Sunday, February 22, 2009


The lectionary assigned Mark 9:2-9 for this Sunday. You remember the story. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain. Jesus appears in dazzling light, always a Biblical symbol for the presence of God. With Jesus are Moses, the giver of the law, and Elijah, the last of the prophets. Jesus plus the law and the prophets.

The text says that Jesus is talking with Moses and Elijah. Jesus is in conversation, you see, with the whole of Jewish tradition. Jesus is connected to all of Judaism. Without the history of Judaism there is no Jesus.

A recent Confirmand asked her mentor why there is an Old Testament and a New Testament. Some have taken to calling the Old Testament the Jewish Scriptures. That would be correct, of course. Either way, Jesus and the church come out of the whole story of God's work with his people Israel.

Peter, seeing the vision of Jesus transfigured, wants to build three tabernacles, three churches, to house this experience, to keep it forever.

In my sermon, for today, I said that Transfiguration is confirmation, worship, transformation and challenge. Here at the end of Epiphany is a pretty good epiphany.

The disciples are now prepared for what is to come when they come down from the mountain. Well, they are as prepared as any of us can be. Jesus will continue to chide them and us for having "little faith". And, when Jesus is taken away they/we will scatter.

So, today let's slip in among Peter, James and John. Let us listen to that voice: "This is my son, the Beloved; Listen to him." So, may we begin Lent together.

Dave Nichols

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Vision and Values

On this Thursday morning, I am doing what I always do on Thursdays. That is, I'm sermonizing, working on/finishing Sundays sermon. I have a worksheet that I work through on the way to a sermon outline and finally a sermon. I write out the title, list the scripture text, and then state what is the "burden" of the text. I try to put into a few words what the text is saying. Then, there's this section called the Life Situation. Here I list words to describe what is going on in the congregation and in the world any given week.

For instance, I will list things like: people are depressed, a culture of fear, people out of work, bad news 24/7, a loss of confidence. Then, maybe someone or someones are sick and out, or someone has died. At any given moment, someone is grieving. Occasionally, I am able to know personally about what people are going through themselves.

Then, with prayer and study, I take all of that and mess with a scripture text or let it mess with me, until a sermon emerges.

I will admit that I've never seen a time like this when people seem so collectively depressed. Our own budget woes at church cause people pause. They open the newsletter and see the numbers. OH MY!

It makes it more difficult for the leaders of the church to keep their heads and hearts. As someone once said: "if you're able to keep your head, when things are falling apart all around you, you obviously don't know the seriousness of the situation."

No matter what the situation for people of faith, it is imperative that we keep our heads and hearts focused on the right things, on God. Even though we may be afraid, we rely on a God who is with us in all our struggles.

Every closed door means another open door. Every change brings forth new opportunity. Every disaster offers the option to go forward or backward. We will get through this. Read Isaiah 43: 2-3. And, trust God.

Dave Nichols

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Happy to Be Here

It's Wednesday around here and it's a big day for us. Today was my day to do Chapel with the Child Enrichment Center this morning and our After School Program this afternoon. I took along my guitar, as usual, and we sang and prayed. In the morning, I got so many hugs from the children. In the afternoon, our kids sang and prayed with me. Normally, this would be the day that I would be leading a devotion and prayer time in the Fellowship Hall, after the meal that is. Tonight, my associate, David Smith, will lead it since he's preaching at the two traditional services Sunday. I'll be at Spirit Song, our contemporary service in the gym at 8:45, then I'll lead the service at 10:55.

In just a few minutes folks will start coming in for supper, for choirs (all of them) and for children's and youth programs. There are several Bible Studies going on on Wednesdays. One Wednesday night I was leaving when this lady met me outside asking for a Bible Study. I sent her to the study upstairs where she was warmly welcomed and stayed for the study.

It's a quick and busy time from 5pm until most people get out of here around 9pm. Barney (our guard) our front stands watch over us as we come and go. The day goes into night. And, we leave here prayed up, and ready for Sunday. The staff goes away tired but fulfilled at having served well.

A friend of mine found me on Facebook (I'm cool) the other night and asked me how it was at Bethel. I said: "I'm so happy to be here..."

Even in the midst of economic issues and problems, we pull together in faith and move on. I hope everyone who comes here is happy to be here.

Comments on Lectionary - Sept. 1

That Jesus would be healing comes at no surprise to any of us. Nor, is it surprising that Jesus is healing on the Sabbath. So, when the re...