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We have come here today because we know that Christ is risen! But on that first Easter morning, no one knew that Christ had risen. Jesus’ disciples and friends were in the depths of despair, fear and guilt. The world seemed dark and hope was nowhere to be found. Christ had risen, but they had to discover that for themselves, so that they could say “I’ve seen the Lord” and experience for themselves the light that pierces the darkness and a new and transformed life. (John 20:1-18)
Jesus was on the receiving end of a lot of betrayal. There are times in our lives when we are betrayed by someone close to us. What do we do when we are hurt? (John 18:1-19:42)
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Olives not for his will to be done, but for God’s will to happen. Jesus prayed, “Remove this cup from me” and yet he was willing to accept the answer that he was given. (Luke 22: 39-46)
This story today of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet is not a comfortable story. There’s an odor in the air too. There is a lot of discomfort to wrap our heads around. How do you think you would have reacted if you were there watching? (John 12:1-8)
We know this parable that we have just heard read as the parable of the prodigal son. The word prodigal means wastefully or recklessly extravagant. The younger son wastefully spends all his money. The father recklessly and extravagantly forgives his younger son. And the older son? He sits in judgement of them both. So, is God like the prodigal father dispensing grace lavishly or the oldest son who holds onto grudges and judges strictly? I think all of us here would say that God is like the loving father in the parable. As I thought about our cultivating and letting go topic, this spoke to me about our need to let go of judgment and to cultivate grace for one another. In this sermon, Pastor Joan shared (with permission) a version of the parable written by United Church of Canada minister, Rev. Catherine MacDonald, that was told from the perspective of the prodigal son’s mother. Sorry, we do not have a transcript or recording for this sermon. (2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Luke 15:1-3,11b-32)
Today as I was reflecting on this fig tree parable, what came to mind is our need for haste. I tend to move hastily and quickly onward and just get on with the next thing on the to-do list. Jesus in this parable reminds me that the hasty thing of just cutting down the tree or completing my to-do list might not be best solution. Things that are worthwhile take time. Healing takes time. (Isaiah 55:1-9, Luke 13:1-9)
Luke described Jesus’ desire to gather us together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. This is a very feminine way of describing God. God as a mother hen offering us protection. As I thought about this, I began to ponder stereotypical descriptions of women versus men. I thought about how women can express their feelings much more than men. Perhaps this feminine God wants all of us, women and men, to express our full range of humanity including our innermost feelings. (Psalm 27, Luke 13:31-35)
Before he began his ministry, Jesus spend 40 days in the Judean wilderness. During that time, he had to learn how to listen and distinguish between God’s voice and the devil’s voice. He had to resist the temptation to do the easy thing. He had to tune out the voices that would him astray. (Luke 4:1-13)
Where are you today in this picture? Are you on that mountain at the far side basking in God’s transfiguring light? Are you standing by the rock on this side of the picture looking at what is to come? Are you down in the valley, wondering if you have the stamina to climb the mountain? (Luke 9:28-36)
It’s easy to love those who love you. As, Jesus pointed out, we can all do that! But love your enemies? That is harder! It is when being a follower of Jesus becomes difficult. (Luke 6:27-38)