Memory

Memory

SLIDE 3: HOW DOES RESURRECTION WORK?

X HOW DOES RESURRECTION WORK But how does resurrection work? How was Jesus crucified, dead and buried, and yet he was experienced as alive among his followers? On Easter Sunday we suggested that neither an empty tomb nor a resuscitated body were necessary for Christ to be experienced as alive by those who loved him. In fact, the testimony of Paul, the very first written account of the resurrection, Paul who counted his own vision on the Road to Damascus as one of the resurrection appearances, did not rely upon a resuscitated body or an empty tomb. So what was going on?

SLIDE 4: THE UNIVERSE REMEMBERS

X THE UNIVERSE REMEMBERSI think our scriptures provide a clue to our questions. Psalm 112 assures us that the righteous will be remembered forever. And the Gospel of John says the Holy Spirit will “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Our clue is that resurrection and life after death are all wrapped up in memory. Now before you object that given our memories or at least my faulty memory then we are all in trouble. But I am not talking about our individual memories, although they are important. Indeed, our individual personalities in some measure are the product of memory. This morning, however, I would like to invite all of us to consider the possibility that the universe, reality, God if you will all have memory. The universe remembers.

SLIDE 5: PERIODIC TABLE IS THE MEMORY OF THE EVOLUTION OF THE UNIVERSE

X PERIODIC TABLEHow can that be? How can an impersonal universe have memory? Allow me to suggest two pieces of evidence for memory in the universe. First look at the Periodic Table you encountered in High School chemistry or physics. Our best understanding of the beginning of the universe is a Big Bang with light and energy but very few particles, not even atoms in the first seconds. Then slowly as the Universe cooled after about 400,000 years, which in human terms is a long time, protons began to combine with electrons to form hydrogen atoms. And most of the matter was in the form of hydrogen that then formed into stars, massive stars that burned with incredible intensity until they blew up in massive explosions that helped to form the heavier atoms of the Periodic Table. All of us are made up of the dust of the explosions of those initial stars – we are literally made of star dust. And the Periodic Table is a memory of the evolution of our Universe.

SLIDE 6: DNA CONTAINS THE MEMORY OF THE EVOLUTION OF LIFE

X DNA CONTAINS MEMORYAnother evidence of memory in the Universe is our own DNA. Hidden in the structure of the genes and chromosomes of the double helix our DNA contains the memory of the evolution of life on our planet. Gill slits and tail bones all attest to nature’s memory of the slow development of the many species of life before we appeared. Again the universe remembers.

SLIDE 7: PERENNIAL WISDOM FOR THE SPIRITUALLY INDEPENDENT

X PERENNIAL WISDOM FOR THE SPIRITUALL INDEPENDENT   Rabbi Rami Shapiro the author of Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent, the next book we will discuss in Monday Bible Study and at the Sharing Table, uses an analogy for death using rope. And that is why I have provided all of us with a length of rope today to play with.

SLIDE 8: ROPE AND KNOTS

X ROPE AND KNOTSRabbi Rami writes: When I share the perennial wisdom on death with fifth and sixth graders, for example, I often do so with pieces of rope. I hand each child a foot long strand of rope and ask them to tie a knot in their piece of rope. We then discuss the relationship between the knot and the rope. The knot is simply the rope in a specific form. It is in no way other than or different from the rope.

I then ask them to tie a second knot. Comparing the two knots it is clear that each knot has its own uniqueness, its own place on the rope, its own degree of tightness, its own shape, yet both knots are not other than the single strand of rope.

I then ask them to name their knots. One knot called “me”. . . The second knot is named after someone they love who has died. . . I then ask them to untie their second knot.

The discussion now turns to the impact the missing knot has on the rope. Sure, the rope appears a bit longer, but it really isn’t any different than it was. There is no less rope with knots and no more rope without knots. The amount of rope is constant even if its length seems to change as we add or remove knots.

SLIDE 9: WHERE DOES THE KNOT GO WHEN IT IS UNTIED?

X WHERE DOES KNOT GOSo knotting and unkotting the rope doesn’t change the nature of the rope. It isn’t anything other than rope regardless of the number of knots it has. When this is clear, I ask them where the knot goes when it is untied. Is the rope that was once the knot gone? How can it be that the rope is still there while the knot is not?

You can, I expect, see where this investigation is leading. The rope is constant; knots come and go. The extent to which you identify as a knot or with a knot, the untying of that knot is experienced as a loss, and that loss is expressed in grief. But what is really lost? Only the form is lost; the rope itself is still present.

SLIDE 10: SOMETIMES THE ROPE RETAINS A MEMORY OF THE KNOT

X SOMETIMES THE ROPE RETAINS A MEMORY   I find this analogy of the rope and the knots and death interesting. But I am not sure Rabbi Rami has played enough with his ropes. For instance, ropes come in all kinds of shapes sizes and materials. Some are easier or harder to knot. And then I noticed that some ropes when the knot is untied still retain a memory of the knot. Certainly when we die, we will be changed. Our bodies will decay. Our egos will no longer matter. But is there something essential about each one of us that is retained in the memory of God even in death?

SLIDE 11: SURELY THE RIGTEOUS WILL BE REMEMBERED FOREVER

X SURELY THE RIGHTEOUS WILL BE REMEMBERED FOREVER  I have come to learn that each human being and his or her story is precious. When I conduct a funeral I try to include enough of the story of that person, so that he or she is remembered well, because in remembering there is blessing. I also believe that all of the experiences that help to form our personalities are so important and so precious it would be a shame, if all of that personality was lost. There are parts of my personality I would be happy to lose, but it is my hope that the goodness and truth that have emerged out of my life and the lives of others will be remembered. “Surely the righteous will never be shaken, they will be remembered forever.”

SLIDE 12: YOU SHALL BE TOGETHER IN THE SILENT MEMORY OF GOD

X YOU WILL BE TOGETHER IN THE SILENT MEMORYWhat comes after death I do not know. And you are certainly welcome to form your own opinion, however learn from the rope. Nothing is lost. And this I do believe, that each one of us is a precious much beloved child of God, and in the economy of the universe nothing is lost and each one of us will have a place in the silent memory of God. In the words of Kahlil Gibran in his poem “On Marriage” in the Prophet:

You were born together, and together you shall be forever more. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

SLIDE 13: WE BREAK THE BREAD IN ORDER TO REMEMBER

X WE BREAK BREAD IN ORDER TO REMEMBER Jesus promises us that the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, will teach us all that we need to know, and bring into remembrance the very spirit of God. When we gather at the Sharing Table we break the bread and we pass the cup, in order to remember, and in that remembering we are freed from fear and we find peace. Through the power of memory we can access the power of the universe.

SLIDE 14: BEING FREE IS THE ULTIMATE RESURRECTION

X BEING RREE IS THE ULTIMATE RESURRECTIONIn the words of Rabbi Rami: Resurrection is not the return of your body, but the awakening from spiritual sleep. You are not other than That which is all. But you have forgotten. You are asleep to the truth of yourself and all life. But you can be taught, and unless you resist the teaching by clinging to your sense of separateness from the Whole, you will find the truth. It may come early or late, in the fullness of your life or in the moment of your death, but truth will come, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). Being free is the ultimate resurrection.

Take your rope home and play with it. You may discover whole new insights. The universe has memory, and each one of us will live in the silent memory of God.

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Christ Among Us

Christ Among Us

SLIDE 3: THESE DAYS

X THESE DAYSToday is only the second Sunday in Eastertide. In the church calendar we devote an entire season from Easter Sunday until Pentecost lifting up the great truth that Christ is alive among us. Like the first Christians we do not focus our attention on the empty tomb. Rather we look for where Jesus is going ahead of us into the world to new places of ministry and growth.

Bill Green who is one of the great spiritual elders of this congregation has shared with many of us his secret of beginning every day with several little devotional booklets. He allows those short devotions to lift his spirit and point him in the direction where God might leading him. Judy Cameron another spiritual elder of this congregation shared a devotion with the Diaconate from These Days. It is entitled “Alive with Christ” written by Irene Pak based on this scripture from Ephesians, “But God, who is rich in mercy. . . made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved. Irene then writes:

SLIDE 4: ASK WHAT MAKES YOU COME ALIVE

X ASK WHAT MAKES YOU COME ALIVE Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

            We have been made alive through the risen Christ by the grace and mercy of God. But we become overwhelmed by the needs around us. Yet Ephesians reminds us that our job is not to save. Jesus has already done that. We are constantly to discover what makes us come alive and go and do that, believing the gifts and passions God has created in us to share are a natural extension of grace. So what makes you come alive?

SLIDE 5: DRUDGERY

X DRUDGERY            So often in the life of the church we have jobs, slots that must be filled, chores that must be done, drudgery that snuffs out the life of the spirit. Often churches have more bylaws and procedures than we have members. Michael Piazza, a church consultant with the Center for Progressive Renewal wonders out loud, “How badly behaved can these people be that they need so many rules?” Sometimes we have to have the grace to leave some jobs undone for the moment some positions unfilled, until the spirit moves someone to do them. And if the spirit doesn’t move anyone to undertake those tasks maybe they don’t need doing, at least not right now.

SLIDE 6: VOCATION

X VOCATIONAs I struggle with the problem of doing my duty or following my bliss I am reminded of Frederick Buechner’s definition of vocation. “Vocation it comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a person is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

SLIDE 7: WHERE CHRIST COMES ALIVE IN US

X WHERE CHRIST COMES ALIVE IN USWhere our own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. Where Christ comes alive in us is the place we are called to be. I think verse 41 is the key to our scripture from Luke this morning: “While they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered.” The phrase almost sounds like nonsense. But there is a deep truth expressed. The disciples really couldn’t believe what they were seeing and experiencing, but the joy they felt in the presence of the Christ overcame their doubts. Sort of like last Sunday’s message. What do you want to believe? Do we want to believe that Jesus is dead and buried and we are supposed to be depressed and defeated, or is Christ alive among us, and we are invited to live in joy. Friends, I will choose joy every time.

SLIDE 8: LIVE IN JOY

X LIVE IN JOY   Now let’s be clear there is a difference between joy and happiness. God does not promise us happy, happy all the time. Rather God invites us to use our gifts and talents to make a difference in the world. And we should not prejudge what gifts and talents are needed. In her book Gifts of Grace, Mary Schramm writes about her experience in the Church of the Savior an inner-city mission church in Washington D.C. The small group who founded the church wanted to intentionally engage in mission with their neighborhood. So each member was asked to pray about what gift he or she possessed that he or she might share in ministry with the people of that desperately needy inner city neighborhood.

SLIDE 9: USING OUR GIFTS AND TALENTS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD

X USING OUR GIFTS AND TALENTS    One of the members, Paul, announced that God was leading him to share his gift for model airplane building. The rest of the members of the group were critical. “Get real Paul, how will your gift for model airplane building be helpful in this poverty stricken, crime ridden neighborhood.” But Paul stuck to his guns, he said he had prayed and model airplane building was the answer. We should all wait and see.

Well the very next week two other members of the church went to visit with the director of the local neighborhood community center to offer the resources, gifts and talents of the members of the congregation to help the neighborhood. “Well,” replied the director of the community center, “I’m not sure how you all can help out, but we sure could use somebody who knows how to build model airplanes. We have this group of young teenage boys who are interested in model airplane building and we haven’t been able to find anyone who knows anything about that.”

Bingo, Paul was the first member of the church who actually went to work helping people in the neighborhood. The Neighborhood Center gave Paul a dozen young teenage boys a room, and they went to work making model airplanes two evenings a week. Kids who otherwise would have been on the gang infested streets were spending time with Paul learning to make model airplanes. Paul even had an opportunity to teach a lesson about ethics, when a tool everyone needed for their project showed up missing one day. Paul pointed out that the missing tool undermined the whole community, because everyone needed to be able to share it. The missing tool mysteriously showed up.

SLIDE 10: DISCOVER THE GIFTS THAT GIVE YOU JOY

X DISCOVER GIFTS GIVE YOU JOY        So do not make judgments ahead of time what gifts are really needed. Discover your God given gifts that give you joy, and share them. True there are chores that need to be done to maintain the community of faith. Garbage and recycle need to be taken out. If we are going to enjoy the hospitality of the Fellowship Hour, we all need to bring food to share. But these are jobs we can all share. When something doesn’t get done sooner or later people will notice, and rather than allowing a culture of complaining, we just need to gently remind one another we are all responsible. The next time you are tempted to say, “Somebody should. . . . whatever it is.” Remember, you are a somebody! The very fact that you have noticed something that needs doing may be God’s call to you to do it!

SLIDE 11: COMMUNITY OF FAITH NEEDS ENCOURAGERS

X COMMUNITY OF FAITH NEEDS ENCOURAGERS   We need to encourage one another to share the God given gifts that give us joy, and also learn to withhold judgment. So often we discourage others by assuming that God has given us the gift of criticism. The community needs us to be critical of the work of others. Not so! Not so! Communities of faith desperately need encouragers. People who will withhold judgment about the efforts of others and instead give encouragement to everyone to use their gifts to the glory of God. Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because that is how the world will know that Christ is alive here among us.


Marks of Faith

Marks of Faith

SLIDE 3: THOMAS WAS A CONCRETE SENSING KIND OF GUY

X THOMAS WAS A CONCRETE SENSINGJohn is the only gospel, where Thomas plays a major role. He was absent on the evening of the first Easter, when the Risen Christ appeared to the rest of the disciples in the Upper Room. Ancient church tradition claims that Thomas was a carpenter like Jesus. He worked with his hands. He was a concrete sensing kind of guy who must have been from Missouri, because he wasn’t about to take the other disciples’ word for it that they had “seen the Lord.” “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

SLIDE 4: CONCRETE REALITY ISN’T VERY CONCRETE

X CONCRETE REALITY IS VERY CONCRETE Now one of the problems with concrete reality is that it isn’t very concrete at all. The world around us is made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, electrons, and a whole bunch of empty space in between all of those little particles. And if we break down those little particles further, all we end up with is vibrating energy. The world as we see it with our eyes, or try to touch it with our hands isn’t the real world at all.

SLIDE 5: DARK ENERGY & MATTER

X DARK ENERGY & MATTER And the world as we “see” it only accounts for about 4% of the energy and matter in the Universe. Most of our Universe, an estimated 96% of the total is Dark energy and Dark matter invisible and so far undetectable to our senses and instruments. If only 4% of the Universe is detected and measured, then who knows what are the true boundaries of reality? When 96% of our Universe is a mystery, surely there is room for God, who knows maybe even resurrection is a possibility?

SLIDE 6: OPTICAL ILLUSIONS THE LIMITS OF OUR EYE SIGHT

X OPTICAL ILLUSIONS LIMITES OF OUR EYE SIGHT  Thomas didn’t know anything about atoms or electrons or Dark energy or Dark matter, but he wanted proof. We are all familiar with optical illusions that result from limitations of our eye sight. For instance, the insert in your bulletin contains several common optical illusions based upon foreground focus versus background focus, deciphering context from the relative sizes of surrounding objects, the mirror illusion, or the right brain left brain conflict illustrated by the names of colors in different colors. Optical illusions remind us that seeing isn’t always believing.

SLIDE 7: TACTILE ILLUSIONS

X TACTILE ILLUSIONS   Thomas realized that just seeing isn’t always enough, he

wanted to touch to make sure his eyes weren’t fooling him. But then there are also tactile illusions related to the limitations of our sense of touch. For instance, consider a tactile illusion most of us have experienced. If one hand is immersed in cold water and the other in hot water for a minute or so, and then both hands are placed in lukewarm water, the lukewarm water will feel hot to the hand previously immersed in cold water, and cold to the hand previously immersed in hot water.

Or another tactile illusion you can try out on your friends, take two cardboard boxes of different sizes and put a brick in each one. Check that they weigh the same, then get someone to lift them and tell you which is heavier. The vast majority of people will say that the smaller box is heavier, even though it isn’t, and will continue to maintain that it is even after looking inside both boxes and lifting them several times. Another tactile illusion you can experience at home is to take an ordinary comb and pencil and lay your index finger along the top of the comb, then run the pencil back and forth along the side of the teeth. Even though the teeth are moving from side to side in a wave-like motion, your finger will feel as if a raised dot is travelling up and down the comb.

SLIDE 8: EVEN TOUCHING MAY NOT BE BELIEVING

X EVEN TOUCHING MAY NOT BE BELIEVING    So even touching is not always believing. And somehow maybe Thomas knew that. For eight days after Jesus first appeared to the disciples, when Thomas was in the Upper Room and the doors were closed, suddenly Jesus stood there among them, and he said, “Peace be with you.” Then turning to Thomas he said, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Despite Jesus invitation to place his fingers in the nail holes and his hand in Jesus’ side, the text does not mention Thomas reaching out to touch the Risen Christ.

SLIDE 9: FEW PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO DIE FOR A LIE

X FEW PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO DIE FOR A LIE    Instead, Thomas responded, in complete submission, “My Lord and my God!” Would any of us have insisted on putting our fingers or hands in Jesus’ wounds? We do not know what the followers of Jesus experienced when they encountered the Risen Christ, but we can guess it was convincing enough to inspire faith. Although the testimony of the early church seems to have been based in the experience of the Risen Christ in the “breaking of the bread” at the Sharing Table. On numerous occasions Roman authorities offered to spare the lives of the followers of Jesus, if they would just deny their experience of the Risen Christ. If they would just be willing to admit their faith was all a hoax. Few people are willing to die for a lie. Those first followers of Jesus were convinced they had experienced Jesus alive after he had been killed.

SLIDE 10: BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET BELIEVE

X BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN   Perhaps the most important part of our scripture is verse 29. And Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” There is no way to recreate the experience of the first disciples. We can read our New Testaments, but we cannot hear Jesus first hand, or witness any of the miracles described in the gospels. We also cannot know what it was like to see Jesus nailed to a cross, left for dead, and then suddenly experience the living presence of the Christ after his death.

SLIDE 11: WE BELIEVE BECAUSE WE WANT TO BELIEVE

X WE BELIEVE BECAUSE WE WANT TO BELIEVE   “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” I don’t think God gives us any points for being credulous. On the other hand, we are not likely to find faith unless we are willing to believe. In the end there are all kinds of things that cannot be proven that we must decide whether or not we want to believe. For instance, we cannot prove the sun will come up tomorrow morning but at some level we make the decision that there will be a tomorrow and so we set our clocks, when we go to bed, and we make plans to meet our friends for dinner on Friday night. We believe because we want to believe and then we act accordingly.

SLIDE 12: WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE TO BELIEVE?

X WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE TO BELIEVE   So, what does God need to do to help us to believe? Believing starts with wanting to believe. We have a choice. If we do have a choice, who wouldn’t want to believe that love is the secret of the Universe, and love triumphs over death? I mean what would we rather believe, that life sucks and then we die? That dead is dead, and nothing we do in this life has any meaning. So you better drink as many beers as you can and attend as many sporting events as possible. And don’t go out of our way for anyone, because it does not matter in the end. Is that what we want to believe? Think about it. We can choose what we want to believe, knowing that our faith will impact how we live our lives.

SLIDE 13: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BELIEVE?

X WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BELIEVE The marks of faith are not the wounds of Christ, rather the marks of faith are the choices we make. To live as if life has meaning. To live as if love is the secret of the Universe. To live as if love triumphs even over death. Just take a moment to meditate on your most important relationships. Maybe the love you have shared with your mother or father, or your spouse or your partner, or maybe the relationship you have shared with your own children. Now answer me a question. Do you believe the love you have shared with the person you are thinking about will be cut off by death? What do you want to believe? “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”


Now What?

Now What?

SLIDE 3: TRADITION OF THE EMPTY TOMB

X TRADITION OF THE EMPTY TOMBWe cannot say for sure what happened on that very first Easter morning. The Gospels contain several different accounts no two of which absolutely agree with one another. Some scholars even believe the tradition of the empty tomb was a later story that tried to make sense of the early followers’ experience of the living Christ among them after the death of Jesus.

Indeed the very first written account of the Easter Story is contained in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians chapter 15 beginning with verse 3:

I Corinthians 15:3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.   7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

SLIDE 4: APPEARANCES

X APPEARANCES Please note, Paul makes no mention of an empty tomb, just “appearances” of Jesus to members of the community on the third day after his burial, as well as other subsequent “appearances” including Paul’s vision on the Road to Damascus. Paul’s vision of the Risen Christ was clearly not a resuscitated body depending upon an empty tomb.

SLIDE 5: VENERATION OF THE EMPTY TOMB DEAD END

X VENERATION OF TEMPTY TOMB DEAD END    Perhaps the most significant detail in Mark’s account of Easter morning was the message: “He is not here; he is going before you.” Thomas Merton, a great 20th century Christian mystic claimed that the veneration of the empty tomb is a spiritual dead end, because it focuses our faith on the place Christ can no longer be found. Jesus isn’t in the tomb. He goes on before us into the world beckoning us to follow him to all of the places of human need, where we can find him in the least of these. The empty tomb decorated with lilies and flowers is a comfortable place to stop and rest, but if we get stuck there, then we will miss our calling to become followers of Jesus who share the love of God with real people in real need.

SLIDE 6: ROAD TO EMMAUS

X ROAD TO EMMAUS    John Dominic Crossan claims that the most authentic Easter Story is the “Appearance of Jesus on the Road to Emmaus.” The followers of Jesus experienced his living presence after his death on the road in the breaking of the bread. He is always going before us. Jesus is always on the move, and we have to run to catch up. Crossan then comments, “the Road to Emmaus never happened; the Road to Emmaus always happens.”

SLIDE 7: REAL GOOD CHURCH

X REAL GOOD CHURCHIf we stop and huddle inside the walls of the church, we will miss the Living Christ, for he is beckoning to us to move out into the world to meet people where they are. As beautiful as this sanctuary is, it is only a gathering place to inspire us to go out into the world to bear witness to God’s love for others. Molly Baskette in her book Real Good Church, points out that as much as they have worked to make their church building, more inviting and welcoming, (something we are working on also) the real challenge is to extend the ministry of the congregation into the community.

SLIDE 8: OFFICE HOURS AT THE DIESEL CAFE

X OFFICE HOURS AT THE DIESEL CAFEBetter signs, parades, special events for the community are a beginning. Molly even holds office hours out in the community at the Diesel Café on Davis Square in Sommerville.

SLIDE 9: OFFICE HOURS & THE LABYRINTH

X OFFICE HOURS ON THE LABYRINTHUnited Church is not located in the same kind of neighborhood as First Church Sommerville, and so we don’t have a neighborhood Café, but one of our hopes for our new labyrinth is to attract people from our community. We are also working to install an attractive place to sit with wifi, so in good weather we can hold office hours at the labyrinth extending our congregation’s presence into the community. Who knows maybe even in very good weather not too hot or too cold we can even have Sharing Table outside? What’s next? Who knows, how far can we go to catch up to Jesus?

SLIDE 10: CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHER JESUS NO LONGER THERE

X CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHERThe true miracle of Easter is not long ago and far away. I have been to the Holy Land. I have visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The seven different churches who try to share the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have terrible turf wars sometimes coming to blows and even using clubs and weapons. Because the Christians do not trust one another, the key to the church is entrusted to a Muslim family, who open and close the facility. Jesus is no longer there.

SLIDE 11: RISEN CHRIST GOES ON BEFORE US

X RISEN CHRIST GOES ON BEFORE USThe Risen Christ goes on before us into our neighborhoods, our world, and Jesus summons us to run to catch up. Like Monday April 13th when United Church plays host to the Touch, Caring and Cancer Work Shop from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Licensed Massage Therapist Judy Castrichini will teach care teams how to massage cancer and other medically frail patients safely and gently. The Russel Hill Foundation connected with the Clearview Cancer Center is the sponsor for the class and is providing lunch and materials to the participants. Or maybe we can catch up with Jesus on Monday evenings at 5:30 p.m. at the United Church of Huntsville at the NAMI Connection Mental Health recovery and support group.

SLIDE 12: OTHER OPPORTUNITIES

X OTHER OPPORTUNITIESWhat other opportunities beckon us forward to follow Jesus? Maybe a lunch for Habitat workers, or inviting children from the community to participate in Vacation Bible School, or bringing a friend to our Church Retreat at Camp Sumatanga, or providing utility assistance through the Huntsville Assistance Program, or food for hungry people through our donations to Foodline, or support for the elderly living alone through Meals on Wheels.

SLIDE 13: HERE IS WHERE I DRAGGED YOU KICKING AND SCREAMING

X DRAGGED YOU KICKING AND SCREAMINGNow what is the likelihood we will actually get up and run to catch up with Jesus? Friends I am not a dreamer or a visionary. I think this cartoon probably captures the inertia that keeps most of us from reaching out beyond the walls of our homes, our families and our church to touch the real needs of other people. The problem is Jesus relies upon us to freely get up and get moving. Jesus won’t drag us kicking and screaming into the world to serve others. We must freely choose to serve others.

SLIDE 14: THE FUTURE IS IN OUR HANDS

X EASTER IS IN OUR HANDSNow what? It’s up to us. We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in the world. Is Jesus truly alive in us moving in the world to touch the needs of others, or has he died, suffocated by our indifference and buried in the sepulcher of the church. If Christ lives, he lives because we care, because we are alive to his call to love others. The reality of Easter is in our hands, it’s in our hands.