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God’s Promise of Restoration

Despite the chilly weather last week, it is spring, and many of us are already toiling away on our yards, lawns and gardens.

Sign in front of park lawn: Area closed for lawn maintenanceNow that it’s springtime, many of us are resuming a once-a-week exercise routine we call … mowing the lawn! Some of us will pay someone else to do it.

But I actually enjoy mowing the lawn, and through the generosity of a friend now have a lawnmower so I can look forward mowing the lawn!

Often, however, mowing is simply the first step. After mowing, we may grab the weed eater (which reminds me, I still need one of these, a once-a-week loan of one during the summer would be great).

Of course, those who are particularly fussy might apply some grass shearers to more delicate or intricate areas. Many even roll and edge their lawn, apply weed killer and pesticides, dig out crabgrass and spread fertilizer.

As all this activity begins each year I am reminded of a favorite story; a conversation about grass between God and St. Francis. [read more via downloadable PDF]


Image credit: By Si Griffiths (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Big Move

Over the last few weeks, in the midst of conversation, several people mentioned they rarely watch the news anymore because it is simply too depressing, or they find themselves becoming too upset by the human conflict that seems to affect every area of life. One person said she is off blood pressure medication after giving up cable news!

Painting of  conversion of Saint Paul on the road to DamascusI understand this lament; I, too find it difficult to change from one channel to another only to find the same stories of generalization and polarization over a growing number of issues, brutal acts of violence both near and far, and the resulting migration of countless numbers of people across the globe.

How does one respond to what some describe as an overwhelming sense of fear, dread, or hopelessness often produced by the constant outpouring of such stories?

Some of these conversations led into discussions about anger, the desire to retaliate, and/or a sense of fear about the future; at least one person said this feeling of fear made them more aggressive and watchful in life.

I was reminded of these conversations as I read this familiar story of the conversion of Paul from the Book of Acts, when Saul is confronted by the risen Christ. [read more via downloadable PDF]


Image credit: Conversion of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus (St-Paul’s Cathedral, Liège, Belgium) by Bertholet Flémal (1614-1675) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Correction to Last Week’s Sermon

There was a typo in the message last week. It should have said Ann Freeman Price, not Friedman. Here is the link to Ann‘s website: http://annfreemanprice.com/

In the Gold

Jesus is accosted in today’s text by a crowd who complain that Jesus is keeping them in “suspense.”

As I thought about this interesting accusation I started to wonder in what ways we may also experience tension and “suspense” as followers of Jesus.

Humans seem to enjoy suspense in life, at least when it comes to entertainment.Lake that is golden due to sunrise.

Do you like suspenseful movies? If so, which films would be at the top of your list as the most suspenseful ever made?

If you need help recalling some such flicks, just Google “Most suspenseful movies,” and you’ll be presented with several lists.

Several movies make more than one list. These movies were mentioned at least once: Silence of the Lambs, Jaws, Rear Window, The Sixth Sense, Psycho, Inception, The Shining, The Prestige, Shutter Island, The Usual Suspects, Seven, Memento and Scream. And there are more.

Suspense is a tried-and-true element of storytelling, so it’s often found in novels as Top New York literary agent Noah Lukeman says that, as long as a writer can maintain suspense in his or her stories, many readers will keep reading even if the plot is thin, and the character development is weak. This means suspense is an important tool for novelists.

Ian Irvine, Australian author of 29 novels, also says that a good story at the very least has a strong hero figure and an adversary. The tension and suspense derive from the struggle between the two and the uncertainty of the outcome. The suspense works if we, as readers, can align ourselves with, and feel sympathy for, the hero.

The hero in this story John tells is Jesus. And the hero has adversaries. In this case, those adversaries are some of Jesus’ compatriots. [read more via downloadable PDF]

Will You Take a Risk for Justice?

Our nation is currently being bombarded by anti-transgender legislation that would take away any protections for persons like me regarding use of a public bathroom, employment, housing, health care, and personal safety.

transgender symbolThese legislative bills are being pressed state by state, with the governor of Mississippi being the most recent to sign such a discriminatory bill into law.

If you believe providing such protections is a matter of expressing the kind of love for others Jesus challenges Peter to embrace, I invite you to join me in writing a letter stating the need for such protections, and sending it to our state leaders.

I realize this is a personal decision, and not everyone may feel led to do this; but if you do, please take the time to use this guide and compose a letter to send to your elected officials: [get the letter writing guide via downloadable PDF]

If you need information about your elected officials, CommonCause.org has an excellent elected officials search tool.

Do You Love Me?

Have you ever noticed how obsessed many people in our culture are with lawyers and the legal system? There must be thousands of jokes or quotes taken from this area of life:

Photograph of Raymond Burr and other cast members on the set of the CBS-TV series Perry Mason, from the front cover of Look magazine 10 October 1961

Lawyer: “Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?”

Witness: “All my autopsies have been performed on dead people.”

 

Lawyer: “What is your date of birth?”

Witness: “July 15th.”

Lawyer: “What year?”

Witness: “Every year.”

 

Lawyer: “What was the first thing your husband said to you when he woke that

morning?”

Witness: “He said, ‘Where am I, Cathy?'”

Lawyer: “And why did that upset you?”

Witness: “My name is Susan.” [read more via downloadable PDF]

 

Also This Week: Will You Take a Risk for Justice?

Our nation is currently being bombarded by anti-transgender legislation that would take away any protections for persons like me regarding use of a public bathroom, employment, housing, health care, and personal safety.

transgender symbolThese legislative bills are being pressed state by state, with the governor of Mississippi being the most recent to sign such a discriminatory bill into law.

If you believe providing such protections is a matter of expressing the kind of love for others Jesus challenges Peter to embrace, I invite you to join me in writing a letter stating the need for such protections, and sending it to our state leaders.

I realize this is a personal decision, and not everyone may feel led to do this; but if you do, please take the time to use this guide and compose a letter to send to your elected officials: [get the letter writing guide via downloadable PDF]

If you need information about your elected officials, CommonCause.org has an excellent elected officials search tool.

 


Image credit: Photograph of Raymond Burr and other cast members on the set of the CBS-TV series Perry Mason, from the front cover of Look magazine, 10 October 1961, by Cowles Communications, Inc.; photograph by Robert Vose [Public domain, Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Believing is Seeing and the Verifier Approach

Qopchedy qokedydy qokololy qokeedy qokedy shedy.

Reverend David Weekley at the pulpit, surrounded in spring flowers.

Happy Spring!

Try saying that!

The best cryptologists in the world have been unable to decode the 400-year-old document from which those words, if they are words, are transliterated.

Called the Voynich manuscript, these words are taken from a book discovered in an Italian villa in 1912 and named for the dealer who purchased it.

It contains 234 pages and is hand lettered in an unknown code. There’s no punctuation or any indication of where sentences begin or end, but the volume is richly illustrated with watercolor images of plants not known on earth, apparent astrological signs and constellations not known in our solar system, strangely proportioned naked women and intricate systems of liquid-carrying tubes. [read more via downloadable PDF]

Dazzling Grace

Approximately 40% of the first three gospels focus on the final week of Jesus’ life. The percentage increases to more than 65% when you read the gospel of John.

Painting depicting Jesus being arrested

The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio

If the gospels were simply biographies of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we would expect a more balanced account of the various times of his life; but this is not what we find.

A vastly disproportionate focus is given to the last week of Jesus’ life, as if to say, ‘Whatever else you may miss, please, don’t miss this.’

Why?

[read more via downloadable PDF]


 

Image credit: Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Anger: Pregnant Nostrils

Today, this final Sunday in Lent, we conclude our sermon series on The Seven Deadly Sins.

Sculpture of angry face.

Sankt Bartholomäus (Reichenthal), pulpit (1896) – Seven deadly sins: wrath

March 24 is Maundy Thursday, the evening we remember Jesus’ last Passover with the disciples.

March 25 is Good Friday — The day we remember the death of Jesus on the cross.

Today, Palm Sunday, is a day that begins with an atmosphere of apparent celebration but ends in tragedy.

So, what does anger have to do with Palm Sunday?

Well, for one thing, look at the bulletin cover. You see palm branches, but look at the hands holding them- they are upraised fists of resistance. I chose this image because it depicts so well what was happening, what was beginning to unfold even in the procession of Palms- a clash of theology, politics, and power between the followers of Jesus and the prevailing political and religious authorities of Rome and the Sanhedrin. [read more via downloadable PDF]


 

Image credit: By Ludwig Linzinger (1860-1929); photographed by Hermetiker (Self-photographed) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Avarice: Hoarding What We Do Not Need

Both texts this morning speak about avarice, but I will concentrate first on the gospel reading.

An old Woman weighing Gold: 'Avarice' by Jacques de L'Ange

An old Woman weighing Gold: ‘Avarice’ by Jacques de L’Ange

In this encounter with Jesus, Mary lavishes upon him a costly gift and, in so doing, draws attention to his upcoming sacrificial act (10:18).

John places this occurrence six days before the Passover (v. 1).

This is the third and final Passover of the gospel (the others are noted at 2:23 and 6:4). The anticipation of this Passover is fraught with a sense of foreboding.

In the verses previous to John 12, the writer tells of the crowds who have come to Jerusalem in order to purify themselves for the feast. They’re on the lookout for Jesus, who had made a name for himself at previous Passover celebrations (2:13-23; 6:4-14).

Consequently, the Jewish leaders issue an order that, if Jesus is seen, he should be arrested (11:57). Because of the stir created by Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus, the leaders decided to put him to death (11:53), so he won’t be able to bring upon them all the wrath of the Roman Empire (11:48). [read more via downloadable PDF]


 

Image credit: An old Woman weighing Gold: ‘Avarice’ by Jacques de l’Ange (f 1630 – 1650) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Envy: The Evil Eye

Jesus’ story of the prodigal (reckless, wasteful, extravagant) son is one of my favorites. Of the series of stories Jesus tells about the joy of finding what is lost, only Luke presents the powerful story of the lost and found son.

Bust personifying envy.

Envy by by Ludwig Linzinger

Following a brief introduction of the main characters, Jesus says that the younger son asks for his share of the inheritance he would receive upon the death of his father.

Although unusual, according to other literature of that time this practice was not entirely unknown.

It may seem a selfish act, though, as requesting such an amount might place hardship on the father and household.

In this story the father gives the younger son what he asks, and distributes his wealth to the elder son as well. (v.12)

The language used to describe how the younger son lived following his departure quells any hint of respectability. He wastes his inheritance and lives carelessly, or “prodigally.” This Greek word is related to the word for salvation; so we learn the younger son is living as one unredeemed, which only highlights his lostness.

At the lowest point in this existence: broke, starving, serving as a slave employee to a member of the village and eating the nutritionally worthless and bitter carob pods he fed the pigs; the son realizes he would be better off as a servant in his father’s household.

In the midst of memorizing a detailed apology along the way home, his father, who has been watching and waiting all along, catches a glimpse of a familiar figure heading towards the house. [read more via downloadable PDF]


 

Image credits: Reichenthal ( Upper Austria ). Saint Bartholomew parish church – Pulpit ( 1911 ) by Ludwig Linzinger: Personifications of the seven deadly sins – envy. By Wolfgang Sauber (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 at (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/at/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons