treacherous waters which still bear his name, the Straits of Magellan), he entered into a great body of water that lay to the west.  As he and his men lifted their faces up towards heaven and prayed their thanks to God, Magellan named the new ocean “The Peaceful One”, that we know as the Pacific Ocean.[ii]

    As we consider John’s Gospel words this morning, we know that Jesus wants to bring us comfort, and to know God’s peace.  It’s his plan to guide us on the stormy voyage, and to steer us to a place where we can find his peace.  May his Spirit and his teaching fill us with his grace.  May we learn to hear his words, and the peace that dwells beneath them.  As Jesus said to his disciples, Did Jesus not say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, and believe also in me.”

    [i] Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Conversations with Scriptur:  The Gospel of John, (New York City, NY: Morehouse Publishing. 2007), pg75.

    [ii] Lee Griess, “A Place of Peace”, Illustration, https://www.sermons.com/sermon/a-place-of-peace/1339023, accessed 05202017.

  2. Learning Boundaries

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    1 Peter 2: 2-10; 05142017; 5 Easter

    I was looking at my backyard flower garden this past week, and noticed that someone had been knawing on some flowers.  I also saw that new holes had appeared in my garden.  Since we have a reasonably secure wooden fence, the suspect list quickly dwindled down to our three sorry looking Chihuahuas.  I was able to rule Paco out, because he’s too old and lazy to be interested in digging.  And so the spotlight quickly fell on BB and Shelley.

    My eyes, of course, went immediately to Shelley.  She is, what we used to call, a juvenile delinquent.  If there’s a dog problem, she’s usually in the midst of it.  And she’s known to be into thievery, since she often steals Cookie’s ice cream-laced morning coffee.  You might say Shelley has got an allergy to boundaries.  And though I didn’t appreciate her thinning out my flowers, she’s just too darn cute to stay angry with for long.

    And, I have to admit that Shelley has learned from me the fine art of gardening.  Every Spring, she watches with great interest as I prepare the garden.  She carefully studies how I turn the dirt over with my shovel, and she looks on with interest as I gather up each springtime’s crop of rocks.  I can almost hear her dog brain processing as she watches, thinking, “Hey, I can help my Dad with that.”  What can I say, other than my loss is Home Depot’s gain.  I wonder just how many extra flowers and bushes they sell, as replacements for dog shenanigans!

    In some respects, dogs are much like humans, aren’t they?  Don’t we all want to cross those boundaries and jump the fences, just because we’re not supposed to?  Isn’t that what our moms were so good at, making sure we didn’t overstep our boundaries and get ourselves in hot water?  Those signs that read “stay out” and “off limits” and “no trespassing” are surely meant for others, aren’t they?  I wish I had a dollar for every person I arrested back in the day, who said, “But officer, I didn’t see the sign.”

    I didn’t see the sign.  For us as Christians, Jesus is the sign.  He kind of lets us know where we shouldn’t go.  And when we decide, for whatever reason, to ignore what Christ is saying, what is it that he always does?  Why, he forgives us our trespasses!  Of course, there’s an addendum to his forgiving us; we are also called to forgive those who trespass against us.  We sometimes ignore that second part, for whatever reason.

    It takes some work to be a Christian.  We can say we are a Christian, but as the old saying goes, talk is cheap.  It’s in the doing, that we find ourselves most challenged.  It was just as true in the First Century, as it is today.  We hear that in our lesson from the words of Peter’s Letter.

    Most scholars agree that this letter was actually written by the St. Peter.  Yes, the same crusty old St Peter, for whom the cock crowed those three times.  His letter was written well after the death of Jesus and it addressed the situation that Peter then was facing.  Basically, he was dealing with a lot of baby Christians.  What could he tell them so that they might grow deeper in their faith?

    Within the first two chapters of Peter’s Letter are what scholars refer to as the “Five Imperatives.”[i]  Or more simply put, the five things that Peter felt a Christian must learn to grow strong into their faith.  It was not an easy time to be a Christian.  They weren’t the Romans favorite people, nor were they favorites of the Jews.

    Peter began his Imperatives with a call to action:  “Prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.”  Or to paraphrase, in faith, look forward to Christ’s coming again in glory.[ii]

    But how should they live, as Christians amongst the many pagans that surrounded them?  That was Peter’s second message.  “As he who has called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”   In other words, learn to live your life as God’s servant.[iii]

    The third message was even harder.  Peter told them, “If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.”  Or perhaps, serve God with your soul, heart and mind, rather than fearing the dominant culture around you.[iv]

    The fourth Imperative was directed at the Christians’ relationship with one another.  “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.”  Another tough one; Love one another unselfishly, as you care for your brothers and sisters in Christ.[v]

    And the fifth imperative, leading to spiritual growth:  “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, so that by it you grow into salvation.”  Or perhaps, find nourishment in Christ’s spirit, so that may grow as Christians.[vi]

    As you think about these words, they are just as relevant today as they were in Peter’s Day.  They are, in a sense, a catechism of the faith.  Peter was building to a higher plane, as he would explain in detail in his letter, and as he did he was speaking to all Christians, in all times and places:  “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals, yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

    Magnificent words from brash old Peter, once a man of many doubts.  What was it that turned this extroverted fisherman into such a well-spoken prophet?  Perhaps it was to walk within the boundaries, and to drink the spiritual milk, and to gives one’s life, as best one can, to the service of Jesus Christ and to his church.

    [i] M. Eugene Boring, “The First Letter of Peter”, The New Oxford Annotated Bible:  New  Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, College Edition, Michael D Coogan, Editor, (New York City, NY: Oxford University  Press, 210), pgs. 2127-2128.

    [ii] Ibid, pgs. 2127-2128.

    [iii] Ibid, pg. 2128.

    [iv] Ibid, pg. 2128.

     

    [v] Ibid, pg. 2138.

    [vi] Ibid, pg. 2138.

  3. Lambs of God

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    John 10: 1-10; 05072017; 4 Easter

    Over the years, I’ve read a number of Bible commentaries and such concerning the behavior of sheep.  I have to tell you, I’ve been surprised at how much these writings can vary.  Some writers have portrayed the sheep as relatively intelligent animals, each contributing to the strength of the flock.  On the other hand, other writers have considered them to be rather mangy, and dumber than the proverbial rock.

    That second option was the opinion of one of my seminary professors, who’d been raised on a large farm in Nebraska.  In his scholarly opinion, Jesus had sort of dissed us as humans, when he metaphorically diagnosed us as sheep.  I can’t remember the exact words that the good professor used anymore, but I do remember the gist of it.  The good teacher’s view was that Jesus was implying we were pretty much incapable of looking after ourselves.

    As I’ve read other opinions about this topic over the years, I’ve sometimes wondered if there are actually two kinds of sheep.  Perhaps those praiseworthy sheep that some writers have cited are a more refined and intelligent breed. I haven’t found any evidence that such might be true, but then again, I’ve never raised sheep.

    In our Gospel story this morning, Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the Good Shepherd.”  In this rather short sentence, there are a couple of obvious lessons.  The first is that if Jesus is indeed the Good Shepherd, then there must a Bad Shepherd or two out there.  And the second is that Jesus’s sheep know the sound of his voice.  When he calls them, the sheep follow him, because they know the sound of his voice.  They know the sound of his voice.

    I’ve read some accounts of sheep in their folds, mixed in with the flocks of other shepherds.  And I’ve heard that it’s true that the sheep can actually discern the voice of their own shepherds.  When each shepherd calls out to his or her sheep, they will follow them out of the fold.  But I’ve also read that sheep will at times follow the wrong shepherd if the animal is sick or confused.  Since I’ve never raised sheep, I can’t witness to that, but it sure seems to have been apparent to Jesus.

    Like most of you, I suppose, I’ve been following the healthcare debate that’s been dominating the news.   I’ve also have been waiting for a press release from those pastors who attended the National Prayer Breakfast, along with President Trump.  I haven’t seen or heard much, I’m sorry to say, given what’s proposed in the bill.  Perhaps there’ll be resurgence in the faith healing business, for who have the means to afford it.

    It’s had me thinking about benevolence this past week, as I’ve been following all the discussions.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve been trying to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice coming out of D.C., as the House health care bill is debated.

    As I’ve listened, I’ve been remembering a number of folks who have come to St. Nick’s for benevolence.  Many of them are dealing with medical issues, and are ill in some way.  Without insurance, the little money they have to give to a clinic is usually spent on their kids.

    Most of the adults have what we now call “preexisting conditions.”  And, since their options are limited, many go to the ER when they need to be treated.  It appears that many of our elected officials no longer want to cover those costs.

    This was not a partisan issue in the early days of the church.  Jesus was always healing somebody as he traveled around, and he taught his disciples to do healings too.  If we want to understand pre-existing conditions in Jesus day, we just need to read a few of those stories, and see what the poor were enduring.

    Somewhere in the midst of it all, we must discern the Good Shepherd’s voice.  As Christians, we’ve been called to be healers and to help to strengthen Christ’s flock.  Jesus made it a point to address the healing of others, whoever they happened to be.  If he thought it important enough to teach to his disciples, than shouldn’t we?

    How hard it is at times, to hear our Shepherd’s voice.  We have to take the time to do so, for we all need his healing grace.  It’s getting hard for me to hear Christ’s voice right now, as our elected leaders speak.   Even in the midst of what’s been called a prayerful Christian breakfast.

    Sometimes it’s tempting to want to turn away.  After all, we don’t really know the folks, who are getting pushed away.  But we must learn from David, a man who knew deep down in his heart, that he could easily be there too.  And so he prayed to the only one who could light his way:  “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

    If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in life, it’s that things go a whole lot better when I’m hearing Jesus.  And I do I admit that there’s been times when I really didn’t listen.  I have some scars and bruises that I’ve collected, following bad shepherds.  Some of them could talk real good, and they made a lot of promises.  Like, “It won’t hurt you to have some fun, and do some wild living.”  Perhaps some of you are in that place right now, and are doing some repentant thinking.

    For me, it all came down to learning the shepherd’s voice.  I heard it loud and clear one day, and I really began to listen.  There are days that I can hear his voice, and some days when I can’t find it.  But there’s nothing on earth like his voice, and you will know it when you hear it.

    So don’t despair, his voice is always there, filled with loving patience.  He calls his sheep by name and then he leads them out.  And when he has brought them out, he walks ahead of them.  The sheep come out and follow him because they know his voice.  May we each hear Jesus’ voice today, and receive abundant life.

  4. Share the Stories

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    Luke 24; 13-35; 3 Easter; 04302017

    While thinking about our Sunday lessons this week, I was remembering my very first day at Nashotah House seminary.  As I unpacked my stuff that day, it came to me that everything I’d done for the past two years had been focused on getting to the room I now was standing in.  It occurred to me that I had been dealing with getting there.  As I thought about that, I realized that now I had to deal with three years of just being there.  It was a bit overwhelming, and I decided to let the unpacking go for a while, and to take a long walk.  Back in those days, Nashotah House was still surrounded by forests and farms, so walking was a pleasant thing to do.

    But as I walked along the deserted road, I was filled with much anxiety.  I considered all those things I’d given up, so that I could go to seminary.  What if I had presumed too much and I really wasn’t ready?  Three years was a very long time to be without a job, and to be away from my family.

    So went my walk, as I wrestled with my anxiety.  And then, I felt God’s calming presence, deep within me.  I heard this voice, which said in no uncertain terms, “Stop the whining!”  As I processed that remark, there came another; a gentler voice that said, “You’re where you’re supposed to be.  Do you really think that I don’t know what I’m doing?”  Well, after that, I meekly walked back to my room and continued with my unpacking.

    I suppose that we all have some kind of road stories.  There a number of them in the scriptures.  Perhaps that’s why this morning’s Gospel story is loved by so many of God’s people.  We can all identify with the two disciples wanting to get out of Dodge.  But even more so, we can identify with being found by Jesus.

    After two thousand years, we still don’t know where “Emmaus” was.  Its location has been passionately debated for over twenty centuries.  The great Jewish historian Josephus wrote this, just a few years after the death of Jesus:  “Now Emmaus, if it be interpreted, may be rendered `a warm bath’ for therein is a spring of warm water useful for healing.” [i] We know that Josephus was referring to the hot spring near Tiberius, on the Sea of Galilee, seventy-five miles north of Jerusalem.  It is doubtful that the two disciples would be seeking shelter in a Roman city, after the hoopla in Jerusalem.  But no one knows where Emmaus was, and it really doesn’t matter.  The story would be just as powerful, if the disciples had been walking on their way to Midland.

    The story takes place three days after Easter, and is connected to what will occur on the Day of Pentecost, the Sunday of June 4th this year.  If you were here last week, you may remember how Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into his disciples.  That was impressive, but as the saying goes, there was a lot more where that came from.  Jesus was not the kind of man who abandoned his disciples, and he wasn’t above going after the lambs who’d wandered off.  The shepherd wanted his flock all together in Jerusalem, on the Day of Pentecost.

    Now it appeared that the two disciples in Luke’s story had had enough anxiety.  We have the name of one disciple, Cleopas, but the other was unnamed.  Given the number of female disciples who followed Jesus, the mysterious disciple could easily have been a woman.  They were walking to Emmaus, wherever it might have been.  Perhaps they were thinking of those relaxing hot springs, and washing off the dust.  As they walked, along came Jesus, incognito, and he walked along with them.  They told Jesus what they’d seen and heard, back in Jerusalem.  Jesus let them talk, sand to process their anxiety.  They were Jewish Christians, but they hadn’t yet connected that the Scriptures prophesized both the arrival, and the acts of Jesus.  And so they’d understand all that, Jesus interpreted the Scriptures.

    Now some of you might be thinking, hmmm, first Jesus interprets the scriptures about himself, and then at dinner, he breaks the bread.  That sounds a whole lot like our Sunday Eucharist, doesn’t it?  Isn’t it amazing that we’re doing both those things this Sunday morning after two thousand years?

    The disciples are intrigued by him, and they ask him to stay for dinner.  Jesus does so, but only for a while.  He breaks the bread, and we’re told their eyes were opened and they knew who Jesus was.  Jesus immediately disappears, perhaps on his way to round up some more of his stray disciples.  And the two disciples speak to those wondrous words:  “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”   They left that very moment and skedaddled back to Jerusalem.  And, we’re told they exchanged Jesus stories with the disciples that they met there.

    Perhaps we might consider anew what it was that Jesus did, when he died upon the cross.  How did Paul phrase it in his Second Letter to the Corinthians?  So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:  everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  There is a new creation, made possible through the death of Jesus Christ.  God set things right forever, even if we as his disciples, sometimes mess things up.  Through the actions of our Sunday liturgy, we are each made participants in God’s most holy plan.  Through the blood of Jesus, we each help make all things new.

    This week, I would ask you to pray about your own faith stories.  The disciples, when they came to know their faith, couldn’t wait to tell their stories.  Even our Sunday liturgy itself is a spoken sacred story.  Our story mingles with the stories of those gone on to glory.  Do not think that death has the power to end our stories.  For Christ has triumphed over death, and we are now eternal members of his wondrous story.  Even if he has to track us down on some road that we’ve escaped on.

    [i] http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/emmaus/words from Josephus (trans), accessed 04292017.

  5. You Send Me

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    John 20: 19-31; 2 Easter; 04232017

    I was thinking that I should have asked Darryl to have the choir sing “Darling, you send me” this morning.  It’s been sixty years since Sam Cooke wrote that tune, but some songs are timeless, aren’t they?  And if our Gospel story has a theme today, it is, Darling, you send me.[i]

    I know there are times when we really don’t want Christ to send us.  We wish that Jesus would just take care of things himself.  If he’d just take care of all the problems in the world, than we wouldn’t have to bother.  We could happily croon, Lord, you don’t need to send me, rather than the other way around.

    The problem with that approach is that we would never become mature.   We would never learn our own potential, because we never would have been challenged.  Jesus really wants all of us to be the very best that we can be.  You might say that Jesus loves to watch us grow.

    Last Sunday, we heard about Mary Magdalene clinging with all her might to Jesus.  Sometimes we all need to do that, but there’s a big old world out there.  And so Jesus gently broke free from her grasp, and gave her a message to deliver to the disciples.  Don’t miss how radical it was, when Mary said to them, “I’ve have seen the Lord!”  A woman full of courage was sent to speak the Word to a frightened group of menfolk.

    We know that Mary did an awesome job, with the message she was sent with.    Jesus had told Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples where to gather, and they all did, except, of course, for Thomas.  Granted, they were locked down and hiding out, in a room all by themselves; sometimes fear makes us do such things when we’re running low on courage.

    Mary might have tried to hang a bit tighter on to Jesus, and who here would have blamed her?  But like young birds in a nest, we all need to test our wings and fly where Jesus sends us.  And so it was for the frightened menfolk, as they huddled in that room.  Soon, they would have to test their wings, wherever the Lord might send them.

    For some of these ancient souls, we are left with only legends of where they had been sent to.  But go they did, to wherever it might have been that Jesus chose to send them.  Perhaps Jesus was familiar with that venerable old saying:  “A rolling stone gathers no moss.”  And when you think about it, he had just rolled a very large stone from the cave he was interred in.

    No doubt the disciples were stunned when Jesus suddenly appeared in their locked-down room.  When folks are stunned, they often forget to breathe.  The brain slows down, as one tries to make sense of what it is that’s happening.  We lose our so-called our comfort zone while our brain is rebooting.  The disciples might have thought, “Now that was a neat trick, how in the heck did he just do that?”   Evidently, Jesus didn’t feel the need to explain himself; he just showed them all his wounds and said, “Peace be with you.”

    One thing we can say about Jesus; he has great sense of timing.  Knowing that Thomas is truant, Jesus holds off on his sending.  He lets the disciples track down Thomas, so he can send them all together.  When he revisits the disciple’s room, this time they’re all there to greet him.  And, it’s clear that Jesus has their undivided attention.

    Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  The disciples now have their traveling orders, but they’re still a bit short of the Spirit.

    Jesus has an app for that.  He breathes on them all and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  We tend to gloss over these words as the focus is on Thomas.  But the sending of the twelve has already taken place.  And, it’s just a hint of what’s to come, on the Day of Pentecost.

    It’s in this sense that Christ intends to send us.  He wants to send us with his words to speak, as he fills us with his Spirit.  He wants us all to trust in him, as he readies us for our sending.  He knows that we grow in strength of Spirit, when we focus on his sending.  And he knows that more folks are brought to know him as a product of our sending.

    As I speak these words to you today, the sharpened sabers of the world are rattling once again.  Armies and such are ramping up, as is the call for soldiers.  Once again, we hear the talk of war in the midst of the Easter season.   We pray for peace, but we wonder, where is Jesus?  Like Thomas, we want to know that Jesus is really with us.  As the drums of war increase, it is important becomes more important to recall exactly why he sends us.  We are called to do his work of peace, here where we’ve been planted.

    If we take the time to look around, we can discern his presence.  We can find him in the painted West Texas sunsets, in the colors of his sky.  We can him find him in the springtime flowers, and feel his breath upon the wind.  We can meet him in the hungry faces that we see out on the sidewalks and the streets.  We can know him in the eyes of children, who know not the sin of greed.  We can find him in one another, as we lift our hearts and pray.  We can find him in the hymns we sing, and in the bread and wine.

    Christ’s spirit fills this church, just as his spirit fills our souls.  It is he who wants to send us to those who need him most.  And if by chance this morning, you sense his breathe upon your face, you might feel the need to croon Sam Cooke’s words of praise.  “Darlin, you send me.”  Lord, we thank you for your grace.

    [i] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/samcooke/yousendme.html, accessed 04/22/2017.

  6. A Part of Jesus’ Family

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    John 20: 1-18; Easter Sunday; 04162017

    I want to welcome all of you who are visiting with us this morning.  We are blessed to have you here with us, on this glorious Easter Sunday!

    Easter is, amongst other things, a celebration of many families.  As we heard in our Gospel story this morning, Jesus was really into family.  Even as he hung upon the Cross, Jesus arranged for the disciple whom he loved to take care of his mother Mary, after his impending death upon the Cross.

    Perhaps you remember the story.  Jesus had been crucified, and was nearing his death upon the Cross.  His mother Mary, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and two other women were standing at the foot of the Cross, no doubt praying for God’s mercy.  Jesus looked at his mother, and the disciple whom he loved, and said to Mary, “Woman, here is your son.”  Jesus then looked at the disciple, and said, “Here is your mother.”  John tells us from that moment on, the disciple whom Jesus loved, took care of Mary in his home, just like she was his own mother.  Jesus made sure to take care of his family before he died on the Cross.  But how extensive, we might ask ourselves, is Jesus’ family?  Whom might we consider to be members of Jesus extended family?

    Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, in her book, Conversations with Scripture: The Gospel of John, addresses these questions.  She writes: “With these words Jesus establishes a new kindred relationship between his own mother and the disciple.  Jesus births a new symbolic family to continue after his return to the Father.  All disciples of Jesus can call God their Father, as Mary Magdalene can call Jesus’ mother their own mother, and call each other brothers and sisters.”[i]  Or in other words, each of us here today are members of Jesus’ family.

    In our Gospel story, we heard of Mary Magdalene visiting Jesus’ tomb, early on Easter morning.  She is startled to find the tomb open, with the great stone rolled back.  She fears that Jesus’ body has been taken, perhaps by grave robbers, or even worse.  Grave robbing was a serious issue back in the days of Jesus; archeologists have recovered a document signed by the Roman Emperor Claudius, prohibiting tampering with tombs.

    Mary runs and tells Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, what it is she’s discovered.  The two disciples race to the tomb, fulfilling the ancient Jewish requirement of two male witnesses who can testify to what’s happened.  They each enter the tomb, though not together, and each sees that Christ’s body isn’t there.  All that remains are the funeral cloths of Jesus.

    Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb crying, and in mourning.  A man appears, whom she assumes to be the gardener.  The man says to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for?”  She replies, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  She then hears the voice that she knows to be her Savior’s.   “Mary!” Jesus says, calling her by name.  Mary then grabs him, and clings desperately to Jesus.

    Very few of the disciples are known to have touched Jesus.  Perhaps the disciple that Jesus loved, while reclining next to Jesus a few days earlier, as they all dined at the Last Supper.  And, of course, beloved Thomas, the patron saint of all of us who’ve doubted.  But Mary Magdalene was allowed to lay her hands on Jesus, and for that she’s been long-honored.  But it was to be short-lived, because Jesus hadn’t yet ascended to his Father.

    Notice that Jesus didn’t ascend to heaven, until he took care of his family.  He passed on a message for Mary Magdalene to carry.  Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene faithfully passed on those words to Jesus’ disciples, greeting them and saying, “I have seen the Lord”.  

    The words received by Mary, we might think of as the DNA of the early Christian Church.  We carry that very same DNA, that’s been passed on down to us.

    But of course, you know the ins and outs of families.  We don’t always get along, and that too, is a part of the Christian family story.  We don’t always love our neighbors as ourselves, and so I’d thought I’d share this story.

    There was a little boy with a nasty temper.  One day, his father had had enough, and gave him a bag of nails and a hammer.  He told the boy that every time he lost his temper, he would have to hammer a nail into the backside of their fence.

    That first day, the boy drove thirty-seven nails into the fence.  But over the next few weeks, he slowly learned to control his temper.  The number of nails he had to pound gradually dwindled away.  He learned that it was a whole lot easier to hold his temper, than it was to hammer all those nails into the fence.

    The day finally came, when the boy controlled his temper.  He told his father, and his father suggested the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.  The days passed by, and soon the boy could tell his father that all the nails were gone.

    The father led his son over to the fence.  He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at all the holes you’ve made in the fence.  The fence will never be the same, for when you speak in anger, you leave a scar much like this one.  You can wound another person, put a sword into a person, and then you can draw it out.  It won’t matter how many times you say you’re sorry, for the wound remains, even though it’s scarred over.

    The boy realized the power of what his father’s words had shown him. With wet eyes, he slowly looked up at his father.  The boy said, “Father, I hope you can forgive me for the holes I put in you.”  “Of course, I can”, the father said.  “We are family and I could not love you more.”[ii]

    May you each be blessed on this Day of Easter Sunday.  And may you that you are all part of Jesus’ family.

    For, whatever wounds you may have caused, the Lord Jesus still loves y

    [i] Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, “Conversations With Scripture:  The Gospel of John, Frederick W. Smith, Series Editor, (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 2007), pg.73.  Much of this sermon was inspired by Chapter 5, “The Beloved Community: Leadership among the Disciples whom Jesus Loved.”, pgs. 65-78.

    [ii]https://sermons.com/sermon/what-anger-leaves-behind/1477257, ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc., ChristianGlobe Illustrations, by Brett Blair, accessed  04/13/ 2017.

     

  7. Defining Good Friday

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    John 18: 1-19:42; Good Friday; 04142017

    The past couple of weeks, I’ve been pondering why there is a “good” in Good Friday.  Nothing that I would call “good” really happens on Good Friday in the chain of events.  In fact, one could easily call it Bad Friday.  I have no recollection from my seminary years, learning why it was called good, other than knowing it’s been called Good Friday for centuries.  Listening to the Gospel of John today, the exact opposite comes to mind.

    At our clergy group on Monday, I decided to play “stump the clergy.”  Three different faith traditions were represented, so I figured one of them would know.  Not!  No one could solve this cipher for me.  Even my Spiritual Director was unable to help me.  That old song kept running through my head, “Can I get a Witness?”

    Finally, I contacted that penultimate source of information, namely Googling the Internet.  I learned that there is some disagreement about the source of Good Friday, but there are three distinct schools of thought.  The first of the three, is that it is called Good Friday, well, because many Christians believe it is good.  This belief comes from the fact that it is the anniversary of Christ’s death upon the Cross, which freed them from their sins, and led to the great Celebration of Easter.  There is certainly something to be said for this theory, since many people agree with it, but alas, it is not where the “Good” comes from.[i]

    The second school of thought is that the “Good” derives from an older linguistic term, “God’s Friday.”  Though attested by such sources as Wikipedia, based on an earlier entry in The Catholic Encyclopedia from the early 1900’s, and from that bastion of scholarly knowledge, the Huffington Post, scholars have discerned no etymological evidence that such an evolution of words exists.  There has been some scholarly conjecture that this confusion has resulted from the theory that the words God and good are somehow connected.  Evidently, this argument was made based on a German mistranslation, confusing Sorrowful Friday with Good Friday.  Now I could buy sorrowful Friday, but there’s another wrinkle in the story.[ii]

    The third school of thought is supported by no less an authority than the Oxford English Dictionary.  It is based on an earlier definition of the word “good”, which at one time meant “holy”.  In other languages, it was also translated as Sacred Friday and Passion Friday, indicating a common linguistic ancestry with those other cultures.  As a side note, I learned that the Oxford English Dictionary also mentions there was once a “Good Wednesday”, which we now know as Holy Wednesday, the Wednesday before Easter.[iii]

    So, there you have it, at least one guy’s opinion.  I have to admit, I find the term Holy Friday more liturgically satisfying than the current descriptor, Good Friday.  But I doubt that anyone is going to ask for my opinion anytime soon.

    We are left, then, with the words we heard from John’s Gospel.  And we all must struggle with this thing we call death.  Is death the final stop on this thing we call living, or is perhaps just another stop on a much longer journey?  The answers to that question have been many and varied, and even Jesus’ own disciples thought that Jesus’s death had brought an end to the story.

    Like the disciples, we find ourselves today on the edge of a very deep chasm.  We believe we know the end of the story, and indeed, things will have changed by this time on Sunday.  But today, there is mostly darkness and questions.  And there is a deep-seated fear of the darkness and ancient things long buried there.  Don’t think because we’re civilized that we’ve outgrown those ancient stories.  The memories still lie hidden within us, at times ringing the alarm bells of some totally unwelcome invasion.  We know these things as DNA from our ancestors, in the same way we know the words of that ancient spell, “ring around the rosy, pockets full of posies, ashes, ashes, all fall down.”

    Jesus knew well the darkness.  He knew it and he entered into it.  Perhaps not totally willingly, but surely he did it obediently.  He did so, because he had been instructed to by his Father.  And at times we will each be called to enter into the darkness, called by one ancient writer, “The dark night of the soul”.  And though we might sometimes fear the things that we find there, the light, as John described it, shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  On this day of Holy Friday, the light has certainly faltered, but the darkness has not extinguished it.  We pray once again, for the miracle that God has given us.

    Perhaps we might ponder on this day, the prophetic words written by Isaiah.  “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised and we held him of no account.  Surely, he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole and by his bruises we are healed.”  And so the story begs the question:  on this Holy Friday, what do you believe?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [i]Forest Wickman, “Why is Good Friday is called Good Friday?” Post originally published in 2014, reprinted; accessed April 11, 2017.  http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/04/18/why_is_good_friday_called_good_friday_the_etymology_and_origins_of_the_holiday.html,

    [ii] Ibid.

    [iii] Ibid.

  8. Learning a Second Language

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    Matt 26: 14-27: 66; Palm Sun; 04092017

    Perhaps you’ve heard the story about a mother mouse who felt it was time to introduce her children to the larger world.  So, she gathered her brood of little mice together and set out for a walk through the house they lived in.
    They scurried down the hall and made a turn to the right.  They went down a little further and made another turn to the right.  Then, quite by surprise, they came upon the family’s cat, dozing in the sunlight.  The mother mouse was scared, but she didn’t give in to her fright.  She crept forward ever so slowly.  Just as she was about to get past the cat, however, the cat’s eyes popped open and she raised her paw.  What would the mother mouse do?

    Well, right before the cat’s paw came down, the mother mouse looked the cat right in the face and began barking like a dog. The cat was so frightened that it jumped to its feet and ran away!  Then the mother mouse gave her kids an important lesson.  “Children,” she said, “sometimes it’s good to know a second language!”[i]

    Christianity over the centuries has, in many ways, become a second language.  Scripture tells us elsewhere, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Jesus.  Because there were no adequate words to describe such mystical truths as the Trinity and such, early Christians had to develop a second language.  The more fluent we become in the Christian language, the more we come to understand what theology is and how it applies to us.  Holy Week came to be because the everyday words of people were inadequate to describe the mysteries taking place.  One of the first books I purchased when I went to seminary was a book of theological definitions because I didn’t speak the Christian language.

    Palm Sunday is the traditional entry into Holy Week.  On the face of things, it’s seems a rather pedestrian story.  A man is considered dangerous by the ruling authorities, is rounded up and eliminated.  Those words are easily understood in practically any language.  Indeed, it is a common story line in the history of humanity.

    But this man is different.  He’s a man, but he’s also something else.  And that something else cannot be easily defined by the words of our common language.  The words can only point us to mysteries we cannot see.

    In our story, Jesus is on the most difficult of missions.  He knows exactly what it is he’ll be facing.  He’s told his disciples more than once what was going to happen.  Jesus hadn’t minced words as the scriptures tell us, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”  Whether the disciples understood all that is of course, another story.  But Jesus surely knew, and he carried that weight of knowing until his brutal death.

    Jesus knew exactly where he was going.  Perhaps you’ve had that feeling of knowing that you must do something extremely difficult in your life.  Something you were deathly afraid of and didn’t want to do.  Jesus was in that moment and he sought the solace of his disciples.  But they didn’t quite speak the language yet, and of course they fell asleep.  They likely figured he’d just do a miracle or two.  Jesus would do exactly that, but not in the way the disciples expected him to do.

    Jesus, knowing what awaited him, was having trouble sleeping.  His humanity was telling him to get up and run away.  He was human, after all, and had emotions, just like you and me.  But he was also faithful to his Father, and he knew he couldn’t flee.

    As a Jew living under Roman rule, Jesus would have surely had a very vivid imagination.  He knew what awaited him, there upon the Cross.  It was common practice that the Romans crucified people upon wooden crosses, and displayed them along the busy roads as a warning against rebellion.

    No doubt, Jesus had probably known someone who had died upon a cross.  He knew what awaited him, and yet he prayed in the dark of night, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

              “Your will be done.”  Where have we heard those words before, I wonder?  Ah, yes, the Lord’s Prayer.  Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, your kingdom come, your will be done.  Your will be done.  Yikes.  What about our will be done?  Are we not the masters of our fate, made in his sacred image?

    Perhaps you get the gist of what it is that I am speaking.  Could it be that he is asking you to do something you fear to do?  The language of Christianity is the story of broken humans.  Broken people, who somehow rose to the occasion.  Souls who understood the Christian language and who both felt the fear and pain of suffering.  Through the many centuries, many men and women have heard God’s insistent call.  Often, it kept them up at night, mastering the language that they might learn to do God’s will.

    And so, the story goes, as we each learn that ancient lingo.  Each of us has been expertly woven by our Lord into the sacred story.  Each of us has been infused with a share of God’s glory.

    And so, it now comes down to us on this day we call Palm Sunday.  As we wield our palms, let us be aware we’ve all been woven into the wondrous story.  Whatever it is we are asked to do, let us do it for God’s glory.  And as we journey through Holy Week, let us hear again the story.  It is in that sacred telling that we learn to speak, and come to understand the language of God’s glory.

    [i] “It Helps to Know a Second Language”,  Illustrations for Palm Sunday, www.sermonsuite.com, accessed April 6, 2017.

  9. Cave Dwellers

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    John 11: 1-45; 04022017; 5 Lent

    Where were you when Christ first called your name?  Or perhaps the better question is, where you when you first heard Christ call your your name?  Those are very different questions, aren’t they?

    The words of our lessons this week speak powerfully to the loving grace of Jesus Christ.  In our first reading, the Prophet Ezekiel finds himself in a valley, an ancient battleground.  There are old, dry bones lying everywhere, the remains of some ancient and terrible battle.        The Lord speaks to Ezekiel, and calls on him to resurrect the warriors that so fiercely fought there.  The barrier between life and death disappears for the moment.  God speaks, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy mortal, and say to the breath:  Come from the four winds, O Breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.”  That must have been quite a moment for Ezekiel; the Lord was speaking about the Spirit coming upon the bones lying there, so that the ancient warriors would be resurrected!

    In our lesson from Romans, Paul addresses that veil of death that lies within us.  Paul writes, “But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”

    One could say that Paul was telling his followers that they needed to invite the Spirit in, rather than focusing on their flesh.  “Be in the Spirit”, he told them, “and let God come dwell in you.”  Paul wrote these words rather matter of factually, and indeed, later in his life, he would say to the Roman authorities, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?”  Now there’s a question for us to ponder, as we prepare to for the events of Holy Week.

    Of course, it’s no accident that we’re hearing these words today.  The nature of the barrier between life and death will be front and center, as we journey on through Holy Week.  Is there a barrier there that we must surmount?  Will we all rise from the dead?  Is there a heaven, and what might it look like?  Is there great hope to be found in those words from John, that Martin Luther called the Gospel in one sentence?  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”

    Ironically, the raising of Lazarus in our story from this morning’s Gospel will result in Jesus’ death.  It will be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.  That power that Jesus draws on will scare the Pharisees, and their privileged hierarchy.   And, they’ll want to kill Lazarus too, and put an end to both of them.  How strange Lazarus must have felt, to have been resurrected, and then be running for his life.

    Now Jesus had raised others from the dead, but those were in comparatively remote places.  This was in Bethany, just a couple of miles from Jerusalem.  The Pharisees were close by and had surely heard of Jesus’ arrival.  As John tells us, Lazarus and his family had many friends, many of whom had come to pay their respects to Lazarus and his family.

    Now Jesus hadn’t been in any hurry to get to Bethany.  He had told his disciples that Lazarus, in fact, wasn’t dead, but only sleeping.  In fact it was four days after Lazarus died, that Jesus finally got there.  Jewish belief at the time was that one’s soul hovered around the body for three days before it fled.  And so by waiting four days, Lazarus’s death would be a certainty.

    It’s interesting to note Jesus’s reactions to the death of his friend, Lazarus.  On the one hand, he knew what he would do, and that Lazarus would live again.  On the other hand, Jesus was moved to tears, when he saw the weeping of Mary and Martha and their friends.  It speaks to us that Jesus was indeed a human, albeit with a twist.  And despite the stench coming from the tomb, Jesus made his way towards the opening of the cave.

    Let’s think for just a moment about this cave.  I suppose that all of us have had this thing we might call a cave.  We sometimes hide in it, when we think that we’re unworthy.   It might not be a cave of stone, but I think you catch my meaning.  It’s a place we go to hide from God and all his pesky rules and regulations.  Sometimes, in fact, our caves begin to look a lot like prisons.  And though we can’t see the bars and locks, they are secure as we can make them.  It’s to those caves of ours, that Jesus comes to save us.  For there is no cave or prison or tomb ever built, that is secure against his presence.

    It should come as no surprise to us that the Pharisees had to kill him.  How could they compete against a man, able to raise the dead?    And poor Lazarus was also in their sights, because he stood alive as evidence.

    And so, the plot begins to thicken, as the events of Holy Week draw near.  My prayer this week is that you might ponder what kind of cave it is that you sometimes retreat to.  For Jesus is near to each of you, whatever you might be thinking.  And just like Lazarus, Jesus comes to wake the dead, and to remind they’re only sleeping.

     

     

     

     

     

  10. Levels of Blindness

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    John 9: 1-41; 03262017; 4 Lent

    I just have to start out by saying how much I enjoyed Deacon Tom’s reading of the Gospel this morning.  Tom, it’s good to have you back in the saddle, and you can never leave again.

    “Seeing is believing.”  How often have we heard those words before?  “I won’t believe it till I see it.”  “The proof is in the pudding.”  “Don’t pull the wool over my eyes.”  “What you see is what you get.”  The list goes on and on.  But the truth is that our eyes frequently deceive us.  One learns that quickly in policing.  Witnesses often give inaccurate descriptions.  It’s not their fault; the adrenalin in their bloodstream often distorts the senses.  It’s hard to remember details when you’re confronted with such trauma.

    Jesus wants to lead us to a different way of seeing.  We begin to see somehow, with our other senses.  Jesus makes it possible to see in the midst of darkness.  Or more accurately perhaps, he teaches us to see despite the darkness.  In the words of the great John Newton hymn, we are blind but now we see.

    Real seeing changes us.  We see people differently.  We begin to see those needy folks around us.  We begin to see the pain and sorrow in their lives.  We begin to realize that we’re really not that different from them, because we share a common pain.  We stop pretending that we’ve got it all together.  We become what Carl Jung first called, “a wounded healer”.[i]  The writer Henri Nouwen borrowed that phrase and used it for his book, “The Wounded Healers.”

    In his book Nouwen wrote this.  “The great illusion of leadership is to think that man or woman can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”[ii]   Well, we know all about the desert here in Midland, and I know that many of you have been there.

    In his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “Sleeper, awake!  Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon you.”  Not that he will necessarily relieve your pain, but he will walk the journey with you.  And if there is anything we can say with certainty, it is that Christ truly understands what pain is.

    In our Gospel story, Judaism is going through a split.  The Christian faith is slowly emerging out of its Judaic traditions.  As with most splits, there is angst in both directions.  The Pharisees are concerned about maintaining their relationship with the Romans, and the Christians are worried about being ousted from both the Temple and the synagogue.  Both sides have cause to fear the repercussions of their actions.

    The Pharisees have a pretty good deal with the Romans.  They share the temple taxes, though they’re weighted towards the Romans.  On the other side, the early Judeo-Christians are worried about being exiled.  Being cut off from the Temple and the synagogue means being ousted from their family and their friends.  In the Jewish tribal structure, the loss of family contacts is a recipe for both starvation and disaster.

    Jesus walks intentionally into this complex situation.  He makes contact with a man blind from birth.  His disciples want to know who messed up, the parents or the man himself, that he became completely blind.  Jesus answers neither and sends the man to bathe in the Pool of Siloam and it is there that man regains his sight.

    This miracle gets tongues a wagging.  The former blind man, at this point, has no idea who Jesus is.  Though he can see now with his eyes, he still remains somewhat spiritually blinded.  The Pharisees try to question him, but they get no satisfaction.  And so they to go his parents’ house, to see if the blind man has tricked them.

    We might ponder for a moment what a dangerous time this was.  The Jews were bound by their laws to worship at certain times in the Temple.  To be exiled was to have to live outside the Jewish covenant.  It was to be a refugee, ostracized by one’s community.  And, there was the threat of being branded as a rebel and an instigator.  The Pharisees weren’t going to risk angering the Romans, and losing their own privileged status.  The parents of the former blind man knew all this, and they wisely danced around the questions.

    They acknowledged him as their son and confirmed that he was born blind.  But as to the particulars of the healing, they did what wise parents have done for many generations.  “Go ask him, he is of age”, they said.  “He will speak for himself.”  Their strategy worked and the parents surely breathed a big sigh of relief as they closed their door.

    At this point in the story, we might ask; who is blind and who is not?  The man tells the Pharisees, “One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see.”  The formerly blind man held his own and the Pharisees chastised at him, and then let him be.

    Blindness is a curious thing.  We can see with twenty-twenty vision and still be blind as bats.  As humans, we can train ourselves not to see those suffering around us.  It seems like it’s been a long-term human problem.  For Jesus said “He came into the world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”   How are these things possible?

    Frederich Buechner wrote this, “People are prepared for everything except for the fact that beyond the darkness of their blindness there is a great light.  They are prepared to go on breaking their backs plowing the same old field until the cows come home without seeing, until they stub their toes on it, that there is a treasure buried in that field rich enough to buy Texas. They are prepared for a God who strikes hard bargains but not for a God who gives as much for an hour’s work as for a day’s. They are prepared for a mustard-seed kingdom of God no bigger than the eye of a newt but not for the great banyan it becomes with birds in its branches singing Mozart.”[iii]

    And so, the question begs itself, on this fourth Lenten Sunday.  Take a look inside yourself-are you blind enough to see?

    [i] Wikipedia contributors, “Wounded healer,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wounded_healer&oldid=755570808 (accessed March 26, 2017).

    [ii] Henri J.M. NouwenThe Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society, (New York: Doubleday, 1979) .https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1202823-the-wounded-healer, accessed March 25, 2017.

    [iii] ttps://wwwh.sermons.com/sermon/beyond-darkness/1445620   Christian Globe Networks, Inc., Christian Globe Illustrations, by Frederick Buechner, accessed March 25, 2017.