WHY DID JESUS HAVE TO DIE? Theologically speaking, why does the cross even matter to us? And how does it matter? Ask yourself, why the cross matters to you. Maybe it doesn’t.

On the second Sunday of Lent this year, I decided to tackle the theological problem of the cross be exploring a variety explanations, from substitutionary atonement to creation theology which, simply put, says that the cross restores us and the creation to God. I see the cross somewhat differently. Read the rest of this entry »

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This Lent I’m preaching a sermon series at the historic Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The series is called Cross Words: There’s Power in the Cross! 

This afternoon, after our staff meeting, Old Stone’s Associate for Care, my friend and colleague in ministry, Rev. Dr. Charles D. Yoost shared this beautiful prayer from the Iona Community with me which connects so well with our Lenten  focus on the cross. Today, I share this prayer with all of you along with my own prayer that the cross may bring you closer to God and God’s purpose for your life this Lent and always.

O Christ,
The Master Carpenter,
who at the last through wood and nails,
purchased our salvation,
wield well your tools in the workshop of the world,
so that we, who come rough-hewn to your bench,
may here be fashioned to a truer beauty by your hand.
We ask this for your name and for your sake.
Amen.

– From the Iona Community, Scotland

Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand logo

“There are really no words to adequately convey the gravity of this situation where people have lost their lives and been injured in such a senseless and violent manner,” said the Rt. Rev. Fakaofo, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand today in the wake of Friday’s double mass shootings in his country that left at least 49 dead and another 20 seriously injured.

He’s right, of course. Sometimes, there just are no adequate words that can express how we feel in times national crisis, or even personal tragedy. The church, however, has thoughtful and collectively agreed upon words that speak even when our own words fail us.  Read the rest of this entry »

2000 YEARS AGO, IT WAS AN INSTRUMENT OF DEATH. Today, the cross is one of the most universally recognized symbols of hope! Such is the power of God. This Lent, I’m preaching a 5 part sermon series called Cross Words: There’s Power in the Cross! The series explores and celebrates the life-giving power of the cross.

Eremon
In this first episode, Cross Training, we go to the wilderness with Jesus. Luke uses the term eremon, which sounds like a mythical land in Lord of the Rings, or a far off planet in the Star Wars trilogy but literally translated means: desolate, desolation, or desolate place. We’ve all been to eremon at one time or another.  Read the rest of this entry »

World Love

What if the Apostle Paul were writing to us today? 1 Corinthians 13:2019 

If I can talk the talk of anti-racism, name my white privilege, claim to be woke, or a modern feminist, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Or if I think bump stocks, more assault weapons, or a wall is going to keep me truly free or even safe, but do not have love, well, I’ll just need more bump stocks, guns, and walls. Or fences. Or barriers. Call them whatever you want. They’re all the same. They are dividers and none will offer me the peace I long for. Only love will transcend them and the fear that built them. Read the rest of this entry »

WHEN I WAS A KID GROWING UP IN CANADA, WE PLAYED A GAME CALLED, KING OF THE CASTLE. Friends who grew up in the States called it King of the Hill. Whatever you called it when you were a kid, the point of the game was basically the same. It was to step or stomp on your buddies, scratch and claw if you had to, so that you could get to the top of the heap and sing your victory song: I’m the King of the castle, you’re the dirty rascal (to the tune of Ring Around the Rosie)!

Check out O Lord, It’s Hard to Be Humble. Be sure not to miss the wonderful ending.
It’s sure to leave you smiling!

The strange and sad thing is that we’ve seen grown-ups play an adult version of the very same game in business and politics, in love and marriage, and even in the church. We may even be thinking about one or two of them right now. They are folks for whom, it seems, that it doesn’t matter who gets hurt, so long as they can win, make it to the top, be number one, and stay there! Read the rest of this entry »

Valentine

For those whose hearts have ever been broken,
May God bless them with healing, renewal, and love born anew.

For those whose hearts are bound in love to others,
May God bless them with patience, purpose, and understanding.

For God who showed us love in Jesus, pure and true, vulnerable and selfless,
May God bless us all with hearts filled with praise and joy, and love for one another.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love,
Mark