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Author Archives: Melinda Gapen

Dead Enough

As the entire world is impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic, practicing social distancing and isolating, we are consumed with concern for the increasing confirmed cases and those deceased. Our scriptures are also consumed with the concept of death.

Ezekiel has a vision of dry bones within a valley, which I envision to be a remote desert similar to familiar spots in Arizona. These dry bones are the most extreme depiction of death, and yet God orders Ezekiel to prophesy that these may become covered in flesh again. But, something is missing.

In our gospel, Jesus receives word that a friend, named Lazarus, is ill. Jesus, however, waits several days until after Lazarus’ death before returning to Bethany, which is on the out-skirts of Jerusalem. Upon Jesus’ arrival he is moved, disturbed in spirit, and weeps in grief before ordering Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, to rise and come out. Lazarus does, but he is still bound.

As I pondered these scriptures, in light of these times, I recalled a segment from True Terror with Robert Englund. It shares historical reports and accounts of strange events, this particular story occurred in New Orleans in 1875 during the small pox epidemic.

A young man was declared dead, but he was alive and aware of his surroundings although unable to communicate. He was placed in a wooden coffin, loaded into a wagon, and it was departing for the local cemetery. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2020 in Sermons, Uncategorized

 

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COVID 19: Pastoral Letter (part 1)

Hello Beloved,

I pray that his finds you well in mind, body, and soul.

We are existing within an unprecedented, chaotic, and challenging time as the COVID 19 pandemic impacts our lives, communities, nations, and the entire world.

  • Concerts, Sporting Events, and Social Gathering are postponed.
  • Educational institutions, pre-schools to universities, are closed.
  • Companies are requiring employees to work from the comfort of their homes.
  • Companies are laying off employees and closing their doors.
  • Restaurants are limited to carry-out and delivery business only.
  • Churches are embracing digital worship until further notice.
  • Multiple states have issued ‘Shelter In Place’ or ‘Stay At Home’ Orders.

It seems that our communities, nations, and the entire world is closed with the exception of essential services, such as: Medical, First Responders, Grocery, Utilities, and Financial Institutions.

Admittedly, I questioned the drastic precautions feared when COVID 19 reached American soil. It was rooted not in rebellion or a sense of being invincible, but rather in a lack of knowledge and understanding. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2020 in Pastoral Letters

 

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Open Our Eyes: Pandemic Edition

The Scripture begun with a question of the people.

  • It is a question that was pondered for centuries before Jesus and continues to be centuries after Jesus.
  • It is a question that influences not only the human-God relationship, but also the human-human relationship.
  • It is a question rooted within Theodicy, the ‘fancy’ language for
    ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ or ‘why does suffering exist?’.

The people had presumed (and we often continue to presume) that suffering is caused by God as a punishment for sin, or even for a lack of faith. Therefore, the people inquire if the man born blind was punished for his own sins or those of his parents.

It is significant to note, Jesus denounces that the blindness was a result of sin, whether his own, his parents, or even his ancestors.

Jesus heals the man, in order to demonstrate the glory and the power of God.

Unfortunately, the man and his parents are extensively questioned by the religious elite. According to John, the religious elite are seeking an answer or witness that would condemn Jesus as a demonic and not the Messiah. Their argument is that Jesus must not be from God, because a holy man would never heal on the Sabbath in accordance with the law, or teaching.

Jesus shifts the dialogue in the Scriptures from physical sight to spiritual sight. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Social Distancing: Woman at the Well

I previously shared that Lent is a beloved season, in part because Jesus’ humanity is more apparent.

Jesus and his recently called disciples are traveling through Samaria.

Jesus is hungry, perhaps hangry, and exhausted.
He sends the disciples into town for food.

Jesus essentially clasps at the well in exhaustion without the energy to draw a drink of water.

BUT, a Samaritan woman comes to the well during the mid-day heat and alone, because of social distancing.

The historical and cultural nuances are essential to this scripture.

Jesus is a man, Jewish in ethnicity and religious adherence, and a Rabbi (teacher).

Jesus’ disciples are men, Jewish in ethnicity and religious adherence, but considered ‘sinners’ by the religious elite.

She is an unnamed woman. She is a Samaritan.
She is not socially accepted among Samaritan ‘polite society’. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Jesus Tempted?

Welcome to Lent, a personally beloved season.
It is not so because of the sober tone and doom and gloom, but despite it.
It is so beloved because it is authentic, reflective, and emphasizes Jesus’ humanity.

The Christian Church professes that Jesus is fully divine and fully human, but it is challenging to wrap our minds around and communicate this divine mystery. Therefore, we have consciously or unconsciously decided to evaluate the divinity of Jesus at the expense of his humanity.

Honestly, it is hard as a helpless, worthless, sinful critter to deeply connect with the divine nature of Jesus.

Yet, this morning we witness Jesus within an universal human experience… temptation.

But, was Jesus really tempted? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Burn It Down! Arise!

While pondering Ash Wednesday, our Lenten journey, and the Resurrection at Easter, I am captivated by the imagery of fire and flames, the ashes left behind, and the mythical Phoenix.

We are temporary.
Ash Wednesday echoes to each person ‘remember that you are ash and to ash you shall return’. It reminds us that our physical bodies, minds, and lives are temporary, for in the grand scheme of time our existence is a mere blink of the eye.

Despite this brief existence, we are tempted to extended it through becoming legends and lifting ourselves onto a delusional pedestal built of pride, ego, and presumed (self) righteousness.

Burn it Down!
Lent is a journey of burning that delusional pedestal down to nothing but ashes.

Lent is a journey forged with vulnerability and honest self-reflection seeking to destroy that pedestal and additional barriers distracting from, challenging, and hindering our relationship with God, neighbor, and self. These barriers include, but are not limited to: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Vulnerable Authenticity (Ash Wed)

WELCOME to my most beloved church season… Lent.

It is not beloved because of its sober tone or the gloom and doom, but despite it. It is beloved because of its authenticity.

Generation X and younger have especially demanded that those identifying as Christin, their faith communities and denominations, as well as the church universal be authentic and transparent. Their participation or lack thereof is often rooted in these demands.

It is not about ever-changing, energy-charged, entertaining worship.
It is not about the music, sound system, or multi-media.
It is not about coffee bars or accommodations.

Again, it is about authenticity.
But, it is challenging because it requires vulnerability and self-reflection.

Thus, Lent is our annual emphasis on removing the masks that hide our self-centeredness, insecurities, flaws, failures, and less than Christ-like thoughts, words, and deeds which harm our relationship with God, neighbor, and self.

This focus includes NOT practicing our piety and presumed righteousness before others. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2020 in Sermons, Uncategorized

 

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