Seventh Sunday of Easter, John 17:1-11 May 24, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

The holy gospel according to Luke. Glory to you, O Lord.

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 6I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

You’ve just heard another set of mind-bending sayings from Jesus’ Farewell Discourse in John’s Gospel. Instead of being directed to Jesus’ followers, in this reading Jesus speaks his words as prayer to God, the Father.

Listen again to some of this and try to wrap your mind around what Jesus says: “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me…. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them…. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:6-8, 10, 11b)

You get all that straight? Clear as crystal? It’s this kind of discourse from Jesus in John that undoubtedly paved the way years later for the development of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity – one God, but three distinct persons of the Godhead.

Sermon for Ascension Day, Luke 24:44-53 May 21, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

The holy gospel according to Luke. Glory to you, O Lord.

44Then [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

Ascension Day is a major festival in the Christian calendar, but it usually doesn’t get much attention in our churches in the United States. In some places in Europe, Ascension Day is still a national holiday – but people there who get a day off work and school are probably not paying much attention to the religious significance of this holy day either. So, what’s this day all about? In brief, today we celebrate Jesus’ return to his Father, his ascent into heaven, the logistics of which I chalk up to mystery.

Spiritual Reflections from Your Pastor, For Such a Time as This
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.
Week of the Sixth Sunday of Easter 2020: “What’s Going on at Church?”

Dear Friends in Christ:

I am delighted to be writing this piece in my home office at the parsonage here in Arlington. At long last, I am in residence among you, even if we cannot generally enjoy interactions in person. Despite these most unusual circumstances, I am doing now what I always do in a new call, namely, getting a sense of what is going on in ministry in this place. Because of the pandemic, and in a manner similar to the coronavirus, which is itself hidden to the naked eye, a lot of ministry at Resurrection right now is not particularly visible to everyone. But things are happening – perhaps in truncated form – and many of the essentials of Christian life together are being undertaken even apart from our ability to assemble on Sundays and at other times. Here is a snapshot of what I have witnessed in just the few days since I arrived in Arlington.

Sixth Sunday of Easter, John 14:15-21, May 17, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

The holy gospel according to John. Glory to you, O Lord.

15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

Today’s Gospel reading is a portion of Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples, when he attempted to give them a sense of what was coming next for himself and for them.

For the disciples, this discourse prepared them for Jesus’ death, resurrection, and his return to the Father. For us, coming as it does in the latter part of Eastertide, this passage prepares us for the remembrance of Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, which we will celebrate this coming Thursday with additional Home Worship resources.

Either way, Jesus prepares the followers for the reality of his departure, at least in terms of their experience of how Jesus walked this earth as one of us. In order to set the stage, what Jesus gives the disciples and us is more mind-bending teaching about who he is and what comes next.

But the moment in today’s passage that most draws me in is this, when Jesus says: “I will not leave you orphaned.” When I hear these words of promise from Jesus, tears often come to my eyes. The words tap into primordial fears – common to humans – of being left behind, abandoned, alone. These precious words give some relief, or maybe a sense of safety to grieve those occasions when I have felt let behind.

Spiritual Reflections from Your Pastor, For Such a Time as This
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.
Week of the Fifth Sunday of Easter 2020

Dear Friends in Christ:

As a seminary professor and then as a Bishop’s Assistant, I spent a heck of a lot of time in front of computer screens for the past 18 years – as is the experience also of so many of you. This was a lot of time away from direct contact with people. One of the attractions of a return to a congregational pastorate has been the promise of more people time, face-to-face, in real life. Obviously, such people time is currently not an option.

I knew that my return to ministry as a pastor of a congregation would involve more screen time than was the case when I left the parish back in 2001. As it turns out, because of the pandemic, virtually all of my new ministry efforts are mediated by some form of technology. No doubt many of you also have experienced a huge increase in the amount of time you spend interacting with people via technology. Our technologies can be great servants of our varied activities, but perhaps things seem quite out of balance right now, when it may appear that we are servants of our technologies and not the other way around.

Fifth Sunday of Easter, John 14:1-14 May 10, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

The holy gospel according to John. Glory to you, O Lord.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

Today’s gospel passage begins well with beloved, comforting words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” This is a perfect statement of promise for where we find ourselves amidst global pandemic when there are so very many troubled hearts for so very many good reasons.

But then right after this reassurance, Jesus launches into some very confusing prose about where he is headed – back to his Father – and what is in store for Jesus’ followers.

Spiritual Reflections from Your Pastor, For Such a Time as This
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.
Week of the Fourth Sunday of Easter 2020: “Thoughts on Home Worship”

Notice of Home Worship on Ascension Day:

Resources for Home Worship will be available for the Festival of the Ascension of our Lord on Thursday, May 21. Join us at 7:30 pm that day to mark this important festival. The Home Worship order of service will be complemented as usual by a sermon and musical accompaniment.

Dear Friends in Christ:

We’ve been at this for seven weeks now, and it’s certainly going to continue for longer than we want: worshiping at home, unable to engage in perhaps the most fundamental Christian practice, assembling in person at church for worship on the Lord’s Day.

In the earliest days of Christianity under persecution, the church was driven underground – but the faithful still assembled in house churches. Our home worship is not driven by persecution. Rather, it is a loving act of hospitality to our neighbors to promote the greatest possible well-being for the greatest number in the human family – to attempt to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic, as it is said.

How do we make the most of this unwelcome suspension of our principle Christian act of being gathered by the Holy Spirit as a congregation on Sundays? In response to this crisis and opportunity, leaders at Resurrection Church have crafted resources for Home Worship, which, if you did not know it, have gotten national and international attention, and are distributed widely by our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Fourth Sunday of Easter, John 10:1-10 May 3, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

The holy gospel according to John. Glory to you, O Lord.

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday which features the beloved 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want…” Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a major feature of John’s Gospel and is included among the many “I am” statements that appear in John. For example, Jesus says: “I am the vine.” “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” “I am the good shepherd.”

There’s another “I am” statement of Jesus in John, and it’s the one that takes center stage in today’s gospel passage. Jesus says, “I am the gate.” It’s interesting that on this Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus as Good Shepherd is only implied in the passage chosen as today’s gospel.

Spiritual Reflections from Your Pastor, For Such a Time as This
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D
Week of the Third Sunday of Easter 2020: “Fasting from the Feast”

Dear Friends in Christ:

Lenten fasting is supposed to be over. We are marking time now in Eastertide, the season of feasting. “This is the feast of victory for our God,” we love to sing. Except that we aren’t feasting. Because of the pandemic’s necessary social distancing, we cannot gather to share the principal feast of the resurrection, the Holy Eucharist. We persist in fasting from this feast.

But that’s not all. There are so many ways in which we continue to fast:

  • We are fasting from gathering as church, and with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.
  • We fast from what had been our usual daily routines, and too many from their very livelihoods.
  • Many are fasting from their weekday commutes.
  • We are on a fast when it comes to consumer spending on non-essentials.
  • We are fasting from sports and other forms of entertainment that involve crowds—going to the movies, to the theater, to the symphony, to the gym, to restaurants, and more.
  • This listing of the features of our fasting could go on and on. You can create your own list, and I encourage you to do so. It’s as if the entire human family throughout the world is on a fast in order to maintain the kinds of circumstances in which we can seek to limit the extent of infections from the coronavirus.

Lutherans believe that any spiritual exercise is to be undertaken voluntarily in the freedom of the gospel. Except that our global fasting is not actually free, especially in jurisdictions which mandate social distancing by law. Nor is the current abstinence motivated by faith, but by concern for public health. Many are beginning to chafe under these restrictions on life and livelihoods – note the protests that are happening in our nation and in other countries.

I must confess that I’ve never been one to do much fasting in a traditional sense. Honestly, I cannot remember ever having given up anything for Lent. Rather, I generally take on more devotional exercises during Lent. Fasting has not been on that list. Of course, I’ve engaged in medical fasts before blood tests and surgical procedures, but that’s very different from spiritual fasts in the service of the life of faith.

Why do people of faith fast? There are several reasons, but for our purposes here, one of the main goals of a fast is to break a particular routine and its claims on us for the sake of seeing the bigger picture. The absence of something dear to us, from which we fast, opens up the circumstantial and mental horizons to see the “forest for the trees,” as it were, to gain a new or renewed vantage point on our habits and how they shape and form our lives. Awareness is heightened in the absence of that which we have given up.

In popular spiritual practice, fasting often involves foods—giving up chocolate for Lent is a common example. But there are any number of different kinds of fasts. Going on a retreat is a fast from our usual daily routines. Insofar as monastic retreating has been and is a major feature of my spiritual life, perhaps I am more into fasting than I realize.

Fasting can be a useful way for us now to try to make sense of the various prohibitions and kinds of abstinence we are currently enduring in trying to limit the spread of the coronavirus. So, the question for us under the authority of the gospel is this: how do we make the most of this ongoing season of fasting, individually and communally, for the sake of our well-being and that of the whole world?

In short, we can claim this prolonged, comprehensive time of fasting as an opportunity to take stock of what had been our lives and routines, and to consider what “normal life” on the other side of the pandemic might look like, again in our individual lives, and in the life of our nation, and indeed for the existence of our whole species. That is, let the theme of fasting frame how you try to find meaning during this pandemic, in the service of discerning what feasting might look like after the fasting is over.

Maybe we will not be drawn to feast as extravagantly as we did in the past. Maybe we’ll choose to arrange our routines and our whole society very differently in our future compared with the time before Covid-19.

I am fascinated by and drawn to any number of columnists in the New York Times and the Washington Post and other publications who are asking in their writing these big picture kinds of questions. I encourage such reading to be part of your routine during these days of unwanted fasting as you try to figure out what on earth is going on.

If we have the circumstances which permit reflection – again, not everyone has such privilege right now – may we not squander this opportunity to discern through the guidance of the Holy Spirit a vision for the future, again in both our individual and communal lives, that more resonantly embodies the values of God’s justice and God’s commonwealth for all.

With prayerful best wishes in Christ Jesus, that we make the most of this time,

Pastor Jonathan Linman

Third Sunday of Easter, Luke 24:13-35 April 26, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

The holy gospel according to Luke. Glory to you, O Lord.

13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ. The Road to Emmaus is absolutely my favorite story in the whole Bible. I remember my discovery of the significance of this narrative when years ago I had the “aha!” moment of realizing that Jesus was made known to the disciples in the breaking of the bread.

My epiphany was that the risen Christ is finally recognized when he shares in the Holy Supper with his disciples. It’s the same way we recognize our living, risen Savior in Holy Communion. This, then, establishes an unmistakable continuity between the first Easter two millennia ago and our sacramental practices in our own day. Wow! I still marvel at this.

Spiritual Reflections from Your Pastor, For Such a Time as This
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.
Week of the Second Sunday of Easter 2020 + “Half Empty? Half Full?”

You have your own unique experience of the pandemic. That is to say, there is no one-size-fits-all, universal story to tell. As a New Yorker for eighteen years, that was also my experience of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and of the city’s sets of experience of Superstorm Sandy. While each occasion affected New Yorkers profoundly, it’s a huge city, and wide swaths of the population suffered more or less, depending on proximity to the calamities. As I hear now from colleagues and friends in New York City, this wide range of experience is also true of the pandemic. For those in the most directly affected communities, the reality is apocalyptic, horrific. For the majority of the city’s population, though, greatly disrupted life goes on, albeit in surreal ways.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was to have been at a church meeting just a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center. At the last minute, I opted not to attend, not in any way knowing what would soon befall the city and world. Had I traveled to lower Manhattan that morning, I would have been one of those dust covered survivors in the streets when the second tower collapsed. Likewise, with Superstorm Sandy, I lived in a part of Manhattan which escaped the devastating ravages of the winds and flooding. Just a few blocks away, though, it was an entirely different story and thus experience.

In short, I was privileged, lucky. This is proving to be true now at this point with the pandemic. I am privileged through your generosity, for example, to serve in a profession which allows for telecommuting – though I dearly long to be with you all in person! Yet, at the same time, this pandemic deeply affects me, resulting in my own particular experiences of suffering. Each one of you is suffering the pandemic in your own ways, too. You have your own stories to tell.

Second Sunday of Easter, John 20:19-31 April 19, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

Alleluia. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.

The holy gospel according to John. Glory to you, O Lord.

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

Listen again to how this passage from John’s Gospel begins: “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews….”

I love John’s Gospel, but I am deeply troubled by the numerous polemical references to the Jews throughout John. Sadly, tragically, this Gospel has been used throughout the centuries to advance the scourge of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism.

Concerning the intended meaning of this verse, it might be more accurate to say that the disciples feared the religious leaders and authorities, not all Jewish people. In fact, the disciples were themselves Jews.

Easter Sunday, Matthew 28:1-10 April 12, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia. We make this song, even as the chaos of pandemic wreaks havoc all around us. Still, Christ is risen indeed.

The holy gospel according to Matthew. Glory to you, O Lord.

1After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

Because we’ve been awash in words throughout Holy Week (this is my fifth sermon in the space of a week!), I’m going to preach on one word from Matthew’s account of the resurrection. The single word in the New Revised Standard Version is this: “Greetings!”

Easter Vigil, John 20:1-18 April 11, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’” This simple phrase conveys a defining moment of the account of the resurrection in John’s Gospel. “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’” (cf. John 20:1ff.)

There’s something profound about hearing your name, especially from the lips of someone near and dear to you.

I very much look forward to learning your names, especially when I can be in ministry with you in person. Learning your names is one of my top priorities as I begin my pastorate at Resurrection Church, because there is something powerful about knowing and being known by name, especially by people who care.

It’s very different from the many occasions when computers can mine data to figure out our names, allowing people anonymous to us to be on a first-name basis with us on junk mail and during sales calls, all the while trying to convey a sense of familiarity when there is none. Using our names in such ways is offensive as ever larger, anonymous, impervious organizations intrude on our lives.

All of this in our tech-based experience is very much in contrast with those precious times when the beloved other names us by name. That’s sweet. Hearing our names from family members and friends, people with whom we are close, can make all the difference.

Good Friday, John 18:1-19:42 April 10, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

Perhaps you’ve just had the fortitude to read through and engage the two heavy chapters that comprise the Passion according to John.

It’s a lot of words in a very dramatic story. Amidst the interweaving features of the narrative of Jesus’ last hours before his crucifixion, I listened for prompts of the energy of the Holy Spirit as I read the Passion, and was drawn to and captivated by Pilate’s question to Jesus, “What is truth?”

Jesus had just told Pilate, “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

That’s when Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

It’s a compelling question in our day in the life of the world. Consider Stephen Colbert’s comic explorations of “truthiness.” Or the whole Post-Modern, De-Constructionist movements in the academy that call into question the possibility of truth that is not historically and culturally contextualized such that truth is thus always relativized.

Think of “fake news” and the erosion of trust in science and the word of experts. And on and on.

“What is truth?” – it’s abundantly clear that’s a salient question in our age.

Dear Friends in Christ:

I want to let you all know that we just received confirmation that my son's surgery is indeed scheduled to take place tomorrow, Good Friday. This will be major surgery to correct the vascular malformation in Nathan's brain that first caused his stroke. Thus, Nathan, his mother, and I covet your prayers for effective, uncomplicated outcomes to this procedure.

Needless to say, my observance of home worship during this Holy Week will focus on my keeping vigil at my son's side, even as I also intend to share with you in using our congregation's worship resources to mark these Three Days. With Nathan's surgery in mind, I created video files of all of my Holy Week and Easter sermons early, so they are all uploaded and ready to go.

I don't know how many days Nathan will be in the hospital—it all depends on how the surgery and his recovery go. While attending to my son is my first priority in the coming days, I also intend to engage in my pastoral responsibilities as well, keeping abreast of church-related emails and phone messages and also preparing sermons for the next Sundays in Easter.

Thanks in advance for your prayers for us, and may you all have blessed and holy Three Days during these most trying and unprecedented times in the life of our congregation and in the world.

Sent with my own prayer for all of you in our life together.....

In Jesus' name,

Pastor Jonathan Linman

Maundy Thursday April 9, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

Greetings in Christ on this holy, Maundy Thursday as we begin our worshipful engagement from home during these Three Days, a high point of the liturgical year in our Christian life together.

Let us pray. Gracious God in Christ, as we again share in the drama of Holy Week, but this year from our homes, take us nonetheless deeply into the mysteries of our salvation through your Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

From the Gospel of John, appointed for Maundy Thursday (cf. John 13:1ff.): Jesus “got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.”

In other words, Jesus did not practice safe social distancing.

Passion/Palm Sunday, Matthew 26:14-27:66 April 5, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

Greetings in Jesus’ name on this Palm and Passion Sunday! Surely we miss our palm fronds and branches on this day, and the procession, the exuberant singing and dramatic readings of the Passion narrative. We miss crying out, Hosanna, echoing the cries of God’s people to our Lord through the millennia.

The cry of “Hosanna!” has perhaps poignant meaning for the whole human family on Palm and Passion Sunday 2020, the year of pandemic, our global health crisis – for the meaning of “Hosanna!” in Hebrew is something like, “Save us, we pray! Help us! Rescue us!”

Surely that is the cry of our hearts this day.

My sermon is based on the Passion according to Matthew – which is far too lengthy to read to you now! But I hope that you’ve had a chance to read the Matthew passage on your own devotionally.

As always: God, take us deeply into your holy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

I begin with a real-life anecdote. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by my credit card company who informed me that someone made an unauthorized purchase using my card number – a $650 expenditure with a big box retailer in Minnesota. I am glad for my credit card company’s vigilance, but it saddens me that such protections need to be in place and that the internet is teeming with bandits and thieves, not unlike the dangerous highways and byways of old when safe passage was threatened by robbers.

This got me to thinking about the pervasiveness of human sin and its effects – sin not as a philosophical or theological notion, but as an empirical, historical reality. Think of how much time, energy, money and effort are expended in response to human misdeeds, or what we might call sin.

Dear Friends in Christ:

Grace and peace to you in Jesus’ name! I am crafting this statement to you on the first day that I am officially your Pastor. How I wish I were in Arlington to greet you at the door of the church on Sunday mornings. How I would rather be writing this letter in the pastor’s study at the church office. But here I am in Phoenix, Arizona….

Given these unusual circumstances in which I begin my call at Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church, I want to provide for you a sense of how I intend to spend my time in ministry with you from a distance. In consultation with Council President, Mike Burmeister, I have developed a listing of my beginning priorities as Pastor – all of this, of course, is subject to change and addition, depending on need and opportunities.

Lent 5, John 11:1-45 March 29, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

The holy gospel according to John. Glory to you, O Lord.

“When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and [those] who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid [Lazarus]?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So [they] said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ Many of [those] therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

“Jesus began to weep.” In the Revised Standard Version, the phrase is even more terse, simply two words: “Jesus wept” – the shortest verse in that English translation of the Bible.

Jesus wept for his friend, Lazarus, and for his family and wider social circle.

Jesus weeps for us, too, perhaps especially now during this time of global upheaval with the pandemic.

Lent 4, John 9:1ff. March 22, 2020
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.

Greetings in Jesus’ name! Here we are in uncharted waters as we endeavor creatively to be and to do church in this time of upheaval with the global pandemic. Preaching alone to a camera is a first for me. So, may God in Christ bind us together in these new formats so that we may continue to proclaim the gospel. Let this new venture begin as we are led by the Holy Spirit ever more deeply together into God’s word.

The holy gospel according to John. Glory to you, O Lord.

“As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ which means Sent. Then he went and washed and came back able to see.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Keep your distance – at least six feet. And don’t touch your face.

Dear People of God at Resurrection Church:

First off, I want you to know that I am delighted that you called me to be your pastor! Also, when I phoned my son, Nathan, later in the afternoon of the Call Sunday, his mother reported that he had a big grin on his face as I shared with him the good news of my call. My abiding thanks both to the members of the Call Committee and to the Congregation Council for shepherding a faithful process which resulted in my call to lead and to serve at Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church.

After my weekend with you all at Resurrection, I immediately made arrangements to move to Arlington on March 21, but then Covid-19, now declared a pandemic, intervened. “The best laid plans of mice and mortals….” Each time I have taken concrete steps to become your pastor, a crisis has interrupted the journey! On first blush, one might say that all of this is not meant to be. But I believe such a voice could well be that of the tempter, and not the divine voice. The paths that God’s call takes us on are seldom easy, uncomplicated ones. The biblical witness, from beginning to end, is rich with stories of harrowing holy journeys. The difficulties of the paths we are traveling together, thus, give as much evidence of the sacredness of what we’ve undertaken as anything else.

My birthday is February 14, Valentine's Day. This year it was also Ash Wednesday. I don’t normally think about the full circle of life on my birthday, however this trio had me reflecting quite differently this year.

We don’t know the time for when we will be born and we don’t know the hour when God will call us home. It just happens, in His time. What we decide to do during that time is what matters most.

Sunday, January 14 was our service day. Every year over the Martin Luther King weekend the children and youth come together to work on a service pro-ject. This year our focus was on service to others.

Our Confirmation and High school youth came together and made 24 loaves of Communion Bread. It’s great when our youth can come together and strengthen their bonds and work on a project that benefits others. In this case it benefits our church. With 14 youth in attendance, the kitchen looked pretty clean when it was all over. Thanks to the adults that mixed and mingled with the youth as they were mixing the dough for our Communion Bread and mingling among friends.