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”

Sermon: Teach Us to Pray, Our Father

It was a busy time for Jesus and his disciples. Since Peter, James and John experienced a glimpse of Jesus’ glory, Jesus and the disciples were traveling with a purpose. They were on a mission to get to Jerusalem. When they get there, the disciples believe Jesus will lead a revolution to overtake the religious authorities and Roman Empire. Instead, Jesus is on a journey that will take him to the cross.

This season of Lent allows us to experience what took place on this journey. As Luke describes it, this journey to Jerusalem featured a lot of different ministry. Previously, Jesus sent out two groups of people – the 12 disciples and a larger group of followers – into the mission field. He also taught the Parable of the Good Samaritan and visited Martha and Mary.

We join the journey at a place where we will remain for this season of Lent. It is here where we find Jesus after a time of prayer. It was typical for Jesus to spend time in prayer after a time of intense ministry. The disciples listened to Jesus as he prayed. They are curious. They want to have the same kind of prayer life Jesus has. Continue reading “Sermon: Teach Us to Pray, Our Father”

Why We Fast at Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday. It is a day that we remember our morality and our need of God in all things. It also marks the beginning of Lent, which is the season that prepares us for the celebration of Easter.

More than that, however, Lent prepares us to receive the Good News of Christ’s love. One of the ways that we prepare ourselves for Lent is by getting our hearts ready through the spiritual practice of fasting. In fasting, we are giving up something that has control over our lives in order to grow closer to God. Continue reading “Why We Fast at Lent”