The WorkFaith Connection is a ministry partner of ours at City Church. They exist to encourage disadvantaged job seekers in their hope for a better future and to equip them with the skills and beliefs to gain employment and lead healthy, productive and spiritually rich lives. Nowhere is their vision more powerfully experienced than during their graduation ceremonies on Friday afternoons, the culmination of their 8-Day Job Search Program, which runs continuously throughout the year. Occasionally, I have the opportunity to speak at these graduations - it’s always an honor and joy - but anyone can come and I encourage you to go! You can find the schedule at The WorkFaith Connection.
Eleanor Stampfli is 96 years old. She joined City Church during our first year. Soon after that she had to move to an assisted living facility in League City to be closer to her daughter. She visits City Church whenever she’s able, which is not very often, so recently I visited her. I have since made a vow to visit her more often.
All four Gospels record that Jesus was offered a drink of wine vinegar while he was on the cross (see Matthew 27:48-49, Mark 15:36 and Luke 23:36-37), but only John records that prior to this drink being offered to him, Jesus actually said, “I am thirsty.” And keep in mind that John was an eye witness to Jesus’ crucifixion. He was literally at the foot of cross, the only male disciple who did not run away, flanked by at least four women, three of whom, oddly enough were named Mary (see John 19:25 - “his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene”).
No human being, no matter how relationally wired or connected, has ever experienced the kind of intimacy that Jesus shared with his Father, which is why no human being, no matter how relationally challenged or neglected, has ever experienced the kind of rejection that Jesus felt from his Father on the cross.
Whenever I am hurting I do not think about the needs of other people. I just don’t, but Jesus does. His heart was full of others to the very end - “‘woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘here is your mother.’” This disciple, whom Jesus loved, who is standing nearby, is also the author of this story. John had been Jesus’ closest companion in life, an ear and eye witness to Jesus’ command to him to take care of his mother, Mary.
Maya Angelou encourages us with this: “you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” Jesus does the strangest thing with all the power the Father had given him. He takes off his outer clothing, wraps a towel around his waist and symbolically models for his disciples what the apostle Paul will later say about him in Philippians 2:6-11.
A four week study on the tough sayings of Jesus is quite simply, not nearly long enough. Proverbs 27:6 says, “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Jesus is a true friend. He wounds us to heal us.
Months ago I attended a meeting hosted by the Freedom Church Alliance. Their mission is to fight human trafficking through Jesus Christ by uniting and mobilizing churches to work alongside trusted anti-trafficking organizations. The modern day slavery of human trafficking has many faces, and sadly, Houston is a gateway city for this horrific injustice. It is a deep pocket of brokenness in our city, which is precisely why we believe Jesus is calling us to display a picture of his beauty.
My friend, Marie, called me on my birthday this week. I haven’t seen her since I visited her in the hospital a while back. A couple of her grandchildren were in my youth group years ago and I officiated the marriage of another. She worked part-time at the church where I served in my first pastoral role. Most Sunday mornings, provided I arrived early, we would pray together before the service.
One evening last spring, in between dropping my youngest daughter off at softball practice, and returning to pick her up, I had enough time to workout. I brought my middle daughter with me. She’s a dancer and a gymnast. She’s the kind of workout partner that’ll humble a man.
I rarely listen to an entire story on NPR, just bits and pieces while navigating Houston traffic. I heard an interview recently that peeked my interest so much I had to listen to the whole thing. Seymour Bernstein tells this story from when he was a little boy.