Welcome to the April 2008 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
    You are welcome to use these writings or pass them on. All we ask is that in all things you remember the Author and give Him the glory, and remember this vessel which He has used to bring them to you. Peggy Hoppes








Eternal Life








Good Works


St. George

New Life






Scripture on this page taken from the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.

A WORD FOR TODAY, April 2008

April 1, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 6, 2008: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-36

Luke 24:13-36 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was threescore furlongs from Jerusalem. And they communed with each other of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, while they communed and questioned together, that Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What communications are these that ye have one with another, as ye walk? And they stood still, looking sad. And one of them, named Cleopas, answering said unto him, Dost thou alone sojourn in Jerusalem and not know the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel. Yea and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things came to pass. Moreover certain women of our company amazed us, having been early at the tomb; and when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. And certain of them that were with us went to the tomb, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. And he said unto them, O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they were going: and he made as though he would go further. And they constrained him, saying, Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent. And he went in to abide with them. And it came to pass, when he had sat down with them to meat, he took the bread and blessed; and breaking it he gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Was not our heart burning within us, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up that very hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they rehearsed the things that happened in the way, and how he was known of them in the breaking of the bread.

My wedding was very simple. We planned it in a matter of days and had only a few guests present. Bruce had recently moved to California and I had been living in New Jersey. We thought about taking a trip to Reno but circumstances made it possible for us to have a church wedding close to our new home. My mom was there, anxious to see me settled in my new life. It was small, but lovely and memorable. After twenty years, however, there are details that I can’t remember—the names of some of our guests, the flavor of the cake, the name of the park where we were married.

I’ve heard it said that brides often have difficulty remembering the details of their big day. There is so much excitement, so many people, so many sights and sounds. As the bride and groom walk through the crowds at the reception, hundreds of people wish them well, but within minutes those well wishes are forgotten. It is not as if they try to forget. As a matter of fact, a bride wants to remember every detail, but there are too many emotions. It is exhausting. It is overwhelming. It is pleasant and joyous and awesome even while it is astounding and grueling. This is why it is so important to keep a record of the day with photos and now videos. For some brides, it is the only way they remember what happened.

Today’s story is one of my favorites, perhaps because we see how truly human the disciples really were. We often think of them as special and extraordinary, but they were just like you and I. We wonder how they did not recognize Jesus, but then we realize that we are sometimes so overwhelmed by our circumstances that we do not see something that is, to others, obvious. Jesus was probably in a form that made him appear different than they remembered and their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. However, they were also distracted by their thoughts and emotions. What had happened? What were they going to do? Who was this Jesus, really?

We don’t always recognize the presence of God in our ordinary circumstances. Jesus said that we would see Him in the faces of those we serve, but how often do we really do so? Do we see Jesus in that neighbor who needs a helping hand or the hungry man at the food bank? Do we see Jesus in the politician that needs our prayers or the teacher that is overwhelmed by her work? Do we recognize Jesus in the person behind the wheel of the car that just cut us off or the friend that has forgotten to answer an email?

The two disciples saw Jesus clearly when He broke the bread with them. I would not like to admit how many times I saw the truth as I was on my knees receiving communion. Too often as I take the bread and wine I realize my own failures during the week, seeing His face in those that I failed to serve. I remember the opportunities I had to share the Good News but was so caught up in my own cares and concerns. But just like those disciples, I also see God’s grace in the breaking of the bread. I remember his forgiveness and receive the strength to go on into another week of trying to live as witnesses in this world.

We also see in this story that God does not always come to us in dramatic and forceful ways. Sometimes He comes to us slowly at first, carefully laying out His story so that when He is fully revealed we will recognize him. Though some Christians have extraordinary experiences of Jesus, like Paul on the road to Damascus, most of us learn about Jesus through Sunday school teachers and our parents. Slowly, but surely, we hear the stories laid out before us until one day we finally see Him and understand. Even then we wonder how we could have not seen, just like the disciples. “Was not our heart burning within us?” we ask. But in the stories of God’s grace we see that we are just like those who were there at the beginning, learning and growing in grace each day.


April 2, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 6, 2008: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-36

And it came to pass, when he had sat down with them to meat, he took the bread and blessed; and breaking it he gave to them.

Christians in early America faced a difficult situation. There were not very many pastors. Some of them traveled many miles between congregations. This still happens today, with rural parishes often sharing a pastor between two, three and even four churches. It is easier now because the pastor can drive a car to get form one place to the next, but it is still hard for him to be in two places at once. A hundred years ago it was even harder. It was impossible, even by horse, to get to multiple churches in one Sunday, so those early preachers often only made it to each church once every few weeks. The congregations still gathered together weekly for Christian fellowship, led by elders or deacons. They heard the word read, but they only received the sacrament of communion on those Sundays when the pastor could be there.

This developed a pattern for worship that included communion only occasionally in many churches. Even today there are those congregations that insist on monthly or bimonthly communion. They do not understand the common way of worship in the early days of the church or how the practice came to be in our day. All they know is that it has been done this way for so long that it must be right.

Some pastors have tried to change this practice, many want to hold on to this tradition for seemingly good reasons. Some believe that it cheapens the sacrament to have it offered too often. They want it to be something special and they are concerned that weekly communion will make it ritualistic and heartless. Yet, for the early church, gathering together for worship meant hearing the word and breaking the bread.

We see this pattern in the Gospel story for this week. Two disciples were walking toward Emmaus on the evening of the Resurrection, considering all that had occurred in the past few days. I am sure they were wondering about the reports of sightings and if it was true that Jesus was alive. They were probably discussing what they would do next when a stranger joined them on the road. We know this stranger was Jesus, but they did not recognize Him. He asked them about their conversation. “What are you talking about?” he asked.

“Dost thou alone sojourn in Jerusalem and not know the things which are come to pass there in these days?” they asked. It seemed impossible that someone might have been in Jerusalem who had not heard about Jesus. So, they told Him the story as they knew and understood it. Their story was laced with sadness and confusion. They had heard He was raised but were uncertain. Jesus answered by opening the scriptures for them, sharing passages and explaining how they related to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. They began to see and understand more clearly, although Jesus was not yet fully revealed to them. They invited Him to stay with them and when He broke the bread they saw Him. “Was not our heart burning within us, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?”

Jesus was revealed to the disciples in the sharing of the word and of the bread. They belong together. Jesus not only made the scriptures clear to the disciples, but He gave His flesh for their sake. As we hear the scriptures read and preached, we learn about the Jesus who came to do all this for us. It is in the breaking of bread that we join in the fellowship of His people, receiving His body and blood together with every Christian in all time and space. We are made new every time we receive this gift: forgiven, transformed and purified by His grace so that we can go forth another day to trust God and live in love.

In this story we see how Jesus established the pattern of worship for our lives of faith. He is revealed in word and bread. We experience Christ in body and in spirit. Our faith is founded on both reason and mystery. What does it all mean? Where are we going? What do we do with this faith we have been given? It was not until the bread was broken that the disciples could see Him clearly. Then they knew it was Jesus and they were amazed. Then they were able to go out and share the Good News with others.

Our practices might serve a purpose and might be necessary to continue the work of the church in the world, much like those early pastors and congregations in America. However, it is good for us to consider how the Gospel has freed us from traditions of the past that are no longer appropriate so that we can experience God’s grace fully and freely today.


April 3, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 13, 2008: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

Acts 2:42-47 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved.

We get a lot of wrong numbers on our telephone; there must be something about our number. In the past few weeks I have answered the phone to find a ninety-five year old man looking for his sister, a teenager wanting to talk to a girlfriend, and a construction company getting back with a client. It is no trouble to tell the caller that they have reached a wrong number and it sometimes even leads to a humorous conversation, like the one from the ninety-five year old gentleman. The trouble comes when I get a message on my voicemail from someone who dialed a wrong number.

I could easily let it go; after all, it wasn’t my mistake. But these messages are important so I often try to let them know of their mistake. One time I tried to clear up the mess, I was questioned about whether or not I knew the person and if I could tell them how to get a hold of her. I called to let them know of their mistake and felt that I had been through an inquisition about a person I had never met.

I got a call yesterday from a company about a disability claim for a person that I did not know. I tried to call the company and ended up on a consumer unfriendly voice mail system that gave me no choice that might take me to a person who could help. When I tried to get to a costumer service representative or operator, the voice on the line told me that ‘she’ did not recognize that option and sent me back to the main menu. I finally hung up, frustrated by the lack of a human being who could fix their problem.

We live in a world that is increasingly becoming “people-free.” The grocery store provides “self check-out” lanes so that the consumer can do all the work for themselves. You can take care of almost all your business on the internet, with voice mail, with text messaging. We use email instead of the phone. Gas pumps have pay points, so we do not need to pay a cashier. We don’t even have to go to the post office anymore: we can print our stamps on our own computer and put the envelope in a mailbox. We can watch church on television, order pizza on the Internet and have rented videos automatically arrive in our mailbox.

We need to interact with other people every day, to share our joys and pain. We need hugs and smiles. People need people. In the beginning, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” so He created woman and at the same time a community. He drew His people together and gave them laws to help them live together. He ordained a pattern for worship that was practiced in community and a social system that made all people important to the whole.

The “people-free” society is even making its way into the church. Besides televangelists, people can attend worship at mega-churches where they are assured a sense of anonymity. Individuals get lost in the crowd, which is just as well for many of the people who attend. On the other extreme, many Christians are choosing to have a solitary life of faith, no longer attending services at the church down the street. They sit in front of their television or go worship in a field. They read and study the scriptures and have a life of prayer, but they miss the life of community that comes from fellowship with other Christians.

In our passage we see that the earliest Christians lived in community and they shared everything. They gathered often to pray, learn and fellowship. They ate together, communed together and worshipped the Lord together. They were bound together with other believers not only by the Spirit, but by a life lived in community.


April 4, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 13, 2008: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

Psalm 23 Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul: He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever.

My daughter is interested in theatre and has been part of the theatre department at her high school. They are currently working on a production for the interscholastic competition league in Texas. They are doing very well this season; their show is terrific. I am, of course, a biased mom, but they have definitely been the best school at each of their contests so far. Some of the students have received individual recognition for their performance, including Victoria.

It takes hard work, regular rehearsal and cooperation for a school to put together a successful show. The directors deserve a lot of the credit, they have made excellent decisions and have done everything well, from mentoring the students, to designing the set, to cutting the script in a way that will make sense and fit into the time limitations. They have been supportive and dedicated to the success of these students.

It takes another group of people to make this a positive experience for the students: their parents. Though we might not have anything to do with the actual show, we are extremely involved. Some parents help with sets, costumes and props. We feed the kids lunch or dinner when they have to be at the theatre for long days at rehearsal or competition. We make sure they have plenty of water, juice and snacks. Some of the parents even provide toys and activities to help make the experience more fun, particularly when they have to wait so long to perform. We provide transportation, remind them of their other responsibilities, and make sure they get enough rest. When things get really crazy, we make sure that they are not risking their health. We remind them of the priorities and keep them on a balanced path that includes every aspect of life. We support them, watch the play and clap as loud as we can so that they know their hard work is appreciated.

Psalm 23 appears in our lectionary many times over the three years. As a matter of fact, we just saw it a few weeks ago during Lent. It is always the psalm for the fourth Sunday of Easter, which is Good Shepherd Sunday every year. It is a beloved psalm, one few people do not like to hear. It is comforting in times of distress because it is a song of God’s provision for every aspect of our lives.

The parents are vital to the success of the theatre department (and any other activity for youth) because we ensure the well-being of the kids by providing for their every need. If we can make our children comfortable and happy, secure enough to be able to focus on their performance, then how much more does the God of creation take care of us? We have limited resources, limited time. We get tired and frustrated when our kids can’t come home for supper again because they have a rehearsal. We spend half our time sitting in the car on our way to school, to competitions, to the store to buy something else for the production and the other half of our time sitting in a theatre watching another show. As proud as we are, we sometimes take care of their needs through clenched teeth and grumbling complaints. If we can still feed our kids and laugh at their jokes, then how much more does God do all those things for us?


April 7, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 13, 2008: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

1 Peter 2:19-25 For this is acceptable, if for conscience toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were going astray like sheep; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Both Victoria and Zachary have been out of school recently for school activities. Each time Victoria has to perform at a One Act Play contest, she misses class. Each time Zachary has to play in a golf tournament, he misses class. The school counts these as acceptable absences since they are class activities. They help the students develop skills and character.

When the kids are out of class for one of these activities, it is likely that there is also a teacher out of class. They must have a sponsor, coach or director who will travel with them. Those teachers all have students who are not part of the team. Zack’s golf coach also teaches physics. Victoria’s theatre director also teaches English. Their classes need substitutes to take over the class for because the students who are left behind need someone to guide their learning for that day.

Things can get out of control in a classroom, especially when there is a substitute teacher. When one child begins to act out, others join along with the fun until there is chaos. The teacher is not able to teach, the children do not learn and being in school becomes a waste of time. There are always at least a few children who want to learn but even though they are behaving properly, they can’t learn anything with the commotion around them. Eventually, the teacher must take control. Sometimes the entire class must bear the punishment, even the children who were not out of control. The well-behaved students are encouraged to exert positive peer pressure to help the others learn to control themselves in class.

In this text, Peter is writing to people who most likely received the Gospel message first while in Jerusalem during Pentecost and then shared it with others in their hometowns. He addresses the letter to people in many different places and had likely gone to those places to preach during his ministry. The Christians were facing persecution from different perspectives, and Peter’s letter helps them to have courage through their difficulties. The text for today is specifically addressed to people bound by slavery. Peter encourages them to persevere through it, even if their slavery is unjust, to glorify God in their gracefilled living.

God knows when the world is treating His people unjustly. However, the promise of deliverance is not always immediate. It took four hundred years for God to send Moses into Egypt. Thousands of years passed before Jesus came. Our suffering might last a moment, but we can rest in the promise that God has taken care of it all through Jesus Christ. He too suffered a necessary suffering for our sake. We don’t know what good might come out of our bondage, what changes might happen in those lives we touch with His grace. Our example is Jesus Christ and we are called to live, love and suffer as He did. However, we are also reminded that it was for our sin He died. By His grace we are restored to God to live according to the example Christ has set before us.


April 8, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 13, 2008: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

John 10:1-10 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. When he hath put forth all his own, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Jesus therefore said unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and go out, and shall find pasture. The thief cometh not, but that he may steal, and kill, and destroy: I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.

I heard a funny joke recently. Saint Peter was walking the streets of heaven which seemed overly crowded to him. He went to the gate to look in the book they keep when people check into heaven. He found no comfort in what he saw; he knew that there were too many people on the streets based on the information in the book. He told Saint Paul of his concern. “Paul this doesn’t look good! Are there really that many extra people in the streets? Who are these people and how did they get here? Go and see if you can find out what is happening.” So, Saint Paul ran off to investigate while Saint Peter stood at the gate personally. After a while Saint Paul returned with a report. “You are right, Peter, there are extra people here.” Saint Peter replied, “I knew it. Where are they coming from?” Saint Paul answered, “Oh, its Jesus. He’s helping people climb in over the back fence again.”

This is a funny joke, but the reality that is found in today’s Gospel lesson. Jesus doesn’t have to bring people in over the back fence because He is the gate. It is through Jesus Christ that we enter into the blessedness of eternal life. Now, we see in the joke a very real possibility: that the Church continues to try to limit entrance into heaven to those we think deserve to be there. We set boundaries and judgments based on our understanding of the scriptures. It is a fine line we draw, since the scriptures are sometimes difficult to understand in our world context and from our point of view. What does any city dweller know about shepherding? What does any businessman know about tending sheep? So, we live in the hope of eternal life, based on the promise of Jesus rather than the sum of our knowledge. We have hope for all people, teaching them about Jesus so that they see Him as the gateway into God’s presence.

This is not to say that Peter and Paul had it all wrong and that we should ignore or reject their canonical writings as some are willing to do. The scriptures are given so that we might grow into the people God has created and ordained us to be. As we follow the example of those who have gone before, we grow in faith and maturity, giving us the courage and the strength to share the message of Jesus with others. If we have hope for them, we will share the gift of eternal life with them. If we set up boundaries and judgments against them, then we will not bother to do the one thing God has commanded us to do: share the Gospel. Why bother if they don’t belong anyway?

In all things, Jesus is our focus. As we follow Him, listening to His voice, going only where He leads, we will find that God’s grace will multiply in ways that are beyond our ability to imagine. Those who we once considered enemies will become brothers, not because we change our mind or because they change but because we see them from a new perspective: through Jesus colored glasses. There is no reason to limit the number of people on the streets of heaven because God’s grace is big enough for all. We are reminded in this passage that the way we get there is through Jesus—whether it is over the back fence or through the front door.


April 9, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 13, 2008: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever.

On this day sixty three years ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed for his role in a conspiracy against Adolph Hitler. A group of high ranking military officials tried to kill Hitler so as to overthrow the National Socialist regime. He is counted among the martyrs of Christianity, having suffered a horrendous death for crimes that are seen now as founded firmly in his Christian faith and God’s call to justice.

His execution was so horrific that even some of the German soldiers refused to watch. They did not have enough gallows because so many were hung in those days. Instead, they used meat hooks from the slaughterhouse, lifting the victim slowly as they were hung with nooses made out of piano wire. The victim suffocated to death in about thirty minutes. Before the hanging, he was stripped naked and beaten, then led into the yard. It was humiliating and painful, but Dietrich Bonhoeffer last words were, “This is the end, but for me the beginning of life.” He lived his life in the knowledge that he followed the faithful Shepherd. Despite the hardship, Bonhoeffer knew that he would find himself in the presence of God in the end.

Martin Doblmeier, filmmaker, created a documentary about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that was aired on PBS a couple years ago. In an interview about the movie, Doblmeier said, “Most people know Bonhoeffer because of his writings. Cost of Discipleship, Letters and Papers from Prison, Life Together, these are classic books that will inspire Christians and non-Christians for generations. You feel in his words the youthful passion of a man struggling to understand the will of God, knowing the earthly price that is often paid for responding to that call. In his own time Bonhoeffer was not a widely known figure, but over the last few generations his stature has grown and his writings have become more and more influential. I think that is because, in the language of today, he was a man who not only ‘talked the talk,’ but ‘walked the walk.’ In the world of religion today there seems to be a widening chasm between the left and right, the progressive and traditional – especially in the Christian world. What is extraordinary is how Bonhoeffer’s appeal seems to cross over the divisions, finding wide acceptance on both sides. Conservative Christians are attracted to Bonhoeffer because he is so Christ-and Bible-based. The progressive wing is attracted to Bonhoeffer’s commitment to social justice. It is not that the two sides should be in any opposition, it is simply the fact that too often they are and Bonhoeffer is a unifying figure, not a divisive one.”

Although a study in the life and times of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is not necessarily a right focus for our texts this week, we do see an example of the kind of life God calls us to live. He was neither a liberal nor a conservative; he was both. He was frustrated with the liberal theology of the Lutheran Church in Germany which caused him to eventually leave the church. He felt that it was too oblige, which is why it was no longer relevant in the society of his day. The Church was not willing to stand up for what was right against what was wrong. He was not willing to set aside liberal theology, but through conversations with Karl Barth, he was beginning to understand his view that liberal theology minimized scripture.

In Bonhoeffer we can see that neither is good or bad, but are different ways of seeing the world and responding to the Gospel. We can work together for the sake of God’s kingdom, unified not by a point of view but by the amazing grace of Christ Jesus. Our work here in this world will end, but that end is not the end, it is only the beginning of life for us as we join in the heavenly community of saints for eternity. We join that community not by our own discipleship or actions, but through faith in Jesus Christ. If we remember this, eyes always on the cross and the promise that is found there, we’ll know the unity that they saw in that early church, a diverse group of people sharing everything and living as God called us to live.


April 10, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 20, 2008: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

Acts 7:55-60 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

In my mind’s eye, I imagine a stoning to be a chaotic moment. I suppose it is based on representations I’ve seen on film or in paintings. It seemed to me that a stoning was like a lynching: a mob gets angry about something (real or imagined) and take matters into their own hands. In the case of a stoning, I thought they simply picked up the stones at their feet and began to throw them at the criminal (or victim). This seemed like a foolish way of dealing with a criminal. After all, few people have really good aim. The crowd risked injury. After all, they would surround the victim, which means all stones throne at the guy in the middle might actually reach the people on the other side.

As I understand it now, a stoning was much more organized. The crowds gathered around a pit that was about four feet deep. The trial happened at the edge of the pit, with witnesses giving their testimony before the crowd and a prosecutor who was present to insure that the trial and punishment was done properly. If the party was deemed guilty and deserving of a stoning, the one of the witnesses pushed him from behind into the pit, head first. If he did not die from the fall, a second witness dropped a stone on his heart. If he still did not die, the crowds were given leave to throw stones at him until he died. In this story, it seems that Saul was there to stand as the prosecutor, to ensure that everything was done properly.

Luke’s account of this event has an interesting twist, better understood from the perspective that this was not a chaotic mob-ruled stoning. As Stephen was being stoned, he looked into heaven and saw the glory of God. He also saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. In every other instance in the Bible, Jesus sits at the right hand, so why is He standing here? One possibility is that Jesus was standing as Stephen’s Defense Attorney before God. In that moment, Stephen was given a vision of the real court and his justification before God. Despite the unjust stoning in flesh, Stephen knew that God was a just judge. In death, he would be set free and welcomed into God’s presence for eternity.

The other possibility is that Jesus stands as if welcoming a guest into Him. In ages past, it was common practice for people to stand when a person of importance entered a room. It was proper for men to stand as women entered a room. Courtiers and ladies stood when the monarch entered a room. Congress rises when the President enters the chamber. It is an observance that welcomes and honors the one entering. How strange and yet thrilling is it to think of Jesus standing for this purpose? We, who are not even worthy of entering into the presence of God are not only welcome, but also honored by our Lord Jesus. In it we see how much God really loves us.


April 11, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 20, 2008: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 In thee, O Jehovah, do I take refuge; Let me never be put to shame: Deliver me in thy righteousness. Bow down thine ear unto me; deliver me speedily: Be thou to me a strong rock, a house of defence to save me. For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me and guide me. Pluck me out of the net that they have laid privily for me; for thou art my stronghold. Into thy hand I commend my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, O Jehovah, thou God of truth… My times are in thy hand: Deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: Save me in thy lovingkindness.

I have driven across the United States several times. In the east and in the west the major highways are dotted with towns every few miles. At times it seems like you never leave the city because all the small towns along the path have grown into one another. In the middle of the United States, however, the highways are long and lonely roads. In places like Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Wyoming , you can drive for what seems like hours without seeing a sign, a house or a gas station. It is even harder at night. Since it is so flat, you can see a front porch light on a house for miles and miles.

On one trip, my mom, my cat and I were trying to get from the east coast to the west coast as quickly as possible, so we drove long hours every day. It was night and I think we were in Kansas. It has been a long day and we were getting very tired. It was time to find a hotel to rest. Unfortunately, finding a hotel was nearly impossible. We drove on and on, hoping for an exit with a hotel. Though we did pass a few exits, there was nothing there but endless darkness. Finally, an hour or more after we decided to stop, we saw light and had hope. We were still far from the exit, but as we drew nearer, we knew there was a hotel. It was a cheap hotel but it was a place to rest our heads. It was a refuge for our tired bodies.

We don’t expect much when we pay little for something, but the room was clean, the beds were comfortable and the continental breakfast was decent. We left in the morning well-rested and a little bit smarter. We wouldn’t wait until the last minute to look for a hotel the next day. The whole experience was we were living in ancient times when the castles were built a day’s walk apart. As a traveler drew near to a castle, particularly since the roads were dangerous, the castle towers provided a beacon of hope. The traveler would find food and rest and would survive another day. Hospitality would be provided freely and whole-heartedly without expectation.

We aren’t so gracious in this modern age. We are even a bit skeptical about those who would give us something for free; after all, we’ve heard that there is no such thing as a free lunch. We know that this is not entirely true, but for some people, perhaps there really is no such thing. Either they expect something in return, or think the giver will expect repayment. God’s way is different. He does not need anything we have; He gives freely out of His love for His creation. That is why we take refuge in God when we face difficulty, committing our souls to His care no matter what should happen. For no matter what happens to our bodies, God has rescued us from death through the blood of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t buy that gift, or earn it, or give it to anyone. It comes from God and God alone. He is our refuge.


April 14, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 20, 2008: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

1 Peter 2:2-10 As newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation; if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

For many of us today, the image of a cornerstone is little more than a ceremonial stone that is usually situated at about eye level, engraved with the date and other information having to do with the building. Though the stone is representative of the foundation stone, it is rarely foundational at all. The placement is specific, symbolic of some ancient practice. Sometimes the cornerstone is not even laid until after the building is complete, put into place at the dedication. It is more symbolic than foundational; the building can stand without that stone.

The cornerstone was much more important in ages past. The stone was generally laid at the northeast corner of the building site, a placement that promised prosperity and fortunate circumstances for the people who would work, dwell or worship in the building. It was the cornerstone that laid the lines of the building. Each stone was set in relation to the cornerstone. If any of the sides were off by even fractions of an inch, the entire building would end up out of alignment. It had to be perfect, which is why the builders often rejected many stones before choosing the one to be used for the foundation.

The ceremony included some sort of offering, whether it was grain, wine and oil or blood. In some places even today, a chicken, ram or lamb is slain on our near the cornerstone, its blood washed over the stone and then the body buried beneath the stone. In even more ancient days the body was human. It was thought that the offering gave strength and stability to the building.

In some places it is the man’s shadow that is buried beneath the cornerstone. A man is persuaded to stand with his shadow over the place where the stone will be laid. The stone is lowered on top and set in place. Though the man is in no danger during this ceremony, it was believed that the man whose shadow was buried would die within a year. In some places, the man was expected to die within forty days. To bury the shadow was believed to be like the burial of a man’s soul and because he is dispossessed of it will die.

God sees perfection from a much different perspective than human beings. In God’s mind, perfection is not judged by outward image. While we are able to make some scholarly guesses about Jesus’ appearance, we have no pictures that would help us identify Him if He were to walk down the street today. God recognized His perfection by His obedience. He willingly became the cornerstone, suffered the burial of His shadow, and allowed His blood to wash over the foundation. He was laid in the ground and it is Him that God uses to line up the other bricks in His Church. One by one we who are His bricks, the saints from past, present and future are laid on the foundation of Christ.

A building stands as a testament to the work of the architect, the builders and the patrons. So, too, we stand as a testament to the work of God in this world. He is glorified in our life together. We are built on that cornerstone that is Christ. Jesus was rejected; they did not see what God knew to be true. He was faithful. He was obedient. He was truly perfect in every way and God made Him the foundation of the kingdom He would build. He continues to build, lining us up, carefully placing each one of His children as part of the Church on earth. While we can see the buildings we build, it is much harder to see that building which God is building. It is in our life, our service, our hope and our faith that the world can see God glorified, particularly when we work together to shine the light.


April 15, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 20, 2008: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

John 14:1-14 Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go, ye know the way. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; how know we the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also: from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; how sayest thou, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me doeth his works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, that will I do.

One of my favorite science projects with flowers shows the way a flower receives water. I used to do this at home when I was a kid all the time. We had plenty of Queen Anne’s Lace in the fields behind our house, so it was easy and fun. Queen Anne’s Lace is a white flower, a weed actually. It has a very simple stem, so is conducive for a quick visible change in the flower. I filled glasses with water and added food coloring to make the water different colors. I put the flowers in the glasses and then watched as they drank up the colored water into their petals. Eventually the flowers were no longer white, but were red, blue, green and yellow. This experiment can be done with other flowers, but it is usually best to use one with white petals. Carnations work great, as a matter of fact, food dye colored carnations are often for sale in the florist shops.

It was even fun to make the colored water for the plants. It only takes one drop of food coloring to change the water in the glass. It is better to use more, to make the water darker, to get the best results in the flower. But it is also fun to watch what happens when the drop of food coloring is added to the water. At first the drop falls toward the bottom, but it quickly begins to separate, becoming part of the water. A little shake or stir and it is impossible to find the drop of food coloring. It becomes part of the water and the water becomes part of it. The more drops that are added, the more the water resembles the drop of food coloring.

We are beings that require tangible evidence of things for us to really believe. If I told you that a flower could become red just because I put it in a glass of red water, it is likely that you would doubt it, at least a little, without seeing it happen. So, science helps us to sort out the things of creation that we want to understand better, but allowing us to see it with tangible evidence. God is beyond anything that can be proven with science. That does not stop us from wanting to see Him with our eyes, hear Him with our ears, touch Him with our hands.

Philip said, “Show us the Father.” He wanted to believe, but without something on which He could grasp his senses and his mind, he was having a hard time with belief. He just wanted Jesus to show him some tangible evidence. It is certainly not too much to ask from a man who was demanding such an extraordinary sacrifice of His followers. Don’t be troubled? How can we go through even a day without a bit of worry, especially when our world seems to be falling apart? Believe in someone? People fail us every day. They break promises. They break our hearts. It is no wonder that Philip wanted something to help him hold on to the hope which Jesus was promising.

Jesus answered, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” God is like that glass of water—two persons but so closely connected that it is impossible to separate them. Fully man and fully God, Jesus is the visible manifestation of the Divine. He is the tangible evidence of that which we can’t see with our eyes or hear with our ears. We are like the flower, placed in a glass of colored water. As we drink in the life-giving liquid, our life begins to reflect the life of the Father. We are transformed by His love and by His grace.


April 16, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 20, 2008: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.

Are you at all bothered by verse twelve of our Gospel lesson this week? Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.” Taken in the context of John’s gospel, Jesus has done some miraculous signs. He changed water into very fine wine. He healed the dying son of a royal official. He cured a man who had been crippled for a long time. He fed five thousand people with just five small barley loaves and two small fish. He walked on water. He healed a man born blind. He raised Lazarus from the dead after four days in the tomb.

Now, in the early pages of the New Testament we hear of the disciples and apostles doing some pretty amazing things. Peter healed a cripple and raised Dorcas from the dead. Peter escaped from prison and Paul survived incredible experiences on land and sea. The Church grew rapidly, missions were planted and people were changed. In the stories of the early Christians and martyrs we hear accounts of incredible and miraculous things happening by them, with them, through them.

When was the last time you heard about someone rising from the dead? I’ve heard that it still happens in regions where the Gospel is just beginning to take hold, where faith is still new and Christians are still passionate. However, I think we would have heard if someone was prayed back to life after being dead for several days, like Dorcas. I think it would make the news if a man who’d been paralyzed for most of his life would begin to walk with just a word. Perhaps these things do happen—people come out of comas and people are able to learn to walk after years of rehabilitation. These are no less miraculous than what Peter did by faith, but the glory is rarely God’s. We credit the doctors who find the cure and thank the physical therapist who patiently works with the patient.

How can we do anything greater than Jesus? Even if we, by faith, bring life to a lifeless body, how is that greater than what Jesus did with Lazarus? Which of us hasn’t attended a potluck dinner that managed to feed hundreds with only a few delicious dishes? But is that greater than what Jesus did on that hillside two thousand years ago? We might be able to explain away stories like Jesus’ walking on water and the calming of the storm with scientific explanations as some often try to do, but can we really make these things happen?

Jesus said we will do greater things by faith. What did He mean? Did He really mean that the miracles we will see will be greater even than what He did? Or is there some greater mission for which we have been sent into the world?

We are sick, lonely, burdened, imprisoned, hungry and poor. The church has worked for millennia to help ease the troubles of the world with love, care and compassion. This is a wonderful mission. Yet, people from every religion are called to similar service by their faith. People from every religion pray. They see miracles happen because of their faith. They find peace and joy in their worship. They have fellowship with other believers and they do good works for their neighbor. Christians are not unique in this type of godly and righteous life.

Christians are called to something greater—a ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation. According to John’s Gospel, the greatest sign, or miracle, of Jesus was His death on the cross, because there He defeated death and sin to reconcile us to God through His forgiveness. People are not saved by good works. They are saved by the Word of God, Jesus Christ. We are called to take Jesus Christ into the world, to share His grace and His mercy. There is a chasm between God and man much greater than we ourselves can cross. We try to do so with good works, even following the example of Jesus’ kindness and compassion. We are merciful to our neighbor. But there is no hope in works righteousness because we can’t do enough to earn the grace of God. We have no assurance that we have done enough.

Jesus says we will do greater things, and we do when we share Jesus with the world. It is not just about sharing the good things He did, but it is about sharing the forgiveness He brought to the world through His death on the cross. It is there that God is truly glorified.


April 17, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 27, 2008: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

Acts 17:22-31 And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus, and said, Ye men of Athens, in all things, I perceive that ye are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you. The God that made the world and all things therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is he served by men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and he made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and device of man. The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

On the television show “Dinner Impossible,” Chef Robert Irvine is given an assignment to prepare food for a group of people, impossible because he is given little time, extreme expectations and limited resources. On one episode, he had a few hours to prepare a tropical feast on what appeared to be a deserted island with a box of supplies which included just barely enough to get by. The boat that delivered him to the island dropped him well offshore and he had to wade through the water while keeping his only book of matches dry. He had to fish for seafood and cook over a campfire. As is usual, he had to adapt to the situation and create a delicious meal for the guests, in this case a couple dozen people.

His missions have included catering the inauguration event of a governor, a birthday party for the military, a fairwell dinner for hundreds of service people leaving for Iraq. He had to cook an eighteenth century meal using eighteenth century utensils and practices. He has done a wedding, a tailgate party, a theatrical opening and many other events. There is always some glitch—no money, no food, broken and dirty kitchens, no help. The mission is always “impossible.” Yet, at the end of the show he has managed to do everything they required and more, adding his special touch to the menu.

Robert always takes into consideration the people he is going to serve. If there will be children, he thinks about the things they might enjoy. He ensures that there is a vegetarian option for those who won’t eat meat. He manages to come up with some fantastic dish that satisfies the wishes of the host or the guest of honor. In the end, he wants everyone at the event to be happy because if everyone is happy then his mission will be successful. To accomplish the mission, Robert has to produce something for everyone, satisfying even the most unusual tastes.

Paul was in Athens. The Greeks were an ecumenical society. They offered something for everyone, especially in religious practice. There was a temple one very corner, much as there is a church on every corner in the United States. The temples satisfied the religious needs of a very diverse community. Athens was a place where trading routes crossed; it was a place where the world came together. Since the economy of that type of place was dependent on foreigners, they wanted everyone to feel at home. They even had an altar inscribed “To an unknown god.” Those who could not find a specific temple at least had a place to worship, a place where their god could be honored and remembered.

Paul went to Mars Hill, which was a place of theological debate and discussion. He commended them for their religious practices and called their attention to this altar for the unknown God. He stepped into their world and reached them from their point of view. In doing so, however, he did not settle for the ecumenical open-mindedness of the Athenians. He told them what they were missing. He boldly proclaimed the God of creation and His Son Jesus Christ. His theology was ridiculous to the people of Athens. Though they could grasp some aspects of the Christian message, they found some things to be foolishness, not the least of which was the death and resurrection of Christ.

After Paul finished talking, some of the men on Mars Hill sneered. It was risky to go and speak at the Hill that day. Paul was a man of power, intellect. He was respected as a teacher and wise man. However, talk about resurrection made him sound like an intolerant fool. In this type of society it was unacceptable to raise one god above the others, all gods were equal. This was made even worse by the mythical stories on which Paul’s faith was built—virgin birth, a dead God? Repentance and forgiveness were not aspects of their religious experience, so the Christian story seemed pointless and absurd.

But others believed and asked Paul to tell them more. Paul risked status, position and respect by boldly proclaiming the Gospel message of grace and in doing so, some came to believe. We live in a similar society, where buffets are the norm so that everyone who enters can be satisfied. There are religious houses on every corner, something for everyone. While diversity can be a good thing, are we willing to be like Paul boldly proclaiming the message of the Gospel to those who would prefer to settle for the ecumenical open-mindedness that says that all gods are equal?


April 18, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 27, 2008: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

Psalm 66:8-20 Oh bless our God, ye peoples, And make the voice of his praise to be heard; Who holdeth our soul in life, And suffereth not our feet to be moved. For thou, O God, hast proved us: Thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; Thou layedst a sore burden upon our loins. Thou didst cause men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place. I will come into thy house with burnt-offerings; I will pay thee my vows, Which my lips uttered, And my mouth spake, when I was in distress. I will offer unto thee burnt-offerings of fatlings, With the incense of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats. Selah Come, and hear, all ye that fear God, And I will declare what he hath done for my soul. I cried unto him with my mouth, And he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear: But verily God hath heard; He hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, Who hath not turned away my prayer, Nor his lovingkindness from me.

A storm blew through our region last night. The line crossed Texas and arrived at our house about 12:30 a.m. The weathermen promised that this storm would bring with it high wind, heavy rain and possibly hail. They were right; we could hear the wind blowing and the rain pounding against our window. We saw lightning and heard thunder. We did not experience the most severe parts of the storm, so after watching for a few minutes I fell asleep without concern. We were spared last night, although we have been through some terrible storms. It is difficult to wait through a watch or warning, wondering if a tornado or hurricane will really strike our home. Though I enjoy the excitement, I do get worried when there is serious danger possible.

We pray for many things, but it is a human tendency to turn to prayer especially when we face difficulties and danger. Though we remember to offer praise and thanksgiving, we are more likely to cry out to God in our times of need. Caught up in the frenzy of the moment, we promise God anything if only He will save us. Vows escape our lips as we make deals with God, negotiating our safety and well-being in trade for some sacrifice on our part. Women promise to dedicate a child if only God will help them get pregnant.

These vows are very serious although there is never serious thought about them. They are cried out in the heat of the moment, in the depths of pain and fear. We often find it impossible to be faithful to the promise. God said, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord God in vain.” The commandment does not simply speak about the language we use, but warns us to be careful about the vows we take.

Martin Luther was traveling down a road one day when a storm suddenly struck. Frightened by the lightning and thunder, he fell to his feet and cried out to God through Saint Anne. “Help me, St. Anne, and I'll become a monk!" He escaped unharmed. Luther’s father was a miner who worked very hard to put him through law school. The storm happened when he was traveling home from the university. He kept his word to God, entered the monastery, and in the process disappointed his father who had worked so hard to give him a better life.

God hears our prayers and answers according to His good and perfect will. He doesn’t bless us because we’ve made a deal with Him at the height of our fear and excitement. He knows we will fail. He knows that we can’t live up to the vows we make in desperation. We can’t keep the Law perfectly because we are imperfect. He answers our prayers because He loves us and because He is faithful to His promises. Yet, He calls us to try. And He calls us to live in thankfulness and praise for answered prayer. We see in this passage the response to God’s grace, faithful keeping of vows and bold witness to God’s grace.


April 21, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 27, 2008: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

1 Peter 3:13-22 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good? But even if ye should suffer for righteousness' sake, blessed are ye: and fear not their fear, neither be troubled; but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, wherein ye are spoken against, they may be put to shame who revile your good manner of life in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God should so will, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing. Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ; who is one the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

The show “Desperate Housewives” is my guilty pleasure. I usually shake my head at the foolishness of their antics. Each woman has a history of scheming about something, focusing on self, doing whatever is best for her own life and family, so when they see evidence of the same attitude in others, they assume the worst. They all have histories and they know each other’s stories, so they think they know each other’s hearts and minds. Over the years they have all been best friends with one another and hated one another with as much love and passion.

In last night’s episode, Bree was planning a big event: the Founder’s Day Ball. This was her baby, she was always in charge. It was accepted that she would make the decisions and be responsible for certain aspects of the night. Her greatest pleasure was presenting an award at the end of the evening, an award that honored a citizen who has given themselves selflessly to the community. New neighbor Katherine—up until recently a rival for Bree’s position as perfect housewife—asked to help with the event. Bree, in an effort to build a relationship between the two, agreed.

She realized quickly that working with Katherine was a mistake. Katherine boldly takes over the planning, making changes to the way the ball is organized. She changes the recipes, flowers and other details. By the night of the ball, she has also changed the presenter of the award—to herself! Bree was livid. The committee members assured Bree that Katherine was the right choice. Bree even gave Katherine some tainted dip so that she would become too ill to give the award. Katherine insisted, even though she was not feeling well. When the name was announced, the winner was Bree. She was dumbfounded and sorry. Katherine said she understood, since they are so alike, and forgave Bree. They got through this experience a little stronger and a little closer. They’ll be friends until the next clash.

Katherine is definitely not perfect. Her history is filled with secrets and possibly murder. However, in this episode, she showed the decorum of one willing to suffer for what is right. Bree deserved the award, and she certainly could not present it to herself. Katherine stood firm, even when she was ill, for the sake of Bree. Then, when Bree confessed her wrongdoing, Katherine graciously forgave her. When Bree thought that they could not be friends because they were too much alike, Katherine said it was a shame because of the housewives, they were the two who understood each other the best. Her attitude brought Bree around, at least for now.

Peter was writing to a community that was being persecuted. The human response to persecution is often bitterness and violence. They were doing good things, but the good things were bringing on suffering. They were afraid to do what they knew they should do. Peter wrote that they should have courage. The good works they were doing might be the very thing that brings on the persecution of society, but it was also their good works that would help the world see the Lord God. Instead of responding with anger, they were to respond with grace. Instead of fighting back, they were to been meek and humble, knowing that they are doing what is right and good. In the end, the enemies of God’s people will be put to shame. This suffering may be the catalyst that will bring another person to believe in Jesus, and in this God will be glorified.


April 22, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 27, 2008: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

John 14:15-21 If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you desolate: I come unto you. Yet a little while, and the world beholdeth me no more; but ye behold me: because I live, ye shall live also. In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him.

My kids go to a school that participates in an online program that helps parents stay connected. The program makes their student records available to me anytime I want to check. The advantage to this is that I can keep track of the work the children are doing, and if there is a problem I can aggressively deal with it. The possible problems include mistakes by the teachers and data processors. Computers, after all, are only as good as the people inputting the data. I’ve also discovered it is helpful to keep an eye on the kids. If they are slacking off, I can help them develop better study habits before it is too late. In my day, my parents had no idea if I was passing a class until they saw my report card.

It is interesting to see the types of activities each teacher includes in their grade books. They all have a place for test scores, but other grades include quizzes, projects, labs and homework. Another important part of their grade is classroom participation. Contributing to the class helps boost student confidence, but it also develops the community. Each student gets an individual grade, but that grade is also dependent on the relationship they have with other students. Everyone has something to offer, whether it is questions or answers, tips for studying, accountability and encouragement. A student might be able to do well alone, but they do so much better along with others dealing with the same things.

Christianity is defined as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but it not only an individual faith. Our relationship with Christ is dependent on others. We hare the Word of God from the great cloud of witnesses that comes before us. We worship together in community, sharing God’s grace through the sacraments. We learn in Bible studies with other Christians, sharing our own ideas, doubts and questions so that we can help others and they can help us. Though our salvation is for each individual, we grow up together in the faith.

When John wrote, “for he abideth with you” he said so in the plural. Christ abides with us in community. He draws us together. He binds us to one another. The Holy Spirit is not divided between all the Christians, but moves in and through us all who live as one body along with the Father and the Son.


April 23, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, April 27, 2008: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

The psalmist for this week says, “Oh bless our God, ye peoples, And make the voice of his praise to be heard.” He sings a song encouraging all God’s people to praise Him for His blessings. However, the blessings found in this psalm are not wealth, health or power. They praise God that He has preserved their lives through trials. They praise God that He has refined their lives through the suffering they faced. The psalmist says, “You sent us to prison,” and “You laid burdens on our back.” He says, “You let men ride over our heads” and “we went through fire and water.” In the end, however, God brought His people to a place of abundance.

Of course, these statements refer to the time of suffering in Egypt before the exodus with Moses. It is easy for us to look at that time of slavery and blame the Egyptians; after all it was Egypt that turned the relationship of Joseph and the Pharaoh into oppression of an entire nation. However, the psalmist recognizes that Egypt was never in control, that God knew full well the work He was doing in and for His people. This train of thought might be offensive to many people today, especially since we tend to think about faith as a very personal and private thing. We are also offended by a God that allows suffering in the world. There is no justification for a people enslaved and mistreated, especially if there is an all powerful and omnipotent God in control.

Today is the Feast of St. George. George lived in the latter days of the Roman Empire. The stories that describe his life are extraordinary, his martyrdom not the least of these unbelievable stories. It is said that George, who had been a soldier, refused to persecute Christians and confessed his faith in Christ. This so outraged the emperor that George was tortured and executed. During the torture, his body was slashed with a wheel covered with swords. Three times during the torture, George was revived. In the end, he was beheaded.

The most famous story about George tells of his bold courage as he slaughtered a dragon. It is said that the people of Sylene (or Cyrene) were besieged by a dragon. It was necessary to draw the dragon away daily from his nest which he built on top of the spring where they got their water. They first offered sheep in sacrifice to the dragon, but they soon turned to human sacrifice. They victims were selected by casting lots. One day the lot came to the princess. Though the king begged for her life, the people insisted. Just then, George came upon the scene. He offered to slay the dragon if only they would agree to become Christians. They agreed, he slew the dragon and the entire town was baptized in the name of Christ.

George gave up his high position as a soldier for the empire so that he could be a soldier for Christ. The stories tell of his great sacrifice, sharing all his worldly possessions with the poor so that he would be free to serve the Lord wherever he was needed. Though these stories seem outlandish to us today, they are examples of the life we are called to live—one of selfless sacrifice for the sake of our Lord. We are called to risk everything for the sake of the Gospel, but this is not a life that is easy to live.

Paul approached the people of Athens from their own point of view. He called their attention to all the altars throughout the city that paid homage to the many gods of this world. Then he pointed out the one that they had set up for the unknown God. Paul told the people that the Lord God Almighty is that unknown God, and that He is knowable. He risked much. Christianity was spreading and so was the hatred of Christianity. He was an intellectual and he risked his stature among the intellectuals by speaking about the foolishness of a God who died and rose again. Paul did not skim over the issue, however. He said since God had now been revealed in Jesus Christ, no one had any excuse for continuing to live apart from God. He called people to repentance.


April 24, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, May 4, 2008: Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4;12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

Acts 1:6-14 They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority. But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were looking stedfastly into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is nigh unto Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey off. And when they were come in, they went up into the upper chamber, where they were abiding; both Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one accord continued stedfastly in prayer, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

As I dropped Victoria off at school today and watched her go toward the door, I got a little teary-eyed. She is a senior and is preparing for graduation in just over a month. We’ve been through the college search and application process and she’s ready to go on to that phase of her life. Her friends are making similar decisions or searching for jobs. It is a time for change. In the next few weeks she will be taking her final tests, finishing projects and preparing for the ceremony in June. This is just the beginning of the end of her High School career, and thinking about this made me a little nostalgic.

Life out in the real world is much different than academia, even in the higher levels of education where the competition can be fierce. She won’t have anyone to blame when she fails and it is less likely that anyone will bail them out when she runs into trouble. It is time for her to stand on her own two feet. Her friends will move on in different directions. In the next few weeks they look back at their accomplishments and look forward in awe at the possibilities they face.

Jesus spent three years with the disciples before He was crucified. After He was raised, He spent forty days with them, teaching them all they needed to know and giving them final instructions. He affirmed His promise of power from the Holy Spirit. Jesus opened their minds to the scriptures. His teachings were finally beginning to make sense. It was time for Jesus to go to God and sit on His right hand. He was taken into heaven, bodily raised from the earth into the clouds right before their eyes. They had seen Jesus do many miraculous things, this was just one more.

Jesus’ ascension left little room to question the nature of this man they had known for three years. He was God in flesh, worthy of their worship and praise. Now He left them alone, seemingly abandoning them with nothing but a promise of a helper to come. He sent them into the world to share the Kingdom of God, but would no longer be there to pick them up after they fell. It was up to them to do the work they were called to do. It was no wonder that they stopped to stare into the heavens. However, Jesus did not intend for them to wallow in the past. I can imagine some tears in their eyes and their nostalgia as they remembered all Jesus did and all that He was to them.

The disciples went back to the room where they had eaten the last supper with Jesus and where He first appeared to them after the resurrection. The eleven, because Judas Iscariot was gone, went to wait for the promised helper. They spent the time in prayer, pondering together all that had happened. This was the beginning of the end of their time as disciples, but it was also the beginning of a new phase of their life and ministry. They were about to become apostles, sent into the world to do the work that Christ was doing. Instead of just one man, there was now eleven and soon there would be more. The Word of God would spread quickly by the power of the Holy Spirit. The disciples would change, but even more important: the world would change.


April 25, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, May 4, 2008: Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4;12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered; Let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: As wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God: Yea let them rejoice with gladness. Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: Cast up a highway for him that rideth through the deserts; His name is Jehovah; and exult ye before him. A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families: He bringeth out the prisoners into prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a parched land. O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah The earth trembled, the heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God: Yon Sinai trembled at the presence of God, the God of Israel. Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, Thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary. Thy congregation dwelt therein: Thou, O God, didst prepare of thy goodness for the poor... Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; Oh sing praises unto the Lord; Selah To him that rideth upon the heaven of heavens, which are of old; Lo, he uttereth his voice, a mighty voice. Ascribe ye strength unto God: His excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the skies. O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: The God of Israel, he giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.

The University of Texas in Austin created an organization that helps teachers encourage students to do their best in every aspect of the educational experience. First created to provide leadership for athletics and public school debate, the University Interscholastic league now has contests in academics, athletics and music. Texans are perhaps best known for our interest in football, with competitions throughout the football season leading to the state championship. However, students are able to compete in band, choir, math, writing, computer, spelling and even theater.

Victoria is part of her high school’s One Act Play competition troupe. They have been performing a play called “Moon Over Buffalo” at the UIL competitions. So far they have won four contests, each leading them one step closer to the ultimate prize. The state competition for their division is on Friday evening and they will be there ready to win over the judge. In 2007-2008, 1204 schools began the competition. At the State competitions, which begin this weekend, only forty are left. Victoria’s school will compete against seven others tonight, all the best in their division from around Texas.

It has been a long, hard journey they’ve traveled toward this day. They began with auditions in December and regular practices in January. They had to find the right costumes, create the perfect set and block their actions. They learned their lines, came to know their characters and have rehearsed until the play is so natural that it does not seem like we are watching a play, but are part of the characters’ lives and experiences. We have great hope for the students, but whatever happens tonight, we are very proud of the work they have done over the past few months.

Psalm 68 is a song used in liturgical processions describing the journey of God and His people from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion. In the beginning, the people call God to arise to move forward toward the goal. The enemies of God will be moved by His power. While the wicked will be afraid, the righteous will rejoice in the presence of God’s glory. In the midst of this story, God’s people pray that He will continue to rule over the world and empower His people. The song ends in the sanctuary where God is glorified with the praise of the people.

The people sing the song and remember the journey because in the story of God we see His faithfulness and His power. Through the past we hold on to the hope of what will continue to be. We sing in thankfulness because God has chased the enemy away, defended the lowly, set prisoners free, and provided life-giving water to the thirsty. The hope for more of God’s power was brought forth through Jesus Christ, as He defeated death, healed the sick, set free those imprisoned by demons and spoke the life-giving Word to people who were thirsty for God. We recall that journey as we move through Easter toward Pentecost when God continues His story through us.


April 28, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, May 4, 2008: Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you: but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy. If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are ye; because the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you… Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you. Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, whom withstand stedfast in your faith, knowing that the same sufferings are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world. And the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

I once knew a woman who received extremely bad news about her health. She was quite passionate about her faith and had very strong opinions about the way we should believe in Christ. Her bad news made her feel desperate to convince as many people of her point of view. She spent her last few months of life desperately trying to make the world fit her expectations. She was so afraid that she would not have enough time to get the world to convert to her point of view that she responded to debate and discussion with frustration, anger and condemnation. In the midst of her pain and confusion over her illness and impending death, she lost touch with the purpose of our faith and the grace of God.

We will die. Most of us won’t know the time or the place. Many of us will die suddenly, without warning. Others will become sick or old and will pass through a time of suffering. Few of us will be given the bad news that we have only so much time left. Few of us will be able to go about our business day by day knowing that tomorrow will not exist for us. However, all of live with the knowledge—even if we refuse to accept it—that tomorrow might never come. We could pass away today.

My acquaintance was an intelligent, studied adult. She had powerful arguments about her point of view and convinced many to think seriously about her perspective. However, when things went out of her control, she lost the joy of her faith and no longer remembered the reason for sharing faith which is to glorify God. Her mission became convincing the world that she was right rather than shining Christ to the world.

Peter writes that we are to rejoice in the midst of our sufferings. He is specifically writing to a people who were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. They faced trouble with the secular world in which they lived and with the religious world from which they came. They had seen a new light which had given them a new faith and the world did not approve. The persecution came as expulsion, rejection and even death. They did not know if they would even be alive the next day to share the joy of God’s grace with anyone else. However, they approached every minute with the assurance that God was with them, going forth through it all with joy and peace.

They might have fought. Paul was imprisoned in Philippi by some angry business people who were disturbed when Paul healed a demonic girl slave who was making them a lot of money. When the demons were gone, their source of income went also. In jail, Paul and Silas were praying and singing when suddenly a great earthquake struck the place. The chains were broken and the prison doors thrown loose. The jail keeper was certain to suffer humiliation and possibly death over escaped prisoners, so he was about to kill himself to be spared the trouble. But Paul and Silas did not run away. They stayed even though they’d been freed. The jailer washed their wounds and asked them about Jesus. As they spoke the Word to him, he believed. He and his whole household were baptized.

Paul and Silas could have escaped and went on to do the world of ministry in the world, but they stayed not knowing what might happen. With their faith in God and their assurance of God’s presence, they ministered to a man and his family. Their conversion, not by force or condemnation, but by God’s grace and the humble submission of Paul and Silas, likely led to many Romans hearing the Word and believing in Jesus. We may not face the kind of troubles that those first disciples faced against the Romans and the Jewish leadership, but we have our own troubles to face daily. How do we respond? Do we take bad news with force and go out into the world determined to make it fit our expectations no matter who we have to do? Or do we face our difficulties with humility and grace, knowing that God is nearby and that He is faithful to His promises? Satan wants us to become a lion, tearing through the world, devouring everything and everyone in our wake in response to our pain. Jesus calls us to be like lambs, knowing our Shepherd is near, humbly sharing God’s grace with hope, joy and peace.


April 29, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, May 4, 2008: Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

John 17:1-11 These things spake Jesus; and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that the son may glorify thee: even as thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that to all whom thou hast given him, he should give eternal life. And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ. I glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do. And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them to me; and they have kept thy word. Now they know that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are from thee: for the words which thou gavest me I have given unto them; and they received them, and knew of a truth that I came forth from thee, and they believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me; for they are thine: and all things that are mine are thine, and thine are mine: and I am glorified in them. And I am no more in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are.

A 76-year-old woman was killed in her home by a teen-age neighbor looking for cash to buy drugs last week. This would have been noteworthy if it were an unknown woman in an unknown town because each life is valuable and worthy of remembrance. However, this particular woman happened to be a restaurant owner from San Antonio who was known not only for her amazing story of success, but also for her huge heart. She was the neighbor you wanted to know, taking tamales to welcome new families to her neighborhood and showing compassion to the people in need in her community. At her recent funeral, the pews of the church were filled with city officials as well as homeless people, all of whom were touched by her life and her kindness.

Because Viola Barrios was such a well known woman, the newspapers and other media reports have been filled with stories of her life. Mourners were given the opportunity to share their own stories of her graciousness, tears of grief accompanying sounds of laughter as she was remembered by the many people who crossed the threshold of her restaurant. She was known by her guests, always available with a kind word or a helping hand.

Her life has been reflected in the lives of her children. At her funeral service this weekend, her son spoke about forgiveness. The people in San Antonio are enraged by this senseless cry and by the irony that a neighbor to whom Viola was so kind over the years would be the very person who killed her. Louis said that his mother would have reached her hand out in forgiveness and he did the same. As he spoke, he offered to pay for the legal fees for the young man who committed this crime. Unfortunately, it is not possible for him to do so; his lawyers have made it clear that there would be a conflict of interest in the case if he did this good deed. Even so, Louis has insisted that his mother would not want the young man to be put to death. She would want the city to shine the light of Christ to this young man.

The passage today can be divided into two distinct prayers. In the first section, Jesus prays for Himself. This is not a prayer to be removed from the cross but instead to be glorified. The prayer is a remembrance of the things that Jesus has done, sharing the life and light of God with the disciples. It is, in essence, a eulogy, proclaiming the message and purpose of his life for us to hear. It is unlikely that these are the words that Jesus spoke, but have been written by John so that we might know Christ. The second half of the prayer describes the life that reflects the glory of Christ in the lives of the disciples. As we read this passage we see first the life of Jesus and then the life of those directly touched by His ministry and message while He lived in this world.

John portrays these words as spoken by Jesus because it is a message that is meant to be heard, a message that we are called to repeat for each generation. We relate the good news of what Jesus has done and proclaim that He has been glorified with God the Father. Those good words become part of our own lives and we become like those first disciples even though we have not lived with Jesus in the flesh. We are among those to whom Christ has been given and He prays also for us today as we shine His light to the world.


April 30, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, May 4, 2008: Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

Now they know that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are from thee: for the words which thou gavest me I have given unto them; and they received them, and knew of a truth that I came forth from thee, and they believed that thou didst send me.

It has nearly been forty days since Easter. In the forty days between the resurrection and the ascension, Jesus spent time with the disciples clearly teaching the scriptures and telling them what they are to do in the world. Though many of His teachings were parables during His life and ministry, in these days He spoke plain truth so that there would be no confusion. The teaching of Jesus would soon be followed by the Holy Spirit who not only continued to teach the disciples of Jesus, but also gave them the faith to believe all that Jesus had spoken.

For three years and those forty days, God’s Word dwelled and ministered among His people and taught them about the kingdom of God. He called them to repentance. He called them to new life. He called them to go out into the world with the message of Good News so that others might believe and become new. Jesus had to go to heaven so that the disciples could then share the spoken Word with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Faith comes through the spoken Word. We can see good works and recognize a righteous life, but they will not receive the promise of salvation through good works or the right living of another person. We must hear the Gospel to be saved. It is God’s Word that transforms, not our hopes or our actions. Not even our faith saves. By God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, we receive the saving faith that God has promised to those who hear and believe all that God has said and done.

So, we continue to tell the story of Jesus. Jesus prayed for His disciples and John recorded the prayer in our passage for this week. He prayed that they would stand firmly in the Word they have been given so that God might be glorified. The disciples were one with Him. During those forty days between the resurrection and the ascension they were one together—one body, one gathering, one fellowship of believers. However, when Jesus says that the disciples are one with Him, it is something deeper and truer. They are one with Him because He will continue to dwell in their hearts and come forth in their words.

This prayer reaches well beyond those disciples. The disciples shared the Gospel with the first Christians, and Christians have continued to share the Good News with every generation since. They were His because they heard the Word and believed all that God has said and done. So, too, we are His by that same Word, the Living Word that once dwelled among a small group of men but now dwells among all those who believe. We give thanksgiving and praise for those who shared that Good Word with us, so that we too might know Christ and live according to His Word.

May 4th is the feast day for Saint Monica. Monica was a Christian who lived in a pagan world, whose life and words witnessed to her husband and his mother the love and mercy of Christ. They became Christians and she rejoiced greatly that day. However, it was her patient and prayerful witnessing to her son for which she is best remembered. Augustine was a man who greatly enjoyed the sinful life. Despite his early baptism and his faith-filled mother, Augustine lived a life of debauchery. His mother became a disciple under the leadership of Saint Ambrose and so did her son. After seventeen years of prayerful waiting, Augustine was baptized by Saint Ambrose at 28 years old. Though it had been Ambrose who convinced Augustine of the Christian point of view, it was the seeds Monica planted throughout his life that was grown into a great faith.