In real estate, folks often say that the three most important things to consider are location, location, and location. 

In advertising, folks at least used to say that the three most important things to consider were repetition, repetition, and repetition. In today’s rapidly changing media culture I’m not sure that the rule still holds true, as web 2.0 push technology begins to fade and the new, 'personalized to each person with more information and direction than was ever available before' web 3.0 experience takes hold.

Nevertheless, seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, or otherwise engaging a concept, an invitation, a greeting, a message, a song, or and advertisement of some kind multiple times still leaves a lasting impression on our minds.

So when you notice something being repeated in any context, it is best to pay attention to what it is. It is likely that the repeated word, picture, tune, or phrase is meant to be remembered. It is likely that it is meant to have a lasting importance.

In this week’s Bible reading from John 20:19-31, the one often referred to as the ‘doubting Thomas’ reading, Jesus greets the disciples three times. Thrice. Each time he says “Peace be with you.”

I think the repetition is meant to communicate something of lasting importance. So why isn't this Bible reading known as the “peace be with you” reading? 


With Fear and Great Joy

This week's Easter Bible reflection (Attention) provided the beginning for today's 2nd service sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL
"With Fear and Great Joy" podcast

But Mary Stood Weeping

Easter 'Sunrise' Service sermon podcast from St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.  Overcome with Emotion.
"But Mary Stood Weeping" Podcast



Maundy Thursday sermon podcast from St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Downers Grove, IL
"Meal" podcast



This week's Easter Bible reflection from Matthew 28:1-10:

Early in the morning, two Marys were headed to Jesus’ tomb. They may have been thinking about Jesus. They may have been thinking about the disciples. They may have been daydreaming as they walked.

And something got their attention really quickly.
  • There was an earthquake
  • An angel came down like lightning
  • The angel moved the stone that covered the tomb.
  • The angel sat on the stone as if it were some kind of stool.
  • The guards were scared out of their skin at what they just saw.
  • And the angel sought to calm the whole situation down by telling the women that Jesus had been raised from the dead.
So the women left the tomb. This time they may have been thinking about Jesus. They may have been thinking about the disciples. I don’t think for a minute that they were daydreaming. I think they were trying to sort through everything they had just experienced so quickly.

And Jesus showed up. Just in case the earthquake, the lightning angel, the stone rolled away, and the announcement didn’t get their attention, Jesus popped in and told them to share the news.

They did. 


Another Parade

On one side of town the soldiers came marching in.  The people watched the parade and cheered loudly. They were the heroes. They were the conquerors. They brought a violent peace to all who lived in the lands they occupied. They came to town on war horses. Everyone at this parade had better cheer . . . or risk prison, injury, or death.

On the other side of town there was another scene. Less people were gathered, but it was still a large crowd. Jesus came into town not on a warhorse, but on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Have you ever caught the two-animal description in Matthew 21:1-11?)  He was peaceful, kind, and seemed to bring in not a hero’s violent peace, but rather something real. The people shouted, spread cloaks and branches on the road, and praised the one riding into the other side of town. And people were confused. This wasn’t the same parade. This was not a crowd of soldiers. Many wondered why everyone was cheering. They cheered and also asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds around Jesus said that he was the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.

I think a whole bunch of people still had no idea who they just saw.



Last week's Bible reflection (Back) introduced the story of Ezekiel.  Sunday's sermon was a vivid presentation of the story -- from Steve Case's book, God Up Close.
"Breath" podcast



Ezekiel saw dry, withering bones in a valley.  The bones were as far away from life as anything can get. Lifeless.  Dried up.  Turning to dust.
God brought them back– bone by bone, muscle by muscle, covering them in rejuvenated skin.
God breathed life into them and they were alive.  Alive. Breath
God said, “This is what I’m going to for my people.  I’m going to bring them back to life.”
  • Was it a vision?  Yes.
  • Did God bring the Israelites back to life in a massive horror-movie spectacle?  No.
  • Does this Bible reading communicate that there are no limits to when, where, or how God brings new life?  Yes.
God doesn’t do left behind.  God does bring you back.



This (well, really last) week's Bible reflection (Again) provided the beginning for today's "Suing God" sermon at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Downers Grove, IL.
"Thirsty" podcast



Elie Wiesel says that it really happened.  The events dramatized and fictionalized in his book “The Trial of God” and later in play and film adaptations as “God on Trial” aren’t apocryphal, as many have suggested.  Wiesel says that he knows they happened because he was there.

In 2008 Wiesel recounted, to Jennifer Frazier of the Jewish Chronicle, that the trial of God took place in Auschwitz one night during World War II. Just three people put God on trial for oppressing the Jewish people.  And when the trial was over, God was found guilty.  And after the verdict, as the story goes, those who put God on trial said their prayers and went to bed.

There’s just one little difference to the oft-recounted version of the story and what Mr. Wiesel said in 2008.  Rather than say that they found God guilty, he said that the prosecutors of God used the word “chayav” – which means “God owes us something.”  Then they went to pray.

In this week’s Bible reading from Exodus 17:1-7, the Hebrew people, who had been given sweet water after it was first bitter, found at their latest stop that there was no water.  And so they put God on trial for neglecting them.  God owed them water.

God gave them water.

Restoration wins
Healing wins
Life Wins
Love wins.