Sunday is Coming! Easter 3B “Some thoughts about touch and the resurrection”





Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I have.” (Luke 24:39)


Touch is an important part of human life.

Touch is such an important aspect of our development that infants who don’t receive enough human contact are at high risk for emotional, behavioral and social problems.  In some cases, babies can die out of neglect from a lack of touch. If you have ever held a baby you have likely experienced what an important connection that is.

Touch can be a good thing.

When we get hurt (which seems to happen to me too often…) an embrace is almost just as important emotionally to a healthy recovery as it is to medically treat the injury. We often greet one another with a handshake, high five, fist-bump (or a hug when appropriate) as a sign of greeting, welcome and connection with another person. We sit by our friends, hold hands with loved ones as a sign of affection, and lovers express their relationship to each other through other meaningful ways. Touch can lead to new life being born.


This of course can go wrong when touch is unwelcome.

When touch is used to to lash out, to display power, to intentionally hurt, dehumanize or to take advantage of someone, it can damage, scar, destroy and kill. When this touch like this happens, not only our flesh is damaged but our well-being is compromised and our humanity is violated. Touch can leave its violent mark upon us. Healing, when possible, takes time, patience and often a community of caring people who can help that person cope and recover.

Jesus experienced the worst kind of touch at human hands. He was tortured and executed. In addition, he was touched with words that mocked and humiliated. When he needed his friends most to hold and reassure him, he was denied and abandoned. He was left to die, and buried once his lifeless body breathed its last. Yet he appeared – not as a ghost, but in the flesh -asking his friends to touch him; hoping for something to eat.

What do you think this invitation to touch him means?

Could it be that Jesus sought to heal those closest to him who betrayed him? In Jesus’ ministry it was often through the act of touching the untouchable and through eating with those not usually welcome at the table that his restorative work took hold of people. Now these same disciples that watched him touch and eat so many times with others offered his physical presence to be with them. In the same way he sits among us again and again each time he says, “take and eat, this is my body” and his restorative presence reaches us too.

At this table Jesus invites you into a whole new community and way of being. It is here that Jesus invites you to share his healing with a hurting world that often feels taken advantage of, violated, neglected and abandoned.

When our lives are touched by the resurrection – new life begins.

Lets eat!

P.S. If you or someone you know has been threatened or abused in any way – please talk to someone who can help. There is never a time where it is normal, appropriate or expected to be be treated this way. You are a beautiful human being created in the image of God, and it is our calling together to protect one another from harm; stop those who do; work diligently to prevent it from happening again; and help one another flourish.


Sunday is Coming! Easter 2B “Longing to see Jesus”



Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

I find Thomas to be not only one of the most courageous disciples; but also the most honest.

Unlike his counterparts, Thomas went out into the streets of Jerusalem after Jesus was executed. The rest of them remained behind locked doors because they were too afraid to do anything else. When they shared with Thomas their experience of meeting the risen Jesus in his absence – He didn’t accept their testimony. Instead, he sought to experience it himself. Even in his doubts, Thomas was bold enough to demand Jesus to show up again.

Do we?

The letter of Hebrews asserts: “Faith is the assurance of things longed for; the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Thomas reveals the best kind of conviction is tested. It is scrutinized in order to see something new while challenging our previously held assertions. Assurance comes in our searching and longing.

We often place doubt as something antagonistic to faith, but too often the enemy of faith is not doubt but overblown certainty. We can become zealous about what we have been told or blindly accept. In our over-confidence we begin to dehumanize others who don’t share our viewpoint and blame them for the world’s ills if not also our own. Groups and Institutions on the defensive often narrow their definition of who is “in” and who is “out” without introspection. When we no longer tolerate questions or dissent, the way we see the world and others in it becomes something ugly.

Thomas inspires the opposite.

He invites us to honestly ask our questions. He includes our doubts and skepticism as we seek Jesus for ourselves, even when we are afraid. We need witnesses like him who expand our understandings, challenge our assumptions, and reveal to us different points of view. Then we can see what beautiful things God is doing all around us and appreciate what we might have missed before our search began.

Maybe we will say, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28) like Thomas did when we do see Jesus in our lives. But more likely we will come to our own conclusions, use our own voice, as we live in our own time by our own experience in having looked for him with courage, boldness and even uncertainty. The community of the church can then help us discern what it means in light of our shared witness.

Thomas encourages us to keep searching, questioning, and hoping we may one day stand with God face to face for ourselves.

That’s the kind of assurance I long for – how about you?


Sunday is Coming! Holy Week, Year B: “The ongoing echo from the cross”




Truly this is God’s son!” (Mark 15:39)

Listen for the echo of this promise throughout this Holy Week.

Truly this is God’s son!” This is quite the statement from an outsider. These words were spoken by the Roman Centurion at the foot of the cross of Jesus; who was likely supervising his execution. Yet, from this oppressor and outlier it becomes a rich proclamation – reminding us of who Jesus is, what he has come to do, and what this cross means for ourselves and the world. Are you listening?

Truly this is God’s son!” The echo of these words resonates as we pay attention to the story and see his friends betray, abandon and deny him. We hear these words personally as we contemplate how we have also betrayed, abandoned and denied Jesus ourselves. Yet even as these words call out our unfaithfulness, they proclaim God’s steadfast love with an even louder echo of hope.

Truly this is God’s son!” This statement echoes across time and space from those who bear witness to Jesus and his cross around the world. Through many languages and cultures and across many centuries echoes cry out: “Jesus is Lord!” These words echo back toward us, who stand at the foot of his cross now. Will we listen to that echo, as we wonder how Christ continues to meet us, where this cross calls us to go, and how we might follow in his footsteps?

Truly this is God’s son!” Where might this echo reach the oppressors, outsiders and outliers around us who are also in need of good news? Are we listening for them? How can we help them hear it too?

Truly this is God’s son!” Can you hear the echo of these words in your own despair? We live in a world full of suffering, fear and anger. A sense of abandonment, blame and outrage continues to fill us as we see injustice towards others, bear our own burdens and face our inner hopelessness. Yet there is Jesus on the cross – beside us, before us, behind us every step of the way. He is there on the cross, for you. Keep listening for the echo.

Truly this is God’s son!” From the cross, Jesus calls us to be more human, more present, more fragile, more selfless in our treatment of others as he embodies God’s ultimate sacrificial love and undeserved mercy for us – when we feel like the outliers and outsiders and are confronted by the oppressive systems in which we all participate.

Truly this is God’s son!” Can we echo these words back towards ourselves? Cling to what they promise in the midst of turmoil and strife. Share them by how you live, act, speak, and interact with others. With strangers. With neighbors. With those you love most.

Truly this is God’s son!” We will soon gather Sunday morning as these words echo back to us yet again. As Mark tells the story (in Chapter 16:1-8) the women run away from the empty tomb in terror and amazement much like you and I do. Soon, they too will hear the echo to share all they have seen and heard with the others. As we wait in terror and amazement, what echo will you be listening for when they share their witness with us?

Truly this is God’s son!” Hearing these words echo; will you then believe?


Sunday is coming! Palm/Passion Sunday “Beyond Parades and Palm Branches”

Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mark 11:8-9)

If you have ever walked-in or been to a parade, when done with the right flair they are usually enjoyable affairs. People line the street and shout with joy as those in the parade walk by them. The crowd’s energy is contagious. Depending on the type of parade; uniforms, costumes, animals, floats and music distinguish the crowd from participants. The best parades I have ever attended hand out candy.

Jesus enters Jerusalem on a colt, with the celebration of the crowd and the waving of cut branches. They shout “Hosanna” which literally means “Please save us.” It is a parade – but of a different sort. It is not really a call for revolution or a military parade but it is the sign that God’s reign is upon them, and their long exile and occupation is over. The savior has come. Messiah, God’s anointed one, has come to establish the Kingdom.

What will the Empire of Rome say to this?

Or their puppet king, Herod?

Or this crowd shouting “save us” once the religious establishment gets involved?

Or any other powers of this world, including our own?

As the story unfolds, we shall soon see the powers of this world fight back against the sign of God’s kingdom. For those who read the Passion narrative this Sunday, we quickly move from Jesus’ Palm Sunday parade to the parade of his execution – as this condemned prophet, healer and rabbi must carry his cross as an enemy of the state through the city to the site of his impending cruel and humiliating death by the garbage heap.

We will see the charge written above him: “King of the Jews” alongside the mocking of the crowd, the soldiers and religious leaders.

We will witness the complete abandonment and betrayal of his followers and friends.

Was this parade a failure? Was this just another sad attempt at revolution gone wrong? Were these palms waved in vain? Most importantly, where is my candy?

Look closer.

Could it be – that the passion was the plan all along?

If so, what kind of Kingdom is this Jesus proclaiming and what kind of king is he? What kind of power is being asserted when it seems like the empty powers of this world have won or at the very least have the upper hand against anyone who opposes them?

All we can do is wait and watch and be caught up in the story ourselves; unlike his followers who run away in fear – or his enemies that act out of theirs; or the crowd that is too afraid to pay attention to see what is really going on.

-Who do you see entering Jerusalem on this donkey?

-What kind of parade is this?

-What kind of kingdom did this Jesus come to establish and how will you know when you see it?

-Do you see it?

Keep looking. Pay attention. The Kingdom is at hand.


Sunday is coming! Lent 5B “Seeing Jesus”










Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (John 12:21b)

What would these foreign Greeks have to do with a Jewish Rabbi?

Maybe they heard rumors of his miracles and wanted to see a sign for themselves. Perhaps they heard he was a good teacher and sought his wisdom. Possibly they heard he was a healer and someone they loved was in need and they thought Jesus could help. Or, it could have been something else. We may never know.

Whatever their reasons, they sought him.

Whatever their reasons, people seek him still.

What are your reasons? Don’t you wish to see Jesus?

Pay attention to how Jesus responds to this request (John 12:22-26). He doesn’t send these outsiders away because they don’t belong. He offers no miracles, signs or healing so they come to believe. There is no holiness test to see if they are worthy or good enough. Jesus doesn’t even interact with these seekers directly.

Instead, Jesus speaks to those who follow him about being lifted-up in glory for all to see. If people want to see Jesus, he says to look no further than his cross. Jesus then invites anyone who will heed his call to come with him there, even if it means losing their own life in the process.

Do you see him?  How might others see him through you?

It doesn’t matter what our background is, or what brings us to Jesus in the first place. It only matters if we have eyes to see, ears to hear and an openness to follow Jesus wherever he leads.

Seeing. Hearing. Following.

Are you willing to be surprised by where Jesus might lead you?

He might just show you someone who wishes to meet him for the first time, however it was they got there.


Sunday is coming! Lent 4B “For God so loved the world…”

Besides Psalm 23, John 3:16 is one of the most popular verses in the Bible.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

We see it on billboards and posters at sporting events. It is known by believers and non-believers alike.

But do we really know what it means?

Often when people hear this verse the focus becomes on “belief” and if we believe “enough.” In particular, the focus becomes “Do you believe Jesus died for you or not?” And if the answer is “no” – then sorry, you’re out.

While what we believe does matter (and I don’t mean to take away the significance of belief in our lives of faith or the judgment God extends to those who follow the ways of darkness rather than the light [John 3:18-21]); it seems to me that our usual focus on this verse is perhaps a bit skewed.

Its message is God’s love for the world. Rather than focus on God’s creative and restorative activity in the world; we more often act as though God is distant from the world or could care less about us and all the pain, suffering, injustice, cruelty and sinfulness we see at work around us. It seems as though the crooked, the tyrants and the sinister too often get away with their exploitation of others and the most vulnerable pay the price. We cry out to God for help and nothing changes. From our limited vantage point, the darkness appears to have the upper hand. We take the role of judgment upon ourselves to administer rather than leave it to God, since God appears to have left us to our own devices.

If God is absent, why should we care about Psalm 23 or John 3:16?

Maybe that’s the point.

Jesus makes clear that the cross is the sign where we can find God active in this world. Jesus is the light shining in darkness (John 1:5) even if it looks like the darkness is winning. Like the sign of Moses that was lifted up for all to see while people were dying (John 3:4-15), the cross is lifted up to remind us that God is here – in our suffering, in our sense of abandonment, in our doubts, in our pain and even in our death. Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but to suffer and die to save the world (John 3:17) alongside each of us, lifted up for all to see. The sign of death becomes the sign of life. Easter comes sooner and much closer than we might think.

The cross stands as a sign of hope to believe in – not one that excludes or singles out those who don’t belong, but embraces the world (and everyone in it) with a love so radical, generous, intimate, extensive and bright – it reveals an eternal God who meets us in our lack of belief, despair and suffering when darkness overpowers us. In the cross Jesus offers us an eternal self-giving love in a deep and personal way that leads to a new way of life – both here and hereafter. The eternal light of Jesus shines — even in our temporal darkness. This is the foolishness of the cross Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 that confounds the wise, and befuddles the ways of the world. It is in following this way of the cross here and now that Jesus invites us to live in a new and empowering direction into God’s future, by embracing each other and the hurts of the world in the same embodied sacrificial love Jesus so freely shares with us.

That’s hope I can believe in.

How about you?

Sunday is coming! Lent 3B “Raising it up”

“Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

Sometimes I pray for Jesus to just tear the whole thing down. The Church. Society. Politics. Media. Everything. All of it. Not a stone left on top of another stone. Reboot the whole thing and start over. Corruption. Scandals. Vileness. Entrenchment. Self-centeredness. Hypocrisy. Sin. Why leave it at chasing out the money-changers? Purge the whole thing. Get rid of everything and everyone – and finally we could begin to build the change we all long to see in the world.

It seems at first that Jesus might agree with me. “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Yes…Tear it down!

The Temple and its moneychangers, the power-seekers and the holy-rollers exemplify everything that is wrong with the whole bit. Tear it down. Leave it in ashes. Destroy it all. But remember your promise to raise it back up. Please, Lord Jesus…Do it.

As much as I feel it would be a great plan to start our culture over from scratch; in this case Jesus isn’t talking about society, religion, politics, our sorry excuse for justice or any other constructions we humans build around ourselves that keep us from seeing the truth about God, ourselves or our neighbors. Those walls need to come down to be sure (and they will!), but Jesus isn’t talking about starting new and better versions of the systems that are crumbling around us now.

Jesus is talking about himself.

“Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

Take Jesus to the cross on Friday, and you’ll end up with Easter three days later. Or to put it another way – just when we think Jesus is finished – it is really just the beginning of what he has been up to all along. A new world is already being raised-up around us in Christ. It can’t be housed in any of our buildings or any other human-designed structures or institutions. Those things are way too confining for the risen Jesus who rules the universe, comes to us now.

Push away the rubble. Join the revolution. Enter grace. Jesus reveals that power, prestige, privilege, preferences, wealth and all the buildings in the world are meaningless – because only what is raised-up matters. You matter. Your neighbor matters. The world matters. Crucify Jesus and the reign of Christ enters where you least expect it. Take up that cross in his call to follow him and see what changes around you. Jesus called his mission “the kingdom” and he located it within lives transformed to love with reckless abandon — where there is a place for everyone; where no one goes without; where pain and sorrow are met by healing and wholeness; where death has lost its sting; where sin is forgiven and remembered no more; where swords are beaten into plowshares; where the lowly are lifted-up; where relationships are renewed and communities are restored; where evil is defeated once and for all; where light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it.

“Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

Easter is coming. I’m ready.

Are you?


Sunday is coming! Lent 2B “This taking up the cross business”







“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

You’ve probably heard the expression, “It is my cross to bear” as someone bemoans the road ahead of them. That “cross” is usually referenced as a burden of a responsibility yet to be realized, or a relationship that is particularly difficult to manage or a health issue that is troubling with uncertainty about how to treat and/or deal with the reality of it. This phrase has also been used to perpetuate abuse, keep the status quo of inequitable power structures in place, or empower an inward self-aggrandizing martyrdom meant to either impress or shame others.

None of these sentiments capture what Jesus is actually calling for us to do. To Jesus, the cross is the fulfillment of his mission by his complete handing over of himself for the sake of those he loves. As a gift given and received, the cross becomes our embodiment of agape to share – by offering that same self-sacrificial love to others without any sense of what it may cost us personally.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 4 [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996], 87. An older translation reads: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die”).

In “taking up our cross,” Jesus isn’t asking for us just to fill a seat in a church building for an hour when it fits our schedule. He is asking for us to love him (and the people we encounter) so recklessly that it may cost us our very lives. Cross bearing holds nothing back wherever the road ahead of us leads. Taking that cross upon ourselves is an invitation to enter the suffering of others to love them like Jesus does.

The love found at the cross is what Jesus invites you to experience, live and share. It is a gift that calls us to die so that in Christ we live.

Who do you know that could use that kind of love right now?

What are you willing to deny to follow Jesus and the love of the cross?

What is holding you back?



Sunday is coming! Lent 1B. “Temptation in our wilderness”


(Jesus) was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan.(Mark 1:13a)

Matthew and Luke share more details about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness than Mark does (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). In those Gospel stories, Satan openly exposes Jesus’ food insecurity, how dangerous the world could be to his personal safety, and how a compromise of his true authority could lead to a quick rise to power. In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus is defiant – directly resisting Satan’s ploys to undermine his mission.

Mark’s Gospel is always on the move; racing at breakneck speed; telling us that Jesus was tempted for forty days in one short sentence. As a reader I am left wondering if that temptation was an ongoing threat as Jesus begins calling people to “repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15).

The Gospel of John doesn’t mention a temptation in the wilderness at all – yet the struggle between the darkness and the light is ever-present.

Sometimes the things that draw us away from who we are called to be and what we should be doing are blatant and require direct action and resistance. Other times the attack is ongoing and hostile; it is only through perseverance and a clarity of mission that see us out of the wilderness. Yet most of the time the struggle is subtle, in the background of our lives, present but real behind the scenes of our day to day routines and experience. These can be the most dangerous kinds of temptations where one can slip into new or bad habits that keep people (myself included) from being the version of our selves we long to be.

Lent is a good time to refocus. For some, it is a time to intentionally weed out bad habits or distractions. For others it is an opportunity to pause and reflect or take up a new practice. Whatever you decide to do across these 40 days in the wilderness, remember that Jesus is right there with you and you are not alone. We all walk together toward the cross.

Let’s encourage each other along the way.

Do you give up something or take up something for Lent? If so, what are you doing this year?



Sunday is coming! Transfiguration, Year B, “Breaking into our fear”










He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.” (Mark 9:6)

I have made it made known on an annual basis that Transfiguration Sunday is my least favorite day on the liturgical calendar. I’m never quite sure what to do with what I call “glow in the dark Jesus” or how to apply his revealing transformation into my own life.

It is good to know I stand in good company, because Peter, James and John do not know what to do or what to make of Jesus either. Rather than celebrate that they are witnessing something spectacular, they are terrified. Initially, Jesus is also unclear how to deal with their fear or what to say to confront their unease.

I can relate to those feelings of uncertainty  – how about you?

That’s where God’s Word breaks-in –  to bless and instruct them, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7)

When we are confused, afraid, anxious and left speechless, God’s Word breaks-in to show us Jesus.

Now that’s worth celebrating!

In the midst of trouble, fear and uncertainty, how might we approach this Jesus who shines in our darkness?

Better yet, what might this Jesus (the Word made flesh who breaks-into our lives [John 1:14]) do with us?

How might you show others, Jesus breaks into their lives too?