Love my what? My neighbor!?

June 18, 2017
Luke 10:25-31       

You and I came through the season of Lent together just a few weeks ago.  Together, we remembered the time when – just before the final week of his earthly life – Jesus set out for Jerusalem – and the cross.

Of course Jesus couldn’t book a flight for the trip.  Nor could he take a bus or a train.  And he didn’t own a donkey.  So he and his followers walked.  And as they walked – Jesus taught the folks who gathered around him.  It was important – that final teaching of his life.  Luke thought it was.  He devotes the central ten chapters of his Gospel to those sermons.

The road Jesus walked took him and his friends through Samaria.  Through unfriendly territory.  But even in Samaria – Jesus was known as a powerful teacher.  So the locals sought him out.  And Jesus engaged with them in his usual give-and-take conversational manner.  No lesson plans.  No manuscripts.  He just walked.  And talked.  Asked questions.  Answered questions.  And he told stories.  Mini-stories, really.  What we call parables.  Continue reading

The Bird is the Word

Message for May 14,2017
By John Kuemmerlin
I, obviously, have never been a mother, but it looks really easy… except for the whole
kid thing.  All they have to do is carry a child for 9 months, nurturing it with their very bodies,
give birth, and provide a loving atmosphere for the child throughout it’s life, despite her own
sickness or fatigue.  Just for fun, they make their husband change diapers and help with bath time.  Yes, we do our share!  Luckily, it’s not a super large share.  OK, maybe it’s not ​that
​ easy to be a mother.

Moms are seldom a burden on the family, traditionally running errands, getting kids
ready for school, providing meals.  Often, it is the mother of a family who also sets the model of
acceptable behavior for the family.  That’s how it was in my family.

Let’s read together from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians,  with which he attempted
to reassure them his abrupt departure in the face of a Roman threat was not an abandonment.  He was trying to show the Christians struggling to grow in their faith there the same love and
nurturing a mother would her child. Continue reading

The Particle Son

Luke 15:1-32
By Al Smith

Once again, I am honored to be here today.  But I have to admit that it’s a bitter-sweet honor, because today I’m not really filling in for Pastor Jo.  Sadly, Pastor Jo gave her last message last week.  You may remember that during some of her messages, Pastor Jo would talk about God giving us a “new normal”, or like last week when she talked about “going thru opened doors.”  She said that sometimes we can prepare for a “new normal’ and sometimes they sneak up on us.  Sometimes, they are welcome, and sometimes they are not.

 Our Church is moving into a new normal, whether we like it or not.  We cannot look forward to hearing Pastor Jo next Sunday.  I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I’m not too crazy about that idea.  We will certainly miss listening to her.  But we will always remember her insights, her wisdom, and her inspiration.  Thank you, Pastor Jo! Continue reading

The Past Perfect Tense

Eckert Presbyterian Church
April 30, 2017

 Back when I was a forty-one year-old freshman at what is now Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction – I elected to take a course in ancient Greek literature.  Now mind you – at that point I had no particular longing to know more about ancient Greece – but that course happened to fill one of my degree requirements.  Certainly I had no idea at the time that I was walking through a door God was holding open for me.                               

One of the folks I met on the other side of that opened door was a Grand Junction native and a Greek scholar – Dr. John Ziegel.  Dr. Ziegel was the son of a Grand Junction doctor.  He’d been a Fulbright scholar to Greece in his youth and he’d made Greek history and Greek culture the center of his professional life.  So when he felt a need to be closer to his aging mother – Dr. Ziegel brought his knowledge of Greek history and language back to Grand Junction and Colorado Mesa University.                              Continue reading

The Way of Sanctification

JOHN 17:10-19
Eckert Presbyterian Church
April 23, 2017

 Back when I began seminary, there was a story that was making its way around campus.  The story went something like this:  On the first day of preschool, the teacher gave a sheet of paper and a handful of crayons to each child.  “Use your colors to make me a picture of your favorite thing,” she said.  One little boy in the front row began at once.  He bent over his desk – clamped his tongue  between his teeth – and began to apply broad strokes of color to his paper.  The teacher was intrigued by his intensity and his confidence. Finally – she approached him. So – tell me about your picture.” “I’m drawing a picture of God,” the little guy said.  Very tactfully – the teacher smiled. “Of course – no one really knows how God looks,” she said.  The boy never hesitated.  “They will when I get done.”

During the weeks of this Lenten season – you and I have been remembering Jesus as he made his way to Jerusalem.  And the cross.  I imagine most of us have worked to understand the kind of grace and resolve – the kind of raw courage it took Jesus to move with such determination toward his own death.  And I have to confess that every time I make this walk with Jesus – I long to understand more about  him.  I think I’m caught somewhere between our doubtful preschool teacher – and her driven student.  I’ve been a follower of Jesus since I was five years old – so I know that you and I can’t fully understand Jesus until we meet him face to face.  Maybe not even then.  Yet I also know that each time you and I understand something new about Jesus – we not only grow in knowledge.  Our relationship with Jesus is also enriched.  Continue reading

The Way of Life

JOHN 21:1-19
Resurrection Sunday
April 16, 2017
Eckert Presbyterian Church

“Who is this Jesus?”  Wherever you were in first-century – whoever you were with – fishermen – carpenters – tax collectors – prostitutes – the religious elite – Roman soldiers – everyone seemed to be asking that question about an unassuming traveling rabbi.                                                
We still ask the question.  Oh – we know he was a teacher.  We know he was said to be the son of a Galilean carpenter.  Yet he also seemed to be a man of deep knowledge.  A man whose ideas about religion and society seemed revolutionary.  He taught with unfailing energy.  He healed lifelong invalids – or hopelessly ill folks.  He healed them with a word.  A touch.  And even today – the question is still out there.  Who is this Jesus?                Continue reading

Peter’s Way

Luke 22:54-62
Palm Sunday
April 9, 2017

In the summer of my eleventh year – I experienced for the first time the consequences of trying to manipulate the circumstances of my life.  During that summer my mom and dad began to talk about getting a divorce.  By August – they had determined who would live where – what belongings each would take – when my brother Duane and I would spend time with each of them.  The world – as I had always known it – was coming to an end.  But – with a child’s belief in magical – “happily-ever-after” endings – I put together a strategy which – I believed – would preserve my world. 

First – I volunteered to help my dad clean the garage.  And as we chatted – I mentioned – casually – that my mother really didn’t want a divorce.  That she wanted to make the marriage work.  Then – that same week – while I was helping my mother do the supper dishes – I mentioned – casually – that Daddy really didn’t want a divorce.  That he wanted to make the marriage work.  And after that – I sat back for several days and waited for the happily-ever-after magic to happen.                                                                                Continue reading

The Way of Suffering

LUKE 22:39-46
Eckert Presbyterian Church
April 2, 2017
The Fifth Sunday of Lent

In 1960 – on his fortieth birthday – my dad learned that he had Hodgkins Disease.  Now in 1960 – doctors had very few treatment options for Hodgkins – and they had no way to defeat the disease.  So my dad’s diagnosis was a death sentence.  And I did not deal well with the news.  My dad was the first love of my life.  He was 16 years old when I was born, so he was always more a friend than a parent.  And after my mother died – Daddy was the center of my life.  So – as the disease progressively invaded Daddy’s body – I fought my grief with anger.  Anger at the disease.  Anger at losing both my parents so early.  Anger at God.

The August before Daddy died – six years after his diagnosis – he and Elsie – my stepmother – drove to Colorado for what Daddy knew would be his final visit.  We took a picnic to Daddy’s favorite place near the summit of Owl Creek Pass.  He was so weak that we had to help him to the big rock in the meadow where he always liked to sit.  His tumors limited his appetite – so he nibbled at his food.  And as I watched him – I was overwhelmed again by a terrible sense of loss.  And shock.  And disbelief.  Disbelief because Daddy and Elsie were laughing together.  They were admiring the wildflowers.  They were throwing crumbs to an aggressive scrub jay – or Camp Robber.  Watching them – my pain got bigger than I could bear.  But – again – I converted my grief into anger.                                            Continue reading

The Way of Love

JOHN 13:21-38
The Fourth Sunday of Lent
Eckert Presbyterian Church
March 26, 2017

Remember Hurricane Katrina?  Remember how we all watched with horror as the levees that had protected the city of New Orleans for decades were breached by raging oceanic winds and waves?  Remember how you and I prayed for people stranded in waters choked by raw sewage and dead bodies?  Remember how thankful we were when even one survivor was pulled into a boat and taken to safety?  We donated money and food – and felt better because we were doing something.  Bottom line – for weeks the people of New Orleans and the gulf states were the focus of our prayers and concern.    
But as the survivors found shelter and he crisis eased into cleanup and rehabilitation – we took a step back.  And we shook our heads and marveled that a city the size of New Orleans had flourished for so many years on land that is largely below sea level.  “How could those aging levees have functioned so long and so well?” some of us asked.  “Well – maybe good things will come out of this tragedy,” we concluded – nodding our heads wisely.  “Maybe the folks down there will rebuild – but on higher, safer ground.  That way they can hold onto the charm of their old way of life, but they won’t set themselves up for another disaster like this.”                                                                                                                                                        
We weren’t surprised then when the folks in New Orleans asked the federal government to help them finance their rebuilding efforts.  But we were stunned when we realized that they were planning to build new levees on the old sites.  Still below sea level.  And at that point – some of us got downright judgmental.                                                                                        Continue reading

The Way of Self-Denial

MARK 8:31-38
The Third Sunday of Lent
Eckert Presbyterian Church
March 19, 2017

Our family’s summer vacation was a really big deal at our house when I was growing up.  Planning for that trip usually began in the spring when Daddy pulled out the maps from vacations past and unfolded them on the kitchen table.  Then we gathered around to talk about – what seemed to me to be – our biggest annual decision:  Where do we go the last two weeks in August? (Okay – this was in the olden days when school began the week after Labor Day) .                                                                           

Now remember – because the hot plateau country around Lubbock was home – the cool green mountains of Colorado were almost always irresistible.  And Grand Mesa – back when the roads to and through the mesa were unpaved – back when camping was primitive and fishing was good – Grand Mesa almost always got our vote as the half-way point of our trip.  And that’s where our planning ended.  At the half-way point.                       Continue reading