Weekly Word Blog - Bill's comments on the coming weekend's scriptures posted each Tuesday

"If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven" - Jesus

Two Pentecost Stories

One lesson that we are learning with great difficulty during this time of self-quarantine is that we have the power within us to forgive each other. We can no longer avoid our spouse or children after we quarrel. We must intentionally restore community within our home…

Pentecost Sunday
The small group Pentecost comes first
John 20:19-23
Acts 2:1-21
[As they waited they] devoted themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus -Acts 1:14

Wait

What has our experience with the coronavirus been about? It’s been about waiting. In Acts 1:4, Jesus tells the disciples to wait. We will never be effective at anything in our lives unless we learn to wait.  

Easter 7
Mary pondered these things in her heart
Acts 1:1-14
For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil. - 1 Peter 3:17

Suffering for Doing the Right Thing

Social distancing. Wearing masks. Having our workplaces and stores shut down. All of this involves suffering to do the right thing.

Easter 6
They protest the suffering that they should be doing for others.
1 Peter 3:13-22
"In my father’s house there are many mansions" - Jesus

Early Check-in

In this time of social distancing, we worry about whether we will be able to stay sane. Our world has become too limited for us. Yet in our spiritual house, there are many mansions.

Easter 5
Our soul always greets the world from within our private space
John 14:1-14
"Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple..." - Acts 2:46

A Golden Age

The second chapter of acts describes the golden era of Christianity. But the most important thing we learn from reading Acts is that such things don't last. A golden age can end in two ways; either God says you're ready and sends the church out to transform the world. Or a golden age can end in nostalgia, apathy, and the failure to adapt.

Easter 4
A candle in the window is there to shine out into the world
Acts 2:42-47
"Live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear…" I Peter 1:17

Invisible Realities

The coronavirus is teaching us to be mindful of the invisible.  Even as we worship online, we are members of the Church triumphant. Along with myriads of angels and saints only seen by our imagination, we commune in the family of God.

Easter 3
Jesus embraces the world (only we rarely see it)
1 Peter 1:17-23
"When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of..."

Thomas on Zoom

Thomas wasn’t there. Where was he? The Easter story in John chapter 20 tells about a man refuses to join with the other disciples in an online video-chat with Jesus. How do you like doing Zoom? There’s always someone who shows up muted or with their video turned off. Others simply opt out. This Easter on Zoom, my extroverted brother-in-law was in the shadows, occasionally disappeared, and never spoke. Like Thomas, he isn’t adjusting well to the new reality. We can see and hear, but not touch.

Easter 2
We long to be able to touch those we love again.
John 20:19-31
Near where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb...

Liminal Space

Liminal spaces form mental thresholds. They are neither here nor there. So too, the tomb where Jesus was buried. Grief ushers us into these liminal spaces. Its purpose is to enable to let go of what we must leave behind.

Easter
The weight of grief is obvious
John 19:38-20:18
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road...

Crowded Palm Sunday and a Silent Easter

We enter Holy Week, aware that this is global pandemic. Those who die in Italy, Iran, and Wuhan are no longer foreigners to us.  We remember the crowds and know that we are all in this together. No one is isolated from the compassion of Jesus.

Lent 6
Palm Sunday
Jesus seen in the crowd, but more often found in solitude
Matthew 21:1-11
"Now a certain man was ill..." - John 11:1

Travel Restrictions

I had made plans to fly out West to see my elderly mother and recently hospitalized brother this Sunday. Then the virus put us all in limbo. My concerns for their health and safety heightened with each news report. The bad fall my brother had taken at the end of February broke ribs and damaged his lungs. The verse, “And Jesus wept,” resonates with me. In this time of travel restrictions, I am thinking that Jesus had been weeping for many days.

Lent 5
In the wilderness of hard choices
John 11:1-35
"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."-Jesus

Disruption

If we learn the lesson of compassion, the coronavirus will reveal to us the glory of God. This disruption to our normal lives, has brought us to the place where we can encounter Jesus anew. Once we know we are blind, the sight-giver will come. 

Lent 4
confront disruption & disability with compassion
John 9:1-41
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."

A Well in Wuhan

Social distancing has long been practiced in religious communities. If there is anything that the last three years has taught us, it is how to think like one of Jesus’ disciples before he died on the cross for the world. Fearing others brings out the worst in us.

Lent 3
Our lack of curiosity about Wuhan has put us at risk.
John 4:5-42
'You must be born from above." - Jesus to Nicodemus

Second Half of Life

Most of us are never told that we can set out from the known and the familiar to take on a further journey. To be, as Jesus puts it, born again.

Lent 2
Up becomes down when we are born again
John 3:1-17

With Jesus in the Wilderness

In the spiritual world there is no doubt, all are loved. In this world, however, we toil under constantly changing conditions. Sometimes we are accepted. Sometimes we are scorned. We learn in time to doubt ourselves.

Lent 1
What does wilderness look like?
Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.

Stepping Over a Thin Line

Consider the thinness of the barrier that separates earthly and heavenly things. When Jesus was transfigured, he stepped over that spiritual barrier in an instant. Then he stepped back.

Epiphany 7
Transfiguration Sunday
Faith teaches compassion, compassion teaches us how to vote
Matthew 17:1-9
"See, I have set before you, life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life..." - Moses

Choosing Life

From time to time, we are in situations where we must make a choice. The right choice leads to life, health, and the continuation of the loving relationships we enjoy on earth. Choosing wrong, may result in death.

Epiphany 6
I've been thinking about John McCain this week
Deuteronomy 30:15-20
"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" - Jesus

Already Light

Light was the beginning of God’s creation. God said the word and made light. Called it good. In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus calls us good. That is the over-all theme of his sermon on the mount.

Epiphany 5
put yourself on that hillside... you are invited
Matthew 5:13-20
Isaiah 58:6-8
Immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus - Matthew 4:20

Following Jesus

Everyone can be a disciple. Not everyone will. The first people Jesus called “left everything.” I put myself in their sandals and say, “I can’t follow Jesus today, because (fill in the blank).

Epiphany 3
Jesus calls a diverse group to be his disciples (everybody)
Matthew 4:12-23
"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" - John the Baptist to his disciples about Jesus

Can I be a disciple?

If we read the Gospels, I think we see what John the Baptist saw. We know that maybe we should follow that Jesus. Maybe we should become his disciples. That leads us to the question, “Who can be a disciple of Jesus?”

Epiphany 3
Jesus' rag tag group of disciples included women
John 1:29-42
"Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him." - Matthew 3:13

Entering the Journey Through Baptism

When Jesus enters into Jerusalem, he is baptized again. This time by his suffering on the cross. He descends into hell and sets loose those who were held captive. Then on Easter he exits by way of the resurrection. This is our road map.

Epiphany 1
Baptism of our Lord
Baptism is an entrance to what is next
Matthew 3:13-17

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