Daily thoughts from our minister.

March 3, 2024

They Saw

After what must have been the most traumatic Passover the disciples had ever experienced, no one could blame Mary Magdalene for her initial response on arriving at the tomb. She was expecting to see a stone covering the entrance to the cave but instead found it had been rolled away. Her assumption was not implausible. There must have been some urgency and panic.

John reports that Peter and “the other disciple’ (likely the apostle John) arrived at the tomb. Peter arrived second but did not stop at the cave entrance. He went in and saw the linen cloths lying in one place and the napkin that covered his head rolled up in a separate place. Whatever happened here was under control – perhaps even planned?

It is here we have a powerful twist on the themes of seeing and believing. The other disciple, even without the benefit of fully understanding what the scriptures said about Jesus rising from the dead, believed. He believed because of what he did not see. He did not see a body and he did not need to see the risen Lord to believe that it had happened!

What a gift his magnificent faith is to us. He did not need to see to believe. He did not need to “fully understand” in order to believe. He believed because of the things that he had seen and heard before Jesus died. They all still have much to learn but the future is still very murky.

Believing responses to Jesus vary greatly. Faith sends different people in different directions. We will next read that Mary stayed by the tomb. “The other disciple” went back to where he was staying believing. Later we will read about Thomas – the one that asked, “How can we know the way.” And then there is Peter. His story is still not resolved – does he now believe as well? I expect he is still hearing that rooster crow. Jesus brought them all back into the fold, gently. We must be as patient with each other as Jesus is with us.

John 20:1-10

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.




Oh God in heaven who has demonstrated power over death through the resurrection of the Son, thank you for tearing through the veil of death for us. Thank you for the patience that you have for us. Give us patience as we seek to learn what it means that the tomb is empty. Be with those who doubt, be with those who need to be reclaimed, be with those who fearfully weep in confusion. Amen.

March 4, 2024

He Called Her Name

After the stunned apostles left the tomb to go back to where they were staying, Mary Magdalene stayed. We have just read that one disciple saw the burial cloths lying in the tomb and he believed. But Mary still was not sure. She knew there was no body in the tomb, and she wanted some answers.

She was weeping because she did not know where Jesus’ body had been taken. Even on seeing and hearing him, she had a moment of unrecognition. It was hearing her name that caused her to recognize him. This time it is not seeing is believing, but hearing and being known by name is believing. For us, this is a massively important transition. Here, at the very end of the story, we are moving toward hearing with faith is believing.

The first time Jesus asked, “Whom do you seek?” the answer was “Jesus of Nazareth.” This time the answer is implied from her response to the angels – she is seeking her Lord. This is a remarkable statement of faith. She did not yet know that he had been raised. She did not know where he was. She did not know who was speaking to her, until he said, “Mary.”

This is another remarkable turn in the story right at the end. This is not seeing is believing. It is not hearing is believing. Or rather hearing with faith is believing. Hearing while seeking, even if we are looking in the wrong place. She was looking where all of her experience and assumptions told her to look. Jesus waited there for her so that he could give her instructions.

It seems that Mary, while blubbering out “Rabboni” grabbed Jesus and held him. His response is a reminder that even though before he died, he uttered, “It is finished,” there is still more to be done. He did tell them all that he came from the Father and he was going back to the Father. He still has to go away again to prepare a place for us and to send the Holy Spirit to prepare us for that place.

The first apostle with the message of the risen Savior is the apostle to the apostles – Mary of Magdalene. Our God is a God of surprises!

John 20:11-18

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." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.


O God who waits for us in the places that we are looking for you. You are the one who is in those places of despair and pain and uncertainty. You are the one who speaks to us and knows us. We thank you for being the God of life and resurrection, even when we are lurking in the tombs of death and defeat. You are there to lead us away and give us the message to tell others that your work of salvation continues. Amen.

March 5, 2024


It doesn’t take very many words to change the world. In the case of God, the ordering of the chaos of the deep began with “Let there be light.” The disciples had already heard from Mary Magdalene that she had seen the Lord.  They were gathered fearfully in a room with the doors locked. In the middle of this confused fear Jesus appeared and changed their world with, “Peace be with you.”

That was just the beginning of this encounter that brought the full weight of the things Jesus had been saying to bear on the condition of humanity. Their mourning had indeed turned to joy. Then, he changed everything with the words that he spoke to them. Not just for them, but for us as well.

These words are among the most incredibly wonderful, powerful, and dangerous words ever spoken to a group of human beings. This scene must be one of the best case studies for considering all the other words of the Bible before putting into practice what Jesus says to them. They are spectacular words that call to mind ‘greater works than these you will do.’ It is John’s commission to them to share the good news.

These are words that demand understanding of being guided by the Spirit. They demand that we seek wisdom and discernment from above and from others who receive wisdom from above. They demand a clear understanding of our call to be servants of God. If one has not fully absorbed the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of John so far be very careful with these words.

What does Jesus mean by, “As the Father has sent me.”? Get this clear before moving to the next phrase, “I am sending you.” Can you feel the weight? Can you sense things changing? How are they to do this? And subsequently how are we to do this? The answer comes immediately, Jesus (God) breathed on them and in so doing imparted the Holy Spirit to them.

Then comes the shock. They have the power to forgive sins. We see this play out in the rest of the New Testament. It was a difficult process that required a lot of discussion and discernment. It required an occasional intervention of the Spirit for all present to see. It is seen in the church learning how to properly use the indwelling Spirit so as not to grieve it or abuse the gifts given. We still struggle with this.

The church is where the Holy Spirit resides. The challenge is still just as great to take seriously Jesus words, “As the father sent me . . .” Once we understand this, we can begin to understand forgiveness. Once we understand forgiveness, we can engage in the work of offering that forgiveness to others.

John 20:19-23

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."


Our God in heaven, thank you for the example of Jesus. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit and breathing into us life eternal, as you created us at the beginning. May we feel the weight of what it means to walk in this world with your Spirit within us. Teach us forgiveness so that we in turn can invite others into the way of life and peace and forgiveness. Amen.

March 6, 2024

Did He or Didn’t He

Sometimes the familiarity of a story along with some assumptions can cause me to miss some important details. It may be that the message of the gospel is easy to accept, but anyone that says it is easy to understand hasn’t looked very deeply into it. It is easy enough to understand so that we can get started. The invitation is simple enough from Jesus, “Follow me.” But from that point on one better be prepared to go through some serious education.

We are nearly finished with John’s Gospel. The post-resurrection stories serve the purpose of speaking powerfully to the church from the first century right through to today. Today’s text tells us explicitly that this Gospel was written for those of us who have not seen and yet believe.

We have the apostle Thomas as yet another bridge from “seeing is believing” to “believing is seeing.” Although for Thomas it is more radical than that. This story has even more force when we consider what is said in 2 John 7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” There were teachers going around saying that Jesus was not truly flesh, but only seemed like it. The risen Jesus was only an image, a phantom, a ghost.

Here is the remarkable part. We are not told that Thomas reached out and touched Jesus. It was when he saw him that he believed. This may seem like a lack of faith, but in a world where some were saying that Jesus had not come in the flesh (especially the resurrected Jesus), Thomas’ exclamation was a powerful statement of faith. Jesus did not say “because you have touched me.” He said, “because you have seen me.”

This sets up Jesus’ encouragement aimed directly at you and me. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” This is the end of the gospel that is written so that we can believe and have life in the name of Jesus. But there is one more thing to do. . . he needs to have a talk with Peter.

John 20:24-31

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you."

Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.


Our God in heaven we acknowledge that you sent the part of you we call Jesus into this world as fully human and fully divine. We believe that Jesus came in the flesh; flesh that is common to all human beings. We thank you for all that was accomplished by Jesus and those who wrote their witness for us so that we may believe because we believe that their word is true. Amen.

March 7, 2024

Bread and Fish on the Beach

The terror of the crucifixion is behind them. They have seen the risen Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, but still seem to be at a loss as to what all of that means. This final scene takes place back home, in Galilee. There are seven of them there who, upon Peter’s prompting, decide to get back to the work of fishing.

Here, on this beach in Galilee, after all that has happened the risen Lord appears and asks if they have had any luck fishing. They, like Mary on the day of resurrection did not recognize Jesus until they listened to what he said, did it, and experienced success. It is Peter who jumps into the water to swim ashore. They are faced with yet another demonstration of abundance – there is already a fire, some bread, and fish.

I wonder what Peter thought about seeing Jesus next to a charcoal fire. The last time there was a fire between them it was Peter warming himself and deny he knew Jesus just before the crucifixion. Even with the previous encounter of receiving the Spirit, this must have still haunted him – it was too soon.

Then Jesus, just as he had done at the Passover, took the bread and gave it to the disciples. He did say he would eat with them again, now he is. Jesus provided for them what they needed and rewarded their work with more than they could have imagined.

Note: There are a few ways people think about the specific number of fish recorded – 153. None of them can be settled on for certain and all of them stretch modern interpretive thinking. There is a text concerning the restoration of Israel in Ezekiel 47:10 which references water flowing from the temple and fishermen on the shore of the dead sea because the water brings life. There is also the possibility that the number 153, using a cipher (a well-known way of communicating when wanting to keep important information from the enemy), can be reduced to the letters that stand for Jesus Christ (is) God. Additionally, we still use the fish symbol today – (ICHTHUS) which is an anachronym for Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.

John 21:1-14

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish.

That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread.

Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.


O God of salvation and abundance, we thank you for being where we need you to be before we realize the need. We thank you for going ahead of us, and living in us, and guiding us so that we will know where to go and what to do. We thank you for giving us all we need for today and giving us all that we need to do what you have asked us to do. Give us the faith to do it. Amen.

March 8, 2024

What is That to You?

What a way to draw the curtain on the greatest story ever told. The last story John tells us is a story that we all need to hear. Jesus has still not talked to Peter about that night before Jesus was executed. In my wildest imagination I cannot fathom how Peter must have felt. He’s seen Jesus twice, probably while he was still in Jerusalem with the other disciples. Now he is back home where it all started. He has again been up all night and now has been fed by Jesus. I imagine the bread and fish have been eaten. Some stories have been told about the trip back home to Galilee, and then there is a lull in the conversation. . .

Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” This is probably a reference to the others that were there. What a question. This is not just being put on the spot, this is having a laser shot through the heart, and in front of those who had been through three years of on-the-job training with the Son of God!

Three times Jesus asks Peter, each time the question softens a little and each time Peter’s answer intensifies, as does Jesus’ encouragement. We do not know how the transition happened from sitting around the fire to walking on the beach, but I can imagine Peter getting up and walking away the third time. The evidence of loving Jesus is found not in words but in action.

Then Jesus tells Peter that he will, indeed, be called to die like Jesus died. We know this because of another of John’s explanations for us. The call is for Peter to follow Jesus in a way that he does not want to go. How powerful this would have been for the recipients of this gospel!

Peter, out of concern or curiosity, asks about the disciple following them. Jesus sticks to his first answer, “Follow me.” This speaks directly to us. My call is to follow Jesus without comparing my call to yours. Whatever we have been called to do and to be, that is what we are to do and to be.

What a precious end to this word of witness. John tells us who he is at the end (well almost) but he does so remembering his close friend, brother, and fellow apostle; the one that saw Moses and Elijah on the mountain, the one that went with him to the high priest’s house and failed miserably, the one that raced him to the tomb, and the one whom he made sure everyone knew that Jesus had fully received him back into the fold. He told everyone about his friend who, like his savior, had died on a cross. John tells us that his witness is true and that there is so much more to tell.

What is that to you?

John 21:15-25

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me."

Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!" The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?"

This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.


Thank you, O God, for the witness of your servant John the Apostle. Thank you for seeing that these words have been preserved for us to give us faith and keep us focused on following Jesus. Give us faith and courage. Give us clarity. Help us to follow where you lead. Amen.