Opening to the Light

Opening to the Light

Superheroes all have an “origin story.” A story that tells us how the superhero came to be. Even if you aren’t a comic book fan, you probably know that it was a bite by a radioactive spider that gave Spiderman his enhanced powers. For Batman, it was the murder of his parents by a robber. Superman was orphaned when his home planet Krypton was destroyed. For all these characters, and countless others, something happened in their lives, they came to a turning point, and they were opened to a completely new reality. The man we know as the Apostle Paul has such a dramatic origin story. Paul, of course, is also Saul. That he has two names, gives us an indication that this superhero-in-the-making was already bridging several worlds. Paul was a citizen of Rome, well educated in the Greek language, thought, and philosophy. He had a powerful position in the forces occupying Israel and moved freely throughout the Roman empire. Paul was also Saul a devote Jew which made him a member of a small, oppressed faction within the empire. You would think that living within multiple cultures and being a minority would make Saul open to new ways, new thinking, even prompt concern for the marginalized. Instead, Saul became a zealot for his faith. He was utterly focused on trying to destroy the new Jewish sect that identified Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. Later in the Book of Acts, Paul recalled the evil of his early years: I threw believers into jail, right and left, voting for their execution whenever I could. I stormed their meeting...
Eastertide Worship Series

Eastertide Worship Series

The butterfly has long been a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus. As followers we, too, emerge from the power of death and experience resurrection. This Easter season, we will celebrate Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and examine our own transformations from cocoons to the unfurled beauty of all God calls us to...
Empty Tombs, Closed Doors and Cocoons

Empty Tombs, Closed Doors and Cocoons

The tomb was empty. The tomb of Jesus was empty. Now, the disciples have shut themselves up in another sort of tomb. They have closed themselves up behind locked doors. Mary Magdalene has just shared the astonishing news that she has seen the Lord. Jesus spoke to her, sending her to these – his brothers and her brothers -with this good news. And the disciples huddle in fear behind closed doors. Not that I’m judging. The disciples had a lot to be afraid of. They could have been accused of stealing Jesus’ body. They were sure to be punished for guilt by association with his movement. I’m not judging because I can identify with the disciples’ reaction of wrapping themselves in a cocoon of security to shut out the darkness of the world. The story of Mary, or the other women in other gospels, encountering a risen Jesus who speaks to them? It’s wonderful and powerful. But most of us have never experienced anything quite like it. But locked doors? Now, that, we can understand! Most of us lock our doors against the dangers of the day and the fears of the night. We lock our doors to protect what lies inside and to ward off what lies outside. We lock our doors against strangers and solicitors, against salespeople and politicians. We lock our doors against rain and wind and things that go bump in the night. We lock our doors against thieves and con artists, against scary creatures – both real and mythic. The wealthy among us not only lock their doors. They arm themselves with alarms. The...

Perhaps you have done something like this. The United Church of Christ pastor Jeremy Marshall was at Vacation Bible School when a he and a kid in his class got into an argument.  The classmate figured out a way to embarrass Jeremy in front of their friends.  He pointed at Jeremey and told everyone “Jeremy is Walter’s best friend.” Things got awkwardly quiet.  Everybody was staring at Jeremy. Walter – that’s not his real name – was, unfortunately, the class outcast.  He had a mild speech impediment.  He was way too interested in taxidermy.  His personal hygiene was questionable.  And – in fact – Jeremy was Walter’s best friend.  He was probably Walter’s only friend. It wasn’t cool to be friends with Walter, so Jeremy tried to keep things quiet.  Somehow though, this other kid found out, and he picked this moment to put Jeremy on the spot in front. Jeremy says he was worried that if he claimed Walter all his other friends would ditch him.  So, he denied being friends with Walter.  Announced loudly he had never been friends with him. He even called Walter the mean name the kids at school call him. Jeremy says, later, as he ate his sugar cookies and drank grape Kool-aide, he was sure he could hear a rooster crowing.  Even if Walter never found out, Jeremy knew Jesus knew what he had done. He had bailed on his friend Walter the same way Peter bailed on Jesus. Jeremy Marshall still feels bad about what his 10-year-old self did.  He also assumes all of us have done something like it. We’ve...