Faith in Persecution

Message Title: Faith in Persecution
Theme: Faith
Season: Ordinary Time
Main Text: Hebrews 11:29-12:2; (we are not persecuted)
Scripture Reading: Luke 12:49-56
RCL Scripture: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19; Jeremiah 23:23-29;
Psalm 82; Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 12:49-56
Focus: God’s faithful servants were steadfast regardless of their circumstance.
Function: To embrace the uncomfortable messiness of faith and walking the redemption journey.
Other Notes: faith practiced in life- chairs, traffic, utilities, supply chains, politicians, fencing

Once again our camera did not record properly, here is the FB live recording of the service: Liberty Baptist in Tipton, IN

SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 12:49-56 49 “I came to cast fire upon the earth. How I wish that it was already ablaze! 50 I have a baptism I must experience. How I am distressed until it’s completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I have come instead to bring division. 52 From now on, a household of five will be divided—three against two and two against three. 53 Father will square off against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” 54 Jesus also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud forming in the west, you immediately say, ‘It’s going to rain.’ And indeed it does. 55 And when a south wind blows, you say, ‘A heat wave is coming.’ And it does. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret conditions on earth and in the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret the present time? 


  1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: What is something you wanted to buy in in the last 2 years but couldn’t because of supply chain or price changes? TP, pick-ups, Xbox, PS5, formula, gas
  2. Faith in Supply Chains- Our faith in supply chains has been rocked. Americans have been spoiled with consistent access to food, necessities, and luxuries that 2020 came as a huge shock.
    1. 2020
      1. TP shortage
      2. Panic buying food
      3. Chip shortages
    2. Formula shortages
    3. Russia/Ukraine War
      1. Oil company price gouging & finally going down
      2. Rise in food costs
  3. While we could get lost in the details of why each of those supply chain disruptions happened (since there are multiple interpretations), we instead will consider how we felt.
  4. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: how many of you felt anxiety, fear, or helplessness was supply chain issues have continued to unfold? Or other feelings?  
    1. Anyone buy chickens, garden, or purchase an acreage to help provide in the midst of uncertainty? … just us? 😀

TRANSITION:  In our text for today we will see more stories of faith. The faith of some leads to victory, while the faith of others ends with death or suffering. Can we be faithful regardless of outcome?

MAIN TEXT: Hebrews 11:29-12:2 29 By faith they crossed the Red Sea as if they were on dry land, but when the Egyptians tried it, they were drowned. 30 By faith Jericho’s walls fell after the people marched around them for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute wasn’t killed with the disobedient because she welcomed the spies in peace. 32 What more can I say? I would run out of time if I told you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets33 Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection. 36 But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. 37 They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. 38 The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground. 39 All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith40 God provided something better for us so they wouldn’t be made perfect without us. 12 So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.


  1. Gospel
    2. We think we know how to read the signs of the times but we mess it up.
  2. Hebrews
    1. The faithful who God provides victory:
      1. The wandering generation: Exodus
      2. The promise land generation: Jericho, Rahab
      3. The Judges generation: Gideon, Barak (Deborah & Jael), Samson, Jephthah
      4. The Kings generation: David, Samuel
    2. The faithful who God is with in their suffering:
      1. The Prophets
      2. The Maccabean Brothers
      3. Martyrs
    3. A call to perseverance regardless of circumstance


  1. A RUSH TO HAPPY ENDINGS: We like to look at stories of pain from the healed, redeemed, restored angle. Let’s rush to the happy ending. They suffered BUT LOOK AT THE DIFFERENCE THEY MADE! They died BUT LOOK their death led to restored relationships. They went to prison BUT LOOK they’re sober and strait-laced NOW. We perceive that it is our DUTY to get to the happy ending.
    1. Today’s passage in Hebrews lists off these amazing stories of faith … but if I’m honest… it feels a little bit like rushing to the happy ending. These are stories of struggle, suffering, and even death. YES, God claims them, restores them, and even in death they are healed. BUT! The story can also be sad.
    2. It’s ok to remain in the mess.
  2. UNCOMFY PASSAGE: The Hebrews passage feels like the EXACT opposite of the Gospel passage.
    1. Jesus is talking about bringing fire and causing division. …. Uuuummm Jesus… you ok?
      1. How does this passage work with the prayer of unity that Jesus prays in John 17?
      2. Is the GOOD NEWS of Jesus about division and fire? NO. The GOOD NEWS of Jesus is about restoration, redemption, and resurrection.
      3. This is NOT justification for hell, fire, and brimstone


  1. BACK TO INTRO: Since 2020, we’ve been in survival mode. Supply chains have been hit and people are “looking out for their own.” We don’t like being uncomfortable, therefore we hoarded provisions for OUR PEOPLE. We stopped caring for the vulnerable and EMPTIED the shelves in grocery stores. We fought for the last roll of toilet paper. I don’t care if you need it, I WANT IT! IT’S MINE!
    1. Does that sound like good news? Does that sound like living like Jesus? How did we get here? Is this what Jesus’ hands and feet look like? OR are we unable to read the signs of the times?
  2. Persecution in America:
    1. One of the mindsets that wears me down as a pastor is that of the “American Christian Martyr.” We’ve talked before about Christians who claim persecution when Starbucks changed their holiday cup design or if a store wishes you a “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Those things are not examples of persecution but evidence that we live in a cultural melting pot.
    2. Being uncomfortable isn’t persecution. Equality isn’t persecution. Correction isn’t persecution.
      1. Being corrected or called out for your failings isn’t persecution.
      2. Though it is frequently claimed, American Christians are not being persecuted today.
    3. We have been so busy trying to protect OURSELVES that we have ignored our responsibility as Christ followers to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES. We’ve been fighting about covid shots or toilet paper INSTEAD of fighting FOR the people in need & at risk.
  3. EXPOSING A WOUND OF DIVISION: it would be easy to look at Jesus’ words here at face value and ignore the rest of the gospels and the rest of scripture. Fire isn’t the fire of destruction but of refining. Division is sorting truth from lie. This isn’t a unity that comes from ignoring conflict. This division comes from finally revealing the disagreements and requiring truth to win. It would be easy to use these words to justify the animosity American Christians are breeding.American Christians are persecuted.NO!We are the majority, not the minority. We are the ruling class. We are not threatened.  If we assume Jesus is embracing fire and judgement, we would be ignoring the wound in our churches and letting it fester. The absence of conflict is not peace.
    1. UMC & LGBTQ+ decision led to a church split
      1. This wasn’t a recent revelation. This has been a source of tension that has been building for a while. The infecting division has been exposed, now it’s time to clean the wound and start the healing process.
    2. Some divisions don’t make sense in my mind: the topic of homosexuality and female pastors. Excluding both groups seems illogical to me: We would rather have less Christians? We would rather have less preachers? Yes, let’s have less people talking about Jesus and living like Jesus. We wouldn’t want knowledge of Jesus to get around to the rest of the world… they might bring in their baggage.
      1. I only want new Christians IF they are completely finished with their redemption and restoration. I don’t want any work-in-progress Christians here.
        1. WHAT?!!!?!? That’s not the gospel!
        2. Jesus didn’t kick Judas out.
  4. Perseverance of faith regardless of circumstance:
    1. What if we simply acted like Jesus to others rather than trying to convert them?
    2. What if we loved people without reservation or evaluation?
      1. Regardless of political party
      2. Regardless of Gender
      3. Regardless of religion
      4. Regardless of citizenship

CONCLUSION: Intsead of claiming persecution because we are uncomfortable, let’s embrace the mess.  I will stand by Jesus’ teachings; that may lead to division by people who *think* they know what Jesus says. They *think* of a Jesus who condemns or “brings fire.” “Here’s your one-way ticket to Hell!” Rather than a Jesus who left his divine place, entered humanity, DIED ON A CROSS, and defeated death so that we may live. A Jesus who invites us into the messy process of redemption.

Let go of the label “persecution” and embrace the “work in progress.”

Faith in Waiting

Message Title: Faith in Waiting
Theme: Faith
Season: Ordinary Time
Main Text: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Scripture Reading: Genesis 15:1-6
RCL Scripture: Genesis 15:1-6; Psalm 33:12-22; Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23; Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40
Focus: Abraham had faith in God to fulfill God’s promises.
Function:  To release our need to be people of certainty in stoic answers and find the faith in the waiting, mystery, and uncertainty.
Other Notes:
faith practiced in life- chairs, traffic, utilities, supply chains, politicians, fencing

We had technical difficulties with recording the sermon. Here is the FB live recording of the service. Liberty Baptist in Tipton, IN

SCRIPTURE READING: GENESIS 15:1-6 After these events, the Lord’s word came to Abram in a vision, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your protector.[a] Your reward will be very great.” But Abram said, “Lord God, what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children? The head of my household is Eliezer, a man from Damascus.”[b] He continued, “Since you haven’t given me any children, the head of my household will be my heir.” The Lord’s word came immediately to him, “This man will not be your heir. Your heir will definitely be your very own biological child.” Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.” He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” Abram trusted the Lord, and the Lord recognized Abram’s high moral character.

SERMON SERIES INTRO: We owe a lot of credit to the Apostle Paul for writing a large chunk of the New Testament. If you’ve ever paid attention to the order of the NT it goes: Gospels & Acts, Paul, Maybe Paul, Claims to Be Paul but we question it, Not Paul (Hebrews Author, Peter, James, John). The Pauline Epistles get the most credit however the “not Paul” section has wonderful teachings to offer.

We do not know the name of the author of Hebrews, nor the audience. The church has many different theories about possible authors, my favorite: it was a woman and that’s why her name got lost. Most likely the audience was Jewish since the book is structured around Jewish stories. Regardless of the missing details, this anonymous book gives us great wisdom into living our faith and learning from the examples of the faith of others. We will take a Leap of Faith through the lessons of others and teaches us about the Jesus we worship.


  1. Faith practiced in life: Throughout this series I want to consider ways faith is present in our normal lives. Not religious faith but the act of having faith in something. We go to sleep having faith that we’ll wake up the next morning. We, hopefully, obey traffic laws and have faith that others will do the same.
  2. The time I had to practice the most amount of faith was when I worked for the YMCA Day Camp in South Dakota. During our training we had to participate in all the activities we would be bringing kids through—High Ropes being one of the best ones.
    1. We had an exercise called the “Leap of Faith” where you would climb a telephone pole, get on top of the telephone pole, and then jump to a bar out in front of the telephone pole.
    2. The feat was terrifying in itself but you also had to trust the guides to keep you safe.
    3. This photo is me doing the leap. To be honest, I don’t remember if I grabbed the bar, but I do remember trusting the folks with the other end of my rope.

TRANSITION:  Our text today brings us to the Hall of Faith in Hebrews. We will only get a glimpse into Hebrews during this series and if you take away anything from this book, examine our chapter today. Turn with me to Hebrews 11 as we examine the leap of faith of Abraham and Sarah.

MAIN TEXT: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith. By faith we understand that the universe has been created by a word from God so that the visible came into existence from the invisible….

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out without knowing where he was going. By faith he lived in the land he had been promised as a stranger. He lived in tents along with Isaac and Jacob, who were coheirs of the same promise. 10 He was looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.11 By faith even Sarah received the ability to have a child, though she herself was barren and past the age for having children, because she believed that the one who promised was faithful. 12 So descendants were born from one man (and he was as good as dead). They were as many as the number of the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore. 13 All these people died in faith without receiving the promises, but they saw the promises from a distance and welcomed them. They confessed that they were strangers and immigrants on earth. 14 People who say this kind of thing make it clear that they are looking for a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking about the country that they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return to it. 16 But at this point in time, they are longing for a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God isn’t ashamed to be called their God—he has prepared a city for them.


  1. Genesis
    1. Context:
      1. Abram (not yet Abraham) is in the beginning of a relationship with God.
      2. Before God’s covenant with Abram
      3. Before the birth of Ishmael & the abuse of Hagar
    2. God made a promise to Abram and Abram had to take a leap of faith that God would fulfill these promises.
    3. Abram had no reason to trust God. They had no relationship prior to Genesis 12, where God tells Abram to move to Canaan.
  2. Hebrews
    1. Author defines faith: “Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.”
    2. Lack of knowledge connecting to faith:
      1. “What we see created by what we don’t see” (MSG)
      2. Abraham went to a new land without knowing where he was going.


  1. Genesis
    1. God didn’t tell him how many, God told him to count the stars
    2. The sun had to go down for God’s plan to be revealed (WP)
  2. Hebrews
    1. Author defines faith: “Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.”
  3. I love that the author of Hebrews doesn’t bring up Abraham’s dirty laundry. Abraham was not a perfect dude BUT our Author focuses on Abraham’s trust in God.
    1. Abraham was called righteous for his faith in God, not for behaving perfectly.
  4. Initially, Abraham’s faith required action—HE WENT. 
    1. But then Abraham’s faith required waiting –HE STRUGGLED.

APPLICATION: To release our need to be people of certainty in stoic answers and find the faith in the waiting, mystery, and uncertainty.

  1. CHRISTIAN ARROGANCE: Christianity isn’t about being RIGHT or having all the ANSWERS. Christianity is about TRUSTING God no matter the circumstance. However, Christians frequently are at risk of holding faith in our own truth, knowledge, or experiences ABOVE God.
    1. HONESTY TIME:  Fresh out of seminary, I was the ANSWER Queen! I was very confident in my interpretations and practice and judged others harshly. My mother called me out on it. Saying that I called her faith dumb while mine was informed…. I had to work on my faith because it was filled with arrogance. While I’m still confident in my faith, it’s no longer about my own understanding but God’s guidance.
  2. Faith doesn’t require a confident knowledge; faith requires trust in the All-Knowing.
    1. It’s scary to walk by faith. Walking by faith feels more like leaping off a telephone pole than having your feet firmly planted on the ground.
    2. Not having all the answers but learning from others.


  1. Faith requires moving forward in the midst of uncertainty; that leap of faith on top of the telephone pole was at the very edge of what I was capable of doing…. And I don’t think I could do it again today. Rather, I’m more confident in taking a leap of faith that is guided by the Spirit of God. After all, God brought me to Indiana. I didn’t know what God was up to but had to take the leap and wait on the results.

COMMUNION: We are waiting on the results of our faith in Christ. Though we have security in salvation we are waiting for the fullness of God’s promises to be fulfilled. Communion reminds us of those promises and encourages us to wait in faith.

The Value of a Label


Message Title: The Value of a Label
Active Faith
Season: Easter
Main Text: *Acts 9:36-43;
Scripture Reading: John 10:22-30
RCL Scripture: *Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30
Focus: Faith in Jesus is more about actions than words.
To put our actions where our words are by holding nothing back in our faith for Christ.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: John 10:22-30 22 The time came for the Festival of Dedication[a] in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple, walking in the covered porch named for Solomon. 24 The Jewish opposition circled around him and asked, “How long will you test our patience? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, but you don’t believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me26 but you don’t believe because you don’t belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life. They will never die, and no one will snatch them from my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them from my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

ACTIVE FAITH EXAMPLE: Today is Mother’s Day and I’d like to talk about a spiritual mother rather than a biological mother. Mother Teresa was sainted by the Catholic church in 2016 but I believe the general population had deemed her a saint much earlier. I mean, this woman received a Nobel Peace Prize after all.

  1. I realize the humor in a Baptist talking about a Catholic saint—but if you don’t know this woman’s story, you’re missing out.
  2. In 1950, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India. This congregation of nuns did mission work in over 133 countries. “Members take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and also profess a fourth vow – to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.””
    1. One of their first missions was to provide a place for the dying–HIV/AIDS, Leper, tuberculosis- dying with dignity.
    2. BUT the coolest story? In 1982, Lebanon was in the midst of a war. This fighting led to an orphanage for disabled children being attacked. Kids were wounded, in dangerous medical states because of their disabilities or, killed in the attacks. The workers left the kids to save themselves.
      1. Mother Teresa found out about this and instantly went to work. She wanted to go save those kids. However, the officials wouldn’t bring her into save the kids without a cease fire as they were actively bombing that area. She prayed and was completely confident the next day would bring a cease fire. Sure enough, the next day came and there was a cease fire. She arrived at 5 am so the Lebanese Red Cross could bring her in to get the kids out.
    3. Sources:
  3. Talk about maternal instincts! Mother Teresa was a mother to the dying, the poor, and the orphan. She may not have birthed children but she loved as passionately as Jesus. She embodied the motherhood of God.

TRANSITION: In our text today, we will connect the words of Jesus with the actions of a woman named Tabitha. Let’s hear her story and find inspiration for our own ACTIVE Faith.

MAIN TEXT: Acts 9:36-43 36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas). Her life overflowed with good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need. 37 About that time, though, she became so ill that she died. After they washed her body, they laid her in an upstairs room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, when the disciples heard that Peter was there, they sent two people to Peter. They urged, “Please come right away!” 39 Peter went with them. Upon his arrival, he was taken to the upstairs room. All the widows stood beside him, crying as they showed the tunics and other clothing Dorcas made when she was alive. 40 Peter sent everyone out of the room, then knelt and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. 41 He gave her his hand and raised her up. Then he called God’s holy people, including the widows, and presented her alive to them. 42 The news spread throughout Joppa, and many put their faith in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed for some time in Joppa with a certain tanner named Simon.


  1. MT: Tabitha’s Faith
    1. It would be easy to focus this story on the actions of Peter. I mean, Peter did just raise someone from the dead. But I think the more significant story is of the woman he raised.
      1. Right in the first verse of our reading, Tabitha (aka Dorcas aka Gazelle) is called a disciple. This woman is devoted to the teachings of Jesus and her life reflects that truth.
      2. Tabitha passes away and the widows gather to mourn her. Their mourning tells a beautiful story. They pull out garments that she has made for them. This woman LITERALLY “clothed the poor.” Just like Jesus said to do. Her life was shaped around caring for the vulnerable.
      3. Disciples (likely not the 12 but other disciples like Tabitha in Joppa) request help from Peter. He came and raised her up.
      4. Tabitha’s actions and resuscitation brought people to Jesus.
  2. SR: My sheep listen to my voice.
    1. This fits perfectly with the gospel passage. Jesus is in the Temple during Hanukah. A group of Jews are asking for clear evidence that Jesus is the Messiah.
    2. But Jesus had just finished a whole section of “I am” statements that would have LITERALLY been Jesus giving them what they wanted. After all, God’s name is ‘I AM.” He connected the dots BUT they didn’t want to hear it.
    3. Jesus says—even my words declare this truth. He healed a man born blind before his “I am” statements. After this, he would revive Lazarus from the dead.  


  1. Tabitha didn’t miss it. Tabitha acted in accordance with her faith. She believed in Jesus and her actions reflected that belief. There was a chain reaction.
  2. Jesus was not only speaking but also doing the very things that SHOULD point to him being the Messiah. However, the people most educated in the scriptures didn’t see it. They missed it because of their own perceptions of who the Messiah would be or how the Messiah would act.
    1. They rejected the label of Messiah for Jesus because he didn’t fit their understanding of the Messiah.


  1. Back to intro: Mother Teresa may not have been a biological mother BUT she was a Spiritual Mother to many, not just those children she saved in Lebanon.
    1. There have been different times in her life that Mother Teresa was questioned about her methods or beliefs, especially when they were unpopular. Her response in one particular moment was to remind people to not get lost in their lives and decisions so much that they forget to love.
      1. “Mother Teresa said: “Yet we can destroy this gift of motherhood, especially by the evil of abortion, but also by thinking that other things like jobs or positions are more important than loving.”
        1. Not get lost in the label and forget the responsibility.
  2. We can be very proud of the labels we carry: Parent, Pastor, Christian, EXAMPLE, EXAMPLE. However, labels mean nothing without actions.
    1. Mother Teresa was a mother, not because of the Catholic church but because of her ministry to others.
    2. The Jews who opposed Jesus, clung to their labels but lacked in their actions.
    3. Tabitha was exemplary in actions of her faith that she claimed. She was worthy of the label of disciple because of her actions. Labels to match the actions.
  3. We can claim to be Christians until we are blue in the face. But until we are lacking love, that label is worthless. We demean the label of Christian when we act unloving.
    1. Concepts and debates don’t win new believers; genuine loving faith wins new believers.

CONCLUSION:  In this world, you will meet people you disagree with. In this world you will interact with people who practice behaviors that you abhor. You will change no one’s mind by being an arrogant jerk.  But love can change the world. Ponder this as we listen to this song.

SONG:  Love Can Change the World by Aaron Niequist

BENEDICTION: May you finally live into the right labels. May you fully embody the name Christian, not for believing the right thing but by acting like Jesus.

The Blind Side- Turn the Other Cheek


Message Title:  The Blind Side- Turn the Other Cheek
Theme: Active Faith
Season: Easter
Main Text: *Acts 9:1-20
Scripture Reading: John 21:1-19
RCL Scripture: *Acts 9:1-6, (7-20); Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
Focus:  God doesn’t give up.
 to find pathways for restoration, redemption, and reconciliation that are guided by God’s Spirit.
Other Notes:
COMMUNION SUNDAY| STORIES OF ACTIVE FAITH PEOPLE – St Francis, Shane Claiborne, mother Theresa, “hell’s kitchen” & Walter Rauschenbusch

SCRIPTURE READING: John 21:1-19 Later, Jesus himself appeared again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. This is how it happened: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two other disciples were together. 3Simon Peter told them, “I’m going fishing.” They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in a boat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. 4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus. 5Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net. 7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water. 8The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far from shore, only about one hundred yards. 9When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, and some bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you’ve just caught.” 11Simon Peter got up and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so many fish. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18I assure you that when you were younger you tied your own belt and walked around wherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’t want to go.” 19He said this to show the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”


  1. Shane Claiborne is a unique type of Christian. In the early 2000’s he used the phrase “New Monastic” or “Monastic Christian” to describe his faith. His influences include Mother Theresa and St Francis of Assisi. It’s no wonder that Claiborne’s life was structured similar to St francis: he chose to live in poverty and community in the inner city of Philadelphia. They called this community “the Simple Way” which has grown into it’s own ministry organization.
    1. In the beginning, Shane and his roommates chose an intentional style of living that pursued radical love to their community. This community did not fit in with typica Philly—they had a washing machine powered by a bicycle AND they would turn guns into gardening tools through black smithing methods. PHOTO  (inspired by Isaiah 2:4)

TRANSITION: Claiborne’s demeanor and methodology is quite different than the two men we’ll study today BUT he has just as much zeal for Jesus.

MAIN TEXT: Acts 9:1-20 Meanwhile, Saul was still spewing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest, 2seeking letters to the synagogues in Damascus. If he found persons who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, these letters would authorize him to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3During the journey, as he approached Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven encircled him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?” 5Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are harassing,” came the reply. 6“Now get up and enter the city. You will be told what you must do.”  7Those traveling with him stood there speechless; they heard the voice but saw no one. 8After they picked Saul up from the ground, he opened his eyes but he couldn’t see. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9For three days he was blind and neither ate nor drank anything. 10In Damascus there was a certain disciple named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, “Ananias!” He answered, “Yes, Lord.” 11The Lord instructed him, “Go to Judas’ house on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying. 12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias enter and put his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13Ananias countered, “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man. People say he has done horrible things to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14He’s here with authority from the chief priests to arrest everyone who calls on your name.” 15The Lord replied, “Go! This man is the agent I have chosen to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17Ananias went to the house. He placed his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord sent me—Jesus, who appeared to you on the way as you were coming here. He sent me so that you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18Instantly, flakes fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. He got up and was baptized. 19After eating, he regained his strength. He stayed with the disciples in Damascus for several days. 20Right away, he began to preach about Jesus in the synagogues. “He is God’s Son,” he declared.


  1. Saul was so full of zeal for his beliefs that he was ready to crush this Jesus movement plaguing his faith.
    1. On his way to carry out his plans, Jesus appeared to him saying “why are you persecuting (harassing) me?!”
    2. Jesus commissions Saul, blinds him, and sends him to Ananias (a fellow Christian) to get sorted out.
  2. Saul doesn’t even seem to have a choice—Jesus is redeeming his story- PERIOD!
    1. Saul went from zealousness of rage to grace
  3. Jesus seems to be in the habit of restoring people when they or others have given up. While I could offer you many examples, we’ll focus on the story from the gospel passage today.
    1. In many ways, Peter is just like Paul. Peter is zealous and does everything 200%.
      1. Jesus is washing feet NO JESUS NOT ME! OK OK THEN MY WHOLE BODY!
      2. Jesus is getting arrested *cuts off guards ear*!
      3. Jesus has died and they’re looking for his followers? DEFINITELY NOT ME!
      4. This guy has no chill.
    2. NOW Peter is behaving as if he’s given up. He went HOME after seeing the empty tomb. Now he’s at the sea of Galilee – sad, broken, lost. (I mean—What are the disciples doing there? They’ve already seen the risen Christ a few times… why are they fishing?!) In his mind, Peter has lost his place as a disciple so why not go back to the life before Jesus—a life of fishing.
      1. Hard core post-break up energy.
    3. But once again, Jesus pulls him out of that life. Jesus restores Peter to his place as a disciple.


  1. Saul was redeemed. Peter was restored. There is hope for us too.
  2. Back to intro: Shane Claiborne is a radical Christian living out the teachings and actions of Jesus in bold ways. Frequently his actions and words make people uncomfortable. An unpopular but big part of his ministry includes caring for those on death row. He advocates for inmates. He speaks with governors. He does public engagements to end capital punishment.
    1. He wrote a book titled “Executing Grace” where he discusses how faith in Jesus (a man executed on death row) means we should be against this form of punishment.
    2. It’s a hard path to consider when we humans desire justice when we’ve been wronged.
    3. I’ll leave space for you to ponder Claiborne’s thoughts & actions while we consider our own.
  3. AUDIENCE REFLECTION: take some time to ponder these questions.
    1. How are we opening doors for redemption, restoration, and reconciliation?
    2. Do we make room for people with criminal records in a church community?
    3. Do we leave room for people to change their mind who hurt or failed us?
    4. Do we make space for people to start a new life?
  4. DISCLAIMER; If you have suffered abuse—these questions can be quite triggering or confusing. Please use caution when considering reconciliation with your abuser.
    1. All reconciliation, redemption, and restoration should be fueled by the Spirit of God, NOT by an attitude of guilt or fear.
    2. For the rest of us who haven’t experienced abuse—we are called to be agents of healing for both parties: the guilty and the victim without putting pressure on the victim to reconcile with the guilty.

COMMUNION:  Our first act of reconciliation is the communion table. At this table, we are equals. No one is greater than another. No one is more righteous. No one is garbage. Everyone gets an equal seat at this table.

CONCLUSION:  No one is past God’s redemption. Saul wanted to kill Christians. Jesus redeemed him. Peter had denied Jesus. Jesus restored him. Maybe that person on death row will be your neighbor in eternity. Our God is all powerful and all loving. Our God can redeem, restore, and reconcile any store—yours, mine, or theirs.

Can A Story Change Your Life?


Message Title: Can A Story Change Your Life?
Active Faith (St francis quote about preaching the gopsel at all times)
Season: Easter
Main Text: *Acts 5:27-32;
Scripture Reading: John 20:19-31
RCL Scripture: *Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 118:14-29; Psalm 150; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31
Focus:  The knowledge of the Resurrected Jesus is transformative.
 To align our priorities and loyalties with Christ above every earthly authority.
Other Notes:
STORIES OF ACTIVE FAITH PEOPLE – st Francis, Shane Claiborne, mother Theresa, “hell’s kitchen” & Walter rauschenbach,

SCRIPTURE READING: John 20:19-31 19 It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.” 24 Thomas, the one called Didymus,[a] one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.” 26 After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” 28 Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” 30 Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. 31 But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.

ACTIVE FAITH SERIES INTRODUCTION:  A quote frequently mis-attributed to St. Francis of Assisi is “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words.” Regardless of who coined this phrase, it is a solid phrase to live by. Over the season of Easter, we will study stories from Acts and John while considering how we can transform our faith to an active faith.

ACTIVE FAITH EXAMPLE:  As we journey through the our Active Faith series, I’ll also find examples of Christians throughout history who have lived an Active Faith.

We’ll talk about St. Francis first.

  1. Details about St Fran:
    1. From a wealthy family
    2. Went to war and was traumatized by the injuries and death he saw
      1. Rejected his family status of wealth and position for a role as a monk
      2. Took a vow of poverty and basically established a new “order” (Franciscan monks vs. Benedictine or Gregorian or other monks)
    3. He preached to birds and the response was so spiritual that he had a revelation of all creation being part of God’s family. He regularly preached to animals from that point forward.
      1. Source:
  2. St Francis was a tender and tortured soul that carried the burdens of war yet found peace in nature.
    1. Personal irony—I own a cat, she’s named after St Francis, we call her Franny. She however, is not a lover of animals. She doesn’t like her 4 cat siblings or 2 doggie siblings.

TRANSITION: St Francis loved preaching to animals but in our text for today we will hear how Peter broke the law by preaching. Two unconventional men with active faith to very different crowds! Let’s see how their faith will guide our own.

MAIN TEXT: Acts 5:27-32 27 The apostles were brought before the council where the high priest confronted them: 28 “In no uncertain terms, we demanded that you not teach in this name. And look at you! You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching. And you are determined to hold us responsible for this man’s death.” 29 Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than humans30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God has exalted Jesus to his right side as leader and savior so that he could enable Israel to change its heart and life and to find forgiveness for sins. 32 We are witnesses of such things, as is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”


  1. Context:
    1. After math of Easter- Remember, Jesus was executed by his own people through the authority of Rome. He was considered a criminal and a blasphemer by officials.
      1. They executed Jesus and hoped that it would squash this movement. Hopefully fear of being executed would quiet his disciples.
    2. By the time of Acts 5, Pentecost has already happened. The disciples were commissioned and equipped with the Holy Spirit to spread the story of Jesus to the ends of the earth.
      1. Though they are out preaching, this didn’t mean the tension in the air had calmed.
  2. Jesus’ disciples were not silenced by the high priest or Sadducees. They continued to preach the word of Jesus even though they had been strictly forbidden to do so.


  1. Connect to scripture reading:
    1. We can see that the gospel passage we read for our scripture reading had a transforming impact on their lives.
    2. The disciples saw the resurrected Jesus, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them (yes this is described differently in Acts 2) and then told them to go and serve.
    3. Thomas wasn’t there and didn’t believe the other disciples. He wanted the same proof they received.
  2. This event changed their lives. The disciples were willing to risk their own death by continuing to preach the story of Jesus throughout Jerusalem.
    1. Eventually all 12 of the apostles would die for the Gospel.
      1. Judas out of guilt for his part in the story
      2. John in exile on an island
      3. The rest as martyrs
  3. The truth of Jesus Christ gave the disciples the bravery to stand up to human authority. The disciples aren’t looking for human approval in order to carry out the Great Commission. They would be faithful to Jesus at all cost.
    1. They are faithful to Jesus above their religion & religious leaders.
    2. They are faithful to Jesus above the government.
    3. They are faithful to Jesus above the culture.


  1. Not their own gain: The disciples were not rebellious against authorities in order to push any human agenda. They were preaching the hope of Christ regardless of what any authorities said.
    1. It’s no wonder that, later, the Apostle Paul writes to the Philippians about their citizenship in Heaven not on Earth. They had put too much emphasis on national pride.
  2. Political Loyalty: A podcast I listened to discussed a political candidate’s interview for a local election—I forget the state or candidate or political party. However, they asked him if he was loyal to his state or to his political party. The people wanted him to be loyal to his state first and foremost.
    1. Divided loyalty is not loyalty. Eventually, one will demand the whole amount. We cannot be loyal to two separate groups.
    2. i.e. Jesus speaks of not being able to serve both God and money in Matthew 6.

  3. Sorting our Priorities:
    1. Our priority isn’t to make sure the government (of any country) behaves in accordance to our faith.
      1. Our priority isn’t to a political party or politician.
        1. This is a tough one for me—it’s so easy to equate my hopes with what government officials say or the laws that will be passed. I can get wrapped up in hoping that all of America will see the world through the same Gospel lens as me.
      2. BUT the disciples were faithful to Jesus even at the risk of their lives- religion, government & culture.
        1. Early Christians were faithful to Jesus even when Christianity was illegal and punishable by death (including a gladiator death by wild beasts). It wasn’t until Constantine that Christianity was legalized. … and then we became the killers (aka the Holy Roman Empire slaughtering anyone who wouldn’t say yes to Jesus.)
      3. When faith and government mix, it makes a mess of both. It splits our priorities…. Eventually we choose one over the other.
    1. Our priority is to the teachings of Jesus.
      1. Does Jesus alter our politics or do our politics alter Jesus?
      2. Our faith acts outside of ANY authority apart from Jesus.
      3. There are countless martyrs (talked about in SS) we could study who died for their faith—the first that come to mind are Felicitas and Perpetua. Perpetua gave birth in jail, her father took the child. And then the two women were killed in arena games… (think gladiator games) … all because they loved Jesus. Theses mothers gave up their life & ability to raise their children for the Gospel.
        1. We get mad about books with words in them that we disagree with and call it persecution. We get mad about Christmas not being celebrated “properly” in retail stores or restaurants. These women died for their faith.


  1. We’ve lost our perspective much like St. Francis before he went to war.
  2. No matter what events are happening in the world (war, food shortage, elections, etc) our priority is to be faithful to Christ.
    1. Faithfulness to Christ does not look like cruelty to others.
    2. Faithfulness to Christ looks like compassion, hope, and mercy.
    3. Faithfulness to Christ looks like spending our energy on ministry, not on passing our beliefs in to laws.
    4. The laws of this world don’t dictate our mission, God does. Our job is to care for the vulnerable and spread the hope of the Resurrected Christ.
  3. Join with the bold Christians who have gone before us. Don’t cling to hope in human authorities but in Christ.

May we be transformed by the resurrected Jesus. May our priorities and loyalties be only to him.

Easter Sunday


Message Title:
Main Text:
 All Scripture Readings
Scripture Reading:
Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12
RCL Scripture:
*Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 65:17-25; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Luke 24:1-12
Focus: Jesus resurrected for all people to be invited to the family of God.
 To be comfortable in the unknown, to learn through the Spirit, and respond with praise.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING 1: Psalm 118 :1-2, 14-24 Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever. Let Israel say it: “God’s faithful love lasts forever!”… 14 The Lord was my strength and protection; he was my saving help! 15 The sounds of joyful songs and deliverance are heard in the tents of the righteous: “The Lord’s strong hand is victorious! 16The Lord’s strong hand is ready to strike! The Lord’s strong hand is victorious!” 17 I won’t die—no, I will live and declare what the Lord has done. 18 Yes, the Lord definitely disciplined me, but he didn’t hand me over to death. 19 Open the gates of righteousness for me so I can come in and give thanks to the Lord! 20 This is the Lord’s gate; those who are righteous enter through it. 21 I thank you because you answered me, because you were my saving help. 22 The stone rejected by the builders is now the main foundation stone! 23 This has happened because of the Lord; it is astounding in our sight! 24 This is the day the Lord acted; we will rejoice and celebrate in it!

SCRIPTURE READING 2: Acts 10: 34-43 34 Peter said, “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another. 35 Rather, in every nation, whoever worships him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 This is the message of peace he sent to the Israelites by proclaiming the good news through Jesus Christ: He is Lord of all! 37 You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism John preached. 38 You know about Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and endowed with power. Jesus traveled around doing good and healing everyone oppressed by the devil because God was with him. 39 We are witnesses of everything he did, both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him up on the third day and allowed him to be seen, 41 not by everyone but by us. We are witnesses whom God chose beforehand, who ate and drank with him after God raised him from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

SCRIPTURE READING 3:  1 Corinthians 15; 19-26 19 If we have a hope in Christ only in this life, then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. He’s the first crop of the harvest[a] of those who have died. 21 Since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came through one too. 22 In the same way that everyone dies in Adam, so also everyone will be given life in Christ. 23 Each event will happen in the right order: Christ, the first crop of the harvest,[b] then those who belong to Christ at his coming, 24 and then the end, when Christ hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he brings every form of rule, every authority and power to an end. 25 It is necessary for him to rule until he puts all enemies under his feet.[c] 26 Death is the last enemy to be brought to an end,

SCRIPTURE READING 4: Luke 24: 1-12  Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb, bringing the fragrant spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. They didn’t know what to make of this. Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothing. The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Human One[a] must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words. When they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women. 12 But Peter ran to the tomb. When he bent over to look inside, he saw only the linen cloth. Then he returned home, wondering what had happened.


  1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: How many of you love home improvement projects? Which projects are always worth the money?
    1. Have you ever taken a short cut to save money?
    2. Have you ever found something bizarre while in the midst of a project?
  2. Perhaps it’s pregnancy, but house projects have been on my mind the last six months or so. I particularly love learning about home renos with weird discoveries. Sure, I always ask “Why would you cover up beautiful hard wood floors with carpet?” But what if they find something else under the carpet?
    1. One of my favorite stories is of a couple who decided to rip up the carpet in a room in their house and they discovered a fully tiled hot tub. PHOTO

TRANSITION:  While we may not understand *why* our previous home owner made their decorating decisions; we’ve got bigger puzzles to solve.

It’s Easter Sunday! He has risen- he has risen indeed. Today we will discuss the PUZZLING story of Jesus’ resurrection through our scripture readings. We’ll address the text in reverse order, starting with Luke and ending with Psalm 118. Join me as we walk through scripture and hunt for understanding in this complex story.

THE TEXT:  Luke 24:1-12; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24


  1. WHAT HAPPENED: Luke 24:1-12
    1. Gospel disclaimer: Each Gospel is different about who went to the tomb and what happened at the Tomb. This is Luke’s perspective. Not a resurrection text but a discovery of the empty tomb (Wp)
      1. I think we’re given this passage as examples of our own experience. We weren’t there on Easter Sunday. We didn’t get to see the resurrected Messiah. BUT we’re still called to believe.
    2. Fear was present: it was not a good time to be connected to Jesus. Jesus had just been brutally executed; you could easily assume the same fate – guilty by association. Therefore, many of the disciples went into hiding.
      1. BUT the women went to the tomb. The women did not dwell in their fear. They lived in their love for Jesus.
    3. The text tells us “men” appeared (angels) and announce to the women that Jesus is alive and remind them of what Jesus taught them.
      1. The women remembered and went to spread the news.
    4. Then they went to tell the men, but the men didn’t believe them. The disciples treated the women like their culture expected—women are property, they can’t speak truth. Women couldn’t even testify in court… I mean if a cow or a table can’t testify, why should a woman? (just considered it “hen talk” as Gary would call it.)
      1. Peter even goes to the Tomb and leaves wondering.
    5. Disbelief is part of the Easter Story
      1. Belief is not the natural response of anyone (WP)
  2. SIGNIFICANCE: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 can’t rewrite history or faith so that it makes you feel good.
    1. Struggles with belief was not a problem for just the disciples. Early Christians, especially those who didn’t meet Jesus or witness the resurrection struggled to understand and build their faith.
    2. Many tried to explain things away that they didn’t understand so Paul wrote to show them how their “solutions” to the “problems” made different problems.
      1. Christ was resurrected… if not, then we have not hope of being resurrected and our faith is silly.
    3. The concept is difficult to comprehend BUT Jesus resurrected FOR US and we have hope in our own resurrection because of Easter.
  3. INVITATION: Acts 10:34-43 Learning and growing with God
      1. Both Paul and Peter had to learn the lesson that God was opening doors for Gentiles, not just for Jews. They learned that we didn’t have to become Jewish to follow Jesus, who was Jewish. The resurrection was a promise not simply for a select few, but for everyone to expect.
    2. This passage in acts is beautiful because Peter has to admit that God is doing things he didn’t expect. Peter sees the Holy Spirit work in people that he had written off and was forced to adjust his own beliefs to fit how God ACTUALLY works.
      1. (Pentecost of the Gentiles- Peter’s eyes have opened that God calls Gentiles as well as Jews).
      2. “I am learning” – He’s a work in progress, he’s undoing his preconceived ideas and working on opening his mind to how God had designed things.
    3. God doesn’t show partiality to one group over another
      1. Audience engagement: Let’s unpack verse 35 in a way that hits home. Every nation—reflection time: “every ____” (political party, generation, country, race, etc)
  4. WORSHIP: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24- a partial repeat of last week.
    1. We read part of this psalm last week for Palm Sunday but the sentiment remains: God’s plans are bigger than we understand. God’s methods are frequently puzzling. BUT God’s motives are always praise worthy.
      1. Praising God in the midst of our unknown
    2. We’re praising God from the other side of a promise. Easter Sunday is waiting on one less promise than Palm Sunday’s praises.


  1. You don’t have to have God all figured out.
    1. Jesus’ disciples (who were there! Who travelled with Jesus, ate with Jesus, saw miracles were inconsistent!)
    2. Faith doesn’t mean “I understand completely.”  Faith means “I’ll trust in the midst of the unknown.”
  2. There will be learning opportunities as you stick it out.
    1. An ongoing relationship with God will open doors of understanding in many ways— in other ways it will open peace for the unanswered.
    2. Peter was “learning” – we can learn too.
  3. Jesus’ resurrection is full of mysteries but his love for you is unquestioningly true.

CONCLUSION:  The Good news? You won’t find any hidden hot tubs under the carpet. The truth? There will be plenty more puzzling parts of faith as you grow with God. Embrace the mysteries. Expect new things. Welcome to the resurrection.

Good Friday

4/15/2022 Good Friday Tenebrae service
  1. Welcome & Instructions: Thank you for joining us this evening. Our previous gathering was last night for Maundy Thursday where we left the place in candle light. Tonight, the room will get even darker. Readers will come and read a passage then extinguish candles.
    The room will grow dark as we progress through the story of “Good Friday.” This type of service is known as a Tenebrae service which connects us with the darkness the disciples felt and the darkness Jesus experienced on this holy day.
  2. Unison Prayer: let’s open in prayer together. Join me in reading the prayer on the screen out loud.

Holy God, We are caught in the tension of light and shadow, death and resurrection. You spoke the world into being, you illuminated the universe by your very speech, then filled the void with life. Indeed, you have filled the void of darkness and death, the empty promises of the abyss, with new life and new creation. We look to you in the space between the world and the Kingdom, longing for the fulfillment of your word in the work of the Holy Spirit and the reign of Christ, our Creator and King. Amen.

  • Tenebrae Readings: 15 Candles + Christ Candle.

Matthew 26:31-75

MERIAH 31-3531 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Tonight you will all fall away because of me. This is because it is written, I will hit the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will go off in all directions.[d] 32 But after I’m raised up, I’ll go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter replied, “If everyone else stumbles because of you, I’ll never stumble.” 34 Jesus said to him, “I assure you that, before the rooster crows tonight, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said, “Even if I must die alongside you, I won’t deny you.” All the disciples said the same thing. EXTINGUISH YOUR CANDLE

JOSH 36-46 36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.” 37 When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. 38 Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” 39 Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.” 40 He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? 41 Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” 42 A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup be taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping. Their eyes were heavy with sleep. 44 But he left them and again went and prayed the same words for the third time. 45 Then he came to his disciples and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? Look, the time has come for the Human One[e] to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up. Let’s go. Look, here comes my betrayer.”


CHRIS 47-56 47 While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came. With him was a large crowd carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 His betrayer had given them a sign: “Arrest the man I kiss.” 49 Just then he came to Jesus and said, “Hello, Rabbi.” Then he kissed him. 50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 51 One of those with Jesus reached for his sword. Striking the high priest’s slave, he cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put the sword back into its place. All those who use the sword will die by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I’m not able to ask my Father and he will send to me more than twelve battle groups[f] of angels right away? 54 But if I did that, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this must happen?” 55 Then Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, like a thief? Day after day, I sat in the temple teaching, but you didn’t arrest me. 56 But all this has happened so that what the prophets said in the scriptures might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left Jesus and ran away.

BO 57-68 57 Those who arrested Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest. The legal experts and the elders had gathered there. 58 Peter followed him from a distance until he came to the high priest’s courtyard. He entered that area and sat outside with the officers to see how it would turn out. 59 The chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 They didn’t find anything they could use from the many false witnesses who were willing to come forward. But finally they found two 61 who said, “This man said, ‘I can destroy God’s temple and rebuild it in three days.’” 62 Then the high priest stood and said to Jesus, “Aren’t you going to respond to the testimony these people have brought against you?” 63 But Jesus was silent. The high priest said, “By the living God, I demand that you tell us whether you are the Christ, God’s Son.” 64 “You said it,” Jesus replied. “But I say to you that from now on you’ll see the Human One[g] sitting on the right side of the Almighty[h] and coming on the heavenly clouds.”[i] 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He’s insulting God! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, you’ve heard his insult against God. 66 What do you think?” And they answered, “He deserves to die!” 67 Then they spit in his face and beat him. They hit him 68 and said, “Prophesy for us, Christ! Who hit you?”

ABBY 69-75 69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant woman came and said to him, “You were also with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it in front of all of them, saying, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” 71 When he went over to the gate, another woman saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” 72 With a solemn pledge, he denied it again, saying, “I don’t know the man.” 73 A short time later those standing there came and said to Peter, “You must be one of them. The way you talk gives you away.” 74 Then he cursed and swore, “I don’t know the man!” At that very moment the rooster crowed. 75 Peter remembered Jesus’ words, “Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.”And Peter went out and cried uncontrollably.

Matthew 27: 1-37

RUTH 1-2 Early in the morning all the chief priests and the elders of the people reached the decision to have Jesus put to death. They bound him, led him away, and turned him over to Pilate the governor.

MERIAH 3-10 When Judas, who betrayed Jesus, saw that Jesus was condemned to die, he felt deep regret. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, and said, “I did wrong because I betrayed an innocent man.” But they said, “What is that to us? That’s your problem.” Judas threw the silver pieces into the temple and left. Then he went and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the silver pieces and said, “According to the Law it’s not right to put this money in the treasury. Since it was used to pay for someone’s life, it’s unclean.” So they decided to use it to buy the potter’s field where strangers could be buried. That’s why that field is called “Field of Blood” to this very day. This fulfilled the words of Jeremiah the prophet: And I took the thirty pieces of silver, the price for the one whose price had been set by some of the Israelites, 10 and I gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.[a]

JOSH 11-14 11 Jesus was brought before the governor. The governor said, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “That’s what you say.” 12 But he didn’t answer when the chief priests and elders accused him. 13 Then Pilate said, “Don’t you hear the testimony they bring against you?” 14 But he didn’t answer, not even a single word. So the governor was greatly amazed.

CHRIS 15-26 15 It was customary during the festival for the governor to release to the crowd one prisoner, whomever they might choose. 16 At that time there was a well-known prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. 17 When the crowd had come together, Pilate asked them, “Whom would you like me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 He knew that the leaders of the people had handed him over because of jealousy. 19 While he was serving as judge, his wife sent this message to him, “Leave that righteous man alone. I’ve suffered much today in a dream because of him.” 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and kill Jesus. 21 The governor said, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” “Barabbas,” they replied. 22 Pilate said, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Crucify him!” 23 But he said, “Why? What wrong has he done?” They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!” 24 Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was starting. So he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I’m innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It’s your problem.” 25 All the people replied, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified.

BO 27-31 27 The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s house, and they gathered the whole company[b] of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a red military coat on him. 29 They twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand. Then they bowed down in front of him and mocked him, saying, “Hey! King of the Jews!” 30 After they spit on him, they took the stick and struck his head again and again. 31 When they finished mocking him, they stripped him of the military coat and put his own clothes back on him. They led him away to crucify him.

ABBY 32-37 32 As they were going out, they found Simon, a man from Cyrene. They forced him to carry his cross. 33 When they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place, 34 they gave Jesus wine mixed with vinegar to drink. But after tasting it, he didn’t want to drink it. 35 After they crucified him, they divided up his clothes among them by drawing lots. 36 They sat there, guarding him. 37 They placed above his head the charge against him. It read, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” 

RUTH Isaiah 53:1-12 Who can believe what we have heard, and for whose sake has the Lord’s arm[a] been revealed? He grew up like a young plant before us,[b] like a root from dry ground. He possessed no splendid form for us to see, no desirable appearance. He was despised and avoided by others; a man who suffered, who knew sickness well. Like someone from whom people hid their faces, he was despised, and we didn’t think about him. It was certainly our sickness that he carried, and our sufferings that he bore, but we thought him afflicted, struck down by God and tormented. He was pierced because of our rebellions and crushed because of our crimes. He bore the punishment that made us whole; by his wounds we are healed. Like sheep we had all wandered away, each going its own way, but the Lord let fall on him all our crimes. He was oppressed and tormented, but didn’t open his mouth. Like a lamb being brought to slaughter, like a ewe silent before her shearers, he didn’t open his mouth. Due to an unjust ruling he was taken away, and his fate—who will think about it? He was eliminated from the land of the living, struck dead because of my people’s rebellion. His grave was among the wicked, his tomb with evildoers,[c] though he had done no violence, and had spoken nothing false. 10 But the Lord wanted to crush him and to make him suffer. If his life is offered[d] as restitution, he will see his offspring; he will enjoy long life. The Lord’s plans will come to fruition through him. 11 After his deep anguish he will see light,[e] and he will be satisfied. Through his knowledge, the righteous one, my servant, will make many righteous, and will bear their guilt. 12 Therefore, I will give him a share with the great, and he will divide the spoil with the strong, in return for exposing his life to death and being numbered with rebels, though he carried the sin of many and pleaded on behalf of those who rebelled.


Matthew 27: 38-50

MERIAH 38-44 38 They crucified with him two outlaws, one on his right side and one on his left. 39 Those who were walking by insulted Jesus, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? Save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way, the chief priests, along with the legal experts and the elders, were making fun of him, saying, 42 “He saved others, but he can’t save himself. He’s the king of Israel, so let him come down from the cross now. Then we’ll believe in him. 43 He trusts in God, so let God deliver him now if he wants to. He said, ‘I’m God’s Son.’” 44 The outlaws who were crucified with him insulted him in the same way.

JOSH 45-50 45 From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. 46 At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”[c] 47 After hearing him, some standing there said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 One of them ran over, took a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 But the rest of them said, “Let’s see if Elijah will come and save him.” 50 Again Jesus cried out with a loud shout. Then he died.

  • Christ CandleChrist candle is suddenly and loudly blown out at the end of the reading as lights in the room are turned off so that darkness prevails. Long dark silence.

MERIAH Matthew 27:51-54 51 Look, the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, 52 and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised. 53 After Jesus’ resurrection they came out of their graves and went into the holy city where they appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what had just happened, they were filled with awe and said, “This was certainly God’s Son.”


SONG: Watch the Lamb– Ray Bolz

After the song, the Christ candle is relit with the strike of a match.

Short silence.

  • Concluding Prayer & Dismissal: The true light that enlightens everyone that came into the world through Christ. Though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. In him was life, and his life was the light of all. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

May you walk through the darkness clinging to the light of Christ. Amen

All depart in silence

Maundy Thursday

4/14/2022 Maundy Thursday

Message Title: Maundy Thursday
Holy Week
RCL Scripture: Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Focus: The actions we engage in tonight are rooted in the history and promises of God.
 To find new connections in Communion and Washings.
Other Notes:


  1. In the fellowship hall, the lights are dark. The room is lit by candles on the table.
  2. The table is shaped in a cross with black table cloths.
  3. On the table: loaves of bread, pitchers of grape juice, and the hand washing supplies.

Welcome & Instructions: Welcome to Maundy Thursday. Maundy can be translated in two different ways – Holy or Mandate. This Holy Thursday reminds us of the mandate or commandment Jesus gave his disciples as he washed their feet. We’re going to walk through some scripture & lessons together and then dive into some acts of remembrance.

First, we’ll start out with prayer.

Prayer:  Gracious God, Thank you for this evening in the midst of the winds. We pray we feel your presence blow into this place. Bless this time we set aside to look at your scripture and to act out our remembrance of your goodness. May we be transformed by your truth. Amen.

Scriptures & Teachings: On the night that Jesus and his disciples got together to share their Passover meal, they disciples thought this was just another Passover with Jesus. They would have had two previous Passover meals with Jesus but this time everything was different.

  1. Exodus 12:1-14 The Passover
    1. Instructions on the door
    2. Instructions on the meal
    3. Keep it as a festival to remember for each generation
    4. (Psalm 116 “the cup of salvation”)
  2. Paul’s instructions on Communion
    1. Background: Corinthians were using the communion table as a place for showing off their wealth. The wealthy & elite would get drunk off of the wine and stuff themselves with the bread, while the poor and destitute would get none.
    2. Paul describing the Last Supper
    3. Bread “do this to remember me”
    4. Cup “do this to remember me”
    5. Every time you participate in communion you are pointing to God’s promise
  3. Foot washing & New Commandment
    1. Pt 1
      1. Passover was coming
      2. Foot washing
        1. Peter’s resistance
        2. Jesus washed Judas’ feet
        3. Do as I have done
          1. Humility & service are the pathway of disciples
    2. Pt 2 New Commandment
      1. Love as I have loved you.

Actions of Remembrance:

  1. Communion
    1. Bread
      1. Blessing
    2. Cup
      1. Blessing
  2. Washing
    1. Instructions:
      1. Play music during this time
    1. Washing each other’s hands- start in 2 spots- top and bottom of cross
      1. Soap & dry
      2. Lotion
      3. Blessing- You are loved by God. Love as I have loved you.

Closing prayer

Palm Sunday

4/10/2022 Palm Sunday

Message Title:
Holy Week
Palm Sunday
Main Text: Luke 19:28-40
Scripture Reading:
Luke 19:28-40; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Philippians 2:5-11; Isaiah 50:4-9a
RCL Scripture: Psalm 31:9-16; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Luke 19:28-40; Luke 22:14-23:56 or Luke 23:1-49; Philippians 2:5-11
Jesus enters Jerusalem and God keeps God’s promises.
To form a celebratory heart for Holy Week.
Other Notes:

Scripture Reading 1: Luke 19:28-40- Josh 28 After Jesus said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. 30 He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’” 32 Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “Its master needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it. 36 As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road. 37 As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. 38 They said, “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.” 39 Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”

Scripture Reading 2: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29- Christy Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever. Let Israel say it: “God’s faithful love lasts forever!”… 19 Open the gates of righteousness for me so I can come in and give thanks to the Lord! 20 This is the Lord’s gate; those who are righteous enter through it. 21 I thank you because you answered me, because you were my saving help. 22 The stone rejected by the builders is now the main foundation stone! 23 This has happened because of the Lord; it is astounding in our sight! 24 This is the day the Lord acted; we will rejoice and celebrate in it! 25 Lord, please save us! Lord, please let us succeed! 26 The one who enters in the Lord’s name is blessed; we bless all of you from the Lord’s house. 27 The Lord is God! He has shined a light on us! So lead the festival offering with ropes all the way to the horns of the altar.[d] 28 You are my God—I will give thanks to you! You are my God—I will lift you up high! 29 Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever.

Scripture Reading 3: Philippians 2:5-11 – Lori R Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus: Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, 8he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God highly honored him and gave him a name above all names, 10so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Scripture Reading 4: Isaiah 50:4-9a- Jay The Lord God gave me an educated tongue to know how to respond to the weary with a word that will awaken them in the morning.[b] God awakens my ear in the morning to listen, as educated people do. The Lord God opened my ear; I didn’t rebel; I didn’t turn my back. Instead, I gave my body to attackers, and my cheeks to beard pluckers. I didn’t hide my face from insults and spitting. The Lord God will help me; therefore, I haven’t been insulted. Therefore, I set my face like flint, and knew I wouldn’t be ashamed. The one who will declare me innocent is near. Who will argue with me? Let’s stand up together. Who will bring judgment against me? Let him approach me. Look! The Lord God will help me. Who will condemn me?


  1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMNT: Let’s test how old you are: When you think of a donkey in a animated movie, what is the first image that comes to mind?
    1. Pinocchio & Donkey Island
    2. Eeyore
    3. Donkey from Shrek
    4. The donkeys that Luisa carries around in Encanto
  2. Of the donkeys listed, I’m personally fond of Eeyore. Donkey from Shrek is a little too clingy for my taste.
  3. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Can you name any famous biblical donkeys?
    1. Num 22- Baalam’s talking donkey
    2. Jud 15- Samson using the jawbone of a donkey to kill Philistines
    3. The assumed donkey at the nativity (there is no donkey mentioned)
    4. Luke 19- Jesus’ Triumphal Entry on a donkey
    5. Honorable mention: donkeys listed in the laws (about how to treat or care for your livestock), I’ll spare you the donkey’s listed in Joshua that did not survive for various reasons.

TRANSITION:  Don’t you worry, donkeys won’t be the focus of our sermon today! We are going to connect our scripture readings into a broader story; a story that has more hope than Pinocchio becoming a real boy!

MAIN TEXT: – the Scripture Readings- Isaiah 50:4-9a; Luke 19:28-40; Philippians 2:5-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29


  1. Isaiah 50:4-9a
    1. The promise in the background of the Triumphal Entry
      1. Character described is labeled the “Suffering Servant”—this is a description of the Messiah that we sometimes ignore. He isn’t a warrior and his kingship looks VERY different from earthly kings.
    2. Condition of Israel at the time of this promise from Isaiah (wicked, lost, in exile)
  2. Luke 19:28-40
    1. What happened: Triumphal Entry
      1. Israel had been back in the Land (post exile) for centuries now. But had they learned anything from their Babylonian exile? Why had God been silent for so long?
        1. We (and Israel) didn’t understand the Messiah or the way that God was going to fulfill God’s promises.
      2. Jesus entered Jerusalem during FESTIVAL (norms of festival include palms & coats on the road)
        1. Other Gospels tell us palms & the crowds shouting
  3. Philippians 2:5-11
    1. The significance
      1. Jesus’ actions point to the suffering servant of Isaiah. God is consistent from Old Testament to New Testament.
      2. Jesus is The Father’s equal. God the Son came to earth. He humbled himself for our sake- being fully God yet full man to heal humanity.
        1. I know it’s confusing to think about how 1+1+1=1 or 100% + 100% = 100%
        2. We’re still trying to grasp what God did through Jesus. Paul’s words are just a hint of Christians trying to make sense of the depths of Easter.
        3. Christmas w/o easter
  4. Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
    1. Our response:
      1. The language of Psalm 118 is of a return from Egypt, but likely the writters were using Egypt to understand their exile to Babylon.
      2. “The stone the builders rejected” – we didn’t understand God’s ways.
      3. God’s plans are for salvation. God’s plans don’t match what we’ve expected or even still expect.
        1. We see this in the Pharisees trying to silence Jesus’ disciples.


  1. The Season of Lent is ending. This season of reflection, repentance, and growth is coming to an end. Easter approaches. But Easter isn’t 1 day. The church calendar celebrates easter until Pentecost (June 5th).
    1. Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. Palm Sunday starts out the week with joy before we go to the darkest places by Good Friday.
    2. As Lent wraps up, we continue to reflect on where we have journeyed these last few weeks. Hopefully, we’ve developed a desire to regularly connect with God
    3. Lent isn’t the only time of year that we can change our lives- transformation can happen in the middle of winter, summer, or fall as well.
  2. Holy Week reminds us that God desires our flourishing, not our destruction. God isn’t changing humans this time through a flood or exile. God is taking matters into God’s own hands.
    1. God desires our flourishing SO MUCH that God came down to heal our destructive patterns and open doors for a new life.
    2. God desires all of us, our whole selves. Salvation comes through belief in Jesus.
  3. Psalm 118:29 29 Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever.
    1. God hasn’t given up on creation. God doesn’t want our destruction. This week, This season, this faith is a constant reminder of God’s goodness. Let’s praise our God.

CONCLUSION: Grab your palm branches before our closing benediction. We will sing our benediction and then wave our branches as we shout praise to God. We’ve got a slide with the words we’ll repeat together.

Hosanna in the highest Heaven! Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Welcome to Holy Week—our savior is coming! Have a great week!

Labels and Identities


Message Title:  Labels and Identities
Theme: A Season for Growing
Season: Lent
Main Text: Philippians 3:4b-14
Scripture Reading: John 12:1-8
RCL Scripture: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8
Focus: Christ is the foundation of our identity.
 To redefine the labels we use to build our identity and our mission.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: John 12:1-8 Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, home of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Lazarus and his sisters hosted a dinner for him. Martha served and Lazarus was among those who joined him at the table. Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound,[a] of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair. The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume. Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), complained, “This perfume was worth a year’s wages![b] Why wasn’t it sold and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He carried the money bag and would take what was in it.) Then Jesus said, “Leave her alone. This perfume was to be used in preparation for my burial, and this is how she has used it. You will always have the poor among you, but you won’t always have me.”


  1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: What is Indiana’s state tree?
    1. Indiana’s state tree: Tulip tree. Also known as Tulip Poplar or Yellow poplar.
    2. BUT! The tulip tree is not a true poplar. (Wiki: slide 1 & 2)
      1. While poplars have about 25 different flowering deciduous plants that fall in that genus, the tulip tree is not one of them. (wiki: )
    3. Here is a chart with the scientific classifications of living things. (slide 3)
  2. Tulip Trees are related to poplar in the same way you and your third cousin are related.
    1. Don’t know who you’re third cousin is? There are these great charts—
      1. 3rd cousin means: 1. You share the same great grandparents, and 2. are in the same generation line (not same age). (Your parent’s parent’s parent’s sibling’s great grand kid.) – Slide 4

TRANSITION:  If I’m honest, the proper labels for family relations and plant classifications seem like splitting hairs. In some cultures, especially many indigenous cultures- any relative your age is a cousin, any relative older is an auntie or uncle outside of your grandparents. The reason is to identify “I claim you” rather than “what percentage of related are we?”

Why do we have a habit of splitting hairs to claim details that aren’t REALLY important?  Our Scripture pairing today is John 12:1-8 and Philippians 3:4b-14. We were in this same chapter 4 weeks ago. We read the end already, here is the passage just before that.

MAIN TEXT: Philippians 3:4b-14 4bIf anyone else has reason to put their confidence in physical advantages, I have even more: 5I was circumcised on the eighth day. I am from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews. With respect to observing the Law, I’m a Pharisee. 6With respect to devotion to the faith, I harassed the church. With respect to righteousness under the Law, I’m blameless. 7These things were my assets, but I wrote them off as a loss for the sake of Christ. 8But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ 9and be found in him. In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith. 10The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death 11so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead. 12It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.


  1. Philippian’s Context:
    1. Paul in prison, Epaphroditus came to care for him from Philippi
    2. Philippi (Acts 16)- Roman city, Retired soldiers, patriotic nationalism
    3. Message- Christ poem at the center of the letter and all the details of his letter point to this poem.
  2. Today’s Passage:
    1. We talked about this about a month ago when Paul values his citizenship in heaven over his earthly reputation.
    2. Paul identifies how amazing he is- Paul is of good breeding, roman citizen, and pharisee trained by Rabbi Gamaliel. Paul lived zealously to HIS beliefs. Paul is crème of the crop! (taxes analogy)
    3. Yet, Paul gives up his reputation and considers it so worthless he uses a curse word to describe it. (Yes, there is swearing in the Bible.)
    4. Paul doesn’t claim that he has FINISHED his faith but that he is continuing in the process.


  1. Epistle: Paul is willing to shed every claim to fame, every piece of clout or wealth for the knowledge of Christ. 
  2. Gospel:
    1. Mary—is willing to pour out literal wealth to bless Jesus.
      1. Mary anoints Jesus
    2. Mary gets it before the other disciples
      1. Jesus has to wash their feet before they get it and even then they struggle
    3. Judas claims to care about the poor—he’s splitting hairs: “what is the scientific class of this action? Show me the dna!”
      1. In reality he was a thief
    4. Mary’s identity had shifted from the norms of this world to worshipping God.
    5. Judas was still worshipping himself


  1. Back to the intro: While Judas claims to be a poplar tree, Mary claims “I’m a tree.”
    1. Judas’ words are a mindset used to avoid helping anyone—a tool of distraction
    2. “What about the poor?!”
      1. Don’t give addicts Narcan! What about the diabetics & insulin!?
      2. Don’t help immigrants! What about our unhoused and veterans!?
    3. But Judas, like the rest of us, has made a false dichotomy.
      1. It isn’t poor vs. loving Jesus. It isn’t diabetics vs recovering addicts. It isn’t immigrants vs. unhoused & veterans. It’s BOTH AND!
        1. Deut 15:11
        2. (Poplar? It’s a tree!)
  2. We are not using the world’s standards to determine our ministry.
    1. We are called to love the vulnerable: including addicts or medically ill, immigrants, unhoused, or veterans, ALSO the elderly, foster kids, the unwed mother, the high school dropout, the grocery store clerk.
    2. It’s more natural for us to love those who are respectable- soldiers, police, respectable public servants, etc BUT – their earthly reputation doesn’t determine their worthiness, Christ does.

CONCLUSION: Stop splitting hairs. Reject earthly labels. Claim the broader identity of the family of God.