Free Your Mind

Have you ever had a big argument with someone? How about a really nasty, even caustic conversation – with a person you normally get along very well with?

Here’s something I’ve learned over the years. When a conversation that would normally not be one filled with conflict, nastiness, and even caustic behavior, turns into one that has those and other unpleasant things, it is possible that the people having the conversation haven’t had something to eat recently.

It’s not an “every time” piece of advice, but I think that it’s really wise to avoid arguing hungry. Having a snack before continuing a difficult conversation tends to Free up  the mind.

Jesus isn’t known for caustic conversations, and in this week’s Bible reading from Luke 24:36b-48, there isn't a hint of nastiness. But there is astonishment and fear. And Jesus doesn’t give the disciples a lesson in how awful fear and doubt are. Instead he gives them a way to free their minds from all the unpleasantness. They ate some fish.

And then Jesus freed their minds.

Some fish, eh?


Not Written

For today's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, I pretty much took the questions from this week's Bible reflection (They Were Still Afraid) and tossed them out the window.  I moved to some other questions -- about tornados, murder, religious freedom, and a few other 'can of worms' topics.
"Not Written" podcast


They were still afraid

Last week’s Bible reading from Mark 16:1-8 left things hanging. In this week’s reading from John 20:19-31 . . . things are still unresolved.

Before we jump to the “Mark and John are written at different times and from different traditions” discussion, let’s ask some questions about the fearful disciples and their experience in this week’s reading.
  1. Why were the disciples hiding? Was someone searching for them? What kind of trouble were they in?
  2. How did Jesus get into a locked room? Did he ‘appear?’ Did the disciples open the door after hearing a ‘secret word?’
  3. What did Jesus’ breath smell like when he breathed on the disciples?
  4. What’s with the forgiving sins and retaining sins stuff here?
  5. Jesus said “Peace be with you” thrice in this week’s reading. That’s got to be important, right?
  6. Why does Thomas get singled out for not believing? Didn’t the other disciples see first?
  7. Did Thomas reach and touch Jesus hands and side? Was it ‘gooey?’
  8. Why weren’t the other signs verse 31 talks about written in this book? Are they written somewhere else?
What else is unresolved? What other questions do you have this week?


They Said Nothing

Sermon podcast from Easter Sunday at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.  Fear and silence.
"They Said Nothing" podcast


They Remembered

Yesterday's 'Begin with the palms, tell abou the passion' sermon from St. Paul's UCC.
"They Remembered" podcast


Wonderful Works

This week's Bible reflection (In Reverse) acknowledges that whole "giving thanks in all circumstances" deal is much easier after you're past the circumstance.  And today's sermon at St. Paul's UCC kept up with the theme.  Emotions are worth having.
"Wonderful Works" podcast


In Reverse

It’s much easier to “give thanks in troubled times” after enduring and passing through the troubled times. This week’s reading from Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 is a great example of exactly that --  giving thanks after troubled times are over.

When things are rotten, I don’t feel like giving thanks. I feel, instead, like shouting out, “What are you thinking, God? Why in the world would you expect thanks for THIS?” It’s really hard to thank God when all that seems to be present is depression and despair.

And I know how selfish that sounds. “Poor me – I’m not getting everything I want and everything isn’t perfect.” While I’m sputtering about something terrible happening to me, I'm generally not focusing on any kind of compassion for everyone. 

Still, it’s important to remember that emotions are worth having – even savoring.  Emotions are worth addressing. There’s no need to feel bad and then feel guilty about feeling bad. We don’t have to be devoid of emotions! And we’re not the only ones having them.

I think there’s a comfort in knowing that we all have good and bad days.  We all have uplifting and energy-sucking emotions. And knowing that can help us move away from being self-centered and instead live out love, compassion, and justice.

We won’t get it right every time – maybe not even most times. But why not start there? We all can start from a place where things seem really good and remember to live in hope when it’s not.

In most, if not every situation, that’s all I’ve got – If it’s backwards – so what? It’s a start.


Last week's Bible reflection (Everybody) asked how an inclusive love works when so many people differ on how it all works.  Yesterday's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL,  kept asking.
"Different" podcast



This week’s Bible reading from Jeremiah 31:31-34 lays it out.

God’s vision isn’t about who is the most worthy or the least deserving. It isn’t about who has the most money or who can scrape up enough change for bus fare. It is about love, forgiveness, and folks paying attention to one another.

It isn’t only for those who get it. It isn’t only for those who desperately need forgiveness. It isn’t only for those who are humble. It isn’t only for those who do terrible things. This vision.  This love -- is for all those and all the rest.

For everybody.

So how does that work with so many people living out different interpretations of what God wants?


No Words

This week's Bible reflection (Repetition) provided the opening based on the opening of many sermons and then continued as today's sermon at St. Paul's UCC.
"No Words" podcast