Come Sit a Spell and Ponder

Psalm 4, I John 3:1-7 and Luke 24:36b-48

When reading the Bible, it doesn’t take very long before you begin to “ponder.” Questions emerge. You wonder. You say to yourself: “what does that mean?” “How can THAT be?”

On a humorous level we might ponder why “a number 2 pencil is still number 2 if it’s so popular?” Or why we say “someone is IN a movie but ON TV??” And why does the expression “slim chance” mean the same thing as “fat chance?”

To ponder more serious matters should take more time and require some study. So, when we come to these texts for this Sunday we are challenged to “ponder” a Resurrection body and to consider the reference to a “ghost.” Jesus appears mysteriously in their midst and proceeds to eat. The disciples in our John passage both “disbelieve” and “wonder.” But Jesus also is said to “open their minds to understand.”

This is a lifelong pattern for growing Christians: something comes to us in our faith walk, we might disbelieve, or wonder, and then we understand.

Come “sit a spell” this Sunday and ponder! And we will all pray together to understand as best we can. And continue our faith walk into the week!

Blessings in your seeking and finding!

Pastor Barry †

A Change is Gonna Come

Psalm 133, Acts 4:32-35 and John 20:19-31

You have a big event, an exciting moment. Something amazing touches you! It might be a birthday, anniversary, championship game, best ever vacation, job promotion, graduation, and so on. The thrill lasts for a while and then some routine and normality returns. Your life is touched and has benefited but everything doesn’t change.

Our first Sunday after Easter, however, has texts in Acts and in John where everything seems to change and nothing remains the same! The Resurrection of Jesus had that kind of impact. Lives are really changed forever and people live together in community such that no one goes without aid or help. Fellowship and sharing and mission take on primary importance.

After two thousand years and centuries of Easter Sunday worship the Church has lived out this dramatic change in multiple ways with both success and failure; but always announcing the Hope that it CAN happen! And sure enough…..congregations and individuals are touched, change, share, change, grow, and see life take on great meaning and purpose!

So, Easter is not one day but potentially ANY and every day!

This Sunday we will hear of an astounding way to live together in community and how individuals react out of their particular needs and experience.

Resurrection has a way of making a difference. Not just in life after death but here and now! Believe! As the singer Sam Cooke sang in 1964, “a change is gonna come!”

Happy Easter!

Pastor Barry †

Resurrection and Running

Yes, most of us revel in the season of Christmas. Lots of preparation and anticipation, parties, gifts, and get togethers. Church goers or not, people get into the spirit of Christmas.

Easter should do the same but for most it’s not the preferred of the two Christian celebrations. Rightly so, the lead in to Easter’s hope is a difficult, painful week ending in an execution. The tone is much more somber.

Yet, when we actually read and hear the scriptures there is a breathless exciting story unfolding. Lots of running! There’s not a lot of running in the Bible! But, just read the John text! And if we celebrate a new beginning with a birth at Christmas even more so the call comes to celebrate a new beginning at Easter.

Part of the issue is that Resurrection as an afterlife is just not present for us. It is still to come. However, Resurrection as “empowering” to us in New Beginnings coming from God IS available here and now. And such New Beginnings act as energy to propel us on through our lives to their end which is NOT the only end.

For many, it is hard to grasp. So it was also for the early disciples. They had to “run” to see, believe, and share with others. Paul later does say he “has run and finished the race.” Indeed for many of us, we need “to pick up the pace” and run in faith. Some days we are better at that than other days.

Pray that an Easter worship will speak to your spirit and help enliven it for the Marathon of Life and the Victory Celebration over sin and death!!

Blessed Easter to you!

Pastor Barry †

The Lord Has Need Of These

Psalm 118:19-29 and Mark 11:1-11

Jesus never seems opposed to things in and of themselves. On Palm Sunday we will hear of donkeys, palm branches, and cloaks.
A parade or procession will commence. We could use our imagination a bit and certainly see a parade today with things Jesus might well use: a marching band, fire trucks, motorcycles, and even a few horses.

We know Jesus through scripture but also in our past traditions and in the here and now. He knows our human frame in every age and beckons us to use the current things necessary to get people’s attention.

I can’t think that Jesus would be opposed to the internet, zoom meetings, or hundreds of other audio-visual means at hand in this 21st Century. The abuse of these might be another story!

So, we are called to be creative in service to God and neighbor. To be good stewards of everything that comes our way.
This Palm Sunday indeed wave your ancient palm branches as well as your ball caps, flags, pennants, texts, emails, instagrams, and such. Celebrate and bear witness in multiple ways to the Life, Death, and Resurrection of the Savior of the whole wide world in every age and culture.

When God created……Genesis 1:31 says, “Everything was very good.” It’s just a matter of how we use everything!

Blessings on this Palm Sunday and coming Holy Week!

Pastor Barry

Greeks? Irish? They Wish To See Jesus?

Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 5:5-10 and John 12:20-33

I write this on St. Patrick’s Day 2021. The Irish heritage is celebrated here and yon. We wear green and consider our ancestry. If we have little or no Irish in us, we join their fun for a day and then return to our Scottish, Hispanic, African, or Asian roots!

The world is indeed a diverse and “mixed bag” of peoples. The time of Jesus was no different. Our John text says “some Greeks” were seeking an audience with Jesus. They ask Phillip to help. Phillip asks Andrew to assist. These Greeks were probably Gentiles rather than Greek-speaking Jews. Jesus gets the attention of folks from all over the world. The just curious as well as those seeking answers to ultimate questions.

Would that all would seek Jesus! Whatever their motivation. Jesus welcomes a wide range of seekers but cannot help those who will not inquire or those who willfully ignore the Big Questions in life. Whether of Irish, Greek, Asian, or Indian descent our quest for eternal answers begins and ends in the One that both Jeremiah and the book of Hebrews point to.

Let us consider both question and answer this coming Sunday. Let us walk in the shoes of “Greeks” (or inquiring Irish!) for a day and be seekers. As people of faith we have already found our answer but we are about helping others ask the questions as well. Can we live in such a way those around us might ask, “Sir (or madam)? We would see Jesus.”

We have a witness to make in both word and deed. Consider your influence and impact on others as we gather to worship. And bring your own pondering questions as well!

Blessings in your Lenten journey to Easter!

Blessings!

Pastor Barry †

Lots of Lifting Up…On God’s Part

Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:2-10 and John 3:14-21

The John text and the Ephesians text are some of Christian faiths most primary scriptures. Bedrock, foundational messages about Christ and us BOTH placed in a wonderful position with God and even THAT by God’s doing not ours! It’s good to refresh ourselves and restate for our sake and others some of our most basic beliefs and practices.

But in passing, we also encounter one of the oddest passages in the Bible: the lifting up of a poisonous serpent on a pole in order for the complaining, sinning, punished, wandering wilderness Israelites to be healed!! We will at least take a look at that on Sunday. And we will find that John certainly has a place for that peculiar text in his Gospel’s third chapter!

So in scripture readings, sermon, and song this Sunday, we will cover a lot of solid Christian teaching about sin, Grace, and healing. I would think it would be Good News! Invite someone to join us in person or listen in on the websites. Worship and preparing for ongoing discipleship is always a good place to begin your week! Even if we have to consider briefly that serpent on a pole!!

Blessings!

Pastor Barry †

WWJD? WWJHMD?

Exodus 20:1-17 and John 2:13-22

March “comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb.” An old saying like any old saying: some truth to it, but not always true! March 2021, for those of us in Tennessee, has been fairly moderate (compared to last March 3 when portions of Tennessee were hit hard by tornadoes).

As for this week in Lent, our John text indeed has Jesus coming into The Temple like a lion! Cleansing sacred space which has been corrupted into a marketplace. And let it be noted he certainly goes out on Good Friday like a Lamb.

Jesus knew his Bible! He knew what it was to honor God based on the commandments from our Exodus text. And he took action, forcefully, to wake people up! And he also has another lesson for his disciples to hear: another temple, the body of Jesus, will be torn down and raised again in three days.

So, this Sunday we will explore these scriptures through an emphasis from 40 plus years ago: WWJD or What Would Jesus Do? These initials WWJD wound up on bracelets or T-shirts intended for youth to wear.

It is still a question that any age person can ask even today. To answer that question is still a challenge. And we may find that the letters WWJHMD is more accurate and helpful even if no less challenging!

Come to worship Sunday as we hear the Word together and also share together at The Lord’s Table. When we depart after the service we can all leave and ask WWJHMD?

Blessings in being a disciple of Jesus!

Pastor Barry †

Lent’s Push Back Against Satan

Genesis 17:1-7, Romans 4:13-25 and Mark 8:31-38

Has anything changed yet because of Lent? Have you decided on a spiritual discipline that is personal to you? Is it either giving up something or taking up something for Forty Days?

In last week’s sermon I suggested taking up forty days of reading and study in one book of the Bible. I have chosen Leviticus to better understand the reasons for so much attention paid to prohibitions and ritual regulations amongst the Israelites. You may have another book in mind or another practice you are called to in Lent.

Regardless, of what we give up or “fast from” or “take up” we are also listening to Jesus who tells the demanding Peter to “quit being like Satan in your attitude!” “Get behind me Satan.”

Peter is in such contrast to 99 year old Abraham in our Genesis text. Abraham listens to the word of God and trusts the promise to come true to in spite of almost being dead! But Peter does not trust what Jesus says about where His ministry is heading: to conflict and death; in order to fulfill the promise and purposes of God.

Peter is not literally Satan but he surely is acting as an “adversary” to Jesus the teacher, healer, Messiah! Peter is a slow learner as we shall see further ahead during Lent. Even so, he still learns while walking the way that leads to life Eternal. Not an easy path but a fulfilling, exciting, meaningful path. Peter finally quits being “Satan”

Lent is an opportunity to “change,” to grow and learn like Peter did. God isn’t finished with us yet! “Get thee behind us, Satan!”

See you Sunday in worship!! And onto the next week of discipleship!

Blessings

Pastor Barry †

In The Wilderness Forty Days

Psalm 25:1-10, I Peter 3:18-22 and Mark 1:9-15

As I write this I am looking out the kitchen window into a beautiful, cold wilderness that won’t go away! The ice and snow are affecting us and millions of our fellow citizens throughout the USA.

And it seems like we’ve been “out of church” for not just a week but what seems like forty days! I suppose Jesus in the wilderness felt the absence of worship in the synagogues. But he was experiencing God in ways not unlike Moses and the prophets, the children of Israel in their wilderness, Israelites in their captivity to foreign powers like Assyria and Babylon.

So, now is our temporary winter and COVID absence from worship and fellowship. Prayer continues in our homes and work places, scripture study is ongoing, and our friends and family in Christ are not far removed from us!

When we do gather again in our sanctuaries or “on the ether waves” we will rejoice and be glad. And we will repent, look inward and outward, as we enter those Forty Days in preparation for Holy Week and Easter. We are marked by the sign of the Cross wherever we are whether shut in or moving about. Marked as we are by the Life and Death of Christ, we know our wilderness is only temporary, transient, and to be left behind as we enter our Promised Land and life in the midst of the Kingdom of God!

Fear not the cold nor the heat but rejoice in the warmth of God’s care for us! Rejoice that you have brothers and sisters in Christ. May the time in whatever wilderness you are going through, be also a time of the love of Jesus for you!

Let us look forward to our worship time together whenever that day appears! Prepare your hearts for the Forty Days of Lent whether at home, at work, in the community, in our sanctuaries, and wherever you carry forth in your mission and witness!

Blessings

Pastor Barry †

Chariots of Fire, Light, & Glory

2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 and Mark 9:2-9

This Sunday’s worship highlights the Transfiguration of Jesus as presented in Mark 9. Paul celebrates the light and the glory of God in Christ. The 2 Kings passage is about two “senior and junior” prophets one who is taken up in a chariot of fire.

Bright light, shining glory, fire. Words that describe the presence and power of God. We are given so many ways to understand and experience God in scripture. All our human senses are involved. Body, mind, and emotions are called to behold the Lord!

And not just in imitation of the Bible descriptions but in our current living situations. Bible images speak to our emotions while our mind helps us interpret and experience God centuries removed from those vivid images. Then our bodies serve to bear witness to God’s care for all.

So, to see Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration is to be reminded today to look up, listen, and to look “inward” to realize that God is worthy of glory, beauty, and wonder!

We may not see “chariots of fire” today but we can understand and experience that in ways appropriate to the times we live in. Such meaning can even find its way into the movies. You might want to watch the movie CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981) as a way of entering in to a contemporary experience of faith in the gifts of athletic skill and struggling discipleship in the modern world. Our faith is a living faith not bound by space and time limited to centuries ago.

Read these passages in preparation for worship and revel in the glory of God!

See you Sunday in person or on line!

Blessings indeed!

Pastor Barry †