Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Stranger at the Table

John 13:31-35; Acts 11:1-18
Acts 11 might be my favorite story in the entire Bible. While  I cannot imagine a southern breakfast without sausage or bacon,  let me assure you if the early Christian church had continued to observe the dietary laws of Judaism, Weasie’s would be serving bagels and lox with their grits.  Of course this story really has little to do with pork chops and everything to do with expanding our imaginations concerning who is welcome at God’s table.
What happens when you have lived your entire life by one particular set of traditions that have served you well, and then suddenly you are confronted by a situation that questions the framework of your beliefs? This morning’s text makes a strong case that sometimes it is necessary to throw the baby out with the bath water. A Roman centurion named Cornelius lived in the city of Caesarea. We are told that he was a devout man who feared God.  There is no mention of how he came to hear the story of Jesus, but he was convinced that Christ was his Lord and he wanted to celebrate his faith by having his whole family baptized.  Cornelius sought out Peter to confess his faith.  Peter was impressed, but explained baptism was impossible because Cornelius was not a Jew.  This may seem like such a minor detail to us. It would seem if a person believes in God then nothing should hinder the opportunity to confess his or her faith.  But Judaism required more than a confession.  There was circumcision, dietary laws, and worship rituals.  The church of Peter was merely an extension of Judaism.  All of the Kosher customs were still held as sacred.  In Peter’s mind, if Cornelius wanted to become a Christian, he must first become Jew.  But Cornelius could not see why it mattered if he was Jewish or Italian as long as he loved Christ.
Leaving Cornelius behind, Peter went to the top of a roof to have lunch.  As the expression goes he was hungry enough to eat a cow only that day steak was not on the menu. Falling from heaven were all the meats deemed unclean by the Jewish tradition.  Trust me when I tell you Peter found this smorgasbord to be absolutely disgusting.  But the word of the Lord followed the menu and Peter was commanded to sit down and eat.  The disciple complained that it was against the traditions of heaven and earth to taste the flesh of a pig.  God responded by asking Peter who had created the hog.  In other words, God was suggesting that dietary and religious laws are often laden with human rather than Godly restrictions.  So Peter ate. And as you might imagine, he was more than pleasantly surprised.  Of course the reason for this vision was not just to expand Peter’s gastronomic opportunities. It was to disassemble Peter’s geographic and theological limitations concerning God’s children. Peter revealed his revelation to the other leaders of the Church. After hearing Peter’s dream and after a lot of soul searching, the early church imagined itself existing beyond Jerusalem. This revelation eventually led to Paul and Silas being commissioned to take the Gospel and share it with anyone who had ears to hear.  This was an exciting new moment in the life of the early church.  No longer were they Jews first and Christians second.  Now they were simply children of God.  No traditions, no dietary laws, no religious mores hindered the basic message that God calls us to love one another just as Jesus loved us.
   William Willimon writes, “If Jesus Christ is Lord, then the Church has the adventurous task of expecting surprises and new implications which can not be explained on any other basis than God has shown us something we could not have seen on our own.”  Teaching an old dog new tricks is difficult. But   teaching folks set in their religious ways to consider a new path can make that old hound dog seem downright cooperative.  We like the way it has always been.  We want the same prayers, the same hymns, and the same neighbors in the pews.  It’s not that we are unwilling or reluctant to change, there is a just lot to be said for familiarity. I understand completely. 
For months I have nervously watched the odometer on my car. My precious convertible is eight years old and has traveled over 185,000 miles. That is a lot of hospital visits. Two weeks ago, I was in Staunton so I ventured by a Subaru/Honda dealer to have a conversation about my beloved Solara. I explained my needs and desires and the next thing I knew I was behind the wheel of a car which I was promised would meet all my expectation. It rode nice, gets great gas mileage, can carry my golf clubs, bike and skis, but there was a problem.  It had four doors.  I was being asked to move from my sleek, exciting roadster to a practical and affordable family car.  I should have been thrilled.  This was a car any self respecting minister would be proud to drive.  It probably comes with a free hair cut.  But sitting in the car I was not one bit happy.  Change is hard and I realized it was going to take me some time to make this transition, even though keeping my present car will eventually leave me stranded on the side of the road. 
Is it any wonder churches continue to wrestle with God’s insistence on a renewed vision?  Churches can become so comfortable being who they are they never notice the world passing them by. Then one morning they wake up and wonder what went wrong.  I hear so many stories of broken churches that trace their demise to the day they become more concerned with preserving their property than fulfilling Christ’s mission for the church. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to become so entrenched in a comfort zone that Jesus’ command “to love one another” becomes secondary.
I suspect all of you aware that the membership of many Presbyterian Churches is slowly declining.   The Methodist, Lutherans and even the Baptist are having the same problem. People blame it on any number of things but let me tell you the number one reason for our decline is   Presbyterians used to have more babies. We were essentially a homegrown denomination. These days more Presbyterians die than are baptized.  The number two reason for decline in the Presbyterian Church is our children grow up and move to different communities.  When they get to those communities they don’t necessarily join a church.  Other activities have replaced the need to be in church on Sunday morning.  Some smart folks have predicted that mainline churches are only a generation from closing shop. Logically, I could be easily persuaded there is truth in that prediction.   But my faith in an illogical God reminds me this same God always has a plan. For a thousand years the descendents of Peter never considered eating a ham sandwich or inviting someone with blue eyes to worship. But after one dream, an invitation into God’s community was extended to everyone.
We are good friendly people.  We would not turn away anyone who wanted to worship with us.  But I wonder if folks know how friendly we are?  I wonder if some folks assume that we are a little too ….. Kosher?  Maybe in this day and age Cornelius isn’t going to seek us out.  Maybe we need to be the ones knocking on Cornelius door.  Maybe we need to do more than just put out a welcome mat. 
Since I visited that Subaru/Honda dealership you won’t believe how many e-mails and phone calls I have received. Every car dealer on both sides of the mountain seems to know I need a new car.   Folks want my business.  I can take any car my heart desires for a test run.  They guarantee whatever I crave they will make it possible.  They make me feel important, wanted, yes even loved.  Is what our church promotes less important than an automobile?  Is the love we have for our savior simply a private commodity we would rather keep to ourselves? 
I believe we have a special community and we exhibit our love for Christ through our love of this valley. I believe we have a diverse community that allows our conversations to move beyond our own thoughts. I believe we have a community that does not judge but rather embraces the broken and the lost. Our welcome mat is always open and I believe when visitors come they feel the love of God within this room. But many folks in this community ride by our church every Sunday morning. Once upon a time Cornelius sought out Peter. Today it has become necessary for us to seek out Cornelius.
Let me share a little secret about why don’t folks go to church.   Reason number one – It is an hour that can be spent doing something a lot more entertaining. Reason number two – Some folks have had a bad experience in a church.  Reason number three – Folks want to become involved and often in a church we ask people to watch us do what we think is important.  When I talk to folks about why they don’t go to church, it usually has nothing to do with their belief in God. But it has everything to do with their lack of belief that the church should only function as a self-serving institution.
What goes on here at Rockfish Presbytery is exciting and it extends beyond what we do on Sunday morning. Folks that visit walk away engulfed by the Spirit of God. How do I know? They tell me this when I visit with them in their homes. People I meet in restaurants and on the street express how lucky I am to be the minister of such a loving and compassionate church. Folks know about us. Many have been in for a test drive. Perhaps some  are waiting for us to take the effort to meet them where they are.
For many weeks John Porter has taken a loaf of bread by to a first time visitor. What a wonderful ministry. Some of you have invited a friend or neighbor to come down and help with the wood ministry folks. You have included friends to help out in the school backpack programs. There are so many simple ways that you can go up to someone and say, “I love my church and I think you would too. How about joining me in one of our ministries? You might even be surprised to discover what happens on Sunday.”
To continue to grow our congregation, there are two strategies we can employ. The first is to intentionally meet folks where they are and unashamedly tell them how we express our love of God and neighbor. Then we sit back and listen to their story. Now I know that seems a little forceful and out of character with the way we Presbyterians do business. So if that makes you a bit uncomfortable, we can always select the more time honored option number two. Some of you folks will need to become pregnant.   
I vote for option number one.  Will you join me?      Amen.       

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Acts 9:36-43


        Every church has saints. Ask Jim Martin or Nancy Small and they will tell you stories about folks who dedicated their lives to keep these doors open. Most saints are ordinary folks who find ways of accomplishing the extraordinary. Often saints are never noticed until they are gone. In my last church, Grady Broadwell was one of our saints. Grady probably stood 4’6” in high heels, but we will never know. I never saw Grady in high heels. Truth is I seldom saw Grady’s face. I was always trying to catch her from behind.

        Grady had a background in nursing. Once she retired from teaching at a local college, she decided the older folks at Graves Memorial were now her patients. Graves had a membership of over 450 and it seemed the majority of them were older than me. Our communion list could be demanding. It was not unusual to serve ten folks. But Grady never seemed to tire. The widows of the church, many of them younger than Grady, saw her regularly. She called it her calling. I called it a ministry of love.  One day Grady dropped by my office to tell me she and her husband were planning to move to a retirement home in Asheville. I said to her, “Grady you have to be old to go to a retirement home.” She replied, “I remember when Babe Ruth retired. Now it’s my turn.”  As she turned to leave I realized the church would be devastated. Taking care of the elderly was just one part of her ministry to our congregation. Every member wondered how we would survive the loss of Grady.

        The church at Joppa had a Grady, only she went by the name Tabitha.  She had to be an incredible woman simply because we know her name. Think for a moment. How many widows in the Bible do we know by name? Let’s see, there were Naomi and Ruth. Then there was the widow in the Elijah story, but I can’t remember her name.   There was the widow whose generosity Jesus mentioned and then there was Naomi and Ruth. Oh yeah, I have already mentioned them. There are plenty of widows in the Bible but we never learn their names because widows stayed in the shadows, trying to make it from day to day.

        Yet the writer of Luke lifts up the name of Tabitha. What do we know about her? Nothing, except when she died, the church panicked. Tabitha took care of the widows and probably everyone else. I imagined when she died a session meeting was called to figure out how the church would survive. The answer was, they could not. Instead of mourning her death, the church decided to reverse her death. They called Peter and asked if he could come and resurrect the one that was so critical to their ministry.

        Peter came, and amazingly Tabitha was resurrected. The church was both astounded and relieved. The crisis was averted and the power of God celebrated. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if whenever a saint dies or even leaves, Peter would show up and restore everything just like it had always been? But that’s not the way life works. Sometimes we have to find our own way.

        Not long after Grady and her husband packed up and headed for Asheville, a woman named Bonnie came to my office. “I can’t be Grady Broadwell, but maybe I could join you each month for communion.”  Soon more folks showed up at my door and eventually all the ministries that Grady performed were resurrected as one by one people stepped forward, and stepped up. It might have taken 7 folks to replace Grady, but the ministries continued. That’s what the church does, even in the midst of our tears.

        I was in Philadelphia this week when Tom Powell called and told me Barbara had fallen during the night.  He correctly feared she had only hours to live. We have watched Barbara courageously battle cancer for the past couple of years. It seemed with Barbara it was always one step forward and three steps back, yet each step forward was a giant leap. Barbara made it to church or the golf course with such regularity it was sometimes hard to remember how sick she was. She joked about her new weight loss program. She raved about the casseroles fixed for Tom as if they had been prepared by some chef from Paris. When I would inquire about her health she would often reply, “I’m dying, just like everyone else.” She never failed to ask about Anne, or Ralph, or Iantha or Frankie. That is what saints do. They care for others, they teach us how to live, and they show how to die.

        Anne died early Saturday morning. She battled for six courageous years with a form of cancer for which there is no cure. Living with death can taint one’s vision. Anne’s spiritual eyesight was 20/20. Beside her reading chair  are two worn books held together by Duck tape. One is her Bible. The other is A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie. It is a book of daily devotions that search deep into the inner life of the reader. The first entry– “Keep me chaste in thought. Keep me temperate and truthful in speech. Keep me faithful and diligent in my work. Keep me humble in my estimation of myself. Keep me generous in my dealings with others. Keep me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past and mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of God.”  

        The last entry – “To thy care I commend my soul and the souls of all whom I love and who love me.”

        When Barbara and Anne died, St. Peter didn’t come, but God did. We often quote, “The Lord givith, the Lord takest away, Blessed be the Lord.” What we need to remember is the Lord will give again. Barbara and Anne have left us memories, but they have also left a void. Who will step forward and joyfully laugh at death as Barbara did? Who will step forward to remind us of the beauty of the Psalms and the prayers of our saints as Anne did? Will you allow God to make you more than you ever imagined you might be?

        I truly believe,

A new song will arise from one of you;

A new energy will arise from one of you;

A new joy will arise from one of you;

A new dignity will arise from one of you;

A new prayer will arise from one of you;

How do I know this?

Because this is the way we celebrate our saints,

And this is the way we celebrate our faith.


To God be the glory, Amen.



Sunday, April 10, 2016

Puttng the Pieces Back Together

John 21:1-19; Psalm 30


Humpty Dumpty sat on the Wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the King’s horses and all the King’s men,

Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.


But the Church can and does.


        Many of you may have noticed the cup that was placed on the communion table during the season of Lent. It was the cup that was used for Ash Wednesday and it played a prominent role in our Wednesday Night Reflections.   As I shared with the Wednesday Night group, in 1995 I had the honor of being the Keynote speaker at a major conference at Mo Ranch, a marvelous retreat center on the Guadalupe River in South Texas. The cup holds significance not only because of the honor of being asked to speak, but six months later I broke the chalice and pieced it back together. It is a symbol of my brokenness.

        But that is only half the story. The participants at this conference were a group of older teenagers selected from all over the Southwest United States. Usually this conference is a time to celebrate their talents and encourage them to consider their role in the church as they grow older. But for this one year, the leadership team wanted to address those folks who were not invited to the table. The idea was to challenge the best of the best to open their eyes to those in the shadows.

        When asked to Keynote the conference, the leadership team wanted me to speak about folks who are shy, are left out, or sat at the tables in the corners of the lunch room. I agreed to speak but wanted the conversation to focus on folks who were excluded because of their race and/or gender. It wasn’t the direction the team initially desired, but they agreed to change the emphasis of the conference.

I spent six months developing my plan and then gathered a very diverse team to make it happen. On the opening night, I was a rock star. Everything went perfectly.   Kids loved the theme mainly because the opening act was vanilla enough to not step across any lines that might make them uncomfortable.

But the second day we went to work. The techniques brilliantly roped the kids into buying everything we were offering until it was too late to back away. Then in a moment that was both dazzling and insane, I went straight for their hearts, completely forgetting I was asking young people to ignore 18 years of a carefully orchestrated message delivered by both their culture and their church.

Immediately after the session adult sponsors were threatening to load up the vans and head north. Let me tell you when southerners threaten to head north you know things have really gone bad. The sponsors demanded an audience and they were not in the forgiving mood. Each person stood and spoke their mind. I listened, trying to figure how I could regain the confidence of the group. But that train had left the station. Then a person I barely knew, Jane Carl, the wife of minister from Dallas stood and spoke. “What Louie did today shocked you. But it didn’t shock our kids. They have been waiting to hear someone ask how we who are so good could be so wrong. To go home would only confirm what we heard today.” So they stayed, and two days later the conference was proclaimed a great success. But that is not why I have kept the cup. It reminds me of my brokenness, and the stranger who made whole.

I suspect all each you has a similar story. Perhaps it was a project that was near to your heart and suddenly crumbled. Perhaps you went too far out on a limb, or maybe you couldn’t find the courage to go far enough. Despite how right or wrong our intentions might have been, failure hurts. I continue to believe a critical part of the ministry of the Church is to find folks who are broken and offer them a way home. This is the beauty of the story we find on the seashore.

Peter had failed. It could be argued that Peter never had a chance in the first place. No one could imagine how Holy Week would unfold, and Peter found himself front and center. He was beside Jesus during the parade. He laughed when Jesus overturned the money tables. He boasted of his loyalty only to be humbled when Jesus washed his feet. But then in the Garden things began to fall apart. He allowed Jesus to be arrested, alone. He denied knowing Jesus, three times. He fled on Friday and even after the resurrection hid behind closed doors. Awash with guilt, Peter went fishing.

Was Peter retreating to a former life, or just going back to the place he first met Jesus? I don’t know about you but when I mess up I retrace every step over and over again. I pray from a reboot, a mulligan, a second chance to get it right. I think to myself, I now know what I wished I had known when I acted as if I didn’t know anything at all. Peter goes back to what he knows best only to be hit with the cruelest reality of all.  The fish were not biting.

Now his brokenness was complete. Peter realized he  could not  fix his life alone. What happens next is better than any comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live.

“Peter, try fishing from the other side of the boat.” Imagine me walking up to Al Simpson as he is casting for trout, and say, “Al, I know you think you know what you are doing, but it seems to me your elbow might be flying out a little and there is too much action in your wrist.”

What does Jesus know about fishing? It didn’t matter. Peter heard the voice he had for followed three years and without question drops the nets on the other side of the boat. And here is the hilarious part. He catches one hundred and fifty-three fish. Are you kidding me? Only a fisherman could tell that kind of story. Peter runs to Jesus, pulling the nets behind him, ready to show Jesus at least he can do something right.    But Jesus has already moved on.

Peter standing bruised and broken could have acted as each of us has acted. He could have said, “Jesus, what is it you want of me. I’m doing the best I can. You ask me to believe what I cannot see. You ask me to live a way I cannot comprehend. You ask me to be someone I cannot imagine. Take the fish. It’s all I’ve got. It’s all I know how to do.”

Instead, Peter stood silent, offering no excuses, waiting for Jesus to speak. We might think Peter was looking for forgiveness, but I suspect he was hoping for an interruption to break the loop of his reoccurring nightmares. I am certain he desired a glimmer of light to expose his darkness. Peter was living, or perhaps more accurately, Peter was dying in the moment before his dawn.

Some mornings before sunrise, I will walk out on our deck and gaze at the shadowy image of Crawford Mountain rising out of the lake. Just before dawn the blackness of the night is only matched by the chill in the air. I suspect my faith is most vulnerable at that moment. Yet, without fail, there emerges an intersection of death and life when darkness succumbs to a shimmer of light on the horizon. Shadows retreat, exposing the colors of a new day. Anxieties thaw, melting the frost within my soul.

        So often, looking more at myself than the landscape, the words of Psalm 30 embrace my soul.

        O God, I cried to you for help and you healed me.

        My weeping may linger for the night,

        But joy comes with the morning.

        You have turned my mourning into dancing,

        My soul will not be silent.

        I will give thanks to you forever.


        Peter waits for his mourning to be turned into dancing. He waits in anguish, broken, with nothing left to say. It is then that Jesus speaks, “Do you love me?”

        It is the perfect question. It is our love of God that put us out on the edge of the limb in the first place. We speak, we act, because we love. We speak, we act, because we want the world to be better. We speak, we act, because we believe that is where God wants us to be, and sometimes we get crushed. Sometimes the limb breaks. Worst of all we don’t understand why our vision is different from the person sitting right beside us. Yet despite our brokenness we find the energy to scream, “You know I love you!”

        And God responds, “Then get back up in the tree.”

        Month or so, I mentioned a song by Guy Clark during the children’s sermon.  Guy might be my favorite theologian. He is certainly one of my favorite song writers.       

Eight years old with a flour sack cape tied all around his neck. He climbed up on the garage he’s figurin, what the heck. Screwed his courage up so tight the whole thing came unwound. He got a running start and bless his heart, he headed for the ground.

(Chorus) He’s one of those that knows that life is just a leap of faith. Spread your arms, hold your breath and always trust your cape.

Now he’ all grown up with a flour sack cape tied all around his dreams. He’s full of piss and vinegar and he’s busting at the seams. So he licked his finger and checked the wind, it’s gonna be do or die. He wasn’t scared of nothing boys, he was pretty sure he could fly.


Now he is old and gray with a flour sack cape tied all around his head. And he is still jumpin off the garage and will be till he’s dead. All these years the people said, “He’s been acting like a kid.” He did not know he could not fly and so he did.



Maybe that’s what Jesus keeps saying to us, “Spread your arms, hold your breath, and always trust your faith.”                                             Amen.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Are You Born Again?

Acts 5:27-32; John 20:19-31


Have you been born again? Some of you are thinking who kidnapped our minister and would you please bring him back. Unless the text is John 3 and we are discussing Nicodemus, the “born again” language seldom if ever comes up in our conversations. Most folks I know speak of faith as something inherited. I was baptized in a Presbyterian Church in Georgia. My grandfather was the Clerk of Session. When I became a member of the Presbyterian Church, my father was the minister. From the moment I was born, my parents and my community talked about Jesus. Being a child of the south, believing in God was as natural as eating grits and washing them down with a Coke. When a person tells me they are born again, my first instinct is to say, “Bless your heart. How did you live all these years without God?”

Then I befriended some Pentecostals and Southern Baptists. It seems many of them had a “come to Jesus” moment. This caused me to reevaluate earlier assumptions and realize we all don’t have the same faith story. Many of you have had faith experiences that are very different from mine.  Some really smart guy named Fowler once explained that our faith journey is really a pyramid.  He said the closer we get to the top, the more seriously we are engaged in the moral aspects of our faith. He also insisted everyone is equally faithful, regardless where they are along their personal spectrum. Despite the wisdom of Fowler, when I encounter someone who appears to be at a different spiritual place, I revert to my old bad habits and think, “Bless your heart.” My theories on faith development, all of which are prejudiced by my own experiences, make it difficult for me to remember that the road to Godliness is quite diverse. That’s why I am glad on this week after Easter we revisit the Thomas Story.

 Remember Thomas? He is the guy that had to see the nail prints in the hand and feet of Jesus. Through the years we have been pretty hard on him, and perhaps with good reason.  Was Thomas asleep when Jesus dropped all those clues about the resurrection? Where was Thomas when the women were running back and forth from the grave? Why was he absent the first time Jesus showed up? But then again was he the only doubtful disciple? Thank goodness for persuasive women. Until the other ten disciples had their personal encounter with the unimaginable, we didn’t hear a peep out of any of them. Oh by Acts 5 Peter was a house on fire. But before his personal encounter with the Lord, Peter was already checking into purchasing a used fishing boat. 

Anyone here ever seen Jesus? I have faithfully encountered the Jesus story for 65 years. Somewhere along the way it stopped being the faith of my parents and became my personal encounter with God. But I have never seen Jesus. I have never touched the holes in his hands? Instead of having an eyewitness account, my faith development has grown because of doubt rather than proof. That may seem strange but look at the things we asked to believe:

Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus was resurrected from the dead.

When we die we will be with Jesus.

Are you kidding me? The rational mind cannot fully comprehend the possibility of these statements. That is why I love the story of Thomas. Once Thomas has been introduced to the savior’s hands and feet Jesus said, “Blessed are those who don’t see and believe.”

I suspect many of you have driven up and down the Blue Ridge Park Way. I prefer the Skyline Drive. You have to pay, or get a season pass for the Skyline Drive, and this keeps a lot of folks from making the trip. Being a bike rider, the fewer cars I encounter the more I enjoy myself. You miss a lot when you drive. The first three to four miles of the Skyline Drive are uphill. It is amazing what one sees when only traveling 6 or 7 miles an hour. I not only notice the flowers, I get to count each of the pedals. What has amazed me the most is I will be peddling along and look up at what appears to be sheer rock. Yet in the middle is a bush or a tree. Somehow, through the smallest crack, vegetation has emerged and survived. Even more amazing is as the tree expands, the rock begins to crack. The Appalachians have been here for a millions years and a little plant is compromising the mountains we love. If I had not seen it with my own eyes I would never believe it. But each year the plant grows, and each year, the cracks increase.

What on earth does that have to do with faith? Unless you get on a bike and peddle up a mountain you might never encounter this strange phenomenon of nature. You have to take my word for it, much like we have to take the words of the gospel writers. I can’t prove the resurrection any more than I can prove the existence of God. My faith is based on the stories of others and how my personal journey verifies those stories. But more importantly, my faith is based on the doubts I have encountered concerning what I once imagined to be the truth. Those are my born again moments.

It simply is not good enough to hear the faith stories of another and assume it to be true. Would you buy a house based on the e-mail of a realtor you never met? Of course not! Then why would one believe in the story of a resurrected Lord simply because every year we celebrate Easter. If you exist on the faith of another, then that faith will fail you. But what happens when you encounter the story, struggle with the story, roll it around in your heart and mind and then, throwing caution to the wind, live the story.

Scripture is the message our spiritual ancestors wrote because they wanted us to experience God, if not in the flesh, then in the word. They wrote slogans for living. They wrote about events which are more truth than fact. They wrote down the stories of Jesus. And then they wrote how Jesus turned their lives upside down.   Some of the stories are puzzling, some are troubling and a few I even find offensive. But I keep coming back to them even though I might see them differently today than yesterday.  From those stories arise my doubts, my truths and my proclamations of what I believe. Each time I encounter the story I am born again, because each time I encounter the story, there exist the possibility of hearing the voice of God in a uniquely different way. And that both excites and frightens me.

Can a flower compromise a mountain? Can a man be resurrected from the dead? Christianity has not existed all these years because it confirms or rephrases common sense. From generation to generation Christianity has told an unimaginable story based on the many faces of God and asked each hearer to listen from the depths of their heart.

“Blessed are those who have not seen yet have come to believe.” And to that I might also add, “Blessed are those who continue to struggle to discover the mystery of God. May our doubts, and perhaps even our fears, lead us a new birth of understanding and faith.      

To God be the glory.    Amen.