Easter Sunday 2020

Early in the morning on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James set out toward the garden where they had seen Jesus’ body placed.  When they entered the garden, they saw to their amazement that the stone in front of the tomb had been rolled aside.  They had brought a lantern knowing the tomb would be dark, and when they looked inside, they saw the tomb was empty.  Looking around in the dimness Mary Magdalene saw a figure standing near and assumed it must be the gardener. 

“We have come to anoint the body, but someone has taken it away.  If you took it, please tell us where it is and we will go there.”

The dim figure spoke her name.


“Teacher, is that you?”

She dropped the lantern and ran to him, threw her arms around him and began to cry.  Then she felt that he had nothing to keep away the morning chill, and took off her cloak and put it over him.  The cloak was full of her warmth and smell, and for a moment he couldn’t speak.  Then she said, “Do you need anything?  I have a little food and some water.”

“Yes, Mary, there is something I need for you to do for me.  I am so pleased that it was you who came first to me this morning.  I must not go back into the city.  The guards ran away, but they will come back with more so I cannot stay here.  You must go and tell the others that I will go to Galilee and wait for them there.  Can you do that for me?”

“I don’t want to leave you.  I don’t want to ever leave you.”

The other Mary spoke.  “If you want to stay, I will go tell the others, but they will not believe me.”

“You must both go, and yes, Mary, they must see for themselves.  Both of you go, and hurry, because I must go now.

Mary asked, “When will I see you again?”

“You must come with the others to Galilee because there I will explain to you how important it is for you to help the others stay together, and how you must tell them all the things I have told you.  Now go to them.  They must see for themselves that I am no longer in the tomb.”

Then Mary the mother of James gently took Mary’s hand and pulled her away from Jesus, and they ran back toward the city.

Jesus stood there watching them go, and he took a fist full of Mary’s cloak in each hand.  It was the first time that he realized that leaving her would be the most difficult part.  He straightened his back and started down the road to Emmaus, and then to Galilee where he would tell them about the Advocate to come.

Stay tuned.

Reflection by John Houk

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Holy Saturday Reflection

It was the Sabbath in Jerusalem.  Normally a very quiet day and today was no different, except there were whispers.  Jesus had been confirmed dead with a spear thrust, and his body taken down from the cross.  The body was claimed by a secret follower and placed in a tomb, while women who had come to Jerusalem with Jesus watched where he was laid.  Then they began to collect the spices they would need to anoint his body as was the Jewish custom.  They would wait until tomorrow because this was Sabbath, but they wondered who would roll the large stone from in front of the tomb because all the men they knew had fled.  The Chief Priest and Council of Elders were sure they had saved the people and themselves from catastrophic Roman retaliation.  The Roman governor was pleased that his district was now rid of a trouble maker, but his wife was not so sure and she told him so.  He had a sign placed on the cross over the head of Jesus that read, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews”.  The sign had its intended effect on the many people who saw it.  If you cause trouble in my district this is what will happen to you was the message, and the people understood it.  This was the way Rome kept the peace in all its districts.  It was the Sabbath, but it was also spring, the beginning, of a new year.  The world was full of new life and new possibilities, but Jerusalem had pushed the pause button.
Please stay tuned. 

Reflection by John Houk

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Good Friday Reflection

Jesus and his disciples loved this garden.  It was a safe comfortable place with deep grass and a light breeze.  It was dark, and they settled into the quiet, some even falling asleep.  Jesus tapped Peter, James and John, and asked them to come with him, and they went without question.  He asked them to wait for him as he moved “a stone’s throw” away.  He had felt agitated, and at first wanted company, then wanted to be by himself.  As he stood alone in the dark a feeling of panic descended on him, a gripping fear that he had never experienced before.  He fell to the ground, sweat dripping from his face.  His body said walk away from this place, no, run.  It is dark.  They will never be able to find you, run.  He stood up, turned and walked back to the three men he had brought with him.  They were sleeping.  He turned and walked away.  He could slip away and they would not know that he had gone.  He turned back to them.  They were sleeping.  They trusted him, and he had brought them to this place and this hour.  They trusted him.  How could he abandon them?  Did he not trust his own mission?  He had been so sure of what he was called to do.  Did he not trust himself or the One who called him?  He felt the coolness of a dawn breeze and could see a grayness in the eastern sky.  He felt a calmness descend upon him.  He would trust.  He had to trust.  He looked across the valley and he could see torches moving toward him.  He woke up the three men and led them back to the others.  When the men with the torches arrived, he held out his hands.  They tied him and led him away.

reflection by John Houk

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Music is bringing us together

Music is the inspiration of the Spirit.
It allows us to celebrate with joy,
singing, dancing, like Miriam with her tambourine.
It groans forth from the depths of our being
when we grieve our losses.
It gets our bodies moving in exercise, 
and marches with the those protesting against injustice.

Music eases our anxiety, soothes us, helps us to heal,
and sustains us when we need to persevere.
In this time of coronavirus, 
music is being sung from balconies,
played on porches, lawns and sidewalks 
during social distancing.
Music is found streaming from home studios,
featured on the evening news, 
on links sent by friends through the internet.

While we are “sheltering in place”
music is speaking to us about who we are,
and that we are not alone.
Music is bringing us together.

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March 25, Nine Months till…

March 25th, nine months before December 25th
the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.
Yes, God is with us.  
We see Jesus, working through others, is with us. 

During this time of the coronavirus, we have gratitude and ask blessings upon:

the nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, clinic, hospital and nursing home staff, who are putting their lives on the line while meeting our medical needs;  

those who are serving people who are confined to prisons and jails, people living in homeless shelters and senior living communities, where social distancing is almost impossible;

those who are working long hours to provide the needed medical and health supplies, and those who are volunteering to do what they can to help;

and to friends and neighbors, and people who do not even know us, who reach out to ask if we need anything.

Bless them and keep them safe, O God.


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Our Global Community

We had a pumpkin for Halloween, and when the season was over, we cooked, mashed and froze the pumpkin for future desserts.  As I was cooking pumpkin custard this morning, I thought about our global community and how we support one another.  I thought of the local farmers who raised the chickens and milked the cows so that I could have eggs and milk.  I thought of the workers in a warmer southern country who harvested the cane for my sugar, and the people far off on an Eastern continent who provided the spices to make the custard smell and taste so good.  My simple dessert depended upon all of these people, in all of these lands.  I could not have had custard without them.  As I enjoy my special treat today, I think of my global community where life has been turned upside down by a virus that is affecting each and every one of us.  I am grateful for you, every one of you.  May we all work together to defeat this deadly virus.  May you be blessed with good health.  And may we all remember our global community.

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The Long View

Dear Friends,

Yesterday as I sat at our dining room table gazing across the pond, I had an experience very similar to something our daughter wrote in her e-mail to us today: 

 This morning I had to get up early to go get a mammogram (just a routine screening), and as I was grumpily walking to the clinic, the birds were all singing away, and I was like “How can you be singing?!  Don’t you know that we are dealing with the coronavirus?!”  And then I realized what a nitwit I was. Nothing like birds singing to help you see the long view. 

 During Lent this year it is easy for us to get caught up in all of the late winter darkness, the seriousness of this pandemic, which has now reached South Bend, the divisiveness of political fighting, the daily news that beats us down.  Yes, we need to pay attention and do what we are capable of doing to prevent illness, to heal the pain, to comfort and care for one another.  However, in doing so we must not forget to experience God’s good creation, to see the beauty, to observe the little things, and to stand in awe of the mystery before us.  The song of the bird is one of hope, of springtime arriving soon, of the light overcoming the darkness.



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This Lent

This Lent, O God,
enlighten my mind so as to know your Word,
let me see and appreciate beauty, mystery and diversity that is around me,
let me hear the voice of the poor,
fill my heart with compassion,
let me wrap my arms around others with love,
move my legs where you want me to go
as I journey with your people towards Easter sunrise.

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Allen and Sue – a story

Allen and Sue is a novel-length story written in collaboration with my husband, John, as an extension of our ministry. It is our hope that this story will be of interest to those who have experienced PTSD, suffered domestic violence, struggled to find help in community, mistakenly believed that sex and salvation are incompatible, searched for the right neighborhood in which to raise children, or wondered where the Church was when you needed it. The story is also for those who would provide pastoral ministry to the wounded. Genesis teaches us that it is not good to be alone and that two will become one flesh. We believe that the message of Genesis applies to all of us, all of us; no one is excluded.

There is no fee for downloading or even printing the story, if you choose. Jesus sent his disciples out two by two with no money in their purse, so we ask for no payment. If you like the story pass it on. That is all the payment we need.

Read Allen and Sue

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Peace be with you.

These weeks, days and hours
have been filled with xenophobia, hatred and violence.
Christ have mercy on us.

To God’s People at Tree of Life Synagogue,
and to the people of Pittsburgh,
We are with you in your pain.
Peace be with you.

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