The Loving Jesus

It is not easy to get my head around the fact that next Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday. Lent seems to always surprise me by its suddenness and then again by how quickly the forty days fly by. Usually by this time there are far more spring flowers that have bloomed here in my part of the world. Perhaps because Easter is fairly early this year, I have not seen many, at least not yet. I planted all kinds of tulips and daffodils, but they have yet to appear.

Today was a wonderful day at First United Methodist Church. Between the first service in the Chapel and the second service in the sanctuary, I was visited by two third graders and two fourth graders. I had promised last fall when they received their new Bible, if they would read one of the gospels and come see me, they would receive a very large Hersheys bar. I would ask them what was their favorite part or story and what was one question they had. What a delight for me, to have them visit me in my office, to tell me what they had read and give them their treat.


Now of course I have grownups who want a chocolate bar. I have said, “ok, but your questions are going to be much harder!!!”

Today in worship we reflected on the “Loving Jesus.” This Jesus is somewhat different than the “Compassionate Jesus” we looked at two weeks ago. Today the gospel was John 8:1-11. If you know about the lectionary, only the Roman Catholics include this reading in the readings on this Sunday, the Fifth Sunday in Lent. All others use a reading from John 12.

John 8 is one of those “problem” scriptures. The story is not included in the earliest manuscripts of John. Most versions either footnote these verses, beginning with John 7:53, or put them at the end of the gospel John, some at the end of the gospel of Luke, others bracket them and note they are questionable in terms of the oldest version of the gospel that we have.

What is also interesting is that the early church “fathers” referred to this story regularly and it includes a cultural phrase that has been around a long time. How often have we heard “let the one who is without sin cast the first stone?” This phrase comes directly from this story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.

You can find the whole service of worship here.

I am praying that I may love as Jesus loves this day and always.


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Reflecting on Saint Patrick

I really like this day. If I am Irish, it is only a little bit. I don’t particularly like corned beef and cabbage (although I haven’t a reuben sandwich I didn’t like.) I am not into green beer or beer at all, or Irish whiskey (my sister did introduce me to Jameson’s and ginger ale with a twist of lime which is pretty tasty.) So, obviously I am not in it for the food or the drink.

This morning, Andrew and I “wogged” (combination of walking and jogging) the 7th annual Saint Patrick’s day 5K.

29250264_10156480625594274_6703938178002190336_nThis year the charity was the Shriner’s Hospital for Children. We did the race 7 years ago and signed up last year, but were unable to participate because I was presiding at a funeral. It was colder than I liked but it always feels good to finish and keeps me moving by signing up rather than sitting all the time!

This day tends to be centered around too much drinking and partying, which is not something Patrick would have appreciated or encouraged. Still, people wear green, do silly things and celebrate a saint who might actually shock them.

I find myself fascinated by St. Patrick. There is not much known definitively about Saint Patrick. He was active in Ireland in the fifth century. He didn’t drive the snakes out of Ireland (as legend tells), but maybe with God’s grace he drove the snakes out of his own heart. In reading his Confessions I am drawn to his struggles, his lack of education, his ache of “not getting it right.” He was accused and humiliated for something he done as boy, and he received a call to go to Ireland, which he did not want to do. There is some evidence that he disliked the Irish (and why wouldn’t he since they had kidnapped and enslaved him) and then his heart was changed and he grew to love the people he served in Ireland.

What I appreciate most about the story that is known, is that Patrick having been kidnapped from home as a teenager, forced into slavery, embraced faith. He ran away, went home, offered himself to God and ended up back among those who had abused him. The link to his “Confessions” above is only a few pages long and in reading it, his lack of education, his struggles with the powers that be and his passion for his ministry that finally includes the people of Ireland is moving.

In our current world, we embrace hatred and xenophobia like a badge of honor. We nurse hurts and spew bitterness and resentment all over social media. Now, in the last few years, we can become viral immediately with just 140 characters. Just think what St. Patrick could have done before he finished writing his confessions, BEFORE his heart had been moved from hating those who kidnapped and enslaved him to embracing his calling, his mission and a new found love for that same people.

In the middle of Lent, it seems to me that is what the “kin(g)dom of God” is all about: enough love to overcome hate, enough grace to overcome bitterness, enough forgiveness to overcome resentment. God can drive out the snakes of hatred, of prejudice against those who are not like us, of resentment of those who have wounded us and hurt us and instead bring the grace and forgiveness and mercy to the most broken of hearts.

A prayer, attributed to St. Patrick is one of my favorites. You can find a beautiful sung version

I Arise Today

A portion of that prayer I share:

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.
I bind to myself today
God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
+ + + + + + +
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + 
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

On this day, I am grateful for the One who is on my right, my left, before me and behind me. I am grateful that the legacy of St. Patrick is one of grace, of forgiveness and of a changed heart. Today, I bind myself to the One who guides, who leads, who creates and calls me to love as I have been loved. May I see Christ in all I meet, for I am graced to serve.

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The Scandalous Jesus, Text Version

Here is the text version of yesterday’s sermon. I did edit on the fly because I had about 15 minutes to preach instead of the 18 we had scheduled. That is both the joy and the burden of being live on television each week. If I care for the congregation who worships through tv, then trying to make sure they get the whole of the sermon is important and means that sometimes I have to be more succinct than I would like. Then again, maybe that is a very good thing!! I attempt to give credit where credit is due. I think I could preach on this topic for several weeks. Here is the video link to the service.



I was in a meeting where we were talking about leadership. The conversation was around “Good enough” It was an interesting conversation. What does it mean to be good enough. When is what we do good enough? What is the one thing we wish our parents had said to us? Growing up? What do we wish we had heard our parents say as adults? Mostly everyone said they wish they had heard they were good enough, that they were loved and this was okay to fail, to make mistakes. That was interesting conversation and one I have pondered again and again particularly as I wrestled with our scripture this week. How often do people use words or actions to point out why someone else is not good enough, is flawed, has problems or isn’t acceptable. look at our scripture today…it begins with the complaints of people about Jesus and John.

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners! (Luke 7:3-34)

John is too good and Jesus is not good enough. John comes to them with all kinds of spiritual disciplines and they complain, Jesus does the opposite, parties and hangs out with undesirables and people don’t like that either. In fact it’s ridiculous who Jesus hangs out with, prostitutes, tax collectors, undesirable people, with questionable reputations and backgrounds. But it isn’t like he doesn’t get invitations to do exactly that: eat and drink with sinners AND with reputable people, with Pharisees, or for our purposes the religious leaders, the leaders of the community, the people you want to be seen with, you want these people to know your name and to invite you to their events. One of these leaders, Simon, invites Jesus to dinner. At this dinner, an uninvited guest shows up…not just any guest a woman…with a reputation. It doesn’t say what….but she certainly raises eyebrows and isn’t someone who is welcome in such a setting. First, women didn’t eat at the same table with the men, it just wasn’t done. Second, she uncovered her hair. Now that doesn’t matter that much for us, but there are still Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions where women’s heads are to be covered. She takes down her hair, uses a beautiful ointment, bathes his feet with that ointment and her tears and wipes it with her hair. In general, she is making a spectacle of herself. It was shocking and uncomfortable for the men at the table. Simon is thinking to himself, if Jesus knew who she was, really was, if knew how bad she was, what her reputation was, he wouldn’t let her near you. Simon was judging her and Jesus…She was not good enough to be with the men at the table, she was not good enough to be in Jesus presence, was not good enough to touch him.

Jesus, knowing what is going on tells a story. Simon wants to get it right, wants to show he is good enough, that he knows stuff. In today’s terms, it goes like this: there are 2 debtors, one owes just under 2 years salary the other just under 2 months salary. The creditors cancels both their debts. Who do you think loved the creditor more? The answer the one that had the greatest debt!! Right. Here I find myself knowing what is coming next…oh Simon you are so set up! When Jesus points out the woman, the hospitality she offered Jesus that Simon did not….no water for his feet, no oil for his hair, not the basic amenities expected when one was a guest Jesus points out what mercy and forgiveness and grace look like in one who had been outcast.

You see Simon didn’t think that woman was good enough, Simon was looking down upon her from his religious superiority and was wallowing in how he was better….And I, I in my own sense of the superiority am thinking the same thing about Simon. How we work to be good enough at the expense of others being left out, or looked down upon so I, we can feel superior.

Jesus continues to point out how the religious leaders of the day were constantly making judgments about people and in doing so, forgetting that following the law or the rituals was not the only thing important about faith…indeed, Loving God and Loving others is the bottom line, but it seems that they and we get caught up in the definitions…what does it really mean and how do I know whether I am getting it right or if I am good enough or if I have done everything I need to do in order to be perfect, to be loved, to be cared for, to fit in, to make it. Today, there is a mission lunch benefitting the Raise My Head Foundation. This organization is the passion of one of our members Vicki Bond, it’s purpose is to provide a residential community program for women breaking free of sex trafficking, addiction and homelessness. Talk about human beings who have been surrounded with an understanding that they are not good enough. These women have been used and abused in ways many of us can never understand. They have been treated as property and Raise My Head provides a place where they can heal, where they can learn and where they can find a life of freedom and health.

This Christian organization lives out this scandalous good news of Jesus, you are forgiven, you are free, you are beloved. Again and Again Jesus pushed back against the religious institutions of his day, against the culture of his day and with word and action stated that all people were good enough, that all people were worthy of love and grace and forgiveness. Jesus lived out the real truth that God loves the people who are overlooked and left out. Paul describes it this way: Christ is our peace and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility between the groups that were far off and those who were near:

you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone (Ephesisans 2: 19-20)

That would have been shocking for Simon the Pharisee and those around that table…how could this woman be part of the household of God, how could Jesus treat her the same as he was treating them, the leaders, the faithful, the righteous and holy ones….

Because Jesus lived out the reality that everyone of us is good enough….everyone of us can receive and know mercy, forgiveness, peace, grace and love. Jesus looks that woman in the eyes and basically says…I don’t care what you have heard, I don’t care what others have said, In God’s eyes you are good enough, you are loved enough, and you are forgiven. Grace is yours.

Isn’t that what we all want. We drive ourselves so that others will know we are good enough, smart enough, strong enough, successful enough, perfect enough. In doing so, we often try to find ways to point out in what ways others are not: Think about all the generational talk about millenianal and boomers, Gen Xers and Generation Y, we say snarky things because of course our generation is the better one!

Even in the life of the church, we tend to judge on whether or not we think someone is good enough….The church itself draws the lines….you are in and you are out. you are good you are bad….you are good enough, you are not. That isn’t what Jesus says and in fact when Jesus criticizes, I hate to say it, it’s about folks like me and like you. The ones that try so hard to be good enough, that I, we, begin to act and believe we are in, we are superior, we are better. Nothing could be further from the truth….what we have been given is grace, not exclusive grace, but grace that is available to all people in all places and in all times. How do we live it out? Like the woman Jesus’ feet, perhaps first and foremost we need to experience grace and mercy forgiveness. We need to pour out our fears and loneliness, our sins and sorrow at the feet of Jesus. We need to acknowledge what we have done in order to feel good enough, to be perfect enough, to be successful enough. We need to acknowledge how we keep others out in order that we might be in, that we put others down in order that we might be up, that we exclude others in order to feel better about ourselves.

Hear the good news of the gospel my friends….You are forgiven….mercy is for all of us, Grace is sufficient for all our needs, God loves us and because of that good news, we are called to offer the same for others. The challenge is, of our course, to view all people as Jesus does, that all people, all people are beloved children of God, that all people are good enough, for they are our brothers and sisters, it doesn’t matter our age, our gender, our race, our ethnic background, our sexual orientation, our maritial status, our immigrant status, our social or economic status, whether we have money or not, ALL people are beloved children of God, members of the household of faith, made one through the gift of Jesus Christ.

This week my friends, may we view every person we meet as beloved son and daughter of God. May we look into their eyes and know they are our brothers and sisters. May God “Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us. Teach us as sister brother each person to embrace. Be present Lord among us and bring us to believe, we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.” (from the United Methodist Hymnal, Help Us Accept Each Other, #560, Fred Kaan words)


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The Scandalous Jesus

Today’s service was filled with so many wonderful elements. We had Bassel and The Supernaturals The have been in worship and in concert at First for the last three years. Their website describes their music as “neo-soul and funk with captivating lyrics about love, loss, and a war in Syria that has affected Bassel Almadani’s family along with 10,000,000 others.” The music speaks from the heart for the Syrian crisis that is in the news daily.

We also brought in new members, both in person and through our television congregation. I mentioned Raise My Head Foundation in my sermon and because our mission lunch was a fundraiser for this amazing ministry and outreach. The founder, Vicki Bond, has a passion for creating community for women finding their way out of the sex trafficking and addiction. This wonderful residential community offers hope and new life to these women.

Today, I reflected on not being “good enough.” Imagine my surprise when this video crossed my twitter feed this afternoon. If you can access the twitter video it is only a bit over three minutes, the other video on you tube is over 20 minutes. It is Adam Rippon receiving the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility award. It is beautiful, reminding people to not be afraid, that people are stronger than they believe, smarter and more powerful.

You can find the copy of our worship service from today here. We are halfway through the season of Lent. Jesus continues to surprise and shock me. I long to follow and live faithfully.

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The Angry Jesus, text version

I am posting my manuscript from yesterday. I like to remind people that I don’t preach this word for word. The manuscript gives the basic flow of the sermon, the grammar might be questionable, and I do try and note the sources I used. In many ways I could have added much more to this sermon. I could spend a lot of time praying over and pondering these texts.



We live in angry times and if you don’t believe me, I would invite you to turn on the news, or open your favorite news app on your phone or tablet and it will be right in front of you. Anger leads the news, and it is has almost become normal for people to call names, to yell, to scream to shout down someone else…. Between the right and left, between young and old, republicans and democrats, even in the midst of our own denomination, people are angry, are fearful, are pointing figures, are leveling threats, ….we live in VERY angry times. I am not trying to dismiss or minimize what is happening. There are many good reasons for the anger. People don’t feel safe, they don’t think their children safe, children and youth and young adults don’t feel safe, people don’t feel valued, or they feel attacked or bullied. People are harassed and made fun of or are working and living in terrible conditions There is diversity of opinion as to how we got here and deep and strong moral and ethical convictions that are driving people to stand up and be counted, to stand up and be heard. Sometimes, though, People draw lines in the sand often before they know what some else believes or thinks or understands. Assumptions are made, people do not listen to one another and anger seethes in so many settings…..from Washington to state capitals, to schools and churches and organizations to our own families and neighborhoods….Some of it we understand because of our own moral and ethic viewpoints, but sometimes we don’t know why we feel this why or can’t really articulate the deep anger around us and in us….

Then with what is happening in our own world we come to our John reading. Even though we are surrounded by anger and hatred, this Jesus is a little surprising and stunning. I suspect we prefer a different kind of Jesus, perhaps that compassionate Jesus I spoke of last week or the loving Jesus we often describe. We want to a benevolent Jesus who agrees with us, who loves us who approves of us and is kind of tame and easy to get along with, a fun and interesting Jesus, pointing out other people’s sins not our own….The Jesus who turned over the tables in the temple and yelled at those who made it a “market place” and the Jesus who spit out “Get this stuff out of here….” Is not a tame at all? This Jesus is filled with what appears to be barely contained rage. He made a whip out of cords or ropes, turned over tables and chased the merchants and the money changers and all the animals out of the temple

Like every other Jewish believer in the region Jesus goes to Jerusalem to the Temple for the Passover. What set Jesus off? It isn’t like what he found was unexpected. It was business as usual and probably a brisk business at that…People came to the temple to do their religious duty, to live out their faith. If they brought animals and they were not perfect, they had to buy ones from the Temple. Or if they didn’t bring any, again they had to buy them at the Temple Roman money was not usable in the Temple so it had to be exchanged for Jewish money. Hence the money changers and the merchants. There was nothing out of the ordinary happening. What is going on here?

We often use this text to talk about the Angry Jesus. It isn’t the only place where Jesus appears angry, when he denouncing religious leaders who are leading people astray, when he calls them names (like you brood of vipers) The thing is, the text doesn’t actually say that Jesus is angry. Not any of them. I went looked. And re-looked. I checked different translations. Not there. Yes it states he turns over tables, condemns those who are selling things and changing money. But the text itself never says he is angry. Jesus certainly acts angry. His actions are pretty violent and scary, but they are actions of righteousness. Jesus doesn’t appear in the gospels to be the kind of person who is angry all the time, who wanders around with a chip on his shoulder, in fact he is often seen having a good time and doing amazing and wonderful things. In this passage, He saw injustice and unfairness and acted upon it. I think that is so hard for us. When we get angry we tend to be either hot heads, we get angry fast and then are done or one of those who go for a slow simmer and when we erupt…it is explosive! Jesus keeps his head in his anger, his anger is precise, almost like a surgeon cutting out a tumor or a farmer, weeding a crop

Beverly Wildung Harrison said this in a work titled, “The Power of Anger in the Work of Love.”      Anger can be either positive or negative. Indeed, it is right to be angry at injustice, and problematic to be apathetic toward injustice. The challenge for Christians is to “harness the power of anger in the work of love.”

In our Ephesians passage is says, “Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun do down your anger, and do not make room for the devil” I think that is critical. Jesus was angry, it seems often in the gospels, but it wasn’t because he was slighted or overlooked. Jesus anger was focused on those who pretended to be religious and spiritual, but actually were just greedy and selfish. Jesus anger focused on political and religious systems that took advantage of the poor and needy, the young and old, the outcast and stranger. Jesus anger was not about bitterness or resentment or revenge. Paul noted that we are to “put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice” that is the kind of anger and resentment that seethes and destroys from the inside. That is the kind of destructive feelings that that ends up eating us alive, literally. This is not the kind of anger that Jesus embodied, an anger that worked against injustice. Jesus, in the words of Beverly Harrison, harnessed the power of anger in the work of love. A few years ago the Wichita State Shockers coined the phrase “Play Angry.” It was an interesting phrase and at the time I was a bit uncomfortable with it. Anger can be very destructive, anger can be out of control. As I watched the end of the season and the next and the next, I began to see that the phase “play angry” was not about bitterness or wrath, but about intentionality. Wichita State had been underestimated, put down and mocked because they were not of the elite basketball schools. Who did they think they were? To play angry was not to be play mean or under handed but to play with heart, with energy, with passion with an intentionality to do one’s best and of course the phrase has stuck. Almost every sports caster now uses the phrase….Jesus’ anger was not about being underhanded or mean, but about a passion for what is right, what is just, what is good, what is God’s intention for the world.

The power of Jesus’ anger was not at the traditions or the spiritual practices but at the tunnel vision that only the practice mattered, buying the right animal, using the right coinage was what was important…not what was in the heart. And spirit When Jesus overturned the tables he wasn’t just angry about the sales and the money changing, some of which was necessary for people to fulfill religious duty, his anger was that what was happening in the Temple went beyond what was necessary and became a burden for many who came to live out their faith. There were being oppressed and in some ways robbed by those who were supposed to serve

Jesus was angry….because the religious leaders of his day acted as if they loved their religious traditions loved their interpretations of scripture, loved their money, loved their political and religious power more than they loved God and others. They talked a good line but did not live it. They were the very pictures of hypocrisy not because they practiced their faith, or the followed the law, but because they were blind to God, God’s love, God’s Word, God’s truth, and God’s Son. His anger was a work of love as he tried to counter a culture that was taking advantage and not paying attention to what was in front of them, the very presence of God. In the other gospels this event comes so late, in part, because it was the catalyst which drove the religious and political to plot his downfall and his arrest and execution

In John, this event comes at the very beginning of Jesus ministry because John isn’t as interested in the order of the events of Jesus life as he is in theology and symbolism. From the beginning of this gospel, he starts with the big picture: In the beginning was the Word, Jesus, who was God and is God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth., John shows us God in Jesus acting on behalf of the world. As we have often heard from the prophets, anger and love are just different sides of the same coin. God loves us so dearly and so deeply and despairs when God’s people take advantage of each other, over look the suffering, the outcast, the least, the lost and the lonely. When Jesus speaks of tearing down the temple and raising it back up, he is speaking of a relationship with God that is not rooted in a building or in religious practices, but in Jesus himself. This anger, is born out of love of God and love of neighbor. It is not about tearing down, but actually a building up for the kingdom of God. When Paul pushes the Ephesians to let no evil talk come out of their mouths, when they are challenged to not grieve the spirit, but to be kind and forgiving, it is so that the work of love might be known. Be imitators of God….which means that our anger, when it is righteous anger must be focused and tempered by love and faith that God is at work in our world. So many are trying to do what is good and right, this last week the students that are speaking and marching do so out of love, for the friends they have lost and to find a way to act against all the violence and hatred in this world. What are we doing? How are we making a difference for those who have no homes, who are being destroyed by mental illness and addiction, but poverty and hatred? How are we focusing, not wrath or resentment or bitterness, but anger, Christly anger at the works of evil in our world? We are called to be the change agents, to use the power of righteous anger to make a difference, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to the house the unhoused, to welcome the stranger, the outcast, the lonely, the afraid. Not anger to judge, but to love as Christ loves. Begins at the table, here where we seek forgiveness for all we done and left undone and find mercy and grace to be imitators of God in all we say and do. And we begin here at the table. We confess what we have done and left undone. We are offered God’s love and mercy and given strength for the journey. So this week, God of love, and God of power, grant us in this burning hour, grace to ask these gifts of thee, daring hearts and spirits free. God of love and God of power, thou has called us for this hour. (taken from the hymn God of Love and God of Power, The United Methodist Hymnal)



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The Angry Jesus

Today was an interesting Sunday. In Wichita, it was the final home game for the Wichita State Shockers with the game beginning at the same time as our second service! I created this video on Facebook to invite people to attend one of our other worship services today. And people did. That made me very happy.

The lenten sermon series, “Who is This Man?” is an invitation to look at Jesus’ life and experience in relationship to our own. Today, I paired the idea of being angry with the Wichita State Shocker’s “Play Angry” phrase. Anger makes us, makes me often uncomfortable. But anger is not a sin in and of itself. In fact, anger can be a catalyst, an energy to do something good in the world.

This past week, high school students have taken to the streets, to social media and to various government agencies to share their anger, their dismay and their fear because of all the school shootings. Whether you agree with their opinions or not, these students are using their energy to try and change the world for better.

You can find today’s worship video here. I do pray this week, that we might find a righteous anger, a Christly anger that enables us to do God’s good work in the world.


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The Compassionate Christ, text version

I have been asked to share my sermon manuscript. A word to the wise, I don’t preach straight from the manuscript, it is more like a guide. Included are all the quotes I took out, I will insert the two icons I had intended to use and I have attempted to note my sources as best I can. I research a great deal online, so I hope I have given credit where is due. I will say I always find David Lose insightful and Working Preacher as well. A big shout out to Text Week for Jenee Woodards long list of sources and liturgy. You find the whole worship service from yesterday here but there it is quite short. I do not spend a great time on grammatical errors, I have attempted to clean up the text. So, after noting my sources above and some in the text of the sermon, here it is:


Jesus was tired, weary, worn, grief stricken. The disciples have come back hyper and excited, his cousin has been executed….Jesus wants to get away a bit, to process things…his disciples success, perhaps unexpected success, his cousins brutal, horrible sensationalized execution. Pulled between the extremes…just wants a break Ever felt that way? Too much, too soon, too hard. The crowds that followed Jesus recognized he cared….they were tired too, worn, frightened, uncertain….hungry, thirsty….what they usually heard was condemnation…they were lazy, sinful, if they lived right then God would bless them, they would be healthy, have jobs, everything would okay….but obviously….they were poor, hungry, homeless cause they deserved it….often the same thing people hear now, well, if you tried harder, if you prayed harder, if you did it right….nothing bad would happen, this is your fault, you deserve whatever it is that has happened to you…there is so much angry and judgment and condemnation So many icons of Jesus are stern or angry..

Like this one,
PP:1 Jesus with Bible….looking at that is hard, how can one meditate on that face…

Jesus Icon - old

There are statues all over in churches Europe that makes this kind of grumpy look tame. There are pretty frightening images really, we have heard the fires of hell described, if we don’t do this or that, God will get us and I get it. These images and descriptions are to help get people on the straight and narrow….if you don’t stop your sinning this is the Jesus you will face, And yet for all the judement we might have read or heard….Scripture is full of stories of a God who loves us and call to us, a Jesus who cares. Several years ago this icon was uncovered:

PP 2: The icon the Savior of Zvenigorod

Andrej Rublew/ Der Erloeser/ nach 1420 - Andrei Rublev, The Saviour - Andrei Rublev, The Saviour

3RD-R4-L1 Andrej Rublew/ Der Erloeser/ nach 1420 Rublew (Rubljov), Andrej um 1360/70 – 1427/30. ‘Der Erloeser’, nach 1420. Aus einer Deesis-Reihe. Eitempera auf Holz, 158 x 106 cm. Moskau, Tretjakow-Galerie. E: Andrei Rublev, The Saviour Rublev (Rublyov), Andrei c. 1360/70 – 1427/30. ‘The Saviour’, after 1420. From a grouping with the Virgin Mary and St John. Egg tempera on wood, 158 x 106cm. Moscow, Tretjakov Gallery. F: Andrei Rublev, The Saviour Roublev (Roubliov), Andrei , v. 1360/70- 1427/30. ‘Le Sauveur’, ap. 1420. D’un groupe avec la Vierge Marie et Saint Jean. Detrempe a l’oeuf sur bois, H. 1,58 , L. 1,06. Moscou, Galerie Tretiakoff.

The eyes are so different… was painted in the 1500’s and lost and then re-found in 1918 in a barn in Russia. Only 3 panels of the 9 survived. It is badly damaged….but the eyes….the face is one of deep compassion and caring.   The eyes seem to look right at whoever is viewing this icon and the eyes are so filled with grace, love and caring….Icons are not “portraits” or snapshots or pictures, they are not supposed to be, they are an invitation to see God through them….Christ is the ultimate icon through which we see God

So the icon, the picture is not Christ, but a point for us to focus on Christ’s compassion for us, like our reading said, because we are like sheep without a shepherd. Or our shepherds have scattered us and driven us away. So God has promised us a shepherd who will take care of us, who will help us not be afraid. So Jesus claims to be that shepherd…who has compassion. The difference between compassion and loving is not simple, exactly, although we will focus on the loving Jesus in a couple of weeks. Compassion is a being with, loving is a choice in terms of behavior and attitude love is a choice, a decision, compassion is a way of connecting with another by God’s love and grace. The word compassion is taken from 2 words, com which means “with” and passion which means suffer….it is to suffer with…. Someone else….it is more than sympathy or empathy, or kindness, it is an identification with someone else’s struggles, pains, experience

PP 3: Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it’s like to live inside somebody else’s skin. Frederick Buechner

It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too. Buechner uses this way of describing Christ….who has the compassion to really know what it is like to live inside our skin and not be satisfied until all have peace, joy and love and hope and faith

When we come to church, I think we come for a variety of reasons, some of which may have to do with duty or obligations, but I don’t think that that is the real reason, we are here not because we know everything, or we understand the bible or how to read it, we may not have actually ever opened, unless it was one of those times we used it like a magic 8 ball, God I need this and we flip open hoping for a great fortune to come forth….we might not know anything about God or Church or what it means to be a Methodist or Presbyterian….I think we come to church, because our hearts are aching, we have a sense, that maybe here, in this very room, that the hunger that resides deep in souls can be met in this Jesus….

Tenth Ave North released a song a few years ago Worn: seems to speak to this experience of the crowd, of Jesus of you and me

PP 4: I’m Tired, I’m worn,  My heart is too heavy.   From the work it takes to keep on breathing.  My soul is crushed by the weight of this world.    I know that you can give me rest, so I cry out with all that I have left

I think the draw, the reality of these weeks passage, particularly amid the brutality and violence that seem to permeate our world and his world, is that Jesus is willing to embrace the pain of others ( – rather than explain it, or minimize it, or seek to comfort it, or fit it into some larger plan, and Jesus honors and acknowledges it, this week’s scripture call us to trust that God is in the midst of our brokenness and pain, working for and calling us to new life and faith in Jesus, that in Buechner’s words Jesus looks upon the crowd and understands what it’s like to live inside their skin, inside our skin,

Here is the truth that I wrestle with often, perhaps the one thing that unifies us most fully is that each of us has experienced brokenness and sorrow, betrayal and uncertainty, fear and doubt, : it may be the abandonment of a parent, the betrayal of a loved one, the loss of a child, the death of someone we loved so much, the unfufillment of a dream, the oppression of those who hold power over us, or any number of other things.  (David Lose)

PP 5:     I wanna know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life   And all that’s dead inside can be reborn   Cause I’m worn   (Tenth Ave North)

Yet this is so often true, is almost always true, to live is to struggle, to hurt, and to experience loss and brokenness. It is also to experience love and joy, delight and awe, a sense of wonder and hope. And we are worn, dead inside, our lives our broken, just like the crowd Jesus looked up…and this was their hope and ours

PP 6: Let me see redemption win, let know the struggle ends that you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn. (Tenth Avenue North)

What’s funny is that on most occasions we would prefer to hide that brokenness, this lostness, this sin from others. Probably comes from a kind of embarrassment.  Or perhaps it comes from a fear of being vulnerable    – we wonder if others will take advantage of us when our guard is down. Or perhaps it comes from a fear of being overwhelmed by our loss and grief. I don’t know; I suspect it is all of these and more. But I do know that we tend to favor strength, health, and independence, or at least the appearance of these things, over weakness, pain, and dependence. (David Lose) Or maybe I should say, I do. I have been trained that way. But I don’t think this is faithful to the gospel. Because this is what we long for: that God will gather the flock and bring us back and we will not be afraid

I don’t think hiding our brokenness is faithful to Jesus or who Jesus as the icon of God invites us to be. If Jesus is compassionate and understanding who understands our weakness, the Jesus comes along side us in our pain and discomfort and failures. Jesus doesn’t stand above us, or is distant from us, because Jesus has compassion for us, because we are like sheep without a shepherd and a good shepherd is the one who will draw us more deeply toward becoming the persons we have been called to be.

Indeed, my reading of this passage this week is that we are called to to be like Jesus people of compassion, because God is most clearly and fully present in the suffering and brokenness of the world. We are called to like Jesus, be a compassionate people by being honest about our brokenness and thereby demonstrate our willingness to enter into and embrace the brokenness of others. We are called to Follow this Jesus because we follow the One who not only had compassion, but was willing to live in our skin in all that it means to feel joy and sorrow, highs and lows, love and betrayal, life and even death on a cross, because this Jesus revealed that nothing, not even the hate and darkness and death that seemed so real on that Friday so long ago is greater than God, we believe and claim and witness to the Compassionate Jesus, who does not turn from that brokenness or that evil but indeed faces it with the love and light and life of God. We are invited this week, to follow this Christ, this hope of the world, this Christ of great compassion who speaks to our fearful hearts by conflict rent (taken from the Hymn Hope of the World by Georgia Harkness, the United Methodist Hymnal), who understands us and who is willing to walk everyday through all of our lives sorrow and pain, joy and laughter and enable us to be that compassionate presence for others. O Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead us, much we need thy tender care, Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, hear o hear us when we pray (Taken from the hymn, Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us, attributed to Dorothy A. Thrupp, the United Methodist Hymnal). Thanks be to God. Amen.




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