Archive for April, 2011

John 20:1-18

“Run and Tell”

  1. Way In


Sentences of scripture

He is not here, for he has been raised (Matthew)

When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back (Mark)

Why do you look for the living among the dead? (Luke)

Traditional greeting: The Lord is risen. He is risen, indeed.

I want to thank you all for keeping the Lent and Holy Week vigil

when you were able, you came and worshipped

Sundays of Lent

Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday

I pray that you have been able to prepare for this day …

your private devotional and spiritual formation times

scripture reading, reflection, and prayer

have come looking for Jesus”

As we come to the day for which we have been waiting

It is my great joy to greet you again in the name of our risen Lord

He has risen! He has risen, indeed!

There are three things I notice in today’s gospel reading from John

one of the facts all 4 gospels agree on:

it was the women who first discovered Jesus was not in the tomb

and the women went to tell the others…

In today’s gospel reading, we meet the evangelists (the tellers of the Good News) to the evangelists…

Mary, who discovered that Jesus had risen like he said he would

Mary, who “ran to tell” the others about Jesus

“Run and tell”

that’s what people of faith do when they witness the greatest miracle

you can’t keep this to yourself

you’ve got to go … run and tell

And when you feel that good about something, or you learn something so exciting …

you know what it’s like to want to … run and tell

too good to keep to yourself

just can’t wait to go and tell somebody about it

finally got a good grade in math

your “crush” at school finally paid attention to you

you got a new puppy, a new car, a new job

  1. Tell The Story

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb

Early in the morning, while it was still dark

but it was not so dark that she could not see that the stone had been removed from the doorway to the tomb

She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one that Jesus loved (John)

Said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

The disciples, Peter and the other one, went to the tomb

They were running together, but the other one outran Peter

He bent down to look but did not go in

Then Simon Peter came and he went in, and saw the linens rolled up and put away

Then the other disciple went in, he saw and believed

But what he believed was that Jesus’ body was gone

He must not have believed yet that he had risen

Scripture says that they did not understand that he must rise from the dead

so they returned to their homes

went their separate ways

believing that the grave had been robbed

While all this was going on, Mary stood weeping outside the tomb

she looked into the tomb and saw two angels

Angels asked why she was crying

“They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.

Mary turned and saw Jesus, but she did not know it was him, she thought he was the gardener

Jesus asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”

Mary said, Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where he is, and I will take care of the body.”

Greek  translated here as “Sir,” other times “Lord” or “Master.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

called her by name

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (Jn. 10:3)

he told her not to hold on to me for I have not yet ascended to the Father

the risen Jesus cannot be held or controlled

what he is up to from now on, is way out of their hands

Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”

“And she told them what he had said to her.”

  1. So What?

The word for us today is Mary’s faithful response

Mary had come to the tomb

and she finds the tomb empty, just like he said

overwhelmed, flabbergasted

but Mary goes to tell – she evangelizes, she testifies to what she has seen

With Mary, and the others, we have seen him

And with Mary, our response is our testimony,

to tell the good news

that Christ has risen,

he has risen indeed

and that is our testimony

that we have witnessed the new life in Christ

as he promised

and this good news is too good to keep it a secret

As Jesus taught his followers, he has taught us about being faithful followers

He has taught us how to love, and how to proclaim love to a broken and hurting world

Jesus has promised never to leave us alone

Walking with us even through the darkest path

Our Lord has promised us, even though he must go to the cross and to the tomb, he will arise, breaking the bonds of sin and death

Therefore, when we go to the worst place, the darkest tomb

There we will find the risen Lord

Waiting for us, expecting to see us

He calls us by name, the name our mother called us

Our best response for the good news of the Living Christ is Mary’s response

To acknowledge Jesus as Lord, Rabbouni

Then go and tell the others the Good News, “I have seen the Lord.”

It is through the sharing of this Good News that we become the community God is calling us to

opening our hearts and minds to new friends Jesus brings us

being witnesses to and agents of his saving love

Speaking truth to power and proclaiming the power of love and peace over hate and violence

I think that is why you are here – it’s why we are here

We sense something new for us in God, a better way to …

Deal with our wounds and brokenness

Reconcile with a neighbor, or somebody who hurt us

Welcome Jesus who comes to us in the form of a stranger

We come to church to seek connection with others who are trying to get along as people of faith …

and to connect with others who, like us, want to find the meaning for their life,

who want to make a difference

This can be scary

Committing to new people

Committing to new ways of doing things

Committing to new ways of spending our time

Esp. in a small church

if I seem too eager, will I get put in charge of something?

will I get burned out?

Maybe we expect to find the tomb still closed, maybe we hope to find the tom still closed – so we’re off the hook

it’s not all that – not all Jesus promised

it’s all over, we can go back to life as we knew it before

Sometimes out of our fear of the unknown or of admitting our own timidity – we show up fearful, maybe looking for something wrong to rationalize our bailing out – hoping the tomb is still closed

“Oops. Too bad. See, I knew that wouldn’t work. Oh well, at least I gave it a shot. At least I showed up.”

In this day, there are those who approach church as a consumer – looking for customer service … to be served by the church.

And in such cases, there is always disappointment

If you are looking for a place where…

everything’s in perfect Christian order…you will be disappointed

the pastor always remembers everything you’re worried about, and always calls you on your birthday, and seems to always know the best thing to say, or the perfect solution to every problem … you will be disappointed

everything in the building always works like a charm, and everything’s right where you can find it…you will be disappointed

You will always find neat and tidy answers to every theological question you have…you will be disappointed

You will find formulas for “How to be a winning Christian,” “How to get enough Jesus to have a new Cadillac,” “How to be the perfect Godly Parent” …you will be disappointed


But if you are looking for a place where …

You will find companions for a spiritual journey…the stone will be rolled away

You will find ears that are willing to listen to your dreams and fears…the stone will be rolled away

You can witness the power in the reconciling love of Jesus Christ who poured himself out for each of us…the stone will be rolled away

you can serve the Lord by practicing mercy and generosity…the stone will be rolled away

I am convinced that God is calling the women and men in this faith community to build each other up, to learn from his word and from one another how to be the beloved community

Made up of imperfect human beings who believe that God loves us just as we are, and He loves us too much to let us stay like that.

This is the place where I hope you can hear this if you hear nothing else I say.

God loves you – say it again. God loves you

There is a family being made here among the children of God, and if you choose to receive His invitation – it’s where you belong.

Spring is coming…at least that’s what the calendar says. Life will get busy. Nevertheless, remember who you are, and who you belong to.

God is calling us to a new way of being community

It’s different

It’s even scary

But as we approach our calling from God

let us see that the stone is rolled away

and let our fear and joy drive us into the outstretched arms of God’s perfect love in Jesus Christ

where we learn our true calling as members of the body of Christ

the church, where we are taught by Jesus not to expect to be served, but to serve

and in that serving, we will know his presence among us

and as we serve him, we serve one another, even neighbors, even strangers

and the fear of the unknown (or the different) no longer shackles us, but is overshadowed by the joy that comes in being part of the body that is learning together and discovering our purpose together…

that it does begin with you…

and me…

and us, in the name of Jesus Christ, and for his sake.

Run and tell

So may it be with us. Amen.


Read Full Post »


Tonight we remember the final supper Jesus shared with his disciples

simple and contemplative

scripture reading (OT, Epistle, Gospel) and prayer

name for this service comes from John’s gospel

“I give you a new commandment,

love one another as I have loved you” John 13:34

Latin: mandatum novum

communion tonight will be by intinction

come forward as you are able

if you are not able, I will come and serve you

our table is arranged to remind us of three sides – triclenium

how people ate in the time of Christ

reclined around tables

with space in the middle for serving

at the end of tonight’s service,

I will extinguish the candles, as …

we hear the passion story from the gospels

listen as the shadows fall over our Lord Jesus’ journey …

to the cross

Note: after the benediction,

please depart in contemplative silence

reminder about Good Friday services

12-3pm: Sanctuary open for meditation and prayer

7pm: Shadows of the Passion

reminder about Easter Sunday, 10:30 a.m.

Call to Worship

    + The Lord be with you

    And also with you

    + We gather to remember …

The night that Jesus shared his last supper

        with the disciples.

What shall we give to the Lord for all goodness to us?

    We will lift up the cup of salvation

and call on the name of the Lord

Opening Prayer (unison)

Gracious and merciful God, in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper you give us a memorial of the passion of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that the ones who receive these sacred mysteries may grow into him in all things until we come to your eternal joy through Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior. Amen

Scripture Readings

Exodus 12: 1-4, 11, 14; God’s instructions to Moses for the preparations for the Passover meal, which is the same meal Jesus and his disciples gathered for on this night in the Upper Room

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD.

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Paul reminds the emerging church that the Lord’s Supper is the practice and proclamation of the living Lord Jesus Christ.

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

John 13: 1-17, 31-35. Jesus serves his disciples and gives them a new commandment.

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. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 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.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 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.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

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? You call me Teacher and Lord– and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper


This is not the table of the church, but of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It has been prepared for those who love him

This table is open to anyone and

everyone who wishes to come

There are no barriers to this table

So come, you who feel your faith is strong today,

and the ones who feel you are struggling;

The ones who have come to this table often,

and those who have been away for a while

or the ones here for the first time.

The ones who have tried to follow,

and the ones who feel you have lost your way.

Come, each one of you, not because I invite you,

for it is our Lord Jesus who calls, saying

“I am the bread of life.

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,

and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…

anyone who comes to me, I will never drive away.”

Prayer Before Communion

Lord Jesus Christ,
you draw us in and welcome us,
you invite us to be empty of pride and hungry for your grace,
to this your kingdom’s feast.
Nowhere can we find the food

for which our souls cry out, but here, Lord,

at your table.

Invigorate and nourish us, good Lord.
As we break this bread and take this cup

your love meets us
and your life completes us

in the power and glory of your kingdom.

Words of Institution



Prayer after Communion

Gracious and loving God, we are grateful for this meal that nourishes our soul. May we go forth, strengthened with compassion, to work together for the coming of your kingdom of justice, love and peace, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Extinguishing the Candles

“Listen prayerfully to the reading of the scriptures for the passion of our Lord, and may the extinguishing of the lights be a reminder of his suffering, even when our hope for the resurrection may seem like a dim memory.”

The Shadow of Betrayal; Matthew 26:20-25

When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”

He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

The Shadow of Agony; Luke 22:40-44

When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.

The Shadow of Loneliness; Matthew 26:40-45

Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is ˃ weak.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

The Shadow of Desertion; Matthew 26:47-50, 55, 56

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

The Shadow of Accusation; Matthew 26:59-67

Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'” The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him…

The Shadow of Mockery; Mark 15:12-20

Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him.

After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

The Shadow of Death; Luke 23:33-46

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”

The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying,” If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Only the Christ candle remains lit

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Then slowly and deliberately extinguish the Christ candle

Blessing and Benediction

Keep us safe Lord, while we are awake, and guard us as we sleep, so that we can keep watch with Christ.

Now, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding

keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God

and of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord;

And may the

Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

Love of God

Communion of the Holy Spirit

Be with you – and everyone you love

Tonight, tomorrow, and forever. Amen

Read Full Post »

I Found some Christmas decorations at home

A Christmas card (walk around showing it)

Glory to God in the highest, on earth – peace and goodwill to all people

Unto you a child is born, in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord

Let us go and see this child, and worship him

Angels we have heard on high …

Palm Sunday

somebody said it’s like finding a Christmas card laying in the street

among the palm branches that still litter the street

for us, Christmas was only about 4 months ago

for Jesus, this was about 30 years after his birth in Bethlehem

The night the angels sang, and told the shepherds not to be afraid

This day, a few days before Passover

… a few days before his suffering and death

We see Jesus, riding a donkey

A stubborn and plodding creature – a humble ride for a king

Down the steep and narrow trail of a road

Down from the Mt. of Olives

Across the Kidron Valley

Up to Jerusalem – the Holy City

But not on a great white horse

Like we might expect of a king’s triumphal entry

not this King

Jesus, riding a humble, plodding, donkey

“Joy the World”

Christmas card among the trash in the street

Reminds us of the peace of Christ …

Good news to the world

And the coming of the kingdom of heaven still prevail

The Christmas card reminds us of peace and joy in Christ – Because we know what the coming week holds for Jesus

Today the religious officials tell Jesus to order his followers to back off

But as they persisted; the chief priests and scribes were looking for ways to stop Jesus – and they believed that to stop Jesus and his followers, Jesus must die

… even though we know how this all came about

We remember “Joy to the world.”

We know it wasn’t joyful for the whole world

Herod was out to get Jesus from the start

He was a threat to the political order

Herod was king, but people were talking about a new king

And when Jesus began to speak and teach

The religious officials were feeling more and more threatened by his message and growing influence

Because people were believing that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah

And he was preaching and teaching …

Calling others to follow

Even Gentiles and other sinners

we know what the coming week holds

The betrayal of Christ by his followers

The suffering – or passion – of Christ

Even the death of Christ

We know that Palms and Passion are not the end

Because we, with Mary of Magdala, have seen the risen Christ on Easter Sunday

“three days later” as he promised

With Mary we heard Jesus’ word of peace at the resurrection appearance

“Peace be with you”

Joy to the world

Yet we know that in his suffering, Christ knows our suffering

His brutal treatment we read of in the accounts of this week

Were done publicly to humiliate and discredit him

To warn others who were thinking of following

Yet Christ was unwavering in his purpose

Obedient to God’s will, even unto his death

And so may our response be the same

Not to lay blame, or carry ill will

But to respond with gratitude to the gift of grace

And commit ourselves to the ministry of Christ’s peace

That is for the world

Joy to the world

Through the ages pilgrims have visited holy sites

Shrines to the moments and places in the life and ministry of Jesus

And through the ages there have been those able to make the pilgrimage and those who have not

So we see the Stations of the Cross in some churches

Reminders of the way of Jesus – the road of sorrows

From the place of his accusation and conviction

To the cross and the grave

Now those who are not able to visit the sites can experience the way of Jesus

So we re-live the day of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem

Mark it with palms

And carry the message with us

And though we know that the suffering and death to come are not the final words

Let us not move too quickly to the joy of Easter morning

Take time this week to read the last chapters of the gospels

Stay in the moment of suffering for a while

And when you recall your own sufferings, know that Jesus remains with you

Take the time to worship with your community

Maundy Thursday 7pm – The Lord’s Supper

Good Friday – vigil from 12pm to 3 – the hour of Jesus’ death

Good Friday – 7pm – through word and music, experience the depth of shadows of passion

And do come together in the joy of Easter Sunday

But come on that day, in true joy

That Jesus suffered brutality and death

For the sake of the world

That we may know the peace that passes all understanding

And life lives that spread the same to all the world

That the world may know that Jesus Christ is lord

Joy to the World

So may it be with us. Amen

Read Full Post »

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Bones. Breath. Life


1. Way In

I don’t have much experience with bones.

broken one or two, as you have

aside from that

CTS: Alternative Context -Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula (told you before)

village cemetery

unusual stack of metal boxes

noticed filled with old, dry bones

custom practiced in many small villages

grave sites “recycled” after a few years

due to space limitations

How I felt about seeing those bones

knowing where they came from

creepy, was it okay to look?

Felt like I was peeking into such a private, intimate part of somebody’s being

Have you ever seen bones?

real or those models like some schools have

a skeleton all put together and hanging on a rack

No experience actually seeing bones

you can imagine …

or surely you know that song about Ezekiel (“Them Bones …)

Bridge To Text


People of Israel: During the time of exile – 6th century BCE

Suffered massive defeat at the hands of Babylonian Army

Whatever kind of army the Israelites could put together had gone against the Babylonian army, the mightiest in the world at the time

Vast battlefield after a terrible slaughter – you’ve seen the photos

World War

Civil War

Temple was destroyed, whole city of Jerusalem had been sacked

An unimaginable, low time

Must have felt like a God-forsaken time

and this is the time we find Ezekiel …

Set down by the spirit of the Lord

In the middle of a valley

Where this battle between the Israelites and the mighty Babylonian army had left behind a grisly scene of a mass slaughter

The valley was full of dry bones

Imagine that setting for a moment

Not how it could happen, or whether it was real

Think of it as a dream if you need to

For me – remembering how I felt after seeing a few

For you?

Imagine this setting

Real or like a war photo

2. Tell the Story

That’s where Ezekiel stood, set down by the Spirit of the Lord

as far as he could see, dried old bones


Then God said to Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?”

Ezekiel answered, “Lord, you know.”

Maybe Ezekiel thought he already knew the answer

maybe we think we know

we heard about Lazarus before

we know about Easter coming up

we know what God can do one person – one dead body, at a time

but a whole valley of bones, the scene of a massacre??

God said, “Tell them to get up…tell the bones what I can do”

You heard what happened when Ezekiel said that

Them bones, them bones, them dry bones (sing it)

God restored the bones, put them together as bodies

but there was no breath

like empty shells

Ezekiel noticed that

Ezekiel, “Breathe upon these, breath of God, fill them with your life-spirit”

Now the restored bones not only stood – they lived

3. So what?

What God said to Ezekiel

These bones are the house of Israel

They say, “We are dried up, all hope is lost, we are cut off completely”

God told Ezekiel, “Prophesy to them, just like you did to these bones, saying…

…the Lord your God will open up your graves

…and bring you back to the Promised Land

God said, “I will put my spirit within you and you shall live.”

What is God saying to us?

You have seen what I can do with this valley of bones,

valley of destruction, valley of the shadow of death

Where is your valley of bones?

Where have you lost hope?

Where do you feel completely cut off?

Even there…in the darkest, deadest place, can be hope

Even when we seem more like a walking pile of bones,

walking through a valley of bones with no life-spirit within us

Even that place is not without hope

God says, “I will put my spirit within you and you shall live.”

Ezekiel has me thinking about my call to Yellow Springs

only been about 3 months

I’ve been doing a lot of listening and watching

told you I would do that

because I never believed that I was called here because I had all the answers for this church

I do believe that I have been called to be your spiritual guide

partner in discernment

listen together for the urgings of God’s spirit

partner in ministry

discern together: how do we – as the church – live out God’s call?

each of us as God’s ministers in the world

how are we called to be the hands and feet of Jesus

serving, teaching, and being his disciples

partner in fellowship and re-creation


renew and sustain ourselves together

so that we may always be the community faith, with and for one another, in the name of Jesus Christ

Here’s something else I’ve been thinking and praying about

there’s been lots of talk about new life, new beginnings, “getting the community in the church.”

and there’s nothing wrong with having these goals

but here’s what I’m thinking about transformation now

to me “transformation” implies that we have to change or adjust who we are – in order…

to be a vital church

to attract the neighbors to come to church

perhaps we do need to adjust – but not for those reasons

God’s call on our life is a call to discipleship

and that’s where I see the future of this church

In Bible Study we are reading Acts: The Acts of the Apostles

study the forming of the early church

development of the faith community

in the world, but not of the world

model for our church

the early church grew in faith, discipleship

people came together in a community of fellowship, worship, breaking bread, service to others

costly discipleship

being part of the early church cost something

for some, like Stephen, it cost their life

for others it cost not standing for the status quo

seeking God’s mercy and justice

these days costly discipleship means developing a rule of life that’s consistent with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ

the good news is, you’ve been doing some of these things already

you have a habit of gathering here on Sunday morning

you already have a habit of fellowship and service

And I think – the transformation is not about us changing so much

but as we develop a rule of life for our congregation

and communicate that by the way we live our lives

and as we continue to make ourselves known for this way of being the church in the city

two things will happen

we will (continue to) glorify God for the sake of Jesus Christ

by doing our best to love out the great commission

and I FIRMLY BELIEVE that we will attract people who want to be part of us

people want to commit to something they have a passion for

the church is not for everybody

the work has always been plenty, and the workers have always been few

but as we live our lives in ministry that costs something – we will be forming a community of commitment

people don’t commit to something they get for free

they will take it or leave it

like the samples the give out at Sam’s Club

notice how you see remnants of free samples all over the store?


they can always go back and get more

but what about at home?

food people buy and prepare

hardly leave it laying around there, take a bite or two and throw it out…

Church Transformation?

there’s not a switch we’re going to throw that makes us turn the corner and fill up with folks from around the village

I just don’t think that’s going to happen

this church was built in the heart of the community

there was no need for a parking lot

easy enough to get to

just walk on down

a neighborhood church

in the heart of the community

with a heart for the community

and we’re still here

smaller in numbers, perhaps

but we’re still here

and we’re still reaching out

and we’re attracting people to come and see

people who are interested …

people “Joinign for Justice”

Think about the production here of The Cherry Orchard

most of the people involved are not church members

and the proceeds of the show are going to help the church

the same with the Dayton Mandolin Orchestra concert

not all church members

but interested in seeing the church make it

as we are transformed by the good news of the gospel

to share that by the way we live our lives and practice ministry

we WILL build on the community of faith

on the heart of the commnithy – with a heart for the community

for God’s sake in the 21st century

God will (continue to) put God’s spirit in here and we shall live

so stay tuned and stay committed

we’re doing some wonderful things already

reaching out with programs and events

Joined for Justice

the Haiti mission y’all did

Bible Study/Sunday School

and more to come …

Let us commit to being a faithful community

growing in costly discipleship

for our transformation

is not – to what we think will attract more people in

But HEAR ME SAY THIS – we’re not giving up on them either

in fact, we will continue to welcome them in

but we will continue to, even being more intentional about, inviting them into our fellowship and worship

but we will be informed by what Paul writes to the new Christian church in Rome, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2)

Friends, our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to costly discipleship

this is what shall be rewarded

and this is what builds the community that God will continually fill with the spirit and give it fresh life.

even the valley of dry bones Ezekiel stood in …

where the bones were filled

with the breath of God’s spirit

and they had life. They lived

Bones. Breath. Life.

So may it be with us. Amen.

Read Full Post »

1 Samuel 16:1-13

This is the one

1. Way In

I’m a pacifist but I’m at war with the TV at my house

I used to have a bumper sticker on another car that said “Kill Your Television.”

I like the idea of that sticker,

but I wasn’t ever completely comfortable

driving around with a sticker on my car

saying I wanted to “kill” something

even if it was just a TV

TV makes me crazy

So I don’t watch it

pauly does, though

and we monitor what he sees

and that could be a full-time job

we talk about shows that “help you learn”

and the ones that “suck out your brain”

besides that, I don’t watch anything

the last shows I watched with any regularity:


SNL: J. Belushi, D. Aykroyd, B. Murray days

I also watched some Twilight Zone reruns in those days, too

Had to give YSO a shout on that one

I remember when my oldest son was born

my father said I would soon learn the “babysitting” qualities of TV

and be parking my son in front of it

“Humph,” I thought to myself, “You’ll never catch me parking my kid in front of the TV just so I can do something I want to do.”

I hate to admit it, but you CAN catch me doing just that sometimes with Paul

just like you could have caught me doing that with Miller or Jack

So, I’m at war

I don’t like what’s on TV:

I don’t like TV news

don’t like the talking heads (usually screaming heads)

I resent that TV is found blaring in …

hospital waiting areas



I don’t like the violence

or the sarcastic kids interacting with ‘doofus’ parents

I don’t like the barrage of commercials that try to sell my son everything under the sun

And I have some good news

I ordered a new sticker

a TV with the international “NO” symbol, a red line through it

below it does say, “Kill Your Television”

but I’ll cut that part off

I want that sticker because I want to stand up for putting TV down

I hate what TV does to our culture

violence, sensationalism

the most insidious things are the images of what counts as:

beautiful, smart

sets the standard for what’s attractive and desirable

seems like the scripted, rehearsed, and polished dialogue on TV …

set the tone for how we should interact

opinions that must always be heard – shouted over the tops of others

scare tactics instead of news

always noise, no space for silence or introspection

after all quiet TV doesn’t sell ads

TV encourages too much importance on appearance

ideals of beauty

good teeth, fashionable clothes,hair is “just so”

figure is just right: buff and scuploted


TV – too much emphasis on appearance

unlike God, as we hear in today’s’ reading from 1 Samuel

God does not look on outward appearance, the Lord looks upon the heart.” (16:7)

2. Tell the Story

Saul’s kingship had not worked out. We can talk about why some other time, but today let us go with the story from here.

in 15:28 Samuel told Saul, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel away from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.”

God to Samuel: “Fill your horn with oil and set out for Bethlehem to see a man named Jesse.”

The horn of oil was for anointing the new king

horn of an ox or other animal hollowed out to carry the special oil for anointing

Bethlehem the same referred to in Micah’s prophecy …

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from old…

The way God has always specialized in calling people from unlikely places to be set aside for His work

and ordinary little village like Bethelehm

not a great city like Jerusalem

As we have said before … God calling ordinary people (like you and me) to be about doing extraordinary things in His name

God said, “I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

God had already chosen a leader for the people

Now, Saul has been rejected by God, but he is not yet dethroned

So God and Samuel plan a secret mission

“Go to Bethlehem and pretend you are going to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Invite Jesse to the ceremony, and I will show you which one of his sons to anoint.”

Remember, God told Samuel, “I will (God will) show you which one of Jesse’s sons is the one.”

But Samuel couldn’t help but get in on the choosing

As Jesse’s sons go by him, maybe finding their seats or places in the temple, Samuel gets busy

Jesse’s first son, Eliab, came.

Sam., “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed. Look how tall and good-looking he is…definitely king material.”

God, “Do not look at this appearance or his height. I have rejected this one …

Remember, people look at outward appearance, but I look at the heart.”

Sam., “Oh yeah, God, I forgot about that.”

But is seems that Samuel keeps right on doing the same thing as the other sons come by

Abinadab – “Not as tall as Eliab, but still a good looking boy.”

But God says, “no not that one”

Shammah – “Not a bad looking boy, check out that good-looking suit he’s wearing.”

God, “Nope, not that one.”

In all, Jesse sent 7 of his sons to pass before Samuel

Sam., “Now Jesse, the Lord didn’t pick any of these. Are these all the sons you have? Are you sure this is it, because God’s just not grooving on any of these boys.”

Are there any more?

Jesse, “Well there’s my baby boy. He’s out watching the sheep – you wouldn’t want that one, would you?

Sam., “Go and get him. Don’t worry, we’ll hold everything until you get back.”

Jesse brought this one:

He was ruddy, ynImod>a;
(ah-dah-mo-nee) the same word used to describe Easu at birth, red.

He had beautiful eyes, and was handsome

Dramatic ending

God said to Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

Sam. took the horn of oil and anointed him

In the presence of his brothers

They werren’t bad boys, just not the ones

First time we know the name of this little brother, the shepherd

And the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David
from that day forward

3. So What?


A new leader has been anointed

from an unlikely village – out in the country

Bethlehem ( ~x,l’ƒtyBe house of bread) not the holy city of Jerusalem

a village we will hear from again…

this new leader is an unlikely boy

not one of the handsome, older, ones

that maybe look more like “king material”

the little brother, a shepherd

God has found this one

not by outward appearance

but by his heart

God is not fooled by our outward appearance

God is pleased that we worship him regularly,

that we come to church

but God is not fooled when we look good, when we look well, when we look busy – even in His name

God looks on our heart

and what does God see?

what does God see in your heart? … and mine?

The Bible says that God does not look at the outward appearance

God doesn’t care if we look chiseled and buff

but for those of you who are – that’s fine, too

God doesn’t care if we smell fresh as a daisy or an Irish Spring

God doesn’t care if we wear the latest from Paris or New York

in fact, he probably prefers that we don’t

It’s like what I was saying before about TV

there you only see a person’s outward appearance

you can’t really know somebody you see on TV

you don’t even know if they’re real

can’t talk to them more to get to know them better

what you see is what you get

I think about the character Arthur Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird

the kids in town called him “Boo”

scary to them

must have driven him crazy running up to his door

and sneaking around outside his house all the time to get a look at him

But in the end it was Boo Radley who saved Scout and Jem’s life

and was willing to take the heat for killing the man who was out to get the kids

on the last page of the book, Atticus is reading Scout a story

it’s about somebody else, but Scout is half-asleep by this time and she tells her father what she heard in the story…

“they chased him and never could catch him, ’cause they didn’t know what he looked like, an’ when they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things …Atticus he was real nice…”

“Most people are Scout, when you finally see them.”

God doesn’t judge us outwardly, but cares about what’s in our hearts

God didn’t care how all of Jesse’s other sons looked

not interested in the tallest one

or the strongest one

God wanted the one with the best heart to be the leader of the people

Jesse paraded all his other sons before Samuel

as far as he was concerned, after he brought the 7 of them out, he was finished

but God wanted to know, “Are all of them here?”

God knew there was another son out in the fields tending sheep

that’s the one God wanted

But Jesse had already made up his mind that God couldn’t possible want little David

Jesse didn’t think that one was good enough

too young, just a shepherd

but a shepherd is just the leader God wanted

It’s the same way with us

God wants our heart and soul

God wants out hands and feet, too

because we are God’s hands a feet

to do ministry –

hands to give and hold

feet to go and do

to share our life

to serve the poor, stand up for the ones who can’t

that’s what makes us beautiful to God


so let us not think we know best what God is looking for

we need not worry whether we’re

good-looking enough

or even smart enough

we don’t let that stop us from stepping out

maybe we have an idea for ministry

we need not worry whether it’s clever enough

ashamed to trot it out because it may not be good enough

don’t let that keep us from trying it out

God only cares about the heart of it

As long as we keep on trotting out the things we think God wants…

because they’re the pretty ones, the clever ones

God will keep on asking, “Are there any more? Are they all here?”

Then God will say, “Yes.” This is the one

walking through the congregation

This is the one who can make a difference

This is the one who will befriend the friendless

This is the one who will share their food with the poor

This is the one whose heart aches for peace and justice

This is the one who will teach the children

This is the one who will help raise up the church

This is the one …

“For the Lord does not see as mortals see, they look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

So let it be with us. Amen.

Bonus: Check out The Avett Brothers singing Spanish Pipedream, also known as “Blow Up Your TV” by John Prine

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: