What Are You Committed To? Thoughts on putting God first.

Mark 10: 17-31

17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’18Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.” ’ 20He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’

28 Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ 29Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’ 

Last week the NCAA National Wrestling Tournament Final was in Pittsburgh.

It was the end of a long season that started at the beginning of the season in November for what remained of the 2,400 young men who wrestled for Division 1 schools.

Last Thursday, of those 2,400, only 330 were left to compete in 10 weight classes.

Saturday evening, at the end, there were 10 champions, one in each weight class.

Other than maybe the Olympics, there is no more difficult tournament to win than the NCAA tournament, in my view.

After each final match, the winner was interviewed.

One wrestler was particularly interesting.

He said that he had been a wrestler since he was 3 years old, which meant that he had been wrestling for almost 20 years.

He said that winning the national championship (his third) was the culmination of years of total commitment to the sport.

Wrestling was, if you think about it, his life!

He went to school, he went to church, he went to wrestling practice and he wrestled.

That was about it.

I have to think that at one point in his young life, he went to a coach, or maybe his parents, and said something like this:

“What do I need to do to become a champion?”

I am sure he got a list.

Learn the moves.

Get strong.

Eat right.

Compete as often as you can.

He did all those things, though.

What more?

“Be totally committed!”

“Wrestling must be your priority!”

That is what he did.

That is why he is the champ!

One of the best wrestlers in the United States and maybe the world.

That is one heck of a commitment.

What does this have to do with our text today?

Jesus is approached by a man who asks a very important question.

He believes Jesus knows the answer.

“What do I need to do to get into God’s Kingdom?”

That is a question we all ask at one point in time, right?

If we were sitting there watching this conversation, we would be all ears, right?

So, what does Jesus say?

“Here’s a list!”

“You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.”

These are the “love neighbor” side of the commandments.

The man responds; check, check, check, check, check, check.

OK, kind of hard to believe.

But Jesus accepts it and “loves” him for it.

But then Jesus says something else.

“You lack one thing.”

A box not checked!

Jesus does not tell him specifically what the box is, but instead tells him what to do to check it off.

‘[G]o, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 

But the guy can’t check that box.

Because he has many possessions.

What was that box?


Everyone who heard this is stunned.

Even the disciples.


Because in those days, it was understood that having many possessions was a sign of favor from God.

That kind of wealth wasn’t bad, it was a blessing.

This guy was being told that his wealth was a curse, not a blessing.

His world was turned upside down!

Why would wealth be a curse for this guy?

Well, it wasn’t his wealth that was the problem.

It was how he felt about his many possessions.

They had priority in his life.

Priority even over his desire for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Money was something he was unwilling to give up to inherit the Kingdom.

Jesus might mean that this man was unable to keep the “love God” side of the commandments.

His love of his wealth was what kept him from committing to Jesus.

He could not check the commitment box.

Most people read this story as being solely about money.

And we are … well … horrified that Jesus’ might be asking us to sell all we own and give it to the poor in order to inherit the Kingdom.

But that is not what Jesus is saying.

When we read the passage, we must read this part as well.

Jesus said to [his disciples] …, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!’

Really hard for rich folks, because they tend to put their money first, but hard for everyone.

That is more commitment than they can stomach.

But we all have something that demonstrates a lack of commitment at times, don’t we?

The thing that keeps us from being totally committed to God.

The box we can’t check.

We all have one.

The thing that makes us walk away grieving because we can’t give it up?

But then Jesus offers some comfort.

No one can be totally committed.

No one can check that box.

No one can get into God’s Kingdom through their own efforts.

Only God can make it happen.

Which is good news, because God does make it happen.

This is the Good News.

Peter, of course, does not really understand.

It is almost like he wants to know what good does it to do here to do as Jesus asks.

Listen to Peter.

‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ 

 “Look,” Peter seems to say, “We, your disciples, have done what you asked him to do and we have followed you!”

“If that is what makes us blessed, favored by God, what does that look like?”

Frankly, it is an insightful question from Peter.

Jesus responds.

29… ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

That sounds great, doesn’t it?

Prosperity Gospel on steroids!

100 times return on our commitment!

But that does not really satisfy Peter.

He does not think that he got a 100-times return from his “commitment” to Jesus.

“Where is it?”, Peter wants to know.

Jesus says, “Look around, Peter.”

“Look at all the mothers, brothers, sisters, and children who are following us around and

Treating each other like we are all one big family!

“Look at all the houses that have been opened to us as we travel around.

“Look at all the fields we have been granted access to as we have pursued our ministry.”

This group of disciples, not just the twelve of you, but all those who are following us, are those things.

The return is not many possessions, it is community.

It is the sharing and caring. It is the loving each other and so loving God.

It’s actually a pretty nice return on your commitment.

Which raises the question.

Do we have this?

I think so.

I was talking with someone this week about what this looks like at JMPC.

I was told that it is a phone call after the flood to see if all was well.

We do that.

I was told that it is a dropped off lunch during an illness.

We do that.

I was told that it is the community of knowledge and experience offered to answer questions about issues that come up in our lives.

We do that, too.

Only a community can offer such things.

We are such a community.

An expanded family with lots of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children … you get the picture.

And when life gets hard, we folks are there to keep each other going.

The part about persecutions?

Not such a bid deal to us these days, but in Jesus’ day and particularly in Mark’s day, the rewards were accompanied by persecutions, and it was the church that allowed folks to carry on.

And Jesus goes on:

“But even these things are just a small part of the reward.

“In the next age, you will have eternal life.”

If we are committed, that is what Jesus provides.

And yes, it does turn things upside down.

What we put first, becomes last.

What we put last, becomes first.

Which brings us back to the question of commitment.

Do we have to “give up something” to demonstrate our commitment?


But what we really have to do is look at our priorities.

Bac to that NCAA champion.

For that NCAA wrestler, getting to be the champ meant giving up other activities, sometimes food, sometimes friends.

It was his priority.

But it was worth it to him.

And it might be easy to say that he should have given it up to demonstrate his commitment to God.

But as he was talking about his commitment to his sport, he added at the end that he owed it all to God, who was the source of his ability and commitment.

Giving God the glory demonstrates priority.

God also knows this is hard.

It is hard to get into the kingdom.

Jesus tells us that.

But God makes it possible.

He makes it possible through Jesus.

The one who did give up everything, his divinity, his authority, his life, so that we could enter the Kingdom.

This Week at John McMillan Presbyterian Church (March 31, 2019, the Fourth Sunday of Lent)

When my son was starting his college search, one of the primary questions he had for each college he applied to was this: ‘What do I need to do to get in?’ There was typically a list. Have good grades (usually quantified as a percentage of his high school graduating class), as many AP classes as possible, good SAT or ACT scores, one or more extra-curricular activities, a resume of community service projects, a strong interview, a well written essay, and recommendation letters. If he checked off all the boxes, would he get accepted? Hopefully, but not certainly! The list never seemed to be complete. At college interviews, particularly at those schools my son was really interested in, he always asked, ‘Is there anything more I need to do to get in?’ The question became almost an obsession. ‘What do I need to do?’ When we want something badly enough, that question does become critically important. We might be willing to do almost anything to ‘check all the boxes’, but we need to know what all the boxes are!

This week our scriptural text concerns a particular man who wants to know what he needs to do to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Let’s face it, this is a question we all want to know the answer to, right? This man is pretty sure Jesus knows the answer, so the man asks him. Jesus response is … well … shocking. Shocking not only to the man but even to the disciples, and especially Peter. What is Jesus answer and what does it mean? Come and hear about it this at the 8:30 service only at John McMillan Presbyterian Church this Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, when Pastor Jeff preaches, ‘Who do you turn to?’ based on Mark 10: 17-31. At the 11 o’clock service Rev. Dr. Leanna Fuller will preach after teaching a class on Mental Health and Congregational Care at 9:30 in the JMPC Christian Education wing.  Come, for the morning. Along with coffee and cookies at 10:30, you will learn important things, and maybe be surprised.

My Jesus: Thoughts on how we interpret Jesus and the dangers of our own narrow point of view.

Mark 9: 2-10

2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

My daughter gave me a book to read a while back called the “Sports Gene” by David Epstein.

The book opens with evidence that eyesight has a huge impact on an athlete’s ability to excel in sports.

But it is more than just visual acuity.

It involves something called perceptual cognitive ability.

The ability to see the not only what is right in front of them, but to also sense the entire field of play.

To know understand what is happening all around, and so know what to expect next.

Few of us have that ability.

We see where our eyes are pointed and no more.

And we point our eyes at what’s important to us.

When my daughter played softball or when my son swam, my attention at every event was on them, not what was going on around them.

Yet, even then, though I could not predict the outcome, I was able to follow the race or the play and see the end result.

We can all do that.

One day, one of the fathers came to one of Julz’s games with a tiny little video camera.

This little camera recorded the game which later would be downloaded onto a computer and emailed to the team.

The problem was, the video we all got just showed his daughter.

That is where he aimed his lens.

The game was all about her, which was ok because it was his daughter.

What happened was that we all got one of those little cameras.

We started watching the games through our little cameras that were pointed at our daughters.

All we got was what was important to us.

So, we missed the “game”.

What does any of this have to do with our scripture reading?

Our scripture reading is about Peter’s point of view.

Where Peter’s eyes are pointed.

And the narrowness of his lens.

Peter certainly does not have perceptual cognitive ability.

And while Peter can see what is in front of him, his bias makes him focus on what he thinks is important about Jesus and so misses the “game”.

Let’s take a look.

There is little doubt that Peter is loyal to Jesus.

They are not just teacher and student, but great friends as well.

Such great friends that Peter is invited up onto the mountain to see Jesus transfigured, despite the fact that only six days before Peter had tried to get Jesus to abandon the divine plan and been seriously rebuked by Jesus.

Apparently, all was forgiven.

So now what happens?

Jesus is transfigured.

Peter watches.

This is a mystical event.

When I say mystical, what I mean is that it is a moment when Peter gets to see the world through the eyes of God.

What does Peter see?

Jesus is bright white.

His heavenly form.

There are Moses and Elijah having a chat with Jesus.

Pretty awesome.

How does Peter interpret this?

Not as God has shown him, but as he wants it to be.

His bias is that Jesus is the Messiah, come to save Israel, as its new king.

Jesus is certainly looking like someone sent from God.

There are Moses and Elijah as his counselors.

Peter, being suitably impressed, makes a suggestion.

This might be a good place to set up headquarters for the coming battle.

“Let me build you guys houses here on this mountain so we can decide what to do next.”

This is Peter’s transfiguration.

Jesus is exactly what Peter wanted.

That Jerusalem stuff?

Not important.

What happens next is remarkable.

They all get surrounded by a cloud and Peter hears a voice.

A voice in a cloud gives Peter a good idea of whose voice it is.

‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’

Talk about a rebuke!

God is lecturing Peter.

Open your mind Peter.

“Stop trying to make Jesus who you want him to be and just listen to him!!!”

Then … poof … it’s just Jesus and the three.

Down the mountain they go.

And Jesus says, don’t tell anyone what you saw here.

Why would Jesus say that?

Because Peter’s understanding of what Jesus is up to is through the lens of his bias.

Peter wants Jesus to be someone who agrees with and approves of his world view.

An expectation that misses the point Jesus is trying to make.

Jesus does not want Peter to define him.

Because Peter’s bias causes him to misunderstand Jesus’ purpose and plan.

Jesus tells Peter that he will understand down the raod, but not yet.

Until then, Peter is to keep his mouth shut.

This is our problem, too.

We are all a bit like Peter.

Maybe more than a bit.

We, like Peter, want Jesus to be our Jesus.

The one who agrees with our biases.

The one who approves of what we think.

We miss the Jesus as God sees him.

And here is the problem with that.

If we look at Jesus through the lenses of our biases, and believe that Jesus approves and agrees, what do we think of those who disagree with us?

I think it looks something like this.

Last Thursday there was an op-ed piece in the Post-Gazette by Kathryn Jean Lopez who is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review.

She was reviewing a book written by Arthur C. Brooks called, “Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt.”

The morning after Lopez finished the book, she learned of the New Zealand mad man who killed 50 people praying in Mosques.

Lopez laments that her first impulse, which she followed, was to look at Twitter.

Here is what she says.

My first mistake, of course, Friday morning was checking Twitter before I did much of anything else — except for a very quick prayer. Way too quick; it was the kind of quick prayer that leads people to dismiss prayer — because it didn’t give me the kind of pause that would have drawn me deeper into the heart of God before I went to see the morning headlines.

What she found on Twitter was contempt.

Contempt from one politician for those whose response to the event was considered superficial and insufficient.

What happened was a contemptuous back and forth between the politician and those who disagreed.

Brooks’ book decries this.

While most of us hate what it is doing to our country and worry about how contempt coarsens our culture over the long term, many of us still compulsively consume the ideological equivalent of meth from elected officials, academics, entertainers, and some of the news media. We wish our national debates were nutritious and substantive, but we have an insatiable craving for insults to the other side. . . . We indulge our guilty urge to listen as our biases are confirmed that the other guys are not just wrong, but stupid and evil. … In the words of the 19th-century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt is “the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.”

If we believe Jesus is “on our side”, it is easy to slide into this sort of thing.

“My Jesus teaches this.”

“No, my Jesus teaches that.”

Back and forth until the argument turns from theology to simple contempt for those who disagree.

We know this because of what happened in the PCUSA, in 2014 when we decided that it was OK for PCUSA ministers to perform same sex marriages and for churches to allow it in their sanctuaries.

Those who don’t agree with us … well … they are held in contempt.

And as Brooks and Lopez say, the sense is that there is no way to repair the schism.

Lopes cites Brooks who explains it this way:

Contempt “crowds out love because it becomes our focus …”

Which raises the question.

What are we focused on?

Do we look at Jesus only through our individual lenses?

Our biases?

Do we want Jesus to be defined as approving and agreeing with us?

Or do we look at the world through God’s lens?

Do we understand Jesus in a deeper way than just a few proof texts we agree with or that support what we think?

Because that is what Jesus is telling Peter.

Don’t go citing me as authority for what you believe until you understand me fully.

Until you put the work in to really know what it is I came here to say and do.

Until you understand what it is I am calling you to do.

Until you do that, leave me out of your arguments.

So how do we do that?

How do we understand so we can live the Jesus way, rather than our own way?

We study the Bible.

We come to worship.

We participate in Christian education.

We open our minds and broaden our perspectives to try and understand what Jesus calls us to do.

And when we disagree, we do not hold each other in contemp.

Because if we are going to try and look at the world through Jesus’ lens, we need to see that each of us bears the image of God.

And we are to love God and love each other.

Lopez offers what she would rather have done in the immediacy of the terrible news.

Rather than point fingers and trade insults on Twitter,

… I wanted to know a closeness with those people who were killed. I wanted to believe that if I poured out my heart in prayer, it could be some contribution to God’s mercy on those who died, not expecting that their Friday prayers would involve their brutal deaths and His consolation of those whose lives were forever changed hours before.

A lens of contempt “crowds out” love.

And so, misunderstands Jesus.

A lens of love crowds out contempt.

Which is what Jesus call us to.

Will we have disagreements?

You bet.

Conflict, of course.

But our first thought must be to ask this question:

What does Jesus say about this?

Does it promote love?

Does it promote contempt?

Then tend toward love.

Let me be clear on this, though.

It is profoundly hard.

Peter was literally living with Jesus for three years.

And he had trouble with it.

The church over the centuries has had trouble with it.

We have trouble with it.

And so, we struggle with the question of who is doing what Jesus would have us do?

Who is seeing the world through God’s eyes?

We see in a mirror dimly.

Only when we are face to face with God will we know fully.

And until then, God shows us no contempt.

Only love.

Let us do the same to each other.

This Week at John McMillan Presbyterian Church (March 24, 2019 Third Sunday of Lent)

There is a children’s song that goes like this:

If I had a little bitty box to put my savior in,

I take him out and kiss, kiss, kiss,

And share him with my friends.

If I had a little bitty box to put that Satan in,

I’d take him out and bam, bam, bam.

And put him right back in.

It is a cute song. But there is something about it that has always troubled me a bit. Why is the savior in someone’s “little bitty box”? There is a sense that the savior is the possession of the owner of that box. And when the savior is “shared”, it sounds like a child sharing a toy. Is that the way we think of Jesus? Like a beloved possession we need to share? And then take back when sharing time is over? I have another thought had about this little song (I know, you are thinking, “Jeff, it’s just a little kid’s song, why are you obsessing over it?”). It’s the thought that if we keep Jesus in our little bitty box, do we only share the things about Jesus we like, while keeping the things we don’t like in the box?

What brings all this to mind is the oft heard phrase when someone talks about Jesus. “My Jesus.” What does that mean? Ownership? Control? Possession? It particularly disturbs me when, in the middle of a discussion about a hard lesson from Jesus, someone says, “My Jesus would never say (do, require) that. My Jesus would say (do, require) something else.”

Do we think we own Jesus? Do we think we can control Jesus? Peter thought so. And because of that, Peter needed to be, shall we say, educated on the point of who was in charge of Jesus. It’s a lesson we all need to have from time to time, Come and hear about it this Sunday when Pastor Jeff preaches “My Jesus” based on Mark 9: 2-13. We are open for business at John McMillan Presbyterian Church at 8:30 and 11 for worship. We will look forward to seeing you.

Who Do You Say Jesus Is? Thoughts on standing against hate if you say Jesus is the Messiah.

Mark 8: 27-38

27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’28And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ 29He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

I am a big science fiction fan.

Books, movies, and television, you name it.

Science fiction television has always been a popular genre beginning with shows like The Outer Limits and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, not to mention all the Star Trek variations.

But there was one show that, in my view, was the best of all.


It was a show about a group of people who flew through space in a cargo ship called the “Serenity”.

The show was a mix of space adventure and old time western.

It was hugely popular with a loyal fan base but was cancelled at the end of the first season.


Because the writer, Joss Whedon, was unwilling to change the show so that it would make the TV execs happy.

The TV execs wanted a space comedy/drama while Whedon wanted a gritty story about a, ragged and flawed group of people who were just trying to survive in a hostile setting.

Whedon did not give in and the show was cancelled.

A whole lot of people are still pretty irritated.

What does this have to do with today’s text?

Both are about the question of who gets to control a narrative and why.

For Whedon, the execs wanted to control the Firefly story and when he did not cooperate, Firefly was gone.

In today’s text, there is a battle about who is going to control Jesus’ narrative.

It’s a battle between Jesus and one of his closest friends, Peter.

And the conflict stems from Peter’s misunderstanding of who Jesus was.

Let’s start with some background.

Jesus has developed quite a fan base.

He has twelve close confidants, but also many other followers.

We aren’t told how many, but we are told that wherever Jesus went, he was surrounded by folks to such an extent that he tried to hide from time to time.

These folks were from all over because Jesus was pretty famous.

Now Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem.

We all know what happens there, but the disciples don’t really understand it yet.

As they walk along, Jesus asks an interesting question.

“Who do folks say I am?”

Kind of like, “What do polls say?”

The disciples, who have been out among the people tell Jesus what they have heard.

Some say John the Baptist.

Some say Elijah.

Some say a new prophet.

It’s easy to understand why people thought Jesus was a prophet.

Prophets were sent to prepare people for some next thing that was coming.

That is what it sounded like Jesus was doing.

Jesus was preparing the people for the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God was the “next thing”.

I have this image of Jesus sort of pursing his lips and nodding.

Then, Jesus asks his disciples the same question.

“Well, what do you say?”

Peter, of course, has the answer.

I have an image of Peter raising his hand and repeating, “I know, I know, I know.”

“You are no mere prophet telling people about the ‘next thing’.

 You are the Messiah!

You are the ‘next thing’!”

At this point, we expect Jesus would to say something like, “Good answer, Peter. Now you and the rest go and tell everyone!”

But that is not what Jesus does.

He “sternly ordered” the disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah.


Jesus knows something.

He is not the kind of Messiah people want.

There were different vies on what the Messiah would be like.

Most thought Messiah would be a sort of conquering hero.

Throw out the Romans and bring back the Davidic rule.

But that is not who Jesus is.

Jesus knows what awaits him in Jerusalem.

Rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

This is the way Jesus will become the Messiah.

The savior.

Jesus is all in, but that does not mean he is looking forward to it.

But he needs to stay committed to the task.

Then Jesus tells the disciples what the task is.

I can see the disciples listing with their mouths open in horror.

This is not the way this story is supposed to go.

This is not the kind of thing that will generate good ratings.

People want a different message and outcome.

So, what does our hero Peter do?

He pulls Jesus aside, scolds him and says, “No way!!”

“I don’t like that story!”

Like the execs who pulled Whedon aside and told him he needed to change his show to theirs, Peter tries to get Jesus to change the plan.

This is exactly why Jesus does not want the disciples telling anyone that Jesus was the Messiah.

Every messianic faction would spin Jesus to be what they wanted the Messiah to be.

They would try to claim Jesus as their own with hope of good ratings and popularity.

That’s what Peter was doing.

Jesus will have none of it.

He rebukes Peter.

Jesus turns to his disciples and so turns his back on Peter.

Jesus calls Peter Satan and sends him away with a sweep of his hand.

Why does Jesus call Peter Satan?

Remember the wilderness?

Jesus was tempted by Satan to give up his mission.

Peter was doing the same.

Jesus says Peter’s mind was on human things, not divine things.

Peter wanted good ratings and popularity.

Jesus wanted to save the world.

Jesus was not Peter’s kind of Messiah.

And so, Peter could not be a follower of Jesus.

Then Jesus turns to the crowd of other followers and tells them what they need to do to be his followers.

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 

If Jesus is the Messiah, our Messiah, we need to understand what that means, right?

A bit more nackground.

While Mark is describing an event in Jesus life, his audience is the Christian community in Rome.

Nero is emperor.

He blamed the Christians for burning Rome and is now persecuting them as punishment.

Followers of Jesus are being crucified, burned alive, and thrown to the wild animals daily to satisfy the desire of the Romans for vengeance.

To be follower of Jesus in Rome, then, meant that you might actually have to pick up a cross and die.

But that was not the goal.

Jesus is not saying that we are to seek martyrdom or persecution.

He is just saying we need to be prepared for it.

And while there are Christians in the world who risk their lives to go to church, that is not what it is like in the US.

So, how do we read this text?

This way, I think.

We must take our minds off of human things and put God first.

We must follow Jesus, not our human aspirations.

But that can be risky.

It can result in some personal difficulty and unpopularity.

And Jesus says, that is the cost of following him as Messiah.

Dr. William Placher, professor at Wabash College until his death in 2008, puts what Jesus requires this way:

Seeking to be persecuted is a form of pathology, not a way of following Jesus. One simply does what is right, helps those who need help, stands up for truth even when it is unpopular. Occasionally such witness simply succeeds. Sometimes success only comes after a rock through a window, an arrest, or a cross burned on the Lawn. Quite ordinary American pastors and lay people have experienced such things in uncounted numbers over the years, in conflicts over civil rights, immigrants, or a host of other issues. One might lose a job. One might get killed. It is not possible to know in advance where standing up for the right thing will lead.

That is what Jesus is saying in our text.

“Stand up for me!”

Stand up for what is right.

Pick up a cross and then pray you don’t get nailed to it.

When we hear that, though we are tempted to respond like Peter.

That is not what we want to hear.

We want a different story.

One where there is no push back from others.

One that requires little from us.

That would be a misunderstanding of who Jesus is.

If Jesus is our Messiah, and we want to follow him, Jesus wants us to do what he did.

Put God first.

And then prove it.

By taking seriously what it means to follow Jesus.

It means this:

Love God and love neighbor.

Loving neighbor is loving God.

If we take this seriously, we need to stand against those who dehumanize people who do not look like, act like or worship like them.

Last Friday, a man described as “a globe-trotting … Australian and avowed racist who immersed himself in an Internet subculture of extreme anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, white supremacist ideology” walked into a mosque in Christ Church in New Zealand and shot almost 100 people, including children, while they were praying.

Why did he do this?

Because they were Muslim.

Because they were immigrants.

Because they were not white.

This is no different from the October 29 shooting at Tree of Life when 11 Jews were gunned down while they prayed.

We cannot be followers of Jesus and let these events, and the narrative that encourages them to go unchallenged.

We need to stand up to the dehumanizing of all God’s image bearers.

Where do we start?

Today we baptized Cade McGuire.

Maybe we start with him, and all the babies and people we baptize here.

Let’s teach them what it means to follow Jesus.

To love God and love neighbor.

That would be a small but important way for us.

There are other ways.

I reached out to the Muslim community and offering our condolences and support.

We all should.

That is what following Jesus is.

Standing against hate.

Standing up for Jesus.

Professor Thomas B. Slater puts it nicely:

True Discipleship is defined not by what one might receive, but by what one is willing to give. … [T]rue discipleship requires faithfully following Jesus in this world, regardless of the outcome.

That is what Peter misunderstood.

It is what many of us misunderstand about Jesus.

If Jesus is our Messiah, Jesus must be our example.

And example of how we can give our lives meaning and purpose.

Following Jesus.

Loving God.

Loving neighbor.

Living the Jesus way.

This Week at John McMillan Presbyterian Church (March 17, 2019, Second Sunday of Lent)

We live in a world where most everything is governed by opinion polls and surveys. If you want to know how many polls there are from a political standpoint, check out the website Real Clear Politics. It lists many polls and reports the results of these polls on a daily basis. What do polls do? They ask the opinions of people on many things. What do people think about this? What do people think about that? What do people think about this person? What do people think about that person? Dozens of polls. Dozens of questions. Why? Because we want to know what people think, right? Polls allow us to adjust our public personas to increase our approval ratings! They allow us to “spin” our message just the right way. They allow us to change our presentations to get people to pay attention to us. Polls allow us to say what people want to hear, rather than what we really think because if we tell people what we really think, we might not get those good poll numbers.

In this week’s “Misunderstanding Jesus” message we explore just such a moment in Jesus life. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. As he walks along, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Its kind of like a poll of the people Jesus’ disciples have come across. The poll is inconclusive. But then Jesus askes the disciples who they think he is. Let’s take a poll here (for us disciples) – Who do we say Jesus is and why? Peter says that Jesus is the Messiah. Is that what we think? What does that mean? In a surprise move, Jesus says that Peter is right, but tells the disciples not to tell anyone! Why? The answer might surprise you. It is all about misunderstanding Jesus.

Come and hear about it on Sunday, March 17 at 8:30 and 11:00 when Pastor Jeff preaches “Who do you say Jesus is?” based on Mark 8:27-38. It’s the second Sunday in Lent! Come to church! We will look forward to seeing you.

What Are You Looking For? Thoughts on finding meaning and purpose in discipleship.

Mark 1: 16-20

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen.17And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Our text today is what is described as a “call story”.

Jesus calls someone to follow him.

There are several call stories in Mark, and they all have the same outline.

  1. Jesus passes by.
  2. Jesus stops and speaks to someone and invites them to follow.
  3. The hearers follow.

That is what Jesus does here.

He is walking along the Sea of Galilee and comes across Simon and Andrew, James and John.

Simon will go on to be called Peter.

I want to focus on Peter because he is prominent in Mark’s Gospel.

And because Peter is a fascinating person.

Peter is a fisherman.

That is what he does for a living.

That is how he supports his family.

He owns a boat, so he is a businessman with some wealth.

He also has a wife and a house.

Peter has many responsibilities.

Then Jesus passes by and chats.

Then Jesus says to Peter, come and follow me.

And Peter immediately leaves his nets and does?

I wonder how that went over at home.

Let’s imagine.

Peter takes Jesus to his house.

Peter: “Honey, I’m home. There is someone here I want you to meet!”

Mrs. Peter: “Oh? Who?”

Peter: “This is Jesus. He is the one everyone is talking about. He has been telling folks that the time has come for the Kingdom of God to come near and that we should repent and believe the good news. He has asked me to follow him. So, I came home to pack.”

Mrs. Peter: “Oh, really? … You’re going to just walk out the door and “follow” Jesus? I don’t think so!

Peter: “But, honey, I really want to be part of what Jesus is up to.”

Mrs. Peter: “Well who is going to provide your family with food and shelter while you are off with Jesus? Who is going to teach little Petey how to fish? Who is going to fix the roof? And how long will you be gone? Can’t you be a disciple while you are supporting your family?”

Peter: “I guess I did not think about that.”

Mrs. Peter: “And what exactly will you be doing?”

Peter: “I’ll be a disciple.”

Mrs. Peter: “So, what does it mean to be a disciple?”

Peter: “I’m not really sure. Jesus says I will become a fisher of people. I will be telling people about the Kingdom of God. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime!”

Mrs. Peter: “I thought this family was your lifetime. I thought you were fishing for fish.”

Peter: “Look, let me give this a try. If it doesn’t work out or becomes a problem, I ‘ll go back to fishing!”

Peter kind of reminds me of me.

Let me tell you a bit of my story.

I am a lawyer.

I have been a lawyer for 36 years.

In 1998, after teaching a Bible study for two years, I decided that I would go to seminary in the evening while I was practicing law.

I thought I was being called to use my writing and speaking skills to teach people about Jesus.

The conversation with my wife about that was a bit like the conversation I imagine Peter had with his wife.

What about the family?

One of Julz’s teammates, who is Jewish, asked her mother if I was going to have to leave my family so I could become a “priest”.

Well, school took up a good bit of time, but I managed to be there for them.

Then, in 2007, I graduated from the seminary and was asked by Carnegie Presbyterian Church to become their pastor.

That was the second difficult conversation I had with my wife.

One of the things I remember her saying was, “Just remember, I married a lawyer, not a pastor.”

I accepted the call at Carnegie and merged my firm with another so I could continue to practice law part time.

I remember on my first Sunday at Carnegie, I was standing in the back of the sanctuary as the service started.

I was anxious and said to myself, “Jeff, what have you done?”.

I found comfort in knowing that if I was wrong about the call to ministry, I could always go back to practicing law.

And I still had my personal life.

AJ was at Pitt and we saw him a lot.

He was in a lot of plays and we went to all of them.

 Julz was home and I spent a lot of time with her watching her play softball and grow into a beautiful woman.

Karen was practicing law, but we had a nice social life.

We went of vacations and spent time with family.

Our income dropped, and I had to work Sundays, but basically, our life really did not change much.

I sometimes think Peter and I had similar experiences.

We do know that Peter did not give up fishing.

The point I am trying to make is that Jesus call to us to be his disciples does not always mean we have to drop everything to serve him.

Not everyone is called to change careers to become a disciple.

For most of us, discipleship is just a part of who we are.

An important part, to be sure, but just a part.

We have the rest of our lives to live as well.

How deep we dive into discipleship depends in large part on what we are looking for when we come to Jesus.

What was Peter looking for?

What was I looking for?

What are you looking for?

I think the answer is basically the same for all of us.

We are looking for meaning and purpose.

For Peter that was bringing people to Jesus.

For me it was teaching and preaching.

What is it for you?

What gives you meaning?


One thing might be family.

Like Peter, we all want to be part of a family and provide for its needs.

Who here who is part of a family can deny it gives both meaning and purpose.

But so does our faith.

The Westminster Catechism says this:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of [humanity]?
A. [Humanity’s] chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy [God] forever.

It’s the first of the two greatest commandments.

It’s loving God.

It is our purpose.

It teaches us that there is a greater being who has created us for love and companionship.

Enjoying that relationship gives us meaning.

For me, enjoying God is enjoying all the things God gave me.

My wife.

My kids.

My job.

My life.

That is why we come to church.

Church is a place where we are encouraged and taught to understand those things.

What gives our lives meaning?

Loving our neighbor as ourselves.

That is the second of the greatest commandments.

What does that look like?

It can be as easy as our social lives.

Friends and community.

That is why Jesus chose disciples.

He wanted community.

The church can provide that, too,

We don’t need to do everything together, but we support and encourage and care about each other.

But it is more than that.

Loving neighbor means taking care of neighbor.

And that is mission work.

That is what Peter was doing when he hit the road with Jesus.

His mission was to support Jesus.

He also had his own ministry assignments.

And it was easier for Peter to do that with Jesus leading the way.

If mission work, whether it is in the form of a trip to Chiapas to live and work with the Tzeltal people, or a trip to New Bern to do some flood relief work, or to drive over to Patterson Ave, to muck out a flooded home or teach VBS or Children’s church or to sleep at the church during Family Promise, or provide food for Duquesne Kid’s Club, would give your life a bit of meaning, it is easier to do it in a community of faith like JMPC.

We lead the way.

What else might someone be looking for?

That is a question we need to start asking here at JMPC.

We need to know that answer.

Because if we don’t know the answer to that question, some folks might just walk away and go back to fishing.

I have seen such things happen.

Way back in the early 70s a friend of mine became what we called then a “Jesus Freak”.

Part of what was called the “Jesus Movement”.

He had been invited to a prayer service by someone and was pretty smitten.

He started wearing a big wooden cross around his neck and carried a Bible wherever he went.

His crew would invite people to the prayer meetings, but they did not do much else as far as I could see.

He went off to college and I did not see him for a while.

But the next time I saw him, the cross and Bible were gone.

I talked to him about that.

He said that the Jesus community he joined was exciting and fun.

That was what he had been looking for.

An identity, but no purpose or meaning.

But in the end, it was a bit superficial.

His community did not provide those kinds of things.

And so, he sort of pushed it into the background.

He went back to fishing.

I wonder at times, if that has ever happened to folks who have come here.

In Mark, Jesus passes by, talks to folks and asks them to follow.

But that is not the way it happens in 2019.

These days, it is the people who pass by.

They walk into a church and kick the tires a bit.

Do we ask them what they are looking for?

What would make them want to come back?

Clint Jenkin, VP of Research at the Barna Group and the lead developer and analyst on a recent study said this:

 “If, at the end of the day, teens and adults can say they met with God in your faith community, getting them to come back won’t be much of an issue. The fact remains that eight out of 10 young adults say growing closer to or learning about God are the two most important reasons to attend church.



Now we can’t provide that for everyone.

But we can provide that for many.

But we have to have a conversation that lets people know what our purpose and meaning are here.

And how we live them out.

Then we can ask each other, and those who stop by, what are you looking for?

And be able to tell them how they find it.

What we don’t want is to have folks just fade away because we never asked them that question.

And never tried to help them find it.

One of the things people do during Lent, is contemplate their relationship with Jesus.

What was Jesus purpose?

What is ours?

What did Jesus mean?

What do we mean?

Does Jesus teach that the only way to have purpose and meaning we must give up everything and follow him?

I think that would be a misunderstanding of Jesus.

Jesus wants us to love God and love each other.

To live the Jesus way.

Meaning and purpose in our normal everyday lives.

And to be part of a community that will help us help each other do that.

Don’t Just Sit There:Thoughts on what Ash Wednesday means.

Mark 12: 28-34

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ 29Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ 32Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; 33and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbor as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.

A time of disciplined preparation for the celebration of Easter.

Trying to understand what Jesus did and why.

The preparation begins with a dab of ashes on the forehead.

So, what is that about?

It was an ancient custom that demonstrated distress.

The Common English Bible describes the practice this way.

The Israelites, following customs from the ancient world, employed ritual forms to display their sorrow over pain and suffering, death, their return to the Lord concerning sin, or their horror at blasphemy. These ritual acts included fasting, tearing clothes, wearing rough goat hair garments, sprinkling dirt or ashes upon their heads, shaving or pulling out hair and beards, and chanting laments.

The general view in Jesus day was that if one was in pain, suffering, or mourning, it was because that person deserved it.

The pain, suffering and loss were God’s punishment for their sin.

Fasting, tearing clothes, wearing rough goat hair garments, sprinkling dirt or ashes upon their heads, shaving or pulling out hair and beards, and chanting laments all ways to show sorrow for whatever it was that brought about the punishment.

It was an understanding that a person’s failures separated them from God.

Death was particularly bad, because it made that separation permanent.

Death was a return to the elements.

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

It was all too sad for words.

So … ashes!

The ritual was a reminder that that was what awaited us all, unless we somehow reconciled with God.

That’s what Jesus came to do.

He came to forgive our failures against God and save us from our return to dust in death.

To do that, Jesus went to the grave to conquer death and bring us into the presence of God.

As Christians, we apply ashes as an admission that we needed Jesus to do that.

It is a confession of sin and our deservedness of death, but for the saving act of Jesus on the cross.

Which is good.

But I have this image of Jesus looking at our ash covered foreheads, nodding in appreciation for the acknowledgment of his sacrifice, but also whispering in our ears, “Don’t just sit there. Go and do something!”

So, what do we do?

Many “give up something” for Lent.

Those folks want to demonstrate their continued penance by making a sacrifice.

You, know, chocolate, coffee, wine, social media, TV, that sort of thing.

But is that what Jesus wants?

I don’t think so.

That is not what our text this evening says Jesus wants.

Jesus quotes the Torah, his Bible, the Book of Leviticus.

Jesus tells us what he wants us to love God and love each other.

Jesus seems to be saying that these two things are connected.

That maybe they are the same thing.

Mr. Rogers thought so.

He said this:

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if God and neighbor are somehow One. “Loving God, Loving neighbor”—the same thing? For me, coming to recognize that God loves every neighbor is the ultimate appreciation!

Jesus seems to be saying that if we love God and love each other, we are not far from the Kingdom.

So maybe we should practice that sort of thing during Lent.

So, how do we do that?

Jesus talks about that in Matthew’s Gospel at 25: 31-46

31“When the Son of Man comes … he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Jesus is describing “judgment day”.

The day we dread and why we put ashes on our heads.

We are all there.

All of us.

Not just Christians.

Every human being who has ever been.

Jesus is the judge and begins to divide us.

Sheep to his right.

Goats to the left.

Sheep into the Kingdom.

Goats to … well … it says into the eternal fire; … eternal punishment.

What I find fascinating is this:

Both those identified as sheep and those identified as goats are – surprised!

I can understand why the goats are surprised.

No one wants to go – there!

But the sheep are surprised, too!

“What makes us sheep?”

“What got us into the kingdom?”

I can see someone who had never heard of Jesus or believed in his divinity wondering why Jesus would put him on the sheep side.

And I can really see why someone who proclaimed Jesus as savior wonders why she is sent by Jesus over to the goats.

And so they all ask the same question:


Jesus answers:

“You sheep are defined as those who did these things:

The hungry were given food.

The thirsty were given water.

The strangers were welcomed.

The naked were clothed.

The sick were cared for.

The prisoners were visited.

This is the way I lived.

And when you did these things you were reflecting my love for you onto those in need and reflecting my love for you back on me.

You treated them the way I treat you.

It brought you to a place not far form the Kingdom of God.

In fact, it ushered you in.

That is what Jesus wants us to do.



They demonstrate sadness and repentance.

But we don’t just sit there!

We need to do something!

Love God and love each other.

Fred Rogers says we just need to be good to each other.

Kind to each other.

He says this:

“Let’s take the gauntlet and make goodness attractive in this so-called next millennium. That’s the real job that we have. I’m not talking about Pollyanna-ish kind of stuff. I’m talking about down-to-Earth actual goodness. People caring for each other in a myriad of ways rather than people knocking each other off all the time…What changes the world?

The only thing that ever really changes the world is when somebody gets the idea that love can abound and can be shared.”

Listen to Leonard Sweet, dean of Drake Theological Seminary.

Sweet compares this all-connectedness Jesus talks about with quantum physics.

According to quantum physics, everything is connected.

What happens to one thing happens to everything.

Sweet says this:

Jesus taught that we live in a world where what goes on in one corner affects every corner, where what happens to one child in Turkey affects every

[person in]

Manhattan. How can this be? One of the greatest discoveries of the soul, Jesus said, is the awareness that there is no separation between anything. Touch one thing and you touch everything. Touch earth and you touch heaven. Help one life and you help every life. Show one person love and you show love to the universe. Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these, you did it to Jesus.

Jesus says we can do these things to the person in our presence.

The person right there.

The person we come across in our daily lives.

The person in our community.

The person in the community next to us.

The person in the country next to us.

By doing that, we love God and love each other.

Out in the Narthex, there is a box filled with black bags.

You are invited to take one of these bags, or use one of your own, and take one clean, usable, clothing item out of your closet or drawers every day for the 40 days of lent.

One item per day.

Bring the bag to JMPC by April 28, and the clothing will be sorted and distributed to those in need.

In this way, we will “clothe the naked” and as Jesus said, when we clothe the least of us, we clothe Jesus.

Get that?

If we love the least of us, we love Jesus.

If we love each other, we love God.

And when we love God and love each other, we are not far from the Kingdom of God.

And then what?

We are treated the same way by God.

We know that because of what we remember at this table.

Coming to this table tonight is particularly poignant, because we have confessed and repented to God with the ashes on our head, and now we receive a visible sign of God’s love and invitation into the Kingdom through this bread and this cup.

So as we come, let’s prepare for Lent by taking time each day to give something away to the least of us, loving them and loving God.

“Mental Health: A Guide for Congregational Care” at John McMillan Presbyterian Church Sunday, March 31, 2019

Meet Rev. Dr. Leanna Fuller

“Mental Health: A Guide for Congregational Care”

Sunday, March 31, 2019

9:30 am

Fellowship Hall

We are excited to have Dr. Fuller join us on Sunday, March 31st! She serves as Associate Professor of Pastoral Care at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, where she teaches in the Masters and D. Min. programs. She holds a Ph.D. in Religion, Psychology, & Culture from Vanderbilt University, where her dissertation research focused on congregational conflict. Dr. Fuller is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and has professional experience in both chaplaincy and parish ministry. Her family includes her spouse Scott (also a UCC minister), their 8-year-old son Simon, and two dogs.

Dr. Fuller will lead a class at 9:30 am and will preach at the 11:00 am service.

Child care will be provided .

Misunderstanding Jesus: What would Peter do? A Lenten Sermon Series at John McMillan Presbyterian Church

For many years Pastor Jeff has preached on a particular theme. He preaches that we are called to “live the Jesus way”. Living the Jesus way encompasses many things but is best summarized as loving God and loving neighbor. Disciples of Jesus want to live that way. But sometimes … well … we stumble. Paul puts it this way: I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. Does this sound familiar? “I want to live the Jesus way, but I keep on messing it up!” It might surprise us to know that we are in good company. Peter, the Apostle was one who wanted to live the Jesus way, but kept messing it up! Why? Because Peter had a hard time understanding Jesus. Don’t you? Don’t we all? Pastor Jeff will be preaching a series of Sermons during Lent on why our misunderstanding of Jesus is actually pretty normal. Jesus can be hard to understand. Come and be encouraged.