Tag Archives: John 20

Continuing the Mission by Praying It Forward

given on Sunday, April 3, 2016

Thank you, Margie!  You post triggered this sermon.

Scripture: John 20:19-23

19 That Sunday evening[a] the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Reflection: Part A

The catch phrase “Pay it forward” may be overused. The movie about a middle school student’s social experiment has impacted our society for about 20 years. The theme is a version of John Wesley’s saying to do all that you can for all you can in any way you can.

Why do catch phrases like “pay it forward” or “what would Jesus do” or even movements such as “Random Acts of Kindness” make such an impact on society? Do such phrases make life changes? Do they teach God’s story? Do they keep God’s mission alive? Yes.

Scripture: John 20:24-29

24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),[b] was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

Reflection: Part B

Put yourself in the position of Thomas. He has walked side by side with Jesus. He talked with him in casual banter as well as serious theological discussions. He witnessed with his own eyes the miracles Jesus performed. There was no uncertainty that he knew God’s mission much less that God’s messenger was Jesus.

Jesus had selected or called him to be one of the next generations of Abraham’s descendants. He was identified as one of the faithful entrusted to keep The Story and the mission alive. Thomas had no reason to doubt who Jesus was. But Jesus knew that there was doubt even in this Apostle.

No matter what age we are, doubts will creep into our thoughts about the reality of Jesus. No one can fully comprehend the reality of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. Only upon our own death will we erase that last thread of doubt. Until then, we must practice faith. And while practicing faith, we learn that God’s story does include the immaculate birth of Jesus Christ, the human life of Jesus developing physically as any other human being, his three short years of ministry,

Yet the key to life as Christian is living our faith with confidence in God’s story and with Christ-like actions. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Most of us sitting in today’s pews grew up with that verse (Luke 6:31) being repeated in Sunday school lessons, used in worship service, and even from repeated parent lectures.

Even Wesley had doubts, especially about his own faith. His brother is credited to encouraging him to live his faith until it became a reality to him. The Aldersgate moment when Wesley felt “strangely warmed” reportedly erased his private doubts, and history records the dramatic difference his ministry made, even becoming a global movement.

What does this mean for each one of us here today? Simply, we continue. We practice our faith. We use our faith. We keep God’s mission by “paying it forward,” by asking ourselves “what would Jesus do” and we pray.

Scripture: Acts 5:27-32

27 Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. 28 “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”

29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross.[a] 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”

Reflection:   Part C

Today we are living safely in our communities. We do not worry about conversations about our faith. We do not worry that each time we “pay it forward” or decide to join in a ministry that reaches out to others who may or may not share our faith. We are living in a society that values our Christian beliefs, even encourages us to act in service to others.

Yet, there is the challenge to our faith, too. Evil keeps exploding around us. The news shares the face of evil globally. Maybe we do not easily identify evil in our immediate community, but it is there. Evil hovers around each one of us and we must defend ourselves from it. Keeping God’s mission alive means doing all that we can for all we can in as many ways as we can. It means “paying it forward.” It means self-checking our own actions with the question “what would Jesus do.”

The defense against evil not only in our own lives but also in our community whether local, national or global must have us actively involved in action to preserve God’s creation. Can you do it? Can you continue to maintain your own faith while doing whatever you can for others? Can you keep paying it forward for God?

Scripture: John 19:19-23

19  Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

 

Reflection: Part D

When Jesus appeared to the Apostles upon his resurrection and when he appeared a second time eight days later, this time with Thomas present, Jesus repeated God’s message. He breathed on them empowering them with the Holy Spirit to continue the ministry Jesus trained them to do.

We, too, have accepted God’s mission upon our baptism. We have joined in with the Apostles and all the descendants of Abraham chosen by God to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In Jesus’ words we are to forgive anyone’s sins

How, even as we physically continue to age, how do we do what we can do to help others? Serving in God’s name is not always easy, but there is a way as long as there is the will. In fact, borrowing from a friend in ministry, Margie (lay missioner for two local small churches): “Pray it forward.”

Christ’s resurrection empowered each and every one of his disciples with the power of the Holy Spirit. Adding in the resurrection transforms a social credo to “pay it forward” to “ PRAY it forward.”

Prayer is a powerful tool in fighting evil. Prayer calls God into action even though we may not understand how or when he responds, we must be confident that he hears our prayers and will act. Today, every single one of us here and around this world must pray it forward.

Today, and every day this week, commit to praying it forward.  Complete a “Pray it forward” card for at least one identified cause. It can be a person who needs extra God attention or it can be a situation that needs resolving in a Christ-like manner. Whatever is in your heart whether it is a passion or is a personal concern is worth this focused and very concrete practice of faith.

God has done everything he can to make sure the world is not consumed by evil, have we done everything we can? Praying it forward needs to be the automatic response, not only a first step but a continual step in maintaining God’s mission.

Scripture: Revelation 1:4-8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,”[c] says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

 

Reflection: Conclusion

Do not be a “doubting Thomas,” be you. Be the one who prays it forward now and on throughout your lifetime. Praying is the one faith practice that becomes like our own breath. If there is a doubt, practice praying until there is no doubt.

Look at others who practice prayer full time and you will see God in action. Look at others who are living a life without prayer and you will see evil. Pray it forward so that you are an active part of God’s mission.

We may not always understand how effective our prayers are because we do not understand the scope of God’s grace nor his timing, but we do know that God is the Alpha and the Omega. We do know that God loved us so much that he stepped onto this earth to make sure that we can trust in his words, “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

Concluding prayer:

Dear Almighty One,

Hear our prayers today, tomorrow and always.

Let our lives serve as the beacon for your love.

 

Hear our prayers morning noon, and evening.

Let the words we share provide answers for others.

 

Hear our prayers racing through our thoughts.

Let them reveal sources of sorrow, pain and evil.

 

Hear our prayers found in tears of empathy.

Let them cleanse the dirt in wounds of society.

 

Hear our prayers of praise and thanksgiving.

Let them shine your light upon new life in all forms.

 

Hear our prayers of excitement and joy.

Let them tell you what a difference your love makes.

 

Hear our prayers for strength and grace.

Let them ask you for refueling so we may do more.

 

Hear all our prayers, Lord,

so your mission continues

and our faith erases doubts

of your Story and your love.–Amen

 

 

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God’s Mission Never Ends

given on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Story: John 20:1-9, NLT

Early on Sunday morning,[a] while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.

 

The Story continues:     John 20: 11-16, NLT

11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

 

Reflection on the story:            God’s Mission Never Ends . . .

Reading through the gospel story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, so many thoughts erupt in the mind. First, how? How in the world, especially today as we scientifically study the physical changes in our bodies from birth through death, how can a resurrection happen?

Thousands of years of questions cannot be answered, but the story hinges on the resurrection. Read the scriptures, not only in John, but also in Matthew, Mark and Luke. The stories are eerily identical. The most historical data collected apparently cannot void The Story as recorded in scripture. The Story continues, just as God’s mission continues.

If science and non-religious documents cannot refute God’s story, then the story continues along with the mission. Remember, God created the world but he gave his human creations free will. Sadly, free will lead to evil.

As Satan’s influence seemed to attract more and more human attention, evil became overwhelming. God made a decision that evil had to be eradicated. God now needed a team. As we read in the Old Testament that team was lead by Abraham, chosen for his faithful obedience.

The story continued through thousands of years with the descendants of Abraham and even the prophets. The evil continued and God made the decision to intervene personally with the birth of Jesus Christ.

And Christ, after three short years of ministry made a difference in God’s mission. Just three years, and God confidently decided the faithful were strong enough to carry on the mission independent of Jesus.

During Passover, the most holy of Jewish festivals, the Story shifts from the Jewish traditions to what are now the Christian traditions. Christ knew, he did all he could to prepare the Apostles, but he had to demonstrate his humanness being charged, tried, and crucified.

The details were horrific, the Apostles were confused and frightened, and the reality of Jesus’ death made no sense. Huddled together for a very long Sabbath, one can only wonder what these faithful disciples were saying or what would happen next.

Sunday morning arrived, and the Story continues. Numbly those closest to Jesus took up the typical tasks of the day. Quietly. Slowly. The women made their way to the tomb. . . .

The Story goes on: John 20:19-23

That Sunday evening[b] the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

 

Further reflection . . .

            . . . Shock! Fear! Confusion and chaos filled the lives of the Apostles and the earliest disciples. Rumors raced around the neighborhoods. The day’s routine had to be maintained, but at the same time so much was happening so quickly. What was going to happen next.

The women now knew the truth of the resurrection; and the men too had gone to witness the empty tomb. Yet, what were they going to do? What did this mean? How were they going to continue spreading the Word? How?

The questions had to be outnumbering the statements of belief. The chaos of loss turns into chaos of excitement with no clear plan of how to use the new reality. There would be those who believed, but what to do about those who did not. . . .

 

The Story resumes          John 20:26-29, NLT

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

 

Concluding reflection . . .

            God’s mission remains. The Story carries God’s message forward. The Apostles and the earliest disciples were given the mission—do all that you can to love God and to love one another in all the ways that you can for as long as you can.

The Story shares all the different ways evil can attack us. Evil has many faces as close as our own family and even our neighbors. Evil can look so inviting, but the intention turns so revolting. Decisions we make must be based on our Christian beliefs.

And what reality of the Easter story makes God’s mission easy? Christ lived. Christ died. Christ arose from the dead and lives. We, made in God’s image, must believe in the power of the cross. God sacrificed himself for us. By accepting this truth, we are forgiven. God’s mission succeeds when we accept Christ’s sacrifice, we are given life eternal and evil is destroyed.

 

The Story for today        John 20:30-31, NLT

30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe[d] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

 

Reflective benediction . . .

            The subtitle on the last two verses of John 20 is “The purpose.” God’s mission is our purpose and each time we share the Story with others, each time we serve one another in love, and each time we remember Jesus’ resurrection, we are blessed.

Your purpose is God’s mission. This Easter Sunday, as you leave this holy place, may you find the joy in knowing that you are forgiven and you are redeemed by your faith in God.

Closing prayer

Dear Heavenly, Loving Father,

Thank you for loving us day after day.

Thank you for forgiving us our sins.

Thank you for promising us life ever lasting.

We may not understand the Story.

We may not show our faith openly.

We may not shout out the love we feel .

Yet we love You and one another.

Yet we quietly serve one another in love.

Yet we believe in Your love and the promises.

May we live our days filled with love.

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Have you ever wondered what a difference a day makes?

given on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012

Have you ever wondered

         One question from a friend is all it took:  Have you ever wondered what a difference one day makes?  One question, just one has circled in and out of my head for days, weeks now.  Have you ever wondered what a difference a day makes? 

         Somehow I knew there was a song with that phrase in it, and sure enough there is.  I had to look it up thinking it might be a hymn.  Sure enough, the lyrics are there and listed by three different soloists.  And the words are not found in our hymnals.  At first, I thought maybe it was a religious song:

What a difference a day makes

Twenty-four little hours

brought the sun and the flowers

Where there used to be rain

Then there was the second stanza:

My yesterday was blue, dear

Today I’m a part of you, dear

My lonely nights are through, dear

Since you said you were mine

Nope.  This was not a song from any hymnal nor one of the more contemporary Christian lyrics.  This was another love song.  Still there was something about the song that caused me to wonder if I could pull a “Whoopie Goldberg” like she did in Sister Act. (Remember how she took a song off the charts and, due to the setting, transformed it into a spiritual that rocked the sanctuary?)  Could the song reflect Easter’s story?

Read back over that first stanza:

What a difference a day makes

Twenty-four little hours

brought the sun and the flowers

Where there used to be rain

Not only could that stanza refer to creation, it could refer to the morning that Christ arose and was found missing from the tomb.  We have heard the story so many times throughout our lives, and we have used the same visual images in those four lines to express what the resurrection is.

Actually most of that song can be heard through the context of Easter morning and can relate to our experiences as a Christian.  If you remove the obvious references to an intimate relationship between two people, you can see God’s hand in the words.

What a difference a day makes

There’s a rainbow before me

Skies above can’t be stormy

Since that moment of bliss, . . .

It’s heaven when you find [God} on your menu

What a difference a day made

And the difference is you (referring to Christ)

What a difference a day makes

There’s a rainbow before me

Skies above can’t be stormy

Since that moment of bliss . . .

It’s heaven when you find [God} on your [side]

What a difference a day made

And the difference is [Chirst]. . .

Back to the Easter story.  As much as the lyrics are really for a form of pop music, they set one to thinking—especially when my friend asked me that question.  One day, Resurrection Day, has spectacularly revolutionized a world that had become so legalistic, so corrupt, so unfeeling that God stepped in.

For three years Jesus had quietly traveled around the region teaching, preaching, and healing. The Ten Commandments that God has given to Moses had not been able to keep the people in order.  What could God do?  Over the generations since Adam and Eve, the commandments were repeatedly broken and despite the efforts of the faithful.  Yet God never gave up believing in us.

In one quiet night in Bethlehem, a baby was born.  God was at work to re-establish a new covenant with humanity.  A day did make a difference, even if another 30 years were needed for this child to mature and begin the three years of work to heal the broken relationship with God.  In that one day, one birth, laid the hope of a heavenly father.

What a difference a day does make!  Living in an agriculture area, we know that one day can make all the difference in the world when the seed is planted, the sun is out and a day of rain is needed.  We know that depending on the weather, one day can make or break an entire year’s crop.  We know that planting a tiny seed is an exercise in faith.  We know that faith makes a difference, too.

God planted the seed of faith over and over again.  The conditions for that faith to grow depended on so many conditions, but the one condition that has made faith grow the most is the story of Jesus.  The life of this historical figure is filled with mystery, filled with awe, and filled with love.  God refused to give up on us, and the story of Jesus life is the good news that has made the difference.

Lent is a season of reflection.  Has the good news made a difference if our lives?  Have we worked to keep the good news today’s news?  Have we upheld our Christian responsibilities?  Has our faith made a difference in the days of our lives?

Today, Easter morning, the sun rises, the birds sing, the scents of heaven ride the breezes, and families reunite for a day of celebration.  When the women went to the tomb, they were aching from their loss, yet the job needed to be finished.  Easter morning was not one of joy and excitement for them, they were simply following the culture’s tradition and doing what they knew had to be done.

The disciples were gathered in a locked room.  Their sorrow was overshadowed by fear.  What were they to do?  How could they continue teaching, preaching and healing when their own teacher had been crucified?  Easter was not the bright, joyful new beginning of our culture.  The difference in their day soon became the difference in our Easter celebration.

What difference does a day make?  The difference of that first day of Christ’s resurrection has made a difference for eternity.  We have one rule to follow:  Love one another.  We have one seed of faith to nourish and it will grow like a mustard seed.  We have one gospel to share with the world.  We know the difference that the resurrection we celebrate each Easter makes the difference of an infinite lifetime.  We know that death brings sorrow in our lives, but death no longer ends life.

If you have ever wondered what a difference a day makes, now you know.  The difference a day makes depends on the day of resurrection.  The difference a day makes is the difference of earthly life and eternal life.  The difference a day makes is the difference of frustration and anxiety versus excitement and joy.  The difference is in life itself.

Next time you find yourself wondering what a difference a day will make, stop and think about the difference a day makes even after crucifixion on a cross.  The difference is priceless.

Dear Loving Father,

         Erase from us all doubts about our faith.

         Help us realize life is “loving one another.”

         Help us demonstrate the difference faith makes.

         Let a day in our life be witness to others.

         Guide us to speak to those still wondering.

         Open their minds to hear your story.

         Thank you for transforming each one of us.

         Thank you for giving us your Son.

         –Amen

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