NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR the THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, APRIL 15, 201

This week, the first verse of the assigned gospel text references yet another encounter of the disciples with Jesus after the Resurrection. Jesus’s standard greeting right before and immediately following the resurrection is “Peace be with you.” I believe we miss many opportunities, gifts and blessings from God because we don’t take to heart this greeting by the Risen Christ.

Most people, even Christians don’t understand peace as a positive concept; but only know of the negative aspect of peace, which is merely the absence of trouble. But Jesus uses this greeting in a positive way.

The familiar word “Shalom,” or “Peace be with you,” in its purest sense doesn’t mean “I hope you don’t get into any trouble.” It means, “I hope you have all the highest good coming your way.”

Last week’s sermon was aimed to help us in having the highest good coming our way through “finding unity and peace in the resurrection.” This week it aims to help us to experience our highest hopes through “Confronting Fear and Doubt to Find Real Peace.”

Immediately following this greeting of “Peace be with you” by the Risen Christ, the next verse says of the disciples, “But they were afraid and full of fear. They thought they saw spirit.” Their reaction is typical of ours today. So often, we allow what we “think” to create fear and doubt which clouds our judgement, makes us feel insecure and holds us captive from many of God’s blessings. Jesus’ greeting tells us that we are to live in God’s gift of Peace. The only hope we have of experiencing the highest good coming to us is by “Confronting Fear and Doubt to Find Real Peace.”

Join us at Covenant on this Sunday morning. Let’s learn how to experience our highest good coming our way from a sermon called “Confronting Fear and Doubt to Find Real Peace” based on Luke 24:36-43.

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NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 8, 2018

This Sunday is the 2nd Sunday of Easter; but is better known as Low Sunday; as Christian churches collectively tend to record their lowest attendance of the year.

However, we find a very important message in the assigned text from John 20. In it, Jesus says to His disciples, “Peace be with you!” This is not a peace “as the world gives”, but a peace that provides relief in the face of persecution, the promise of new possibilities, and a confidence in God to overcome “the world.” In John’s Gospel, “the world” indicates a hostile and ignorant response to the truth of God’s peace.

Then, recalling the moment when God breathed life into the original earth person, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” making them new spiritual creations so they could engage the world. In receiving the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ followers receive nothing less than the fullness of God. So:

· Jesus bestows peace upon His worried followers. Great!

· Jesus fills them with the Holy Spirit. Great!

· Jesus tells them they can forgive or retain other people’s sins. Huh?

What is Jesus talking about? Well, it is for sure that Jesus is not appointing the church or its members as God’s moral watchdog. Nor is Jesus commissioning us to arbitrate people’s assets and liabilities on a heavenly balance sheet. In John’s Gospel, Jesus talks about sin as unbelief, the unwillingness or incapacity to grasp the truth of God manifested in Him. So, to be living in sin is not about moral failings, but it’s an inability or refusal to recognize and receive God’s revelation in Christ when confronted by it; thereby remaining estranged from God.

God’s purpose in doing this on the evening of the first Easter is so that Christ’s followers will “Find Joy and Peace in the Resurrection.” It is so our lives can accomplish great things as Jesus did, if we are yielded to God’s Spirit that lives in us.

Join us at Covenant for worship on Low Sunday. I’ll be preaching on “Finding Joy and Peace in the Resurrection” based on Psalm 133 and John 20:19-23.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR EASTER SUNDAY, APRIL 1, 2018

This Sunday is Easter! We will be celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Now, you might think Easter must be the easiest sermon preparation assignment for preachers, especially those in long term pastorates. Wrong! After all, how many new ways can you tell the death and resurrection story of Jesus. Familiarity of having preached this topic for so many years to the same congregation, makes it harder to prepare the Easter Sermon.

Such familiarity with Easter often has a downside for Christians. We’ve heard the story so many times that over the years it ceases to have the impact it should on our modern lives. One might be tempted to ask, “Does the Resurrection Still Matter?”

Our instinctive response is “off course, it matters.” But then we might be hard pressed to give a short but convincing, impactful response of how that’s true in our lives right now.

Perhaps knowing why there are Easter egg hunts on the day we celebrate the Resurrection might help. The egg is a symbol of new life, fertility and rebirth; and Jesus’ resurrection represents for us new life, rebirth & bringing fertility of purpose to us our lives.

Last Sunday, “Glory” gave even a more impactful response than the story behind Easter eggs, when they sang these words:

They hung Him high. They stretched Him wide. He hung His head, For me He died; That’s love! But that’s not how the story ends, 3 days later, He rose again; That’s love!”

For me, that’s about as impactful a response as can be given to the question, “Does The Resurrection Still Matter?”

Join us at Covenant this Sunday for an opportunity to Celebrate with Fellowship the new life Easter brings. Sunrise Service is at 7:30 AM, followed by Easter Breakfast at 8:00 AM. Our Celebration of the Resurrection is at 10 AM with me preaching “Does the Resurrection Still Matter?” based on John 20:1-18.

NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR EASTER SUNDAY, APRIL 16, 2017

I grew up hearing often an old saying that goes like this: “Don’t let your good be the enemy of your better and your better, the enemy of your best.” The idea is if we hold on too tightly to what we think is good, we often fail to let go to get to or achieve our better or our best. That old saying took on a new meaning for me this week as I read the lectionary scriptures assigned for Easter Sunday this year.

In John 20, after Mary Magdalene realizes it is the Risen Jesus talking to her, she evidently goes to embrace her dear friend, Jesus. But Jesus rebuffs her saying in verse 17, “Don’t hold on to Me, for I haven’t yet gone up to My Father. …” Why would Jesus do that to her? As I pondered that question, I began to let my mind wander. What if Jesus used this incident as a metaphor to teach Mary and us the lesson of that old saying of not “letting your good be the enemy of your better or your best.”

Obviously, Mary was overjoyed to see that Jesus whom she loved was alive. However, maybe Jesus wanted her and us to realize that though He was alive, His resurrection means that things have changed. To experience the fullness of God in our lives, we can’t hold on to the Jesus we knew before Good Friday. We must let go and embrace the wholeness of God in Christ that is only made possible by Christ’s resurrection on Easter.

Are you holding on to the good of only a pre-Good Friday Jesus? If so, perhaps only in letting go, as Peter did in Acts 10 while preaching at the Gentile Cornelius’ home, will you be able to embrace all of who the Resurrected Christ is and experienced God’s better and best.

Join us this Easter Sunday morning for a Celebration of The Resurrected Christ. It begins with the “Flowering of The Cross” at 7:10 AM in the foyer; then our “Sunrise Service” in the sanctuary at 7:30 AM; followed “Easter Breakfast” in the Fellowship Hall at 8 AM; and then “Easter Worship” at 10 AM in the Sanctuary.

My sermon will be “The Risen Christ: Hold on or Let Go” based on the scriptures from Acts 10:34-43 and John 20:1-18.