Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
I love the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday. It is from John 21:1-14, a great post-Easter account. It is the first reference to a game of “Go Fish” and also the likely origins of a Midwest, Friday night fish fry. Since I will not be preaching on it this weekend, I thought I would share a few thoughts now…
A resurrected Jesus reveals Himself again to His disciples. This is the third time. He finds them unsuccessfully fishing. Of course, this is somewhat ironic itself as it is exactly how Jesus had found them three years prior. But this time is different. They have three years of history together. Countless conversations. Travel stories. Shared experiences. There is a deeper relationship between Jesus and His followers now than there was before. There is a deeper level of love and trust on display.
Jesus comes again to them and says, “Children, do you have any fish?” Jesus calls them children. This is the first and only time in the gospel that Jesus addresses them this way. With a word, He captures not their childishness but His deep affection for them. He speaks to them tenderly as a loving parent, to a resilient child. The Lord of all creation lives and has come yet again to care for them. But this is not the only reason He comes to them now. It is likely that the disciples did not fully understand or appreciate the magnitude and implications of the resurrection. It is hard to fault them for that. But it also appears that in the immediate days following Jesus triumphant return from the grave, the disciples had gone back home to the rigors and routine of “normal” life. They went back home, back to work. Jesus shows up, but not just to feed them. He comes to let them know that they will not remain in their homes. They will not stay in their familiar, comfortable bubbles.
As followers of Jesus, they are about to be pushed out of their homes and into the world of people lost and hurting—a ripe harvest field to be sure! The impressive catch of fish is just a foreshadowing of the lives they will catch for Jesus. They will go out in mission to the ends of the earth. But they will be loved, and they will be led... by Jesus. He knows how to navigate this strange world. The One who died for them, now lives, and cares for them as He awakens them to His call. The days after Easter are strange. We are slowly returning to our patterns of Church life and family life after the festivities of Easter. Yet, we need to be careful we do not become too comfortable with the comforts of home. For what Easter has taught us is how this world is changed. Jesus has risen from the dead and rules over all things. He not only saves us from sin but leads us in life from the comforts of home to the call of His Kingdom. There, at the end of our strength, is the beginning of His grace. Jesus has risen to bring you, His child, into His mission in His Kingdom. Happy fishing my friends!
Reference Article that inspired thoughts and provided many of the words.
That's Your Guy!
You’ve probably heard this old Benjamin Franklin quote before: “There are only two certainties in life—taxes and death.” How true that is!
Hopefully, you were able to get all your taxes taken care of by last Fridays’ deadline. No doubt you are now anxiously awaiting your bountiful refund check from our beloved national treasury. We’ve all seen the H&R Block commercials suggesting that we can “get our billions back!” Needless to say, I’m still looking for mine from the first time I saw that commercial. 😊 For many people, tax season is stressful and burdensome. Not at all for me. During the months of January and February, I gathered up all my necessary documents and financial information so that I could send it off to my tax guy. It is so nice to have someone else take care of it. There are nuances of self-employment and clergy allowance that I don’t pretend to understand. Every year, laws and requirements change a bit. It is an immense relief to not have to worry about any of it. No headaches crunching numbers. No anxiety trying to reconcile the final amounts. No need for me to invest in the newest TurboTax software. It is a wonderful, burden-free feeling to put the papers in the mail and then not have to fuss about it. No stress at all. My tax guy will work through the mess, comb over the details, and make sure all my files are in order. He’ll make sure the government gets its due. He’ll make sure I don’t land in jail or get flagged by the IRS. To be sure, I do have to pay for the services of my tax guy. But it is worth it. It is a tolerable investment to have a capable, reliable guy take care of things that I can’t adequately do myself.
Can you sense where I’m going with this? Today, as we stand in the afterglow of Easter. The energy and excitement of Easter Sunday has dissipated a bit as we quickly had to get back into a normal work week routine. Our “He is risen indeed!” choruses have faded somewhat as we find ourselves in between Sundays. Now we gear up for the home stretch of the school year, spring planting, and other outdoor activities. We start thinking about summer vacations, fishing trips, and full days at home with the kids or grandkids. Yet we dare not so easily close the book on Easter; Easter is supposed to have a lasting impact. The joy and celebration, the good news and victory of Easter still rings loud in our worship and in our lives. Like taxes, we are all forced to face the reality of death. We’ve dealt with it personally and we see it constantly on the news. Easter reminds us that death does not win, because we have “a guy” that takes care of it for us!
That’s the Easter message—because Jesus conquers death, so do we! No need to worry. No further work or effort needed from us. We don’t even have to pay for His services. Our guy, our Lord Jesus, makes sure all our spiritual affairs are in order—free of charge! He has covered the bill Himself, written in His own blood. We no longer need to fret over what may happen to us; Jesus assures us that He is always with us. He offers us a hope that can stare death in the eye and proclaim, “Oh death where is your sting!” Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:57) Throughout our time upon this earth, we have “a guy” who takes care of us. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Thank you, Jesus, for taking care of us.
We know that the inevitable and guaranteed certainties of life are already dealt with.
My tax guy has my taxes done.
My death & sin guy has the rest under control.
Time to relax and enjoy the spring weather.
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
“A dead Christ I must do everything for; a living Christ does everything for me.” (Andrew Murray)
It’s easy to simply go from Palm Sunday to Easter. Turn the page from one upbeat story to another. Think about it… there was great energy and excitement in church this past Sunday. Our hymns were upbeat and the general parade-like atmosphere was light and jovial. We recounted the story of that first Palm Sunday, with children and people shouting and celebrating as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. The crowds were beyond ecstatic to roll out the red-carpet for Jesus; He received a hero’s welcome! No tension, no animosity, no real threat—just crowds celebrating with cloaks on ground and branches in their hands. Indeed, it is far more enjoyable to seamlessly transition from the excitement of Palm Sunday into the victorious choruses of Easter. However, when we do this, it is like receiving an Oreo cookie without the double-stuff filling inside. Something is missing! Sure, you may enjoy the crunchy, chocolate cookie on each side, but it is the inside filling that brings it all together to make one complete, tasty treat. Truth be told, without the inside, you don’t really have an Oreo at all.
In the church, if we only go from the triumphant “hosanna” of Palm Sunday to the glorious “He is risen!” of Easter Sunday, then we miss the important inside that brings it all together. If we don’t stop and commemorate the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, then something is dreadfully missing. We cannot have Holy Week without the center—the suffering and sacrifice—sandwiched between the two celebratory Sundays. Each day of Holy Week allows us to peek into the heart of our Savior at intently proximity. Each scene reveals further the nature of His redemptive work. Each act builds up to the reconciling power of His final sacrifice. Every step is significant. Every moment matters. Every action accentuates His authority. Every word proclaims the restorative power of our God. The story is building to a divine, climactic moment—how Jesus would change the history of the world forever.
Granted it is harder to worship in the middle of the week. Our home and work schedules are busier. The service time is less convenient. The sky is darker and there is more traffic on the roads. Plus, the once-uplifting nature of Palm Sunday takes a drastic turn. The exultant tone turns somber and dark. The parade gives way to the passion. The donkey gives way to death. The plot thickens and tragedy becomes unavoidable. The coming demise of Jesus is real and raw. We know it happens, we’ve heard the story; but it is still something we’d rather not ponder or think to intently about. Forget the bad news, just get to the good stuff. And so the temptation for us is to fast-forward. Skip the rest of the week and get to Easter. Maybe because we simply don’t like it, maybe it makes us uncomfortable. Maybe because it’s makes us feel bad or because it’s too graphic. Maybe because it’s just depressing. But no matter the reason, we dare not skip the cross.
We cannot skip the cross. It is here that we see what God does for us and what He gives to us. The cross is about God and His sacrificial love FOR us that knows no boundaries. From the roughhewn throne of a cross, Christ the King, looks at the world and no one escapes His judgement. He judges us all. From the cross the pronouncement is made, and the judgement is… FORGIVENESS. Here the Gospel is fulfilled, that declares: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17) The cross is where God saves us. Love and grace on beautiful display. It is where our sins are atoned for. It is where every chain and shackle is taken away. The cross is the good stuff, the essential stuff in the middle. It is what brings all of the Holy Week cookie together. Don’t miss it!
“The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken. He has replied, and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness. It is also reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us. Remember this: God, in judging us, loves us. If I embrace his love then I am saved, if I refuse it, then I am condemned, not by him, but my own self, because God never condemns, he only loves and saves.” (Pope Francis)
When It Rains...
What a crummy couple of days it has been. Cold. Cloudy. Gray. Wet. Blah!
Sometimes the weather of such a few days can creep into our psyche and cloud our spirits. These rainy days are usually when we would rather just call in sick, pull the covers back over our head and stay in bed.
Here is a fitting poem entitled “The Rainy Day,” by 19th century poet Henry W. Longfellow.
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains ,and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
As I read this poem, I could not help but think of the close of our dark Lenten season. Easter is just around the corner. No matter how long or how hard it rains, the sun will shine again. Like a rainbow at the end of a storm, these dreary days will not last. Pretty soon, the Son will rise. We will be refueled with the hope and joy of our risen Jesus!
Pastor Steve Vera
King of Kings Lutheran Church
145 Route 46
Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046
In-person, 9:00 a.m.
Sunday Worship Service
Broadcasted at 9:00 am via Facebook Live
and on our YouTube channel