On Being Witnesses

April 14, 2024 | Rev. Dr. John H. Young

Readings: Acts 3:1-19; Psalm 4; Luke 24:36-48

The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were written by the same individual. Reading through the opening verses of each of these books makes clear the close connection between them. Indeed, it would be accurate to call them a two-part work, with the first part (the Gospel of Luke) devoted to an account of the life and work of Jesus and the second part (the Acts of the Apostles) to a recounting of some aspects of the development of the early church. There are some themes that run through these two books.

One of those themes is the emphasis the author gives to the fact that Jesus’ immediate followers were witnesses to the events of his life, death, and resurrection and, as such, were to tell others about those things. Each gospel writer’s presentation of the account of Jesus’ life and work is unique. While there are traditions upon which they draw in writing their gospels, each writer also wants to emphasize certain points and aspects. The emphasis often relates to the context and the perceived needs of the initial audience for whom a particular gospel is written. While all the gospel writers assume that Jesus’ immediate disciples (and, for that matter, his later followers) will share the stories about Jesus as a means of attracting others to this faith tradition, Luke’s Gospel is unique in the emphasis on witnessing, a theme that is found also in the book of Acts.

What might that emphasis mean for us, as those who are Jesus’ followers in the twenty-first century?

What Can We Honestly Say About Death and What Lies Beyond It?

April 7, 2024 | Rev. Dr. John H. Young

Readings: I Corinthians 15:35-58; Psalm 36:5-10; Luke 20:27-40

The Bible has relatively little to say about death. That may surprise us, given that death is something each of us will experience, and something about which we tend to think in the context of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Those two holy days are, of course, focussed on Jesus’ death and resurrection, but they can also lead us to at least brief reflection on our own mortality and on what lies beyond the grave.

One place in Scripture where there is a relatively robust discussion of death and of what lies beyond the grave is I Corinthians, chapter 15. As is the case in much of the rest of both Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth, Paul seems to be responding here to questions or concerns sent to him from the church in Corinth. It appears that Paul has been asked about what kind of body those who have died will have after they are raised from the dead. After beginning with some comments about Jesus Christ’s resurrection and the appearances of the risen Christ to some of Jesus’ early followers, Paul moves on to talk about the nature of the resurrection body of those who have died.

Though I shall touch very briefly on a few other passages of Scripture, in the sermon I plan to focus on Paul’s comments and what they tell us, and do not tell us, about what lies beyond the grave.

God So Loved the World

March 31, 2024 | Rev. Dr. John H. Young

Readings: I Corinthians 15:1-11; Psalm 116: John 20:1-18

We know the basic points of the Easter story. But there are aspects of that story worth pondering, nonetheless. All the characters who come to the grave that first Easter morning—in John’s account Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the beloved disciple—come as we would have come. They come expecting to find a dead body. And why not? They had seen the crucifixion. They were realists. So it is not surprising Mary does not recognize Jesus when first she meets him. Indeed, she only recognizes him when he speaks to her and calls her by name. And the other stories in this and the other gospels, stories where the risen Jesus meets his followers, suggest that Jesus’ resurrected body was in some ways like, and in other ways unlike, his physical body prior to the crucifixion. So, what do we make of this story in the opening part of John’s Gospel, chapter 20? What might we take away from it, as individuals and as a church, for living in 2024?

Of Meals and Memory

March 28, 2024 | Rev. Dr. John H. Young

Readings: I Corinthians 11:23-26; Mark 14:12-26