Moving Ahead

This weekend is the last in our #minisermonseries on Jesus’s final sermon during his earthly life. Though we will not explore every single ounce of it, we will be looking very deeply at what is the gist of the remainder.

The long and the short of it is this: there is still so much more to come.

Life does not stop at the crucifixion. Nor at the empty tomb. It keeps going long after the fires of Pentecost blaze. Because the stories of the Gospel are just the beginning.

Jesus tells his disciples, I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

Learning, life, everything that we need to know cannot be thrown at us in a single moment and find us suddenly ready for all that the world will bring. It takes a lifetime of these moments and deep diving into faith with the Spirit to fully grasp what we need. Constant movement. Constant growth. Because while we are here on this earth, we are a part of a creation that is forever changing.

And here, in our passage this weekend, Christ again promises that the Spirit, the One who comes alongside us for the journey of this life will be with us. Guiding us. Prompting us. Pushing us. Showing us the way forward.

So come and hear the promise again that there is far more life ahead than any that lay behind us.

Blessings, Pastor Janie


This weekend we continue in Jesus’s final sermon among his beloved on the final night of his earthly life. And we will really get into the thick of it.

While last week we heard of gently rolling hills covered in vines and a love that will do anything for its friends, on Sunday we will talk about what really happens when you follow Jesus.

And it’s not always pretty.

The late Rachel Held Evans once wrote, “What makes the Gospel offensive isn’t who it keeps out, but who it lets in.”

And the honest truth is that when we are following Jesus and God closely, truly pursuing them, we will usually start bothering people by the way we live. Not necessarily because we are doing traditionally outrageous things, but rather because we are welcoming in and seeking out the lost and the last, the outcast and the stranger, and all those other people that the world (especially the “church”) doesn’t want.

Because that is precisely what Jesus would do.

That’s one of the biggest reasons that those in power killed him: he turned everything they knew about God upside down. The status quo was thrown out the window. And all their control was gone.

Be sure you know what you’re getting into when you dive into those baptismal waters. But once you do, get ready – because God is going to take you to amazing places you cannot even imagine now.

Blessings, Pastor Janie

The Spirit Speaks

As spring continues to spring and summer lurks not-so-quietly around the bend, I offer the lyrics of one of my favorite modern hymns for reflection as we make our way into the warmer months. May we all find God’s Spirit speaking in our midst…

Speak, O Lord, as we come to you
to receive the food of your holy word.
Take your truth, plant it deep in us,
shape and fashion us in your likeness
that the light of Christ might be seen today
in our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us all your purposes for your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience, holy reverence, true humility.
Test our thoughts and our attitudes in the radiance of your purity.
Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see your majestic love and authority.
Words of power that can never fail, let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds,
help us grasp the heights of your plans for us.
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time 
that will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we'll stand on your promises
and by faith we'll walk as you walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, 'til your church is built and the earth is filled with your glory.

Blessings,   Pastor Janie

Where It Will

This past weekend we began a short sermon series on Jesus’s “Farewell Address” in the gospel of John – that long sermon the Christ gives on the last night of his life while at table with his closest disciples.

We began with some of his most famous sayings – first with the mansion filled with many rooms, closely followed by the way to the Father. And the biggest reminder that every scholar and wise theologian will tell you is that this speech was given and written down not for the masses but for the faithful. It is meant for those who already know Jesus and who are seeking to follow more closely to God through the difficulties that lie along the path of this earthly life.

This week, we delve further into the thick of it as Christ promises the arrival of our greatest Help. Rather than leaving us wandering in the dark without a hand to hold, Jesus promises that we will not be orphaned and that he is coming to us… in the form of another. In this case, the Paraclete. Great word. Little scary outside the academic world though.

Paraclete is Greek for someone who is called to come alongside someone else. More simply our helper or counselor. The One who carries on.

Oh what a promise.

This is the third and most elusive member of the Trinity. Or perhaps it is better to say the most far-reaching and all-encompassing member.

This is the Breath of God who brooded over the waters at the beginning of creation.

This is the Wind that gave life to the still small voice Elijah heard.

This is the Love that unites the Lover and the Beloved that have lived from all eternity.

And this is the One who is with us.


Wherever you feel God’s presence, the Spirit is certainly close.

See you soon.

Blessings, Pastor Janie


"They do not know what they are doing" 
They do not know?  They ...who killed Jesus?
Who is "they"?

It is so easy to name others
to blame others 
the Romans 
the crowd 
Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas 
they all played their part 
and conspired against Jesus 
or simply followed orders to maintain the peace
to keep Jesus' kingdom from infringing on theirs. 

And yet where are we when Jesus' kingdom infringes on ours? 
on our peace and our order? 
on our prosperity and our security?

Where are we when the victims of our peace cry for justice? 
when those disenfranchised by our order call for compassion?
when the hungry and the lonely beg us to share our prosperity 
     our security 
     our power? 
Where are we when Christ is crucified among us? 

Surely he should have raged 
at the sinners who nailed him to the tree.
Surely he should have raged at us for the evil we do,
the evil we do both knowing and unknowing,
Yet compassion is there in the first words that he utters
He intercedes for us before the Father.

Compassion that called him into being in his mother's womb 
Compassion that compelled him to the cross 
Compassion that brings incredible, unbelievable grace
Compassion that echoes through the centuries 
     to all who participate in the killing of Christ: 
Compassion that cries out from the cross: 
     "Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing"

Who Crucified my Lord? by Rev. Richard & Charlene Fairchild

Artwork: “Why Have You Forsaken Me?” by the Rev. Lauren Wright Pittman

Getting to Easter

Blessed (almost) Holy Week, everyone!

While Christmas will always be my favorite holiday, Holy Week is my favorite part of the Church calendar. There is so much that actually happened during Jesus’s final week in his earthly life, culminating in two of the most beautiful and heart-rending days full of events that quite literally changed the world. 

Growing up, I only ever remember Easter celebrations. And boy could my family throw a party! It was a welcome table where our family and friends gathered to enjoy all the traditional dishes (cough, from the ‘70s) and fellowship that bonded so many of us together through the years. I remember egg hunts and baskets. I remember the Bunny. All amazing and wonderful things.

However, it was not until I was a teenager that I learned about Holy Week. And I was all in from the get-go. 

Our culture, as a general rule, prefers not to focus much on death. Nor to talk much about difficult or troubling things. Let alone messy or complex ones. 

The great irony is that is what life literally is. Maybe not constant death for most of us. But there is far more of the troublesome, the chaotic and the complicated in this world and our lives than many of us would like to admit. 

In his final days, Jesus enters his beloved Jerusalem triumphantly, then turns around and clears the temple with whip in hand. He teaches extensively, in the gospel we are studying this year, about what the Kingdom of Heaven is meant to be like – this included both the Greatest Commandment and the parable of the Sheep and Goats in these final days. If you’re not sure which parable that is, it’s the one where he gives us the go-to list of how we are supposed to continue following him: by physically caring for the least of these that are God’s children. He upsets a whole lot of people, many of whom are plotting to kill him, when he lets a woman wash his feet with her unbound hair (and they aren’t even married), telling us she is preparing him for his burial. All the while, his disciples won’t even let themselves believe Friday is coming. And that’s just the first four days. 

Holy Week is messy and complicated. It is filled with contradictions and miracles. When we give ourselves space to truly enter into it, we will find that there is no way to leave unchanged.

One final thought: in his final sermon in John, Jesus tells his disciples that there is only one way the world will know we are Christ’s disciples. Given all that we are experiencing in our midst as we head into this coming week, there is no better fast or greater practice than to love with everything you’ve got. Radically. Recklessly. Standing with the tormented and comforting the hurting. 

Imitate our Crucified God.

And remember to lift up your eyes, because we already know where our help is coming from.

Blessings,   Pastor Janie

Dry Bones

Have you ever been through a time when it felt like all hope was lost?

Your body and mind and even your soul felt beyond exhausted and there was nothing left to give? Your community was done, too. It just seemed that for everything you had been through, there was simply no expectation left?

That is the context for both of our passages this weekend as we enter into our final weekend of Lent before Holy Week. We will be taking a quick peek at the famous story of Lazarus from the gospel of John. However, our main focus will be on this gorgeous passage from Ezekiel 37 which is often called the “Valley of Dry Bones.”

The scene opens on the starkest, driest valley filled with a jumble of bones that are completely clean of decay. They are from lives long-gone. Who remembers these souls when they were alive?

And yet, the hand of the Lord asks the prophet, Can these bones live?

Over the course of the coming verses, this prophet, this son of Adam, becomes a collaborator in the process of resurrection as the bones revive and the spirit of life is breathed into them anew. Because nothing is beyond God’s ability, including the ways we can take part in God’s re-creation of the world.

‘Dem bones do have life left in them because there is no situation beyond hope.

Much to ponder as we head into Holy Week.

Blessings, Pastor Janie

Artwork: “Valley of Dry Bones” by the Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity of A Sanctified Art, LLC

Vision Check

Of all my parents, my father, who died when I was only eight, is the one whose faith I knew the least. He was a non-practicing Roman Catholic, like so many others I know, and I cannot remember him speaking of his experience of God even once during my young life.

Yet, my mother tells me that in the years before he died, she would find him sitting at our old computer in the family room of our house (it was an Apple IIgs, for those who can remember that far back), trying to memorize the words to an old beloved hymn. He appeared as weary wanderer in the dry desert, searching for something to quench his thirst.

I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.

Sight is such a fragile thing. Physically there are any number of things that can take it away so easily. We can lose it with time and with age. Or, far worse, we can be born without the basic sense entirely.

And yet, that is not the only sight, now is it?

This weekend, we continue our Lenten journey with a rather famous story of Jesus healing a blind man from the gospel of John. Now, Jesus healed quite a few blind people over the course of the different gospels. However, this one is given a full chapter near the end of Jesus’s life.

It is also connected to one of life’s great questions: do bad things only happen to sinful people?

There is a great debate happening around this healing, about whose sin actually caused the young man’s blindness from birth. Then, once he is healed, the debate expands to include how could anyone who follows God do such a thing in a way that might break one of the great laws.

In reality, while the young man is healed from physical blindness, the real quandary we face in this passage is about the inability we all have to really see in this world.

See God. See as God wants us to. See the reality of what God is doing in our midst.

So come to worship and get a little vision check as we head towards Holy Week.

Blessings, Pastor Janie

Wonders of Redeeming Love

Many years ago now, I had a wise friend teach me a lesson about forgiveness. We had gotten in a fight about something. Lord knows what now. But after days of not speaking to one another, I sought this friend out in order that I might apologize – for I was most certainly the main offending party in whatever had happened. 

I’ll never forget what my friend told me that day: you were forgiven even before you asked.

If you ever want to know what God’s forgiveness looks like, well, my friends, that is it.

This season, we are focusing on the idea of The Wonders of Redeeming Love, which comes from so many of our beloved hymns, Lenten and beyond. 

The most obvious is clearly Beneath the Cross of Jesus, where all of our brokenness is laid bare and yet all we ask is for the sunshine of Christ’s face as we look beyond the grave.

Then there is What Wondrous Love is This? when we reflect with haunting melody upon the incredible marvel of a God who would take upon God’s own self all that we have wrought and deserved.

And who could forget When I Survey the Wondrous Cross where love and sorrow meet, love that is amazing and divine, bidding us to die to our hurtful ways and live the life that love truly entails.

Beyond that, there is the old Appalachian hymn, Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy, when we recall that in the arms of our loving Savior there are ten thousand charms.

Or what about that old standard, Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling, which speaks of wonderful love, mercy and pardon for all of us who will just come home.

It is true that all of us have sinned and fallen short. 

More important than anything else we have broken the commandments that Jesus said to hang all the law and prophets on: we have not loved our neighbors and we have not loved ourselves. In so doing we have not loved God as we should. And oh how that brokenness has wrought such a hurting world. Everywhere around us.

Yet the wonder of God’s redeeming love at work, not only during Holy Week, but also during every moment of our lives, is that Jesus still reaches out his arms and says, come home. The forgiveness is already here, waiting. Because love has already Won. It. All. 

We still have a month to go before Holy Week really sets in. Nevertheless, the importance of this message is as essential now as it will be then: the wonders of God’s redeeming love are all around us, because God has already won and continues to do so, every time that love rules the day. 

Blessings,   Pastor Janie

Artwork: “You, Too, Must” by the Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity of A Sanctified Art, LLC

Back to the Beginning

Lent is here!

The season of preparation for that most important week in the church’s calendar is upon us.

Last night we began our season with the ancient rite of Ash Wednesday, when we remember the frailty of human life with the dust of old palm fronds placed on our foreheads. At the same time, we hold together the remarkable grace of the God who drew us out of the ground, created us with awe-inspired and wonderful hands, called us good, and made us in God’s own image to love and be loved – for our God makes beautiful things out of dust. And we mark ourselves with the symbol of that same God who took on our image, becoming flesh among us, living a life that displayed what love really looks like, even to the ultimate point of giving everything so that all could find the wholeness we were meant to have.

Oh yes, those ashes hold far more than mere death in them.

This weekend, we take our next step in our Lenten journey by going back to the beginning of the story. All the way to Genesis 3.

That’s right, we are going to be looking at the story of “The Fall.” When our original forebears, Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree and fell from grace.

This is an essential story to our Reformed consciousness. We have held onto the belief in the “total depravity” of the human race with a white-knuckled grip since John Calvin died in 1564.

And yet, how we understand what happened in that story, what that first sin truly was, and how it has shaped humanity ever after may not be as simple as some of our brethren would have you believe.

So come to worship as we walk this Lenten journey together and find out what the wonders of God’s redeeming love truly are.

Blessings, Pastor Janie