February 2024

Who do you say I am?

Who do you say I am? Taken from a Red Rock News Article (2/23/24) Rev. Dona Johnson | Feb 25, 2024       In the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, his opposition was closing in and the controversy surrounding him was heating up (Mark 8:27-38). All sorts of rumors were spreading and fueling accusations against him within the Jewish inner circle. For anyone in leadership trying to affect change in a corporate or religious culture knows all too well the resistance and pushback that can occur with those who are threatened by the change. Allies and alliances are like shifting sand. And it is hard to know where people are and who you can trust.          In this contentious environment, Jesus turns to those closest to him, his own disciples and asks. “Who do you say that I am?” In the company of each other, Peter speaks for the twelve and responds, “You are the Christ.” Peter speaks out with a clear declaration that Jesus is the “the anointed one by God. The one divinely elected and appointed by God. Peter, whom Jesus set apart in Mark 3:16 to play a decisive role in building up the people of God, now speaks his confession of faith. When Jesus selects the twelve, He makes a core unit of teachers and representatives that will soon become the nexus of the church. It means more than a new calling—it means a new identity.       Jesus conveys to the disciples that he must suffer, be rejected by his own people—the elders, chief priests and scribes and then be killed and raised three days later. Peter could not handle this horrific news. So out of fear of losing Jesus, he rebuked him. Jesus retorted back to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! Peter’s inability to accept Jesus’ suffering and death is a refusal to accept the will of God. Jesus continues with a prophetic announcement and warning: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”(Mark 8:35). To lose one’s soul can be an irrevocable loss. And yet so many of us sell out our souls daily for pleasures that are short-lived. Addictions will eventually kill us. The insatiable desire to acquire more money and power can temp us to run over and compete against others at the expense of those relationships. And the desire to seek the ways and gratifications of this world can put our faith life on the back burner and leave us in a spiritual desert.        There are big moral moments in our lives, times in which we must choose between allegiance to Jesus, the moral creed we profess and moral compass that guides our lives and our need for more money, power and popularity. In those moments, we should take on the spiritual struggle to make sure we don’t sell out our souls for the temporary pleasures and gains of the world. But every day we also recognize that our souls — our sense of what it means to be human beings — are being shaped day-to-day by the same systems of power and privilege we say we resist and have no part of.        Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” still echoes to this day generations later. We gain our lives when we give ourselves to others, when we go the extra mile to love our neighbor, to love our enemy. We gain the joy of living when we put the needs and suffering of other people in front of our own comforts, needs and desires. We gain life when we die to self and confess the name of Jesus courageously without fear or embarrassment. Life is gained in the giving of life to others.    Prayer, Lord Jesus Christ, who do we say you are? Help us to life our lives in full integrity before you and others—to once and for all lose the ways of this world that when asked we will take up our cross for you. Amen.   

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Jesus Transfiguration

The Transfiguration A Snapshot Of  Our Future Glory 

The Transfiguration A Snapshot Of Our Future Glory Taken from my article submitted to the Red Rock News Rev. Dona Johnson | February 4, 2024 Before the season of Lent begins, we are given a  glimpse of God’s glory and our future glory in the  transfiguration of Jesus Christ. It seems a little  crazy, but there was this moment on the mountain  where Jesus’ face, his clothes and body shimmered  with a brilliant glow of light. A light so bright it  looked much like polished steel when the sun  reflects on it. And then suddenly a cloud  overshadowed Jesus and his disciples Peter, James  and John.          The transfiguration is a famous and very  unique passage in the Bible and it’s not found  anywhere else in ancient literature. But it is  included in three of the four Gospel accounts of  Matt. 17:1–13; Mark 9:2–13; Luke 9:28–36. This  singular event gives us a clear picture of a  stunningly bizarre moment that provides us with  special insight into who Jesus really is, who he  came to be and how we should respond.        Jesus’ transfiguration if only for one  second, is like a shutter that opens on a camera,  and we are given a glimpse of a dazzling gleaming  light. The glory of Jesus is revealed and then it  instantly turns dark again and then a cloud moves  over them. In Jewish thought, the presence of God  is often connected with the cloud. It was the glory  cloud that led Israel out of captivity and the hands  of Pharaoh. It shone so bright at might it looked  like a pillar of fire. It was in the cloud that Moses  met God. It was in the cloud that God came to the  Tabernacle. And it was in a cloud that God filled the  Temple when it was dedicated after Solomon built  it.          Matthew’s account says, “There he was  transfigured before them. His face shone like the  sun, and his clothes became as white as the light”  (17:2). Here we have Jesus taking on the glory of  God. Jesus in human form takes on the  magnificent, superlative glory of God. And then  suddenly Moses and Elijah appear. Why were they  there? Maybe Moses and Elijah were affirming  Jesus’s mission to save humanity saying, “Go on!”  William Barclay believes, Moses and Elijah saw in  Jesus all that history longed for and hoped for and  looked forward.         Jesus is giving his disciples and the world a  momentary look at what the future glory of the  righteous will one day look like. Through his life, we  are now able to enter the very heart of God. Jesus  is our ultimate reality. Jesus is God whom people  can personally know and come to love. Of course  this ultimate reality eclipsed many of the other  philosophies of the day. Unlike the Greeks who saw  god removed from human history, a god who from  a distance held the universe together in a  harmonious alignment. God is now found in the  person of Jesus who is both fully divine and fully  human. A God who is no longer detached from  human affairs but is now is fully attached and  committed to us with a love stronger than any love  we can ever imagine or experience. This is nothing  to gloss over—true intimacy with God!         This was a dark time in the life of Jesus as  got nearer the cross. His disciples must have been  shattered knowing he was going to Jerusalem to  die. Jesus shone them his glory to give them  something to hold to. And like his disciples, Jesus  does not leave us without something to hold on to  when doubts and fears want to darken our hearts.  Not only through the transfiguration, but also  through his death and resurrection God gives us  profound snapshots of our future glory. And this  gives us the courage and confidence to “go on”  too! AMEN. 

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Jesus’ Heart of Compassion Lifts up the Suffering

Jesus’ Heart of Compassion Lifts Up the Suffering Taken from a Red Rock News Article Rev. Dona Johnson | Feb 4, 2024 It is custom in many denominations that after  Sunday worship the pastor or priest immediately  schedules pastoral care visits to members of their  congregation who are ill—in the hospital, nursing  home or those who are homebound. On these  visits they bring the church’s message that God ‘s  healing presence is with them, they pray for the  sick and offer the sacrament of holy communion.  When a person is struggling with or recovering  from an illness, there is not only physical suffering  but there are emotions that surface such as fear,  discouragement and doubts. And more  importantly, there is also the spiritual side of  illness, such as calling on God for hope and healing  and these are happening every day. There are also  laments and cries to God for divine help and  restoration. And then there is always the prayers of  joyful thanksgiving when the mercy and grace of  God brings about a healing.        Pastoral care is an extremely important  faith practice in the church as it should be. If  people are left unattended they can feel cut-off  from the very thing that they need the most— prayer and someone who cares. For God is very  attentive to the prayers of his people and when  they are sick, God feels their suffering and distress.        Jesus models pastoral care to his people in  the most self-giving and merciful manner. He has great compassion on those who are sick. Many  people have come to faith when God has healed  them. Many people in the final moments of life,  who have had a difficult time accepting Jesus,  quietly and some desperately call out to him for  help. They want peace with God. They want his  eternal assurance and God so lovingly grants it. For  those who call upon God will never be turned  away. As Paul said, “Everyone who calls out to the  Lord will be saved (Ro. 10:13).”        In Mark 1:29-31, we find Jesus healing a  demon possessed man right in the middle of a  synagogue service. After the synagogue service it  was customary to have a Sabbath meal. But on this  particular day, Jesus passed up his chance for a  meal. Once again, his power was appealed to and  once again he gave himself to others. He went  directly to Peter’s mother-in-law who was sick with  a “burning fever.” Jesus had the option to enjoy the  meal with his friends but it was not in his heart to  do so. The woman was sick and Jesus was never  too tired to help.     When he reached the woman’s home, Jesus  went to her bed, reached out to her and lifted  (pulled) her up out of her burning fever. She was  instantly healed. No sooner than Peter’s mother-in law was healed and on her feet; she began to serve  those around her. In other words, she was saved to  serve. And truly that is what salvation is all about.  When God reaches down and lifts us up out of our  sin and brokenness and restores us to himself, in  great joy and love for how he saved us from our  peril, we too go out and serve and pray for the  healing of others.          The disciples had not been with Jesus very  long and already they had experienced his heart of  compassion, so much so they began bringing all  their daily troubles to him. And so can we. This  story though brief gives us a window into the very  heart of God. It is a heartwarming story that is  meant for all. It tells us that God has the power to  heal us. And that through Jesus, we have a God  who is so attentive to us, that he hears every word,  every cry for help that we speak in our hearts.          If you are reading this devotion and feeling  that you may need God’s healing presence in your  life right now email me. As a pastor, I will pray with  you and I am bound by my pastoral oath to keep all  prayers confidential. revdonajohnson@gmail.com

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