Two Words.


Meet Gene Larson!


Gene Larson is a lay person and the Chairperson of the Worship Committee at First United Methodist Church in Normal, IL.  I have found him to be a very capable in engaging both theology and Bible.  He graduated from Kansas State University (Manhattan, KS) and found his way to the Bloomington-Normal area where we worked for State Farm.  My first meeting of Gene was with his dogs.  He is a dog lover and is as dedicated to his canines as they are to him!

I welcome Gene back to my blog and invite you to read another perspective on Resurrection and New Life.


Mark 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The Gospel of Mark contains my favorite Easter story.  Why, you may wonder?  Simply put it contains two words that I relate to.  Before I tell what they are, it is helpful to understand just what Mark’s gospel is.  Most Bible scholars believe that it is, if not the actual dictation of the apostle Peter, it is very closely based on his testimony.  It is brief, it gets right to the point.  It is not flowery or verbose.  Simply, it reads like something written very quickly, with a deadline; just the facts; just the salient points.  


I have always liked Peter.  We’re a lot alike.  We’re both impetuous, often acting without enough thought.  We’re often in trouble with those we’d rather please than offend.  But, Peter’s heart, hopefully mine also, is in the right place most of the time.  


On the first Easter morning, I’d bet that Peter was more beside himself with more than grief, he blaming himself for failing Jesus in His hour of need.  He’d tried to do something in the garden, but Jesus had stopped him.  Now he shudders to think of what he did in the courtyard outside the house where Jesus’ captors had taken him.  It was a tough time for him and I’m convinced that he was planning how to best leave the disciples and slink away.  Jesus was gone and there was no way to make meaningful amends to Him.  


Then, those two words lifted Peter out of the hell he had created for himself.  The angel outside the tomb said to Mary, “…go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”


The words, “…and Peter” said so much to him that he knew he was still part of the grand plan.  He was forgiven the impetuousness, the failures, and the cowardice which he had convicted himself of.  Well, I suffer from those same faults as Peter and many more to boot.  If Jesus can invite Peter to Galilee, I have faith that he can invite me too.  There is still much to learn and Jesus wasn’t easy on Peter on the lakeshore.  I don’t expect him to be easy on me either.  Jesus asked Peter three times (once for each denial?) if he loved him.  And, his threefold instruction to Peter after each question was the same—take care of the flock.  


We are the hands, feet, voices, and hearts of God on earth right now.  Jesus empowers us by his resurrection to be followers of his teachings and doers of his Father’s will.  Jesus said to Mary, “…and Peter.”  The power of the resurrection is released to each of us when we realize Jesus says, “…and [our name] to each and every one of us.  

What A Week!
The beautiful stained glass at my new church in Normal.

This past week has been an incredible journey and I want to thank all of the people of Pontiac and Normal who have made this such a positive and faith-filled transition!

The people of Pontiac shared with me during a farewell reception and the thoughtful cards, gifts, and well-wishing touched me and ensured that we left Pontiac feeling cared-for!  Meanwhile, the people of Normal have welcomed us with graciousness that we could not have expected.  For instance, two members of the Staff-Parish relations committee (my liaisons with the congregation) showed up on move-in day with a large laundry basket filled with house-warming gifts:  things we would need as we started unpacking.  They also presented us with gift cards for Steak-N-Shake and Avanti’s.  How thoughtful!  The Avanti’s card paid for our pizza that night, because we had no dishes unpacked nor energy for cooking!

Fast forward to this past weekend.  I had a funeral on Saturday morning and preached at a worship service on Saturday night and two worship services on Sunday morning.  I made it though the weekend in pretty good shape, but had a moment during the 9 am worship service communion when fatigue hit me.  I had to hold on to the wall and rail to finish, but once I sat down and got to rest, I was fine again.

There are moments like that which remind me that I’m still recovering from surgeries, but, mostly, I don’t feel any different than before my medical problems began.  I just have to watch for my moments of stress, weakness or fatigue and know when to slow down or rest…

Mostly, this week has been a joy.  I feel as though I have experienced love from one congregation and great hospitality and welcome from another.  Who could ask for more than that?

blessings to you,