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Wednesday Words, April 7, 2021

Wednesday Words

April 7, 2021

Pr. Paul Cannon

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us –

and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

1 John 3:16

Happy Easter everyone!

Look at this verse above (go ahead, I’ll give you a second). You might have noticed on second glance, that it isn’t the verse you think of first, when you see “John 3:16” written in print. That verse is of course from the Gospel of John and begins, “For God so loved this world …” It’s probably the most well-known verse in all of scripture.

The verse in the header is FIRST John 3:16. It’s one of the Epistles (or letters), located way in the back of New Testament. It’s always struck me as serendipity, that both John 3:16 verses reference Jesus’ sacrificial love. Of course, I treasure both, but if I had to pick one I love the most, it’s the verse from 1 John, “We know love by this …”

The next few weeks of this Easter Season, we’ll be dwelling in the book of 1 John (not the Gospel), and we’ll take our theme from this verse, We know love by this …

I love this verse because it not only conveys the same sense of God’s love, but then it turns around, looks us in the eye, and says to us, therefor YOU “ought to lay down (your) lives for one another.”

Oh! I knew God loved me, but I didn’t know I was supposed to do something about it!

If the cross proves anything, it’s God’s love for the world. That’s how we come to know God. That’s how God’s love is revealed.

But in the resurrection, the responsibility of that love is placed on our shoulders. We’re meant to carry that same love for one another.

We hope you join us the next few weeks in this Easter Season as we dive into the book of 1 John. We’ll continue this conversation about God’s love, and how we are called to bring that love to the world.

Wednesday Words, March 31, 2021

Wednesday Words
March 31, 2021

We're sharing this reflection by Rev. T. Denise Anderson from the Again & Again Devotional. We've chosen the Easter Devotional to serve as an invitation to our Easter services!

Again & Again, Sanctified Art Devotional
Rev. T. Denise Anderson
Commentary on Mark 16:1-8

Do we ever consider the mechanics of a sunrise? The earth spinning at 1000 mph, traveling an orbit of 584 million miles around a star that’s about 1 million times the size of our planet is dizzying. But because we’ve come to expect sunrises every day, we’re not always impressed by them. Often we sleep right through them. That doesn’t make them any less awesome or miraculous. 

Easter is as familiar to Christians as a sunrise. We know the story—at least one variation—and we likely expect to greet the day the same way every year. But if we’ve been sitting in the tension of last week, we may be able to experience this day differently. 

Mark’s gospel is, again, straightforward. There are no frills in this resurrection account. There’s not much joy in it, either. Sunday morning was a time of profound grief for those closest to Jesus. Consider those first few days after you've lost someone and the liminality between their death and funeral. There’s no closure yet, and mornings are reminders that the nightmare is real. It’s hard to imagine how you’ll face the day. 

Friday's terror gives way to new terror as the women arrive to find the stone removed and a strange young man with an outlandish story. Remember that nothing about this sight is recognizable to them. This isn't comforting. They run away terrified, unable to even speak of what they saw! 

But resurrection still came, even if they weren’t yet able to receive it. Things can be scary and okay at the same time. 

Again and again, the sun rises on a new day, often without embrace or acknowledgment. The same is true of resurrection. Whether or not we discern what’s happening, God is literally and figuratively turning the world around!

Wednesday Words, March 24, 2021

Wednesday Words
March 24, 2021

We're sharing this reflection by Rev. T. Denise Anderson from the Again & Again Devotional as it looks toward Palm Sunday

Again & Again, Sanctified Art Devotional
Rev. T. Denise Anderson
Commentary on John 12:1-19

Lights. Camera. Action! 

We begin the high drama of Holy Week with a reading in three parts. 

Lights: In John’s gospel, the role of the sometimes mysterious woman who anoints Jesus before his death belongs to Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus resurrected from death. Judas objects to the act’s expense, but Jesus points out there are still opportunities to address poverty, if that’s Judas’ desire (it’s not). The spotlight is on someone we now understand as a scoundrel and who’d later play a major role in the crucifixion plot. Everyone’s motivations are exposed and the week’s events foreshadowed. 

Camera: The word “photography” comes from the Greek words for “light” and “writing.” Essentially, photography “draws the light,” and cameras are modeled after the construction of the human eye. All eyes right now are on Jesus. That’s a problem for the chief priests, who then set their eyes on Lazarus to undermine Jesus. We witness what is both secret and open. 

Action: Everything is now set in motion. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a spectacle. It’s a protest, a counternarrative to the Empire’s extravagance and repression. It happens opposite the Roman governor’s own parade into Jerusalem for the Passover. It’s the people’s declaration of a different reign. The use of a donkey is Messianic imagery. This is political theater, and it would ramp up the plots against Jesus’ life. 

“Courage” derives from Latin word “cor,” which means “heart.” When we consider the full Palm Sunday picture, these are frightful times. So much is happening that is both hopeful and terrifying. Tensions and tears are plentiful. But the Word will remind us to “take heart.”

Again and again, we take heart amid the drama. The script is unsettling, but we have not yet reached "The End."

Wednesday Words, March 17, 2021

Wednesday Words
March 17, 2021

We're sharing this reflection by Rev. T. Denise Anderson from the Again & Again Devotional as it connects to worship from last week, and the Gospel of John. It offers a chance to reflect on Sunday's message.

Again & Again, Sanctified Art Devotional
Rev. T. Denise Anderson
Commentary on John 3:14-21

John 3:16 is arguably the most recognizable verse in the New Testament. It’s a full and true statement by itself. But, like all verses in Scripture, we miss so much without the context around it.

The passage is part of Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus, a religious leader who visits him at night for a conversation. Jesus speaks of being born from above, but Nicodemus is confused. Jesus breaks it down this way: I know what I’m talking about because I came from heaven, and I came so that the world might be saved from condemnation, though there are many who prefer to remain hidden because “their deeds were evil.”

John’s gospel doesn’t intimate this, but it’s speculated that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to keep this conversation a secret. Jesus wasn’t exactly popular among Nicodemus’ set because he challenged them. If this is true, I wonder if Nicodemus saw himself in Jesus’ comment about those who love to remain hidden (Note: While light [phos] and pigment [chroma] are different, I choose not to use “darkness” here because there’s an historical practice of distorting scripture’s light/dark dichotomy to reinforce colorism and anti-Blackness around the world).

What about us? Do we identify with those who avoid being exposed? Systemically, we remain invested in collective narratives that valorize our past and gloss over (or completely ignore) our ugliness. But I also don’t like this kind of scrutiny for myself. There is vulnerability in being fully seen. We risk being defined by our blemishes. I trust few people with that picture, and only because I know they love me.

And there it is: love.

Again and again, God’s love calls us into its redeeming phos. Can we trust this love enough to draw the drapes of our souls?

Wednesday Words, March 10, 2021

Wednesday Words
March 10, 2021

We're sharing this reflection by Rev. T. Denise Anderson from the Again & Again Devotional as it connects to worship from last week, and the Gospel of John. It offers a chance to reflect on Sunday's message.

Again & Again, Sanctified Art Devotional
Rev. T. Denise Anderson
Commentary on John 2:13-22

What does it take to believe?

Even as the gospels attempt to tell the same story, each has its own motivations. John’s gospel is invested in Jesus’ divine authority and kinship with God. The cleansing of the temple is only the second vignette in John’s narrative and shows Jesus disruptively asserting authority over temple activities. He upends the business of the sellers and money changers, objecting to these things happening in the temple (or perhaps at all). He’s effectively inciting a riot, and the religious leaders demand of him a sign to prove that he has any standing to do this. In John’s gospel, Jesus is divine and powerful, but doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone, particularly those who insist on being intransigent. He often rebuffs calls for signs and answers, choosing instead to turn the proverbial tables on the inquirer. We'll see this happen again in the coming weeks’ readings as we stay in John.

Remember, John identifies Jesus as the Word that has always been and through which all things were made. Since the Word has always been with us, it shouldn’t need to prove itself. It should already be familiar to us. We’ve been taught righteousness for generations. Failure to respond probably won’t be corrected by a sign. 

The Akan principle of Sankofa¹ holds that it’s not wrong to go back to get what you need to move forward. Taking inventory of our life, where have we let other values encroach upon our spiritual identity? What everyday miracles and lessons do we need to revisit before we ask for new ones? Do we welcome the Savior’s authority, even if it upends everything around us? Again and again, we are shown the way. May we fearlessly and with gratitude receive what we’ve already been given. 

1 The Sankofa is a symbol, often depicting a mythical bird reaching back to retrieve an egg from its back, used by the Akan people of Ghana. It represents how the Akans seek to carry wisdom gleaned from the past into the future.


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