Thank you, Vitu Santos for this wonderful photo. It speaks volumes to me… and it exhibits to me the message of today’s sermon…
At the Madison Valley Presbyterian Church in Ennis, MT today, Rev. Steve Hundley delivered his sermon titled, “Is Your Cross Too Heavy?” The Lord prompted me to take my sermon notes in the shape of a cross. The photo of the cross sermon above is the result of that effort.
To illustrate his point – that we need to give Jesus our burdens, lighten our load, and live in joy, Rev. Steve used this story:
“It’s hard for an egg to become a bird, but it would be harder for a bird to fly while still in the egg.”
Let go the egg… and FLY! Give Jesus your burdens and follow Him with JOY, not because you HAVE to, but because you WANT to.
God bless you with the JOY of Life Given Away because you WANT to!
Have a Happy Labor Day weekend. See ya tomorrow. Love, JanBeek
Thanks to Pastor Steve Hundley and our music minister, Fran McNiell, for the prayers, stories, and sermon, and the music for today’s worship service.
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
April 19, 2020
Risen Christ, the brightness of God’s glory and exact image of God’s Person, who death could not conquer nor tomb imprison, as You have shared our frailty in human flesh, help us to share Your immortality in the Spirit. Let no shadow of the grave terrify us and no fear of darkness turn our hearts from You. Reveal Yourself to us this day and all our days, as the First and the Last, the living One, our immortal Savior and Lord. Amen.
Prayer of Confession:
We confess, O God, that we have not lived the past weeks in the faith of Easter. We have been like the disciples, who saw life in terms of the suffering of the cross more than in the joy of resurrection. Forgive our hopelessness in the face of our world’s response to the COVID 19 pandemic, these past few weeks, and help us to trust more fully that You are the Lord of our future. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
As God raised Jesus from the dead, so God will lift us all from the graves of broken dreams. God makes us whole again and send us forth to witness to His name.
A Children’s Message for Adults, too!
Steve’s message for the children today tells of a boy carrying two buckets… not just one, and not on a sandy beach like this one… read on and see how his buckets and path differed from this!
(a true story)
When I was a boy, my mother would often send me down the road to Clyde’s cabin to help him with his laundry. Clyde lived in a log cabin he had built in the early nineteen-hundreds. His cabin had no running water, only a well out back. There was a creek out front less than a quarter mile from his front door.
Clyde had an old roller washing machine, a tub and an old scrub board. It was my job to carry water from the creek to the cabin in two old milk pails. I would fill the pails in the creek and make my way back to the cabin, pouring what water that didn’t spill or leak out of the buckets into the large tub. Filling each bucket to the rim each trip, I would arrive with less than half a bucket of water. At that rate, it would take me practically all day to supply enough water for Clyde’s washing and rinsing.
Complaining about the amount of water that I was spilling over the top of the buckets, not to mention the water lost from holes in his dilapidated buckets, Clyde instructed me to place a small block of wood in the buckets. He explained that the blocks of wood floating in the buckets would help water from splashing out the tops. Though it helped a little, I continued to leak water from the holes the buckets.
On one trip from the creek to the cabin with water leaking down my legs and into my shoes, I had had about enough. “Clyde,” I moaned, “When are you going to throw away these sorry buckets and buy new ones? These dented old rust buckets are full of holes.” Clyde just smiled his toothless grin and said, “Why boy, those are my special buckets. I could never get rid of them.” “But these sorry things are full of holes,” I whined. “And, it takes me twice the effort and double the trips back and forth from the creek, to fill your tubs.”
“Boy, take a look along that path leading down to the creek,” Clyde said. “Do you see all those beautiful wildflowers, lining the path?Every time you made the hard trip from the creek to the cabin, spilling water along the way, you were unknowingly watering God’s beautiful flowers for us to enjoy.”
Jesus’ followers found the path towards Easter to be really difficult. Peter denied knowing Jesus, not once, but three times, though he vowed never to do so. After that, he was so upset that he no longer considered himself worthy of being a disciple. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to watch her son suffer and die on the cross. Mary Magdalene was not only upset by Jesus’ death, but was horrified to think that someone had stolen His body when she found the stone rolled away.
I am sure that God could have found an easier path for them to follow than the way of the cross. But, without the pain of the cross, there can be no Easter joy. Without God coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ and paying the price for our failures on the cross, we would not see, know, or enjoy the beauty of His love for us.
Prayer for Illumination:
God of life, whose Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and draws us to Christ, send Your Spirit now to give us deeper insight, encouragement, faith and hope, through the proclamation of the Easter gospel. Amen.
An Easter Message: “Through Locked Doors”
For centuries Christians celebrated Jesus’ resurrection the week following Easter with parties and picnics. The week culminated with “Bright Sunday” or “Holy Humor Sunday”, a day of joy and laughter. Churchgoers and pastors would play jokes on each other, tell silly jokes, and would sing and dance. The custom was rooted in the notion of early Christian theologians like St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Nysa, and St. John Chrysostom that God had played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. Early theologians called it “the Easter Laugh”. Later, it became known as “the Gospel as Divine Comedy.”
However, the thought of the resurrection as God’s practical joke on the devil and death is not something we tend to think about the Sunday following Easter. Over the years, the tradition of “Bright Sunday” or “Holy Humor Sunday” has been lost. That tradition has been replaced with what we have come to know as “Low Sunday.” Compared to the highest feast day in the church year – Easter Sunday- the Sunday following is considered the lowest. Why is that?
I don’t know. Maybe the excitement of Easter Sunday fades so quickly because the church, over the years, has lost its hope in the power of the resurrection. Maybe. Or, perhaps it is because the stories of Easter and the resurrection have become so familiar to us that we have lost sight of the irony of life overcoming death, especially given the high death toll we are experiencing during this recent pandemic. Well, maybe.
You have to admit that someone rising from the grave is a rather fantastic idea in our modern world. For instance, when my son was in middle school, he came home one day after school to discover that our Brittany Spaniel was running around in the backyard with our neighbors’ pet rabbit in its mouth. Chasing the dog, my son finally caught it and wrenched the rabbit from its jaws. He quickly discovered, not only was the rabbit covered with mud and dog slobber, it was also dead as a door nail.
Panicking, he scooped the rabbit up and ran into the house. In the bathroom, he carefully washed the rabbit off, carefully brushed it out, and dried it with his mother’s hairdryer. Stealthily, he crept back into the neighbors’ yard and quickly placed the dead rabbit back into its rabbit pen. Arranging it just right, it was impossible to tell that the rabbit was dead. Sneaking back to the house, my son retired to his room, promising himself not to tell anyone what had really happened.
Arriving home from my office, I was standing in the kitchen when I heard the blood curdling scream coming from my neighbor’s backyard. Running out the house, I ran to the fence to see our neighbor’s wife staring with horror into the rabbit pin. “What on earth has happened?” I called. “THE RABBIT, IT DIED!” she screamed. “It died?” I said inquiringly. Turning to run back into her house, she screamed: “YES, IT DIED THREE DAYS AGO! WE BURIED IT, BUT NOW IT IS BACK! (Now this story may not be true, but you have to admit, be it rabbit or human, rising up from the grave is a fantastic notion in this day and time!)
Can you and I even fathom the shock of the disciples when Jesus appeared to them, passing through locked doors? Sure, they had trudged behind Jesus through the entire Judean countryside. Jesus’ purpose and teachings were hard to understand, even though He spoke of being the Christ—the Messiah—the Holy One of God, who is of the Father.
But, all that must have seemed like a dream (or more like a nightmare) when Jesus was crucified, ending all hope. The death of Jesus had slammed the door on their greatest hopes and dreams. It was over. It had been good while it lasted, but now the door was locked and nothing could bring Him back to life again, or so they thought. They had buried Him three days before, AND NOW, HE WAS BACK!
Of course, the reaction to God’s practical joke on death was varied among Jesus’ followers. While the “beloved disciple” may have believed without evidence except for an empty tomb, Mary Magdalene only believed because the Risen Christ called her by name. The remaining disciples, excluding Thomas, believed only because their Risen Christ appears to them, granting peace to them, and showing them His hands and His side. Yet, for Thomas, neither the word of his fellow disciples, nor the sight of the Risen Lord would be sufficient. For Thomas said, “Unless I place my fingers into the nail holes, and stick my hand in His side, I will not believe.”
It would seem that true FAITH is not the same experience for everyone, not then, not now. Neither is FAITH generated with the same kind and degree of evidence for each individual. For some, FAITH is born and grows as quietly as a child sleeping on grandmother’s lap. For others, FAITH is a lifetime of wrestling with the angel. And, some cannot remember a time in their life when they didn’t believe, while others cannot remember anything else with their lives having been shattered and reshaped by their decision of FAITH.
No matter how FAITH came, or comes, to you and me, it would do us well to remember the words of Jesus who said: (and I paraphrase), “REMEMBER THIS, UNLESS YOU ACCEPT GOD’S KINGDOM IN THE SIMPLICITY OF A CHILD, YOU’LL NEVER GET IT.” And like a child, what better way to celebrate God’s joke on death than with joy, laughter, singing, and dancing? Yet, what a shame it is, when the voice of doubters or the voice of those of us for whom FAITH has become the norm, even commonplace, drown out the true irony and wonder of the resurrection.
When I think of the true joy and wonder of faith, I cannot help but remember a boy named Lonnie, years ago, in my 3rd grade classroom. Lonnie’s parents had died in an automobile accident, so his grandparents were raising him. I remember how we used to tease Lonnie mercilessly, because he would believe anything. We’d say, “The school burned down, so we don’t have to go to school Monday.” “Oh, boy!” he’d say. You see, he’d believe it!
“They are giving away free ice cream down at Mr. Kern’s grocery store.” “FREE ICE CREAM?” he’d squeal and off he’d go running. “Lonnie, did you know that that Elvis is coming to our school?” “HE IS REALLY? WHOOPEE!” Yep, that boy would believe anything!
One day, Lonnie showed up at our little country church and came to our Sunday School class. Our teacher, old Miss King, told Lonnie that: “God loves you and cares for You. And God will come to you in Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead.” And do you know, THAT KID BELIEVED IT! HE ACTUALLY BELIEVED IT!
Do you believe it? Do we really believe it? And, if we do, then where is our laughter? Where is the singing and dancing? Where is our uncontrollable joy? Hmmm.
Lord of the cross and the Empty Tomb, we worship You. Though the pandemic rages on, You give us reason to hope. We thank You that we are not alone even as the news of more Corona Virus cases and deaths dominate the headlines. Though we are well-acquainted with death, dying and grief, we praise You that death has been vanquished and its spell broken. And though our lives are still embroiled in sin, failure and inadequacy, thank You, O God, for giving our lives meaning, purpose and direction.
We confess that the more days we stay at home, the more likely it is that we may forget Your power and fall into despair. Yet, today we remember and hope comes back. Though the darkness of the night brought doubt and disarray, in the light of this new day we bow our heads in worship. Like Thomas, we desire to see the nail prints and touch the wound in Your side, but Your presence is enough, and we cry out, saying: “My Lord, and my God!”
Walk among us, Lord, and touch our troubled lives. Give hope to the hopeless, strength to the faltering, love to the lonely, compassion and courage to those on the front line of this pandemic. We pray for health, hope, and help for those who have lost their incomes and/or health insurance in the midst of this ongoing lock down. Let the radiance of Your resurrected presence shine upon them and us as it shone upon Your first disciples and make new persons of us all, as it did of them.
Transform us from frightened, hesitant, uncommitted followers into people of fire and steel who know what we believe and who will follow You no matter what the future holds. Live in and through us. Walk among us and teach us to walk with You. For You alone have the words of eternal life, and You alone can call us into discipleship. Lord of the cross and empty tomb, we praise You! Bring healing and hope to our hurting world, for Your name’s sake, saying together, as One Church, One Body …”Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts (trespasses), as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us). And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”
Go into the world: dance, laugh, sing, and create.
Go into the world: risk, explore, discover, and love.
Go into the world: believe, hope, struggle, and remember.
Today began with a Good Friday greeting.
It was a good morning –
-and a good afternoon
-and a good evening, too.
Did you begin with a Good Morning on Good Friday?
I hope your day was as special as mine.
After my Writers’ Group,
I attended our women’s group at church.
Then I came home and prepared the dinner
of ham and scalloped potatoes
that we enjoyed this evening with our grandson.
This evening we picked him up from his
Job Corps program and brought him
home for Easter weekend.
What a joy to have him here!
It’s late now … and I am ready for bed,
but I wanted to say Thank You.
Thank you for sharing this Good Friday
with your WordPress readers
and fellow bloggers.
Thank you for being part of the folks out there
who “Walk the Talk.”
May your Silent Saturday be meaningful
as you contemplate what that day
must have been like for
Christ on the cross.
Day #10 in the A – Z series, “What Makes Me Happy?”
Why would justification make me happy? What does it mean? Print that is justified is even on the right and the left margins. There are no ragged edges. Most books are written with the print justified. Newspaper columns are justified. The Bible’s print is justified in its columns, except for books like Proverbs, whose genre is poetry. Justified print is a neat and trim way to look at a page, isn’t it? But that’s not why it makes me happy. Stay with me!
To make my point you need to realize on the other hand,
that if you set the print to the left, the edges on the right are ragged.
A crooked right margin is typical when you are letter writing.
Where else do you see print that is left-margin justified?
If you set the print to the right,
then the left margin will be crooked,
but the right margin will be straight.
A rare form, indeed, except
in some creative poetry.
Poetry often is written with centered print This is a Haiku
How does all this talk about justification of print apply to my life? I want to know my life is justified. No ragged edges. Clean on both sides, inside and outside. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Justification gives me peace. Peace makes us all happy!
It’s not the event of the death of Jesus that makes me happy, of course. But His death was an important part of the equation. It is the Grace of God given to me in the form of the Holy Spirit as a result of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection… that’s what makes me happy. Through it, I am free! God’s gift to humankind was to free us from guilt and the penalty of sin through the sacrifice of His Son. Through Him, we are justified. I am not sure (are you?) how people face the death of a loved one – or their own mortality – if they do not have faith in the promise of eternal life. We need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Heaven is our eternal home, made ours through Christ and His sacrifice. My joy is made complete in my love of the Lord. Jesus is my ultimate happiness.
It is no coincidence that Justice and Justification have the same root. In our current culture of right vs. left, JUSTICE demands vindication of the right… the correct! Not left vs. right, but right vs. wrong! The scales above are pitifully dirty. We need the scales of our justice system to be clean inside and outside, to be fair, to be even, no ragged edges. Straight on both sides… no partiality. We need to be assuring the public that indeed, this is the case. Straight, honest on all sides. No leaning left, to make the right crooked. No leaning right, to make the left ragged. Don’t even stay center, trying to please both sides, because then both sides are compromised. Justice needs justification… freedom from prejudice or inequality or irresponsibility. A focus on what is fair and correct. Only then will the TRUTH be served so peace can reign. Only then is there True Justice.
Day 4 of the A-Z activity of “What Makes Me Happy.”
Little did I realize when I chose Dogwood for my D word what I would learn about this beautiful tree (now a large bush)!
Dogwood and Daddy are in the same pocket of my heart. This picture of my daddy was taken under the dogwood tree in my brother-in-law’s back yard in central California about two and a half decades ago. I treasure it because it captures my father’s sweet disposition and kindness so perfectly. That tree is not gnarled and twisted as the Legend of the Dogwood tree suggests. But the blossoms are as the legend describes in this poem I found on the Internet this morning:
I didn’t know this legend until now. How did I miss it all these years? Did you know it?
I worship God in church each Sunday. I take notes as I listen to the sermon, and my filter helps me record the message as I hear it poetically. Here is the sermon as I heard its message today at the Madison Valley Presbyterian Church in Ennis, Montana. Where did you worship God this beautiful Sabbath Day?
The best place for worship Isn’t a temple or a place. The best place for worship Is with Jesus, face-to-face.
The temple faced destruction. The curtain ripped in two. The holy place was transported To the heart of me and you.
On the cross Christ made a way From the temple to us – in love. His sacrifice was the ultimate path From earth to our God above.
Inconceivable – to think of God Letting Jesus die in pain. But this “failed victim” didn’t fail. The cross was victory and gain!
The best place for worship Isn’t a temple or a place. The best place for worship Is the divine dominion of God’s grace.