What Kind of Fool Are You???

What Kind of Fool Are You???
Psalm 14:1The Godless Fool…
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
Romans 1:20-25 The Idol Worshiping Fool…
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.                                                                                                            21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24-25 So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us… Who is forever praised. Amen.
I Corinthians 1:18-25 The Self Glorifying Fool…
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are                                                                  being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,                                                                                                                                                                      and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Paul will write to the Church at Corinth that trusting the foolishness of God that is wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God that is stronger than human strength makes you a special kind of fool… Paul says he is a Fool for Christ
We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. I Corinthians 4:10
April 1st is of course… April Fool’s Day… It is also Easter Sunday – The day we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection for the Salvation of the world… So, What kind of fool are you?

St. Patrick

Yesterday, Sunday, was St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, these days St. Patrick is mostly identified with the proliferation of green beer. But there is so much more to his life story than that. Most people know that St Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, but not so many people know that he is the Patron Saint of Engineers! Yes, it is claimed that he was instrumental in the initial construction of Irish clay churches in the 5th century A.D. And St. Patrick has been credited with teaching the Irish to build arches of lime mortar instead of dry masonry. St. Patrick was a builder. He worked with clay and stone building up churches and bridges across the Irish countryside and he worked with the Word and the Spirit in building up the lives of God’s children in Ireland creating communities of compassion, generosity and peace. Patrick believed that lives of Faith, Hope, and Love are built on the everyday practice of prayer. And so everywhere he went he taught the people to pray and to memorize prayers as a way of reshaping their inner lives so that their outer lives would reflect the face of Christ to the world
A prayer for starting a fire in the morning (or for just getting yourself started in the morning) …
I will kindle my fire this morning
In presence of the holy angels of heaven.
God, kindle Thou in my heart within
A flame of love to my neighbor,
To my foe, to my friend to my kindred, all,
To the brave, to the knave, to the Thrall…
An affirmation to kindle within an awareness of the need to draw near to God in prayer…
I am bending my knee –
In the eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who purchased me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me.
In friendship and affection…
St. Patrick’s commitment to prayer has been carried forward to a new generation. Today, Celtic prayer books even include a prayer for students who have to take exams…
I bless this exam – In the name of the Designer of Truth,
I bless this exam – In the name of the Protector from ill,
I bless this exam – In the name of the Spirit who guides,
Open my eyes to see how this subject reflects something of you.
Aid me to understand this subject with my heart
As well as with my head.
Give me
Wisdom to know the nub of things
Strength to recall what is useful
Peace to leave the result to You.
So when St. Patrick’s Day comes around celebrate an engineer… and help to create a more beautiful world by building up a daily life of prayer using all the Faith, Hope and Love you can find.

Faith in the One Sure foundation

In recent weeks we have seen hurricanes and floods.  We have witnessed senseless acts of violence.  We look out upon landscapes of devastation as fires sweep across the land…  The images and events of these days recall to mind a passage from the prophet Jeremiah:In recent weeks we have seen hurricanes and floods.  We have witnessed senseless acts of violence.  We look out upon landscapes of devastation as fires sweep across the land…  The images and events of these days recall to mind a passage from the prophet Jeremiah:
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void,And to the heavens, and they had no light.I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,And all the hills moved to and fro.I looked, and lo, there was no one,And all the birds of the air had fled.I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,And all its cities were laid in ruin…(Jeremiah 4:23-26).
A generation ago, in the late 1940s, the theologian Paul Tillich invoked this biblical text in a sermon about the terrors of war and the tribulations that had come upon the earth. He encouraged people of faith not to withdraw in hopelessness or recoil in fear when it looks as though this world will come tumbling down around them at any moment.  He said, “There is something immovable and unshakable which becomes manifest in the crumbling of our world. On the boundaries of the finite, the infinite becomes visible.  This is why the prophets were able to face the shaking of the foundations.” In other words, when things look bad is no time to avert our eyes or to bury our heads in the sand…but it is a good time to open our eyes and to look around and see where goodness is breaking forth and where grace is being made manifest and to enter into it and embrace it and share it.  As the late Fred Rogers reminded us, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”   
In the midst of dark and difficult days, when we see scary things in the news, we gather as a community of faith to declare what we know to be true… that our faith will endure even our greatest tests, that our hope will outrun even our greatest fears, and that our love will overcome even our greatest foes. Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ? the Apostle Paul asks. Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
This is our faith… faith in the One, sure foundation on which all foundations are laid; and this foundation cannot be shaken.  Yes, as Paul Tillich wrote a generation ago in words that speak to all generations, There is something immovable, unchangeable, unshakable, eternal, which becomes manifested in our passing and in the crumbling of our world… For in these days the foundations of the earth do shake. May we not turn our eyes away; may we not close our ears and our mouths! But may we rather see, through the crumbling of a world, the rock of eternity and the salvation which has no end!
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Mark

Asked of Us

Each week in worship I share a message with the congregation.  There is always more to say than there is time to say it.  So, I’m never quite sure exactly what might be left in or what might be left out.  Not long ago I shared a message on prayer and God’s faithfulness in answering prayer.  I came to the   part of the sermon where I began talking about the two things asked of us
as we draw near to God in prayer.  The first is Honesty… we offer up the truth of our needs, longings, hopes, dreams, and desires without reservation or evasion, and sometimes the cry of our heart is simply “Lord, help me.”  Prayer can’t get much more honest than that. Then, I came to the place I was intending to talk about the second thing we bring to our prayer relationship with God… Humility.  Humility before God is the only ground we have to stand on.  As the old communion prayer says,
“We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness,
but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to partake of this Sacrament of thy Son Jesus Christ, that we may walk in newness of life, may grow into his likeness, and may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
That’s what I planned to say.  And then I would go on to talk about Job, who spent thirty-seven chapters listening to his “friends” attempt to explain the righteousness of God in a world of human suffering and human need… and then God showed up and Job learned that humility is the only way to approach and experience the awesome wonder of God in the world as it is…
“And the Lord said to Job, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?”  Job listened to God for several chapters and at last Job spoke, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted… Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me… therefore I recoil within myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”     
But I didn’t go there.  I didn’t mention Humility before God at all… I couldn’t.  I knew that I must always be reminded of how foundational Humility before God is when it comes to prayer, but looking out into the faces of a community of genuinely humble, dedicated, faithful people all that I could talk about was The Love of God and how the Love of God carries through life and death and life beyond death.  I mean, you can’t really go wrong with The Love of God.  God loves us and cares for us and all the promises of God are “Yes!” in Jesus Christ. We sang a closing hymn and went from worship out into the world.
Then came Sunday afternoon and Diana and I drove south of Aptos and took a walk on the long, open beaches.  And there, just like with Job, God got my attention.  It wasn’t through a whirlwind, but God did conjure up some of the same “Wonders of Creation” with me that worked so well with Job so long ago.  Remember Leviathan, and the wonders of the deep that God brought in to being.  Well, as we stood on the beach we watched whales spouting and splashing, a bit closer to shore dolphin playfully moved across the water, a little closer bald-headed seals played in the surf, and closer still a sea otter was eating its dinner using its stomach as a picnic table, riding the waves between bites.  In the sound of the ocean I thought I could hear the voice of God saying, “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?”  All I could say in answer was, “I have uttered things too wonderful for me.”  But now I understand, Humility before God is the only ground we have to stand on… in prayer or anywhere else.  That’s true for all of us… all of the time… and it’s something we all need to know.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Mark

Summertime means Tomatoes…

Summertime means Tomatoes…Not the tasteless store-bought tomatoes but the juicy, sweet, home-grown ones.  A thick slice of fresh tomato on a summertime sandwich… how good is that?   Or a fresh Big Boy variety tomato prepared on a plate with Bleu Cheese Dressing for an afternoon snack… or even dessert??  Or the marvelous beyond words Heirloom Tomato Stack Diana and I had last week at the Café Cruz down on 41st street and Highway 1 in Santa Cruz… the thick, fresh Tomato slices stacked up like a tower of Oreos with the role of the crème filling played by fresh slices of delicious mozzarella…lightly drizzled with herbed vinaigrette … Wow!  Praise God for the Tomatoes of summertime!
But Tomatoes, like virtually everything else that happens in the summertime, can get you in to trouble.  One of the people who found himself in tomato trouble is the well-known Bible translator and Seminary professor, Eugene Peterson.  His translation of the Bible is called The Message. Many of you are familiar with it.  It’s a wonderful translation.  However, in translating a paragraph in Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth concerning the Resurrection of the body, Peterson chose to translate the Greek by using the word “tomato”.  Instead of the standard translation “ You do not sow the body that is to be but a bare kernel, or seed, perhaps of wheat or some other grain.  But God gives it a body as God has chosen…”  Peterson, perhaps thinking that most folks today may have never harvested wheat but had almost certainly come face to face with a tomato at one time or another chose this translation, “You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.  Now, the trouble comes when “religious skeptics” write editorials questioning the validity of the Bible and the genuine historical reality of the Christian Faith because of the word Tomato.  One writer argued, “Tomatoes are native to western, South America. There were no tomatoes in Europe until the 1500’s. They weren’t introduced to the Middle East until around 1800!  How is it that the tomato is mentioned in the Bible (I Corinthians) when the New Testament was supposedly written around 50 AD…1500 years before those people ever saw a tomato? There were no tomatoes there at the time!  I can only arrive at one conclusion: It must be all the product of the perpetual, continual, creative license taken by the Vatican (or whoever was doing the writing in the mid-1500’s).”  Unbelievable….
In the end, perhaps whatever tomato troubles we may have had will, as the old hymn says, find their way to come ‘round right.  Garrison Keillor has retired from his Prairie Home Companion radio show.  But he still writes about it.  I recently came across a confession he made about a famous story he told over the radio many years ago.  He said, “There’s a story that I told a long time ago that so many children liked so much. It was a story about throwing a tomato at my sister when I was a little kid and we were out in the garden. . .  Hundreds of little kids have come up to me after shows and they’ve looked up and they’ve said, “That, uh, that Tomato Butt story that you told, is that true? Is that a true story?” And I look down at them and I say, “Yeah! That’s true.” And I’ve never had the heart to look down at a child and to admit that the story happened exactly the opposite way. And that she threw the tomato at me. . .  It took me 30 years to be able to lie well enough so that that tomato could reverse course and go in the opposite direction.”
Ah summertime!  It is beautiful and brief… and filled with Tomato blessings.  May God grant us all the wisdom to share the blessings of this life with honest and open hearts… until that day when we are all changed from a seed… into something dramatically different.  
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Mark


Nine Spiritual Temperaments

I remember Pastor Rick Warren wrote, “Surrender is the heart of worship.”  Offering ourselves to God is what worship is all about… and God wants 100% of who we are.  Others have said, “Worship is the believer’s response of all that they are—mind, emotions, will, body—to what God is and says and does”.  These are both wonderful ways to understand worship.  But perhaps a still more excellent way to understand worship is found in the work of Gary Thomas who studied the history of worship. He found that worship is not a “one-size-fits-all” proposition.  In his book Sacred Pathways, he identifies Nine of the ways people have found to draw near to God in worship.  He refers to them as Nine Sacred Pathways, or Nine Spiritual temperaments that God creates in human beings so that we can connect and worship God in unique ways.
  1. Naturalists— love God best outdoors. These people worship in the midst of God’s Creation. They celebrate God’s majesty and discover spiritual truths through nature
  2. Sensates— love God through their senses. These people worship through sense experiences —sights (like art), sounds (music), smells, and more
  3. Traditionalists— love God through religious ritual and symbols. These people worship through time honored traditions of the Church. They believe structure, and repetition, like weekly liturgy, leads to deeper understanding of God and faith
  4. Ascetics— love God in solitude and simplicity. These people worship through prayer and quiet time, free from the encumbrances of outside noise and distraction
  5. Activists— love God through engaging and confronting, fighting for godly principles and values. They worship through dedication to and participation in God’s vision for social and evangelistic causes
  6. Caregivers— love God by serving others, and worship by giving of themselves. They may nurse the sick and disabled, care for a stranger, donate time at a shelter, etc.
  7. Enthusiasts— love God through mystery and celebration. These people worship with outward displays of passion and enthusiasm. They love God with gusto!
  8. Contemplatives— love God through adoration. These people worship by their attentiveness, deep love, and spiritual connection. They have an active prayer life
  9. Intellectuals— love God with their mind and their hearts are opened up to a new attentiveness when they understand something new about God. These people worship through intense study, apologetics, and intellectual pursuits of their faith.

Always Remember…. We are a mixture… we rarely rely on a single approach or temperament to connect with God every time; God blesses us with a mix of several temperaments… And…

Our Temperaments change— Spiritual temperaments evolve over time. We are likely to find different ways to connect with God at different times in our lives.

You can learn more about your Spiritual Temperament in the book Sacred Pathways. Another wonderful resource is the web page of Grace Church in Overland Park, Kansas (http://visitgracechurch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/SpiritualStyle.pdf)

 God has created us all to be a people of worship… but we don’t all respond to the Awesome Love and Amazing Grace of our God in the same way.  Discover your Spiritual Temperament. As we share with one another how we best connect with God we will All be blessed… like the hymn says, “In our difference is Blessing… from diversity we Praise…”                                                            

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Mark Brady



Mother’s Day

On The Second Sunday in May (May 14th) we celebrate Mother’s Day. We remember the incredible women in our lives who devoted themselves to help raise us and generations of children and grand children… some their own… some community kids or church kids or neighbor kids… and it didn’t seem to matter. They cared enough to sacrifice and to share the faith, the hope and the love that they held dear and we pause in the rush of the everyday to express our love, our thanks and our appreciation. While obviously we should be treating the women in our families with care, support and respect during the rest of the year and not just on Mother’s Day, a single day can be a great way to remind us to get out of our own way, to remember where we have come from, and to show our gratitude. 
In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul writes to Timothy: I” have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives also in you.” Paul writes to remind Timothy, and us, that the greatest gift any of us can pass on to our children and grandchildren is faith. Lois and Eunice were a mother/daughter team that raised young Timothy to grow up into a man of God, ultimately becoming The Apostle Paul’s most trusted companion and disciple. It is only in Acts 1:6 and 2 Timothy 1:5 that we find any record of these women, but what a strong commendation Paul gives to them.  The name Lois means agreeable or desirable.  And she appears to have lived up to her name!  The Apostle Paul praises her as one who passed on the mantle of faith to both her daughter and her grandson. I have heard that while there are numerous grandmothers mentioned in the Bible, 2 Timothy is the only place where the term grandmother is actually used. (Greek, mamme, actually pronounced “mammy”).
Eunice was, like her mother, also a devout Jewess before coming to Christ. She has a Greek name that is derived from the name Nike, which was the Greek goddess of victory.  Her name actually means conquering well and was a name expressive of a good or celebrated victory.  Eunice, too, lived up to her name.  She had victory over a culture and a society that would cast her and her family aside after the death of her husband.  Through her faith in God and her study of the Scriptures she continued to trust in the promises of God who is “a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows… in his holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5) There is no doubt that their devout Jewish faith and knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures prepared their hearts to hear the words of Paul regarding eternal life through Jesus Christ. 
Paul and Timothy shared in the work of ministry for many years.  Near the end of his life journey, Paul, from the prison at Rome awaiting trial and likely execution, writes his second letter to the one he called “his own son in the faith”, calling to remembrance the faith that had sustained Timothy, and reminding him that this very faith was first in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Timothy had been raised to Love God and to share that Love through living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  What better way is there to show and to share the love of God than by remembering and celebrating those from whom we have all received so much… our mothers and grandmothers and all the great women of faith.
Join us for worship on Mother’s Day (May 14th)… Be a part of the celebration…
Remember where you came from… Remember who you are.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Mark

Easter Letter 2017

According to John, the last words Jesus spoke from the cross were, “It is finished.” Whether he meant “finished” as brought to an end, in the sense of finality, or “finished” as brought to completion, in the sense of fulfillment, nobody can know for sure. It’s hard not to think he meant both. According to John, there is less mystery involved in understanding the first words of Jesus after his Resurrection from the dead. 
On Easter morning Mary Magdalene went to the tomb before dawn to anoint Jesus body. Having found the empty tomb she quickly runs to tell Peter and John that someone has taken Jesus’ body from of the tomb and she doesn’t know where they’ve taken it. Peter and John run to the tomb to see for themselves. They find the tomb empty, but see Jesus’ grave clothes neatly folded, not what you would expect to see if someone had stolen his body. They consider what this means, and they go home. Then John tells us,
“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
From time to time I have run across collections of the famous last words of famous people. Recently, I came across the last words of someone who is not famous, mostly because he was only 4 years old.
Nolan Scully was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, in November 2015. He passed away in February this year, aged four.  His mother Ruth will never forget the last night of his young life.
At 9pm, after watching a video together, Ruth asked if she could leave Nolan for a shower. I’ll be out in two seconds’. He smiled at me. I shut the bathroom door… They said the moment the bathroom door clicked he shut his eyes and went into a deep sleep, beginning the end of life passing. “When I opened the bathroom door, his Team was surrounding his bed and every head turned and looked at me with tears in their eyes. They said ‘Ruth, he’s in a deep sleep. He can’t feel anything’. His respirations were extremely labored, his right lung had collapsed and his oxygen dropped.
Ruth said, “I ran and jumped into bed with him and put my hand on the right side of his face. Then, a miracle that I will never forget happened…. Nolan took a breath, opened his eyes, smiled at me and spoke his last words, ‘I Love You Mommy’, he said, and turned his head towards me. At 11:54pm Nolan Scully passed away as his mother Ruth was singing ‘You are My Sunshine’ in his ear.”
“I Love You”… is about as good as any of us can do when it comes to last words, unless we happen to be the Savior of the world.  But when it comes to first words, perhaps Jesus has given us an insight into what awaits us on that day when we meet those we love in the life to come. They will draw near to us once more… And seeing that we, the new arrivals, are overwhelmed with tears of Joy at the meeting, the ones we love and lost a while will simply ask us “Why are you weeping???” And they will speak our name… and there we will be together again in the love and the light of Resurrection Life… forever.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Mark Brady

It’s Easter!!!

Wake up… It’s Easter!!! That’s right; the celebration of Easter Sunday is now only a few short weeks away. Will you be up and ready and receptive to the message of Easter Morning??? I know… Maybe as children it was easier for us to be up and ready and receptive on Easter Morning because we knew that once we got out of bed an Easter Basket filled with treats was hidden somewhere in the house for us to find. These days we can let ourselves become well adapted to snooze-alarm living, if we just keep hitting that snooze-button long enough Sunday morning will slide right on by…

Several alarm clock companies have come up with some ingenious ways to help get snooze-alarm adapted folks up and out of bed and ready to face the day. There is the Wake Up, Work Out Alarm Clock, a 1.5-pound dumbbell clock that will shut off only after you’ve done 30 bicep curls and it has internal motion sensors too–so you can’t cheat! Clocky is a clock on wheels that rolls and leaps, from up to 3 feet, off your nightstand after one snooze and it does this while beeping random patterns and hides until you hunt it down. The Twist Equation Clock requires you to twist the dials to create an equation that makes sense before you can turn it off…

Early-morning math anyone??? Clockman is perfect for those folks who can’t get up and dressed in the morning without some serious nagging. This chatty clock refuses to shut up, even after you get out of bed. He’ll greet you at your desired time, sing while you get dressed, and even yell at you if he gets angry. They say that even though Clockman speaks only Japanese for now, his wake-up-and-get-going message isn’t lost in translation. Finally, Sonic Boom With Super Shaker has a 113-decibel alarm – about as loud as a jackhammer. And if the volume alone won’t do it, the red flashing lights and accompanying bed-shaker unit (which goes beneath your mattress) should deliver the full sensory message that “Morning has Broken!” On Easter Morning God came up with something that even the world’s best clock makers can’t touch. God ushered in Easter Morning with an Earthquake, an Angel, and an Announcement!

After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move. The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised up, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. “Now, go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.” (Matthew 28:1-7 The Message)

Allan Smith tells about an Easter morning wake up call he had years ago; “our clock radio came on about four o’clock, and a woman’s voice said, “Let His joy fill your heart like a springtime sun.” I quickly turned off the radio and offered some undesirable comments as to who had set the clock that early. But when I tried to go back to sleep those words kept ringing in my ears!”

Easter Morning is God’s wake-up call for you and me and the whole world. So, Wake Up! And don’t hit the snooze button- Let His Joy fill your heart like a springtime sun!

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Mark

A New Year…

We are living in the midst of an unfolding New Year… The Christian New Year began in Advent before the celebration of Christmas, The Calendar New Year began on January 1st, and the Lunar New Year was ushered in just this past weekend. Each New Year offers us opportunities to learn about, experience and discover things around us and within us in new and deeper ways… so that we can come to appreciate and understand more fully the wonder of the lives we have been blessed to live and to share. What is it that you are hoping to learn more about or experience or discover in this New Year? Perhaps you have heard or read about how just last year, in 2016, Biblical Archeologists made some amazing discoveries. These three are not only interesting, but underscore the historical validity of The Bible.
Stone jar factory found near Cana
Recent excavations in a cave halfway between Cana and Nazareth uncovered a 2000-year-old quarry where stone vessels were produced. The cave, hewn of chalkstone, revealed numerous stone vessels; cups, bowls, and large stone jars, in various stages of production. In the first century, Jews in Galilee used pots and storage jars made of stone, as they did not become ritually impure. In John 2:1-11, John tells about Jesus turning the water into wine in stone jars during the wedding at Cana. The cave’s proximity to Cana suggests it may have been the source of the water jars that were used for the wedding in Cana attended by Jesus and his disciples.
Lachish gate shrine illustrates Hezekiah’s reforms
In the ruins of a shrine excavated next to the gate of Lachish, the largest city of the kingdom of Judah after Jerusalem, archaeologists found an altar, within one of the rooms in the city gate, with the horns intentionally broken off from each corner. This is believed to be evidence of the reforms of King Hezekiah, who “removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles” as part of his reforms (2 Kgs 18:4). They also discovered a stone chair with a hole in the middle, which archaeologists have identified as a toilet, in the corner of the room. This suggests an intentional desecration of the gate-shrine, and is reminiscent of the Bible’s description of Jehu turning the temple of Baal in Samaria into a latrine (2 Kgs 10:27).
Unsealing the tomb of Christ
For the first time since at least 1555 AD, the purported tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was unsealed, revealing the surface of the limestone burial bed on which it is believed Jesus’ body lay. The burial bed had been covered with a marble slab centuries ago to prevent pilgrims from chipping off pieces of the tomb as souvenirs. After removing the marble slab, archaeologists were surprised to find a layer of fill, and then a second marble slab with a cross carved into its surface. The researchers had been given only 60 hours to complete their work. Just hours before their time was up, the original limestone surface of the burial bed where the body of Jesus was believed to have been laid after his crucifixion was uncovered and found intact. While it is impossible to know conclusively that this is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth described in the Gospels, the historical claims of the site are significant and nothing initially discovered in the recent unsealing would contradict the long-standing Christian tradition that this is the original empty tomb of Jesus.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” In this New Year may we all be blessed to make new, exciting discoveries about our lives, our faith, our families, our church, our community, our world and our God.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Mark