“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”

– Hebrews 12:1


All Saints’ Day, a revered tradition in the Methodist church as well as in many other Christian denominations, was celebrated in our congregation on the first Sunday of November. This day, deeply embedded in the fabric of ecclesiastical observance, was marked by a poignant and reflective service. Our pastor, with careful consideration and pastoral sensitivity, led us in honoring the memory of the dearly departed members of our church family, of whom we had lost five in the preceding year.

The sanctuary, usually filled with the voices of an active congregation, took on a reverent silence as candles were lit, one for each soul that had left an indelible mark on our community. The gentle glow stood as a testament to the lives they had led among us—lives of faith, service, and love.

In a deeply moving extension of this ritual, the pastor invited each member of the congregation to come forward. With solemn steps, we approached the altar, each carrying a candle, ready to ignite it in memory of someone who had touched our lives profoundly. The invitation was not limited to the remembrance of those within our local congregation but was extended to any personal saints we held dear in our hearts. As we lit our candles, the altar became a beacon of remembrance, with every flame representing a story, a life, a sacred memory.

The commemoration of All Saints’ Day varies widely across Christian denominations. Its origins can be traced back to the early Christian practice in the Catholic Church, which formally set aside November 1st to honor saints and martyrs. For Western Christians, this day is fixed in the liturgical calendar, while Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate it on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

In the Catholic tradition, All Saints’ Day is a Holy Day of Obligation, calling the faithful to Mass and to reflect on the exemplary lives of the saints who have achieved the beatific vision—the direct experience of God in Heaven. The broader Christian perspective also embraces this day as an opportunity to honor all believers who have departed this life in the hope of the resurrection, thus maintaining a spiritual connection with the entire communion of saints.

Following All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day on November 2nd is observed, which is especially dedicated to praying for the faithful departed who are believed to have been in Purgatory, undergoing purification in preparation for Heaven. These sequential days of observance encapsulate the Christian doctrine of the afterlife and the enduring community that includes all believers, transcending the earthly plane.

There is a common misconception, which I once shared, that the gospel song “When the Saints Go Marching In” is associated with All Saints’ Day celebrations. While not specifically written for this day, many churches embrace it during their services because its chorus resonates with the day’s themes. The yearning expressed in the lyrics, “Oh, when the saints go marching in, Lord, I want to be in that number,” expresses a personal sentiment to be counted as a saint and mirrors the intention behind All Saints’ Day—to honor the holy and the faithful.

This song’s origins are as spiritual, and its rise to prominence was significantly influenced by the iconic recordings of Louis Armstrong in the 1930s. Since then, it has become an emblematic tune of hope and celebration in the face of life’s adversities. I have included at the bottom of this blog a link to hear Louis Armstrong’s version. Simply click on the link to hear his wonderful rendition!

Denominational practices do vary: some focus strictly on honoring recognized saints, while others, like our Methodist tradition, take a different approach. We use this day not only to honor the canonized saints but also to remember all who have lived out their faith in Jesus Christ and have been a beacon of His light in the world.

This year’s service was particularly personal for me. The pastor’s call to remember those who have gone before us widened the scope of our commemoration. I lit candles for my father and grandmother, two pillars of my life whose presence I’ve felt continuously since their passing. Their memory does not eclipse the central place of Jesus and the Holy Spirit as the source of my hope but rather complements it, offering a comforting presence in significant moments of my life.

Such experiences are not unfamiliar to those in pastoral care professions. Chaplains, grief counselors, and hospice clergy frequently encounter individuals who sense the nearness of their ancestors, especially as they navigate the profound waters of grief or approach life’s end. Some report visions or a palpable sense of those who have passed on being near, offering comfort or guidance.

Our scripture for All Saints’ Day, Hebrews 12:1, beautifully encapsulates this sentiment. It acknowledges the saints as a “great cloud of witnesses,” whose lives and legacies continue to inspire and encourage us in our own faith journeys. This imagery of being surrounded by the faithful who have finished their race challenges us to live with perseverance and righteousness, just as they did.

Reflecting on this, it is both humbling and comforting to realize that we are accompanied not only by the Holy Spirit but also by the legacies of our ancestors. And so, with a sense of unity that spans beyond time, we can look forward to the day when we too will join that holy procession, as we continue to sing in hope and anticipation, “Oh, when the saints go marching in, Lord, I want to be in that number,” longing for the day we stand together with all the faithful in the eternal presence of God. On this All Saints’ Day, we are reminded of our sacred connection to the past and the future, united in the present by our shared faith and the love that transcends all boundaries.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

– Revelations [3:20]


A close friend recently shared his newfound journey of faith, expressing his decision to attend an Eastern Orthodox church. As he narrated his story, he carefully watched my reaction, perhaps anticipating surprise or concern. I, however, was simply overjoyed that he had found a spiritual home. Intrigued, I inquired about his choice of denomination, to which he expressed a deep appreciation for the rich tradition, symbolism, and formalities that the Eastern Orthodox Church offers.

Indeed, the Eastern Orthodox Church stands out with its unique practices and traditions, especially when compared to the more commonly recognized denominations in America. Its closest counterpart would be the Roman Catholic Church, which boasts a substantial following, comprising sixty percent of Christians worldwide, amounting to 1.4 billion members. In contrast, the Eastern Orthodox Church has a more modest membership of 18 million.

The history of these two major denominations stretches back to a time when they were unified. It wasn’t until 1054 AD that a schism, driven by theological, political, and cultural differences, led to their separation. This marked the first major division within the Christian faith.

Another significant moment in Christian history was the Protestant Reformation, initiated by Martin Luther in 1517. Luther’s act of nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, is often regarded as the catalyst for this religious upheaval. His propositions challenged the prevailing practices of the Catholic Church, particularly the sale of indulgences, which were believed to reduce the punishment of sin. Although Luther’s initial intention was to spark scholarly debate, his ideas rapidly gained traction, resulting in profound religious and social transformations.

In the subsequent centuries, numerous Protestant denominations emerged, including the Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians, each with their own unique doctrinal and liturgical characteristics. Despite the multitude of denominations, consensus on religious matters remained elusive, even within the Catholic Church.

These religious disparities sometimes escalated to violence and warfare, with the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) standing out as a particularly brutal example. Initially a conflict between Catholic and Protestant states within the Holy Roman Empire, it eventually drew in most of the major European powers. This war had devastating effects on Germany, resulting in the loss of 25% of its population, either directly through warfare or indirectly through famine and disease.

These tumultuous times in history contributed to the establishment of religious freedom in the United States, a principle enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Even in England, where the national religion oscillated between Protestantism and Catholicism for nearly two centuries, leading to numerous casualties including the execution of King Charles I in 1649, there was eventually a return to stability with the restoration of his son, Charles II, in 1660.

These historical episodes of violence and discord amongst Christians prompt reflection on how well we embody the teachings of Christ, particularly the call to love our neighbors and live with kindness and humility. Gandhi’s observation that “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ,” is a poignant reminder of the discrepancy that can exist between faith and practice.

However, it is important to remember that these conflicts were not rooted in the teachings of Jesus but in human interpretation and disagreement. However, there is value in the plethora of denominations as it presents an opportunity for Christ to meet us wherever we are, responding to His knock as mentioned in Revelations [3:20].

When my friend chose to attend an Eastern Orthodox Church, I supported his decision wholeheartedly. I believe that the diversity of denominations enables Jesus to connect with people from all walks of life. Regardless of whether one is Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, or any other denomination, Jesus is ever-present and ready to engage with us.

Personally, I attend a Methodist church. This is not because I believe it is superior to others, but because it is where I feel at home. However, I also appreciate and enjoy experiencing Catholic Masses and Baptist services, finding that each denomination offers unique insights that strengthen my faith. Rather than debating which denomination is “better,” I choose to learn from them all.

In conclusion, Jesus never intended for His church to be divided, but He encourages us all to seek and explore our faith. Regardless of our denomination, we are all Christians. By responding to Jesus’s call and answering his knocking at our door, we allow Him to meet us exactly where we are, embracing the diversity of His body and growing in our journey of faith.

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. 

– Luke [15:32]


The parable of the Prodigal Son, narrated by Jesus in Luke [15:11]-32, stands as one of the most poignant illustrations of God’s unconditional love and the transformative joy found in reconciliation. In this story, Jesus extends a heartfelt invitation to embrace forgiveness.

The narrative unfolds with a younger son, impatient for his inheritance, taking his share and squandering it in a distant land on reckless living. When a famine strikes, he finds himself destitute, envying the food of pigs he is feeding as part of a job he has taken up. In this moment of desperation, he decides to return home, hoping for his father’s mercy, and ready to offer himself as a servant. Contrary to his expectations, his father, spotting him from afar, rushes to embrace him, celebrating his return with open arms. The father insists on marking the occasion with a feast, expressing joy that his lost son has returned to life. However, this celebration is met with resentment from the older son, who has remained faithful throughout. The father gently reminds him that all he has is already his, emphasizing the importance of celebrating the lost son’s return – once “dead,” now “alive.” This story encapsulates God’s infinite capacity for forgiveness.

Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Such a perspective highlights that forgiveness is a perpetual practice, challenging as it may be when we feel wronged. Our egos bruise, we feel violated, and our emotions are wounded. Questions arise: How could they do this to us? Why do we deserve this? These feelings are undoubtedly valid, and the father in the parable had every right to feel hurt and betrayed. Yet, upon his son’s return, his response is one of joy.

Perhaps forgiveness is more about our healing than it is about the other person. Consider a life devoid of forgiveness; a journey marred by grudges and resentment. Inevitably, we will encounter individuals who wrong us – are we to isolate ourselves from all? What does a lack of forgiveness morph us into?

Lewis B. Smedes sheds light on this, stating, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Unforgiveness binds us within ourselves, hindering our capacity to transcend our limitations. While it does not mean we forget, Jesus calls us to forgive. The ones who caused us pain are on their journey, and denying forgiveness robs us of witnessing transformative moments of faith.

People’s journeys are tumultuous, filled with highs and lows. Jesus accompanies us through every twist and turn, guiding us towards righteousness. I believe there is an innate goodness in every person, though our actions may not always reflect this belief – a shortcoming on our part, not theirs.

Forgiving oneself is equally challenging. The inability to release past transgressions can tarnish one’s self-image, a struggle often mirrored in our capacity to forgive others. Yet, it is crucial to acknowledge the innate goodness within ourselves, just as we do in others.

Some may contest the idea of universal innate goodness, but Genesis [1:27] reminds us that we are all created in God’s image. While we all are created in God’s image, we still falter from time to time. But Jesus, in his sacrificial death, bore the weight of all human sin – the ultimate act of forgiveness. Even those we see as perfect have had transgressions. Yet we are not the judges, because Jesus bore all sin. Ours is to move forward with ourselves and others.

Emulating the Father’s forgiveness in the parable of the Prodigal Son is undoubtedly challenging, but it is a journey toward liberation and healing. Forgiveness frees us from our internal prisons, ushering us into a state of renewal and peace.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” 

– Philippians 4:4


In 60 AD, the Apostle Paul found himself sitting in a prison in Rome. Despite these dire circumstances, he penned the Epistle to the Philippians, a short book of only four chapters in the New Testament. From within the cold confines of his Roman cell, a letter of exuberant joy and profound thanksgiving emerged, arguably rendering it the happiest book in the New Testament.

Paul’s preceding years had been arduous. He had traversed the Mediterranean world on three extensive missionary journeys, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, an endeavor spanning over a dozen years. Yet, shortly after his return to Jerusalem, imprisonment clutched him.

King Herod Agrippa’s merciless persecution had compelled many early followers, including Peter, John, Thomas, and James, to flee Jerusalem. Alone and without protection, imprisonment was inevitable for Paul. However, claiming his Roman citizenship, he averted death and was sent to Rome for a trial.

The voyage to Rome was tumultuous. The ship, entrapped in the fierce grip of a severe storm, threatened the lives of all on board. Yet Paul, moved by divine reassurance, proclaimed the safety of every soul on board. All 276 people emerged from the ordeal unscathed.

Upon arrival in Rome, Paul’s imprisonment continued. Some scholars suggest he was under house arrest, guarded by a centurion, while others believe he languished in a prison cell, chained and confined. Yet amidst this, the Christian evangelist found a reservoir of joy.

The letter to the Philippians was birthed from these adverse conditions. Despite his circumstances, Paul’s words were infused with a spirit of joy and encouragement, with themes of unity, humility, and the imperative to rejoice in the Lord always punctuating every line.

In this remarkable letter, Paul details the four life practices that have been the bedrock of his unwavering joy:

  • Rejoice Always: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
  • Be Gentle: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5)
  • Pray Without Anxiety: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
  • Focus on the Good: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

The crucible of many trials and tribulations had chiseled Paul, refining his faith and deepening his connection to Jesus. Every beating, shipwreck, and imprisonment had not been a deterrent but a conduit, ushering him into a profound realization of the unwavering presence of Jesus. He had witnessed miracles, experienced deliverance, and encountered Jesus in ways that severed his ties to the fickle afflictions of the world.

At this juncture in his journey, imprisoned yet unbroken, Paul was a man fully separated from the ways of the world and profoundly attuned to Jesus. Every word penned in the letter to the Philippians emanates from a soul anchored in this unyielding conviction – Jesus was not just a belief but an ever-present reality, working around and within him, a source of unassailable joy even within the somber confines of a Roman prison.

It’s a testament to grace that a man, surrounded by the imposing walls of a prison and having endured extensive trials while evangelizing in distant and often dangerous lands, could author what many consider the most joy-filled book in the New Testament.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Romans [8:18] (NIV)


 I recently came across, The “Teacup Story”, which is on the surface an amusing story about a fictious tea cup and its personal journey from clay to a beautiful piece of art.  As I read about the teacup and how it is made, I realized it also serves as a poignant allegory for the intricate, often challenging process of personal transformation and refinement. Just like the teacup, every individual undergoes a series of trials and tribulations, each serving a purpose, molding us into the beautiful, resilient creations we are destined to become. The narrative is a delicate intertwining of struggle and beauty, echoing the timeless message embedded within the biblical text of Romans [8:18] (NIV): “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

In the story, a couple stumbles upon a teacup of exquisite beauty, oblivious to the strenuous journey it endured to acquire such elegance. The teacup’s testimony of its metamorphosis from a piece of red clay into an object of admiration mirrors our life’s journey, riddled with difficulties yet purposeful, aiming towards spiritual and personal refinement.

The teacup, throughout its metamorphosis, recounts a series of intensive steps to the couple. Initially, the master’s hands rolled and patted the clay, testing its resilience. This was followed by a dizzying spin on the wheel, testing its balance and core strength. Subsequent to that was its trial by fire, not once but twice, inside scalding ovens. The first bake solidified its form, and the second intensified its durability. Amidst these stages, it endured the overwhelming fumes of painting, a process that instilled in it vibrant colors and a captivating design.

After each step the teacup asked the potter, “Am I done?” The potter would reply, “Not Yet!” Until the final the time in the scalding oven, when the potter told the teacup “Now you are done!”

Every phase of the teacup’s transformation is akin to life’s challenges. The rolling, patting, spinning, and intense heat symbolize life’s pressures, losses, and trials. We often find ourselves echoing the teacup’s pleas – yearning for relief, a cessation of the unyielding trials that life hurls our way. Yet, just like the skilled craftsman in the story, God’s silent, reassuring whisper of “Not yet” is a reminder of His grand design – a masterpiece in the making.

The trials are neither arbitrary nor cruel; they are essential strokes of the Master’s brush, imparting strength, resilience, and vibrancy to our character. The craftsman’s persistent yet purposeful methods underscore a profound truth – every challenge endured and every obstacle surmounted contributes to whom we become.

Romans [8:18] offers solace and perspective amidst trials. Our present sufferings, intense and overwhelming, are transient phases under the Master’s skillful hands. Each trial, though painful, is a precursor to an unveiling of a glory, a beauty, and a strength that far outweighs the tribulations. The verse illuminates our understanding of trials not as arbitrary cruelties but as necessary steps towards an unveiling of an intrinsic glory embedded within our beings.

As the teacup emerges, radiant and exquisite, we too emerge from our trials with refined beauty and strength. Each challenge is a kiln of refinement, each tribulation a chisel sculpting us into beings of profound resilience and grace. The craftsman’s assurance, “Now you are a finished product,” echoes the silent yet profound assurance that every trial is not a destination but a passage, not an end but a transformation.

The teacup’s journey is not just an illustration of transformation but a profound narrative of hope. Each stroke of adversity is a brush of refinement; each moment of trial is a step closer to unveiling a masterpiece. Like the teacup, we are under the watchful, skillful eyes of the Master Craftsman – God – being molded, not marred; refined, not ruined; and transformed, not tarnished. Each “Not yet” is a whisper of hope – a promise of a masterpiece in the making, echoing the eternal assurance that our present sufferings pale in comparison to the glory that awaits us.

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” 

(Jn. 11:4)

The decision of the ruling elite to have Jesus killed did not occur during the Passion week also known as Easter week. It actually occurred three months earlier. Of particular concern for Caiaphas, the chief Priest, and the ruling body, called the Sanhedrin, was Jesus raising a local man from the dead. This incident had caused many to cross over from just wondering about Jesus to believing he was their answer—perhaps the long-awaited Messiah.

While Jesus was on the eastern shore of the Jordan, two sisters, Martha and Mary, who lived in Bethany, faced a crisis. Their brother, Lazarus, had fallen ill and was on the brink of death. Martha and Mary were early believers in Jesus as the Messiah, particularly since Jesus had healed their father from the debilitating effects of leprosy. In gratitude, the sisters, along with Lazarus and their father, became devoted followers of Jesus. Due to their deep faith, Jesus developed a special bond with the family. Thus, when Lazarus became critically ill, they immediately sent word to Jesus, seeking his help.

When Jesus received word of Lazarus’s illness, he said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (Jn. 11:4). Remarkably, Jesus didn’t go to them immediately; he waited two days. Then, on the third day, he told the Twelve,

“Let’s go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” (Jn. 11:7–10)
After this, Jesus told them Lazarus had only fallen asleep. But still fearful, the Twelve said, “Lord if he sleeps, he will get better” (Jn. [11:13]). But the Twelve still didn’t understand.

Then Jesus became franker and said, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake, I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him” (Jn. [11:14]–15). Jesus had a plan. While it included saving a close friend, it also included showing many others the glory of God.
The Twelve did not want to go anywhere near Jerusalem, knowing Jesus was despised by Caiaphas and the other leaders. Getting this close to Jerusalem threatened both Jesus’s life and their own, so they appealed to Jesus not to go.

However, the always loyal and pragmatic Thomas said to the other 11, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (Jn. [11:16]). Thomas knew that by going to help Lazarus, the whole band of apostles might be killed. Despite the risk, he was driven by his strict loyalty to Jesus. Interestingly, Thomas, throughout the centuries, has been called the doubting Thomas, but here we find a loyal Thomas, willing to die with and for Jesus.

In contemporary times, many have mistaken Thomas’s pragmatism for doubt. As evidenced by his willingness to go with Jesus, we can see that nothing could be further from the truth. Though pragmatic, his loyalty to Jesus and his search for truth would become very evident during the following months.

As they approached Bethany, Martha met them and said to Jesus,

“If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (Jn. [11:21]–27)

Martha’s faith in Jesus was very evident; her faith exceeded that of many, including the Twelve who had been traveling with Jesus.

Martha went back to Mary and told her Jesus was coming. Ecstatic, Mary and many friends immediately went to the outskirts of Bethany to meet Jesus. The many friends who were with Mary to comfort her because of her brother’s death followed her.”

As she approached Jesus, he could see she was crying. He also saw the many friends with her, and, in his full humanity, he became deeply moved and troubled. He said:
“Where have you laid him?”

The crowd replied, “Come and see, Lord.” (Jn. [11:33]; 34)
Jesus, seeing the outpouring of grief, in his humanness, began to weep as well.
Many in the crowd exclaimed, “See how he loved him.”
But some cynically asked, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (Jn. [11:36]-37).

Those who were cynical were referring to an earlier incident in which Jesus had healed a beggar who had been blind since birth. This event caused an uproar among the Pharisees because Jesus had healed the man on the Sabbath. Instead of being thankful or amazed that Jesus had performed this feat, they criticized him.
In turn, their uproar had only served to make the Pharisees look silly to those who had heard of or witnessed the miraculous event.

As he usually did, Jesus ignored the cynicism and doubters, continuing toward Lazarus’s burial tomb. Upon His arrival, Jesus asked that the stone be removed. Martha, worried about the potential bad odor after the body had lain there for several days, warned Jesus against removing the stone. However, Jesus looked at Martha and said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (Jn. [11:40]). Those near the tomb then removed the stone.

Looking around at the crowd, Jesus knew many in the crowd would become witnesses of his upcoming actions. Raising his head with his arms outstretched, he looked up to the sky and said,
Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I say this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me. (Jn. [11:41]–42)

After saying this, Jesus loudly commanded Lazarus to “come forth.” Lazarus emerged from the tomb, wrapped in strips of linen and cloth on his face. Jesus asked those nearby to unbind him and dress him.

Many of the crowd who had come to comfort Martha and Mary saw this and were amazed. Weeping, some even fell to their knees and looked up to the sky and thanked God. Most who were present now believed Jesus was more than a great healer; he was their Savior.

But some, hoping to gain favor, went to the leaders in Jerusalem and told them what had happened.
Upon hearing about this event, Caiaphas, the chief priest, quickly convened a meeting of the Sanhedrin to discuss the reports surrounding Jesus and the resurrection of Lazarus. Caiaphas requested a detailed account of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Those who had gathered information from the attendees relayed what they had learned. By and large, the accounts from these individuals were consistent with the testimonies of eyewitnesses.

The more Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin heard, the more alarmed they became.

Many who witnessed the event came to believe that Jesus was sent by God, a belief that deeply concerned Caiaphas and the other leaders. Distraught and fearful, some members of the Sanhedrin posed a question to Caiaphas, “What are we accomplishing? Here is this man performing many miracles. If we allow him to continue in this way, everyone will believe in him. The Romans will then intervene, seizing both our temple and our nation” (Jn. [11:47]–48).

The gravity of both scenarios was becoming increasingly evident. Undoubtedly, Jesus was presenting a novel way of life to the common people, one that wasn’t predicated on fear. The Romans recognized that the Sanhedrin and the priests held sway over the masses, which facilitated their governance. Jesus’s burgeoning influence among the locals jeopardized this delicate balance.

Caiaphas realized that it was time to address the threat of Jesus. He also understood the Sanhedrin’s needed to not act rashly. Jesus’ removal would have to be executed with care and tact to avoid inciting public unrest. It would be challenging but achievable with skillful action. They needed to remain calm as they moved against Jesus.

News of this meeting reached Jesus through those who had overheard the discussions and the subsequent decisions. Knowing it wasn’t yet his time to confront the leaders of Jerusalem, he withdrew from the public eye, retreating to the wilderness and the ancient tribal community of Ephraim.

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

– 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3


Once a year, I would go to my children’s school and pick them up to take them home. I just wanted to see what their daily life looked like. While I was standing there with a good friend, Rick, I noticed a large number of other parents waiting as well. Rick was a stay-at-home parent. When his children were born, he and his wife made the decision that he would stay home, and she would work. Rick had a Ph.D. in Chemistry, and this friendly and intelligent person certainly could have done well in his career but chose to be there for his children.

The crowd of parents was about 80% women, which is the national norm. I asked Rick why so many were here on this day. Rick, in his usual humor, explained that when the children get out, we all become bus drivers! From 3 pm until dinner time, children were dropped off at sports practices, music lessons, or maybe a doctor’s visit. Then there was always the effort to get dinner made and ensure homework was getting done.

Despite the busyness, questions were asked, like, “how was your day?” Or “how did you do on the latest test?” Questions designed to stay informed and also to measure how the children were doing in life.

Earlier in the day, there was breakfast, and then the normal tidying up of the house. Followed by visits to the cleaners, the supermarket, or other important errands. Perhaps the bills had to be paid or visits to the gym to stay fit.

The more I listened to Rick, the more impressed I became with his discipline and effort. A stay-at-home parent had to be self-directed and forever flexible. Their life isn’t a box of bonbons, rather an endless day of doing something for someone else. And each morning the day was filled.

In a world that often measures success by income or career status, the role of stay-at-home parents can sometimes be overlooked or undervalued. To parents with children, however, it is one of the most important and selfless roles anyone can take on.

The decision for a parent to stay at home is personal and depends on various factors, including financial stability, career aspirations, and personal preferences. It is important to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and each family must determine what works best for them. For some families, having both parents working outside the home is necessary to meet financial obligations. For others, it may be feasible and desirable for one parent to stay at home. I have a wife, brother-in-law, friends of both genders and a mother who performed this role.

I do not write this to say one parent should stay home. Rather, I think it is important to praise those who are sometimes overlooked for the many intangible benefits they bring to our society. When I first read today’s verse, it struck me that the verse so aptly supports our feelings toward these wonderful people of sacrifice – stay-at-home parents.

Honoring the dedication and hard work of stay-at-home parents is something we should do as a society. Perhaps we could have a Stay-at-Home Parents Day. Nationwide, close to 25% of households have stay-at-home parents, with 20% of those being dads. There are already 26 other family-related days. Certainly, we know about Mother’s and Father’s Day, but there are also days for brothers, cousins, daughters-in-law, mothers-in-law, etc. So, why not?

These parents are the family’s errand runners. They act like bus drivers, taking children to after-school events. They wait in long lines or on the phone to accomplish their daily tasks. They have little power other than a smile to get things done. Yet they do complete their to-do lists, which are often long and varied. No day for them is the same. They are self-motivated and driven by an intensity to perform at a high level without getting raises, promotions, or awards.

Perhaps, as the verse in Thessalonians says, “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,” we can say this to the stay-at-home parents we know.

Today, let us show our appreciation for this important part of society with a simple ‘Thank You!’ These unselfish people would appreciate this recognition.

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

– Mark [11:24]


In 1883, a devastating tornado hit a small Minnesota town, causing numerous deaths and a significant number of injuries. The local doctor, aided by his two sons, worked round the clock to help the injured. Nearby, a convent of nuns, The Sisters of Saint Francis, also played a crucial role in providing nursing care to the victims. The collaboration between the doctor and the nuns was key to saving many lives.

Inspired by this experience, Mother Alfred Moes, the head of the Sisters, proposed building a hospital with the local physician and his sons providing the medical care. The doctor was initially hesitant because the town’s population seemed too small to support a hospital. Additionally, the estimated construction cost was $60,000, equivalent to nearly $1.5 million today. Understandably, he doubted that a small Midwest convent could raise such a large sum of money. However, he agreed to participate if the funds were secured.

Undaunted by the challenge, Mother Moes rallied the nuns to raise the necessary funds. They organized craft fairs, tutored students after school, sewed, and solicited cash donations. Impressively, it didn’t take the nuns long to accumulate the required funds. By using the funds they raised and mortgaging their convent, they amassed enough capital to construct the hospital. Four years after the tragic tornado, Saint Mary’s Hospital was established in Minnesota.

The physician and his sons became the inaugural doctors. The first patient required eye surgery, which was successfully conducted. The nuns, transitioning into nurses, assisted in the hospital’s operations.

During that era, hospital visits were frequently associated with dire outcomes. The germ theory of disease was not fully accepted, and proper sanitation practices were not universally adopted. Astonishingly, many surgeons of the time did not wash their hands post-surgery or after visiting patients, contributing to alarmingly high mortality rates.

However, St. Mary’s Hospital was an exception. The outcomes there were significantly better. The physician and his sons were early adopters of safe sanitation practices, adhering to the principles of antisepsis popularized by Joseph Lister in the 1860s and 1870s. As word of the superior care at St. Mary’s spread, people from neighboring towns and eventually from across the country sought treatment there.

The physician and his sons were also dedicated to staying current with the latest medical advancements. Each year, one of the sons would travel abroad to explore the newest developments in medical science, bringing back new medical procedures after each visit.

Unsurprisingly, as the outcomes for their patients far surpassed those of other hospitals, not only in the United States but globally, more physicians joined St. Mary’s, necessitating expansions to accommodate the increasing patient load.

As the hospital grew, the sons implemented innovative management practices. They salaried the other physicians and fostered a collaborative environment. Because the doctors were not paid based on services performed and were salaried, it wasn’t uncommon for a doctor to consult or transfer a patient to a more experienced doctor. This approach facilitated the exchange of insights among the doctors and contributed to the establishment of “Patient-Centric Care.”

As cancer treatments advanced, the sons installed pathology departments adjacent to the operating rooms, enabling physicians to make expedient treatment decisions and minimize the need for future surgeries. Today, many other hospitals send tissue samples out to laboratories, many times causing the patient to have to go through another surgical procedure. St. Mary’s method allowed the surgeon and the pathologist to discuss the results as the surgery was occurring.

What began as a vision of a group of nuns in 1883 evolved into the world’s most prestigious hospital. Even after the physician and his sons passed away, the hospital maintained its standing as the world’s best hospital, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report. The Hospital continues to look for new practices and its doctors, from some of the best universities in the world, are still on a salary.

Today, the hospital is known as the Mayo Clinic, named after the local doctor, W.W. Mayo, and his two sons, William and Charles. Although the Mayo’s were widely celebrated, it was Mother Moes and the nuns’ faith-filled prayers that catalyzed the creation of this extraordinary institution.

What appeared impossible to many was realized by the nuns through prayer, faith, and a steadfast commitment to fulfilling God’s work.

Photo By Carl A. Holland (U.S. copyright 1910) – eBay item 351186373495, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44973514

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, for the one who doubts, is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

– James 1:6


This summer, Connie and I set our sights on a grand adventure, hiking a significant stretch of the Appalachian Trail in the unique landscapes of New England, where ‘alpine’ signifies not just a change in elevation but a transformation of the soul. Here, trees yield to rocks and delicate flora, and most strikingly, to breathtaking, unobstructed views.

For some, these heights are exhilarating. For me, they’ve long been a source of paralyzing fear. The cliffs of New England, grand as they are, seemed to me like towering walls of dread.

Connie, ever the problem solver, suggested an unconventional aide: non-intoxicating CBD from cannabis. Skeptical, I decided to try prayer instead. The last scenario I wanted was to find myself petrified on a precarious ledge. Yet to fully experience New England’s trails, I needed to learn to face these fears.

Our proving ground: Mount Moosilauke in New Hampshire, a nearly 5,000-foot giant. Its summit, a stark and beautiful expanse of rock and resilient alpine plants promised the most stunning views in New England. As I lay restless the night before our climb, anxiety played a relentless loop in my mind.

Dawn brought both promise and trepidation. My research had prepared me for the four major cliffside exposures on the ascent, but knowing is quite different from seeing, and seeing is a universe away from the crossing.

The trail’s steep New England gradient was relentless, demanding a steadfast, rhythmic advance. In this repetitive motion, I found a meditative space to recall a verse from James: “…you must believe and not doubt…” Could faith be the key to calming my storm of anxiety?

I decided to trust—to pray with a conviction as solid as the mountain itself. It worked. My anxiety subsided, replaced by a tranquil certainty. And when doubt crept back in at the first daunting overlook, prayer was my steadying hand once more.

Each subsequent lookout became both a challenge and a testimony to the power of faith-fueled prayer. Anxiety would rise, prayer would counter, and peace would follow. Not a serene comfort, but a tranquil assurance that enabled me to continue onward.

Finally, breaking through the last of the low, wind-shaped trees, the grandeur of Mount Moosilauke’s summit lay before me—a panorama that felt like standing on top of the world. At nearly 5,000 feet, amidst the expansive White Mountains, my anxiety had transformed into awe.

I no longer needed to pray for the courage to continue; the final path to the summit, where fellow hikers rested and refueled, now called to me invitingly. As I stood, triumphant and grateful, next to the sign marking the peak of Mount Moosilauke, I marveled at the journey.

Days earlier, such a feat seemed beyond my reach. But here I was, a testament to the power of prayer—not as a hopeful wish, but as a profound, unwavering belief that carried me to the top of this mountain.

In that sacred moment, high above the tree line, I made a simple sign of the cross and offered my heartfelt thanks to the Lord.




In the vast landscape of religious and spiritual texts, certain passages stand out as beacons of wisdom that have captivated hearts and minds for centuries. One such passage is found in the New Testament of the Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verse 1. This verse marks the beginning of what is arguably one of the most renowned sermons ever delivered – The Sermon on the Mount. Let us delve into Matthew 5:1 and uncover the profound insights this powerful passage holds.

The Context of Matthew 5:1

Matthew 5:1 sets the stage for a transformative moment in the life of Jesus Christ, where He climbs a mountainside, followed by His disciples. In this setting, Jesus begins His Sermon on the Mount, which spans three chapters in the Gospel of Matthew, revealing the essence of His teachings and the foundational principles of Christianity.

The Blessings: The Beatitudes

Matthew 5:1-12 contains what is known as “The Beatitudes” – a series of blessings proclaimed by Jesus upon those who embody specific virtues and qualities. Each beatitude begins with the words “Blessed are…” and highlights the heavenly reward bestowed upon those who exhibit these qualities.

  1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
  2. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
  3. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
  4. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
  5. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
  6. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
  7. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
  8. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Each beatitude offers profound insights into the qualities that foster spiritual growth and a deeper connection with God. They encourage humility, compassion, integrity, and a longing for righteousness as pathways to finding spiritual peace and a path to Christian holiness.

The Salt and Light Metaphors

In the subsequent verses (Matthew [5:13]-16), Jesus uses two powerful metaphors – salt and light – to illustrate the impact that His followers should have on the world.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

This metaphor emphasizes the importance of being a positive influence in society, preserving goodness, and preventing moral decay. As salt adds flavor to food, followers of Christ are called to bring meaning, purpose, and grace into the lives of others.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

Here, Jesus urges His disciples to let their light shine before others, meaning they should live their lives in a way that reflects God’s love and truth, impacting others positively and leading them toward the path of righteousness.


Matthew 5:1 marks the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, a pinnacle of Jesus’ teachings, and a roadmap for living a life of virtue, compassion, and spiritual fulfillment. The Beatitudes and the salt and light metaphors have continued to inspire countless individuals across centuries, transcending religious boundaries and serving as a universal call for ethical living and benevolent action.

In today’s fast-paced and often tumultuous world, the message conveyed in Matthew 5:1 remains as relevant as ever, encouraging us to seek the higher virtues of love, mercy, and righteousness, and to be beacons of light and agents of positive change in the lives of those around us. It serves as a reminder that, in our pursuit of spiritual growth, it is not just the destination that matters but also the transformative journey itself. Let us heed these timeless teachings and strive to embody the qualities that lead to a blessed and fulfilling life.