pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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He Calls

Reading: John 20: 1-18

Verse Eighteen: “Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!'”

In John’s gospel first Mary Magdalene and then Peter and John see the empty tomb. John records that he “saw and believed”. But for Mary and Peter and most others, coming to understand the resurrection is just beginning. They are looking for Jesus to return and resurrection is not the same as return. It is not like they experienced with Lazarus and others that Jesus brought back to life. Jesus will no longer have human breath in Him. The breath that now comes from Jesus is the Holy Spirit.

Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb to properly care for Jesus’ body. She was there Friday night when Joseph and Nicodemus temporarily laid the body in the tomb. She then observed the Sabbath. And today she returns to the tomb focused on offering one last loving act to her Lord. It is from this perspective that she says “they have taken the Lord” several times. Even the appearance of two angels in the tomb does not dislodge Mary from the pursuit of why she came to the tomb.

“Thinking He was the gardener”, she asks the same thing: where is Jesus? And, in a word, it all changes for her. Jesus simply says, “Mary”! Through her grief and tears and confusion, His voice cuts straight to her heart. Instantly she knows this is her beloved Jesus. She cries out “Rabboni”, her personal name for Him. Jesus then tells her the good news: “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”. Jesus is risen! Jesus is alive forevermore!

Mary goes to the disciples and shares some incredible news: “I have seen the Lord”! Mary knew in her heart right away that Jesus is risen and she shares this with the disciples. She recognized Him right when He called her name. Jesus calls our names too. In rising, Jesus defeated the power of sin and death. He calls your name, inviting you to live a life in Him that is free from the bonds of sin and death. He calls us each by name. May we ever walk in Jesus’ light and love.

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

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A Day of Quiet and Reflection

Reading: Matthew 27: 57-66

Verse 59: “Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock”.

Today is a hard day for the followers of Jesus. It is a day of waiting. We read today of a brave man named Joseph who wanted to care for Jesus’ body at the end of the day Friday. He did not want the body left on the cross on the Sabbath. So Joseph gets permission from Pilate to place Jesus’ body in his own tomb. We read, “Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock”. In John’s gospel we are told that Joseph had a helper. In John 19:39 we read that Nicodemus, the one who secretly visited Jesus at night, helps Joseph. A seed planted by Jesus has obviously been at work in Nicodemus.

Also present are two of the women who were regularly in the group that followed and cared for Jesus. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses “were sitting there opposite the tomb”. They are present maybe for a couple of reasons. One is practical. The placing of Jesus’ body in the tomb was quick and temporary. The women intended to return after observing the Sabbath to properly care for Jesus’ body with the usual spices. They were also present to mourn and grieve. To be physically near the one who has just passed is something that can bring some peace and comfort. In these moments, what else can one do?

This day has traditionally been a day of waiting. For Christians, we know what happens tomorrow – the grave is empty! Today we wait with anticipation and excitement. But, for Jesus’ followers, this day is a day of mourning and a lot of “now what” questions. It is a day of stillness and quiet. It is a day of confusion and discomfort. We have all been through the day after losing someonene dear. We all know the emotions and the thoughts that run through our hearts and minds. We know just what Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and all of Jesus’ followers felt that day.

Today, may we too enter the stillness and the emotions of what it would be like to not have Jesus’ presence. In the stillness may we connect to the women outside the tomb. In the consideration of not living in His presence may we come to rejoice in the glory of living daily with the power and presence of the risen Christ. Today us a day of quiet and reflection. For us there is no sadness, for we know that Easter is coming. Hallelujah and amen!


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Mary

Reading: Luke 1: 46-55

Verse 46: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”.

Shortly after Mary received the news that she will carry the Holy One in her womb, she has gone to see Elizabeth, her cousin.  The angel told Mary that Elizabeth was also with child.  So Mary goes to see this thing for herself – old and barren Elizabeth with child.  Mary also goes because perhaps she senses that Elizabeth is someone she can share her news with as well.  After all, Mary’s news is not exactly news that she could go tell all her friends about.  When Mary and Elizabeth greet each other, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps at the sound of Mary’s voice and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit.  Elizabeth knows that Mary has been blessed and she herself feels blessed at being in the presence of the unborn Lord.  She also recognizes Mary’s faith, saying, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished”.

There is a deep understanding in these two women that God is at work in them and is about to accomplish the impossible in both of them.  It is from this place of understanding that Mary spontaneously offers her song.  It is a beautiful telling of both God’s deeds with and for Israel and of God’s work in her in particular.  Weaving these two together shows Mary’s understanding of how closely connected these two are – Israel and the birth of he child.  She begins by exclaiming, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”.  Mary is joyful and exuberantly praises what God is doing in her.  Mary also recognizes the forever impact of what is happening, saying, “All generations will call me blessed”.  She is aware of what is happening and speaks with a wisdom and insight well beyond her years.  The Spirit is indeed at work in Mary.

The same Spirit desires to be at work in each of us.  The same God is capable of doing great and amazing things in and through us as well.  May we be as joyful and faithful as Mary when the Lord begins a good work in us!


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Favor

Reading: Luke 1: 26-30

Verse 30: “Do not be afraid… you have found favor with the Lord”.

Out of the blue, an angel visits Mary.  Her first reaction is what I think mine would be: fear.  The angel greets her and then tells her that the Lord is with her.  Maybe her fears subsided a bit knowing that God was with her.  In that moment, though, Mary must have really been wondering what would be coming next.  I would be!

Our passage tells us that Mary was “troubled” – again, a reaction I think most of us would have if an an angel appeared to us.  At a minimum, if I am being honest, knowing that I was on the brink of something big, I would be really troubled.  While it is probably quite exciting when an angel comes for a visit (I assume it is), there is also the scary recognition that things are about to change pretty seriously.

The angel then says to Mary, “Do not be afraid… you have found favor with the Lord”.  The first part is good to hear, but the second part is great to hear.  Mary has found favor with God!  Hallelujah!  Praise be!  Amen!  Yes, it is indeed wonderful to know that she has found favor with God.  While in this setting it is particularly good news for Mary, our reality is that this is good news for us as well.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we have all found favor with God.

In the book The Shack, the lead character Mac and God have frequent conversations.    Most of the time when the conversation is about people in Mac’s life, they are people that he could do without.  Each and every time God says, “Oh yes, I am especially fond of that one”.  Every time.  Although it is just a fictional book, I believe this part to really be true.  God is especially fond of every human being because we are all children of God.  He loves us all.  And some – those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior – have found favor with God.  Talk about good news!  Hallelujah and amen!


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Extravagant

Reading: John 12: 1-11

Verse 3: She poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair.

Today’s story is one of extravagant love.  Mary is a good friend of Jesus.  Jesus had a special connection to this family from Bethany, to Mary and Martha and Lazarus.  This family appears several times in the Gospels.  In our passage today, Jesus is on His way to celebrate the Passover.  It will be His last stop at Bethany.  Perhaps Mary has a sense of this.  She seems to be aware of much concerning Jesus.  She was the one who sat at Jesus’ feet and she was the one who brought Jesus to tears outside Lazarus’ tomb.

As they are reclining after dinner, Mary shows extravagant care and love for Jesus.  She pours some very expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.  On the surface, this is perplexing.  Why would someone pour perfume worth a years’ wages on someone’s feet?  These feet will soon be covered in dust and dirt as Jesus makes His way to Jerusalem.  And then she kneels down and dries His feet with her hair.  This is extraordinary.  Jesus gladly accepts her gesture and even defends her for showing such great love.

Mary’s action may seem extreme, but it is just the kind of love the Jesus demonstrates over and over and over.  A son takes his share of his father’s wealth and squanders it away on wild living.  Instead of tossing aside this foolish son, Jesus paints a picture of a father that waits longingly for the son to return and that throws a big party when the prodigal son does come home.  A disciple struggles to forgive another again and Jesus says not to just forgive a few times but to offer forgiveness over and over and over.  One out of a hundred is lost and instead of rejoicing over the 99, Jesus shares the story of the good shepherd searching until he finds the one.  And instead of scolding the one for being lost, he gathers it up in his arms and joyfully carries it home.  Story after story of extreme, radical, extravagant, extraordinary love.  Mary was just following Jesus’ example.  It is how we are called to live out our faith as well.


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Building

Reading: Luke 1: 46-55

Mary’s beautiful song is all about God’s love for humanity.  She is aware of her direct role in this: she is bearing the Son of Man in her womb.  She rejoices in God her Savior and in her unique role: “all generations will call me blessed”.  Mary is aware of and deeply thankful for the role God has called her to fulfill.

Mary quickly moves past these thoughts and rejoices in the ways that God loves all of mankind.  God extends mercy to those in need and performs mighty deeds for those who fear him.  God blesses those in a relationship with him.  In doing so, God lifts up the humble and fills the hungry with good things.  God loves in many ways.

God’s love, however, is sometimes tough love.  God scatters those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.  God will bring down rulers when necessary and will send the rich away empty.  God will not tolerate evil behavior by those with power.  God blesses us so that we can bless others, not so we can use our position or wealth to take advantage of others.

Mary’s song really speaks of God’s desired kingdom.  As followers of Jesus Christ we are kingdom builders.  We have a role to play in being the light and love in this time and space.  We too, like Mary, bear the Son of Man.  We bear Jesus in our hearts.  We can all bring God’s love to those who need God’s mercy and to those who hunger for either spiritual or physical bread.  We can all be conduits of God’s love flowing into the world.  We can also be the light shining into the darkness.  God’s kingdom is built on justice and equality.  If we are in positions with power and authority, we must use our place to insure justice and equality.  If, in our community, the leaders do not champion these things, we need to speak truth to bring about justice and equality.  May we each play the role of building God’s kingdom as we bear the light and love of Christ right where we are this day.


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The Better Choice 

Reading: Luke 10: 38-42

In today’s reading, Mary has chosen Jesus, the “better part”.  Martha has chosen busyness.  She is working hard to serve Jesus and His traveling companions.  While being a servant is usually a good thing, what Mary has chosen is definitely better.  When Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is not helping her, Jesus names Martha’s lesser choice and defends Mary’s better choice.  The question is: did Martha stop and sit at Jesus’feet as well or did she let out a frustrated sigh and stomp off to continue her preparations?

Often we find ourselves in the same dilemma.  Do we stop or lay aside what we are doing to make the better choice that God has placed before us?  Do we take the time to share Jesus either verbally or through our actions when God places us in that situation where we can be His light and love?  Or do we go on with excuses and rationalizations rolling off of our tongues?

Later, in the Gospel of John, we see that Martha has learned what the better choice is.  After Lazarus has died, she is the first one to run to Jesus as He approaches to declare her faith in Him and to proclaim that He is the Messiah.  Whether it happened right after Jesus declared the better choice in Luke or whether it happened sometime before this story in John, we are thankful that Martha eventually made the better choice.

This day and every day, may we all be like Martha, joining Mary and sitting at the feet of Jesus, hearing His words and growing in our faith.