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Scripture

Isaiah 49: 9a, 15 - 16

9 saying to the prisoners, “Come out,”


    to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”

15 Can a woman forget her nursing child


    or show no compassion for the child of her womb?


Even these might forget,


    yet I will not forget you.

16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;


    your walls are continually before me.


Matthew 5: 14 - 16

14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.


Reflection

I have been wondering this past little while about how we identify ourselves and how these understandings of our identity affect how we see ourselves in the world. In many ways we are identified and take on roles around those identities. We often identify ourselves with our primary relationships, whether that be husband, wife, partner, father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, or any other familial title. In some ways each of these comes with their own set of expectations and responsibilities. In many cases these are imposed upon us by how society believes we must act as we find ourselves within each of these identities. But if I really think about it, this is not the only way that society imposes specific roles and identities upon each of us. There are many different ways, from our work, to our gender, to our community involvement, even our friends will place identity expectations upon each of us. As I have been pondering this I have wondered how do we find ourselves in the midst of all of the expectations, expected identities, that we each navigate in our lives. What does it mean to truly find ourselves? Do we actually have to find ourselves, or is there something else that might be even more productive?


The readings that I chose for today speak to this idea that we have been created, as we are, not necessarily as the world sees us. In being created to be who were actually are, not who the world says we need to be, we have been created in light, to be light, to bring light to the world. Writer, illustrator, speaker, and teacher, Emily McDowell, speaks to this idea of finding oneself in the following way, “‘Finding Yourself.’ is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. ‘Finding Yourself’ is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.” To be who you were created to be, and not who the world tells you you have to be, that is what I believe God wants for all of us.


Now that is not to say that when we take on specific roles they are always negative, it is to say that those roles we take must always allow us the space to be who we truly were created to be, rather than demanding that we change to fit those roles. This has been a very challenging lesson for me to learn. I was raised with many expectations about who I needed to be in the world and in living into those expectations I found that I was not being true to who I understood myself to be, so I hid that part of me. It became easier, in the world, to put on the mask of expectations and live as the world demanded than to make waves and be authentically me. Yet, in doing so I know that the light of who I was, was dimmed. How often have we dimmed our lives, who we truly were, so that the world might accept us, or so that the world might not deal with our uniqueness? We each have been created as individuals, as unique and wonderful creations of light and love. Our scriptures today remind us that we were created in all our uniqueness and as such when we live into who we understand ourselves to be, we become light in the world and the world needs all the light it can get at the moment. So let us all reclaim who we are and if we have reclaimed who we are, let us celebrate who we are, and shine for the world to see. Let it be so, amen.


Prayer

God of infinite diversity and love, help us to live as you created us to live. Let us shine as you created us to shine. We ask for the courage to reclaim ourselves from so many imposed expectations that society imposes on us. We ask for the wisdom to discern what is truly us and what we have built in ourselves to hid and protect ourselves. We ask that you guide into being more fully us and show us how to shine for the world to see. We ask this all in the name of the one to who came bringing light, your son, Jesus. Amen. 


Peace and blessings,


Rev. Patrick Woodbeck

Gordon-King Memorial United/ The Big Red Church

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  • bigredchurch

Scripture

Matthew 28: 5 - 6

"The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.’"


Mark 16: 1 - 4

"When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, 'Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?' But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.”


Reflection

Since Easter Sunday I have been wondering more about this idea of resurrection. As I spoke to on Easter Sunday it is really difficult in our modern world, a world in which everything needs to be provable, quantifiable, measured, and known, to consider this idea of resurrection. Yet, resurrection is one of the cornerstones of what we say we believe. I have been wondering about how one is to speak about resurrection in a world where resurrection is tough to believe. What does resurrection mean to us today? It is a challenging question, one that has made me stop and think these past few weeks. The scriptures from today are, each, a small part of the resurrection stories from Matthew’s gospel and Mark’s gospel.


In Matthew the very first words that are spoken by the angel are, “Be not afraid.” Be not afraid, in our world this might just be a challenging thing to live out. There is so much fear in our world. There is fear for the future, there is fear of others, there is fear of the unknown, and the first words are ‘be not afraid.’ How often in our lives have we allowed fear to stop us from doing something? How often in our lives have we allowed fear to keep us from seeing God in the world? How often has our fear stopped us from seeing moments of new life, of resurrection in our lives and the world around us? For Matthew the resurrection is about seeing it even in the midst of our fear.


Mark has a different take on the resurrection, as we see in his version of this story. By the time the women arrive at the tomb the stone has been rolled away and resurrection has happened. I wonder if this means that they missed resurrection, but I don’t believe that that is what Mark is saying, I believe that Mark is reminding us that God has been working, is working, and will continue to work in our lives, even when we can’t see it, or don’t see it. God has been working in our lives and the world throughout our entire lives and not just when we notice it. The stone being rolled away is not an indication of missing God’s miracles in our lives, but rather the reminder that even when don’t see it happening God is working within and around us. It is a comfort in knowing that even when we are not aware of it, God’s grace is working. But what does this mean in our lives and in our world, I wonder about that today, given the way that world currently exists.


American Lutheran Pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber speaks to the resurrection in the following way, “The Christian faith, while wildly misrepresented in so much of American culture, is really about death and resurrection. It’s about how God continues to reach into the graves we dig for ourselves and pull us out, giving us new life, in ways both dramatic and small.” Yes, we speak of resurrection in terms of Jesus and how love conquers death, how new life comes, how renewal is ongoing in the world. But when we begin to view resurrection as a personal experience it becomes something more. Resurrection, when viewed personally, speaks to the new life found in overcoming our own fear, in living into new life now, in the midst of our fear. Resurrection, when viewed personally, begins to see the grace of God in our lives from the moment we were born. Resurrection allows us to become aware of the new life that has, and continues to exist within our lives as a result of God’s love. Resurrection, when viewed personally, helps us to know that in those graves that we have all dug for ourselves God is always reaching in to pull us out. It is recognize that our faith is a gift that should, can, and does, impact our whole life, if only we allow ourselves to live into resurrection each and every day.


Prayer

God of resurrection and new lift, help us to hear those words again, ‘be not afraid’ and help us to know that the power of your love will help us through our fear. Give us the wisdom to look for you in our lives and to find those places where you have been working, in our lives, to bring us to you, so that we might live more fully into who you call us to be. Give us the courage to know that when we find ourselves in those graves, that we have dug ourselves, to reach out to you, as you are already reaching out to us. Help us to see that resurrection is something that we are called to live each day, so that we might live into the new life you have promised. We ask this in the name of the one who has risen, your son, Jesus. Amen.

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  • bigredchurch

Scripture

Mark 11: 15 – 18

15Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,

    ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?

    But you have made it a den of robbers.”

18And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.


Reflection

We have entered what many of us know as “Holy Week” the last week of Jesus in Jerusalem. I have often wondered what this week was like for Jesus. I wonder if I was in the same position, would I do what Jesus did? It is difficult for us sometimes because I think that we have this idea of Jesus and that Jesus we know can be different from the one we might just see this week. The scripture today paints a picture that is very different from the Jesus we are used to seeing in other biblical stories. We are used to seeing Jesus the shepherd. Jesus the one who calls the little children. Jesus the healer. Jesus the one who eats with the tax collectors and the marginalized. We are so used to seeing Jesus the gentle, meek, and mild, that we forget that there is much more to who Jesus was in the world.


We sometimes picture Jesus with all of these wonderful attributes and when we do, I wonder if we tend to dehumanize Jesus. Jesus becomes this perfect individual who we are told that we must be like and yet we can never be perfect, so we struggle to attain the unattainable in our lives. We forget that there is an understanding of Jesus as full human, feeling the full range of human emotions, all human emotions.


The Jesus we read about in these passages from Mark’s gospel is Jesus the angry, Jesus who comes in a sees the injustice of what is happening and he reacts. In the reading from Mark, Jesus recognizes those who are profiting off of the poor, those who are selling animals for sacrifice because these sellers know that many of those who have travelled to the temple cannot afford to bring with them offerings and therefore must buy them, at the temple, if they are to fulfill what the temple authorities demand. These ones who are profiting off of the misfortune of others. And Jesus is angry, angry enough to throw them out of the temple, to turn over their tables. This is a Jesus that we are not used to seeing, but it is important that we do see this Jesus. This is an important Jesus for us because it helps us to understand that being our fully human selves is important and that includes our anger.


I am not sure if any of you were like me, but I was raised to think that anger is wrong. I was raised to understand that I shouldn’t get angry, that anger was a negative emotion and was something that should not be expressed. But the reality is that anger is a part of being human. I had the opportunity to go and see someone the other day and when I got there they told me that they were not having a good day. I inquired why it was not a ‘good’ day. Now the reality is that their life has changed dramatically and their life is very different now and they were angry. Of course they would be angry and I believe that they have every right to be angry. Anger itself I think is good and can tell us something about ourselves and our lives. Jesus was angry at the injustice of what was happening. We too can be angry at how we might see the injustice of this world. We can be angry when circumstances beyond our control seem to be taking over our lives. We can be angry at how life sometimes seems so unfair. We can be angry at some of the things that have happened in the world. We can just be angry.


The challenge comes when we have to figure out what to do with that anger. When we are angry it can be so easy to lash out at others, to blame other for what is happening in our lives and the world. It can be easy for us to transfer our anger onto another person and I think that this is the challenge with anger. I have come to realize that emotions themselves are not bad. Anger is not bad. It is what we do with it that makes it appropriate or inappropriate. Even though Jesus was angry, he continued to move forward, working to bring about God’s kingdom. Even though Jesus was angry he did not give up or give into his anger. That is our challenge. When we are angry, when it seems as if life, which can seem so unfair at times, has us down, we are called to continue to live. We are called to continue to work towards bringing justice, peace, mercy, love and forgiveness into the world. We are still called to work at living into God’s kingdom here and now. Being angry is not a bad thing, it can open our eyes to injustice, it can let others know that we might be hurting, it can help us to feel empathy with those who might be living under the yoke of oppression and marginalization. So be angry, but also continue to hold tight to God , to love, justice, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. Continue to hold tight to Christ.


Prayer

God of all humanity, we know that Jesus came to live a fully human life forgive us when we see Jesus as some perfect being that we know that we can never emulate in our own lives. Help us to see that in being fully human Jesus experienced all of life, the joys and celebrations, as well as the anger and frustrations. Give us the wisdom to see that throughout it all Jesus continued to live as you call us to live with love, mercy, compassion, justice, and most importantly forgiveness. Help us forgive ourselves  our own anger rather than ignoring it. Help us to continue to live as you call us to live, even when we are angry. We ask this in the name of the one who turned the tables, you son Jesus. Amen.

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