The Cross As Surprise

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

Luke 13.31-35; Philippians 2.1-11

In the book, The Shack, Mack is a man who encounters, after a tragedy in his life, encounters the triune God. The triune God comes to Mack as an African-American woman, a middle Eastern man and an Asian woman. At one point in the story of their conversation Mack sits with Jesus, the middle Eastern man.

“Jesus?”

“Yes, Mackenzie,” says Jesus.

“I am surprised by one thing about you.”

“Really? What?” asked Jesus.

“I guess I expected you to be more uh, humanly striking.”

Jesus chuckled. “Humanly striking? You mean handsome?” Now he was laughing.

“”Well, I was trying to avoid that, but yes. Somehow I thought you’d be the ideal man, you know, athletic and overwhelmingly good looking.”

“It’s my nose, isn’t it?” says Jesus.

Mack didn’t know what to say.

Indeed, what do we say about a Jesus with a big nose. Because we like our Jesus to be good looking. We like our Jesus to be the ideal man. We like our Jesus to be successful. Glorious. Practically glowing. Isn’t that what the pictures do for us? We like our Jesus to have a face like Matthew Mcconaughey (or substitute a hotty of your choice). We like him to have a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger (or substitute an athlete of your choice, except without the steroids). We like our Jesus to have a resume filled with success and achievement. We would prefer that Jesus be the person that we would like to be.

This is the season of Lent, and what I like about The Shack’s Jesus (having a big nose), is that it hints that Jesus is somehow not like we expect. Somehow Jesus does not fit the image that we would create for him if we were directing the movie. How many times have you seen an ugly Jesus.

But we are not sitting in the director’s chair. We are not the authors of the story. We are the hearers. The witnesses. And in this season, we hear the story not of a triumphant conquering hero, we hear the story of an accused criminal, going to the cross and dying there.

It is true that the resurrection is on the other side of that story. It is true that the story ends well as Paul says, God exalts him, giving him the name above every name, but if you read the story of scripture, if you measure the number of verses and what they deal with, there’s a whole lot more material about Jesus’ death, his story of his journey to the cross, than there is about the resurrected Jesus. The one we prefer. So if we want to struggle with the story faithfully, if we want to take seriously the wilderness of Lent and where it takes us, then we can’t jump to the end too quickly.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • November COVID Update

    If you are reading this before Sunday November 1st, I hope you take the time on Sunday morning to join us for communion in the parking lot at FPC.  It’s communion in the drive-through style, something the first Christians could never have envisioned.  It is nonetheless a faithful celebration of the meal that Jesus first initiated with his disciples.  Pastor Meg and I will be in the parking lot from 11 to 11:30 a.m. and we’ll have music to go along with the meal and hopefully lift your spirits. Stop by to hear the music, and for a blessing along with the communion meal.

    One of the most exciting things for me in recent weeks was our congregational meeting that we held via the online service Zoom.  It was so heart-warming to see that many of you in attendance.  Counting the couples on various screens, I think there were around 50 of you in attendance.  Thank you for your participation.

    At the meeting we elected new elders and deacons for the Class of 2023.  Please join me in expressing our thanks to elders Lovet Fokunang, Dee Logterman, Scott Hofmann, and Dawn Drost, and deacons Terry Brennand, Darcie Bessinger, and Marcia Baker.  We also elected Sheryl Bessinger to fill a partial term as an elder in the Class of 2021.  I’m thankful that they’ve accepted God’s call upon their lives to serve God by serving the people of our community.  May we lift them up in prayer (along with our other deacons & elders) as they help to care for and lead our congregation in challenging times.

    As you might imagine if you’re watching the news, Session unanimously voted to continue with YouTube worship for the month of November.  We continue to get around one hundred views each week, and I am very thankful for your participation in worship on YouTube.  It’s wonderful to have Pastor Meg back from maternity leave.  She is already busy planning Christian Education events and leading youth ministries.

    We will not host a church Thanksgiving dinner for obvious reasons, but we are spending this month getting ready for some exciting things in Advent.  We will have special music throughout our Advent worship services, there will be Advent activities for families, there is a special online bell choir concert in the works, and we’re hoping for an in-person outdoor Christmas Eve service.  Yes, it will be chilly, but we live in northern Utah and I know you people are hardy!  This service will be 30 minutes long, so you don’t get too cold.  We’ll have wonderful organ and bell music and Christmas hymns to sing, along with gospel readings of the birth of Jesus.  I think it’s going to be a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child.

    May the grace and peace of our Lord be with you all.

    —Pastor Derek

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