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Hidden Grace

When I was a young boy growing up, my mom would make homemade bread.  Let me just say there is nothing like the aroma of homemade bread baking in the oven.  And while we’re at it, let me also say there is also nothing like the taste of melted butter on a still steaming slice of bread.

As much as I enjoyed the smell and taste of my mom’s homemade bread when I was young, it was the process of the bread rising that was most fascinating.  How could a small lump of dough grow big enough to fill a large baking pan all by itself?

I know now that yeast was the cause of that miracle.  Something that was unseen, the yeast, and a task I was unaware of, my mom adding and working the yeast into the dough, created something wonderful!

“And again he (Jesus) said, ‘To what should I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’” (Luke 13:20-21, NRSV)

We often want and look for something big from God… something we can clearly see and know… something to our liking.  But God’s reign, will, power, and grace in your life and world almost always begins in small, even hidden, ways.  You might not be able to see it, but rest assured the Holy Spirit is actively seeking to work the yeast of God’s kingdom deep into your heart, body, mind, and soul. 

My prayer is that we will to be open to that divine work of love and grace in us, and that we’re willing to wait for how it will rise up and fill our lives… creating something wonderful! 

Gift of Waking Up

I had an “Introduction to Psychology” class in my first semester of college.  One day in the lecture the professor was talking about the moments when we are drifting off to sleep… that time between “awake” consciousness and “sleep” consciousness.  And then he said something like this, “I just love that feeling of just about, but not quite being, asleep.  I enjoy it so much that sometimes I make myself wake up so I can have that feeling again.”

I remember sitting in that lecture hall thinking, “That is so weird.”  And then thinking, “this guy is so weird.”  But then I thought, “You know, he’s right!” 

That moment just before sleep is really great!  Whether you’ve gone to sleep the moment your head hit the pillow or tossed and turned with the sea of the day’s events… that moment when sleep finally comes is wonderful! All the assurances and worries – successes and failures - pleasures and pains of the day are slowly fading away. And it’s just you… nothing more, nothing less… just you. 

I’ve come to know the moment just as I’m waking up to be the same kind of thing.  It’s a moment when it’s just me… just me and God. 

Tish Harrison Warren shares about this in her book Liturgy of the Ordinary in a personal way: 

“This morning I wake (slowly) on an ordinary day, but I wake in a bed I know, a house I live in, a routine and particular life. The palmist declares, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made.’  This one (this day).  We wake not to a vague or general mercy from a far-off God.  God, in delight and wisdom, has made, named, and blessed this average day.  What I in my weakness see as another monotonous day in a string of days, God has given as a singular gift.” 

My prayer for you is that you can begin to see the moment of waking up, as the gift from God that it is… a moment made for just you and God at the beginning of each new day! 


“The Great Thanksgiving” prayer is part of the liturgy we use in the Church to prepare ourselves for the sacrament of Holy Communion.  The origins of some its wording dates back to the earliest generations of the Church.  It’s a window into what the Church has known and believed from the start about God, human beings, and the relationship between God and human beings. 

Whenever I am leading the service of Holy Communion, there is one line in “The Great Thanksgiving” prayer that almost always, makes me pause momentarily because of its significance. 

“By the baptism of his (Jesus’) suffering, death, and resurrection you (God) gave birth to your Church, and delivered us from slavery to sin and death…”

This is the Easter message! This is what God has done for us in Jesus Christ! 

In Jesus Christ, in his birth, life, death, and resurrection, is the potential and power to be freed from the slavery, addition, chains to sin and death… freed from our “this is just the way it has to be” thinking.  Sin doesn’t not have to be our master and death does not have to be our inevitable end. I love this phrase from Stuart Townend’s song “In Christ Alone:” 

“No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me!”

But the fear of the inevitability of sin and death, doesn’t go easily… even with this power of Christ in our corner.  So, don’t forget the gift of the Church… that through Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection God gave birth to the Church.  When the Church is really the Church… it can truly be the gift God meant it to be; can help us see, claim, and live into the power of Christ!

My prayer is that it is so for you this Easter season!

Easter's Taunt

My favorite Easter Scripture passage isn’t found in one of the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.  It’s found in a letter that the Apostle Paul, the first great missionary of the church, wrote to a church he had started in the Greek city of Corinth.  In the Bible, this first century letter is called “first (1) Corinthians.” 

In the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul shares a list of people who witnessed the resurrected Jesus (including himself).  Then he boldly confronts the idea already circulating in the first-generation church that resurrection from the dead was just for Jesus, but not really for anybody else.  My favorite Easter passage comes at the end of all that.

“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death is your sting?  The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57, NRSV)

Paul is openly taunting death!  He is doing this not because of anything he can do about death.  No, Paul is comfortable taunting death because of what God has done in raising Jesus Christ from the dead.  Paul knows what we need to know: that resurrection is a God thing… that resurrection isn’t just about God raising Jesus from the dead that first Easter Sunday… that God’s resurrection power is available for what is dead in life here, now and forever!  

This Easter season, as it was for Paul, so may it be for you and me! 


Redeem…  It’s a word used in the church to try and explain what God has done in Jesus Christ. 

Redeem… Sometimes it’s sung in church.  Two of my favorites are Big Daddy Weave’s  modern worship song “Redeemed,” ( and the old Fanny Crosby gospel song “Redeemed How I Love To Proclaim It,” 

Redeem… Sometimes it’s heard in a sermon in church.  Sometimes a Christian might even use it when sharing about their faith in Christ with someone else. 

But normally when I hear the word “redeem,” I have to admit that I think of something else first… coupons. I grew up in a family of “coupon clippers.” It was like you won the grocery shopping game when you handed over a wad of coupons to the person at the register, a wad they of course loved having to deal with. 

Clipping coupons out of the newspaper is still around, but coupons have morphed.  You print them off the computer and scan them at the register or scan one off your phone.  No matter the format, the idea of “redeeming” a coupon” is the same.  You produce a coupon and receive a discount on what you purchase.  Someone else pays for part of what you’re buying.  You don’t pay for it all.

In some ways, that’s what being said when the word “redeem” is used in the church.  Through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross... God made a way for your sins, and mine, to be forgiven.  Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for your freedom from sin and death; not just part of the price like a coupon, but all of it!  We are redeemed when we trust in what God has done for us in the cross of Jesus Christ.   

This Holy Week, please remember what Jesus did on the cross.  But don’t just remember what Jesus did, remember that he did it for you.  Remember that you are redeemed! 

Holy Week Prayer

Why should I gain from his reward?  I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart; his wounds have paid my ransom.

These words are from one of my favorite modern hymns of the church, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Stuart Townend.  I could listen to its haunting music and words anytime, but they are especially meaningful during Holy Week.  Here’s the link to listen to it as performed by the group Selah,

The song describes, as best as humanly possible, the deep love of God for us, that is shown in Jesus Christ.  It also confesses that the meaning of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross… how God’s salvation and grace works… will always be something of a mystery.  But what you and I can know is the result of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Jesus made a connection and relationship between us and God possible… that’s what Jesus accomplished on the cross.  By sacrificially laying down his sinless life, Jesus made it possible for our sins to be forgiven… and for all of humanity to be connected to God now and forever!  Jesus did that for me and for you.

Today is the beginning of Holy Week.  It’s not really something our culture will join with us in.  As seekers and followers of Christ this week we are pretty much on our own, and that’s even more so with the COVID-19 “stay at home” orders in place.  But maybe that’s not all bad.  Maybe it will give us a chance, in an unhurried and more focused way, to remember and be thankful for what Jesus did on the cross.  

My prayer is that you know how deep is God’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure.  My prayer is that we know that Jesus’ dying breath has brought us life.  And my prayer is that the Holy Spirit’s power will help us live in a way that doesn’t boast in anything but Jesus Christ, his death, and resurrection… this Holy Week and always! 

A Matter Of Space

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he (Jesus) entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves… He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:15-17, NRSV)

Let me make this very clear… Jesus is very angry here. 

Why?  And was it justified?  Buying, selling, and commerce was going on in the Temple courts.  Most likely its purpose was to provide religious pilgrims with appropriate animal sacrifices for their Temple worship and Jewish currency for their Temple offerings… a convenience for Jerusalem’s out of town guests.

The commercial activities were taking place on the Temple grounds.  It was taking up the space meant for worship and prayer… for the people to meet and connect with God and for God to connect with them and change their lives. 

Pastor and writer Peter Scazzero writes, “Jesus knows that if we don’t get to God, invaluable treasures will be lost or obscured.  We lose the space where we experience God’s unfailing love and amazing forgiveness.  We lose an eternal perspective on what is important and what is not.  We lose compassion.  We gain the world but lose our souls."

It’s no wonder Jesus was so angry!  And I humbly suggest that you should be too.

What takes up the time and space in your life needed for you to connect with God in prayer, Scripture, worship, and just being still enough to know God and be known by God?  Clear it out to regain the time and space you need with God.