Doubt Whispers

Matthew 28:16-20 – Trinity Sunday & 1st Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, June 15, 2014

“When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17)

doubt-300x276Jesus, alone on a mountain with the inner circle of eleven disciples, tells them to, “Make disciples of all the nations.” It’s called the Great Commission. And then Matthew ends.

How did Jesus feel about giving that instruction? Or what did Jesus think about the glaring absence of Judas, the traitor who made the twelve become eleven? Was he confident or nervous about Peter’s leadership? We don’t know, for here—as elsewhere—the Gospel writer doesn’t share much about Jesus’ interior thoughts. Frequently, the faithful reader only knows Jesus’ spoken words. Maybe Jesus’ silence could be called the Gospels’ great omission?

But we do know something about “the eleven” at the end of Matthew.

They worshiped Jesus. The ancient Greek could also be translated as “bowed.” Whether it’s translated into English as the more emotionally charged worship or the physical action of bowing, all of the disciples apparently participated in this final response to the risen Christ.

Along with worshiping/bowing, some of Jesus’ inner circle—maybe ten of the eleven, maybe only one—felt . . . doubt.

All worshiped, some doubted. Continue reading →

Jesus Is Getting A Good Deal

Luke 9:51-62  – The 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, June 30, 2013

“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go…’” (Luke 9:57)

And I still can’t imagine following any other path.
And I still can’t imagine following any other path.

In 2007, when I left the church I’d served for nearly nine years, I usually mentioned two reasons for waving “good-bye.”

First, I was spending less and less time with my wife.

Yes, we loved and supported each other. In a typical year, we took vacations, worked on home and yard projects and regularly shared about the day’s events. But an average week meant I was gone for three, four and even more nights in a row—gotta love church meetings! Funerals or weddings occupied many Saturdays. Sundays, which felt like they arrived every other day, saw me depart early and return late to either collapse into a loooong nap or prepare for the next commitment. My wife teaches and so Christmas and Easter were her winter and spring breaks. Not me . . . O Little Town of Bethlehem, Christ is Risen Today!

Paul Dirdak, a clergy colleague in my California-Nevada United Methodist region, once told a curious layperson how busy his day had been. Paul listed the sermons he’d preached, the amount of travel time between multiple meetings at different locations, the phone calls made and received and so forth.

When Paul took a breath, the layperson said, “Well, young fella, I guess Jesus is getting’ a good deal with you today.”

Yeah . . . sometimes it seemed like Jesus always got a good deal with my time, energy, commitment, faith; my day-to-day, week-to-week, Advent-to-Easter-to-Advent world.

Writing was the second reason for my fond farewell.

The seventy plus hours of weekly work consumed all available time for writing. Though I may forever be a pre-published, post-pubescent novelist, I want and need to write. I believe filling in a blank computer screen with sentences represents part of my call to sharing the good news. For the sake of argument, let’s say writing is like a favorite dessert at the church potluck. Church had become a herd of hungry kids just ahead of me in the serving line. By the time I arrived at the desserts section, the homemade cookies and fresh apple cobbler had vanished into teenaged tummies. All that remained was a fork-poked slice of store-bought coconut crème pie. I can’t stand coconut.

There was a third reason for limping away from full-time church. I don’t often mention it; it’s mostly kept in my soul’s secret place. Continue reading →

At The Bottom Of The Holy Hill

Psalm 24 – The 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for July 15, 2012

“…Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?” (Psalm 24:3)

Why do I still believe in God?

When I awoke this morning, dawn hours away and darkness shrouding my home, that question settled in beside me.

Unbidden. Unexpected.

And yet perhaps not, for earlier in the week I’d read a Psalm I’ve spoken, whispered or shouted scores of times . . . Psalm 24.

I’ve read Psalm 24 because I’ve read all the Psalms. I’ve read it because it follows the famous 23. I’ve heard variations of 24 because numerous hymns have been inspired by its words.

Earlier in the week, on a Wednesday, I’d again studied Psalm 24 as one of four scheduled lectionary readings. I could lie and claim its verses inspired or troubled me. They didn’t. The day before I’d glanced at a passage about King David. The next day, dutifully following the lectionary for July 15, I spent a few moments with the first chapter of Ephesians. None of those passages, Old or New Testament, did much for me. ‘Tis the truth.

Still, maybe something happened on that dull Wednesday morning when I read 24 for the 24th or 224th time. Did a notion get planted within my consciousness, quietly and benignly, like a seed in the soil?

And there it grew until a few days later—until I woke and wondered, “Why do I still believe in God?” I suspect verses three and four might’ve been the “seed” for my pre-dawn query.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.

Isn’t the psalmist asking who can be with God? Then the pure-hearted and true-blue soul answer quickly arrives in the next verse. Continue reading →