Sunday, February 28, 2021

Second Sunday of lent 2021:Be quiet! is too polite!

Archived streamed service click here

Mark Twain worried, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

Today’s Gospel reading is Hard.  Today’s gospel reading even the participants in the reading find it hard to understand.  Today’s gospel reading is full of dark clouds and dark corners and creepy music, todays Gospel story is the part where we close our eyes and plug our ears because it’s not the story we want to hear. in…

“Mark 8:29 Simon Peter has tumbled to the truth about his teacher: “You are the Messiah.” Whatever glorious aspirations the Twelve associated with that honorific, Jesus shuts them down (8:30): epitemesen, a verb used elsewhere in Mark for silencing unclean spirits and savage forces (1:23; 3:12; 4:39). In 8:31 Jesus shifts to what the Son of the Man must endure by the hands “the elders” (senior lay leaders), “the chief priests” (cultic officials), and “the scribes” (authorities on scriptural tradition). Their modern counterparts are the church’s own lay leaders, tall-steeple preachers, and biblical scholars. To what will the establishment subject Jesus? Rejection, suffering, and death. After the full measure of this fatal disgrace has been exacted, he will rise again after three days. None of this is accidental: The Son of Man must (dei) undergo it by God’s design.”[1]

I love this, here is what is happening just before this reading Jesus asks, “but who do you say I am?’ and Peter blurts out “you are the Messiah” and Jesus says Shut up! Shut up your going to spoil the ending! Now Jesus doesn’t just say Shut up! but he says it with all the Authority vested in him that causes the very demons to be quiet. He then goes on to tell them where he is headed and exactly what he is headed for. Yikes!, we do not want to hear that.  Our fingers go in our ears and we start to sing nana nana na.

Peter takes Jesus aside and tells him to Shut up! The exact words Jesus just used on him for announcing the game plan before the game is finished. Then Jesus not only tells him to shut up but names Peters voice as the voice of the dissenter, the Voice of the denier, the voice one could even say of the rational. And names it Satan and tells him to step back!

C. Clifton Black states; “The stakes are so high that he addresses Peter as “Satan,” the tempter (1:12) and thief of the preached word (4:15). Peter is the only figure in Mark whom Jesus addresses so vehemently. Why? “You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (8:33b). Peter has arrogated to himself an authority that is not his to wield and is, in fact, devilish. This is no gentlemanly disagreement. Mark dramatizes a life-and-death clash between the divine and the diabolical.”[2]

Then Jesus says to all who are around his disciples and followers come on gather round I have something to say…Now if you want to follow me… Stop giving yourself anything and everything you want or believe you need and take up your cross…. Wait what???  I can honestly say that I am sure no one here understands or comprehends the imagery being evoked here. The Harper Collins study bible has one note here… “Cross, an instrument of torturous execution” (page 1739) You can believe everyone there knew exactly how the cross worked, what happened to someone before they picked one up and what was waiting for them at the end of their destination.  No one wants to take up a cross! The idea is horrific. If a cross looked more like the terrifying machine on the cover of our bulletins perhaps then this passage would not pass before us so easily…so quickly.

The commentator states “Then Jesus opens his teaching beyond the Twelve to the overhearing crowd (including us): “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (8:34). Self-denial implies taking one’s stand “on the side of God, [not] of men” (Revised Standard Version [RSV]). To take up the cross is neither pious sentiment nor temporary disappointment. Crucifixion was the most humiliating, torturous execution the Romans could devise. Cicero decried it: “There is no fitting word that can possibly describe a deed so horrible” (Against Verres). The cross is Jesus’ destination (15:12-39). There his followers must follow him.”[3]

Self-denial implies taking ones stand “on the side of God.”  This means taking the focus ourselves.  This means going deep within ourselves and stepping out of the way to let Jesus in, to make Jesus the center of ourselves. No need to worry about tomorrow, no need to worry about yesterday.  We need to be present to God with us, Emmanuel, and how we are called to answer that spirit in our lives.  How are we called to get beyond ourselves and live as Christ is calling us to live?

To give one’s life up for the sake of the Gospel…for the sake of the good news is to surrender to the concept that Gods kingdom is at hand here and now and we can either do our best to participate in it or go without. Actually, in this Gospel reading Jesus is saying you can have the big house, the fancy car, you can have everything you want but where does that leave you … Just wanting more and in the end what have you gained…Jesus asks what it gains a person to… to have everything yet in the end it is really nothing.

If you have had a chance to listen to or speak with those who survived the recent fires or any recent tragedy.  The immediate reaction is we have our lives we have our family and our friends. The things do not matter so much and often what people grieve losing are the photos. Those evidence of life lived, and people loved.  Our lives our not the old game of he with the most toys wins no it is how we love that matters and with Christ as our center how we love guides us to live in that kingdom of God that is at hand.

Another commentator puts it this way Jesus is comparing God values with human values ; “According to human values, one's own life comes first. We might be kind and generous and thoughtful toward others, yet cultural norms dictate the priority of our own safety or privilege or physical comfort. Jesus advocates risking your life for the sake of another. In other words, be willing to lose your life for the sake of the Gospel in order to save it.

According to Mark's gospel, the disciples represent human values.2 They aspire to power and greatness and assume that Jesus shares these values. Jesus represents God's values, best summed up by the willingness to risk one's own life for the sake of others. Jesus does not encourage suffering for its own sake, nor does he recommend acceptance of forced servitude. 3 The key to meaning here is "for the sake of the gospel" and Jesus is the exemplary model. Jesus invites his disciples to follow his example, to be willing to risk our lives for the sake of others.”[4]

I can’t help but think of the events in florid last week. “Football coach Aaron Feis threw himself in front of students as bullets hailed down Wednesday at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida…."He died the same way he lived -- he put himself second," Lehtio said. "He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero."[5]

When you hear his students talk it wasn’t just about this one act this man always put others first. He helped kids stay in school he would listen and counsel he would go out of his way to defend a kid in trouble and help them find their way to graduation. I don’t know what this man’s faith was and it doesn’t matter for I see in him the example Jesus is asking of his followers.  One person said of the coach “He was fond of the sports saying that “the last play is the best play,” … “And that’s exactly what he did. He made his last play his best play.”[6]

Can you imagine what this world would be like if we all lived as such.  What if we could imagine a world that was better because we, the humans, were no longer the center of our own individual attention?

Jesus puts out in front of us and the disciples the great master plan.  One of pain and suffering and one of Resurrection.  A miracle where death is conquered, and life is sustained a new and miraculous life. Here we are called to move away from our self-centeredness and reach beyond our selves.

Today’s accompanying reading from the old testament is the story of Abraham and Sarah the reason I mention this is that last week we spoke of our God of Covenant and the old testament carries on that promise of a covenanted God that mirrors Jesus’ foretelling, today both events seem impossible and yet.

“as the story goes, God has more faith, more resilience, more confidence in a possible future than does Abraham or Sarah.  Then, inexplicably, this yearned-for, unexpected, desperately wanted baby is born, not of normal human circumstance, but of the power and the fidelity of God. This birth is an event defying explanation, resisting reason. Abraham, Sarah and all of us are thrown back from reason and understanding to the more elemental response of wonder, astonishment, amazement, gratitude, praise, and laughter.”[7]

The old testament reading kind of brings up almost the Christmas story.  Our reaction is the same and yet now this is juxtaposed against the prediction of the ultimate miracle, the resurrection, and what is the reaction to that…Shut up!

Walter Brueggemann explains this event eloquently as is sets up a history of covenant and miracles that is truly cultural to Israel… “From that moment on, Israel lives by the inexplicable that evokes gratitude. What Israel sees of God’s oddness is not craziness, but powerful faithfulness which can keep promises against all odds. Biblical faith is grounded in Gods capacity to keep promises. In that moment Israel comes to know everything that needs to be known about God and about the world around us. We live in a world of surplus surprises that out run our capacity to control or predict or explain.”[8]

Yet in a moment before our Gospel reading Peter has a glimpse, or should we say he remembers the world in which Israel lives as he proclaims Jesus the messiah. Shut up!  And yet he seems to forget it just as quickly as he said it for in one moment he is living in the promise to Israel and in the next moment he is living in his self-centered humanness.

Paul in his letter to the Romans recalls todays stories and Proclaims a God who “Gives life to the dead. Calls into existence into existence things that do not exist.” Romans 4:17” Through the infant born in the old testament to Jesus born in Bethlehem to todays Gospel we know a God who has made outrageous promises of well-being for all time to come. It is Israel, Peter and the disciples and the whole Church who own that.  Who are called to live into this! And yet so many times we break down to our human centeredness and become Peter pulling God aside and saying, “hold on now!” Shut up!

Walter Bruggeman explains it this way;

“There is thus a dialogue set up in our faith. One voice says, "Can you imagine!" The other voice answers, "Yes, but." Abraham, old, almost cynical Abraham was filled with "Yes, but." Yes, but I am very old. Yes, but she is not pregnant. Yes, but we only have Ishmael. It is the naked voice of the gospel that counters his tiredness. Can you imagine a new son born right then? Can you imagine a covenant kept to countless generations to come? Can you imagine land given to landless people? Not: can you implement it, can you plan it, can you achieve it? -only: can you entrust possibilities to God that go beyond your own capacity for control and fabrication?”[9]

Can you let go of your self-centeredness, can you deny yourself to allow The Possibilities of a God who can raise the dead and call into existence what has never existed. This is the God of Israel.   This is God manifest here on earth and yet…?

“The New Testament is not different. The people around Jesus are filled with the grudging hesitance of "yes, but." Jesus comes and says; can you imagine a dinner for all? Can you imagine a blind boy to see? Can you imagine a prodigal welcomed home? Can you imagine a Pharisee reborn into childlike Innocence? Can you imagine lepers healed, widows cared for, poor made first-class citizens? Of course, it was judged impossible, but Jesus ran powerfully ahead of such fear.”[10]

Isn’t that what Jesus was asking the disciples to do, asking Peter to do? Aren’t we being asked to get beyond our human centeredness where fear and doubt take root and run ahead of that fear?

“In our day, today, "Yes, but" is powerful and usually wins. "Yes, but" makes sober, prudent, competent. But it can also drive us to despair, fatigue, Cynicism, and even brutality. If you can imagine a baby born to such a failed family,”[11]

Can you imagine a world of Old people fully cared for? Yes, but, consider the costs and the overwhelming statistics?

Can you imagine a Latin America unencumbered by imperial domination? Yes, but don’t we know what’s best for the world?

Can you imagine a nuclear free world? Yes, but they must disarm first!

Can you Imagine a new world of food for all?  Yes, but that means we might have to give more than others!

Can you imagine a world of true equality?  Yes but…


“The list goes on, because Israel's lyrical imagination is free and unquenchable. God brings into existence that which does not exist. Did you know that the word create is never used with a human subject?  We may "make" or “Form” or “fabricate," but only God creates, only God works a genuine new possibility, a thing beyond our expectations and our extrapolations.  It belongs to the mystery and holiness of God to call to be that which is not yet, because this is God's world, the world is not, (controlled) either by our hopes or our fears.”[12]

Todays gospel and the stories that accompany it are powerful for they contain all the Possibilities of God.  Within us we contain all the possibilities of God.  It is all about moving beyond the Yes but, its all about moving beyond the Shut up! Its all about getting past our self-centeredness. “if someone wants to follow me let them deny themselves…”

It reminds me of a hymn I have heard and every now and then pull up on you tube it’s called Trading my sorrow by Darrell Evans

“I'm trading my sorrow

I'm trading my shame

I'm laying them down for the joy of the Lord

I'm trading my sickness

I'm trading my pain

I'm laying them down for the joy of the Lord


And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord


Though the sorrow may last for the night

His joy comes with the morning”

If we can get past all our yes buts, deny ourselves and just say yes lord this world would become Gods Kingdom…

We do all of this through continuing our Lenten practices building our relationship with God so we know and recognize when God calls and through prayer we can drop the yes but, we can leave behind the shut up, and we never need ask who me?? And just say yes! I can go where you lead, I can answer your call, I can deny myself and make you lord the center. Amen!


[1] C. Clifton Black, Commentary on Mark 8:31-38, February 25, 2018, accessed February 24, 2018,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Marilyn Salmon, Commentary 8:30-38, March 4, 2012, accessed February 24, 2018,

[5] Amir Vera, A football coach who shielded students from the Florida shooter died as he lived -- by putting himself second, February 15, 2018, accessed February 24, 2018,

[6] willa Frej, Cherished Football Coach Died Shielding Students From Bullets In Florida Shooting, February 15, 2018, accessed February 24, 2018,

[7] Walter Brueggemann, The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 10.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 11.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 11.

[12] Ibid.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The First Sunday of Lent; A dive into the Baptism

Archived Video of Service 

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


Opening Prayer

The season of Lent is here again and, as with so many times before, we find that we are not really ready for this journey of discipleship. So many things claim our lives and prevent us from being ready to take the steps in faith. As we look at our barrier of readiness, help us to remember that Christ is with us, every step of the way. We are not alone. Christ will help lift our hearts and spirits and direct our paths. Enable us, loving Savior, to take this journey of faith to new life with you. AMEN.

let us begin today’s worship


Call to Worship (Psalm 111)

L: Send the waters of your grace upon us.

P: We are your people.

L: Let the waters of your love wash us.

P: We are your forgiven people.

L: Let the waters of your blessing pour over us.

P: We are your beloved people.

  Thanks be to God.

Lord, who throughout these Forty Days


1 Lord, who throughout these forty days

for us did fast and pray,

teach us with you to mourn our sins

and close by you to stay.

2 As you with Satan did contend,

and did the victory win,

O give us strength in you to fight,

in you to conquer sin.

3 As you did hunger and did thirst,

so teach us, gracious Lord,

to die to self, and so to live

by your most holy Word.

4 And through these days of penitence,

and through your Passiontide,

forevermore, in life and death,

O Lord, with us a bide.

5 Abide with us, that when this life

of suffering is past,

an Easter of unending joy

we may attain at last!!


Mark 1:9-15

The Baptism of Jesus

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The Temptation of Jesus

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 

The word of God for the people of God!

Thanks be to God!


Sermon: a dive into the baptism

Well here we are the first Sunday of lent and we are reading Jesus’ baptism story again.  This time I believe we will dive in a little deeper.

“It is problematic to compare Jesus’ baptism with that of the people coming to be baptized by John. This action betrays a relationship of superior to inferior, of teacher to disciple, which places Jesus in a subordinate relationship with John.”  Now we proclaim Jesus the son of God and part of the trinity that are three of God and yet all of God. So how could he possibly subordinate to John?

“It has long been held by many scholars that, just as all the others of those baptized by John became his disciples, so Jesus began his ministry as a disciple of John. While it is often argued that Jesus achieved his messianic consciousness only because of the influence of the Baptist, we need not take that extreme. If Jesus did begin as John’s disciple, we could argue that he did so within his role as the Servant, that Jesus as a righteous human being would do the required righteous deed in aligning himself with God’s prophet for his time, and that discipleship under John would guarantee that Jesus would be seen as being in harmony with John’s teaching and in fact extending John’s message to its fulfilment” 

That would address another problem people often see in the baptism of Jesus which is the nature of baptism itself. If we believe in “baptism as repentance for the forgiveness of sins. What did Jesus have to repent of? What sins did he have to confess? It has been suggested that the people coming to be baptized were simply expressing their readiness for the promised kingdom of God. Their repentance and confession pertain to social sins, not innate, personal ones, for which they had a recourse through the Temple rites. It was an admission that they had somehow participated in a system of oppression and that now they were ready to change in preparation for God’s reign.

The baptism, then, was a visible sign of that attitude. If that was the case, then it was natural for Jesus to identify with this popular movement and do the same. Granted that this makes some people uncomfortable, it is the only honest reading that the text affords.

Herman Waetjen has suggested that Jesus was baptized into the Jordan (eis), rather than in the Jordan (en), as happened to the people in verse 5. The Jews from Judea and Jerusalem were not submerged in the river; that is, they did not submit to the full depth of John’s baptism. But Jesus did. He completely renounced the old order and proved to be a more genuine disciple than the others.” 

In Jesus’ baptism there is a proclamation. In the action itself, Jesus is aligned with the new order. The new way of being and acting in the world, fully and completely. No sooner does this happen and the heavens are torn apart.

“The tearing of the heavens (sjizomenous) parallels the tearing of the veil in Mark 15. The Gospel writer is using it to show that the Spirit is available again. The heavens have been ripped open. In 15:38 it is the veil that separated the people from God’s presence which is torn apart (esjizthe). Now the way to God is open for everyone. The purpose of these two verses was to call attention to what was included between them: Jesus’ ministry. The first, 1:10, signals the beginning; the second, 15:38, its end.” 

There is life in these tearings. The boundaries between God and man are blurred in Jesus. What was proclaimed in Genesis that we are created in the image of God, now is God with us, Emmanuel.

“In the baptism, the Spirit comes from above and goes into (eis) Jesus, filling him. That is why the Baptist says that the one coming after him “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (1:8). He is not a prophet temporarily anointed with the Spirit but rather one in which the Spirit lives permanently. That makes a huge difference between a traditional prophet and Jesus, something corroborated by the voice from heaven in verse 11.

In Mark’s narrative, the voice from heaven fulfills the purpose of identifying Jesus’ origin: he might come from Nazareth, a place of low honor, but he is God’s son. Jesus’ honor is ascribed; that is, granted by someone in a powerful and honorable position, in this case the God of Israel. The divine voice makes an astonishing affirmation: “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” It is a composite citation from Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1, among other passages, and it comes for Jesus’ and the readers’ benefit, not for those witnessing the event (compare it with Matthew 3:17).

The expression “my Son, the Beloved” does not have a capital initial, as in most modern translations, since the original Greek was all written in capital letters. It denotes the translator’s bias, who believes Jesus to be the Son of God in an ontological sense. But the idea here is more relational. Jesus is the favorite son of God, the one God has chosen to accomplish the task that the evangelist is about to tell the reader. It shows God’s partiality and preference. It also shows some rivalry with his teacher John. It basically says that God has chosen the disciple over the teacher!” 

There is an interesting amount of movement in mark. As stated above from disciple to teacher. The story moves quickly from John Proclaiming a Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and announcing “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1; 7-8)

Dr. Cameron Jorgenson who teaches theology and ethics at Campbell University Divinity School tells us that after John Proclaims One greater than I is coming, “Then something unusual happens. The “one who was to come” does come; Jesus goes out to John and requests baptism as well. When Jesus comes up from the water, the heavens are torn open, the voice of God speaks a blessing, and the Spirit descends on him like a dove”  This is where we first see the Trinity Creator, who tears open the heavens, Jesus the begotten one and the holy spirit descending in the form of a dove.

This is a very abrupt and intense story everything is happening with an urgency. John Appears in the desert, John Proclaims and Baptizes, Jesus arrives and is baptized.  Interesting there is no dialogue between John and Jesus, just then the heavens are torn apart and the dove arrives.

Now what happens next, Jesus’ testing or wilderness experience is important according to Walter Bruggeman. “Four separate statements make up mark 1:12-13each of which begins with the conjunction ‘and,’ although the NSRV obscures the conjunction at the beginning of v13:

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.

[And] He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan;

And he was with the wild beasts;

And the angels waited on him.

Each of these statements either explicitly or implicitly involves the wilderness themes, suggesting that it is the wilderness setting rather than the temptation as such that interests mark.

The first statement comes as a surprise. It dramatically depicts the spirit, who has just descended upon Jesus as a dove (1:10), now driving Jesus out into the wilderness. Translators and commentators sometimes try to soften this picture , but the verb used here is the same one later used of Jesus casting out demons, suggesting that real force is involved (as, for example, 1:34, 39; 3:15, 6:13). Of course…(Marks) Concern is for the necessity of Jesus’ going out into the wilderness. Already the wilderness has served as an important location for John the Baptist, and Jesus himself must go there.

The second statement combines the reference to forty days with Jesus' temptation by Satan. The number forty, of course, calls to mind several important biblical stories, such as the duration of the flood (Gen. 7:4, 12, 17), the wilderness years of Israel (Ex. 16:35; Deut. 2:7), and the flight of Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-8), in all of which stories the preservation of life in the midst of danger is a crucial issue. Satan's presence emphasizes the threat to life implicit in being in the wilderness for forty days. Because Matthew and Luke provide elaborate stories of Jesus' temptations, the natural tendency is to focus on this statement to the exclusion of the other three, and to read specific temptations into this account as well. Mark, by contrast, seems content with suggesting rather than itemizing those temptations. That Jesus is not overthrown by Satan is obvious from the narrative that follows.

The wild beasts of the third statement, of course, call to mind various biblical passages that promise God's protection from wild beasts, such as Job 5:22-23; Ps. 91:13; Isa. 11:6-9. That Jesus is "with the wild beasts" and emerges unscathed indicates the divine protection afforded him.( also would say it lifts the vision of the garden of Eden where man and beast lived in harmony) Indirect reference to that divine protection comes in the fourth statement, "and the angels waited on him." The verb used here, diakonoun, is that used elsewhere for serving or ministering (for example, Mark 1:31; 10:45; 15:41).

As a whole, this scene concisely portrays both the danger of the wilderness and the protection of Jesus as God's son. The period of forty days, with its obvious peril to physical life, and the temptation of Satan, threaten Jesus. That he dwells safely with wild animals and is waited on by angels conveys that he will emerge safely from this danger. In 1:3-4, the wilderness was the location of revelation. Here the wilderness becomes the location of danger. Later in Mark, the wilderness, having been tamed, becomes Jesus' place of retreat from the crowds and from the misunderstandings that press upon him (1:35, 45; 6:31-32, 35).” 

as I was researching Wilderness and our spiritual connection to the wilder places I discovered John Lionberger who works on;

“going into the wilderness to experience the presence of God. John Lionberger is a former atheist who had a profound religious experience on a wilderness trip. Now an ordained United Church of Christ minister, Lionberger leads others looking for their own experience of the holy. Lionberger is the author of “Renewal in the Wilderness.” He lives in Evanston, Illinois.” When asked what happens to people when he takes them to the wilderness Rev. John says; “What they encounter in the wilderness is getting away from all of the things in society that we call “trappings” that are meant to be good things, but that keep them away from a more authentic and deeper relationship with God…. I think what happens for them is they get to the transcendent through the physical—the act of canoeing, the act of setting up camp. I like to say it strips them of the barnacles that they accrue throughout their lives and society, and they begin to realize how little they need to be profoundly happy. They are able to simplify, and in that simplification they get a sense of something holy about what surrounds them, a sense of wellbeing and a sense of being cared for and a sense of profound peace, and it’s kind of a hackneyed phrase—“Be in the moment”—but there is something so powerful about it, because that is the moment, in the very present is when God comes to us. It is much easier, I think, for God to get through our defenses when we’re in a wilderness.”  

“The season of Lent has its ancient roots in the story of Jesus’s wilderness journey at the beginning of his ministry. A time of struggle, perseverance, trial, and transformation. During this season in the wild, Jesus was formed and forged for all the ministry that was to come. 

Lent is a time of fresh starts and wilderness growth for all who dare to accept the Spirit's invitation to surrender into this holy season. We are offered the opportunity to seek clarity on a particular question that’s been nagging us deep in our bones. Others will use this time as space for clearing aside the underbrush which can choke new growth - whittling away the extraneous to focus on what matters most. Lenten practices might include cutting out the extra chatter in our lives or listening more intently to the voices which give life. Some of us will choose to abstain from something during this season while others might choose to add a new practice to our daily routine. 

There is not a singular, “right” way to do Lent. There is only the invitation to step into the wilderness. 

We don’t necessarily know what will happen to us during our time out there in the wild. The stars overhead at night can be beautiful, but as the chill of evening sets in we might also start to feel worried or afraid. Gazing at the horizon, we put one foot in front of the other even though we’re not sure exactly where we’re headed.

In Lent, the journey itself is often the destination. 

But we go forth into this season in confidence. Confident that if we surrender ourselves to the wide open spaces the Spirit will move within and among us, bringing new light and life as the days lengthen. Confident that we are not alone. We journey into the wild places with fellow travelers of The Way. We go, also, with the assurance that there is no place too wild or barren for God’s accompaniment. We travel into the wilderness with Christ as our model, knowing that if the wilderness was good enough for him….well, surely it holds promises for us, as well. 

Let go. Surrender. Make a bold (or tentative) movement into the wilderness. Jesus is waiting for us in the desert places, the wide-open spaces, the wild.”  Amen.


Pastoral Prayer 

Loving, Creating God, you are in covenant with your people. Be with us as we recall all the ways you have made your presence known to us this week. You have pledged to be our God and ask us to be your people, trusting in you in all our ways. But we find many excuses to prevent us from really trusting you. We erect barriers before our faith journey even begins. Our time, obligations, energy, all become part of the bricks and mortar which fashion this barrier. We can give lip service to the journey; we can daydream about what it would be like to truly place our hands in yours and follow you. But when it comes to actually making the journey, our time constraints and weak commitments loom largely before us. Help us to tear down this barrier. Make us ready for the journey by replacing the fear in our hearts with a sense of joy and challenge of self-discovery and discipleship. Remind us that in service to you, helping others, we will also find ourselves made more fully whole. As we write down the names of our friends, and family members, and others situations in which healing and comfort are needed, let us remember that we, too, stand in need of prayer and healing. Make us ready to receive your good news and then to be witnesses to your love to all your people.  AMEN.

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



O Love that will not let me Go

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us


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

We can say with Jesus today, “Here comes God’s kingdom!...Trust this good news!” Because we trust the power and love of God, and we live into God’s kingdom, let us give the gifts of our lives to God, including the pieces of our lives  for God to transform. May our gifts announce God’s inbreaking kingdom, transforming us.

Donate Here!


Doxology #778


Offering Prayer

Because you are the God who saves us,

we give you these gifts.

Take our lives and our gifts

and use them to save our world.

We put our hope in you. 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


In the midst of new Dimensions #391

  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 this place. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.


Benediction/Sending Forth

Jesus comes to us, offering healing and hope, speaking and acting with authority. Listen to him. Go into this world, confident in God’s love and healing power. Go in peace and may God’s love and peace always be with you. AMEN.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Feb 14 Transfiguration Sunday

 Archived Sunday Service stream

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

Opening Prayer

The darkness of winter has been our companion, Lord. Now the days are lengthening. Bring your light to us, that we might see your glory and may work for you, offering hope and peace to this world. We ask this, in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

let us begin today’s worship
Call to Worship:
L: Life can seem shrouded in mystery.

P: O Lord, lift the veil of our misunderstanding that we may see your Light.

L: We are eager to serve.

P: O Lord, calm our spirits and patiently prepare us for service.

L: Look to the Lord for mercy and comfort.

P: We look to the Lord for healing and hope. AMEN.

God Is Here! As We Your People Meet #70

Mark 9:2-9
The Transfiguration
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one[a] on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,[b] one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved;[c] listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
The Coming of Elijah
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

The word of God for the people of God!

Thanks be to God!
Sermon: Let Us be transfigured

MaryAnn McKibben Dana tells of going to a conference once and seeing this statement written on the wall. The statement is; “when the system doesn't know what to do, it does what it knows when a system doesn't know what to do, it does what it knows.”  Now when we use the word system in this context we are talking about is a technical term for any group of people.  When a corporation doesn’t know what to do it will do what it knows…when a family doesn’t know what to do it will do what it knows and that can be whittled down to when a person doesn’t know what to do they will do what they know.

“when we don't know what to do. When we are faced with uncertainty, when we have a number of good options, but no clear way of deciding or when we are fearful about the future or about change, we will revert to what we know, what is comfortable and familiar. Sometimes that's a good thing to orient ourselves somewhere familiar, but we need to be aware that that's what we're doing because sometimes it's not a good thing to follow the old pattern.”[1]

It is hard to break old habits and or sometimes it’s just easier to do what we know as the sayings go; why try to reinvent the wheel, if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, or sometimes new things are just too scary. We want everything to stay the same. We are creatures of habit.

“Mark's transfiguration story stands as a transition between the Sundays of Epiphany, with the progressive revelation of the power and presence of the good news of God's kingdom in this Jesus, and the season of Lent, with its progressive focus on the journey of Jesus to suffering and the cross. This is where this story will take us.”[2]

In today’s Gospel The disciples are led up to the mountain and then they experience something just beyond comprehension. This story is rich in imagery there is a high mountain there are clouds there is Moses and Elijah.  So much going on it is mind boggling. We hear this story every year on this day and yet, and yet no one seems to know what to do with it.

Commentators want to dive into the old testament symbolism, others want to point out that Peter is still a clumsy thick-headed man who just doesn’t get it and still more want to project some, headier than conceivable, mysticism on top of it all. Let me just say this…ugh it is exhausting.

So, let’s start simply, gently with the story.

Jesus took Peter, James and John they go to the mountain top.  Most likely Mount Hermon. Just six days before Jesus had spoken to them of his death and resurrection and now he takes these three up to the mountain where he is transfigured.

“Peter and the disciples have just witnessed something completely other worldly. It's so strange. This transfiguration business that even the explanations seemed downright bizarre. We have this comparison to laundry. Jesus has the whitest whites, what is the secret? Or we have descriptions that seem right out of the TV show glee, Jesus is dazzling.

Peter Surveys this scene, mouth agape and is terrified because he doesn't know what to say. He doesn't know what to do, but does that stop him from speaking? Certainly not. Let's build dwellings he blurts out because when a person doesn't know what to do, a person does what he knows and building dwellings, pitching tents, is part of Peter's vocabulary as a Jew. It was part of his story. Remember that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years pitching their tents as they went and the Ark of the Covenant which housed the Ten Commandments, was placed in a special tent called a tabernacle. In the time of Solomon that tent became a more grand and permanent structure. The festival of Sukkot is a Jewish holiday in which people build small dwellings for worship, even eating and sleeping in them. Sometimes when something amazing happens, when God makes an appearance, if you're a Jew currently, chances are you're going to want to build a tent.”[3]

With that in mind I cannot help but wonder what we would do.  Cynically we may question what was in the water we just drank?  What kind of Hallucination is this?  More likely we would be scared, awestruck, and beat a path down the mountain side as quickly as possible and choose not to discuss it, or even admit that we saw anything. There would be no need to swear us to secrecy.

“Sadly, Peter has been beaten up in sermons on this text for centuries. Clueless Peter, who wants to put God in a box, stupid peter who wants to stay up on the mountain forever where it doesn't say that he wants to stay up on the mountain forever. In fact, as anyone who's been on a mountain knows, you can't stay long. The weather changes fast and you are vulnerable up there. Peter isn’t saying, let's move in. Peter is responding liturgically, worshipfully out of the story that he knows best. His own story as a good an observant Jew. When we don't know what to do, we do what we know. But God is a god who disrupts what we know. As quickly as Jesus is transfigured before them, God drops in a cloud just as quickly and says, OK, never mind. Stop looking at the scene. This isn't about dazzling visions. What I want you to do is listen, listen to him. Don't build, don't talk, don't do anything. Just listen when you don't know what to do.”[4]

Just Listen.  OK. (Silence)…. Just as I was writing this at this very spot a thought came to me…We are Children of God, right? How many here have children, human or otherwise?  How well do they listen?  How well do they follow every instruction?

Just think on that for a moment we are children of God…How often has God told us to listen? “let he who has ears appears in the bible 7 times. How well do we listen?  Do we even know how to listen? Spiritual practices are the best way to listen to God and yet often we do not take the time or make the effort to engage in a spiritual life.  For many Sunday is enough. We would rather just be getting on in life.  If life happens and suddenly everything shifts we are often caught up in the hustle and bustle of it all. This is really when we should engage in a spiritual practice of listening!

Marcus Borg, observes that there is a lack of spiritual practice. “The notion that God is a reality who can be known (and not simply believed in) has become quite foreign in the modern world and in much modern theology. Often there is even uncertainty about the reality of God. In skeptical form, it leads to a vison of Christianity as primarily “ethics.” In most generic form, the Christian way of life becomes “being Good,” “being Nice,” “loving people.” In the strong form, it can become a passion for justice. But whether in generic or strong form, living the Christian life is seen basically as being about behavior in the world. But Christian practice historically is about our relationship to both God and neighbor, about both Spirit and behavior, about both God and the world.”[5]

Now Borg does go on to point out that there is a renewal in north America to recover practice as the center of Christian life.   He explains what he means by practice;

“By practice I mean all things that Christians do together and individually as a way of paying attention to God.  They include being part of a Christian community, as church, a taking part in its life together as a community. They include worship, Christian formation, collective deeds of hospitality and compassion, and being nourished by Christian community. They include devotional disciplines, especially prayer and spending time with the Bible. And they include loving what God loves through the practice of compassion and justice in the world.”[6]

As the Federated church of Marlborough, we are really Good at the latter part I mean even denominationally our current campaign speaks to that.  3 Great Loves, a just world for all. This is the denomination’s opportunity to express how our Love of Neighbor, Love of Children and Love of Creation work together to address the inequities in our current world.

Yet without Spiritual practices, without a way to listen to God, without a way to just Listen, we would never know that this is what we are called to address.  We would never have the energy to begin to address it, without spiritual practice and prayerful listening this …this service would never come together.

So how do we listen to Jesus today?  How do we listen to God? We hear and see examples of how to be in the world through the Gospels.  We know of ways to communicate and listen to God through praying the psalms.  We have seen examples of monks and nuns who through their daily practice, the everyday and the mundane can be lifted into and become a spiritual practice. There is lectio Divina a practice of reading and listening to the scripture contemplatively. Of course, there is the contemplative practice itself.

Thomas Merton believes that “Contemplation is the highest expression of man's intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us, proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source. It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes both beyond reason and beyond simple faith. For contemplation is a kind of spiritual vision to which both reason and faith aspire, by their very nature, because without it they must always remain incomplete. Yet contemplation is not vision because it sees "without seeing" and knows "without knowing." It is a more profound depth of faith, a knowledge too deep to be grasped in images, in words, or even in clear concepts. It can be suggested by words, by symbols, but in the very moment of trying to indicate what it knows the contemplative mind takes back what it has said and denies what it has affirmed. For in contemplation we know by "unknowing." Or, better, we know beyond all knowing or "unknowing."[7]

Oh My, I just got all spiritual and out there but seriously, if we take Thomas Merton’s words and put in God it may be a bit clearer … “Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of [God]. It knows [God], obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes both beyond reason and beyond simple faith”

I think that is what happened to Peter, James and John.  The realty of Jesus’ absolute divinity is seen, and the voice of God is heard. They experienced this reality of God in the world and, in a brief, most sacred moment.  No wonder Peter was flustered.

C. Clifton Black, professor of biblical theology at Princeton observes

“For the first and only time in Mark, the voice from heaven orders Jesus’ disciples. This command recollects Moses’ directive: Israel should heed a prophet whom the LORD God would raise up (Deuteronomy 18:15). In Jesus, God has done this; Israel’s successors should respond appropriately. To what should Jesus’ disciples pay attention? Presumably, everything in Mark that Jesus says and does. Immediately it refers to God’s design for the Son of Man’s suffering and vindication (Mark 8:31), the adoption of cross-bearing discipleship (8:34-35), keeping mum about what has been seen until after the resurrection (9:9), and assurance that all proceeds according to the divine plan (9:11-13). These are the very things that his disciples find so hard to understand, to accept, and to obey (9:31-34; 10:32-37; 14:26-31, 50, 66-72; 16:1-8). As suddenly as it struck, the mountaintop vision fades: a handful of disciples are alone with Jesus (9:8).”[8]

What should we contemplate to start?  What should we pay attention to? How about “everything in Mark that Jesus says and does.”  For the Lenten season what if one just took on Mark as a contemplative practice.  Lectio Divina, it is a good way to start a contemplative practice.  It is a good way to listen to God through Christ and see what is just being said to you.

“Lectio Divina (Latin for "Divine Reading") is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God's Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.

Traditionally, Lectio Divina has four separate steps: read; meditate; pray; contemplate. First a passage of Scripture is read, then its meaning is reflected upon. This is followed by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God.

The focus of Lectio Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages but viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning. For example, given Jesus' statement in John 14:27: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you", an analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement during the Last Supper, the biblical context, etc. In Lectio Divina, however, the practitioner "enters" and shares the Peace of Christ rather than "dissecting" it. In some Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased knowledge of Christ.”[9]

In Lectio Divina many people believe the first step is to read the scripture but actually the first step is to still oneself.  A group I participated in always started with be still and know that I am God.  Lighting a candle, one begins “be still and know that I am God” and then there is stillness. Be still and know that I am. And there is stillness…Be still and know…and there is still ness be still and there is stillness…be… (offer quiet time)   after the time of silence the passage is read and we listen but not with our ears but with our hearts. There are moments of silence as it is read about three times often by a different reader every time and perhaps a different translation every time so one can hear it the way each one needs too. This becomes less a practice of reading and more of listening to the inner message of the Scripture delivered through the Holy Spirit.

In between each reading is the time when one meditates or ponders the scripture. The scripture is held lightly and gently considered from various angles. Again, the emphasis is not on analysis of the passage but to keep the mind open and allow the Holy Spirit to inspire a meaning for it.

Another part or the 3rd movement of lectio is prayer. “In the Christian tradition, prayer is understood as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with God who has invited us into an embrace. The constitution Dei verbum which endorsed Lectio Divina for the general public, as well as in monastic settings, quoted Saint Ambrose on the importance of prayer in conjunction with Scripture reading and stated: And let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for "we speak to God when we pray; we hear God when we read the divine saying.”[10]

The fourth movement is the contemplation or holding silence and experience God’s love I always say it is like lowering your spirit into a warm quite bath of God’s spirit.

With Ash Wednesday we enter the season of lent it is a good time to seek out and develop some spiritual practices.  Also, if you do not have one you may want to seek out and try a spiritual director at this time a spiritual companion to walk with you on this spiritual journey. All this so that we may Listen to Jesus and prepare to meet the resurrected Christ in all his radiant Glory.

[5] The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg page 188
[6] Borg 189
[7] Thomas Merton  The new seeds of contemplation, pages 1-2

Centering Prayer
Prayer for intentions
Patient Lord, you know how accustomed we are to “magic” tricks. Our spirits and our senses get fooled easily. We would be just like the disciples, at first not believing what we were seeing and then wanting to make a monument to the event. Thank you for being so patient with us. Forgive us when we get so wrapped up in the moment that we don’t take time enough to understand its significance. Help us pause, reflect, think, and thank you for the blessings of unexpected revelations. Give us wisdom and strength to be your disciples, proclaiming your transforming love to all people. AMEN.

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn
O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us
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

We proclaim Jesus Christ with our mouths, in our actions, and through our lives. Let us offer up our lives to Christ, that in our lives we may be servants of Jesus Christ.

Donate Here!
Doxology #778

Offering Prayer

Lord Jesus,
all that we have is yours,
and all that we are is yours.
In offering these tokens of our lives,
may all that we do
serve you to the glory of God. 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
Jesus take us to the mountain

 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 this place. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.
Benediction/Sending Forth
May the brightness of God light our way.
May the brightness of Christ shine within us.
May the brightness of God’s Spirit flow through us.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

5th Sunday after Epiphany: February is Black History Month

Archived Service Video 

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


Opening Reflection: 

Psalm 147 Hallelujah!

It’s a good thing to sing praise to our God;

    praise is beautiful, praise is fitting.

2-6 God’s the one who rebuilds Jerusalem,

    who regathers Israel’s scattered exiles.

He heals the heartbroken

    and bandages their wounds.

He counts the stars

    and assigns each a name.

Our Lord is great, with limitless strength;

    we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does.

God puts the fallen on their feet again

    and pushes the wicked into the ditch.

7-11 Sing to God a thanksgiving hymn,

    play music on your instruments to God,

Who fills the sky with clouds,

    preparing rain for the earth,

Then turning the mountains green with grass,

    feeding both cattle and crows.

He’s not impressed with horsepower;

    the size of our muscles means little to him.

Those who fear God get God’s attention;

    they can depend on his strength.

Powerful God, from the very beginning you blessed creation. You have loved and shielded your people through all joys and trials of life. We come to you this day, rejoicing in the many blessings you have given to us. We open our hearts again to hear your word for us and to gather strength and joy for service in your world. Be with us and bless us again, we pray. AMEN.

let us begin today’s worship


Call to Worship 

L: Welcome! Open your hearts to God’s love this day!

P: Praise be to God who has called us here!

L: Let the words wash over you and offer you healing and hope.

P: Praise be to God who continually blesses us!

L: Place your hope and trust in God!

P: With joyful hearts, we come to worship and praise God who continually blesses and provides for us. AMEN.

 Opening Hymn: Sing praise to God, Who Has Shaped #22

Mark 1:29-39

Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

A Preaching Tour in Galilee

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The word of God for the people of God!

Thanks be to God!


Sermon: say their Names -February is Black history Month

February is Black History Month. Now I confess I feel awkward even speaking about this. Why? Because I am a white middle class cis gendered gay man. If I could I would invite someone else to speak on this but then say I do invite one of my friends of color to preach and teach does that become tokenism?

We are striving to address 0ver 400 years of oppression in this country.  I am going to do my best to be present and participate in this process.  This is why I am preaching/teaching today about Black history month.

Luckily I do not do this in a vacuum and I can research and quote some of the best leaders in our country. Soo while researching just what I wanted to say today I found this article by dr. Tony Evans.

Dr. Tony Evans is the founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, founder and president of The Urban Alternative and author of over 100 books, booklets and Bible studies. The first African American to earn a doctorate of theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, he has been named one of the 12 Most Effective Preachers in the English-Speaking World by Baylor University. Dr. Evans holds the honor of writing and publishing the first full-Bible commentary and study Bible by an African American. His radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on over 1,400 radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries. Dr. Evans’ sermons are also streamed and downloaded over 20,000,000 times annually.

Here is what dr. tony had to say about this…

“Something I sometimes hear from my white brothers and sisters when it gets around to Black History Month each year is, “Tony, tell me again … why we have to have Black History Month? And shouldn’t we have White History Month, too?” That statement is usually followed up by a chuckle in an attempt to take the edge off of what has the potential of turning into an awkward conversation.

But I welcome discussions like these because they provide an opportunity to place a subject front and center that often only lurks in the shadows of Christendom. That may sound like a strong statement—that black/white relations or racial reconciliation across any racial barrier needs to be a “front and center” subject—but I say that in light of the emphasis God Himself places on His body living, acting, moving, communing and serving in oneness and unity in His Word.

What does unity really mean?

God does His best work in the midst of unity. In fact, so essential is the issue of oneness in the church that we are told to be on guard against those who try to destroy it. (Romans 16:17). God has intentionally reconciled racially divided groups into one new man, (Ephesians 2:14-15) uniting them into a new body, (Ephesians 2:16) in order that the church can function as one (Ephesians 2:13). When the church functions as one, we boldly brag on God to a world in desperate need of experiencing Him.

But how do we as a Church function as one? We don’t. He does—both in us and through us.

When we got saved, we were baptized into the body of Christ. No matter what our race, gender, or class is, when each of us came to faith in Jesus, we entered into a new family. We didn’t create God’s family. We became a part of it.

That is so important to realize because far too often we are trying to force unity when authentic unity cannot be mandated or manufactured. Instead, God says we are to “preserve the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3). The Holy Spirit has created our unity. It is our job to preserve it.

The reason why we haven’t solved the racial divide in America after hundreds of years is because people apart from God are trying to invent unity, while people who belong to God are not living out the unity that we already possess (ie. I would more emphasis on the not living out in the unity we already possess) . The result of both of these situations has been, and will continue to be, disastrous for our nation. Let alone disastrous for the witness of Christ to our nation.

So what does this have to do with Black History Month? Everything.

Unity through working together

I read an eye-opening paragraph in a popular book the other day that will help explain my answer. It highlighted the reality that we still don’t get it about race. It said, “I know many of my white friends and colleagues, both past and present, have at times grown irritated by the black community’s incessant blabbering about race and racism and racial reconciliation. They don’t understand what’s left for them to do or say. ‘We have African Americans and other people of color on our staff. We listen to Tony Evans’s broadcast every day. We even send our youth group into the city to do urban ministry. Can we get on with it already? Haven’t we done enough?’”

To be fair, we have come lightyears away from slavery, Jim Crow laws, and other overt displays of racial hatred. But tolerance is still a far cry from reconciliation. The mere fact that we remain relationally separated most of the time, only coming together for an event or cross-cultural seminar, shows how far we need to go. The proof of this is that we do not have a collective restoring effect in our society. We have limited the degree to which God’s presence will flow in us and through us because if what we call unity is not transforming individuals, churches and communities, than it is simply sociology with a little Jesus sprinkled on top.” 

Transformation is the key.  Transformation is hard, intentional work.  Transformation is informed from the outside, but happens on the inside. It doesn’t happen overnight. It isn’t a one and done because transformation is growth. If we are not growing and transforming then we are stagnant, rigid and dying.

I admit I do not have all the answers and that is another reason why I reach out, study, and seek to learn. Now some would say this topic is too political for church. Yet the call of church in times such as these is to be political.

Traci Blackmon in an interview with the world council of churches says: “People of faith must not be silent. Christians have a moral responsibility to speak out and teach people to say no to racism, xenophobia, exclusion and discrimination… while some people believe the church should not get involved in politics, she believes the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem was “both a holy and political act”. The entire Jesus story is “one of human terror and divine mercy”, she said, since God “became human in the form of one who was vulnerable, poor and displaced in order to unveil the injustice of tyrannical power… the church must “recapture its prophetic zeal” and speak out against harmful policies or risk becoming “an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. 

Blackmon also denounced the ways in which previous US governments oppressed and enslaved indigenous and immigrant people in past centuries, stressing that the church has been “complicit in the promulgation of religious rhetoric that favours some of God’s creation over others”. Immigration policy in the US, she declared, “is not as much about safety as it is about separatist ideology” and people of faith must not be silent.

Speaking after her powerful presentation to the conference, Blackmon insisted that the churches do have the power to combat racism and xenophobia - if they act in a more united way. The church is where people get their theological grounding, she said, and it is there where they must be taught that “any oppression of people that limits their ability to be all that God designed them to be is wrong.” 

None of the isms, are about safety but about separatist ideology! This ideology is what kills. It becomes I am supposed to hate you because you are not like me, I am better than you, I can do what I choose to do to you, because you are less than human.

Now you may think to yourself …I am not like that. You are probably correct. You are not. We are a gentle and loving people who proclaim No matter who you are or where you are in life’s journey you are welcome here. Yet many of us participate in racism unknowingly.

“The term “systemic racism” has become widespread in media discussions to describe how prevalent and deeply embedded anti-Blackness is in America. Understanding cities themselves as systems can help us frame racism as not just a social issue, but one that has become literally built into the fabric of America’s urban areas. 

Cities are complex systems made up of social and political, natural and constructed elements, and racism manifests itself spatially across each of these. From economic development to food, health and health care, environment, and policing, all these differ substantially across places within urban areas, and often align closely to neighborhood racial demographics. Spatial data illustrates how cities have become the epicenters of American racial injustice. As data increases our understanding of the depth and extent of racial inequality in cities, we need to also better understand how different elements of our urban systems work together to perpetuate injustices — from laws, policies and regulations to built infrastructure and urban nature. So when we talk about systemic racism in urban areas, we need to not limit ourselves to the social system, but think of the larger system that includes “hard” and “soft” elements that work together to inequitably distribute both risks and opportunities across racial lines.”  

School funding and education is just one example. “SCHOOL DISTRICTS WHERE the majority of students enrolled are students of color receive $23 billion less in education funding than predominantly white school districts, despite serving the same number of students – a dramatic discrepancy that underscores the depth of K-12 funding inequities in the U.S…

Today, at least 35 states actively work to redistribute education money to make up for the fact that wealthier school districts generate more local funding than poor school districts. But inequities in funding don't only occur based on poverty. As the EdBuild report reveals, income is often a bad proxy for race. And despite attempts to distribute K-12 funding more equitably based on income, massive funding disparities still exist when examining the racial makeup of the districts receiving it…

When researchers at EdBuild disregarded income levels, they found that districts serving large numbers of students of color receive, on average, 16 percent, or about $2,200, less per student than largely white districts. In 21 states, nonwhite school districts received less funding per pupil than white districts.” 

Just by simply trusting our government to fair distribution of funds allocated for education…doesn’t work and, unless we research and then try to do something about it we are unintentionally complacent in systemic racism.

You may not think of this but did you know there are food deserts in america? “A food desert is an area with low-access to healthy and affordable food. About 19 million people in America live in a food desert, and it disproportionately affects Black communities, according to CNBC. Despite nationwide efforts to improve poor food environments, many of the biggest names in America’s grocery industry (CNBC named Kroger and Walmart) continue to avoid these neighborhoods.” 

Oh if you do not believe that slavery still exists in the united states I encourage you to look at our justice and penal systems.

“The prison-industrial complex is a set of interest groups and institutions. Private prisons’ business model is contingent upon incarcerating more and more people.

Hundreds of corporations benefit from penal labor, including some of our largest major corporations. 7% of state prisoners and 18% of federal prisoners are employed by for-profit companies.

Wages are equivalent to less than $1 per hour in most penal labor programs with up to 12-hour workdays. The pay scale for federal prisoners is $.12 to $.40 per hour.

In Texas, inmates are not paid for labor. The Texas penal labor system, managed by Texas Correctional Industries, is valued at $88.9 million in 2014.

The estimated annual value of prison and jail industrial output is $2 billion.” 

Black lives matter. This is an obvious truth in light of God's love for all God's children. But this has not been the experience for many in the U.S. In recent years, young black males were 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than their white counterparts. Black women in crisis are often met with deadly force. Transgender people of color face greatly elevated negative outcomes in every area of life.

When Black lives are systemically devalued by society, our outrage justifiably insists that attention be focused on Black lives.

When a church claims boldly "Black Lives Matter" at this moment, it chooses to show up intentionally against all given societal values of supremacy and superiority or common-sense complacency. By insisting on the intrinsic worth of all human beings, Jesus models for us how God loves justly, and how his disciples can love publicly in a world of inequality. We live out the love of God justly by publicly saying #BlackLivesMatter

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: God Moves in a Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way great wonders to perform; 

God plants great footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. 

Deep in unfathomable mines of never failing skill,

she treasures up her vast designs, and works her sov’reign will. 

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread

are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head. 

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust God’s grace; 

Behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face. 

God’s purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour; 

The bud may leave a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower. 

Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan God’s work in vain; 

God is the one interpreter, and soon will make it plain. Amen.

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us


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

In gratitude for all that God has given us, we receive this morning offering, pledging these gifts and our lives in God’s service. AMEN.

Donate Here!


Doxology #778

Offering Prayer


Lord, we bring these gifts to you, thankful for all the ways you have healed and enriched our lives. May these gifts be used in service to others in Jesus’ Name. 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


I’m So Glad, jesus Lifted Me #474

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

We are being sent into a world in need of healing. We have been given all that we need to be God’s messengers of peace. Go now into the world, rejoicing in God’s presence with you. Bring the news of peace and hope to all you meet. AMEN.