Thoughts for Sunday

Filled By God - Alex Clark, Guest Preacher

Alex Clark gives us some insight for weekend worship. Alex is a recent graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and returns to First Lutheran, his home congregation, this weekend to preach in our services Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m. He will also be ordained on Sunday at 2 pm in the First Lutheran sanctuary. All are invited to attend! Guests are encouraged to wear red.

Just As He Was (Mark 4:36b)

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“On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took [Jesus] with them in the boat, just as he was. And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on a cushion; and they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care if we perish?’” (Mark 4:35-38; RSV)

Being several hundred feet below sea-level and surrounded by large wind-swept mountains, Lake Galilee (13 mi. long x 8 mi. across) is still today notorious for severe squalls – which without warming, hit small fishing vessels with tremendous power. (Note Rembrandt’s depiction of this event in his famous painting entitled, Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee.) But this storm must have been – as my dad would call it – a real “rip-snorter” … Cuz even these swarthy, shiver-me-timbers, rough-n-tumble fishermen were needing a change of underwear!

No! No! No! They hadn’t signed-up for this? … This was no “three hour cruise.” Why was it, that so often, when Jesus bid them to come follow, he’d call them right into the midst of a storm (cf. Mark 4:5; 5:21; 6:45; 8:13)?!… No. Really. Why? … Look at them again, in Rembrandt’s painting. One, two, three, four ... of them scrambling on the lines and mast, praying, pushing on the tiller with all their might. But it wasn’t good enough … They’re scared to death … I mean, if they’d been baseball players they probably wouldn’t have even been able to spit!

They’re trying everything, but nothin’ works. And worse, Jesus is doing nothing! (Seemingly) “I mean, who got us into this big mess in the first place?” Look how they’re staring at Jesus in dis-belief. And it’s here, at this moment, that things become awash. You see, as in times of great trial and fear in our own lives, we too find our words in those of the disciples: “Teacher, don’t you care if we perish?” (Mark 4:38; RSV)

So, where-in-the-world is God in this biblical story? And even more so, what-in-the-world is God doing?! Come join us for worship this weekend, as we look deeper in St. Mark’s and Rembrandt’s paintings together.

Pr. John Christopherson

Who is my family?

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The famous Swiss psychiatrist, Paul Tournier has observed: ‘Children who are raised-up in a family where they are affirmed and encouraged, and taught God’s unconditional love for them, grow-up, move out into the world, and wherever they go, they feel at home’ (A Place For You).

In our Gospel text for this coming weekend from Mark 3:20-35, Jesus rather stands our “family values” a bit on-edge. This happens at the close of this Gospel story, when some of his family members travel east, some 15 miles from Nazareth to Capernaum (which was Jesus’ home-base when he began his ministry). They come to call him home. Why? Well, because reports were flying around Galilee that Jesus had lost his ever-loving-mind. And so, the crowd that had gathered around Jesus, in the house where he was staying, said: “Your mother and your brothers [and your sisters] are outside, looking for you” (Mark 3:32b).

Then comes the zinger, at the heart of it all: “And Jesus replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers [and sisters]?’ (Mark 3:33). Ouch! … Bazinga!! … Right?! Then comes Jesus’ concluding words for us: “And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother’” (Mark 3:34-35). 

In our time, and yet …in every time and place, there’s so much stress of high expectations and demands placed upon a family. And indeed, ours is a time packed-full of “shuttling schedules” and “marathons of meetings” and “dead-lines” that create enormous pressure and brokenness in our family systems.  I mean, most of us are simply bursting-at-the-seams. So, what is God’s diagnosing Word of judgment here (i.e. the diagnosis of the Law)? But also, what is God’s good news of hope here (i.e. the healing prognosis of the Gospel)? That is to say, what is Jesus’ word here for us, one that creates some “stretch-marks” of grace and new birth (cf. John 3: 3-7): in getting us to see a family that is more than just the biological flesh-and-blood-of-it-all? And finally, what or who is this “second family” (more accurately, “first family”) that Jesus is pointing-out for us? It’s a larger circle of folks who are around us, but also we who are around them, with Jesus in the center (Mark 3:32). It’s a circle that has Jesus’ watery Word at its heart – one that begins at baptism.

“We welcome you into the Lord’s family. We receive you as fellow members
of the body of Christ, children of the same heavenly Father, and workers with us
in the kingdom of God.”
(LBW, p.125; emphasis added) 

John Christopherson

Yet A Little While

Reflections on Pentecost Sunday

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Do you remember as a child (or even as an adult for that matter), when you stood at the front window … nose and hands pressed-up against the glass … your eyes straining, as you look far into the distance … standing there, waiting with deep longing … for a cherished parent or child, some beloved in your life … to return home?

In the middle chapters of St. John’s gospel, beginning around Chapter 13, the allegro (“quickly and bright”) tempo of Jesus’ three-year-ministry now moves to a pace that’s much more of an adagio (“slowly, with great expression”). Let me try to lay out this striking tempo change by having you listen to what New Testament scholars refer to as Jesus’ “farewell discourse” (John 14:1-17:26).    

 “Little children, yet a little while I am with you … Where I am you cannot come.” (John 13:33)

 “I will not leave you desolate; I will come again to you.  Yet a little while, and the world will no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:18)

 “But when the Advocate [i.e. the Holy Spirit] comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father … he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:26-27) 

A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me.” 
(John 16:16)

In these chapters, that include our gospel text for this Sunday (John 15:27-28; 16:4b-24), Jesus tells his disciples everything they need to know before he leaves them.  But where’s he going? … Well, he’s going to die on a cross for one thing.  Only that’s not how Jesus tells it. The way he tells it, he’s leaving them in charge while he’s gone.  Yes, he’ll be back; but in the meantime, his “To-Do-List” is so long it raises some anxiety in the disciples about how long he’ll be away.  “A little while,” Jesus reassures them, “and you will see me.” Well …  

Yes, a few of them did … later on … after his resurrection. But … then Jesus was gone again, as he ascended into heaven – bringing our humanity back into unity with God the Father for all eternity (cf. John 17). You see, a little while became a long while.  A long while became a life time.  Ten years turned into a hundred, then five hundred, then some two thousand.  And now, from where we sit today in 2018, it’s been so long … some of us wonder if we’ve not been “left behind” like some characters in a Tim LaHaye novel and orphaned after all.

My friends, is Jesus gone or isn’t he?  If he’s gone, then where has he gone? And “what in the world” will we do without him?! (Here’s that anxiety of the disciples I mentioned earlier.) But, if he’s not gone, then where is Jesus exactly?  Why doesn’t he show himself? Give us a sign!  Right? … This week at worship, as we celebrate the “birthday of the Church” called Pentecost, Jesus will do just that. Just for you!

In the meantime … God’s grace.

j.r. christopherson
Senior Pastor

Beloved, Since God Has So Loved Us …

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“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God,
and he who loves is born of God and knows God.
He who does not love does not know God;
for God is love.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us,
that God sent his only Son into the
world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we loved God but that
[God] loved us and sent
his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved
us,
we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, 
God abides in us and his loved is perfected in us.” (I John 4:7-12; RSV)

 The letter of I John reads like a Christian midrash (interpretation or commentary) upon the Gospel of St. John. What do I mean by this? Look with me for example at I John 4:9: “In this the love of God was manifest among us, that God has sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” Sound familiar?! Yes! It’s John 3:16. Basically stated, I John 4 offers us ethical imperatives based on the theological indicatives of St. John’s Gospel. Look with me at all the ethical imperatives: “Beloved, let us love one another” (v.7, 11). “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (v. 15). “He [or she] who loves God should love [one’s] brother [or sister] also” (v.21). All of this because, why? … Look at the “heart of it all” in I John 4:16. For here’s the foundational, theological indicative: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (cf. also v.9-10)

So, the question prompted for us by our Gospel (i.e. John 15:1-8) and Epistle (i.e. I John 4:7-21) texts is this: “As Christ is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5) … how can we use this fruit or these gifts of love that God has given us … to better care for and be with those people in our lives who are suffering … who are lonely … who are broken and grieving … who are dying?” That is, “How can we, even little ol’ us, be used by our Lord Jesus Christ to touch such lives with God’s love – to serve in Jesus’ image: ‘abiding branches’ (narly as we might be) to reach out from God’s first love, for us in Christ, into a 2nd … 3rd … 4th and 5th gift of love … for our neighbor?” Life changing gifts of Christ’s Spirit through simply Listening, Being Present, or Speaking a Word of Forgiveness or Affirmation.

“Beloved, since God so loved us, let us so love one another” (I John 4:11).

 I hope to see you this weekend at either the Saturday Vespers or Sunday morning …

John Christopherson
Senior Pastor

First Lutheran Church

The Sunnier Side of Doubt

 

“Now Thomas, one of the twelve [disciples], called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus [had first appeared to the other disciples after his resurrection]. So the other disciples told [Thomas]: ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But [Thomas] said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24-25; RSV)

 

Dear Friends in Christ: from the Gospel text for this coming Sunday (John 20:19-31), the Sunday now following Easter, and the hope we’ve been given in Christ’s resurrection … now comes the famous caricature of one of Jesus’ beloved disciples: Thomas. Oh, I know we’ve labeled him. Somewhere, in some sermon, someone laid down the label, “Doubting Thomas.” And the name stuck.// And to a degree, yea, it’s true. Thomas did harbor some serious doubt. However … it’s just that there’s a whole lot more here than “meets the eye” … (John 20:29-30; cf. II Corinthians 5:7 and Hebrews 11:1). 

At our Saturday night Vespers service (5:00 p.m. in Chapel), as well as our three services this Sunday (8:00; 9:30; and 11:00 p.m. in Main Sanctuary), I’d like for us to first, give careful pause and ponder what we really mean when we talk about “doubt” and how it relates to our Christian faith. And second: to gain a deeper understanding of the “good news” that comes to us on spirited wing in the hearing of the Gospel text from John 20; that is, how our risen Savior, Jesus the Christ enters anew into all the tightly closed places of our trembling and fear-filled hearts, speaking a word of Peace be with you (John 20:19, 26; cf. Psalm 119:35f; Hebrews 6:18f)

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We’ll also be drawing upon a large canvas “study” (by local Ethiopian artist, Eyab Mergia) of Caravaggio’s classic painting, “The Incredulity of Saints Thomas.” As you look at the small posting of it here, let me ask you: “In Carvaggio’s well-known technique of chiaroscuro (Italian meaning, “light-dark”) where in the subject matter of the painting does the light appear to be emanating from?” Moreover, “Is there something striking to you here, how Thomas’ finger is placed in Jesus’ wounded, yet resurrected body?” And finally, “Don’t you find it curious that Thomas’ eyes aren’t fixed on the place where his finger is touching Jesus’ wounded side … but rather, where?” Come and see!

 

“Eight days later [Jesus’ appeared again to the disciples, but this time Thomas is with them]… Then Jesus said to Thomas: ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.’ Thomas answered him,
‘My Lord and my God!’”
(John 20:26a, 27-28)

 

j.r. christopherson
Senior Pastor

This is my body given for you

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“This is my body given for you”  
(Based on John 20:1-18)

“Where’s the body?” As though to emphasize the sheer physicality and centrality of Jesus’ resurrection, upon which the truth of the Christian faith is founded, St. John recapitulates this question three times in his Easter account (See John 20:2, 13, 15). It was just before dawn. A Sunday morning still misted by darkness … when outside the gates of Jerusalem, a heartbroken disciple of Jesus, named Mary Magdalene, entered a grave riddled garden in order to anoint Jesus’ crucified body with spices-n-oil, as was Jewish custom. But soon she’d be in for a surprise of a lifetime, and beyond …

Even though it was still dark, Mary could tell some-body had moved the large stone away from the front of Jesus’ tomb.  Had Jesus body been stolen or taken away?… His body was all she had left to hold onto and now it too was gone. “So Mary ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they’ve laid [his body]’” (John 20:2). A while later, Mary returns to Jesus’ tomb and encounters “two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain” (John 20:12). They are as compassionate as can be, asking: “Woman why are you weeping?” But, by this point, Mary must have been thinking: “Can’t SOME-BODY do something?”

And then, some-body does. The One whom Mary thinks is a gardener now asks the personal, incarnational, body-question: “For whom are you looking?” And then, this One who created the world with but a word, now brings salvation to Mary, by simply calling her name. Jesus says to her in Hebrew: ‘Mariam!’ And immediately recognizing the voice of her teacher (cf. John 10:3-4), Mary exclaims: ‘Rabboni!” In six short syllables, “Ma-ri-am” and “Rab-bo-ni” … and in just about that many seconds … the world became a different place, for Mary, for you, and for all people. Death, once final, has met its match and is un-done. There is a reality – SOME-BODY – more final than death. “This is my body,” says Jesus, “given for you” (I Corinthians 11:24).

This coming Easter Sunday, we’ll give special focus to the incarnational, fleshy sensibilities of Jesus’ resurrection; especially for our time that has sought to rationalize it as a myth, or psychologize it as a projection of guilt consciousness, or deconstruct it as merely a metaphor.  The 20th century American poet, John Updike offers us a marvelous entrée in his “Seven Stanzas At Easter.” And so, in the meantime, let me ask you: “Where in the world is Christ’s body today? And how is it ‘at hand’ … or connect, making a difference, for you?”

The Word is out! And yes, it’s for you, always …!

j.r. christopherson
Senior Pastor

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death,
so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk
in newness of life. For if we have been united with [Christ] in a death like his, we shall
certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:3-5; RSV)

Big Death, Little Death

In this weekend’s Gospel reading (John 12:20-33), Jesus makes it clear that it is only through his death and resurrection that the Father’s name will truly be glorified (v. 28), the ruler of this world will be driven out (v. 31), and he will draw all people to himself (v. 32). Jesus’ hour has now come, and he will indeed endure to the end, in order for this salvation to be accomplished. The fact that Jesus’ soul was troubled in the face of death (v. 27) is especially humbling. 

In the final weeks of my grandmother’s life, I asked her if she was afraid of dying. She said, “No. Yes. I’m not sure. It’s just that…I’ve never done it before!” Her honest response gave us a reason to hug and laugh during a difficult time. Of course our souls experience trouble in the face of death. We’ve never done it before. 

Or have we? The Apostle Paul invites us to think of it this way: because Christ has died for us, all have died already (2 Cor 5:14). In baptism, we are joined to Christ, united to him in his death – in this way Christ’s death becomes truly for us. What’s more, in baptism we are also joined to Christ’s resurrection – in this way, his new life becomes truly ours. 

 Baptism of William Van Demark

Baptism of William Van Demark

Christians can then regard baptism as their “big death.” As Paul remarks in Romans 6, a person who has already died cannot die again. Our old self has been buried with him in the waters of baptism. But the grave was not the end of Jesus’ story, nor will it be ours. Through his death and resurrection, Christ shattered the power that the “little death” of this life holds over us. 

Our eternal future is thoroughly wrapped up in his – a comforting and overwhelming thought as we come ever closer to the end of the Lenten season and approach the cross, where the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice comes into full view. Let us draw near to the word through worship, listen, and give thanks and praise.

See you in church,
Pastor Katherine

For God so loved the world

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This weekend we hear the most beloved verse of the New Testament. John 3:16 is displayed in the end-zone of football games, stuck on car bumpers and billboards across the nation, and is so well known that you barely even need to say more than "John 3:16." What could be better than to hear that God loves the world?

Well, for all of its familiarity and common use as the gospel in a nutshell, this scripture raises some very uncommon questions. What God's love entail? Is he like a kind old dog who loves his master without question? Is God's love a kind of grace that overlooks your faults and accepts you because you are trying to be your authentic self? Something about God's love is that he "gave his only son." That doesn't sound like love. And then if you go beyond to John 3:17-22, we hear all kinds of talk about judgement, condemnation, and evil. Somehow God's love is for a world that has rejected him and rebelled against him. What does love look like then?

You will have to join the community of First Lutheran this weekend to hear what it means that God loves the world, and you, with more than kind fondness. 

Pastor Lars

The Physics of Faith

“The Passover of the Jews was at hand [think Passover meal, with the lamb without blemish in Exodus 12:1-20], and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords [Jesus] drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the Temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ … ‘Destroy this Temple [they did not understand Jesus was speaking of his own body], and in three days I will raise it up’” (John 2:14-16, 19; emphasis added).

In the Gospel text for this coming weekend (John 2:13-22), we come to see how the “sacrificial system” of the Old Testament, as a way of relating to God, comes to an end. God is no longer available primarily, let alone exclusively, via the Temple. Rather, as St. John makes clear from the very opening verses of his gospel witness, that in the very person of Jesus we are invited to experience God’s “grace upon grace” (John 1:17) through our faith in him. 

Given that St. John’s gospel was written well after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans (70 A.D.), his insistence … and especially reassurance … to the early Christian community, that they will find God’s mercy in Christ outside rather than inside the Temple, makes practical as well as theological sense. So it is for us today. 

Many of us too often think of church as a destination. It’s a place we go to receive … well, spiritual things. (For example: What do you think of? God’s Word of the forgiveness of sins?  God’s Word of hope? Receiving baptism or communion?). But taking a cue from our Gospel text for this weekend (and every day!) I wonder if we’re only seeing part of the picture of the life of worship as well as faith. Worship is a the heart of the Christian faith, it’s foundational, make no mistake; however it’s also a time and place where God then sends us out into the world to bear the good news of salvation that’s been so graciously given to us in the ultimate sacrifice – once and for all in Christ Jesus, by his cross and resurrection (cf. Romans 6:10; Hebrews 10:10; I Peter 3:8).

 C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, c. 1950-56

C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, c. 1950-56

One way to illustrate this truth is by drawing upon the third book in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia – where the beloved lion, Aslan, tells the children that even after they leave the land of Narnia, they will continue to see him in the needs of others. This is key to what Jesus is teaching us still today, in our text from John 2:13-22: that we come to church, to worship, because in the proclamation of the Gospel and sharing of the sacraments we see God’s forgiveness and grace for us most clearly. But then … we are sent out to look for God and, even more, to partner with God in our various vocations or jobs (cf. Philippians 1:5; Ephesians 3:10) – to bless the people and the world that “God so loves that he even gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16) that we might have “life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  Worship and witness, these are the centripetal and centrifugal movements (remember your middle school science class?) of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, what we might call the “physics of faith.”

God’s grace to you this day, and throughout the new week. See you at worship … and … then “Go in peace and serve the Lord.”

j.r. christopherson
Senior Pastor   

Leaning Into the Promise of God’s Word

 Watanabe, Sadao, Christ Carrying the Cross, 1968.

Watanabe, Sadao, Christ Carrying the Cross, 1968.

Each of us confronts the world with all of its possibilities of gain and loss. Risk and anxiety attend our every move. Therefore, the crucial question facing all of us – in every moment – in every time and generation – is the matter of trust. What or who can we finally trust? What is our foundation for hope in the midst of “shootings and rumors of shootings”(such as the recent mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida). This is the question of existence. It is this question which gives all of life its religious dimension. In the face of such risk and insecurity we place our trust here and now there … tempted to place our trust in the ways of our own human construction and the world – of materialism, nationalism, weapons build-up, some political party or messiah figure who promises to “save the day.” But then, ashes … ashes … it all falls down.

Join us this weekend in worship, as we hear the story of Abraham and Sarah’s tested journey of faith (Genesis 17:1-7, 15-18), a story that is spirited across the generations to Jesus pointing his disciples and us toward the shadows of a cross (Mark 8:31-38), as the biblical story becomes, once more, our story (Romans 4:23). How or why ought we to trust in the promise of God’s Word, when so many other words fail us? Cross your calendars.

j.r. christopherson
Senior Pastor

Cross, Not Glory

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Over the past few weeks people have noticed that our weekly blog post has been delivered by video. Sorry to disappoint our video fans this week. These kinds of changes don’t always transition smoothly.

This week in worship we celebrate the Transfiguration of Our Lord, where before the eyes of a few disciples Jesus changes, becomes dazzling white, and begins conversing with Moses and Elijah. The sight is awe inspiring and fear inducing. And rightly so. Unlike changes in our world that take time, planning and process, the transfiguration change on that mountain was immediate. The kingdom of God overlapping the kingdom of earth. Moses and Elijah step aside and Jesus his kingdom of mercy and grace take over.

Make no mistake, however. The kingdom of God is invading the world, but not with dazzling sights and never ending mountain top experiences. Jesus’ kingdom is established on the cross. It may not be the glory we hope for, but it is the kingdom that Jesus promises us. “Listen to him!”

Pastor Lars Olson

Our Life of Faith: Living Between Christ’s First and Second Healing Touch

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The Healing Touch (1987) by Tim Holmes. Commissioned by the Physicians
for Social Responsibility as their annual PSR Peace Award.

“And Simon and those who were with him pursued Jesus, [because he had gone out of the
fishing village of Capernaum early morning, to pray]. And they found him and said to him, 
Everyone is searching for you.’  And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns,
that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.’  And [Jesus] went throughout
all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and [healing the sick].”
(Mark 1:36-39; RSV)

To set the stage for this weekend’s sermon… St. Mark’s gospel begins with the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus like the enfolding wings of a dove (as the accompanying illustration tries to express) saying: “Thou art my beloved Son” (Mark 1:10-11).  And with these “touching words” of salvation, taking-up residence now in Jesus’ life (1:1), he moves forth to begin a ministry of teaching and healing, proclaiming: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand (1:15). 

Note the strong correlation between Jesus’ touch and the healing it brings to our oft’ frail, human condition. For Jesus touches a man possessed and he’s healed (1:21-28).  Then Jesus takes Simon’s bed-ridden mother-in-law by the hand and she’s healed (1:29-31).  But how is this true for us today?  How do we experience the healing touch, the coming of God’s kingdom that is “at hand” in Jesus?  As we live by faith, between Christ’s first (now some 2000 years ago) and second touch (when he ushers in the fullness of God’s kingdom at the end of time) … let’s consider three basic responses.

A first way in which we experience Jesus’ ongoing “healing touch” in our life today is through com-passion (meaning “suffering with”; cf. Galatians 6:2).  Paul Tournier, the Swiss psychiatrist observes: “In simply being present for the other person, in simple acceptance, comes healing – no matter how great the suffering” (The Healing of Persons). Isn’t this exactly what Jesus did?  Accepting people – breaking-in from the outside – reaching-out to them – no matter their condition?

But now, secondly, where can this strength of compassion come from when we’re so banged-up ourselves?! Jesus leads us to the well-spring for this strength and renewal, as he himself seeks out a quiet place in gospel text (Mark 1:35; also 6:46, 14:32) … to pray … to stay in touch with the One who “knows our every weakness” (cf. Hebrews 4:14-16), the One who is the source of all strength and life.  Yes, Christ’s “healing touch” is always there for us in prayerful solitude.  And so we, with the early disciples ask Jesus where his power comes from; yes, “teach us how to pray’ (Luke 11:1-4).

A third and concluding way in which we experience Christ’s ongoing “healing touch” is through his sacraments.  So … what is a sacrament?  It is a means of God’s grace through which Christ promises 1) to be present; and 2) to forgive sin.  As Martin Luther observes: “Where there is forgiveness of sin, there is life and salvation” (Small Catechism; cf. I Peter 2:4).  Forgiveness and healing go together (cf. Mark 2:5; John 5:14).  And thus, this weekend as we come together for Holy Communion with open hands, needing the healing touch of Jesus, we hear his gentle voice saying to us: “Feel my real presence here in this bread and wine … for it is my body given for you, my blood shed for you … for the forgiveness of sin”  (I Corinthians 11:24-25).

The wonder and power of this sacramental “healing touch” was so moving for the ancient church father, St. Ignatius, that he professed: “The Lord’s Supper is the antidoton, the “antidote” for death (antidoton to me apothanein; see Paul Tillich’s A History of Christian Thought, p.23).

See you at worship this weekend as we gather around God’s healing touch of Holy Communion together with the “communion of saints.”  The peace of Christ be with you.

Dr. John Christopherson
Senior Pastor