Hope for Today

Hope for Today

This past week, it seems like our current situation and the health crisis we are experiencing has become more real. We have experienced a lot of changes over these last few weeks, but for some reason, this week, it has sunk in that we are in for a long battle and not a short-term halt to daily life.

We’ve seen confirmed cases, based upon testing, of the coronavirus top the triple digits in West Virginia. We’ve heard of the first confirmed case in Cabell County. We’ve heard stories of nursing homes in Morgantown with multiple cases. We’ve heard of hospitals in our region running short on necessary supplies. We’ve seen orders for non-essential businesses to close for an unknown period of time. We’ve seen school closures extended. We’ve seen phrases like “stay in place” and “social distancing” become part of our common vernacular.

Life does not seem normal. When we travel out and about, we witness an eerie quiet that is symbolic of where we are today. Walking to the store becomes a challenge of trying to stay six feet apart. We’ve seen our lives changed and we’re not sure when any semblance of normal will return. We’re looking for a day, perhaps even a particular day to return, yet deep down we’ve come to realize life is going to be altered for longer than we had expected as we seek to provide care to the most vulnerable among us. Continue reading “Hope for Today”

One Week of Grief and Lament

One Week of Grief and Lament

As we begin our time of reflection upon the Gospel, this morning, I am mindful of the fact that our Lenten sermon series is a little disjointed. We took a week off, last week, to reflect on how we can be the people of God in the midst of these difficult times. At the same time, I recognize that, because of the nature of how we are worshiping today, that many of you are coming into a sermon series that is a few weeks old. With that in mind, I want to take a moment and get everyone caught up on where we are.

Our series, called One Week, is focused on the events of Holy Week. It is the week where we commemorate the Jesus’ activities in Jerusalem that lead up to his betrayal, death, and resurrection. What we describe as Holy Week took place during the Jewish festival of the Passover, which remembers God’s redemption of Israel from Egyptian slavery. In this series, we have wanted to tell the stories of the events during that fateful Passover that do not receive the attention of sermons, Bible studies, and conversations.

There have been some key moments in the series. We began three weeks ago, which seems like a year ago in a different time and place, by looking at how Jesus expressed holy frustration in the Temple for it becoming consumed with things not of God. From there, we looked at how Jesus cursed the fig tree in a call for those who would follow him to seek to live out our faith in Christ. Last week, had we not focused on the realities of our current world, we would have seen how Jesus called out the hypocrisy of the religious elites for saying one thing and doing another. Tensions are picking up, especially now as Jesus expresses his grief and lament at what he sees in Jerusalem and the people of faith. Continue reading “One Week of Grief and Lament”

One Week of Upsetting the Norms

One Week of Upsetting the Norms

The events of Jesus’ passion are the most significant moments in not just the history of our faith, but all of human history. We position these events, traditionally, in a week-long celebration known as “Holy Week” or “Passion Week.” No matter how the week is named, the purpose is the same and that is to celebrate and commemorate the moments that lead up to Jesus’ arrest, death, and resurrection.

When we come to Holy Week, however, we mostly focus on just a few moments within that week, especially towards its end. We focus on Jesus procession into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We dine with Jesus and the disciples in the Upper Room and pray with them at the Garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday. We mourn at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. Those are, traditionally, the moments we focus on, yet there is vastness of experiences throughout the week that we rarely talk about.

Among those moments we rarely talk about, how can they lead us to a deeper faith? What within those moments that don’t get the attention can help us to understand how Jesus went from a heralded king on Sunday to being treated as a traitor and blasphemer by Thursday? Those two questions, and others, are what we are going to use to center ourselves throughout Lent. We will examine these events that transpire early in Holy Week and contemplate upon how they advance the narrative of the conflict between Jesus and the religious elites. As well, we will see how they enable us to experience what Jesus was doing in the world and our lives today.

Our journey with Jesus through Holy Week begins with one of the most intense moments in the Gospels. It was a moment initiated by Jesus in response to something he saw when he entered the Temple. Yes, we are talking about the time Jesus flipped the tables and cleaned house in the Temple. It is one of the places that challenges our idea that Jesus was always mild-mannered. (That is what we desire of Jesus, by the way.) What took place and why should it matter to us today? Continue reading “One Week of Upsetting the Norms”

A Time to Repent, Reflect

A Time to Repent, Reflect

Did you hear the sounds as you entered the sanctuary tonight for worship?

Perhaps you heard the sounds of familiar friends and family members as we walked into the church. Perhaps you heard the sounds of paper rattling, the echoes of the heater blowing air through the sanctuary, or even people placing their items on the pew. Perhaps you heard the sounds of the organ as the music began to be played to alert us that our worship was about to begin.

But, did you hear the sounds of the trumpet?

At first glance, we are probably wondering if we missed something. We likely cannot recall someone standing before the sanctuary and blowing out the sounds of a deep melody. Yet, did you hear the trumpet? The proverbial sounds of the trumpet that blew out throughout this holy day calling us into this time of worship. The sounds that penetrated our hearts that called us to gather for this important time of holy reflection as a community of faith as we prepare to begin this season of preparation and renewal.

The trumpet sounded today in our hearts to call us to be renewed in our walk and life with God. We gather, as a body of faith, to reflect upon our lives in Christ’s love, to be renewed in our journey of faith, and to set our face towards the cross and the empty tomb. We have gathered to begin this important season of reflection on this Ash Wednesday evening. Continue reading “A Time to Repent, Reflect”

Yes, Love Your Enemies

Yes, Love Your Enemies

Today is Transfiguration Sunday. It is an important day in the Christian calendar. We studied it, this week, in our Bible Study, but for everyone we’ll give you a brief introduction into what this day is about.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each describe what took place on either Mount Tabor (near the Jezreel Valley) or Mount Hermon (in the Golan Heights). The event is where Jesus’ appearance was magnified before Peter, James, and John and they were able to see the fullness of his divinity. It comes after Peter confessed Jesus as the long-expected Christ, Savior, near Caesarea Philippi and serves as a pivot point in the gospels. From this point forward, Jesus is solely focused on the cross and resurrection that will take place in Jerusalem.

Before they leave the mountaintop, though, there is a voice that comes from a cloud. It is the voice of the Father. In a scene like what took place at Jesus’ baptism, but this time for all to hear, the Father identifies Jesus as God’s son. The voice also says, “listen to him.”

To listen is a command of obedience. To listen is to do more than just be quiet and hear what someone is saying. To listen means to hear what is being shared and apply it into your life. To listen to Jesus means to not just hear what he says, but to put into practice his very teaching.

We might understand that, but there is no place where we have more trouble listening to Jesus than what Christ teaches in Matthew 5:43-48. Once again on the shores of Galilee, Jesus speaks to the disciples and gathered crowd. He calls those who would follow him to do something that is, both then and now, challenging. He calls those who would follow him – seek to walk with the Lord – to love their enemies. Continue reading “Yes, Love Your Enemies”

A Light of Hope

A Light of Hope

Have you ever seen an eternal flame?

They are often a beautiful memorial signifying an event and are meant to cause the person seeing the flame to reflect upon what took place. There are several examples of eternal flames throughout the world. One of the most famous sits adjacent to the tomb of President John F. Kennedy as a way to symbolize his vision for the nation. Among the most powerful exists at the Holocaust museum in Washington and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Both call the person viewing the flame to remember the atrocity of the Holocaust and how we are called to be a light of God’s love so that it never happens again.

These flames – natural gas that is lit to produce fire – are to remain lit, so that these memories, and their values, become a constant reminder of hope in the midst of darkness. It is to never be extinguished, so that the light continually shines for all to see in such a way that it calls the person to remember and reflect. Continue reading “A Light of Hope”