Theme – The Tie That Binds – Considering Church

Understanding what ties/binds believers (the church) together. First encounters following resurrection, apostles training, continued throughout the book of Acts, reveal to us the ties that bind us together 

Today, we continue looking at that first day after the Sabbath, after the crucifixion –  the day the followers of Christ began to understand what Jesus meant when he said that he would rise again.  That first day – that first day of good overcame evil, that hope was victorious over hopelessness, that peace triumphed over turmoil, that love proved greater than hatred.  It was a huge day.

The day had actually begun long before the women arrived at the tomb, or the men hiding in their room, long before creation, long before chaos, long before pride, long before arrogance, long before insecurity, long before self centeredness – It was a day that began before death.  

Is it possible for us to understand that the resurrection coming before the death – before any death?

It was Jesus who, before his death, said, ‘I AM the resurrection.’

 Regardless of our understanding, the truth is that the tomb was empty, Jesus had risen.  The eyewitness were now to see so they can tell. 

First Lesson – Peace

The women took the road from the tomb to go back and tell the men about the empty grave and the angel’s proclamation, then, on the road, Jesus appeared to the women. Jesus told the women, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he told them to have peace not fear, to go on in an unabashed joy.

Then, still on that same day, there were the men. The men could have been on the road to and from the tomb, or on the road to Galilee where Jesus had interacted them to go.  Instead, understandably, they were hiding in the house, but there was plenty of reasons for the men to afraid. 

They were afraid when Jesus appeared in the room, and as he had done with the women, Jesus said, ‘Peace’ – not ‘Fear’ but ‘Peace’.  Peace when their gut instinct said to be afraid, to be ashamed, to be humiliated, to be defeated, to be hopeless.  

Later, in the midst of his doubts, even Thomas was given this word, ‘Peace’.

Now, on that same day, Sunday, Jesus appears again.  And again, he appears on a road – and again he brings peace, actually this time he brought peace in the midst of despair long before the hearers even were aware they were talking to Jesus.  Sometimes, Peace itself can be very aggressive.

On this day, again on a road, we have lesson two – Presence 

A Road

Roads are an interesting thing.  They are an avenue to getting to a place or to getting away from a place.  The prodigal son took a road to reject his father and then to return and be embraced by his father.  Today’s road went from from Jerusalem to Emmaus, which was also the road to Jerusalem from Emmaus. 

On this day, on this road, two men were traveling from Jerusalem, they were heading in the direction of Emmaus.  They were heading in the opposite direction of Jerusalem.  They were walking and talking as they headed south on that road – talking about their sadness, their disillusionment, how their hope was gone, how they felt abandoned, how they thought they understood – and, now how they understood nothing.  

They were talking about the cross, they were talking about Jesus.

These men were followers of Jesus but now felt that everything was over, Jesus was dead.  It didn’t make any sense, they were so sure Jesus was the one they had been looking forward to coming to deliver the people.  They had been convinced he was the promise of blessings, the promise given to Abraham.

Had they been mistaken, or worse, had the promise been broken?

It was here, here on the road, here as the sun grew closer to the horizon, that Jesus appeared on the road. In the midst of this grief laden conversation between these two south bound travelers, Jesus joined their journey and their discussion.  

These two men needed to be on the road with Jesus at this moment, they needed to see Jesus, they needed to experience Jesus’ presence at this moment. 

Everyone that experienced Jesus on this first day needed to have that moment, they needed to be eyewitness – Jesus met them exactly where they needed and in the manner they most needed.

‘What are you talking about?’ Jesus asked.

The two men explained that they were talking about, and despondent by,  everything that had taken place in Jerusalem during the recent days.

They were shocked when Jesus asked them, ‘What has happened in Jerusalem?’

‘Are you the only person on the face of the earth who is actually unaware of what took place last week?’ the two men said in unison, both with looks of shock on their faces.

Jesus stuck with the two as they continued to walk away from Jerusalem.  On the way, Jesus – starting with Moses going through the prophets, explained what had been promised, and prophesied, about the coming Messiah, about himself,  about Jesus.


Oddly, the men did not identify their new travel companion as Jesus.  Seeing things we truly need to see is sometimes a challenge.  As he wrote this account, Luke used the greek words that, in our English, are ‘they were kept from seeing.’  A very vague statement that means little to us today, or probably even when he wrote these words.  Were they blind to recognizing Jesus because God confused something in their retina connection to the brain, causing them to not realize they were with Jesus – that God was waiting until they were ready to see and recognize.  Or, maybe it was the men’s grief created by their unrealized hopes and dreams they had attached to Jesus as well as their understandings, and possibly agenda about Jesus’ mission.  Maybe, they were just so caught up in their emotions and anguish, along with forgetting to look for Jesus, that the metaphorical tears made their vision fuzzy.

Regardless of the why and how, the men were talking with, and listening to, Jesus without knowing it.

It must have been somewhat funny to Jesus, funny that they didn’t recognize him even though he had walked with them before.  I wonder if it was exhausting to Jesus that they needed an explanation and clarification of the prophets words.  I am sure it had to be precious to Jesus that they invited him to stay with them and asked him to join them at the table for a meal.

Jesus, whose death was the source of these men’s pain, was alive and with the men, Jesus was present in their grief.  They didn’t even see that he was present as they invited him to stay the night with them, their eyes were still kept from seeing Jesus when they invited him to the table.

Present and Presence at the Table 

If you think about it, there is something very radical about the table.

The table is where you break bread, it is where you pass and receive food, it is where you you sit, sometimes where you feel captive, you are possibly with another person who lacks table manners, it is where the real and vulnerable ‘you’ often shows up.  It is where we have all shared great conversation and awkward silence, where we have experienced exhilaration and desperation.  You never really know what you are going to experience at the table – it can be a very intimate experience.

The table is a frequent occurrence in the life of Jesus.  It was a a table of 5,000 people, and again at a table of 4,000 people that Jesus first challenged his disciples to care for those people by feeding them.  It was at the table of a despised tax collector where Jesus radically chose to invite himself to sit and a shocking transformation took place.  It was at the table of his closest friends that he was scandalously anointed with a most expensive perfume. It was a short time after this moment with the men on the road that Jesus would again appear to his disciples and ask to sit at their table by asking ‘Is there anything to eat?’  It was at a beach table where Jesus sat waiting on the disciples to haul in their abundant catch and join him to eat – after asking them to bring some of their catch to add to the meal.  It was at a table where he sat with his intimate group of followers for a passover meal just before his arrest and crucifixion.  As they ate at he told them to use this, and future, occasions at the table to remember how he lived, what he taught, and especially what he accomplished for them.

Eat and Remember, Drink and remember.

It would at that last table that Jesus said he would not eat or drink with them again until his purpose and mission was complete.

Now, he sat with these two men, heading away from Jerusalem and Galilee, at their table.  A table at which they had invited him to sit.

As the two men began to recognize the inexplicable unknown abundance at the table, an abundance which was not about food but something much larger, something huge, they began to put aside their grief, fear, and disillusionment.  Without the weight of the pain, the men began to see, soon they realized that the abundance at their table was the presence of Jesus.

Jesus had been present with them all along.

Jesus was, and is, present.  Even when the men could not see him, Jesus was still present.

This was the second lesson- presence.  Jesus taught this lesson on presence while he, himself, was present.

Now, the men took the same road they had walked on before.  Last time they took the road away from Jerusalem, but now that same road was taking them back to Jerusalem.

Ill: Churches insisting on ‘trusting God’ and meeting during virus quarantine endangering everyone that attends and anyone who comes in contacting those individuals. Confusing the Presence with Arrogance.

Closing Story – Personal thinking about presence (on zoom). Being present  to recognize the presence.

Our Call

Look for (His) presence 

Be present

Enjoy presence

Peace Be With You


Theme – The Tie That Binds – Considering Church

Understanding what ties/binds believers (the church) together.  First encounters following resurrection, apostles training, continued throughout the book of Acts, reveal to us the ties that bind. – “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 

Parting Words/Life Calling – Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20 (will look again at this passage on June 7)

Divinity School Accelerated Intensive (Chosen Disciples/Followers Prepare to Lead Church)

Apostles now take a 40 day intense seminary doctoral class preparing them to lead the Believers, the church.  In this time he takes everything he taught and did, with the enlightenment of the now infilling of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), and opens their minds to fully understand his words and actions from past three years.

The First Lesson – Peace 

First Words from God (through angel) and then From Jesus (and again to Thomas)

To women (don’t be afraid) and to men (Peace be with you).  In our passage today, as well as last week, we see each initial words be words of peace. Proclaimed to all – Angel said this to the women and then Christ said same.  Christ said to disciples and then again to Thomas.

The Explanation of Peace – not a change in situation -followers receiving this ‘peace’ are not returning to ‘peaceful situations’ – they are returning to same scary/chaotic circumstances they were living in prior to proclamation of peace.

External Living Through An Inner Assured Peace

For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,

Jeremiah 29:10-13 

Peace is the Catalyst of our Seeking Journey

Sometimes we need to be reminded/shown the peace, sometimes others need to be reminded/shown the peace.

Author Anne Lamott Talks of her worst, and best, days of life, in the midst of a drunken stupor, walking by a small church and wandering in to hear the choir singing inside and being confronted by a Peace she had never experienced – this was the beginning of her believer journey.

The Practice of Peace  

Peace is Our Core Determinate – It guides how we respond, how we react, how we deal with pain and turmoil, how we survive crisis and disaster, how we interact with others, how we  love, how we disagree, how we live.

Peace Cannot Share Space with Turmoil, Hate, or Anger (plus pride, arrogance, insecurity, self centeredness, selfishness, etc.)  – Possibly the three most dangerous detractors from Power, Politics, and Religion.

Peace is Necessary to Fully Know and Communicate Jesus to the World


The Impact of Light

Message – The Impact of Light 


Our life is filled with moments, small and huge, good and bad, moments that we often use to identify time and history, moments that changed us, our community, and our world.  US Surgeon General Jerome Adams compared our current crisis to the WWII attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks on New York and the United States.  Here in Oklahoma we would add the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Moments that seem to take us into, what seemed like, an eternity of darkness.

We knew that we were coming out of these tragedies, these moments, when we began to see light, we began seeing hope, we had changed, we were forever different – we began marking time by those events.  Events that changed us individually and as citizens of this world.  

Interestingly, in the middle of one of those moments that forever change us, we, today, observe the most historic of moment of mankind, a moment that lasted for over thirty years, a moment when we knew it was ending as we saw the light piercing the darkness. 

We call it Easter, we mark it by the darkness of the cross and the light of the resurrection.  

Episcopal Scholar and Vicar, Dr. Judith Jones describes this moment this way: 

 The Gospel that began with a man [named Joseph] afraid to marry his disgraced fiancé and a fearful king [named Herod] who tries to kill potential rivals – ends with overwhelming joy. Jesus’ command to the women becomes a command to all of us: Stop being afraid! God has defeated death. Rejoice, and share the good news!

Let’s look again at the people and events of the Story of Easter, the moment that the darkness was overwhelmed by the light, the story of the resurrection, the story of the moment that forever changed the world.

Our story begins with the women on a morning when darkness was the only way to explain the atmosphere surrounding them, and the feeling about everything in life, as the women left the safety and security of their homes.  Even though the sun could be seen in the horizon ever so slightly, it still felt like it was the middle of the darkest night.  It wasn’t just at this moment that the women sensed the absence of light, the light had become increasingly absent for days.

Even before Jesus was arrested, there was a sense of it.  Darkness.  The kind of darkness that kept you from seeing anything except for the nothingness in front of you. The light just seemed to fade, the peace and joy seem to disappear, as the week had progressed.

There had even been a sense of darkness, a hopelessness, present as Jesus had entered the city.  Almost everyone was lining the path as he entered, people were throwing their cloaks and palm leaves on the ground, children were waving the leaves singing.  It was a celebration but it had this darkness.

It had already become difficult to not look for the darkness, to not focus on it entirely.  

The men that followed Jesus had made it very clear that Jesus should not go anywhere near Jerusalem.  Jesus, however, had made it even more clear that he was going to Bethany with or without them.  He was going to raise Zazarus from the dead.

‘We will die for him,’ Thomas had proclaimed as he, and the other disciples, picked up their cloaks and followed Jesus.

Then, after Bethany, Jesus turned to go to Jerusalem.  Again, the disciples were incensed, they were outraged and confused, ‘why would Jesus go to Jerusalem when it was obvious his enemies were determined to stop him and his movement.’

The women had been drawn to the teachings of Jesus probably because of the way he lived while he taught.  He respected everyone, even the women, even the samaritans, even the gentiles.  He talked about God in loving ways, not mean spirited and brutal ways.

Jesus was a breath of fresh air for the many dismissed people like the women who were heading to the tomb that dark morning. He seemed to breath life one light wherever he went. 

He didn’t hesitate to speak truth, he accepted all with love and compassion, he was a friend, he was defender, he was hope, he was the light, he was life.

Now, he was dead, they had seen him die on the cross. They had followed as one of the religious leaders took the body to his own tomb.  They stayed there as long as they were forced to return to their homes.

Sitting in the loneliness at the tomb had been when the darkness had settled in.  They had sat there in their disillusionment, their grief, their hopelessness, their confusion – they, just the women, had sat at the tomb together yet very isolated, alone, and scared.

A new reality for the women, but it is also a new reality for us in the year 2020 more than ever before, as this sense of isolation, fear, and darkness that the women experienced being much more understandable to us in our world today.

They had sat there in the darkness assuming that the world would now be dark forever.  They assumed that the light was gone for good.

So, on this dark morning they did exactly what they did when they lost a loved one – they went to the cemetery.  They went to do what you do when a body has been placed in a tomb.  They went to anoint the body just as Mary and done with her precious perfume.  Now, however, they were not anointing the body of a corpse.

They were a little surprised that the men and others were not going with them.  They were also not surprised as the men had disappeared back before Jesus had been nailed to the cross. Who could blame them though, they were the most identified followers and friends of Jesus.

It was understandable that they were absent on this dark morning, they were scared, they were surely targets of the same people that instigated the death of Jesus.  Still, this is what you do when a friend dies, you go to the grave.

The Story of that morning that followed the Sabbath day, which had followed the day that Jesus was crucified on the cross, is truly a story of darkness. It is actually a study in the response to that dark and light of those people, and groups of people, that were impacted, not just by Jesus death but also by his life.  A story that explains their actions, on that morning, through looking at the entwinement of their lives with the life of Jesus in this moment.

There were guards at the tomb.  The governmental officials had placed them there after hearing, from those who opposed Jesus, that Jesus had spoken of being resurrected from the dead.  All the leaders knew that such a feat would be inscrutable and irrefutable so they made sure such a resurrection did not happen. 

The guards were just pawns, doing what they had been told to do by powerful people who were scared.  They had, long before, chosen to only see darkness which calls for doing everything possible to keep others from seeing light.  Control is much easier if people only see, and know, what you what them to see and hold.  The guards, even with their own lives hanging by a limb, had no ability to stop the resurrection, it had already happened. Without them knowing, right before their eyes, Jesus had risen and left the tomb. When the angel rolled away the stone for the women to see, Jesus was already alive and no longer in the tomb!

It is ironic that it was a government official, a King named Herod, who had been scared, over thirty years earlier, that the baby Jesus was coming to take away his power.  Herod, at that time, had tried to stop Jesus by killing all the baby boys who could possibly be Jesus – however, by the time Herod took this action, Jesus was already gone.  Now, with the government officials, including another man named Herod, trying to keep Jesus dead by placing guards outside the tomb – once again, Jesus was already gone.

There was the story of the Jesus’ disciples.  This group had committed their lives to following Jesus for the past three years.  They banked their future, even their eternity, on him.  They followed Jesus because the believed in Jesus, they loved Jesus. The last moment they had all experienced together with Jesus was just a few days earlier when Jesus told them that, after he ‘rose’ he would go ahead of them to Galilee.

Now, in the darkness, they had forgotten about this promise, after all, they had seen him killed, as they watched the crucifixion from a distance, from hiding.  Now, they were hiding again, they were not on the way to Galilee, nor were they headed to the tomb.  They, like the women, were disillusioned, grieving, hopeless, confused, and scared.

Their fear was understandable, fear is completely expected when you can only see darkness.  Darkness is all you can find when you have forgotten the light.

And, finally, there was the story of the women.  In the greek language, when a group is defined as ‘male, it merely means that it has at least one male, however, a group of women is truly all women. This is the story of the women, the women who, on the morning following Sabbath, the first time they could go, they went to the tomb. It was the same women who had remained at the cross until the body of Jesus was taken down and moved to the tomb.  It was the women who had often provided for Jesus, listened to Jesus, learned from Jesus, and now were called by Jesus to be the first apostles.  As the angel explained to the women that Jesus had risen and left for Galilee, he also told them to go and share, then when Jesus met them on their way to tell the men, he told them to be the first witnesses to the fact that Jesus was no longer dead.

As they left the tomb, and then again as they prepared to leave Jesus, the were filled with fear and joy, filled with darkness and light.  The fear was as understandable with the women as it was with the men.  Jesus, however, told them to just go in joy, there was no need for fear.  Jesus gave them a choice, go in fear for what the darkness could do to them, go afraid for the unknown, or,  they could go in joy, looking at the light, allowing the light to overtake the darkness.  To not be afraid even though the earthly scary things were still earthly  and scary.

That is what light does, it lights up the darkness, it makes the darkness not seem so scary.   

Things to ponder from this historic moment:

  • Prior to the resurrection of Jesus, prior to the arrest of Jesus, prior to the entry into Jerusalem of Jesus, prior to raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus proclaimed that he IS the resurrection.  He was not GOING TO BE, but ‘I AM’.  When the women arrived at the tomb, the angel proclaimed, ‘He is not here, He has risen!’ He IS our resurrection, He has defeated death.
  • Jesus proclamation before his arrest was that he would go ahead of them to Galilee after he arose, after He rose, he said that he would go ahead of them to Galilee.
  • Following the events of the cross all His followers could see was darkness, hopelessness.  They were only seeing with their eyes and not with their hearts. Each responded in their own way, many hid, others went about their life seeing to the body of loved one that had died.
  • Darkness causes Fear, but in Seeing Jesus and gaining a modicum of understanding of the resurrection they began seeing the light, they began experiencing Joy.  Jesus reminded them to live in the light and to not be afraid anymore – to quit looking for darkness when the light was in front of them. It was their choice.  To let their peace and hope be found in what they now know was true rather than what the world has defined as truth. 
  • Recognition of light changed their lives in that moment and forever.

How do we, then, live in the Light, how do we live in the Truth?  How do we make the choice?  The apostle Paul explained it this way: 

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

Light or Darkness is always a choice of our mission – our mission is to seek, to search, and to find light, to find truth.

The impact of Darkness is Fear/Confusion – a focus on Self 

But the impact of Light is Joy/Peace/Truth –  a focus on God 

Darkness or Light

What is your choice in this moment?

I Will Go Before You

I Will Go Before You (Manuscript)


Today is, traditionally, what we refer to as Palm Sunday.  It is a celebration of Jesus’ approach to the city gates of Jerusalem.  Those inside the gates, as well as those descending on the city from outside the gates, had been anticipating Jesus’ entry into the city. As he appeared, and the people lined the road, the only comparable moment in history that would even begin to relate was King David entering the city with the Ark of the Covenant – the people then celebrating God’s presence returned to the city.  It is doubtful that the people watching Jesus enter grasped that correlation, nor did they grasp the depth of the celebration, few were yet to understand that Jesus was God – but they knew that this was historic – something was in the air, something was happening in their hearts. Jesus made this clear when leaders from the religious institution requested that he calm the crowd down, he responded that if he did then the rocks would begin to cry out which they would find much more troubling and threatening.  God was again – present. The people threw their cloaks down on the ground to protect even the feet of Jesus’ donkey from touching the soiled dirt, they shouted praises, and they waved palm leaves in his honor. 

It was an ironic use of the palm leaves as it was an ironic act of worship.  Ironic, not in the sincerity of the people present, for they were truly engulfed in the moment of recognition of something greater than themselves.  It was ironic due to the fact that within less than a week, their praise would turn into hateful curses and demands for Jesus’ death.

For the opposition, such a quick public opinion shift was an easy public opinion feat, a few key inflammatory words in gullible and trusting ears, half truths and outright lies planted in those minds who would repeat them on without a thought or consideration – pretty soon, ‘Hosannah’ had become ‘Crucify Him’. The opposition to Jesus had only to appeal to the self centeredness of the crowd – to their fears of the unknown. It probably only took a few days, maybe even just a few hours, the subtle plan spread like wildfire.  

‘Crucify Him!’ 

The Easter Question – Why Was A Death Necessary?

The question, therefore, is, ‘Why was a Death Necessary?’

  • An Explanation

Reread this manuscript on Blog this week

We were created to be eternal beings, such is the reason for the Tree of Life in the Garden.  While we are eternal beings, we are not God, or even gods. This was the reason for concern – that Adam and Eve would eat from the tree of life after they had turned from God – after they had made a self declaration of being their own god. In turning away, in doing what God said specifically not to do, they defined themself as equals to God. Living forever as gods who are not God would be hell – keeping Adam and Eve from eating from the Tree of Life, from living forever, was God’s first rescue , his first demonstration of his act of love for, mankind.

Adam and Eve had been instructed to ‘not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’.  In obeying, they were permitting God to be their God, but in reaching out and taking from the tree, they were declaring that they knew more than God.  The serpent was incorrect when he said, ‘you shall not die,’ for now (apart from the Tree of Life) they would die.  They had turned from God, their source of life, they could not live eternally apart from God, death was now inevitable. 

Death had now become a reality of the human experience.

An inevitable reality, unless death could be defeated.  Unless humans could once again be eternal.

Taking from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a revelation of choice, it was a revelation of heart.  They had made themself, and their choice, to be self rather than God. A choice that was humanly impossible to reverse, yet a choice that only a human could reverse.

Death could only be defeated by death – a choice could only be changed by the different choice. A different choice that could only be made by a truly holy and righteous, yet flesh being, – a choice that could only be made by God as well as a choice that could only be made by a human.

Life was now only possible through an eternally resurrected life – a life that could only be God in the flesh.


The Jesus who explained to Martha that ‘Zoe’, ‘life’, is earthly and eterntal.

The Jesus who told Martha, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’

The Jesus who tells us, He is our resurrection – He is our life.

Second Question – Why Was Resurrection Necessary?

Remember that Jesus said, ‘I AM the Resurrection’ before the death.

A resurrection was inevitable.  The occurrence of a resurrection was impossible to stop. A tomb could not hold a human who could not be held by death.

Lessons on Life from the Death, 

Assurance from the  Life

  • A Rising will Occur

Writer, author, activist and historian Rebecca Solnit, writes about her research on the lasting positive, and negative, impact on societies and culture following times of devastating disaster.  Positive impacts that produce change for the good and missed opportunities that result in long lasting negative impact. Solnit says:

“Every disaster shakes loose the old order: The sudden catastrophe changes the rules and demands new and different responses, but what those will be are the subject of a battle. These disruptions shift people’s sense of who they and their society are, what matters and what’s possible, and lead, often, to deeper and more lasting change, sometimes to regime change. Many disasters unfold like revolutions; the past gives us many examples of calamities that led to lasting national change.”

We see that dynamic in the story of the death.

As Jesus had prophesied, one would betray him and that all the disciples deserted, but that gave others a chance to RISE and fill in the gap. 

Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. Matthew 27:55-61 

Later we see Nicodemus rise up.

These who had chosen to remain hidden, or those who culturally be dismissed and invisible, were suddenly visible.  They did not demand to be seen but their  hearts made it happen regardless.

  • A Change will Take Place 

Examples of Lessons Learned from recent history – Dust Bowl (faming practices), Depression (Economic Safeguards), 

Example of Lesson Missed from recent history – Civil War (racism) 

Our life is changed through a full and constant heart gratitude for the sacrifice made by God on our behalf, the demonstration of his love – His Love Motivated Rescue of Us. Leading to heart change in our life that determines our heart response to life. 

The Apostle Paul explains the Lesson Positive Change:

Let (‘LET’ will happen with a heart change unless we choose to hold or restrain it) the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

There is an Assurance 

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

Matthew 26:31-32

Jesus, with full knowledge of the fact that these men would desert him, still he assured them that he would go ahead of them, ahead for them. 

There is an Assurance – For Us

He makes that same promise and assurance to each of us.  An assurance the he has already gone ahead of us even though we will be disobedient and that he will go ahead of us even in our disobedience.

This consistent aspect of God is explained later:

For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

Romans 5:10 

God will go before us, God has gone before us, God is  before us.

The Lessons from the Death, the Assurance from the Life – for us.

a NOW faith

We are in this bizarre time of social distancing, online school/church gatherings, an abundant need, yet rare shortage, of hand sanitizer, lysol spray and wipes, and not to mention suddenly finding that our enhanced internet might not always have enough bandwidth for all the returned children now working/schooling from home along side of Andrea and me.

In the midst of all this craziness we are adapting, we might even say we are evolving. Our household has eaten all of our meals at home for two weeks, Starbucks has sent out people to do coffee welfare checks in our absence, one of my daughters read scripture in church this past Sunday from over a hundred miles away in her pajamas and eating turkey bacon. In addition, we had a reader, and several participants, from other states.

Life is now surreal, it is our new reality, our new normal – it might be temporary or maybe it will impact us permanently.

I, too, am adapting and evolving. After a lifetime of ‘winging it’ with mere bullet points when preaching, my evolving has been to script my full sermon manuscripts for my Sunday message. I have been meaning to do this for too many years to mention, I even sat down once to try but failed – it got boring and laborious. But now, that there are many other options for participants worshipping with us at home than to sit still and listen to a much too long sermon, I must be concise and more respectful of time.

In reality, I have not faithfully followed the manuscript when preaching but it is holding me accountable and timely.


The NOW faith 

(manuscript for 03.29.20)

When Jesus called for Lazarus to come forth from the grave, and as Lazarus came out from the tomb, those who opposed Jesus knew the time had come to stop this movement and this ‘prophet’.  This was the final straw.  They had to stop the talk and discredit the rumors of Lazarus’ resurrection just as they had managed to do with the widow’s son in Nain and with Jairus’ daughter in Capernaum.  Few even talked about Jesus bringing those two back to life anymore.  Those situations had been easy, plant a subtle seed, call it a resuscitation instead of a resurrection – but those two had not been dead for four days. This one was difficult, there were too many credible witnesses, too close to Jerusalem, and Lazarus had been dead for four days!

The basics of their plan was to kill Lazarus the following day so – no resurrected life – no miracle.  If Lazarus was actually in a tomb who could prove that he had risen from death.  The opposition could claim mass hysteria, drunken revelers, or use any number of tried and effective lies and half truths.  So, they would return the following day to kill Lazarus.  An easy and permanent solution which they were convinced was flawless.  The next day, however, they found the same crowd at the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.  Lazarus was reclined at the table with Jesus and others, as Martha served as host.  Mary then drew even more attention to the living Lazarus as she anointed Jesus with an expensive bottle of perfume.  Now there was no way anyone would believe that resurrection of Lazarus was a hoax; there were now too many witnesses were able to testify what they had seen after they interacting with Lazarus for two days 4 days after his death.

If only Lazarus had not died, if only Jesus had not called Lararus out of the grave.  But, Jesus had called for Lazarus to come forth and Lazarus actually had.

In the minds of the opposition, this was the point when they made it their unfailing mission to get rid of Jesus once and for all.

This was also the moment when Jesus gave us all a clear understanding of why Jesus came, what he taught, and the manner in which he interacted with all.  He came so that we could all have Life Now.

As we take a moment to look at some of the characters in the story of Lazarus death and resurrection we quickly see a picture of the various presentations one the same faith.  

There were the disciples, who, after being unable to convince Jesus not to return to Jerusalem due to safety concerns, decided to accompany him to Bethany.  Bethany was basically a suburb of Jerusalem and Jesus already had a target on his head.  It was the disciple Thomas, who is usually remembered for doubting Jesus’ resurrection, that said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  The disciples had a faith of a soldier, this was their mission – to protect the one who led them.

Then there was Mary, whose deep display of grief in Jesus presence seemed to trigger his tears.  Mary was always the one that lived in the moment.  Whether it was sitting at the feet of Jesus to experience every moment in his presence, or mourning at the grave of her brother, or even sacrificing her most valuable possession to honor Jesus, she always held back nothing.  Mary’s faith was like a sponge soaking up every experience and every moment.

And we have Jesus who had seen death before, this death was different though.  At this death we see something we do not see elsewhere, we see Jesus weep.  Not just cry but weep.  Deep and empathetic weeping, the kind that others notice and cannot be hidden.  Rationally, he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead, but it was the experience of loss, as viewed in his closest and most loved ones, that made this different.  His tears were about the pain of death, the pain that others experience in the loss of a loved one, and possibly the impact that would be felt at his own impending experience of dying.  Real soul crushing pain that goes to bed with you at night and wakes up with you in the morning.  That feeling you cannot shake no matter how much you rationalize.  It hurts, and Jesus, God in the flesh, experienced this at the tomb of Lazarus.

Then there was Martha – Martha often gets a bad rep, considered too controlling, maybe too rational, probably too concerned about every detail.  She was the one that was honest with Jesus, even when it didn’t sound very holy or righteous.  She was always looking at the obvious but, at the same time, looking for more. But it was also Martha who took off running to Jesus the moment she heard that he was close, while she could see no trace of him she ran at the simple mention of his name.

It was Martha who allows us all to better understand that Jesus came to so that we can have life now.  It was possibly for Martha, and then for all of us who read her story, that Jesus permitted four days to pass following Lazarus’ death before he returned to Bethany.  It was Martha that had the interaction that provided her, and us, the essential element of faith, a faith that permits us to understand what it is to Live Now.  We see this displayed in the dialogue that was probably less than a common paragraph, a lesson that began with Martha’s statement:

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not  have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha was placing her hope on, and defining her faith by, a coming event, a coming moment – Resurrection.  Jesus corrected her, and possibly our,  theological understanding through his use of three small, yet powerful, words that explained everything:

I, Am, Life.


The one letter word ‘I’ is pretty self explanatory.  Jesus is talking about himself,  there is no question, what comes after ‘I’ refers to him, and only to him. We see this same definite direction as Genesis one says, 

‘In the beginning GOD created’  

It is also much like the “I’ in his statement detailed in John 14:6

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

There is no discussion or argument, he is referring to himself.


The word ‘AM’ is not an event to come, or even an event that has already taken place, actually it is not an event at all.  ‘AM’ is a statement of ‘was being’, ‘now being, and ‘will begin’.  It is, in the case of Jesus, an infinite identifier.  Jesus is, Jesus was, Jesus will be, Jesus is a forever ‘Now’.  This is what Jesus is and it is what Jesus does.  He was before Martha embraced and followed, it was what Martha experienced as she journeyed with Jesus, it was her own resurrection and her existence – it was why she automatically took off running.  It was in this teaching moment with Jesus that Martha a Now Faith began to click, she began to understad.


Jesus said:

I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.

Greek word zóé: life or live

It is not just life as we think of it but both of physical or present and spiritual now or future existence. 

Martha, without realizing it had already experienced the life, she had already partaken of the resurrection for she had also previously been dead in her sin.  Jesus, in very definite, yet simple, words, taught Martha, and us, that his mission was not just about a future event, a physical resurrection or his own resurrection, or our own eternity, it is about NOW, and the faith he leads us in is a NOW faith.

As followers of Jesus we are also partakers of the resurrection that IS Jesus and of the NOW life, we are not waiting for this life it is NOW.

Faith, the faith we call Christianity, is not a waiting faith, it never was and never will be.  We do not wait for a moment and then start living, we do not delay the life until heaven – We live NOW.

It is when we are alone and when we are with many, it is when we are surrounded by those who treat us unfairly and when we are around those who we can fully trust, it is when we are poor and when we have plenty, it is when life is miserable, it is when life is pleasant, it is when life is scary and when life is easy, it is when we are uncomfortable and inconvenienced and when things are just right, it is when we feel unloved and it is when we feel loved,  it is when we are free to move and do and it is when we are in quarantine and lock down.  It is NOW. 

This is what Jesus was talking about when he prayed:

Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

This is OUR mission, that we would live now in as if we were living in heaven.  It is our reality as believers, it is our way of life as followers, it is living in the unseen and enjoying even in the midst of the unenjoyable. 

It is NOW.

So, How do we live in a NOW Life, a Now faith?

Much like the Disciples, Mary, and Martha, who each approached their believer journey, their life differently, living with a NOW faith is also going to be personal. 

Somewhat different for each of us, somewhat different depending on each of us.

It probably will start by looking for our Joy, the Joy that reminds us what our calling, our mission, is – what are life is about.  Not just happy things but those discoveries that remind us of our NOW faith.  Maybe it is a memory grasping truth, maybe it is a happy or a sad moment or experience, possibly it is just realizing that what you can see and how life feels is not always true to what life is.

It is what takes us back to the place that Martha went to when she realized that she was not waiting for an event but that life was right there with her.

It is what led Martha hold a dinner party the next day in honor of Jesus.  It is what led Lazarus to recline at the table with Jesus, it is what led Mary to anoint  Jesus.  

What is your LIFE NOW FAITH leading you to do?