Sunday Sermon – Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise

At our property along U.S. 127, you see a common adaptation of what took place on the Golgatha hillside. Nestled among the hills and overlooking the passing cars are three crosses that serve as a symbol of an event that changed the world.

For on that hillside sits the same number of crosses Scripture tell us were there at Golgatha on the afternoon of Jesus’ death. One for Jesus and one each for the two criminals who were crucified with him. We give a lot of attention, and rightly so, to the one in the middle – Jesus – who died unjustly and committed no act that was worthy of this kind of brutality. Yet, the two criminals play an important role in helping us to understand what took place that day.

To set the scene for us, Jesus and the two criminals have already been placed on the cross. There were two ways someone was affixed to the cross. They were either tied to the cross or were nailed to it. John tells us that Jesus was nailed to the cross. Jesus is facing the deep and unthinkable pain that goes along with the crucifixion. At the same time, he is experiencing the public humiliation that went along with this kind of punishment and torture. Jesus was mocked by the religious leaders who insisted that he put on a show and save himself. The soldiers joined in by gambling for Jesus’ personal items, which was a customary act for a crucifixion. Continue reading “Sunday Sermon – Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise”

Sunday Sermon: The Last Words of Jesus – Father, Forgive Them

This morning, and for the next five weeks, we are going to be at the cross on Golgatha’s hillside. We are going to immerse ourselves in a moment that has changed the world and continues to change it today. We are going to experience Jesus’ final moments before his death.

The way we are going to do it is by looking at the seven phrases that were said by Jesus in the hours that he was on the cross. Each of these phrases are powerful and express what was on Jesus’ heart and soul in those final moments. They are also words that would have been extremely difficult for Jesus to say. Continue reading “Sunday Sermon: The Last Words of Jesus – Father, Forgive Them”

Preparing for Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas movies, if not one of my favorite movies of all time, is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” It is my “must watch at least five times” movie during the Christmas season.

The movie follows Clark W. Griswold on his mission to have the perfect Christmas family gathering. He invites his entire family to his Chicago home, from in-laws to distant cousins, for a festive celebration. Of course, along the way Clark runs into a lot of hilarious obstacles.

I think that is why I love the movie so much. I can relate to Clark. For one, I’m a little bit of a klutz and can be a bit accident-prone. When Clark staples his shirt to the roof, I empathize with him, knowing that it is something I would likely do. I can also relate to Clark because I love to plan things and want every holiday gathering to be perfect. I spend all my time in the weeks leading up to a holiday thinking about what we will eat, what we will do, or what route we will take to get to our families. I plan for everything so that we will have the perfect celebration and have a hard time when something goes wrong, such as an unexpected traffic delay on the way home from a family gathering. Continue reading “Preparing for Christmas”

It is Finished

The scene was dark and disturbing. It was a complete contrast from how the week began. A week filled with so much hope, expectation, and promise, ended here on this hillside. A week that began with shouts of “Hosanna!,” would end at a place known as “The Skull.”

There weren’t many who gathered at this hillside where three people, two revolutionaries and the one from Galilee, were crucified. Among the witnesses were the Roman soldiers and religious leaders of the community who wanted to make sure the crucifixion of the one in the middle – Jesus of Nazareth – was carried out. Also there were some of Jesus’ followers, women and men, who risked their lives to be close to Jesus in his final hours. Continue reading “It is Finished”

Fan or Follower: Followers Forgive Others

One of the most fascinating subgroups in American culture might be the Amish communities that can be found in parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. The Amish are a group of Christians that come out of the Mennonite and Anabaptist traditions. Led by Jakob Ammann, the Amish formed in the late 17th Century with the belief that their fellow Mennonites and Annbaptists had fallen short of the teachings of Menno Simmons, who founded the Mennonite tradition.

The Amish eventually immigrated to America in the 18th Century and settled in Pennsylvania. They soon moved to other parts of the young nation and established communities that have a unique ethos and practices. Some we are familiar with. For instance, we might know that the Amish are known for their literal interpretation of Scripture, their resistance to technology, their agricultural lifestyle, or even that each community establishes their own practices.

There is one other aspect of Amish communities that, I believe, is characteristic of their tradition. That is that the Amish, as a people, are known for the grace they extend to others, whether they are people within their communities or not. The Amish are forgiving people. Continue reading “Fan or Follower: Followers Forgive Others”