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Meditation Tonight

On Tuesday we have bible study here at St. Andrew's.  There are from eight to ten of us who gather for discussion of the upcoming week's scripture readings.  We use the lectionary study guide titled Synthesis CE.  At the end of the study guide they have a series of questions designed to promote higher level thinking on our readings.  The questions really do make you think, sometimes laugh and sometimes squirm.  

This week one of the questions was "How do you experience Christ most fully."  For me it is meditation.  When I sit and quiet my mind I feel God's presence.  The experience is not something easy to describe.  It is a feeling of being protected, embraced and loved.  I look forward each day to my time with God and I hope you find God in your way as well.

Fr. Fred

Belief and Faith and Doubt

The Gospel

John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Sermon

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

We call ourselves a community of believers and we are. It might be more accurate though to say we are a community of people with varying degrees of belief. I am guessing that there are many people who really do not think about their faith and are busying themselves doing the things that humans do. We can get so tied up in work, family, worry, TV eating and more TV that we just don't want to bother ourselves with the whole God thing.

Not so, the followers of Jesus two thousand years ago. They were crushed when they saw their lord die on the cross. Sure, they had seen the miracles. There were the loaves and fishes. He had raised the dead, walked on water, cured the sick and so many other things but just when they thought he was invincible he died at the hands of Rome; just like all the other would be messiahs. The disciples had doubts.

Then Jesus just shows up literally out of nowhere. There is only one explanation. Jesus is truly Lord and God. Any doubt is gone.

Well, what about us? We have seen no miracles, at least none on the scale of raising the dead or turning water into wine. Sure, we've read about Jesus's miraculous deeds but hearing about something and witnessing it are two different things.

I believe faith comes from a deeper place than just witnessing some outward sign. It is something God given that we are hardwired for. It may be exhibited by a feeling that there is something much bigger than ourselves. Or, it may come from a collection of experiences that seem just a little too coincidental. In some ways faith in God seems illogical. On the other hand, believing there is not a God makes no sense.

I think God has placed a kernel of faith in each of us. It is up to us to decide whether we will nurture that seed and let it grow. My small mind will probably never understand the concept of 'the eternal God'. I cannot wrap my head around something or someone who is eternal but that's OK. Sometimes we may be better off to let go of the logical analytical side of us and realize there are some things that are simply beyond us and just let faith take over.

I like to think that my faith is strong and then I remember the words, “If you had the faith of a mustard seed you could move mountains.” There is probably some poetic license in that statement but I am sure we all have room for improvement in the faith department. After all, we all are human. We all are God's creatures, and we all are imperfect.

So lets celebrate who we are and realize that we are loved despite our warts and flaws.


He is Risen!

The Gospel

John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

The Sermon

Desperately Searching for God

Mary Magdalene is the first to go to the tomb and she finds it empty. You can imagine her panic. She had gone to do the final ritual preparations for his body and there is no body. Her first impulse is to alert Jesus's followers of the crisis. Peter and another disciple run to the tomb as well to confirm what Mary has told them. In despair he and the other disciple leave, but Mary stays. Her grief will not let her leave.

Can you imagine Mary's sense of despair when she sees that the body of Jesus is no longer in the tomb. Her lord has been viciously murdered and now to make things even worse his body is gone so she cannot perform the rituals require for his body.

And then, there he is! Mary's emotions take a complete turn from utter despair to intense joy. It happened! Jesus is truly resurrected. Can you just imagine what that must have been like?

Can you think of a time in your life when you felt utter despair and then within moments things changed for the better? Please share.

Here is a story about a man who had this kind of experience.

A man was blissfully driving along the highway, when he saw the Easter Bunny hopping across the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the Bunny, but unfortunately the rabbit jumped in front of his car and was hit. The basket of eggs went flying all over the place. Candy, too. The driver, being a sensitive man as well as an animal lover, pulled over to the side of the road, and got out to see what had become of the Bunny carrying the basket. Much to his dismay, the colorful Bunny was dead.

The driver felt guilty and began to cry.

A woman driving down the same highway saw the man crying on the side of the road and pulled over. She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong. ''I feel terrible,'' he explained, ''I accidentally hit the Easter Bunny and killed it. There may not be an Easter because of me. What should I do? ''The woman told the man not to worry. She knew exactly what to do.

She went to her car trunk, and pulled out a spray can. She walked over to the limp, dead Bunny, and sprayed the entire contents of the can onto the little furry animal. Miraculously, the Easter Bunny came to back life, jumped up, picked up the spilled eggs and candy, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped on down the road.

50 yards away the Easter Bunny stopped, turned around, waved and hopped on down the road another 50 yards, turned, waved hopped another 50 yards and waved again!!!! The man was astonished. He couldn't figure out what could possibly be in that woman's spray can!! He said to the woman, ''What in heaven's name is in your spray can?''

The woman turned the can around so that the man could read the label. It said: ''Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair. Adds permanent wave.''

The story of Jesus's ressurection has changed the lives of millions of Christians for thousands of years. It is integral to our faith. In the next few weeks we will read about the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. Jesus has changed. He now does things like suddenly appear, walk through walls and as happened to Mary in this reading keep his presence from being known.

How can this have happened. Are we to believe this could really have happened. That is where faith comes in.

I was reading something the other day. The author was saying that religion should have two important components. One is the stories. Stories engage us. We remember stories and in a way they connect us to the characters we hear about. The Book of Job comes to mind as does today's reading about Mary Magdeline. Through those stories we are given examples of how we should live our lives. Sometimes we have to dig deeply but those messages are there.

The content of the bible, knowing chapter and verse, is a good thing but what is life changing is living the bible's message. It needs to speak to us as Christians. Jesus's early followers called themselves followers of the way. The bible is a light that help us to better see the direction we need to take on our way, our path, through life.