Thursday, April 24, 2014

Whiteboard: Benefit of the Doubt

With a wonderful Holy Week and Easter Celebration behind us, it is time to get back to the Blog!

Did you know that Easter isn't just one day? 

It is true. Easter is an entire season in the worship life of the church, a time when we celebrate the gifts of resurrection and new life. The Season of Easter last seven full weeks -- from Easter Sunday (technically the First Sunday of Easter) until Pentecost. 

Which makes this Sunday the Second Sunday of Easter and the Second Sunday of Easter always gives us a particular story: Doubting Thomas. 

Now I'm on record here. John 20:19-31 is one of my favorite stories in all of the Gospels. I couldn't help myself with my Whiteboard picture this week, it was just too easy to play off of the Little Engine That Could, Thomas the Tank Engine, and the paralyzing power of doubt to keep us from all that God calls us to be.  

But I'm also on record that poor Thomas got a bum rap. Read the story closely. Go ahead. I've copied it to the bottom of this blog post, so go ahead and read it. I'll wait. 

Okay, are you done? Good! 

Seems pretty unfair that we call him Doubting Thomas, right? I mean, at the very least, if he is Doubting Thomas then we need to call the rest of that motley crew The Disbelieving Disciples. After all, the Disbelieving Disciples are the ones that have sealed themselves away behind a locked door. The Disbelieving Disciples are the ones who have forgotten everything that Jesus told them that foretold his death and resurrection. And yet the Risen Christ comes to them despite their doubts, despite their unfaithfulness, despite their fears. Just like the Risen Christ comes to Thomas...despite his doubts, despite his unfaithfulness, despite his fears.

But Thomas is the one who gets the legacy defining nickname, even though Thomas actually comes to the fullness of belief and even brings about a blessing for you and me (you'll hear more about that on Sunday!).

I love the story of Doubting Thomas and the Disbelieving Disciples, and I'm glad that we get the chance to hear it once more and all over again this Second Sunday of Easter. I can think of no better and important text for us on our seven week journey of new life than to talk about doubt right off the top. 

So come join us this Sunday as we celebrate the Risen Lord and new life lived in his name!


John 20:19-31 Jesus Appears to the Discples

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’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 them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, 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 the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, 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. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 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 have come to believe.’
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Whiteboard: Palm/Passion Sunday

This Sunday we begin the most important, significant week of the year for us as a people of faith.

This Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week -- that time when we follow Christ Jesus from his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, through his betrayal, the sham of his trial, and the brutality of the cross all the way to the joyful celebration of his resurrection and the gift of new life that we know in his name.

It is an important time and an important journey, and one that needs to be taken in totality.

It is why we have combined Palm Sunday and the Passion Narrative into one single worship service called Palm/Passion Sunday. You see, if you simply come to church on Sunday mornings then you would just go from one joyful celebration (Palm Sunday with its palm-waving, processional entrance and loud shouts of Hosanna!) straight to another joyful celebration (Easter Sunday with Christ's triumph over the grave). And you would miss the significance of everything that happens in between.

We can't have resurrection without death. We can't have Easter's celebration without first coming to the cross.

This Sunday our worship service will include that palm-waving processional entrance and those loud shouts of "Hosanna" at the beginning, but it will also include a dramatic reading of the Passion Narrative from the Gospel of Mark and furtive prayers that God might grant us the strength to follow Christ Jesus all the way to the cross.

It will be a holy, significant, meaningful time for our church, and I hope you will be with us this Sunday for the worship service.


Mark 14:12 - 15:47 The Passion Narrative

The Passover with the Disciples
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowlwith me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

Peter’s Denial Foretold
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.”
But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour?Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’All of them deserted him and fled.

A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

Jesus before the Council
They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.” ’ But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am; and
“you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power”,
and “coming with the clouds of heaven.” ’
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.

Peter Denies Jesus
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.

Jesus before Pilate
As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom.Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort.And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’ And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left.Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

The Death of Jesus
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

The Burial of Jesus
When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time.When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Update from HEPAC

Our friends at The Hogar de Esperanza y Paz (Home of Hope and Peace – HEPAC), sent this update via their email newsletter. You'll remember that Scott Nicholson from HEPAC was our guest at the Global Ministries luncheon back in February.

You can learn more about HEPAC and their incredible work at their website

St. Andrew Youth Group Mural Project 
     The St. Andrew United Methodist Church youth mission group worked together with our friends Lupe and Diego, of the Nogales Cultural Center and Taller Yonke, to create this beautiful mural at HEPAC.
     We really appreciate the tremendous work that Amber, Anne, Cindy, Claire, Em, Eric, Everett, Jill, Juli, Ryan, and Tony did during their time here from March 24 to 28.
     In addition to the mural, we also visited migrant aid centers, hiked and carried water on a migrant trail, had dinner in the homes of HEPAC volunteers, and enjoyed dancing together the last evening at HEPAC! 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Whiteboard: Something New

As we work our way through Lent and ever closer to Easter's celebration of resurrection power, scripture has some foreshadowing for us this week.

Not one, but two scriptural accounts of the miracle of new life and the wonder of resurrection. 

The first comes from the prophet Ezekiel when God takes him to the Valley of Dry Bones and challenges him to "Prophesy to these bones!" and when he does suddenly, miraculously, amazingly enough those old, ragged bones (long sense assumed useless and lifeless) spring back to life. So reconstructed and re-inspired by the breath of God new life is not only promised to an individual, but to an entire people -- "These bones are the whole house of Israel," says the Lord. 

Likewise, new life unexpectedly breaks forth in John 11 this week with the familiar story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. I want you to take a closer look at that scripture passage (listed below) as well. See if any of those details remind you of anything -- a cave for a tomb, a place just outside of Jerusalem, strips of cloth wrapped around the body, women sitting and mourning, a stone that must be rolled away. Sounds familiar, right? Sounds an awful lot Jesus' resurrection, doesn't it? 

Scripture is giving us clues this week. Clues of what is to come in the build up to Easter. Clues that point us time and time again back to the eternal promises of God -- the promises of new life lived in God's name; the promises that the power of God's love is stronger than any other force in the universe, stronger even than death itself. 

So this Sunday, even in the midst of the Lenten Season we will gather to celebrate New Life!

I'll see you Sunday morning for worship.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 The Valley of Dry Bones

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of theLord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’


John 11:17-25, 38-44 Jesus Resurrects Lazarus
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March 30, 2014 Pictures

Our March 30, 2014 edition of "The Fifth With First" was a tremendous success!

We had a Workship Service at the Park, a Worship Service in the Sanctuary (with a special video presentation), clean-up projects at two different worksites, and a "Healthy Packs" project in the Fellowship Hall.

It was a tremendous day, and here is some photographic evidence to prove it!

To see all the pictures from the day, check out our complete archive at the church's Facebook page by clicking below!

The Fifth with First Worship Video

"The Fifth With First" on March 30, 2014 was amazing! We connected with our neighbors, cleaned up two properties, prepared 70 Healthy Packs, and worshiped God in the sanctuary and in the park. 

Lots of photos will be coming in a later post (I'm still collecting them all!), but I wanted to share the video that we played during the Worship Service in the Sanctuary. It will give you a feel for what "The Fifth With First" is all about as well as introduce you to our amazing partner Operation Fix-It here in Scottsdale.