“Jesus said to them again, peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
If the media were a gauge of the state of world peace, we are living in interesting times to be sure. When peace is offered it typically is defined by contract or “accord.” If even one stipulation is not fulfilled, then peace will soon become a distant memory and the fighting will resume. God’s peace offered by our Risen Savior does not work the same way. The peace that Jesus offers is not based upon a contract or a laundry list of things that must be done. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was resurrected he knew life would not be easy for them, in addition to their own personal issues, they will have the unbelief of those they encounter to battle. Before Jesus sent his disciples he offered the gift of peace, but unlike world peace that is here one day and gone the next, the peace of Christ is eternal and represents not the freedom from violence or pain but the absolute guarantee that in the midst of whatever journey we find ourselves on, Jesus is there with us. Peace is alive and well in the world because of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. All we need to do to experience the peace of Christ is to accept it; we need to know that even if there is no world peace or our lives are challenged we are offered the strength, resolve, and hope for a new day. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives so do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.” Thank you Jesus for the gift of your peace.
“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
Words cannot describe the depth of love Jesus has for you. On the night Jesus was betrayed he did not hold the sin of those turning away from him against them. Jesus never said, “How dare you do what you have done,” or “I hate you” for what you have done. Jesus did not say “you better love me or else…” No, Jesus loved his own, that includes you and me by the way, to the end. His love for you does not falter, does not fail. No matter what you have done, whatever ill-conceived word you have uttered, or uncaring thought in your head, Jesus loves you to the end. God’s love is so different from what our human emotions can conceive. God doesn’t wait around for our love; God’s love is shared even if ours falls short. When Jesus met with his disciples for the last time in that upper room, as a servant he washed the feet of his disciples, including the feet of Judas, the one who set in motion the events of the crucifixion, or so it would seem. Maybe God’s unconditional love truly set into motion the events of Jesus’ death on the cross. Maybe God so loves us that the cross was the only remedy for our shortcomings. There is light, and there is hope in the incredible and amazing grace of God. You are not alone; in fact you are the recipient of God’s unconditional love. The crucifixion and ultimate resurrection of Jesus Christ affirms that God’s intention for us is to accept the grace through our risen Savior Jesus Christ and to live a life unshackled by the burdens that seem to weigh heavy upon our souls that keep us from fully living in this unconditional love of Jesus the Christ. Accept the unconditional love of Jesus into your heart and soul; you are worthy because Jesus is worthy. Jesus is the one who died for you, especially you, so you may live. Thank you Jesus, for your incredible gift of unconditional love, that is with us, “even to the end of the age.”
“…the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully for all the deeds of power that they had seen.”
For the followers of Jesus, this was a big day. Jesus entering the gates of Jerusalem was the beginning of the end of Roman tyranny and oppression, or so they wanted to believe. The message of Jesus was one of peace, hope, and a whole new way of living. For the majority of those in the crowd, however, it was just noise, a distraction from business as usual. Maybe Jesus and his crew blocked people from getting to the market to shop, or to the Temple to pay their tithe or offer sacrifices; certainly the Pharisees saw all this shouting and Jesus’ message as disrupting the status quo not to mention bringing into question their authority as God’s representatives. This Sunday Christians throughout the world celebrate Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. We wave our palms, sing our hosannas, and proclaim the coming of salvation through Jesus the Christ. But what about the rest of the world? What is it to them, this belief in Jesus? Is Jesus a distraction to living life, or just additional noise on the congested streets of humanity? For Jesus, entering the holy city of Jerusalem was his offering of God’s eternal love to a world in desperate need of the truth, God’s truth, in their lives. We have a way of creating our own truth based on how we think life should be rather than living how God created us to live. What began as just noise to most of the crowd ended up as an eternal gift from God to everybody, those who believe and to those hardened to God’s word in their lives. Accept the message of Jesus the Christ and take the journey of faith. God speaks, especially in the crowds of humanity desperate for the Word that became flesh and dwelled among them. Thank you Jesus for another chance…
“If God is for us, who is against us?”
In the midst of our life, God is. I have spent the past few days praying over the crowds I have watched and been part of. Some people truly seem to be enjoying their life, but others seem heavily laden. Maybe they feel life has been stacked against them, they may look around and have the impression that theirs is the only life that is out of sync with everybody else. It is “them against the world.” It is interesting that in large crowds loneliness becomes magnified. So often when God seems far away, God is the closest. There is hope, even when the marginalizing clouds of uncertainty and loneliness hang heavy. No matter where life’s twists and turns take you, God is. God is with you, even to the end of the age. God is “for you” even when the world may have other ideas. The stuff around us can have a way of diminishing God’s presence in life, or so we may be led to believe. But there is exceeding good news, God has not, and will never leave you orphaned; you are not marginalized by God, you are loved more than you will ever know. Your life is of infinite value, whoever you are and what ever “crowd” you are in. All it takes is to turn around from living a life of separation and understanding that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that will separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God offered Jesus as proof, living proof, that with God you are never alone. What life has shown you may cause doubt, but what God has offered you in Jesus offers hope. Be convinced that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor ANYTHING else in all creation, will be able to separate [you] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thank you Jesus.
“So if anyone is in Christ Jesus, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; everything has become new!”
II Corinthians 5:17
What if clothing were designed to fit only one particular body style or preference? And what if everyone were required to wear one particular outfit all the time? It would seem pretty weird to see everyone look alike. We might try to make it work but deep down inside our spirit would want to break free of constantly being the same as everybody else and seeing everybody doing and thinking the same old things. The incredible gift we have been given is the opportunity to accept a whole new way to celebrate life and perceive others. Christ Jesus invites anyone and everyone to turn away from a dusty old life of sameness and the trappings of sin to a new life of adventure, joy and the peace of knowing that our faith is not a relic from the past rather it offers the ultimate freedom of living in this thing called grace which is eternal. Anyone and everyone are invited to experience grace, God’s unconditional love. Accepting Jesus Christ is all about celebrating the freedom of seeing people as children of God first and foremost. Accepting Jesus is acknowledging that our lives are not as they should be but God’s love for us is too big to ever let us stay that way. Living by faith is seeing God not as a judgmental tyrant requiring us live in lockstep with everybody else; rather it is about accepting the freedom of knowing that no matter where our journey leads us, we are never alone. Even if we have ventured far away from this thing called grace, God through Christ wants us back. Jesus the Christ celebrates your life and all the gifts you have been given; all you need to do is turn and accept the joy and freedom you are being offered by the one who “did not come into the world to judge the world but so that the world may be saved through him.” You are loved by God, more than you will ever know, accept that fact and experience the newness of life. Thank you Jesus!
“I have no gold or silver, but what I have I give to you; in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”
Just when we think we have nothing to offer, Jesus comes alive in our soul. The very power of God fills us when we least expect it and when God’s presence is deeply needed, we are filled. Have you ever asked yourself, “What can I do?” Money may be tight, and physically every movement may be a challenge. Or maybe you are able to write a check to help someone, which is truly a gift, but do not feel beyond offering money you can be of any help. Truth is, you have everything you need. You have the power of the Holy Spirit to offer someone hope even in the midst of hopelessness. When Peter left church that morning and saw a need, he did not reach into his pocket for silver and gold; he reached into his heart and extended the hand of Christ. In a world of isolation, electronic relationships, and pleas for money, Jesus Christ offers us an opportunity to offer something far more profound; the gift of faith, hope and a hand of flesh and blood rather than a tweet or a post. When you extend the hand of Christ you are giving someone the hope that they are not alone, that no matter the circumstance God through the living Christ is with them, through you. Think of it this way, when you extend the hand of friendship, you are offering Christ. When you walk with someone in need, you walk with Christ. The greatest gift you can give someone is your time and your faith; “gold and silver have I none, but what I have is my Savior, and I give Him to you.” You have been blessed, go, and do likewise. Thank you Jesus.
“Very Truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father.”
Phillip, a disciple of Jesus, had a first row seat to the ministry of Jesus. He saw Jesus cure the sick, heal the physically and emotionally challenged, and with a word made God’s incredible message of grace and hope come alive for the people. Yet Phillip was not satisfied, he wanted more proof that Jesus was as close to God as Jesus said, “I am the way the truth, and the life.”(John 14:6) So often, we are satisfied being spectators rather than participators. We want the satisfaction of knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior and that through the amazing grace that Jesus shared we may have eternal life. Yet Jesus wants more for us than simple understanding of the concept of faith. Jesus calls us to actually be a part of the life of faith and offers us the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish far more than Jesus did in his earthly ministry. If all we needed was an understanding of faith and the gift of Jesus Christ then all the Bible would amount to is another self-help manual and serving the church nothing more than time served. But through Jesus Christ we have been given an incredible gift, a gift that makes faith come alive and the word of God a reality. We are filled “all in all,” with the power of God’s Holy Spirit to do far more for our neighbor than Jesus ever did during his earthly ministry. The challenge for us is to believe that we are a beloved part of our faith, filled to the brim with the power to witness to the world a far more excellent way to live. You have been given a gift, a gift that cannot be taken away by anybody on this planet. You have been filled with the very presence of God to do far more than you could ever imagine. If you don’t believe that you have been filled with the grace of God, then look around and see what God has already given you. You have been blessed, and you have been filled, to the max! Thank you Jesus.
“But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
God speaks, we get all excited then comes the doubt; how can I…, what can I…., why can I…, and who cares anyhow…. In the marketing and the psychological world this doubt is called “cognitive dissonance;” part of our thinking is “all in” while another part says, “not sure this is the right thing to do.” Something has to give and often times the solution involves running, fast! Fear has a way of winning out and though our intentions are great our tendency is to hide from uncertainty. For Jonah, God called him to hold an entire city accountable, to take a stand in the name of the Lord; pretty heavy stuff, even for a card-carrying prophet like Jonah. Jonah knew he should listen to God and that would be the right thing, yet all he wanted to do was to run and hide. Prophets are no different than you and me in many ways; they have doubts and they question their abilities, their commitment, and their time. Maybe our “dissonance” lies in our reliance on ourselves rather than on God’s grace, mercy, and power. Jesus shows up in our lives and calls us to be “all in” for him, to make disciples and to know that by faith our lives and the lives around us can be transformed and made new yet we ask ourselves, “who am I, that the voice who calmed the sea, would call out through the rain and calm the storm in me?” (Casting Crowns) You are a child of God, so unbelievably loved by God that through Christ God will “neither leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) As those fears and doubts start to add up and you begin to look around for your running shoes, remember the words of the Psalmist, “with the Lord on my side I do not fear.” Maybe it is all about trusting in the Lord even and especially in those times of doubt. Even to the end of the age, to the end of the age Jesus will be with you. Jesus is “all in for you,” no matter where life may lead. Thank you Jesus!
Rev. Tom Joyce, pastor
Fields United Methodist Church
“This is my son, the beloved; with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!” Matthew 7:5
When Jesus led a few of his closest disciples to the top of a mountain and they saw Jesus, the guy they have been traveling with for some time, transformed before their eyes it must have been one of those once in a lifetime experiences. The disciples were blown away by what they experienced. Some experiences do that more than others; sometimes we just don’t know quite what to do when Jesus shows up in our lives. The disciples thought they knew what this thing called faith was about, but this experience changed everything. Then God says something troubling to them; “Listen to him!” Bottom line is that they thought they were listening to Jesus and doing all the right things along the way. So why did God feel the need to remind them to listen? Maybe then, as today, we have a hard time listening to what God has to say to us. We think we are going in the right direction then God gives us a “wow” experience, a realization that God is a whole lot bigger than we could ever imagine. The little rooms we build for God do not hold the majesty or the fullness of the grace of God. We tend to compartmentalize God to suit our needs. We seek a God that satisfies our needs rather than experience God who will transform our lives for the better. Allow God to touch your life and be “blown away” by the change that ensues. God offers us reminders along the journey, some profound and others simply a small quiet voice. God speaks in many ways; we just need to be open to what God is doing in us and around us.
Rev. Tom Joyce, pastor
Fields United Methodist Church
“Let your light shine before others, so that your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
You are the most important person in the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ in the world. You may not believe it, but people depend on you to live out this Good News called Jesus Christ, especially in a world that seems to be full of one-sided conversations and adversarial relationships. People yearn for more than what they see, and desire to live a life of pure joy but often times have difficulty finding the peace that comes through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the past few days, the lyrics from Jeremy Camp’s “Give me Jesus” have been ringing in my ears, “you can have all this world, just give me Jesus.” Just give me Jesus; that desire can be fulfilled through our faithful witness of the grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus is amazing; he reached out and touched those others would not even consider worthy their time. Jesus saw people, all people, as God’s beloved worthy of Jesus dying for on a cross for them. When others saw someone as unworthy, dirty, and soiled with the cares and bitter crosses of the culture or sullied by the judgments folks cast upon them, he looked beyond and saw a soul worthy of being saved. When your witness is a witness of grace, there is rejoicing in heaven, because someone has found what their soul has been seeking. Our witness of God’s grace is not about rules or regulations or making sure the way we believe is how they should believe, it is about sharing the same love that God has shared with us to another. It is offering the gift of eternal life; it is knowing that when somebody turns back to the mighty and loving arms of Jesus, their life will never be the same. Your words or actions may be the only hope they receive when they need it the most. The light of Christ can only be seen when it is not hidden. Faith needs to be shared. You have been given an incredible gift not to be tucked away but to be celebrated. This thing we have received called grace is amazing, it reaches beyond what is seen and extends not judgement or pain, but shares hope, compassion and understanding. We offer grace through our witness not for our glory but for the glory of God. As St. Paul writes, “Yes, everything is for your sake so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:15) May your words and your deeds give glory to God as you extend the love of Christ to somebody that is waiting and hoping for a transformed life in Christ. You are the witness of Jesus that is so important. Think about it this way, the soul of another just wants Jesus and is crying out, “just give me Jesus,” just give me Jesus to the glory of God. Thank you Jesus!