Category: Easter

Tell me the story again!

North-American-bullfrog1.jpgPaul writes to the church in Corinth arguing that the work of Christ isn’t in the past alone, and isn’t for this life alone – but is continuing into the future until all things are made new and death itself is destroyed. 1 Corinthians 15:19-26

Luke’s gospel tells us how the first to see Jesus’ empty tomb were women who saw angels. But when the women testified, only Peter went to see for himself. Don’t worry – Jesus goes and sets the men straight about being Resurrected after today’s reading. Luke retells his story… Luke 24:1-12

When I was a little kid, I couldn’t understand why adults repeated stories. I could remember with such clarity the story they’d told a month ago – a year ago – that I could hear how this retelling was different than the last.

I also fully was not aware that I retold the story about my cat hissing at the other cat at least twenty times in one day alone.

When we retell stories, we relive them. We bring those stories back to life. We see them in our minds’ eyes and pass them on. We retell stories because in the retelling, we experience them.

Any story you want to stay around… retell it. Tell it to your friends, your family, to yourself – retell the story again and again. Don’t worry if you’ve said it before.

You change. People change. Times change. And so, much like you can never step in the same river twice… you can never tell the same story to the same people twice.

I like to retell stories of my brother and I. We were best friends growing up – just 18 months apart and about joined at the hip in all things. One spring my mother retold us the story of Jesus and his death. She told us how he was laid in a cave tomb in a garden. How his friends and family waited over the weekend, and then visited the cave again. How the rock was moved. She retold how the women found the empty tomb, and the left behind burial clothes. She told us of the angels Mary saw – and the foot race the men had to see them selves. She told us of how when all had left, yet again, the gardener comforted Mary… and the gardener was none other than Jesus himself. Jesus – Resurrected – who later appeared to the disciples in their home, and on the way to Erasmus.

Now my brother and I listed to this old, old story retold through millions of mouths, and although we’d heard it every year, THIS year the retelling stuck to us. Most of us don’t understand something the first time we hear it. We must hear it several — or many — times.

Anyways, that year my brother and I didn’t just hear – we UNDERSTOOD. (Or so we thought. ) When we came across a dead frog, we knew what to do. My brother got a clear green Dixie cup and I got the Saran wrap. We wrapped that frog up in his burial shroud, and placed him in his cave. Then that cave was buried in the garden near the pond.

My mother came across us and asked ‘What are you doing?’

‘A funeral.’

‘… Why the clear cup and plastic wrap?’

With big eyes my brother told her, ‘Because we’re going to watch him go up to heaven!’

Like two angels at the tomb, we waited all weekend. My mother fretted. How was she going to explain that the frog was not going to come back to life? How was she going to explain souls and body decay and yet the Christian faith in resurrection? She tried tenderly a few times to tell us the frog was not going to leap back up to life come Sunday morning. The frog is not Jesus.

But we held faith.

Which made her all the MORE worried.

Sunday morning was time. While my mother hovered with anxiety, we came to the garden. The cup was steamed up from the early sun and we couldn’t see into it. My brother carefully lifted the cup from the ground and


That frog leaped out of the cup. BOING BOING BOING! Down he hopped, leaving behind his plastic burial shroud in the spring grass, down into the pond with a splash!

My brother and I cheered and cheered. We hugged. We ran around – He lives! He lives! He lives!

My mother knew she had years of explaining this ahead of her. And she did. We buried every dead animal, every dead moth, every dead cricket and mouse and bird for years – but not another single one came back to life.

But one hibernating frog.

We’ve buried every single loved one, and enemies, and strangers, for thousands of years since Jesus. And not a single one has come back to life. But one Jesus the Christ.

That’s okay. The story is good. It is inspiring. It tells us what WILL be. It tells us in whom we have faith and why. In retelling the story of Jesus, year after year, we relive the story of Jesus.

And we know our loved ones who sleep with our ancestors will one day leap up from their graves again.

Maybe physically – like a hibernating frog.

Maybe spiritually – in new bodies in a new Earth.

Maybe in some way not yet envisioned by mortal minds.

But the grave is not the end. Jesus lives. He lives! And because he lives, we do too. Because he lives, we may die and lay down in the garden… but we also live on in him.

Oh death – where is your sting?

Praise God! Alleluia! Retell the story again and again – Jesus lives!



Lovers & Fools

Isaiah 25:6-9 2427702_0
Mark 16:1-8

We began our Lent on Valentine’s Day – a day of lovers.

How befitting, for our Gospel is a Gospel of Love.

We read at the beginning of Lent, “As soon as Jesus came up out of the [baptismal] water, he saw the heavens breaking open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

We read in the middle of Lent that Elijah, and Moses, appeared to Jesus on a mountaintop. And Jesus was transfigured into brilliant light. “Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.”

And we read at the end of Lent, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Our message is one of God’s Love.

But it is also one of God’s foolishness.

And here we are – on April Fool’s Day – foolishly rejoicing in Easter!

Paul to the Corinthians writes, “The message about the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God… God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”

He argues: God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom!

God’s foolish wisdom says there is life after death.

There is redemption and salvation even for the worst of sinners.

There is enough love for everyone.

And that there was no April Fool’s trick, no whisking away of body over the Passover weekend – no strange hocus pocus but the literal Latin this magic phrase came from: “Hoc est enim corpus meum” – literally ‘This is my body’ the Body of Christ – resurrected, getting up, and walking on.

Continuing the mission.

And making ALLof us look like fools!

Praise God we’re fools!

Praise God that God gets the last laugh – death isn’t the final word – violence isn’t the end.

Praise God that God pranked death, fooled death, and won us everlasting life!

Praise God for our gospel of foolish love!

Foolish love that loves all of us fools!

Praise God! Christ is Risen!


Are You Here?

Our scripture reading is long today. And this is the shortened version.

Some churches let this stand as it is – and we hear it.

Some churches break it into dialogue. Or have performances.

I want to introduce you to an old way of telling the story.

This is an Arma Christi, Christ’s arms, like chivalry arms – not human arms. The symbols armachristiall around this statue tell the story of our scripture with little memory nudges. I know it is quite hard to see in the far pews, so please come up and look at this as you feel moved to do so now – or after the service. I’ll also tell you the part of the statue I am speaking about as I read today’s chapter of our holy gospel.

We in the Protestant tradition don’t use lots of symbols and gold, don’t use statues and icons. We aim for simplicity and humbleness.

But things like the Arms of Christ originally came from humbleness. In the middle ages, the poor were not educated. They could not read. They were not taught Latin and so could not understand the words read to them from the Bible. They were raised in working families and living hand to mouth often.

Priests and theologians and nuns and monks realized it was easier to show people the stories of the Bible than to teach each of them to read. Learning to read took time away from feeding your family. So they came up with symbols for people to remember the stories themselves, and put these symbols on the churches, so the humble could tell the stories again and again whether or not the priest was there.

It is the invention of the printing press, and public schools, and machines that let us each be able to read, and each have a Bible, and each be able to call forth its stories year after year without visual reminders. (Although the printed word is visual!)

Now although this is a Medieval tradition, this statue here is not that old. This is about 100 years old.

So now, let us turn to the story and listen to its images.

We welcome Jesus into Jerusalem with palms and shouts of Hosanna.

Some begin to say – this is surely the promised King! The King who will throw out the Roman rulers and return Israel to its King David glory.

And some worry… Rome has a habit of murdering those who challenge them and scattering the people, or selling them as slaves…

Some begin to say — Surely this is the Messiah – who will bring God’s full reign here and make Jerusalem the crowning jewel of the world and all people to live in perfect harmony.

And some worry… if he’s the Messiah, then why does he challenge the religious authorities? Why does he let his disciples eat without washing their hands and follow other cleanliness codes? He may just be a charismatic sham.

In Mark, Jesus enters Jerusalem to the cheers, and he goes to the temple – where he cleanses it with a whip. And that scene is when some people decide Jesus has gone too far, and they begin planning to get him away from the crowds to kill him.

Here hangs a whip on the Arma Christi.

Thursday evening, Jesus takes the cup and bread around dinner, instituting communion, and asking us to remember him. And he foretells his death, and that Judas has betrayed him to these killers. Here is the chalice.

Jesus then retires to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. And there, asks the chalice, the cup, to pass him… if God wills it.

While he is praying, a mob and soldiers arrive with Judas. They carry torches and lanterns into the garden. Here hangs a lantern. They go to arrest the Light of the World.

But Peter pulls out a sword – here is a sword – to defend Jesus. And Jesus tells him no. From the very beginning, Jesus has been preaching not to give in to sin, not to payback evil with evil.

Peter – who later that evening will then deny knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crows. Here stands a rooster. He would defend him with a sword and violence, but not with his life and peace

Or perhaps Peter was telling the truth. He didn’t know who Jesus is. Messiah? King? Something else entirely?

And here is where our Scripture reading for today begins.

Mark 15:1-47

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered him, “You say so.”

Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.”

But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the festival Pilate used to release a prisoner for the people, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?”

But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!”

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, (FLOG, PILLAR) he handed him over to be crucified.

Let me pause. Here is the flog, and the pillar Jesus was tied to. And you should note the irony here… Barabbas’ name means “Son of God.”

And, Barabbas is in jail for leading a rebellion against Rome. Jesus is in jail for potentially leading a rebellion again Rome, but definitely challenging the religious authorities.

Perhaps the people thought if Jesus wasn’t going to be their messiah, and just let the priests accuse him of whatever… they might as well stake their hopes on Barabbas. He, at least, has a history of fighting back.

So the “Son of God” Barabbas is released, and this Jesus guy is given over to the soldiers for torture, humiliation, and capital punishment – aka, death.

Mark writes,

Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. (CROWN OF THORNS) And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. (PITCHER) And they crucified him, (HAMMER) and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. (DICE, CLOTHES)
It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”

“Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdæorvm. INRI. That very abbreviation is here, on our cross before us. The Latin charge of why Jesus was killed: for being the ‘Jesus the Nazorean, King of the Jews)

During Lent, we show the crown of thorns on our cross. And the purple cloak. Here on the statue are dice on a set of clothing. To cast lots is to gamble for something. Here is a pitcher to hold the wine and myrrh. This would have been to help with the pain of being crucified a bit. And here is the hammer to drive in the nails.

Mark’s writing continues…

And with Jesus they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”

In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

At three o”clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, (GRAPES ON STICK) put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”

Let me pause again to explain… So in the middle of this solar eclipse, Jesus begins to cry out, “Eloi, Eloi!” Someone thinks he is crying for Elijah, rather than speaking in his native tongue. The story goes Elijah never died, but was taken up to heaven in a firey chariot. Remember? So if Jesus really is God’s messiah, then he won’t die. God will reach down and take him up into heaven.

So they try to revive Jesus, and keep him alive long enough to see if God sends angels down. They give him vinegar, or sour wine, in a sponge to sip. Here are grapes on a stick. I think the artist must have used grapes to help symbolize the last supper – which was with good wine versus sour wine. And, to remind us Jesus said he is the grape vine and we are the grape branches.

Does the reviving with sour wine work? No…

Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

The curtain, which separates the presence of God from people, splits not bottom to top – but top to bottom. Nothing separates us from God now. God is out – lose upon the world – and God chose to do it. God acted – coming from heaven to earth.

At this point in the story, not a single human has realized who Jesus is. Not a one. Mark has told us, we, the listeners. But in the story? They call Jesus the King of Jews and the Messiah. But now, listen to the man holding this spear…

Now when the centurion, (SPEAR) who stood facing Jesus, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

The first in the Book of Mark to know Jesus is God’s Son is a non-Jewish outsider, a Roman soldier, a foreigner. The ironies abound.

God is lose. Working in the world. Bringing all people to understand just who Jesus is, regardless of who they are and what their job is and where they are in life.

Our reading concludes,

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These women used to follow Jesus and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether Jesus had been dead for some time. When Pilate learned from the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, (LADDER, PINCERS) wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

Here is a ladder for climbing up and removing Jesus’ body. And pinchers to remove the nails.

This Joseph did it, with the women who stayed faithful to the very end, and they laid Jesus in likely Joseph’s or his family’s own tomb.

No prayers for Jesus have been said. His body isn’t prepped and cleaned for burial. No one has laid any flowers or eulogized. He is simply wrapped in cloth, and stored away safely until the weekend has passed. Then the first day of the week the women will be back to continue to provide for Jesus, just as they have since the days of his mission in Galilee.

Our reading ends here today. With Jesus dead, in a tomb, and all hope lost.

Our reading ends with everyone going home.

Ends with death.

I ask, where are you today?

Are you here? Here at the cross? We all walked this wilderness of lent with Jesus. We came in with our palms, singing hosanna. We welcomed our king.

But who has stayed?

Who is here?

Who could bear to be with him, to carry the cross, and to stick to their faith?

Two Marys, who have known Jesus since he was in Galilee. Back in the very beginning. Some other women, who have been faithful. A few roman soldiers required by their jobs. Joseph.

Are you here, too?

Or have you ran in fear like Peter. Or realized along the way you don’t actually know who Jesus is?

Have you found the road too rough, and sought respite?

Have you wandered away when the miracles faded with the cries of hosanna?

I think we all have moments, seconds or minutes or months or years, that we question our faith. We question why stick around.

And sometimes we wander away. Or lose hope. Or mock what we once loved.

In the Gospel of Mark, no one “gets” who Jesus is until it is seemingly too late. They’re physically there – but not there in their heads.

We, today, cannot be at Golgotha 2000 years ago physically.

Can we be there in our heads? Our minds?

Our hearts?

Whether with candles or prayers; hymns or quiet time in a garden, I hope you find time this week to reflect on the cross. And reflect on the miracle yet to come.

Think of those men and women who leave the tomb with all hope gone…

… and the pure wonder when they return.

This is a story to be continued.


Wounded Healers

Full graphic here –> Does contain cusswords.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
John 12:20-33

Surely the day is coming when no one will ask “Who is God?” because we’ll all know – God’s ways are written inside of us. In our hearts. There’s no question. We just know.

Surely the day is coming when we will be in full understanding with God, and there won’t be need for teachers and pastors and theologians…

… But it sure doesn’t seem to be this moment. I testify this pastor struggles. We are here, in the final Sunday of Lent before Holy Week. Here- on this last Sunday of quiet reflection before we come to Jerusalem, and Jesus enters with the welcome of a King. Next week we’ll sing Hosannas. And we’ll consider during the week the cross.

That horrible thing.

The nearly unspeakable thing.

Sometimes, we rush from Palm Sunday to Easter and miss the heartache in between. Sometimes, we rush from Genesis and God calling us Very Good to the Gospels, where God So Loved the World.

And we miss the messy, messy reality in between.

The messy reality where murder happens, and senseless death. When armies rise up against armies. And homes are burned. And lives shattered. Children’s heads dashed on rocks and blood and guts and broken bones galore. We miss the slavery. The beatings. The rapes. The sin.

We miss the cross when we gloss over Holy Week, or gloss over the Bible.

Our stories, our scripture, our message of God is so relevant because it is asking, and reframing, and asking again: what does it mean to be human?

What does it mean to be God?

Why do good things happen?

Why do bad things happen?

And to be human, to be alive. is to know good and bad and everything in between.

“My soul is troubled,” said Jesus.

My soul is troubled today, I say. I look at this cross, and I wonder – how could it happen?

How could Peter turn and deny his savior, his master, his best friend?

How could all the disciples run away from Jesus’ last hours, dying there, a condemned criminal?

How could Mary abide seeing her son die?

How could God abide this wrong?

Or all the other wrongs in the world?

Who is God to permit such suffering?

Why do bad things happen?

Theodicy is a fancy term for this problem, for asking the theology of “why do bad things happen?”

The issue is set up like this: why does an all powerful, all knowing, all loving and good God permit bad things to happen?

Some have answered – there must be no god. My God, My God – why have you forsaken me? Because there is no god listening to your cries.

And some have answers – surely there is a god. We just have to tackle this theodicy problem.

These three descriptions of God set up a triangle. If we can resolve one of the angles of the triangle — all powerful, all knowing, or all good — the issue collapses upon itself and goes away. We have an answer for why bad things happen.

Let me give you an example… Maybe bad things happen because God is not all powerful. God loves us deeply and wholly. God knows bad things are going to occur. God works with us to try to stop these things. We pray and God works. We work and God gives the Spirit. But because we are sinful, or we have free-will,  or because God chooses to limit God’s own power… bad things happen.

Maybe the world would fall into chaos if God meddled too much in it and did a lot of miracles.

Maybe God wills a perfect world, but chaos and sin is still too powerful.

Maybe God set up the world to reward the sinful with pain and the sinless with blessings, and to meddle in this would be to disturb the order of things.

For one reason or another, God’s not all powerful. But God is all knowing and all loving.


Or maybe bad things happen because God is not all knowing. God can and does do everything. And God is all love. But God doesn’t know the results and the future. Sometimes, chaos slips into God’s plans. Truly humans plan, and God plans better, but even the best of plans can go wrong. God doesn’t plan the bad. Sometimes, it just happens.

Think of the Garden of Eden – it seems God was surprised that humans chose to eat from the trees God banned. God sure acted angrier than someone who planned on this happening!

Or maybe it just appears God doesn’t know what God is doing at times because we have very limited minds and perspectives. There must be a master plan – we just don’t know it.

Or God is just making things up as God goes along.

Einstein said God doesn’t play dice with the universe. All things are ordered and what seems random is actually determined due to quantum physics… But what if God DOES play dice? What if change, chaos, random occurrences, happenstance really is a thing… and we and God just plan the best we can?

Or maybe bad things happen because God is not all good. God can and does do everything; and God knows all that will be and has been; but God is not all hearts and sunshine and love. Instead, God is vindictive. Or God is righteous. Or God is just.

If you read the Bible, there is fire and brimstone. Maybe that’s the only way some people learn their lessons. There is hell, and punishment for sins, and punishment just for touching the Ark of the Covenant without permission.

Maybe God is so just and righteous, that the impurities of us on God’s honor, and God’s righteousness, means God HAS to demand satisfaction – demand payment – for our wrongs. There is a universal debt we’re racked up, and someone has to pay.

Or maybe God just appears to be not loving, but in actuality, is loving us like a parent and knows to teach us with soft knocks and hard knocks how to be better people. Maybe God is letting bad things happen to test us, to burn away the chaff, per se.

Maybe God could have designed a way for us to learn how to be good people without heartache, but then God could have just programmed us to be robots and we never would be able to voluntarily love God back or be in a real relationship. Because real relationships require freedom to say no. Freedom to walk away.

Or maybe God is like us… and not wholly all good but has spurts of anger and emotional outbursts.

Or maybe…


The lists and ideas go on and on and on. All of these justifications of God have been argued. And will be argued. And are currently being argued.

And not just in academic books or in seminaries.

I hear phrases like, “That’s karma,” and it means “what goes around, comes around.” If you do good deeds, good things come back to you. If you do bad deeds, bad things happen to you. This is theodicy. Trying to explain our God and why bad things happen.

I hear things like, “God knew what God was doing,” or “It was just her time.” There is a master plan and God is following it. We’re just along for the ride. More theodicy. More explaining why bad things happen.

And I hear things like, “God must have needed another angel,” or “That’s the punishment of God.” Again… more theodicy. More trying to explain our world and our God.

After Jesus died, people struggled greatly to explain how God could let Jesus die. Some concluded Jesus must never had been the Chosen One, the Christ. Maybe he was a great prophet, but not the Christ.

Others concluded Jesus must have known this was going to happen all along. And they remembered things he said that seemed to foreshadow his death.

Still others decided the cross must actually be an act of God’s love, and Jesus was the sacrificial lamb that takes away sins… just like the lamb’s blood in Passover — the time when he was killed.

These are all theodicy answers.

All the gospel writers and early Christians and ancient Jews and ancient Greeks and Romans trying to understand what just happened and who God is.

None of them are right.

But none of them are wrong.

Theodicy is like balancing on a ball. You can do it, but you constantly have to make adjustments. And as soon as you have your balance, as soon as you have an answer, the ball and problem has moved again.

I think of it like a puzzle. I worry it for awhile, come to a conclusion that lasts a month – a year – maybe more — and then I have to come back to it again and think some more.

And people did this long before Jesus’ time, too.

The entire book of Job is a work of theodicy. Why do bad things happen? Each one of Job’s friends offers a different solution. And Job demands an answer from God God’s self — and God doesn’t give a satisfactory one. Or doesn’t answer. It’s hard to tell.

It’s like the author of Job knew we won’t have a satisfactory answer to why bad things happen until we can ask God ourselves face-to-face. Until then, we’re screaming at the sky.

Why bad things happen to people — good people and bad people — seems to never have a perfectly neat answer that works 100% of the time all the time for everyone.

So when you hear John’s answer today for why the cross happened, and why bad things happen, know it is John’s answer. Each Gospel answers it a bit differently. Each theologian answers it differently.

Each person answers it differently.

We all come to the cross as individuals, again and again and again, and each time, we see Jesus, we see God, we see why bad things happen, in a different light. Even if it is just slightly different than last time.

John’s theodicy answer is the cross had to happen. Jesus is like a single grain of wheat. And Jesus will fall, and the seed die, per se, and stop being a wheat seed. But it will then grow up and produce many, many wheat seeds. Much fruit.

And that we are to follow this – to reject the way of the world, and to accept the way of Christ. To stop trying to save our lives and start living for Christ.

John’s answer is that God spreads God’s salvation through what appears to be bad things, but is actually good. The cross looks like humiliation. It is degradation. It is shame. But it actually is glory, and honor, and is a way of lifting Jesus up for all people to see.

The seed appears to die, and all hope to be lost – but it is simply giving up itself in order to reproduce a hundred fold.

Jesus will appear to die, and all hope to be lost – but he is simply giving up himself in order to bring all people to him.

Sometimes I agree with John. Sometimes I do not. That’s the thing about theodicy… its a problem we never solve permanently. We just reach temporary solutions.

One temporarily solution for myself is to think of all of us, and God included, as wounded healers.

Bad things happen. God doesn’t will them, I think (for right now. My answer of course will change. All theodicy answers change.) But God wills good to come out of bad situations.

So God didn’t plan to put Jesus on the cross, but God planned to bring good out of what happened. And God did.

God doesn’t intend for us to have cancer, to lose loved ones, to suffer – but God does intend to help us bring good out of these situations.

God intends to help us become wounded healers.

Wounded healers are people who know what heartache is, who know what loss is, and through their own wounds, are able to heal others.

Because I’ve been in those shoes, I know how to help. Because you’ve been in my situation, you know what I need most. No two people have the same exact experience… but every heart is carrying a wound.

And that wound, that hurt, is a soft spot that God can help us use to connect with one another.

It’s not the Law of God written on our hearts… maybe. But maybe it is: maybe the new covenant is a covenant of love that connects in these wounds, and unites us through the common experience of being human.

The common experience of knowing heartache. And joy. And suffering. And elation. And pain. And death.

That’s the thing about theodicy – about understanding God and why bad things happen – our hearts and minds change as we experience more.

As we transition this week into Holy Week, and into Palm Sunday, I invite you to reflect on the cross – what does it mean? Why did it happen?

Agree with John. Disagree with John. Agree with Mark or Matthew or Luke or Paul or disagree with all of them.

What is the cross to you?

Who is God to you?

Who is Christ?

And why do bad things happen?


1 Peter 5:6-11 Call to Worship

Call to Worship
Based on 1 Peter 5:6-11
One: Cast all your anxiety on God because God cares for you.
Many: We discipline ourselves to be alert to God’s presence.
One: Like a lion, the Adversary prowls looking for someone to devour.
Many: We resist temptations by remaining steadfast in our faith.
One: Know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world know the same sufferings you do.
Many: Throughout the world, our brothers and sisters want the same things we do, pray for the same things we do, and love just like we do.
One: And throughout the world, the God of all grace, who has called us to eternal Glory in Christ, restores us, supports us, strengthens us, and establishes us.
All: To God be the power for ever and ever! Let us worship God!

Knock knock!

John 20:19-31
Acts 2:14a, 22-32

Knock knock!
who’s there?
Luke who?
Luke through the peephole and find out!

Tsk! But Jesus never knocked! Not even in the book of Luke. Instead – he just jumped right into the scene – but that means we get ever more hilarity as the disciples start screaming ghost! And Jesus stands in the middle of the chaos saying Peace! Peace!

And when the disciples see it really is Jesus, and see he still has the wounds in his side and isn’t a ghost – but really is there – they rejoice! Jesus then gifts them the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes in joy of the Risen Lord!

Far too often, we forget to laugh – forget to take ourselves lightly – forget that the Bible tells us that just as there is time for sorrow, there is also a time to laugh.

Now is the time for laughter!

Rev. Lois Harder said, “God delights in our laughter and receives it as an act of worship. [We continue] the Easter story. We’re celebrating the greatest practical joke of all time: God overturned death. God, in fact, had the last laugh over death.”

Is it any wonder why Peter stands and proclaims his heart is glad, and his tongue rejoices, and his flesh lives in hope? “God will not abandon my soul to Hell! God has made me filled me with the Joy of the Spirit!”

The joy that Jesus is raised up, love is stronger than all powers, and we are now an Easter people!


Think about the upside down world Jesus introduced us to….

Jesus told us of workers who were given full day pays for minutes of work, stewards who were successful cheats, wasteful sons welcomed like kings, camels going through needles, people not noticing whole planks of wood in their eyes, and wedding banquets at all hours.

Then — Jesus showed us a few loaves becoming many, water turning into wine, calming the seas, walking on water, healing the sick, curing blindness and lameness, and literally raising people from the dead.

And Jesus showed us what the world could be – welcoming in the strangers, the sinners, the outcasts, the misunderstood, the feared. The woman at the well. The Good Samaritan. The woman who the town wanted to stone. The boy with schizophrenia. The countless multitudes who Jesus taught us to stop labeling by their conditions and start labeling Beloved Children of God. Jesus showed us to love and converse with all people as equals.

The reality of God’s reign is chaos compared to what we know! It is a world all turned around so that the least are lifted up and the greatest are pushed down. A world where those who don’t labor are still fed; and those who ‘fit in’ with the world are actually the ones who need to change.

Rev. H.A. Williams’ in his book Tensions writes, “[It is] No wonder the Pharisees, who seem to have been always wholly serious, had to have Jesus put down. He couldn’t be allowed to go on indefinitely standing everything on its head and making their piety look ridiculous. Why, in the end, they might even laugh themselves, and that would be the ultimate catastrophe.

“…but Eternity had the last laugh after all. Here are Caiaphas and all his crowd, Pilate and Herod and all theirs, sitting complacently in a state of grave and dignified self-congratulation. They have done their duty and justified the authority vested in them by efficiently disposing once and for all of a dangerous fool. He is safely dead. And with solemn calm again restored, they can concentrate once more on the really serious matters to which their lives are dedicated.

“But behind their backs, without them having the slightest inkling of what is going on, the fool has popped up again like a Jack-in-the-box and is dancing about even more vigorously than before and even more compellingly. People here, there and everywhere are falling under his spell…

“If that isn’t funny, nothing is. It (the resurrection) is the supreme, the final, the ultimate joke. And since laughter, although not irresistible is none the less highly contagious, perhaps the brass hats themselves will in time catch the disease, turn around, see the joke, and then laugh with the rest of creation because the kingdom of God has drawn near.”

What a beautiful, beautiful reign it is!

Alright! Time for a joke break! Got one to share? If not… there should be one in your bulletin…


Ready for a few from our Bible? Listen to 2 Chronicles 21:20 NIV: It reads: “Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.”

Guess we know what people thought of Jehoram’s leadership skills!

In … Elijah and the priests of Baal are in a competition to see whose God will light up their own altar. They wait and wait and wait on Baal. Elijah gets tired of the waiting and in 1 Kings 18:27 we have this line, “About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

Your god might be sitting on the porcelain throne. You best shout louder! Yes, we have a potty joke in the Bible. This is the cleanest of several.

There’s a ton of sex jokes too – but you’ll have to ask me about those after the sermon!

And we have funny stories… which are meant to be funny!

When God comes to Abram and Sarai to say they – at 99 and 100 – are going to have a son, Abram – whose name means ‘Father’ – doesn’t understand and Sarai laughs. And their son’s name? Isaac – which means, He Laughs.

The entire book of Jonah is rolling in puns and humor! For example: Go to Nineveh, Jonah, and warn them. Jonah refuses. Runs away. And so a storm hits his boat. And his boat mates ask ‘Who made their god mad?!’ So Jonah is tossed overboard. He’s happy! He’ll escape God’s mission to Nineveh in death! But a big fish swallows him and spits him out back on the route to Nineveh. The story goes on and on like this with Jonah attempting to escape his mission to save a city with just his words and God refusing to let Jonah kill himself!


Knock knock?
Who’s there?
Babylon who?
Babble on, I’ve stopped listening.

Means it’s time for our take home message: Psalm 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine.”

Let us laugh with holy humor! Let us rejoice in our Risen King!

Bible, Church, and Religion Jokes

From everywhere – for Holy Humor Sunday – and any day!


A small boy told a Sunday school teacher: “When you die, God takes care of you like your parents did when you were alive — only God doesn’t yell at you all the time.”


A woman invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to her six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?”

“I wouldn’t know what to say,” the little girl replied.

“Just say what you hear Mommy say,” the mother said.

The little girl bowed her head and said: “Dear Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”


A pastor was speaking to a group of second-graders about the resurrection of Jesus when one student asked, “What did Jesus say right after He came out of the grave?”

The pastor explained that the Gospels do not tell us what He said.

The hand of one little girl shot up. “I know what He said: He said, ‘Tah-dah!'”


Church Sign: “We welcome all denominations — $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100.”


Church of the Merciful posted this sign: “Trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”


In the bulletin of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Palm Coast, FL: “We will have a Special Holiday Bingo & Dinner on Monday evening, Dec. 30. You will be given two bingo packs, which cover all games played, and your choice of children or roast beef for dinner.”


From the Dalton (GA) Daily Citizen News: “John Franklin, ordained as a deamon, will pastor two churches in Fannin County.”


When a young minister was still single, he preached a sermon he entitled, “Rules for Raising Children.” After he got married and had children of his own, he changed the title of the sermon to “Suggestions for Raising Children.” When his children got to be teenagers, he stopped preaching on that subject altogether.


A man had been shipwrecked on a remote island in the Pacific, and was alone for 20 years. When a ship finally arrived, his rescuers were impressed with the three buildings he had built and asked him about them.

“Well,” the man replied, “this is my house, and that building over there is my church. It’s a wonderful church and I hate to leave it.”

“And what is the third building yonder?” a rescuer asked.

“Oh, that is the church I used to go to,” the man replied.


  1. Why couldn’t Jonah trust the ocean?
  2. Because he knew there was something fishy about it.


  1. Who was the greatest financier in the Bible?
  2. Noah; he was floating his stock while everyone was in liquidation.


  1. Where was Solomon’s temple located?
  2. On the side of his head.


  1. Where is the first tennis match mentioned in the Bible?
  2. When Joseph served in Pharaoh’s court.


  1. What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why he no longer lived in Eden?
  2. Your mother ate us out of house and home.


  1. What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?
  2. It’s Christmas, Eve!


  1. How does Moses make his coffee?
  2. Hebrews it.


  1. Did Eve ever have a date with Adam?
  2. No, only an apple.


  1. Why didn’t Noah go fishing?
  2. Because he only had two worms.


  1. How do we know Peter was a rich fisherman?
  2. By his net income.


  1. Who were Gumby’s favorite Bible characters?
  2. Shadrack, Meshack & AhBENDago.


  1. Who was the smartest man in the Bible?
  2. Abraham. He knew a Lot.


  1. Why didn’t they play cards on the Ark?
  2. Because Noah was standing on the deck.


  1. Who was the fastest runner in the race?
  2. Adam, because he was first in the human race.


  1. Why did the unemployed man get excited while looking through his Bible?
  2. He thought he saw a job.


  1. What animal could Noah not trust?
  2. Cheetah


  1. Who was the greatest comedian in the Bible?
  2. Samson. He brought the house down.


  1. What kind of man was Boaz before he married?
  2. Ruthless.


  1. On the Ark, Noah probably got milk from the cows. What did he get from the ducks?
  2. Quackers


  1. Which Bible Character is a locksmith?
  2. Zaccheus.


  1. Which Bible character had no parents?
  2. Joshua, son of Nun (Joshua 1:1).


  1. Where is the first baseball game in the Bible?
  2. In the big inning. Eve stole first, Adam stole second. Cain struck out Abel. The Giants and the Angels were rained out.


How long did Cain hate his brother?

As long as he was Abel.


At Sunday School the children were learning how according to the Bible God created everything, including human beings.

Johnny paid particular attention when the teacher told him how Eve was created out of one of Adam’s ribs.

Later that week, Johnny’s mother found him lying on his bed as though he were ill, and asked him, “Johnny, what’s the matter?”

Johnny replied, “I’ve got a pain in my side. I think I’m going to have a wife.”


When is medicine first mentioned in the Bible?

When God gave Moses two tablets.


Who was the fastest guy in the Bible?

Adam – he was first in the human race.


What sort of lights were on Noah’s Ark?



At what time of day did God create Adam?

Just before Eve.


Which biblical character was the youngest to speak foul language?

Job, because he cursed the day he was born.


Why did the hawk sit on the church steeple?

Because it was a bird of pray.


A pastor decided to visit his church members one Saturday.

At one particular house it was clear to the pastor that someone was home, but nobody came to the door.

The pastor knocked and knocked but no-one answered so finally took out his card and wrote on the back:

Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him and he with me.”

The next day the same card showed up in the collection plate. Below the pastor’s message was another scripture passage.

It read:

Genesis 3:10 – “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.”