Katherine Johnson died yesterday and was crucial to the NASA’s Apollo missions – making crucial calculations and enduring racism and sexism in the process.

Sunday Night Thoughts

Oh, deer! As I type a family of deer are hanging out in our back yard. I would share a picture except the battery in my camera died while taking some pictures of it. I’ll share it a little later.

Oh, dear! It feels like I have neglected my blog over the last couple weeks. To say it has been rough would be putting it mildly. About the only content I have put up was either the Sunday Collect or my Friday devotional. Hopefully, we will get back to some more regular content this week.

I am looking forward to leading our church through an Ash Wednesday Service on Wednesday night. It is a night that reminds us of our humanity – it reminds us of our sin – that we were made of dust and to dust we will return. It can make us uncomfortable to think about our mortality, but it is exactly the reason we should remember Ash Wednesday as we kick of 40 days of prayer and fasting.

As I mentioned above, it’s been a crazy few weeks. Two Sunday nights ago, we were at our district minister and spouses retreat. We had a great time at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, NY. If was a wonderful time of retreat and relaxation, despite the fact that I had a cold.

Last weekend, we once again headed north to see the baptism of our newest grand daughter. It was a beautiful service. We did spend some time sight-seeing in Ottawa following the service on a relatively warm February day for the region.

Other than that I am getting ready to once again lead a community choir for a Palm Sunday Concert. We are doing a program called, Is He Worthy? The title song is the Andrew Peterson anthem of the same name. It is a beautiful worship song. The program mixes traditional hymns with contemporary classics along with a narrative that allows us to journey to the cross. We will be rehearsing on Sunday afternoons.

The last two Sundays at McCrae Brook – at least the ones we have attended have had a wonderful spirit of worship, for which I am very thankful. This morning we did an older worship tune “Come Now Is the Time to Worship” and “Living Hope.” The congregation really seems to enjoy this newer song. I completed a two-part series on the Beatitudes and in case you’ve never done it, very difficult to do in two sermons.

Pam and I have had inflow of kids on our van. Two weeks ago we were transporting 3 kids and now we are transporting 10. But, we consider what we are doing a ministry to these kids. We’ve had some interesting trips, especially in the morning – in the snow. Hopefully, spring will soon be here.

That’s about all I have for this week, catching us up on three weeks. Have a great week!

Prayer for the Week

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Seeing Only Jesus

Transfiguration Sunday | February 23, 2020

Exodus 24:12-18 • Psalm 2 • 2 Peter 1:16-21 • Matthew 17:1-9

17 Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.

As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Matthew 17:1-9 New Living Translation (NLT)

Yesterday, we had a meeting in Buffalo. It is a monthly meeting of pastors from the Western New York District of the Wesleyan Church. It is always a wonderful time of inspiration and yesterday was no exception. On the way home, I got to thinking about today’s post and had Anna look up this week’s texts – thinking that they were some Sunday in Epiphany. Somehow she mentioned the last Sunday before Lent and I said, “Oh, it’s Transfiguration Sunday.” And so it is.

Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at the teachings of Jesus. We have been looking at Jesus as the Light of the World. What was the mission of Jesus? In these scriptures over the last few weeks, we have barely scratched the surface and now we being preparing for Lent in the Feast of the Transfiguration.

The creators of the lectionary give us two parallel readings of sorts. The Old Testament reading gives us the account of Moses going up Mt. Sinai to meet with God. The mountain is covered by a cloud indicating the glory of God.

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up to a mountain. Jesus face and appearance is transformed – as bright as the sun. Pam and I have been reading a devotional Finding Your Way by Jane Rubieta. It is a devotional that focuses on Adam through Noah. In one of her daily devotionals in the book she talks about Adam and Eve being blinded by the glory of God. She suggests that when Adam and Eve partake of the forbidden fruit – the eyes being opened meant that suddenly their eyes were not blinded by the glory of God and they noticed their sinfulness and their nakedness. Perhaps before the fall, Adam and Eve were surrounded by the glory of God and didn’t even know it.

Moses remained on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights – interestingly enough, this 40 days is the same amount of days that it rained during the flood and the number of days that Jesus spent in the wilderness.

Peter, James, and John see Jesus transformed – into what way we don’t really know, but it was quite powerful. Peter immediately suggests that they should set up some memorials.

As soon as Peter speaks, the cloud of God descends on the mountain – much like the glory of God on Mount Sinai. Out of the cloud, the voice of God speaks, “This is my dearly loved son. Listen to Him!” Immediately the disciple fall prostrate on the ground and worship – probably out of fear. Jesus comes over and says, “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” I can’t even imagine what an experience that must have been. Immediately the image of the law and prophets disappear – perhaps again meaning that Jesus came to fulfill the law and prophets. The disciples see only Jesus.

As I think about this…The disciples saw only Jesus – not the law – not the prophets – but only Jesus. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and begin the season of Lent – a season of preparation that focuses on Jesus. It is my prayer that as we move into this season, we would see Jesus and only Jesus.

Fulfilling the Law

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany | February 16, 2020

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 • Psalm 119:1-8 • 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 • Matthew 5:21-37

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

31 “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ 32 But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.

33 “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Matthew 5:21-37 | New Living Translation

This morning’s gospel passage continues to have us in Matthew 5. Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount. If you recall, last week we heard these words from Jesus, “I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.

Jesus continues his teaching – reminding them that our righteousness must be better than that of the Pharisees…That is a high standard. The Pharisees knew the letter of the law, but really missed it on the Spirit of the Law and Jesus goes on and gives us several examples.

Jesus reminds his followers that the Law tells us not to murder, but if we have anger toward someone, that is worse than murder. Jesus law is higher than the law. When it comes to “practicing” our religion…Jesus reminds us that when we come to worship – we need to come with a clean heart. We should not be holding grudges against another, but more importantly, if someone has something against us – before we worship – we should work on reconciliation.

Each one of these examples holds the believer to a higher law – God’s Law. For too many, we mistakenly believe that we are under grace and not under the law and that gives us license to do what ever we want.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul writes:

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. 

Jesus is telling us to embrace the fullness of Him, much as Paul is encouraging the church to grow up. This morning let’s not just follow the letter of the Law, but the Spirit in which it was given.

Prayer for the Week

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.