Testimony Is Evidence

Several years ago, when we lived in Ohio, I opened the mailbox and found . . . a jury summons.

Ugh. I had never been on a jury before.  It was a super busy month at the church where I was serving, and with my family, so the timing wasn’t great. But I wasn’t too worried . I had heard from several pastor friends that no one wants a pastor on a jury.  The day of the summons came and after just a few minutes of waiting they called my number to come to the jury box to answer a few questions.

What is your name? Megan.

Is it correct that you are a pastor? Why yes, yes it is.

Can you state the name of the church where you serve?  Sure.  No problem.

At this point I started gathering up my things, thinking about what was next on my schedule, now that I was almost done at the courthouse. 

But then they asked one more question: Is there anything about your role as pastor that would keep you from being a fair member of a jury? 

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Truth and Being Social

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I remember the first time I disobeyed a posted sign. I felt like such a rebel.

I felt like this guy right here.

Signs are really powerful for us. But the signs I want to talk about today aren’t the flat signs with words and warnings printed on them.

I want to talk about the kinds of signs we look for, and listen for, that let us know if someone else is a part of our tribe, or not.

Like the way people dress.

Look at this picture. You instantly know if you can, or want to, hang out with these guys, right? You don’t need to think about it. You just know.

There are all kinds of signs that are indicators, that create an in-group and an out-group. There are all kinds of signs that say, “You’re either with us, or you’re against us. And they’re not always physical signs.

The way we dress, or talk, what we talk about, who we listen to, who we hate…all of these things are signs that say what group we belong to. All of these things are signs that tell us who we are.

Signs and the belonging they signify are powerful, so powerful that they short-circuit our ability to reason and they short circuit our faith.  Signs pre-determine what we believe to be true.

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Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

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Some families have some weird rules about what is forgivable and what is unforgivable. 

  • Like whether the toilet paper goes over or under on the roll.
Correct Answer: Over
  • Or whether the toothpaste tube should be squeezed in the middle (like it is by the barbarian I live and work with) or flattened up from the end, like a polite person should do. 
  • I once overheard a woman scream at her child from across a park, “You put that down! We are a Pepsi family!”

Knowing what’s forgivable and what’s not is how we stay in a family, or a group of friends, or a community. And usually, no one comes right out and says what’s unforgivable.

Usually we find that out that key piece of information right after we did whatever it happens to be.

But Jesus comes right out and tells us what the only thing is that we can’t do.

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The Holy Spirit (and Mother’s Day)

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I’m going to be honest with you all.

Mother’s Day is a tricky day for the church.

For some of you,  it is pretty straightforward. On Mother’s Day you celebrate your mom with lunch together, or you are celebrated by your children, some cards, some flowers.  To you all, I wish you a wonderful Mothers Day celebrating together. Being a mom isn’t easy, and a lot of you aren’t just moms, you are great, hard working (and probably exhausted) moms, and you are pouring into your children everyday, or supporting your children as they raise up their own. Make sure your family appreciates you. Or at least grab a nap.

For some, Mother’s Day is great.   And for some it’s really, really hard.

Some of you have had to say goodbye to your mom.

Some of you have battled with infertility, maybe for a really long time, wanting to be a mom.

Some of you are moms who have lost children.

Some of you might not want to be a mom and  people get really judgey about that.

Some of you have a mom who is sick, or who the relationship there is….not what you’d like to it to be.

Some of you are finding a role change in your life, where now you are taking care of the mom who took care of you.

So for Mother’s Day, we could  focus on the mothering side of God .Or one year I preached about how God is like a mother hippo. But that didn’t go over so well.  Or we could have gone the way of one pastor I knew, who totally forgot it was mother’s day at all….and preached on hell.

But this year we are focusing on everything Jesus taught. Looking back to January, we have looked at how Jesus’ teachings can help us live our lives to the fullest. We have studied forgiveness.  But what does Jesus say about mothers?

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Forgiveness and Resentments

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I have a notoriously bad memory. I can’t remember anything. Which is funny because at least half of Megan’s and my conversations involve reminiscing. and I really love them because for me it’s like storytime! Megan tell me great stories about when the kids were little, or things we did in New York and she assures me that I was there! And I’m sure I was. But I sure can’t remember. At least not the details.

I do however have perfect recall of every time I’ve been hurt! And especially for every time someone hurt or was less than kind and considerate to someone in my family. There are 12-14 year olds in Ohio who I would probably recognize right now because they wouldn’t share with Mac or Andrew 10 years ago. They’re still on my list and they’d better watch their backs. No, not really. I forgive all of them, if they even did anything wrong.

It’s just funny how memories work. At least how mine works, or doesn’t. Beautiful perfect days all fade into each other and eventually away. But anything unpleasant? 4K HD resolution forever.
Our memories are like that with resentments.

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Unfair

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The Jesus teaching that we are going to look at today takes us into a story of family dynamics. He talks about two brothers, and their father. And if you have a brother or sister or even a cousin or friend that hung around a lot, this story will strike a chord with you.

Earlier this week was national sibling day, and people all over social media were posting pictures of with their brothers and sister, saying how much they love them. And we do love them… for the most part.

On the other hand, we also know that having a sibling means feeling the deep and real sting of things being unfair.

Think back to when you were a kid. Even when our parents tried their hardest to keep things equal, we are always alert, as kids, to any slight, any favoritism…anything that might be unfair.

I have one sister, a few years older than me. And I can still remember a moment when I was 8, and she was 13. 8 for me was an especially annoying year, and as soon as my mom left the room, I unleashed all of my 8 year old obnoxious powers on my teenage sister. She retaliated by yelling at me to stop.

Well, I had two choices.

I could stop.

Or I could flick her.

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Easter: The Foundation of Forgiveness

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Easter is a great day to be in church, and on this particular year, it is not only Easter but also…. April Fools Day. Which opens up so. many. possibilities. to mess with the children in our lives today.

Possibilities to do things like this:

One parent unwrapped all the chocolate candy and used the wrappers to wrap us these grapes to put in their kids Easter basket. And what is a parent supposed to do with all that chocolate? Guess we better eat it.

Another parent filled Easter eggs. But not with candy. With vegetables.

Or there was another parent who was really committed and carefully filled this chocolate bunny… with mustard.

There is this Easter basket filled not with toys or candy but with …. cleaning supplies.

Or, I think this one’s my favorite- this person made cake pops with a chocolate coating surrounding…Brussel sprouts.

This Easter may be April Fool’s Day, but this Easter, like every Easter, we come together as the church. The lilies are ready. The music is prepared. The ham is cooking.

And, once again this year, we read the story of Easter in the Bible. The story of what happened on that Sunday morning nearly 2000 years ago is the most important story of why we believe Jesus was more than just a man.

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Palm Sunday

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Do you ever wish for someone to come and just make everything better?

Well, if you are familiar with that feeling today, multiply it by a million and you will be close to how the Jewish people in Jesus’ day felt. Israel’s history was one of being conquered by one empire, then another. One empire carted them away from their homeland. The next one brought them back, but still ruled them. They ruled themselves as an independent kingdom for around 100 years, only to be conquered by the Romans, who didn’t so much conquer the nation themselves, but backed and bank-rolled a usurper, who was then loyal to Rome, and whose family held on to power by using foreign soldiers in the city of Jerusalm.

You can imagine that this all took a toll on the people of Israel. Not only because of the spiritual damage it did to their pride and patriotism. But also because of the heavy taxes they paid because of it.

Not to mention that every Sabbath they would read in their scriptures that the land was theirs, and that God had destroyed Israel’s enemies before.

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Letting Go of Legalism

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Several years ago Dave and I bought an older home in Ohio. The house was perfect for us and our young kids, with a large flat backyard and nice bedrooms.

We were young homeowners, so we worked really hard to follow the rules of good homeownership. We mopped the floors and vacuumed the carpet and scrubbed the counters and cabinets. We watered the plants and took out the trash.

The kitchen was one of our favorite spots, having lived mostly in apartments, with all of the cabinets and space to cook, so we made sure it was especially clean. There was even a corner cabinet, with one of those lazy susan spinning storage shelves built right in, which was perfect for all of the kids’ crackers and snacks.

But one evening just after we finished cleaning up from dinner, I heard Dave yelp in the kitchen. I went running in just in time to see him slam the lazy susan cabinet door shut.

There was a mouse.

In the corner cabinet. It had found a steady source of snacks with the saltines we had stored in there. And the mouse, surprised by Dave’s opening of the cabinet, had leapt off of the lazy susan, right toward him. But he had shut the door quickly enough that it was trapped.

We had a few possibilities. The obvious solution seemed to be to burn down the house.

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Letting Go of Pride

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Every Sunday night at our church youth group, all of the kids and leaders eat a meal together, on real plates, around tables, the works. It’s a really cool thing that we do. Every week, Jonathan and Vanessa, our youth and children’s ministry directors (respectively), buy the supplies, and a parent cooks and serves. A few weeks ago, it was our family’s turn, and I got to make spaghetti with meat sauce. Easy peasy.

I got there a couple hours early, because I wanted to let the sauce cook as long as possible. So I browned up all the meat, and I added in all the sauce and got it to a nice simmer, and then I look over at the pasta Vanessa had bought.

It was angel hair…

Angel hair is fine pasta. But it’s not what you serve with meat sauce. So I went to Publix and bought real spaghetti. The good thick kind.

When I got back, I saw Vanessa, and told her not to worry, I had saved dinner. Turns out, she likes angel hair. She bought it on purpose. So I made both kinds of pasta, and put everything out for the kids to make their plates.

Big bowl of spaghetti. Big bowl of angel hair. Big bowl of sauce. Big bowl of salad. All laid out in that order.

So the kids came in, and saw the pastas laid out, and guess which kind they overwhelmingly went for?

The angel hair. Even my own kids! The traitors.

It was an exercise in letting go of pride.

There’s nothing quite like reality to show you when you’re wrong. And there’s nothing like a roomful of witnesses to help you admit it. Especially when those witnesses are eating heaping bowls full of angel hair pasta.

But under different circumstances, it’s harder to admit.

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