October 16, 2018

Worship

Join us as together we praise our Creator on Sunday mornings. [Scroll down to view older posts.]

Fall Worship Plans

We are almost at the end of summer!
Being together and experiencing worship together this season has been wonderful. Many have remarked that one of the reasons this has been such a successful adventure is that we need more unity in the world right now – coming together for a common purpose.
 
We believe the Spirit is moving!
 
The two Vitality Teams (The Sunday Morning Experience and Worship Innovation) have been working with the Worship Commission brainstorming, researching, listening to one another and to all of you …. many of you were with us (50 in fact) on Sunday, August 5th as we held an open conversation about worship.
 
We had an overwhelming response – a groundswell really … before, during and since that day… of people asking to continue this 10am worship service for a longer period of time. People are appreciating the format, style and spirit of it all.
 
Therefore, the Worship Commission and the Worship Vitality Teams just recommended to the Church Council at their monthly meeting that we continue to have one worship service at 10am at least through the rest of 2018.
 
We will have a revised Sunday Morning flow —
9am Choir practice (Intergenerational ‘First Sunday Choir’ monthly – come!);
9:30am Coffee ready in the Gathering Space – come early and build community!
9:55am Announcements in the sanctuary;
10am Worship begins with the Prelude;
(Christian Education for children/youth immediately following Children’s Time);
11am Fellowship Time with refreshments, old friends and new friends;
11:15am-12pm Adult Education in the Heritage Room (most Sundays) and
varied music opportunities for all kids/youth/adults (voice, chimes, bells) that could not happen when we had two worship services on a Sunday morning.
 
We will continue to evaluate and tweak worship and the Sunday morning experience as we go along. Please let us know what you feel and think.
 
We are excited! Thank you for your presence, participation and feedback!
– Your Worship Commission, Worship Vitality Teams, Council and PUCC Staff

Annual Meeting & 10am One Family Worship Jun 3

Big Weekend

The first weekend of June will be a great adventure for all of us!

John Pavlovitz, prolific pastor and progressive Christian voice that has caught the attention of a wide array of people in the US and abroad, will be with us all weekend (see separate invitations—you don’t want to miss him!) at a Bigger Table.

 

Sunday, June 3 | 9:30am | Sanctuary

We will gather for our brief Annual Meeting at as we elect new Council and Commission members for our next program year. We will also commission the Teams that will help us live into our new purpose statement and goals via the strategies we all came up with in our Vitality Initiative. These are exciting times to be the church!

 

Sunday, June 3 | 10:00am | Sanctuary

Our One Family Worship service with John Pavlovitz followed by a luncheon to celebrate all that we have and will do in and through the church.

We are living the Spirit these Pentecost days. Please join us! We need you!

Summer Worship around the corner! Jul 1 – Sep 2

We will continue our usual Sunday schedule of Traditional Worship at 9:30am and Informal Worship at 11am on June 10, 17 and 24 then do a new thing for the rest of the summer.

 

As with a great number of churches across the land, we will have a different summer schedule. From July 1 – September 2 we will worship at 10:00am.

Sunday School for children of all ages (focused on Psalm 23) will take place just after the Children’s Time.

Barry will be working with a variety of singers, ringers and instrumentalists throughout the summer.

 

The Worship Commission looks forward to having all of us together this summer as we grow deeper in love with the Holy and one another.

10:00am One Family Worship Sunday, April 8

One service only on Sunday, April 8: a service that fuses our traditional and informal elements and features lots of singing! Children and youth remain in worship. This is a time of connection. Our scriptures (Luke 24: 13-35 & John 20:19-29) pick up where we left off last week on Easter Sunday… Our sermon is entitled On the Road Again. What do we do now? Where do we go with all of this? Join us! 

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“O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good;

    God’s steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,

    “God’s steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 118:1-2

 

All There is to Say
by Emily C. Heath

 

The day after Easter, the big celebration is over. Most of us are back to our regular lives, carrying on like nothing has changed. Something has changed, though. It was just Sunday that we were reminded again that death was defeated by God’s love, and that hope has broken out of the tombs and into the world.

 

Easter Monday’s lectionary readings include this very short passage from the Psalms. Most readings are far longer than two verses, but on the day after Easter, this is all we need: Give thanks to God, for God is good . . . God’s steadfast love endures forever.

 

Ministers love to use five words when one will do, so this is a good reminder to those of us who preach that sometimes brevity is the soul of faith. There is nothing more that I can say about the miracle of Easter that is not said in these two lines. I could preach for an hour, and I’d never be able to sum up the task of Easter Monday better than this: Give thanks to God for God is good . . . God’s steadfast love endures forever.

 

And so, as you go out into the world this week after Easter, do just that. Give thanks to God for a goodness and love that could not be contained, even by the grave. Give thanks in prayer and praise, but give thanks in other ways, too. Give thanks through all actions you take, every act of kindness you bestow on others, and each occasion when you are called to stand up in courage and love for your neighbors.

 

God’s love has already won. It’s our work to spread that good news to those who do not yet know it. Our thanksgiving thus becomes the world’s joy, and our every action becomes a small reminder of resurrection. 

 

Prayer: Thank you, Holy One, for you are good. Your steadfast love endures forever. Amen.

 

PUCC Easter Monday Devotion – Monday, April 2, 2018

 

 

 

And Jesus said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.’ – Mark 16:15
Easter Encouragement for the Journey by Bret Myers
Remember that resurrection is more than mere resuscitation! It is life transformed!
It is faith in possibilities, when others are convinced of inevitability.
It is the courage to love others, when they don’t love you in return…
to show compassion, when others are heaping judgment…
to live by peace, when others are being violent…
to work for justice, when others are working for wealth…
to respond with gentleness, when others are reacting with rage…
and to trust that life, well-lived, even if short-lived, is preferable to longevity without virtue.
Don’t remain caterpillars when you can become butterflies!
Live beautifully! Birth goodness in all you think, say, and do!
For you are called to life abundant!
God’s blessings go with you now.
Prayer: Holy One, Lent and Holy Week are behind us now… but we are Easter people and the world is waiting for us. Launch us! Amen.

 

 

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org
Parkway United Church of Christ, 2841 N Ballas Road, Saint Louis, MO 63131
Sent by kevin@parkwayucc.org in collaboration with
Constant Contact

PUCC Easter Sunday Devotion – Sunday, April 1, 2018

 

 

“Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell… 
Mark 16:6  

 

 

[In his Easter Message, our United Church of Christ General Minister and President and old friend of Parkway UCC, the Rev. John C. Dorhauer, invites us to celebrate the hope of Easter – even as we recognize some of the sting of death.]

 

We are an Easter people!

 

Shaped by the experiences of death, the wells of our enduring faith spring up and speak to us of the eternal.

 

This fundament, this bedrock, it grounds us.

 

And, as Paul writes in 1Thessalonians – we therefore do not grieve as those who have no hope.

 

I can’t tell you how many times over the last year and a half I have had to remind myself that we are, in the end, an Easter people.

 

No death we experience will be allowed to offer the last word.

 

Hope will always abide in the shadows that come with grief and loss.

 

Let us, then, speak of grief and loss – the collective ennui we share with a suffering planet that is smeared with our toil.

 

We see tens of millions of refugees swarming the globe. We see decades of advances in social justice being erased by a global shift to the political fringes. We watch nations and their leaders play war games with big and very destructive weapons. We know children are being trafficked, women are being violated, and black and brown bodies are continuously treated with disdain by whites.
My mood has shifted and I am not alone. Say what you want about the current political climate in America, but something has happened to our shared narrative.

 

Immigrants are enemies.

 

Unarmed black bodies are gunned down with impunity.

 

Women’s bodies are trivialized as solely the object of men’s passions and desires.

 

Fascism is on the rise, creeping into the light after decades lurking in the shadows.

 

Children go through ‘code red’ exercises that have them rehearsing live shooter drills, wondering not if, but when.

 

We talk without shame about arming teachers.

 

I’m looking for my Easter hope!

 

I’m asking if this is the dying beyond which God has nothing more to say.
And…

 

God is not silent.
God’s speech resonates not from beyond the madness, but from within it.

 

On a street corner in St. Louis, a woman preaches at the opening of a child wellbeing center. The preacher has an Easter story to tell. She was left abandoned on that very street corner when she was 9 months old.

 

In a sanctuary in Madbury, New Hampshire the Maranatha Indonesian United Church of Christ celebrates 14 years of shared life and ministry. They have their own Easter story to tell. Many in the room just weeks ago were detained and threatened with deportation. One pastor’s intervention and dogged determination affected their release. On this Sunday, much more than an anniversary is celebrated as families are re-united.

 

In the aftermath of one of the most violent and ugly chapters of our collective narrative, teenagers produce their own Easter hope by calling a nation to recognize that our love affair with gun violence is destroying the hope of children. Their fierce resistance has an entire nation marching for our lives.

 

The tomb is empty.

 

Oh, to be sure, death has its sting.

 

There was a body. But the body rises.

 

God speaks, and beyond the seemingly impenetrable tomb a new word is heard.

 

Let those who have ears to hear, hear.

 

May the joy of an embodied resurrection call you to see through grief, listen beyond lamentation, and know beyond a shadow of doubt, Jesus lives.

 

We do not grieve as those who have no hope. Our grief is altered by Easter.
Jesus is risen.
He is risen indeed.
           

 

Prayer:  Holy One,  help us to rise along with you! Amen.

 

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org
Parkway United Church of Christ, 2841 N Ballas Road, Saint Louis, MO 63131
Sent by kevin@parkwayucc.org in collaboration with
Constant Contact

PUCC Holy Saturday Devotion – Saturday, March 31, 2018

 

 

[A bit lengthy… but a very good read for Holy Saturday – this in between day when many people don’t know what to think or do. These reflections are based on some of the echoes from yesterday, Good Friday.]
The Seven Last Words of Christ: A Progressive Vision by Bruce Epperly
When I recently told a colleague that I was writing a brief piece on the Seven Last Words – or Seven Sayings – of Christ, he responded: “Isn’t that a bit old school, Bruce?  Why bother with something that is obviously inaccurate and outmoded in terms of current theology?”  His response gave me pause, but I decided to go ahead with the project because these words still are meaningful in the Good Friday and Lenten rituals of many Christians, including members of mainstream and progressive congregations. The Seven Last Words of Christ are a bit like the Christmas tableaus and manger scenes we witness each year, which bring together strands of the various gospels in tandem with the popular imagination.  Scholars tell us that the shepherds and magi didn’t enter the stable as pageants suggest, but there is mystery and wonder in the scenes anyway. The same is true for the imaginative collection of Jesus’ final sayings.  As Native American storytellers assert, “this may not have happened, but it is true.”
The Seven Last Words are a harmonizing of sayings attributed to Jesus from the four canonical gospels.  No one gospel contains all seven sayings, but integrated the sayings give a picture of Jesus’ suffering and death.  In that regard, their poetic rendering may be more insightful than unimaginative scholarly deconstruction.
Even if you don’t believe in the notion that Jesus’ death was preordained, a ransom for our sins, or that God required Jesus’ death to deliver us from sin and open the doors to eternal life, the Cross describes the realities of human suffering, abandonment, and death, often at the hands of powerful governmental and religious institutions.  The collection of Jesus’ final words give voice to the experiences of persons in oncology wards, hospices, victims of torture and abuse, or among survivors from natural disasters.
The traditional ordering of the Seven Last Words is as follows:
  1. Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
  2. Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).
  3. Woman, behold your son: behold your mother (John 19:26-27).
  4. My God, My Godwhy have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
  5. I thirst (John 19:28).
  6. It is finished (John 19:30).
  7. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).
You may choose to meditate upon the meaning of these words as I reflect upon each phrase.  In the spirit of lectio divina, or holy/wholly reading, you might let the words have a life of their own, emerging as the spirit inspires you, without concern for historical or literary accuracy.  Imaginative in structure and organization, these words are most effective when we let our own imaginations wander, opening to God’s inspiration for you in your unique setting.
My reflections arose from my own imaginative encounter with the text.  Although I know these texts from a scholarly point of view, scholarship alone cannot fathom of the mysteries of life and death, and new life.  The poetry of these texts may elicit a connection with God in the maelstrom of human suffering.
Although these words are omitted in many early manuscripts, they describe the graceful spirit of Jesus’ mission and the providential grace of God, moving even within humankind’s most diabolical actions.  They suggest that while the destructive – and dare I say, demonic -actions of institutions and persons may appear to be intentional, they are in actuality performed out of ignorance of the deepest nature of reality.  The ego, always seeking to protect itself or hold on to its prerogatives, acts as if it is alone in the universe, existing in a world of threat and isolation.  Any prophetic word or challenge to the status quo is perceived to be a threat and not an opportunity for transformation.  Evil, misconduct, abuse, genocide, and crucifixion in all their manifestations are “real” – pain and destruction of higher values are not illusory and these warrant strong and just responses.
On the Cross, Jesus felt pain, and so did God!  God still feels the pain of the world.  Spiritual maturity, growth, and illumination, enhance our sensitivity to pain and injustice.  While we may be less likely to polarize or demonize as a result of spiritual growth, spiritual maturity increases the range of our empathy as we experience a “heart as big as the universe,” the sacred heart of Jesus, the vow of the bodhisattva, the compassion of the mahatma.  Spiritual stature enables us to balance compassion and justice seeking so that no more crosses be erected in human experience.
Forgiveness does not erase the impact of our decisions, nor does it end the cycle of cause and effect necessary for justice to occur.  Pilate, the high priests, and the angry crowd will reap what they sow; abusers will experience a deadening of spirit and, if justice is done, appropriate punishment; tyrants will constrict their spirits and experience the appropriate consequences for their injustice and violence.  At the very least, turning from God’s vision diminishes our experience of divine possibilities and alienates us from the wholeness God desires for us.
Forgiveness, divine and human, allows for the possibility of healing and transformation.  As the hymn “Amazing Grace” proclaims, providential grace teaches “our hearts to fear” and enables us to “see” when once we were blind to the impact of our actions.  Forgiveness may mean more, rather than less, pain at first, but it is the pain of the “celestial surgeon,” whose spiritual interventions are intended to excise our hardheartedness, indifference, and sin, so that we might have a clean and empathetic hearts.
These words are a call to self-examination.  Where are we oblivious to God’s vision?  Where are we apathetic about the pain of the world?  Where are we asleep to the beauties of the earth or complacent in relationship to others’ suffering?  Grounded in the awareness of our complicity in the evils of the world (what Merton describes as being a “guilty bystander”), we can accept God’s forgiveness and turn around toward a life of care for the least of these as well as those whom we encounter over the breakfast table.
Jesus said very little about survival after death.  Within the Judaism of his time, Pharisees affirmed the spirit’s survival after death, while the Sadducees were skeptical about any post-mortem existence.  Still, it is clear that Jesus saw God’s presence as palpable and powerful within everyday life.  The realm of God is not only near, but it is right here in healings, hospitality and welcome of outcasts and sinners, and spiritual and ethical transformation. Jesus prays that God’s realm will be embodied “on earth as it is in heaven.”
While we cannot claim to know with exactitude Jesus’ vision of survival after death, we can speculate that whatever eschatology Jesus affirmed involved: 1) whole-bodied personal existence; 2) communal existence and relationships; and 3) a spiritual unity of God and humankind.  Our post-modern hopes are prefigured in this-worldly healing communities.
Jesus’ crucifixion is the antithesis of God’s this-worldly healing community.  Nothing good can come of the Cross apart from an unexpected burst of divine creative transformation.  We are left asking: Can we experience the shadows of everlasting life in the shadows of Calvary?
There is no worked out eschatological theology to be found on Calvary.  Jesus is dying and his followers can’t imagine a restoration or resurrection of their beloved teacher.  Further, it is impossible to discern with any clarity the meaning of “today” in the Jesus’ promise of paradise.  Some see this as Jesus speaking in the present tense, meaning “on this day, I am telling you” about paradise.  Others assert that “today” means right now; at the moment of death we are transformed fully into God’s realm of Shalom.  Whatever transformation we can imagine must be, from a Hebraic-Christian point of view, a resurrection-transformation involving the whole person, not necessarily embodied in literal flesh and blood, but involving the energies of embodiment, personal history, spiritual orientation, and communal relatedness.
Will the thief “remember” who he is following his death?  Will his quest for his people’s liberation (he may well have been a Zealot revolutionary) be remembered in everlasting life?  It is my belief that he must remember: justice in the afterlife makes no difference to the person today or in the afterlife, if her or his personal existence is lost at death.  The best we can do, however, is to see in a mirror dimly, touched by everlasting life that brings holiness and value to our finite and temporal quests for God’s Shalom in this world.
Dying does not excuse us from living by our ideals.  Life goes on and how we respond to our dying process will shape those who survive us.  On the Cross, Jesus still affirms the fabric of relatedness.  He possesses the spiritual stature to look beyond his pain and death to the needs of others. He calls his mother to care for the beloved disciple, and he calls the beloved disciple to take responsibility for his mother’s well-being.  Death does not end our relationships; it transforms them.  Jesus’ care for his mother serves as a model for our own legacy to future generations.  Perhaps, Jesus’ words to this generation, our generation, might be: Behold this good Earth; take care of your mother.  Behold the children in pain; bless them with your love and justice-seeking.
These words, straight from Psalm 22, speak to Jesus’ and Psalmist’s experiences of abandonment.  While progressive Christians don’t assume divine favoritism or divine causation as the primary factor in every event, many of us know feelings of utter abandonment as we drive to the hospital in solitude to hear what we assume will be “death sentence” from our physician, when we hear the words “your position has been eliminated” despite the highest quality of performance, in moments of agony following physical, emotional, or spiritual abuse, or when we can longer conjure feelings of love for God or an intimate companion.  As progressives, we affirm the interdependent nature of life and challenge dualisms of God and the world, male and female, us and them, and mind and body.  But, there moments when the ever-present God seems utterly absent and we are lost in the abyss of isolation and unremitting pain.
Many people repeat the shibboleth, “Jesus’ divinity was always connected to God; his sense of forsakenness reflected his human side.”  I don’t buy this spiritually or theologically.  Jesus was one person; his unity with God was human as well as divine.  In fact, with the early church theologians, I affirm that Jesus exemplified the affirmation that “the glory of God is a fully alive human.”  Our divinity – and Jesus’ – reflects our vitality.  Jesus didn’t have a divine cassette inserted in him; his experience God and his own sense of mission was always part of his total experience, waking, sleeping, eating, preaching, listening; feeling elated and disappointed, energized and fatigued.  His God-forsakenness is real and so is ours.  This is especially true for those who affirm “God in all things, all things in God.”  We can easily ask ourselves, “Where is this universal and graceful God?  How can I feel the absence of omnipresence?  How can I experience the abandonment of omni-activity and the loneliness of omniscience?”  If God is present everywhere and in all things, this presence must be subtle even for Jesus.
He felt alone as we feel alone and – dare we say – God feels alone when we have abandoned God and in our God-forgetfulness turn our back on the well-being of Creation and our companions on this Good Earth.
Jesus’ prayer of abandonment is a prayer of faith.  He is not hiding from God or his feelings. He addresses his pain to God and he calls upon God to respond. In the between moments of revelation and presence, we too can bring our own “cries of absence” (Martin Marty) to the One to whom all hearts are open and all desires known.”  Can we hold faith and doubt, presence and absence, elation and desolation in contrast with no guarantees of a felicitous outcome?
The Fifth SayingI thirst. (John 19:28).
Jesus’ death was horrific, but no more horrific than many other deaths throughout history. As painful as Jesus’ death was to him, it took just a few hours.  It was not drawn out like the dying process of certain incurable cancers, starvation, or torture.  While Jesus’ pain was whole person pain, and not just physiological, we cannot assume his suffering was exacerbated by his “bearing the sin of the world.”  Being crucified is painful enough.  Seeing your cause apparently defeated is emotionally devastating enough.  Being abandoned by those who pledged loyalty is spiritually overwhelming enough.  Without  importing to the texts an atonement theology of substitution, preordination, bloodshed, ransom, or sin-bearing, we cannot affirm any sort of cosmic overlay on Jesus’ crucifixion.  What he faced on the Cross is enough: his sacrifice was not to appease God’s wrath or on our behalf to but to the integrity of his mission and his faithfulness to God regardless of the cost.
Still, like millions before and after, Jesus thirsted.  He felt the pain of dying in its fullness.  He died as many of us due, vulnerable, powerless, and tortured.  If Jesus is truly God’s messenger, then God too must feel our pain – God thirsts for our salvation, God passionately seeks to heal the earth, and God experiences the pain of every dying patient.  If this is divine pathos or patripassianism, the belief that God the Parent suffers on the Cross with the Son, Jesus, then so be it.  While divine suffering, has been labeled a heresy by those who presume to protect God’s perfection and inability to experience pain or suffering, I believe that the deeper heresy is the belief that God does not experience our pain and debilitation from the inside.  An unfeeling, and apathetic God can neither heal nor save.  Calvary points us to a thirsting God, the fellow sufferer who understands, as Alfred North Whitehead observed.
The Sixth Saying: It is finished. (John 19:30)
Luther asserted, in the midst of life, we are surrounded by death.  Death punctuates embodied existence.  Each moment is perpetually perishing, dying that new experiences may emerge.  As we reflect on Jesus’ sufferings, we might ask: What is finished?  What ends on Calvary? 
 
At first glance, it is obvious.  Jesus’ work is done; he is now history.  But, our personal history is always unfinished and subject to transformation at the hands of others.  Jesus’ work is objective in its “facticity,” but the moment the disciples began sharing stories about the Teacher, Healer, and Savior, new histories began.  Jesus’ ministry lives on in resurrection moments when the words and wisdom he spoke transform us and when his Spirit moves through our spirits, initiating a new creation and making a pathway within the wilderness of experience.
The words “it is finished” can be a relief.  They can suggest that our suffering has finally ended and we will now enter into the rest of the saints.  Even here, our death remains unfinished for we live on in memory, DNA, spiritual impact, and grief. Our lives may perish but they live forever more in God’s memory and the ongoing history of the universe.
I must confess that I say this prayer, this final “word” of Jesus, as a talisman on nights when I go to bed, painfully aware of my finitude and mortality.  Sleep is like a little death, in which the conscious mind relinquishes control to forces beyond itself.  Upon going to sleep, there is no guarantee that this conscious mind and stream of experience will awaken with the new day.  As I close my eyes, hoping to awaken but more importantly trusting that in life and death, I am in God’s care, I whisper, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Jesus’ words come from the recognition that our existence from moment to moment is contingent on forces beyond ourselves.  They also reveal a trust in a power within and beyond us that brought us into life and will receive us upon our deaths.  This is an act of trust, and not a description of everlasting life.  We can’t intuit the “furniture of heaven” based on Jesus’ confession.  The most we can do is – and perhaps this is more important than any postmortem knowledge – is to place the whole of our lives in their temporality in God’s care.  This may be the ultimate healing, the sense of peace that comes when life is unfixable, death is all around, and a cure eludes us.  We are not alone; we belong to God and nothing – abandonment, thirst, or cross – can separate us from God’s love.
Prayer: Holy One, indeed nothing can separate us from your love. Nothing. Not even today. Amen.

 

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org
Parkway United Church of Christ, 2841 N Ballas Road, Saint Louis, MO 63131
Sent by kevin@parkwayucc.org in collaboration with
Constant Contact

PUCC Good Friday Devotion – Friday, March 30, 2018

 

 

[As we arrive at Good Friday, there are thoughts swirling of religious leaders, traps, deception, 30 pieces of silver, false claims, self-talk, belonging, security, prayer…]
 
The Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus a question in order to trap him: ‘Teacher, is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?‘ – Mark 12:14

 

 

Who Owns You? by Matt Laney

Obviously, the answer was, “No way!” What could be more objectionable to the children of Israel than paying for their oppression by a brutal foreign overlord with pretentions to divinity? Saying that in public would be treason. Condoning Caesar’s tax would be blasphemy. Clever trap.

So Jesus asked them for a coin (significant they had one of those idolatrous, God-mocking coins and Jesus did not). The coin clearly belonged to Caesar since it bore Caesar’s name and image. “Give to Caesar what belongs to him,” Jesus said, “and give to God what belongs to God.”

What, then, belongs to God? That which bears God’s image and name. That’s us, of course! We are God’s “coins,” God’s currency in the world. In addition to being a political statement against Rome, it was a statement of empowerment for the Jewish people. In effect, Jesus said, “No one owns you, but God.”

And who doesn’t need to hear that in a world awash in brands (I’m wearing half a dozen right now) and graven images vying for a piece of us, if not full ownership? Reciting “I belong to God” as our daily mantra might be as important in our time as in the days of Jesus. Idolatry never goes out of style.

 

Prayer:  Holy One, I give myself to you. May my day and my life be well-spent. Amen.

 

2841 N Ballas Road | Saint Louis, Missouri 63131
314-872-9330 | www.parkwayucc.org

PUCC Maundy Thursday Devotion – Thursday, March 29, 2018

 

[This and every Maundy Thursday is about a mandate/command TO LOVE! Jesus is an incredible example of love in action as he washes the disciples feet and gives himself to all of them. Was this a choice he made and/or was he compelled to love? What about you?!]
Jesus left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar . . . Jacob’s well was there. – John 4:1-6


Had To
 by Mary Luti

Of course he didn’t have to go through Samaria. Most Jews wouldn’t have-it was enemy territory. There were routes back to Galilee that avoided Samaria. Jesus could’ve chosen one of them. But no, the gospel says, he “had to” go through.

The Jesus we meet in John’s gospel is a driven man, driven by the Spirit and the Spirit alone, coming and going solely according to God’s purpose and pleasure. If scripture says he had to go through Samaria, then it was inescapable, a summons. He could do no other.

Turning the page, we discover why. Someone was waiting for him there, a woman at a well. She was waiting for him without knowing he was coming, without knowing who he was, but waiting all the same-to speak and be known, to drink new water from a different well, to set down her jar, to be released for running, for telling, for showing the way.

He had to go. To her.

If we’re not spiritually compelled like that, agile and swift when the Spirit moves, maybe it’s because we consider too much what could happen to us, what it might cost, if we go through Samaria, and don’t consider enough what it will cost that someone who’s surely waiting for us there if we don’t. The conversation that will never happen because we didn’t sit down, tired and thirsty, at their well. The things they’ll never know about themselves, their truth, their beauty, their worth. The un-bestowed mercy, the freedom denied, the withheld joy.

Prayer: Compel me, Holy One. Make me have to go. Someone in Samaria is waiting for me. Amen.