Fifth Sunday of Easter 2020

John 14:1-14

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. 2 In God’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to Thomas, “I…am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to God except because of me. 7 If you know me, you will know God also. From now on you do know God and have seen God.”
  8 Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us God, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen God. How can you say, ‘Show us God’? 10 Do you not trust that I am in God and God is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but God who dwells in me does these works.

11 Trust me that I am in God and God is in me; but if you do not, then trust in me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who trusts in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to God. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that God may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.


Please pray with me this morning, church:

Holy God,

Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother,

Heavenly Parent of all,

Show us the way.

When we are forgetful, remind us.

Show us yourself.

And walk with us, as we travel this way together.



Church, similar to the past couple of weeks, I’ve got a couple of questions for your reflection. I’d like for you to write these down and sit with them and pray about them, think on them. And if you feel like sharing, put a comment up on Facebook, or comment on youtube, or send me an email. I’m really just trying to offer you something more and something deeper for your personal devotions or spiritual reflections.

This week, I’m wondering, what ways are you following?

How do you know which way to go?

How do you figure out who to follow?

I want to encourage you to reflect on those questions this week.

Write them, journal with them, meditate on them.

What ways are you following?


I’m the type of person who doesn’t always need to have a particular direction. One of the ways I clear my mind is by heading off without any particular destination. I suppose I’m somewhat of a free spirit that way, I’m happy to end up wherever the way takes me.

But once I get to…wherever it is I’m going…I am usually pretty adamant that I want to be able to return from where I came.

When I do have a particular destination in mind, I like very much to know how to get there.

And, I’m pretty decent at it, right? Thank God for GPS and Google Maps.

I also used to be able to do it with a compass, but who knows where that knowledge now lives in my brain… My parents used to keep a Rand McNally atlas in the car. Though not necessarily the most up-to-date thing in the world, and certainly not always the easiest to read and decipher, I could usually do a pretty good job of finding my way with it.

I think our gospel reading this morning is all about figuring out where we’re going.

Maybe more than any other year before, I’ve really been hooked into Thomas’s storyline in this Gospel of John. I’m really identifying with Thomas this year.

Thomas, you’ll remember, from quite a few weeks ago, before Easter, was the one who sort of puzzlingly exclaimed “Let us also go! So that we may die with him!” when Jesus, who had dawdled for a few days, told the disciples that they were headed to Bethany to see Lazarus and Martha and Mary after Lazarus had died.

Also, Thomas, from the Sunday after Easter, is the one who simply wants what all the other disciples got to experience…an encounter with the risen Christ. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

The reason I think I’m identifying so strongly with Thomas this year is because I think Thomas is really speaking for all of us, especially during these extraordinarily unusual times.

Thomas is zealous—“Let us also go with Jesus! We’ll follow him anywhere!”

Thomas is skeptical—“Show me the proof.”

And this morning, Thomas says the thing that we’re all thinking—“Uhh…actually we don’t know where you’re going, Jesus…so how can we know the way?”

And if Thomas says the thing we’re all thinking this morning, then Jesus’ words are the perfect mix of comfort and confusion that Jesus is so well-known for.

“I…am the way.”

Great! …ahhh……so where are we going…?

In a time of confusion and high anxiety and mounting stress…the question I keep asking myself is “Where does all this go?” Where does this leave us?

Where do we end up?

And friends…I don’t have a good answer for you.

I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know where this ends up. I don’t know if a return from where we came is even desired…much less, possible.

But here’s that comforting part—wherever we’re going…Jesus is the way to get there.

That is to say, perhaps following Jesus is more about how we are along the way than it is about the destination.

That is to say, as long as our journey reflects what we’ve learned from Jesus…we know we’re headed in the right direction. As long as our journey is a way of healing and care and compassion, as long as we’re attentive and responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized in our neighborhoods, as long as we stand in solidarity with and fight for the dignity and worth and well-being of the cast-aside and systemically oppressed in our communities…we’re on the right path.

The good news, church, is that Jesus is right…you do know the way. It’s the way you’ve learned since you were much younger. It’s the way you’ve been taught by mothers and step-mothers and grand-mothers and other motherly and parental figures, all of whom we remember and celebrate today. That’s really the way of parenting, isn’t it? To teach your young ones to follow closely…closely to you, close to Jesus… Church, it’s the way we lift up every week we gather together.

Following Jesus is that way.

It’s so simple. And so difficult, all at the same time.

We may not know exactly where we’re going.

But we do know who goes with us.

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus is our companion on our journey.

Like the sheep of God’s pasture, Jesus is our shepherd, our guide, and our safety.

Our destination may be unclear, but Jesus dwells in God, and in Jesus, God dwells with us.

Our home…our dwelling place, our place of abiding…is in God.

Trust in this truth.

Have faith in this good news.

Fourth Sunday of Easter 2020

John 10:1-10

[Jesus said to some of the Pharisees gathered there:] 1 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for the shepherd, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run away because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
  7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”


Please pray with me this morning, church:

Good Shepherd,

When fear and worry consume us,

When doubt and anxiety overtake us,

When we feel lost in the valley of the shadow of death,

Call our name.

Lead us beside your still waters, and make us rest securely.

Restore our souls. Lead us to life.



Church, similar to last week, I want to give you a question or two for reflection. I’d like for you to write these down and sit with them and pray about them, think about them. And if you feel like sharing, put a comment up on Facebook, or comment on youtube, or send me an email. I’m really just trying to offer you something more and something deeper for your personal devotions or spiritual reflections.

This week, I’m wondering, what voices do you hear?

What voices are competing for your attention?

And what voices are you listening to and giving weight to?

What is the voice of Jesus saying to you in these times?

I want to encourage you to reflect on those questions this week.

Write them, journal with them, meditate on them.

What voices are you listening to?


When we were much younger, my sister and I got a trampoline from Santa one Christmas. I don’t know about my sister, but I personally think it was a consolation present because what I really wanted was a swimming pool. And I guess trampolines are just a lot cheaper than pools…

Anyway, we enjoyed it. We jumped the heck out of that thing. Flips, jumps, trying to see who could double-bounce the other… The occasional twisted ankle or trampoline burn. The first time I ever got stitches was when I busted my chin open on my knee. There were a few legs put through the springs around the outside. Miraculously, only got bounced completely off a couple of times…

Many years later, some of our friends and neighbors have trampolines now. They haven’t really gone out of style. But they have this new thing that seems to come standard now that I don’t think they had back when we had ours. It’s like a netting…have you seen this…? So there are poles around the outside of the trampoline with a net that goes all the way around…I guess to prevent young ones from flying off the side…although, my experience shows that’s pretty unlikely… You know…safety I guess… And similar to the old school ball pits at Chuck E. Cheese or Discovery Zone or any of those places, there’s a place in the netting for you to go in and out.

One way in. And one way out.

I think of those trampoline nets when I hear Jesus talking about gathering sheep into the sheepfold this morning. The sheep are gathered together into a place to keep them safe. There’s a gate. One way in, and one way out. The sheep follow Jesus for safety.

And the sheep know the shepherd’s voice.

When I would inevitably be caught doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing, often on that trampoline, I’d hear a sharp, “Chris!”—*oop*— didn’t mean to get caught… It was always strange to me how I would never hear the door open, no other indication that I was about to be scolded, often by my dad, always just my name. And if was something really bad, or magnificently stupid, I got the full name treatment: “Christian! What the heck are you doing?!?”

And now, with an almost-9-month old, I’m beginning to learn the art of the parent-voice.

You know the one I’m talking about. You’ve used this voice.

You know this voice.

It’s the voice that inevitably catches you when you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing.

But it’s also the same voice that holds you in their arms, rocks you gently, scratches your back, and tells you how much they love you…how you mean everything in the world to them…

You know this voice…

“The sheep hear this voice…and they follow because they know this voice…”

The sheep know this voice of love. This voice of safety. This voice of protection.

The truth is, church, we have many different voices competing for our attention these days.

They sound like fear. They sound like worry, and anxiety, and scarcity, and doubt. These voices tell you to do silly things like hoard toilet paper, close in even tighter than before and close yourself off from everything and everyone. These voices urge us to do these things in the name of security and safety, but what it actually does is seal us off from one another so that we can’t hear—or we choose not to hear—when our neighbor is hurting or in trouble.

Now, don’t hear me incorrectly…you should absolutely continue to take steps to limit your exposure and contact with others, you should absolutely continue wearing a mask when you go out to public places, you should absolutely continue washing your hands… This virus is still running rampant and the cases in Fort Bend County are still going up, but just because what’s needed from us right now is physical separation, what we also need now more than ever is to stay connected…we just have to use new and innovative ways to do that. We have to put forth the extra effort and pick up the phone, send that text, log in to that Zoom chat… Every Sunday, I tell you that it’s an extra effort to stay connected…I know it is…but every Sunday I also promise you that it’s worth it.

It is worth it.

Last week, we had an incredible Sunday morning conversation where we talked about fears and vulnerability and where we see God at work in the world. It was incredibly moving, and I just want all of you to continue to feel connected during these times. Burnout’s real…I get it. After this, I don’t even want to hear the word “Zoom”…but for now…it’s worth it. I promise you, it’s worth it.

Those voices of fear and anxiety and worry and doubt and scarcity…those aren’t the voice of Jesus the good shepherd. The good shepherd speaks words of comfort…and grace…and love…and safety…and peace. You know the good shepherd because you know the good shepherd’s voice.

The good shepherd leads you beside still waters. The good shepherd makes you to rest in lush verdant pastures. The good shepherd anoints your head with oil and feeds you with rich and good things.

The good shepherd restores your soul.

Given all we have from our good shepherd, how could we not share these gifts? How could we not, like the first disciples in the first communities in Acts, share all things and hold all things in common for the good of all? How could we not share our resources and give to all as any have need?

When we know our life is secure in the loving arms of the good shepherd, we can rest peacefully. And we can invite others into that rest.

Like you’ve found this refreshing oasis in the midst of a wilderness time…invite other sheep to experience that same rest and refreshment.

Knowing that our lives are secure in the loving arms of the good shepherd doesn’t make the fear and worry go away. Knowing our lives are secure in the arms of the good shepherd won’t make this virus any less real or any less deadly. But it will help you find a moment of peace in the midst of so much uncertainty.

You’ll feel it…deep inside yourself…that this, too, shall pass…all will be well…your cup will overflow and you shall dwell in the presence of God your whole life long…you shall have life and life abundant…

The good shepherd cares for the sheep.

The good shepherd guards you’re going out and you’re coming in.

Jump, and frolic, and graze, and rest securely in the safety and love of your shepherd.

Third Sunday of Easter 2020

Luke 24:13-35

13 Now on that same day when Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went along with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And Jesus said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 Jesus asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem us…to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.

24 And some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.” 25 Then Jesus said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them the things about himself in all of the scriptures.
  28 As they came near the village to which they were going, Jesus walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So Jesus went in to stay with them. 30 When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus, and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 So that very same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem, and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 The disciples were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then the two disciples told what had happened to them on the road, and how Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.


Please pray with me this morning, church:

Risen Christ,

Show us yourself again this morning.

Walk alongside us in our hurt and worry

And feelings of lost hope

And show up.

Help us to see you.



Church, I want to try something a little bit different over the next couple of weeks with this sermon time. I’m going to preach, but I also want to try and engage you a bit in this process. it’s hard to preach to a blinking light. So I want to give you some questions for reflection. I’d really like for you to write these down and sit with them and pray about them, meditate on them. And if you feel like sharing, put a comment up on Facebook, or comment on youtube, or send me an email. I’m really just trying to offer you something more, something deeper for your personal devotions or spiritual reflections.

So I’m wondering, where have you seen Jesus over the past few weeks, church?

Where have your eyes been opened and you recognized the work and the presence of Christ?

I want to encourage you to reflect on those questions this week.

Write them, journal with them, meditate on them.

Where do you see Jesus?


Our first year in Chicago, my first year of seminary, Tiffany and I had the opportunity to visit a bunch of different churches. I say we had the opportunity…mostly I dragged Tiffany around to a bunch of different churches…and mostly she humored me, not every Sunday though, some Sundays I’d go by myself…because that’s what you do when you’re in your first year of seminary and you’re a church nerd…you go to a bunch of different churches to see how they do things…

So, one Sunday at the end of November we were visiting a church up on the north side, a community that I’d heard about from one of my professors…great service, great preaching, nice folks… They do the pretty customary walking out the doors, shaking the pastor’s hand, thing, like most of us do. And as we were walking out, the pastor recognized us as not having been there before. He introduced himself, asked our names, chit-chatted a bit, and then we went on our way. We stopped and grabbed brunch…gosh, I miss brunch…headed home, and that was that.

Fast forward about 2 or 3 months…it’s February, and I ask Tiffany if she’d want to go back to that same north side church. Reluctantly, I think, she agrees, and we go. Same deal…great service, great preaching, nice folks…filing out, shaking the pastor’s hand… “Tiffany! Chris! So great to see you again!”

I’m sorry…what…?!?

It’s been like…a minute, since we were here…like, Christmas has happened and a pretty gnarly snowstorm…and I know you’re got a ton of other things on your plate…and…but you remember our names?

I made a couple of promises that day: 1) that I would work as hard as I could on my name and face recognition so that I could make other people feel like I felt that morning, and 2) I figured the best way to learn how to do that was to learn from that pastor myself. So I basically begged and pleaded with him for his church to be an internship site, and 18 months later, I walked through those doors again as a Pastoral Intern…committed to soaking up as much as I could during my Internship that year.

I did work hard on my name and face recognition…I do work hard at it…and a lot of folks are impressed that I’m pretty good with names. I miss a couple of times, I don’t always get it right, but I work at it.

Because of the way it makes you feel…when someone knows you…

Because of the way it makes you feel…to be recognized…

Because of the way it makes you feel…to be seen…

So imagine Jesus’ utter disappointment when he comes up alongside the 2 disciples, Cleopas and the other disciple, disciples with whom he would have spent a significant amount of time, and they don’t have a clue. Like, not even a “You look familiar…” or “I think I’ve seen you before…I feel like I know you…”

Just…nothing… Like Jesus is wearing a disguise or something…

We’ve been doing a lot of mask-wearing these days. The guidance from local health officials is to cover up your nose and mouth when you go out, go to the store, go to Starbucks, whatever. And the thing is, the rules and encouragement really aren’t for your sake. Bandanas and coffee filters don’t do hardly anything to keep whatever’s out from coming in. But they do a great job at keeping whatever’s in from going out. See, the thing I think we greatly misunderstand is that as much as you have a right to go out and not wear a face covering, others have just as much right to go out without being fearful of the unchecked spread of an incredibly deadly virus.

You’re being asked to wear a mask when you go out, not for your own safety…but for everyone else’s.

This is, like, the clearest example I can think of regulating completely selfless interest…of codifying of the prioritization of the well-being of others.

This is it, church. This is what we’ve been hearing and learning from Jesus our whole lives. That to live for the sake of others is the way to abundant and everlasting life for all.

What a revelation. It’s like having your own eyes opened, right?

Like a light bulb goes off, something clicks, and you realize you’ve been walking with and looking at Jesus the whole time.

Which is a tremendous relief for these weary travelers this morning. Because, just as much as they don’t recognize Jesus, do you also hear the despair in their voices? As they’re walking along, telling about all the things both marvelous and miraculous that Jesus did during his earthly ministry, “This Jesus of Nazareth…he was a mighty prophet who did all kinds of wonderful things…but our religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and be crucified… But we had hoped…that he would be the one to redeem us…to redeem the world…to restore our situation… But it’s been 3 days, and some women from our group went to the tomb and the body’s gone…and some others from our group went found the tomb just like the women had said, and they didn’t find the body either…”

We had hoped

Do you hear the despair and longing?

How much have our own hopes and dreams and plans and desires been put on hold because of this pandemic? How much have you had to restructure and rethink the way things are to account for this current new normal of sheltering in place, limiting your exposure, and reducing the potential for contact with others?

I sent an email earlier this week to our young adults and young families just seeing who’d be up for maybe a digital gathering over Zoom or something like that sometime soon. A great many of them, maybe 50%, I’d guess, came back with “You know, it’d be great to see everyone…but I just don’t have the bandwidth for another disembodied video call…”

Church, our people are hurting. You…are hurting.

We long for connection, but we’re working twice as hard as before, trying to figure out how to homeschool our kids, trying to get out and get some air and work out while staying far away from other people, trying to cobble together some passable resemblance of a self-care routine when all of our previous ways aren’t available to us right now…

Church, I hear this lost hope. I hear this despair.

I recognize it.

And our gospel this morning tells us that Jesus hears that lost hope and despair, too.

Jesus recognizes it, and Jesus walks alongside us as we name that, and Jesus doesn’t try to solve it, but in the midst of the journey, Jesus sits at our table, over a simple meal, offers us something small yet sustaining, and says, “Here. I’m here. See that is me. I hear you. And I see you.”

Jesus walks alongside you in your times of despair.

Jesus walks alongside you in your moments of doubt, and worry, and anxiety, and your feelings of not being enough.

Jesus walks alongside you when hope feels lost and distant.

And we may not be able to recognize it right away, but as we go along, as we make our way through our feelings of fleeting hope and moments of doubt and anxiety, all of a sudden, something clicks, a light bulb goes off, our eyes are opened, and we recognize we’re walking with Jesus.

We recognize that Jesus has been walking with us the whole time.

Maybe in utterly unexpected ways…but we look at the road we’ve just trudged and we notice the moments that Jesus has been there.

And we find Jesus in simple meals with our loved ones, maybe shared in new ways over facetime.

And we find Jesus in words of scripture that restore our weary hearts, that are a balm for our worn-out souls.

And we find Jesus in acts of kindness, and moments of selfless love, and images of beauty in the midst of hurt and suffering.

We find Jesus because we feel like someone recognizes us…recognizes our joys and our hurts.

We find Jesus because we feel like someone sees us…sees us for all of who we are…good and bad.

We find Jesus because we feel like someone knows us…knows us better than we know ourselves.

Church, this is the good news of Christ’s resurrection.

Jesus shows up.

Along our journey.

In our moments of happiness and joy and our times of grief and doubt and feelings of lost hope.

Jesus is there.

Jesus is here.

Jesus has never left.