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May 20.2018
PRELUDE Fountain Reverie - Fletcher Margaret Smith


*CHORAL INTROIT Spirit of the Loving God #247
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Minister: The Lord said: You shall receive power when the Holy
Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses
in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of
the earth.
People: Come Holy Spirit; fill the hearts of your faithful, and
kindle in us the fire of your love. Alleluia!

*HYMN Sweet, Sweet Spirit #252

*INVOCATION: Kindling Spirit, build well the fire in our hearts this day. Fan us to flame, so that all will see the Christ-presence of love blazing in our midst. Burn the witness on our tongues: Christ's Spirit moves among us! Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, has set his Church on fire with strength and boldness and power.
Kindling Spirit, build well the fire in our hearts this day! Amen.


RESPONSIVE READING: The Holy Spirit #644 Tom Rowland

Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Minister: May God, who is gracious, show forth His mercy to us,
People: And take not His Holy Spirit from us.
(using debts and debtors)

OFFERTORY Like the Murmur of the Dove's Song Choir
*OFFERTORY PRAYER: God of wind, Word, and fire, send down your Holy Spirit, we pray, to cleanse our hearts, to hallow our gifts, and to make perfect the offering of ourselves to You, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.

ANTHEM Spirit, Come, Dispel Our Sadness Choir

SCRIPTURE: Acts 2:1-21 Tom Rowland
RESPONSIVE HYMN Spirit of God, Descend Upon My heart #249
SERMON Come, Holy Spirit! Rev. Greg Russell

*PARTING HYMN Holy Spirit, with Light Divine #248


POSTLUDE Hornpipe (Water Music) - Handel Margaret Smith

*Indicates that you may rise in body or spirit to praise God.


The flowers are given by Mel & Joyce Back in celebration of 62 Years of Marriage & by Jay & Betty Burdue in celebration of 61 Years of Marriage. A Wonderfully combined 123 years!

We would like to thank Margaret (Peg) Smith for filling in for David this morning.


Minister: Rev. Gregory A. Russell E-Mail:
Organist: David Cobb E-mail:
Web site



GOIN HOME TO MAMA'S. . . a Mothers Day Sermon

Who, or what, is God? Where shall we look for God's presence? Our sages and philosophers are by no means unanimous in their response, but they do concur on one matter: Who or what God is, ultimately, is unknowable, for God is the Hidden One, the One whose face is concealed; or the Infinite, Unmeasurable One, Unknowable, Unfathomable, Indiscernible. In God's encounter with Moses, God refuses to be bound by something as fundamental to us even as gender, simply saying instead,I am that I am; and then saying later, Tell them I am sent you. This is to be my name for all time and forever. [Exodus 3:15]

But we have to have some way to talk about God, so those same sages try to capture our experience of God in familiar images, ones we can comprehend. Early attempts, such as the Kabbalists, went so far as to try to sketch God's form the primordial man with each body part associated with one of God's attributes: heads, arms, legs, torso, even right down to genitalia.

Jewish midrash gives us images of God weeping at the sight of the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea (for they are God's children, too), God bound in chains and forced into exile with Israel, God laying out manna for them each morning in the wilderness, God studying Torah with the old rabbis.
And we are familiar with a host of Biblical images for God: an immovable rock [Psalms 19, 31 and 62], a shield [Psalms 3, 18, 28], a fortress [Psalms 18, 31, 62], commander of a host of angels [Psalms 24, 46], shepherd [Psalm 23; Isaiah 40; Ezekiel 34], father [1Chronicles 29 et al], and king [Psalm 29, 47, 1Timothy 1]. We forget (to be charitable) or ignore the images of God as a nursing mother (found both in Isaiah [66:12-3] and Hosea [11:4]) and the vision of God as a mother eagle [Isaiah 40:31]. Each of these metaphors is an allusion, not meant to be appropriated with a flat-footed literalism, but instead meant to point us toward something we can imagine but not really see. It is one of life's little ironies that a tool meant to expand our vision of the Most High and make that vision accessible to us has become a straight-jacket of conventional thought and speech, where we refer to God exclusively in masculine terms. If an exclusively male God is the only one we have, then our God is too small, to borrow J.B. Philips arresting title from his little book (first published in 1961.)

So, this morning I invite you to stretch your imagination. Come on; it won't hurt. I promise. I invite you to imagine God along with me, and I invite you to imagine her as a woman a woman who is growing older. She moves a little more slowly now; she can't quite stand erect; her hair is thinning; her face is lined, her smile no longer innocent; her voice is scratchy; her eyes tired; at times she strains to hear. God is a woman, and she is growing older.

But she remembers everything.

This Mothers Day, God sits down in her kitchen at the table, opens her book of memories, and begins to turn the pages and God remembers.

There, she says, there is the world when it was new and humanity when they were young . . . As God turns the pages of the book, she smiles as she sees before her all the beautiful colors of our skin and all the varied shapes and sizes of our bodies. She marvels at our accomplishments: the music we have written and sung, the gardens we've planted, the skyscrapers we've built, the stories we've told, the ideas we've spun out.

They now can fly faster than the winds I send,she murmurs to herself, and they sail across the water that I gathered into seas. They even visit the moon that I set in the sky. But they rarely visit me.

There, pasted into the pages of her book are all the cards we ever have sent her when we did not bother to visit. She notices our signatures scrawled beneath the printed words someone else has composed.
Then there are the pages she would rather skip over, the things she wishes she could forget. But they stare her in the face, and she cannot help but remember: her children spoiling the home she created for them; brothers killing each other or putting one another in chains . . . She remembers seeing us race down dangerous roads and being unable to stop us in time. She remembers the dreams she had for us some which were never fulfilled.

And she remembers the names, so many names, inscribed in the book: names of children she has lost through war and famine, earthquake and accident, disease and suicide . . . And God remembers the many times she sat by a bedside, weeping because she could not halt the processes she herself had set in motion.

So, tonight she lights candles millions and millions of candles, lighting up the night sky to make it bright as day. Tonight, God will stay up all night, turning the pages of her book.

God is lonely tonight, longing for her children her playful ones, like Ephraim, her darling. Her body aches for us. All that dwells on earth perishes, but God endures; so, she suffers the sadness of losing all that she holds dear.

God is home alone tonight, turning the pages of her book. Come home, she wants to say to us, come home. But she won't call because she is afraid that we will say, No. She can anticipate the conversation: Gee, we'd really love to, but we're just so busy, we'd apologize; we'd love to see you, but we just can't come; not tonight; not right now. Too much work to do. Too many responsibilities to juggle.

Even if we don't realize it, God knows that our busyness is just an excuse. She knows that we avoid returning to her because we don't want to look into her age-worn face. She understands that it is hard for us to face a God that no longer looks the way she did when we were children. She understands that it is hard for us to face a God who has disappointed our childhood expectations; she didn't give us everything we wanted; she didn't defend us against all our enemies; she didn't make us triumphant in battle, or successful in business, or invincible to pain. We avoid going home to protect ourselves from disappointment and to protect her. We don't want her to see the disappointment in our eyes. But God knows it is there; and she wants us to come home anyway.

What if we did? What if we did go home to visit God this Mothers Day? What might it be like?

I imagine God would usher us into her kitchen, sit us down at the table, and pour two cups of tea. She has been alone so long there is much she wants to say to us. But we barely let her get a word in edgewise, for we are afraid of what we might hear, and we are afraid of silence so we fill up an hour with chatter words, words, words, so many words until finally she touches her finger to her lips and says, Shhhh. Be still. Shhhh.

Then she pushes back her chair and says, Well, let me have a good look at you. And she looks and in a single glance God sees us as both newly born and dying, coughing and crying, turning our head to root for her breast, fearful of the unknown realm that lies ahead. In a single glance, she sees our birth and our death and all the years in between.

She sees us when we were young and idolized her, trustingly following her anywhere, when our scrapes and scratches healed quickly, when we were filled with wonder at all things new a new dress, our first pair of shoes, a new drivers license, the new feelings in our body when we first allowed a friend to touch it. She sees us when we were young, when we thought there was nothing we could not do.

She sees us in our middle years, too; when our energy was unlimited, when we kept house, and cooked, and cleaned, and cared for children, and worked, and volunteered when everyone needed us, and we had no time to sleep.

And God sees us in our later years, when we no longer feel needed, when chaos disrupts the bodily rhythms we have learned to rely on. She sees us sleeping alone in a room where two once slept.

God sees things about us that we have forgotten and things we do not yet know, for nothing is hidden from her sight.

And when she is finished looking at us, she might say, “So, tell me, how are you? Now we are afraid to open our mouths and tell her everything she knows already: whom we love, where we hurt, what we wanted to be when we grew up, what we have broken or lost. We are afraid to speak now, lest we begin to cry.

So we change the subject: Remember the time when . . . we begin. Yes, I remember,she says. And suddenly we are both talking at the same time, never completing a sentence, saying all the things the greeting cards never said: I'm sorry that I . . That's all right; I forgive you.

I didn't mean to . . .I know that; I do.

I was so angry when you hit me.I'm sorry that I ever hurt you but you wouldn't listen to me.

You're right: I wouldn't listen. I should have: I know that now, but at the time I had to do it my own way.I know that,she nods,I know.

We look away from her now, our eyes wandering up to the calendar on the wall. I never felt I could live up to your expectations,we say.Oh, I thought you could do anything, she answers!

And what about your future? she asks us. And we stammer out an answer, because we don't want to face our future. God hears our reluctance, and she understands.

And then God reaches out and touches our arm, bringing us back from our nostalgia for a time long ago, bringing us back from the future we fear. You will always be my child, you know. Grow old along with me/ the best is yet to be/ the last of life for which the first was made . . [Robert Browning from Rabbi Ben Ezra] She is quoting Browning, our favorite.

We are growing older as God is growing older. How much like her we have become.

For us, as for God, growing older means facing death. Of course, God will never die, but she has buried more dear ones than we ever shall love. In God we see, Tis a holy thing to love what death can touch . . . [Yehudi HaLevi] including ourselves, our own, aging selves.

God holds our face in her two hands, and whispers, Don't be afraid. I will be faithful to the promise I made to you when you were young. I will be with you; even to your old age, I will be with you. When you are gray-haired, still I will be with you. I gave you birth; I carried you; I will hold you still.Grow old along with
me . . .

Our fear of the future is replaced now by curiosity, understanding that the universe is infinite. Unlimited possibilities always are arrayed before us. Though the sun rises and sets just as the day before, no two days are the same. We can greet each new day with eagerness, awakening to wonder:
What shall I learn today?
What can I create today?
What will I notice today that I have not seen before?

It has been a good visit. But now we are tired now and need to go to sleep. But before we go, it is our turn to look at her. The face that time has marked no longer looks only frail to us now, but wise as well. For we understand that God knows those things only the passage of time can teach:
that you can survive the loss of a love;
that you can feel secure even in the midst of an ever-changing
that there is dignity in being alive, even when every bone aches.

God's movements no longer seem only slow now, but strong and intent purposeful, unlike our own, for we are too busy to see beneath the surface; we speak too rapidly and too loudly truly to listen; we move too quickly to feel what we touch; we form opinions too soon to judge honestly but God moves slowly and with intention. She sees everything there is to see, understands everything she hears, and touches all that lives.

Now we understand why we were created to grow older: each added day of life, each new year, makes us a little more like God, who is ever growing older.

Looking at her now, we feel overwhelmed by awe (though embarrassed to say so). This aging woman now looks to us
like . . . like a queen, her chair a throne, her housecoat an ermine robe, her thinning hair shining like jewels in a crown.

Today we sit here in this house of prayer, away from our own homes, holding in our hands pages of greeting cards bound together like a book thousands of words we ourselves have not written. Will we merely sign our name at the bottom and drop the cards in the mail?

God would rather we come home. She is sitting and waiting for us ever patient until we are ready (for she will not run out of time). She will leave the door open and the candles burning brightly so that we can find our way, waiting patiently for us to come.

And, perhaps, when we do, we will be able to look into God's aging face and say, My Mother, my Queen, I have come home.
Amen and amen.

Minister: Rev. Gregory A. Russell E-Mail:
Organist: David Cobb E-mail:
Web site

April 29,2018


PRELUDE "Evening Prayer", Humperdinck David Cobb


CHORAL INTROIT I Know That My Redeemer Liveth #218
I know, I know that Jesus liveth,
And on the earth again shall stand.
I know, I know that life He giveth,
That grace and power are in His hand.

*THE CALL TO WORSHIP (Jeremiah 9: 23-24)
Minister: Thus says the Lord:
People: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom;
do not let the mighty boast in their might;
do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth;
Minister: but let those who boast, boast in this:
People: that they understand and know me,
that I am the Lord; I will act with steadfast love,
justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in
these things I delight, says the Lord.

*HYMN Jesus Shall Reign #231

INVOCATION: Your steadfast love to us is our joy, righteous
God. We gather to rejoice in Your salvation, to sing praises to
You for all Your healing gifts to us. You call us to faith and give
us strength to live out that faith. You join us together in the life
of Christ. Hear our prayers and our praise in His name. Amen.


RESPONSIVE READING Christ's Exaltation #642
Daryl Rowland

Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Minister: May God, who is gracious, show forth His mercy to us,
People: And take not His Holy Spirit from us.
(using debts and debtors)

OFFERTORY "Consider The Lilies", Hemphill. Jan Getman
*OFFERTORY PRAYER: We know, O God, that words without
actions are incomplete. Accept the gifts we bring as a sign of
our devotion, and multiply them to do Your will throughout the
world. Amen.

ANTHEM "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands", trad. Daryl

SCRIPTURE John 21:1-19 Daryl Rowland
RESPONSIVE HYMN Rejoice, the Lord Is King #228
SERMON A God of Second Chances Rev. Greg Russell

Spanish Lakes April 29, 2018 John 21:1-19

It is a dramatic tale vividly told: seven of the remaining eleven disciples go back to the Sea of Galilee. In all probability they have to face the ridicule of their village neighbors. So, the great adventurers are back again! I always said their daft scheme would come to nothing, and it has! So, if not openly and to their faces, then behind their backs, people no doubt scoff and jeer. But we hear nothing of that.

Yet, surely, they themselves are puzzled. By the time of todays text, they have seen the risen Lord; they have been given high promises by him and once more have been called to high service for him and for the world. But day after day has crept along, and nothing has happened. They wait and wonder. Theirs is a failed dream, such as poet Langston Hughes knows as he asks, What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun? Still they hold together; still they wait, but it is with growing perplexity and minds tiring under the strain of this unexpected delay.

Finally, Peters patience snaps, maybe while watching other boats head out into the fishing grounds, so he says, m going fishing. And all the rest, at once falling in with his suggestion, soon make for the shore, hoisting the sails, feeling the accustomed ropes in their hands again. It is time to get back to their familiar, worn seats, the mending of nets, the patching of sails and other long-deserted tasks.

This is a wise move for them, for routine is a strong antidote to depression and idleness, always a precarious condition; but for Christ and his cause, it is a crisis of the first order. So, it is with alarm that we watch that narrow ribbon of water widening between the shore and the departing boat, for if they are caught back up in their old lives again, will there be, can there be, a Christian Church at all?! Are they going to turn their backs on the great adventure; to settle down again, disillusioned if not downright cynical about the cause to which they had given themselves for the last three years? Is Christ's call to them going to fade out after all? Are they going to slip back into the old, familiar rut in which they used to travel?

Well, fishers they are, so fishing they shall go. They toil all night and catch nothing. You can almost hear them mutter: Maybe we've forgotten how to fish. Comes a call from someone on the shore at dawn,Lads, have you caught anything? Nothing, is their reply. Cast the net on the right side of the boat, you will find some, comes the unsolicited advice. You can almost hear them grumble, Oh, great; reduced to taking orders from some shore-sitter! Then, in mid-grumble, Whoa, what's this whole school of fish!

This last miracle which Jesus performs is a perfect mirror of his first miracle in John's gospel. The abundance of fish in this story parallels the abundance of wine at the marriage feast in Cana. [John 2] Thus the two miracles are the parentheses within which the action of the gospel takes place.

John says, It is the Lord, and Peter dons his clothes, for he has been stripped for work, and jumps into the water to get to Jesus. Once on the shore, he finds that Jesus has built a charcoal fire. Ah yes, we have seen a charcoal fire three chapters earlier -- in Caiaphas courtyard. It was there Peter had warmed himself that night as he overheard the proceedings against Jesus before the Sanhedrin. [18:18] What an odd symmetry! It all came flooding back to Peter the charcoal fire, his three-fold denial, the trial and crucifixion, the empty tomb and Jesus; appearances in Jerusalem.

But his reverie is interrupted. Bring some of the fish you have just caught, and come and have breakfast, calls the man on the shore. They know who this is, and yet none dare speak his name. It is a breakfast filled with awkward silence. Finally, the stranger, who is Jesus, speaks: Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?

Who or what are these? Many commentators hold that Christ means the other disciples, about Peter's boast that even though all the others should fall away he would not. [13:37] That seems quite unlike Christ. That is not the way he handles people, to so harass one who is fallen and repentant -- rubbing salt into a sore, so to speak; nor is it like him to pit his followers against one another in the others; presence no less.

So, some think the question instead means this:

One day I called you, Peter; and you responded -- rose
up at once and left all and followed. But here you are
back at your old life again. Are you going to abandon
me? Are you pulling out of the adventure? Having put
your hand to the plow, are you now looking back? Do the
old ties tug at your heart? Are they drawing you away?
from me? Or do you still love me more than these fish?
You have to decide between them and me today, in this old,
familiar place. You are in danger of deserting. That is
why I am here.

Well, to us that IS very much like him, for certainly we have had experience with him barging in on us in the very nick of time. We were in jeopardy; we were deciding, and deciding wrongly at that! But suddenly some word of his sprang into our minds; some remembrance of him rose up, and it steadied us. And with that we rallied, and the crisis passed. So, Christ does with Peter.

Hence, his question: Do you love me? It is this question alone by which Peter stands or falls. And he knows that if he really is pushed about the matter he has scant evidence to put forward. He remembers his failure, and yet though it may not look like it, though he cannot prove it, though many things seem to mock his claim, he knows that he does love Christ despite everything. So, he confidently calls Jesus himself as his witness: Lord, you know; surely you who know all things must know this as well -- that I do love you. Not once, but three times; there had been three denials; now there are three affirmations. The debt is cancelled, the slate wiped clean.

And in the end, what plea is ours other than to say to Christ: Lord, you know all things; surely you know that I love you. Along with Peter, we have dissembled and denied and deserted Christ too often. And yet we also protest that despite all that seems to make our claim ridiculous, we do love Christ, and he knows it. And with us as with Peter, he accepts that plea and says simply, Follow me.

So, it has been again and again. What a strange, dogged faith Jesus has in us a faith that will not break or die! And so, we pray to God along with Lancelot Andrews, saying, I thank God for my call, my recall, and my many calls besides.

For Christ says to us the same thing he says to Peter at the seashore the same thing he says to Philip [1:43] in the opening chapter of John's gospel as he strolls by Galilee: Follow me. Follow me. Follow me. Amen.

*PARTING HYMN Crown Him with Many Crowns #234

POSTLUDE "Dat Ol';-Time Religion", Spiritual, arr. D.Cobb. David

*Indicates you may rise in body or spirit to praise God.


The flowers today are donated to the glory of God by Lou and Louise Tammaro in loving memory of Marie and Angelo Manze and Rose and Charles Tammaro.

We are an open and affirming church and all are welcome here to come and worship with us.

A reminder that our food basket is available every Sunday for your contributions.

April 22,2018 ORDER OF WORSHIP

PRELUDE Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying, Walther D. Cobb

CHORAL INTROIT This Is My Father's World #58
This is my Father's world; I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas, His hand the wonders wrought.

Minister: Like a blade of grass pushing up stubbornly through the
sidewalk. Like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis:
People: But much more.
Minister: Like the seed after years of dormancy sending up a sprout.
Like the brown bulb breaking forth through the earth in brilliant color:
People: But much more.
Minister: Like a brilliant daybreak after a stormy, dark night. Like a
rainbow magically appearing amidst the rain:
People: But much more.
Minister: Like a patient making an unexpected, unpredicted turn for
health. Like the pine cone opening to spread seeds only after fiery death:
People: But much more.
Minister: Like a beautiful vase emerging from a lump of clay in the
potter's hands. Like a hidden spring burbling in the midst of the desert:
People: But much more.
Minister: So it comes. Nothing else like it. No image adequate. No simile. No metaphor.
People: Unable to talk about it but inadequately, we celebrate this great, real mystery that neither language nor imagination can encompass: EASTER!!

*HYMN Morning Has Broken #60

*INVOCATION: O burning Mountain, O chosen Sun, O perfect Moon, O fathomless Well, O unattainable Height, O Clearness beyond. He Lives (chorus)
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart.
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.


UNISON READING Psalm 100 #709 Daryl Rowland

Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Minister: May God, who is gracious, show forth His mercy to us,
People: And take not His Holy Spirit from us.
(using debts and debtors)


OFFERTORY "Change My Heart, O God", Espinosa *DOXOLOGY
*OFFERTORY PRAYER: We give Thee but Thine own, whatever the gift may be. All that we have is Thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from Thee. Amen.

ANTHEM Hold Thou My Hand, Briggs.

SCRIPTURE Genesis 1:26-31 Daryl Rowland

RESPONSIVE HYMN This Is My Father's World #58

SERMON Prayer from 25,000 Feet Rev. Greg Russell

PRAYER FROM 25,000 FEET Earth Stewardship Sunday
Spanish Lakes Genesis 1:26-31 04-22-18

As I was looking through the lectionary in the church planning calendar back in January, I came across the notation that today is Earth Stewardship Sunday. Oh great, I thought, thats just great! I, who know nothing about ecology, have to preach about care for the earth!

So I admit to you right off the bat that my credentials on this topic are a little shaky. I'm not a member of Greenpeace. I am not even an outdoors kind of guy; my idea of roughing it is a Hilton Hotel without room service and color TV.

But as you know, if you have seen a newspaper of watched any television in the last week or so, we observed Earth Day last Friday, April 22. Earth Day is always April 22, which is John Muir's birthday (the naturalist and conservation pioneer, for whom Muir Woods just north of San Francisco is named.)

I don't know about you, but recently I seem to detect a little different tone from earlier Earth Days. People's voices are less shrill you know, the loud-mouthed caricatures that would be easy to dismiss. No, instead people are using that same low, measured tone the doctors used in the hospital when I was fourteen and we found out my father had tuberculosis.

And I'm worried. I have the same gnawing feeling that someone I love is in trouble, and I'm not quite sure what to do about it. I have the same sinking feeling that I am not big enough or smart enough to make any difference at all. Suddenly I feel fourteen all over again. It's very disconcerting.

And I am not the only one engaged in a struggle to make sense out of the ecological movement and my place in it. Sallie McFague at Vanderbilt University gave us a new and arresting metaphorical image of the earth as God's body. At a minimum, that should cause us to do some pretty serious rethinking about the type of dominion we exercise over the earth (Go forth and multiply, and have dominion over the earth. [Genesis 1:28] )

Well, if we appropriate the metaphor of the earth as God's body, our ecological doctors tell us we have a pretty sick patient. And we need to approach the patient and the recovery process the same way as we did with my father now more than forty years ago.

The first thing we needed to do was to recognize there was an illness. Dad's energy level dropped precipitously, and he developed a persistent cough. It didn't take the doctors long to start looking for tuberculosis, since he had been a tubercular patient in his early twenties, but some of the early test results were conflicting and caused momentary confusion. Finally they nailed down a correct diagnosis and began a treatment regimen tailored to his specific health needs.

We have begun that same sort of process with the investigation and diagnosis of the malady of our planet. We got a big warning sign with the photograph of the earth taken from the surface of the moon, which later was released as the poster, Earthrise. Harry Reich told me about it. Harry worked for Kodak, shot features for National Geographic, and was an elder at Florence Christian Church. I came in raving about this picture; all he said was, It's been airbrushed.

What to you mean . . . airbrushed?

You know, touched up . . . the imperfections taken out, look, right here, and he pointed to an area in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New England. His practiced eye had seen what mine could not. There was a bank of clouds in an otherwise cloudless sky. They airbrushed this in to cover up the spot.

Okay, Harry, I'll be your straight man. What spot?

You know, the spot in the Atlantic Ocean where they dump all the garbage from New York City and Boston. There was a big, ugly, brown spot right there in the middle of their pretty, blue picture, so they airbrushed a cloud bank over it to cover it up.

Wait a minute; you mean to tell me you can see this spot made by our garbage from the surface of the moon!

Yep! That and the Great Wall of China! Only two man- made objects you can see from the surface of the moon. As it turns out, Harry was wrong about the Great Wall of China, but he was right about the spot.

A symptom . . . a cough, if you will. Not the first, mind you; there had been others, Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, which detailed the depletion of the North American song bird due to the overuse of DDT in the early 60s, a proliferating endangered species list, the Cuyahoga River catching fire in 1953 because it was so polluted. That one became kind of a running joke at Cleveland's expense; and I guess some if it would have been pretty funny if it hadn't been so serious.

But at least we were beginning to realize that the patient was sick.

The second thing we did to help my father recover was to express our support for the patient. People from all over wanted to help all sorts of people: folks from church, neighbors from up and down the street, co-workers from his newspaper, they all wanted to help. Different from one another, to be sure different as night and day but united around one common concern: the return of Burl Russell to health and wholeness. Burl,s in trouble and needs our help, became their rallying cry. They weren't sure how they could help, but they wanted my dad to know he could count on them.

That sort of rallying is beginning for our ailing planet. Earth Day, as an example, is a beginning point for us to enlist ourselves in the process of renewing our planet, supporting it so that it can have a chance to catch its breath and begin to heal. There really is a sense of common commitment which pervades this whole enterprise; it feels friendly and familiar because I felt it with my father's supporters.

The third thing we did in my father's case was to educate ourselves like crazy about his disease and how we could help him. We learned how to recognize different stages of the disease process. We learned how to pronounce strange-sounding body parts, bacilli, and medications. We learned how to operate the machines that eventually would help him regain his lung capacity. We learned not to be afraid to ask questions. But most important of all, we learned that we were not alone as we engaged in this struggle.

As we struggle to help our earth to heal, we are engaged in a similar educational effort. We are learning the benefits of recycling. For instance, we are learning . . .
. . . that recycling an aluminum can uses only 5% of the
energy needed to manufacture a new one;

. . . that recycling paper uses 64% less energy;
. . . that recycling a glass jar saves enough energy to light a
100-watt light bulb for 45 minutes;

. . . that recycling one ton of steel or iron eliminates the need
to mine 15 tons of iron ore and 700 pounds of coal.

And we are learning how wasteful we are, too. We don't mean to be, but we are. The World Trade Towers still are on all our minds; well, we throw away enough glass bottles every two weeks to completely fill both of those towers. We throw away enough iron and steel to continuously supply all the automobile manufacturers in the United States.

$3.00 a gallon gasoline is helping to convince us of the practicality of more fuel efficient vehicles or of hybrids that use electricity as well as fossil fuels. Cummins Engine is working on a hydrogen fuel cell. And we are talking to one another about the problem and some simple, workable solutions, things we, ourselves, can do.

And finally, in my father's recovery, we became a part of the healing process. I know how pretentious that sounds, but the doctors assured us it was so. Some of what we had to do seemed like silly, piddling little things: boiling his dishes and silverware after meals; accurate and timely dispensing of his 9 different medications which added up to 45 pills a day (Father once said that when he turned over in bed, he rattled like a dice box) just going in and talking with him kept his mind active and his morale high. All these things were simple but essential.

These are the same sorts of ordinary, unglamorous things we need to do to help our planet, things we know how to do already: sort our trash, save our cans, bottles, and newspapers so they can be recycled. You think it won't make any difference, don't you? Well, if we all recycled just our Sunday newspapers, it would save 500,000 trees each week! What must half a million trees look like? Well, if you planted trees every thirty feet on center, it would be a square of trees 29 miles on each side every year.

I'm glad to be in an area with a strong recycling program, and I have begun to sort my trash again; and my trash has dropped from an average of five bags per week to two. Think of it! I cut my disposable stuff by more than half without real-ly putting myself out any. I just have to remember to do it.

I know what you're thinking. You are thinking one person can't make much of a difference in the face of what seems to be an overwhelming problem. I felt just the same way in the face of my father's illness, but I learned that's not true; and I learned it in an important way.

I was on vacation with my pastor and his family in Washington, D.C. when we got the call for me to fly home immediately. During what was supposed to be a routine test, my father's remaining lung had collapsed, and the doctors suddenly found themselves doing very risky surgery on a 54-year-old patient with no advance notice.

That's how I came to take my first plane ride . . . from Washington, D.C. to Louisville . . . over the hills of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky . . . over the strip mines gouged out by the biggest steam shovel in the world, a machine I had read about years earlier in my Weekly Reader back in Mrs. Jones, fourth grade class. And suddenly I saw it below, a huge yellow giant, all 30 stories of it, taking bites out of the earth big enough to fill six railroad hoppers at a time! In a flash it was gone, but I'll never forget how startling it was to see it rearrange the earth so effortlessly and with such abandon.

With the exception of the intrusion provided by the appearance of the steam shovel, my time was spent worrying about my father with my homely little fourteen-year-old's understanding of prayer, which basically boiled down to, Dear God, please don't let it be too late!

It wasn't. By the time I got to the hospital, he was out of surgery, but the outcome was still very much in doubt; he had lapsed into a coma from the shock. My mother said, You go in and talk to him; he'll fight for you. (Only kids get all the good jobs.)

Well, what do you talk about to a comatose patient, even if he is your father? So I told him how I was back from my trip, and how we were all worried about him and loved him and hoped he'd get stronger soon and, oh yes, about the big, yellow steam shovel. And, just as we hoped, he did recover.

Once he was out of danger, the doctors talked with my father about his unexpected surgery and the resulting coma. Do you remember anything . . . anything at all, Mr. Russell

No, nothing, came the reply, except . . . except this silly dream about a big yellow steam shovel.

So don't tell me one person can't make a difference . . . in the healing of a person . . . in the healing of a planet. I know better.

Surely we are more than one; and we're not all fourteen years old any more. But my prayer for our earth still is the same one I prayed for my father all the way from Washington to Louisville that day long ago: Dear God, please don't let it be too late! Amen and amen.

*PARTING HYMN All Creatures of Our God and King #64

POSTLUDE "Allelulia", Handel. David Cobb

*Indicates you may rise in body or spirit to praise God.


We are an open and affirming church and all are welcome here to come and worship with us.

A reminder that our food basket is available every Sunday for your contributions.

The flowers are given to the glory of God by Jeff and Mary Pickerins.

ORDER OF WORSHIP April 15th,2018
PRELUDE David Cobb


CHORAL INTROIT He Lives (chorus)
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart.
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

Minister: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
People: Joyful, joyful we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love.
Minister: Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into God's presence with singing.
People: Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the
sun above.
Minister: Know that the Lord is God.
People: Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of
doubt away.
Minister: It is God that made us, and we are His. We are
God's people, the sheep of His pasture.
People: Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day.

*HYMN O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus #212

*INVOCATION: Revealing God, we would see Jesus. Open our
eyes now to Christ's living presence as we attend Your word in
Holy Scripture and listen for the voice of Christ speaking to us.
Through prayer and praise, through silence and song, let us sense
Christ in our midst to convict, confirm and embolden us. Amen.


UNISON READING Psalm 33 #699

Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Minister: May God, who is gracious, show forth His mercy to us,
People: And take not His Holy Spirit from us.
(using debts and debtors)


OFFERTORY __________________, _____________ Choir
*OFFERTORY PRAYER: Amazing God, we thank You that You have raised Jesus from the dead, bringing us the promise of new life. With the dawn of each new day, waken us to new opportunities to love and serve You and to witness to Christ, whom You have raised. Use us and our gifts to Your glory, we ask in Jesus name. Amen.

ANTHEM ____________________, _________________ Choir

SCRIPTURE Luke 24:13-35
RESPONSIVE HYMN Sing of One Who Walks Beside Use insert
SERMON Rev. Greg Russell
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Emmaus
*PARTING HYMN Now the Green Blade Rises insert

Spanish Lakes 04-15-18 Luke 24:13-35

It had been a long trip from Indiana to Ohio, and there had been more adventures with a do-it-yourself furniture moving truck than I shall bore you with today, but at last we were at Hiram, Jane's first college teaching position with her newly-minted PhD. We were all unpacked and settling into our little house that we were renting from the college, pictures hung on the wall so it really looked like we intended to stay awhile. That's how you can tell, one of my saints had told me at a church where I had gone to be the associate minister, If they hang stuff on the wall, they intend to stay awhile.

It was time for us to go out exploring, so we set out around town on foot. Now, you have to understand that in Hiram, this is not a big walk, half an hour, tops. As we walked down Dean Street past the house where the chair of Jane's religious studies program lived, he looked out his picture window, saw us, and waved us in. Pretty soon we were sipping lemonade in Dixon Slingerland's living room while his ten year old daughter, Victoria, puzzled over a book unlike any I had ever seen. From across the room I could tell that she was not exactly reading, but she kept studying this book intently, and finally dropped it in disgust and announced, I can't find him anywhere! And, big mouth that I am, I have to go and ask, Who? And with that innocent question, I was introduced to her entire collection of Where's Waldo books.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the series, how can I describe it? Each double-truck page is covered border to border with an incredibly jumbled crowd scene. Each person and each object is drawn in intricate detail And out of all the hundreds of characters and objects drawn there, you are supposed to find Waldo, a tall, skinny fellow with glasses, a striped shirt, and a ski hat. Sounds simple enough, but everyone has a striped shirt, glasses, or a ski hat. I quickly learned that it can take a long, long time to find Waldo.

And when you do find him, you realize that he was there all along, and you just missed him thirty or forty times. And you feel, well, a little stupid, frankly.

Today's text is Luke's version of Where's Waldo, only instead it is called Where's Jesus? But this morning we don't get to play. Instead we get to watch Cleopas and his friend play the game.

They are on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a little village set at a distance of about seven or so miles to the north and west. How long would it take you to walk seven miles? I have no idea how long it would take me. Thank you, God, for automobiles.
They must have started out fairly early in the day. As Luke tells the story, they start out just after they hear from the women who went to anoint Jesus’ body that first Easter morning. Luke already has told us that the women went at early dawn. The women have only had time to return to the disciples with their news of the risen Lord, and to be disbelieved by the disciples before Cleopas and his friend begin their journey.

And as they walk on their way, they are joined by a stranger, who goes with them and evidently says something along the lines of,What's up? And with that, the dam bursts, and out comes the flood of the events of the past three days.Why, you must not be from around here; the whole town is talking about Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth . . . You can almost hear their words tumble out over one another.

And the stranger, who is Jesus of course, gives them a chance to kind of wind down and take a breath, and then he says a most interesting thing. He says,Oh, foolish men and slow of heart to believe . . . See, he knows they have not believed the testimony of the women. And he also knows they are so grief-stricken that they are not yet thinking straight. They are not yet to the point of remembering what their own traditions teaches them, that minority report from the prophets about the suffering servant. So he reminds them that not everyone has expected Messiah to be met with acclaim and success. Oh, that has been the easy, conventional wisdom, to be sure. But the stranger reminds them from Moses on down how all the great leaders of their people have met with opposition and refutation and, sometimes, even death.

Surely they must have thought to themselves, Man, this guy really knows his Bible, although there is no record of one having said that to the other. Anyway, they walk with him all day AND THEY NEVER ECOGNIZE HIM! In their game of Where's Jesus, just like Victoria, they essentially have dropped the book and declared, I can't find him anywhere!

But at table that evening, the stranger takes the bread and blesses it, and gives it to them is such a way that it could be, of course, no one else but Jesus. And then it's forehead slapping time! Of course! How could we have missed him! Just like Waldo, he was there all along. We must have missed him a million times!

Now, we could just wind up the sermon at this point and have a good chuckle at the expense of Cleopas and his friend. But just because I said that we don't get to play Where's Jesus today doesn't mean that we don't ever get to play it. In fact, I have a feeling that Where's Jesus is a game at which all of us are way too accomplished. For I have the feeling that Christ is in our midst, right alongside us, far more often than we realize. We just miss him.

It's all too easy for us to get our heads down, doing our work even our holy, busy work, like getting the bulletins done or being sure we're at this or that meeting, so that we completely miss the presence of the risen Christ walking right along beside us. I know I've missed him more than my share of times.

Henri Nouwen, pastor, scholar and teacher, writing about his beginnings in ministry, said he used to go into his office to write his learned books and sermons, and students and parishioners would stop by and interrupt him, and he would get irritated because he would lose his train of thought. And, gradually, it occurred to him that his ministry was the interruptions. Let's face it, friends; life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. So, I am certain I have missed the presence of the risen Christ right beside me more than my share of times. I have a friend who calls this, standing knee-deep in the river while you are dying for a drink.

But there is good news here, my friends. And the good news is that sometimes, just every once in awhile – we do sense Christ's presence with us in a way that we can neither mistake nor ignore.

When does that happen for you? At the dedication of the new church building after a year and a half of blood, sweat and tears as you recover from a fire? As you light your candle on Christmas Eve and make a circle around the sanctuary while you sing Silent Night? As you gather around the campfire to sing Pass It On or Friends Are Friends Forever? At your wedding, or at the baptism of your child, or at the funeral service for a friend or a family member? At evening vespers or in the squeal of happy children at Vacation Bible School or at a children's activity at the Laurel Community Center? At the last, crashing chord of one of David's wonderful songs, or in the silence of our prayer time together? When does it happen for you? I know that it does, because I know it happens for me, so I know it happens for you as well.

Yes, I am certain that I have missed Jesus more times than I have seen him. But occasionally, just occasionally, the Spirit of the risen Christ is palpable. And when it is, like Cleopas and his friend, that's enough to keep us going on. Amen.


POSTLUDE __________________, _____________ David Cobb
*Indicates you may rise in body or spirit to praise God


We are an open and affirming church and all are welcome here to come and worship with us.

A reminder that our food basket is available every Sunday for your contributions.

The flowers are given to the glory of God by Joe and Denise Boesch in remembrance of their meeting 50 years ago.

ORDER OF WORSHIP April 8th,2018
PRELUDE "The Church's One Foundation", Wesley, Arr. David Cobb


CHORAL INTROIT He Lives (chorus) #220
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

*THE CALL TO WORSHIP (from Psalm 133)
Minister: How good and pleasant it is when kindred
live together in unity!
People: It is like the precious oil on the head, running down
upon the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar
of his robes.
Minister: It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mount of Zion.
People: For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life evermore.

Christ Arose #216

*INVOCATION: We gather as a community of faith, O God, to sing our Easter Alleluias to You; for Christ is risen, bringing new life to our dead world. As we celebrate this good news with joy and gladness, reclothe us with the splendor of Your compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. And above all, help us to demonstrate Your love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. We pray in the name of the One who makes all things new. Amen.


UNISON READING Psalm 118 #712 Ann Bezemer

Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Minister: May God, who is gracious, show forth His mercy to us,
People: And take not His Holy Spirit from us.
(using debts and debtors)

OFFERTORY "Great Is Thy Faithfulness", Runyan. Viola solo by Emily Higgins, Dave's daughter.
*OFFERTORY PRAYER: As Christ offered Himself in obedience to You, O God, so we offer ourselves and our gifts for use in Your service. Accept our gifts, and transform our lives so that we may be the living presence of Your reign on earth, now and always. Amen.

ANTHEM "I Love to Tell the Story", Fischer. Choir
SCRIPTURE John 20:19-29 Ann Bezemer
RESPONSIVE HYMN Alleluia! Alleluia! #215
SERMON Rev. Greg Russell
Who Is Thomas, and Why Are They Saying
All Those Terrible Things About Him?

Spanish Lakes 04-08-18 John 20:19-31

It is the evening of the first day of the week (Sunday), and the former disciples of Jesus are gathered together for one purpose. They are hiding out behind locked doors for fear that the religious authorities will catch them and do to them what has been done to Jesus, the one they claim to follow. I call them former disciples since all had deserted him in his hour of greatest need.

Only in John's gospel do any of the men have nerve enough to make an appearance at the crucifixion. Oh, each gospel carefully recounts the presence of the women, to be sure, but only in John's gospel do we find a solitary man, John himself, at the foot of the cross, so we have to wonder at the unbiased nature of this witness.

The last time the disciples had been in a room together with Jesus, he had taught them, had washed their feet, had eaten a meal with them, had foretold his betrayal as he sent Judas on his way to do the deed, and had prayed for them. Now that their leader had died the death of a common criminal, their dreams of messianic glory lay in shards around their feet, and the only thing they can think to do is to hide.

Now they had heard from one witness, the prominent female follower, Mary Magdalene (who, by the way all the gospels list as being present both at Jesus crucifixion and his resurrection); she told of going to the garden where Jesus had been laid in a tomb newly hewn into the hillside. There she had seen a stranger dressed in white, sitting on the ledge where the body should have been. After a brief conversation, she had turned to go and had encountered someone she took to be the gardener. When she asked him where the body had been taken, she had simply to hear her name spoken in that familiar voice she could mistake for no other to know that it was Jesus! She called him Rabboni,my little teacher, and he told her not to touch him.

She had returned quickly to tell the fearful men what had taken place, but if her testimony changed anything for them, it is hard to tell. The gospels of Mark and Luke both make it clear that the disciples refused to believe her resurrection account.It seemed to them an idle tale, and they would not believe her. [Luke 24:11] So, today at the point where we pick up the story, the men still are hiding behind locked doors, still fearful.

Note that the men doubt the testimony of their sister; they have to see for themselves. This is the very attitude we typically ascribe to Thomas -- that of doubting. We are not privy to their conversation, but when he appears, Jesus shows them his wounds, as if he knows his visible presence will not be enough for them. They recognize Jesus, not by the miracle of his presence, nor by his voice as does the Magdalene, nor even by a story which he tells them, but rather by the wounds he sustained during his execution. Ironic, is it not, that the One who brings, shalom, peace, wholeness to the world is not himself whole, but rather is wounded and recognized by those very wounds.

I cannot resist a small aside here. If we are to be the Church, the body of Christ at work in the world, one of the questions we have to ask ourselves is: What wounds are we willing to bear so that Christ can be recognized in the world? I am not talking torture or martyrdom here few if any of us will be called to do that. But we do have to be willing to be wounded if we are to be the Church for our brothers and sisters and thus make Christ visible in the world. We have to be willing to be ostracized for not laughing at the racist joke. We have to be willing to be misunderstood when we reach out to people with AIDS. We have to be willing to risk ridicule when we stand for basic human rights and dignity for all members of our community white, black and Hispanic. It is a sobering challenge for a comfortable people . . . but, I digress.

At any rate, Thomas is absent during the initial appearance of Jesus. Where he was we cannot say; the text is silent. But evidently he chokes back his fear long enough to leave the house. And when he returns to hear their fantastic account of the risen Lord, he cannot believe them. In a deliciously ironic twist, the disciples are met with the same skepticism with which they had greeted the Magdalene. And please note that it is not Jesus whom Thomas doubts, but rather it is his cowardly fellow disciples.

A week later, Jesus appears again, shows his wounds to Thomas (same evidence Jesus has presented to the other disciples), invites him to touch them, reversing his gardenside instruction to Mary, commends Thomas for seeing and believing, and then commends those who will believe without such visible proof.

There are two important things to remember about Thomas. First, Jesus does not condemn him for wanting evidence. Rather, Jesus proclaims that those who see and believe (Thomas and the other disciples) are blessed, and those who do not see and still believe (those for whom the gospel is written including us) are blessed as well. Jesus neither denigrates nor gives priority to the disciples because of their personal encounter versus those who believe because of the testimony of witnesses. Thomas has received bad press down through the ages at the hands of sloppy preachers who don't take time to look at the text, but instead assume that they know what it says.
Second: Nowhere in the text does it say that Thomas touched Jesus. He demands that right, to be sure, but when Jesus offers him the opportunity, he immediately issues his confession, my Lord and my God! So it appears that Thomas believes on the same evidence as Mary Magdalene and the other disciples, that, of course, being Jesus resurrection appearance, his wounds, and his voice.

Now, what else shall we say about Thomas? Well, earlier in John's 11th chapter Thomas calls on the other disciples to follow Jesus to Bethany and on to Jerusalem, even if it means they shall die with him. And later in the 14th chapter, as Jesus is telling the disciples about the place he is preparing for them and that they know the way, Thomas blurts out that they haven't any idea of either the way or the place, which gives Jesus the occasion to say: I am the way the truth, and the life . . .

It is not too far a stretch to compare Thomas to the unselfconscious student who is willing to ask the; stupid question; that everyone wants answered, but has been too embarrassed to ask. Thomas is brutally honest and has little concern if his honesty embarrasses himself or those around him.

And we know little else about Thomas. Early Church history describes him as a missionary sent by the risen Christ to India. And his nickname, Didymus, the twin, is used to portray him as twin to Jesus as even doubt is twin to faith. Today there still are congregations of Christians in India who trace the origins of their faith communities back to Thomas; indeed one of the oldest Christian churches in India is called the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Disciple, defender, doubter, apostle, missionary; Thomas was all of these, just as we know all these roles well because we occupy them from time to time ourselves. But if you are like me, you think that at the very least, Thomas could use a new press agent!

And while we are cutting Thomas a little slack, let's cut ourselves a little as well. For, beginning with small belief, Thomas went on to be a great apostle. And that is where we begin, too with small belief. So, while we may not become a great apostle, who can guess what God may have in store for us? Amen.

*PARTING HYMN He Lives #220


POSTLUDE "Jesus, our Savior", D. A. Cobb.

*Indicates that you may rise in body or spirit to praise God.


We are an open and affirming church and all are welcome here to come and worship with us.

A reminder that our food basket is available every Sunday for your contributions.

Today is our community luncheon and the main course is ham.

David Cobb


CHORAL INTROIT Christ Arose #216
Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior!
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph over His foes;
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

*THE CALL TO WORSHIP (from Psalm 100)
Minister: Alleluia! Christ is risen! ORDER OF WORSHIP
PRELUDE Alleluia, Mozart
People: The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Minister: May His grace and peace be with you.
People: May He fill our hearts with joy!

*HYMN Christ the Lord Is Risen Today #217

*INVOCATION: Almighty and ever-living God,
We gather to marvel at the mystery of Christ's resurrection.
In boldness You exalted the humble, empowering the weak.
In strength You snatched victory from the jaws of death.
In love You declared your crucified Son the Savior of the world.
We celebrate this good news in an Easter festival of life,
And we join with You on this gladsome day! Amen!


RESPONSIVE READING He is Risen! Alleluia! #214
Clem Bezemer

Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Minister: May our God, who is gracious, show forth His mercy to us.
People: And take not His Holy Spirit from us.
(using debts and debtors)

OFFERTORY I know That My Redeemer Liveth, Daryl Rowland
*OFFERTORY PRAYER: We bring our gifts to You in response to good news. Christ is risen indeed and abides in us still. As You accept who we are, O God, receive what we offer, and transform all our being to conform with Your will. Amen.

ANTHEM How Sweet The Name of Jesus Sounds, Reinagle

SCRIPTURE LESSON John 20:1-18 Clem Bezemer RESPONSIVE HYMN The Day of Resurrection # 226
SERMON The Grave in the Garden Rev. Greg Russell
Spanish Lakes Church April 1, 2018 John 20:1-18

It is an old question, as old as death itself and as new . . . We find it in the oldest part of the old book, 14th verse of the 14th chapter of the Book of Job: If a man die, shall he live again?

It is the question found in every sob in times of bereavement. It is a question that knocks with a gloved hand on the door of the weeping heart.

But how strange to say if a man die. There is no if; we all must die. We ought to ask. When we die, after we die, then can we live again! That's what we really mean, is it not?

That is the question! Is life possible after death?

Millions of folk who repeat the Apostles Creed affirm: I believe in the resurrection of the body . .

We talk about resurrection, but have we seen it? Our more natural inclination is to disguise death with flowers – flowers on the casket, wreaths on the door, flowers heaped at the grave. We do our best to make the dead look lifelike. We even dress the body in the departed tenants best clothes, but even after we try our best there is no life in the body.

The facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth are, according to the Church, that: he lived; he died; he rose from the dead. Can the Church justify such a contention?

He lived, as no intelligent person can deny.
He died; that fact no one can deny. He died quivering on a cross, after about six hours of agony and suffering. To make sure he was really dead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and his blood was poured out to prove that love is stronger than death.

The soldiers who had carried out the detail of the hammer and the nails were quite satisfied that he was dead. “That one didn't take long,they said, as they prepared to fall in line and march back to their barracks. They didn't even bother to break his legs; it was plain to see that he was finished.

The finality of his death is reflected in the hopelessness of his disciples. As the afternoon sun threw the lengthening shadows of three crosses down the hillside, and the bronze armor of the soldiers reflected in its light, a brooding sadness descended upon his disciples, who looked at each other in a puzzled grief that could find no speech.

Three years before, the Maser had called them to become fishers of men. Now that his flame was extinguished the would once more become fishers of fish. Such was their mood.

Their king crucified like a common criminal.
Their messiah ending up, not on a throne, but on a cross hailed as king on Sunday and dead like a common thief on Friday.

They remained the despairing survivors of a broken cause as they stumbled down the hill, their eyes filled with tears they could not stop.

They were the very picture of people without any hope – utterly crushed, beaten, disappointed. In their faces there was the stark, dreadful look of hopeless despair.

I'm going fishing, said Peter, and what else was there left to do? Back to the old, familiar boats with their worn seats and their patched sails and high rudders. Back to the mending of their nets, sadder but wiser, finding the road back a hard road to take.

Jesus was dead now, very much like any other dead man. But when even the Roman authorities were satisfied that they had seen the last of this strange, troublesome dreamer, his enemies went to Pilate asking him to set a watch of soldiers about the tomb for three days.

Remembering that he had said he would rise again, and being afraid that his disciples would come and steal the body away, they insisted on sealing with their own official seal the huge stone that blocked the entrance to the grave.

Pilate granted their request, saying,You have a watch; go your way, and make it as sure as you can.

We are not told whether Pilate smiled a sardonic smile as he spoke, but Matthew adds the most ironic line in all literature: So they went and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone and setting a watch. Thus they took every precaution against fraud.

A broken seal would reveal the grave had been opened, but soldiers would be on guard to prevent that from happening.

And as they made their way back down the hill and back to the city, such thoughts as these ran through their minds:
He is finished; we shall hear no more of him.
Now his fishermen can get back to their nets and their boats . . .
We shall hear no more talk about his kingdom . . .
As for this Jesus, he is dead enough, no doubt about that.
Even though there were a breath of life in his bloodless body, it is now being suffocated by the hundredweight of spices with which he was embalmed.
He who said he could summon twelve legions of angels to his assistance died crying he was forsaken.
He will trouble us no more.

Thus they left him on that Friday evening, just before the Sabbath began, his body hastily embalmed, wrapped in bandages on which a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloe had been hastily spread . . . the tomb, closed with a huge stone, and guards standing around it.

Then came Sunday morning.

The first rays of the early morning sun cast a light that caused the dew drops on the flowers to sparkle like diamonds. The atmosphere of the garden was changed . . .

It was the same garden . . . and yet it was strangely different. The heaviness of despair was gone, and there was a new note in the singing of the birds.

Suddenly at a certain hour between sunset and dawn, in that new tomb which had belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, there was a strange stirring, a fluttering of unseen forces . . . a whirring of angel wings, the rustle of the breath of God moving through the garden.

Strong, immeasurable forces poured life back into the body they had laid on the cold slab. And the dead man rose up, came out of the grave clothes, walked to the threshold of the tomb, stood swaying for a moment on his wounded feet, and walked out into the moonlit garden.

We can almost hear the faint sigh as the life spirit fluttered back into his tormented body, and smell in our nostrils the medley of strange scents that floated back to him of linen and bandages and close air and blood.

Then came a group of women as soon as they could, bringing spices and materials with which to complete the hasty anointing of their Lord.

They came expecting to anoint a body, they had all the materials with them. And when they came to the grave in the garden, they found that the stone had been rolled away from its door, and the grave was empty. Here is John's account of it:

But Mary stood outside the sepulcher weeping; and as she wept, she stooped down and looked into the sepulcher, and saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they said to her, Woman, why do you weep? She said to them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.
And when she had said thus, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus said unto her, Woman why do you weep? Whom do you see? She, supposing him to be the gardener, said unto him, Sir, if you have borne him hence, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away. Whereupon Jesus said unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and said unto him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master!

Two names spoken, Mary and Rabboni. She heard her name spoken as only one voice could speak it gently echoing in the garden. And there was her Rabboni! the breathless Master as she saw his face.

Christ had spoken her name, and all of heaven was in it. She uttered only one word, and all of earth was in it.

Now, if we believe this, it is one of the loveliest stories in all literature. It is a story over which, without shame, adults might weep. It is a story we cannot read without feeling a lump rise in our throats.

And if we do not believe it, it is a clever and shameful lie.
Does it sound like a lie to you? Does it have a hollow ring of uncertainty or falsehood? Or do you rather get the feel of truth in it?

Jesus said unto her, Mary . . . She turned herself and said unto him, Rabboni, which is to say Master!

Is it all a trick? Are we deluded fools?
No, we are not deluded
No fact in history is better established, more scientifically attested, than this one.

The disciples did not expect this to happen! Their belief in the resurrection was not some fantastic idea wafted in from the swamps of their fevered imaginations.

It was not some romantic wish out of their dream-house, not the result of their wishful thinking, for it came as a complete shock, unexpected, bewildering!

When Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary, the mother of James, and the other women came breathlessly back from the empty tomb, shaking with an extraordinary excitement and blurting out the news to the disciples, we are told:
But their words seemed to them as an idle tale,
and they did not believe them.
Over and over again, this point is emphasized. Read the stories for yourself!

Read Luke, or the story of Thomas, that dogged unbeliever, as John tells it: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. Not exactly what you would call wishful thinking.

Eight days passed. The disciples were gathered together, this time with Thomas; and suddenly Jesus was with them in the room, and said to Thomas: Reach out your finger, and behold my hands; and reach out your hand, and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered, and said to him, My Lord and my God.

Now, if one person tell you about seeing a dead person alive, you may either believe it or not, according to your opinion of that person's trustworthiness. If ten people tell you they have seen, at the same time, this dead person walking and talking, you begin to be impressed.

If five hundred people tell you that they have seen someone who was dead . . . well, you have to admit that you are in a startling minority.

The resurrection of Christ was regarded by the disciples as something that is as indisputable historically as the death of President Kennedy. It did not occur to them, as they spoke or wrote, to argue about it, any more than it would occur to a senator making a speech today to say: Since the death of President Kennedy, that is to say if he really is dead, and if his body is not mysteriously spirited away; if he is not this moment living in the south of Georgia with a heavy growth of whiskers . . .

They were writing down stupendous things within hailing distance of the events themselves. The winds had hardly had time to cover up his footprints in the Judean sands. The rain had hardly had time to wash away the blood from the rotting wood of a deserted cross.

Do you think their story is an invention? Could you invent such a story? And would you, so that you might be crucified upside down like Peter or have your head lopped off like Paul or be stoned to death like Stephen? Why would they persist in a lie if every time they insisted it was true they were driving nails into their own coffins!?

John and Peter, as they went to the grave that morning, did not know what to think. Until they saw what was inside the grave and then they believed.

The inside of the tomb revealed something that proved the resurrection to them. What was it? Let us turn again to the narrative and listen carefully:
Then came Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and saw the linen clothes lie, and the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed.

In this connection it may be good for us to remember that the stone was rolled away from the door, not so that Jesus could come out, but so that the disciples could come in.

And, notice what it was they saw: the linen clothes lying, not unwound and carefully folded as some people appear to think not thrown aside as is a covering when you rise from your bed, but lying there on the stone slab in the shape of a body.

True, the napkin had been removed and folded, but the grave clothes were lying there, mute but eloquent evidence that a living organism had come out.

The grave clothes lay like the shriveled, cracked shell of a cocoon left behind when a butterfly has emerged and hoisted her bright sails into the sunshine . . . or, more accurately, like a glove from which the hand has been removed, the fingers of which still retain the shape of the hand.

In that manner the grave clothes were lying, collapsed a little slightly deflated because there was between the rolls of bandages a considerable weight of spices; but there lay the linen cloth that had been wound round the body of Christ. It was when they saw that, that the disciples believed.

The Greek word here for see is not to behold as one looks at a spectacle, not to see as a watch maker who peers through a loupe. It means to see with an inner sight that leads one to a conclusion. It is perception, reflection, understanding more than mere physical sight. Do you see?

It is to see, as one who reasons from the effect to the cause; and when John and Peter reasoned from what they saw in the tomb, they arrived at the conclusion the unshakable, unassailable, certain conviction that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead.

Then what happened? Suddenly Peter is facing his foes with reckless courage:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as you yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. Who God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it.

Because it was not possible that he should be held by it.
Not the same man. Peter is different very, very different!

What had happened?

The undeniable fact is this: the disciples of Jesus were scattered, downcast, hopeless, with a sense of tragic loss and then, in just a few days, they were thrilling with victory, completely changed.

Why did these people suddenly rise from their bemoanings, and with light in their faces, fairly spring on the world with the message of a living savior for whom they were willing to suffer any persecution?!

They were thrilled beyond fear in the stupendous knowledge that Christ is alive; and they went bout rejoicing in a joy beyond pain. Why?

Ah, it's just a delusion, suggests the skeptic. Miracles! They don't happen; they simply don’t happen! Don't make it more difficult for me to believe by giving me another problem.
All this talk about a dead man becoming alive again and coming out of the grave clothes and bandages, and walking out into a garden and out of sight. These tales of mysterious appearance and a body going through doors, appearing and disappearing, eating solid food and yet vanishing like a mirage . . . all this talk of ignorant fishermen seeing angels sitting on a rock don't ask me to believe all that. It's just too much.

Very well. You are sitting in your living room at home, and by you is the radio. You reach out and turn on the switch, and in a few moments the room is filled with music. A woman.s voice is singing I Know that My Redeemer Liveth. But you are not in the mood for that sort of thing, and besides you don't really like her voice much anyway, so you reach out a bored hand and turn it off again. Silence.

Silence? Why, the music is still going on. She still is singing. Oh no she isn't,you say: I turned off the radio.

Well, what's that got to do with it? Simply this. That when you turn off the radio, you don't turn off the music. And whether you believe it or not, Schubert is in this very room (courtesy of someone's automobile), and Mendelssohn (courtesy of someone's spaghetti sauce), and Beethoven and all the music on earth.

And here today there are voices pleading, voices praying, voices that whisper, and voices that are sad. They are all around us as we sit her wrapped in silence. We call it the communion of the saints.

And out of them all, one voice speaks. We may stick our fingers in our ears, we may shut our eyes, and still we can hear the voice: Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.

And we say to ourselves, It's madness beautiful madness superstition, lovely sweet superstition, but it is not true; it cannot be so . . . And then comes the voice again: Be still, and know that I am God.

Is it true? Is Christ really risen from the dead?

As that question begins to knock gently at your heart's door, you realize that you have gone back through the centuries to when the world was almost 2,000 years younger back to the country of the camel, and the sandaled footprints in Palestine . . . back to the time when the Roman eagle fluttered over bronze breastplates, shining in the Syrian sun. Back to the time of the Caesars.

And you feel quite funny almost ridiculous for you have your microscope in your hand
and your measuring tape
and your litmus paper
and your biology textbook
and your test tube
and your college diploma.

In the half-shadow in the womb of time, your microscope glitters like a diamond. Your tape measure gleams like a line of gold. Your litmus paper is a purple ribbon from a royal standard. Your test tube, a silver bugle to sound a note of triumph.
And the noise and confusion of disbelief has died away.

And in the quiet Easter morning you are standing in front of a grave in a garden, and you see a stone in the doorway, but the stone is moving . . .

And before you are aware of it, you realize suddenly that someone is standing beside you, and your eyes are fixed on his hand, and you see a mark in the palm of it, like the print of a nail.

And as this great realization washes over you, you hear his voice:
Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.
Whoever believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
And whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die . . .
Because I live, you shall live also.

Because we can't stand it any longer in the secret places of our hearts, we cry out to God for help and then it comes, the supreme miracle for which we have longed.

It is so tremendous a thing that we can't describe it. It is so delicate a thing that we can't even bring it into view for anyone else to see. We can never explain it to anyone else; we only know that it is true.

The voice has said, Because I live, you shall live also.

Our hearts knew it must be so. It was what we wanted to hear. And now that we have heard it, we feel that we have solved the mystery of life.

If one die, shall he live again?

Yes, because the resurrection is a fact.

And I, too, shall live, because I know it is true! Amen!

COMMUNON HYMN Worship Christ the Risen King #225
(Please retain the elements so we may partake together.)

*PARTING HYMN Thine is the Glory #227


POSTLUDE Hallelujah, Handel from the Messiah David Cobb


We are an open and affirming church and all are welcome here to come and worship with us.

A reminder that our food basket is available every Sunday for your contributions.

Next Sunday is our community luncheon and the main course will be ham.

Nevertheless . . ; Matthew 26:36-42
Spanish Lakes Church Maundy Thursday March 29, 2018

Matthew's Gospel tells us that in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus fell on his knees and prayed: If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless . . . And we know what follows that crucial word, nevertheless nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt. Reading that passage lately, my thoughts have stopped at that powerful conjunction and dwelt on its immense significance. If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless . . .

The first part of this text describes a situation we all face at some time or another, each heart praying to be spared, if possible, some tragedy a loved one going off to war; receiving word that surgery is immanent; hearing news of a job change that will uproot the family and move you far away. At some time or other, each of us has prayed: If possible, let this cup pass from me. And the central test of life is whether or not we can take that next step, pushing past that nevertheless . . .

Set in this context, that word is one of the most momentous in all our vocabulary, and it brings Gethsemane closer to us all. To be sure, Jesus, struggle in the garden was unique, and during Holy Week, as we watch Him move from the adulation of the crowds on Palm Sunday to the loneliness of His agony under the trees, we look with awe upon this sacred mystery.

But, in another sense Gethsemane mirrors our own everyday lives, for it is at that nevertheless juncture that our spiritual mettle is tested. Charles Kingsley, preaching in his little village at Eversley in England, used to lean over the pulpit on Sunday mornings and say, Well, here we are again to talk about what's really going on in your soul and in mine. Well, certainly this, at least, is going on in our souls: a desire to be spared something which we dread, if possible with the question rising whether or not we can finish that prayer, push through past that “nevertheless.

The way we meet such a test demonstrates our faith in God. You see, it isn't difficult to have faith in God on our Palm Sundays, when everything seems to be going our way when the crowd shouts its approval and life, as it were, strews palm branches in our path. Almost anyone can believe in God on such a day.

But, when life passes from Palm Sunday to Gethsemane, with dangerous duty looming, with the certainty of a cross clearly ahead, with our heart crying out, Let this cup pass! it is then that the test comes. And, at that point, we find out whether our faith in God is of a kind fitted not simply for fair weather, but for foul as well.

Surely this raises a personal question in every soul here this evening: What kind of faith in God do we have to meet the challenges in our lives? Is it a fair-weather faith that believes in God only amid the flowers of the Galilean spring or the applauding throng of Palm Sunday? That was not enough even for Jesus, nor is it enough for us.

You see, friends, there are two kinds of faith in God. One says If all goes well, if life is hopeful, prosperous, and happy, then I will believe in God. But there is another kind of faith in God a faith that starts, not with the word if, but with the word though though the forces of evil triumph, though everything goes wrong and Gethsemane comes and the cross looms, nevertheless will I believe in God.

All the Bible is full of this contrast, on the one hand Jacob saying:
If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that
I go, and will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on,
so that I shall come again to my Father's house in peace,
then shall the Lord be my God . . . [Genesis 28:20ff]
That is fair-weather faith bargaining with God for our trust if all goes well and, of course, at Gethsemane it collapses.
But, there is another kind of faith the Bible records a faith that begins, not with the word if, but with the word though:
Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him . . . [Job 13:15]
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for Thou art with me . . . [Psalm 23:4]
Though the waters roar and foam, though the mountains
be shaken in the heart of the sea, yea the Lord of hosts is
with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge . . . [Psalm 46:3]

You see, dear friends, it is not on Palm Sunday with it Hosannas, but at Gethsemane that the real test comes. And there, at the very point where fair-weather faith goes to pieces, the supreme, memorable faith of great souls rises to its height: If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless . . .

Once again we stand in the midst of Holy Week and find ourselves part and parcel of the scene. We have had our Palm Sundays, when the air was filled with Hosannas and all was well; but now our lives have moved to a Gethsemane that seems to take in the whole world. It is terrific. It tests our faith. But after two millennia we keep the anniversary or the One who met that test. And we need to remember that the whole world is lifted up when people meet it well.
As the old Hindu quatrain runs:
Like one who doubts an elephant
when seeing him pass by,
And yet believes when he has seen
the footprints left, so I.
Well, had I been at Calvary, I am certain I should have doubted. How futile the sacrifice how final the failure!

But now, see the footprints left Pilate, gone; Caiaphas, gone; empire after empire perished; and the world still turning to the One who took upon Himself a burden He did not need to take One who kept on loving when He was hated, who died for people when they didn't deserve it, and who set loose in the world the mightiest lifting force that ever has gripped our race vicarious self-sacrifice backed by a faith, a character, a loyalty that, though the heavens fell in, He would not give in!

Ah, my soul, follow Him, if you can even afar off!

If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless.


PRELUDE The Palms, Faure David Cobb


CHORAL INTROIT from Tell Me the Story of Jesus
Into the city I'd follow / the children's band,
Waving the branch of a palm tree / high in my hand.
One of his herolds / Yes, I would sing,
Loudest Hosanna! / Jesus is King!

Minister: Hosanna!
People: Hosanna in the highest!
Minister: Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
People: Hosanna in the highest!

*HYMN All Glory Laud and Honor #173

*INVOCATION: O God, we pray that You enter into our worship and into our lives as You did into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday long ago. Be our gentle conqueror. On this first day of the week that we call Holy Week, enable us to offer a disciple's praise whenever we meet Jesus along our way. Teach us to heed Christ's bidding even when his requests seem strange or his teachings reach beyond our capacity to understand. Strengthen us to stand by Christ and to accept risk as an element of faithfulness. Confront us with our capacity to deny and to crucify. As this week passes, speak to us through its events, reminding us of Your constant love, surprising grace, and caring power. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


*RESPONSIVE READING Christ's Triumphal Entry #638
Denise Boesch

Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Minister: May God, who is gracious, show forth His mercy to us,
People: And take not His Holy Spirit from us.
(using debts and debtors)
CHORAL RESPONSE Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying

OFFERTORY Fairest Lord Jesus, Willis Choir
*OFFERTORY PRAYER: Gracious God, as the faithful disciples of Your Son spread their garments on the way and covered it with branches, so may we lay at His feet all that we have and all that we are, and bless You, in whose name and by whose mercy He comes. Amen

ANTHEM The Plan of Salvation Mel and Joyce Back

SCRIPTURE LESSON Mark 11: 1-11 Denise Boesch
RESPONSIVE HYMN Hosanna, Loud Hosanna #174
SERMON Who Really Killed Jesus? Rev. Greg Russell

WHO REALLY KILLED JESUS? Palm Sunday Spanish Lakes 03-25-18 Mark 11:1-11

This morning, as we stand at the threshold of Holy Week and look forward through our reflection on and participation in Christ's passion, I invite you to look at the cross with me and ask yourself, Who really killed Jesus?

You see, we have a way of romanticizing history that colors the people who fall on opposite sides of an issue either black or white, when the truth is most of us are tattletale gray. So, in our childhood when we heard the tale of William Tell, the Hapsburgs were demons while the Swiss were angels; and in our recollection of the American Revolution the colonists were all Simon Pure while the British had fangs.

That same black and white color scheme is the way we regard the crucifixion, too. The cross of Christ is so hideous a thing that we naturally think of those who employed it as brutes. But because I feel that this is not altogether true, I am forced to ask this morning,
Who really killed Jesus?

One of the most sobering things about the crucifixion is that it was ordinary people with ordinary motives common to all of us that sent Jesus to his cross. I almost dread trying to make this as real to you as it is to me this morning, for when the picture is complete, there is no place for our consciences to hide. No, the people of Jerusalem were very ordinary people, and the motives that persuaded them to crucify Jesus are among the most familiar that still operate among us today. So, I ask, Who really killed Jesus?

In the first place, religious people killed him religious people who had allowed their religion to harden into stiff and formal shapes. Far from being bad folk, they were among the best of their day. True, the gospels paint a pretty unflattering portrait of the Pharisees, and they certainly had their faults which stood in sharp contrast to the ministry of Jesus; but there is another side to their character. When the Greeks under Antiochus Epiphanes [175164 BCE] crashed down upon the temple, violated the altar by sacrificing swine upon it, and tore to pieces the scrolls of the sacred writings, it was the Pharisees who rose up to protect their desecrated faith.

The name Pharisee, after all, means Puritan; and like our own Puritans, they had a long history of courageous resistance. They had saved Judaism. And now with Greece gone and Rome here, with its overwhelming seductiveness for Jewish youth, they were going to save it again. They believed in God; they believed in God's revelation to Israel. They believed their Law was an entrustment from on high, and they dedicated themselves to building a dike to protect their people from an encroaching sea of pagan faith and morals. No, they were not bad people; they were among the very best of their day.

But how could they endure this Jesus? To be sure, he believed in God; but they soon caught the drift of what he was saying and saw that if his ideas were allowed free reign there would come a perilously broad interpretation of God which would overflow all their safeguards and take in Jew and Gentile alike and Barbarian, and Scythian, and bond and free as well.

Certainly, he believed in righteousness; anyone easily could see that. But what comfort was that when he would not accept their definition of righteousness and even dared to taunt them by saying, You have heard it said of old but I say to you...?

Of course, he believed in the scriptures, but then he picked and chose what he wanted there; and as for observances about clean and unclean foods or laws about the Sabbath, he tossed them out altogether.

Of course, he was a good man, but he was so lax about sinners; he so let down the fences for them. He even loved them and seemed to regard returning prodigals as some sort of specialty. Obviously, they could not endure the scene of Palm Sunday with throngs around him crying, Hosanna to the Son of David!

So, who killed Jesus? These did respectable folk, conscientious people in whom religion had stiffened into concrete forms. Ever see a river choked on its own ice? There is an ever-new truth. Religion is living water without which we cannot live well, but it is constantly in danger of congealing into hard forms of organization, creed, custom, and ritual, thus becoming blocked by its own freezing. That is what happened to Buddhism, to Confucianism, to Judaism; we are watching it happen to Islam. And it is happening in large parts of what passes for Christianity today. It always happens. It happened in ancient Jerusalem, and it killed Jesus. Part of our daily prayer needs to be God forgive us for what organized religion is doing to Jesus Christ today!

Business, too, had its hand in putting Jesus to death. His cross plainly was due to business people who had discovered how pleasant big profits are. They weren't bad people; they had no particular desire to hurt Jesus. Just listen to them argue! If only he had minded his own business and left them alone, they would be only too happy to leave him alone! They had no desire for trouble or negative publicity! They were profitably engaged in temple trade according to the practices of their day. They were providing a needed service, after all.

It was a seasonal occupation when the big pilgrimages were on. So, if a pilgrim wanted to offer a sacrifice upon the altar, why should the temple traders not stand in with the official censors, so that a sheep bought anywhere in the cheap markets always seemed to have a spot or a blemish, while those form the expensive temple markets always managed to get by? After all, business is business.

Besides, they all had families to support; and what more sacred obligation is there than to support your family? No, these were not bad people. They were among the friendliest, kindest, most genial and urbane people in all Jerusalem.

But, obviously, they could not endure this Jesus. You see, his crucifixion had not really been sealed until that day he caused such a ruckus in the temple courts, overturning the money-changers tables and driving out the sheep with a whip of cords. Up to that point even the religious people had not decided on his death. But that settled it! He had touched Jerusalem on a most sensitive nerve profits! So, the business people of the city rose up with a single voice, saying, Such unwarranted interference with methods of trade will not be tolerated!

That is not just ancient history, friends. Anyone who reads a current newspaper knows how familiar that tone is when profits are touched. $3.00 a gallon gasoline, steel tariffs,EPA emission standards,public smoking ban, banking regulations all these have been opposed by business people angling for greater profits!

But it was not just the religious people and business people that helped to raise the cross. Politicians, doing what politicians do best playing it safe killed Jesus.

Even Pilate was not so very bad. He didn't want to hurt Jesus. He tried every maneuver he could to avoid it. I find no fault in this man, he kept saying. Being a Roman, with an ingrained sense of justice, he did not want to put to death someone in whom he found no fault. But what was he to do?

Caiaphas, the Sadducee, and his associates were wily more than Pilate's match. They saw clearly that Jesus was claiming to be Messiah; that such a claim would cause a public uproar, maybe even a revolution. So, Caiaphas surveyed the scene with the keen, analytical eye of the expert politician and saw that he would have to do one of two things, neither which was desirable. So, he said, It is expedient (note the use of the politicians favorite word) expedient that one man die for the people so that the whole nation not perish. [John 11:50]

As for Pilate, he could not afford to be accused of being lax in his loyalty towards Rome. The crowd outside had been well instructed what to yell, We have no king but Caesar!! Away with him! Obviously, Pilate, good politician that he was, had to play it safe. Can't afford to have Rome thinking we're soft on crime, now, can we? [Death penalty for drug dealers!]

It is devastating to think how easy it was to get rid of Jesus back in Jerusalem. But when have popular politicians stopped playing it safe? Oh, to be sure, we are more sophisticated now; we would not nail a man to a cross. But there is no motive in Caiaphas or Pilate that is not the common property of politics today . . . playing it safe; doing what the crowd cries out to be done, even when we know it ought not be done at all. That is not such a foreign motive to us; but it helped to crucify Jesus.

Isn't it troubling to think that so terrible a thing as the crucifixion of Jesus should be caused by motives that are so familiar today motives that run through our organized religion, organized business, organized politics?! There must be something dark and damnable behind his crucifixion something cruel and knavish to which was can feel superior! Something we can look down on, upon which we can vent our indignation as those who love the Lord and would shrink from his murder! Surely you feel that way! Well, of whom are you thinking? Herod? Judas? The soldiers?

Herod was a typical man of the world. You would have found him, I suspect, quite debonair, witty, worldly-wise, a regular good fellow. Of course, he had no moral scruples whatsoever, fell in love with his brother's wife and took her. And why not? He wanted her, and he could get away with it. Moreover, if he loved her and she loved him, weren't they justified in making two lives happy at the expense of one life's unhappiness? (Now, there's a familiar argument. I heard it just last week from one of the principles involved.) As for the responsibility for Jesus death, that was Pilate's business. So, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate and, I presume, told another good story, took another drink, and promptly forgot the matter. A familiar enough face; lots of Herods around.

As for Judas, O follower of Jesus, beware lest you think him somehow uniquely bad. He was intensely interested in the realm of God so much so that in a day when it was dangerous and unpopular he joined the circle of Jesus closest followers. He gave up his business, gave up his home, gave up his family, and became a follower of this itinerant prophet. Yes, he had the right stuff! And after his base betrayal began to bear its fatal fruit and he saw the cross looming, he walked straight into the Sanhedrin, the very outskirts from which Peter had fled, and saying, I have betrayed innocent blood, threw down his ill-gotten money, stalked out and went and hanged himself for shame. He had a conscience; but he had begun to lose faith in Jesus.

He had watched the program of this peaceable Messiah, so different from what he had expected. Where was the real Messiah who would rule with a rod of iron and dash the Gentiles in pieces like a potter's vessel [Psalm 2:9]? He had lost faith in Jesus; disillusionment had settled in on him. He was angry with himself for being so deceived about Jesus. He simply would not be who I thought He should be! This pale, Milquetoast, enfeebled, counterfeit of a Messiah who can talk of nothing but love? Lost faith, disillusionment, resurgent selfishness that is Judas. Anything so strange about him? If so, then, by all means, feel free to cast the first stone.

Were the soldiers especially cruel or wicked? Crucifixion was simply a part of their defense industry, designed to scare the opposition into submission, not unlike our hydrogen bombs and strategy of mutually assured destruction. Besides, the soldiers were paid to do it, and you should earn your wages, shouldn't you? And, as for their mockery of Jesus, since when has Jew-baiting ceased to be a Gentile prerogative? It's always a soldier's business to do stern and unpleasant things when commanded to do so. No, the Roman soldiers were not especially bad. They did their gruesome work as efficiently as it could be done, I take it.

So, my dear friends, where shall our souls hide? There was not a motive in Jerusalem that dreadful day when Christ was so disowned and crucified that we do not find among within - ourselves today.

The crowd? Oh, especially the crowd! That was the final element in the crucifixion of Jesus, and it was a masterpiece of mob psychology. Somebody who understood well how to work a crowd set a few people to crying, Crucify him! And soon it was rising and falling like the surges of the sea. Look at the folks going down David Street that morning with no idea what's afoot. Obviously, something is going on; a crowd has gathered. Have you ever been able to pass by a crowd without at least wondering what is going on? And so, they stop, as once more the crowd raises up that raucous cry, Release Barabbas; but crucify him!

What's up, asks one? Jesus of Nazareth, comes the reply, bound to get us in trouble with the Romans unless we are rid of him!

Well, it is obvious, is it not, that Jerusalem needs no more trouble with Rome; so, one more voice is added to the crowd, reveling as we all do in the sense of unanimity with the multitude; loving to cry out with one voice even when we don't really understand what it's all about: Crucify him! Crucify him! [Lock her up! Lock her up!] Alas, it was so easy to be rid of Jesus.

And yet, even now we are not rid of him.

There were a few people in Jerusalem who would not crucify him: Nicodemus the rabbi, a man of religion; Joseph of Arimathea, a businessman as well as a member of the political council; a little group of disciples who passionately adored him; a few women who stood afar off from the cross and wept.
So small a bridge they seemed for Him to cross. But cross it He did!

When in George Bernard Shaw's play they tell Joan of Arc they are going to burn her at the stake, she foresees the effect it will have on her people, and she says, I, if I go through the fire, will burn into their hearts forever and ever. [GB Shaw, St. Joan, 1923]

Jesus, according to John's gospel, said it a little differently. He said, I, if I be lifted up, shall draw all people unto me. [John 12:32]

And so, he moves, slowly inevitably to his triumph.

Crucifixion 2018

*PARTING HYMN Before the Cross of Jesus #177


POSTLUDE Trumpet Tune, Purcell David Cobb

*Indicates you may rise in body or spirit to praise God.


We are an open and affirming church and all are welcome here to come and worship with us.

A reminder that our food basket is available every Sunday for your contributions.

The flowers are given to the glory of God by Joyce and Mel Back.

We can get lilies for $6.00. On Easter Sunday, the stage will be lined with 48 Easter Lilies all given to the Glory of God and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each Lily has the name of a member of our congregation and is many cases the name of the memory of their loved one. We are asking those who purchased Lilies to please take them home and the rest will be distributed throughout the park. .

Minister: Rev. Gregory A. Russell E-Mail:
Organist: David Cobb E-mail:
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Rev. Gregory Russell

Operated by J Boesch