Thursday, March 24, 2016

Whiteboard: Holy Week

Holy Week is upon us, dear friends, and we have several worshipful opportunities before us.

Today is Maundy Thursday, which means this evening we will gather in our sanctuary at 7PM for a worship service that happens in two movements. The first half of the service is a celebration of the Lord’s Table – on Maundy Thursday we celebrate that Christ Jesus instituted communion as a holy meal of remembrance. Then the second half of the service will be a candlelit Tenebrae Service where she share the holy words of scripture that take us all the way to the cross. It is a powerful, beautiful service made all the more special this year by the fact that we will be sharing it with our brothers and sisters in faith from Coolwater and Foothills.

Tomorrow is Good Friday and we will meet at Foothills at 7PM on March 25 for a prayer service built around the last words of Jesus. That evening we have seven separate prayer stations, each built around a word or phrase uttered by Jesus in his final hours. It will be a different kind of worship service that will involve moving from station to station, meditating on the power of our holy scriptures, and inviting the forgiveness of the Lord to fill our hearts. For anyone looking to carpool, plan on meeting in the FCC Scottsdale parking lot at 5PM – this will allow you plenty of time to get across town to Foothills (3951 W Happy Valley Rd, Glendale, AZ 85310) where they will be hosting a pre-service Fellowship Hour.

On Easter Sunday we will begin with an Easter Breakfast at 8:30 in the Fellowship Hall sponsored by our DWM Groups. That will be followed by an Easter Egg Hunt on the church lawn at 9AM (along with our regular mix of Bible Study Classes). Our Worship Service will begin at 10:15AM in the Sanctuary with the baptisms of Josh Reed and Allen Koerber. The Worship Service will be filled with prayers and scripture, songs and anthems as we celebrate the blessing and gift of new life and resurrection!

I hope that you can join us for each and every one of our special services during Holy Week this year.

Yours in the Journey,
Rev. Brian

Thursday, March 17, 2016

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.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Global Ministries Follow-Up

The Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer (UCC General
Minister and President) and The Rev. Dr.
Sharon Watkins (DoC General
Minister and President) on their joint
Global Ministries trip to the Middle East
{In March 2016, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ led a delegation of church leaders to the Middle East to meet ministry partners there. Disciples Mission Fund and Week of Compassion support these partners and many others in the land where Jesus and the apostles first walked and where their descendants still live today.}
Reflection on a Middle East Pilgrimage
Written by the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, 
General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

We were rushing through Jerusalem's Old City on the way to our next appointment. In the midst of the market's narrow streets - surrounded by beautiful Arabic clothing and scarves, Palestinian art and handiwork, pomegranate juicers and pungent spices - we heard the strains of "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" Foot traffic slowed to a near stop as a group of American pilgrims made their Lenten journey up the Via Dolorosa, complete with cross. I hummed along and waited for my chance to slip around the outstretched cross-beam and be on my way.

The sermon begging to be preached about trying to "slip around the cross" was not lost on me. Lent is a powerful and thought-provoking time for a Christian to be in the land called "holy" for three monotheistic religions.

In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus begins his ministry announcing his call to "preach good news to the poor." (Luke 4:18) In Matthew, near the end of this ministry, Jesus, declares that "the nations" will be judged on how they treat the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned - judged as if each of those needy persons were Jesus himself. (Matthew 25:31-46)

In today's Middle East - at least in the places where I recently traveled: Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank - there are many who fit the Matthew 25 description:
Tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees from 1948 still crammed into refugee "camps" in Beirut and Ramallah - generational refugees left by the stalled peace process in a stateless no-man's-land;
Millions of Syrians, both internally displaced and refugees, now eeking out a bare living in a strange place;
People all across the region fearing for their lives from extremist threats or from being caught at the nexus of powerful international forces beyond their control.

The tempter whispers: it's hopeless.

And yet, our partners have not given up; so how can we? Riad Jourjour in Beirut has assembled trainers who teach Syrians peace-building and decision-making across religious lines - for a post-war Syria they know will come one day. Mitri Raheb has created a cultural oasis in the midst of the occupation where art and joy and life blossom barely out of sight of military check points. Wafa Goussouss "colors the desert" with toys for children, dignity packets for women, supplies for a community of refugees living in tents on the Jordanian side of the Syrian border. The YMCA in Bethlehem treats children with PTSD and restores them to the child their mother once knew. The YWCA in Jerusalem oversees a kindergarten in a refugee camp where 5 year olds sing and learn the alphabet and laugh the sweet laugh of children.

For 10 packed days, we met partners in God's work of healing and hope and wholeness. All of them showed us a cross - of poverty, war, extremism, uprootedness - but all of them also showed us a lived faith in what comes beyond the cross - a resurrection, a blooming desert, a region living in justice and peace. In order for that time to come, each one makes a daily choice - to stay, to witness for justice, to build paths of wholeness. In this Lenten season, our Global Ministry partners in the Middle East teach us about the reality of Lent and the hope of Resurrection and about staying on the journey even when that way includes a cross. I'm humbled by their faithful witness.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Whiteboard: Connection

Our Lenten Sermon Series on what "We Need" continues this week with a focus on Connection.

And what better thing to illustrate Connection then the amazing work of Global Ministries.

Global Ministries is our denomination's Missionary branch, but it isn't just for our denomination. In a one-of-a-kind relationship, Global Ministries is actually the joint Missionary branch of the Disciples of Christ and our sister denomination the United Church Church. Global Ministries empowers the work of the church "from our doorsteps to the ends of the Earth." We have missionaries who are working in partnership with communities of faith and communities in need all over the world.

AND, they have a terrific website that really illustrates all of the incredible things that they do. Head to to learn more!


John 12:1-8 -- Mary Anoints Jesus

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 

Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Week of Compassion Follow-up

{Editor's Note: On February 21, First Christian Church Scottsdale celebrated the Kick Off of Week of Compassion through our Sunday morning worship service. In my sermon that morning I highlighted Week of Compassion's life changing (and life saving) work with refugees. Unbeknownst to me, we had a first time visitor with us in worship that morning named Branka who is herself a refugee from the Bosnian Civil War in the 1990's. Branka and I spoke after service where she informed me that she has a poem about being a refugee that she will be sharing at a Toastmaster's International Event in April in Virginia. She shared that poem with us during Fellowship Hour after the service (side note: if you would like a copy of that poem, just drop me a line in the office; Branka has graced me with a digital copy). This morning I received the following follow-up email from Branka, and I'm sharing it with you with her permission.}

Dear First Christian Church Scottsdale,

I thank God for leading me to attend the morning service at your church on Feb 21st.

It was a joyful experience, and I felt tremendous love in your church.

Two ladies greeted me at the door and spoke to me with genuine kindness .

Your worship songs and Rev. Brian’s preaching about Compassion spoke to my heart.

Rev. Brian’s sermon about Compassion moved me to write a rhyme below:
“Violence, Terror and Injustice are designed in human fashion.
These get crashed with two everlasting hands of Love and Compassion.
Every heart with wings of Love and Compassion can fly and reach the heavenly sky.”

Let me share my refugee’s story with you :
In 1994 my family and I were forced to flee during Bosnian civil war. Among many others, we entered the road to UNKNOWN and were given unfavorable name ‘Refugees’. While on this road of exile, we were despised, unwelcomed and unwanted. The neighboring European countries overwhelmed with Bosnian refugees fortified and closed their borders to prevent us from entering. Our traveling documents were not valid because Yugoslavia dissolved and we were people with no country. It was God’s unfailing Grace (for believer and unbeliever) that we were blessed with Hope in midst of this chaos. We survived, because HOPE never departed from us, and because of Charity organizations’ help supported by people like you.

Nowadays, watching exodus of Syrian refugees brought my refugee memories back to me, and in spirit I was lead to walk on this painful refugee’s road one more time. The refugee’s road reminds me of Calvary road - you carry your own cross and people around you despise you, and people far away go about their daily business and forgot about you. One evening my Lord reminded me that my experience is not wasted, and that I need to speak on behalf of those who are walking on road of exile. I was inspired to write a poem “Refugee” (Witness) which I shared with you. (I plan to compete at Toastmasters International in April here in Virginia by recitation of this poem. I attached my poem and presentation).

Thank you for your kindness, thank you for listening to my reading, and please read it to others.

May my poem be edifying to you and anyone who hears it.

Blessings to all,

Whiteboard: Youth Retreat

FCC Scottsdale is hosting the Arizona Regional Youth Retreat this weekend!

That means that we’ll have 40+ High School and Middle School youth along with their sponsors for an overnight retreat starting Saturday morning.

The best part of it: The Youth will not only be joining us for worship on Sunday morning, they will be leading worship too!

Young people from all across the Arizona Region will lead every aspect of our worship service…except for the sermon. They didn’t want to preach the sermon. So you are stuck with me on that front! But they will take the lead in every other aspect of our worship service – leading prayers, singing the anthem, sharing the holy words of scripture, and co-presiding (with me) at the Lord’s Table.

It is going to be a wonderful worship service, and I hope that you can join us!

I also want to lift up a quick word of thanks to the Fellowship Ministry Team and the DWM for organizing meals for the young people throughout their retreat. This is no small task (teenage boys love to eat, after all!) and I’m grateful for their help in providing wonderful hospitality to all of the Youth Retreat Participants.


During the Worship Service we'll continue our "We Need" Lenten Sermon Series, and this week the focus is on Justice. Using the Parable of the Prodigal Son I'll be sharing the message, "We Need: Justice!" Here is the scripture text:

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

So he told them this parable:

Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them.

A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 

But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” 

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, 

“Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” 

Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” 

Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’