Next.

John 20:19-31

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah,[c] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

I’m sure we have all heard the expression that something beautiful or scary or amazing to see can “take our breath away”.  We have probably also experienced moments in our lives when we’ve attempted something like riding a roller coaster at King’s Island, or jumping into a cold lake, or maybe experiencing the birth of a child where it “took our breath away”.

Perhaps we have also had moments in our lives filled with fear or anxiety, times where we feel like our breath has been taken away.

Or maybe we are like the writer of this song, Anna Nalick, “Breathe (2 AM)” that says:  

There’s a light at each end of this tunnel,
You shout ’cause you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out
And these mistakes you’ve made, you’ll just make them again

Breathe, just breathe

We maybe feel trapped in situations that we feel like we can’t get out of on our own.  We feel caught and out of breath and in need of a “light at the end of a tunnel” or maybe out lives are like being underwater and we need to get to the surface for some air, to breathe.  We get caught in these moments and wonder “what’s next?”  And, can we handle what’s next?

Our text this morning has a lot to do with moments like this, moments in our lives when we need to breathe, breathing that brings life, and not just any life, but life as it was meant to be lived.

Right after Jesus’ death on a Roman cross and resurrection from the dead.  Jesus appears to his disciples.  I’m sure they were overwhelmed, in shock, and wondering what was going to happen next.  

They were locked in a room, afraid of the same folks who had just crucified Jesus and fearful that they would be after them as well.  They were wondering if there was a light at the end of the tunnel of fear that they were experiencing, the uncertainty was overwhelming, not sure what to think about what’s going to happen next.  The room was shut, and probably the lives of those disciples were in a state of being shut down from fear. There was probably a war of emotions going on within them.

Into this room, this state of anxiety, Jesus appears and has the greeting “Peace to you”.    The word “peace” in this context is a common word, but in this context, it meant the world to the disciples.  They needed peace.   

They had to be overwhelmed in seeing Jesus, but Jesus’ physical presence was also comforting.  Our passage this morning says that they rejoiced and they were strengthened by having seen the Lord.  

Jesus gives a charge to those disciples, an imperative command.  Just as the Father had sent Jesus to the world, Jesus was now sending the disciples out from behind shut doors into a crazy world desperate for hope.  A world full of fear, full of conflict…a world desperately in need of peace.  

Then, something happens, Jesus breathed on them.  This word “breathe” in this passage is the same word used in Genesis 2:7 where God breathes life into humanity, giving us life.  Jesus is in effect saying that he is the Son of God, God in the flesh, giving life to the disciples.  Jesus was not only bringing peace to the disciples, but breathing life into them.  The verse goes on to say that Jesus gives another imperative, to receive the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was breathing the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, God’s presence on to the disciples.  The Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit, the unifying power of God would bring the disciples together, giving them confidence and power to be who God created them to be.  

In verse 24 of this passage, we see that one of the 12 disciples, Thomas, wasn’t around to see Jesus the first time he appeared in that room.  8 days later though, they are hanging out and Jesus appears.  It’s interesting to note that these same disciples who had just been blessed by Jesus showing up and breathing on them are scared and locked up in that room again!  Yet, Jesus breaks through the walls again…gives them a peace blessing and then addresses Thomas.  Thomas wants more tangible evidence, so Jesus gives it to them.  Jesus doesn’t want to shame Thomas, this passage isn’t here to give reference to Thomas’ unbelief, but it’s here to give hope to those who haven’t seen.  The writer of this passage is giving a direct address to those reading in verse 31 that these things have been written for you…for us.

Friends, we may be living in fear, in anxiety.  We may have just witnessed Jesus’ very resurrection in our lives…we may even have lived our lives in expectation of God’s faithfulness to us.  Yet, here’s Jesus…appearing before us, walking through any barriers that we may be hiding behind.  Calling us out of the four walls we’ve enclosed ourselves in…giving us himself, breathing new life into us, and calling us towards the next thing…a full life with him!   Thomas and the rest of the disciples were living in fear, in disappointment.  They were tired.  Yet Jesus came to them, and comes to us…he invites us to know his scars, to touch the pain that has been inflicted upon him…to believe that he has overcome all things, even death, and so can we as we are Christ’s body!  

Look In.

John 20:1-18

The Resurrection of Jesus

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Friends, here we are…Easter morning.  My morning started early!  It was dark…pitch dark.  Of course, it didn’t really start until I was able to get some coffee and a nice hot shower!  As a kid, I remember Easter morning always starting in the dark.  I couldn’t wait for it, it was kind of like Christmas “lite”, but with bunnies and candy…so, I was up, in the dark…looking for my Easter basket…and, yes, I loved the chocolate bunnies!!

Since then, life has happened.  I’m 54.  I’ve had some ups and downs.  And, I’m sure we all have. We’ve experienced loss, disappointment, expectations dashed.  When we get in touch with those moments of disorientation, we can have a notion, or an inkling, of what those early disciples were going through.  Their lives had been filled with so much, they met Jesus, they fell in love with him.  Even in this gospel narrative of John, we hear the phrase, the “disciple that Jesus loved”.  Now, scholars say that could be referencing John, or another disciple who’s writing this text, or it could mean all of humanity, or a reference to Judaism and Gentiles…those inside and those outside.  Either way, the disciples that morning, Mary Magdalene being the most prominent, had just seen their best friend, their rabbi, someone who’s words and actions drew them in, someone who they had projected their hopes and dreams on, humiliated and violently killed on a cross by a religious structure in bed with the state.  All because of love that asked us to be better humans, to include everyone in community, in authentic friendship across social barriers.

Jesus’ death was more than physical pain, that moment on the cross, Jesus was lost…resurrection was not on his mind. He cried out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me”. Many of us today have been disoriented by so much happening in our culture with the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, political partisanship, the collapsing of so many institutions, including the church, and then adding in our own personal issues. We have felt lost, wondering where God is in all of this, if God has forsaken us.  

Yet, if we believe that God and humanity are together in Jesus, then God through the cross, is telling us that God, the Divine, is in the struggle with us…all of the struggle, embracing all of our lives, and the lives of those around the world.    

We find ourselves here we are on Easter morning. What do we say to each other on this morning?  What phrase? Christ has risen! Christ has risen indeed! Jesus’ love for us, Jesus’ promise of a full life filled with purpose and presence could not be kept in a grave. 

Mary Magdalene was a true disciple and friend of Jesus…one of only two disciples that did not desert Jesus, goes and finds the tomb empty! She runs to tell the other disciples, they go to the tomb and find it as she said…and, I love this passage as a runner, John, who is at least credited with writing our gospel lesson this morning, makes it clear that he’s faster than Peter!  

These disciples ran to the tomb in the dark.  We come to Easter morning in the dark.  Maybe running around aimlessly in the dark even. It is important to note this, because Easter comes to us in the dark, it does not come alive in triumphant statements from this pulpit, from the liturgy or music of the moment…those things remind us of when Easter does come…it’s when we are disoriented or lost.  When we look at the casket of a loved one who has died.  When we sit with a church member who’s just gone through surgery and doesn’t know what’s going to happen next.  When we walk with a neighbor who’s daughter is going through a destructive relationship.   A friend who’s thinking about ending their lives.  When we hear of someone on a ventilator, fighting for their lives.  Or when we hear the voice of a loved one in the middle of a war zone wondering if they, or someone they know will make it through the day.

In those moments, when we are lost, when we see the empty tomb and wonder where God is…those are the moments when Easter becomes real.  Maybe like Mary, we run to friends, friends we’ve shared life with to look into to our lives or situations in life to get a different perspective.  Often, we find that they are just as disoriented, just as lost. But, they are there for us.  Friends, in this world where church is declining in attendance across the world, I believe it is more important than ever to remember that the church can be a great source of deep friendship and community, a gathering of people committed to leaning into the throes of life together…it’s more than what we do on a Sunday morning, or at any event.  It is a way of sharing life together.

In these moments of being in the dark when the impossible becomes possible, when, like Mary, we hear a voice that we don’t recognize at first call our names.  It may take a bit to hear deeply, but then we hear God calling us from deep inside and outside of us and we are awakened to a new reality, that God is with us as we look into the tombs of our lives in the midst of the darkness to find a deeper illumination, a light, a love that connects us to our suffering and the suffering of the world, and also gives us the hope that resurrection, growth, promise, and, yes, new life, springing up within us.  

Jesus models this kind of life, new life, filled with a love and calls us from the cross and the empty tomb to truly love everyone, including ourselves…which is often the hardest person to love, ourselves.  Yet, God says that if we want to change the world, we have to enter the suffering of the world, and that we have to start by entering our own suffering and to start with changing our own worlds.  We have to stay with that suffering before we get to the change, the growth. 

Mary does just that, she’s overcome by grief…yet she stays…she is weeping, struggling, in the dark. Yet, she stays at the tomb, letting things unfold…when she finally hears this gardener and sees that he is Jesus,  then, the joy of Easter possibility, Easter imagination, Easter reality rises up within her! 

What happens next? Well, the story gets out, the new reality sets in, people begin to see Jesus and to experience new things. Life as we know it is never the same, and it becomes filled with imagination, new possibilities, strength, confidence in the face of incredible odds. Something begins to form in these early believers that moves them to change the world, starting with their own awareness. 

I said at the beginning this morning that growing up I thought of Easter as Christmas “lite”.  As I grew and as life has come at me and as I’ve leaned into it, I have come to see Easter, as the early Jesus followers did, that Easter has so much to teach me…it’s more than candy and easter bunnies, it is leaning into the darkness and finding new birth, new beginnings…it is knowing that death is necessary, but not the final answer in my story, in God’s story, in your story.  We are all in the process of being reborn and becoming the persons that we have always wanted to be…especially in times of loss…God is always doing a new thing with us and in us.  Let us live towards that sense of awareness like Mary did.  

Christ has risen! 

Here this quote from M. Shawn Copeland:

If we, who would be his disciples, recall the night before Jesus died, we are led to a table, from a table to a garden, from a garden to a courtyard, from a courtyard to a hill, from a hill to a grave, from a grave to life. The table holds the self-gift of his very flesh and blood; the garden is watered by his tears and blood; and the cross holds him, even as the One whom he knows and loves lifts him up from the grave to release him into the surprise of hope and life.

Proclaim.

Luke 19:28-40

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,

“Blessed is the king
    who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
    and glory in the highest heaven!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

In 4th grade I was in love with Angel.  Yes, that was her name.  I got up the nerve one day to write her a note proclaiming my love for her.  I saw her read it and smile a bit I think.  Later, my friend Fred came up to me and told me he had heard about my love note, that Angel had shared it with him and others, and they all thought it was funny.  I was, of course, devastated…and deeply disappointed.  What I thought would be one thing, turned out not to be.  Well, as we jump into Holy Week…we know that expectations can lead to disappointment…

Here we are on Palm Sunday 2022!  And, it’s a big day…the day we kick off Holy Week 2022!  This is the week that we begin the home stretch if you will…we have spent the past several days in Lent preparing for this last part of the journey towards the cross.  But, we aren’t there yet…we have some more journeying to do…we have some more reality to face…we have some disappointment to do deal with as the story unfolds.

Today though we wave palms and proclaim that Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem!  He comes to the city gates having sent two unnamed disciples to get a colt, one that has never been ridden.   The other gospel narratives of this story say that Jesus rode a donkey, not a colt.  A donkey signified humility, but Luke is making a statement by using a colt, an untamed one at that!  This Jesus is making a statement that history is moving towards.  It is wild, it is untamed, and it is the center of the universal arc of history that is leading towards victory…that love does ultimately win.  

Luke doesn’t name the disciples.  He doesn’t even really mention the disciples much.  It seems like they were dealing with so many questions, so much doubt, and quite a bit of anxiety.  They were uncertain of what was going to happen next, but they had hopes.  The crowds on the other hand were filled with folks on the margins, the hoi polloi, common people.  There were not the power brokers, but common folk who had heard about Jesus, had seen Jesus, and were drawn to this movement that was radically inclusive and had a promise of something new to emerge.  

The power people, the religious leaders, wanted Jesus to silence the crowds, that they were getting out of hand.  They were missing the point…Jesus said that he could not and would not stop them, because if he did, then even the rocks would cry out.  

All of creation, Jesus is saying in effect, was in eager anticipation of this moment, of this season, that would change everything.  

Jesus was on his way to the festival, passover, a celebration, at the Temple, the spiritual center of Judaism…once there, he would proclaim that it would be destroyed and rebuilt in 3 days.  In essence, this temple doesn’t contain God, God is contain less, God is in all things.  And that his body, the body of Christ, in which we all live in, is universal.  And, that in a world filled with wars, disinformation, false narratives that divide us, plagues, pandemics, hunger, crisis after crisis, that there will be peace on earth.  Notice that this passage implicitly states that, “peace on earth”, not just some pie in the sky heavenly peace…but, peace now!  Restoration from the all of the destructive narratives that divide…restoration to our truest selves as created in God’s image.

Yet, we know the story.  These religious leaders, political pawns in a system that they’ve created to benefit them, turn enough of the crowd by the end of the week to turn the proclamations of “hosanna” to “crucify him”.  They become disappointed, deeply.  

Friends, all of us face holy week, and our lives, with expectations…and often we are disappointed, but disappointment is also key for our growth.  Dave Whyte, the poet, says this:

Disappointment is a friend to transformation, a call to both accuracy and generosity in the assessment of our self and others, a test of sincerity and a catalyst of resilience. Disappointment is just the initial meeting with the frontier of an evolving life, an invitation to reality, which we expected to be one particular way and turns out to be another, often something more difficult, more overwhelming and strangely, in the end, more rewarding. 

Jesus doesn’t change course that week.  He must continue on towards the reality of the ups and downs of the life that he shares with humanity.  

He had been journeying upwards, towards Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is on a hill, pilgrimages to Jerusalem have an upward movement.  It can be hard.  Add into that the opposition of some, those with loud voices and a transactional worldview that is skewed towards the few, Jesus knew that the final part of his journey would be the hardest.

After Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, the ascent, the upward movement is over…and the week starts out with a celebration and then moved downward, a descent, into death.  Of Jesus giving himself away…of letting love flow out of him into us…Jesus, descending, God with us in the throes of life, of celebration, and of disappointment.  

This messenger walked in the way of humility, of giving himself away… check this out in our lectionary passage in Philippians:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,

    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

– Philippians 2:5-8

It was, as we know.  And it holds for us the reality that we have to celebrate a message and the messenger that is bringing Good News of God’s being with all of us.  And, we also have to bear the reality that this message and messenger will keep on calling us towards something beautiful and hard:  growth and restoration…healing our image of ourselves that we have created towards the image that God has made us in, that we are loved and we are God’s own…and that we are in constant union with God, one another, all of creation, the Universe.  We are the body of Christ, the universal body of Christ, and no one is to be left out of that love…this connection calls us to go through darkness, to lean into them, and to remember, to hold on to this narrative that God gives us, and that we proclaim even in the disappointment, even in the darkness.  And that embracing this journey, the ups and downs, the celebrations, the expectations, and the hard disappointment, that we come to terms with who we are and we are transformed…resurrected even.  

Love Wins!  

Fragrant.

Now, I’ve heard that some folks love my stories in a sermon, some don’t, some listen deeply and find meaning, some tune out and either put up a mental and emotional roadblock to the scripture and interpretations, find fault in something…or simply not interested and want to get on with their day or are just happy to sit for an hour or so…and, yes, sometimes the preacher isn’t tuned in to the divine flow…either way, it’s OK…that’s kind of church…I’d love to find a way to connect with everyone…and to constantly live in that divine flow…what it boils down to is deep trust and listening…and not just with the preacher, but with the words being spoken that are not just the preachers…and that the divine movement, the God movement, is always happening, whether we acknowledge it or not. 

John 12:1-8

Mary Anoints Jesus

12 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

And, I do have a story.  

Oftentimes, words in a situation really speak something to us.  Several years ago I was in Nicaragua with a group of about 30-40 high school students from my youth group at Northminster.  Nicaragua is the second poorest county in the Western Hemisphere.  We had broken the group up in teams of 3-4 for what we called “home stays”.  Its where we would spend 24 hours with a Nicaraguan family.  I was with a couple of other students and we stayed with my now friend, Manuel.  He took us to a restaurant and bought our dinner.  It was huge…and it only coast $2 in US dollars per meal.  About a dozen or so of Manuel’s extended family and neighbors came with us.  While we were eating, we noticed that Manuel and his wife, Rosie, and the three of us were the only ones with food.  I asked Manuel why, he said that we were the guests of honor and that they wanted to bless and honor us…and that $2 was more than what most folks made in a day, they couldn’t afford it.  Being an American with $50 in my pocket, I told him we’d buy everyone a meal…his response, no, don’t, accept our hospitality and be in this moment.  

The words and the moment were powerful.  

In our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus is hanging out in the home of Lazarus, with Mary and Martha.  Think about that one for a moment…Lazarus, the guy raised from the dead.  Mary and Martha…that’s a full story of relationship.  Martha, always working, Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet.  

Then Mary, who really must have loved Jesus, loved what he was about, who he was and is…took a very expensive perfume.  She anointed Jesus’ feet!  In the other gospel accounts, Jesus’s head is anointed.  In this gospel, the gospel of John, the disciple that “Jesus loved” as he refers himself as in this gospel, has Jesus’ feet getting anointed…that’s a mark of humility.  On that same Nicaragua trip, we did a foot washing, it is humbling to get on your knees, to touch another’s feet…both Nicaraguans and Americans (especially teenagers!), yet, we did it…and we all cried…why?  Because we loved one another.

Now, Judas, one of the disciples, a part of Jesus’ team, a member of the Body of Christ, starts to complain.  Now, when someone is complaining vigorously about something that is out of the ordinary, even it really doesn’t really affect him, then you kind of know where the priorities are…Judas is kind of a sad figure at times, he doesn’t seem to quite get it.  I have empathy for him actually.   Jesus loved Judas, still does…but Judas had a lot of roadblocks emotionally to receiving that love…he couldn’t love himself, was not aware of others, and because he couldn’t love himself, receive God’s love through Jesus, he couldn’t see Mary’s act of love…

He responds how expensive this perfume was and that it could have been used in other ways.  On the surface, that makes sense.  It was expensive.  I think Judas was actually being somewhat sincere.  He was acting out of a worldview that he really believed in.  And, he was a zealot, he believed in what he was doing.  He also projected on to Jesus his aspirations, without doing the work of really listening to what God was conveying to him through Jesus and others.  It’s also interesting to note that Judas did become bitter as his projections on Jesus and others didn’t pan out, did not fit with the image that he created…he eventually sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, a fraction of the cost of the perfume.  And, yes, it drove him to such despair when he finally realized what he had done that he took his life.  

If only Judas could have seen the grace of this moment.  

Jesus doesn’t condemn him, doesn’t stop loving him.  And, by the way, as we look at Jesus, we can also have confidence that Judas always had grace.  You see, Jesus was telling Judas, and the audience that day, to be present with who is with you.  He is saying that there are some things in this world that will not change.  But, we can change.  We can have a new story, and it starts with listening deeply to what the divine voice is saying inside and around us…and to stay present in the moment. 

Friends, Mary was present in her love for Jesus.  The perfume filled the room with an amazing fragrance…but, there was a deeper beauty there as well…the beauty of being present in the moment that is filled with such love that connects us all.  

Church, if we are willing, we can live into this love…it starts by simply receiving it.  It doesn’t make sense, it’s extravagant, it’s not always practical, and it certainly goes against our notions of how the world works.  We don’t earn it, we simply have it.

Fleming Road UCC, in many ways, is pouring out expensive perfume.  We sometimes worry at how long it will last, but we cannot miss this present moment.  We are loving one another, we are loving our neighbors, we are giving ourselves away to our Nepali friends, and now our Ukrainian friends, and we are not getting bogged down by too much complaining as we trust and love one another and love and trust a God who reminds us that we are not alone.  

Our lectionary passage in Philippians says this:  13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Friends, let’s move on from the past, live as the beloved, and press on towards a future where we continue to become one with God, with one another, and with the world around us…may live into the communion of God as demonstrated through the words and actions of Jesus.