Holy Land Pilgrimage

I invite you to join me on a trip-of-a-lifetime to the Holy Land. Our church family along with other guests will visit Israel from March 27 to April 6, 2019.

Holy Land 2019Biblical scholars call the Holy Land The Fifth Gospel because geography so shapes the story of Scripture. Travel brings the Bible to life as pilgrims literally walk where Jesus walked.

I have traveled to Israel twice in the past, and both journeys transformed my understanding of the Christian faith. Indelible memories continue to mold my life and ministry. I look forward to the next trip with members of my Northside Church family.

The eleven day trip has been designed to cover as many Old and New Testament sites as possible, including destinations not typically included in a standard tour. The inclusive pricing includes first class hotels, deluxe motor coaches, guided tours, airfare, and much more.

For additional information, visit this link to see the full brochure that contains all of the details: www.NorthsideUMC.org/holyland

We will also have two no-obligation interest meetings this week on Wednesday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 29, at 12:15 p.m. Both will occur in the Board Room of Northside United Methodist Church. A representative from our tour host, Educational Opportunities, will join me to discuss the trip.

During the Seder meal at Passover, a traditional, Jewish toast declares: Next year in Jerusalem! In 2019, we can make this dream a reality.

Every Litter Bit Hurts

On a recent litter patrol, I filled a plastic bag with trash strewn around our block. The corner of Northside Drive and West Wesley accounted for much of the refuse. Apparently people toss their trash out the window while waiting at the traffic light.

The rubbish included Styrofoam cups, plastic straws, fast food wrappers, potato chip bags, soft drink cans, newspaper flyers, and four feet of a metal stud, complete with screws. Based on the beer bottles and wine coolers, the street also doubles as a corner bar.

People are pigs.

I should apologize—such a comparison is unfair to pigs. While hogs earn their stinky-sty reputation, a porker never tossed Bud Light cans out a truck window.

Dilly, dilly.Litter Bug

A week later litter again festooned the block. Two Toyota hubcaps gave the road’s shoulder a festive touch. I grabbed a trash bag with a sigh and started over.

See comment about people and pigs above.

According to the opening chapters of Genesis, the Lord appointed humans as co-stewards of creation. Our birthright mandates we treasure the world both for God’s sake and for ours.

In many national parks, signs instruct hikers: “Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.”

And the people of God say, “Amen!” Then they pick up some trash because every litter bit helps.

April Fools’ Day

April FoolsHistorians disagree over the origins of April Fools’ Day. A search of the Internet (the source of all knowledge) reveals various explanations about the holiday. Regardless, April 1 traditionally marks a day for pranks, monkeyshines, shenanigans, and high jinks.

For the first time since 1956, Easter Sunday fell on April Fools’ Day this year. Many remarked on the concurrence. Preachers made bad jokes concerning the coincidence before preaching about the Resurrection.

However, Easter and April Fools’ share more in common than one might first imagine.

Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, dead, and buried. At the cross, sin seemed to win. At the tomb, death appeared to reign.

Three days later some women visited Jesus’ grave to anoint his mangled body. In the garden, the women encountered angelic figures who proclaimed the news that continues to echo in our ears today: Why do you seek the living among the dead? Jesus is not here—he is risen, just as he said!

April Fool! Sin’s power is broken.

April Fool! Death’s reign is overthrown.

April Fool! On the third day, Christ arose from the dead.

In 1 Corinthians 4:10, Paul wrote: We are fools for Christ!

Happy Easter AND April Fools’ Day. Christ is risen, indeed!

Low Sunday

Last Sunday we celebrated the glorious news of Easter: Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Sanctuaries overflowed as churches experienced their annual, high attendance Sunday.

The liturgical calendar calls the week AFTER Easter Low Sunday. Historians believe the name originated in contrast to the great festival of Easter. Following the celebration of the Resurrection, churches returned to the “low” or ordinary routine of worship.

Low SundayChurch pastors know better, however. Low attendance puts the LOW in Low Sunday! Easter marks the high water mark for worship. The Sunday AFTER Easter ebbs at low tide. Some congregations may even experience negative numbers!

However, we continue to celebrate the Season of Easter this week. Over 40 days, the risen Lord appeared to his disciples. Mary encountered Jesus in the garden. Two disciples met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Paul reported that Christ appeared to Simon Peter, the Twelve, and more than 500 followers at one time.

According to John, one man missed Jesus’ appearance to the other apostles on Easter night. Unconvinced by second-hand reports, “Doubting” Thomas announced he would only be convinced by touching Jesus’ wounds.

On the Sunday AFTER Easter, Jesus once again appeared in the Upper Room. He confronted Thomas’ doubts and displayed his wounded hands, feet, and side. The disciple knelt and professed: My Lord and my God!

Christ responded: Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

It’s a good thing that Thomas decided to attend church the Sunday AFTER Easter. Otherwise, he might have missed the Risen Lord.

On Low Sunday, we continue to celebrate the Easter good news: Christ is risen, indeed!


TombstoneDuring my first two pastoral appointments, I lived beside church cemeteries. I often visited the graveyards, pausing to read the monuments. The tombstones inspired me to consider my own epitaph.

Possibilities included: Gone But Not Forgotten, Asleep in the Lord, Beloved Husband, Father, and Nobel Prize Winner, or I Told You I Was Sick!

Regardless of the words they grave for me, one day I will not be. Even lines etched deep in granite will weather and fade over time.

However, I will not be forgotten. One will still know me by name. God’s children never perish.

In his classic poem, “Death, Be Not Proud,” John Donne wrote: One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and Death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die.

In a high hymn of hope and praise, the apostle Paul exclaimed: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the good news of the Resurrection. No tombstone marks Jesus’ grave. The first disciples discovered an empty tomb. The angelic proclamation still rings in our ears today: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen, just as he said!”

For my epitaph, simply inscribe my name and the two customary dates. After the year of my death, however, place a comma rather than a period.

Easter reminds us that death is not THE END but a new beginning for all who trust in the Lord.

Things to Do during a Sermon

  • Daydream
  • Post on social media
  • Count the organ pipes
  • Doodle on the bulletins
  • Study the stain glass windows
  • Draw caricatures of the preacher
  • Create a To Do List for next week
  • Rank the worst songs in the hymnal
  • Determine where to eat Sunday lunch
  • Play Hangman with yourself—and cheat
  • Time how long you can hold your breath
  • Tally how many times “just” is used in prayers
  • Check whether the flag and cross stands are straight
  • Furtively play Candy Crush on your muted smart phone
  • Critique the preacher’s annoying hand and speech mannerisms

Or . . .

  • Be where your feet are and hear God’s Word

We choose what things to do during a sermon.

Be Deep-Spirited Friends

Sue Allen serves as the Director of Women’s Ministry at Northside Church. She also publishes a daily devotional that I thoroughly enjoy. With Sue’s permission, I am sharing one of her recent posts.

Good morning . . .

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing . . . not healing, not curing . . . that is a friend who cares.”

This Henri Nouwen quote reminds me of the “Three C” wisdom of the twelve-step program. When pain ravages the life of a loved one, we must remember:

  1. I did not cause it.
  2. I cannot control it.
  3. I do not possess the power to cure it.

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusin, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing . . . not healing, not curing . . . that is a friend who cares.”

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. (Philippians 2:1-2, MSG)


If you would like to read more of Sue’s blogs or receive her daily devotions, visit https://suetoyou.com