Pastor's Blog

June 30, 2018

This week, thirty-six St. John's Pilgrims stood on the Mount of Olives, looking across the Kidron Valley to the Holy City -- a breathtaking view to be sure. Down in the Old City, we walked the mile-long route of the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) from the Antonia Fortress built by Herod the Great to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Anyone who tours here quickly learns that there are sometimes differences of opinion about where a particular event recounted in the Gospels actually took place. This can be frustrating for pilgrims who naturally want to know where "X" marks the spot... the spot where Jesus prayed in the garden, the spot where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, the spot where Jesus stood before Pilate, the spot where Jesus was crucified, the spot where Jesus was buried and appeared first to Mary risen from the dead. For example, and without going into explanations, while the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is favored by most archaeologists to be the location of Jesus’ crucifix...

June 23, 2018

Thank you for your prayers for all those that have been traveling through the Holy Land this past week.  Yesterday we stood at the ancient Capernaum synagogue that was built on top of the one where Jesus himself preached (Luke 4: 31-41).  But it was to be rivaled by a newly discovered first century synagogue in the home town of Mary Magdalene where Jesus most certainly placed his feet (Luke 8 :1-3).  I had a physical and spiritual sensation of awe as I beheld it and then walked beside the place in the synagogue where Jesus would have taught.  

We continued on to the Mt. of Beatitudes at Eremos where we gathered under some trees overlooking the sea of Galilee on a particularly clear and beautiful day. There, I had the opportunity to read from Matthew chapter 5 & 6 and share some thoughts from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount... A sermon whose summit  comes with Jesus' command to love one's enemies: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and h...

June 8, 2018

We all get down.  We all need support when we do.  This hit me again last night when I heard about the death of Anthony Bourdain, the well known chef and host of CNN’s Parts Unknown.  Why he took his own life was not clear, but the lack of hope and the experience of loneliness can often be a factor.  We all need encouragement.  There’s the encouragement we experience when we have partners who stand with us and thoughtfully affirm us.  From a dank prison cell, Paul says to his Philippian friends, “I thank my God every time I remember you…because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:5).     

There was another thing Paul experienced, as did his friends in Philippi – the encouragement of being deeply missed.  “For God is my witness” Paul says, “how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:8).  Perhaps you’ve had the experience of missing someone so much, it physically hurt; and the only relief...

June 2, 2018

Last week I shared some reflections on the gift of encouragement.  Even Paul got down, and perhaps especially as he sat in a prison cell.  But that’s when the Philippians came in, literally.  The church at Philippi was one that brought him great joy.  They were true partners in the gospel; and so when Paul was put in prison, the Philippians wanted to be there for him too.  They sent him a man named Epaphroditus who came to his prison to encourage him – with money and supplies and friendship as Paul had so encouraged them with the gospel.  That’s how one survived prison in the first century… on the gifts and support of friends.  Paul was deeply moved.  So he wrote a thank you note for their gift, and encouraged them to hold fast to their joy and oneness in Christ despite their own challenges. 

Paul begins his letter by thanking them for their partnership: “I thank my God every time I remember you…be...

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