The High Cost of Seminary and the Role of the Entire Church

Recently, The Christian Post published an article where Don Davis, the president of The Urban Ministry Institute, argues that the cost of seminary is too high.

He says,

The only way to get through seminary is to have wealth or know somebody rich. The working poor need not apply. I say this honestly.

Davis is blunt and correct. The cost of seminary is extraordinarily high. Depending on the school, the average cost of an education can run annually in the tens of thousands. The average cost is more akin to the price for a law or medical degree. When considering it takes a student between three-to-four years to complete seminary, a student could enter the pulpit with close to a hundred thousand in school debt.

Every student must take responsibility for their education by coming up with financing, either through financial aid, scholarships, or some type of employment. All options have their risks and rewards and a student must be willing to investigate these options before enrolling.

However, I believe financing a seminary education may be a secondary issue. The primary issue may answering what role does the church have in regards to the high cost of seminary.

Soon the church will face a pastoral leadership gap in our churches, because many of our leaders are nearing retirement. The church must prepare the next generation of leaders who will soon be the leaders of our churches. The entire church has a role in making sure new leaders are equipped and able to handle the responsibilities of pastoral leadership.

Seminaries must be willing to examine their finances and ask tough questions. Is the tuition fee an adequate representation of the institution’s true educational costs? Does the school provide enough financial aid resources to help students find adequate financial assistance? At the same time, schools must be willing to look at what they are investing in. Bricks and mortar projects are great, but these investments take up a lot of financial resources. Is spending on building improvements needed and, if so, are students having to pay for them in their tuition costs? Schools must be willing to ask the tough questions about their own finances, which students pay into through their tuition fees.

Churches must claim its missional role in caring for the future witness of the Jesus Christ through the church’s next generation. This means preparing and equipping future leaders, which also includes financial help. Where can the church find additional money to help offset the cost of seminary education? The United Methodist Church does a great job in providing assistance through the Ministerial Education Fund, but how can we strengthen this for future generations? Local churches, as well, should be willing to invest in their students. This was a great benefit to me while in seminary. I received a generous scholarship from my childhood church in West Virginia, which helped cover some of the costs for my books.

Laity will receive the fruits of what the seminary plants, which would be men and women who have come to a deeper level of faith in Christ through an engagement of both their head and heart. Laity also receive some of the negative consequences of the high cost of seminary, which include pastors who struggle while trying to pay off their loans. Laity should encourage and partner with potential students, especially those who come out of their church. At the same time, laity should be loudest advocates for an examination of seminary costs, because of their close interaction with and new for a well-trained clergy.

Finally, students should not expect a free seminary education. It is presumptuous to believe the church will completely finance one’s seminary education. That is not possible, nor should the church do that for everyone. When a student takes some financial stake in their education, I believe they will have a better appreciation for it and get more from it. Students should seek more information from schools and churches about the cost of education and the amount of available support. The information is out there, but it is up to the individual to seek it. At the same time, students should expect to have people within the church walk with them and help them to make honest and prayerful decisions about their education.

The cost of post-secondary education, especially a seminary education, impacts everyone. There are no easy fixes or solutions to the high tuition bills for seminary students. However, the entire church has an opportunity to work together to address this issue and promote sound financial practices for the next generation of leaders and students.

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Ending an Appointment Well

Lately, the idea of “ending well” has been on my mind.

I am in the stages of ending one pastoral appointment and transitioning into another. I want to end my time here well and, thus, get started on the right foot at my next church.

But, what does it mean to “end well?” It is not something I have a lot of experience in. To be honest, when I was a reporter I was not the best at leaving. My main concern was myself and my own advancement, so I wasn’t really worried about how I finished a job. I was more interested in what was next.

That is not the case now. Part of it is maturity, but another part is the realization that ministry does not exist within a single pastorate. Pastors pick up the torch left from previous pastors and carry forward the mission of serving Christ in that specific context. At the same time, pastors leave a torch for the next pastor so that person can faithfully serve the kingdom.

So, what does this look like? I think it will look different for every pastor and church, but in conversations I’ve had with others these are some of the things I have taken for myself.

Continue Until The Last Day: One of the key things to end well is to keep serving until the last moment. Many pastors in transition have the tendency, I believe, of ignoring their current church and completely focus on their next one. It is understandable, but easily avoidable. While you want to make preparations and plans for what is to come, a pastor cannot ignore the people they are called to serve in the moment. They deserve our complete dedication until we depart.

Say Goodbye to Everyone in Meaningful Ways: Every person in our pastoral care deserves to hear us say goodbye and to allow them to say goodbye to us. These can be private conversations or public expressions. To say goodbye allows for relationships to end in a healthy way, so that new relationships can be created with the next pastor.

Leave Good Information for the Next Pastor: One of the best ways to end well is to leave great information for the new pastor about the church. The information should include meetings, things they need to know about the community, expectations, and other vital information. Having this information will help a new pastor get acquainted to the new church and the community. This should be a private correspondence left for or given to the new pastor.

Make Sure You Actually Leave: One of the most important parts of “ending well” takes place after we have left a church. It is up to the outgoing pastor to make sure they do not come back to their former church for a period of time. We do not give the next pastor an opportunity to effectively lead if we are in constant community with our former church or make appearances within a community. There must be a distance between ourselves and our former church, so that ministry can fully develop at both our new place at our former place.

Sunday’s Sermon: A Lasting Impact

Lately it seems like Abbi and I are telling our “meeting” story quite a bit. In case you haven’t heard it before, it is a lovely story of boy meets girl, and then girl forgets boy.

The story begins on Abbi’s first day of seminary in 2008. She was waiting for her first class and I was trying to check the computer systems prior to her class. (I worked for the library and was responsible for checking the systems each week.) At the time, I was a very shy guy. I know … shocking. We talked as I worked. As my memory recalls, she found me to be a humorous and charming individual.

You can imagine my joy when I learned we had a class together the next afternoon. Being the kind of guy I am, I made a point to sit next to her and start a conversation. You can imagine my shock when she acted like I was from outer space. She had forgotten who I was. Her explanation has been that on Tuesday I was dressed in nice clothes and was shaved, but on Wednesday I was in a “ragged” T-shirt, gym shorts, unshaven, and wearing a hat. Obviously, I didn’t make as good of a first impression as I had thought.

First impressions are important. Our culture teaches us that a good first impression can determine how we view someone. Much of this takes place in the immediate moments of our initial encounters. The same is true when someone interacts with a church for the first time. Research tells us a visitor makes a decision of whether they will return to a church within their first few seconds inside a church.

First impressions mean everything. Sometimes first impressions are being made when we do not even realize we are making them. As the ongoing witness of Jesus Christ, we make first impressions daily to people who are trying to figure out if Jesus is worth following. There are times when we make great first impressions. We do this in how we care for each other and the world. There are also times when the church, in general, has made some bad first impressions. We do this when we are too concerned about who is right or wrong, when we are not reflecting Christ’s words, or when we are too busy keeping people out than bringing people in.

These types of impressions are scary for me. I hope they are for you, as well. They are scary, because bad first impressions can lead people to no longer consider walking with Christ.

We are the church. As witnesses of Jesus Christ, we are participants in what Christ continues to do in us and through us in the world. This reminds of us of the importance of making a lasting impression upon others of the depths of Christ’s love. How might we make lasting impressions that tells others of the Good News of Jesus Christ? Jesus gives us a guide to this in John 13:35. He says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciple.” We make lasting impressions by sharing love with one another and the world.
John records Jesus’ words in the midst of his Upper Room discourse, which takes place on the evening of his arrest. The Fourth Gospel does not give us description of the communion meal. It does, however, give us the theological support for the church and its witness. Jesus’ words of love comes as Jesus speaks final instructions to his disciples that will serve them and us in our witness to the Good News.

These words begin immediately after Judas departs from Jesus and the 11 other disciples. Judas’ departure gives Jesus an opportunity to teach on a deeper level. He says now is the time for the Son of Man, Jesus, to be glorified. Now was the time for God to be fully realized and receive all honor. It would come through Jesus’ death and resurrection. This act of self-sacrifice and love for others transformed Jesus’ supposed humiliation on the cross into his greatest triumph. Jesus serves his divine purpose and gives glory to the Father in the process, and by doing so is both Lord and Savior of all.

It is in response to this glory that Jesus gives us a new commandment to love. This isn’t an entirely new command. All through Scripture we are reminded that our response to God is love. Here, though, Christ reconstitutes the command to love God and others as a response to the resurrection and Jesus’ glorification. In essence because Jesus has fulfilled the mission to be the atonement for our sins and because he lives truly today we are called to a life of love.

How are we to love? Jesus says we are to love in the ways he loves us. Our love is to mirror the same love Jesus expressed in his earthly ministry and continues to do today. This type of love is an agape kind of love. Agape is one of four Greek words used to describe love. It is the word used to describe the kind of love Jesus expresses. An agape love is a self-sacrificial and unconditional. Jesus continually showed this love throughout his ministry in the way he fulfilled his mission and in how he cared for others. Jesus continually loved others with a love that saw the person for the worth they had as a child of God.

We express this love in a couple of key ways, especially in how we care for one another. As a community of faith, we are called to show a love for one another that reflects an agape love. Jesus looks upon the disciples and calls them, and us, to care for each other as Christ has cared for us. Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk from the Abbey of Gethsemani, articulated what this looks like. He wrote, “If the deepest ground of my being is love, then in that very love and nowhere else will I find myself, the world, and my brother and my sister in Christ.”

Essentially what Christ calls us to is a family. The church should look like a family that cares for one another and looks after each other in the ways Christ does for us. We are not a family because we might be related to each other or live in the same community. We are a family because we seek to reflect God’s love in how we walk with and care for one another. We do a good job of this, but, as with any thing, we can always grow closer to this image of loving others in our community of faith in the same manner Christ has loved us.

When the church is a community that seeks to live as a family we make a lasting impression to the world that says we truly care for one another. This is the impression that reflects Christ’s love in ways that can influence others to take a chance and seek Christ. It is a holier impression than the one the church, in general, sometimes gives to a world when we argue over whose theological ideas are right, or which worship style is closer to the kingdom. There are times and places for those discussions. However, we must let the world experience that we truly care for and love one another. That is how we make a lasting impression.

We also make a lasting impression by loving the world unconditionally. Agape love to the world loves the world as Christ loves the world. It is a love that does not seek to create walls between us and the world. It is not a love that disconnects the church from our neighbors and communities. It is not a love that tells others, through unintentional actions, that you must fit a certain demographic before coming in.

Instead, an agape love of the world shares the same love of Christ with others. Agape love to the world welcomes all people to the table of fellowship with the Lord. Agape love to the world sees every person as someone of worth to God. Agape love to the world reflects these additional words from Merton. He wrote, “It is only in assuming full responsibility for our world, for our lives and for ourselves that we can be said to live really for God.” Agape love is to love God first and to allow our love of the Lord to influence how we care for our neighbors, communities, and the world.

An agape love to the world makes a lasting impression that tells those who are not in our communities, who need to hear that the church is there for them, that we love them and they are someone of worth. When we break down the walls of distance between us and the world, and share love with others, we truly make impressions that God’s love is real. For if the church is truly living in loving ways to others, then how can anyone deny God’s love for them?

Every day is an opportunity to make a lasting impression of love in our communities and world. We have the choice of how we will take Christ’s love and allow it to impact how we care for each other and our communities. The choices we make in how we live in response to God’s love for us will impact how others see Jesus working in their lives and if they want to consider following the Lord for themselves. It matters how we take our love of Christ and allow it to guide how we live each day of our lives.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, gives us some assistance in this. In a devotion on love, Wesley wrote several questions in response to how he lived his day. One question is appropriate for us as we seek to go out and share love to others. He wrote, “Has goodwill been, and appeared to be, the spring of all my actions towards others?”

Yes, the love Christ calls us to is difficult and challenging. At the same time, it is the most rewarding kind of love that we give of ourselves in response to what Christ has done in us. We can make lasting impressions of love in how we live each day and each moment.

We are witnesses to the Good News of Christ’s love. We are the people our communities look to to see if there is any truth to Jesus’ love. Who do you need to impact for Christ today and this week, so that they may know that God loves them and so do you?

Looking Back … Looking Forward

On Sunday, my two congregations officially entered a time of pastoral transition. During worship, I made the announcement that I would be leaving on June 16 and would be appointed to Trinity UMC in Covington, Ky.

This will be my first pastoral transition where I am the person leaving. It is an unique situation to be in and unlike any other that I have experienced before. As a journalist, I never gave much thought into what it meant to leave. I announced my resignation and then two or three weeks later I was somewhere else.

A pastoral transition is quite different. There is a dual nature to the transition that is ever present. I am still the pastor of Mackville UMC and Antioch UMC, yet I am the incoming pastor of another church. I am still making ministerial plans for my two churches, yet I am praying for what is to come at Trinity. I am still in relationship with my community here, yet I am starting to learn about the community there.

So far, the transition has brought out my reflective nature. I have spent some time thinking back on the past two years, while looking ahead to what is to come.

Looking back, when I came to Mackville and Antioch I was overwhelmed. I had graduated seminary just a few weeks prior. Nothing in my education prepared me for what to expect. I was barely swimming above water the first few weeks.

In time, I learned how to be a pastor and how to pastor my congregations. The last two years, here, have been an amazing experience. I have grown a lot and have become more confident in myself and calling. More importantly, I believe my people have grown and not just numerically, but spiritually. That means more to me than words can expressed.

When I think ahead to the next journey, I can’t help but ask some of the same initial questions that I asked two years ago in moving to Mackville. Who will be there? Who will we serve? Who will be transformed and embrace a deeper relationship with Christ? Those questions will be in answered in time. The one guarantee that is in place is that the ministry I embrace at Trinity will come as a fruit of what Christ has done in me and through me in my time at Mackville and Antioch.

For that I will be forever grateful of my time here, especially as I look forward to what is to come.

Sunday’s Sermon: The Next Sentence

Our English teachers spent a lot of time with us in school teaching us the value of a good sentence. They would spend day after day, year after year, instructing us on subject-verb agreement, the importance of choosing our words, and how to properly punctuate. Once we have mastered these lessons, we are able to produce some wonderfully written sentences.

It is only through living out our lives, however, that we begin to understand the power of those sentences, and especially just one sentence. A single sentence can say so much. One sentence can summarize how we feel about someone. One sentence can promote hope. One sentence can inspire creativity. One sentence can call the world to a new way of living.

This is especially true when we think about ourselves. Sometimes we focus on just one sentence. A sentence of which perhaps we are the author, a sentence we rewrite day after day. It is a sentence that says we are not good enough. A sentence that says that we are not of any value. A sentence that says we have done too much wrong in our lives to deserve God’s love.

We can be our own worst critic. We’ll take everything that we know about ourselves, all the things that we have done wrong, and say, “There is no way a good and loving God could ever rescue me from my sin. My sin is too much. I’ve done too much wrong.” The sentence we write about ourselves sometimes defines us in ways that make us out to be the worst possible offender. We write our words in ways that place everything on this definition and never consider writing another sentence to describe ourselves.

What about God? How does our Lord describe us? Does God describe us with the same words, the same sentence structure, that we do in ways that define us in the worst possible ways? Is God simply the God of just one sentence?

All throughout Scripture we see a common theme. God is never the God of just one sentence. Whenever God encounters someone going through difficult times, whether sin or other issue, there is typically a second sentence that follows the initial encounter. That next sentence, if you will, is the one that often opens us up to the depths of God’s love for each of us. No place is this more apparent in Scripture than our passage this morning from Acts 9:1-6.

This section of Scripture is one of the more recognizable scenes in Acts. It tells the story of the conversion of Saul, who would later be known as the Apostle Paul. Prior to this passage, our only previous encounter with Saul was at the stoning of Stephen in chapter 7. There he is seen as one who is in agreement with Stephen’s persecution and execution.

Saul was a persecutor of followers of Christ. He was a Pharisee and perhaps a member of the Sanhedrin. Saul believed that getting rid of people who followed Christ was in accordance with God’s will. He was fervent in the way he went about this task, so much so that we get the idea through Paul’s later writing that he was the early church’s biggest enemy.

As our passage begins, Saul makes no indication that he wants to stop persecuting Christians. In fact, Luke reports Saul approached the high priest seeking permission to get rid of followers of Christ who lived in Damascus. No longer would Saul’s terror reign just in Jerusalem. Because the witness of the Good News of Jesus Christ went with the disciples wherever they went, Saul felt he had to go to where the church was spreading.

Saul is on this mission to Damascus when he is surrounded by a bright light from heaven. We read later in chapter 9 that this light was so bright that it blinded Saul. When we see a reference to a “light from heaven” in Scripture, it signifies the divine presence of Christ. John focuses a lot on Christ being the light that has come into the world. Here, Luke tells that Christ’s presence met Saul on his mission. Jesus has come to encounter the one who was persecuting the disciples.

He starts with a simple and direct question. Jesus says, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” The question brings to mind Old Testament encounters when God engages someone, then calls them to something. This will be important as we move forward in this passage. Jesus calls Saul to account for his actions. He doesn’t say that Saul is honored for his action, but instead Jesus tells him that he has acted with hatred towards the people of God. Saul isn’t quite sure what to make of Jesus’ statement and responds with a question that shows he isn’t sure who he is speaking with. Jesus responds to Paul saying, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!”

In that one sentence, Jesus gives Saul the first sentence. It is a sentence that pronounces that Jesus is alive and the Son of God. Jesus tells Saul that it is truly Jesus that he is persecuting, because Christ identifies with the oppress and the maligned. As well, when the church is persecuted for proclaiming the Good News of Christ, so too is the Lord. In this sentence, though, Jesus tells Saul how he has allowed a false identity to be his defining mark. Saul has allowed sin, a desire to hurt and harm others, to be who he is. Saul, this man who believed he was following God’s will, learns in this first sentence that he has wronged the Lord.

Just like the sentence spoken to Saul, God speaks a sentence to us. The sentence has two parts. In the first section, we are told who God is. God is the true and holy God who is full of power, love, and grace. Our Lord calls us to a life of holiness, which means that we strive to reflect God’s essence and character in our own lives. Yet, in the second half of the sentence, we are given a reminder spoken to the depths of our soul. It’s a word spoken to us that shines light on how we haven fallen short of God’s glory. Like Saul, God speaks to us in the depths of our conscious and shows us where our life may not be aligned with God’s desires.

Sometimes that is the only sentence we hear. As I said, we can be our own worst critic. This means that this may be the only sentence we hear, or want to hear, from God. We think we’re not good enough. That we’ve done too much wrong. That there is no way God could ever love a sinner like me.

As we see in Acts 9:6, God doesn’t stop with just that first sentence. The next sentence spoken to Saul, and to us, is extremely important. In that sentence, Jesus extends the hand of grace to the enemy of the church. The next sentence spoken to Saul invites him to experience the benefits of the cross and resurrection by receiving a new life and a new call in the Kingdom of God. Jesus never gave up on Saul, even though he made it his life’s mission to end the witness of the church.

In this next sentence spoken to Saul, Jesus expresses his hope in who Saul was made to be and could be once again through the transformative grace of Jesus Christ. From the beginning of creation, Saul, and all of humanity, was created to do immense good and to reflect the goodness and grace of the Lord. By telling Saul to continue on the journey and that he would be told what to do next, Jesus is reconstituting Saul’s mission to one that reflects his original purpose. Jesus reminds Saul of who he was from the beginning and who he can be once again. The rest of Acts 9 tells how Saul’s soul is opened to the grace of the Lord and how he is transformed from a persecutor to an apostle.

Just like Jesus never gave up on Saul, he never gives up on each of us. That next sentence is spoken to each of us. Jesus continually speaks to us words that remind us who we were created to be and who we can be today through the grace of God. Each of us were created to reflect God’s love through our words, actions, and deeds. We were made to be in deep relationship with the Lord. Our Lord never gives up on us, even though we do things that break God’s own heart. Jesus speaks to us words that remind us of our internal goodness and how we can embrace that, once again, through the presence of Christ working in us and through us.

But, will we hear that next sentence spoken to us? God reaches out to us through the darkness of our existence and shines a light forward to grace. That’s the sentence God desires for us to hear and to focus on. That is the sentence that expresses the hope of the resurrection that and the good news that Christ is alive and grace is available to all, regardless of the wrong, regardless of the sin, regardless of who we are. To hear that word, we must be willing to not focus on our ideas of self, but God’s idea of who we were made to be and who we can be.

The next sentence of grace is available to all of us. Jesus is speaking it to each of us. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done. It doesn’t matter who we are. Jesus has opened his arms to us and speaks love and forgiveness to us. That is the gift of God’s love given freely to each of us.

Life should never be defined by the first sentence of our failings and wrongs. Life in Christ is defined by the next sentence of grace that invites us into a journey of spiritual transformation that changes us from who we are and into the person God desires us to be.

Jesus is speaking this sentence to us today. Can you hear it?

Reflections on the Boston Marathon Bombing

Sports are supposed to bring us joy. Today they brought us tears.

Sports are supposed to take us away from the violence that so often fills our streets and lives. Today it brought us closer to the violence than we ever wanted.

During the running of the Boston Marathon, two bombs went off killing an estimated three people and injuring hundreds others. It is a senseless tragedy that took place in the most unlikely of places. As ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap said, the Boston Marathon is a celebration of international culture and the grandest of individual competition.

No one felt that a marathon would be the site of an unforgettable tragedy, but today it was. The images of mutilated bodies and lives forever changed will haunt us for some time.

Of course, we want to know why this took place. Who is responsible? Why did they do it? Will there be another bombing? Questions are normal in the midst of tragedy. However, today is not the day to answer questions. We simply cannot.

Instead, today, and this evening, is a day to pause and give of ourselves. We give in our prayers through seeking God’s grace and healing presence to be with all who were injured. We give of ourselves in our thoughts by not trying to read too much into the attack until we know more about what happened. We give hope by holding our loved ones, especially our children, a little closer this evening.

Soon, we will know more about what took place. Tonight, let us remember the lives lost, the lives changed, and the families that are now grieving on a day meant for celebration.

Indeed, come, Lord Jesus, come!

Sunday’s Sermon: The Direction of Our Witness

As we read our passage, today, it is possible we might have heard a familiar tune in our head. The tune of the theme of our favorite courtroom or legal drama.

We might have heard the familiar chord from Law and Order or even the theme from The People’s Court. At least, that is what I heard. That is because what we have, this morning, is a classic courtroom drama. It is a case of loyalty and what it means to follow God. As we seek to understand what is going on in this trial, perhaps we need is Doug Llewelyn, the former host of The People’s Court, to tell us the litigants for this case are ready to enter the courtroom.

Entering first are the plaintiffs. They are the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin. The plaintiffs allege that the Apostles were in violation of Temple law. The Sanhedrin, which was the ruling body of religious and political leaders, claimed the Apostles were leading people away from a true faith in God by preaching in Jesus’ name. The group previously told the Apostles to stop doing so.

The Apostles, led by Peter, are the defendants. Even though they were told to stop preaching in Jesus’ name, they continued to do so. This was in violation of the Sanhedrin’s order. Prior to this trial, they were led in by the Temple guards who arrested them after preaching in the Temple. The Apostles’ hoped to express why they violated the order not to preach in Jesus’ name. As well, they want to claim how they have never done anything worthy of being arrested.

This image of a courtroom drama is familiar to us. Not because it seems like a trial seen on television. It is familiar because it is a trial of choice. One side believes it is being true to what it means to follow the Lord. The other side claims that it is doing the same. One option believes that authority is rested in the eye of the human, or what is close to us. The other believes that true authority is vested in the power and love of God.

We are participants in this trial as well, which makes it even more familiar. Unlike our passage from Acts 5:27-32, our trial is not played out in a courtroom or on television. It’s played out in our daily lives and how we respond to the good news that Jesus is alive.

Everyday we are faced with questions that forces us to consider how we are following Christ’s example. Daily living asks us the same question that the Apostles’ had to answer. Who are we obedient to?

It is a simple, but powerful question. The question asks us to think about what guides and motivates us. It also is one that forces several other questions to be asked. For instance, what does it mean that Jesus is our Lord? Is Jesus the Lord of our life? Who influences?
Each of these are powerful questions and ones that cannot be easily answered. It requires us, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to examine ourselves to see how we have responded to the questions in the past and present. Seeing how Peter and the Apostles answer the challenge by the Sanhedrin and high priest gives us guidance in how we can answer these questions.

As we alluded to earlier, this is not the first time the Apostles have been brought before the Sanhedrin. In chapter 4, they were questioned and told not to preach in Jesus’ name. They said, “We cannot stop telling about the things we have heard.” Peter and the Apostles say they must continue in their mission to be witnesses of what God has done through Jesus Christ.

They make the same argument here. When questioned, the Apostles, led by Peter, shed more light on the reasoning for their answer. When the court officials make their charge of frustration at the Apostle’s teaching, they say they must obey God rather than human authority.

Peter follows this with an element of preaching that focuses on the good news of Jesus Christ. The Apostles say that they are joining with the Holy Spirit in witnessing to the reality of the resurrection. When Jesus was raised from the dead, they proclaim the truth that he was given a place of honor. As a result of the resurrection, Jesus is both Prince and Savior for all of creation. He is both Lord and Savior. For this reason, Peter states, followers of Christ are to be obedient to God before anyone or anything.

In defending their case, Peter and the Apostles preach the good news of the resurrection and what it means that Christ is alive. They are not worshiping a false god or seeking the people to be led astray from their faith, as the high priest and Sanhedrin believed. Instead, they are proclaiming how the Lord has been present in all things. All of salvation history looked to the moment when Jesus would die and be raised to life. Peter and the Apostles are attesting to the truth of God’s desire to bring repentance and forgiveness to all.

Second, they are making the claim that the resurrection implies something very significant for faith. That is that when God raisef Jesus from the dead, he was placed in his rightful seat as both Lord and Savior. At the heart of this dispute is truly the question of Jesus’ lordship. The high priest and Sanhedrin did not want to believe that Jesus, the man whom they along with the Roman officials helped to crucify, was their Lord. Yet, the resurrection shows who Jesus is and has always been: The Lord of all.

Jesus’ lordship is central to the issue of obedience and authority. It is because Jesus is both Lord and Savior that he has authority and demands our obedience. Jesus’ lordship is about dominion and where Jesus has rule. As Lord, Jesus has dominion over all. The resurrection affirms that Jesus, as the Son of God, is the lord of all who desires to be Lord in our lives.

It is this truth that the Apostles, led by the Holy Spirit, give witness to this truth. Through their words and actions, the Apostles were living into the mission of making disciples by proclaiming that Jesus was the one who offers repentance and forgiveness and who desires to be lord. Their desire was for all people to know that Jesus was the way to a deep relationship with the Father built on the repentance of our sin and forgiveness of our guilt.

Jesus desires to be our Lord. For Jesus to be our Lord, it means that we become less and Jesus becomes more in our lives. It means to allow Jesus’ words, actions, and life to become real in our lives and lived out in how we share ourselves with others. If Jesus is our Lord, it means that he has dominion and rule over our complete lives and we seek to follow in the Lord’s ways.

Following in Jesus’ ways and words is the key idea of obedience. It is our response to his authority and lordship. But, how can we know if we are making a response to Jesus’ resurrection that affirms that the Lord is truly our Lord? It requires us to look into our heart.

Our heart, our inner self, tells us who we truly are. It shares who we are, who we seek to be, and who we want to be. It also tells us, and others, who is truly the Lord of our lives. The affections of our heart are defined by who we give authority to in our lives. Who we place our trust in is whom we truly follow and make Lord.

Every day we are faced with the courtroom battle that is faced in the lines of Acts 5:27-32. Every day we face a choice of whether we will believe that the resurrection is true and has importance in our lives. Every day we are asked to consider whether we make humanity our Lord or whether Christ is our Lord.

There are many things in our world that seeks to be our Lord and claim authority in our lives. Money seeks to control us. Our political ideologies seek to define us and others. Our jobs seek to take all of our time and energy. Our agendas seek to limit God’s will.

Yet, only one Lord can provide true hope. Only one Lord can provide true guidance. Only one Lord can have true authority that shows us the way to the Father. That is our Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection calls each of us to respond by being obedient to Jesus’ words, presence, and life and witness to that good news in our lives and lives of our congregations.

Every day the question is asked of us to discern who we are obedient to and who is the Lord of our lives. These questions can help us, through the presence of the Holy Spirit working in us, to uncover our Lord. Who do we want to please? Who do we want to give honor to? Who do we want to hear say to us, “good job, good and faithful servant?”

Who are we obedient to? The resurrection has placed Jesus in his rightful place as Lord and has given him the authority to speak into our lives. The Apostles recognized Jesus’ lordship and sought to share this truth with everyone, even if it meant standing against the high priest and Sanhedrin.

But, what about us? Who will have dominion over our hearts? Who will be our Lord? How will we respond to the resurrection on this Second Sunday of Easter?