Right Outside My Front Door!

Apparently Americans are feeling deprived and miserable and downright forlorn. All because we are just so incredibly and horribly bored – Bored – BORED! At least that is what the authors and reporters of some of the news stories I have heard and read have been declaring.

Apparently we are tired of being “stuck at home” for such a long time because of Covid-19 and the resulting restrictions. We are fed up with being stuck in the same place for so many months.

These stories have given me food for thought.

Honestly – I am very rarely bored. The McFarland men joke that if I have a couple of sticks and some string I am happy for hours.   They are correct. This is absolutely – positively true. I do find knitting – making and being creative endlessly entertaining. And reading – oh – I could read and read and read and read some more.

But I don’t actually need yarn or a good book to be entertained.   Well – perhaps I do need yarn to be entertained . . . I will just never understand how non-knitters can just sit there and do nothing while reading or watching television or while waiting in line or riding in the car or talking on the phone or sitting through a meeting.   So much wasted time! So much wasted creativity! So much wasted potential! But I digress. (Digression is one of my super powers!)

Another way I entertain myself is by simply paying attention to the world around me. I notice things. Actually – I love to notice things. I delight in really paying attention to the world around me.

I look. I listen.   I watch. I observe. And I am so blessed.

This week I have challenged myself to delight in and to explore the places closest to my own front door. I want to see these places with new eyes. I want to look at the places I go most often with fresh eyes.   I want to explore and adventure really – really close to home.

I want to appreciate the things I see over and over and over again!   I want to be the opposite of BORED.   I want to be engaged and alive and thankful and blessed and everything those authors don’t want me to be. (And yes – I think they were being sensationalistic and way – way too dramatic!)

This has been so much fun. I have been noticing even more than usual. I have been seeing more. I have been hearing more. I have been delighting so very much more!

I have been appreciating more. Really I have been appreciating my neighborhood and my twice daily walks so much more. I have appreciated my home and my yard and even my very own family more!

My front yard in intriguing these days. It is amazing what a change in perspective and a shift in your attitude can do.

I have noticed just how many of our neighbors smile and wave to Jason and (hopefully) me on our walks. I have taken the time to appreciate and give thanks for these kind smiles and waves and nods from our neighbors. We don’t know most of their names nor they ours – but they know us by our twice daily habit of walking. (I didn’t take any of their pictures – because they already think we are weird enough because of all of the WALKING!)

I have noticed all of the busy – busy – busy birds. We have a pair of nesting hawks who live very close by.   I love to watch our hawks hunt and soar.

I have also noticed how much happier the squirrels seem these days.   In the winter the squirrels make the most wretchedly awful noises. (You should listen to them next winter. . .) I haven’t heard that miserable sound lately.   They must be a lot happier these days.   I don’t blame them. It is so lovely outside right now!

And I have noticed all of the stunningly beautiful flowering trees and spring flowers and green leaves.

Seriously – it is just plain dazzling right now.

Just for fun I looked for some really and truly spectacular beauty within 150 or fewer steps from my very own front door. (And why yes – I did actually count my steps. I find things like this delightfully entertaining.   This is probably why I am so rarely bored.)

Just a mere 8 steps from my front door I found this . . . Jack chose to plant these when we revamped all of the flower beds when we moved into our house 9 years ago. I think of them as “Jack’s flowers.”

14 steps from my front door I encountered this delightful sea of stripe-y goodness! Jack chose these too.

Our whole cul-de-sac is filled with the glorious scent of lilac this week thanks to our white lilac bush that is located a mere 31 steps from our front door.

These lovely dogwood blossoms are gracing the tree in our neighbor’s yard just 55 steps away.

59 steps from our house are these lovely maple trees that are just covered with HELICOPTERS! I loved playing with helicopters when I was little. I look forward to playing with them again this year!

63 steps from my front door I encounter these stunning beauties.   Some might call them weeds – but I call them FLOWERS. Look at those delightful – delicate leaves. Aren’t they amazing? And to think – I might have missed them if I had not been paying attention and taking the time to explore my world.

68 steps in the other direction I encountered these lovely white blossoms on our neighbors’ tree. I was transfixed.

Are you craving some spring color? Color can be found 115 steps from my front door in these brilliant red buds just waiting to burst open in the spring sunshine.

Or 129 steps away in these delicate pink blossoms that are absolutely covering this tree.

Try looking at your world with new eyes. Try a fresh perspective. Try NOT being bored. Try being engaged and intrigued! Try being open to awe and wonder!

Where do you see beauty? What is intriguing right outside your front door? Where do you uncover blessings? What catches your eye?

I find being intrigued by the world around me leaves me feeling so much happier and more content and blessed.

And it is just plain FUN!

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Worship for Saint Stephen for Sunday, April 11, 2021

Acts 4:32-35

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 133

How good and how pleasant it is,
when kindred live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head, flowing down upon the beard,
upon the beard of Aaron, flowing down upon the collar of his robe. 

It is like the dew of Hermon flowing down upon the hills of Zion.
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing: life forevermore.  Amen!

1 John 1:1 – 1 John 2:2

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint 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 Gospel of our Lord.

Our sermon this week is preached by Pastor Dan Fugate. The Rev. Dr. Daniel Fugate serves our Lord as an assistant to the Bishop of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod for Discipleship.  Thank you Pastor Fugate for the blessing of sharing God’s Word with us today!

Yellow! Glorious – Amazing – Awesome – Delightful – Yellow!

I love color. I have long been fascinated by color.

My favorite color is green.   I am enchanted by the color green and all of its various shades and hues.   Green is also Jason and Jack’s favorite color.

Will is the outlier in our family. Will’s favorite color is orange. He has loved orange since he was old enough to express his opinion and Will has been expressing his opinions since he was a tiny guy! Will delights in telling people that he has taught his family to love and appreciate the color orange. This is true. Before Will and his passion for all things orange – I had very little appreciation for the color orange.   Now I appreciate orange and can see its beauty.

Orange will never be my favorite color. Orange is a bit too “something” for me (bold – bright – shocking – startling – orange) – but orange is a lovely color. I give thanks that my youngest son has opened my eyes to the beauty of the color orange.

But the color I have been obsessed with lately has been yellow!   Yes – yellow. Yellow has been on my mind for weeks now. Actually the color yellow has been on my mind for months.

Yellow has been my goal and aspiration. Yellow – yellow – yellow!

I have been thinking about yellow. I have been talking about yellow. I have been searching and seeking for the color yellow on maps of Kentucky. I have been praying about yellow!

Jason and I gave each other daily updates on how close we were to yellow and then celebrated joyfully when we finally achieved YELLOW – glorious – amazing – delightful – blessed – YELLOW.

Now we update each other on how yellow the yellow is!

I am – of course – talking about the Covid-19 color coding warning system for counties. Red – orange – Yellow and GREEN.

The Saint Stephen church council decided that after Jefferson County had returned to the Yellow category and stayed there for 3 weeks we can return to in-person worship.

Well – let the countdown clocks and calendars start – because Jefferson County, Kentucky is finally in the YELLOW. Whoo-hoo! Hallelujah!   Yippee! Finally!

We will plan/hope/pray to return to in-person worship at Saint Stephen at 10:00 am on Sunday, May 2nd.

(Jefferson County is barely in the yellow as I write this.) https://govstatus.egov.com/kycovid19

We will still be social distancing and wearing our masks. The Saint Stephen church council and I are adamant about being wise stewards of our health and the health of everyone in our community.

I look forward to seeing you in person – from a safe social distance – on Sunday, May 2nd!

We will continue to provide on-line worship for our sisters and brothers in Christ who prefer to worship in this manner.

You are all in my heart, thoughts, and prayers.

In Christ –

Pastor Kerri

Easter Worship, Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Worship for Sunday, April 4, 2021

Isaiah 25:6-9 (Glenn Eisenbrey)

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all people,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (Cheryl Markley)

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!
Let Israel say,
‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’

The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
‘The right hand of the Lord acts valiantly;
the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord acts valiantly.’
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the acts of the Lord.
The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Amen.

Acts 10:34-43 (Marilyn Mills)

Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 16:1-8.

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint [Jesus’ body]. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Today we all joined Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James for an early morning walk. But this wasn’t three friends enjoying a walk together for pleasure or for exercise. They weren’t setting off to the market to shop for food or to the well for water.

This was a walk these women never wanted to take.   Because our early morning journey took us to a cemetery. These women have come to Jesus’ tomb. They have come to anoint Jesus’ dead body – because there just hadn’t been enough time to complete this sad task on Friday evening before the sun set and the Sabbath began.

They have come to finish the heartbreaking task of burying their beloved friend – their teacher . . . and their Lord (?) – Jesus of Nazareth.

They had thought. They had hoped. They had prayed that Jesus was their long expected Lord and Savior. That Jesus of Nazareth was the one who would deliver them . . . that he was the one who would save them . . .

This was work they never expected to need to do for Jesus. Jesus wasn’t supposed to die like this. Not at just 33 years old.   Not on a Roman cross.

Not a man who helped so many. Who gave so much. A man of love and kindness and generosity. A man who fed the hungry and healed the sick.   A man who was good and gracious and merciful. A man who had even raised his friend Lazarus from the dead!

And yet – Jesus had died on a Roman cross.   They had seen Jesus’ lifeless – dead body with their own eyes. Jesus was dead. . .

It felt like their world had ended. Their hearts were broken. Their hopes were crushed. Their souls were so very heavy with the weight of grief. They ache for the one they had hoped was their Lord.

Their hearts and their feet probably feel like they are made of lead. We know this – because we too have walked in similar processions. Our feet have walked these paths. We know . . . oh yes – we know . . .

Maybe we haven’t actually prepared a loved one’s body for burial like these women set off to do that morning. But we have all walked those slow – heavy steps into the funeral home to say goodbye.

We have all wrapped our arms around the shoulders of a grieving friend.

We have needed to be wrapped in loving arms when the pain feels like it might just completely overwhelm us this time.

We have all struggled to absorb and comprehend really bad news.

We have been to funerals. We have heard the pastor say “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” over the grave of a loved one. Most of us have been to far too many funerals and heard these words spoken far too many times. . .

We have all felt the weight of grief. We know what it is to ache and long for just a moment more with a loved one.

So we can imagine what these women were thinking and feeling that long ago morning. Because we too know sorrow and grief. We have been there. We know this.

This year – of all years – taught us that.   This year taught us about grief and disappointment and heartache. These past 13 months have taught us you don’t always get what you want or expect from this life. This year taught us the storms of this life can come out of nowhere and leave you reeling.

But when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome arrive at Jesus’ tomb their world is turned upside down and inside out – again. Because – nothing is as it should be.

Jesus’ body isn’t in the tomb . . .

Instead – a stranger is waiting for them in Jesus’ tomb. And this stranger boldly declares to them that Jesus “has been raised from the dead. Jesus is not here.”

Jesus has been raised from the dead! Jesus is not dead! Jesus is risen!

What could this mean? What does this mean?

Jesus’ empty tomb means death has been destroyed.   And sin has been defeated.   Jesus’ own innocent death on the cross and his resurrection three days later broke the bonds of eternal death forevermore.

In Jesus’ empty tomb – we see that God’s grace, love, and mercy have triumphed over sin and death.

God’s love and God’s mercy are stronger than sin and death.

Talk about Good News! Well actually – this is awesome – amazing – earth shattering – life transforming – angel chorus singing – mind blowing news! There is simply no news better than this.

Sin and death have been defeated!

Death does not have the last word with God.   Life is the last word. Just as Jesus lives you too shall live.

And so today is a day for celebration.   Today is a day for smiles so big that our faces begin to ache. Today is a day for belly laughs – boogie dances and whoops of delight.

Today is a day for alleluias and amens. Today is a day for hallelujahs and whoo-hoos and lots of them!

And maybe – just maybe – today is even a day for some hootin’ and hollerin’. (We do live in the great Commonwealth of Kentucky after all!)

Even for Lutherans – even for God’s beloved “Frozen Chosen.”

Death and sin have been conquered.

Truly this is very – very Good News – indeed! AMEN!

Good Friday Worship, April 2, 2021

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Good Friday . . . I really think not. Good Friday – the name just seems so strange when you think about it.

Good Friday . . . this is most definitely not a “good” Friday.

Talk about a day that feels misnamed. Good Friday . . . what in heaven or on earth could ever be good about this day of all days. This day started off bad and just got worse and worse and worse with each passing moment.

This day is Bad Friday – Horrible Friday – Heartbreaking Friday. This day is Tragic Friday – but not good. Most definitely not good. Nothing about today feels good or right.

Jesus has been arrested after being falsely accused of crimes he would never – could never have committed. Blasphemy against God the Father – or seeking worldly riches and power.   As if – Jesus would ever do anything like that.

Jesus was put on trial – but his trial was anything but fair.   The outcome of Jesus’ trial was determined long before his arrest.

Jesus was taunted – tormented – and tortured. Jesus was beaten and mocked. And then they nailed Jesus to a Roman cross. They crucified Jesus. They drove thick spikes into Jesus’ wrists and ankles . . .

Crucifixion . . . Well – if the very word makes your stomach churn that is exactly what Rome wanted. That is exactly was crucifixion was designed to do. Crucifixion was designed by Rome to be a horrifying – excruciating – shocking – incredibly painful and slow way to die.

Crucifixion was designed to strike terror into the hearts and souls of everyone who saw it. And lots of people saw it because crucifixions happened in public.

Imagine your own death being a public spectacle. Imagine your fear – your pain – your suffering – your humiliation – your heartache – your very death being other people’s entertainment?   (And we thought people were cruel on social media!?!?)

This is what happened to Jesus on Good Friday. Jesus hung dying on a Roman cross in horrible – unimaginable pain as people watched.

So why do we call this day Good Friday . . . We call it good – because we know the rest of the story. We call it good because we know the why behind all of this suffering and pain.   We call it good because we know there is more to come. So – so very much more to come.

We call it good – because of the incredible blessing Jesus’ death on the cross is for each of us.

We call it good – because all of this was for us.

And now – now we are called to journey with Jesus to the cross.   And as we go with Jesus – let us all remember – this was for us. All of this was for us.

(Calling the day of the of Jesus’ crucifixion and death Good Friday is unique to those of us who speak the English language. In German, for example, it is called Mourning Friday. After all, that is what Jesus’ disciples did on that long ago Friday – they mourned for Jesus.

Some scholars believe we started out calling this day “God’s Friday,” and somehow over time the word “God” got switched to “Good.” Another example of this would be the phrase “God be with you,” which today is simply “good-bye.”)

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 18:1-19:42

[Jesus] went out with his disciples to a place where there was a garden. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

So they arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, “Are you one of this man’s disciples?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said; they know.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “Are you not also one of his disciples?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation has handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When they saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull. There they crucified him, and with him two others. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maundy Thursday Worship, April 1, 2021

Maundy Thursday is the beginning of the Three Days – the ancient observance of the mystery of our salvation, which plunges us into the death of Jesus and brings us with him to resurrection life.

Confession and Forgiveness

Pastor – Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this Lenten season we have heard our Lord’s call to struggle against sin, death, and the devil – all that keeps us from loving God and from loving each other. God never wearies of forgiving us when we sin and from giving us the peace of reconciliation.   Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbors, and enter this most holy of weeks reconciled with God and with one another.

You may be seated or kneel. Silence is kept for reflection and self-examination.

Pastor – Most merciful God,

All – we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.   We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.   We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.   Amen.

Pastor – In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for his sake God forgives us all our sins. As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by his authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All – Amen.

The cross that is on the deacon’s kneeler.

Greeting

Pastor – May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

All – And also with you.

The Prayer of the Day

Pastor – May the Lord be with you.

AllAnd also with you.

Pastor – Holy God, source of love, on the night of his betrayal, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment: to love one another as he had loved them. Write this commandment in our hearts, and give us the will to serve others with love and generosity, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  

All – Amen.

Saint Stephen’s processional cross

The First Reading – Exodus 12:1-3 & 11-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household.

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

The Word of the Lord.

All Thanks be to God.

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-17

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.

O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving-maid. You have loosed my bonds.

I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.

This parament covers the Communion chalice at Saint Stephen.

The Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The Word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

This depiction of the Lord’s Supper sits in our chancel most Sundays.

The Gospel – John 13:1-17, 34-35

Pastor – The Holy Gospel according to Saint John the 13th chapter.

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

PastorThe Gospel of the Lord.

All – Praise to you, O Christ.

The Message

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

On Monday evening – as I was concocting supper for the McFarland household I overheard a rather heated discussion coming from our backyard where Will was playing with his very best friend in the whole wide world.

These 2 have been playing together their entire lives. Usually they play together pretty happily. Most of the time all is well. But sometimes they get under each other’s skin. Sometimes there are passionate disagreements.

Monday evening there was a disagreement. In fact – I could tell Will and Annabelle were struggling a bit.

Knowing these two wonderful – but – passionate – life-long friends – I knew – it was best to give them time to work it out themselves. So I just listened – watched and waited.

As I listened – I heard Annabelle declare while flipping her curls in the evening sun – “William McFarland – you are NOT the boss of me!” Hmm – I thought – she must be annoyed. She called him William instead of Will and she tacked on a McFarland for added emphasis.

I wondered – what my own little spitfire would do with this declaration. I have heard Will say something quite similar to Jack when deeply provoked . . .

Will – took a deep breath and replied – “I know Annabelle. Your mom is. But I really wish I could be the boss.”

“Well you’re not William – so just STOP IT!” – came the declaration from Annabelle.

And by some miracle – he did STOP IT.

Most of us are just like Annabelle and Will. We don’t like to be bossed around or told what to do.

Instead – we want to be in charge.   We want to be the boss. We want to make the rules. So we cross our arms and passionately declare “you’re NOT the boss of me!”

Yet – here we are on Maundy Thursday. Which is just nerdy – church talk – for Commandment Thursday.

But whether we call today – Maundy Thursday or Commandment Thursday – the name comes from the fact that on the very first Maundy Thursday – Jesus gave us all a commandment he wants us to keep.

In our Gospel reading for today – Jesus commands us to love one another.   Jesus doesn’t say he is giving us a new recommendation. Or a new suggestion. Or a new tip.

Nope – Jesus tells us it is a commandment. It is something he expects us to do.

And this commandment isn’t an easy commandment. Oh – how I wish Jesus had said – “I give you a new commandment – you are to tolerate one another.” That would have been a whole lot easier to do. We might get that commandment right every once in a while.   Tolerating people is so much easier than loving people.

But Jesus didn’t say tolerate – he said LOVE.

Of course – we are supposed to love the people it is easy to love.   You know – the people who are like us and agree with us and are nice to us.   But Jesus also meant we are supposed to love our enemies – and people who annoy us – and people who don’t seem very loveable.

When Jesus said we are supposed to love one another – he meant we are supposed to love absolutely – positively everyone.   EVERYONE!

Thankfully Jesus showed us how to love others.   Jesus showed us how to keep this commandment. So how did Jesus show this sort of love in his own life?

Well – loving one another does not mean we are always going to agree with each other.   Just look at Jesus’ earthly life.   Jesus did not agree with the Pharisees and Sadducees on much of anything. But – Jesus loved them anyway.

And the same is true for us. We are called to love even the people with whom we disagree. Even those people who don’t have their masks on or who are careless about social distancing or who disagree with us about how to handle the pandemic. Jesus showed us quite clearly through his own words and actions you can passionately disagree with someone and still treat them with kindness and love.

Jesus loved everyone – yep – that’s right – everyone. Jesus loved Judas – even after Judas betrayed him. Jesus loved Peter even though Peter denied knowing Jesus when Jesus needed him the most. Jesus loved the men who were crucified with him – even though they were criminals.   Jesus loved the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross. Jesus loved all people.

And the same is true for us. We are called to love all people – even people who disappoint us – even people who annoy us – even the people we are tempted to call enemies. Even people with whom we passionately disagree!

Jesus shared what he had. He fed the hungry – healed the sick – and cared for people. Jesus was never too busy to spend time with someone. Jesus knew a very important part of loving others was sharing yourself and your possessions with them. And we are called to do the same thing. Jesus was generous and we are called to be generous too!

Most importantly Jesus showed us loving other people means telling them about God’s love, grace, and mercy. Jesus knew the most loving thing you could ever do for someone was to tell her about God.   And the same is true for us.   Part of loving people is sharing the Good News of God’s love, grace, and mercy with others.

Jesus’ final commandment asks a lot from us. Jesus’ expectations are high. He loves us enough to ask us to strive toward being better people.

And Jesus promises us if we do these things and have love for one another – then everyone will know we are Jesus’ disciples. Truly that is Good News. Amen.

This cross is found where we keep the offering plates.

The Apostles’ Creed

God has made us his people through our baptism into Christ Jesus.  Living together in trust and in hope, we confess our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed.

All:  I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Pastor Trusting in our Lord, let us pray for the church, the world, and for all who are in need.

A brief silence.

Pastor You are our Teacher and Lord. Guide those with authority over others to live lives of service. Bring an end to war and injustice. Lord, in your mercy,

Allhear our prayer.

Pastor Feed those who have no food. Comfort those who have been betrayed. Console those who mourn. Tend those who are sick especially those we name in our hearts. Lord, in your mercy,

Allhear our prayer.

Pastor You give us a new commandment, to love one another. Welcome to your table all the faithful who come this night. Work through our hands, so that others will know we are your disciples. Lord, in your mercy,

Allhear our prayer.

Pastor You love us to the end. Keep us mindful of those who have gone before us in the faith, who served their neighbors faithfully just as you have served your people. Lord, in your mercy,

Allhear our prayer.

Pastor Now is the acceptable time to offer our prayers to you, God of grace and truth. Receive them in your mercy, and grant us all that we need, in Jesus’ name.

AllAmen.

This cross is found on the top of Saint Stephen’s Communion trays.

The Celebration of Holy Communion

Pastor – May the Lord be with you.

All – And also with you.

Pastor – Lift up your hearts.

All – We lift them to the Lord.

Pastor – Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

All – It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Pastor – It is indeed right, our duty and our joy that we should at all times and in all places give thanks and praise to you, almighty and merciful God, through our Savior Jesus Christ; whose suffering and death gave salvation to all. You gather your people around the cross, transforming death into life. And so, with the church on earth and the hosts of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

All – Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Amen.

The Words of Institution

Pastor In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks; he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: take and eat; this is my body, given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, Jesus took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying:  this cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.  Do this in remembrance of me.

Pastor Lord remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray:  

All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.  

This cross is found on our hymn board.

Invitation to Holy Communion  

Pastor The feast is prepared. You are welcome at the Lord’s Table.

Reception of Communion  

You are welcome at the Lord’s Table.  We encourage you to gather wine and bread or grape juice and crackers and join us in celebrating Holy Communion.  Jesus used what he already had to celebrate Holy Communion at the Last Supper.  Jesus literally picked up the bread and the wine that were on the table right in front of him and used those.  Jesus did not order anything special.  Jesus used what was available to him.  We can do the exact same thing.  We can use what we have in our homes.   

Pastor – The body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – given and shed for you.  

Pastor – May the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you and keep you in his grace.  

All – Amen.  

This cross is located in our church flowerbed.

Post Communion Prayer  

Pastor – We thank you, O God, for the free gift of righteousness and peace in Jesus Christ, whose body and blood have nourished us here. Lead us out of this house of prayer to the places you will show us, so that we may be a blessing to others in the name of Christ, our redeemer.  

All – Amen.  

There is no benediction at this service.      

A Feast for the Soul and the Eyes!

Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
 The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.

– The Song of Solomon 2:10-13

Sunday evening before Zoom Bible study I went for a walk with Jason.   I realize this is in no way a surprising development. Most days Jason and I go for at least one and usually two walks around our neighborhood.   We are walkers. It is what we do/who we are.

But yesterday evening as we walked I tried to be just a bit most present – just a little more in the moment. A little less distracted by to do lists and work thoughts and worries about the world and pandemics. A little more right there – right then.

I tried to notice more. I tried of listen to the world around me. I tried to see more. I tried to delight and to give thanks for the blessing of that Sunday evening.

And oh my was there a lot to see and to hear and to give thanks for last evening! Spring is here!!! Finally whoo-hoo! Yippee! Hallelujah!

Will was playing outside with Jack and the little girls from next door.   Their laughter was absolutely ringing through the air as they played a rousing game of soccer in our backyard.   They were so very happy and their happiness was contagious. I felt a smile spreading across my face just hearing their laughter and chatty chatter.

While I was listening I also heard the wind whistling . Wow – was it windy/blustery/blowing yesterday evening!

Then as Jason and I were walking on a straight stretch of road – I closed my eyes for just a moment – and I listened to the birds chirping and calling and singing. (When I do this in the winter the only thing I hear is squirrels complaining about how miserably cold it is outside! And yes – I do speak squirrel . . . don’t you?)

Once I reopened my eyes – I noticed the absolute explosion of color.   Seriously in the last 4 or 5 weeks our world has changed dramatically.

Remember this . . .

This picture was taken just five weeks ago.

Everywhere I looked there was color. It is truly a feast outside for the eyes and the winter weary soul right now.

After our exercise had been achieved and the serious walking walk was over for the day – I decided to grab the camera and to go for a meander through the neighborhood. Jason was in charge of supper so I actually had some time to spare! So awesome!

I wandered and I meandered and I simply looked for beauty. I marveled and felt awe. I delighted and gave thanks for the blessing of SPRING!

Have you ever really taken the time to look closely – really – really closely at a flowering tree? Take a look today. They are intriguing.

I marveled at the incredible variety of spring blossoms.   There are so many different flowering trees and shrubs and bushes right now. And the daffodils – the variety of daffodils once you start paying attention is amazing – so – so many varieties.

I stopped and felt the warmth of the spring sun on my face. I watched the clouds moving and shifting and changing shape.

I gave thanks winter was behind me and I had made it through the long dark night of my soul yet again. ( I really – really dislike winter.)

I gave thanks for spring. I gave thanks for all of the many – many abundant reminders of God’s presence in our lives. I gave thanks for the blessing of spring and the blessing of my family and for the time to wander and meander and notice and delight.

I encourage you to take some time today or tomorrow to notice something beautiful – something lovely. To slow down and really see something created by God and to look at it.   And to give yourself the opportunity to appreciate the work of our creator God. Give yourself the gift and the blessing of being intrigued and interested and inspired.

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Sunday Worship, March 28, 2021

Processional Gospel

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 11:1-10

When Jesus and the disciples were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

The Gospel of our Lord.

Isaiah 50:4-9a

The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.

The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?

The Word of the Lord.

Philippians 2:5-11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark chapter 15

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the festival Pilate used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then Pilate answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For Pilate realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

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

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’ And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to Jesus to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’

Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Life is full of all sorts of unexpected twists and turns – isn’t it?

Life has a way of handing us surprises we never saw coming.  Surprises we didn’t ask for . . . surprises we really and truly do not want!

Sometimes life can still shock even the most jaded among us.

Far too often life can leave us feeling broken and battered.  One moment everything can seem fine and dandy and the next our lives have been turned upside down and inside out.

One moment it feels like everything is right in your world and the next you find yourself standing over the wreckage of your former life wondering what on earth just happened.

This past year has been that way for so many of us.  Most of us never saw this wretched pandemic coming.  And we certainly never imagined it would last for such a very long time or the shocking toll it would take on so many precious human lives.

The toll Covid-19 is taking is staggering.  Almost 550,00 Americans and more than 2.7 million people across the globe have died from Covid-19.  These numbers are heartbreaking.

Of the people who have recovered from Covid-19 – we are learning almost 1/3rd of these folks continue to struggle with serious – ongoing health problems like fatigue – breathing problems and chronic pain.  I doubt – these people consider themselves to be recovered from Covid-19.  Chronic fatigue – pain and breathing problems just wouldn’t feel like recovery to most of us . . .

And then there are the loneliness and the isolation.  The lost jobs and the lost learning.  The missed opportunities and the separation.

We are over 1 year into this pandemic and it still holds our world and our lives in its grips.

This is hard.  So very – very hard.

And we didn’t see it coming.  We were unprepared for a global pandemic of this magnitude.  Covid-19 seemed to come out of the clear blue sky.  With its suffering and sorrow and pain and hurt and loss and grief.  Covid-19 made a huge mess of our lives.  Covid-19 has left so many of us reeling and longing for the good old days of 2019 . . . Our world has been turned upside down and inside out!

The disciples experience something very similar in our Gospel readings for this week.

In our first Gospel reading for Palm Sunday – the disciples are part of a glorious celebration.  At long last people have moved beyond curiosity to belief!  Finally – after 3 years of grueling hard work – people are recognizing Jesus for who he really is!  Jesus is being welcomed as the Savior of Israel.  Finally – Jesus is getting the welcome and recognition he deserves.

People are singing Jesus’ praises and shouting his name on high!  People are boldly declaring Jesus is their Lord and Savior and the one who will deliver them from their Roman oppressors!

The people of Jerusalem have a great – big – wonderful celebration!  They hold an impromptu parade and spread palm branches and their own coats on the road to welcome Jesus.  They cheer and shout and cry out “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The disciples were probably high-fiving and fist-bumping and woo-hooing and grinning from ear to ear.  Life was good!  So very – very good!

But then – well then – we heard the rest of our Gospel reading.  Things changed so quickly – it must have given them whiplash.  It must have felt like the rug was pulled out from under them.  Like a punch in the gut.

Their world came crashing down around them.  Everything went from gloriously awesome to terrifying horrible in the blink of an eye.

In less than a week the people who were singing Jesus’ praises were now calling for his death.  One day they were declaring Jesus to be their Lord and Savior and later that week the very same people were demanding his life!

Talk about a shocking turn of events.  To go from singing Jesus’ praises to demanding his crucifixion in just days . . . . This was incomprehensible.

This certainly wasn’t what the disciples had been hoping for at all!  This was hard – too hard.  This was terrifying.  This was crushing.  And yet – this was exactly where they found themselves.

What were they supposed to do or to think?  Where were they supposed to turn?

What did all of this mean?

Even though this turn of events seemed so very shocking – Jesus had known it was coming.  And Jesus had tried to prepare them.  In fact – Jesus had been preparing them for this moment for years.  Jesus had been telling them it was coming.  That his entire earthly ministry was leading up to this very moment.

Remember – not too many weeks ago when Jesus declared to his disciples and to all of us – “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me?” (Mark 8:34)

Or when Jesus declared that “the Son of Man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, the scribes, and be killed and after 3 days rise again.” (Mark 8:31)

Jesus said the exact same thing just a few days later (Mark 9:31).  And again while Jesus and the disciples were on the road walking into Jerusalem (Mark 10:32-34).

Jesus knew he had to die on that Roman cross.  Jesus knew this was coming.

But why?  What did this mean?

This meant that Jesus’ death on the cross had a purpose.  Jesus’ death had meaning.  It was a sacrifice – freely given.

The words we heard today from the Gospel of Mark are about a sacrifice freely given. About a choice.

This story is about Jesus and his disciples.  And it is also about us.  It is about our own broken sinful selves and our desperate need for salvation.

This all happened to Jesus – not because of his sins – but because of our sins.  These events took place because of us.

All of this was for you.

And know this too – Jesus underwent all of this for you willingly.  No one – not even God the Father– forced this upon Jesus.  Jesus chose this path – because of you – because he loves you.  The trial – the mocking – the beatings – the pain – the suffering – the crucifixion and even Jesus’ death were for you – because he loves you.  Amen.

Keeping Some Perspective

I will be completely honest – the past few weeks have been hard for me. Actually the past few months have been challenging for me.

I have been feeling particularly crummy lately.  I am struggling mightily with patience. Things that rolled off of me before aren’t rolling off quite so easily these days.  I am just not myself.

I try so hard to be optimistic and kind every day. I seek the beautiful and the good. I am a glass half-full kind of person. I really and truly do go around seeking reminders of God’s presence and looking for God’s blessings in my daily life.

I look for rainbows when it is raining. Seriously – I actually look for rainbows when it is raining.   Just last Wednesday (Saint Patrick’s Day) it was raining buckets when I noticed the sun had come out. Of course – the hunt for rainbows in the McFarland household was on immediately. And lo and behold – there was a glorious rainbow. Jack found it for me and took wonderful pictures!

You see – this looking for rainbows business is such a part of who I am – my children do it too! I love that I have taught my children to look for rainbows when it is raining.   Seriously – my sons look for rainbows when it is raining! This is a proud parenting achievement for me. My sons look for rainbows and they both eat chickpeas and kale!

But – as I said – I have been hurting physically and struggling – so I have not been doing the best job of delighting and seeking and exploring lately. Pain has slowed me down.   Some days pain slows me way – way down.   I haven’t become cynical. My glass is still half-full. (It would be so very – very sad to become one of those people who only see the worst in others and who spread yuck and meanness in the world. I always feel so sorry for those people. I can’t imagine how sad their lives must be . . .)

But I realized this week that I have been noticing the negatives of life more lately. I have let my focus rest on those unpleasant things more often. I have been focusing a bit too much on the yuck and the annoying and the pain and the disappointments. My thoughts have lingered longer than usual on the things that hurt or bug me. (As if I can change the course of action the governor in an adjacent state will take with the power of my thoughts . . . And those unmasked people really don’t care what I think either! In fact – I would just be very wise to avoid both and move on with my life.)

So this week I have been working really hard on resetting my focus.   I don’t hurt any less. (Wow – did those wretchedly awful muscle spasms in my knee hurt this weekend!) I still passionately disagree with those who don’t wear their masks or maintain a safe social distance or choose to spread hurt and negativity – but I can seek the good and the beautiful and God’s presence.

I know I will be happier this way. I know my life will feel more blessed. I know life will be richer and far more delightful. I know I will experience more awe and I will smile more and laugh more with my husband and sons and generally enjoy this one life we have to live more.

Frankly – I can dwell on beauty and on God’s presence or I can dwell on selfishness and hurt.

I think I will choose beauty and God’s presence.

And I found that even while limping I can find beauty. I can delight in the good and God’s presence and God’s love even on a not so great day.

And these reminders of God’s presence and God’s blessings and God’s love help. Actually – they help a lot! They help me cope with the zings of life and the barbs that come my way from simply being alive in this world.

They remind me I am not alone. They remind me I do not have to do this alone.

They remind me God loves ALL of us. (I think we all need this reminder right now in these very polarizing times!) I know I need this reminder too.   I need to remember that God loves that person who does not wear his mask and feels differently than I do about science and the CDC.

They remind me God is always present with us – each and every single moment of our earthly lives.

Life is often challenging. It gets downright exhausting and hard sometimes – but I do find being very intentional about seeking God’s presence and remembering my blessings adds so much joy too.

Where have you seen God’s presence lately? How has God made his presence known to you?

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

 

With Us Always – Mid-Week Lenten Worship for Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Pastor:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

All:  Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, and God of all consolation.

Pastor:  Seek the Lord our God while he may be found.

All:  Call upon him while he is near.

Pastor:  Let the wicked abandon their ways,

All:  and the unrighteous their thoughts.

Pastor:  Let them turn to the Lord for mercy,

All:  to our God, who is generous in forgiving.

Pastor:  All you who are thirsty, come to the water.  You who have no money, come receive bread, and eat.  Come without paying and without cost.

All:  Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, and the God of all consolation.  Amen.

The Prayer of the Day

Pastor:  Let us pray.  O Lord, you led your ancient people through the wilderness, and brought them to the Promised Land.  Guide now the people of your Church, that, following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the peace and joy of the world to come; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.  Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed

Pastor:  God has made us his people through our baptism into Christ Jesus.  Living together in trust and in hope, we confess our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed:

All:  I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

“Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery”

(Evangelical Lutheran Worship #334)

Verse 1: From the dawning of creation you have loved us as your own; stay with us through all temptation, make us turn to you alone.

Verse 2: In our call to be a blessing, may we be a blessing true; may we live and die confessing Christ as Lord of all we do.

Verse 3: Living Water of salvation, be the fountain of each soul; springing up in new creation, flow in us and make us whole.

Verse 4: Give us eyes to see you clearly; make us children of your light. Give us hearts to live more nearly as your gospel shining bright.

Verse 5: God of all our fear and sorrow, God who lives beyond our death, hold us close through each tomorrow, love us near as every breath.

Scripture Reading

Psalm 88

O Lord, God of my salvation,
   when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
let my prayer come before you;
   incline your ear to my cry.

For my soul is full of troubles,
   and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
   I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
   like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
   for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
   in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
   and you overwhelm me with all your waves.

You have caused my companions to shun me;
   you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
   my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
   I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
   Do the shades rise up to praise you?
         
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
   or your faithfulness in Abandon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
   or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
   in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast me off?
   Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
   I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
Your wrath has swept over me;
   your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
   from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;
   my companions are in darkness.  Amen.

Homily

This week the message is being shared with us by Pastor Ken Boehm from Ascension Lutheran Church here in Louisville, Kentucky.

Lord’s Prayer

Pastor: Lord remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray:

All:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,  now and forever. Amen.

or

All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Blessing

Pastor: May the Lord bless you and keep you this day and all the days of your eternal lives. Amen.