Tag Archives: mystery of faith

Would you . . . Easter scripture, questions and reflections

Luke 23:32-34: The Crucifixion

. . . 32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull,[e] they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”[f] And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.[g]

Question A: Would you have been in the crowd?

When work is caught up and a few minutes are left to keep busy, once and a while I will pull out this little book with 1,001 questions to stimulate conversation.

One of the questions this week was: “If you could go back and witness any event in history, what would it have been. The students started listing a few, but I had to fine-tune it a bit—how about a significant world event.

The question hit me that would I want to have seen Jesus on the cross dying. Would I have been in the crowd for the crucifixion? My first reaction was I certainly hope I would not have been there, but then I thought a bit differently.

Consider whether or not you rush to watch something in person or whether you can just hear about it or whether you do not even need to know the details. Just what kind of person would you be?

Would I have been in the crowd? Probably, and I am not proud of my reasoning.

Luke 23:44-49: The Death of Jesus

44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”[h] And with those words he breathed his last.

47 When the Roman officer[i] overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.[j]48 And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow.[k] 49 But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.

Question B: Would you have waited to see him die?

Studying a globe, the latitude for Jerusalem is about 31.80 N and the latitude for Kansas City is 39.10 N. The climate is warmer and it sets off the Mediterranean Sea’s eastern edge.

The difference in the climate would make it likely that viewing a crucifixion would be comfortable, and it was Passover so everybody would have been out at the festival and along the streets. Likely, nobody was staying home or thinking about what had to be done for Sabbath in a day or two.

Sadly, the crucifixion was considered a spectator sport, too. The Roman government may have planned a series of crucifixions simply to entertain all the visiting Jewish people.

All of those factors would affect whether or not one could answer the question of staying until Jesus’ last breath or they took him off the cross. Leaving the body up was the usual procedure.

My answer: I probably would have walked away bored—another unflattering admission.

Luke 23:50-53: The Burial of Jesus

50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, 51 but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock.

Question C: Would you have taken Jesus’ body down?

The clock was ticking and Sabbath law said all work had to be done before sundown. Passover was a huge holiday, and there were so many chores to do before nothing else could be done to have the perfect holy holiday.

There are two personality types—often referred to as Mary and Martha based on the New Testament story Jesus used to explain that it was okay to give up the tasks of hospitality to learn at the Masters’ feet. Martha was more worried about getting everything ready and Mary was unmoved from her spot listening to Jesus.

Answering this question has be reflect how well you know yourself. But also, you have to wonder just how positive you would have felt about the identity of Jesus. The Gospel of John states that this man was Joseph of Arimathea who was joined by Nicodemus, the same man who visited Jesus in the night just to interview him first-handed.

These two men risked their personal and professional reputations by requesting permission to take Jesus’ body and to bury it. That takes guts! (And there really is no other way to say it.)

Sadly, my answer would place me as a Martha frantically getting ready for the holiday meal, especially since I could do nothing the next day.

Luke 23:54-56:

. . . 54 This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation,[l] as the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.

Question D: Would you have simply followed Jewish law?

The government was Roman; the religious laws were Jewish. The Roman government bent to the political pressure exerted by the Jewish Sanhedrin.

Agreeing to try Jesus for a questionable charge, kept the Jewish leaders appeased. The crucifixion was a political way of keeping positive relations between the foreign government and the local residents.

Jesus’ followers kept growing. Social changes were happening, and Jewish people were fighting among themselves. The Roman officials knew the risks. This movement was only three years old, and in the ancient culture that was such a short time it was not a major concern.

Jewish Christians had to battle a crisis of which law was God’s law. Was the Jewish law about honoring Sabbath more important, more lasting than breaking the law and taking care of Jesus’ burial?

Change does not come easily. Answering that question today seems so obvious—break Jewish law and take care of Jesus’ body. But change was too risky yet so that meant keeping the law and being safe.

Luke 24:1-5: The Resurrection

1But very early on Sunday morning[m] the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?

Question E: Would you have gone to the tomb?

Passover Festival was over. Sabbath was over; and even the crucifixion was over. Sunday morning the sun came up just like it always does. There are hundreds of chores to do just to clean up the mess left from a week of festivities and visitors.

No one has any time to attend to a buried body. Now the message seems to have died, too. Or has it.

The closest women disciples did not forget. They bundled up the ointments, oils, perfumes, and clothes needed to finish a proper burial and went to the tomb.

No reason to run or to hurry. The body was not going anywhere and this was not going to be a pleasant chore. The walk was quiet; there was no reason to be joyful and they were exhausted.

Would I have walked along the path to the tomb? Today, I would have to say no since I know how tired I am after a huge holiday affair. I would want to clean up the mess at home before I did anything else.

Jesus? He died and nothing appears to have changed for the Jewish people even if his message made me feel good.

Luke 24:25-27: The Walk to Emmaus

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Question F: Would you have believed—then or now?

Of course, you say. You believe. But would you have been a believer who was in Jerusalem for Passover, who witnessed the crucifixion, who walked away and observed Sabbath, and then even visited the empty tomb?

Today, the story is captured in print, it has been translated and evaluated word by word.   Scientists, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and theologians have provided evidence repeatedly that supports the written word. All this makes the question easier to answer: Do you believe?

Today’s worldwide community has instant communication in visible, in audio and even in print format. Every language can be translated by a few clicks on the computer. Why is it so hard to answer that question?

Would I have believed in the ancient days when Jesus and I lived in real time together? I think so. And as I continued living, I think I would have become even a stronger believer.

But, I also have a few doubts. During the Cold War, I asked myself how strong my faith was. I wondered if I could keep my faith during an interrogation.

Today, my experience leads me to say, “Yes, I believe. I have experienced God’s grace. I have witnessed his miracles. I have received his forgiveness. I know the is life eternal.”

given on Sunday, April 5, 2015

Luke 24:28-34:

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat,[p] he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.[q]

My answer: Yes, I believe in the mystery of faith. Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

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Mysteries of Harvest

given on Sunday, September 28, 2014

Scripture Base:  Matthew 13:36-43  “Parable of the Wheat and Weeds”

24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.

27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’

28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.

“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.

29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” . . .



Out driving along our country roads, no one can miss the fact harvest is under way. The smells of the cornfield, the signs of the shelled corn along the edge of the road, the dust in the horizon, even the big trucks lumbering along the roads all announce harvest. Of course we do live in a rural community, and harvest season creates a sense of mystery. In fact, many simply accept harvest as part of a farmer’s lifestyle and don’t think about any mystery.

The parable of the wheat and the weeds can help unravel mysteries of harvest especially since it speaks directly to those raised in the farming community. To be honest, even those raised in the urban environment may understand because their own family heritage began on a farm. Of course the ones who truly are urban born and bred, through and through, the parable can share the mystery of harvest, too.

First, though, what mysteries of harvest are there? For me, a daughter of the family farm, harvest is filled with images that demonstrate mysteries of life. When the combine goes through the fields and cuts, shells, and loads the corn, the machine becomes like a magician performing a trick.

I can see the process, I can hear an explanation about how the combine works, and I can watch the corn fill the hopper. Yet, an element of mystery remains how such a device can process the corn plant from its place in the field to a pile of debris and a hopper heaped with shiny yellow corn. The process is one of the mysteries of harvest.

The picking of the corn is a symbolic representation of life’s final phase—or is it? The life cycle of a grain is a parallel to the life cycle of people. Jesus was sharing the parable of the wheat and the weeds to an audience that worked the fields in an agrarian culture. The audience struggling to raise a bountiful harvest knew exactly what message Jesus was sharing with them. And the same message should be that clear to us as we harvest this year’s crops.

Mysteries of harvest begin with the mystery of life itself. The creation story remains mysterious because no one can prove or disprove the story in a manner that all can agree. The questions remain and are discussed in various manners such as asking once again whether the chicken or the egg came first.

Life is filled with mystery and as the life cycle progresses some mysteries can be unraveled, but others continue to tease rational minds. The wheat and the weeds parable relates how difficult it can be to sort out the good from the bad, the wheat from the weed, the faithful from the unfaithful.

Two plants with extremely similar characteristics planted side by side in the same dirt receiving the same weather conditions as it sprouts, grows, and produces the fruit. The workers know the problem, but the owner knows the risks of pulling up the weeds. Not until harvest can the two be separated.

The mystery remains until harvest. Harvest 2014 has surprises for all of us. The growing season has been filled with different weather patterns, with rain and drought, with cold and heat, with sunny days and cloudy ones. Not until harvest do farmers know the full effect of the growing conditions.

As the combines travel through the fields, the mystery of production unfolds. How many bushels per acre does this field produce? Across the road, the results may be the same or very different. Sometimes the differences are very small, but sometimes they are vastly different and farmers analyze why: sometimes the answer is obvious, and sometimes it remains a mystery.

When Jesus selected the Apostles, he chose a group of individuals from various backgrounds. These men had to be trained much like a farmer has to prepare the field for planting. The parables were as critical as the plow, the disc, the planter, and the seeds. The Apostles needed to understand the mysteries of faith in order to prepare the people for harvest or judgment.

While reading the parables in Matthew, the wheat and the weed parable is immediately followed by the parable of the mustard seed and another of the yeast. But the Apostles were still struggling to understand the mysteries of the lessons.

In Matthew 13, verse 34 explains how Jesus used the parables:

34Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. 35This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet:

“I will speak to you in parables.

I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.”


The mystery of the wheat and the weeds had to be explained to the Apostles even after the crowd left. They asked Jesus to explain the story:

37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man[b] is the farmer who plants the good seed. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world,[c] and the harvesters are the angels.

40 “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

Imagine how frustrated Jesus might have been. These were his chosen Apostles whom he was going to leave the entire responsibility of carrying His Word to the world. The world was the field, and yet the farmers—the Apostles—were struggling to unravel the mystery of faith so they could continue planting the seeds for God’s harvest.

The symbolism of harvest is found throughout the Bible. Harvest continues to demonstrate how God judges his followers when death ends their physical lives. It begins in Exodus and ends in Revelation. Understanding the mystery of harvest literally as well as symbolically is difficult.

Rev. Bob Farr, Doug Anderson, and Lay Person Kay Katon have identified four observations concerning the condition of churches today, and understanding the first two is critical to the life of the church:

  1. Inwardly focused churches tend to define and practice evangelism as “reconnecting disconnected church folks.”
  2. Outwardly focused churches define and practice evangelism as connecting the unconnected folks to Jesus and then to the church.



The harvest, so to speak, of our churches does not have to be a mystery. We must take an honest assessment of what we do, how we do it, and what else can be done. Are we inwardly focused or are we outwardly focused?

Over the next few months, as we prepare for fall events, Charge Conference, Advent and a new Christian year, it is important that we follow God’s commandment to love one another and are equipped to carry out the commission of making new disciples of Christ for the transformation of the earth. Set goals for your personal faith journey and join with the church family to set goals for the coming year.

As a church, remember the theme “to hold fast to love and justice.” As we move into action with the community children on Halloween and open the doors for the turkey dinner, let us be outwardly focused. As Thanksgiving celebrates the harvest, let us celebrate the arrival of Jesus during Advent.

Let us look for methods to increase God’s harvest. There are books to read, leaders to train, and ideas to share. We may be thinking more about harvesting than planting, but even farmers begin ordering seed for next year’s planting during harvest. Maybe some of the practices cannot be done, but we can modify or create new ones. We can share the love of God in ways that produces a record-breaking harvest. The mystery of faith will answer the mystery of harvest.

Please join in a closing prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for a year filled with love.

Thank you for seasons to plant,

to grow, and to harvest.

We acknowledge our dependence

on your guidance through the Bible

and the teachings of Jesus.

May we seek ways to share the love

and to fight for justice for all.

Guide us through the Holy Spirit

to be the outwardly focused church

caring for the unchurched,

the hurting, the lonely, the ailing

and even the strong still struggling

to unravel the mysteries of faith.


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