Jesus Is … God’s Son on Earth To Help Us Know God*


I have made your name known… (John 17:6)

Extended reading: John 17:1-8

Matt Harding dances a goofy jig all over the world. His wife shoots video of the goofy jig and puts it on YouTube. And the world is a better place.

Matt’s strange odyssey began in 2003 while he was a young man backpacking around the world with a friend. They were taking pictures in the streets of Hanoi when his friend said, “Hey, why don’t you stand over there and do your stupid dance. I’ll record it.” Matt did it, and he kept doing it everywhere he went.

His video was posted on YouTube, and Matt became famous. He and his wife travel the world via corporate sponsorships shooting more videos of Matt dancing, usually with groups large and small. When you see someone dancing a goofy jig, you can’t help but join in, no matter where you are.

Matt’s website ( doesn’t mention God. It doesn’t mention religion. And yet when watching his videos of people of all types, sizes, colors, ancestry and means dancing together, one can’t help but know God a little better.

Jesus didn’t dance a goofy jig (as far as we know!), but he also went from town to town and stirred up the common people. He got their hearts dancing with his bold proclamations and caring touch. He wasn’t afraid of embarrassing himself as he went head-to-head with the powers that be. He did what he had to do in order to make God known to us.

Prayer: God of music and laughter, may I never feel embarrassed to make you known through my words, actions and – yes – even goofy dancing. Amen.

* This is one of the descriptions offered by my congregation in worship before Lent began.


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Jesus Is … Repairer and Restorer

Scott Cattucio and Kristen Mitchell started the first shelter for homeless youth in Utah.

Welcome to the first day of Lent 2015.

If you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your shadows will become like noon. God will always guide you, giving relief in desert places. God will give strength the your bones and you will be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never run dry. You will rebuild ancient ruins, and build upon age-old foundations. You will be called repairer of broken walls, and restorer of ruined neighborhoods. (Isaiah 58:10-12)

Extended reading: Isaiah 58:1-12

As we begin Lent, a season of repentance and forgiveness, we first hear the words of God as spoken by the prophet Isaiah. God is telling the people Israel that all of their fasting and worship are useless because they don’t carry out their faith in the world. What God really wants is for the poor to be taken care of, the sick to be tended, the hungry to be fed, the oppressed to be set free.

I don’t know the beliefs of Scott Cattucio and Kristen Mitchell, who have moved heaven and earth – and spent a great deal of their own money – to open Utah’s first overnight shelter for homeless youth in Ogden. How they worship is not important, because we see the fruits of their faith in that refurbished house, in the stocked pantry, in the warm beds, in the stockroom overflowing with coats and clothes and hygiene items – things their clients need as they head back out into the cold. Scott and Kristen are doing what they can to repair and restore our world.

Jesus repairs and restores our world, too. The gospels tell the stories of his healing, truth-telling, preaching and loving. They tell how he saved each of us and the whole world. On this Ash Wednesday, when we wear the mark of our repentance, let us rededicate our own efforts to repair and restore the world.

Prayer: God of Grace. I acknowledge when I have separated myself from you. I repent and seek your mercy. Forgive me. Amen.

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Lenten Devotion: Hallelujah!

“Abraham’s Burial,” Jean de Tournes (c. 1550)

This is the length of Abraham’s life, one hundred seventy-five years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with his wife Sarah. Genesis 25:7-10

We have been on a journey this Lent that now comes to an end. This story of the great patriarch and matriarch of our faith finishes quietly, at a grave. Jesus of Nazareth would have known this story by heart. It was part of the Hebrew Scriptures that he, as a Jew, would have held sacred and looked to for hope.

On this day when we celebrate the resurrection of the Christ, we put to rest Abraham and Sarah. They were ordinary, imperfect people plucked out of their everyday lives by God to play a greater part in the ongoing creation story. They often lived up to the task, and yet sometimes they failed. They are our spiritual ancestors, and we can be thankful for their example.

O God, glory to your name! Hallelujah for the risen Christ! Amen.

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Lenten Devotion: Laughter

“Landscape with the Wedding of Isaac and Rebecca,” Claude Lorrain (1648)

Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. Genesis 24:63-67

Remember, the name “Isaac” means “laughter.” Rick Morley tells us that the English translation obscures a humorous element to the story: “For when Rebekah is making her way into town, Isaac is off in the field. Doing something. It’s hard to tell exactly what it is, (there’s a surprising amount of scholarly controversy over this) but it’s apparently pretty embarrassing, because when Rebekah sees Isaac…doing whatever it was he was doing…she literally “falls off” her camel. Yep, it was that bad. And then she asks the question. They question we all knew she’d ask. The question that she knew the answer to before she even opened her mouth. ‘Who is the man over there?’ ‘Oh, him? That’s Isaac. Your soon-to-be-husband.’ And with final comic punctuation, she covers her face with her veil.”

God, on this day when we await the resurrection of the Christ, I thank you for a bit of laughter

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Lenten Devotion: Sacrifice

“Rebecca Begins Her Journey to Canaan” (mid-12th century)

Her brother and her mother said, “Let the girl remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.” But he said to them, “Do not delay me, since God has made my journey successful; let me go that I may go to my master.” They said, “We will call the girl, and ask her.” And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.” Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. Genesis 24:55-61

Rebekah does get some say in whether she will leave her family behind to marry a man she has never met. Scholars are unsure whether consulting the potential bride about her wishes would have been unusual in that time. Regardless, the future nation of Israel – a people that would someday include Jesus of Nazareth in its ranks – is still on course.

Rebekah made a huge sacrifice in giving up everything she had every known to travel far away and probably never see any of her family or friends again. On Good Friday, we remember that Jesus made an even bigger sacrifice, and he did it for us.

Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman considers how far Jewish women have come since her own bat mitzvah.

Abba God, thank you for the gift of your son. I am humbled to think of what he did for me. Amen.

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