Category Archives: Homilies – Sermons

come and see



John 1:43-51  (NIV)

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

50 Jesus said, “You believe[a] because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you,[b] you[c] will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’[d] the Son of Man.”




Write down three short sentences to describe your looks to a blind person… when finished, please fold them and pass them to the front row.

Do not put your name on them – or make a statement that identifies who you are





Subjective view/ own filters / experiences/ prejudices


          How we understand words

          How words are triggers of past


North – Sugar is granulated or powdered

South – a kiss

North: Hey, “you guys!”

South: Hi “ya’ll!”



A picture is worth a thousand words” is an English language adage. It refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single picture, this picture conveys its meaning or essence more effectively than a description does.



          Evangelism Definition

the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.

Zealous advocacy of a cause

Preaching – Sharing the Good News

Euangelion – Greek for Good News          

                                            Writers of Gospels –                                

Evangelists – giver of Good news         

When did SHARING Good News evolve into       

                     ARGUING Good News –      

                    Debating – to convince  – 

Matthew – Great Commission

          Go into the world

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Sharing information and experience                                           
Methods – lecture


          Tell us

          Show u s


Show me and I can do it


Jesus was a teacher – and as he was recruiting his Disciples, he used these teaching methods to reach these men.

  • He shared good news
    • He invited them to experience

Jesus understood that words were not adequate to    describe the experience of being in the presence of a living God, a creator God who knows us without qualification, and a saving God who loves us just as we are.

He knew they and we have to come and see for ourselves –


Question –

Who here has ever won a political opinion argument and changed their opponents position on the candidate or issue?

Who has ever had someone talk them into changing their opinion or position on an issue?



if you see something yourself, you will believe it    to exist or be truedespite the fact that it is unlikely:

I never thought he’d shave off his beard,                                               but seeing is believing!

I would not have believed it,        

                                                            had I not seen it myself.




The three most effective words of Evangelism –

Literally and Metaphorically

Come and see and experience God for yourself….

Come and have all the filters and baggage lifted so you can receive the experience unaltered.

COME and SEE  –


invited –offered – encouraged the Disciples to see for themselves

             Jesus did not force anyone to follow him

We are all invited to come and see 


DECIDE for ourselves —

Unanswered questions

John 18:33-38 (NIV)

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.



Easter was just two weeks ago, WHY are we reading John’s gospel about Jesus and Pilate?

Maybe because the topic of our discussion today is not about the coming crucifixion>>>

So, what is the topic?

HINT – I have already given you two hints —

The hints?

  1. Why are we reading John’s gospel about Jesus and Pilate?
  2.  So, what is the topic?

OK – the topic is QUESTIONS –

In the John Scripture there are SIX questions in SIX verses.

AND each question is deeper.;.

  • It turns out that Jesus asks lots of questions, but he doesn’t answer many. 
  • According to one source, [ii] Jesus asked 307 different questions in the gospels. 
  • And Jesus was asked 183 questions.  
  • But Jesus only directly answered 3.

Living the Questions: Answers Just Get in the Way

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who find more grace in the search for meaning than in absolute certainty, in the questions than in the answers.


Recently, I saw a picture of a chimp hand on chin, seeming to have deep thoughts.  The picture’s caption read,


Not because you know everything without question,

but rather because you question everything you think you                         know.” [iii]

       Things We May Not Know….

  1.  What is Baked Scrod?

An acronym for “Select Catch Received on the Day” – it can be Cod, Pollack, Haddock – It was the LAST catch of the day and on top of the pile and the freshest.

  •  Why do some coins have ridges on the edges and some are smooth?

Originally coins made from precious metals had smooth edges. This made it possible for unscrupulous people to shave off some of the metals and then melt down the shavings to sell. Coins that have ridges contain precious metals; those that are smooth are usually copper and nickel.

3. Why is there a piece of fabric, often with an extra button attached, inside our new clothes?

The extra material and button that comes with your new clothes has long been thought of as additional cloth to patch up holes, and provide a spare button. In reality, the extra material is actually used to test out how different laundry detergents would react to your clothes!

  • Why do tailored shirts have a little fabric loop on the back, on level with the shoulder blades?

The little loop that is on the back         of most of your shirts is there for           a couple of reasons. Firstly, and             probably the most obvious, is to          hang your shirt on a hanger. In           the past, men would also cut this            loop off of the back of their shirts               if they began dating a girl to                   signal that they were in a                       relationship.


Two year – three year old toddlers begin asking why. With every statement, they respond why.

 No matter how many times we offer answers, they come back with why.

At the time it can make us want to pull our hair out… but, each WHY peels back  layer –

WHY – another layer

WHY – another layer

Scientific research works something like a three year old…

With each experiment – we ask WHY

Until we find a solution…


Is it good or bad to ask questions?

What do we hope to gain from asking questions?

  • We hunger for absolutes.  
  • Inquiring Minds Want to Know….

We search for the ultimate explanation to our questions….

       Answers bring resolution –answers relieve tension and bring comfort.

Even wrong answers bring temporary relief…


QUESTION –what is the first thing one does after a crisis/disaster/accident?

Rationalize WHY it happened… as if having the answer will lessen the pain

An answer supposedly provides resolution and relief—

       Even if the answer is wrong

OFTEN the go-to phrase is “IT WAS GOD’S WILL “so we avoid remaining in the question of WHY something happened.

And this answer always results in a weak resolution… AND causes MORE questions.

So, Are questions BAD?

       Is asking questions bad?

              Is it  bad to doubt?

Are Questions the problem…

      Or are Bad and incomplete answers are the problem??

What about UNANSWERED questions?


Unanswered questions can be uncomfortable things to hang onto.

They beg for answers, and in living with the unknown we are asked to bear an aching tension

Can we endure unanswered questions?

       -Is the world flat?

-Are we the center of the universe?

-How can we use lightning to our advantage?     

–How deep is the ocean?

Unanswered questions =    action/momentum

Answers =        stop/end



Most of us – probably all of us – live with questions. 

 DAY TO DAY – what is bank balance?

                     Will I get to the market?

       When am I going to wash the car?


We all have THEOLOGICAL questions –

      Although many won’t voice them                   for fear of being judged as Doubters, blasphemous

Poor Thomas   Doubting Thomas – Questioning Thomas

Wanted to know for himself Wasn’t going to accept what was told to him

And because of his questioning – he was labeled as an unbeliever – or less than the rest of the disciples.

But in a school setting  – questions are welcome  and expected…

Questions are necessary for leaning/..

Teachers do not view questions as a threat to their integrity or quality of teaching.

Questions mean someone is listening, trying and wanting to know more…

To go deeper…YET

Growing up and still in some churches today:

Questions considered unfaithful

have used questions against us –

questions mean we are not accepting  God’s word/Bible

Taught Bible was without ERROR –

      Taken at face value without understanding the context of time     and people of the time.     

Taught to never question the BIBLE.       _____________

Interesting that as ‘students’ in Sunday School – certain questions were taboo – Questions that the teacher could not answer —  — WE WERE TOLD TO take it on  FAITH. _____________________________

It was the default ANSWER – Take it on FAITH….

In regards to faith,    how much DO we know for   certain…

we use  FAITH to explain away something that no   longer makes sense – nor can be explained?

Faith was always the answer given to head off uncomfortable questions.

But it was often an unsatisfactory and hollow answer that only                                   instigated more questions.

We are told — WE MUST HAVE FAITH – but we need more information… in which to have faith…

When the idea of faith is used in this way, Christianity becomes more and more about accepting things that are less and less acceptable, And of believing things that are more and more unbelievable.  And this hurts Christianity.


Questions are important— and may even more important                                        than answers.  

Questions open possibilities     Answers close them…

Living the Questions: Answers Just Get in the Way

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who find more grace in the search for meaning than in absolute certainty, in the questions than in the answers.

North Side Christian Church – IS A SAFE place to ask questions…to doubt… to wonder -It is a place where we can doubt and explore

Catholic author Richard Rohr writes,  “Jesus is not a giver of advice.  He doesn’t give us a neat list of ten ways to be closer to God. 

 He does not provide easy answers.  Instead he asks hard questions. 

 In that he is more like the Zen master who asks questions to take us beyond the obvious to something deeper.

           “Easy answers can give us a sense of finality.  By entertaining hard questions God has a chance to change us.”

All Means ALL

Luke 14:15-24  (NIV)

The Parable of the Great Banquet

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Matthew 14:13-21  (NIV)

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.


Homily     “ALL means ALL”

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’ name to be a realization of the vision of God’s feast for all peoples.

On the slip of paper –

Please list the 11 people you would invite to your last meal –

Living or Dead – (and not in this room)

Eleven people who you would want to spend the last hours of your life with at a meal.


Add the name of the person you would NEVER invite  — you can just put initials if you fear someone seeing your response.


Now, hold onto that paper and look at it again later –



As Disciples of Christ… our identity statement says:


We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.

As part of the one body of Christ,

we welcome all to the Lord’s Table

as God has welcomed us.

Each week when I offer a communion meditation and invitation – it is not I who is inviting, I am merely passing along the message that we are ALL invited by God.

It is up to us to answer – we have a choice to accept or decline —

But ALL are invited.

Frederick Buechner

 “The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 



The Orthodox Christian Church, like Her Lord, is not an imaginary and invisible abstraction.

The tradition of any church is concrete and visible, expressed throughout history by real people in a tangible continuum of faith and practice (whether for 2,000 years or two years).

Like the Holy Trinity, the Church is a community, a real communion expressed and embodied by a shared faith and way of life.


The maintenance of real communion necessitates borders and boundaries, both doctrinal and disciplinary.

If a church is to be faithful to its own tradition, the door will be opened to some things and closed to others.

But it is how we understand CLOSED and OPEN –

practice of CLOSED communion –

is believed by that tradition to ACTUALLY be OPEN to ALL –

but the ALL actually means those who formally embrace the traditions beliefs and unite themselves to it.

OPEN to those who conform…

CLOSED to those who do not…

A door that is always open is not a door any more.

Certainly true of the Orthodox Church.

Some idea that limiting entrance enhances the significance –



A pastor once shared this story…

He said:

He told of going                                        to his mother’s hair dresser for a hair cut.

After talking to her he             thought she had some interest in knowing more about God.

He told his             mother that he thought she               wanted to know about God.   

                 His mother responded:                         

“No way! She is on her fifth   husband and is living in sin.”              


John said: “Mom the next                      time you get your hair done                    at the beauty salon ask her                   if she is interested in                     spiritual things?

The next time she went to                   have her hair done she prayed            in her heart as she was taking            a seat in the beauty shop chair.  

        “God you know I don’t want to talk to her about her faith because she’s not the kind of person I want to associate with.                                       If you want me to talk to her then have her ask me first.”

The first thing the beauty operator said when she approached was,

“I understand you and your  husband have a Bible study.               Do you mind if I come sometime?”

She said that her mother was Jewish and her father a Roman Catholic.

Her mother made her go to the synagogue on Saturday and when she came home her dad made her take the rosary and make confession of her sin.

She grew up confused and turned to alcohol for comfort and she could drink with the best of them.

To get help she went to AA meetings but could not think of her “higher power” as God so she called her “higher power” Ralph.

At one of the AA meetings a guy came in half drunk. He stood up and said; “My name is Ralph and I’m an alcoholic.”

The hair dresser said at that point in her life she wanted to know            the true God.

She and her husband started attending the bible study of John’s parents.



The Pharisees could not understand why the common people, outcasts of society followed Jesus who claimed to be a Rabbi and Teacher. The kind of people Jesus ate with and fellowshipped with would not be tolerated in their homes.

Jesus did not go along with the Jewish customs of His day.

He invited all to His Table. There is room for all at God’s Table.

When feeding the 5000, Jesus did hot single out who could or could not share in the meal.

This was in direct contrast to the Pharisees who believed that only certain people are welcome at God’s Table.

That is how most traditions viewed communion until recently –

Only children of members of a tradition would be baptized –

Only those who were members could partake in the meal –

Everyone was welcome… as long as they had joined the family…

In my childhood tradition, we celebrated Communion only 4 times a year…

Prior to serving – the minister made it clear that this table was for members of our church ONLY… baptized into the faith, and members of our particular church.

Last fall the Chaplain Residents were participating in a Celebration Mass, and before the Eucharist, each was told NOT to participate in the bread and wine unless they were Catholic.

Not only were they not invited… they were individually excluded…

Does this fulfill our understanding of God’s mission for t he world…


Tony Campolo Throws a Party for a Prostitute

In his book The Kingdom of God Is a Party, Tony Campolo relates an experience he had late one night in Hawaii.

Up a side street I found a little place that was still open. I went in, took a seat on one of the stools at the counter, and waited to be served. This was one of those sleazy places that deserves the name, “greasy spoon.” I did not even touch the menu. I was afraid that if I opened the thing something gruesome would crawl out. But it was the only place I could find.

The fat guy behind the counter came over and asked me, “What d’ya want?”

I said I wanted a cup of coffee and a donut.

He poured a cup of coffee, wiped his grimy hand on his smudged apron, and then he grabbed a donut off the shelf behind him. I’m a realist. I know that in the back room of that restaurant, donuts are probably dropped on the floor and kicked around. But when everything is out front where I could see it, I really would have appreciated it if he had used a pair of tongs and placed the donut on some wax paper.

As I sat there munching on my donut and sipping my coffee at 3:30 in the morning, the door of the diner suddenly swung open and, to my discomfort, in marched eight or nine provocative and boisterous prostitutes.

It was a small place, and they sat on either side of me.

Their talk was loud and crude. I felt completely out of place and was just about to make my getaway when I overheard the woman beside me say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be 39.”

Her “friend” responded in a nasty tone, “So what do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Ya want me to get you a cake and sing ‘Happy Birthday’?”

“Come on,” said the woman sitting next to me. “Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? I was just telling you it was my birthday. I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should you give me a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?”

When I heard that, I made a decision. I sat and waited until the women had left. Then I called over the fat guy behind the counter, and I asked him, “Do they come in here every night?”

“Yeah!” he answered.

“The one right next to me, does she come here every night?”

“Yeah!” he said. “That’s Agnes.     Yeah, she comes in here every     night. Why d’ya wanta know?”

“Because I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday,” I told him. “What do you say you and I do something about that?       What do you think about us throwing a      birthday party for her—right here—     tomorrow night?”

A cute smile slowly crossed his chubby cheeks, and he answered with measured delight, “That’s great! I like it! That’s a great idea!”

Calling to his wife, who did the cooking in the back room, he shouted,                        “Hey! Come out here! This guy’s got a great idea. Tomorrow’s Agnes’s birthday.

This guy wants us to go in with him and throw a birthday party for her—right here—tomorrow night!”

His wife came out of the back room all bright and smiley. She said, “That’s wonderful! You know Agnes is one of those people who is really nice and kind, and nobody does anything nice and kind for her.”

“Look,” I told them, “if it’s okay with you, I’ll get back here tomorrow morning about 2:30 and decorate the place. I’ll even get a birthday cake!”

“No way,” said Harry (that was his name). “The birthday cake’s my thing. I’ll make the cake.”

At 2:30 the next morning, I was back      at the diner. I had picked up some    crepe-paper decorations at the store and had made a sign out of big pieces of    cardboard that read, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!”

I decorated the diner from one end to the other. I had that diner looking good.

The woman who did the cooking must have gotten the word out on the street, because by 3:15 every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place.

It was wall-to-wall prostitutes…and me!

At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung open, and in came Agnes and her friend.

I had everybody ready (after all, I was kind of the M.C. of the affair) and when they came in we all screamed, “Happy birthday!”

Never have I seen a person so flabbergasted…so stunned…so shaken. Her mouth fell open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady her.

As she was led to sit on one of the stools along the counter, we all sang “Happy Birthday”‘ to her.

As we came to the end of our singing with “happy birthday, dear Agnes, happy birthday to you,” her eyes moistened. Then, when the birthday cake with all the candles on it was carried out, she lost it and just openly cried.

Harry gruffly mumbled, “Blow out the candles, Agnes! Come on! Blow out the candles! If you don’t blow out the candles, I’m gonna hafta blow out the candles.”

 And, after an endless few seconds,      he did.

Then he handed her a knife and told her,

“Cut the cake, Agnes. Yo, Agnes,   we all want some cake.”

Agnes looked down at the cake. Then without taking her eyes off it, she slowly and softly said,

 “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if I…I mean is it okay if I kind of…

what I want to ask you is…is it O.K. if I keep the cake a little while?

 I mean, is it all right if we don’t eat it    right away?”

Harry shrugged and answered,

“Sure! It’s O.K. If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake.

Take it home, if you want to.”

“Can I?” she asked. Then, looking at me, she said, “I live just down the street a couple of doors. I want to take the cake home, okay?       I’ll be right back. Honest!”

She got off the stool, picked up the cake, and carrying it like it was the Holy Grail, walked slowly toward the door.

As we all just stood there motionless, she left.

When the door closed, there was a stunned silence in the place. Not knowing what else to do, I broke the silence by saying,

“What do you say we pray?”

Looking back on it now, it seems more than strange for a sociologist to be leading a prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes in a diner in Honolulu at 3:30 in the morning.

But then it just felt like the right thing to do. I prayed for Agnes. I prayed for her salvation. I prayed that her life would be changed and that God would be good to her.

When I finished, Harry leaned over the counter and with a trace of hostility in his voice, he said,

 “Hey! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?”

In one of those moments when just the right words came, I answered,

 “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.”

Harry waited a moment and then almost sneered as he answered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that.

If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”

Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all like to join a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning?

Well, that’s the kind of church that Jesus came to create!

Jesus changed the game –

He did not fall in line – and follow the status quo  —

He came to remind us of God’s vision for the world… unity – love — equality — harmony — peace —

At his table – he had 12 disciples to share the meal….. but none of them qualified to be called faithful…

1 betrayed him

1 denied him three times

The rest ran away and abandoned him

But he invited them to dine with him any way. They were welcome in spite of how much or how little faith they had.

They didn’t meet the standards – but were welcome anyway…

We can’t claim to be worthy to sit at this table… but we are invited and welcome.

Scholars like Borg and Crossan consider the stories of Jesus’ open tables to be the most powerful and influential examples of God’s love for ALL people.

Jesus dined with Zacchaeus – a tax collector

He dined with Levi – another tax collector  and invited him to come and follow him.

Jesus dined with Simon – of elite social status, when a woman of lowly status crashed the dinner and anointed his feet. He welcomed her, when his host wanted her removed.

Feeding the 5000 was not his responsibility – these were people from ALL backgrounds – women and childrens who had no status

His tables had no seat of honor…no hierarchy – and no limit. All were invited and all were welcome.

WE are not just celebrating the last meal when we come to the table – we are celebrating ALL the meals…

because Jesus as Borg says, “One of Jesus’ most characteristic activities was an OPEN and INCLUSIVE table.”

John Dominic Crossan writes that Jesus’ open table fellowship is a core teaching component and symbol of his life.

It is a view of absolute equality of people that denies the validity of any discrimination between them.

When we come to the table, we are living out an expression of God’s love –

In sharing the bread and cup unconditionally – as God’s love is shared unconditionally –

And for ALL  —

Not, Wrong or right, just different

“Acts 17:22-28 New International Version (NIV)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]

Different Religions

Different goals

Different problems

Different approaches

Different understandings

Different filters

Different fears

Different loves

Renditions of Songs

Who likes liver and onions?

Who eats oysters on half shell?

Who likes the color pink?

Who would live in an underground home?

Bigotry —-        Intolerance toward those who                         hold different opinions from oneself. 

Stronger than prejudice —     Meanspirited

Racism —- Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against  someone of a different race based on the belief that                    one’s own race is superior.

Prejudice— preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or                             actual experience.


Bible Belt – The Story of My original tradition —

      John Wesley, a Methodist elder had died and was walking up to the pearly gates –

      St. Peter asked his name and went about checking his BOOK of LIFE to see if the elder’s name was written there.

Upon finding his name,  St. Peter welcomed John Wesley, and went about showing him through the gates and into the heavenly mansion.

Walking down the hall, St. Peter pointed out the football field size library, the room filled with thousands of Musical recordings, and the banquet hall with a table of food so long, John could not see the end of it…

As they went on, they passed by open rooms of Native Americans, sitting and pounding drums –

They passed by a room of Catholics playing  Bingo and drinking wine.

Soon they walked by a room of Jews who were eating Matza Ball soup and Challa Bread –

As they continued through the mansion, the cacophony of sound began to fade…  until they were walking in silence.

They turned down another hall and John noticed the doors on all of the rooms were closed.

He started to ask St. Peter about the doors, and St. Peter quickly covered John’s mouth and shhhushed him….

St. Peter took John’s hand and quickly walked him to the end of the hallway and out a side door.

John looked at St. Peter in confusion – and St. Peter apologized for his abrupt behavior, but if they had made any noise,

The Baptists would have discovered they weren’t the only ones here.

Catholic  vs   Southern Baptist  

      Catholic –  Not Christian but Catholic

                  Idol worshipers

                  Put Mary above Jesus

                  Said Mary Mother of God

            Pope comes before God

            Infant Baptism is meritless-                   not scriptural

      SB – Not Christian but Protestant

                  Believer’s baptism – baptism, which was seen as an attack               on the “salvation by works” theology widely taught by the                  Roman Catholic Church

Families split over inter-faith marriages

Om 2008, Hindus attacked more than 20 Christian churches in southern India.

Christians waged crusades under the banner    of the cross. Not only did they kill Muslims,

they also murdered other Christians over   doctrinal matters and unleashed     centuries of systematic anti-Semitism. 

ISIS militants have tortured, raped, kidnapped, and executed Christians in       Iraq and Syria, despite claiming that Christians who pay a special tax (jizya) would receive ISIS’s protection.

According to a July 2016 report by the      Hudson Institute, ISIS’s jizya option   is a deceptive propaganda ploy used to extort Christians with no regard for their     protection or religious freedom. The group urges attacks on Christians outside of its territorial strongholds. (Source: Hudson Institute)

THE THIRD RISE of KKK in 50s and 60s

Restricting membership to white Christians,    the Klan wore white robes to symbolize “purity,” burned crosses to signify “the Light of Christ” and picked selective scriptures from the Bible to preach white supremacy.

Perhaps what’s wrong with Christianity  —is we have LEFT – the original WAY  —

what people called the movement of the first followers of Jesus –

  • The WAY that was open to all people  —                                  it was a new way of life –
  • a change or transformation of life…                                                A dynamic act of DOING –

Gradually,  it changed into what we  call      RELIGION…

It is A static BELIEF system –


Is Christianity a RELIGION ??

Well, yes and no.

Yes, it is a religion. It has creeds and rules and beliefs, and Holy Scriptures, and official bodies, and adherents, and heretics, and saints, and on and on.

And no, it is not a religion. At least, if we use the term accurately…

The word religion comes from the Latin word “Re-Ligare”. “

Ligare” means “to bind” or to “connect”.

Adding the “re” before “ligare” causes the word to meanRe-Bind” or “Re-Connect.”

So, if Christianity is  A BELIEF SYSTEM  —

Then Christians are identified on the basis of their BELIEF not how they LIVE

For six days of the week-              Life for most Christians is       indistinguishable from that of nonbelievers.

If our Christianity is a BELIEF SYSTEM – and  When we believe that only we have the truth, we become elitist, aggressive for converts, overly protective of our system, and thereby consider all who would differ from us our enemies.

US verses THEM

We have the ONLY answer –

I do not understand why something is valuable only if it can be had be a few – “I have it and you don’t” “I’m saved, and you’re not”


We all know church goers like that – or have in our lifetime – and probably thought something like that – whew, I am safe…

Ironically, one of the most important and controversial teaching of Jesus  — is his command that we should love our enemies.

He put it this way, 27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6: 27-28

How we respond to this command of Jesus will determine Christianity’s value to     the world.

For centuries,  many Christian traditions, believed the non- Christian religions of the world are our enemies.

In the Crusades, armies were literally sent to convert or kill out the non-believers

We sent send armies of missionaries to other countries and even in our own county convert them to our religion.

WE SENT missionaries – and not just to make the heathens Christians – BUT our brand of Christians…

Often destroying their cultures in the process…

We see some of the fall out from that today…


Talking with some members of the United Methodist Tradition – they experienced the same issue concerning the international vote to marry and ordain members of the LGBTQ that our denomination experienced –

The more conservative/fundamental countries out number the progressive…liberal.. members.

A United Methodist friend said we only have ourselves to blame – when the more conservative nations around the world have not progressed to a liberal theology…

Before these countries had contact with the rest of the world —They had a more open theology But then our missionaries convinced them they were wrong…


Tolerance, acceptance and welcoming of different faiths come at a high price and a deadly slow pace…

     What would Christianity look like when it is stripped bare of the RELIGIOUS trappings?

When all of the formality – legality and restrictions are erased?

In the time of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the world was in turmoil with Hitler and the race war –

Bonhoeffer began to struggle with what remains when the typical traits of a religion—clergy, rites, holy things, beliefs, and morality—are eliminated.

How would that redefine Christianity? What bothered Bonhoeffer was that a person could confess doctrinally correct beliefs, observe its moral codes, and follow the accepted behaviors and       practices of the Church, while simultaneously committing unspeakable horrors.

We have witnessed the same thing in the American South—the “Bible Belt”—where harassment, persecution and lynchings of African-Americans was a norm for “white Christians.”   

Where racial discrimination was justified by narrow minded interpretation of scripture.\

Example: Colossians 3: 22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

This was justification for slavery and continuing to discriminate against African Americans


My heart tells me whenever we err in how we interpret scripture – we should err on the side of LOVE – not power…. Not exclusion – but love

I would rather explain my loving the wrong person than my hating someone….


Houses of worship around the world, a place of reflection and peace, have been targeted for attack by extremists. Here are some of the deadly assaults over the last decade:

July 16, 2010: Jundallah group kills 27 and injures 270 after it carries out a double suicide bombing against another Shiite mosque in southeastern Iran.

Oct. 31, 2010: Al-Qaida in Iraq militants attack Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church in Baghdad during Sunday night mass, killing 58 people in the deadliest assault targeting Christians since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion there. Al-Qaida in Iraq later became the Islamic State group.

Dec. 15, 2010: Two suicide bombers from the Sunni extremist group Jundallah blow themselves up near a mosque in southeastern Iran, including six Revolutionary Guard commanders.

Aug. 5, 2012: Six members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in Oak Creek, are fatally shot by a white supremacist, Wade Michael Page. Page was shot by a responding officer and later killed himself.

Nov. 18, 2014: Two Palestinians using axes, knives and a gun kill four Jewish worshippers and an Israeli police officer in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

Jan. 30, 2015: Suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in the Pakistani town of Shikarpur kills 71. Jundullah claims responsibility.

March 20, 2015: Islamic State suicide bombers attack a pair of mosques in Yemen’s capital, unleashing monstrous blasts that ripped through worshippers and killed 137 people.

June 17, 2015: Nine black worshippers including a pastor are killed by Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist, after he prayed with them in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof was convicted of federal hate-crime and obstruction-of-religion charges and sentenced to death.

Sept. 24, 2015: A suicide bomber strikes a mosque in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, killing 25 worshippers during prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Nov. 12, 2016: Suicide bomber from Islamic State group kills over 50 at the shrine of Shah Noorani, in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

Dec. 11, 2016: Suicide bomber strikes inside a Cairo chapel adjacent to St. Mark’s Cathedral, seat of Egypt’s ancient Coptic Orthodox Church. The Islamic State group claimed the attack, which killed at least 25 people.

Jan. 29, 2017: A gunman killed six men during evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City. Alexandre Bissonnette pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and attempted murder charges and was sentenced to serve 40 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Feb. 16, 2017: Suicide bomber detonates his explosives vest among the devotees at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Pakistan’s Sindh province, killing 98.

April 9, 2017: Twin suicide bombings rock churches in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria and Tanta, killing at least 45 people. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

June 15, 2017: A suicide bomber kills four people at a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan‘s capital city of Kabul. Among the dead is a leader of Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras, who are mostly Shiite Muslims.

Aug. 1, 2017: A suicide bomber storms into the largest Shiite mosque in Afghanistan’s western Herat province, opening fire on worshippers before blowing himself up, killing at least 90 people. Hundreds more were wounded in the attack, which happened during evening prayers.

Aug. 25, 2017: Militants storm a packed Shiite mosque in Kabul during Friday prayers. The attack ends with at least 28 worshippers killed and 50 wounded, many of them children. Two of the assailants blow themselves up and another two are shot dead by Afghan security forces.

Sept. 29, 2017: A suicide bomber blows himself up outside a Shiite mosque in Kabul, killing five. The attack took place as worshippers were leaving the mosque after Friday prayers.

Oct. 20, 2017: The Islamic State group claims a suicide bomber attack, killing 31 and wounding 29 people, at a Shiite mosque in Kabul.

Nov. 5, 2017: Dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault weapon, 26-year-old Devin Kelley opened fire at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people and wounding about 20 others.

Nov. 24, 2017: Militants kill 311 worshippers in a mosque attack in north Sinai, the deadliest such terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.

Dec. 17, 2017: Islamic State attack on a church in Pakistani city of Quetta kills 16 people.

Aug. 3, 2018: Suicide bombers disguised in burqa robes attack a Shiite mosque in eastern Afghanistan, killing 27 people.

Oct. 27, 2018: A gunman believed to have spewed anti-Semitic slurs and rhetoric on social media entered Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire, killing 11 and wounding six, including four police officers.

Jan. 27, 2019: Two suicide attackers detonate two bombs during a Mass in a Roman Catholic cathedral on the largely Muslim island of Jolo in the southern Philippines, killing 23 and wounding about 100 others. Three days later, an attacker hurls a grenade in a mosque in nearby Zamboanga city, killing two religious teachers.

March 15, 2019: At least 40 people are killed in an attack at mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

By calling ourselves progressive, thinking Christians, we mean that we are Christians who recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are as true for them, as our ways are true for us.

Samuel, Hannah, Mary, Jesus

41Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he said to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Samuel 2:18-26

18Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod.19His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.20Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the Lord”; and then they would return to their home. 21And the Lord took note of Hannah; she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord. 22Now Eli was very old. He heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.23He said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. 25If one person sins against another, someone can intercede for the sinner with the Lord; but if someone sins against the Lord, who can make intercession?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father; for it was the will of the Lord to kill them. 26Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

  1. eph·od
  1.  (in ancient Israel) a sleeveless garment worn by Jewish priests.

Two Stories – hundreds of years apart

Hannah –desperately wanted a child

Mary – surprised by a child

Hannah makes covenant with God if she can have a child

Mary – angel announces that God has chosen her and there is a covenant concerning a child.

Each mother has been given a child that is then returned to the service of God.

The similarities between the stories of two women are reflected in the words of their two songs.  

From the miraculous conception of each woman’s son to each woman’s faithful response of praise, we see God’s purpose and plan revealed. 

1)  What the books reveal:  

The books of 1 Samuel and Luke both focus on the birth of a male child who is born to serve God.  

2) Who the women were:

The roles of both Hannah and Mary in Scripture are limited to that of motherhood. 

Neither is a picture of salvation of Israel, of saving the people, like Esther—or of leading the people, like Deborah. 

Their work for God was simply to raise-up the child whom God had given to them.

Hannah’s pain came immediately when she handed Samuel over to Eli to raise in the Temple.

Mary’s pain would come later.

God choses the marginalized or the downtrodden to break-in upon history.

Sarah, like Hannah, was older and barren. Rachel, too, was barren and jealous of her sister Leah. All three women were dealing with “competitors” — either co-wives or servants.

Hannah was taunted by Peninnah, the other wife of Elkanah.

These stories finally parallel that of Elizabeth, also old and barren, who then conceives and gives birth to John, the baptizer, the last and greatest of the prophets.

Then a lowly maiden Mary is selected to birth Jesus –

Through these surprising and unexpected births, a child is set apart as truly “of God,” dedicated to and willing to serve God.


Having noted the similarities of Hannah’s story with Mary’s story and Hannah’s song with Mary’s song, let’s consider several contrasts.

  • Hannah was marked by sterility and shame.
  • Mary was marked by virginity and purity.
  • Hannah prayed for a son, desiring that her shame be removed.
  • Mary did not seek a son, but was graced with this great gift (Luke 1:28) and shame came upon her and her family.
  • Hannah gave birth to the son of Elkanah.
  • Mary gave birth to the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32a).
  • Hannah’s son was one of a long line of prophets.
  • Mary’s Son was the True and Better Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18).

Hannah is a type of Mary primarily in her role as a mother and as a maidservant of God.  In Hannah we see incredible gratitude to God and selflessness in giving her son to God.  Hannah knew that Samuel did not really belong to her, but to God.  Mary knew that Jesus did not really belong to her…He is God.  In each mother’s story, their love for their child is evident and their love for their God is magnified.

1 Samuel 2:21b  …the child Samuel grew before the LORD.

Luke 1:80  So the child [Jesus] grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Luke 2:52  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.


In both passages, we have nearly identical words at the close o0f the story –

         Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

It is a theme of growing – of maturing…

Both boys grow physically in STATURE

Both grow in wisdom and in favor with God – and with humanity –

Jesus did not come into this world gifted with knowledge – wisdom and power.

Like us, he came in as a vulnerable baby – a clean slate upon which life would write –

He would have to be taught –

 The same way Samuel – had to be taught –

Samuel began his growth in wisdom along side the Priest Eli –

Jesus began his with Mary and Joseph and his time in the temple.

And when the time came to return home, Jesus was more interested in learning from the priests—he had questions – they had answers – and his understanding amazed the priests.

Both Samuel and Jesus had to prepare for their life of service to God

Samuel’s preparation was through Eli

Jesus’ Preparation included                                          Wisdom: Jesus grew in Intellectually

Stature: Jesus grew in Physically.

with God”: Jesus grew Spiritually.

“with men”: Jesus grew socially.

The priests in the temple were impressed with Jesus because he was at ease and comfortable in His Father’s house.

But he would continue to grow – as he experienced life in new ways-

I never really thought about how Jesus had to grow – into becoming who he was called to be.

But, it speaks volumes that Samuel – and even Jesus had to learn – and grow and mature in their spiritual and social lives, as well as in favor with God —  just as much as their physical lives.

Jesus models that in order to grow intellectually, we must watch – o0bserve – and experience so that we have WISDOM

We must take care of ourselves physically –                            by eating well – resting when                             needed – and consider our                               bodies temples..

Jesus showed us that we are to always study        scripture, pray, reflect and engage in        our relationship with God – to grow spiritually – and find favor with God –

And to find favor with those around us –                  so that we are all one body in God…

These things are accomplished through small ways of treating one another — small acts of kindness – not huge achievements — 

Sometimes God lets us know we have found favor —

Illustration –

Madeleine L’Engle tells one such story.  While speaking at Wheaton College, word came to her that her 9-year old granddaughter, Lena,  had been hit by a truck while she was walking home from swimming.  The news was not good — Lena had two broken legs, broken ribs, her jaw was fractured in two places, her arms and legs had bruises and contusions, and she had a head wound that laid open her scalp to the bone.

She finished her lecture at Wheaton, and asked there for prayer for her granddaughter.  Returning to her room, she tried to call both an Episcopal clergy friend of hers in New York, and the Episcopal Sisters who ran the school her granddaughters attended. Neither of her calls went through.  Finally, after ringing and ringing, one of the sisters answered.  Madeleine told her about Lena, and the sister said that all of New York was blacked out and that she had to feel her way through the dark building to find and answer the phone.  Later, the same sister would tell Madeleine that hers was the only call that came in that night, that afterward the phones quit working altogether.

As was her custom, that night in her hotel room, Madeleine L’Engle reached for the Episcopal Book of Prayer she carried with her.  She always read Evening Prayer.   However, that night when she turned to the Psalm for that evening, a photograph of Lena stood at the page.  Taken only a few days before, L’Engle had stuck it in her prayer book hastily without thinking.

She said she could barely stand to see the photo, but as she held the prayer book, a piece of paper fell from its pages.   Given to her years before by some Catholic nuns, the card contained a quote from St. John of the Cross, a medieval Christian mystic.  The quote read —

“One act of thanksgiving made when things go wrong is worth a thousand when things go well.”

And so she thanked God for Lena’s nine years of life, for their family, and for God’s blessings.  Ten days later, little Lena emerged from her coma.  Among her first words were “Read to me.”  And so they did, night and day, until little Lena recovered. — Walking on Water, p. 184-186.


Both stories stress the need of growth in faith – growth that is in terms of understanding and practice. We might also call it wisdom in the faith, the beginning of which is, as Proverbs reminds us, the ‘fear of God’.

Not terror but awe and worship;

a sense of God in relation to creation which intimately involves understanding ourselves and those around us.

How much more do we as Jesus’ disciples in every age need to seek to grow in our faith – in favour both with God and humanity.

 Faithful service to God is a slow journey of growth and learning with aspects of loss and vulnerability along the way.

Significance of the Visit of the Magi

Matthew 2:1-12

2In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.



Christians celebrate the feast of Epiphany,

* from the Greek word epiphaneia,

meaning disclosure, manifestation, unveiling or appearance.

* At the simplest level, on Epiphany Christians commemorate the “appearance” of the magi from the east

It is interesting that Matthew was the only biblical writer who recorded their visit.


here came wise men—literally, “Magi” or “Magicians,”


KINGS?  Why would they seek to pay homage to another KING

Asked a KING for directions to KING of Jews?

*Why ask at all, if following the star,   and continued to follow the star?

*Left for their own country… where?

More likely a priestly caste of *Zoroastrianism, noted for their study of the stars as part of their religion. 


  • Possibly the oldest             monotheistic faith
  • pre-Islamic religion of       ancient Persia founded    by Zoroaster in the 6th    century BC.                              3500 YEARS AGO
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy calls Zoroaster

 “the world’s first philsopher

  • echoes of his words in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 
  •  Zoroastrians were also known for their devotion to truth and wisdom.
  •  They place a strong emphasis on protecting the environment.
  • Also within his religion, Zoroaster taught the existence of angels, demons and saviorsideas that can also be found in ChristianityJudaism and  Islam.                                                                 Zoroastrians use the Avesta as their sacred text. The Avesta contains hymnsritualsand spells against demons.



  • Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar,                                                       
  • do not come from the Bible
  • and did not appear in Christian literature until over five hundred years after the birth of Jesus.
  •  Nothing in the Bible says the wise men rode camels (or any other animal);
  • they may have made their journey from the east on foot for all we know.
  •  And despite the familiar lyrics of the Christmas carol “We Three Kings,” no biblical source depicts the three wise men as kings. (They were most likely learned men, perhaps astrologers.)     

probably of the learned class who cultivated astrology and kindred         sciences.


prophesied – a star would come   out of Jacob /  giver of  light

and exercising kingly power  might have come down to them by tradition;

 but nothing definite is known of them.


from the east—Arabia, Persia,      (IRAN)  or                                        Mesopotamia

Most popular IRAN


Went to Jerusalem—       as the Jewish metropolis.

** In the Revelation of the Magi, by    Landau —  they come from a    land called Shir,

which, because it is located at    the eastern edge of the inhabited         world, is probably equivalent to           China


  • NOT at stable-
  • Some sources say they traveled 6 months to two years
  • Matthew only place of story
  • “until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that   the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child –
  • According to Luke 2, it was shepherds, not wise men, who visited the infant Jesus in the manger.
  • Each GOSPEL writer was writing to a different audience—
  • Shaped stories to be more relatable and relevant.


  • Matthew is the only gospel referencing the arrival of the Magi, specifying that they bring three gifts, not necessarily the number of Magi that arrived.
  •  The importance of their arrival and gifts offered bring great meaning to the story.
  • Matthew was Jewish and possibly a Pharisee, so his inclusion of the Magi was a reference to eastern gentile wisdom, which also included astrology, and was perhaps viewed in a negative light by the Jewish community.
  • Yet this point brings us to the conclusion that gentiles were included in the birth of the Messiah. Upon the Magi’s arrival, their bowing down to the infant offered the respect shown divinity, as did the gift of gold.
  • he other gifts have sparked debate, but I see frankincense representing the presence of God as an incense and myrrh as an anointing oil, both of which have significance throughout Jesus’ messianic journey and our own Christian tradition.
  • Being Southern, I recently learned about a tradition called “chalking of the door.”
  • In a ceremony held around the Epiphany, the letters “C,” “M” and “B” are chalked on a home’s entrance to bless all who live or visit there.
  • It is said:
  •  traditionally, the initials represented names of those Three Wise Men — Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. However, the meaning actually is
  • , Latin for “Christ, bless this house.” Regardless, Christus mansionem benedicat the inclusion of gentiles and recognition of the Christ child as Messiah ultimately point to the clearest meaning of the Three Wise Men.


The Magi are not always given their due –

I read a story about one person who keeps the Wise Men figurines from her nativity – out year round –

She says:

it’s a visual reminder to me. It    reminds me that the truth of the           ages from this part of the             “Christmas” story is, and always           has been, that wise men and      wise women, wise boys and wise         girls, still seek Jesus. Not just at Christmas time, but all through             the year.

  • the magi are a poignant reminder that Jesus welcomes all peoples from all places.
  • he magi, then, “unveil” this mystery and disclose the nature of God’s kingdom announced in Jesus.
  • They remind us that it cannot be limited to the Jews or any other singular people.
  • The magi symbolize the divine promise given to Abraham for “all peoples on earth” in the first book of the Bible (Genesis 12:3), and
  •  John’s vision of heaven with people from “every nation, tribe, people, and language” in the last book of the Bible (Revelation 7:9).


A couple of weeks ago we talked of Living the Nativity –

Today’s story talks of how wise men met Jesus and returned home by a different path —
Mary and Joseph were warned in a dream to leave Bethlehem –

And they fled pagan Egypt where they found asylum.

  • That symbolic place of Israel’s bondage now became a place of protection.

As we all seek Jesus and to discern the main thing in life –

Once we find it, we too continue on a different path than we came…

Let us pray –

Continue to open our eyes, hearts and minds to the wonders of our walk in the light…

Help us to share our journey with all who wish to join… Amen

Seeing is Believing


Creator God,

Our hearts are heavy and our minds are reeling from another horrific hate filled attack on your children. For those eleven Jewish believers, we pray. For all of those wounded and fighting to live, we pray.

When will it end? What are we to do? How low will our society stoop before it ends?

We are becoming calloused to the shootings and dying.

It is becoming white noise… just another day…. Just another news segment – someone else’s problem, not ours.

But Mystic Spirit, show us what to do…

Point us in the direction to begin changing the hatred –

Equip us with the tools we need to show that violence will not be tolerated any longer. Give us the courage to take the action needed to pull our society from the edge of disaster.

You have heard our concerns and celebrations – we hand them over to you, and free our hands for what you want for us.

Give us the strength to stand against the haters

Give us words that will de escalate  violence

Give us the opportunities to show love

And know that anything is possible with you.

We ask all of these things in your many names as we pray y our prayer—Our Creator who art in Heaven hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our mistakes as we forgive the mistakes of others, Lead us not



New International Version
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Mark 10:46-52 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus

46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher,[a] let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.




Darkness of a cave

Night Light

Street Lights

Car Head Lights



FAITH has made you well.

Faith is seeing


Seeing clearly



Open our eyes to the world around us

Teachers – see in the eyes of students when they finally get it.


Lately, I have see postings on FACEBOOK about a new technology that allows people who are color blind, to see color for the first time.

The technology boosts the saturation of red and green light – which is the most common deficiency –

1 in 12 men

1 in 200 women


Seeing is Believing?

Believing is seeing…



Not common to use name of person being healed

Possible reason for naming

Healing impacted him so much

that his telling of it impacted        Jesus’ ministry

Name could be historically validated




Bar = son of



Family used to be financially well off

Then became poor


Unable to work – begged

Looked upon as unclean by society

Physical ills = result of bad behavior



Not sure how he learned of Jesus

Decided he must talk to Jesus

Represents those who are outside of Jesus — lost — searching

Cried out – Jesus, son of David, have             mercy on me

He had to get Jesus’ attention

Break through the sounds of the crowd

Called Jesus SON OF DAVID

Acknowledged Jesus’ Royal Lineage

Asked for Mercy

Actions are proof of Bartimaeus’ faith

Persistence/   Recognized/   Called on

  • Persistence – kept crying out until heard
  • Recognized – Saw Jesus as Messiah


Ironic –

Nation of Israel blind to Messiah, but a blind Jew had spiritual sight.

  • Called on – Went to Jesus for mercy


Prayer   Jesus Son of David,Have Mercy on Me

Short   Specific    Full of Faith

Life Changed Direction


This story is all of our stories —


Life goes along and we are oblivious

Then realize our blindness

We assume we are not worthy

Try to find healing

Find Jesus’ teachings

Eyes are opened…


Vision clears

Spiritual blindness is healed.


Jesus told him that his faith had healed him….



Let’s go Back to Bartimaeus’ name

We know Bar is son

Timaeus – father’s name

Son of Timaeus

But there is more –

Timaeus = Defiled/unclean -ARAMIC

Timai =      HONOR           – GREEK


So Bartimaeus was both

A person who was Unclean and

A person of honor


Like most people

We have good and not so good parts


The people around Bartimaeus could only see his not so good parts –

his blindness — being a beggar — having no value / worth

But Jesus

Saw his good part – his worth –

What his culture saw as unworthy

Jesus saw was worthy…

Once again, Jesus points out how we see things BACKWARDS—


It was FAITH that opened his eyes —

Often we need to SEE to BELIEVE

And Jesus tells us to turn that around


We must BELIEVE to SEE –

Our FAITH is what puts our lives in focus –


Hebrews tell us

Now faith is confidence                         in what we hope for and assurance about                             what we do not see.
Too often we cannot see the forest, for the trees…

We can’t see past what is in front of us to see the whole picture…

We have to back up and look again…


OPTICAL ILLUSIONS    Jesus on bulletin

Everyday we have the opportunity to see clearer –

Being informed

Being aware

Being receptive

Being OPEN


Bartimaeus was physically blind… yet he could see Jesus

The people around him – could not see him – nor Jesus –

Spiritually Blind — Blind to what we are called to do…

Blind to loving one another

Blind to what it takes to be a follower


Open my eyes that I may see, Glimpses of truth…


Blind Bartimaeus – Poem by Royston Allen

He would not let Jesus pass him by.
Called out to the Saviour with a loud cry.
It was his last chance to be made whole.
For blind from birth was this poor soul.

The crowd rebuked him to keep silent
but he cried out the more for he was intent
not to miss the Lord and let him pass by.
‘Have mercy on me’ was his loud cry.

Jesus stopped and bid them bring the man.
And jumping to his feet to Jesus he ran.
The Lord then said ‘What do you want of me? ‘
‘Rabbi’, Bartimaeus said, ‘I want to see.’

Immediately Jesus restored his sight
for he had faith that Jesus would put it right.
Then following Jesus along the way
his life had been miraculously changed that day.

As Bartimaeus we too have been born blind
and need like him the Saviour to find.
To cry ‘Son of David have mercy on me.
Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see.’

It is at the cross that all can see
the extent of God’s love for you and me.
And say to Jesus, ‘Saviour hear my cry
while You touch others do not pass me by.’

Based on Mark 10: 46-52

Syro-Phoenician Woman and Dogs September 9, 2018

Mark 7:24-37

24From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”



“Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

This is the equivalent to me saying White people are to receive the       best of everything and  NON white people can  have what is left.

DOGS  was a racial slur like

Towel Heads     Wet Backs  Dago   Camel Jockey   Polack    Sambo   White Trash   Redneck

Jesus not only dismissed this woman, he also threw in an ethnic slur for good measure…

REALLY?    Did Jesus express bigotry?

As a Jew, and a man, he was perfectly within his rights  to respond this way…

  • NO WOMAN was to directly speak to a strange man – and in public
  • And NO GENTILE woman was to ever make contact with a JEW.

She was risking her life… in so many words.

Jesus telling her the CHILDREN were to be fed first actually referred to the Children of Israel – THEY come first –

Gentiles – the DOGS—   could have the leftovers or                               what fell to the floor.                                                                                                 THIS would have been an expected  response considering the                  situation… and  NO one would have thought twice at his actions…

Except in this case – Jesus  had just given a sermon on the mount Telling us to love one another as we love ourselves…Could it be that Jesus wanted to SHOCK the disciples – and make this a teaching moment for them? Jesus’ responding by dehumanizing her with ethnic prejudice was startling —

So for Jesus to spew this ethnic slur didn’t make sense—unless  he was trying to make a point…To SHOW the Disciples what racism and bigotry LOOK LIKE—and how if we stop and listen – we share more similarities than differences..,.


Commonly, theologians accept this story on the premise of Jesus was fully human and fully divine and this was his HUMAN showing –

And it became a LEARNING moment for human JESUS. Up until meeting this persistent woman, Jesus still lived under the assumption that   he was a JEW and his message was only for    the JEWS.

Jesus does the most difficult thing for those of us born into prejudice and power.  He listens.   And allows himself to be fundamentally changed. Here is where Jesus realized that GENTILES could have the same or stronger faith as JEWS.

That WOMEN could have the same or stronger faith as MEN This is the only time recorded in the gospels in which Jesus changed his mind… And his ministry evolved — This opened the Door for Gentiles to be accepted into his ministry.

This initiated the profoundly expansive notion of a kingdom that included ALL, not just the “CHOSEN” – EVERYONE –

Male  Female Jew  Gentile  Young   old  Stranger Friend

This story is not only a lesson for Jesus and the Disciples… but for all of us… This story shows us that no one is excluded from God’s love

No one is left out because they are different.  All are made in God’s image – Whatever image they may have…

Still Small Voice

1 Kings 19:1-15 (NRSV)

Elijah Flees from Jezebel

19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 8

 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind;

and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;

12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire;

and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

15 Then the Lord said to him,

“Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.




Silence. It is something which, I think we are all a little uncomfortable with on some level. When talking friends and family we all try to avoid “awkward” silences. At times it can even seem as though we are scared of silence. But what are we afraid of? Why is silence bad? What reason do we have for avoiding silence?

What is it about silence that bothers us?


At times –

Sound is a deflection – distraction

Other times

A filler –

Illus We are collecting offering –                                                                                              or receiving communion                                                                                                          and the music finishes                                                                                                              before the    offering/communion –                                                                                          how does it feel?

Silence –                                                                                                                                   demands attention even more than sound

Illust   Classroom – everyone talking –                                                                           teacher whispers..

and                                                                                                     eventually there is quiet and attention.


Overture – people may still talk, but when  it stops – the silence of the music grabs           attention.

Music –

Used to pass the time – to fill in the   void/silence.

Anyone who has had a hearing test has experienced being in the sound-less  booth with headphones on.

All sound has been blocked out in preparation for the testing. You are in complete silence – soundless ness

As I have said before – I cannot relate to a state of absolute silence—

I have tinnitus which is a syndrome where I have continuous sound in my ears…

Some call it bells…. Ringing…. Buzzing…

  • The closest sound I can compare it to is when the cicadas are at their loudest –
  • I need sound as a distraction ….
  • Thus, I rarely sit in soundlessness…


Silence provides a place where we are confronted with our thoughts and memories –

Thoughts and memories we fear and avoid –


Silence allows us to focus on ourselves – without distractions –

Provides a time when God can speak and we will hear…

The story today is about Elijah who finds himself in deep trouble trying to escape Queen Jezebel who

Elijah has displeased her by having a contest with the priests of Baal – and with God’s help, he beats them – humiliating them and the Queen who worships Baal

  • .  So, Jezebel threatened revenge upon Elijah if she could catch him.
  • He goes into the wilderness to hide –
  • God provided food for him —
  • He went up Mt Horeb/Mt Sinai – Moses/God
  • On the mountain he found a cave for the night-
  • During the night Elijah received the word of God – “what are you doing here?”
  • Then he is told

go and stand on the mountain –         God is going to pass by —

Elijah figured that a God as mighty and powerful as YAHWEH would be revealed in the power of the world around him.

So when the wind became violent, he expected God to be in it…                                             and wasn’t

The same with the          earthquake and the fire…


Translated as “a light silent sound

Elijah hears a small voice asking the same question..                                                                 What are you doing here, Elijah?”

We think that God may speak through something dramatic in our lives and expect it to happen in a thunderstorm as the lightning flashes or when the skies are     threatening.

We assume strength and power is expressed in loud noise and big events –

So when we ask God for anything, we look for a flash in the sky – a roll of thunder –

Something huge –


But God most often speaks to us in quiet moments – when we can HEAR God –

  • God speaks in the everyday routines –
  • In the healing of a sick body –
  • In the changing of unjust laws –
  • In the words of a friend saying what we need to hear –
  • Even in times of tragedy – that small voice speaks –
  • When our country was forever changed by planes used as weapons –
  • God’s voice quietly spoke through the efforts, courage and determination of those first responders…


  • God’s quiet voice spoke through the changing of laws that prevented people to marry because of who they loved.
  • God’s quiet voice speaks in every loving act towards another person or animal.
  • God’s quiet voice speaks in the times of forgiveness –
  • And at times.. God’s still small voice speaks through us…


Sr. Marie Therese Dondja is a Catholic Sister with a scholarship to attend the College of St. Mary to study Early Childhood. She is from the Congo, and plans to return to her work at an orphanage.

The annual income in the Congo is approximately $387.00.

In the six years she has been in
America, she has only seen her family once. That trip home was financed by a philanthropic family. She still has another two years before she graduates and returns home.

I heard a still small voice urge me to embark on a journey to finance a trip home at Christmas for Sister Marie.

In a short few weeks, I had collected not only the price of the plane ticket, but money to cover expenses along the trip.

This was an example of a still small voice speaking through 24 different people – to say YES to answer an unspoken prayer.


Laws, Lies and Liability

Matthew 5:17-20           New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.

18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,[a] not one stroke of a letter, will pass

from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks[b]one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches

them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the

scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.




(Disclaimer – Being that this homily is being posted publicly, I have omitted real names)


In today’s world, there is TOO MUCH TO ABSORB–

We are deluged with TOO MUCH going on around us

Too much information

Too Much MISinformation

Who do we believe?

Who do we distrust?

What is real?

What is fake?


THEN what are we to do about it?

Can we determine truth over fiction?

Can we continue to hear falsities until we take them as


How do we know what to believe and then how do we respond?


I hear many of you say that you only watch one news

report a day to avoid all of the cacophony of NOISE/LIES

and interpretations.

  • How do you know which NEWS will give you the facts?
  • Some of us never pick up a newspaper – because it
  • isn’t unbiased.
  • Some of us accept FACEBOOK postings as FACT – and
  • then proceed to SHARE these postings without regard
  • to verifying them first.

The catalyst for my words today is two-fold. ONE – a statement

made by XXXXX XXXXX pastor of XXXXX  Christian Center in XXXXX, Florida,

Who told CBN that if Jesus “had broken the law then He would be sinful

and He would not have been our Messiah.”

This statement caused a firestorm of conversations on

social media. Those who argued in concurrence with

Xxxxx xxxxx, and more who argued against her statements.

Had Xxxxx xxxxx been just a person on the         street, voicing an opinion,

probably nothing would have happened.

BUT XXXXXXXX  is the head of a very large church and is a  televangelist.

THUS – listeners assume she has the educational credentials and

her statements are based in reflective theological study.

This is NOT the case with XXXXX XXXXX –

White has been criticized for being introduced as having, or claiming                                                                                        to have, a doctoral degree, when she has no college or seminary  degree.

This is a solid example of questionable theology –

The second part of this catalyst for today’s message comes from what  happened in Helsinki this week.

President Trump- said     he saw no reason to believe Russia would interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

When the nation/world responded so vehemently against his  statement, the President announced that he had MISSPOKEN –

and meant to say WOULDN’T –

What are we to believe?


One of the buzz words today is FAKE NEWS –

FACEBOOK and other forms of social media can circulate information around the world in seconds,,,


FACEBOOK was used to disseminate erroneous information that affected the election –

It spreads bad information and easily as good – because there is no way to completely guarantee the facts have been checked.

As a former University Reference Librarian

I taught students how to research and be sure to use

Legitimate scholarly sources.

It was much easier in then than it is today because all information resources were                                                  publications and easily verifiable-

Today, the internet provides     monstrous amounts of information  at a keystroke…

Information that can be downloaded by ANYONE –


but how do we know it is reliable?

This pertains to spiritual information too.

We hear from our Sunday School teachers – and minister what the Bible says…

And When we read the Bible, we can only interpret as deeply as our own                                                              knowledge—

Our interpretation may not provide a full understanding of the story…

To better understand

We  have to study the context of the time the scripture was       written… the culture of the times…                                              the social norms…the laws…  the government.

Disciples of Christ pride ourselves on our    freedom to interpret scripture for ourselves.                                                                     And in community/church we also have the arena to share and discuss our interpretations

It is our responsibility to seek out the most reliable and verifiable information we can –

Remember the Protestant Reformation was the result of the printing press –

Putting the scriptures into the hands of the people – who up til then had to depend on Priests to interpret and explain scripture.

Once the people  had access to the original information – things changed…

This is why I remind you often you are not to take MY word for it…

Look and learn for yourself.. I only wish to offer more possibilities…

Information is power –


Now, back to the first catalyst for today’s message…

Xxxxx xxxxx professed that  Jesus did not break the law — because if he had broken the law then He would be sinful and He would not have been our Messiah.”

Her interpretation sounded right – but wasn’t…

Did Jesus break the law?

Was Jesus killed for breaking Roman law?

What laws did he break?

Healing on the Sabbath

Touched Leper

Conversed with women

Conversed with Gentile woman

  • Overturning the money tables at the temple.
  • Eating with “sinners”, people of dubious reputation.
  • Not ritually washing hands before eating.
  • Jesus’ commitment to non-violence

Forgiving people’s sins and thus bypassing the temple sacrifices.

Jesus adhered to the Hebrew laws that were just and humane –

But not if the law came before the wellbeing of a person.

So, Xxxxx xxxxx’s proclamation was not based on sound information – or real study of scripture.

We cannot base our beliefs and knowledge on what we are told – or read online.

We cannot sit back and accept what others tell us… like Doubting Thomas, we have to have a first-hand experience –                        or at least have the news from a reliable source.

WE must be actively involved in the world around us – seeking valid information and not accepting some POST that FACEBOOK uses FORWARD—

That is why I shared a list of reliable news sources so we have a good start at obtaining FACTUAL information ,,,

Scripture warns us of false prophets —

1 John 4:1-6 NIV

1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,

Matthew 7:15-20 NIV

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

16 By their fruit you will recognize them.


Thanks be to God