Keeping the Body Healthy


Meditation on 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton

Jan. 27, 2019


body of christ
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

         Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”


I am happy today to finally be leading worship with you, after having our service canceled due to ice and snow last Sunday! I have two weeks of ministry in Coshocton behind me, and I have met many of you! I still have many more people to meet and come to know in our community. It’s going to take time to know one another. Please keep praying for me, for there is lots to do in my first year of learning, loving and serving here. I want to know your family stories, personal histories and personalities, what makes you laugh, what brings you to tears, what makes you anxious. What are your hopes for the future for your families?

One of the most important things I want you to know is that each of you has gifts, but also that you are receiving gifts of the Spirit every day! It isn’t a one-time thing that happens at our Baptism! You may have different gifts tomorrow than today, new gifts that you never had before or didn’t know that you had. Our transformation into new creations in Christ will take a lifetime. It’s all the work of the Spirit, made evident by the fruit we bear in our lives. You are already using your gifts, though you might not be aware of all the ways. Others may see your gifts more clearly than you do. You might not know that you are making a difference, especially if you are one who serves quietly, behind the scenes. Like you, up in the balcony, handling our sound today! You are needed. You are making it possible for everyone to hear God’s Word.

Please know that your gifts are NECESSARY for the health of the Body. You are needed!

Here’s what happens when you use your gifts to build up the Church and grow God’s Kingdom: You are and will be blessed with more opportunities and gifts to serve the Lord. Jesus says in Luke 12:48b, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

This scripture convicted me in 2007 that I was resisting the call to parish ministry. I liked being a journalist and was grieving the loss of my identity when I left my job to go to seminary. It was humbling to come to realize that I was struggling with my own pride and selfishness. God wanted me to serve the Church more directly. He had a plan to use the gifts he had given me in a way that took me out of my comfort zone. That plan is continually being revealed to me, day by day. And he wanted to heal what was broken in me. For we all have something broken in ourselves that God wants to heal. In my serving the Lord and His Church, I am made whole. I want this for all of you!

The apostle, Paul, writes in Philippians 2:2-8: “make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.”


In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul is again trying to encourage the Church to be one in Christ and become like Him. He uses the metaphor of a human body for the Church as he tries to bring peace and unity to a congregation in chaos, embroiled in conflicts and divisions. Pride fuels boasting and arguments about righteous eating. Legal disputes between believers land in public courts, rather than the “saints” extending God’s grace, forgiving one another and working out their problems in the church. Paul hears of members struggling with sexual immorality and other sins destructive to individuals and the community.

This image of the human body for a community, with members having different functions for the good of the whole, was familiar to people in Paul’s time.  He didn’t invent this metaphor; Aristotle, Plato, Plutarch, and Seneca also wrote about the community as a body. But Paul did change the metaphor to teach the Church to value the diversity of its membership and treat everyone as equals. This is a radical idea for his time–that the Church would welcome Jews and Greeks (which is code for Gentiles or everyone who isn’t Jewish) and not just rich or poor, but “slave or free” in a society where there are slaves; some people have no rights, no voices or value as human beings. They are merely property for their wealthy owners. Can you imagine how the slaves felt when they heard Paul’s message–that they were as valuable a member of the Church as someone who was free? Can you imagine how those who felt they were superior to slaves or Gentiles might have felt to hear Paul’s message that everyone was equally valuable to the community because of their gifts and talents?

The new thing Paul does with the metaphor is the Church is the Body, of Christ. The Church belongs to Him! Practically, this means living by His Word, seeking Him in prayer, seeking His will and to be obedient and pleasing to Him. It means loving and caring for one another as He loves and cares for us and being known by our love for one another, as he tells his disciples in John. But of Christ also means the Church embracing His mission as our own, as Jesus has claimed us in our baptisms. How did Jesus spend his days? Traveling, teaching, serving, praying and preaching, feeding, giving and forgiving, eating and drinking with sinners (I like that one), blessing children, welcoming strangers, speaking up for the voiceless, challenging the proud and powerful, fighting injustice, touching and healing, and encouraging his followers to live more faithfully.

As he tells his hometown congregation of Nazareth in Luke 4, He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, the one anointed “to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


Today, we call on the Spirit as we ordain and install elders and deacons for active service in the Church, the Body, of Christ. Each has different gifts and talents, personalities and life experiences, hopes and dreams. They won’t be like the elders and deacons that have served the Lord and His Church before. They will be, with God’s help and our encouragement, all that God is calling them to be.

Please pray for them and lift them up, especially in the beginning. But don’t stop after a few months because they might grow weary. Your support is needed. Your words have the power to bring life to others. Use them to build up our leaders and Christ’s Church and never to tear down.  They have come, like their Savior, to serve and not to be served. They have come to help us love one another and be known by our love. They have come to pray for us and urge us to serve the Lord and His Church with all our gifts and talents. They have come to help us claim Christ’s mission as our own—as He has claimed us as His own—and to encourage us to live more faithfully.


Let us pray.

Holy one, we are grateful for the gifts you have given us and your loving Spirit that fills us and forgives us, setting us free from the bondage of sin, including sins of pride and selfishness. Heal us, Lord, unite us as Your Body. Make us whole. Stir us to claim Christ’s mission as our own. We praise for all our elders, deacons and trustees and for all the precious volunteers in Your Church over the ages. Empower them to bravely and wisely lead us to live more faithfully. In Christ we pray. Amen.


Believe and Live Abundantly!


Meditation on John 2:1-11

Jan. 20, 2019

Coshocton Presbyterian Church

          “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”


I am honored and blessed to be sharing a message from God’s Word with you today. I can’t believe we have had to cancel worship when it would be my first time leading worship at Coshocton Presbyterian Church!

But I want you to know that  I am happy to be sharing my life with you in a small town, where ministry truly means building relationships, loving God and neighbor. And, like the USA cable network slogan, where “Characters (are) welcome.” In a small town, you are accepted as you are, and honesty, simplicity, hard work, kindness and generosity are valued.

I confess that I am a character, if you haven’t noticed. (Folks at MIPC and Ebenezer, I am a character, right?!) And I have the feeling—I have had this since the first time I visited—that I belong here with you. Is anyone else here a character? Please say yes. But this doesn’t mean I am not anxious, because I am. For many things are new and different for me. I have much to learn. And I want to be a good pastor for you! With my first week of ministry under my belt, the learning has just begun.

The growth that is coming is part of a necessary transformation. And change is rarely comfortable. God is working in my heart and mind—and when our hearts and minds begin to change, so do our lives.

It sounds like a cliché, but I am relying on God’s grace for every day. I am relying on His mercies that are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!

The good news is that God’s grace is really enough! It is sufficient for you—and for me. Grace and power flow from the Throne, the Fountain of Life—not so that our lives will be easy, predictable and pain and stress free. They flow down to us so that we might be transformed and live a new way, in and through Christ. Jesus says in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

I was thinking about God’s grace on Friday, while I waited at Dr. John the chiropractor’s office. (I am doing OK. The move just aggravated the same neck issue I have had for a while.) That’s when I realized I have become my mother. Has that ever happened to you—that you realize you have become one of your parents? My mom never met a stranger; everyone was and is a friend. At the grocery store, library, bank and beauty parlor in the small town in which I grew up, she would talk to everyone. And everyone talked to her!

All I did was sit down in Dr. John’s office and say something about the weather. Soon I knew the long-range forecast and the status of bread and chicken soup flying off Walmart’s shelves. I learned a recipe for chili, a recommendation of a hair stylist, and I heard a miracle story. A woman shared how she was able to stop smoking when she realized the reason she started as a teenager; she was mad at her father. Years later, her daughter urged her to repent and ask for forgiveness from the Lord and to forgive her father, too.

“Because I want God’s grace,” she said with a smile and a twinkle in her eye. “I want to be forgiven. So, I need to forgive others.”

Her openness to talk about her faith with a stranger—she didn’t know, yet, that I was a pastor—made me think that I am not in just any small town. We have come to a special place. And I am truly blessed!

As she was speaking, the medical assistant politely interrupted her to tell her that it was time for her to see the doctor.

“Not yet,” my new friend said with a laugh and a wave of her hand. “I’m not finished my story.”

Characters are welcome in this small town, a special place. Where miracles happen, and we want to talk about them. Miracles that flow with God’s grace from the Fountain of Life. Miracles that reveal the glory of the Lord, so that we, like his first disciples, will come to believe and live abundantly.


Studying our gospel, I am reminded that Jesus is a small-town guy. He might not have been born in a small town, like the John Mellencamp song, cause Bethlehem wasn’t teeny tiny. But he was certainly raised in a small town—Nazareth. Poor, simple folk lived there – people like Joseph, his earthly father, whose job was more of a laborer or construction worker, rather than the higher status we hold for “carpenters” today.

Remember Nathaniel’s comment about Nazareth in the first chapter of John? His friend, Philip, wanted to introduce him to “Jesus of Nazareth, the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote.” And Nathaniel said, “Nazareth?! Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

When Jesus meets Nathaniel after that, he compliments him on his honesty and takes no offense. “Here is truly an Israelite,” Jesus says, “in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathaniel, amazed that Jesus knows him so well when they have just met, declares, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” His declarations of belief are a perfect segue to the first of Christ’s miracles or “signs” in Nathaniel’s hometown of Cana—when Jesus turns water into wine.

      Mary’s role in the wedding at Cana is intriguing. She is a strong, compassionate leader with a servant’s heart. When she sees the crisis brewing behind the scenes, she tells Jesus, “They have no wine.” Her few words speak volumes, revealing her intimate relationship as the “mother of Jesus”—something John tells us twice in this passage, without saying her name. His response shows his close relationship with her, though he calls her “woman,” and not “mom.” “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” (You can say anything to your mom; she will always love you, right?) He wonders why she is worried; the bride and groom are not immediate family or else Jesus and his disciples wouldn’t have just “been invited,” as Scripture says, and Mary wouldn’t just happen to be there. Even though she doesn’t say it, Jesus knows she wants him to fix the problem. She believes he CAN and should do something. For it would be a scandal, especially for the bridegroom’s family, for it is the bridegroom’s job to provide the wine. The servants would be punished, for it is their job to serve it. And it would be a huge disappointment to the community counting on the wine flowing throughout what was, back then, a weeklong celebration. Without wine, the celebration could come to a screeching halt.

Mary ignores her son’s protests and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says. (Again, exercising her leadership gifts.) They promptly obey.

Jesus doesn’t argue with Mary after this. I wish scripture would tell us what is going through his mind! I can think of two possibilities. One, he has come to believe that this is God’s will and God’s timing, after all. Or two, he knows all along what will happen—and what he must do—and is only testing Mary’s faith.

What’s clear is that Mary believes in Him. The angels and shepherds, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, and the wise men have all told Mary who Jesus would be. She has watched him grow up, pondering all these things in her heart. She is certain that now is the time for his public ministry to begin.


But this doesn’t explain why Jesus does more than what is needed, and why he chooses such a surprising source for the blessing. He doesn’t just make wine appear in empty jars. He transforms ordinary water in jars used for Jewish purification rites into fine wine. This must be significant. And not just enough. He produces the equivalent of 600 to 900 bottles of fine wine! Like the miracle feeding of the multitude that will come later, there is more than enough for everyone. (I was going to say that there is plenty left over, but if it is the finest wine, perhaps not!)

The wedding could have been a disaster. Instead, it is remembered as an above-average wedding, with the bridegroom getting the credit for saving the best wine for last. Nobody does that!

The miracle happens on the “third day”—a shadow of what is to come—Christ’s resurrection, his triumph over sin and death. This first miracle serves as a sign to Mary and the disciples—and to all who hear John’s Gospel—that Jesus is God’s Son, the Beloved, and, as John testifies in chapter 1, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The miracle also foreshadows the joyous heavenly banquet, when the Bride of Christ will be gathered around the table and finally see her Bridegroom, face to face!




Thank you for accepting me, just as I am, and encouraging me to use my gifts here with you and beyond our church walls. I am blessed to be in a place where characters are welcome, where we seek to love everyone as God’s beloved. And where we know our need for the Lord’s help, strength and wisdom for every day.

Christ choosing to transform ordinary water into fine wine spoke a different message to me this week than it has before. Maybe we are like the ordinary water, friends, being transformed into fine wine, something wonderful that God will use for His good purposes. If you feel anxious–like I do sometimes–remember God’s grace is enough! We can count on his new mercies every morning. Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!

This is a place where miracles happen, miracles of grace that flow from the Fountain of Life and reveal the glory of the Lord, so that we, like his first disciples, will come to believe. And live abundantly!


Let us pray.


Holy One, we praise you for being with us always, dwelling in our midst, leading us on this journey of faith. We surrender ourselves—all that we have, all that we are—to you, knowing that you will change us—our hearts and minds and lives. Teach us to be content, joyful, and hopeful in all circumstances and grateful for your many gifts, ready to share with a hurting world. But also move us to boldly ask you to meet our needs, trusting in your everlasting love and lavish grace that is all that we need. Give us the strength and courage of Mary so that we will truly believe and live as though we believe—abundantly. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.






He is Coming in a Cloud!



Meditation on Luke 21:25-36

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH

Dec. 2, 2018

            25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”



It’s hard to believe I am finally here, sharing God’s message of hope in Coshocton, Ohio! Thank you for your warm welcome for Jim and me. We have much to learn about our new community of faith—what matters to you.

I have never lived in Ohio or followed OSU football. Please don’t hold that against me. I assure you, and Jim will testify to this truth, that in my years in Florida, I never watched the Gators play! But I did watch the Buckeyes play the Team Up North a week ago Saturday.  “O-H!” (I-O!)

I am looking forward to meeting all of you and hearing your stories. And you will, of course, be hearing some of mine in the years to come. We are already making memories together, with this worship service. Pretty soon, people will tell stories about us!

Jesus told many stories with layers of meaning from his world as he tried to reveal His Kingdom drawing near. “My Kingdom is not of this world,” he says in John 18:36. His is a Kingdom so different than the dark world to which he came in frail, human form to save us from our sins. His Kingdom is so different than the world in which we live today. Friends, if we say that we believe in His coming Kingdom of peace, justice and love, then we must practice and pursue Christ’s peace, justice and love in our daily lives. We must be doers of the Word, as James tells us, and not just hearers only. Amen?

I can’t wait to be here with you! Why is it taking so long? Maybe you are feeling that way, too. It’s hard to be patient. But while I am happy about making my home with you, loving you and guiding you, learning and serving with you and nurturing your faith, I am also struggling with grief, for I must say goodbye to my congregation and family in Florida. It hurts so much.

Our sorrow and grief may leave us vulnerable to fear and doubt. We might begin to question whether we are, indeed, hearing from the Lord and following Him with the decisions we make and the actions we take. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t God’s will! In fact, an argument can be made that if your life has become too easy and comfortable, you may have stopped taking risks for Christ’s sake. You may have stopped listening for God’s voice and responding to His Word. For our lives don’t belong to us—not anymore.

As the Apostle Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

What has helped me, so far, when I feel weak are studying God’s Word, reaching out to my brothers and sisters in Christ for support, and, as my Grandma always used to say, “giving it to the Lord” in prayer.  For the one who is coming in a cloud is also here with us now.  Trust in the Lord—and pray!

On this First Sunday of Advent, our reading carries us ahead, far beyond the miraculous birth of the Christ child to a pious, humble woman named Mary. We are propelled into the chaos and fear-provoking present age. This is not the Scripture we want to read on the first Sunday in December! We don’t want to think about the end of this age! We want to go shopping for Christmas presents, sing Christmas carols and decorate our homes with greens and lights. I want to make Christmas cookies—peanut butter blossoms with Hershey kisses and molasses gingerbread. And sugar cookies, rolled and cut into the shapes of angels, trees, wreathes and bells.

Let’s be honest. We feel comfortable in the here and now, even with the trials, challenges and suffering of this world. We aren’t anxious for Christ’s return. Not really. Not yet! We don’t like the idea that heaven and earth are passing away, as Jesus says. That’s pretty scary stuff to think that the world we know will soon be no more.

But this is God’s Word to us now in this present darkness, as we sometimes wrestle with doubts and fears. This is the Word of hope we need to hear and share with our community of faith and wider community today. This is the Word of hope we need to live more faithfully, according to His will.

As I study this passage, I am reminded of the old saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”  Jesus is telling us to see these signs of chaos, destruction and distress in our natural and human world as part of God’s plan for salvation. God is in control! While other people are “fainting from fear” and worrying about what bad thing might happen next, we have the hope of what—or I should say who—is to come!

Luke’s gospel is in sharp contrast to what the world would have us believe. It’s only natural for us to go into the panicked fight or flight mode when we hear about bad things happening and feel we are in danger. Luke is saying that as the world grows increasingly dark, our hope should grow increasingly stronger.

“Stand up and raise your heads,” Jesus says, “because your redemption is drawing near.”

A key point in our message today is to cast out fear! That will only get in the way of our becoming what God has planned for us to be, and the Spirit’s healing and transformative work in us. Don’t be distracted or discouraged by the things of this world, he says. Well, easier said than done, right? Bad news travels fast—especially if you have automatic news alerts on your cell phone. But so does the Good News. Remember, we are called to share our stories and bear witness of the hope and joy of our salvation. As I Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

We are warned against doing what people did to make themselves feel better when they were stressed during the time of Jesus; don’t seek escape through drugs, alcohol or other excesses. When you do this, you squander the gifts, talents and resources God has given you to use for Him! And you waste precious time when you could be receiving the spiritual blessings that come when we labor for the Lord.

The one thing that stands out to me as a particular temptation for us all is at the end of his list—the most prominent position—because Christ knows this is a problem for his followers in every time and place. Do you see it? The worries of this life!  “Be on guard,” he says, “so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life and that day does not catch you unexpectedly.”

So, what can help us be on guard against the worries and fears of this life? Jesus provides his disciples with an alternative to worry in a more familiar passage, beginning at Matthew 6:25, 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?… 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[l] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

I know from personal experience that we can rely on our brothers and sisters in Christ for spiritual and emotional support and encouragement. As Paul says in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Be strengthened by Christ’s Words that will never pass away! God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and light for our path, as the psalmist tells us. “…‘Man shall not live on bread alone,” Jesus says in Matthew 4:4,  “but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

I am looking forward to getting to know you and hearing your stories of faith and life in Coshocton. Stay alert! And don’t be afraid! Look around and see not just the bad things that are happening in the earthly realm; ask God to show you the good things He is doing in our midst. Anticipate the good that He will accomplish through His people. Get ready for the good things that God will do in and through you! For the one who is coming in a cloud is with us now! Trust in the Lord—and pray!


Let us pray. Holy One, we look forward to your return for your Church and your coming kingdom of peace, justice and love. Thank you that we can trust in Your Word that never passes away. Forgive us for our doubts and fears and for our desire for comfort and ease, rather than taking risks for your sake. Help us, Lord, to practice and pursue your peace, justice and love as a witness to our faith. Heal us, Lord, from our hurts and grief. Guide and keep us in your will. Lead us to draw nearer to one another and to love more and more as we seek to grow closer to you. In Christ we pray. Amen.