In The Beginning

genesis.1Scripture: Genesis 1-2:4a

Because it is in the beginning of the bible,
and also, because it talks about “the beginning,”
the book of Genesis is often assumed to be the oldest.

WRONG!

Genesis is not the oldest book in the bible—that distinction goes to the book of Job.
Go ahead, impress all your friends with that fun bible fact at the next barbecue. No need to thank me!

The bible is not actually a book. It is a library of books. And these books are not arranged chronologically. They are not a series of eyewitness accounts. The whole process of the writing and gathering and ordering was a lot more complicated than that.
And if you’d like to know more, invite me over to your next barbecue and I will regale the crowd with captivating tales of the process we scripture nerds like to call “canonization.” Who knew history or pastors could be so fun!?

But seriously—
understanding when Genesis was written is essential to hearing its message.

Rather than being jotted down shortly after writing was created, Genesis was likely written while the people of Israel were in exile in Babylon, roughly 592-539 BCE. The period of their captivity lasted around 50 years. This was an incredibly long time to be so far from their holy places, their holy land. Generations were dying in Babylon, new generations being born. It seemed that they may never get back to the land of God’s promise. The people were in danger of giving up. The people were threatened by despair. The people were at risk of forgetting who they were.

And so, rather than to detail “the how” of creation, Genesis was written to remind the people “the who” of creation. This passage was written to make sure they knew who the creator was, and who they were as creations.

And until that day of homecoming, no matter how long it took, or what challenges they faced, they could turn to these words from Genesis and remember:

Do not doubt God’s power to act, God spoke this entire world into existence.
Do not doubt God’s concern for the world, everything God created was called “good.”
Do not doubt God’s love for you, you were created in God’s image.

And throughout time, the Israelites have not been the only ones who needed help remembering who God is, and thereby, who they are.

Maybe for us, today, we could use this reminder as well.

Pastor Sarah

Don't Take This Personal

last supperThursday, May 18, 2017

John 14:15-21

There are some who say they have a “personal” relationship with Jesus.
There are some who call Jesus their “personal” Lord and Savior.
There are some who talk about their faith as a “personal” matter.

To them I say: Don’t take this personal.

Because it’s not.
That is—this love for Jesus—it’s not personal.
It never was.

It is communal.
Always.
And all ways.

At the table of his last supper in the 14th chapter of John, Jesus instructs the disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

And there are a few things taking place just moments before to help us know what this love is:
Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.
Judas leaves to betray Jesus, and Jesus knows exactly where he’s going.
Jesus gives a new commandment, “that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
Jesus foretells Peter’s denial.

Jesus tells—no, commands—the ones who love him to love others. And more specifically, to love in the way in which he loves them.

Love taking hold of filthy feet.
Love right smack dab in the middle of betrayal and denial.
Love in the face of suffering and death.

This love is not a warm fuzzy, sentimental kind of love. It is an effort, a commitment. It is a love fit for the tough times.

There is nothing private, personal about this love. It is a love asked not just of you (singular), but of y’all (plural). This includes the ones we know are at the table, as well as those hanging out in the shadows, but also the ones now silently clearing away the dishes.

The disciples and their love don’t get to stay here, sheltered in this place. For that reason, Jesus tells the disciples that he’s also getting the Father involved. And soon, a helper, an advocate, the spirit of truth will be on the way. Because from the very beginning, loving Jesus, keeping his commandments of love out in the world, was meant to be a group effort.

So please, for the love of Jesus, don’t take this personal.

Pastor Sarah

You Can't Handle the Truth

trth1Scripture: John 14:1-14

When I hear Jesus say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” this scene from the movie “A Few Good Men” immediately comes to mind: https://68.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m3qfcuztiX1rrdbbco1_500.gif

Jack Nicholson showed up in my December “Season’s Greetings” blog post, too.

Does anyone else have visions of Jack Nicholson when they read the gospels? Anyone? Anyone?

Ok, maybe it’s just me.

But there is something about an angry, unhinged, often yelling Jack Nicholson that speaks an important reminder to us about the scriptures. Perhaps we’ve become accustomed to hearing the words of scripture speaking in hushed, polite tones. Maybe we’ve heard these words so many times they sound too familiar, too predictable, too comfortable. Just maybe, we say we’ve heard the good news and yet we feel little and do nothing. That’s why we could use a little Jack Nicholson in our biblical interpretation. In the jarring contrast, we are reminded that the gospel message was, is, and forever will be challengingly life-changing, mind-blowingly difficult, and even in-your-face offensive to those who hear it.

Just look at the disciples here in John:
They say they want the truth. But when they get it, they can’t handle it.
The truth does not fit into the world as they know it.
The truth does not make sense.
The truth is a trip down a never-ending rabbit hole full of twists and turns.
The truth puts anyone who receives it, who proclaims it, who lives it at risk.

And they can’t handle it. We see that in their questions, in their repeated requests for proof, in their doubt, and in their running away.

So it is for the disciples of every time and every place.

When Jesus shows us the truth of who we are, how much we need salvation, and offers it freely…
When Jesus reveals the astounding unfairness of God in grace, that we didn’t earn, don’t deserve, and can never pay back…
When Jesus calls us into relationship, not just with him, but with all of God’s broken and beloved world…
When Jesus models a life of self-sacrifice, truth-telling, forgiveness, sharing, and welcome…

We can’t handle it.

And it will take a lifetime and whole lot of Jesus if we hope to even get close.

Pastor Sarah

Off the Map

mapFriday, April 28, 2017

Luke 24:13-35

This week the disciples encounter the risen Christ in a village called Emmaus. In truth, Jesus showed up on the way there---but it is not until they have arrived that the disciples recognize him.

The location of Emmaus is unknown. There are a few possible locations, but no one knows for sure where this place actually was.

Maybe that's on purpose.

The disciples could not recognize Jesus walking right along side of them because their hope had failed, and therefore, their imaginations had as well. The only place they expected to encounter Jesus was the tomb. And when they did not find him there, in their disappointment, they had trouble seeing him anywhere else.

Perhaps the true location of Emmaus is intentionally obscured by the author of Luke. We are left searching, wondering, exploring the possibilities. We can't pinpoint on a map those places we'll encounter the new life of the resurrection. We can't plan for or predict those moments.

Jesus could show up anywhere, any time.

Even when our expectations have been disappointed.
Even when all hope seems lost.
Even when our vision has failed us.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, right there in our midst is new life!

Pastor Sarah

Christians are Losers

loserFriday, April 14, 2016

Matthew 26:47-28:10

You read that right.
Christians are losers.

Just look at who we worship—
A God who willingly loses immortality to become mortal.
A God who freely loses power to become weak.
A God who voluntarily loses glory to take on the embarrassment of the cross.

Christians are losers.

Just look at who we follow—
A Jesus who shows us how to lose every earthly possession and comfort.
A Jesus who loses his family, his friends, his followers.
A Jesus who loses his life.

Christians are losers, and how could we be anything else?

For we are called to lose ourselves, our lives, each and every thing that might hold us back from following Jesus.

We see in the scriptures the challenge of losing, the struggle of it, the myriad of ways we can fall short of it, and ultimately the inevitability of it. But we are also shown the great gift in it.

This Resurrection Sunday, we hear again the promise that when everything appears to be lost, that is the moment when new life will emerge.

Christians are losers.
And we need to embrace that, if we are to be faithful and not afraid.

Pastor Sarah