Monthly Archives: April 2015

To Be A Martyr

Reeb-plaqueEaster 4B – To Be A Martyr

Acts 6,7

April 26, 2015

As we continue our way through the book of Acts

during these weeks of Easter,

today we hear some of the story of Stephen –

the first person (and only the first)

who wound up following his shepherd all the way to death.

The first Christian martyr – “proto-martyr” as he is known as.

In hindsight, Stephen probably could have prevented what happened.

From how Luke, the writer of Acts writes about it

Stephen just didn’t have any tact.

He could have used more ‘emotional intelligence.’

I got an email from VOICE the interfaith community organizing group in our area

that they have some trainings coming up.

Their promotional material says that the trainings will

“teach the art and the craft of the relational meeting.”

Stephen could have used some training in community organizing.

His relational skills needed a little work.

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Just Say It

say itA number of years ago, after witnessing an interaction with her daughter, I said to a friend of mine, “You’re a good mother.” She burst into tears.

Last week, in a conversation with another friend of mine whose voice was weak and breath labored as she was in the final stages of cancer, I mentioned, “You have been such a loving pastor.” Her voice immediately brightened and she said, “You think so? You really think so?”

I don’t know why I don’t share the good that I see in the people I love more often.

All day long most of us hear plenty of words telling us that we don’t measure up. Words that say we ought to be someone different or do something differently. Words like, “Why do you always _______,” or “Why can’t you just __________?” or “You should _______ .”

Sometimes these words come from others and sometimes they come from within ourselves.

It is a gift to hear words of encouragement from our friends. Tell them. Just say it. It may mean more than you realize.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

In Their Words

photo (10)

In Their Words

The day after Thanksgiving may be “Black Friday” to some, but to others it is unofficially known as the “National Day of Listening.” It’s a day when we are encouraged to set aside some time to listen and record the stories of our family, friends, and neighbors.

Yesterday became a “Day of Listening” at Good Shepherd. During our “Young in Heart” senior ministry program, we listened to stories from the twenty or so men and women who gathered in our dining room.

It was a remarkable afternoon.

We heard funny stories of embarrassing moments (meeting Bobby Kennedy); inspiring stories filled with hope (studying for a GED); quirky stories of life in the 50’s (refrigerating clothing!); sad stories of life in the midst of segregation (not being allowed in Del Ray after 6pm); and important stories of history seldom told (visiting the gravesites of family members who were George Washington’s slaves).

When you have 15 minutes, check out a clip of the video on YouTube here:

These are important stories for all of us to hear!

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

All New Episode!

tvEaster 2B: All New Episode!

Acts 4:32-35

April 12, 2015

One of the most difficult things I do as pastor…

is figuring out what to put on our sign outdoors!

I wonder what would happen if we advertised Sunday services more like TV shows?

I smiled a bit when I saw the trailer for this week’s installment of the NBC series AD:

“We saw him die for what he believed in.

Jesus returns in an all new episode Sunday at 9/8 Central”

There’s something amusing about that

because most of us are not expecting something all that new today at

8:30 or 9:45 or 11am (10 Central).

We’re expecting something familiar.

We’re expecting something more like a re-run after sweeps week is over perhaps.

This year, though,

this Sunday after Easter,

let’s listen with new ears.

Let’s imagine that we have come here

sitting on the edge of our seats,

anticipating what’s going to happen next!!

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Heard A Good Joke Lately?

laughHeard A Good Joke Lately?

So Mary Magdalene pounds on the door, and Peter opens up. She says, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.” Peter and the rest say, “give us some good news–we could really use it.” Mary says “Christ is Risen!” The disciples are jumping up and down, hollering–finally Mary says, “Don’t you want to hear the bad news?” Peter says, “Sure, I mean what can be so bad after that ?!” Mary said, “He’s really, really ticked off about what happened to you guys Thursday night”

In 15th century Bavaria, churches celebrated the Sunday after Easter as “Risus Paschalis” (“God’s joke” or the “Easter laugh”). Priests would include funny stories and jokes in their sermons – and then after the service, priests and parishioners would play practical jokes on each other, throw water on each other (!), sing, tell jokes, and dance.

It was their way of celebrating the resurrection of Christ. Early church theologians including Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom wrote about Easter in terms of the great “joke” that God played on the powers of evil by raising Jesus from the dead.

Perhaps we haven’t heard much about Risus Paschalis because it was outlawed by Pope Clement X in the 17th century.

But theologians and philosophers have continued to be struck by the connection between humor and faith. A mentor of mine, John Ellsworth Winter, wrote his doctoral dissertation on the topic,[i] noting Reinhold Niebuhr’s understanding, “Humor is in fact prelude to faith, and laughter is the beginning of prayer…”[ii]

There is a certain vulnerability in telling a joke (Will others find it as funny as I do?) just as there is a certain vulnerability in sharing a story of faith (Will others find it as meaningful as I do?).

If you’re like me, you’re a bit uncomfortable sharing your stories of faith with people you don’t know very well: the places you’ve seen God, the persons in whom you’ve met the risen Christ.

Maybe telling a joke is a prelude to sharing a story of faith. What’s a good joke you’ve heard lately? Tell me – I’d like to hear it!

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

[i] Winter, John Ellsworth, “Humor and Faith,” Temple University, 1969.

[ii] Niebuhr, Reinhold, Discerning The Signs  Of The Times.  N.Y.” Scribner’s, 1946. pp. 111, 120-121, 130-131.

Waiting For Resurrection

three womenEaster B – Waiting For Resurrection

April 5, 2015

Mark 16:1-8

“So they went out and fled from the tomb,

for terror and amazement had seized them;

and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

The End.

That’s it for Mark’s gospel.

Handel’s Messiah is not based on Mark’s version of Easter.

No one is singing the Hallelujah Chorus that first Easter day according to Mark.

For Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome,

that first Easter is not about

alleluias, or joy, or wonder, or excitement…

It is about fear!

The women are not running to tell the other disciples the good news.

They are, in fact, frightened into silence.

It’s not a very satisfactory ending.

(We got all dressed up for that?)

Jesus doesn’t appear to anyone after his resurrection in this gospel.

Mark has no interest in trying to ‘prove’ the resurrection.

Continue reading

Doing Good To Us

Doing Good To Us

Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche communities once wrote,

Many of us have been taught…that we should ‘do good to’ the poor.

The gospel message tells us that it is the poor who do good to us.


John lives in Manassas with his wife and three young children. The family was homeless until five months ago. Now they’ve settled into their apartment, John has a job, the children are in school, the boys have signed up for tee ball and their daughter has signed up for soccer.  As I was sitting in the living room, a neighbor girl knocked at the door to see if John’s daughter could come to her house for a playdate.

John tells me all this proudly and then he looks down and says, “We just can’t lose this!”

His fear is real. Yesterday his car – the car which gives him transportation to work – was re-possessed. Yesterday he received a final notice from the utility company. Yesterday his landlord sent him a text saying that if he didn’t have $1160 in back rent and fines, he’ll be evicted.

It seemed overwhelming to me – but it wasn’t to John.

John has a plan. He’s taking the bus to work until he can get a car loan which he’ll pay weekly. He asked Good Shepherd for help in paying his utility bill. He’s saved up enough money for April’s rent, and he’s convinced that if he can just get help to pay the back rent, he’ll be on track once again.

I don’t know where John’s hope comes from. John is living Good Friday with a heart which can see Easter.

Many of us have been taught that we should ‘do good to’ the poor. The gospel message tells us that is the poor who do good to us.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen