Fairhaven 4-23-2023


This weeks sermon is focusing on the reading from Luke in which Jesus explains the Scriptures to his disciples on the road to Emmaus. The preacher discusses how hearing God’s truth lights a flame in the hearts of people who love God, and the importance of the resurrection being not just an event, but a person.

Pastor Peg also talks about how when hearts are on fire, lives change, and encourages people to approach Jesus with a relationship that involves the heart as well as the mind. The sermon goes on to discuss the events on the road to Emmaus and how Jesus, who was not recognized by his disciples, explained to them all the things in the Old Testament that talked about himself, starting with Moses and moving on through all the prophets.


So today begins week three of Easter. And even though we still have a few more weeks left in the Easter season, this is the last week that our Scripture readings will actually be talking about Easter Sunday in the resurrection. Starting next week we get back into Jesus’ teachings and we’ll continue with that up until Ascension and Pentecost, when we kind of come back to the Easter themes briefly. But today I’d like to focus our reading, focus our attention on the reading from Luke, which we just heard, the story of the disciples’ conversation on the road to Emmaus.

And I particularly want to point out and shine light on what the disciples said about hearing Jesus talk about and explain the Scriptures. And they said in verse 32, “Our hearts were on fire.” Our hearts were on fire. Further on in the book of Acts, we will hear that this feeling of being on fire is related to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There is something about hearing God’s truth that lights a flame in the hearts of people who love God.

And if we think about it, when have we had this feeling of our hearts being on fire before? I asked Google that question. Got a whole list of love songs. And maybe falling in love is the first experience that we have with our hearts being on fire in a sense. But it’s not quite the same thing that we feel about the Word of God.

I do remember back in the late 1960s, something that set people’s hearts on fire was watching the moon landing. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. And those words touched millions of hearts. And I knew a number of people, including my own brother, who chose careers in science because their hearts were so moved by these events.

When hearts are on fire, lives change. People get a sense of direction or maybe even a change in direction. You get a passion to live by. So where do we start with Jesus? Well, one contemporary theologian says, well, the resurrection is more than just an event. It’s a person.

And Jesus himself said, I am the resurrection and the life. And so our future in the kingdom of God will be with Jesus, not only because of what Jesus has done, but because of who Jesus is. Therefore, our response to Jesus needs to be in the form of a relationship, one that involves heart as well as mind. We need hearts full of praise.

As we heard in Psalm 116 this morning, I love the Lord because he has heard my voice. I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. So as we approach the events on the road to Emmaus, which is which by the way, this is still Easter day. They’re talking this road to Emmaus story is still that Easter Sunday.

Let this Easter touch our hearts deeply. So early Easter morning, Mary had gone to the tomb and found it empty and she saw an angel and spoke with Jesus briefly. And he sent her to the rest of the disciples to let them know that he was alive. And shortly after that, two disciples, one named Cleopas and the other one whose name we don’t know, decided who had been with the group that morning, decided to walk home to Emmaus, which was about seven miles, about a two hour walk. And these two disciples were probably two of the disciples, two of the seventy that Jesus had sent out to do ministry back in Luke chapter 10.

So these guys were they knew, they knew the disciples, they knew the group. So as they were walking along the road, they were talking about the events of the past three days. And the road that they were on was apparently not heavily traveled, but they were overheard by another traveler who came up and asked, what are you talking about? And the two disciples mistook this man for a visitor. The word in verse 18 says stranger, but it could also be translated visitor, somebody who was not from around here, basically.

And they asked him, are you the only person in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s happened? And they went on to tell him all about Jesus, a prophet, mighty indeed, and word before God and all the people. They hoped he was the Messiah. They hoped he would be the Redeemer of Israel.

But he’d been crucified. And now three days later, Mary had come back from his tomb that morning saying he was alive. And the newcomer to the conversation replies with words that sound a bit harsh. How foolish you are and how slow to believe. I don’t remember exactly what the translation was, but all the translations just sound a little bit rough.

But on closer study, I think maybe a better translation into today’s language would be, boy, are you guys slow on the uptake. It wasn’t really meant to be insulting. It’s just kind of pay attention here. And then Jesus, who was still unrecognized at that point, proceeded to explain to them all the things in the Old Testament that talked about himself, starting with Moses and moving on through all the prophets.

Wouldn’t you have loved to listen in on that conversation? I need to do a side note here at this point. These two disciples had spent months with Jesus. So why did they not recognize him? It seems, going by all the stories that we have of Easter Sunday and the post-Easter stories in the New Testament, it seems that Jesus’ resurrected body was somehow different than his original body. In all of the resurrection events in the New Testament, Jesus is not immediately recognized, even by the people who knew him best.

Mary, in the garden on Easter morning, mistook him for the gardener. When the disciples met Jesus in Galilee, they didn’t recognize him right away. There was something about this resurrection body that was different. His body still carried the scars and the nails, and that’s how most of the disciples recognized him. Jesus’ resurrected body, though, was also able to walk through locked doors and into locked rooms without opening the door. So how does this resurrection body, how is this not the same? What is the change here?

Well, as a lifelong science fiction fan, my imagination goes crazy with, “There’s so many things you could do with a body that does this.” Imagine the possibilities, right? But bringing it down to reality, there is definitely something different, something not entirely of earth about Jesus’ resurrection body.

Jesus says in John 12, 24, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” And those of us who are planting gardens right about now understand this. The seed that is planted doesn’t look like the plant that grows. It’s the same thing, but not.

Human bodies that we see and live in, in a lot of ways, are like seeds, I figure. And what Jesus has become is the plant that grows from the seed. And we will share that future someday. But on the road to Emmaus, when the full-grown resurrected plant meets up with a couple of unreserected seeds, so to speak, it’s understandable that they didn’t recognize him.

There is that difference for the time being. End of side note. So at the end of the journey to Emmaus, they went into the home of one of the disciples and invited this visitor to stay because it was getting dark. Middle Eastern hospitality would have required that, that you invite a stranger who is traveling alone to stay with you at night

so they’re not in danger out there alone in the darkness. And so as everybody settles down to dinner, they recline at table, and Jesus takes bread and breaks it, just like he did on Passover three nights before. And then they recognized him. And then he vanished.

Now they didn’t know this, but a few moments later, Jesus actually showed up in Jerusalem. He was meeting with some other people. These resurrection bodies, they have some really cool features, don’t they? See a pop over in Jerusalem? Yeah. Meanwhile, the two disciples look at each other and say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking on the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us?”

And they immediately got up and walked back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples that they had seen Jesus. And the others said, “Yeah, we know Simon has seen him too, and there was much rejoicing.” I want to go back to that moment though when they said, “Were not our hearts burning when he opened the Scriptures?” If only they’d written down what Jesus had said. But taking what we have from the Old Testament, here’s a small attempt to reconstruct what might have been said. And I won’t use chapter verse because they didn’t have chapter verse back then, and this certainly is not the comprehensive list that Jesus could have used. But Jesus would have begun at the beginning.

God promises Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” And years later, Abraham prophesies, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.” A few years after that, the prophet named Balaam prophesies over Israel, “I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not near. A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” In the book of Psalms, we find these words.

“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage and the ends of the earth your possession.’ The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’ The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind. You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” Also in the Psalms, we can find descriptions of the crucifixion, written a thousand years before crucifixion was invented.

For example, the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax. It is melted within my breast. All who see me mock at me. They make mouths at me. They shake their heads. They divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

Years after that, the prophet Isaiah writes, “In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way by the sea, the land beyond the Jordan Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them has the light shined. The Lord himself will give you a sign.

Look, a young woman is with child and will bear a son, and will name him Emmanuel. For the child has been born to us, a son given to us, authority rests upon his shoulders, and his name is wonderful, counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

And Isaiah also foresaw a violent death. He wrote, “I gave my back to those who struck me and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard. I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich.” “The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot with him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out himself to death and was numbered with the transgressors. Yet he bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors.”

And finally, the end result of all this suffering from the prophet Daniel. As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven, and he came to the ancient one and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship that all peoples and nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingdom is one that shall never be destroyed. Who could hear all these words and not be moved?

In our reading from Acts today, the apostle Peter preached a sermon based on these prophecies, and he ended with the words, “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him, both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” And the people who heard Peter believed and were baptized that same day, and around 3,000 were added to the church on that day.

Now, 2,000 years later, this is still our message. This is still the story of Jesus. This is still the word that he has given us. This is our calling to carry these words to all who will listen. May God bless our hearts and our understanding and our sharing. Amen.

Fairhaven Sermon 4-16-2023


This weeks sermon discusses the results of a survey measuring the religiosity of Americans, which shows that fewer people consider themselves very, moderately, or even slightly religious. The trend is decreasing across all levels, with a corresponding increase in the number of people who are not religious at all.

The speaker believes that this decrease reveals a positive honesty and could result in a church with a core group of committed believers. The sermon then turns to the story of Thomas in John’s Gospel, who initially refuses to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead.

The sermon argues that doubt and uncertainty are not necessarily bad and are part of faith, but ultimately asks the question of whether someone loves Jesus and believes in Him or not.


A new survey came out of the University of Chicago this past week. It actually might have come out before that, but I saw it this past week. And one that I think is really interesting and worth noticing, it’s not surprising, but the survey measures simply how religious Americans consider themselves to be. Not just whether or not you are, but how religious you are.

And I can imagine you can probably guess what the general trajectory is. And that’s that religiosity is falling at all levels. Compared with 2018, the last time it was done, there are now fewer people who consider themselves very religious, fewer people who consider themselves moderately religious, and fewer people who are even slightly religious. So whatever the level of commitment someone had, it’s dropping.

And it’s a pretty steady rate. And to no one’s surprise, the category that is rising is not religious at all. Which has jumped at a steeper rate than any time in the recent past. Like all the other lines are kind of going down like this.

That one’s going up like this. It’s gone up over 10% between 2018 and 2021. 10% more people aren’t religious at all. It’s gone from about 22% to almost 35% of Americans over three years.

It’s been a bad couple years. So I’m not saying this because it’s doom and gloom. I don’t really actually think it is. I think on the other hand, it reveals a kind of honesty that has been needed for a really long time.

And I think we should welcome it to some degree. The rapid falling away of people who are moderately and slightly religious, I hope, means, that the kind of church that we’ll live in in the next few decades is one that is filled with people who want to be there. There’ll be less people, but the people who are around, and this is already the case, want to be there. Who aren’t choosing to be in the church out of tradition, out of obligation, but because they found something there.

They find that it’s good, that it’s right. They met God here. But it makes you wonder, whenever these numbers existed, how many people have been around for decades in the church, in this kind of slightly or moderately religious category, who have needed to be evangelized, who have needed to hear the good news presented to them as like, this is a life-changing thing. Now as we look at this, I want to give the caveat here that doubt, uncertainty, those things aren’t bad necessarily.

Those are a part of faith. There’s a lot of nuance about this. I don’t want to dismiss doubt and uncertainty, but reading over this survey too, I couldn’t help but wonder, how can a Christian be slightly religious or moderately religious? Maybe I’m misunderstanding what the word religious means to a lot of people, but what I understand it to mean is the level of commitment to your belief. And if that’s what it means, I have to ask, do you love Jesus? Is he the Lord or is he not? Do you believe in Jesus or don’t you? And so that brings us to Thomas this morning in John’s Gospel, the apostle known as the twin, or today, he’s often derogatorily called doubting Thomas, which isn’t fair.

But shortly after Jesus saw Mary Magdalene at the tomb on Easter morning, Jesus arrives at the room where the disciples have been hiding. After the crucifixion, the disciples go into hiding because they obviously don’t want to be crucified too. Peter’s denied knowing Jesus. They’re all moving away because they don’t want to get into trouble.

Everybody but Mary Magdalene who went to the tomb of ruin accord. And so somehow he passes right into this locked room, this room that they’ve locked up tight out of fear of their own persecution and he greets them, “Peace be with you.” And maybe they don’t say anything back and he says it again, “Peace be with you.” And with that they rejoice. They’re thrilled to see him. They believe that he has risen again as he promised.

They seem to have forgotten that over the past couple days that he’s been saying this for months, years. He will be killed and rise again, but they rejoice that he has risen again. But one apostle, Thomas, for some reason, for whatever reason is not there with them. The rest of the 11 are there, all 10 of them

But Thomas is somewhere else. John doesn’t say where. Thomas is. He might be hiding somewhere else. Maybe he’s given up. Maybe he’s gone home to Galilee where Jesus found him.

But But whatever the case may be, the apostles, the rest of the apostles, catch up with him shortly and excitedly report that they have seen Jesus risen from the grave. And they invite Thomas to come back with them to stay at that house, that safe house in Jerusalem. And what Thomas says is, “No, I don’t believe you. Jesus is dead.

The Lord that I trusted, that I followed for three years is crucified. Everyone saw it. He was crucified on a cross for everybody to see. I saw that with my own eyes like everybody else in Jerusalem.” And so Thomas says he doesn’t hold back at all.

He has no qualms in declaring that he will not believe until his conditions are met.
Not Not only does he not believe his fellow disciples, he says that even seeing Jesus alive and well, that wouldn’t be good enough either. He needs instead to see him risen with the nail marks in his hands and to physically put his hand in the hole that a Roman spear left in Jesus’ side.
A A moderate faith, one that doesn’t really capture him is not an option for Thomas. He wants to know. If he’s going to follow, he wants to know.

He wants to be sure one way or another because he is living right now in this horror of Jesus’ death breaking his faith and him. This is who he was. He was Thomas the Apostle and now who is he?

So So Jesus passes through the door once more, the locked door. Somehow they’ve talked Thomas at least into coming with them. And he meets Thomas in that doubt. Jesus holds out his hands for Thomas and invites him to touch the wounds on his hand, invites him to put his hand in his side that’s been pierced and broken. And Thomas is breathtaking and he gasps, “My Lord and my God.”

Jesus Jesus says, “No more disbelief, believe.” And Thomas cries out, “My Lord and my God.” And he returns to believe. He returns to worship. But why did Thomas have such an incredibly high standard for truth, for knowing? And why did Jesus understand it as important enough to meet him there? It was good enough for the other disciples.

Because Because there’s this sense of in or out. Are you on board or are you not? Belief in Jesus is not this casual Sunday morning thing that you can put on or take off, pick up or set aside. Thomas is so hesitant and careful, not because he’s careless, not because he’s callous or angry, none of that, but because he knows he’s staking his whole life on Jesus being raised. This is a choice that he knows matters.

This is why his threshold is so high. Thomas, after he meets Jesus having risen from the dead, his ministry continues for decades after that. I mean, this isn’t in scripture, but we know this from history. He followed Jesus’ call to go out into the world.

As Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Thomas listens to that sending. And he follows his call to go preach the good news to the ends of the earth. Thomas goes further than any of the other apostles. Thomas became the apostle to India.

He started a Christian community in South India that still exists today, the St. Thomas Christians. Some hypothesized that he made it to China, that he preached it in the Chinese monarchy out there, but he definitely created a strong Christian community in South India until a few decades later, ironically, he was killed, pierced by a spear. Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

He was a German Lutheran pastor. He was martyred under the Nazis. He famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And Thomas gets it. Thomas gets it, maybe more than any of the other apostles do.

If he’s going to believe in Jesus, he wants to be sure because he knows that the life he’s known without Jesus has to pass away as he embarks on a new one. The same is true for us. Paul says this over and over again throughout the epistles. Your old life is gone.

Your new life is Christ. Every day that you live now is in him, is for him. The whole idea of baptism is we’re drowning the old life and coming out of the waters of the womb and new creation. There’s no halfway.

You don’t get to stick your fingers in Christ’s side, feel the nail holes in his hands and say, “Maybe.” Yeah?
Bonhoeffer’s Bonhoeffer’s most famous book is entitled The Cost of Discipleship. It was written years before he was killed by the Nazis, and it emphasizes throughout that getting caught up with Jesus has consequences for all of us, and he ended up living that. Faith in Christ demands sacrifice, probably not of your life, literally, but sacrifice, full commitment because Christ deserves it. Now, look, I didn’t grow up in the church beyond vacation Bible school.

I don’t know how many of you know that. I didn’t grow up in the church at all. I stumbled upon this for myself when I was a young teenager, and because of that, how things work in the church is still kind of mysterious to me in some ways. I hope I can hold on to that.

It’s nice to have kind of an outsider’s perspective, and I don’t mean the structures and stuff. I get that. Lord knows I know how the committees work, how the general conference works. I know all that.

But the culture sometimes I don’t understand. It was just explained to me relatively recently, for example, and I think it was here, why offering envelopes are important, why they’re better than just dropping a check in the plate. I didn’t know. I never had offering envelopes.

I knew that we’d hand them out, and I’d encourage you to take them, but I didn’t know why. The same way, I emphasize again that it’s puzzling for me that a person can even be slightly or moderately religious. Was Jesus slightly raised from the dead? Was he moderately the son of God? You can’t slightly be a follower of Jesus Christ. Thomas knows that.

You’re moving towards him, deeper in love and service, or you’re moving away. Period. That’s it. And this is, incidentally, I’ve tried to emphasize this over and over again, this is the key point behind trying these small groups now that we’re working on.

We are explicitly choosing in these to help each other move towards Jesus as individuals and together in our day-to-day lives, becoming more and more devoted disciples of Jesus, not learning things, but walking with Jesus better together. Listen to this from Saint Ignatius. He was a bishop who lived in the second century. He wrote, “Now is the moment that I am beginning to be a disciple.

May nothing seen or unseen begrudge me, making my way to Jesus Christ. Come fire, cross, battling with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing my whole body, the cruel tortures of the devil, only let me get to Jesus Christ. Not the wide bounds of the earth nor the kingdoms of this world will avail me of anything. I would rather die and get to Jesus Christ than reign over the ends of the earth.

This is whom I am looking for, the one who died for us. This is whom I want, the one who rose for us. Let me imitate the passion of my God.” Do you have that? Do you want that? Because this is what that is all about. That’s what Thomas knows.

Something else here I think is important. As we think about this rapid rise of the not religious at all contingent, if there’s one thing that this gospel story shows, when Jesus appears to Thomas, when he reaches out his hands, it’s that God has a special level of love and care for the people who doubt the most fervently, the most harshly, those who have the most trouble believing. Thomas doubts because he’s heartbroken. The Lord he loved is dead and he knows it.

He doesn’t doubt because he doesn’t care. He doesn’t doubt because he’s being difficult. He’s avoiding being wounded by his faith again.
He He needs to see Christ’s wounds so that his wounds can be healed. Many who doubt today, doubt because the body of Christ, the church, has been a place of exclusion, of judgment, and at its very worst abuse of all kinds.

If you think it’s only the Catholic church that’s dealing with that fallout, unfortunately, you are wrong. We’re all dealing with it evenly.
Us Us and faith have been annihilated. In the Christian church, no matter what your denomination is, people outside the church don’t care. We are known for hypocrisy, for greed, and you ask young people, the polls of young people are very clear.

The one thing the church is known for is its opposition to LGBT people. Whether we like it or not, and whether we think that’s us or not, that is how we are viewed. We’ve done our part to create millions and millions of doubting Thomases, and now it’s our job to fix that. The body of Christ to extend wounded hands back out with gentleness, with grace.

It’s a really beautiful moment when Jesus enters back into that hidden room the first time when he greets the disciples, when he breathes on them, tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, fills them with power and grace. Because we inherit that. We now are both those disciples and the risen body of Christ. We’re filled with the Spirit.

We’re sent into the world with the good news of resurrection. Our gift and our obligation is to be his disciples, to be Christ’s body to the world. Our fundamental role in how we walk through this world, the most basic way that we go about evangelism, outreach, is by showing the world who Christ is in his beauty, in his grace, and in his wounds. As we love our neighbors, especially those that most people have the most trouble loving, as we suffer with them, as Jesus suffered for and suffers with us.

When When Jesus rises, as he stands before the ten, and then as he stands before Thomas two, he demonstrates his love, his humanity, his divinity, all of those things all at once come together in that moment.

That Jesus is God who can be touched. This is what we are supposed to be showing to the world. That we and the rest of the world may have life in his name, as John says. Faith Faith in the risen Christ means we strive to know him better and better ourselves as we show him to other people too, inward and an outward journey. And faith in the risen Christ also means that there is no halfway, if you believe in him, this is what your life is about now.

Jesus has, in Bonhoeffer’s words, invited you to come and die, to lay down all that you had for what you have found in him instead. Thomas comes to faith once more and he exclaims, “My Lord and my God.” And from that day he lives every single moment as a lover and a servant of Christ and his church as best as he can. There’s no moderate, there’s no slight faith in Christ. So walk out of your locked room, come out of hiding, be filled with the Holy Spirit and be his disciple, bearing his love and his wounds to a wounded world.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen.

Fairhaven Sermon 4-2-2023


In this sermon by Pastor Dylan focuses on the idea of crowds and how they often have a bad sense of morality and can be dangerous. However, he points out that there are instances where crowds get it right, such as in the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

He describes how Jesus fulfills a prophecy from Zechariah by riding into the city on a donkey and her colt, creating a spectacle and fulfilling the prophecy in an abundant and literal way. Overall, the sermon emphasizes the importance of paying attention to the signs of the times and seeing what God is doing in our world.

Fairhaven Sermon 3-26-2023


In Pastor Peg’s sermon, she talks about the encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3:1-17. She explains the context and the significance of the conversation, and how it relates to our understanding of salvation and eternal life.

Pastor Peg reflects on Nicodemus’ transformation and how it relates to our own spiritual journeys. She discusses the nature of belief and spiritual rebirth, and how it is not necessarily about understanding or affirming certain things, but rather about cooperating with God’s mysterious push towards a new life.

She also discusses the role of baptism and how it relates to the idea of being born again, and invites the listeners to consider their own relationship with God and how they might be resisting the wind of the Spirit in their lives.

Fairhaven Sermon 3-12-2023


Pastor Peg tells a story from the Bible about a woman from Samaria who meets Jesus at a well. The woman has had five husbands and is living with a man who is not her husband, which makes her an outcast in her community. She goes to the well alone in the middle of the day to avoid the judgment of the other women.

Jesus speaks to her and reveals that he is the Messiah. She becomes a believer and tells others about Jesus. Pastor Peg reflects on the story and the importance of being open to encountering Jesus in unexpected places and people.