Sunday, April 25, 2010

RENEWsletter for May 2, 2010 - 5th Easter

Dear Renewed Friends--
I was using my laptop at work which I had plugged into its AC adapter and was computing merrily away when all of a sudden a window popped up telling me I should switch to AC power, or save my work and shut down because the battery was critically low. But... but... I thought I was on AC power already! I'd plugged the line into the back of the computer. Oh wait! The other end of that cable was not plugged into the wall. Once I got that corrected, the warning window went away and my computer was happy again. With a renewed power source to feed it, there was no danger of losing work.

Faith sharing groups, Bible studies, daily or weekly mass... these are all ways to recharge our batteries. I look forward to worshiping with my friends each week, and "plugging in" to that heavenly power supply. It is definitely a time of renewal for my spirit.

This Sunday's readings, coincidentally enough, are about that very concept: Renewal. Those readings, for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, are found on the web at:, and in your Bible at:

Acts 14.21-27
Psalm 145.8-9, 10-11, 12-13 (with v. 1 for the response)
Revelation 21.1-5a
John 13.31-33a, 34-35

We pick up, in the First Reading, with Paul and Barnabus as they complete their First Missionary Journey. They had just left Derbe and made their way back through the cities where they had so recently started churches: Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in present-day Turkey (not yet to the Antioch in present-day Syria where they began this mission trip) (Acts 14.21). "They strengthened the spirits of the disciples" (v. 22) in each new church. This included Lystra where Paul had been stoned (mentioned in the earlier part of chapter 14) and left for dead! The new Christians were renewed in their faith by Paul's return and he told them "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (v. 22 again). Eventually they made their way back across the sea to the Syrian Antioch and reported to the disciples there on all the churches they had set up (v. 27) with their own local religious leaders along their route (v. 23). The official reading doesn't include verse 28, but there's where the missionaries' renewing takes place. They spent "no little time" with the disciples.

I can just hear Paul and Barnabus, as they walked along those Roman roads, singing this Sunday's Psalm... "I will praise your name forever, my king and my God" (Ps. 145.1), "and your dominion endures through all generations" (v. 13). The unending praise and the eternal dominion go on and on -- they are a source of constant renewal.

In the Second Reading we find that even the earth and sky will be renewed (Rev. 21.1). A loud voice proclaims "God's dwelling is with the human race... and God himself will always be with them" (v. 3). Then the One who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new" (v. 5). In that glorious time, nothing will get old, bones and cartilage will never wear out, boredom will never set in, and we will never again need recharging.

But what about enduring until that time? The Gospel Reading shows us how. Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment: love one another... as I have loved you" (John 13.34). Love endures. Love abides. Love forgives. Love constantly renews our spirits. With this kind of everlasting love in our hearts, we look strange to those about us who don't know Christ. And in fact, this is how they recognize us as disciples of Christ... by our love (v. 35).

This week why don't we leave our AC adapters (our "Alleluia Chorus" adapters?) plugged in. Plugged into the love of God among each other. That way we'll be constantly renewed and never have to run on batteries.

Randy Jones
"Those who cannot love say their battery is dead!"

Monday, April 19, 2010

RENEWsletter for April 25, 2010 - 4th Easter

Dear Friends of Renewal--
This Sunday's readings are about sheep. Generally we don't like to be likened to sheep. Sheep are stupid, sheep can't find their own way, sheep are easy prey to wolves, sheep don't even realize what's going on when they are led to slaughter. Yet in the grand view of God's Universe, all we, like sheep, have gone astray (Isaiah 53.6).

The readings for this the Fourth Sunday of Easter can be found on the web at:, and in your Bible at:

Acts 13.14, 43-52
Psalm 100.1-2, 3, 5
Revelation 7.9, 14b-17
John 10.27-30

The First Reading describes a scene like winter feeding time at a sheep ranch in Montana. Grazing is not an option during the cold months. The sheep need to be fed to stay alive. Sheep may be stupid, but they come as one when the food arrives. Paul and Barnabus arrived at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13.14) and were invited to speak in the synagogue on their first Sabbath there. Paul got up and made a beautifully logical case for Christianity being the natural follower of Judaism (the part left out, vs. 16-42, is this first recorded speech of Paul's). The synagogue officials invited him back to speak again next Sabbath.

Then word of his talk spread that week and next Sabbath almost the whole city turned out to hear him again (v. 44). The people, especially the Gentile visitors, were delighted to hear his good news of salvation. But the synagogue officials now saw it getting out of hand (v. 45). I bet they wished they had never asked Paul to talk in the first place! They didn't know a card-carrying Pharisee, which Paul was, would turn out to be such a radical! They gathered some cronies and ran him and his buddy Barnabus out of town (v. 50)!

But those synagogue officials should have read this Sunday's Responsorial Psalm! "Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands!" (Ps. 100.1). I take that to mean Gentile lands too. We are his people, the sheep of his flock (v. 3).

The Second Reading is another from John's Revelation. Here too, the emphasis is on diversity: "I had a vision of a great multitude... from every nation, race, people, and tongue" (Rev. 7.9). More folks than just Jews stood before the Lamb singing praises...

You know, when you think about it, the best kind of leader is one who can relate to what his or her followers go through. And here John describes our Shepherd as the Lamb who was slain, the One in whose blood we have washed our robes and made them white (v. 14). Jesus is the best Shepherd we could have because he's been a sheep himself. Led to the slaughter, he behaved just like a sheep, making not a move to resist. With Jesus as our Shepherd, we have nothing to fear. Not even death. We have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. He will shepherd us and lead us to springs of life-giving water, and he will wipe away all our tears (v. 17).

The Gospel Reading is short and sweet. The promises, for us sheep, in this short passage have eternal significance. "...they shall never perish" (John 10.28). " one can take them out of the Father's hand" (v. 29). There can be no wolf in our future.

Let us remember Psalm 23 this week: The LORD is our Shepherd. We lack nothing. We rest in his green pastures. He leads us to tranquil waters. He restores our souls.

May the Good Shepherd restore our souls this week.

Randy Jones
"Those who cannot hear the shepherd's voice fear the wolves!"

Monday, April 12, 2010

RENEWsletter for April 18, 2010 - 3rd Easter

Dear Renewers--
This is a unique time of year. It is the only season of the church year when we read about things Jesus did on this planet after he rose from the dead.

The readings this week for the Third Sunday in Easter are found on the web at:, and in your Bible in:
Acts 5.27-32, 40b-41
Psalm 30.2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13
Revelation 5.11-14
John 21.1-19

We should take the story in the Gospel Reading first because chronologically it sets the stage for the reading from Acts. The Psalm fits neatly in there next. Then, while we may think of Revelation as coming last, this passage really shows what's going on constantly in heaven from the beginning of time. And it will still be going on when we get there. We won't miss a thing.

The Gospel Reading is another account of the resurrected Jesus revealing himself to the disciples. They don't recognize him right away (John 21.4). But that thing with the fish filling the nets after a night of no bites was a dead give-away (v. 6). Peter jumps out of the boat and splashes to shore (v. 7). I wonder if he thought he was going to run on top of the water. He didn't. He sank. But this time he was tall enough to reach the bottom. When the rest drew the boat in to shore, Jesus fed them with bread and fish he had cooked (vs. 12-13).

When breakfast as over, Jesus force-fed Peter with some spiritual food. "Do you love me?" he asked three times. If you love Jesus you will tell others about him. You will "feed his sheep" (vs. 15-17).

The story in the First Reading shows us that Peter did finally get it. (Read clear through verses 27-41... the part left out is really interesting!) He and his comrades were hauled up on charges of preaching in the name of an enemy of the synagogue, of pointing out that the rulers of the synagogue were responsible for getting him executed, and of general rabble-rousing (Acts 5.27-28). But if you read the section that is left out, you find that the Sanhedrin decide to let them go in hopes that it will die out the way the other rabble-rousers and zealous self-appointed Messiahs faded away before them. "If it is of men, it will come to nothing. And if it is of God, we don't want to be caught opposing God, now, do we?" (Acts 5:38, 39).

So Peter and the rest were let go, after a flogging, but I can just see them leaving that place laughing and leaping and clapping each other on the back ("Ouch! Got flogged there!" "Oh, sorry!"), rejoicing that they got to suffer some dishonor like Jesus their Lord had (vs. 40, 41).

This is a good spot to look at the Responsorial Psalm. Those guys had just been rescued from the Sanhedrin and one of them may have started singing, "I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me!" (Ps. 30.2). The Lord had drawn them clear of danger and did not let their enemies rejoice over them (v. 2 still). Any mourning they had been doing was now changed into dancing (v. 11).

Well, guess what. The teaching the Sanhedrin wanted to stop wasn't of men at all. It was indeed of God. It didn't die out. And all the time, as the Second Reading tells us, countless numbers of angels and living creatures and elders, in fact the entire Universe, were crying out in loud voices, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! Worthy is he to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!" (Rev. 5.11-13).

You think it gets noisy at a Sharks hockey game when the arena (the "Tank") is filled with screaming fans? Especially during the playoffs! But you should hear the Heavenly Host!

Listen for them this week, praising and glorifying the Lamb who was slain and who is seated at the right hand of God himself! It'll make this week truly great.

Randy Jones
"Those who hear not the angels think the believers mad!"

Monday, April 5, 2010

RENEWsletter for April 11, 2010 - 2nd Easter

Dear Friends of Renewal,
The Scriptures for Sunday jump all over the centuries from the evening of Resurrection Day to hundreds of years before when the Psalmist predicts a promotion, to the first few weeks after the Ascension of Jesus, to late in the First Century with a story about a time that is yet in our future.

The readings for this coming Second Sunday of the Easter Season can be found on the web at, and in your Bible at:

Acts 5.12-16
Psalm 118.2-4, 13-15, 22-24 (with v. 1)
Revelation 1.9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
John 20.19-31

I'm going to take these readings in chronological order this time and start with the Responsorial Psalm. Look at Ps. 118.22. "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." Science fiction writers have speculated what would happen if a rocket ship were swallowed up by a black hole. A black hole is a super-dense star whose gravity is so strong that not even light can escape and everything that falls into it is crushed into a very tiny space. But writers suggest that the object will emerge somewhere else in the Universe at a "white hole". There is no evidence for the existence of these white holes, but the idea illustrates what I like to call "the Principle of the Paradox". This is a concept that occurs in the Bible when something that happens is exactly the opposite of what one would expect. (For example, Luke 9.24. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.") Jesus was aware of this Psalm and knew that though he was to be crucified, God would raise him from the dead and make him a "cornerstone" of faith for millennia to come. For "his mercy endures forever!" (vs. 2-4).

Next we come to the time of the Gospel Reading. Jesus had been crucified the Friday before. It was Sunday now, and only some women had seen him. But now he showed up at the place where the frightened disciples were holed up. The doors were locked, and the disciples were worried about what to do next when they suddenly realized Jesus was standing there (John 20.19). Their joy was overwhelming (v. 20). At first they must have thought things would return to the way they were before that trouble with the Sanhedrin. But Jesus had news for them. "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you," he said (v. 21). Peace? With the chief priests out there getting people crucified? Send us? But we're all stones the builders have rejected.... Surely thoughts like that were going through their heads. But then Jesus breathed on them and the Holy Spirit entered them (v. 22). Suddenly the Principle of the Paradox made perfect sense. They were to become cornerstones.

The First Reading is next chronologically. Peter indeed has become a cornerstone of faith in the risen Lord. This scene takes place after Christ has ascended to heaven and there is no more physical evidence of his material existence. But the work of Jesus -- healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead -- continued to be carried out by the apostles (Acts 5.12). And great numbers of people, all without Doubting Thomas's hang up about "seeing's believing", came to a belief that the risen, no longer visible Lord Jesus was the healer of souls (v. 14).

Lastly we come to the Second Reading from Revelation. This was possibly written by the same John who wrote the Gospel. He was marooned on an island called Patmos and it was there that he received the visions and inspiration to write the Book of Revelation (Rev 1.9). Jesus appears to him in human form (v. 13), yet not merely human. Jesus is no longer riding the stream of time. He is in his eternal body and has access to all times, first and last, past, present and future (see vs. 17, 18). His command to John is to write about all the things that have happened, are happening at that time, and that will happen (v. 19). And he, Jesus, was just the one to show him all those things.

We humans walk through our lives one minute, hour, day at a time. We remember the past with nostalgia or regret, we notice what's happening around us in real time and smile or frown, and we look forward to or dread the future. But our Savior doesn't walk through time. He was around before the creation of the Universe, he'll be around long after the Universe is finished, and he's around today, now, this very second. He is in control and he says to us, as he said to John who was scared to half to death on that island, "Don't be afraid..." (Rev 1.17).

As we work through our lives day by day, we need not be afraid. Our Friend and Brother, our Savior Jesus Christ, is there beside us to turn disaster into blessing, mourning into dancing, and fear into peace. He truly is risen!

Randy Jones
"Those who give up too soon miss the chance to become a cornerstone!"