It is heartbreaking to hear on the news that there are pastors who will encourage their parishioners to risk death in order to attend Easter services.
In Matthew 4:5-7 Jesus was tempted in the wilderness to risk death to prove his faith. The devil even quoted scripture to make it sound spiritual.
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus says that by loving God and loving our neighbor we satisfy all the requirements of the Bible.
Paul says, in Romans 13:10, “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
If you get within 6 feet of someone or attend a large gathering, you are giving in to one of the first temptations of Jesus (and literally doing the devil’s work as described above). The only reason any church staff person would encourage you to endanger yourself and others is so that they can make money off of you. Jesus chased the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem. Think for a moment about who is chasing you to go in there and why.
There. I got that off my chest.
Have a blessed Easter at home with your loved ones. The God of love, who died to conquer death and its power, be with us all until we meet again.
Fifty years ago churches had just begun to open their worship experiences to allow young people to express their faith through “folk hymns”. This is a song from that era. As you listen to it, imagine long-haired kids sitting cross-legged on the floor and swaying back and forth as they sing along.
I went out on the porch to sing this morning and thought I’d bring you along. Hopefully, you won’t find the neighbor’s lawn equipment or the plane flying over too distracting. I wanted to “keep it real”. What song are you singing today?
Joy and I were feeling a bit cooped up, so we ran to the gas station to get a paper on our golf cart. Then we just toodled around the neighborhood. We have a several little parks I think of as ‘mini-parks’ dotted around different neighborhoods on our island. We stopped at one and walked out on the dock where we saw this little guy.
Logan has been getting home schooled during the coronavirus lockdown where he has been taking a great online art course. The little crab we saw off the end of the dock reminded me of the beautiful work of art Logan had created. So, I made this little video and even wrote a crab song.
If the video won’t play for you, please click here.
I’m a retired senior. Friday, I received an email from our pastor saying that, for now, we would not be holding services at the church building but would receive our Sunday message online. We had already abandoned first handshakes, then elbow bumps and hugs.
I’m guessing that many worshippers of many faiths are facing
the same withdrawal from community. The significance of a pastor’s personal
touch was driven home to me when I was a young man. Our pastor retired and I
filled the pulpit for a couple of years after that. Our tiny congregation was
very supportive of my messages but I noticed that in times of personal trial
people were calling Joe instead of myself. I asked about that and they told me,
“When Joe is with me, I just feel loved.”
I don’t go to church just to hear the message. Great
speakers are readily available online. Actually, the message, as solid as
Michelle’s sermons are, is one of the least important reasons I go. I go to experience
worship in community. I go to hear Greg play the piano and chat with him
about music after the service. Before the service, Michelle walks through the
sanctuary with personal greetings for each of us. I go for the “passing of the
peace” with other parishioners. I sing hymns every day at home, but I go
because there is something special about hearing other voices join with mine in
songs of worship. I go for the pastor’s hug at the door.
So, the dream I had Friday night after reading the email
probably isn’t a surprise. I dreamed that I had been in a different town
attending church. As I walked out, the pastor took my head in his hands and
just smiled at me affectionately.
These are extraordinary times. You are not cut off from your
people because you are not loved. Remind yourself that we aren’t gathering
precisely because our fellowships love us and have our best interests at heart.
May the peace of the Lord be with you.
There is a scene in the Gospel of John where Jesus’ people,
the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, bring to Him a woman caught in adultery.
But the secret is, in their eyes she wasn’t a woman, she was a test, a trap.
Would Jesus join in their judgmental (in the most literal sense of the word)
action of stoning her to death in accordance with the law or show mercy and
demonstrate to the Scribes and the Pharisees that he wasn’t one of them?
But Jesus saw, not a litmus test of tribal loyalty, but a
woman. He stooped down and started making marks in the dirt with a stick. Was
he listing possible human sins? Was he just giving the religious mob time to
reflect? Then he said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to
throw a stone at her.” As he continued to draw in the dirt, the mob broke up
and drifted away.
The amazing thing to me about this story is that Jesus saw not only the woman as a valued human being but the hard-hearted Pharisees and Teachers of the Law as well. He gave them the opportunity to reflect on the truth that, without grace and mercy, the law condemns us all.
I think we desperately need this perspective today. I hear one
tribe accusing Dr. Ford of lying and the other tribe accusing Justice Kavanaugh
of sexual assault when no one actually
knows. Opinions are not formulated based on fact, but speculation rooted in
tribal loyalty. This approach fails to recognize the humanity of either Ford or
Kavanaugh. And we who believe our government representatives are up to their eyeballs
in tribalism, like myself, need to be reminded that Jesus could see the
humanity even of those judgmental religious leaders in his day.
I have little doubt that in today’s world, Jesus would not
choose a side, he would see a person – even in those we poor followers manage