One of the blessings of being a pastor is being at the bedside of an elderly saint and ushering that Christian brother or sister home to heaven with the resurrection comfort of God’s Word. My first year at Epiphany, I was blessed to conduct fifteen funerals. I had conducted only two funerals during my previous eight years in Kentucky.
I showed the painting of the Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio to my 7th grade Catechism class. After reading John 20:19-31 about Jesus appearing to the disciples in the locked room, I asked them what they noticed about the painting. They remembered that the room was full of disciples, yet the artist only focused on Jesus, Thomas, and two other disciples.
Dr. Jonathan Weber, Harvard professor and biblical scholar, on an archeological dig in Israel discovers a previously unknown tomb in Rama. As he starts his excavations, he is shocked to discover that there is writing on the tomb declaring this to be the sepulcher of Yeshua ben Jossaf – Jesus, son of Joseph.
Dr. Weber believes that he has discovered the burial tomb with Jesus’ bones in it!
On Christmas Eve, 2012, a black Angora goat named Curly went on the lam from a live nativity scene. The goat was supposed to have a supporting role at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
According to the Fergus Falls Journal, tracking the goat was difficult because of a lack of snow. Curly was spotted several times since his escape, prompting phone calls to the police and an interactive map of his whereabouts posted on the Journal’s website. The goat was missing for 25 days, before a farmer in southwest Fergus Falls noticed an extra goat among his count.
Thousands upon thousands of lambs — buckets upon buckets of blood — this is the history of the Passover. Long ago, in the land of Egypt, in a land of exile, in a land of slavery, the Israelites suffered under the iron fist of Pharaoh. This line of pharaohs had forgotten the saving work of Joseph and how he had delivered Egypt from the devastating famine. So, they had enslaved the Hebrew people to do the pharaohs’ manual labor — to build their cities and erect their monuments. Terrible hardships, brutal labor, and despair were the lot of the Hebrew people.
Next Sunday is the first of April – April Fool’s Day – 24-hour period that has no great significance other than the playing of practical jokes. Over the years there have been some wonderful April Fool’s Day jokes played on people.
I remember reading the April 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated. The sports magazine revealed that the New York Mets had recruited a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a baseball at 168 mph — 65 mph faster than the previous record.
It is one thing to travel across the wilderness in order to arrive at a destination; but it is quite another to wander around a wasteland for forty years. The Israelites did both. As they left Egypt and made their way to Mount Sinai, the plan was to continue on to the Promised Land of Canaan. And they did, but when they sent twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan to see what their new homeland would be like—and what would be required to occupy it—events took a dramatic turn. The spies returned and spoke highly of the land, but they were terrified of the people already living there. Yes, Canaan was a land flowing with milk and honey, but the inhabitants were giants and war-like. The spies spoke with fear, and this fear spread throughout the community of Israel. God’s people were terrified. And in their fear, they refused to go forward.
Man begins his journey in this world in a garden. Adam and Eve are established in the Garden of Eden, surrounded by various other God-created creatures and God-created vegetation. And, the Word of the Lord distinguishes, speaks specifically about, two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We are told that both trees were in the middle of the garden, perhaps side by side.
When I taught the Fourth Commandment to my 7th grade Catechism class, I asked them what kind of discipline their parents have used on them. The students mentioned spankings when they were younger, mouths washed out with soap for talking back; grounding from activities; taking away electronics; turning off the Wi-Fi; doing extra chores; having to babysit their younger siblings; and picking up dog poo in the backyard.
Slavery—bondage—servitude. Brutal taskmasters—heavy burdens—daily despair and hopelessness. This was the land of Egypt for the Israelites. Four hundred years prior, the land of Egypt was a place of refuge, a place of rescue. It was a place that promised food in the midst of famine, a land that gave the Hebrews a home at a time when things were becoming desperate. But that had all changed. A pharaoh had ascended to the throne who did not know, who did not acknowledge the great deeds and works of Joseph. Now, the Hebrew people had become a source of cheap labor. Now, the Hebrew people were enslaved to carry out the building projects of the pharaoh. Now, slavery, bondage, and servitude, brutal taskmasters and heavy burdens were their lot, and they groaned under this reality.