• An Easter Message from Pastor Tobias

    Dear Friends in Christ,

    In Luke's gospel, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and another unnamed woman - all followers of Jesus - are headed to to the tomb to pay their respects to their Lord who they believe to be dead. Yet on that first Easter Day they find, not Jesus' dead body, but the stone rolled away and an empty tomb. Men in "dazzling clothes" suddenly appear and remind them of what Jesus had told them about how he would be raised from the dead. And the women, we hear "remembered."

    It is time for us to remember, my friends. It is time to remember that Christ is risen! Christ is risen!

  • Are We Fishing Naked or Jumping in for Jesus?

    My question for us today is this: Are we fishing naked or jumping in for Jesus?

    Wait, what? Did my pastor just ask me if we’re fishing naked or jumping in for Jesus?

    Listen, little details in scripture can fly by us so don’t worry if this one flew by you. Maybe because we were distracted, or these days having a Covid brain moment, or maybe because we’re so busy trying to be proper church people that the mention of someone being naked makes us say “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!”

    But, in fact, the gospel text of John says that when Jesus appears to the disciples for the third time, the disciples had gone back to doing what they did before Jesus called them to follow him and become fishers for people. The disciples were out on a boat fishing for fish. And, as numerous works of art from the time period when Jesus was born, lived, died, and was resurrected show us, fishermen (and they were all men at that time) would often fish au natural – naked – or in a loincloth. So, when Simon Peter hears that it’s Jesus who is calling them from the shore, we read that he puts on clothes (probably an outer robe), and jumps in the lake to swim to Jesus.

  • Bearing Witness

    Do not doubt, but believe. This is the message for us today. Do not doubt, but believe. We have a Savior who is risen. Anything is possible. Anything can be done when we have the courage to begin and the resolve to believe that with God’s help, even our set-backs will become the building blocks for a brighter tomorrow.

    This past Friday was Earth Day. Did you know there have been studies that show that people who think there’s no hope of changing the destruction humans have been causing to the earth are less likely to recycle? Less likely to try and do something at all? Locked in our rooms of fear and despair we just huddle around the table and grow more despair and more fear.

    But Jesus does not want us to stay huddled in our fear! Jesus arrives and says “peace be with you.” In other words, you do not need to fear. Or if you are fearful, take courage and look for where you can act anyway. Then Jesus breathes upon those first disciples, we hear, and tells them that they have the power to forgive sins! Those first disciples - and us – we have the power to forgive sins. We can forgive people’s bad behavior (and hope someone is busy forgiving us our own!) We can forgive the ways we have fallen short of the glory of God and tell people that they, too, can be discovered by a peace that passes all understanding.

  • Christ is Risen Indeed! (2019 Easter Vigil Homily)

    Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

    I was catching up with my old friend Mary Ellen not long ago. She’s one of those friends, you know the kind - who know you so well and who you know so well that no matter how much time passes it’s like you’re picking up right where you left off.

  • Easter Dawn

    We have come to the Easter Dawn!

    Sure, the actual dawn isn’t for another 10 or 12 hours, but that’s a technicality.

    We have come to the dawn of our Savior’s resurrection.

  • Every Day is our First Day

    Have you ever found that it was only in looking back at a conversation that you began to see the true gifts that were present there for you?

    You know, I wonder if the disciples found themselves looking back to Jesus’ words - from that last night that Jesus was with them - there at the Last Supper and that night on which Jesus was betrayed; I wonder if the disciples found themselves looking back after Jesus was crucified and was resurrected, realizing that there was more importance to what was being said than they even realized when Jesus was first saying it?

    In the portion of our gospel text that we heard today, what is referred to by theologians as the Farewell Discourse, Jesus talks about how he will be leaving, but that the disciples should 1) hold fast to loving God and 2) trust that a peace more than the world can provide will be given to them and 3) that God will send the Holy Spirit to guide them in all things – and she will be awesome.

  • Feed My Sheep

    The risen Christ needs our hands and hearts, for we are living in crazy and sad times.

    Jesus stands on the Lakeshore in today’s gospel and tells Peter to “feed my sheep” in a three-fold pattern that echoes Peter’s denial of Jesus before the rooster crowed on that fateful morning when Jesus was taken captive, when Jesus was taken to be crucified.

  • Go

    Maybe they were too hasty. Peter, and the other disciple who ran with him to the tomb after Mary shared the news that Jesus’ body was no longer there. They ducked in and ducked out. Maybe if they’d stayed with their grief a little longer, there in that early morning dawn, they, too, might have met the resurrected Jesus as Mary did, where she knelt weeping in the grass. Then again, maybe Jesus had always intended for it to be Mary who would come to know the good news first.

    A woman in patriarchal man’s society and world; a woman would be the first to have Jesus open her eyes to the truth that the resurrection was real, that death and hell had been conquered and Jesus was alive. There’s a popular Christian song with the lyrics, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I want to see you.”

    But we can’t see Jesus, at least not on our own. Jesus has to say Mary’s name for her to recognize that he’s not the gardener, but her teacher and the Messiah – Savior of the nations, come. Jesus is always calling to us in this life; not just as the fifty days of Easter begin, but every day; Jesus is always calling to us in this life, always busy naming us. Julius. Rochelle. Ben. Klaus. Zhanna. Lisa. Gwen. Rebecca. Doug. Christine. Paul and all of you, and even me!

  • Holy Smokes, What a Day!

    When Ascension Day is not separately observed and celebrated in the Church, we observe it here, on the seventh and last Sunday of Easter.

    Luke’s version of the Ascension story comes at the very end of chapter 24, an action-packed chapter that begins with Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women discovering the empty tomb and meeting the angels in dazzling white clothes who ask why they seek the living among the dead – in other words Jesus has risen and is alive. The women head back to the other disciples tell them the good news, and then later that same day, two of the disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus, struggling with all that has happened, and Jesus appears to them, though they don’t recognize him at first. Jesus lovingly chastises their struggling hearts and then interprets the scriptures beginning with Moses in light of his crucifixion and resurrection. And then, when prayers are said and bread and broken, the disciples realize this is Jesus who has been walking with them, and then he disappears. Now these two head back to the rest of the disciples at Jerusalem to tell them the good news about Jesus.

  • Invitation to Renewal

    A beautiful red cardinal landed under a nearby shrub as I was hustling the kids out the door to school one morning this winter. It only registered with me a few hours later that I‘d seen this wonderful bird, red coat stark against the white snow and brown branches, a sign of life and spring around the corner. 

    That I noticed and remembered this special moment at all may be proof that God works miracles! After all, it can be so easy to go on autopilot and travel through life distracted and without noticing the blessings of the present moment.

    And the present moment is full of potential gifts. 

    The season of Lent marks the time in the Church year intended to help us especially focus on renewal and restoration, spiritual growth and deepening of faith. During this season we are invited to turn away from things that distance us from God, and allow God to open our eyes and hearts and lives to see God’s gracious love in Christ poured out in forgiveness - for us. Lent is a present-tense opportunity to ponder and pray on how the resurrection of our Savior Jesus gives us new life and new birth and new eyes and ears to see the world around us.

  • Peace of Christ

    This week’s gospel text is one of my favorites because it reminds us of why we share the peace during worship service, and it reminds us why we are sent to build peace in the world.

    The Christ, who was crucified on the cross for the sins of our lives and of the world, who died and was raised from the dead; this Christ appears to the disciples in the upper room where they met behind a locked door, as they were fearing for their lives - what if they were next, what if they were crucified as Jesus had been?

  • Safety and Opportunity

    A retired Methodist pastor in Elkhart, Indiana, takes scraps of metal discarded by local companies creating band instruments, and assembles works of art from them. One, titled, “Doxology,” is a beautiful cross that hangs in the narthex of a local church there. What a gorgeous image, that of a cross – the most potent symbol of God’s redeeming love – represented through discarded scraps assembled into a new creation. Maybe this is the real work of love, to participate in God’s re-assembling of the scraps of humanity and the world around us into a new work of art.

    Did you know that the part of our brain called the hypothalamus, which together with the amygdala brings about a fight or flight safety response – “danger, danger, warning, get out, run, or strike out, lash out with words or body” – this same hypothalamus is also involved in the feeling of love? This might make more sense if you think of the nervous excitement or anxiety one can feel when “falling for” another person – “danger, danger, this feels really special, this person makes me feel really wonderful, what do I do about these feelings?”

  • The Holy Spirit at Work

    “I will not leave you orphaned,” declares Jesus in our gospel lesson today from John. “I will ask,” says Jesus, “and the Father will send you “another Advocate” to be with you forever. This Advocate, Jesus goes on to say, is “the spirit of truth” that will be revealed to those who love Jesus, who is and has been the first Advocate on our behalf.

    Yes! On this sixth Sunday of Easter, we are invited to remember that God’s resurrection work through Christ has adopted us into new life, resurrected life that pulls us again and again from the chains of brokenness and of sin as individuals and as communities and world so that we can love Jesus and in so doing better learn to love our God-beloved-selves, as well as others and this world around us. And that this resurrection story is not the end of the journey for us, but the beginning of a new chapter. Yes! For on the sixth Sunday of Easter, we are invited into action and reflection and then more action, supported by the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.

    What is the Holy Spirit? Christian communities have long held that the Holy Spirit is that third person, third aspect of the Trinity that inspires new ideas, and makes it possible to live out our traditions with inspired, courageous new approaches. The Holy Spirit helps us individually and collectively listen to and for God and God’s leading in our lives.

  • The Magnificent Story of Jesus' Resurrection

    Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
    Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!

    This magnificent story of Jesus’ resurrection, that starts with the line “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,” (John 20:1) reminds me of one of my favorite Easter traditions from when I was growing up.