Youth News—Meet Jacob Davis

The youth program at PUMC includes multiple “Youth Staff” volunteers who dedicate their time to mentoring our teens. Most of these “Staff,” however, are new to PUMC. So, for the next few months we will showcase a short interview with each youth staff, allowing us to know a bit more about them and their passion for our youth. Hopefully this short piece will give you the courage to talk with them the next time you see them!

Blessings,

Pastor Skitch Matson

Q. Tell us a bit about where you’re from.

I was born and raised in Largo, FL right by the beach (near Tampa). After High School I joined the Coast Guard and spent a few years moving around from Virginia to North Carolina, and then eventually back to Jacksonville, FL.

Q. Do you have any past experiences working with youth?

For the past six years I have been working on and off with youth. I have volunteered at my home church when I was around, went on trips with my old youth group as an adult leader (but still a kid at heart), spent 2 weeks working at the Duke Youth Academy a few summers ago, and most recently spent just over a year as a small group leader at a youth group in Jacksonville with my wife, Rachel.

Q. How long have you been in Princeton?

We have now been in Princeton for almost 4 months. We moved here so I could finish my degree in Religion at TCNJ, and my wife, Rachel, could attend Princeton Theological Seminary.

Q.Why are you a Youth Staff?

I am a youth staff because youth matter so much to our church as well as our communities, which is often forgotten. They have great insight, valued praises, and real concerns; their voices need to be heard within our communities and congregations. It is a blessing to work with and walk through life with these students during this formative time in their lives.

Q. What does Youth Staff mean to you?

It’s a group of adults who come together with the hope that God will use us to show each student the endless love God has for each of them.

Q. I hear you like good books, what’s one that you would recommend? Reaching Out: Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life”  by Henri J.M. Nouwen.

Meet Our New Music Intern

By Hyosang Park

Marisa Curcio, a student from Westminster Choir College of Rider University is joining our staff to service the Lord with Princeton UMC congregation. She is currently a senior majoring in Church Music and Music Education. She has an exceptionally exquisitely soaring soprano voice that can be heard from miles away and make people turn their heads because of its beauty. She has her senior recital scheduled in March. Please don’t miss an opportunity to hear and be embraced in such a stunning voice. Details be will announced in the February issue, so stay tuned. She already has sung with Chancel Choir at our annual Christmas Concert and during our Longest Night service. She has an outgoing personality and is eager to meet everyone at PUMC. I hope you will all get to meet and know her in 2017.

 

New Year’s Day Service – January 1st 2017

Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash:  ‘Jesus’ Birth Gives us a Mission’ – Matthew 2:13-23

On New Year’s Day, Rev. Jana preached on the difficult passage from Matthew. Here are some notes from her message:

 Jesus didn’t come into the world to bring a feast of celebration and contentment, to offer respite from the world. Jesus came to save the world. We Christians have a role to play in that salvation.

The “Massacre of the Innocents” passage in Matthew reminds us that we need, not only to keep Christ in Christmas, but to keep Herod in Christmas. Herod was capable of executing his wife and sons. He was capable of dispatching soldiers to kill infants, and this tragic action is commemorated in The Coventry Carol.

Why do we read this part of the story? It helps us remember the mission that Jesus calls us to. Herod plays the role of evil incarnate, to help us remember what kind of world we live in, and why the world needs a savior.

May we be people who are the hands, feet, heart, and light of Christ in the world. Jesus gives us our mission.  May we work to carry out the mission in the New Year.

 

 

 

The Absurdity of Advent: Forgiving Love

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Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash –  4th Sunday in Advent: December 18. Luke 2:15-20; John 3:16

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent, next week we will gather for worship to celebrate the birth of Jesus the newborn king.

These last four weeks we have spent in a season of expectation and hope. It is also a season of following — a time when we travel along with the Holy Family as they struggle with the hardships of peasant life in first-century Palestine. The Christmas story, as we have come to know it, includes much drama and tension, and we might even say absurdity.

The drama of Christmas begins in anxiety. An unplanned pregnancy is followed by an imperial summons to Bethlehem. Along the way there are mysterious angelic interventions, improvised accommodations for birth and royal orders of infanticide. Yet, in the midst of such challenging conditions,// newness and promise overflow. There is a father’s word of prophecy, a mother’s song of revolution, gift-toting wise men and praise-filled shepherds. Yes, the long hoped for Messiah will arrive — but not quite as we had expected, another point of absurdity.

When the Shepherds headed into town to see the Messiah I can imagine the whispering that might have taken place. “Did I hear correctly Eli, did the angel say, the sign is a baby that was born in Bethlehem?” Another shepherd says to the guy behind him, did that angel say, “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord?” A baby born// is the Messiah we have been waiting for, it’s absurd!!

Each year as we get ready to close Advent night, the highlight of the evening comes when kids and adults alike are all sugared up and we sing together “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” As we were singing this year I got to thinking,// I wonder how much it costs to purchase all those gifts? Have you ever wondered about that?// You may not be surprised, but I was, to find out that for more than 30 years PNC bank has calculated the prices of the 12 gifts from this song.

Take a guess at the total cost of purchasing all the gifts mentioned in the “12 Days of Christmas” song… This holiday extravaganza would cost $34,363 this year, an increase of just 0.7% from last year. The Consumer Price Index has risen about twice as fast, at 1.7% over the past 12 months.

The gift with the biggest price hike was the cost of two turtledoves ($375), which spiked 29 percent due to a shortage of the birds. Rising wages also drove up prices, with the cost of 11 pipers piping ($2,708) and 12 drummers drumming ($2,934) rising 2.8 percent this year. Granted, I don’t know where you would find them, but they are very expensive.

At $210, a partridge in a pear tree saw the biggest price decline this year. The cost of partridges fell to $20, thanks to an increase in supply. The cost of the pear tree ticked lower as well. While gold prices have gone up and down significantly over the past five years, the cost of five golden rings has held steady at $750.

All these extravagant gifts are for a true love. As a matter of fact the Hallmark Channel is showing a movie centered around these gifts to a beloved. Still, the real message of Christmas is not the gifts that we give to each other. Rather, it is a reminder of the gift that God has given to each of us. We are God’s true love, you are God’s true love.

This gift of love keeps on giving. This gift comes in the birth of a baby and the death of a man who gives his whole life to and for us. Jesus comes as forgiving love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.In that gift of forgiving love also comes eternal life.

As we think about God’s gift of forgiving love, there are a few things I’d call to your attention: Continue reading “The Absurdity of Advent: Forgiving Love”

Longest Night Service – December 20, 2016

Rev. Catherine E. Williams – The Gift of Love: 1 John 4:7-12

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This evening we are featuring lavender, butterflies, and love. I confess I don’t know that I can string these together with sufficient credibility. Our Stephen Ministers got together earlier this year to brainstorm what we would like this evening to look like; we ended up with lavender, butterflies, and love. There is a great amount of symbolism in each of these elements, and I hope you can connect with any or all of these themes – according to your preference or your need. But for my short reflection this evening, as I inhale the calming fragrance of lavender, and enjoy the visual inspiration of the colored butterflies, I want to take advantage of the reflective, contemplative nature of this service and think for a little while about  love as a gift.

The gospel reading begins with the apostle encouraging us to love one another because love is who God is, and if we say we are people of God we are pretty much saying we are people of love. And yes, I’d be the first to acknowledge that some people and some situations make it much easier than others for us to respond as people of love. But think with me for a moment about a time when you received love from another person, a time when you felt loved. What was that like? Was it the time you sat across from a grandchild who suddenly looked up, caught your adoring eyes, and blew you ten kisses? Was it a time when you were at one of your lowest moments and got an unexpected phone call, note, or text message that said someone was thinking about you? Was it the expression on the face of someone whom you knew was just as in love with you as you were with her or him? Was it the meals, cards, calls, flowers, or other signs of care that you got while you were sick? Was it the earthy smell of someone who reminded you of your granddaddy who always told you, you were his favorite? Whatever it was, I’m guessing it stirred something deep inside of you that made you feel valued, accepted, uplifted, and cared for, among other things. Love, in whatever form, does something to us; it touches the image of God in us and puts a little shine on it, it reminds us who we are, it can sometimes change how we see ourselves.

Love, in God’s dictionary, is not an abstract idea. It doesn’t stay in the feeling zone, or simply roll around in the mind. God’s kind of love is active. It extends itself outward, it shifts its center of gravity to include others. Isn’t that what God did in sending Jesus Christ to earth? God so loved the world that God extended himself outward in becoming like one of us. That’s why Christmas in so many different ways, is about giving and receiving love; to me the gifts only really matter if they are expressions of love. And it’s a good thing God’s love didn’t come to us in a limousine or a private jet, else we’d have reason to be suspicious about whether it was really meant for everybody. No, God’s love entered the world in the lowliest of ways so everyone – from the least to the greatest – could see it, could hold it. Whether shepherd or king, whether carpenter or priest – God’s love is available to all.

thSo I’m recommending that we keep our eyes and ears open for the ways in which God’s love comes to us during this season? I have to say that just like the paradox of a Messiah in a manger, God’s love comes to us in unexpected ways. Yes, it would be nice to get a phone call from that estranged son or daughter, but let’s not miss God’s love in that unexpected gesture from a friend or coworker that somehow moved us. Yes it would have been nice to be staring out the window at lush green leaves warmed by Florida’s summery sun, but let’s not miss the glorious glow of a wintery New Jersey sunset that leaves a glow around our heart. I’m inviting us to be a little more mindful this Christmas, a little more open to the myriad ways in which God’s gift of love is born into our lives again and again. Continue reading “Longest Night Service – December 20, 2016”

Sunday November 13 – Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash: Where Is Your Power? Isaiah 40:27-31, Ephesians 3:14-21

img_2202What a week this has been. I’ve spent a great deal of time listening to and caring for people. I have encouraged people to sit in and feel their despair, anger, sadness, hopelessness, fear, and uncertainty. We must allow ourselves to feel what we are feeling before moving ahead to action.

It has prompted me to think about times in my life when all seemed lost, and how I was able to claim God’s strength and power. As I think about difficult times in my life I think of a church burning down, a parsonage burning down, miscarriages, losing my mom over the course of 10 years to dementia, and in those same years my dad dying of cancer. My daughter eloping with a man she barely knew and moving halfway around the world. There were times in each of these personal situations that I didn’t see a way forward, I was hopeless and angry, fearful and despairing. One way that I was able to move forward was claiming God’s power and strength through scripture.

I grew up in the northeast when memorizing scripture was passé, thankfully as an adult I have learned scripture that sustains me. It was in the midst of a breast cancer scare a few years ago that I held tight to scripture and this week I’ve found myself doing same. (David/Ulanda has read two of those scriptures for us this morning)

For me these scriptures and some others strengthen me and help me to claim the power I need to move forward in faith and hope. Today I’m going to bring more scripture passages to play than usual; I hope you will hear the assurance these passages offer.

This morning I want to share with you a story that I hope will help us to think about where our power lies.

Once upon a time a man found the egg of an eagle. It had been abandoned for some reason by its mother, but as it was still warm the man took it and put it in the nest of one of his backyard chickens along with the other eggs that were there being brooded upon. After a period of time the eaglet was hatched, and along with the other chicks from his nest began to go about the backyard doing what the other chicks did. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He looked for the corn that the man would throw into the yard. He clucked and cackled as best as he could, and as he grew, he would, like the other chickens, thrash his wings and fly a few feet in the air.

Years passed in this way and the eagle grew very old. thOne day he saw a magnificent bird far above him in the cloudless sky. It glided majestically among the powerful wind currents, soaring and swooping, scarcely beating its long golden wings. The old eagle looked at it in awe and asked “what is that?” “That is the eagle, the king of the birds”, said one of his neighbors. “He belongs to the sky and to the high places. We belong to the earth, we are chickens.” The old eagle knew this was true, and so it was he lived and died as a chicken, for that is what he believed he was.

Do you think the eagle/chicken had the power to change? What held him back?

Think with me for a moment about the verses at the end of Ephesians chapter three: 20-21.”Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine; to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”

Do you have the power to change? What holds you back?

If you drew your power from God what could you accomplish that you aren’t doing now?

Can we believe in new possibilities for ourselves? Continue reading “Sunday November 13 – Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash: Where Is Your Power? Isaiah 40:27-31, Ephesians 3:14-21”

Laity Sunday October 16 2016

Doing Good For Others

george-portrait-5745244370081dOn Laity Sunday, George Fox describes in his testimony about doing good for others, how we are called to serve one another and walk humbly with God.

His words came out strong and urgent as he spoke about the work our Stephen Ministers do at PUMC. About 5 years ago, PUMC, under Jana’s leadership, began the process of qualifying a Stephen Ministry at our church to work as an extension of our church’s Pastoral Care.

The Stephen Ministers, who we refer to as Caregivers, in our congregation have undergone a formal Selection Process (first step is that they must volunteer) and 50 hours of training. The role of our Stephen Minister Caregivers is to provide a Christian Care Giving presence and to let God provide the cure.

Who have we helped?

  1. People who are lonely
  2. People who are unhappy
  3. People who are grieving
  4. People who have lost a dear family member to death
  5. People with a debilitating disease
  6. People with financial challenges
  7. People who are facing major life changes and are concerned about the options they see
  8. Other Stephen Ministers who are either looking for a vibrant Stephen Ministry or who are looking for care.
  9. We Stephen Ministers pray daily for our Care Receivers and remember above all that:

WE PROVIDE THE PRESENCE AND GOD PROVIDES THE CURE.

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Sunday September 18, Rev. Catherine Williams’ sermon “Pray Every Way You Know How.” 1 Timothy 2:1-7

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In the huge pile of mail that greeted me upon my return from Trinidad a couple of weeks ago, was a letter from our Bishop, John Schol. Dear Catherine, it began, I understand you are preparing for next year’s full member retreat and examination. You have already been affirmed in your calling and have been leading people to make disciples and grow vital congregations to transform the world, Thank you. A quick glance through the rest of the letter assured me I wasn’t in any trouble – whew! The Bishop actually wrote to offer me words of hope, admonition, encouragement, and support in advance of my upcoming ordination assessment period. His closing words – “Keep the Faith! John.”

When spiritual overseers write to the pastors under their care, their words carry great import for good or for ill. I’d like to think Pastor Timothy felt at least as supported and cared for when he received his letter from his Bishop, Paul, as I felt when I received this letter from my Bishop, John. Bishops or spiritual overseers tend to be rich in faith, grounded in the Scriptures, and seasoned in life and ministry experiences; any instruction they give to those under their care could very well be the Word of the Lord to the minister and to the church.

So we are fortunate this morning to hear this Word from the Lord as we peer over Timothy’s shoulder, reading what his Bishop had to say as he offered words of instruction and administrative guidance to this young leader of the well-established church in Ephesus. Ephesus was a bustling, commercial metropolis in Western Asia Minor; we now call that region Turkey. Paul had left young Timothy in charge of this urban congregation, where philosophical and theological issues were beginning to pose a threat to the faith. So Paul did some fairly close mentoring and coaching in both letters to the young Pastor. In this first letter, just prior to where we begin reading, Paul gives the same exhortation to Timothy as John Schol gave to me – hold on to faith, he says. Hold on to faith and a good th-39conscience. Then he proceeds to suggest how: First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be madeThe Message Bible translation – which provided the title for today’s sermon – puts it this way, The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. The slightly nuanced differences between supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings don’t really warrant separating them into discrete categories of prayer. It was the writer’s way of saying, pray every way you know how.

In our Christian tradition, to pray is essentially to talk to God. If God does not factor into this faith-building practice, we may as well call it a pious little monologue. Furthermore, if God is not expected to have something to say in response to our petitions, supplications, intercessions, or thanksgivings, then…what can I say? You probably know how it feels to have a conversation with someone where you couldn’t get a word in edgewise to save your th-14life? Granted, God’s response in the conversation may take all kinds of delightful or terrifying forms, but that calls for the kind of discernment we only get by the act of prayer, by practicing to pray. Prayer is a conversation; it is being in a place of God-awareness. Keep the faith, Paul tells Timothy; hold on to faith by first of all praying.

You might be saying, “but I don’t know how to pray.” You probably have in mind the eloquent prayers given by clergy or other spiritual leaders in worship. I am happy to clarify that verbal prayer is only one of many, many ways to pray. “How do you pray?” 

Continue reading “Sunday September 18, Rev. Catherine Williams’ sermon “Pray Every Way You Know How.” 1 Timothy 2:1-7”

PUMC Circle of Friends Meeting September 13, 2016

img_2558The Circle of Friends held their monthly meeting at 10:30 a.m on Tuesday September 13 at the PUMC Fellowship Hall with twelve members present. Beth opened the meeting with a devotion and introduced the guest speaker.

Susan Gange ofimg_2550 PUMC gave a talk on “Successfully Growing Orchids in the Home.” Her presentation  covered different types of orchids such as Phalaenopsis, Oncidiums, Dendrobiums, Cattleyas, and Paphiopedilums as well as her secrets to successful home orchid growing.

Susan was awarded a trophy for the Best Professionally Grown Phalaenopsis Orchid at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Orchid Society International Show in Oaks, PA in April of this year. She also owns Stony Brook Orchids, a large orchid greenhouse in Pennington, New Jersey. Stony Brook Orchids offers orchids and supplies at farmers markets in and around Princeton.

Topics covered by Susan included light, temperatures, water, humidity, fertilizer and potting. The Phalaenopsis orchid is one of the best orchids for growing at home. It grows well in bright windows. Water is critical for this plant which must never dry out but at the same time one must keep in mind that over-watering kills. She recommended watering only on a sunny day before noon so that the leaves are dry by nightfall.  Water should be kept off the leaves to prevent diseases attacking them. In warm weather 1/4 teaspoon of fertilizer per gallon of water should be used with every watering. In winter fertilizer may be applied once a month. Humidity levels must be between 50% and 80%. Potting is best done in the Spring after blooming, with plants potted in a well-draining mix. For best results repotting is usually done annually. Plastic or clay pots are the perfect choice for repotting.

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The Circle of Friends were thrilled with Susan’s presentation and purchased unusual and rare orchids from the lovely array of plants on display, assuring her that they would carefully follow her instructions. Others promised to visit her greenhouse or call for advice. The presentation was followed by lunch and the group’s monthly business discussions. For dessert, Catherine provided a delicious apple honey cake. Karin closed the meeting with the reading of a poem and leading the group in prayer.

All church women are invited to join the Circle of Friends at their next meeting in November 2016, in the Fellowship Hall at PUMC. For more information, please contact the church office at 609-924-2613 or visit www.princetonumc.org

Sunday July 17. Rev. Catherine Williams “Vacation Tweets: #this is the Life”

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This is the Life! Now this is what I call living! How many of us can remember the last time we said or thought something like that? Can you give me a word or a phrase that describes a moment or scenario that would elicit that kind of response?

Some of the descriptions others have given about the good life include: Being financially independent and secure; winning the lottery and/or not having to work; being able to just pick up and go – travel to anywhere, anytime; pleasure and satisfaction 24/7; and similar states of euphoria and perfection. One of my millennial friends said she thought a good life was different than the good life, where the former was all about quality, and the latter was more concerned with quantity. So I asked her if that meant it was possible to be poor and have a good life. That set her thinking. What do you think?

th-6Our society is mired in materialistic values. Thanks to the capitalist foundation, upon which the hypothetical American Dream is built, our culture makes it seem only natural for us to think of the good life as something we deserve. Our commercials and advertisements faithfully and feverishly indoctrinate us in this kind of entitlement. Small wonder then that we spend so much of our lives, our time, energy, and resources in pursuit of those moments when we can look around and say – yep, this is the life! This entitlement ideology is what theologian, Walter Brueggemann, might call the dominant consciousness. That prevailing way of being, where we are numbed and satiated by consumerism. Brueggemann challenges preachers to counter this dominant consciousness with what he calls an alternative consciousness.

One of the many reasons we gather weekly as people of God is to remind ourselves that even as we function day by day within this dominant consciousness of materialism, we are a community with alternative values, grounded in the heart of God.  God, whose intention for all of creation from the very beginning has been good. But God, who is good, gets to define good. And thanks to Jesus and his teachings we have several illustrations of this good life. He called it the Kingdom/Realm/Reign of God.

10-beatitudesThat parable of the two builders, that was read for us this morning, summarized a lengthy set of teachings Jesus gave to his disciples on what life in this kingdom or realm was like. If you have read Matthew 5, 6, and 7 you have either struggled bravely to keep up with its demands, or else you have rationalized it away – far away. Christians have asked, Are we really supposed to live like this? Well let’s take a quick look, since these are the sayings, which, according to Jesus, the wise builder heard and did. It begins with the beatitudes – the blessing statements. That word blessed conveys the idea of being fortunate or happy, so happy as to be envied actually. But the blessings that make us enviable are different – there’s nothing in there about beaches or cruises; no talk in these beatitudes about wealth, fame or fortune. Instead Jesus calls blessed those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, the peacemakers, the merciful, the pure in heart, and so on – When we look up the word good or happy in God’s dictionary, this is the stuff we find. That’s pretty radical.

images-8I mean, these sayings, or teachings of Jesus talk about some rather difficult things: keeping all of the commandments, what counts as murder or adultery, grounds for divorce, and loving our enemies. What’s so good about this, many have asked, and, finding no answer, they have closed their Bible and put it on a shelf, right next to their volume of Shakespeare’s works. But wait, what about the instructions for how to give to the needy, how to pray, how to forgive, and how to fast? What about the teaching on worry, and not judging others? Yes, I’ll be among the first to acknowledge that, taken as a whole, these teachings set an impossibly high ethical bar. But may I share with you something I learned as a young Christian? I think it may have been my own Dad who shared this with me as a teenager. “Catherine,” he’d say, “there’s enough of what God has said in God’s word for you to spend your entire lifetime working on. Some of it you’ll take to naturally, some of it you’ll need a little extra courage and faith to follow, and some of it you may never understand; but there’s enough for you to at least begin. Work on the parts you understand and trust God to help you grow into the rest.” I can say with gratitude today this has proven to be some of the best advice I’ve listened to, because like any rationally developing adult, there are some things only growth in the faith can help us fully understand. Like God’s goodness in the midst of an evil world. (Don Brash is really good at explaining this by the way…)

Among the several perspectives of life in God’s kingdom or realm, there is one bedrock aspect of this good life I’d like us to stay with just a bit this morning. Nothing you haven’t heard before, but maybe you didn’t know when you heard it that this was the life! Remember in the creation story there was one thing God said was not good? God had said let there be light – God saw that the light was good. God made the dry land and the waters, and saw that it was good. God set the lights in the sky to give light upon the earth – and God saw that it was good. God filled the air, the waters and the land with living creatures of every kind – I like this,” God said, “this is the life! Finally God stepped back and surveyed everything and said, “Awesome – this is VERY good!” But then over in Genesis 2, we hear God saying, “Uh-oh, this is NOT good. It is not good that the man is alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.What’s so bad about being alone? I hear my introvert friends asking. Because the God in whose image we were made is a God of community. A God who, according to our understanding, is represented by a community of three, which has opened up to include all of creation. Believe me, this matter of community and relationships is huge when it comes to the good life.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked the lives of 724 men, their wives and their children over the course of 75 years. Last year Robert Waldinger, the current director of this study gave a TED talk where he shared the most significant discoveries they made about human happiness over these decades. The most conclusive finding, says Waldinger, is that “social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills.” Sounds to me like evidence that we are designed by God to thrive in community. We understand who we are in community; we learn social and survival skills in community; we discover our abilities and passions in community; little wonder then that so many of Jesus’ teachings have to do with how we relate to God, and how we relate to one another.

So now here’s this parable of the two builders, which Matthew uses to close out this lengthy, weighty discourse on life in the kingdom of God, aka the good life. These two men are engaged in the same occupation; one would think the foolish builder would know better. But Jesus is making a point here by having the foolish man build his fine mansion on a foundation of sand, while the wise builder puts up his mansion on a foundation of rock. Two great looking homes. You can hardly tell the difference in value – that is, until the weather changes. And here is Jesus’ point #1 – the good life does not preclude bad things happening to us. Rain is rain, it falls wherever, storms will forever behave like storms, and flood waters are no respecter of houses. “Really?” someone may ask. “So while following Jesus my investment portfolio may take a dive, my health may take a turn for the worse, my children may develop chemical dependencies, and I may fail all the prerequisite classes in my college major?” Umm – yes. God’s definition of good does not preclude bad things happening to us. Which leads to Jesus’ point #2 – the good life teaches us how to weather the storms.

One of the major resources for weathering storms is the communities we are part of: families, churches, fraternities or sororities, professional associations and so on. But what excites me about this good life is the presence of The Life himself within each one of us who has professed our faith in him. For each of us born by the Spirit of God from above has access to a divine resilience Jesus was good enough to demonstrate for us at the end of his earthly life. Remember now, he is the one who said, I have come that you may have life more abundantly.” The one who said of himself I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  The one who said to his friend Martha, I am the resurrection and the life. What does that mean for us? What difference does that make when the pain medicine doesn’t work, or when after months of rehab that son or daughter is back on drugs, or when a routine visit to the doctor changes the rest of our lives? What does Jesus statement mean in our current, fearful national context of death by politics, or death by racism? Maybe these are some of the times the Resilience factor can kick in.  It is kind of ironic that after saying that he was the life Jesus died and was buried in a tomb that was sealed and guarded.  But I have to tell you – resurrection and life together make for a powerful combination.  In just a matter of days that divine life flexed itself and exploded right out of that tomb in full resurrection power.  That’s how THE GOOD LIFE behaves!  

images-5That’s what gives me hope for the rebound when I find myself in situations that close me in, that back me into a corner, that knock the wind out of my sails as I take a hit from one of life’s deadly punches.  It’s the properties of resurrection life that keep us persevering – not the promises of well-intentioned politicians; not the security of a tenured job; not the forecasts of the economic analysts; no – we, who arepeople of the Resurrection, believe that because we have the life of Christ we can face the storms, the winds, the raging floods with the blessed assurance that with us in this storm is an Emmanuel kind of God who is GOOD and who is LIFE. So we can sing with utmost sincerity, when peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.It is well because we have built our lives on the solid foundation of Christ, his example, and his word.  And in the end my sisters and brothers, we may tremble as we stand on that Rock, but the Rock will never tremble under us. This is the life! Thanks be to God. Amen.