Landscape of Lent: Cave

2014 4 6 stones box 2014 4 6 stones

In the story as told in the gospel of John, said Catherine Williams in her sermon on April 6, Lazarus probably  counted on Jesus coming to heal him. She imagined how he would have felt:

“You take to your fevered bed that night in hope. You rise next morning feeling frighteningly worse than last night, and you ask for news of Jesus. . . Now the sun has begun to set; Jesus is still not here. By now you feel yourself enveloped in a thick, dark cloud of disappointment, anger, fear, and abandonment. You wonder if this what death feels like…

Sometimes we feel abandoned, like Lazarus, Catherine said. She quoted theologian Gordon Lathrop’s book on the ‘little deaths’ we face in the course of living. Lathrop speaks of “moments of physical sickness or disability, or the moments of letting go, of moving on, or of facing failure, all of which can be described in metaphoric language as having something of death about them.”

To Lathrop’s listing she added: strained or severed relationships with living persons, mental and emotional pathologies, loss of employment or underemployment, loneliness, betrayal, and a host of other little deaths that begin to close in around us, cutting off our hope, our connections, even our faith, and leaving us entombed by circumstances beyond our control. . .

Near the end of her message, she pointed out that Lazarus’s name meant “God is my help,” and that he had no idea where, or how close,  his help was.

He only knew he was trapped in circumstances utterly beyond his control, and could see no way out. Which means that for the person in the cave, all I’ve said until now may mean absolutely nothing. But the fact that you are here in this gathered community of faith is symbolic of something hopeful. It symbolizes that you are part of a wider community that cares, and that believes the life of God has the power to destroy death, and that the light of Christ cannot be overpowered by darkness.

(The entire message is here.)

Altar design by Debbie Meola and photos are by Edem Timpo.

Landscape of Lent: Water

 2014 water altar The Landscape of Lent: Water

A Sermon by Jana Purkis-Brash

Sunday, March 23, 2014. 

Jana’s topic was the story in John 4: 5-42 about the Samarian woman at the well. For the complete sermon, click here.

Her conclusion:  Over and over again Jesus defied the rigid boundaries imposed by the religious and social leaders of his time. You can look at some of what he did in a contemporary context, and some of it will bother you and maybe even make you angry, as it did the Pharisees and Sadducees.

If Jesus were physically present today,

  • He would visit the Ukraine.
  • He would have dinner with prostitutes and drug addicts.
  • He would surround himself with people of poverty.
  • He would embrace and the Gay, Lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.
  • He would call on us to pray for terrorists.

Jesus is alive today. And we are his body. We are his presence. We are called to have his mind, and to act as best we are able to discern as Jesus would. To ask and take seriously the question of what would Jesus do in our time moves us well beyond the wristbands that were popular years ago and into the often uncomfortable and sometimes socially unacceptable places where we acknowledge that all people of all nations, all cultures, all religions, all genders, all ages, all races, all sexual orientations, all incomes, all accomplishments and all sins are God’s own children and our sisters a2014 water jugnd brothers seeking the water of eternal life.

And that, my dear friends in Christ, is the most significant witness of all… the one you make. Drink deeply of the living water that Christ offers and share that life giving water with others who need it so badly.

Altar art by Debbie Meola, photographs by Edem Timpo.


The Landscape of Lent: Wilderness

2014 3 9 altar earhGod’s Word shows us that even life’s barren and hostile wilderness cannot separate us from God’s love and the destiny God has for us. That’s what ZhiHui Poh preached on March 9 in a Lenten sermon at Princeton United Methodist Church. His topic in the Landscape of Lent series was the wilderness — the wilderness in which the Israelites wandered, the wilderness in which Jesus was tempted, and the wilderness in our own lives.

He offered an inspiring message about how to think of “life’s wilderness” three ways — as part of God’s grace, as part of God’s discipline, or as part of God’s confidence in us. To continue reading, click here.

(The altar was designed for this service by Debbie Meola).