Sunday, April 26, 2020

Walking Into Our Change; Sermon on Acts 3:1-6

Rev. George Miller
April 26, 2020
Acts 3:1-6

Teachers are essential.

Regardless if you’re talking about math, home economics, or music, teachers are essential.

Teachers care about their students, they challenge us to be better, and they pass on knowledge that is necessary for any community thrive.

I think back to my Creative Writing teacher, Mr. Posner.

It was he who told us that if you wanted to be a good writer you had to know the Bible, because the Bible influenced so much of literature.

It was because of Mr. Posner that I began to read the Bible. Originally, it was to hone my craft. Eventually it was to hone my heart.

The stories in the Bible spoke to me. They inspired, providing a road map for how to live, overcome, have hope.

Two biblical stories left their footprints upon my spirit.

The 1st is about Abraham and Sarah- an elderly couple with no children who were told by God to “Get up and Go!”

They were given the promise of home, family, and the ability to bless others.

So they went.

They had many adventures, met many people, and made many mistakes.

Eventually the promises of land, children and blessings came true.

The 2nd story is the crossing of the Red Sea. It features Moses leading his brothers and sisters into a new life.

As the enemy approaches, they come across an impassible body of water. With death a certainty, the people cry out to God.

God hears, God acts, God speaks. “Do not be afraid, stand firm, watch as I fight for you.”

God parts the waters, and the people walk through, stepping into freedom.

There are countless other stories in the Bible that inspire:

The widow who feeds Elijah with a jar of ingredients that never runs out.

Queen Esther who risks her life to speak out for the sake of her people.

Today’s reading featuring the apostles.

Here we have Peter and John after the Resurrection. A new reality has begun.

Thanks to the Holy Spirit they are now empowered to do all the things they saw Jesus do- feed the hungry, show compassion, and offer gifts of healing.

On their way into the Temple they meet a guy who is crippled. He asks for alms, but they have something else in mind- “In the name of Jesus, stand. Walk.”

Offering their brother an arm, the man gets to his feet, and the 1st thing he does is walk into House of Worship, stepping and singing praises to God.

Sarah and Abraham. The Crossing of the Red Sea. A beggar made well.

These stories teach us that even when you think you’ve come to the end of your story, God has another chapter.

That even when you come to certain defeat, God can find a way through.

They teach us that even when we feel helpless, God has a way to raise us up.

Thank God for these stories, Thank God for Mr. Posner who made sure my 7th grade self knew these scriptures.

Teachers are essential. After all, Jesus was a teacher.

If you noticed, these three stories all feature something similar- walking.

All 3 stories are about people who are “here” but God brings them “there.”

They are about people who get up and go get their blessing, who cross a sea to enter into freedom, and step into a sanctuary to get their praise on.

All three feature traveling, walking, dancing folk whose lives are forever changed, and nothing is ever the same.

…If you noticed, one of the narratives this week is people realizing that even after this pandemic ends, things will never be the same.

There is much lament going on.

Will we no longer be able to greet one another with hugs and handshakes? Will we no longer sit side by side in restaurants and movie theaters?

We’ve hearing it again and again- “We’ll never be able to go back to the way things were.”

This is true. But this is the very essence of life.

Things always change. Nothing stays the same.

After the Corona virus is done ravaging the globe, our lives will be different.

Things we loved will be lost. Things that needed to go will be gone.

Just as our world adapted to life after the Revolutionary War, the Industrial Revolution, and James Bond going blonde, we will too.

We have no choice.

But we can choose how we will respond and adapt to the change.

Change is how we grow. It’s how we improve. Change allows us to let go of what no longer works and to embrace what does.

One thing we can do is to look towards the stories of our faith, to remember the tales of our spiritual ancestors.

We can recall the stories of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the Israelites, the apostles and the crippled man.

We can find inspiration in how they
Stepped forward.
Stepped through.
Stepped inside.

For all of them, change took place; that was the point.

When Abraham and Sarah answered the call to get up and go, it was to receive blessings, not to return to Haran as a childless couple.

When the Israelites walked through the Red Sea it was to enter the Promised Land, not to step back into slavery.

When the lame man was given the gift to get up and walk ahead, he did not sit back down and beg.

Instead he entered the Temple, praising God.

Friends and family, from California to Michigan, Highlands County to Long Island,

right now, you may feel like you are crippled, stuck in place, unable to do anything because of what’s happening.

But we are encouraging you to trust. To believe. That one day, one day…

We are ALL going to walk again; we are ALL going to get back on our feet.

With God we will get through this; we will get to the other side; we will re-enter the sanctuaries.

We won’t be the same. We can’t be the same. We’re not supposed to be the same.

But know this- Christ is walking with us every step of the way.

We may feel crippled, we may feel defeated. But we are not.

We are walking with the Lord every step of the way.


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Narrative Lectionary Bible Study; Acts 3:1-6

Emmanuel UCC Narrative Lectionary Bible Study
April 21, 2020
Acts 3:1-6
Rev. George Miller

Welcome to all. A reminder of some basic tips-
1) It’s Ok to have beliefs challenged. No one knows it all.
2) What kind of Bible are you using- translation or interpretation?
3) Don’t be afraid to ask “Is this fact and this truth

Brief History: Acts is written by same author of Luke; a sequel if you will, perhaps written in the 90’s CE. We’re witnessing how this new thing called “Church” is coming about, empowered by the Holy Spirit. The author of Luke/Acts is fond of healing stories; 17 healing stories appear in Luke. In Acts, the healing is done by the apostles, but it is the name of Jesus that is used as the source of healing. The name represents the source of power behind it.

Today’s reading a is a perfect example of “Do I think this story is a fact and happened exactly as reported OR do I think this story is truth, teaching us a lesson?” Is it possible the man was healed but didn’t have the exact response as reported in verses 7-10?

Does this story remind you of anything from the Old Testament? Can you think of other stories that involved walking? Other stories that involved healing? Do you recall the words of the prophet Isiah 35:6 and do you think this may have had an influence on Acts 3?

Happy Study and be blessed! -Pastor George

Monday, April 20, 2020

Scriptures For a Time Like This; Exodus 16

Dear Sisters and Brothers In Christ,

Today's scripture is Exodus 16- the "manna" of heaven that rains down upon the Israelites in the wilderness.  Like the Red Sea crossing, it is a story long beloved and believed by the faithful; a testimony to the generosity of God, the abundance of creation, and that miracles do happen.

Miracles are beautiful to behold.  Miracles are like a metaphysical "muscle."  The more one experiences miracles, the more one looks for miracles; the more one sees miracles, the more one experiences miracles.

Sometimes God uses us to bring a miracle of "manna" upon another.  Today was a perfect experience.  
After The Shepherd's Pantry ended, we had about 50 pounds of left-over potatoes. Not knowing what to do, it was decided to bring them to The New Testament Mission on Sebring Parkway/Lemon.

We drove to the Mission, came up to their kitchen and offered the potatoes.  Michelle, the cook, came outside, all excited.  "Just 30 seconds ago I was telling the crew that we had everything ready for dinner, but we just needed potatoes, and right after I said that, you popped your head in the window!"

What a wonderful experience; what a miracle to behold!  Thanks to everyone's generosity, not only did we feed over 100 families at The Shepherd's Pantry, but we helped feed a large number of community members downtown who are currently without a home.

Little Miracles do indeed happen every day!

Be blessed, Pastor George

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Just a Rag-Tag Group of Folk Doing Something So New; Sermon on Acts 1:3-8

Rev. George Miller
April 19, 2020
Acts 1:3-8

The pomp of Palm Sunday is over. The pain of Good Friday is gone. The joy of the Resurrection is now here!

Christ is not dead; He is alive!

It is God- giver of the Commandments and the call to do justice- who has raised him!

Christ has been with his followers for 40 days, sharing meals and giving instructions. Now, they are empowered to go out into the world and do all the things they saw Jesus do.

This rag-tag group of disciples, trying to figure out something so new, so different during a time of unrest.

The followers of Jesus are about to do what has never been done before- to be CHURCH, to be the Body of Christ.

At a time when others are worshipping the Roman Emperor as a god; at a time in which others are praying to Zeus,

this rag-tag group of misfits are uniting around a person they call Jesus.

These women and men are gathering in small groups, in private homes.

They’re having potlucks, sharing stories, saying prayers, and recalling the work of Christ-

the one who met them in Galilee, who told them to care for the least of these.

He showed them how to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

He was the one who said to them, “When you feed the hungry, welcome a stranger, you are doing it for me.”

Think of this rag-tag group of folk, and just how unqualified they were.

Peter, a fisherman who denied Jesus 3 times.

Martha, who always seemed to do too much and had too many worries.

Nathaniel who was found sitting under a tree, so alone.

Before the resurrection none of them seemed to really know what to do.

They never seemed to “get it.”

They often found themselves dealing with their own disbelief and their own namby-pamby infighting.

Yet these are the same folk Christ is entrusting to go about doing God’s work and creating Citizens of Heaven.

Imagine how early church recruitment must have went.

It’s the early 30’s when many are worshipping the temperamental Zeus or think that snakes are the path to righteousness.

Along comes these working-class men and women, many of them still smelling like the fishing boats they came off of,

inviting you to come to their home to have a meal in which you can learn about some guy.

A guy named Jesus who was born illegitimately, slept in a manger, and never got married.

A guy, who at 30 years-old walked around the county, hung out with street people, ate meals with employees of foreign governments.

Oh, and get this- this Jesus spends a lot of his time around the sick, no gloves, no face mask, or social distancing.

He’s touching people with skin diseases, rubbing mud in folks’ eyes, letting women cry all over his feet.

He was given the death penalty, and died feeling utterly alone. Oh, and 3 days later he was resurrected, appearing as different folk to different people.

Does that sound like an invitation you would jump on?

Does it sound like there was any chance at all of this new thing called “church” taking off?

And yet, thanks to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, thanks to the tenacity of God, that is exactly what happened.

Somehow, some way, this rag-tag group of unmanageable men and women become the ones in their city who are known for feeding the hungry and supplying fresh water to the thirsty.

The earliest Christians became known as the ones who stayed behind and cared for the sick when all the followers of Zeus and snakes were too afraid to.

The first members of the church, with no guidebook or Zoom Conference calls, found their own way to visit those in prison and hand out clothes.

At a time in which Rome’s emperor kept saying “Me, Me, Me” the earliest Christians were calling one another “Sister” and “Brother”.

At a time in which citizens were always under the threat of enemy attack, the followers of Christ said “You will find comfort in the Kingdom of God.”

Today we are living in uncertain times, figuring out how to do something so completely different.

We are also a rag-tag group of folk trying to figure out the new norms and ways to be.

Sisters and Brothers in Christ- let us not lose faith, let us not lose sight.

Let us be willing to believe that just as the earliest Christians were able to figure it out, so will we.

It will take patience; it will take asking for and the giving of grace.

It will take doing the work of the Resurrected Christ and welcoming the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

We will get through. We will continue to be Emmanuel.

The challenge is at hand; in faith and strength we’ll stand.

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Narrative Lectionary Bible Study for 04 14 20; Acts 1:1-14

Emmanuel UCC Narrative Lectionary Bible Study
Rev. George Miller

April 14, 2020
Acts 1:1-14

Welcome to our weekly N.L.B.S. Remember-
1) All thoughts are welcome; no one knows it all.
2) There are many, many kinds of Bibles
3) There is fact and there is truth.
4) It’s Ok when beliefs are challenged; wrestling with your faith is a cornerstone of Christianity.

Take a moment to read Sunday’s text, Acts 1:1-14
Take a breath to clear your head.

1st thing you may ask is “Who is Theophilus?”
2nd thing you may ask is “What did the Resurrected Christ do for those 40 days?”

Now, let’s do some history. Acts is written by the same author of Luke; a sequel of sorts. Whereas Mark was written during 70 CE as the city was being destroyed, Luke/Acts was perhaps written around 90 CE. The Temple has been long gone and the church is still in early formation.

Acts is a beautiful, exciting, inspiring book about how this rag tag group of disciples who were often stumbling over themselves and being perpetual Left Sharks somehow, someway were able to do the ministry of Christ on God’s earth, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Now, to answer the above two questions.

The author is writing to Theophilus. But no one knows who this historical Theophilus is.

It turns out that Theophilus means “Lover of God” or/and “Beloved Of God.”

Here is what’s so cool- some scholars believe that WE are all Theophilus; that the author was not writing to one person, but to all people, in all times, in all places, in all circumstances.

Meaning that WE are ALL Theophilus! Beloved of God/Love of God.

2nd- What did the resurrected Christ do for those 40 days? Most likely what Jesus did best- he ate and drank!

Though not all Bibles have it, there are copies of the scripture that reads in vs. 4 “While Jesus was eating with them, he ordered them not to leave…”

How cool is that? And how much more so does it validate the importance the ability to share a meal and partake in the Lord’s Supper really is.

Well, this is enough for now. I hope you have a safe day and happy wrestling.

May today’s study be a blessing to you.
Much love, Pastor George

Monday, April 13, 2020

Finding Christ In Our Home; Facing Our Fear; Sermon on Mark 16:1-8a

Rev. George Miller
April 12, 2020
Mark 16:1-8a

Today we have Mark’s account of the Resurrection. It’s very short, does not feature Christ, and doesn’t end in shouts of Hallelujah!

Instead, it features three women running away in fear.

Modern scholars agree that this is the original ending to Mark’s Gospel; the additional verses were added centuries later.

People often wonder why Mark would tell his Easter story this way.

Why would he tell us that Christ has been raised, but not show us Christ?

First, some history- Mark was written during a time when his city was under attack, and lives were being destroyed.

People were afraid, surrounded by chaos and death. Life had been turned upside down and the Temple where they worshipped was no more.

It’s believed that Mark was telling the story of Jesus to empower his community, to show them how they can face their sufferings the way Jesus did.

If this is the case, perhaps Mark did not want to create a lavish technicolor telling of the Resurrection- perhaps he felt that it would ring false for people living in black and greys.

Perhaps Mark used the emotions his community were experiencing-

grief, alarm, and the need to prepare.

Mark ends with the women being afraid, but fear is not necessarily a terrible thing.

Often time we like to place a judgement on an emotion, label something good or bad.

But emotions are not bad or good, they are just…emotions.

Think of fear in its purest form- an intuitive gift.

In nature, fear is the awareness that something is not right or the sense that danger is nearby.

In this context, fear can keep us safe.

Fear keeps us from walking down a path we’re better off avoiding.

Fear keeps us away from those who intend to do us great harm.

In today’s pandemic, fear can be the very thing that makes you wash your hands, or resist group gatherings, thus keeping you safe.

Fear can also be a great fuel.

Here’s a secret you may not know- every actor, singer, musician, public speaker carries with them great fear right before they do whatever it is they do.

But they learn how to harness that fear, redirect it and shape it into their art.

Those who made strides for human rights have faced great fears.

The suffragettes of the 1800s, the Civil Rights of the 60’s, the teachers demonstrating last year- they all had moments of fear.

That’s the reason why they do what they do.

They take their woes of the present, couple it with their worries about tomorrow, and use that fear to advocate for change.

Think about all the people right now who are dealing with the Corona virus-

-the grocery store and fast food employees, medical staff, politicians, worship leaders, church administrators, pastors, and food pantry volunteers.

They are all afraid as well.

But they are learning how to harness that fear, and find ways to safely-

serve, care, feed, and calm.

And they do so by also caring for themselves.

So yes, today’s reading is short, and it focuses on fear, but it also does something beautiful-

it tells the women, it tells the disciples, it tells US, to go back to Galilee, where Christ will meet us.

Why Galilee?

Well, Galilee is where we first met Jesus in Mark’s Gospel.

Second, Galilee is where the women and disciples came from.

Galilee was their home turf.

Maybe, just maybe, what we are being told is this-

Do you want to see where the Resurrected Christ is?

Do you really want to know where the Resurrected Christ can be found?

Look in your homes.

Christ is in your homes, even if you don’t realize it.

The Resurrected Christ can be found at your dining room table, where you gather to eat, drink and share your meals.

The Resurrected Christ is in your living room, where you gather as one.

Christ is in your bedroom where you sleep, dream, where you make love, and where you rest when you don’t feel well.

Christ is in your yard, your garden, your birdfeeder, the sounds of bees that are collecting nectar.

Christ is in your pets, the way they love on you, depend on you, and the way they comfort you.

Christ is in your relationships. Your children, your spouse, the family and friends.

Christ is even in you.

In your hopes, your goals, your heart.

If we wish to find the Resurrected Christ, we don’t have to leave our home. We can look around, take notice, and see.

Perhaps today we can be mindful and grateful of the ways in which Christ’s grace and mercy dwells in our home.

For those whose homes are not a place of peace or comfort, we pray that Christ finds a way to bring the calm and safety you deserve.

For those currently in transition or without a home, we pray that Christ moves through this moment to bring you to a place in which you can comfortably rest your head.

When this pandemic ends, and we are free to leave our homes, may we give thanks for the shelter our homes provided, the space they gave, and the ways in which Christ was present.

As Psalm 23 states “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

May the Resurrected Lord dwell in your homes during this time.

May each and every one of us find ways to channel our fears,

turning them into testimonies of how life, and not death, will have the final say.

Amen and amen.

Scriptures For A Time Like This #8; Exodus 14

Dear Beloved Community- Blessed Easter! Christ has risen!
Today's reading is the cinematic Exodus 14- the glorious parting of the Red Sea.  This scripture has stood the test of time and inspired millions of people throughout millennia.
Why?  Because it speaks about a powerful truth so many of the faithful know and have personally experienced- when our back is against the walls of water, when danger is in pursuit, when it seems like there is absolutely no way out, when fear and trembling and in-fighting takes over- God is still able to act, to do, to surprise...and to get us to the other side.  
But note this- it took action from Moses to make it happen. It took action and profound bravery from the people to take that first step through the parted sea.
Was it easy?  Heck no!  Were there terrified people, muddy sandals, broken cart wheels, cries of fear and what was left behind?  Yes.  But through God, with God, and with one another, the people made it through even when death and destruction were a sure thing.
Friends and family- WE WILL get through. It's not going to be easy, it will be scary, there will be mud and brokenness and tears, but with God, through God, we will make it through these Red Sea waters and come out on the other side.  Amen!  Love, Pastor George

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Narrative Lectionary Bible Study for 04 07 20; Mark 16:1-8a

Emmanuel UCC Narrative Lectionary Bible Study
Rev. George Miller

April 7, 2020
Mark 16:1-8a

Welcome to our #3 Narrative Lectionary Bible Study. Remember-
1) All thoughts are welcome; no one knows it all.
2) What kind of Bible are you using? A translation or an interpretation/paraphrase?
3) When reading the Bible, there is fact and there is truth. It was acceptable back then to use both to share info & ideas.
4) If anything challenges your belief- welcome to the club. Don’t give up- we’re all on our way to being theologians.

So…..Let’s get started.
Take a moment to read Sunday’s text, Mark 16:1-8a.
Take a breath to clear your head.

1st thing you may ask is “What is 8a?”
2nd thing you may ask is “Where is Jesus?”
3rd thing you may ask- “Why about the verses afterwards?’

Great questions. Let’s do some simple history. It is believed that the Mark was writing when Rome was attacking Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed. Mark is writing for people who are scared and in survivor mode.

Scholars believe the original version of Mark ended with verse 8a in which the women flee the empty tomb, afraid.
This seemingly abrupt ending did not sit well with later generations, so around the 3rd Century, verse 13:b was added to create some closure. Verses 9-19 were added on at another time trying to create a “finished” product.

Why do you think Mark would choose to end the Gospel this way? How do we feel about the Gospel ending with questions as opposed to answers?

No one can answer these for you, but here are some thoughts
1) Maybe the author is using a storytelling technique in which it is the audience who bring closure to the story (Kind of like how GONE WITH THE WIND leaves us imagining what happens next for Scarlett and Rhett).

2) Maybe the disciples are not shown because we are expected to now be the disciples, taking the next chapter of the resurrection out into the world.

3) Maybe, by not showing the Resurrected Christ, the reader is made to seek out where the Resurrected Christ is in their own life.

For those who want to fill their week with extra study, here is something to do- read all the resurrection stories in the order they were most likely written and see what is different, what is the same.

1) I Corinthians 15:3-9, 12-17, written by Paul in the 40’s/50’s
2) Mark 16:1-8; written in the 70’s
3) Matthew 18, perhaps written in the 80s
4) Luke 14, perhaps written in the 90’s
5) John 20-21, perhaps written in the 100’s.

May today’s study be a blessing to you.
Much love, Pastor George

Monday, April 6, 2020

Scriptures for a Time Like This #7; April 6, 2020

Greetings Beloved Community. Today's reading comes from Exodus 12:29-32. It's the painful story of the 10th plague that hits Egypt, killing the firstborn. It's a complicated reading that leaves many questions.

One way to view this reading is as an allegory- a tale that tells us of the unfortunate consequences that can happen when leaders lead with ego, human life is not respected, fear is allowed to oppress others, and a nation's workforce is not seen as important as the work. What we witness in Exodus is how nature suffers, agriculture suffers, animals suffer, healthy bodies suffer, the economy suffers and innocent children suffer as well.

It seems that we are experiencing this right now. Our youngest and most innocent are being affected by the Corona pandemic, as well as how we are responding (or not responding) to it. Their lives will forever be changed and shaped by this moment.

I pray we find ways to watch over our young and our youth and keep them as safe as we can from the pain that's being manifested.

In peace and love, Pastor George

Something Out of Nothing- A Tribute to Our Mothers; Sermon on Mark 11:1-11

Rev. George Miller
April 5, 2020
Mark 11:1-11

During this time of the Corona pandemic and social distancing, creativity has been birthed by the chaos, as it so often happens.

All over social media we are seeing creative personalities emerge in which they’re not only entertaining themselves, but they are emotionally and socially feeding us with nothing more than the basic ingredients of time, space, and mind.

For example, a young lady who took three rolls of toilet paper, marked them up with numbers and images and staged her own slot machine.

She created an interactive skit about a gangsta grandmother who just wanted to be left alone while at the casino

This was broadcast live with people from all over the country watching, posting comments, and forming community…all over a single person who had nothing more than Charmin, a cell phone and a cunning imagination.

What we are witnessing is not just the positive power of social media, but something else, something much older, more ancient, and more ancestral-

The ability to turn nothing into something.

The ability to make something out of nothing is as old as creation itself when God’s spirit moved over the vast void and said “Let there be light.”

The ability to turn something out of nothing is as sacred as God looking upon Sarah and saying “From your empty womb I will bring forth a nation. Get up and GO!”

The ability to turn something out of nothing is as holy as Mary placing her baby in a manger.

The ability to turn something out of nothing is what our mothers, our aunties, our grandmothers, single parents, and nation’s forefathers knew all about.

Because we were created in God’s image, humans have the uncanny ability to take absolutely nothing and turn it into something so, so good.

For us in the south, we know just how good and healthy greens are. But we also know the history of greens-

They were left over parts of that the slaveholders didn’t want, so they tossed them to the slaves who said “We’re going to make this work.”

With cleaning, seasoning, and creativity, a dish was created that signals for millions of people comfort, love, and family.

For those in New England, lobsters were first seen as a poor person’s food, considering how abundant they were.

Women would hide their lobster stew when the preacher came by just so he didn’t think they were poor.

For those of Italian descent, you may know that ravioli was most likely just a way for mothers to feed their family with meat that was starting to go bad. By placing the protein in a pocket of noodle, no one could see what they were eating.

Sonny’s Barbeque, Red Lobster and Olive Garden all owe their existence to wise women who were simply trying to feed their family by turning nothing into something.

I think of my own mother who recently passed away this week. My mom had an incredible talent for turning the mundane into something special.

She’d wrap aluminum foil around a bottle of ginger ale to create the illusion of champagne.

She’d make edible necklaces by stringing Froot Loops on a piece of yarn.

On Sundays, she’d toss spaghetti with ketchup, cheddar cheese and parmesan.

Because she served it alongside grilled steak, I grew up thinking it was a classy pasta dish.

Then, about 10 years ago, someone burst my bubble and brought me into reality –

“Oh, that’s poor people’s food. Your mom was using ketchup instead of spaghetti sauce.”

Talk about a reality check…

….But you know what, I still make that dish all the time. In fact, I love it even more, because now I know:

it’s a dish created by creative survivors-

by family members who did what they had to do in order to make it through and make things last.

Something out of nothing.

Stale bread turned into croutons, water poured into soap containers and shaken all about, empty jelly jars turned into drinking glasses.

Something out of nothing.

Think about Communion. It’s nothing more than bread and juice.

Back in Jesus’ time, bread and wine were staples in every person’s home, no matter how rich, no matter how poor.

Something out of nothing.

Think of today, which is Palm Sunday, a story told in all 4 Gospels- Jesus rides into Jerusalem and is greeted by folk with signs and songs of exaltation.

But none of the 4 Gospels tell the story the same way.

Mark and John have the crowd shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Luke has them shout “Blessed is the King!” while Matthew has them say “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

Then there are the items the people use to welcome Jesus into their lives.

John has them using palm branches.

Luke shows the people spreading cloaks upon the path.

Matthew has them cutting tree branches.

But Mark? Mark is more raw, more earthy. A bit more like a mother.

He reports that the people spread their cloaks upon the road, and-

The people go out to the fields, taking whatever they can find- grass, rushes, leaves, branches, straw, and they spread out all these things upon the path.

The people literally use anything and everything they could find to welcome the Lord into their lives, climbing up trees, gathering items on the ground.

Like our mothers, abuelas, grandmothers, and field soldiers, they were creative, using what they had, and making it work.

The people in today’s story literally make something magnificent out of nothing.

So magnificent, that 2,000 years later we still remember what they did.

This moment is their collard greens, their lobster stew, their ravioli, their spaghetti and ketchup dish.

We can learn a lesson from our spiritual ancestors-

that when it comes to worshipping Christ, when it comes to welcoming Jesus into our existence,

we can use anything, anywhere, anytime.

We can worship and welcome Christ through song,

we can welcome Christ through silence,

we can welcome Christ in a sanctuary,

we can welcome Christ via LiveStream.

We can welcome Christ in French, Spanish, English and Sign.

We can welcome Christ with bread and juice, toast and coffee, a slice of pizza and sip of soda.

We can welcome Jesus into our lives with literally anything, in any place, at any time.

After all, welcome and worship is about your heart.

It’s about your testimony.

It’s about what your soul hungers and thirsts for.

What your spirit is thankful for.

What your conscience is sorry for.

What your heart hopes for.

Welcome and worship is about what you most desire for
Your family, Your friends
Your community, Your country

We can take absolutely nothing and turn it into something if we honestly and truly want to praise the Lord.

So here is what we invite you to do-

Just like the people in Mark’s gospel, take a moment and go- go and find.
Find something, anything that you can wave about.

We don’t care what it is-
A dishcloth
A newspaper
A t shirt
A cat.

Regardless if you are worshipping with us live via Facebook or hours later on YouTube,

We are all participants.

And just like that crowd in Jerusalem, in the true tradition of the human spirit,

Lift up your item and wave.

Wave your item knowing you are making something out of nothing,

wave knowing you are welcoming Christ,

wave knowing you are showing hope for the future.

In every time zone, in every place,

From Sebring to Haiti
Cuba to Canada
Ohio to Alabama

From California to Tennessee
Missouri to Michigan
Arizona to Orlando

From New York to Massachusetts

Let us all join as one colossal voice to say:

“Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest Heaven!”

“Hosanna in the Highest Heaven!”

“Hosanna in the Highest Heaven!”

“Hosanna in the Highest Heaven!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!