Sunday, September 19, 2021

How are the Children? Mark 9:30-37 Lake Helen First Congregational UCC


A reading from Mark 9:30-37

New Revised Standard Version

Jesus Again Foretells His Death and Resurrection

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.


Who Is the Greatest?

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

This is the Gospel of the lord.


“Among the many fabled and accomplished tribes of East Africa, there is no tribe considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Maasai. The tribe is unique and popular due to their long preserved culture.


Despite education, civilization and western cultural influences, the Maasai people have clung to their traditional way of life—making them a symbol of Kenyan culture.


So it is not surprising, then, to learn that the traditional greeting passed among the Maasai warriors; “Kasserian Engeri,” translated “And how are the children?” is still the traditional greeting used today. This greeting acknowledges the high value that the Maasai place on children’s well-being.


Even warriors with no children of their own give the traditional answer, “All the children are well,” meaning that peace and safety prevail; the priorities of protecting the young and the powerless are in place; that the Maasai people have not forgotten their reason for being. Their proper function and their responsibilities.


“All the children are well” means life is good.


It means the daily struggles of existence—even among the poor and the marginalized—are seen. That the village is committed to providing proper care for those (who are) incapable of providing for themselves.”[i]

This is a question I am afraid to answer.  Jesus states that we must welcome a child. We must become as servants. Yet how many of us even have a concept of what this may mean? I think we need to understand what it means to be servants and slave then we must ask ourselves what does it mean to welcome a child?  What does it mean to be hospitable to a child? What does it mean to ask “how are the Children?” and can we answer “the Children are well.”


“The word in the New Testament usually translated as “servant” actually means “slave,” and referred to someone who was owned or controlled by someone else, not just a servant hired to do a certain job. Some slaves performed menial household tasks. Others, called “stewards,” supervised the work of lesser servants or managed the master’s finances. In the time of Jesus, some people were slaves because they were born to slave parents. Others were captured in war and were forced to become slaves. Some people actually sold themselves as slaves because they could have a higher standard of life as a slave than if they had to keep struggling to find housing or food on their own.


Some slaves were better educated than their masters and served as teachers of their master’s children. Slaves of rich masters had all kinds of opportunities that they would never have had on their own. But slaves had no freedom, and their owners could do with them whatever they wanted, including selling them to someone else. After slaves became 30 years old, many would become “freedmen,” with duties to the former master and his family. Some slaves earned enough money to buy their own freedom, which would mean that their children could be free also.”[ii]

For the most part your life is not your own.  You belong to someone else and you do as they wish. You follow their commands…now there might be something there…


Professor of biblical theology at Princeton, C Clifton black reminds us that “Last week’s Gospel lection, Mark 8:27-38, jabbed three sharp barbs:


Jesus’ prediction of his suffering, murder, and resurrection (8:31)

Peter’s repudiation of Jesus’ destiny (8:32)

Jesus’ rebuttal of Peter and command that his followers take up their crosses (8:33-38).

This week the same pattern recurs:


Jesus’ prediction of his betrayal, murder, and resurrection (9:31)

The disciples’ incomprehension of their teacher’s teaching (9:32-34)

Jesus’ correction of the Twelve with a surprising definition of discipleship (9:35-37).

In case Mark’s audience has failed as miserably as the Twelve to get the point, the same scheme unfolds in Chapter 10: prediction (verses 33-34), misunderstanding (verses 35-39a), readjustment (verses 39b-45).


Why this repetition? Two reasons. First: Discipleship in Mark is hard to accept. Second: In this Gospel Jesus’ closest followers are so dense that light bends around them.”[iii]

Again, one can hear why discipleship is so hard to accept.  Jesus is literally telling them your life can no longer be yours…you are not number one! And worse you must become as a servant/slave.


 Mark really does not have a high opinion of the disciples nor their capabilities. Jesus has laid out the pattern which he will follow.  As a matter of fact he has told them over and over again.


“Dopey disciples


‘But they did not understand [Jesus’] saying [in 9:31], and they were afraid to ask him’ (9:32). What’s not to understand? Jesus has already said much the same in 8:33-38. But the Twelve in Mark’s Gospel never understand Jesus (4:13; 6:52; 8:17, 21). In fact, the last words uttered by Peter, last of the twelve hangers-on, is, ‘I neither know nor understand what you mean’ (14:66). This claim, asserted outside the house where Jesus is betrayed by his countrymen, is a chicken-hearted lie that captures the ironic truth. As for the disciples’ fear to ask (9:32), that too is true to form: throughout Mark they are scared spitless (4:40-41; 6:50; 9:6; 10:32; 16:8). Those with faith in Jesus have nothing to fear (4:40-41; 5:33-34, 36), but not once does Mark ever attribute faith to the Twelve (compare the usually nameless nobodies in 2:5; 5:34; 9:24; 10:52).”[iv]

Basically, for mark the 12 are the fools.  The chosen are not capable.  Nameless nobodies…the crowd who lowers the paralyzed man, because of their faith healed him…The woman who touched Jesus clothes; “Daughter your faith has made you well…” Jesus says to a father “If you are able – all things can be done for one who believes…” the man’s son is healed of a demon.  The Blind man asks to see and Jesus tells him Go; your faith has made you well”

 All these miracles of faith happen to the nameless, to those who live outside of society.  You see it was their illness and or their family’s illness that made them outcasts and shunned and nameless.


“Immediately after Jesus has reminded them of his impending humiliation, his followers are shamed to silence: they’ve been quarreling over which of them is tops in their own pecking order (9:33-34). Given antiquity’s preoccupation with social status—not so very distant from our own—that debate is predictable. But in Mark’s context, it’s nonsensical, since Jesus is superior to them all. Disregarding the General, these foot soldiers’ bicker over their respective ranks. The picture is clear: those with the greatest benefit of Jesus’ instruction set for themselves low standards and consistently fail to achieve them.”[v] In other words the disciples are arguing over what is not at all important and as far as Jesus’ teachings go this is absolutely a waste of anyone’s time…except ours for it serves as a reminder to fucus on the lessons, Jesus’ message.

So to prove his point Jesus invites a child into the circle.  The verse says he places a child among them. To be counted among something or placed among something can bring an image of equality. “Primer interpares.”  The first among equals.  Jesus is placing the child among those quarreling over first place and says here is first place.  This is how you become first.

“just as the saving of one’s life requires its sacrifice for the gospel’s sake, so too does primacy in discipleship demand taking a place last of all, as everyone’s servant (9:35)…

A child epitomizes the most subservient human in ancient society, one with slightest status. In Jesus’ presence a little child literally has ‘standing’.”[vi]

So this begs the question I opened with how are the children. Do we welcome a child as a one of the first disciples? Do we honor our Children by leaving them a better world? A safer world? It breaks my heart but many of us are failing the children of this world.

“Education Week journalists, in 2018, began tracking shootings on K-12 school property that resulted in firearm-related injuries or deaths. That year, there were 24 such incidents. There were 25 in 2019.


We continued tracking school shootings in 2020, when there were 10 such incidents…The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have interrupted the trend line. That fall off in numbers is probably due to the shift to remote learning for nearly all schools for part or all of 2020.”[vii]  That would seem like good news but unfortunately so has reporting of child abuse dropped because our schools are the first line of defense.

How are the Children?

Somehow the idea of childhood safety has become skewed in this light of the pandemic.  People suddenly are afraid to vaccinate their children when we know vaccinations stop pandemics in their path.  How many children get polio today? Or measles? or rubella. I know this is controversial but should it be? I work in health care and I am constantly being bombarded by infections and death.

“Dr. Federico Laham, medical director of infectious diseases at Arnold Palmer Hospital, says pediatric cases at the hospital have “skyrocketed” over the last few weeks. “We have seen a dramatic increased number of children especially those under 17,” Laham said. “The number of patients admitted to the hospital has tripled during this last month in August.”[viii]

How are the Children?

Finally let’s say we get beyond guns…

Let’s say the pandemic subsides…

Lets say childhood hunger is averted…

What kind of world are we leaving for the Children?

I have worked with many a non profit.  I have worked at or hosted many events.  When one rents a space we have a saying…leave it better than when you found it.

How are the Children?

We need to do a lot of work on our behavior. Remember we are only visiting this planet.  We do not own it and we need to leave it better than when we found it.

The UCC recently passed the rights of nature… “First Congregational Church of Redlands in California became a strong advocate for it. In a letter to delegates attending the General Synod gathering, it wrote, “What this resolution of the Rights of Nature does, among many things, is put us directly in touch with our moral responsibility and profound gratitude to the Earth and all living beings, and our deep commitment to healing our society and our world in all life-affirming ways. Learning to experience our interconnectedness with ‘all relations’ is crucial.”[ix]

For the Children of this world;

 we must advocate and fight for the environment…

We must advocate and fight for Gun reform…

We must advocate and fight for equal access to health care

We Must advocate and fight for food accessibility…

For the Children of this world we must become as a slave and obey the masters law…Love God and love each other as you would love yourself  and follow Christs example by placing the Child among us as equal if not more important than ourselves.

Once all of this work is done and done well then when asked How are the children then and only then will we be able to answer…All the Children are well….meaning peace and safety finally prevail.






[iv] Ditto

[v] Ditto

[vi] Ditto




Sunday, August 29, 2021

Feasting on the Word..John 6:56-69 Lake Helen First Congregational UCC

John 6:56-69 nrsv

New Revised Standard Version

56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.


The Words of Eternal Life

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”


66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”[a]


John 6:56-69

The Message

53-58 But Jesus didn’t give an inch. “Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you. The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. By eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you. In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me. This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always.”


59 He said these things while teaching in the meeting place in Capernaum.

Oh Lord this reading is hard…we have been talking about this for weeks and yet Jesus goes on speaking about the bread of life, about him being the bread of life and how we must consume that bread and drink his blood.  Ugh! Does he have to be so graphic?  Why is this so hard to hear?  Why do his own followers walk away?

I have to tell a story Now this is kind of telling on someone, but we had a congregant back in NoHo who stopped coming to church because at communion we were eating of the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ and that was cannibalism.


One commentator believes we need to move away from the metaphor...

“In Jewish culture, the idea of ​​eating meat with blood was taboo. In fact, it was a prohibition given to humanity in general after the flood in Genesis 9: 4. The Law repeats this prohibition to the people of Israel (Lv 17:11, 14; 19:26; Dt 12:23). In addition, blood and fat were the parts of the animal that were to be given exclusively to God in the sacrifices (Lev 3: 16-17; 4: 18-35; 9: 18-20). Thus, the reference to the flesh and blood in these words of Jesus has nothing to do with the Eucharist (although historically it has been interpreted that way and some believe that this section about flesh and blood was added to the original discourse) , but with the sacrifice of the tabernacle or the temple that restored or celebrated the communion between the believer and God. Truly, we must not concentrate on the metaphors of bread / meat / blood that Jesus uses throughout the chapter, but on what is done with those elements: eating. To eat the manna in the desert was to receive life. To eat the separated loaves for the priests of the temple was to have communion with God. Also to eat the sacrificed meat on the altar was, for the believing Jew, to have communion with the same God. Eating is synonymous with accepting, receiving, believing, trusting, welcoming, staying, etc., all words that the Gospel of John uses repeatedly to describe the challenge with which Jesus confronts us-the obligation of the true disciple or the true disciple. to remain faithful to the Lord and to remain in communion with Him. And given the context of sacrifice in the words "flesh and blood," the nuance here is that we must accept Christ, not only descended from heaven but also raised on the cross (Jn 3:14). In this approach, according to which the person and the way of Jesus are understood both through the cross and through the resurrection, all the gospels are in agreement.”[1]

I like his explanation sort of but for me it robs John’s Gospel of it’s approach though he does keep the heart of the message.

How does Johns Gospel open?

In the beginning was the Word,

And the Word was with God,

And the Word was God.

This [Word] was in the beginning with God.

Everything came to be through [the Word],

And apart from [the Word] nothing at all came to be.

What came to be in [the Word] was Life,

And the Life was the light of human beings.

And the Light shines in Darkness,

And the Darkness did not master [the Light] ….


The Genuine Light, which enlightens every human being, was coming into the World.


He was in the world,

And the world came to be through [the Light];

And the world did not know [the Light].

[The Light] came to his own,

And his own did not accept him.

But as many accepted him,

He gave them power to become children of God.

[They were the ones] who believed in his name,

Who were not born of blood,

Nor of will of flesh,

Nor the will of man,

But of God.


And the word became flesh…[2]


The commentator wants us to move away from metaphor and struggle with the literal concept of consuming that which feeds us with God at table. But I hear something different if we listen to how John opens this Gospel with Metaphor as Jesus being the Word of God with us from the beginning through which all things are made then the word became flesh and walked among us ministered to us taught us and then returned to heaven leaving us nothing but…His word, the word.  We are called to feast upon the word of Christ. We are called to feast upon the Gospel.


“Eating is synonymous with accepting, receiving, believing, trusting, welcoming, staying, etc., all words that the Gospel of John uses repeatedly to describe the challenge with which Jesus confronts us-the obligation of the true disciple or the true disciple. to remain faithful to the Lord and to remain in communion with Him.”[3]

I suspect some people in Jesus’ crowd heard these words with this exact interpretation some did not but those who were challenged by Jesus words used the excuse that his words are too hard. Much like the young man asked how to get to heaven…he was already doing what was easy for him. Keeping the Sabbath…Tithing, feeding the hungry…So Jesus says let’s go a step further sell all you own give it away and follow me…the man went away sad because the call was too hard….

“Throughout this chapter's discussion about the bread which gives life, Jesus' words have been greeted with misunderstanding, confusion, and objection from the crowd, referred to either simply as "they" or "the Jews." In verse 60, we hear about the reaction from the "disciples" (in John not to be equated with "the twelve"; see verse 67). We may expect better things from them. After all, they were the ones who sat together with Jesus at the beginning of this text, who followed Jesus' instructions in gathering up the leftovers of the bread and fish, and who were rescued from the storm at sea by Jesus. Perhaps most importantly, we expect that "the disciples" belong to "us," and not to "them."


Thus we may be stunned when we hear that the disciples are now the ones who are bothered by what Jesus has said. We may have been tempted to simply write off the rest of the crowd as stubborn and obtuse, but the reference to "the disciples" sounds uncomfortably close to home. In verse 61, the disciples begin to grumble (NRSV "complain"), just as "the Jews" did in verse 41. Here, the problem seems not so much that the disciples have difficulty understanding what Jesus is saying; they understand quite well but cannot believe and follow what Jesus has said. How often do we find the same to be true about ourselves?

As has been Jesus' habit throughout this conversation, he meets objections by sharpening the point of his message, raising the offense rather than softening it, and thereby bringing the conversation to a crisis. In verse 62, Jesus points to his "going up" (NRSV "ascending"). We may think first of Luke's ascension scene, but we need to remember that this is John's story, and in John's telling Jesus returns to the Father by being lifted up on the cross.”[4]

Some of the followers of Christ can already see where all this is leading there have been a few hints along the way as Jesus has upset some of the Leadership of the community. This is too hard…others just hear the literal as opposed to the metaphor and do not even try to understand and dismiss Jesus. Others are still seeking literal food not understanding that they will just be hungry again and not fulfilled.

Another commentator reflects;

“The text tells us: "Since then many of his disciples went back and no longer walked with him" (v. 66). Why did they stop following Jesus? Is it because they did not understand the way Jesus offered the eternal bread? Is it possible that some have believed that Jesus would give them a bread that literally would not end? In a society of scarcity like Jesus’, the idea of ​​endless sustenance would undoubtedly have attracted many. But we see through the scriptures that God's plan has never been to serve as a food-providing machine. The earth in its fullness has always been able to supply humanity and the creatures of the world with what is necessary. But human greed has created systems of inequality that favor a few and leave most people in a state of need.”[5]

This statement made my mind jump my train of thought, honestly my mind often jumps the track, but this time it jumped to a good track, I hope, for this led me to think about feeding the hungry and what it means especially since one of the greatest inequalities in this world remains food!

I see by your web page that you all collect food for the outside the gates food Pantry. I read there was a box just outside the narthex. So I have made a contribution. It is not a lot when you read their wish list;

Meat & Protein Items:  Peanut butter; Canned meats (ham, chicken, tuna, Spam, salmon); Canned stews and chili; Bean soups; Canned or dried beans


Canned Vegetables (any kind)


Canned Fruit (any kind)


Grains/Cereal:  Assorted breakfast cereal; Oatmeal; Grits; Pasta; Rice; Crackers; Flour; Cake mix; Cornbread mix, Pancake mix, Granola bars, etc.


One-Dish Boxed Meals:  Mac & Cheese; Tuna Helper; Hamburger Helper; Rice-A-Roni; Scalloped potatoes; Mashed potatoes; Stuffing mix


Heat & Eat:  Soup (any kind); Ravioli; Spaghetti & Meatballs; SpaghettiOs; Corned beef hash; Pork & beans; Baked beans


Oils & Condiments:  Cooking oil; Sugar; Salt; Pepper; Other assorted spices; Mayonnaise; Ketchup; Mustard


Other:  Jelly; Jam; Syrup; Jell-O; Pudding mix; Canned evaporated milk; Non-fat dry milk; Instant coffee; Tea; Hot chocolate  


Non-Food Items:  Toilet paper; Soap; Toothbrushes; Toothpaste; Combs; Shampoo; Dish detergent; Laundry detergent.


Every little bit helps.

But what does it mean to be hungry? Bread for the world explains it this way.

 “Everyone feels hungry on a daily basis. Most people are able to satisfy this craving and need. Even if not immediately, they can count on having a meal or snack within hours. This is not the type of hunger that Bread is concerned with.


People who suffer chronic hunger don’t have the option of eating when they are hungry. They do not get enough calories, essential nutrients, or both. People who are hungry have an ongoing problem with getting food to eat. They have a primary need — how to feed themselves and their children today and tomorrow. They have little energy for anything else…

It is commonly known that the cause of hunger in the world is not a shortage of food but rather access to food.

Some people are hungry because food is in short supply in their area and for a specific reason. It may be because they can’t afford to buy enough food. It may be both.

Some countries have a “hunger season” every year. It's when the previous harvest is gone, and the next harvest is not yet ready. It can last as long as three or four months.

The U.S. doesn’t have that kind of a hunger season, but for many families, some weeks are hungrier than others. These usually come toward the end of the month, as families run short of food before they have money to buy more. People can’t simply decide to spend less on rent, but, if necessary, they can spend less on food.

For many low-wage workers, retirees, people with disabilities, and their families, even careful planning cannot stretch the grocery budget throughout the month. Less expensive — and less nutritious — filler foods can keep children’s stomachs from growling, but they can’t provide what children need to grow and learn. Adults who are missing meals because they can’t afford to buy food can’t concentrate as well at work…

People in certain conditions, whether they live in the developing world or the United States, are extremely vulnerable to hunger. A month of bad weather for a farmer or an illness for a worker and a loss of income can mean less food and the prospect of hunger.

Food insecurity is the more formal term for this condition. People living with food insecurity lack a stable, reliable means of getting the meals they need.”[6]

I thought I could share a few statistics with you as well. According to second harvest;


“On March 31, 2021, Feeding America released local-level food insecurity projections for 2021 which show that food insecurity has remained elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels for 96% of counties. In Central Florida, Feeding America projects that 13.8%, one in seven people and 20.1%, one in five children, live in households that may be food insecure in 2021.


The study, The Impact of the Coronavirus on Local Food Insecurity in 2020 and 2021, provides a snapshot of food insecurity at the state, congressional district and county level prior to the pandemic and presents the likely impact the ensuing economic crisis has had on food insecurity levels in the U.S. In addition, for the first time, Feeding America has produced local-level projections of very low food security, a more severe range of food insecurity that involves reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns.”[7]



“95 million more meals a year are needed to fill the hunger gap that exists in Central Florida.

One in seven people are facing hunger in our community.

More than 500,000 people in Central Florida don’t know when or where their next meal will come.

One in five children in Central Florida face hunger.”



“What are the Effects of Food Insecurity?


Chronic Disease


Food Insecurity is associated with higher probability of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, hepatitis, stroke, cancer, asthma, diabetes, chronic pulmonary disease and kidney disease

Child Hunger


Hunger can harm a child’s opportunities to reach their full potential and contribute fully to their communities—which affects society.


Children from food-insecure homes may be more likely to:


Have lower math scores

Repeat a grade in elementary school

Experience developmental impairments in areas like language and motor skills

Have more social and behavioral problems

Be less prepared for the workforce as adults

Senior Hunger


Seniors who are food-insecure have:


Higher rates of chronic diseases

Poorer general health

Three times higher prevalence of depression

Diminished capacity to maintain independence while aging”[8]


As we feast on the word of God…and when we share in the table of remembrance called communion we also share a table with those who around us are hungry for real food.  

 You see “God's plan has always been to live in communion with his people; God is still waiting for us to create a world that reflects the image of God-in love, justice, fulfillment, mercy, equality, etc. We see it in Genesis, when God created the human being to share in the work of creation. We see it in the Law, according to which the sacrifices have in mind a companionship between God and the person and community. We see it in the Prophets, who insist on the responsibilities of the people to form a just society. And John, at last, tells us that the Word that created the world became flesh to call people to a community to opposed to the values ​​of the Roman Empire and any political or economic system that dehumanizes the being”[9] Jesus is always calling us to be an anti-Imperial, anti-hierarchical society in which its members, are empowered by the Spirit that Jesus emphasizes in the fourth gospel, live in communion with God and with one another. We are called to Feast upon the word and share in communion as one people, as one spirit, and as the one body of Christ. Amen


[2] King, Nicholas. The Bible: A Study Bible. Buxhall, Stowmarket, Suffolk: Kevin Mayhew, 2013.






[8] Ditto



Sunday, March 7, 2021

3rd Sunday of lent; I shall speak of Temple, authority and Frogs!

Live video archive

 Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….


Opening Reflection: Psalm 19 the message

1-2 God’s glory is on tour in the skies,

    God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.

Madame Day holds classes every morning,

    Professor Night lectures each evening.

3-4 Their words aren’t heard,

    their voices aren’t recorded,

But their silence fills the earth:

    unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

4-5 God makes a huge dome

    for the sun—a superdome!

The morning sun’s a new husband

    leaping from his honeymoon bed,

The day breaking sun an athlete

    racing to the tape.

6 That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies

    from sunrise to sunset,

Melting ice, scorching deserts,

    warming hearts to faith.

7-9 The revelation of GOD is whole

    and pulls our lives together.

The signposts of GOD are clear

    and point out the right road.

The life-maps of GOD are right,

    showing the way to joy.

The directions of GOD are plain

    and easy on the eyes.

GOD’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,

    with a lifetime guarantee.

The decisions of GOD are accurate

    down to the nth degree.

10 God’s Word is better than a diamond,

    better than a diamond set between emeralds.

You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring,

    better than red, ripe strawberries.

11-14 There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger

    and directs us to hidden treasure.

Otherwise how will we find our way?

    Or know when we play the fool?

Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!

    Keep me from stupid sins,

    from thinking I can take over your work;

Then I can start this day sun-washed,

    scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.

These are the words in my mouth;

    these are what I chew on and pray.

Accept them when I place them

    on the morning altar,

O God, my Altar-Rock,

    God, Priest-of-My-Altar.

Let us pray: 

God of glory and might,

speak to us with your wisdom,

that we might truly hear you.

Display your majesty,

that we might truly see you.

Transform the chaos of our lives

with the clarity of your call,

that we might worship you in spirit

and in truth. Amen.

Here we begin today’s worship


Call to Worship 

L: Called by Christ,

P: we gather as one.

L: Blessed by God’s wisdom,

P: we gather to learn.

L: Amazed by God’s love,

P: we gather to worship.

 Opening Hymn: Spirit of Gentleness #286


John 2:13-22

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The word of God for the people of God!

Thanks be to God!


Sermon: Temple, Authority and Frogs!

The Gospel of john comes out of what is known as the Johannine community there are few theories about this group but one of the most common is that they were a community of believers who once practiced in the synagogue and then were kicked out.  They also, by reading Johns Gospel and letters are much more mystical then the other writers.

The writer of Johns Gospel tells us that he has a particular purpose in his writing.  John writes of the Baptizer that “7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.”

John also goes on to write

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (20:30-31)” John is writing so that you may believe whereas the Synoptic Gospels, Mathew mark and Luke are also with that purpose but in a different way.  Thy tend to chronologically write of Jesus life.

Where the synoptic Gospels want to show you Jesus life in chronological order then this incident becomes one of the reason for Jesus’ eventual arrest and crucifixion. “the chief priests and the scribes and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him” Luke 19:47

But for John he is showing us something different he wants us to see and hear the same story but in a different way…

Though John was written last, John’s Gospel may be written closer to the heart of a community that has experienced the destruction of the temple and the exile form the Jewish community. “While John’s Gospel may have been written after the other Gospels, it was early enough to have been written by the Apostle himself, a man who saw the events firsthand and recorded them within the lifetime of those who would know if he was lying.”[1]

John “The narrator now describes the situation in the temple: “He found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables” (v. 14). Given the Passover setting, these elements are certainly not out of place. Part of the festival worship involved the sacrifice of an unblemished animal, and the availability of animals for people travelling from a distance (who might risk sullying an animal brought with them) was important. As well, one could only pay the annual “temple tax” in Tyrian coinage, so money-changers provided an essential service.”[2] The temple is all set up for a normal festival weekend.

Interestingly we know Jesus has seen this before “Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.” (Luke 2:42) We must assume that he continued this tradition.  So, something significant has happened, but what is it? John is using this story to demonstrate something new and different in Jesus as compared to other people. Jesus has stepped into his Authoritative role as The Christ, the anointed one.

Gilberto ruiz explains;

“The effect of Jesus’ actions in verses 15-16 -- his driving out the sheep and cattle (possibly the merchants too, if they are included in the “all” of verse 15, which is difficult to determine grammatically), his pouring out the coins and overturning the tables, his order for the dove-sellers to remove the doves (locked in cages, which is why he cannot drive them out with the whip) and for the temple to cease being a marketplace -- is to bring the selling to a halt. By taking on the temple’s economic apparatus in this way, Jesus assumes the authority to dictate temple practice.”[3]

By disrupting the well-established and accepted economic practices of the temple, Jesus publicly reveals he is more than a pilgrim visiting the temple. He is Son of the God who dwells in that temple, and as such he has the authority to disrupt the temple’s usual activities.

Remembering Psalm 69:9, the disciples in verse 17 perceive Jesus as demonstrating zeal for God’s “house” (the Psalm quote shares the word “house” with Jesus’ saying in verse 16). This zeal distinguishes him from the majority of temple pilgrims who participated in the temple’s sacred economy. As God’s Son, he can disrupt the temple’s activities and in doing so demonstrate a zeal like that of the psalmist, who like other Jewish heroes said to have zeal represents God’s interests on earth (e.g., Numbers 25:11) and endures hardships as a result (Psalm 69:4, 7-12).1[4]

It is interesting to note that in Johns gospel there are Just 7 signs;

“Changing water into wine at Cana in John 2:1-11 - "the first of the signs"

Healing the royal official's son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54

Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-15

Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14

Jesus walking on water in John 6:16-24

Healing the man blind from birth in John 9:1-7

The raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45”[5]

Jesus is just beginning his ministry. Right after the miracle at Cana in Galilee, he returned to Capernaum "with his mother and his brothers and his disciples" (2:12).  John tells us in 2:11 that his disciples "believed in him" after the first sign of changing water to wine.   Now, in this passage, we will see the disciples actively engaged in trying to understand this Jesus in whom they "believe" with the help of Scripture.”[6]

There is an evolution of faith happening in this writing.  Jesus changes water to wine, the disciples believe. But in this instance there is a pause for it isn’t till all is said and done that the disciples believe.  The disciples do hold as remembering the sacred text. They recall the psalmist quote and compare it to Jesus’ action. One commentator states:

“In fact, the "remembering" of Scripture and Jesus' own words is at the center of the lives of Jesus' disciples. How useful it is to see Jesus' own disciples coming to deeper realization of what it means to believe in Jesus. Gradually, they come more fully to understand how Jesus serves the God who has sent him out of love for the world.”[7]

In many ways this is what we are called to do just as the wedding at caanan evokes a immediate simplistic respons we now can see that

 “Belief on the basis of Jesus' first sign would quickly prove shallow, even untenable. That belief, important as it may have been, must be deepened and extended. The cleansing of the temple elaborates Jesus' identity for his disciples and for John's readers. In addition, it prompts disciples then and now toward on-going engagement with Scripture as God's reliable (if not always crystalline) word about God's purposes in this world which God loves.”[8]

The commentator goes on

“Central to the passage, and even more so for its use as a Lenten text, is the act of interpretation and remembering. Both times the disciples appear, they are remembering. In verse 17, they reflect on Jesus' quotation of Zechariah 14:20-21 in terms of Psalm 69:9. Jesus explains the temple cleansing in prophetic terms decrying the use of the temple for trade.

Yes, the "trade" in question was legitimate and necessary for pilgrims and others who did not have suitable coinage to purchase the animals needed in temple worship. That historical fact is not relevant. Rather, Jesus is declaring himself both as prophet and as one who claims that the Lord's house is his "Father's" house. His disciples have the first hint of the extreme conflict that will be at the heart of Jesus' ministry, and recognize it as foreboding Jesus' death.

“In spite of their dawning comprehension of perils that surround Jesus, Son of God, King of Israel (1:49), the disciples are no more able than the "Jews" to grasp fully Jesus' statement in verse 19. “Jesus answered them Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (And remember, the disciples themselves, like Jesus, are also Jews). Jesus offers a sign so outrageous and so incomprehensible; it is not until after his resurrection that his disciples understand what he has just said. Jesus seems to speak of the temple but does not. Or does he?”[9]

“the reference to the three days is a foreshadowing of the resurrection but also the ascension. As a result, Jerusalem is at once the location of the completeness of Jesus’ ministry -- his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension -- not just the place of his death. If the temple symbolizes the location and presence of God, Jesus is essentially saying to the Jewish leaders that he is the presence of God. Where one looks for God, expects to find God, imagines God to be, are all at stake for the Gospel of John. In Jesus, God is right here, right in front of you. That Jesus is the revelation of God, the one and only God (John 1:18), will be repeatedly reinforced with different sets of images, different characters, different directives, all pointing back to this essential truth.”[10]

Jesus’ play on words and signs as we now understand it because the writer has made it clear that all the disciples now understand it (after the resurrection, allows for further exploration. Jesus is saying my body, this temple will be destroyed and resurrected in three days.  John is saying this here is our center of faith for the authority of God lies in the body of Christ.

During lent we are called to focus on this this journey in which the authority of Christ as God revealed. Especially as God is being revealed through the Gospel of John. You see

“To claim that God was uniquely present in Jesus is certainly important, since it is integral to the high Christology of the Johannine community. {92} … God’s presence within this group as followers of Jesus is central as well. This theme of the ongoing divine presence within the community is prominent in the Fourth Gospel’s “Farewell Discourses” (e.g. 14:16-27; 15:26; 16:7). The Johannine community does not simply worship a “once-for-all” entry of God into human history: it sees itself as the dwelling-place of God in the present context.”[11]

This is the same presence we honor in each other and the Christian community today.  It is a call to remember we are the body of Christ. Not this building, not only when we gather for an hour on Sunday but we are called as the Body of Christ.

As 1 Corinthians reminds us  …from the message;

 “12-13 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of Christs’ one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which Christ has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of Jesus’ resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—God’s Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where God wanted it.”

St. Theresa reminds us;

Theresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

So now I have an odd question…









[8] ibid

[9] ibid



Ever feel like a Frog?

Frogs feel slow, ... low, ... ugly, ... puffy, ... drooped, pooped.

I know! ...... One told me.

The Frog feeling comes when:

You want to be bright... but you feel dull.

You want to share...but you are selfish.

You want to be thankful...but you are resentful.

You want to be big...but you are small.

You want to care...but you are indifferent.

Surely, ... at one time or another, ... each of us has found ourselves ... siting or laying ... on a lily pad.

Just Floating down ... the great river of life.

Frightened and disgusted ... but too darn Froggish to budge.

You all know the story…

Once upon a time there was a Frog.

But he wasn't really a Frog.

He was a Prince that looked like a Frog.

A wicked Witch ... had cast a spell on him ... and only the kiss of a beautiful young maiden ... could save him.

But since when ... do pretty Girls ... kiss Frogs?  Of course I wonder what if girls weren’t his orientation what a cruel trick that truly would have been.

So, there he sat ... an un-kissed Prince ... in Frog form.

Ah, but miracles happen.

One day a beautiful maiden grabbed him... and gave him a big smack.

Crash, Boom, Zap!

He became.... what he always was, a handsome Prince.

You know the rest.

They lived happily ever after. (Pause)

Congregation, ... there is a spiritual truth ... that lies within this story.

And the spiritual truth is this .... we are each called to be ... frog kissers.

We each ... are called ... to kiss those ... who God places in our lives, sometimes it’s easy to see the prince hidden within and other times well… it requires a leap of faith.

Robert and I... thank you ... for the multitude of kisses ... that you have given us during our time with you all.

Borrowing a little bit ... from the apostle Paul I share this truth:

I thank my God ... upon every remembrance of you; ... whenever I pray for you, ... my prayers are always joyful. (Philippians 1:3-5)

It is only natural ... that we should feel like this about you, ... because we do have great love for you.

You have made us a part of your family ... and you each lie ... within our heart's.

We thank God ... upon every remembrance. (Philippians 1:3)

I truly loved preparing ... and sharing the Message ...for the Sunday Worship. I really enjoyed sharing some unique versions of hymns that the covid experience has allowed us. This congregation has persevered through one of the toughest times in human history and it shall continue to do so.

Beyond your welcome ... I thank you ... for allowing me be me.

Often times ... it is difficult ... to find a place ...where you can be yourself.

Where people love you ... for who you are.

You have done that.

And I am sure ... that you will share that same love ... with those who come to serve and worship with you in the future.

You have been gracious.

You have seen my shortcomings ... and loved me anyway.

I hope I have been able to return that love ... and that joy ... to each of you.

Your friendship and your love ... has impacted our lives deeply... you each have left a mark on our hearts.

And so I want to share this hymn which I have written permission to use for this worship service.

Frog Kissin'

Ray Stevens, Chet Atkins


Do you remember in the fairy tale?

How the wicked witches spell changed the handsome prince to a toad

Thru the power of her potion she handed him the notion

That he was lower than the dirt in the road

And thou she left him green and warted her evil plan was thwarted

When there chanced to happen by a young miss

Who in spite of his complexion offered her affection

And broke the wicked curse with her kiss

Well if you’ve never been a frog kissin’

Then you don? t know what you’ve been missing

There’s a world of opportunity under each and every log

If you’ve never been a charm breaker

And if you’ve never been a handsome prince maker

Just a slow down turn around bend down

And kiss you a frog

Once upon a time ago

I was down and feelin’ low

Like a lonely frog in a pond

Life was just a joke

And I was very near a crokin’

I was zapped by life? s wicked wand

Then in the depth? s of my depression

There came a true expression

From a love from a lady so sweet

She gave warm fuzzy feelings

Feeling’s that where healing

And knocked me of my little web feet

Well if you’ve never been a frog kissin’

Then you don? t know what you’ve been missing

There’s a world of opportunity under each and every log

If you’ve never been a charm breaker

And if you’ve never been a handsome prince maker

Just a slow down turn around bend down

And kiss you a frog

There’s a happy ever after land

Even in the heart of man

Where a prince or princess abide

But all we get are glimpses

Of the handsome prince or princess

Cause there covered by a green warty hide

And thou there full of life? s potential

There lackin’ one essential

To enable them to shine like a star

And that? s to have some guy or misses

Smother them with kisses

And love them while there just like they are

And that? s the secret of frog kissin’

And you can do it to

If you just listen

Just slow down turn around bend down

And kiss you a frog


Ribit ribit 

A call to prayer

This is a time of sharing.

A time of lifting, lifting up our hearts

In gratitude and supplication.

What joys do you have to share,

What blessings?

What needs weigh on your heart?

Bring them here in community that we may all lift them up to God.


Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn



Quiet Reflection: In Christ Alone 

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen


Invitation to the Offering

It is easy to offer our money and our gold, but God desires our hearts and our lives. Even as we offer our gifts in the offering plates this day, let us reflect on how we might give our hearts and lives, so that others may know the truth of God’s wisdom and love.

Donate Here!


Doxology #778

Offering Prayer


May the gifts we bring be gifts of love.

May the offerings we share be offerings of our hearts.

May each gift be blessed by your grace,

that others may know the truth of your wisdom

and your love. Amen.




Celebration of Holy Communion

(Please if you have not already prepared elements for communion do so. Remember that even an English muffin can become a sacrament, even a cup of water or tea can become a remembrance of God’s redeeming love)


For Holy Communion this morning,

I invite you to lend Christ your table.

We recall that once a long time ago Jesus gathered with his friends in a room. Men, woman, children, free and slave, Jewish, roman, tax collector and priest all gathered as friends to celebrate a feast.

We do not know all the conversations that were shared. We do not know the menu of the day. Yet by faith we proclaim these words.

The Communion words sent to the church at Corinth.

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,

that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed

took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks,

he broke it and said,

“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.

Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,

you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Sharing of the Elements

Leader:    Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.

Unison:    We are one in Christ in the bread we share.

Leader:    Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.

Unison:    We are one in Christ in the cup we share.

Prayer of Thanksgiving


Let us pray in thanksgiving for this meal of grace,

rejoicing that, by the very method of our worship,

we have embodied the truth that Christ’s love

is not limited by buildings made with human hands,

nor contained in human ceremonies,

but blows as free as the Spirit in all places.


Spirit of Christ, you have blessed our tables and our lives.

May the eating of this Bread give us courage to speak faith and act love, not only in church sanctuaries, but in your precious world,

and may the drinking of this Cup renew our hope

even in the midst of pandemic.

Wrap your hopeful presence around all

whose bodies, spirits and hearts need healing,

and let us become your compassion and safe refuge. Amen

 The office is open for regular hours

We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry


I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in


Where charity and love prevail #396


Where charity and love prevail 

there God is ever found;

Brought here together by Christ’s love,

 By love are we thus bound

With grateful joy and holy fear

 true charity we learn;

Let us with heart and mind and strength 

now love Christ in return.

Forgive we now each other’s faults 

as we our faults confess;

And let us love each other well 

in Christian holiness.

Let strife among us be unknown, 

let all contentions cease;

Be Christ the glory that we seek, 

be ours Christ’s holy peace.


Closing Prayer

Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. We are grateful for the love of Jesus who takes our burdens and lightens our spirits. Be with us today as we leave our virtual space. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.


Benediction/Sending Forth

Blessed by God’s wisdom,

go forth refreshed and renewed.

Called by Christ,

go now to serve.

Amazed by God’s love,

go now to love.