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Thoughts from Pastor Dan

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

What if there were no resurrection?  In admonishment of doubting Christians, the preacher often says, “No resurrection, no Christianity.”  But the Gospel of Mark, which most biblical scholars contend is the first gospel written, has no account of an actual resurrection.  Instead, there is a mysterious man in a white robe greeting the women—Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome—saying, “Jesus is risen!”  And there’s a large stone that’s been rolled away, revealing a tomb without a body in it.  In other words, Mark’s Easter testimony is not so much an account of the resurrection as it is a story about an empty tomb.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. –Mark 11:1-6, NRSV

 

Much attention is given to Jesus calling his first disciples.  From our vantage point, we scratch our heads at how those first followers could stop what they were doing—literally drop their nets—and accept Jesus’ invitation to spend their days walking with him in service to the mission of sharing the good news of God’s love.  But every year when the story of Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” at the gate of Jerusalem comes up, I am dumbfounded at how much more incredible it is than the Son of Man calling the twelve.

 

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TODAY’S MIDWEEK MESSAGE COMES A DAY EARLY TO REMIND YOU ABOUT THEOLOGY ON TAP TONIGHT, 6pm, AT PERRINE WINERY ON HARVEY ROAD.  DETAILS AFTER THE DEVOTIONAL…

 

In addition to wearing green, cooking up corned beef, and breaking out the U2 and Van Morrison tunes (although I prefer Thin Lizzy), many will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today by praying the prayer of St. Patrick’s Breastplate.  Part of the prayer focuses specifically on Christ:

“Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”

That excerpt is often the only part of the lengthy Breastplate Prayer of St. Patrick that is actually prayed, but there’s a lot to be said about the Christology it implies.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

“And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.” –Luke 13:29

 

When I was a sophomore in high school, I ran away from home…for a few hours.  As is typically the case for the proud teenager, I was not very forward-thinking in terms of how I would eat or anything else really.  Nothing cures the angst of an adolescent’s empty stomach like a home-cooked meal.  Hat in hand, I returned home mere hours after proclaiming to my parents on the phone, “I’m not coming back.”  I’m shaking my head at this recollection.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear…Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. –Ephesians 4:29, 31-32

 

Benjamin Netanyahu visited the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday.  Congress invited the Israeli Prime Minister to speak to them without consulting the White House.  Especially given Netanyahu’s disapproval of the President’s handling of foreign policy in relation to Israel and Iran, the invitation was seen as a jab of disrespect.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek devotional appeared in Saturday’s “Faith and Values” section of The Eagle.

 

An oily black smudge on my forehead and my fingers looking like they'd cleaned a chimney were the indicators Ash Wednesday night that Lent had officially begun.

 

The 40 days of Lent require fasting for the ones who claim to be followers -- disciples -- of Jesus. Fasting in westernized Christianity suggests that we give up something, that we fast from some luxury we otherwise take for granted in our daily lives in order to appreciate what Christ gave up in redeeming the transgressions of the world.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

There’s a band called The Decemberists who just released a new album.  Its title caught my attention: “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.”  My snarky preacher self immediately thought, “Did those stealthy indie rockers weasel that poetic title from Frederick Buechner?”  We ministers love Buechner’s deep theological quote that’s found its way into our sermons and benedictions for a decade now: “Here is the world.  Beautiful and terrible things will happen.  Don't be afraid.”

 

Terror and beauty meet at the paradox of our faith.  Symbolically, the beams of the cross claim that paradox.  The brokenness of the human condition intersects with the redemptive grace of God, and at that paradoxical point there is no room for fear. 

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

“…encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”1 Thessalonians 5:11
 
While we’ve enjoyed cool-to-warm sunny days with clear skies in the Brazos Valley, the Northeast has been pummeled with a record-setting blizzard.  Most of the news reporting on that region has pointed to the threatening snow and piercing wind chill.  Social media has poured out concern for people in that northeasterly neck of the woods.  It certainly is troubling; even devastating in some cases.
 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Not much of a devotional today; just a witness.  I want to recap what I witnessed at last night’s gathering for our church’s monthly Theology on Tap.  Seated at a long table, our group of twelve—yes, that magic Christian number—began our time by going around the circle (rectangle, really) sharing one simple prayer each.  We were coming from a host of experiences: the loss of a spouse, indefinitely irreconcilable difference between members of our family, celebrating a birthday, recent time spent with dear colleagues and friends, and the list goes on. 

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

Today’s midweek message will appear in this Saturday’s Eagle.

 

Jesus is recorded as saying that the greatest command is to love God with your entire being, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  Those first followers of Jesus had no idea the power of his words.  They had no concept of where loving one’s neighbor as oneself leads.  Two thousand years later, neither do we.

 

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