Waiting & Praying During Quarantine

May 31, 2020 – Cathy Harris – PFM – Acts 1

Welcome to Plainfield Friends’ online worship service for May 31st. We are glad you are here.

We are still planning to tentatively begin worshiping together – starting next Sunday, June 7th, at 10:30 a.m. Worship will look a little differently next week. We will have information on our website and Facebook pages, and we will be sending out information via email and the newsletter is being mailed this week.

Masks are recommended, but not required – and we will have some available sitting out on a table in the foyer. We will not be singing hymns – initially – because when we sing, we force air from our lungs out farther than when we are simply talking. We will still have special music that you can listen to and enjoy. Initially, the nursery will not be available, and children will stay in worship for the whole service. There will be a children’s message, but children will be asked to stay seated with parents/grandparents. Every other row of pews will be “roped off” in order for us to maintain social distancing. You may sit with family, but we ask that you sit six feet apart from other individuals/families.

We can’t wait to get back together and worship together! Our Ministry & Counsel Committee – which oversees our worship services – has been working to put a plan in place to create a safer environment for us to worship during this time of the pandemic.

If you do not feel comfortable yet to come and worship in person, that is fine. We will continue to post our worship services online – although once we start meeting in worship, we will be taping the service on Sunday morning and it will be posted to our website later that day.

Today – this Sunday – the last Sunday of the month – is birthday Sunday here at Plainfield Friends – so, if you have had a birthday in May, we wish you a very happy birthday!

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk[c] from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

SERMON – May 31, 2020

Over the past several weeks of quarantine, I don’t know about you, but in some ways it wears on me – the social distancing, the self-isolation, the voluntary quarantine – trying to stay safe when going out and seeing lots of people not wearing masks in stores is concerning, and trying to stay connected with family, friends, and church family – in these difficult times.

The word “quarantine” —was originally shaped by and takes its meaning from – the forty days that – at one time – some sailors had to remain in isolation to ensure that they hadn’t brought the plague back home with them.

So – how have you been experiencing this quarantine? – as slightly stressful and soul-sucking – kind of like a spiritual dementor from Harry Potter? Or has it been relaxing and life-giving?
I’d say it’s been some of both for me.

The idea of quarantining semi-voluntarily in social isolation actually resonates with this morning’s scripture reading.

After Jesus’ resurrection, over the course of the next 40 days, he appeared many times to the disciples and other followers. He kept going over all the things he had taught them about God and God’s kingdom – before his death. Then Jesus left and ascended to heaven.

In the wider church, last Sunday was recognized as “Ascension Sunday”, and today is celebrated as Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit. But what happened in-between the time when Jesus went to heaven and the coming of the Spirit?

Before Jesus left and ascended to heaven, we find in Acts 1:4-5 that Jesus: “ordered the disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’”.

So – Luke (the author of Acts) – tells us that the disciples returned to Jerusalem and “went to the room upstairs where they were staying” (Acts 1:13). And then, just so you and I would know how crowded they all were as they isolated together in an upstairs guest room, Luke names them all—“Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James … together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” We are told that there were 120 people in that room – that’s a lot of human flesh in one upstairs room!

What did they do while they were waiting for the promise of the Father?
They were waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
And they were waiting for the restoration of their country – to have the kingdom of Israel restored.

Today – we find that the disciples have been waiting and praying – they’ve been waiting and praying for 10 days since Jesus left.

We’ve been waiting and praying for the past several weeks – during this pandemic. Waiting for things to settle down so it’s safe to be around family – many of you have been waiting for weeks and weeks to see your grandchildren and give them a big hug, waiting to see loved ones in assisted living or nursing homes, waiting to go to the grocery yourself, waiting until we can gather for worship in person and be together, waiting to eat at your favorite restaurant, waiting to get back to the gym, or waiting for test results.

Waiting is not easy – just think about how excited children are as they wait for Christmas – and that’s a good thing to be waiting for! But sometimes waiting is difficult and can quickly feel like a burden to us – especially in our modern age of instant everything – with computers and technology, and now with social distancing and semi-voluntary quarantine – waiting is not easy.

But waiting is one of the tough tasks of the church.
Waiting implies that the things which need doing are beyond our own ability to accomplish solely by our own effort – and that some other help or empowerment is needed – therefore, the church waits and prays. And that’s one of the reasons we have some quiet waiting and prayer time during our worship services – to wait, to listen to God, to pray.

Today we find this group of disciples and followers of Jesus gathered on a hillside talking with Jesus and then in the upper room – they were real human beings, with names, identities, histories, and hopes.

They followed Jesus as far as they could: then they waited for the coming of the Spirit. This group of people were the ones who made up the first church.

Though the times have changed – radically from Jesus’ time on earth – it is still – real human beings – men and women with names, identities, histories, and hopes – who gather to wait for the coming of the Spirit – it is us! It is we, who make up today’s church as we gather (okay – we are not gathered in person, but we are gathered in spirit) to pray for the coming of the Spirit in our own lives and in the life of our Meeting.

Will Willimon says: that the Spirit is a gift – a gift which must be constantly sought anew in prayer – and that we join the disciples and early followers of Jesus – in praying for understanding, wisdom, guidance, and strength to move forward. And that the early church – and we, ourselves, – pray in hope and fear, in faith and doubt, in obedience and wonder.

What lay ahead for those early followers – that first church?
They had anticipated the kingdom of Israel would be restored in all of its ancient power and glory, but Jesus kept talking about the kingdom of God – not the kingdom of Israel.

God’s kingdom is here and yet it continues to come. Jesus had tried to explain to the disciples about God’s kingdom – loving God with your whole heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself – it would not look like the kingdom of Israel back when David was king, and Jesus would not be driving out the Romans – God’s kingdom would come through them – God working through their work their hands and feet – their own lives – a kingdom founded – not by power, but by love, compassion and justice.

Karl Jacobson says that to pray is “to open a window of the soul to the kingdom of God.”

I think Karl got that idea – that when we pray, we are opening a window of our soul to God – that he got that idea from the great Jewish Bible scholar Abraham Heschel, who wrote that to pray is to “open a window to Him [God].”

Abraham Heschel wrote:
“To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain the sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live. Who is worthy to be present at the constant unfolding of time? Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers—wiser than all alphabets—clouds that die constantly for the sake of beauty, we are hating, hunting, hurting.”1

Heschel concludes, “It is gratefulness that makes the great.” But then adds, “However, we often lack the strength to be grateful, the courage to answer, the ability to pray.”

Abraham Heschel wrote that book, called, “Prayer” – in 1945 – which, ironically, really resonate with our situation today: “Prayer clarifies our hopes and intentions. It helps us discover our true aspirations, the pangs we ignore, the longings we forget. It is an act of self-purification, a quarantine for the soul.”

So – in 1945, Heschel wrote that prayer is – a quarantine for the soul.
And here we find ourselves – in the midst of a quarantine that is stressful and kind of soul-sucking in some ways, and Abraham Heschel says that the answer is to pray – and to pray means that we quarantine our souls from suffering … through prayer!

To “quarantine our souls from suffering” – is to take time away – not only from busy schedules, but taking time away from the TV or our cell phones, to take time away from the constant stress of the news – and to spend some time – like those 120 people did in that upper room – to pray.

As we await the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as we await the coming of the Spirit to end this pandemic, as we wait to see loved ones, as we await the coming of the Spirit to renew our own spiritual lives, we can do so by opening the windows of our souls to the kingdom of God by taking time to wait and to pray.

So, if waiting and praying is a challenge for us, it must have been just as challenging to the people in that upper room.

If God’s kingdom is a kingdom based on love and not power, then what sort of kingdom is founded on love? What ruler or subjet, leader or follower on earth forgoes power and privilege in order to provide charity and compassion?

Rick Mixon (a Bible scholar) says that – waiting, praying, and doing God’s will is what Jesus called those early Christians to do – and it is precisely what they signed on for. They must do the work of the One who called them and sent them; they must center themselves in God and God’s will; they must listen for the voice of love and wrap themselves in its empowering cloak.
And then Rick Mixon asks: Are our life stories to be any different?

We, too, are called to do the work of the One who has called us and who sends us.
We, too, are called to center ourselves in God and God’s will,
And we, too, must wait and pray and listen for God’s voice of love – and then wrap ourselves in love’s empowering cloak.

“Stop. Look. And Listen.”

Cathy Harris – PFM – 5/24/20 – Ephesians 1:15-23

Ephesians 1:15-23 (NIV)
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.


When I was a child, my mother taught me to Stop. Look. And Listen. … As I walked across a street, I would Stop. Look. And Listen. … When a ball rolled out into the road, I would Stop. Look. And Listen. My mother ingrained in me – and my brother – that we needed to Stop. Look. And Listen.

When I started school, we lived in town – in Greenfield – and I walked to school every morning – walked home at noon to eat lunch (there was no cafeteria) – walked back to school, then walked home in the afternoon — so it was important to learn how to cross the street.

When I was 9 years old, we moved to the country – a few miles east of Greenfield. … So, I had to switch schools in the middle of 3rd grade. I liked my old school, but I was excited about my new school, too, because my cousin, who was the same age as I was, would also be attending Eastern Hancock … and not only that … I would get to ride a bus to school!

I had ridden a school bus a few times – before I was old enough to go to school. My grandfather was a farmer, and he also drove a school bus – and I got to ride with him sometimes when he drove his route. So, when I changed schools, I was excited to get to ride a school bus.

But, to get on and off the bus, I had to cross the road. Every morning I would head out the front door of our house – whether walking to the end of our drive to wait for the bus … or … if I was running close on time, racing out the door to catch the bus.

Either way – I ALWAYS stopped at the edge of the road – just like my Mom taught me – and then I stopped, looked to make sure that the bus was completely stopped – and then I looked both ways – up and down the road – and then I listened for other vehicles before crossing the street. It was very important – because we lived on a very busy county road.

One day I walked out the door to wait for the bus. I stopped at the road … waited for the bus to come to a complete stop, and then looked both ways and listened for cars and began crossing the street.

What I hadn’t noticed – was that the bus driver wasn’t paying attention – and after the other kids got on the bus at my stop, he began to take off – while I was walking in front of it.

What I DID notice was 4 or 5 mothers screaming from their front doors as they saw the terrifying scene unfold before their eyes. When I heard them scream, I turned toward the bus and saw it moving towards me. At the same time, the bus driver heard the Moms screaming and slammed on the brakes. The bus had come within inches of hitting me.

Looking back at the situation now, I realize that it wasn’t enough to stop at the edge of the road … to look and see that the bus was stopped. To look both ways and listen to make sure no cars were coming.

A first look at this picture indicated it was safe for me to begin crossing the road – and it should have been, but it wasn’t enough to look at the picture – I needed to look again – beyond my initial perceptions – through the window – to make eye contact with the driver to make sure he had seen me.

The initial picture – on the surface – looked safe. A closer look – through the window to the driver – might have revealed that the driver wasn’t paying attention – a vital piece of information!

My bus driver was young. He was probably about 20 years old at the time he nearly hit me. Several years ago, as I was walking into the Greenfield Walmart, there he was – my former bus driver, smiling, and saying “Hi! Welcome to Walmart” – he was a greeter at the store. I was surprised. I hadn’t seen him in years – or even thought about the bus incident – but here he was – right in front of me – working at this store.

Every time I went to that store, I saw him – about once a week – and every time I saw him, I was reminded of the time he nearly ran over me with the school bus – and was surprised to realize that I carried some hard feelings about the situation – even though I know he is a nice man and liked him as a bus driver. I found myself – every time I saw him – feeling resentful.

I kept thinking to myself – this is silly – it happened 40 years ago – I was not hurt – I’m fine – but the sad truth was that I had some hard feelings – not hatred or a huge amount of anger – not, it was resentment.

In the scripture reading this morning, Paul writes to the Ephesians:
“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the EYES of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”

Paul prayed that God would give them a spirit of wisdom as they came to know God more and more and that they would be able to see with the eyes of their hearts … hmmmm … a spirit of wisdom and revelation and to be able to see with the eyes of their hearts enlightened.

In the book, “Windows of the Soul”, the author – Ken Gire – says that when we look long enough at something – whether it is a scene from a movie, a page from a book, or a person across the room – that, when we look deeply enough, those moments grow transparent. He says that everywhere we look, that there are pictures that are not really pictures, but windows. And if we are willing to take a second look – and look closely at someone or a particular situation, that we will be able to see something beyond our initial perceptions.

In the details of our every day life, we need to Stop. Look. And listen. But we need to go beyond that – we need to go beyond looking at the picture and look and listen again – with our eyes and our ears and our hearts – and look through the window.

Paul challenged the Ephesians to look with the spirit of wisdom and revelation – to look with the eyes of their hearts. Jesus seemed to constantly do that – to see beyond the initial picture – and to look through the window to see what was going on beneath the surface – to look with a spirit of wisdom and revelation – with the eyes of his heart.

– When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, he saw – not only a tax collector – not only a man of power and wealth – but he also looked beyond – to see a man who yearned for something the world couldn’t fill.

– When Jesus saw the Samaritan woman at the well, he saw beyond her five failed marriages to the emptiness in her life – and he saw the value of her life.

– He saw the need of the widow at Nain – she had lost – not only her son and her husband, but she had also lost the person who protected her and helped her bring in an income.

– And when the poor widow put her last two coins in the temple offering – perhaps no one else noticed her meager offering – or perhaps a few people saw the small offering, but never gave it a second thought or second look, but Jesus did. He looked beyond the initial picture – beyond the actual dollar amount given – and looked through the window with the eyes of his heart and saw that in her love for God, she had given all that she had.

In the details of our everyday life, we need to Stop. Look. And Listen. But we need to go beyond that – and look through the window with our eyes and our hears and our hearts – like Jesus did.

And, what do we see when we take a second look? What do we see of who we are? Or who we might become? What do we see of our neighbor living down the street? Or our neighbor living ON the street? What do we see about God?

God has given us a unique set of eyes to see … a unique set of ears to hear … and a heart to feel/see …God has given us the eyes and the ears and the heart of Jesus – God’s own heart – to take a second look – to look through the window – God offering us a moment of simple insight – enabling us to see some deeper truth that we might have missed had we not slowed down to take a second look with the eyes and ears and heart of Christ – to give us insights that can help to make us a little slower to judge and a little quicker to show compassion or understanding.

When I ran into my bus driver at the store nearly every week, I was surprised each time that I was experiencing feelings of resentment.

So I decided to take a second look – and instead of looking at the situation through my own eyes – which was that I had done what I was told – Stop. Look. And Listen – to make sure it was safe to cross the road – and saw him as a careless bus driver.

When I was willing to look at the situation through the eyes and ears and heart of Jesus – beyond the picture on the surface – to look through the window, I saw God’s love and pain for both of us – me at the terror of almost being run over, and the bus driver for making the mistake of not paying attention.

And – looking beyond the picture through the window, I was able to forgive my bus driver and let go of my resentment.

A Jewish theologian – Abraham Heschel – once said, “To sense the sacred … is to sense what is dear to God.”

Taking a second look – is to look for the sacred – to look for God in someone else – or – to look for God in a particular situation.

I found myself thinking about the early Friends/Quakers this week.
Quakers find our beginnings in northern England in a rural area known as the Lake District in 1652.

It didn’t take long for the movement to spread and grow in rural areas in northern England.

And soon, George Fox and other Friends felt led to travel south towards London to share the Good News about Jesus coming to teach his people himself.

London was a city of culture – high society – influence. Do you know what the Londoners thought? When the people in and around London first stopped to look and listen to what early Friends had to say, on the whole, they initially saw them as a group of people from the countryside who were not highly educated and not very sophisticated – they didn’t hold titles of Lord or Lady.

And, yet, for some reason, the Londoners and others in Southern England, took a second look – and they saw a group of people who had great passion for their spiritual beliefs … a group of people who spoke so firmly and with such genuine sincerity … that they were able to hear the words God had given them – and they began to see beyond the initial picture and look through the window – they no longer saw a group of country bumpkins, instead, they were able to hear the word of God – and they were a little slower to judge and a little quicker to show understanding – and a little more willing to listen.

Isaac and Mary Penington were among those who took a second look at those Quaker country bumpkins. They were impressed.

Here was a group of people, who not only spoke passionately and firmly and sincerely about their faith in Christ, but these Quakers KNEW they were a bunch of country bumpkins – these Quakers from the North knew that they were not sophisticated – they knew they couldn’t debate on the level of the sophisticated and well-educated – and yet, do you know what Isaac and Mary Penington saw? They saw how those Friends depended on God and they were impressed. They talked with Quakers for two years before joining their ranks, and went on to become significant leaders in the Quaker movement.

Fred Buechner writes, “If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else, we must SEE our neighbors. With our imagination as well as with our eyes, that is to say, like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces.”

In other words, Fred Buechner is saying that we need to take a second look. Look beyond the picture on the surface through the window to what’s taking place at a deeper level – looking with the eyes of our hearts.

Sometimes we don’t give something a second look because we don’t think there is anything there to see. To look with the eyes and ears and heart of Christ is to understand that there IS something to see – that there is more to see beyond the surface, something that has the power to change the way we think or feel – the power to change the way we see – something that may prove so profound a revelation as to change not only how we look at our lives, but how we live them.

What a difference it would have made if those Londoners – including Isaac and Mary Penington – hadn’t taken a second look at those country bumpkin Quakers from the countryside in northern England. It completely changed the way they lived their lives.

During this time of pandemic, I’ve been going to Greenfield every weekend to buy groceries for my mother. She has been doing great at staying home and staying safe. I usually buy most of her groceries at the Kroger store in Greenfield, but with some of the shortages we’ve seen in stores, I sometimes stop by the Walmart in Greenfield to look for the things that Krogers is out of – so I’ve seen my old bus driver occasionally.

He knows who I am. I have no idea if he remembers almost hitting me with the bus, but he knows I was one of his kids on the bus – and he greets me with that same warm smile – and now, when I see him – because I took a second look – tried to look at the situation through the eyes and ears and heart of Christ, I have been able to forgive him and let go of my resentment. And now when I see him, I smile, say hello, knowing I have a lighter heart.

God has given you and me a unique set of eyes to see – a unique set of ears to hear – and the heart of God to feel. When we look beyond the picture at the surface and take time to take a second look –with the eyes and ears and heart of Christ, then our hearts are moved and changed – and once we’ve looked and listened with our hearts – our hands and feet will almost instinctively know what to do next.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book, “Life Together”, wrote, “If we cannot listen to our brothers and sisters, then we will find ourselves no longer listening to God. It is then that there will be a fall of Christianity.”

What’s going on in your life? Where are the places you are looking at the picture, but not through the window? Is there anything you need to take a second look at – to see with the eyes, ears, and heart of God? Or, if you’re like me, you may stumble across something that needs a second look – like when I saw my bus driver in Walmart and suddenly realized I had some resentment towards him that I had not been aware of.

God is faithful to meet us in those places. When we take a second look, perhaps we will see what God wants us to see and understand.

Isaac and Mary Penington looked beyond the commonness of early Friends to see how they spoke so passionately, so sincerely, so firmly about their faith in Christ – by looking beyond the picture through the window – by listening with their hearts – they began a new life in Christ. (By the way – Isaac and Mary Penington’s daughter was married to William Penn – founder of the city of brotherly love – Philadelphia – and founder of the state of Pennsylvania and a prolific Quaker author).

I like Ken Gire’s words about some of those moments of insight when we take a second look. He says, “What we see offers a word spoken to the very depths of who we are. It may be a word to rouse us from sleep and ready us for our life’s journey. It may be a word to warn us of a precipice or guide us to a place of rest. It may be a word telling us who we are and why we are here and what is required of us at this particular juncture of our journey.”

“Or, in a startling sun-drenched moment of grace, it may be a word telling us something we have longed all of our lives to hear – a word from God – a word so precious it would be worth the most arduous of climbs to hear the least audible of its echoes.”

Paul says that, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.”

What hope has God called you to?

A Family Resemblance

Cathy Harris – PFM – John 1:18, John 14:1-14 – May 17, 2020

Welcome to our online worship service here at Plainfield Friends Meeting on May 17!

Our Ministry & Counsel Committee met earlier this week to begin making plans for us to begin worshiping together in person, and to put some things in place for us to meet safely together.

We tentatively plan to start worshiping together in person on Sunday, June 7, and will keep an eye on how things are progressing with the Coronavirus and what recommendations are being made when we get closer to time – but we are hoping to reopen that Sunday.

Worship will look a little different initially – until we get through the pandemic – and we are in the process of putting together information – look for it soon.

John 14:1-14 (NIV)
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?

The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 1:18
18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.


From the time I was in high school, people would tell me I look like my mother, and occasionally – when my mother and I were together – someone would ask us if we were sisters. I never knew if that meant I looked older or if she looked younger – it was always a good thing for my Mom.

And when I got out of college and started working at Eli Lilly & Co. – on my first day there – two different men asked me if I was Barbara’s daughter. Roger had gone to the same church as my parents, and Ed had gone to school with my parents. Both men – separately – said that was the first day they had felt old – to know that a classmate’s child could be old enough to be their coworkers!

There must be a strong enough family resemblance for them to have seen my mother and recognize her in me.

Have people told you that you look like your mom, or your dad, or your grandparent? Family resemblances can be strong. We can physically resemble other family members, but it’s more than that. Sometimes we share different habits or mannerisms as well.

Once in a while – when I smile or have a certain expression on my face, my Mom will tell me I look like her cousin, Melinda. OR when Tom laughs, he reminds me of his brother, John, or their dad – they all tilted their heads back a little and held their mouths the same way when they laughed.

Without even thinking about it, we sometimes talk like our parents, behave like our parents, or smile or laugh like our parents or some other relative.

I started thinking about family resemblances over the past couple of weeks, because we were with some extended family members and other people recently who commented that there was a family resemblance between Tom and his brothers, and one person (who hadn’t seen Megan for several years) told Megan she looked like Tom, and I was surprised to hear Megan say she thought she looked like him, too.

And – I think Jesus was speaking about the same reality in today’s scripture reading in the Gospel of John.

This is a very poignant moment in the Gospel of John. It all took place at the Last Supper, on the night before Jesus died. Jesus was preparing his disciples for his death – that he wouldn’t be with them anymore. This prompts anxious questions from the disciples – “What is to become of us?”
At this point, all of their power has come from their proximity to Jesus – from being near him/with him. Now that Jesus was going away, what about them?!”

Philip – one of Jesus’ disciples – asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus replied: “If you’ve seen me, then you have seen the Father.”

In other words – If you know me, you already know God. What Jesus was really saying to Philip and the other disciples was this:
Look at me: if you see me, you see what God looks like.
Listen to me: if you hear me speak, you are hearing God’s voice.
Watch me: If you see the way I live and act, that is revealing of how God lives and acts.

Jesus was telling them that he LOOKED like his Father, he sounded like his Father, and he acted like his Father – there was a family resemblance! It’s amazing, really – that in the person of Jesus, we are catching a glimpse of God, and hearing God, and experiencing God.

At the beginning of the Gospel of John (John 1:18), John tells us that no one has ever seen God.
And here – when Philip reminded Jesus that he had never seen God – Jesus says, Oh! But you have! – in me you have seen, heard, and experienced God.

The invisible God becomes visible in the person of his Son, Jesus. The family resemblance is so strong. If you’ve seen the Son, you’ve seen the Father. Sometimes we struggle –because we know that God is a spiritual reality – and we can’t literally see God – and sometimes that’s very difficult. God is beyond our comprehension. God is invisible to our physical eyes. And that fact can, at times, make God seem distant, disconnected, hard to know.

If we want to know who God is, we need look no farther than Jesus. All the words that Jesus has spoken, all the works that he has done, come from God and show us who God is.

That is why we need to pay so much attention to Jesus in the Gospels. Do you want to know what your heavenly Father looks like? He looks like his son. His son… humble enough to be born in a barn… gentle enough to embrace the children… compassionate enough to hold hands with the sick… that’s what God looks like. He looks like his Son.

Do you want to know what God sounds like? He sounds like his Son. His Son, who says… Blessed are the peacemakers… His son who says … forgive 70 times seven… or – your sins are forgiven… or – when I was hungry you fed me…. That’s what God sounds like. He sounds like his Son.

Do you want to know how God acts? He acts like his Son. His Son, who feeds the multitudes, who calms the storms, who heals the sick, who speaks the truth. That’s how God acts. Like his Son.

And we are created in his image and likeness. Have you ever thought much about that phrase from Genesis 1? We are created in “the image and likeness of God.”

When people see me – and you, they should see Jesus and his father – God.
When people hear us, they should hear the words of Jesus – which are also God’s words.
When people encounter us, they should find us doing the deeds of Jesus – which are also the things that God does. But then there’s more!

Jesus prepares his followers by empowering them, reassuring them that they will do even greater things than Jesus has done.

Really, Jesus? Greater works than healing the blind and raising the dead? And you will do whatever we ask in your name? How can this be? Perhaps our problem is that in hearing these promises, we expect to do these greater works in the same way that Jesus did them – with miraculous power that instantly solves the problem at hand.

And yet – Jesus boldly predicts that those disciples – filled with dread and anxiety – will, because of their relationship with Jesus – do greater things than Jesus did himself.

When you think of our Meeting – our church – you might think of warmth, friendliness, and joy – I feel that way when I think of our Meeting – but do you also feel power?

During these days of pandemic, during these days when our lives have been radically changed, it is especially easy to feel powerless and to have little control over our lives. I imagine that there are many people around the world – perhaps including ourselves – wondering: where do we find God, where do we see God, in the middle of this mess? And yet, Jesus promised, “Those of you who believe in me will do even greater work than I have done.”

Do you believe that? That you and me – that our little church – for our size, for all of our faults (and we are human, and if you’ve been around me, you’ll know I have faults – we all do) – is that we are empowered to do greater works than the works done by Jesus.

How did John’s Gospel – all of the Gospels for that matter – begin? They begin by Jesus calling ordinary people to be his disciples and to follow him. That’s the way Jesus works.

Take, for example, the Gospel of John – someone eloquently wrote about Jesus’ life, his sermons, the many things he said and did – and we would never have known about it – if someone had not written them all down.

Sure, it takes a great deal of faith to believe that Jesus is who he says he is – that Jesus and God are one – and that when we’ve seen Jesus, we’ve seen God. But it also takes some faith to believe what Jesus says about us – that God is doing greater works through people like us.

So – if you want to see what God is up to right now, pay attention to what God’s people are up to right now.

Right now, Christians are feeding the hungry, supporting those who have lost their jobs, helping those who have hit an economic hardship.

People are checking in on their elderly neighbors, calling up folks they know who are lonely or writing a card letting people know they are thinking of them, picking up groceries for a loved one or a neighbor, or feeding school children lunches.

Jesus promises to be with us through the power of the Spirit, to work in and through us to accomplish his purposes in the world. This does not necessarily happen in easily visible, spectacular ways. Yet wherever there is healing, reconciling, life-giving work happening, this is the work of God. Wherever there is life in abundance, this is Jesus’ presence in our midst.

Most mornings – either as I leave my house and walk over to the Meeting house to work in my office – or as I sit down at my desk, I silently pray – “Lord, may every person I speak with today, may every person I email today, may every person I encounter today, see Jesus in me.” I don’t always get it right – but it is my prayer.

May we live our lives in such a way that the people who encounter us might someday say, “Gosh, they looked and acted and lived like Jesus.” Amen.

“A Promise and A Challenge”

Cathy Harris – 5/10/20 – John 10:1-6, 14-16 – PFM

Welcome this morning to our worship services at PFM on May 10, and Happy Mother’s Day!

John 10:1-6, 14-16
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
When I go visit Edna Mae (a delightful woman in our Meeting), one of the things we enjoy talking about is farm life. She grew up on a farm, and helped her father plant fields in the spring as well as helped to take care of the livestock. When Edna Mae’s father died, she got out the tractor and worked the land and planted the crops herself.

I didn’t grow up on a farm, but my grandparents were farmers, and I loved being over at their house on the farm. When I was in high school, my grandfather was sick, and I helped my uncle disk the fields – in the spring before he planted the crops, and in the fall after they were harvested, we plowed the fields – something I enjoyed very much. Edna Mae and I each have a connection with the farm land and houses that have been in each of our families for many years.

Edna Mae is a pretty amazing woman. She’s around 90 years old – is very active – and she still raises cows and sheep – and Edna Mae loves her cows and sheep. Her grandson and his wife, as well as some of her great-grandchildren – come over every day to help feed the sheep.

Last Fall – around November or December, she told me she was hoping her ewes would give birth on Christmas Day – or at least very close to Christmas Day. She was thinking how special it would be to help the ewes to give birth on Christmas Day.

Edna Mae grew up learning how to take care of farm animals.
And when she began raising her own sheep and cattle, she taught her children, then grandchildren and great-grandchildren – how to take care of the animals.
The younger children help bottle feed any baby lambs whose mothers are unable to feed them. And – as they grow older, they learn how to keep sheep healthy, how to care for them, how to guide them and move them from pasture to pasture to the barn. They spend some cold nights in the barn – watching – helping – with a ewe to deliver her baby lamb.
When I was growing up – in the front of my meeting house (church) – there was a large picture of Jesus as a shepherd – walking on a path, carrying a little lamb with the other sheep walking close to him. It is a peaceful, comforting, sweet scene.

A few years ago, I read a book by Flora Slosson Wuellner – a pastor as well as a professor – wrote:
“A picture that was hung in my room when I was a child changed my life. It was a picture of a shepherd climbing down a rugged Cliffside; with one hand he gripped a rock and with the other he reached down to a sheep that had fallen to a ledge below. Its face looked up in terror and trust. A bird of prey circled overhead. I could not see the shepherd’s face as he strained down to the sheep, but I could see the knotted muscles, the bleeding hands and arms gashed by thorns, the twisted garment torn in the steep descent.

“That’s the Good Shepherd. That’s Jesus,” my parents told me.

I stared in amazement. This picture was very different from the one of the Good Shepherd on the wall of my Sunday school room. In that one, a placid shepherd in a spotless white robe strolled along a grassy level path, carrying an equally spotless and placid lamb.

The shepherd in my picture was paying a real and painful price. I could see from the concentrated body and the compassionate authority of the outstretched hand that to reach the hurt and crying animal mattered more to him than anything else in the world. And I knew as I gazed at the picture that that sheep would be reached, held, healed, and lifted to life.

Through the years, God and the meaning of God came to me through that picture and changed me. Perhaps each of us can remember some such pivotal incident, some event, some book or picture or poem, some person, some experience of love or pain, that began to open to us something of the passion and compassion of God who enters our pain and stretches out healing hands forever.” (“Prayer, Stress, and Our Inner Wounds” by Flora Slosson Wuellner).

That picture gave Flor Slosson Wuellner a different image of God – and changed her life. In that picture, she saw how much Jesus loved that lamb – how much he loved her – and she got a glimpse of God’s passion and compassion for us – his sheep.

After reading that in her book, I searched online for a picture of Jesus reaching over the edge of a cliff – and found this picture. It, too, changed my image of Jesus.

In a book study I helped lead at Spiceland several years ago, Wes (the youth pastor) and I asked people to bring in their favorite picture of Jesus. Wes and I also went all over the church and gathered up different paintings/pictures of Jesus.

It was actually quite interesting. A friend of mine – Janet – brought a picture of a shepherd (Jesus) riding on a horse – in the night, carrying a lantern, holding a calf – in the midst of the storm. I really like that picture of Jesus and felt drawn to it.

I also have a sketch picture of Jesus – carving wood – a carpenter, and a print of Jesus throwing his head back – laughing.

I like all of these images of Jesus, and I think each of them speak to us in different ways – depending on where we are at and what is going on in our lives.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” We are in the 10th Chapter of John’s Gospel, which is full of statements by Jesus about those who hear and those who recognize his voice.

What does Jesus say in this chapter? He says:

  • The good shepherd will lead his sheep. They will hear his voice. They will follow because they recognize his voice.
  • The sheep who are in the flock of the good shepherd do not follow strangers, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice
  •  Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know mine, and mine know me. They will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” And all of this is summarized in what Jesus says in today’s passage: “My sheep hear my voice… and they follow me.” Jesus is the shepherd, the leader, the master. We are his sheep, valued members of his flock, the ones entrusted to his care.

How will we know how to follow? Jesus said it: his sheep “hear his voice.” In that one line there is a promise, and a challenge. The promise is this –Jesus promises to speak to us.

Our shepherd – Jesus – knows that we have questions, that we desire guidance and truth.
That’s the promise – that Jesus will speak to us.
And the challenge is this: In order to hear Jesus speaking to us, we need to take time to listen for God’s voice. There are many voices in our world, clamoring for our attention, making demands of us, extending empty promises to us, and sometimes there are even voices that try to deceive us.

So – how do we tell the difference between God’s voice and the other voices in the world that are clamoring for our attention?

We start by listening. Listening for God’s voice. Yes, I know it is difficult sometimes to know which voice is God’s – what is it that God wants me to do? Which is the best way for me to move forward? Is this something I want to make happen? Or is it God leading me a particular direction?

And so, we listen. We try to figure it out.
Listening for God’s voice takes practice on our part – and by ‘practice’, I mean taking time to not only talk with God, but to be still and listen to God also.

What does God’s voice sound like?
People rarely say that they hear God speak to them in an actual voice – although it is entirely possible.
It’s more likely to “hear” God – by God nudging us, guiding us, answering us – through intuitions that come while we pray… or by thoughts that persist… a sense of peace that fills us when we consider one option over others.

Then, we can hold those personal, prayerful intuitions to see if they are congruent with the truth of the Scriptures – or test them with our faith community. As Friends/Quakers, if someone wants to “test a leading” – wanting help in discerning which voices are truly God’s voice speaking into our lives – Quakers offer a Clearness Committee – not to give us advice – not to tell us what we should do – but it creates a safe place to share all the pieces that we are listening for – and the Committee asks questions to help us sort things out and clarify our way forward.

That’s how the shepherd’s voice often comes to us – a nudge, an intuition, thoughts that persist, a sense of peace, or through the voice of a trusted friend.

Michael Renninger – a Catholic priest – writes that: “After 25 years of ministry, I still feel like a beginner at prayer. There is so much more for me to learn about the Lord that I love.
There is so much depth to the mystery of God. I stand humbly before that mystery.
But I have begun to notice a few patterns – patterns which help me discern whether I am hearing the voice the Lord, or whether the message is coming from somewhere else.

What have I learned?

  •  If the voice you hear encourages you to trust…then it’s probably the Lord. If the voice you hear leads you to cynicism, then it’s probably an imposter.
  •  If the voice you hear calls you to be generous and self-transcending, then it’s from the Lord. If the voice calls you to selfishness, self-centeredness, it’s an imposter.
  •  If the voice you hear calls you to be faithful, to be true to your word, to keep your promises, it’s from the Lord. If the voice invites you to break your promise and lie, it’s probably an imposter.
  •  If you hear an invitation to spend more of your life focused on others, to measure your success by the difference you make in someone else’s life, it’s probably from the Lord.
  • If the voice you hear calls you to be a peacemaker, a justice-doer, a hope-giver, it’s from the Lord.
  •  If you hear an encouragement to treasure life, set aside angers, forgive and forgive some more, it’s from the Lord.
  •  If the voice you hear tells you that you are deeply loved by the eternal God, if the voice you hear tells you that you have a dignity that no one can take away from you, if you hear a reminder that that Jesus loved you so much that he was willing to die for you…then that voice is from the Lord. But if the voice you hear tells you that you’re not worth it, that there is no hope for you… It’s a lie, from a Liar.”

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. My sheep hear my voice. I lay down my life for them.”
He laid down his life for you. That’s how much he loves you.

And in our daily struggle to know what’s right and do what’s right, the best thing that we can do is to pray, which means … to talk with God and to listen. We will discover – not only how much God love us, but how God is calling us to love others.

Eugene Peterson: All of us can choose Jesus – the Good Shepherd – as the model of how we are going to live our lives as good shepherds who become interested in the people around us as persons – not problems – not projects – not puzzles. Persons we will look to serve, to lay down our lives for.

Jesus says, I am the good shepherd and the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
Why didn’t Jesus ask, I am the great teacher and you are my brilliant, attentive students – and you can do anything you set your mind to. Jesus didn’t say he was the great CEO working in the office, and we are his second level managers working out on the floor.

As Jesus prepares to leave his disciples, he says, I am the loving, searching, seeking, self-sacrificing Good Shepherd. My sheep know me and I know them – I speak to them and they know my voice.

A promise and a challenge.
Jesus promises to speak to us.
We are challenged to listen.


Following Jesus

PFM – May 3, 2020 – Cathy Harris – John 21:1-25

Tom enjoys going fishing once in a while, and when we lived in my grandparents farm house in Greenfield, sometimes he would go fishing after dinner – he would walk over to my mother’s lake and drop a fishing line. 

One evening last summer – after he got back from fishing, I asked him how it went – if he had caught any fish.  He said nothing was biting.  As we were going to bed that night, I asked him what it was about fishing that he liked.  He said he enjoys fishing because it’s peaceful, relaxing, and a chance to be outdoors – and he likes trying to catch fish.

Now – I don’t mind putting a worm on a hook or taking a fish off a line – but I’m no serious fisherman.  I’ve never thought I had the patience for it – but I love going with Tom when he goes fishing – because I’m usually taking walks, reading a book, taking pictures, or simply enjoying being outdoors. 

The thing that stands out to me about going fishing – over the long haul – is that often times a day of fishing can end in failure. 

You can go out at the break of dawn … full of hope and expectation – you can use a good pole and a good box of flies – good equipment – & do everything right – and yet – as the sun is setting, you might not have much to show for all your efforts.  In that sense, I think fishermen have to learn to be good at failure.

It’s strange that – here, in the Gospel of John – right after the Easter story – of Jesus’ resurrection – is this story of failure – Easter is a joyous time of victory over death and sin!  And yet – here is this story of failure. 

Jesus had already appeared to the disciples – twice! – behind locked doors – twice they had encountered the living/resurrected Christ – and what did they do?  They went back to fishing!  I would have thought that they would have been out rejoicing or telling everyone what had just happened.

But here they were – out fishing.  Fishing is what is familiar to the disciples – that’s what most of them did before they began following Jesus. And, so – after Jesus died – even after they saw him twice after he was resurrected –they did the only thing they knew to do – they went fishing.  They fished all night from their boat.  But their nets were empty.

The sun was beginning to rise.  I’m sure they were tired and hungry, and they hadn’t caught a thing.  The empty nets probably reminded them of the way they were feeling inside – empty, defeated.  Jesus died and – yes, he was resurrected, but how were they supposed to move forward?

…And that empty fishing net must have reminded Peter of his failure – when Peter had promised Jesus that he would follow him no matter what – even if everyone else ran away, Peter promised to be the one to absolutely be there for Jesus.

But we know that’s not what happened.  Peter ended up denying being a follower of Jesus 3 times – and he broke down in tears at his broken resolve to be a steadfast follower of Jesus. He tried his best, but he was afraid – not only for Jesus, but for his own life. 

Here are the disciples – in their boat – having fished all night and caught nothing – and then they see a man standing on the shore – we know it’s Jesus – but they don’t know who it is – yet.

Jesus called out to them and asked if they had caught anything – “No”, they said. Then Jesus told them to throw their nets over to the other side of the boat – and immediately the net is full and overflowing with fish! 

In that moment – John realizes it is Jesus – because this very thing had happened to them before – when Jesus first called them to be disciples. 

They were excited, and began to make their way to shore – and when they got to shore, they discovered that Jesus was cooking breakfast over a charcoal fire – cooking fish and bread. 

They’ve been out fishing all night and caught nothing – until Jesus told them to cast their nets to the other side – and yet, here was Jesus cooking a meal of fish and bread – and when the food was ready, they share a meal together. 

After they’re done eating, Jesus calls Peter aside – seeks him out – to talk with him.

Peter was probably very nervous – he had promised Jesus he would be the one to stick with Jesus and not betray him, and yet – in the midst of fear, his resolve had been broken and he denied Jesus three times. 

I’m sure Peter felt guilty about disappointing Jesus – not only did he let Jesus down, he let himself down, too.  And yet – Jesus seeks Peter out.

It’s interesting – that on the night that Peter denied being a follower of Jesus 3 times – he had been standing by a charcoal fire that night that Jesus died … now, here are Peter and Jesus – standing again near another charcoal fire –


And Jesus asks 3 times – Peter do you love me?  Yes!  I do love you!

Then feed and care for my beloved sheep. 

I don’t know that Jesus ever doubted Peter’s love for him – I think he was reminding Peter that he was forgiven, and Jesus was encouraging Peter.  

Jesus recommissions Peter – calls him again as a disciple – he’s giving Peter a second chance – and a fresh challenge – to learn how to be a shepherd, to feed his lambs and sheep and to look after them. 

Standing there by that charcoal fire, Jesus called Peter again – 3 times.

Jesus called Peter to show Peter that he was still loved – no hard feelings – Jesus had not only forgiven Peter, Jesus commissioned him – giving him the assignment to feed and tend his sheep.  Despite Peter’s failure – he trusts Peter to tend his sheep and to feed them.  After Peter’s failure – Jesus puts him in charge of his flock!

Peter, the failure – Peter, the one who was charged with tending the sheep, and Peter would prove to be completely steadfast and true to Jesus.

Easter concludes with Jesus calling us – inviting us to “FOLLOW ME!”


This is how it works for us, too – we love Jesus, and even though we’ve let him down enough times, he wants to find that love we have for him deep inside of us – and give us a chance to express it, to heal the hurts and failures of the past, and give us new work to do.

In the days following Easter, Jesus’ death and resurrection doesn’t mean that everything will be glorious in the world and in our lives.  In fact, today’s world these past several weeks – have been difficult, scary, and not at all “hunky dory”. 

But – Easter concludes with Jesus’ call to:  Follow me! 

Jesus’ death and resurrection didn’t end or erase all failure, disappointment, frustration, discouragement, pain from our lives – and in this story of Peter – we are reminded that -even when the resurrected Christ stands before us – it’s still possible to misunderstand

It’s still easy to fall away and make mistakes.  Christ seeks us out amid the routine of our everyday lives – the risen Christ appears to us – and he not only appears to us, but he also calls to us – “Follow me” and “Feed my sheep”.

Christ’s calling to “Follow me” and to “Feed my sheep” – what God expects you to do will be different from what I’m called to do. And – to be followers of Jesus might have different meaning at different stages and ages of our lives. 

As a child – it might mean just trying to get along better with our siblings or to always tell the truth.

As an adult – it might mean that we are faced not only with questions about our attitudes and behavior, but also questions about what kind of world this should be and how Christians ought to make a difference in it for Christ.

What does it mean to follow Jesus?  It is expressed in the changed and changing lives of those who encounter Jesus personally and who are sent by Him as His partners in the world in his saving, healing, and redeeming work.

That’s what happened with early Friends – George Fox and other early Friends – had a personal encounter with Jesus – which changed and transformed them – and then they lived out of that transformation and that encounter with Jesus – as Jesus sent them out into the world as partners with Jesus to meet the needs of the world.

The Methodist pastor, Will Willimon says that, “The Good News is that – Jesus won’t leave us as we are – he comes to us and calls us, FOLLOW ME.  I hope in your times of failure – in my times of failure, when believing in Jesus is difficult for you/me, when we aren’t the follower of Jesus we intend to be – I hope you remember this post-Easter story – of how Peter is forgiven – how Jesus calls Peter again to serve him and follow him – — of how Jesus speaks to you, reassures you, and calls you to “Follow me” – and take heart.  Our failure does not negate our calling.  In our ordinary lives, Jesus is still calling us, forgiving us, encouraging us – “Follow me”.”


John 21  (NIV)

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.[a] It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus[b]), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[c] 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

“Road Trips”

Cathy Harris – PFM – April 26, 2020 – Luke 24:13-35

I enjoy a good road trip. One of my favorite memories growing up was a road trip out West that my mother and step-dad took us kids on – my brother and two step-sisters. Mom and Everett had been saving their pennies for several years to be able to take us on that trip, and all of us still have fond memories of that time together and reminisce about it at family gatherings from time to time. Oh – there were fights and arguments along the way – to be sure! – but it was quite an adventure.

I was in high school – already had my driver’s license – and Everett even let me drive part of the way to give him a break. We drove through the Badlands of South Dakota, saw Mt. Rushmore, drove through Yellowstone National Park and stayed at the Hoosier Motel. Then we drove up through the U.S. side of Glacier National Park – but there were no vacant hotels outside the park – there was a state fair going on – so we drove for hours that night looking for a motel to stay in.

A lot of things happened during that road trip – we got to see a lot of wildlife, all of the mountains that we had never seen before, and yes, my parents were stuck in the car for two weeks with four kids – kids who didn’t always get along so well. I’m not sure how they did it!

At one point on the trip, the car was having problems in the mountains. Mom was the office manager of a car dealership, and they had loaned her a brand new station wagon to take on the trip! The car started having problems in the mountains. We tried to find a repair shop, but were in the middle of nowhere, so Everett tore off some type of emissions thing, and then it worked fine. We all wondered if that would be a problem when we got back to Indiana and Mom returned the car …

While driving out West – we were very mindful of how far we were from the next town – because out West there’s a lot of open road and if you don’t take advantage of a gas station, it might be a long time before you pass another one – and this was way before cell phones.

The last time I went to the gas station – at the pump, gas was $1.45/gallon – not bad.
I’ve read that in Kentucky, there are places selling gas for under $1/gallon.
Crude Oil is selling for -$1.43/barrel. In other words, they are practically paying people to take it away.
Gas prices have dropped because the whole world is traveling less.
Perhaps it’s not until we stop driving that we realize how much roads play a role in our lives – not many of us could have imagined how little we would be using roads this spring.

Many of the stories in the Gospel of Luke take place on a road.
For example –
– Mary and Joseph traveled on the road to get to Bethlehem for the census, and it was there that Jesus was born. So Jesus had his first road trip just a few days after he entered this world!

– And the story of the Good Samaritan took place alongside the road – when robbers were hiding and robbed and injured a Jewish man – and it is the Samaritan – not the Jewish priest and religious leaders – it is the Samaritan – the hated enemy of the Jews – who walks across the road to help the Jewish man – and even paid to have him taken care of by an innkeeper.

– Then there is the Prodigal Son – and the road the son takes to be reunited with his father after insulting him by asking for his half of his inheritance early.

– And – Luke tells us that “Jesus set his eyes toward Jerusalem” – he tells us that in Luke 9 – and we find Jesus traveling on roads heading toward Jerusalem from chapter 9 to the end of chapter 19 in Luke – and those chapters are often referred to as Luke’s “travel narrative” – because Jesus and the disciples are “on the move” toward Jerusalem.

And even in the book of Acts, Luke continues to tell us road stories – we learn that Jesus appears to Paul on the road to Damascus.

Roads are important – they take us places we want to see – take us places we want to go – and sometimes roads in life take us places we don’t want to go or wish we didn’t need to go to … roads can bring us together … and – roads can pose dangers (as in the story of the Good Samaritan – or when our family had car trouble in the mountains), and Luke even shows us through these road adventures that not only can we travel on roads, but he shows us that in the early church, people’s faith in Christ was “on the move”.

For some reason, roads and traveling captured Luke’s imagination. It’s not surprising, I guess. When I think about it, there are a number of songs about roads: “Country Roads, Take Me Home to the place I belong” (John Denver), or Willie Nelson’s “On the road again, I just can’t wait to get on the road again”. Or that country song, “Red Dirt Road”.

Today’s story – you’ve got it! – takes place on a road – the road to Emmaus! I like this story a lot – it has some humor, some mystery, a couple of twists, and a big reveal at the end!

Luke begins the story with two disciples – Cleopas and a friend – who have been in Jerusalem for Passover, and they ended up seeing or hearing about Jesus’ death. Luke also tells us that they have heard an incredible story from some of the women who had gone to the tomb – saying that Jesus was alive! But they are overwhelmed with grief. They have left Jerusalem and are walking the 7-mile trek back home – on the road to Emmaus.

An unusual thing happens – a man joins them on their walk. We know it is Jesus, but Cleopas and his friend didn’t know it was Jesus. Luke tells us that their eyes were kept from seeing/recognizing Jesus. We don’t know if Jesus looked different, or whether they were overwhelmed with grief and didn’t recognize him – but – for whatever reason – they don’t recognize Jesus.

Jesus joins them on their walk, and Jesus asks them what they are talking about. They had been discussing all of the events they had seen at Passover – but their hearts were very heavy – with grief.

When Jesus asks them what they’re discussing, they stop in their tracks – right there in the middle of the road – Are you nuts, they ask Jesus. Are you the only person around who doesn’t know – who hasn’t heard – what has happened?!

And then, in the midst of telling Jesus what happened, they begin telling him about their dashed hopes. They HAD hoped Jesus was the one who would rescue them. They HAD hoped that he was the one – this mighty man of God – that he would be the king of the Jews, but now he is dead.

Jesus answers them by telling them all the stories from Moses down through the prophets – he’s telling them THEIR story – their Jewish history – their heritage of faith – reminding them that the scriptures had predicted that the Messiah would suffer and die in order to fulfill the scriptures.

And you can just see the wheels turning in their minds – as Jesus helps them connect the dots of their past – remembering how God had been with them – with their people – in the past – and by doing this, Jesus enables them to move forward – there is something familiar – Jesus gives them a new perspective – and they’re not quite sure what all of this means, but their hearts begin to warm – perhaps a spark of hope.

They ended up asking Jesus – this stranger – to stay overnight with them. They got food out on the table – they were the hosts who had invited Jesus as their guest, but it is Jesus who blessed the bread and shared it with them – and – right then and there – in that familiar act of blessing and sharing bread, they recognize Jesus.

After his death and resurrection, Jesus wasn’t as easily recognized by the disciples. We get glimpses in different resurrection stories of Jesus appearing and coming to be with people. But these stories didn’t happen all at once – Easter for these early followers of Christ – came with glimpses and experiences of the risen Christ.

But the things that made Jesus recognizable to them – were the things that had always been true about who Jesus was – sharing a meal, the hospitality shown to the stranger, the way Jesus explained the scriptures to the crowds – it’s those very same things that made Jesus recognizable to them – through the familiar, ordinary things in life.

Perhaps – maybe – this is how Jesus always shows up. Even today. In the midst of our ordinary lives – when we are walking towards home or getting ready for dinner. In the faces of our neighbors or the strangers we meet along the way. When we read the Bible and discuss it together. When we share a meal. When we invite someone to join us in fellowship.

This is an Easter story, and after all: Easter doesn’t happen on one Sunday and then disappear – it’s done and over. And Jesus wasn’t just alive thousands of years ago, never having been heard from since.

As Friends, we believe that resurrection is something that happens every day.
It happens in our relationships that break and then are mended.
Resurrection happens when our hopes seem to shatter and then are slowly reborn.
And Resurrection happens in lives that fall apart but get put back together piece by piece.

Kristin Adkins-Whiteside writes that, “If we want to experience Jesus—if we want to celebrate Easter—we don’t need to position ourselves in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.
No, we simply need to pay attention. For the risen Lord is among us. Moving and speaking and working here and now. And even when we find it hard to recognize him. Even when we realize we have gotten it all wrong and missed the whole point, Jesus keeps walking beside us, meeting us on whatever road we are on. He asks us what we are thinking about, and then begins to retell our story back to us with a whole new ending. He sets our hearts are on fire within us with a hope that we thought we had lost forever. And all of a sudden we realize: Jesus has been with us all along.”

Jesus walks alongside us – on whatever road we are on – even when we don’t recognize him.

Luke 24:13-35

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

“Meeting Our Needs”

Cathy Harris – PFM – April 19, 2020 – John 20:19-31

Good morning! Thank you for joining us for worship this morning at Plainfield Friends on April 19 – the Sunday following Easter – as we continue to celebrate Easter – the risen Christ.

In today’s scripture reading, the story is familiar – we find the disciples at one of their homes on Easter evening – hiding – huddled together – behind locked doors – afraid – Jesus appears to them and says, “Peace be with you”. I’m guessing that this probably initially made them MORE fearful!

Then Jesus showed them his hands and his side – they recognize that this is Jesus – and they are thrilled! Jesus goes on to tell them that he is sending them out into the world just as God had sent him into the world – and Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them, and gives them the power to forgive others. And he tells them again – Peace be with you.

This was very exciting! Jesus was alive! It was true, after all!

Jesus’ words of peace would remind them of Jesus’ words about peace before his death – promising to give them peace, promising to give them the gift of the Advocate – the Holy Spirit – so that they would not be alone – that he would still be present with them.

After Jesus left, Thomas comes to the house. Apparently, all of the disciples had been there and saw Jesus – except Thomas. They told him the good news – that they had seen the Lord.
Poor Thomas. It was bad timing – Jesus had died – he knew that, and here – behind closed doors, everyone else had gotten to see Jesus – alive – except him.
What bad timing! You might say that Thomas showed up and was a day late and a dollar short.

Have you ever had that happen? You arrived somewhere and some event had already taken place? Or Someone had been to your house to visit – and you had JUST missed them?

I have had that happen to me – several times over the years. I would go to the grocery or run an errand, come back home, and Tom would tell me – Meredith was just here OR Megan was just here OR your Mom and Everett were just here – and you JUST missed them – and I would feel disappointed.

That’s what happened to Thomas – he showed up at the house and everyone was telling him that Jesus had just been there – they had seen the risen Christ! You JUST missed him!

What does Thomas say? “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

From that point on, he became known as “Doubting Thomas”. When you think about it, though, Thomas has gotten a bad wrap over the years – being called “Doubting Thomas”.

And yet … Thomas isn’t asking for anything more than what everyone else has seen/experienced. But he is still known as “Doubting Thomas”.

Thomas didn’t say he doubted. He said he needed to see – he even needed to touch – the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his finger in Jesus’ side – before he believed. But he didn’t say that he doubted.

You see … in the resurrection story in John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene was the first one to go to the tomb – and when she gets there, it’s empty! What does she do? She runs to the home where the disciples are hanging out, and she tells Peter and John – so they take off running to the tomb to see for themselves.

Mary was right – the stone had been rolled away and Jesus’ body was not there. What had happened? They didn’t know what to think – and headed back home. But Mary stayed at the tomb and was crying – until Jesus appeared to her – but Mary didn’t believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead – not until the risen Christ appeared to her and spoke to her directly – personally.

She ran back to the home of the disciples and tells them, “I have seen the Lord.”
But they disciples dismiss her words – because they hadn’t seen Jesus for themselves.

That’s when they locked themselves in a room to hide, and Jesus appeared to them that Easter evening – and Jesus showed them his hands and his side – and it wasn’t until they saw Jesus that they believed he was risen.

That’s why I said Thomas has gotten a bad wrap over the years – because Thomas wasn’t the only one to have doubts when he merely heard about Jesus appearing to the other disciples and being raised from the dead.

Thomas was no different than Mary Magdalene – or Peter and John – and just like all the other disciples – Thomas wanted to see for himself. Each one of them needed to see – needed to experience the risen Christ – before they believed. And the disciples didn’t even have to ask to see Jesus’ hands and side – Jesus showed them. Thomas was asking – needing – to see Jesus as all of them had.

One week later, all of the disciples were in the house – including Thomas this time – Jesus appeared to them again. Jesus did not express any impatience with Thomas’ skepticism or impatience at Thomas needing something more than the word of the other disciples. Jesus tells them all again “Peace be with you” – and then he invited Thomas to touch the nail marks in his hand and to touch his side.

We don’t know if Thomas actually did touch Jesus’ hands or side – John doesn’t tell us. What we do know is that Thomas recognized Jesus and responded by saying, “My Lord and my God!”.

Jesus knew Thomas’ need, and Jesus cared enough to give him what he needed. Jesus did not scold him for doubting. Oh – to be sure – Jesus did go on to say, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

It’s very good news that Jesus blessed Thomas as well. Jesus is in the business of meeting people where they are – and addressing our needs.

Perhaps Jesus is like a good doctor – who does not give everyone the same prescription – Jesus approaches us – his followers – in different ways – because – after all – our experiences are different and our approaches to life are different – and yet, Jesus finds a way to bless us where we are and to meet our needs.

It’s interesting that when Jesus appeared to the disciples both times at the house – that he told them repeatedly, “Peace be with you”. The only other places in the Gospel of John that Jesus says anything about giving them peace is when Jesus is telling the disciples goodbye – right before his death.

– John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

And again in John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This Easter season – as we look at the familiar stories of those in the Gospel of John who saw the Risen Christ – to me, this Easter brings new meaning for the times we are living in.

Perhaps the disciples couldn’t imagine peace at that moment – Jesus had died – now he was risen – and they were afraid and hiding in their homes. Peace be with you – peace I give you.

The irony was not lost on me this week – here we are – sheltering in our homes, and concerned – if not afraid – of the Coronavirus pandemic – concerned/fearful for ourselves and for our loved ones – and not for many, many years have we been asked to make such significant sacrifices – not only for our own well-being, but out of love and concern for our neighbors.

To think about peace at this moment – during pandemic – is sometimes quite challenging.

In the year 1527, Martin Luther – wrote an article about whether people should flee from cities hit by the Black Plague or not, and he affirmed Christ’s peace during such a time. He wrote, “Christ’s peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has overcome these things.”

This is the comfort – the peace – that we have here today – that God is still here with us – that Jesus meets us where we are and cares about our specific needs.

Christ is risen – Christ is risen indeed – and that’s not just a nice sentiment on one day – Easter – but each day throughout the year – that Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! What does the resurrection mean? It means God still shows up.

Too often the focus here is on Thomas’ doubt. But Thomas was not present when Jesus showed up on the other side of a locked door to greet fearful followers with peace and the instruction to forgive.

Thomas’ request is merely for what the others experienced. The wonder of this moment is Jesus’ willingness to meet Thomas exactly where Thomas names his needs. In fact, Thomas names his need – to personally see and experience the risen Christ and to touch his hands and side – and Thomas names what Jesus knew Mary and Peter and John and the other disciples needed – Jesus knew they needed to see the risen Christ for themselves.

The doors are shut. Jesus appears, nail scars and all. His offering of peace is followed by a demonstration of love – there is no condemnation for Thomas’ request—a simple invitation.

Thomas’ world was turned upside down – just as today, our world has been turned upside down with Covid-19.

This is story is not so much about a doubting disciple – Jesus is not even bothered by Thomas’ need to see – to touch – his scars – in order to believe. It is about Jesus, who shows up in a time of disaster, to meet people’s needs.

Here – the Gospel of John seems to say that Jesus still has the power to give us what we need – just as he did for not only Thomas, but Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, and the other disciples – and that Jesus continues to meet us in our need – Jesus shows up.

In the last verse that we read today – John 20:31 – John tells us why he has written this Gospel about Jesus. Several translations show that John is writing so “that you might come to believe” – but that phrase can also be translated – that John is writing so “that you may continue to believe”.

When Jesus was talking with the disciples – just before his death, he told them – he would be leaving, that they can’t go where Jesus was going – and then Thomas jumps in – interrupting Jesus – and says, “but Lord – how can we go where you are going? We don’t know the way”, and that’s when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.
I am the way – when you can’t find your way.
I am the truth – the truth that you can base your life on.
And I am the life – I am the one who gives you life – who has come to meet your need, to give you peace, to send you out, and to give you power to forgive.

John 20:19-31
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:24 Thomas (Aramaic) and Didymus (Greek) both mean twin.
John 20:31 Or may continue to believe

“Finish the Story”

Easter Worship Service – Cathy Harris – PFM – 4/12/20
Mark 16:1-8, Romans 1:1-8, Mark 1:1-8

Welcome to our online worship service here at Plainfield Friends!
We join each other for worship on this Easter morning to celebrate the resurrection of Christ – you might be asking – how can we celebrate the “Good News of Easter” while living in a “Good Friday world” – a world of fear and a world of isolation, social distancing, and loneliness?

How can we celebrate Easter while we are living in the shadow of the Corona virus pandemic, when we are expected to pass through the worst period of the pandemic before the world begins its recovery?

Rolf Jacobson, an Old Testament professor at Luther Seminary, wrote an article this week, and said that “this week, this Easter —in a time of pandemic and quarantine—the reality of both the bad news of death and the good news of the resurrection [of Christ] seem so much more tangible.”

And – we are called to remember Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection.

This morning we are going to take a look at the Gospel of Mark.
Of the four Gospels, Mark’s Gospel about Jesus’ resurrection is the most mysterious.
He leaves us with wanting to know the rest of the story.

Mark begins by telling us about the three women who were making their way to the tomb.
I imagine that they were probably exhausted, overwhelmed with grief, and felt like their minds were in a fog – just like we feel when we have lost a loved one.

Here were the three women making their way to the tomb. Jesus was the Messiah – they believed that – but their long-awaited-for Messiah shouldn’t die. But they did what each one of us does when we are faced with the loss of a loved one – we put one foot in front of the other and we – somehow – do what has to be done.

The women bought spices to anoint Jesus’ body, and they were wondering how they would be able to roll away the stone. When they get there, the stone is rolled away, and as they look into the tomb – Jesus’ body is gone, and a young man in a white robe is sitting inside the empty tomb.

Mark’s Gospel says: “And the man in the white robe said to them, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Then Mark tells us that “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

The earliest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel end right there – that the women were trembling and bewildered – they fled from the tomb – they said nothing – they were afraid.

If you look at any Bible, you will notice that there are several more verses in the Gospel of Mark that follow the ones that we read this morning – but those are not in the original manuscripts. They were added later. Someone probably came along and thought that Mark left the story unfinished.

I know what John and Matthew and Luke tell us – the wonderful stories of Jesus’ resurrection and appearances, of how the disciples encountered the living Christ, and then boldly began to tell the world about the risen Christ — but not Mark.

He is risen. He is not here … the women turned from the tomb … said nothing … they were afraid. Why would Mark leave us hanging without finishing the story? I’m not sure, but perhaps Mark intended to leave the story unfinished.

I recently read a story about Mozart. When he was young, he had a difficult time waking up and getting out of bed in the morning – so …. in order to wake up Mozart, his mother would sit down at the piano and play some chord progressions – but she wouldn’t play the final chord to resolve the sequence. She would leave the music hanging – she left off the ending – so it sounded “unfinished”. Mozart would hear the unresolved music – get out of bed and head straight to the piano to finish the music each morning. Mozart’s mother played a song every day and left it unfinished – it not only got him out of bed – in a way, his mother was inviting him to come to the piano – to participate in the music – and to finish the song.

It got me thinking – Maybe Mark leaves the story of Jesus unfinished because he is inviting us to participate in the story of Jesus – just as Mozart’s mother left the music unfinished to invite her son to finish the song – and – to get out of bed – maybe for Mark, it wasn’t the end of the story – it was the beginning!

After all – we are here this morning – on Easter Sunday – celebrating the resurrection of Jesus – the highlight of the Christian year. I know – it’s a lot different than we could ever have imagined – worshiping together online – and in our homes – but we are here – celebrating Easter together.

The women and the disciples – came to believe what initially seemed unbelievable – that Jesus had risen from the dead – he had conquered death and sin. They experienced the resurrected Christ – and then they were compelled to finish the story. They went from being afraid and hiding to boldly proclaiming that Jesus is alive!

In less than 50 years, the world was transformed by the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and Jesus’ radical mandate to love God and to love one another and to love ourselves – changed the women at the tomb … and it changed the world – because those women had the courage to finish the story. Those disciples had the courage to finish the story.

Today – we, too, are called to finish the story – we are invited by God to allow the resurrected Christ to enter and work in our lives … to transform our pain and fear (and we’ve had a lot to be afraid of lately) … and to give us new life and a relationship with Jesus.

After we celebrate Easter together this morning, will we allow the risen Savior to work and live in our hearts and lives? Shaping, changing, and healing us – and making us agents of healing and hope in the world.

He is not here. He is risen.

I’ve been reading in the Gospel of Mark the past week or so.
I know it’s strange that Mark ends his Gospel without telling the whole story – this has always intrigued me as well.

But I also know that Mark begins his Gospel – not with the story of Jesus’ birth or his genealogy – but with John the Baptist shouting – “Prepare the way of the Lord!” – and Mark ends his Gospel with the story unfinished – and I believe that – we are called to be “preparers of the way” – that God calls us – to finish the story.

Now it’s our opportunity – we, too, have fears and doubts – but we can allow the power of the resurrected Christ to transform our lives – to transform our relationship with others.

The end is ours to share and to live – to finish the story.

He is not here. He is risen.
He is risen indeed!

Mark 16:1-8
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Romans 1:1-8
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. 6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.

Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

“The Thirst of God”

Cathy Harris – Plainfield Friends Meeting – Good Friday service – 4/10/20

John 19:16-42


Welcome to our online worship service here at Plainfield Friends! I am very glad you are joining us for our Good Friday service. We also invite you to join us for our online Easter service to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus – and that should be available online sometime tomorrow – Saturday.

Let us pray together:
Lord Jesus,
In your love, you came to us, reached out to us, and searched for us.
You gave your life for us – and for this, we are grateful.
We ask forgiveness for the ways and times in which we have failed you – we are grateful for fresh starts. We do live by your grace and your love.
We pray for our community, our loved ones – and be with those who cannot have visitors right now and those who are unable to visit loved ones – in hospitals or nursing homes – and remind them that they are not alone – you are present with them.
We ask that you meet us – in this moment – right where we are.
Help us – individually and as a faith community – to continue to be Your light in the world around us. Lord, be with the doctors, nurses, and emergency workers who are battling the virus on the front lines, and we ask your healing hand be on those who are sick. May we continue to look to you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen

So – grab your Bible – and let’s get started! Today – we are reading from the Gospel of John 19.
I would encourage you to take some time today or tomorrow to read through the whole story of Jesus’ arrest and death – all of chapters 18 and 19 in the Gospel of John.

John 19:16:-42

Finally, Pilate handed him [Jesus] over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
“They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”
So this is what the soldiers did.
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.
40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.


In Fleming Rutledge’s book, “The Seven Last Words from the Cross”, she writes:
“The One who gives the calm of lakes and pools, the freshness of brooks and streams, the majestic depths of seas and oceans, the glory of pounding surf, the might of Niagara and the tinkle of the garden fountain, the One from whose being flows the gift of the water of eternal life – this is the One who is dying of a terrible thirst on the Cross for the love of his lost sheep.”

When was the last time you were really thirsty? On a hot summer day hiking in the woods with a canteen near empty? On a beach or by a pool – sizzling under the sun? Eating salty popcorn in a movie theater? Or maybe feeling thirsty from eating a salty meal?  But even in those times, it probably didn’t require much effort to satisfy your thirst.

I have felt thirsty in all of those circumstances, but the one that stands out the most to me now was when Tom and I had gone to Colorado for vacation. With the much higher altitude – compared to Indiana! – your body needs extra water as you adjust to the change in altitude – especially if it’s hot outside.

Tom and I had gone to a park up in the mountains – Steamboat Lake State Park – Tom went fishing on the lake, I sat on the tailgate of the pickup truck and read a book that day, and every once in a while I would get up and take a walk around part of the lake and take some pictures – it was beautiful and peaceful. We had packed a picnic lunch, and I had packed a couple of bottles of water for each of us. I drank mine and was still really thirsty. I drove the truck around to the far side of the lake to a little camp store and bought 2 large bottles of water – the sun was hot that day – I was wearing a hat – but we had gone up a few thousand feet to get to the park, and I was really thirsty. I drank over one gallon of water that day – but it didn’t matter how much water I drank, I needed more – I was still thirsty.

And yet – that was nothing compared to the thirst that Jesus experienced on the cross. As Jesus was dying on the cross, he said, “I thirst”. There were 7 phrases that Jesus said as he was dying. They are often referred to as “the last 7 words of Jesus”. They are actually 7 phrases.

The first phrase is a prayer of forgiveness – Jesus forgives the people who have executed him.
Then he promises one of the criminals hanging on a cross next to him that he will forgive him and that he will go to Paradise that very day. The 3rd thing Jesus says from the cross is when he talks to his best friend, John, and to his mother. He asks John to take care of his mother after he dies.

If I were one of Jesus’ early followers, I don’t think I would be surprised by the first three things that Jesus said – and those all seem to fit Jesus’ personality from what we are told in the Gospels.
But things turn a corner with the 4th and 5th phrases – when Jesus quotes Psalm 22, saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” – and then when Jesus says, “I thirst”. There is no doubt that this thirst is a physical thirst … Jesus is exhausted and parched and how could you not be after all he had been through?

In nearly all of the stories about Jesus ministry – while he was traveling around during those three years, we hear him teaching and healing – we see and experience the spiritual side of Jesus. And now, when he’s dying on the cross, we see Jesus’ physical pain and needs: “I thirst”.

This brief phrase from Jesus on the cross – “I thirst” – is interesting when we think about it – because Jesus repeatedly told the disciples and different people that HE – Jesus – was the ultimate one who could quench their thirst.

Jesus said (to the woman at the well), “Whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again” – it was a claim that Jesus made many times. He also said, “All who are thirsty should come to me, and from them shall flow rivers of living water!”

I really like those verses from Romans 7:38: Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

To me, this says that Jesus is the one who can quench our thirsts – and that not only does Jesus quench our thirst, but we will be given rivers of living water that will flow from us – to help quench the thirsts we in others around us.

And now here is Jesus – on the cross – the one who quenches other people’s thirst – he’s now thirsty? He probably was really thirsty. I don’t doubt that at all. But I also know that in the Bible, to “thirst” usually means that someone is thirsty for more than water.

To thirst in scripture is to yearn – to long for – to be desperate with desire for something.

In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus blessed those who hunger and thirst – not for water – but those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – for justice.

And in Psalm 42:2, the Psalmist says: blessed are those who want God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven – the Psalmist is saying that they thirst for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven as if they were desperate for a drink of water after a week in the desert. And then the Psalmist prays, “My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God”.

What is it – today – that you yearn for – long for – thirst for – from God?

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, civil unrest broke out in the city. The general who was in charge of helping to provide aid made the comment to someone, “if you keep potable water – safe drinking water – from the people, they will destroy the city to get a drink of water.”
They were thirsty.

Augustine said that, “Our hearts are restless” – our hearts are thirsty – “until they find rest in God.”

In Jesus’ deep anguish and in his thirsting, they offered him a sponge with vinegar on a stick. But Jesus was thirsty for more than water. Jesus had a deep thirst that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

But maybe – when Jesus cries out, “I thirst” from the cross, he isn’t talking about OUR thirst or OUR hunger – Jesus says, “I thirst.” Not you, not me. Jesus said, “I thirst”.

And maybe Jesus wasn’t even thirsty for water – maybe he was thirsty for us. Is that not a fair summary of most of scripture – God loves us? We see over and over again in scripture that God is determined – through creation, through the words of the prophets and the teaching of the law, and through the birth of Christ – to get close to us. God thirsts to be close with us – and it is an unquenchable thirst.

God is not impersonal or aloof. God is shockingly personal – and available to us – and present to us and with us. Perhaps God thirsts for us – perhaps God wholeheartedly gives himself to us – through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection – because of his love for us. 

God is before us today – naked, exposed, and on a cross – taking on the sins of the world.
Jesus’ words – “I thirst” – are another way of revealing God’s utter self-giving love for us.

Yes, we thirst for God. But on this day – this “Good Friday” – or “God’s Friday” – it is God that thirsts – longs for us.

As we close this time of worship, join me in listening to Daryl Osborne – one of our members here at Plainfield Friends – Daryl will be singing and playing his guitar – a song that he wrote several years ago, and this week, he wrote a new verse to that song.

The name of his song is, “The Time We Share: A Caregivers Prayer”.
Daryl’s song, his guitar music and his voice – are beautiful and very comforting – especially for the difficult time we find ourselves in with the Corona virus and especially today – Good Friday – as we pause to reflect on Jesus’ life and death – and how that has changed our lives. Amen.

“When the Earth Shakes & the Rocks Split”

Cathy Harris – Plainfield Friends Meeting –

April 5, 2020 – Matthew 21:1-11, Matthew 27:45-56, 65-66, 28:1-4


Welcome to our online worship service here at Plainfield Friends! 

I am very glad you are joining us this morning. 

I would just like to say that I miss all of you very much.

Technology is great!  Since we can’t all be together here at the meeting house – the church – it’s a blessing to me that we can still worship God together. 

This is a very difficult time, and it sounds like – moving forward – we will need to stay hunkered down for the next 2-4 weeks.

One of the things I love about the church is that when things get tough, we are there for one another.  And even though we can’t physically be together this morning to worship – or be together in other ways, I am grateful we can still care for one another through prayer, phone calls, notes, emails/texts – and – that we can worship together online today. 


Max Lucado just released a new book called, “Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in A Chaotic World”.  I haven’t read the book yet, but I have read an article about it – and have ordered it.  It seems very timely for where we now find ourselves – when our world is shaken to its core and we are all feeling a little anxious. 


One of the things that Max Lucado suggests in his new book – to help us cope in anxious times is to do something he calls “CALM” – is the acronym – C.A.L.M.


C – Celebrate God’s goodness

A – Ask God for help

L – Leave our concerns with God

M – Meditate on good things


Please know that I am thinking of you, praying for you, and I can’t wait until we can get back together!  Thank you for continuing to bring in boxes of cereal for the food pantry, and for your support of our Meeting.   


We are offering an online Good Friday service and message – so be sure to check our website and Facebook page on Friday – as we reflect on the death of Jesus together. Then – on Sunday – we will have an online Easter service to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus – and that should be available online sometime Saturday. 


Let us pray together: 

Dear Lord, we thank you that you are here, and today, we look to you – and turn to you. We thank you that we can trust in you.  Please strengthen us, please calm us – give us peace – and we ask that you speak into our lives today. 

We pray for our community, our loved ones.

We pray for those who are hurting and lonely, and we pray for those in need.

We ask that you meet us – in this moment – right where we are.

Help us – individually and as a faith community – to continue to be Your light in the world around us.  Lord, be with the doctors, nurses, and emergency workers who are battling the virus on the front lines, and we ask your healing hand be on those who are sick and their loved ones.  May we continue to look to you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen

The scripture reading for today is longer – because I want to share with you parts of both stories – Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his death and resurrection.  So – grab your Bible – and let’s get started!


Matthew 21:1-11 (Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem)

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”


Matthew 27:45-56 (Jesus’ Death)

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.


Matthew 27:65-66, 28:1-4

65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

Tom and I used to live north of Knightstown – out in the country – in a small housing addition called “Lake Haven”. 

Our children were young at the time.

Tom and I had both gotten home from work, and I was fixing dinner. 

All of a sudden, all of the windows in the house started to shake – then everything in the house was shaking.  We looked at each other in disbelief – could this be an earthquake?  In Indiana? – We both walked over to the dining room window and looked outside to see if there was anything we could notice outside.

And then – just as soon as it started, it stopped. 

We saw our neighbors walk outside.  Tom and I grabbed the kids and headed outside, too.

We were all looking around – Did you just feel that?  Did your house shake, too?

Did we really just have an earthquake?  Here? In Indiana?

Later we saw in the news that – indeed – we had had an earthquake right here in central Indiana. 

And Tom thought later – he should have gone outside to look across the road at the lake to see if the earthquake was “shaking” the lake – to see if there were any ripples in the water.

I have heard in the news earlier this week about an earthquake in Idaho, and a couple of weeks ago, there were other earthquakes in Salt Lake City, Utah and other areas out West. 

A friend of mine lives in Salt Lake City, and I asked her a couple of weeks ago about the earthquake out there.  Janie said that it was her first earthquake.  They lost power for a couple of hours and had hundreds of aftershocks, but they could only feel about 8 of the aftershocks. 

She said that the original earthquake was a feeling of utter powerlessness like she has never felt before. 


I think that’s the way many of us are feeling as we deal with the Coronavirus (the earthquake that has shaken our world) – and all of the subsequent fallout (the aftershocks) that we are dealing with – staying at home, worried about getting the virus, worried about loved ones, loss of income, dealing with fears of not having enough food, or perhaps working in the midst of the virus to care for others – or we have a loved one in the hospital or nursing home that we can’t be with – I think – like Janie’s experience of the recent earthquake in Salt Lake City – we are experiencing a feeling of utter powerlessness like we have never felt before. 

In the scripture readings today – there were two earthquakes and an allusion to an event that – Matthew says – was like an earthquake.  Just a few days before Jesus rides on a donkey into Jerusalem for the Passover festival, he raises his good friend, Lazarus, from the dead.  Up to this point, people have been following Jesus – listening to him teach – observing him healing people and performing miracles. 

I imagine anyone who saw him raise Lazarus from the dead – was intrigued – and went on to follow Jesus into Jerusalem.  If Jesus can raise Lazarus from the dead, what would he do? – what would they see? – in Jerusalem?!  They wouldn’t want to have missed anything.

There was a great sense of anticipation and excitement – palpable – as they begin this journey with Jesus – they line the streets, Jesus rides in on a donkey.  They remove their cloaks – their coats – and lay them on the ground before Jesus – and cut branches from palm trees and wave them. 

They knew Jesus was a great prophet and teacher – a healer – and now they realize, it seems – that Jesus is the Messiah – the one they’ve been waiting for. 

Surely they must have known that the religious authorities were very unhappy about Jesus, and that they were already talking about trying to get rid of him.  The Jewish leaders felt threatened and the Romans weren’t thrilled with him, either. 

Matthew – in this Gospel – says that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city “was in turmoil”.  The city of Jerusalem usually had a population of about 40,000.  However, during Passover, there would be as many as 200,000 pilgrims crowding into the city. 

The word Matthew uses to tell us that the whole city of Jerusalem was “in turmoil” – is a very strong Greek word that literally means:  “was shaken” – or “trembled” – and it is the root word of “seismic” – so Matthew was telling us that the whole city of Jerusalem was in a state of turmoil of earthquake shaking proportions.

And Jesus rides on a donkey into the midst of the turmoil in Jerusalem – he rode right into the middle of an “earthquake” – things were tumultuous and unsettled. Who was this riding on a donkey?  The crowd says, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee”.


And they shout “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Hosanna” is one of those rare Aramaic words we find in the Gospels – Matthew, Mark and John (not Luke) – and they are only used in connection with Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem.

“Hosanna” – this rare Aramaic word – means “save me/help me, I pray”.


Easter will not be the same for us this year – no Easter egg hunts, no large gatherings – for my family – no large family gathering/meal.  It’s difficult to imagine a Palm Sunday – a Good Friday – any Easter that would compare to this year.  Take a breath. Let it out. In spite of the pandemic, we still have Palm Sunday – we still have Passion Sunday – we still have Good Friday – we are living in the MIDST of Good Friday – and in spite of it all, Easter will still come – and nothing can stop Easter from breaking into our lives. 

God did not cause this pandemic, as some might say.  But a crisis of this nature drastically and forever is certain to clarify two things.

First, it prompts some rather serious self-reflection. Our very human instinct is to take over when we think God cannot adequately meet our expectations or when we assume that God can work in only certain ways.  We like to be in control, and it’s difficult to let go and let God be God.

We have learned over the past month – could not have imagined! – that we would not be worshiping together in the Meeting House on Sundays – and could not have imagined that we could be worshiping together online in this way – and yet … God continues to work in us and through each one of us – and here we are – joining our hearts together in worship.

God’s church has survived much, this we know.

Second, a crisis that shakes our world – will often times change our perspective about things.

It makes us see what we have overlooked, taken for granted, assumed; what we have been doing as a routine without thinking much about it.

Not that we needed a wake-up call – certainly not one like this.

But – as we wait – and long – for things to return to normal, perhaps we can use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.

As a result, this shift in perspective brings us back to how the church got started in the first place and what is at the core of its identity—with Jesus, Immanuel, life as we knew it would never be the same again – that’s the way it was for the early church – that’s the way it is for us right now – nothing the same – for now.

That’s what death and resurrection does – it changes our perspective, changes our lives – helps us realize that we are not alone – Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us.

And so, the verse I am clinging to on this Palm/Passion Sunday is this: “The earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51).

For all intents and purposes, an earthquake is not good news.

We all remember the devastating earthquakes that hit Haiti several years ago – or the earthquakes and Tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.

But with all of that in mind, Matthew may very well be the good news we need here and now.

Not only did Jesus ride into Jerusalem in the midst of great turmoil – turmoil of “seismic” proportion – as Matthew writes – but Matthew also tells us of two earthquakes relating to Jesus’ death:  after he died on the cross (Matthew 27:50-54) – Matthew says: “Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. … Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”.


And the other earthquake was when Jesus was in the tomb and the earthquake unsealed the tomb and rolled the stone away to reveal that God had conquered death and that Jesus was alive! 

But – when Jesus died … the earth shook, and the rocks were split.

Initially – for Jesus’ disciples, for the many people who followed him, and had had such high hopes and expectations – initially, the cross was a crisis that shook their world. 


Because before the cross became a symbol of salvation, before it became a symbol of forgiveness of sins, and before the cross became a sign of God’s sacrificial love and a symbol of a church, the cross was a crisis of unfathomable proportions – it was seismic – and the death of Jesus, in no uncertain terms, was an earthquake. “The earth shook, and the rocks were split.”


When the earth shook and the rocks split – shook everything they knew – overturned. Never to be the same again. Just as the earth has shaken us – our world – turned upside down.

The events of Good Friday and Easter morning shake the very foundations of everything once thought to be secure.

We have grown so accustomed to celebrating Easter with beautiful flowers and joyful music that we tend to forget what an unsettling, confusing, frightening day it must have been for those who first experienced these events.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary have witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and burial (Matthew 27:55-56; 27:61), and now come to his tomb at dawn.

Matthew does not say that they came to anoint Jesus’ body for burial, but only to see the tomb.

Or is it possible that Jesus’ words about rising from the dead on the third day gave them a glimmer of hope and that they wanted to see what would happen on this morning of the third day?

In any case, it is probably safe to say that they were not prepared for what did happen.

A great earthquake shakes the ground beneath them, and an angel of the Lord descends from heaven dazzling like lightning and rolls back the stone (Matthew 28:2-3). The angel tells them not to be afraid, that Jesus is not in the tomb but has been raised, “just as he said”.

The angel invites the women to see the place where Jesus lay, then tells them to go tell the disciples that he has been raised and is going ahead of them to Galilee, and that they will see him there.

Probably still shaking, but with a promise and a message to deliver, the women leave quickly to carry out their mission “with fear and great joy”.

Then their world is rocked once again, as Jesus himself meets them on the way. The women hold onto his feet and worship him, and Jesus echoes the words of the angel in telling them not to be afraid, but to go and tell his “brothers and sisters” to go to Galilee, where they will see him.


What do we make of all of this? 

The resurrection is not merely an exercise of power on God’s part.

It is that, but more importantly, it is an act of love.

It is an act of love on the part of God, who did not abandon Jesus to the grave, and God will not abandon us.

No wall of stone is large enough to keep Jesus in the tomb.

So it is with the life-giving power and love of God.

No show of force, no contingent of guards or security police can stop it.

No pandemic can stop the life-giving power and love of God.

The resurrection is an earth-shaking event.

But as Jesus himself tells us, we need not be afraid.

The earth shakes … the rocks split … our world has been shaken, and we cry out with the crowd in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday:  Hosanna to the Son of David!  God – be with us – help us – save us! 

God is with us – God holds our future and meets us and will carry us through.


Hymn for Today:


How Great Thou Art

[Verse 1]

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

[Verse 2]
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze

[Verse 3]
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin

[Verse 4]

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation

And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!

Then I shall bow in humble adoration

And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art.