Second Sunday after Pentecost (June 15, 2014)

Scriptures:  Matthew 10:24-39; Genesis 4:1-12

If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that since December 14, 2012, Jeremiah 31:15 has seen its use in worship increase more than anything else in the Bible.  It reads, “Thus says the LORD: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”  The increased use of this passage comes because the Sandy Hook massacre happened on that date, and ever since, it seems we haven’t really stopped weeping.  Continue reading

First Sunday after Pentecost (June 15, 2014)

Scripture:  Psalm 8:1-9

I’ve been told that the Nebraska Sandhills are a favorite spot of stargazers across the nation because there, at night, you can see more stars, and those stars more brightly, than you can almost anywhere else in the United States.  I’ve had that experience, although it was during a camel trek in the Negev Desert in Israel, so I know what people mean.  When you’re in an arid place like that, it’s almost as if the number of stars in the sky doubles, or triples, or grows by an even larger factor.  Stars you never imagined existing suddenly spring into view.  The colors of stars are more vivid, the constellations are easier to trace, and the starlight is so bright it can make you squint if you close your eyes for a bit first.  The sight of all those stars also fills you with an almost overwhelming sense of your own insignificance in the grand expanse of the cosmos—but this isn’t a bad thing. Continue reading

Pentecost Sunday (June 8, 2014)

Scriptures:  1 Corinthians 123b-13; Acts 2:1-21 (also 1 Corinthians 13)

In the well-known and beloved 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul expounds upon the nature of love in a way that has come to be associated with weddings.  You all know the refrain:  “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth” and so on.  It’s a nice sentiment, and decent advice about love for any couple entering into wedded bliss.  The only problem is, I bet we mostly remember the “love is” part, and pay less attention to the way the passage opens:  “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”  This section, if properly understood, helps readers understand what Paul is getting at, and it’s about more than just what love is and is not. Continue reading

Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 25, 2014; Memorial Day Weekend)

On this day St. Luke’s accepted and re-dedicated the gift of 212 used New Century Hymnals from other churches.  This meditation offers an introduction to that resource.  –PC

Every hymnal is a theological claim that says something about the beliefs of the committee that crafts it.  If by intention, it also says something about the beliefs of the denomination that ordered it.  If by association, it may say something about the beliefs of churches within that denomination.  However, we are the United Church of Christ, so the very best we can say is that a denominational hymnal says something about SOME churches in the UCC, but not all.  Continue reading

Fifth Sunday of Easter (May 18, 2014 – Rogation Sunday @ St. Luke’s)

Scripture:  1 Corinthians 3:5-9; Matthew 13:18-23

Parables are funny things—not funny “ha ha”, but funny weird, because parables are definitely weird.  They involve symbolism, exaggeration, and misdirection, all to tease our brains into thinking.  Further complicating matters is that sometimes we think about them too hard when we ought to be receiving them in a very straightforward way, while at other times we take them as straightforward when, perhaps, we should be thinking symbolically. Continue reading

Fourth Sunday of Easter (May 11, 2014)

Scripture:  Psalm 23, John 10:1-10

Nearly one month ago, the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped at least 276 girls from their beds at their all-girls school.  United States intelligence sources tell us the girls have probably been split up, and some speculate that the girls may well be sold into the international sex trade.  Story after story relates how the Nigerian government and military are woefully underprepared for such a search.  Just this week, we’ve learned that Boko Haram attacked a village that was being used as a base for rescue operations; 301 people were killed.

Continue reading

Third Sunday of Easter (May 4, 2014) (Star Wars Sunday!)

Scriptures:  Acts 2:14, 36-42; 1 Peter 1:17-23

Today is May 4, which has become something of a holiday for fans of Star Wars.  On this day and no other, it is acceptable to say, “May the Fourth be with you!”  Progressive, dorky pastors, like me (but not me today) have even taken this to an extreme and crafted entire worship services around Star Wars, even using the wisdom of Yoda in the Call to Worship and having the organist play Star Wars music in all places in the service.  In other words, I didn’t do that today, so if you’re not a fan, count yourself lucky! Continue reading

Easter Sunday (April 20, 2014)

Scripture:  John 20:1-18

Friends, there is no more important day in the life of a Christian than Easter Sunday.  As the Gospels all recount, on this day so many years ago, the stone rolled away.  The tomb was discovered empty.  The energy that Rome expended against one man was all for naught, for he had experienced Resurrection.  Whether you believe he walked bodily out of that tomb, or perhaps that the story is more of a parable, the result is the same:  a people who just days earlier had seen their hope die on the cross suddenly found hope again.  They were reintroduced to joy.  They became known as the followers of one who had died and come back again, and they began to proclaim the Good News that Love had been born again on Easter Day.  In fact, on Easter Sunday, it’s not really necessary that anything more be said than this:

Christ is risen!

(Response:  “Christ is risen, indeed!”) Continue reading

Maundy Thursday (April 17, 2014)

Scripture:  1 Corinthians 11:23-34

For a congregation and denomination that places great stock in the phrase, “No matter who you are or where you are in your life’s journey, you are welcome here,” Paul’s words to the church at Corinth might be unsettling.  His admonishments about being “worthy” during the act of Communion and about “examining ourselves” before we eat and drink can easily come across as less than gracious, almost as if he’s setting a high bar—maybe too high—for those who wish to share the Lord’s Supper.  Continue reading

Sixth Sunday in Lent: Palm Sunday (April 13, 2014)

Scriptures:  Matthew 21:1-11

Today is Palm Sunday, the day on which we remember the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem after years of growing anticipation.  This is the moment in which he enters in celebration, at the head of a crowd, ready to claim the throne of David and lead the people into a new age of blessedness.  The palm branches wave.  The crowd cheers and sings out its joy.  And then that dream, not five days later, dies with Jesus.  What was to be a great new beginning becomes a tragic ending. Continue reading