Archive | April 2012

3. Easter: From Wonder to Witness

Third Sunday of Easter

22 April 2012

St. John United Church of Christ

St. Clair, MO


Based on St. Luke 24: 36-48

By Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell


            This week when I returned from my trip to Washington, DC, I came into the sanctuary and smelled the wonderful aroma of our Easter lilies and was glad to notice that more had bloomed since I left a few days before. I think it’s quite appropriate that there were only a few blooms on Easter Sunday, and a few more each following Sunday – because Easter is not just a one-day event. In the life of the Church, we celebrate the season of Easter, or Eastertide. It is appropriately longer than the forty day journey of Lent, celebrated for 50 days until Ascension and Pentecost. Like the lilies still blooming, Easter is something that has to be lived into – and isn’t just a big joyous, raucous celebration for a few hours one Sunday with the chocolate and jelly bean-fueled sugar crash following. Our readings in this time of Easter remind us of that, each telling of Jesus’ appearances after being resurrected.

            What I find interesting about these appearances is that so often the initial response is not celebratory joy we associate with Easter. On Easter Sunday, from St. Mark’s gospel we heard that the women were seized with terror and amazement, so much so that they ran away. Last Sunday, you heard from St. John’s gospel about the initial disbelief of St. Thomas. This morning we move to St. Luke’s gospel account. Luke says that when the women found the tomb empty, they didn’t know what to think, that when the women told the others, the male disciples thought they were making the whole thing up, calling it an “idle tale”, Peter is shocked and puzzled when he goes to see the empty tomb himself, and in our passage today, when Jesus presents himself to the disciples “They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”[1]

            Jesus appears to the disciples on Easter evening. The women had found the tomb empty, a few of the men went later and were shocked to find it true. So there they sit in shock and confusion, not knowing what to think. They sit there questioning if it could really be true. And in the midst of this, Jesus, bodily risen with scars of the crucifixion, appears and says, “Peace be with you.” Could it be real, is what they are experiencing true, they ask. They are so blown away they think they are seeing a ghost. Who can blame them after all? Resurrection is a brand new thing – they had no previous experience of it. Despite some nonreligious people calling the resurrected Christ, “zombie Jesus,” we know that he’s not a zombie either because he asks for a fish, instead of brains. Michael Jinkins, president of Louisville Theological Seminary says that “Seeing a ghost in a dark corridor might require some shifting in our conventional thinking. The appearance of a specter, although surprising, can be explained in all sorts of ways. But when Jesus appears, bodily risen, bearing the scars of his crucifixion, hungry for a nice piece of broiled tilapia, then we have to do more than merely rearrange some intellectual furniture. We have to move into a whole new mental and spiritual dwelling place – and the first disciples were as unprepared as we are to make the transition.”[2]

            But yet, the disciples do make the transition. Despite their initial disbelief and shock to their system, the disciples thinking gets turned on its head once again and they come to believe. Jesus says to them, “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” Seeing this the disciples realize that it must be true – it is not a ghost or zombie, but Jesus risen to life among them.

            We often overlook what Jesus does next – he asks for something to eat. It’s such a human act, and understandable after what he’s been through the past through days! I find it just a bit ironic that the one who taught the disciples to be fishers of men, asks for a fish. It’s also completely in character for Jesus who shared the loaves and fishes with thousands, shared the Passover meal with his disciples and broke bread with those he met on the road to Emmaus. It provides spiritual grounding for our own inclination to celebrate or mourn over food in the faith community. When we have our Easter breakfast, funeral dinners, barbeques, sausage dinners, and the lunch I share with the quilters each Thursday, it is in the tradition of Jesus eating with his disciples on Easter evening.

            After Jesus and the disciples have had their bodily nourishment, Jesus reminds them of what he told them before. We read from the gospel writer that “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” What they could not understand before, starts to make sense, it starts to click. Whereas before they couldn’t even consider the subject of Jesus dying, now they see why, and how he really did rise again on the third day. Jesus says, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” and they hear it as if it is the first time. They now have ears to hear.

Once they are finally able to discern what it all means, comes the most important thing Jesus tells them that night: “You are witnesses of these things.” This was of vital importance to the disciples then, and to disciples of Christ today. They were to witness to all that had happened, to proclaim all that they had seen and heard – of their journey with Jesus throughout the Galilee and Jerusalem, his crucifixion and resurrection and what that all meant. The Risen Christ would not appear to everyone, so it was now up to them to continue the work to spread the news that Christ indeed was risen. Today, we are not fortunate enough to have Christ right before our eyes showing us the wounds in his hands and feet. The closest we come today are the few mystics who claim visions of Jesus Christ. So we rely on the witness that the early disciples passed down to us, the stories of how Jesus appeared to many after being raised from death to life. We cannot explain the resurrection, what we can do is point to the manifold stories of peoples’ experience of the risen Christ. According to Larry Broding, “As witnesses, the early disciples were charged to tell others what they saw. Not only did Jesus command them, the Spirit impelled them to preach to all nations as the Father desired. Hence the missionary activity of the early disciples, as it is now in the Church, stemmed from the activity of the Trinity. As Father, Son, and Spirit are now working in the world, they desire that we, the Church, lead all people into union with the Holy Trinity.”[3]

Just as the first disciples made sure to tell the story and documented it for future generations in the books of the New Testament from Sts. Paul, Peter, Timothy, James, John and others, it is imperative for us to share the Good News as well and continue the witness. I often say that you have to know from you have come, to know where you’ll go. We have to know the story ourselves to be able to witness to it. It’s important to know that those early disciples didn’t have it easy and faced much persecution. So we ought not to worry too much about a little bit of insecurity and discomfort when being witnesses. Not only do we witness to the fact that God become incarnate among us, taught his people to love God and one another, sacrificed his very life for us, and in so doing, destroyed and conquered death, rising to new life and raising us with him – but we also witness to how this has impacted and changed our lives. Resurrection changes things. When you’ve lived all your life thinking death is the end, and then all of a sudden it isn’t – and there’s new life, not only at the end of earthly life, but each and every day, well that changes everything. That’s what the disciples witnessed to and what we are called to as well. I can think of no better news than that.


+To God be the glory. Amen.

[2] Michael Jinkins, “Living by the Word,” in The Christian Century, Vol. 129, No. 8, 18 April 2012, p.20


2. Easter: Doubting St. Thomas

Second Sunday of Easter

15 April 2012


The United Church + Die Vereinigte Kirche

Washington, DC

Doubting St. Thomas


Based on St. John 20: 19-31

By Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell


            Doubting Thomas. Doubting Saint Thomas that is. Thomas the supposed doubter was the only apostle to travel outside the Roman Empire to spread the gospel, and according to tradition, the only one to witness the Assumption of Mary into heaven. Today in the Middle East and South Asia, there are still St. Thomas Christians, such as the indigenous Mar Thoma Church in India, which trace their founding to St. Thomas’ evangelization among the people of India. In short, while Thomas sometimes gets a bad rap in the life of the Church, he was truly a vital part of the early Church and is a saint we can still learn from.

            Jesus appeared to the disciples, who were fearfully locked in a room. When they told Thomas later, he could not believe it. But this is no surprise- Thomas knew what happened on Calvary. He knew his Master died a brutal and excruciating death, and knew that was the end. All of the apostles knew this, that is, until once again, Jesus turned their world on its head. The other apostles had seen Jesus risen. Of course, they believed, they had the proof. Thomas simply wanted the same.

            We are not so unlike Thomas. In our world so colored by rationalism, we can sometimes find the more miraculous claims of the Christian faith difficult to accept. We want proof, something to see or touch before we take the risk of faith. That’s what Thomas wanted too. St. John, the author of this gospel knows this, and it is appropriate that he closes this chapter, the second to last chapter in his gospel, by writing “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe* that Jesus is the Messiah,* the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” The story of Thomas and the many others who saw and whose lives were transformed by the living Christ have been written and saved for generations, precisely “so that you may come believe,” that these accounts might warm our hearts and minds in the midst of doubt.

            But sometimes this is not enough, and we wrestle with what we believe and what is true. This is not an easy place to be, when you want to believe something, but can’t find it within yourself to believe, to make a leap of faith. I know this is hard. I have watched with sadness as a very close friend and confidante has struggled about what she believes, questioning how we know which religion is right, the authority of the Bible, the Resurrection, who Jesus is and if he is the only way, salvation, and what happens when we die. For my friend, this has been the source of much anxiety – moreso than any other person I’ve met. As I spoke to a friend in this congregation about my friend’s struggles, he stated that it was too bad that this friend wasn’t able to participate in our adult forum, where long-time members often wrestle with these profound questions of our faith. I know some here have struggled with the very question of God’s existence. But what is key, I believe, is remaining in the faith community, to wrestle with our doubts and questions amongst this community of support that can help us on our journey, showing love and nonjudgment. One of the real gifts of this congregation is that it isn’t dogmatic about believing the finer points of doctrine, but that we are invited to bring our questions and doubts as we live our Christian faith. I like to say that we don’t have to leave our brains at the door here. Rev. Dr. Jane Fisler Hoffman, the former conference minister of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ recently told me, “When my pastor admitted to doubt in a sermon many years ago it changed my life.” You see, Jane thought she was the only doubter in the church – but was able to see then that even the most faithful doubt from time to time. In fact, this week in the clergy Bible study I participate in, two elder clergymen in their 70’s (conveniently one was UCC and the other United Methodist) both stated that their times of doubt led to their times of greatest spiritual growth. All this is not to say that all clergy are great doubters – but that when we are honest, clergy often wrestle with the very same issues as laypeople. Doubt and questioning can lead us to greater understanding and growth. Frederick Buechner reminds us, “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”[1] But it can also be dangerous if we let it consume us.  Our doubting can be accompanied by anxiety like it was for my friend, and fear that we have lost our faith. But remember that Jesus does not condemn Thomas, but says “Peace be with you.” Jesus offers Thomas peace, and I believe he offers it to us as well.

            Swiss theologian Paul Tillich said, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith, it is and component of faith.” Doubting and questioning is not the end of faith. In fact, it is taking our faith seriously enough to wrestle with tough issues, to try to discern what we believe and why. Doubting does not destroy faith, but can help make it stronger, by truly exploring what most Christians affirm and why. One example is the life of Lutheran pastor Edward Marquardt, who writes that:

My doubts fully blossomed and flowered when I was in college. I took several courses in Comparative Religion, Anthropology and Psychology. I became a “walking question mark” about God. No matter what it was about God, Christ, the Bible and the Christian faith, I questioned it. The essential question was this: “Did God create man or did man create God?” I basically answered that question with “man created God.” As I finished college, I was still a walking question mark, but thought that I still wanted to be a pastor. Yes, I know that was weird, but I wanted to be a religious social worker or a religious psychologist. I was required to write a paper for the seminary and tell the seminary my beliefs. I did. I told them I had lots of questions about God and Jesus, and didn’t really believe in them except as symbols.  I wanted to come to the seminary and explore these questions. The seminary turned me down and sent me a rejection slip. I was surprised that the seminary had some standards and so I wrote the paper again, using the right buzz words that would get me into the seminary. It worked. I got into the seminary and studied hard the knotty questions of my life: God, Jesus, the Bible, the miracles, virgin birth, the resurrection, evolution, and every other question that was bugging me. I don’t know how it happened but over time, the Holy Spirit got into me in such a way that my questions and doubts were addressed if not answered and my doubts and questions began to fade into the woodwork, like a scar in a tree fades over time. I believe that my questions and doubts and skepticism led me into a deeper and wider faith.[2]

So, you see, even when we are plagued by doubt, we can come out on the other side. All of our questions won’t be precisely answered. But Jesus doesn’t offer us certainty, but the peace to accept that he is present with and for us. Thomas the Doubter? Thomas who said he had to put his finger in Jesus’ wounds to believe, he never does it. He sees Jesus and believes. In fact, Thomas utters the most profound confession of faith in all of the gospels, saying, “My Lord and My God!” Nowhere else in any of the four gospels does anyone call Jesus Christ God. Thomas is the one. So you see, our doubting can lead to greater, more profound faith.

            So remember Thomas when you find yourself in the scary place of not knowing what you believe. Remember that it is ok to question. It is okay to ask why we believe what we believe. When you do that, may you discover how deeply rooted and grounded our faith in the Risen Christ is. While you may not end up founding a whole new branch of Christianity like Thomas, may you be able to accept the peace Christ grants and say “My Lord and My God!”

+To God be the Glory. Amen.



[1] Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words, San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2004, 85.

Easter: Resurrection Hope

Easter Sunday

8 April 2012

St. John United Church of Christ

St. Clair, MO


Eternal Resurrection Hope

Based on St. Mark 16: 1-8

By Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

            Christ is risen! Alleluia!

It is the women we are told that do not desert Jesus at the cross. And it is the women, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome who return to the tomb where Jesus has been laid to rest to anoint his body. They could not perform their burial rites the day before because it was the Sabbath. So at sunrise, two days after Jesus was crucified they go to the tomb. Nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther said of them,

The great longing and love of the women for the Lord must also be particularly noted here, so that unadvised and alone they go early to the grave, not thinking of the great stone which was rolled before the tomb. But they go on their way without even thinking of the most necessary things. They do not even think of the watchers who were clad in armor, nor of the wrath of Pilate and the Jews, but boldly they freely risk it and alone they venture on their way. What urged these good women to hazard life and body? It was nothing but the great love they bore to the Lord, which had sunk so deeply into their hearts that for his sake they would have risked a thousand lives. Such courage they had not of themselves, but here the power of the resurrection of Christ was revealed, whose Spirit makes these women, so bold and courageous that they venture to do things which might – have daunted a man.[1]

I especially like that last phrase – “they venture to do things which might have daunted a man.” Peter had denied and deserted Jesus. James is nowhere to be found. Even John who stood at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus, does not come with the women. We find out later that the twelve had locked themselves in a room out of fear and desperation and confusion. After all, despite Jesus’ warnings they didn’t think it would end in his death – and did not understand Jesus’ alluding to his own resurrection. So it is the women who bravely come to the tomb as soon as the Sabbath is over to tend to the body of their teacher, rabbi and friend. Their only fear on their way to the tomb is how they will roll away the stone. They do not worry about armed guards or Pilate’s henchmen. But when they get there the stone is already rolled away! They are understandably concerned. The women enter the tomb and the body of Jesus is not there, but a young man in a white robe startles them. He says to the two Marys and Salome, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” They are shocked and confused. The women we are told “fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” That is the end of the Gospel of St. Mark. It ends with the women running from the tomb in terror and fear, telling no one what they have seen and heard. If you look in your Bibles after this passage you’ll see two headings, for ‘The Shorter Ending of Mark’ and ‘The Longer Ending of Mark.’ The footnotes tell us that “The most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8, One authority concludes with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending, then continue with the longer ending…some authorities mark the longer ending as being doubtful.”[2] Simply this all means that the oldest versions of the Gospel of St. Mark end where this morning’s passage does – the longer ending which shows Jesus greeting the disciples was added later. So we are left, at least in this gospel with the women not telling anyone. The other gospels do continue and tell the story of Jesus presenting himself risen to the disciples. But why this ending? Why would Mark tell his story this way?

            I don’t think we can know precisely what the gospel author intended by this, but I do have a few ideas. First, note that we actually have this gospel. What I mean is that, even though we are told that the women told no one…they eventually must have, because we have this story and others that tell us about the empty tomb and the appearances of the risen Christ to his disciples and others. If they kept it a secret for all eternity, we wouldn’t have these gospel accounts themselves. Further, we should be easy on the two Marys and Salome for running in fear and trembling and keeping quiet a bit. Wouldn’t we have the same response? A dear friend and teacher, let alone the savior of the world, has died, and they are griefstricken and just want to tend to their beloved’s body and anoint him. But he is gone and a strange man is telling them that he is not there but risen?! I think we’d all be feeling a whole range of emotions if we heard that. It is no wonder they run away. But perhaps, just perhaps, after awhile they begin to remember that Jesus told them that this would happen. Before, they didn’t have ears to hear it…they couldn’t understand what he meant. But now, maybe, it makes sense. Maybe they didn’t even hear the man say “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you,” they are so shocked. But they do later see Jesus as they return to Galilee, and these women and the disciples will share this amazing, Good News with the world around them.

            You see, I think Mark leaves the gospel where he does, prior to the women telling, prior to even seeing – because then it is up to us to share the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lutheran professor Rev. Dr. David Lose comments that, “Mark writes this open-ended gospel that threatens to end in failure, you see, precisely to place the burden of responsibility for telling the good news squarely on our shoulders. Mark invites us into the story, to pick up where these women left off and, indeed, go and tell that Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, has been raised, and is going ahead to meet us, just as he promised.” The onus is on each of us. The gospel gives a real, human reaction. Like those holy women sometimes our first response is fear and disbelief and amazement. But, if the story is to be told, we have to overcome those initial responses, to draw on all the courage God gave us to share the news that there is a power stronger than death, a power stronger than hate, a power stronger than fear, a power stronger than rage, a power stronger than disbelief, a power stronger than sin and the all evil that the world can muster. That power is love, and its name is Jesus Christ. Lose reminds us that “God meets us precisely at the point where things seem the worst, not merely to fix things, but to redeem them — and us! — turning what looks like an ending into a new beginning and taking what looks like a failure and offering it back to us an opportunity.”[3] This is the message of the cross and resurrection, indeed the whole message of Jesus Christ – where there is a period God puts a comma, where there is death God brings life, where there is hate God shows love, where there is fear God gives courage, where there is rage God shows compassion, where there is disbelief God gives belief, where there is sin and evil God shows righteousness. When you are discounted, God counts you in. When society locks you out, the doors to God’s house are open wide for you. The resurrection is the ultimate comma. The powers that be thought they were putting a period on Jesus’ ministry of love and compassion when they stripped, flogged, whipped, and crucified Jesus onto the cross. But God is more powerful than any Roman centurion, than Pilate, than any Pharisee—and God said no to violence and death, he placed a period on evil. God said yes to grace and mercy, love and hope, and placed a comma on Jesus’s ministry of healing and reconciliation, he placed a comma in each one of our lives. Jim Mitulski, campus pastor of the Pacific School of Religion reminds us, “If you are alive, then resurrection is possible. Don’t give up, don’t settle for too little too soon, don’t resign yourself to what may seem inevitable. Engage the world around you, love recklessly, take risks, and engage in a life of solidarity with others who refuse to give into the finality of crucifixion.”[4]  God says to us this day, death is not the end. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Protestant martyr who resisted the Third Reich until he was killed by the Nazis in the waning days of the war, his last words before being hung were, “This is the end, for me, the beginning of life.”  God takes upon the cross all ‘our sins and griefs to bear’, and there on the cross they have their end. They are forgiven. And God does not let death have the last word. God will always have the last word, and in the resurrection not only calls us out of a way of death, into a way of life, and gives the gift of eternal life.

            The Resurrection is more than merely about life in the great by-and-by. The resurrection tells us that no matter how bleak a situation looks there is always hope, no matter how hateful the world around us can be there is always love, no matter how dead it seems, there is always life. You see, if God can raise Jesus Christ back to life, there is enough life, love and hope for our lives. God does not just raise Jesus, but God raises us too – freeing us from the bondage of sin and death, welcoming us into new and abundant life lived in hope and love. So where do you need some resurrection today? Where do you need new life? Whether it is a broken relationship, a broken heart, or a broken spirit – God can breathe life into you the same way God breathed life into us the moment we were born and the same way God breathed life the very moment God raised Christ to life and us with him. The resurrection is our assurance that we always have hope, that God can make our ending a beginning, our dying a rising, in this life and the next. We stand on eternal resurrection hope.

            So go share that hope that Easter gives, that the empty tomb gives, that the risen Christ gives us this day. It’s up to us – the story can only continue with us. The world is waiting, the world is eager for a word of hope and of life – so when we leave this place today, may we share the very Word made flesh, the crucified and risen One, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was dead and has been raised.


To God be the Glory. Amen.

[1] A Sermon by Martin Luther; taken from his Church Postil, mid-1520’s,


[2] NRSV, New Testament, p. 55.

[3] David Lose, “Just the Beginning,”

Maundy Thursday: The Glory of the Cross?

Maundy Thursday

5 April 2012

St. John United Church of Christ

St. Clair, MO


The Glory of the Cross?

Based on St. John 18-19

By Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell


            This past Sunday, we heard the entire story of Jesus’ passion through the gospel according to St. Mark. Mark shows us the struggle of Jesus, praying in Gethsemane that the cup would pass from him and crying out on the cross “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Tonight we hear the account from St. John, who as you might have discerned takes a different sort of view of the crucifixion. John, rather than show the struggles of Jesus and tragedy of the cross, speaks almost single-mindedly of how God is glorified in the cross. Why this stark contrast between the two gospel writers? First, I think it’s important to note that Mark’s gospel was written first, and of the four gospels, John’s was written last. Simply put, I believe that John had the distance from the event itself to have enough perspective to really reflect on how Christ is glorified in the cross. Second, John wrote his gospel for a specific community of believers and tried to speak to their concerns in the lens of his gospel. I too think that because Jesus was both human and divine, that he did experience the very human struggles and wrestling with his fate that Mark describes, but John also helps us to see the cross in a different light.

            Tonight, I want to briefly reflect on two things Jesus says on the cross. When Jesus has been crucified, is hanging on the cross St. John writes that:

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’


Here is your son. Here is your mother. Jesus says this while nailed to the cross. I just find it so touching, that in the midst of a most painful dying, Jesus entrusts his mother and his most beloved disciple to each other. He makes sure that each is taken care of. It is surely the most tender moment in this horrific scene. Scottish theologian Arthur Gossip wrote that, “All his days Jesus had been going about doing good, in sheer forgetfulness of himself. And so even when they had nailed down his hands so that they could no longer leap out in generous kindliness and giving, the habit of his life still held. His heart, left free, ran out in its accustomed way.” Christ has been nailed upon that cross by hatred. He has been nailed there by jealousy. He has been nailed there by fear. He has been nailed there by anger. He has been nailed there by ignorance. He has been nailed there by sin. When the winds of change blow, those in power often to nail down things to keep the status quo. In this instance, they nail down Jesus to prevent the change of God. And though they nail him with sinful hatred, what does Jesus do on the cross? He could have cried out spitefully and condemned those who condemned him. But rather, he speaks only love, caring for his mother and dear friend who cry at the foot of the cross. The disciple whom he entrusts to his mother is believed to be St. John himself, to whose community this gospel was written.

            Christ’s last words on the cross are “It is finished” before he breathes his last dying breath. Note that he doesn’t say, “I am finished” but “It is finished.” Christ, we know is not finished. But there on the cross his earthly work is finished, and what he set out to do is accomplished. And so he bowed his head and gave up his Spirit. According to United Church of Canada minister, Rev. David Ewart, “To outsiders, a battered and broken Jesus could no longer hold his head up and died in humiliation and defeat. But to those who believe into him, a true Son of God has completed his great work, and with a royal nod (and maybe a mischievous wink?) has passed on his Spirit so that we too might have life – the life that was in Jesus.”

            Jesus came was born incarnate to Mary and Joseph, lived with them in Bethlehem and Egypt and Nazareth, went to the temple yearly with his parents, grew to be a man and was baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan River, began teaching and preaching and gathering disciples, eating with the poor and downtrodden and healing the blind and the deaf and the lame and the possessed, proclaiming the Kingdom of God and the day of the Lord’s favor, challenging authority and power and privilege, up to his final earthly days in Jerusalem when he was betrayed and given into the hands of the authorities to be mocked, scourged, beaten, and killed. He was nailed to a cross as a criminal, to be made an example of – so the authorities could say, “This is what will happen to you if you challenge or threaten us.” And he dies upon that cross. There it is finished. And this was all done out of love. It is because God loves us and wants a relationship with us that he came. It is out of love that he taught and healed. It is love of ourselves and our neighbor and God that he taught. It is out of love that he bears the worst we can deal out, and suffers and dies on the cross. All for the love of each one of us. All for the love of you. That is the glory of the cross.


To God be the Glory. Amen.