Thursday, April 28, 2016

Whiteboard: The Road to Damascus

As we continue our Easter Season Sermon Series on the Resurrection Stories, this week we inherit one that we frequently forget about: Paul's encounter with the Resurrected Christ on the Road to Damascus.

We tend to think of this story only as Paul's conversion story, but lets be honest: It is a resurrection story as well. The resurrected Christ (the very one that Paul is working against in persecuting the earliest believers) appears to Paul (then Saul) in a powerful vision that literally knocks him to the ground.

It is an incredible story, particularly because it is about more than Paul. Yes, it is about his conversion, but it also about the power of the resurrected Christ to change our lives AND it is about the reluctance of the followers of Christ to follow wherever Christ will lead us.

When Christ comes to Ananias, well, Ananias is incredibly quick to answer, "Here I am Lord" but none to quick to actually follow Christ's instructions to go and help Saul of Tarsus. You can practically hear him objecting, "Uh, Lord, I think you've made a mistake. That dude Saul is bad news and I'm not going anywhere near him."

Except, of course, that Ananias does eventually go. And when he does, he finds things just as the Resurrected Christ has told him. Saul has been thunderstruck, his life turned upside by his encounter, and he is literally blind to the world before him. Ananias finds Saul, calls out to him, witnesses the miracle that brings back Saul's sight, and sees that Saul is truly a changed man. Saul is baptized. Saul starts hanging out with the disciple (the very community he was seeking to destroy). Saul starts preaching and once he start, well, history is reshaped by his ministry.

It is an amazing story of resurrection and new life this week, and we'll celebrate it together at FCC Scottsdale this Sunday in worship!


Acts 9:1-22: The Conversion of Saul
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul Preaches in Damascus

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ All who heard him were amazed and said, ‘Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?’ Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

Pics: Catching Up

Here are some pictures from recent events in the life of the church!

Thursday Morning Bible Study Class

"We Love Our New Members" Luncheon

Our "New Members Tree"

Close-up of the New Members Tree

Middle Schoolers from the "Regional Youth Retreat" hosted
at FCC Scottsdale lead us music

High Schoolers from the Regional Youth Retreat close
out their event with a Hug Circle

Easter Egg Hunt!

More from the Easter Egg Hunt!

Even more from the Easter Egg Hunt!

Still more from the Easter Egg Hunt!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Whiteboard: Feed My Sheep

We pick up right where we left off last week. The disciples have gone fishing, they haven't had any luck whatsoever catching anything until Jesus calls to them, instructs them and they follow his guidance.

After the miraculous haul of fish (which is so much more than a fish story), Jesus turns his attention to Peter.

This is where we'll pick up the story on Sunday.

It is a familiar passage -- one that gives us this beautiful, poetic redemption of Peter. Where he had denied Christ one, two, three times on that night when Jesus was betrayed here the Resurrected Christ gives Peter one, two, three times to affirm him.

"Do you love me?" Jesus asks over and over and over again.

"Yes, Lord. You know that I love you." "Yes, Lord. You know that I love you." "Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you." Peter responds.

And with each affirmation, Jesus gives a piece of instruction. "Feed my lambs...Tend my sheep...Feed my sheep..." before Jesus finally concludes with the instruction that sums up the call to discipleship better than any other image possibly could. Jesus says to Peter (says to us), "Follow me."

Talk is cheap. Peter knows this better than most. Peter's mouth has been writing checks that the rest of his body simply could not cash. He's said things that he regrets. He's done things that he regrets. Yet here is Jesus standing before him offering him a chance to not only make-up for the horrible things he said ("No, I do not know this man!") and the horrible things he did (abandoning Jesus at his deepest hour of need) but to turn his life around, reorient himself, and follow Jesus.

It is a powerful passage this coming Sunday, and a word that we need to hear and celebrate together!

John 21:15-19: Jesus and Peter

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.’ 

Jesus 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.’ 

Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’

He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ 

Peter felt hurt 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. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Whiteboard: More than a Fish Story

I love when I get to repurpose a Whiteboard drawing from one week to another!

As we continue our Easter journey, this Sunday we will celebrate another resurrection story from Scripture. Last week we talked about the Walk to Emmaus (with a Whiteboard image of a road sign pointing the way) and this week we'll talk about Jesus appearing to his Disciples when they are out on the water fishing (with a Whiteboard image that was ever so slightly tweaked to become a "Gone Fishin'" sign).

This is the part of the story that we typically skip past. You see, the next part of the story is the more familiar part: Jesus forgiving Peter three times (mirroring Peter denying Christ three times) by telling him "Feed my sheep." It is easy to read this week's passage as mere set-up for the more important story that comes next week. But I think we miss something when we do that. You see, scripture this week is telling us that Jesus has important things to say about how we live our lives. No really, that is what is at stake with our scripture this week, which is more than simple set-up for another story!

Come join us this Sunday and find out what mean.

John 21:1-14 Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 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 after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to 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 because there were so many 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 some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish 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 though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Whiteboard: Road to Emmaus

Our resurrection reflections continue this Sunday at First Christian Church Scottsdale.

Remember that Easter is more than a single Sunday. In the worship life of the church Easter is an entire season -- Seven full weeks of celebrating the power of resurrection and the blessing of new life that we know through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So on the third Sunday of Easter we'll share a familiar Luke 24:13-35 -- The Road to Emmaus.

Two of Jesus followers are walking along the long, lonely highway that leads out of Jerusalem. They are commiserating with each other when they encounter a stranger on the road -- a stranger that you I know is the resurrected Christ, but somehow these two men don't recognize him. They welcome the stranger, walk together, share their lives, and listen to the holy ways that he opens up the fullness of the scriptures and the promises of the Lord to them. Yet somehow, they still don't recognize him.

It is only after they invite him in (after he was just about to leave, nonetheless!) and share a meal that their eyes open. He breaks the bread and communes with them and they see and believe...and go rushing back to Jerusalem to share the good news.

As we continue our journey in faith (often walking down what feels like long and lonely highways) we find that the same pattern persists: That in welcoming the stranger, sharing our stories, listening to one another, reflecting on the promises of our faith, and breaking bread together we experience the power of the risen Christ in our midst.

So this Sunday we'll gather to do just that: Extend hospitality and graciousness to all who gather, lift up the stories of our faith, listen for the fullness of the promises of God, break bread and share the cup, and praise God for the blessing and gift of resurrection power!

Luke 24:13-32 The Walk to Emmaus

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ 

They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 

He asked them, ‘What things?’ 

They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’

Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.

They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’

Stepping Into Stewardship

Last week I was in Orlando, Florida for the "Stepping Into Stewardship" National Conference co-sponsored by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and our closest denominational cousin the United Church of Christ. It was a fabulous event with tremendous keynote speakers, enlightening workships, faithful conversations on stewardship best practices...and its own hashtag!

So here are a couple of my favorite Twitter-based reflections on the Conference.

Keep up with the whole conversation at