Welcome to the May 2023 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



















Scripture on this page taken from the World English Bible which belong to the public domain.


May 1, 2023

“Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2, WEB

Today is May Day. The holiday means different things to different people. May 1st is a turning point in the seasonal year, halfway between spring equinox and summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. Spring is pretty well sprung all over the northern hemisphere. Flowers are in bloom. Thoughts of love linger around the young at heart. For pagans, May Day marks Beltane, which is a fertility festival. In seventh century Puritan England, the holiday was banned by Parliament for a time. The emphasis was later placed more on the coming of Spring, and many places still have parties to celebrate with flower crowns, maypole dancing, and by making flower baskets to share with loved ones.

In many parts of the world, May Day is a day to honor the working man, a labor day of sorts that remembers those who died trying to make better working conditions. Nineteenth century Russia was a time when those who had power and money oppressed the working man and lower classes. May 1st became a holiday for them. Parades were held and men preached about justice. This day is still recognized in many places as a day for the common man. Some activists around the world have rallied to make it an international holiday, and it has come to be known as International Worker’s Day. Labor organizations plan demonstrations protesting the status quo, sometimes with violence and anger.

As we walk our Christian walk, we begin to notice things about the world that do not fit with our understanding of how God created us to be. We see hatred, falsehood, oppression, immorality, and other evils. We must be careful in how we react to these things. If we meet anger with anger, we are conforming to the ways of the world and not living according to the promise of God. Jesus tells us that we must love our enemies. I fail to live up to this command daily.

As we see the things in this world which disturb our soul, we need to remember that we have been transformed. We are not more righteous than another but should be reminded of our own failures. This day, as we work and play in the world, let us remember to react according to God’s Will. When we meet anger, respond in love and mercy, just as God responds to us. God covers all our garbage by clothing us with Christ. Paul reminds us that our faith brings us into relationship not only with Christ, but also with others who are in Christ. We are made into one body. On the foundation of the promises of God, the hewn stone of Jesus Christ is laid, and we are poured into the walls, coming together as one Church through one faith and one baptism.

Paul reminds us not to think too highly of ourselves. He calls us to think of ourselves with sober judgment according to the faith we have received. We are individuals, each one gifted by God according to His good and perfect will. As individuals in faith, we are joined together by the Holy Spirit as one body to glorify God and build up one another as the church. No matter how good a person is at what they do, they can’t do it by themselves. What would we be without one another? There might be good reason for protesting the status quo in our world, we should fight oppression and help those who can’t help themselves, but we need to be careful to do so in a way that honors God, without violence and hate. It is fun to celebrate the coming of Spring, but we have to remember that God is the Creator, and our worship should be of Him.

God wants submission to His will as we live in this world. So, while the world is celebrating May Day with a focus on earth and man, let us remember that God is the center of it all and that our goal as Christians is to become more and more like Him, not more and more like the world.


May 2, 2023

“See how great a love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God! For this cause the world doesn’t know us, because it didn’t know him. Beloved, now we are children of God. It is not yet revealed what we will be; but we know that when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is. Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself, even as he is pure. Everyone who sins also commits lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away our sins, and no sin is in him. Whoever remains in him doesn’t sin. Whoever sins hasn’t seen him and doesn’t know him. Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. To this end the Son of God was revealed: that he might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:1-8, WEB

I read an article that suggested the seven deadly sins in moderation are not really all that deadly, and that they might even be good. Take, for example, the sin of wrath. The article suggested that it is healthy for a person to take out their anger in some way, particularly on inanimate objects, so that the person does not blow up and hurt another human being. The problem with this idea is that wrath is more than just anger; it is rage. Rage manifests in more than just a scream, yelling, or banging on a wall. Rage is uncontrollable. Wrath, or rage, takes matters into one’s own hands, like revenge or self-destructiveness. It is a sin because it puts judgment into human hands rather than God’s. Yes, dealing with our anger can be healthy. Jesus got angry. But wrath is a deadly sin because it causes us to turn away from God’s grace.

The seven deadly sins are these: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. In all seven we can think of ways that these things aren’t so bad, unless we realize that the sin concerns what drives the actions. The article justified the seven by showing ways in which those actions can be seen as good. Andrew Carnegie pursued wealth like a demon, but he used so much of his wealth for altruism that it is seen as something positive. The harm he did to others in pursuit of that wealth is forgotten because he did such good work with it.

I think we must beware of the language we use when talking about sin. Yes, getting our anger out is healthy and pursuing wealth for the sake of others is good, but are they truly wrath and greed? To call someone greedy because they have succeeded in this world is to suggest that their work is evil. We know according to the scriptures that work is not evil, and all people are expected to earn their keep. It becomes a sin when the pursuit of material possessions is put ahead of our relationship with God. Wealth itself is not a sin, but the love of wealth is. As the scriptures tell us, you can’t love God and mammon.

We should not try to justify our actions by lessening the reality of their sinfulness. Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride hurt our relationships with other people and thus hurt our relationship with God. These sins are self-focused. They are deadly because they separate us from God.

While it is important to avoid these sins, I think it is good for us to look at the opposing actions and try to live accordingly. The virtues that correspond to the seven deadly sins are chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. Instead of avoiding the things that will destroy our relationship with others and with God, we can live the virtues in a way that will build those relationships and glorify God. These virtues manifest self-control, concern for others, and love. There is no need to justify sin if we live a virtuous life with God in our focus and love for others manifest in all we do.


May 3, 2023

Lectionary Scriptures for May 7, 2023, Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 6:1-9, 7:2a, 51-60; Psalm 146; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.” John 14:1, WEB

Have you ever become overwhelmed by the stresses of a big project or event? There are a lot of details that go into the planning and execution of anything of importance. We had an open house a few months after we moved into our house. I had to make sure that the house was clean, that there was plenty of food and drink. We made it an open house but planned on doing a house blessing at a certain hour, so most of our guests came at that time. We invited a lot of people, and a lot of people showed up. We had more than fifty guests! Luckily the weather was nice so people could gather outside to fellowship.

It was really difficult to keep my eyes on everything that day. I had plenty of food but kept some in the refrigerator so it would stay fresh. It wasn’t until the end of the party that I realized that we had not continued to fill the deviled eggs. We had a lot left over. I was so busy being a hostess that I couldn’t take care of that task. I should have assigned it to someone.

It is very easy to become overwhelmed with some of the details when putting on a big event. How many times have we attended events where the sound system doesn’t work right, or the name tags were left at the office? Slide shows and videos never seem to work. There’s always something wrong with the number of wine glasses for dinner. Some server always manages to scoop too many potatoes on the first plates so there aren’t enough for the last ones.

I was a DJ and worked a wedding with a bride who wanted a very specific song. She gave it to me as part of a very long list of other songs she wanted but didn’t tell me that one was most important. I told her I’d find as many of the songs as I could. She was terribly disappointed when I told her I had not found that one song; it ruined her whole day. Luckily, I made a phone call and managed to find a copy that could be delivered to the party immediately. I’m not sure why that one tiny detail was so important to the bride, but it fell through the cracks. Something always seems to go wrong.

Imagine what it must have been like for the first Christians. Not only were they trying to understand everything that had happened, but they were also trying to establish something very new.

The first followers of Jesus probably numbered a few hundred. We focus our attention on the Twelve during the ministry of Jesus, but it is likely that there were far more that regularly attended Him. Luke tells us of a time when Jesus sent seventy out to share the kingdom of God with the nations. The crowd in the Upper Room for the Last Supper as well as in the days following Jesus’ crucifixion was likely even larger than that, including women and children. Matthias replaced Judas and was chosen out of a group of seventy who “have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, to the day that he was received up from us, of these one must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21b-22, WEB)

The group of Twelve was important. While there were many others who had been with Jesus from the beginning, Jesus had given the Twelve an important role as leaders among the disciples. They spent more time with Jesus, had been taught more thoroughly. While I don’t think Jesus ever meant for there to be a hierarchy of disciples, the Twelve certainly stood separate from the rest. Among those disciples were the inner circle, Peter, James, and John, who had been witness to some of the more private moments of Jesus’ time on earth.

The Twelve, including Matthias, needed to focus on certain aspects of ministry. They had to take what Jesus taught them and learn how to teach it to others. Jesus did so many good things along the way, but the most important thing was always sharing the Word of God with the people. We see that especially in the story of the feeding of the five thousand. The people followed Jesus because their bellies were full, but Jesus rebuked them because they missed the sign in the meal. “Believe.” The Word of God brings faith, but if we are so busy filling bellies, then we miss the opportunity to give the people what they really need.

Jesus knew this would be a problem. It was one of the temptations He faced in the wilderness. The devil tempted Him to turn all the rocks into bread, but Jesus reminded him that the real bread is God’s Word. Peter learned that lesson and knew that it was important for the Twelve to keep their focus on what was important.

Yet, we also know the importance of ensuring that the needs of our community are met. Jesus would not want anyone to go hungry. He commands us to take care of one another. He gives us the authority to do the work He did. We are called to feed the poor, to give a cup of water to those who are thirsty, to clothe the naked, to visit the imprisoned and to heal the sick. There is so much to be accomplished. It is hard enough when the community is small but imagine how difficult it became in those first days of the Church.

There are always growing pains. Ask anyone who has been involved in a church that has had sudden growth. The numbers go up faster than the workers can be trained, and something always falls through the cracks. That’s the reason many congregations hit a plateau. They level out because there is no plan for dealing with so many extra people. The best congregations plan for growth long before it comes so that they are ready with helpers to keep things moving forward.

That’s what Peter suggested when he began to hear complaints that things were being missed. He knew the importance of what the Twelve had to do, and that others were needed to do the rest. Unfortunately, we don’t always appreciate the work of our pastors and we think that they can, and should, do so much of that work themselves. Ask any pastor of any size congregation how hard it is to accomplish everything they need to accomplish! Some congregations depend on their pastors for everything, from preaching to scrubbing the toilet bowl. I once had a conversation with a pastor who was dealing with a difficult situation at his church. The people expected him to put in a forty-hour week doing the things they thought needed to be done. So, they asked him to put on paper his schedule and to document his work. He included time for prayer. His members were taken aback: “You pray on the clock? Shouldn’t you do that on your own time?”

Peter knew that prayer was vital to the work they were doing. The Church was new. Though they had spent time with Jesus, around three years, there was still so much to learn and understand. They needed God’s guidance to work out the details of this new community of faith. They knew that they could not push forward and make decisions without first listening to God. Sadly, we make a lot of decisions in the church these days without seeking God’s help with the matter. We think it is more important for our pastors to clean toilets than to pray. We want them to fill their calendars with busy work that we could accomplish when they should be spending most of their time in prayer and ministry of the Word.

We are reminded by this text that our pastors need to focus on prayer and the ministry of the word without being tasked with jobs we can do. The twelve looked to the disciples for help. The chosen men - Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus - had been around for a while. They may have been in the groups of disciples sent out to preach and heal by Jesus. They were probably in the Upper Room on that first Easter night and on Pentecost. They were not part of the Twelve but had heard and seen Jesus with their own ears and eyes.

These were not dish washers; they were men of wisdom and power. Stephen did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. He preached the Word even as he worked to meet the physical needs of the community of faith. Stephen fed the hungry and took care of the needs of the poor, all the while sharing the Gospel of grace. Even at the point of death, Stephen cried out to the Lord to forgive those who were about to kill him. Jesus said we will do greater things, and that is what Stephen did. He is remembered as the first martyr, and so he was the first to follow Jesus into death. Yet, his martyrdom did not earn him a place in heaven or the reward of eternal life. That was won at the cross of Christ. Our mission is not just about living the example of Christ in the world; it is about sharing the forgiveness He brought to the world through His death on the cross. There God is truly glorified.

Today’s Gospel lesson includes statements of wonder from two of the disciples. Thomas, whose unbelief and confession were the focus just a few weeks ago, didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. He told them that He was going to prepare a place for them and that they would follow Him. “You know the way,” He said. But Thomas didn’t know where He was going. “I am the way, the truth and the life,” He said. Jesus wasn’t talking about a trip to a place, but rather the path to God’s kingdom.

Jesus is not simply one of the ways to God; He is the way, the truth, and the life. His way is not just a right way to get to heaven, He is the way. Jesus did not say that those who think or act as He does will inherit the kingdom of God. He said, “No one comes to the Father, except through me.” Jesus is the gate that leads to eternal life. There is no other way. There are those, even some Christians, who see Jesus as merely another chapter in the story of God. To them, Jesus need not be the only way to God, but rather an example of one path we can take to know God. Jesus is the only way.

Phillip was confused and asked Jesus to show them the Father. Philip wanted to believe, but he was having a hard time believing without something on which He could grasp with his senses and his mind. He just wanted Jesus to show them 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 wasn’t just a teacher or rabbi. He wasn’t just another person demanding something from them. He wasn’t just someone asking them to have faith without reason. “Have I been with you such a long time, and do you not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How do you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I tell you, I speak not from myself; but the Father who lives in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” Jesus is the way, and He is so close to the Father that being with Him means being with God. There is no other path.

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 Him 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. Our good works will fail us because we will fail to do everything that needs to be done. We can’t solve the world’s problems with our physical labor or all the money that exists. We need something greater. We need someone greater: Jesus. He has laid down the future not only of an earthly Church that does good work, but of an eternal kingdom where we will dwell in the presence of God forever. These are words that need to be heard. Unfortunately, many will cover their ears. They don’t want to hear this. They don’t want to know that Jesus is the way because they like the path they have chosen.

Because they do not want to hear, we will face persecution and rejection. We probably won’t be stoned, and I doubt we’ll see a similar fate of the other disciples. That doesn’t make the message any easier to speak, especially since the persecution we face might mean the difference between a job or friendship. We might even lose our family over our passionate proclamation of God’s truth. But this is what God calls us to do: speak the truth with grace and mercy. They can’t believe if they don’t hear. They can’t experience God’s forgiveness if they don’t know they need it. They won’t be saved if they never realize that they need a Savior. Though they cover their ears, preach it louder! Speak more boldly with love.

Do not be troubled, because even when the world rejects what you, God will not. He will be with you through everything: good and bad. Ultimately, His promises will be fulfilled. Even if we suffer at the hands of enemies that refuse to listen, God has rescued us from the greatest enemy, death. At that moment, we’ll see Jesus at the right hand of God, as He welcomes us into God’s glory for eternity. We’ll see Him with outstretched arms ready to draw us into His bosom forever. There in the glorious presence of God we’ll know real joy and peace forever.

God often calls us to do things that we would rather not do. He calls us to share the Gospel with our neighbor, but we are afraid we’ll sound like a Jesus freak. He calls us to feed the poor, but we don’t want to give money to someone who will use the money for drugs or alcohol. He calls us to rebuke or correct a brother, but we think, “Who am I to do this? I make mistakes, too.” We ask God for confirmation, for a clear sign that it is Him that we are hearing. We put off the task because we fear recrimination, or we have doubts of the calling.

Jesus told the disciples, “Don’t let your heart be troubled.” Whatever we are called to do, we are called to do it with faith. God is with us. We don’t have to speak our own words because by the power of the Holy Spirit, God will put His Word in our mouths. We will face opposition; but we do not need to be afraid. He is always with us. These words of Jesus are some of the most comforting of scripture. We can rest in His promises; He is preparing a place for us. One day we will be with Him. This is the promise of eternal life.

We are comforted by the words of Jesus but wonder at them, too. He told the disciples that they would do all greater works than Himself. Have any of us really done anything so extraordinary? What did He mean? Will we really perform miracles greater even than what He did? Or is there some greater mission for which we have been sent into the world? People are sick, lonely, burdened, imprisoned, hungry and poor. The church has worked for millennia to help ease the suffering. This is a wonderful mission. Yet, people from every religion respond to the world’s troubles by doing good works. They find peace and joy in their worship and love in their fellowship with other believers. Christians are not unique in this type of 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.

What we need most in this world is reconciliation and forgiveness. Yet how many even think they need to be forgiven? Rather than seeking justification from God, we justify our sins as if they are God-given rights or personal expression. Even worse, we no longer recognize that sin is more than just the things we do wrong. Sin is the separation between God and man that started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve rejected God’s Word and chose to believe the serpent. So, in today’s world we still ask the question, “Did God really say?” and we find ways to juxtapose our wants and desires alongside God’s truth.

We must trust in God, not ourselves, or we will be just like Adam and Eve in that Garden. As we continue to ask the question, “Did God really say?” we will find ourselves in the same position: outside the grace of God on our own path. It does not matter if the path appears to be one of goodness and righteousness. If Christ is not the foundation, then it is a path to nowhere.

Peter, Stephen, and the rest of the disciples began to understand this as they prayerfully sought God’s will for their lives. God didn’t pick a particularly talented group of men to build His Church. He picked a motley crew of misfits. He did this for a reason. He wanted to show us that He doesn’t choose those who are perfect, but that He perfects those who are chosen. Stephen didn’t accomplish what he accomplished because he was particularly good or wise. He was good and wise because God gave him the power and the words.

He gives us the power and the words, too. As a matter of fact, the promise in today’s Gospel passage is as much for us as it was for those first Christians. Jesus said, “Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father. Whatever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it.”

The world will reject us. The world will demand things that are not according to God’s will. We are called to live in hope no matter the circumstances we face. We are called to dwell in the presence of God today because He will help us through our troubles, even unto death. In faith we can join with Stephen in crying out to God to be our refuge, so that we might dwell in His presence today, tomorrow, and always. And we are called to share the hope of the promise with all those who cross our path no matter the consequences. For in doing so, in sharing the forgiveness of God and helping God in the ministry of reconciliation, we will truly see greater things happen than ever happened with Jesus in flesh. He went to be with the Father so we could be His hands, and mouths, in this world.

The world might trouble us, but we have no reason to be troubled because we believe in God, and we believe in Jesus. Whatever we are called to do, whether it is to be like Peter in prayer and preaching or Stephen in service, we are called to do it with faith. God is with us. We don’t have to speak our own words because by the power of the Holy Spirit, God will put His Word in our mouths. We will face opposition; but we do not need to be afraid. He is always with us.


May 4, 2023

“You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting.” Daniel 5:27, WEB

I once saw a picture of a man walking in a Victory Day Parade. He was the last living member of his World War II battle group. We are hearing more and more stories like this: the men who fought the war are aging and dying. Some day there will be no more left. Thankfully, many people have written books and built memorials so that we will hear their stories, but unless we pay attention everything they learned will be forgotten. History tends to repeat itself, which we see repeatedly in the stories of God's people throughout the Bible.

Nebuchadnezzar learned the lesson that God can humble the proud. We don’t really hear much about his reign after his bout with insanity, but history suggests that he ruled for thirteen years as king after he was restored. He continued to wage war and subdue Babylon's neighbors, but he also rebuilt Babylon and created some magnificent ancient wonders. He probably continued to honor the gods of his people, but the letter in Daniel 4 suggests that he became a witness for the greatness of the Most High God.

It didn't take very long, however, for Nebuchadnezzar's descendants to forget what he learned. Daniel 5 tells the story of King Belshazzar, a “son” (probably grandson) of Nebuchadnezzar. He threw a great banquet and ordered that the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar took from the Temple early in his reign be brought. The nobles, his wives and concubines drank from them. Suddenly, a disembodied hand wrote on the wall near where Belshazzar feasted. The king called in the enchanters, astrologers, and diviners to read the writing on the wall, but they could not do so.

The queen (thought to have been the queen mother, perhaps Nebuchadnezzar's wife or daughter) entered the banquet and told the king to not fear. “O king, live forever; don’t let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your face be changed. There is a man in your kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him.” Daniel was called and he interpreted the writing for the king.

Unfortunately, the news was not good for Belshazzar. Daniel began by reminding the king of the story of his father, Nebuchadnezzar. Then he accused the king of not learning the lessons from that story. “You, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which don’t see, nor hear, nor know; and the God in whose hand your breath is, and whose are all your ways, you have not glorified.” God did not give Belshazzar the chance to repent. That very night he was slain.

We fail over and over and over again; thankfully our God is gracious and merciful, but there comes a time when we are expected to learn the lessons of our forefathers. God is not going to cause us to drop dead, but we will suffer the consequences of our rejection of His Word. If we don’t learn those lessons, history will repeat itself; we will be weighed in the balance and will be found wanting.


May 5, 2023

“Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must become imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable body will have become imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then what is written will happen: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-57, WEB

Texas has an interesting history and more diverse culture than you might expect. I was surprised when we moved to Texas how many places have German roots. As it turns out, many people immigrated to Texas from Germany in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. They weren’t the only ones. We have a museum and library in San Antonio that is called the Institute of Texan Cultures. They teach about the people of Texas. Among the most common cultures with the Germans are American Indian, Scottish, Czech, Polish, Mexican, Chinese, Wendish, Jewish, African American, and Greek. Many of these cultures are like islands in the midst of the diversity that is Texas, with communities with people who continue to embrace the traditions of their past through their churches, museums, and shops that sell their food and crafts.

You may have heard the phrase “Six flags over Texas,” but do you know what it means? It is the slogan used to describe the six sovereign countries that have had control over some or all of the current territory of the U.S. state of Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederate States.

This diverse history means that we have many different holidays or days of remembrance. The last few weeks of April were a huge party called “Fiesta” which is founded in history of San Antonio. Though many of the events are all about food and fun, there are solemn remembrances at the Alamo and religious events. There is a parade on the final Friday of Fiesta, the Battle of Flowers Parade, which celebrates the Battle of San Jacinto, which was the final and decisive victory in the Texas War for Independence. That day is a holiday in our city, with many places closed including governmental agencies and schools.

Today is another of those days that has its foundation in the battle over this region of the world. Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s victory over the Second French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The funny thing about this holiday is that it is more popular in the United States than it is in Mexico. My first experience with the fiesta atmosphere was when we lived in Arkansas. The children attended an International Studies schools, and one year the country focus for the elementary school was Mexico. Our spring fundraiser was a Fiesta party. This party helped the children actively participate in the culture of that country.

The food area was decorated to look like a marketplace. There were crafts and games and demonstrations of how to make tortillas and spin yarn. There were dancers and a singer. There was even a petting zoo and pony rides. One of the favorite booths sold cascarones. These are eggshells filled with confetti and covered with tissue paper. At the Cinco de Mayo celebrations, children crack these eggs over their friends’ heads so that they are covered in tiny pieces of paper. The children loved sneaking up on people with their eggs and surprising them with the burst of confetti. These eggs are popular around Easter, too. They leave a mess but are so much fun. I was the victim of multiple attacks, and the children laughed as they ran away because they knew I was ready to return the favor! The food was delicious, the games were fun, and the displays were educational. It was a wonderful experience for everyone.

The children learned about the reason for Cinco de Mayo during the school year, but I imagine most of them remember the party far more. Most people who are celebrating the holiday today are doing so because Fiesta and cascarones are fun. They don’t realize that it is a remembrance of a victory. Paul tells us that God won the greatest victory through Jesus Christ. Death and hell and sin no longer have power over us. We are made free from their oppression by the blood of Jesus Christ. So why don’t we celebrate this? Why don’t we share this incredible story with the world?

Have you ever thought about what it must have been like to be one of the first disciples? They were threatened with imprisonment, beatings, even death. Many died horrible deaths for their faith. They were attacked physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the work they were doing. They were rejected, but they never stopped celebrating the amazing grace of God and sharing it with their neighbors. They saw incredible growth in followers for the Way. Whole villages accepted Christ and saw the work that was done in His name. The disciples saw the great joy that followed the message of God’s love through belief in Jesus Christ; they saw people freed from the oppression of dis-ease in spirit and body.

In today’s church we do not see the same growth and experiences as the early disciples. Just as Cinco de Mayo is no longer remembered by many as a celebration of a victory, so too our Christian faith has been diminished to be less than a victory for God’s people. We live our faith, but do we really live as though we have been made free through the victory of Christ to be steadfast, immovable, abounding in the Lord’s work, knowing our labor is not in vain? We have the promise of eternal life today, it is ours by God’s grace through faith so that we can live now for His Kingdom with joy because He won the victory!


May 8, 2023

“But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have told you these things, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I don’t go away, the Counselor won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. When he has come, he will convict the world about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment; about sin, because they don’t believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to my Father, and you won’t see me any more; about judgment, because the prince of this world has been judged. I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming. He will glorify me, for he will take from what is mine, and will declare it to you. All things that the Father has are mine; therefore I said that he takes of mine and will declare it to you” John 16:5-15, WEB

We are approaching the end of another school year and many students are making decisions about their future. Seniors are preparing to graduate and move on to a new phase in life. Some will pursue continuing education while others will take jobs in the workforce. At graduation, every student must leave the safe environment of school and step into a whole new world. Many young people will also need to move away from home, leaving behind family and friends to begin a new life.

This is a difficult time for parents as well as their children. It is hard to let go of our children, to let them grow up and begin lives of their own. We can’t help our children through troubled times or protect them from the bad things of this world if they are living hundreds or thousands of miles away. We must trust that we have guided them onto a right path and that they will remember the lessons of life we’ve taught them over the years. They do not go unarmed. As parents, we spend their early years nurturing them, giving them whatever they need to one day set out on their own. We send them with our love. The difficulty in letting go is often our own fear that we have failed to prepare them. Though we may not always see it, those life lessons become a part of their lives and our children hold on to them as they venture into the world. We raise them to become independent, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

If we have done our job well, our children will leave home and begin life anew. The same thing is true for Jesus and His disciples, except it was not the children leaving, but their Master. It was necessary for Him to finish His work on earth and ascend to heaven so that the disciples could receive the Holy Spirit, because only the power of the Spirit could complete the work in them to know and understand enough to continue His work in the world. He spent three years teaching them about the Kingdom of God, but it would not become real to them without the Holy Spirit.

We cannot give our children the Holy Spirit, but our love does go with them when they leave home. We let go and trust that they will hold on to everything we have given them. Though they are far from our sight, we keep them near in our hearts, in prayer, and in this modern world via computer and phone. If we are able to promise these encouragements to our children, how much more will God do for us? He is with us always, no matter where we go, and through the Holy Spirit Jesus has given us everything we need to step out into the world to live lives of faith. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, whether you are a young person deciding where to go in life or a parent sending a child out to begin their new life. God will be with them and with you, guiding and protecting those He loves.


May 9, 2023

“Let God arise! Let his enemies be scattered! Let them who hate him also flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away. As wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad. Let them rejoice before God. Yes, let them rejoice with gladness. Sing to God! Sing praises to his name! Extol him who rides on the clouds: to Yah, his name! Rejoice before him! A father of the fatherless, and a defender of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. God sets the lonely in families. He brings out the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious dwell in a sun-scorched land.” Psalm 68:1-6, WEB

I saw a cartoon that showed two children talking to their mother with a host of service people in front of them. The caption said, “Mom, we decided to hire a few people to do what you do so you can rest on Mother’s Day.” The picture included a dozen people! Mother cooks and cleans. She makes sure that her children are wherever they need to be. She loves, nurtures, encourages, and disciplines. Mother takes care of everyone when they are sick and cries with them when they are sad. She’s proud of the happy moments and suffers alongside them during their heartaches. Mother is not perfect, but she tries to do her best, often setting her own needs aside for the sake of others. It is true that moms wear a lot of hats in the house and to replace her would be impossible. I suppose that’s why we honor her with the special day that will fall on this next Sunday.

It is a difficult day for many. There are women who desperately wanted children who were unable to conceive. There are other women who have lost children that were much too young to die. I have too many friends who have lost their mothers this year, and though it has been nearly twenty-five years, I still mourn for mine on days like this. I also miss my daughter who is too many miles away to come home. Many pastors agonize over the question of whether to recognize mothers on Sunday during worship, understanding the pain it causes for those who cannot celebrate Mother's Day this year. Some suggest that everyone has a mother, and yet that does not necessarily help ease the pain of the childless or mourners on this special day. Others say a special prayer for them, but it isn’t any easier to watch happy families while you feel very alone.

I looked up the word “families” in a concordance and found today’s passage. Verse six is especially meaningful for those who suffer in this way. “God sets the lonely in families...” We’ve probably all known one of those women who seem to be mother to everyone in their little corner of the world. My mom was one of those. Many of my friends called her mom. My husband had a woman like that, too, when he was stationed overseas. She became like a mother to me. It isn’t that we didn’t have our own mothers, but sometimes we find ourselves in a place where we need a surrogate to help us when our mothers are not available. This friend helped ease me into life as a married woman far from my own mother and she helped me learn how to be a military spouse, supporting me when Bruce was away. We still call her Mum. Just when my husband needed it most, God put a woman in his life to act as a mother and then He gave her to me. God sets the lonely in families.

I know it will be a hard day for many, and no one can take the place of a missing mom or child. However, God has not abandoned those who live in faith, those who trust that He is true to His promises. If you are someone who feels lonely on this Mother’s Day weekend, or any day, look around you. Has God set you into the midst of a family to help with your loneliness? If you are a family, look around you, too. Who among your friends needs to feel as though they belong? Who is your mother? Who is your child?

God knows what we need, but sometimes we forget how gracious He is and how concerned He is for our welfare. We forget that God can even give us a family when it seems like we are all alone in the world. Don’t be embarrassed to connect with people in a way that seems too familiar; trust that God has given you a gift in that relationship. You might just find that they need you as much as you need them. You might just make a connection that will be as deep and loving as that between a mother and her child and that will last forever.


May 10, 2023

Lectionary Scriptures for May 14, 2023, Sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts 17:16-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

“I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, that he may be with you forever: the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see him and doesn’t know him. You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you.” John 14:16-17, WEB

The intelligentsia of Athens asked of Paul, “What does this babbler want to say?” Paul. The man who wrote more books of the Bible than anyone else, books that establish the patterns for our Christian lives. They called him a babbler. Other versions of the text use the word “scavenger.” Another says, “scavenger of tidbits.” The Message has those intelligentsia calling Paul a moron. I know that Paul is not loved by all, but I don’t think anyone would call him a moron.

They might call me a babbler and would probably be right to do so. Sometimes I get a little passionate when I’m talking about the Bible, and I go out on tangents that lead me down rabbit holes that end in my babbling because I’ve forgotten where I was going with the thoughts. You, my readers, don’t usually see that because I can take more time with my thoughts, and I can edit my words. I suppose the same might be said about Paul. We haven’t had the opportunity to hear him preach, but I still wonder how anyone could accuse Paul of being a moron.

Paul didn’t get upset or offended; he simply used the occasion to show the people of Athens that there was a better Way. The Greeks of Athens were an ecumenical society. They offered something for everyone, especially in religious practice. There was a temple on every 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 Jesus.

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, a babbler, or a moron. 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: the virgin birth and a dead God? Repentance and forgiveness were not aspects of their religious experience, so the Christian story seemed pointless and absurd.

But others believed Paul and asked him 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 that demands every idea should be accepted and embraced. There are religious houses on every corner, something for everybody. 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 call us scavengers of tidbits? Are will willing to risk being seen as morons to those who would prefer the ecumenical open-mindedness that says that all gods are equal?

The Athenians tried to honor every possible god; they did not want to suffer the wrath of some god they did not know, so they honored those unknown gods with an altar. The worship and devotion were not in the living God, the Creator and Redeemer of the world. Instead, they paid honor to man-made idols, gods that had no power or Truth. The people were not faithful or even religious; they were superstitious. Paul stepped into their world and reached them from their point of view. He told them what they were missing.

Paul knew that the people were reasonable and religious, so he took advantage of his time in Athens. He went the synagogue and preached. He talked to people on street corners and in the marketplace. I can just imagine him pulling up a chair at the street café and striking up a conversation with the others at the table, “Have you heard of Jesus?” Paul had the courage to be a bold evangelist, but our question for today is whether or not we have the same courage.

We should. We have the Holy Spirit. Yet, I suspect that there are many of us who do not have the same boldness as those early disciples. We don’t want to be seen as intolerant fools, a babblers, or a morons. We might claim the times are different, but are they all that different?

We are afraid to speak the Gospel because we don’t want to be rejected. We forget that even though some will scoff, there might just be someone who will hear the Word and want to know more. We stay silent out of fear of those who do not want to be saved, ignoring the needs of those who would be saved if only we would be gracious to share God’s Word with them. Paul certainly knew what it was like to be run out of town because of his ministry, but that didn’t stop him. Are we willing to be so bold?

I know I’ve squandered moments when I should have spoken the Gospel and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I’m sure there are times when most of us, if not all, decide it is just better to remain silent than say something. We can even justify our silence with scripture; after all there are plenty of verses that tell us wise men keep their mouth shut while the foolish rant on and on. We all know that there are some times when it is better to just be silent. We decide that it is better to live peacefully as we believe we are meant to live and allow others to live as they want to live. We accept that we live in a diverse world, choosing silence so that we do not upset or offend our neighbors. But there are times when we should not be silent, when a word from God is not only helpful, it is vital. There are times when God calls us to speak words we would rather not speak. Sometimes those words are meant for those closest to us, like our children.

I’m a mom. I will always be my children’s mom no matter how old they grow. I will worry about them no matter where they end up. I will still wonder what has happened when they are a minute later than I expect them to be. My son was very late for church one Sunday and he didn’t text to tell me what happened. He wasn’t feeling well and had gone back to bed so didn’t make it, but I had visions of his car in a ditch and him crying for help. It was unnecessary stress, but I’m a mom. I will never stop caring for my children.

It is much harder to deal with my worries for my daughter because she’s living far from home. We keep up with each other via text and social media, much more than I had when I was a young woman living far from my own mother. However, I still feel stressed when she calls to tell me she isn’t feeling well. How can I take care of her if she is a thousand miles away? She is certainly not an orphan, but I can’t be two places at once. I can only offer my words and advice and prayers; I can hope all will be well with her and that I raised an independent, intelligent woman who can take care of herself. I pray that she will remember what I taught her and make good decisions about her life. I pray that both my children will remain true to God’s Word, to stand firmly in the truth that is God in this world that is filled with so many other choices.

We can’t be with those we love constantly. We won’t be able to be with them wherever they go, but that’s the limitations of our flesh, isn’t it? Jesus was limited, too.

Who among us don’t wish that we could have the same experiences that the first disciples had with Jesus? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to walk with Him, to listen to Him teach, to watch as He made life-changing differences in people’s lives? I would love to have been there when He raised the little girl and fed the five thousand. I might have been as frightened as Peter, but I would have loved having Jesus invite me to walk on the water. I would like to have been able to ask Jesus questions so that I might understand some of the misunderstood things that He said. I want to be Mary at His feet and Martha serving Him dinner. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all have those experiences? We can’t because Jesus can’t be everywhere for everyone all the time.

Imagine walking with Him, talking with Him, listening to Him. We read the stories of Jesus as He walked on earth and wish He would have stayed so that we could have the same experience. However, we forget that there were many people who lived during His time that never met Him. Despite the large crowds and the spreading stories, Jesus could not meet every person everywhere. He was limited by His human flesh Jesus was God, but as a man He was limited by the same things that limit us. He could not be in every place during His life on earth. He couldn’t be in Jerusalem and Galilee at the same time; He had to walk from one to the other if He wanted to minister to the people in each place. He did miraculous things, but He did them one at a time for one person at a time.

He was limited by time, too. He was God in flesh, and though He could have walked the earth forever, He could not reach every person in every time. Even in our modern age of texting and social media, too many would never see or hear Him. His body was different after His death and resurrection, but He would not have been able to be with you and me and all the other Christians in every generation. That’s why He had to ascend to heaven. That’s why He invites us to be His heart and His hands in this world. And that’s why He sent the Holy Spirit. While He could not be in every time and place in flesh, He could be in every time and place in Spirit. He may not be with us as He was with the disciples two thousand years ago, but He’s with us in a much better way.

The Gospel passage for this week continues from last week when Jesus encouraged the disciples not to be troubled. He promised that He will not abandon His people. “I will not leave you orphans,” He said. This is the last Sunday before Ascension Day which will be celebrated on May 18th. Ever since Easter, Jesus has been training them for the future, but these are the final days. Jesus was getting them ready for the inevitable: He had to leave.

I can imagine the worry. What would they do? How could they do it without Jesus? Jesus’ lessons were never easy. Think about the Beatitudes! The qualities Jesus expected of His followers were counter-cultural and difficult. Who would choose to be meek and merciful, poor in spirit and pure in heart, mournful and hungry, peacemakers and persecuted. Those are the characteristics of common, everyday Christians, but they aren’t easy. It was best when Jesus was around because He gave them courage and strength. He seemed to have everything under control. How would the disciples continue without Him?

The sadness they felt at the crucifixion was even greater now. Death seemed so permanent, but Jesus returned. Who knows what they would have done if they never saw Him after the crucifixion. I doubt they would have continued His work. They were ready to return to their old lives. Two disciples went home to Emmaus. Thomas disappeared; we don’t know where. Peter went fishing. Jesus returned and spent forty days nurturing them beyond discipleship into apostleship. He breathed the Spirit and true life into them and taught them everything they needed to know. It was finally possible for them to understand; they became apostles sent into the world to continue His work. That didn’t make His departure any easier.

But Jesus promised that He would not leave them alone. He would send a helper: the Holy Spirit.

The psalmist wrote, “Praise our God, you peoples! Make the sound of his praise heard.” The song encourages all God’s people to praise Him for His blessings. However, the blessings found in this psalm are not the ones the world expects like wealth, health, or power; the psalmist thanked God because He preserved their lives through trials. He praised God that He has refined their lives through the suffering they faced. The psalmist sang about prison, burdens, violence, and other struggles, but in the end, God brought His people to a place of abundance.

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. Those vows 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, “You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God.” 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 the psalm the response to God’s grace, faithful keeping of vows and bold witness to God’s grace.

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 have the Word of God from the great cloud of witnesses that came 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. We really are not much more than intolerant fools, a babblers, or a morons except in the unity we have with other Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When John wrote, “for he lives with you,” he did so in the plural for. 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.

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 be 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.

Paul did not answer the insults of the Athenians with the same. He simply spoke to them of what he knew about the God they did not know. They had an altar to worship the very God that created everything, the God that doesn’t need human help or sacrifice. He is the God that is greater than all the other gods. Everything came from Him. Paul said, “For in him we live, move, and have our being.” God created people to search for Him, to hear Him, to believe in Him.

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. The Gospel had a different affect on different people. Some sneered, some believed. Our commission to take Christ into the world will bring out the best and the worst of those who hear. This means we will be insulted, rejected, and even persecuted.

Reflecting the comforting words of Jesus to not be troubled, Peter gives us two tools to help: do not fear and be faithful. We are invited into the work of God’s kingdom on earth, to continue what Christ started. We need not fear what will come because we have the Holy Spirit; with His help we can speak God’s truth. What is the truth? The truth is that Christ died for our salvation. He died so that our neighbors might be saved. He died so that our enemies might be saved. But no one can be saved without hearing the Word.

Do not be afraid. Be faithful. These are probably the hardest words any Christian can hear and follow. Unlike the disciples who at least walked with Jesus and experienced His ministry firsthand, we don’t even have anything tangible on which to hold to give us the confidence that we need. How much easier is it when we can hold someone’s hand through tough times? I am less likely to worry about my family when they are standing beside me. Jesus prepared them for His departure; He told them that He would no longer be seen. We can understand their fear when Jesus was crucified. He was no longer among them. They enjoyed forty days in His presence after His resurrection as He continued to teach them everything they would need to know. He repeated the commands and promises. “Do not be afraid. Be faithful. The world won’t see me, but you will see me. You will have my Spirit and then you’ll know without a doubt that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”

Peter reminds us that the persecution we face for doing God’s work in the world cannot truly harm us. Our Lord Jesus gave His life for us. We in turn are called to give our lives for His glory. The questions we face are opportunities from God to testify about the work of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit manifests in very real and powerful ways as we walk in faith, so we should be ready to give the testimony. That person might just be the next one God intends to save.

Are we willing to give to God even when we will risk everything to do so? Are we willing to speak the truth when we come across those altars to an unknown god? Do we even know how to answer? We are encouraged to know our defense, to be ready to give an answer whenever we have the opportunity to share our testimony. Are we ready to proclaim the Good News that Christ died and rose again so that we can be part of the work of God’s kingdom in the world?

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 a lot. 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. We can minister like Paul even when they call us intolerant fools, babblers, and morons, because we have the gift of Jesus that he had: the Holy Spirit. We will never be alone.


May 22, 2023

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, he who comes into the world.’” John 11:25-27

Bruce and I went on an adventure last week. We drove to the panhandle of Texas and drove Route 66 into New Mexico. We covered 250 miles of the historic road, visiting all the fun and unusual landmarks along the way. We stayed in a couple motels, one of which has been in business since the earliest days of the Route. We ate in diners and visited museums. We hiked in some parks and looked at hundreds of antique cars.

The building of Route 66 began in 1926. It is 2448 miles and stretches from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. It was one of the first federal highways and was built by connecting existing local, state, and national roads. It became a popular route because it was actively promoted by the U.S. 66 Highway Association. The traffic on Route 66 increased during the depression because people left their homes in search of better circumstances following the opportunities along the route. The road was used during WWII to move military troops and supplies from one station to another. Civilians used the road to go to the west coast in search of jobs in defense plants. After the war, automobile ownership grew dramatically and people began to have more leisure time, so the route became the path to vacations. The 50's and 60's were a boomtime for the route.

In an effort to make travel faster, the federal government began building the interstate highways in 1956, replacing Route 66 over the next three decades. Branded businesses located at the interchanges, so the travelers stopped visiting the small towns and the mom-and-pop restaurants, gas stations, and motels. Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, and many small towns along the way became little more than ghost towns. We visited several towns that have survived, though even those towns have closed businesses that have been taken over by nature and graffiti.

You can’t drive every mile of Route 66 anymore, but we drove as much as we could. The interstate replaced many miles of the old road, but it still runs parallel in other places. Sometimes you can still see the concrete dotted with wild grasses, and in other places the road has become little more than dirt. As a matter of fact, the resources recommended avoiding several sections in times of rain because they are too muddy to drive. We drove through one of the ghost towns. We could see the shadow of a café, hotel, and several gas stations. There are no windows, the landscape is grassy and birds dwell in the old buildings. And somehow the taggers found these buildings and covered them with graffiti. Those businesses were the dream of someone who could not fight the modernization of their little corner of the world.

Seeing those old buildings made me think about the state of faith and the church today. It almost seems as if some superhighway of enlightenment or spirituality has left so much of what was the church behind. Research suggests Christianity is declining in the United States at rapid pace, and even those who claim faith and church attendance do not believe in the scripture or doctrines as they once did. Too many churches are closing, left to become shells like those old buildings along Route 66, covered in grasses and graffiti. Some of those buildings are being reused in ways that would shock Jesus and the apostles, taken over by the world.

Like those ghost towns we visited along our path, it seems like there is no hope for the future, but we have a God that does not give up. Jesus has promised resurrection to those who believe. We know that He is referring to the day we go home to our place in eternity in the presence of God, but He is also able to resurrect that which is dying in this world. He raised Lazarus, He can raise His Church to live another day. When we visited that ghost town on Route 66, we saw workers at one of the buildings. We don’t know what they plan to do; I doubt it will ever become a bustling town again, but someone has hope for that place. We might become discouraged when we see so many churches struggling, but with God there is always hope. He is able to bring life to the dead, we simply need to believe and trust in Him.


May 23, 2023

“Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5, WEB

One of the places we stayed while on our trip last week was the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico. This is one of the survivors and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993 because it has been in continuous operation since 1940. It had multiple owners over the years, including Rob and Dawn who bought it in 2020. They have a great love for the old place and for their guests. When we checked in, Rob walked us around, telling us the history and leading us to our room. He described the furniture, some of which went back to the 40’s and 50’s. The office and L-shaped building has pink stucco walls that are decorated with shell designs, and most of the rooms have garages. The garages for two of the twelve rooms were converted to guests services with laundry, ice, and a common refrigerator. They play music from the heyday of Route 66 and an atmosphere that encourages interaction between guests with plenty of tables and chairs to hang out and visit.

The hotel is a Route 66 icon, and one of the former owners is a legend. Lillian Redman owned the Blue Swallow for over forty years. It was purchased in 1958 by her fiancé Floyd. They were married in 1964, and she liked to say that he bought it for her as a wedding gift. Floyd died in 1973, but Lillian continued to run the motel until the late 1990’s. She moved to a small house nearby and continued to visit the property often until her death on February 21, 1999.

She originally moved to Tucumcari with her family, traveling to New Mexico in a covered wagon. Her father was hoping to get a job with the railroad, which he did. Lillian moved further west and worked as a Harvey Girl, commissioned by entrepreneur Fred Harvey to be waitresses at America’s first restaurant chain. The Harvey Girls were unmarried women of good character to provide pleasant, efficient service. They wore a uniform that consisted of a long black dress (no more than 8 inches above the floor) overlaid with a starched white apron, black opaque stockings, and black shoes. The restaurants and gift shops first catered to railway passengers, but Harvey focused more on motor vehicles as the roads were built and automobiles became popular. Perhaps it was Lillian’s experiences as a Harvey Girl who made her such a great hostess on Route 66.

And Lillian was a great, and kind, hostess. Floyd and Lillian updated the property when they purchased it, modernizing with a new neon sign that proclaimed the motel had “TV” and “100% Refrigerated Air.” From the beginning, they put their customers first, even accepting personal belongings as payment or even providing the room for free for those who did not have enough money. Lillian loved the people who visited her motel. “I end up traveling the highway in my heart with whoever stops here for the night.”

Eventually the Interstate Highway system played havoc on the businesses along Route 66 as it skirted the towns for more efficient travel. It was a tough time when I-40 was built around Tucumcari, but Lillian Redman persevered. “When Route 66 was closed to the majority of traffic and the other highway came in, I felt just like I had lost an old friend. But some of us stuck it out and are still here on Route 66,” she said. One of the rooms has been decorated in her honor and she is lovingly remembered by those who still embrace the ideals of Route 66.

Each guest who visited Lillian’s motel was given this benediction, “Greetings Traveler: In ancient times, there was a prayer for ‘The Stranger Within our Gates.’ Because this motel is a human institution to serve people, and not solely a money-making organization, we hope that God will grant you peace and rest while you are under our roof. May this room and motel be your ‘second’ home. May those you love be near you in thoughts and dreams. Even though we may not get to know you, we hope that you will be as comfortable and happy as if you were in your own house. May the business that brought you this way prosper. May every call you make and every message you receive add to your joy. When you leave, may your journey be safe. We are all travelers. From ‘birth till death,’ we travel between the eternities. May these days be pleasant for you, profitable for society, helpful for those you meet, and a joy to those you know and love best. Sincerely yours, Lillian Redman.”

Much of Route 66 has become little more than a ghost town after the building of the interstate highways, but there are still those who remember those days and are trying to remake what it had been. As a matter of fact, tourism along Route 66 is growing again, and people are nostalgic for the experiences, the cars, and the fun of a road trip. We only traveled 250 miles of the 2448 that once existed, but we saw so many weird and wonderful things. It was people like Lillian Redman who kept the dream alive. She persevered when so many gave up. She fought when she could have let go. As we watch the changes that are happening in our world and in the Church, we have to ask ourselves if we are going to be like Lillian and persevere or like the others and give up. There is always hope because God loves us and the Holy Spirit will help us as we persevere through all our trials, whatever they may be.


May 24, 2023

Lectionary Scriptures for May 28, 2023, Pentecost: Numbers 11:24-30; Psalm 25:1-15; Acts 2:1-21; John 7:37-39

“It will be that whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:21, WEB

There is a popular saying among Christians, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” The origin of this saying is unknown, or rather, it has been credited to several different people. There are certainly scriptures texts that suggest this very thought. It means that God will provide whatever you need to do His work. Sadly, many people think they are unqualified to be witnesses for Jesus Christ, unable to be His servants or to share His Gospel. There seems to be people who are more able to preach or teach or serve. They are. They are more able because God called and gifted them according to His plan. He has called and gifted all of us to do something for His Kingdom. We are all unqualified by our own power or gifts. It is God’s power and His gifts that make us His witnesses in the world in word and in deed.

Moses was blessed and the people feared him because he had a close relationship with God. Moses glowed with glory whenever he went into the Tent to meet with the LORD. Yet even though Moses was the greatest prophet of the Israelites, the glow did not last. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote that Moses wore a veil to prevent the people from seeing that the glory faded away. God poured His Spirit upon men and women in the Old Testament, but it was temporary. He gave it as needed.

Moses was overwhelmed. He was leading a million people away from slavery into an unknown Promised Land. He only knew what God had told him and he believed that God was faithful. He did not know when they would arrive or what they would find when they got there. The people were tired. They were hungry. They were scared. They wanted to go back to Egypt, despite the reality that they would go back to being slaves. They remembered having food to eat and water to drink. In Egypt they had roofs over their heads, and they did not have to walk endlessly through the desert. Slavery seemed the much better choice. They complained, and Moses did not know how he, one man, could possibly handle the people any longer.

God told Moses to gather the elders of Israel. When they were gathered, He took the spirit that rested on Moses and divided it among the other elders. He gave them the authority to lead the people, to share in Moses’ responsibilities. He took some of the burden from Moses and laid it on others. Joshua was not ready for Moses to let go of control. It was not a problem that the elders were gathered and given some of the Spirit. Sometimes we are surprised by the people who have received gifts from God. It was not a problem that those who had been gathered were going to share in the responsibility and burden of care for the people. However, he was disturbed when the Spirit also fell on some men who had not come to the gathering. “Tell them to stop,” Joshua told Moses. Moses was not bothered by this development because he knew that it came from God. God is in control, not Moses. Moses would have preferred for every Hebrew to prophecy for the Lord. This was a hope that would come into fulfillment long after Moses died, after Jesus, when God did give the Spirit to all those who believe.

We can join in the song of the psalmist, seeking God’s grace for our life of faith. The psalm is about the hope we have for a relationship with the divine. We ask that we not be put to shame and that God will not allow our enemies to triumph over us. We believe that those who trust in God will never be put to shame, but the treacherous will. We hope that God will show us His ways and teach us His paths. We want to be guided be in truth and taught by the only one in whom we can have hope. We hope God will remember His mercy and love and forget our sin. “Remember me according to your loving kindness, for your goodness’ sake, Yahweh.” Our hope is based entirely on God’s goodness. The psalmist described the reason we can trust in God: God is good and upright. He instructs, guides, and teaches His people in the right way. His way is loving and faithful. He takes care of those who live according to His Word. God answered these prayers with Pentecost.

One of my favorite books is Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe.” Adams has created a funny and incredible universe where people can travel from planet to planet and even galaxy to galaxy. If we think we have trouble with languages, imagine what kind of trouble they could get into! They have an advantage, though. The travelers wear a “Babelfish” in their ear that automatically translates any language so that strangers can understand one another. It isn’t quite so simple in the real world, though it is getting much easier with the internet. There are apps for your phone that will help you communicate when traveling, and other websites that can help with translation. Companies have created language learning tools. Unfortunately, those apps, websites, and tools are only as good as the languages that have been inputted into the system, and there are still many languages that are not available.

The story of Babel from Genesis is not in the lectionary for Pentecost this year, but it tells the story about how our languages were confused. Mankind had settled together and founded a city. Together they decided to build a tower that would reach to heaven. It is typical of human nature to try to become like the gods. The Lord saw how they could accomplish great feats together, so He confused their language and sent the people to the four corners of the earth. Archeologists have identified what they believe could have been the original tower and it is interesting to note that it is dwarfed by the amazing skyscrapers of today.

The problem was not that they were able to build a tower that would reach into heaven: that is impossible. Heaven is not a place we can identify in relation to the world. We have sent rockets to outer space, even cameras to the far edges of our universe, but they will never reach heaven. The problem in Babel was that the people thought they could become like God. Though the language has been confused, human beings have never let that stop them from accomplishing great things. Even in the ancient world people were able to communicate with people of other nations. Today with modern technology, the world has become a very small place. But God had a plan to bring His people together no matter their language or nationality.

This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, the day when God overturned the judgment at Babel. Though they once were divided by different languages, God gave them a new language which would draw them together: the Gospel. The words might be different from nation to nation, but the Gospel is the same everywhere. Jesus Christ died for the sake of the world so that all who believe will be saved.

What is Pentecost? The word Pentecost means “fifty days.” This festival was known as the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot or Pentecost and was celebrated the fifty days after Passover. It was a harvest festival of joyful thanksgiving to God for his blessings. They celebrated by giving offerings from the first fruits of their fields. Pentecost was also a time to remember the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. Just as the people stopped briefly between their exodus out of Egypt and their journey to Canaan, so too the people stopped briefly in the spring to thank God and hear once again the words given to them on the mountain. The giving of the Law occurred fifty days after the Passover in Egypt, so Pentecost occurred fifty days later in the yearly calendar. The reading of the Law was an important part of this festival.

Jews from all over the known world were in Jerusalem for the Pentecost celebration. They brought with them offerings of wheat, figs, olives, and grapes to praise God for His goodness. I imagine it was an exciting time, but also a confusing time. After all, though they were Jews, they lived in foreign lands and knew foreign tongues. They may have been familiar with Hebrew from the scriptures, but Hebrew was not the commonly spoken language of the day.

Jesus was crucified during the celebration of Passover, taken to the cross as the perfect Lamb of God. It is no surprise then that the Holy Spirit would come upon the disciples fifty days later while the city was filled with people attending the Feast of Pentecost. On the first Pentecost, the people of Israel were given God’s law. On the first Christian Pentecost, the people were given the Holy Spirit, along with God’s power and authority. God’s Word was written on their hearts instead of tablets of stone. The differences in language did not matter that day because they all heard the Gospel in their own tongues.

God did not leave them orphaned. Ten days after His ascension, Jesus came in power and rested His Spirit upon each of those believers, making them new. He gave them all they needed to continue His work on earth. On that fiftieth day, they world was changed forever as the Spirit came to dwell among men and the kingdom of God was made accessible through faith.

Luke tells us how the listeners felt about this experience in the passage from Acts. Some were perplexed, others were amazed, and some just thought it was silliness due to drunkenness. Peter stood up before the people and explained that this was the fulfillment of the hope of Moses, the promise given through the prophet Joel that the Spirit would come upon all people, and they would do amazing things. Certainly, the fact that people from all over the world could hear the message in their own language was a most miraculous thing, especially since most of the disciples were uneducated laborers who probably knew Aramaic fluently, enough Hebrew for worship, and perhaps just enough Greek necessary for business. Those disciples barely even understood the message they were giving with their own tongues! But Jesus sent the helper, the Spirit of God who gave voice to what they knew to be true in their hearts and the words to make it understandable to others.

Pentecost was not only the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to His disciples, but it was also the fulfillment of prophecy. In Acts, Peter quoted the passage from Joel about how in the last days God will give His voice to His sons and daughters and they will prophesy. This was not a gift that would be kept for only an elite few, but it would be given to all who believe. We have to understand prophesy, however. All too many now believe that prophesy means predicting the future and that humans can be trained to be prophets and they are teaching people to speak words from God. These words are often cryptic, based on dreams or visions and then interpreted to fit into the events of the day.

But those first followers did not prophesy in such a manner. They spoke the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the hearts and minds of those listening. They told of God’s mercy, grace and the salvation that comes from faith in Jesus. The promise found in Joel shows the purpose of the prophecy, “And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Those first Christian prophets did not point to the future, warn the wayward listeners of impending doom, or predict the end times, they pointed directly at Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of all God’s promises.

The Holy Spirit was speaking through the Apostles into the hearts and minds of the listeners that day. The miracle at Pentecost was both vocal and auditory: the words were spoken and heard and lives were changed. He spoke through Peter’s sermon to help those gathered to understand that God was doing a new thing.

Aren’t we so much like Peter? He was chosen by Jesus; he was a leader of the disciples. He was in Jesus’ inner circle, perhaps even Jesus’ best friend. He was given a lot of responsibility, and in many ways filled Jesus’ shoes when He ascended to heaven. He was the first to speak in Acts 1:16, encouraging the gathered assembly of believers to get on with the business of the Church. His speech at Pentecost was their first public ministry without Jesus. Yet, this Peter who is given so much authority by Jesus and the other disciples was as imperfect as the rest of us. He failed Jesus in many ways while He was still among the disciples. Peter never fully understood what Jesus was teaching. Peter might have gone his own way if it hadn’t been for God’s answer to the prayers of today’s psalmist. We might not have walked with Jesus like Peter but we are chosen but imperfect, too. We don’t always understand. We want to go our own way. But God provides us with His Spirit and leads us as we on the path He has ordained for our lives.

Jesus said that if we believe in Him, He will give us living water that will flow from our lives. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, to live and work to God’s glory. As believers, we live in Christ, baptized into His body. We are joined with other believers by the power of the Holy Spirit as He moves in our lives. God has blessed us so that the living water will flow through us into the world. Our Father gives us the greatest gift when we believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us His Spirit so that we can join in the work of sharing His mercy and grace. The Living Water flows from us so that others will be able to drink from the fountain of life.

The Jews had other festivals during the year, including Sukkoth or the Festival of Booths. This was another harvest festival, but while Shavuot celebrated the first fruits in the spring, Sukkoth was in the fall and the people thanked God for His abundant generosity at the harvest. The adherents built small booths, or tabernacles, to represent God’s protection. They lived and ate in the booths for seven days. Other rituals accompanied the celebrations. Jesus spoke to them on the seventh day, when great quantities of water were poured over the altar. The water ran off of the altar, onto the floor and it flowed out of the temple into the valley below. Though this was not originally part of the festival, it had become an important aspect to the people as they sought God’s blessings for their winter planting. It was not an act of faith or obedience, defined by God to be a part of the celebration. It was a pagan ritual that the people had adopted so that they might feel assured of God’s provision. It was as if they thought God did not know they needed water to live.

Jesus saw this ritual and cried out, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” When we drink of the water that comes from God, by His Holy Spirit, living water will wash through our lives into the world. The promised Spirit came to the disciples at Pentecost; He comes to us at baptism and continues to come to us as we live our lives of faith. The Spirit does not come for our own assurance or benefit, but so that the living water of Christ might flow into the world. We use our gifts to share the forgiveness which Christ came to give. He sent the disciples, and so now sends us, to take that message into the world so that the world might be saved.

As we look at the motley crew of disciples that Jesus called, we know that He didn’t choose people who were equipped to continue His work. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen. Others may have been fishermen, too, although we don’t know the occupation of all the disciples before they met Jesus. Matthew was a tax collector. Simon was a Zealot and possibly a warrior, passionate about defeating the Romans. Judas may not have been a criminal, but he certainly had scandalous intentions. They weren’t schooled in religious teachings beyond what they learned at the feet of their mothers and in the temple or synagogues. They weren’t trained to be preachers or teachers. They probably knew as much about the scriptures as the average Christian knows today. They were no different than you and I.

Yet, they were called to do great things! I doubt any of them could have imagined where their lives would lead after meeting Jesus Christ. We may never accomplish as much as those disciples. Very few of us will be involved in the establishment of new churches. I don’t think many of us will ever say that we’ve been the hands through which God healed someone who is sick or raised someone that was dead. Most of us don’t even think we can speak well enough to share the Good News with our neighbors. The scriptures tell us the disciples did all those things. The church grew in number and geographically. People were healed and raised. God changed the world through that motley crew of people. He calls us to continue the work they began that day two thousand years ago.

Will it be easy? Of course not. The disciples learned immediately that there would always be someone unwilling to believe that God is at work. They will blame and accuse; they will harass and threaten. Some Christians will even die at the hands of those who want to degrade and shame God’s people. But we know that even if we do face the terror of persecution, God is on our side. He will not let us be shamed; He will be faithful to all His promises. He’ll guide us, teach us, and encourage us. He will give us power and strength. He will give us the words. He does all this from within, filling us with His Spirit who dwells in our hearts. His Living water will flow from us into the world. And in that day when we no longer live in this world, whether we die by natural causes or at the hand of an enemy, God will be waiting to take us into eternity to live with Him forever. Our death will not be our shame; it will be our greatest moment of glory.

Today we recall the Pentecost when the church was born, how by His Spirit the body of Christ is manifest in this world. Ever since that day in Jerusalem, Jesus has continued to give the Holy Spirit so that we too might have the voice to speak and the words that will bring salvation to others. In the beginning, there was some confusion. Some even thought they were drunk. Things are not much different, for there are many who consider Christians nothing more than silly storytellers. And yet, Jesus promised that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Every day people hear the message that we speak and miraculously some believe. The miracle is not in our ability or in our words, but in the Holy Spirit who gives faith to those who hear with a humble heart.

The world is different because Jesus passed His ministry on to His people. As we celebrate another Pentecost, it is time for us to pause and consider whether we have been using our gifts to pursue our calling, glorifying God with our lives. And so, we ask on this Pentecost, what is our purpose? Why were we born into such a body as the Church? Why did God fill us with His Holy Spirit? Are we responding to the opportunities that God provides to speak His Word and serve others? Are we carrying healing and life and hope to a world that so desperately needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The psalmist recognized that life is not perfect, but even more importantly that he was not perfect. “For your name’s sake, Yahweh, pardon my iniquity, for it is great.” We are not worth being saved, but the psalmist knew that God’s promises make our lives valuable to Him. He asked for God’s pardon, not for himself, but so that the world would see His faithfulness. He asked for God’s teaching and guidance for those who fear Him, for he recognized that it is only by God’s grace and power that any of us can be blessed by God.

You may not be a prophet, but all Christians are called and gifted to prophesy: to speak the word of God that points to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We are all gifted with special talents and abilities to be used in sharing God’s grace in our own individual ways, each a part of the whole doing what we are called to do. Our lives have been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, so let us go now in peace and let the Living Water flow from our hearts so that all might hear, believe, and be saved.


May 25, 2023

“Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Behold, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all kinds of workmanship, to devise skillful works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in bronze, and in cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to work in all kinds of workmanship. Behold, I myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the heart of all who are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the covenant, the mercy seat that is on it, all the furniture of the Tent, the table and its vessels, the pure lamp stand with all its vessels, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering with all its vessels, the basin and its base, 10 the finely worked garments - the holy garments for Aaron the priest, the garments of his sons to minister in the priest’s office - the anointing oil, and the incense of sweet spices for the holy place: according to all that I have commanded you they shall do.’” Exodus 31:1-11, WEB

One of the joys of driving on Route 66 is the silly roadside attractions. Some of them have been around for a while with history, and some have seemed to appear out of nowhere. The creators just wanted to leave their mark on the world. And of course, since we spent much of our time in Texas, everything was bigger than life.

One of the most famous sites we visited was Cadillac Ranch. Much of the credit for the ranch goes to Stanley Marsh 3 who was an American artist, businessman, philanthropist, and prankster from Amarillo, Texas. He sponsored the creation of Cadillac Ranch in 1974, collaborating with a group of art-hippies from San Francisco that called themselves the Ant Farm. They claim to have contacted multiple millionaires to sponsor their efforts, including Marsh. When asked about sponsoring the art, Marsh answered, “It’s going to take me awhile to get used to the idea of the Cadillac Ranch. I’ll answer you by April Fool’s Day. It's such an irrelevant and silly proposition that I want to give it all my time and attention so I can make a casual judgment of it.”

He agreed because he wanted a piece of public art that would baffle the locals, and the hippies came up with a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Ten Caddies were driven into one of Stanley Marsh 3’s fields. In a documentary video, Marsh described digging the holes, lifting the rears so that the noses were buried in the holes, and then cementing them in so that they would stay at a 45-degree angle, just like the Great Pyramid of Giza. They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins in the air to be easily seen from the road.

It was a monument to the American Dream. In that day everyone wanted a Cadillac, or at least a car, because they represented money and freedom. We still do, I suppose. One of the postcards I purchased at a gift shop down the street showed the cars before years of visits from passers-by. It didn’t take long before people were defacing the cars, tearing off pieces to keep for souvenirs. At first the artists were tolerant of the public destruction of their art, which destroyed the tail fins, but they eventually came to encourage it. You can buy spray paint from a guy right at the gate and at the gift shop down the street. Or you can take your own. Sometimes you can even find cans left behind by other visitors that still have paint in them. But take a picture, because whatever you paint will be gone in a few hours or days after other visitors leave their mark. The cars are now barely recognizable as automobiles, time and weather wearing them down. After all, Cadillac Ranch will be fifty years old next year! Perhaps the layers of spray paint are protecting what’s left of the cars from rust. Some people did not like Cadillac Ranch, calling the cars eyesores with little or no artistic value. Marsh’s response to the criticism was, “Art is a legalized form of insanity, and I do it very well.”

Stanley Marsh 3 was an interesting man. He preferred using the Latin 3 rather than the Roman III on his name because he deemed the Roman as too pretentious. He believed that art should not be held captive in mausoleum type museums with silent viewers and perfect frames. Instead, he insisted that art be everywhere so everyone could see it, especially in unexpected places. He lived his ideas by sponsoring other public art, like a statue of giant half legs that are found in a field south of Amarillo. The statue comes with a legend, based on a poem that Percy Shelley (Mary Shelley’s husband) explores the worldly fate of history and the ravages of time: even the greatest men and the empires they forge are impermanent, their legacies fated to decay into oblivion. To Marsh, the statue represents the futility of building monuments because they will eventually be little more than ruins on a plain.

I am an artist and I enjoy visiting those mausoleum type museums with silent viewers and perfect frames, but I also enjoyed being part of the public art we found on our trip. I suppose sometimes I agree with the criticizers who thought Cadillac Ranch were eyesores with no artistic value. I cringe at some public art, but then I cringe at some of the pristine paintings in the museums, too. Art is subjective and sometimes the purpose gets lost in the opinions of the viewers. I have dabbled in abstract art which has been criticized by those to whom it made no sense. Art is not appreciated by everyone; some would even suggest that art is wasteful, perhaps even sinful. After all, the Bible warns us against creating idols, graven images. Yet, God loves beauty. He gave gifts to men to make His Tabernacle and eventually the Temple beautiful. He made mankind in His image, in the image of a creator. We may not always think that the art we see is beautiful or valuable, but we can appreciate the creators even if their ideas seem strange to us, because they are made in God’s image and could have God given gifts and purposes that we may not always understand.


May 26, 2023

“The earth is Yahweh’s, with its fullness; the world, and those who dwell in it. For he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the floods.” Psalm 24:1-2, WEB

We did more on our vacation than just visit the kitschy tourist landmarks along Route 66. We visited a state park and a national wildlife refuge. The weather wasn’t exactly cooperative, but we managed to spend hours in both without getting our feet wet.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is just a few miles south of Amarillo, Texas, so we had planned to visit while we were staying there. Unfortunately, the weather reports didn’t look good for hiking during those days, so we changed our plan, drove farther a few days earlier, and visited from our hotel in Shamrock, Texas. The weather that day was perfect: not too hot, sunny, lovely. We didn’t plan to do a lot of hiking, but there were a few trails we wanted to follow. Unfortunately, we were informed when we arrived that they had closed the trails due to rain that had fallen a few days before. We were disappointed, but still spent five hours in the park. I was impressed that with every turn of the road we saw something different than the last and we stopped often to photograph and gawk at the incredible scenery around us.

Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in America created by the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River meandering over the Llano Estacado and the Caprock Escarpment. The canyon and its geological features like caves and hoodoos were created by water erosion over the millennia. The park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps which was created as an unemployment relief measure with the Emergency Conservation Act in 1933.

There was a young couple who visited the park for a very specific purpose: they wanted to hike a particular trail. One of the best-known and the major signature feature of the canyon is the Lighthouse Rock, and the trail is one of the most popular. I would have liked to try it, though some of it was of moderate difficulty, but it would have taken many hours. We decided that we wanted to enjoy more of the park. The young couple was upset by the closure, and they didn’t understand it.

The ground didn't seem very wet, at least on the rim of the canyon, but we saw evidence of the rain as we were driving the loop. There were puddles and layers of silt that had washed over parking lots. We often think that closures are meant to protect the people hiking, and there might be some truth to that, but the park people answered the confusion about closing the trails by reminding us that their job is to protect the park. Walking on even moderately moist trails can cause damage to the ecology. We saw one area of the park that had to be closed because too many visitors left the trail and destroyed too much of the plant life. When the plants are gone, the insects lose their habitat, which leads to difficulties for the birds and other creatures that live in the park. We are blessed to have these parks to experience, but we have to remember that we have been given to responsibility to care for God’s creation. It is an act of discipleship to do what we can to keep the world as beautiful as God made it to be. After all, it is all His and He has made us His stewards.


May 29, 2023

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and don’t lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition are, there is confusion and every evil deed. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:13-18, ESV

Today is Memorial Day. It is known as the start of summer, with many people taking trips to the beach, the lake, or the mountains. Others have picnics at home. Yet, there is something even more important about today, something that is often forgotten. This is a day to remember those who have perished in service to our country. Some cities plan parades. Many homes are decked out with patriotic decorations; American flags are waving everywhere. For many it was a day to visit the graves of fallen soldiers, to put flowers or flags as signs of remembrance, and to remember the stories of those who have died for the sake of our nation. In the past the celebration focused heavily on the men and women who served through the military in war. Today, especially since the tragedy of 9/11, the remembrance includes other civil servants like firemen and police. This will be an especially difficult Memorial Day for many families whose grief is still very fresh.

I did a little research about the origins of Memorial Day and though the theories disagree, most agree that it was started at some point around the time of the Civil War. It was originally called Decoration Day, perhaps because of the southern women who decorated the graves of their loved ones. Many different towns claim to have originated the traditions with parades and other patriotic events. Unfortunately, many people do not really understand what Memorial Day signifies. They understand it is a patriotic holiday, but the somberness and thankfulness is forgotten as we party at barbeques and the beach. I don’t think it has to be a day of sadness, after all for Christians, even remembrances of death have a certain joy. It might seem odd to talk about peace on a day when many are remembered for war. However, God's peace is found even in the midst of war when there are believers praising God for His greatest victory.

There was a hymnwriter from Slovakia named Jiri Tranovsky. He was also a preacher and a teacher, who was trained at the University of Wittenberg. He is known as the “Luther of the Slavs,” perhaps because of his Lutheran training, but also because he highly valued the music of the church. One of his hymns, “Make Songs of Joy” is filled with a great deal of joy and hope. It is the kind of song that we as Christians can, and should, sing on a day like today as we remember those who willingly sacrificed their lives for others.

Here are the words of the hymn: “Make songs of joy to Christ, our head; He lives again who once was dead! Our life was purchased by his loos; He died our death upon the cross. O death, where is your deadly sting? Assumed by our triumphant King! And where your victory, O grave, when one like Christ has come to save? Behold, the tyrants, one and all, Before our mighty Savior fall! For this be praised the Son who rose, The Father, and the Holy Ghost!”

Jiri Tranovsky wrote a hymn that spoke the most important thing for us to remember: the great gift of God’s grace found in Jesus Christ. We fight wars in this world and there is no doubt that war will continue until the end of time. Sometimes those who start the wars and those who fight the wars do so following the wrong sort of wisdom. They seek glory for themselves rather than fight for justice and peace. Others die for the sake of goodness and live even as soldiers according to the humility of a heart that loves and follows God. We can praise God for those who have willingly given themselves for the sake of something greater than themselves and pray that they have done so with the wisdom that is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

On Memorial Day we remember the men and women who have given themselves for the sake of others, and through their lives we have hope for a better world. We remember because history helps us avoid repeating the errors of the past and their services is an example of sacrificial love as they live and die for something in which we believe. However, we do not have the assurance of peace on this earth through their deaths. We can only look to their lives to see what might be changed so that we might avoid such problems in the future and create a better world. However, sin will continue to bring suffering and more war will unfortunately be necessary.

Jesus Christ gives us a hope that is real, a hope that is assured. We look forward to the day when we will have true peace not only in our hearts but in the whole world. Even the creation will live to the glory of God. This hope is not something that we can make ourselves. We can only patiently wait for it to come in God’s time and way. But it is a hope that is true for God is faithful and His promises are real. We can look toward that hope in the midst of our sufferings and know that one day we too will be sons.


May 30, 2023

“Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Don’t be drunken with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father; subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.” Ephesians 5:15-21, WEB

We enjoyed seeing so many interesting and unique things on our trip, from nature, to autos, to ruins, to art. Abilene is filled with bronze statues depicting moments from children’s books. We visited a museum dedicated to barbed wire. Since the movie “Cars” is based on the Route 66 experience, there were displays of movie posters and memorabilia everywhere. We visited a state park and national wildlife rescue. We put 1811.2 miles on our car and had a million laughs. The culture was fascinating, as were the people. I was amazed at the landscapes and sky, enjoyed the nostalgia, and wondered at the history. I was sad for the places that are disappearing and glad for those that have found a way to survive.

I take a lot of photos on my trips, and I post often on my Facebook page so that my friends can follow me as I travel. My posts are usually brief, sometimes funny, often include the food we’ve eaten, or record something unusual that we’ve seen. I don’t post albums until later, sometimes in our hotel, but I often wait until we are home to organize my thoughts. I don’t just post photo albums; I like to include information. What is the history of that place? What kind of flower or bird have I photographed? Who created that art? What makes that town famous? I do some research to try to be as accurate as possible, and it is in the research after my trip I realize how much we missed!

You can’t do it all, and we knew that when we were on our trip, but I wanted to do everything we could. I did a lot of research beforehand, and though a trip on Route 66 is meant to be improvised, I knew there were things that we should try to do. We knew we would have to stop for lunch in Abilene on our way north, and in searching for a fun place to do so, we discovered that Abilene is the Storybook Capital of the World. We really enjoyed visiting the parks and the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature. We knew where the old ghost towns were located and the other quirky Route 66 landmarks. We planned our overnights so that we could get rooms in the historic motels. We looked ahead so we could eat at the nostalgic diners. But despite our research, there were things we missed.

We stayed one night in Tucumcari, New Mexico at the Blue Swallow Inn. We didn’t plan on a long stay, uncertain about how to fill our time in a town of just over five thousand people. We knew there were museums and that they had murals decorating the town. But we didn’t think it would take very long for us to see it all. We mostly wanted to experience the cool motel. I have learned since that we should have given ourselves more time. Tucumcari has nearly 100 murals and we barely saw a dozen. We even missed one of the best ones that was painted on the motel where we stayed!

We had noticed murals in other towns along the way, but I didn’t really pay attention. I took some pictures, but those pictures were often of something bigger, and the murals aren’t the focus. I began to realize a few days into our trip that the murals are an important part of the experience. Murals, or wall paintings, have become an important part of the urban landscape. Small towns and large use murals for a variety of reasons. Murals fill empty space on walls and ceilings. They are a form of communication, report history, or invite interaction. Many modern murals were painted to prevent graffiti. They also encourage tourism. Many small towns and large have conveniently placed murals that look like postcards with their town name so that visitors can tag themselves in selfies. They are used for advertising or to make political or religious statements. We could have spent hours visiting murals in Tucumcari, and I know now that we should have spent more time. As I learned about murals during my research, I decided that I should be more purposeful about seeking these beautiful works of art from now on, and even want to repeat our trip to discover the murals we missed along the way.

Have you ever realized, after the fact, that you missed something and you regret not taking the time to experience it? I’m thinking, specifically, about the opportunities that we have to serve God on a daily basis. I know that I have missed chances to share God’s grace with my neighbors. I have regretted the times I turned my back on people who needed a little hope or a listening ear. I can tell you stories about when God opened a door and I should have stepped through, but instead I closed it. There are many reasons we do this, but it is often because we are just too busy chasing the next thing to stop and pay attention to what’s going on. I know now that Tucumcari deserves more than one night, but I didn’t want to waste time in a small town with nothing to do. I also know now that God gives us chances to serve Him everyday. Just as I am going to be more purposeful about seeking things like the murals when I travel, so too I hope I have learned to be more purposeful in looking for God’s opportunities to share the Gospel and serve His people everyday.


May 31, 2023

Lectionary Scriptures for June 4, 2023, Holy Trinity: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; Acts 2:14a, 22-26; Matthew 28:16-20

“Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:9, WEB

The scriptures for this week help us focus on one of the most confusing and mystifying aspects of the Christian faith: the Trinity. How do you explain the unexplainable? Some theologians in the sixth century set out to explain the Trinity in language which the common man could understand and it took approximately seven hundred words. The Athanasian Creed, which is often used in churches on Trinity Sunday, seems to go around and around in circles dividing the persons of the Trinity while holding them together. It is a long creed to recite and generally brings a sigh of annoyance from the congregation whenever it is said.

We begin this week with the Creation story, another aspect of Christianity that can bring confusion and debate. We can easily get involved with the question of evolution and the six day creation. However, sometimes we need to look at something beyond the words on the page and try to see the One behind the words. The creation story tells us about God the Creator and His love for His people. The details are interesting to discuss and important to study, but today we’ll look at the story and how we can respond to this Creator.

In the beginning, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered it. The Creator was able to speak and transform that formless and dark void into something new. He said, “Let there be light” and there was light. He ordered the days and the substance. He brought order to the chaos. He filled the emptiness with good things. He did all this in a way that makes sense, each day building upon the work of the next day. He did not create the animals before there was food for them to eat. He did not create plants until the land and the sea were separated in a way that would provide all that the plants would need to survive. He did not create fish before there were bodies of water in which they could live. In this story we see that God is. We see that God is powerful, compassionate, wise, capable, and magnificent.

How do we respond to the story of the creation? We respond first with fear and trembling. The Creator, who can bring order out of chaos and life out of nothingness, is certainly powerful and worthy of our awe. Based on this story we can trust in God, because God provides for our every need. It is humbling for us to see the wisdom of God, not only in this story but in the creation that exists outside our windows. How is it that the bluebonnets know to spring forth in March of every year? And how do the animals learn to migrate? Everything is according to God’s plan, the earth turns and is recreated daily according to His design and purpose. There is comfort in knowing that in our times of difficulty, God is able and willing to transform our lives with just a word, to bring order out of our chaos and hope out of our emptiness. The One who has created this world in which we live must, of necessity, be magnificent, greater than all of creation. This is the God worthy of praise and worship. God spoke and it was good.

We visited some weird places on our vacation, created by with an unusual sense of humor or purpose. No one could possibly create anything like God did when He created the world, but mankind has used God’s creation in weird and unusual ways. Places like Cadillac Ranch and the Leaning Tower of Texas never made us ask “How,” but they made us ask why. There are many places around the world, however, that make us ask “How.” Take, for instance, Stonehenge, the ancient stone circle found on the Salisbury Plain in England. We were able to visit the ring during our time living in England and it was one of the most memorable sites we saw. There is something very fascinating about the mystery behind it all, and places like this make us ask so many questions. Why did the ancient people go to so much trouble? How did they manage to get those big rocks onto the plain from so far away and placed so precisely in the circle? What did the people do with the site when it was first built?

Archeologists and scholars disagree about the purpose of Stonehenge, but even if it was not a place for atoning sacrifices, it is likely that it was a religious site of some sort. All religion, in one way or another, seeks reconciliation between the divine entity and the human soul. The Old Covenant of Israel did so through the Law and a complicated sacrificial system. Lambs, bulls, and other animals stood in the stead of the sinner. Their blood brought temporary relief from sin. However, the memory of sin remained, the affects memorialized sin. This is why we will never be like God.

We ask the big questions about other places like Machu Picchu and the Pyramids. How? Even modern architecture is incredible. We can build towers that reach toward the heavens. In Dubai, the Burj Al Arab is a luxury hotel that grabs our imaginations. It looks like the sail an Arabian vessel. It is built on a man-made island off the shore of Dubai and looks like it is floating in the Persian Gulf. Another building in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa, is currently the tallest skyscraper in the world, but that record will soon be lost as taller buildings are already under construction. I have been awed by the classic architecture of European cathedrals and by the modern steel and glass skyscrapers of American cities. The product of human ingenuity can be breathtaking.

Yet, no matter how wonderful the things we do in this world, no matter how wonderful the things we build, nothing can even stand close to that which God has done. We can visit the universe, using technology to see planets and stars that are beyond our grasp. We can delve into the depths of the sea and study the life that has adapted to those extreme conditions. Composers create music and painters make masterpieces that can take us away in a sense of wonder, peace, and joy. But nothing compares to that which God has created.

We can create new flowers by cross-pollinating two others. We can plant a forest. We can artificially inseminate human embryos into a woman’s womb. We can even clone animals. We can do so many things with the creation that God has brought forth with a word. We do these things with the intelligence God has given us. But no matter how unbelievable the things we can accomplish in this world, nothing human hands have created will ever come close to that which God has created.

Here’s a joke for you, “God was once approached by a scientist who said, ‘Listen God, we’ve decided we don’t need you anymore. These days we can clone people, transplant organs, and do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.’ God replied, ‘Don’t need me? Let’s put your theory to the test. Let’s have a competition to see who can make a human being, say’ The scientist agrees, and God declares they should do it like he did in the good old days when he created Adam. ‘Fine’ says the scientist as he bends down to scoop up a handful of dirt. ‘Whoa!’ says God, shaking his head in disapproval. ‘Not so fast. Get your own dirt.’

God is greater than His creation. He is wiser than the wisest man. He is more loving than the most loving mother. He is worthy of our praise and worship. Though we are able to create the most beautiful gardens and build awesome structures that have surpassed the Tower of Babel, we will never be much more than a speck on the planet, a brief blip in the expanse of time and space in which we live. Still, God has made us the crown of His creation. He has made us sons and daughters. He has given us dominion over all that He has done. It is a tremendous responsibility. We would not be able to do anything without God.

We lost a theological giant recently when Timothy Keller died. He wrote dozens of books, and while not everyone was a fan, his work impacted the lives of millions. His book “Jesus the King” looks at Jesus’ life from the perspective of the Gospel of Mark. In it, Keller talks about the “Dance of God.” This is a concept he talks about repeatedly. The following quote is from another of Keller’s books, “The Reason For God: Belief In An Age Of Skepticism.”

“What does it mean, then, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit glorify one another? If we think of it graphically, we could say that self-centeredness is to be stationary, static. In self-centeredness we demand that others orbit around us. We will do things and give affection to others, as long as it helps us meet our personal goals and fulfils us.

“The inner life of the triune God, however, is utterly different. The life of the Trinity is characterized not by self-centeredness but by mutually self-giving love. When we delight and serve someone else, we enter into a dynamic orbit around him or her, we center on the interests and desires of the other. That creates a dance, particularly if there are three persons, each of whom moves around the other two. So it is, the Bible tells us. Each of the divine persons centers upon the others. None demands that the others revolve around him. Each voluntarily circles the other two, pouring love, delight and adoration into them. Each person of the Trinity loves, adores, defers to and rejoices in the others. That creates a dynamic, pulsating dance of joy and love. The early leaders of the Greek church had a word for this – perichoresis. Notice the root of our word ‘choreography’ within it. It means literally to ‘dance or flow around.’

“The Father…Son…and Holy Spirit glorify each other…At the center of the universe, self-giving love is the dynamic currency of the Trinitarian life of God. The persons within God exalt, commune with, and defer to one another… When early Greek Christians spoke of perichoresis in God they meant that each divine person harbors the others at the center of his being. In constant movement of overture and acceptance each person envelops and encircles the others.”

We set aside one day a year to focus on the Trinity. Although the word is not specifically written or defined in the scriptures, Christians from every age have experienced God in three persons since the beginning. Despite two thousand years of explaining and defining it, the Trinity is still a mystery. Three in one, one in three, what does it all mean? We struggle with mysteries because if we can’t grasp something intellectually, we doubt if it is real. We are not always sure that we have gotten it right, especially when we can’t describe it in words others can understand. We can’t answer the question, “What is the Trinity?” so we doubt. Doubt is a part of our human condition.

We can’t possibly understand God completely, for He is greater than anything we can even imagine. However, He is good. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. We can believe in Him, not out of reason but out of faith. There is a place for reason, a place to study the words and try to understand what they mean, but there is also a place to allow God to be the mystery He is.

Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) This is not from our readings for this week, but so much of our faith revolves around the idea of trinity. Here Paul talks about the trinity of faith, hope, and love. This trinity is our life. We join the divine dance as we glorify God and love our neighbors with faith in hope.

Faith looks upward, hope looks forward, and love looks outward. These forces of life are not solitary or individual but bring us into relationship and community. Faith connects us to the holy, makes us part of the kingdom of God. Faith might be personal, but it does not separate us. As a matter of fact, faith connects us to our Creator and makes our attachment to the entire world He has created stronger. We see the world through the eyes of faith, through the eyes of God, and we take more seriously the responsibilities of our dominion over it. Faith is dead if it is hidden or held within oneself.

Hope is our response to the holy. We are made part of the kingdom of God through faith, and then we rest in the hope of the promises we receive as children of God. Hope does not disappoint because hope is the expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promises. God is faithful, so we can stand firm in that which we know to be true. Our hope is not only in some future heaven, but in God’s continuing action in this world. Hope makes us part of the community, willing to share the grace that brought us the hope in which we live. Hope is pointless if it is hidden or held within oneself.

God is love. We love because God first loved us. Love can in no way be personal or private. Love requires relationship. Though we can ‘love ourselves’ it is a worthless love. In the King James Version of the Bible, the word in the passage is translated “charity.” Love is shared. Love is part of a community. They say God is love, but God can’t be love if He is a singular entity separate from everything else. The Trinity is God in relationship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person of the Godhead is bound together as One, held by love and radiating love into the created world. We live in that love, but it is not simply about our relationship with God, but it is about how we live out that relationship with God in the creation.

It is easy to talk about life in Christ as faith, hope, and love, but too often doubt stands in our way. Doubt disrupts faith because it causes us to question the relationship we have with God and the relationship we have with others. Doubt halts hope because it makes us wonder if God is really faithful and if He will ever fulfill His promises. Doubt breaks love because it makes us look at others with distrust and uncertainty. We can’t love if we doubt the love of others. And yet, doubt is a very real part of our experience.

So, we live in this tension between doubt and the trinity of our life in Christ. In those final moments with the disciples, Jesus knew they would have difficulty being all that He had called them to be. They would face persecution and even death. They would be ignored, rejected, and despised. But He wasn’t leaving them to do it all alone. He would be with them even to the end of the world. This is true even when we fail. It is true even when we doubt. It is true even though we do not fully understand this Trinitarian God. No matter what we are or what we do, God is. Peace is found in that reality even when our flesh finds it impossible to believe.

We can be confident and doubtful about many aspects of life. The disciples had lived and worked with Jesus for three years. They’d seen Him crucified and raised. They had undergone an intense forty days when the risen Christ trained them in their mission and ministry. They touched Jesus, heard His voice, and loved Him like a brother. They had seen the miracles happen, eaten the bread that Jesus blessed and tasted the wine of the covenant from His own hand. They confessed faith. They believed. And they doubted.

We wonder how this could be, but it is a very natural response to God. How could they doubt anything after all they had seen and experienced with Jesus? The Greek word ‘distazo’ is not as concise as our modern definition. It isn’t that they didn’t believe; they did not want to choose one way over the other. IN other words, the word means that they wavered.

This doubt was probably not so much about doubting God, for they had seen the power and authority by which Jesus had ministered. Despite the training and encouragement they received, they also made many mistakes. They couldn’t cast out the demons. They argued about who was the greatest. They were as confused as the crowds about what Jesus was meant to do. Peter confessed faith in Jesus and then rebuked Jesus for saying that He had to die. The disciples were often self-centered and selfish. They hid in fear and initially refused to believe the news of Jesus’ resurrection. They failed over and over again. Though Jesus had confidence in the ones He had chosen, they did not have confidence in themselves. They knew all too well how imperfect they could be. How could they do what Jesus had done? How could they go on without Him? They believed. And they doubted. They wavered because it was all too much for them to accept. It was all too much! How do you believe in something as mysterious and unexplainable as the Trinity?

Jesus answered their doubts. “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” They were being sent into the world to do an awesome thing: to change the world. Eventually they separated, each apostle going the way the Spirit led and they took the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. They doubted because they did not know how they could accomplish this great thing, but there was no need to worry. God was not sending them alone. He was there with each one and as they baptized each new believer in the Trinity, He made them part of the body He had created in Christ.

Faith is another mystery of God. It is easy to talk about believing in God, until you are asked to explain your reasons to someone who cannot believe. Even more mysterious, however, is how someone hears the Gospel and believes. Every Christian is a miracle. Every heart that has turned to God is a miracle. The entire story of Christ is ridiculous: God was born in flesh, He lived for thirty-three years teaching about His Father, and then was destroyed in a heartbeat by men who claimed to believe in God. Three days later the God-Man appeared alive again. His ministry was continued by the most unlikely rag-tag group of disciples. They weren’t educated. They weren’t righteous as the religious leaders of their day. They didn’t have power or position or wealth. How could they possibly impact the world?

The apostles might have doubted, but they went forth in faith that Jesus would be with them to the end of the age. They may not have been perfect, but by the power of the Holy Spirit they were being perfected daily as they walked in the hope of the fulfillment of all God’s promises. They passed the Trinitarian faith on to us through their witness that was followed by people in every generation since.

Jesus said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” The only one able to give such authority, the authority in heaven and on earth, is the One who created it all. We see His goodness in our Old Testament lesson where the story of the Creation is laid out so poetically. He took chaos and made order, darkness and filled it with light. He organized the sky and water, the land and sea, the plants and the animals. Then God made man in His image. Man was created last, not because he was to be the least of all, but because he was to have dominion over all of the creation. God blessed them, made them part of the whole creative process, and gave them the authority to care for the earth.

He knew, even then, that we’d disappoint Him. He knew we’d be imperfect. He knew we would fail. But He calls us into a relationship with Himself, the Trinity, to be transformed by His grace to move together as one body to continue transforming the world.

When we were created, we were given the authority to take care of the entire world, to continue the creative work of the Father. In Christ, through our baptism, we are given a new authority: the authority to speak forgiveness and grace into the lives of those who are living in chaos. We are called to continue the redemptive work of Christ, to make disciples and teach them all that He commanded.

In the Great Commission, Jesus tells the disciples to “Baptize into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Our faith in Christ brings us more fully into our identity in the image of God. The world is not as God intended. Sin and death were not what He wanted for His creation. The Creator was separated from the creation He loved and He was the only One who could remove the chasm that had formed between heaven and earth. Just as He created the world out of nothing, He brought order out of the chaos it had become. When the time was right, Jesus came in flesh to bring redemption and reconciliation. And He has called us to be part of His creative and redemptive work by the power of the Holy Spirit, not to change the world but to continue what God started.

We have been invited into the Dance of God, to join with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as they glorify one another. We may doubt, but we believe and worship Him because of the faith He has given to us through His Word. He is so awesome that even His name is majestic. So, let’s go forth with the assurance that this great and good Trinity is with us and that He has given us the authority to do His work, the work we were created and redeemed to do to glorify Him for the sake of our neighbors in this world.