Jesus tells two short parables in Mark 4:26-34. They’re both about seeds. In the first, seeds that grow up mysteriously overnight after a farmer has scattered them far and wide across the ground. In the second, the tiny mustard seed grows into a great shrub that then gives shade and shelter to nests of birds.
We know that Jesus did a lot of teaching through stories, perhaps because they invite us in and expand our imaginations, revealing something of God’s work beyond our understanding. The mysterious life of seeds paints the Kingdom of God as a living, growing, extravagant reality. Jesus invites us to participate in it.
This is our last lectionary podcast episode before the summer. Join us around the virtual table as we close the season with these hope-filled parables.
Pentecost* is one of the great feasts of the church. It celebrates the coming down of Holy Spirit on the first disciples. As a result, it sets the beginning of that great family of Christ we call the church.
Acts 2:1-21 describes the events of Pentecost. In this story the disciples are gathered together for a yearly Jewish agricultural feast. By this time in Jewish history, they had long been dispersed across the known world. Even so, those in the diaspora continued to return to Jerusalem for the feast days.
On this Pentecost, something profound happened. The room shook and there was the sound of wind. The disciples found they had tongues of fire on their heads, and they could suddenly speak other languages. They cascaded out of the upper room, proclaiming with boldness the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The lead apostle, Peter, explains what is going on. This event indeed marks the beginning the fulfillment of all that the Scriptures had pointed to. God’s Holy Spirit would be poured out for everyone.
Join us around the virtual table this week as we talk about Pentecost and the work of the Holy Spirit, the expansiveness of the mission of Christ, and what it means to live in the breath of God.
Christians celebrate Ascension Day every year exactly 40 days after Easter, to echo the 40 days that Jesus stayed with his disciples after the Resurrection. During this time, he met with them, taught them, and opened their hearts to understand the Scriptures. Finally, the disciples witness him lifted up out of their sight as he returns to God.
Even though this feast doesn’t get as much attention as Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, it is crucial to how we understand Jesus’ ministry of salvation. It is also the catalyst for the arrival of the Holy Spirit ten days later.
The Ascension marks the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, launching the church to take up the Jesus movement. Join us around the virtual table as we explore the joy-filled Ascension Day.
In today’s podcast, we are celebrating the defining mystery of our Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our reading from John 20 captures everything of this profound moment in history.
When we join this story, Jesus has been crucified at the hands of the authorities. His followers have taken his body and buried it in a cave-like tomb and rolled a large stone over the opening to seal it. A day passes as they sink into grief and bewilderment. How could the one they believed to be the messiah have died so horribly?
The next day, in the early morning while it is still dark, one of Jesus’ disciples, Mary Magdalene, comes to the tomb. She is horrified to find that the stone has been rolled away. Her first thought is that someone has actually desecrated the grave by taking the body of Jesus.
As Mary waits, sobbing, outside the tomb, she sees a person she thinks is the gardener and begs him to show her where Jesus is. Then this mysterious figure speaks her name simply: Mary. With this, she recognizes that he is Jesus, very much alive.
The moment Jesus rose is the hinge on which everything else turns. It is the reason for our hope, and the source of our joy. Please join us around the virtual table as we reflect on the Easter story and the meaning of resurrection. Alleluia, Christ is risen!
Peace be with you! I think everyone wants to hear this statement. The desire for peace comes up again and again when I talk with people about what they are really looking for. I too keep looking for peace in my day.
Peace Be With You
This phrase “Peace be with you” comes from a story in the Gospel of John. It takes place just after the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Imagine a room filled with the twelve disciples and some others. They are scared and confused. Their teacher Jesus has been killed horribly. Some carry the guilt of having run away from him. They had been sure God was going to do something through Jesus, but now even that hope was in tatters. They have locked the doors because they are afraid that they too are about to be arrested. There is weeping and prayers of anguish.
Suddenly, Jesus stands in the midst of them and says Peace be with you. When the disciples get over their shock, they are overjoyed. They can’t contain it. What a transformation in the room! Jesus doesn’t just speak peace to them, but he is that peace, himself, in his person. And then he sends them out into the world, saying, “Just as the Father sent me, so I send you.” He charges them with bringing that same peace to the world.
The Impact of the Gospel Comes through the Person of Jesus
The peace of Jesus is different. It is a deep and transformative peace that made the disciples able to do things that they would never have imagined possible. This is a powerful peace (“Shalom”) of wholeness and harmony.
Do you want this peace? I ask this question because God’s peace impacts and changes us inside. But this peace of Christ is also part of something bigger than us: God’s plan to bring healing and wholeness to the world. This is what the Scriptures call the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). Another term for this is the Gospel.
The Gospel Transforms
“Gospel” is one of these words that we hear so often that it can lose its force. But the point of the Gospel is that it has profound spiritual power. It has the power to fill your soul and connect you with God.
The Gospel is God speaking to us in a new language: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In Jesus, we see God’s love embodied. The Gospel is a message that captivates, calls, challenges, delights, and transforms us.
For the disciple of Christ, the Gospel can’t just be words on a page. It has to be a message that ripples through our lives and changes our hearts. You need to know that you are loved by God more than you can possibly imagine. Does the Gospel impact your life?
This is based on a talk from our 2021 Lenten learning series, Re-boot Your Spiritual Life. You can watch it here:
Join us this week for a conversation about the Transfiguration of Jesus, as recorded in Mark’s Gospel. If this story sounds familiar, you may remember that we talked about it from a different angle back in August. The Transfiguration is worth revisiting, though, because it is one of the key stories in the life of Jesus and his disciples. It reveals something about God through Jesus. It also gives us insight into our own lives as part of the wider human family.
How do you discern a greater reality and the glory of God behind the everyday? Add your own thoughts in the comments below.
In Mark 1:21-28, Jesus continues his early ministry, travelling through Galilee, healing the sick and casting out demons. As these healings point to his authority from God, Jesus soon clashes with those claiming secular and spiritual power. Yet the Kingdom of God continues to break into the lives of those around him, as it still does today.
Join us around the virtual table as we talk about healing, authority, and signs of God’s life.
Mark 1:14-20 begins with Jesus entering the region of Galilee, already proclaiming the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. As he walks along the shore, he sees four young fishermen and calls them to follow him. Immediately, they leave their nets and their father to join Jesus on the adventure of faith. When Jesus calls his disciples, he also gives us insight into what it means for us to strive to follow Jesus 2000 years later.
Join us around the virtual table as we talk about calling, discipleship, and what repentance really involves.