March 13, 2018: Atonement

March 13, 2018

Bible Study Session #10: Atonement

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

This Sunday’s texts come from Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Psalm 51:1-12. Both texts come from the Hebrew scriptures (aka the “Old” Testament). They include prophetic words and music about sin, mercy and forgiveness that have been with us for over 2000 years.


The prophet Jeremiah and the psalmist remind us that for centuries, human beings have been, despite our best efforts, imperfect. Unfortunately, even after all this time, even after the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have yet to figure out how to do everything “just right.” People continue to hurt us, and we continue to make choices that hurt others. In addition to the harm of those actions themselves, many of us carry another significant weight in our lives: regret, guilt and shame from past mistakes. We ask “What if…” and wonder “Why didn’t I…” We second guess ourselves and cry out to God to be merciful as we criticize ourselves for our failures.


Included in next Sunday’s service will be a ritual of confession, forgiveness and assurance. We will have a chance to confess to God those places in our lives where we feel like we’ve fallen short. In addition, we will have an opportunity to release our guilt, shame, and regret to God, freeing ourselves to move forward as we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

Bible Study Scripture

Jeremiah 31:31-34

New Revised Standard Version


31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Psalm 51:1-12

New Revised Standard Version


Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.

March 6, 2018: Made You Look

March 06, 2018

Bible Study Session #9: Made You Look

This week’s texts come from Number 21:4-9 and John 3:14-21. These are two of the stranger texts in the Bible… The first text describes a scene in which people complain to Moses about their painful trek through the wilderness. In response, God sends poisonous snakes to punish them. After the people repent, God tells Moses to put a snake on a staff, and anyone who looks at that snake will be healed.

The text from John then references the Numbers text: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

The comparison between Jesus and the snake is unexpected. In the Bible, snakes are regularly associated with greed, poison and evil. If Jesus is like Moses’ snake in the wilderness, does that mean that Jesus is somehow poisonous? And who plays the role of Moses in the second text? Who is putting Christ on a staff (perhaps represented by the cross…?)—the Roman authorities? If so, does that make the Roman authorities the ones leading believers through the wilderness, eventually healing us by killing the poisonous Christ and telling us to look to him for healing?

There must be more to the story… The author of the Gospel of John was an incredibly learned person whose metaphors tend to bring out deeper, hidden truths about God. So stay tuned for what promises to be a fascinating Bible study and sermon next week! I look forward to investigating this biblical mystery with you!

Bible Study Scripture

Numbers 21:4-9

Translation from the Amplified Bible


They set out from Mount Hor by the way of a branch of the Red Sea called the Gulf of Aqabah, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient, because of the challenges of the journey. So the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread or water, and we loathe this miserable food.”

Then Yahweh sent fiery, poisonous serpents among the people; and they bit the people, and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against God and against you. Pray to Yahweh, that the serpents might be removed from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent of bronze and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten will live when he looks at it.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it on the pole, and it happened that if people were bitten by serpents, when they looked at the bronze serpent, they lived.


John 3:14-21

Translation from New Revised Standard Version

14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”


February 27, 2018: We Proclaim Christ Crucified

February 27, 2018

Bible Study Session #8

This week’s text comes from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, a text that challenges traditional notions of power and authority. A key piece of the scripture: “For some demand signs and others desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified.” What does it mean to proclaim a God that suffers and dies? What does it mean to lift up the example of Jesus as the pinnacle of wisdom and strength? Is suffering a part of the model of leadership we should follow? 1 Corinthians also  speaks about the “message of the cross”? What might that message be for us in the modern era?

Bible Study Scripture

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Adapted form the Amplified Bible and various additional translations


18 To those who are spiritually dead, the message of the cross is foolishness—absurd and illogical, but to those of us being healed and liberated by God’s grace, the cross is the manifestation of God’s power.


19 For it is written in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the ‘wise,’

And I will baffle the insights of the ‘intelligent’.”


20 Where are the wise? Where are the authors and scholars? Where are the debaters and philosophers of this age? Has God not exposed the foolishness of this world’s wisdom? 21 The world, through all its earthly wisdom and pursuit of power, fails to recognize God; and yet God somehow uses our humility and “foolishness” to proclaim the Good News. 22 Some are persuaded by miracles, and others invest in worldly wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified.


Our message is a stumbling block for many, and foolishness to others, but to those who are called, Christ represents the power and wisdom of God. 25 The foolishness of God is far wiser than the limits of human comprehension, and the weakness of God is far stronger than the limits of human effort.


Feburary 20, 2018: The Transfiguration

February 20, 2018

Bible Study Session 7: The Transfiguration

This week’s sermon is from Mark 9:2-9, the “transfiguration” of Jesus. In the story, there is a dramatic event on a mountaintop, in which Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus. To commemorate the event, Peter insists they build a monument—a literal dwelling, in this case. Peter suggests that they all stay there, on the mountaintop, with Elijah and Moses. But Elijah and Moses disappear, and Jesus chooses to go down the mountain. Even stranger, Jesus tells his disciples not to speak about this event until after the resurrection.

This is a short text, but it leaves us with many questions. Why the secrecy? Why is Peter singled out, and does this prefigure the church’s historical discussion about Christian institutions? What does this text say about where God dwells? What is Jesus’ connection to Elijah and Moses? Why are Jesus’ clothes transformed and what does that mean? What does this text say about our own desire for structure and perhaps our own need for transformation?

God says again that Jesus is God’s beloved child – what is the significance of repeating this famous line from Jesus’ baptism in this particular moment? I look forward to diving deeper into this text with you next week! This would definitely be an excellent week to join us for Bible study at 11AM on Tuesday! We meet in the Adult Learning Center.

Bible Study Scripture

Mark 9:2-9

New Revised Standard Version

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my child, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after Jesus, the Son of Man, had risen from the dead.


February 13, 2018: New Beginnings

February 13, 2018

Bible Study Session 6: New Beginnings

This week will be the first Sunday in Lent. Throughout the Lenten season (the weeks leading up to Easter), we will be using the Revised Common Lectionary, a selection of common texts used by churches around the world.

This Sunday’s texts will be Genesis 9:8-17 and 1 Peter 3:18-22. If Lent is, at its heart, about struggle, transformation, and preparation for the resurrection, these are excellent opening texts! The first text emphasizes God’s covenant with Moses, while the second speaks about baptism.

Unfortunately, both present ideas about God that are difficult to wrap our heads around, including sin, resurrection, and an imperfect God that makes mistakes. Jacob wrestled with an angel and was transformed and renamed Israel…Lent is an opportunity for us to wrestle with scripture…what in us will change as a result?

Bible Study Scriptures

Genesis 9:8-17

New Revised Standard Version

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.

 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

1 Peter 3: 18-22

New Revised Standard Version

18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.

21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.




February 06, 2018: Body in prayer, Body in motion

February 06, 2018

Bible Study Session 5: 

This week, we will conclude our “Going Deeper” series on prayer by talking about embodied prayer and studying Romans 12:1-5.

Our Christian history is mixed when it comes to questions of the body. The body is talked about negatively as “flesh” in scripture at times, and yet in other texts, the church is described as the “Body of Christ” and the body is lifted up as God’s temple.

Our Puritan ancestors considered the body with great suspicion, and yet there is also a rich UCC tradition of dance, movement, and ritual that encourages engaging our senses in order to draw nearer to God.

What do we adopt and what do we reject? How do we (comfortably) use our bodies connect to God in prayer? How might we deepen our faith through practices that incorporate movement? I look forward to exploring this complex topic with you next week!

Bible Study Scripture:

Romans 12: 1-5

New Revised Standard Version

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

January 30, 2018: If God Were Santa Claus…

January 30, 2018

Bible Study Session 4: If God Were Santa Claus…

This week, we will be reading 2 texts: Psalm 58 and Matthew 6:25-34. There are 66 books in the library we call the Bible, and sometimes, it is valuable to put different authors into conversation.

Our first text, a song of King David, is a song of both petition and hope. The context is David’s capture by the Philistines, a time when many of us would undoubtedly be asking God for help as well!

The second text comes from the Gospel of Matthew, and it encourages us to trust in God, even in the midst of hardship. As if to answer the obvious question, “But how can we trust something we can’t even see?”, the author uses examples from nature to demonstrate God’s trustworthiness and compassion for all of us.

Are you convinced? Will God be there for us when we need God most? I look forward to exploring these texts with you next week!

Study Scripture 1: 

Psalm 58   

International Standard Version

 1How is it that by remaining silent you can speak righteously?
How can you judge people fairly?
No, in your heart you devise injustice,

And your hands mete out violence on the earth.
The wicked go astray from the womb;
they go astray, telling lies even from birth.
Their venom is like a poisonous snake;
a deaf serpent that shuts its ears,
refusing to hear the voice of the snake charmer,

however skillful the enchanter may be.

God, shatter their teeth in their mouths;
Break the fangs of the young lions!
May they flow away like water that runs off,
may they become like someone who shoots broken arrows.
May they be like a snail that dries up as it crawls;
Like wax that is melted and falls before the fire.
Before your clay pots are placed on a pile of thorns—
whether green or ablaze—
wrath will sweep them away like a storm.

10 The righteous will rejoice when they see your vengeance;
when they wash their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 A person will say,
“Certainly, the righteous are rewarded;
certainly there is a God who judges the earth.”

 Study Scripture 2:      

Matthew 6:25-34         

New Revised Standard Version

 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly God feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life or one cubit to your height? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will God not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly God knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.


January 23, 2018: Mysticism and Corinthians

January 23, 2018

Led by: Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Session 3: Mysticism and Corinthians

This  week’s text comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 2, verses 12-16. We will examine the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer, wisdom, and daily life and pay particular attention to the insights of Christian mystics like Meister Eckhart, Marguerite Porette, and others.

This is not a text that will insist that you forget all you know; however, it may invite you to expand what “knowledge” means. I look forward to continuing our “going deeper” series with you!

Bible Study Scripture:

1 Corinthians 2: 2-16

New Standard Revised Version

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.

16 “For who has known the mind of God
so as to instruct God?”

But we have the mind of Christ.


January 16, 2018: The Lord’s Prayer

January 16, 2018

Bible Study Session 2: Variations of The Lord’s Prayer

This week, we will continue our “Going Deeper” series by examining the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the “Our Father” or the prayer of Jesus.

We will approach it from several different angles, examining what these ancient words may still have to say to us now. This is an ancient prayer, but I look forward to exploring new ways of embracing and connecting with it!


Bible Study Scripture


















January 9, 2018 Job: Chapter 6

In our sermon series this winter, “Going deeper,” we are studying prayer. Sometimes “going deeper” doesn’t mean remaining silent. Sometimes it means engaging in a new way. Sometimes, we pray out loud, and sometimes, our prayers are angry. 
This week’s text comes from the book of Job, chapter 6. Job experiences extraordinary suffering through no fault of his own, although his friends tell him that he somehow must deserve his misfortune. In reality, Job is caught in an ugly cosmic game in which he is simply another casualty. His angry prayer to God proclaims his own righteousness and demands that God take accountability for God’s actions.
Is there a place in our lives for angry prayer (if any)? Can “righteousness” prayers (or even self-righteous prayers) be valuable to our spiritual journeys? What is the place for taking a stand, or do we need to prioritize listening to the “other side”? 

SCRIPTURE:  (The Message translation)

God Has Dumped the Works on Me

1-7 Job answered:

“If my misery could be weighed,
    if you could pile the whole bitter load on the scales,
It would be heavier than all the sand of the sea!
    Is it any wonder that I’m screaming like a caged cat?
The arrows of God Almighty are in me,
    poison arrows—and I’m poisoned all through!
    God has dumped the whole works on me.
Donkeys bray and cows moo when they run out of pasture—
    so don’t expect me to keep quiet in this.
Do you see what God has dished out for me?
    It’s enough to turn anyone’s stomach!
Everything in me is repulsed by it—
    it makes me sick.

Pressed Past the Limits

8-13 “All I want is an answer to one prayer,
    a last request to be honored:
Let God step on me—squash me like a bug,
    and be done with me for good.
I’d at least have the satisfaction
    of not having blasphemed the Holy God,
    before being pressed past the limits.
Where’s the strength to keep my hopes up?
    What future do I have to keep me going?
Do you think I have nerves of steel?
    Do you think I’m made of iron?
Do you think I can pull myself up by my bootstraps?
    Why, I don’t even have any boots!

My So-Called Friends

14-23 “When desperate people give up on God Almighty,
    their friends, at least, should stick with them.
But my brothers are fickle as a gulch in the desert—
    one day they’re gushing with water
From melting ice and snow
    cascading out of the mountains,
But by midsummer they’re dry,
    gullies baked dry in the sun.
Travelers who spot them and go out of their way for a drink
    end up in a waterless gulch and die of thirst.
Merchant caravans from Tema see them and expect water,
    tourists from Sheba hope for a cool drink.
They arrive so confident—but what a disappointment!
    They get there, and their faces fall!
And you, my so-called friends, are no better—
        there’s nothing to you!
    One look at a hard scene and you shrink in fear.
It’s not as though I asked you for anything—
    I didn’t ask you for one red cent—
Nor did I beg you to go out on a limb for me.
    So why all this dodging and shuffling?

Ruth 2: 1-13

“The Power of Kindness” 

Ruth 2:1-13 is the scripture for June 25.  Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi have arrived in Bethlehem but face a day to day struggle for survival.  At this point Boaz enters the story and meets Ruth for the first time.  It was the start of a great relationship to say the least. Listen in on the Bible Study group to hear what questions came up!



Scripture Reading                           Ruth 2: 1 – 13                   The Message

It so happened that Naomi had a relative by marriage, a man prominent and rich, connected with Elimelech’s family. His name was Boaz.

 One day Ruth, the Moabite foreigner, said to Naomi, “I’m going to work; I’m going out to glean among the sheaves, following after some harvester who will treat me kindly.”

Naomi said, “Go ahead, dear daughter.”

And so she set out. She went and started gleaning in a field, following in the wake of the harvesters. Eventually she ended up in the part of the field owned by Boaz, her father-in-law Elimelech’s relative. A little later Boaz came out from Bethlehem, greeting his harvesters, “God be with you!” They replied, “And God bless you!”

 Boaz asked his young servant who was foreman over the farm hands, “Who is this young woman? Where did she come from?”

The foreman said, “Why, that’s the Moabite girl, the one who came with Naomi from the country of Moab. She asked permission. ‘Let me glean,’ she said, ‘and gather among the sheaves following after your harvesters.’ She’s been at it steady ever since, from early morning until now, without so much as a break.”

Then Boaz spoke to Ruth: “Listen, my daughter. From now on don’t go to any other field to glean—stay right here in this one. And stay close to my young women. Watch where they are harvesting and follow them. And don’t worry about a thing; I’ve given orders to my servants not to harass you. When you get thirsty, feel free to go and drink from the water buckets that the servants have filled.”

 She dropped to her knees, then bowed her face to the ground. “How does this happen that you should pick me out and treat me so kindly—me, a foreigner?”

Boaz answered her, “I’ve heard all about you—heard about the way you treated your mother-in-law after the death of her husband, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to live among a bunch of total strangers. God reward you well for what you’ve done—and with a generous bonus besides from God, to whom you’ve come seeking protection under his wings.”

 She said, “Oh sir, such grace, such kindness—I don’t deserve it. You’ve touched my heart, treated me like one of your own. And I don’t even belong here!”

Matthew 28: 16-20


Next Week’s Scripture is  Mathew 28:16-20.  There are many great passages in scripture about faith.  After healing someone,  Jesus often reminded them, “Your faith has made you well.”  In Romans  Paul reminds us that  by faith we are brought into a right relationship with God.  Hebrews 11 is the great faith chapter of scripture.

But what about doubt?  Doubt actually plays a significant role in our struggle for an authentic relationship with God.


Scripture (NRSV): The Commissioning of the Disciples 

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[a]

Genesis 32:22-31

This Week’s Scripture is Genesis 32: 22-31. It is the story of Jacob, who, finding himself between the proverbial “rock and a hard place” spends the night wrestling with a mysterious opponent. You and I probably have had the experience of spending the night wrestling with hard issues in our own lives. We may even have found ourselves fighting with God.

Genesis 32:22-32

The Message (MSG)

22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

27 The man said, “What’s your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)

John 20:19-29 May 28, 2017


Most people look at John 20:19-29 and recognize the story as “doubting” Thomas.  But there is another side called the story of the “missing” Thomas.  This chapter is also significant as it stands in stark contrast to Luke’s account in Acts 2 of the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit.  In Luke’s account there is wind, fire, and speaking in tongues.  In John, Jesus appears to the disciples and breathes on them.

Scripture Reading

John 20: 19-29

New Revised Standard Version

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”


Luke 7: 1-10

This story from Luke describes a transaction between an unnamed Roman Centurion and Jesus. The two never actually meet face to face. It is the Jewish community which intercedes for the centurion’s slave. They came to Jesus describing how the centurion was a good man and asked on his behalf that his servant be healed. The centurion says of Jesus “you are also a man under authority, say the word and my servant will be healed”.  The centurion recognized Jesus as a man of power but also as one who also took orders.


Perhaps living in “the land of the free” we civilians have forgotten about being men and women under authority. Those who have served in our military probably have greater appreciation for the centurion’s words.  Are we, too under authority? If so, who or what ultimately deserves our allegiance and obedience?


Luke 7: 1 – 10

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave.

When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.”

And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”

When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.