Monday, August 31, 2020


Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

Lectionary Reading: Matthew 18:15-20 (NRSV)

As I assigned various Fruit of the Holy Spirit to the lectionary passages, I decided that this particular scripture was a good one to talk about patience.  You can look at it from both sides.  It would be difficult to be patient with someone who was obstinate in their wrong beliefs or behaviors.  Likewise, it would be difficult to be patient if you thought you were in the right and a group of people from the church were trying to correct you!  I'm not sure which would be more annoying! defines patience as "the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like."  While I'm old school and don't like it when you use the root word to explain the meaning, I thought they recovered pretty well!  I think we can be taught to bear provocation.  I think we can also be influenced to be too sensitive to irritants.  I believe stress has something to do with our ability to show patience with a person or situation.  In other words, when I'm stressed out or afraid, I have much less patience with people.

As Christians, our example should be Jesus Christ.  I believe his response to his own suffering and crucifixion showed an immense amount of patience as per the above definition.  The phrase, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" from Luke 23:34 reminds us of the composure Jesus showed on the cross.  How many of us when confronted unjustly in this manner from our enemies (you can picture them) would rather respond, "Father, get them; they're killing me!"

When this is the case, we are setting our minds on human things rather than divine things.

Sometimes rubbing a rock with the word on it
can actually be a good reminder for us!

So how can we show more patience with one another?  I think it is crucial during this time with everything that is occurring.  Since patience is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit, we must immerse ourselves in the Holy Spirit to show the world we are connected with God.  How do we do this?  I think that each person may do this differently.  All of us connect with God in a unique way.  But I also think that today's reading gives us a hint when Jesus says, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."  

When we gather together, we are going to disagree on some things.  It should be expected.  But we also recognize that if we begin to focus on disagreement, we will soon be standing alone.  It is better to focus on that with which we recognize and agree.  The love of Jesus Christ as our witness to the world becomes our focus.  If this was not true, it is much easier to send an offender packing than seeking to work with them in love.

We'll continue to explore this on Sunday - join us online or in person!

In Christ,


Photo by M Cheung via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

All scripture quoted is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 24, 2020


Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

Lectionary Reading: Matthew 16:21-28 (NRSV)

Self-Control is one of the Fruits of the Spirit according to Paul.  It seems to be on display here by Jesus who is successfully resisting temptation set before him by one of his disciples.  In fact, he had just praised Simon Peter for successfully identifying Jesus as the Messiah.  He was going to found the church on this rock.

How quickly things can turn around for us!  Now Peter is compared to Satan who tempted Jesus in the wilderness when he was fasting.  Of course, the temptation to avoid "great suffering...and be killed" would be prominent, I would think.  Jesus does later pray to avoid this very fate.  When he goes off by himself before his betrayal, we see this scene:

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated.  Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”  And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”  Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?  Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”                        Matthew 26:36-41 (NRSV)

So we see the humanity of Jesus on display in that any of us facing the kind of suffering that was coming to Jesus would be upset about it.  Yet, he is able to move forward and doesn't run from impending captivity.  He could have easily left Judas behind and taken the disciples and fled to many of the surrounding towns where he performed his miraculous healing.  Any of those places would have been glad to hide him from the authorities.

But Jesus practices self-control.  He avoids giving into fear or anxiety and moves past it.  

How do we do better?  Too often, I feel like I'm Peter, trying to talk Jesus out of all the suffering and wanting everything to be okay.  Or worse yet, falling asleep when Jesus needs him for some moral support.  It is harder to be disciplined if we think it involves things we don't like or enjoy.  

For example, I hear that it is much easier to avoid the temptations of snacking if you don't keep a lot of snacks around the house.  Of course, this is theoretical for me.

How do we have self-control to read the Bible rather than the latest article from the web?  How do we have self-control that moves us to prayer rather than streaming another show on our device?

It may be that we have to associate these things with reward rather than tasks or chores to be accomplished.  

We'll continue to pursue this theme in worship on Sunday - join us in person or online and we'll at least exhibit some self-control together for 45 minutes!

In Christ,


Photo by Blink O'fanaye via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

All scripture quoted is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 17, 2020


Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

Lectionary Reading: Matthew 16:13-20 (NRSV)

Sometimes we hear of great loyalty by our pets.  Specifically, I remember the story of Tommy, a 7 year old German Shepherd dog who accompanied his owner, Maria Margherita Lochi to mass in Italy and was allowed to sit at her feet.  After she died, he apparently showed up for mass every day for two months.  The priest said that he didn't ever cause any trouble and he couldn't bring himself to evict the dog.

We admire this kind of devotion and often speak of it as great faithfulness.  When someone honors their marriage vows in chastity, we speak of them as being faithful to their spouse.  So we may often think of faithfulness as follow-through as if we were staying true to what we said we would do or to a task at hand.  

In today's reading, we see Peter being placed at the head of the church.  Was he being rewarded for his faithfulness?  He is certainly enthusiastic.  He tries hard.  But he goofs up quite a bit in the gospels.  I think that this shows us that faithfulness may also be about good intentions.  We often hear the saying, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."  I think this adage may be telling us that follow-through may be more important than intention.  But from a Christian perspective, I think Peter shows us that intention and action don't always align as we would like.  And so, we remember that mercy is also a part of the Christian walk.  We are forgiven and allowed to start anew.

As we see Peter placed at the head of the church, it comes after his correctly naming Jesus as the Messiah.  Maybe faithfulness is also about spiritual insight - knowing what Jesus would want from us.  This requires faithfulness to studying the things Jesus said and did.  It is only as we deepen our relationship with Christ that we discover the things that Jesus would ask of us.  Otherwise, we may only pretend to follow Jesus as we actually disguise what we wanted to do all along.

This Sunday, we'll continue to explore the theme of faithfulness as it relates to the Gospel reading.  Over the next nine weeks, we'll remain in Matthew's Gospel and look at one of the Fruits of the Spirit.  For review they are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control but we won't necessarily explore them in that order.

These are the higher characteristics that we need to display to the world right now.  It won't hurt for us to think on them for a while!  I hope you'll join us on the journey!

In Christ,


Photo used under the fair use doctrine.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Running a Marathon

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

Lectionary Reading: Genesis 45:1-15 (NRSV)

In most races, it seems there is always
someone younger and more energetic
that is going to pass me by!
I’ve never been a long-distance runner but I remember doing some longer runs in my youth.  As a child, I sprinted out ahead and tried to get in front of the pack only to exhaust my energy and get passed by other kids that were normally slower than me.  I figured out that you had to pace yourself and conserve your energy – measure it out for the whole race.

It may be that many of us have hit that initial wall.  The majority of us knew rationally that COVID-19 could last into the fall.  It was communicated quite a bit.  But how many believed last March that we would be facing these kinds of issues with re-opening schools in the fall?  Somewhere in the back of my head, I had convinced myself that things would be back to normal after the summer.  And so, did I conserve enough mental or emotional energy to deal with the reality?

There are so many industries that are facing difficulties because of the changes.  It is hard to fathom how deeply this has affected the economy.  Of course, this impacts the church.  We don’t think about the church as a business but it has utility bills and salaries as well as other ministry costs to operate.  The mission behind our business is not to make profit but to make the world a better place by introducing people to the Way of Jesus Christ.  Most of the churches that I know operate financially with very little margin for error.

For our church, we have grown and been able to offset the normal losses due to death and moving through new people finding us and eventually joining our church.  For a healthy church, this should be normal in the life of the congregation.  But what happens if we can’t worship without taking safety precautions?  When we first re-opened worship in the Christian Activity Center, we wondered if we would have enough room to safely distance everyone who would come.  We quickly realized that this would not be a problem!  

Most of the congregation continues to engage online which is the safest option.  The majority have stayed away because of health reasons.  Others have remained absent while we insist on masks for worship because they choose not to wear them for likely a variety of reasons.  But for the most part, visitors are not coming in person with the same frequency or percentage that they did before the change.

So church continues to adjust to the difficulties.  We still believe in our mission.   In fact, it may be more crucial with all of the turmoil going on.  So how do we reach people today?

We are going to invite our church to continue to participate.  Our church has done an outstanding job engaging with our online worship on social media.  I mentioned that as people like, comment or share the video, this allows us to “see” who is joining us at church!  And so, if you are a lurker (someone who merely observes but doesn’t engage through liking, commenting or sharing on our church’s worship post), this may be foreign or even uncomfortable for you.  It may be something you are not willing to do.  But your presence is important and this is the way we show up today.  I would invite you to prayerfully consider responding in some way this week.

We are looking at spending a small amount of money (around $20) this week to “boost” our worship post to see if we might reach others in our community.  If you find this distasteful, for comparison, many churches used to spend much more than this on weekly newspaper ads.  But the best way for us to reach more people (and it’s free) is for people to “share” the post through your social media account.  If you need help doing this, please email us at and we’ll have someone walk you through it!  Evangelism looks different to each generation and we are not going to shy away from it just because it continues to evolve and we find the changes uncomfortable.  Our mission is more important than our discomfort.

I like how Joseph saw his own sense of mission in today’s reading.  He suffered.  He went through a lot of difficulty – betrayal, slavery, accused falsely, imprisonment in a foreign land.  And yet, he saw God’s hand in his life and it buoyed him through the turmoil.  We are going through a lot as well.  Maybe if we see how we are working with God to help others know the love of Christ, it will help us too.  

We’ll continue to explore this scripture on Sunday in worship (online and in person).  If you join us online, I hope to “see” you this week!  May God bless you as you adjust to our marathon.  We’re running this together!

In Christ,


Photo by Brian Cribb via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Selling our Relatives

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

Lectionary Reading: Genesis 37:1-28 (NRSV)

I remember getting a bite to eat at the Garage waiting for the Thunder game to come on.  It was Wednesday, March 11 and Sheryl and I finished Bible study and headed over to watch.  Then we saw them cancel the game and we heard that one of their opponents on the Jazz had tested positive for the coronavirus.  The NBA Season was cancelled soon after that.

We then heard that the NCAA basketball tournament would be played without fans.  Then we heard that it wouldn't be played at all.  

The shutdown across the country was right behind and we've been on hold ever since.

Families have been spending more time together and this has been a positive thing for many.  

Of course, the close proximity can also be difficult.  Sometimes tempers can flare as our normal schedules have been displaced.  

I can remember as a very young child, my mother would sometimes know that it was time for a friend to go home.  She would say, "I think you're getting tired of each other since you've been together all day.  You don't want to ruin your friendship."

There are times when our loved ones can even be too much of a good thing.

Many families were looking forward to going back to school.  Our daughter Kyla mentioned that she's never so looked forward to the start of a semester!  It's not that we've had a bad time together - it's just that we hope the return of school will signal a sense of being closer to normal.

Unfortunately, "normal" is not available yet.

There may even be more quarantines if the case-load gets out of hand for hospitals.  We were warned about this at the beginning by infectious disease specialists but that was months ago.

So how do we strengthen each other rather than drive each other crazy?

Sometimes love needs a break!
Sometimes our family members can be a bit much.

In Sunday's reading, we see how Joseph's brothers were ready to sell him.  At first, they were going to kill him but one of the more rational brothers talked them into sending him into slavery instead.  So we can see that he had family looking out for him!

Of course, as we read the story, we can also see how Joseph was a bit much.  It's possible that he needed a little humility in his life.  

That may be something we can think about.  As I hold up this story as a mirror to my own life, I reflect on my close relationships and wonder if I could also use a dose of humility.  There may be times when my family members may have wanted to trade me off to some wandering Midianites.  

Joseph's brothers were feeling threatened.  Daddy loves Joseph more than he loves us.

So as we consider our own families during this time of stress, maybe we need to emphasize and communicate to our family members that we love them very much.  A little assurance goes a long way.  Maybe if you can say it a little more often, they'll take the sticker price off of you.

We'll look again at this scripture on Sunday - I hope you'll join us online for worship.  And if you're going a little stir crazy, grab a mask and join us in the Christian Activity Center at 8:30 or 11 am!

In Christ,


Photo by Ken Wilcox via  Used under the Creative Commons license.