ASCENSION BLESSINGS

Luke 24: 50-51
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.

I wonder often about those days. The disciples had lived through the horror of Christ’s Passion and death. They had hidden in the Upper Room out of fear for their own lives. They had experienced the overwhelming joy and confusion that went with the resurrection. Now they found themselves being visited on occasion, and without announcement, by the Risen Lord. How could this life have even been remotely normal? Did they have any idea that their Lord was about to leave them, at least physically, once and for all?

As they stood in Bethany, their hearts and minds were opened by Jesus. They finally understood…to an extent! Still, they followed and watched in amazement at the glory of Christ’s ascension! This moment was about celebrating Jesus’ triumph one last time together! But actually, it wasn’t about that at all. Rather, it was about a blessing – our blessing. Jesus, as he had so many times before, took his shining moment and instead turned the attention and love on others. He blessed them, even as he was ascending. His final physical act in their presence was to bestow grace and peace to them, even here and even now! These actions speak volumes to Christ’s mission. It was always about us. In grieving, he healed. In suffering, he served. In death, he prayed for us. In the glory of Ascension, he blessed us for all time. I know I wasn’t standing there that day, but I may as well have been, for this particular blessing transcends all times, places and generations. As Jesus ascended back to the throne, the only thought on his mind was to bless his people. This is such a beautiful image, and a powerful reminder, of a love that is far beyond our understanding and yet is a love that we bask within every single day. We Are Blessed! Thanks be to God! Amen!
-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska

LOVE SHINING THROUGH DARKNESS

John 14: 16, 18
16 [Jesus said] “I will ask the Father, and He will send you another Advocate, who will remain with you forever. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

The Grace in these words perplexes me. Here you were, Lord, gathered with your disciples one last time, explaining to them that on this Passover, you had now become the lamb. Here you were, fully aware of the pain and agony to come in the hours ahead. Your betrayal was already in motion, as Judas had just minutes earlier run from the room. This was not simply a farewell speech, but instead more akin to last moment instructions. Those around the table sat in stunned silence and disbelief, while you gently spoke of this night and tomorrow. I cannot envision the stress and anxiety you must have felt. Yet, your words were filled with reassurance and compassion. You, who is Love Incarnate, displaying that Love in the worst of all hours.

You promise to provide an Advocate ever by our side. You promise to never leave us alone at the relentless hands of this world. You promise us the Holy Spirit. The kingdom in which we live can be cruel and unforgiving. The disciples were ill-prepared for the horror they were about to experience. They would retreat back to this very room to hide. We, too, in this day and age, often are blind-sided by what lurks just around the corner. We retreat as well, to a safe place where we can be alone or escape. We pray in agony and shiver in fear. We cry out in pain and scream in frustration. We occasionally even ask where you are in all “this.” But the promise rings ever true. You have not abandoned us. Your Spirit dwells amongst and within us. It is your Love which has been planted as a seed in our hearts. It is these very words you spoke into an Upper Room that still echo through our lives today. We have an Advocate! We are never alone! Even in our darkest hours, your Love shines through as a sliver of Hope and Promise. And once again, the storms calm ever so slightly. Come, Holy Spirit, Come. Amen!
-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska

A SPECIAL PLACE

John 14:2

2 [Jesus said] “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you…”

 This may be the most beautiful of all scriptural promises! Jesus, the One who knows me ever so intimately, goes to prepare a place for me personally in God’s Kingdom. Jesus, the One who has the audacity to lower himself and serve me, is willing and wanting to prepare a place for me in his presence. Jesus, the One who would sacrifice all to take my punishment, still welcomes me in a dwelling place by his side. Where else might I wish to be! I am invited to sit at the table with the One who is God’s Heart Incarnate!

I wonder, my Lord, how exactly I am to put forth as much effort in preparation of your arrival as you do in mine. I have only a place in my soul to offer in return. It seems like so little to offer. My soul in comparison to Your kingdom. Yet, you ask for nothing more. And even then, you prepare a grand place for me, regardless of the small place I offer you. I want to feel embarrassed, or at least sense my lack of worthiness. But your heart desires no conditions. Grace is free. The invitation is born purely of love and divine desire, far beyond my feeble human comprehension. Thus, I simply accept with the fulness of all joy, this remarkable invitation to dwell in a special place by your side, designed specifically for me and made of holy want and love. You would have it no other way. AMEN!

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska

TROUBLED HEARTS

John 14:1

1[Jesus said] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me…” 

Do not let your heart be troubled. Oh, how I wish that it were this simple. The reality is that my heart is often very troubled! The storms of life swirl about, creating a sense of chaos in the world that stirs anxiety within me. I have friends and colleagues battling cancer in need of prayer. I have friends and family who serve as nurses in the Intensive Care Unit, who tell stories of holding the hands of lonely and scared patients in their final hours. I turn on the television and see soundbites and videos which make it clear just how divided our human family truly is. This world is, quite frankly, a troubling place. My heart is anything but at ease.

Do not let your heart be troubled. Perhaps, my Lord, it is the trust of which you speak that I struggle with. You ask that I trust in you, and the truth is, that I do trust you, implicitly. But even in that trust, the winds still gather and the clouds still billow upward as the next storm forms. Why, my Lord, must it be so? You can simply utter a single word, “PEACE,” and the waves of anxiety will cease. Yet, I am like Peter. One step outside my boat and my heart once more begins to pound, as I raise my hands and scream for your safety. I wonder, in these moments, if my beating heart itself is not akin to the pounding waves. It isn’t that the storm won’t come again and again, but rather that you can utter one reassuring word of grace and once more my heart falls into rhythm with yours. Maybe it isn’t the storm that matters at all, but instead the calm that follows. It could be simply your voice that I await to hear, as you reach out once more to grab ahold of my sinking hand. If I listen intently enough, I can almost hear you saying, “Do not let your heart be troubled, my child. For I am right here with you. Trust.” And now I come to realize that it is not the storms which hold the true power, for they can and will rage all they want. But in the end, it is in your presence amidst the storm, that the truth of peace may be found. The thunder rolls. The rain pours down. Your hand reaches out for mine. Do not let your heart be troubled…Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska

THE GOOD SHEPHERD

John 10:14

14 [Jesus said] “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…”

 The Lord is my shepherd. He knows me. Those words are both a measure of reassurance, and a cause for fear. They tell me that I am watched, observed, protected and guided. They also tell me that I cannot hide. For my shepherd is ever aware of where I am and what may be lurking around the corner. His voice often calls my name and beckons me to follow in blind trust and faith, with no questions asked. And then, I choose whether or not to obey.

Sheep are well known for their need to be rounded up and gathered. I, too, am well known for those very same faults. Perhaps the grace in these words has more to do with Jesus’ faith in me, than my own faith in him. He will not walk away. He will not become distracted. He will not stop calling my name. He will not relinquish his role as my shepherd. So maybe it is alright for me to wander through this world, occasionally lacking focus. After all, it is understood, and even expected, that the shepherd will never rest, and never turn away. His love is far too deep to allow it. Thus, I walk through the valley of the shadows of death with no fear, fully aware of the promise that I shall never be in want. The Good Shepherd will care for me, and even call me personally by name. What more could I need… Thanks be to God! Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska

THE VOICE

John 10: 4

4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

There are certain voices that can just make your heart jump. They are the voices of those we are most familiar with, and love the most deeply. They require no introduction, but instead elicit immediate calm and assurance. Upon their very first word, a smile breaks out across our face that stretches downward into our soul. These are the voices of those who know all there is to know about us, and love us just the same. These are the voices of those who have stood witness to our every accomplishment and our every failure. These are the voices that could recount our darkest fears. They are the voices we trust implicitly, and when we hear them call our name, we find instantaneous peace. They are family. They are friends. They are our heart’s delight.

There is a certain voice calling each of us by name at every daybreak. A voice that sees us both as a child in need of protection, and as a master to be served. A voice that calms our storms with a single word. A voice that offers us a feast and tells us to do it again and again in remembrance. A voice that calls us to follow, and calls us to arise. It is a familiar voice, because it is the voice that first called us into life. It is a voice of grace and hope. It is a voice of that certain perfect love known as agape love. It is a voice that invites us to a river, to a table, to a cross, to a grave, and to new life yet again – every single day! It is a voice we have come to trust even in our isolation, and a voice that can be heard piercing through all times and all places. A voice that simply says, “Come and follow me. Come and have your feet washed. Come and receive the fulfillment of peace.”  In turn, we respond boldly, “The Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not be in want… Amen.”

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska

SO MANY DOUBTS

John 20: 24-25

24Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So, the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” 

O my dear brother Thomas… I would like to believe that I would do so much better than you! I would like to assume that I would be excited at this news, and not naturally skeptical. But, alas, I suspect I am much more like you than I care to admit. After all, I have often questioned that which I had not seen for myself. I have often wondered out loud in acts of self-defiance. I have even chosen to challenge that which I cannot possibly have any knowledge about. My mind and experience cry out, “I am too intelligent for this!” Or maybe, I just have too many fears. In any case, I must solemnly admit that I am very much you in this day and age.

We live in a world where everything is questioned, and where few can be trusted. It was true for you on that fateful night, having spent your weekend hiding after watching Jesus’ gruesome crucifixion. It is true of me today, having access to far too many opinions that are presented as expert. Where has our faith gone? It saddens me to think that my doubts carry a louder voice at times than my faith. Even worse, the chorus of doubt grows with the importance of the moment. I want to look at you and ask how, after all you had seen, you could doubt on this night of all nights! Then again, I could look in the mirror at myself and ask a similar question of various times in my life. Did you really believe that your fellow disciples would lie to you? Do I really believe that all my worst fears are destined to come true? Ultimately, Thomas, you were blessed in your own visit with Christ. It would be easy for me to be jealous, until I stop and take heed of all the visits I have had, if I but opened my eyes and heart. In the end, it is an unfortunate truth that our doubts will remain as a part of our being. It is a well-ingrained trait of humanity. But we are also Children of the Resurrection and recipients of the Holy Spirit! Thus, slowly, over time, the crescendo of our faith learns to beat louder and louder on every new day. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska

RECEIVE THE SPIRIT

John 20: 19,22

19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

Receive the Holy Spirit! I have often wondered what their responses were that night as you, O Lord, appeared in that Upper Room. It was their first glimpse of you after the resurrection, and they had spent the day contemplating, maybe even debating, the account of the women from the tomb. Now, here you were right before their very eyes. I can imagine the shock, the silence, and maybe even the tears of incredulous joy. Then, there is this one moment. You breathe upon them. You tell them to receive the Holy Spirit. They had no idea what you meant. Perhaps I still do not even today.

This wasn’t just any spirit, but rather YOUR spirit, that you breathed upon them. It came from deep within your resurrected soul. It is the same Holy Spirit that I receive today. It would be far too easy to look at you with my childlike innocence once again and simply utter, “What is it?” After all, that is really the question I wish to ask. I suspect, the disciples also wondered what type of greeting this was! But it is not for me to comprehend, but rather to just receive. And so, you appear as your resurrected self and bestow your Spirit upon me. I am somehow New Life now as well. Somewhere deep within my heart lies the seeds of your peace and hope now. I am an agent of grace in this world now. I am a member of your body in this day and age now. Honestly, my Lord, I know all of this, and yet know not what any of it means. Nonetheless, I will stand here obediently and receive that which you offer, aware that I can never return to what I was yesterday again. Then again, I probably wouldn’t want to. For yesterday held me fast in doubt and fear. Today is a new dawn. It is the day that you have made. I will rejoice and be glad in that which I have yet to know, and don’t need to. Sure, I may be hidden and afraid, but I am also a child of the resurrection! That is all the reassurance I need. Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska

EYES WIDE OPEN

Luke 24: 13a,30-31

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus…When [Jesus] was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 

I sometimes feel terrible for these two men, my Lord. Here they were, walking with you on the Road to Emmaus, only hours after your resurrection on that first day of the week, and they had no idea! They had followed you in life, and now could not recognize you in New Life. They were even frustrated by your conversation and inquiries! I want to ask why. I want to believe I would do better. But, in all honesty, I must admit I have likely walked with you often and not known either. And I know you have frustrated me. This profoundly saddens my heart.

I smile, though, as I read that they finally knew you in the breaking of the bread. I assume there was something in your cadence and rhythm as you gave thanks and spoke. Perhaps there was a compassion and love in your eyes that is so intense as only to have come from you. Maybe it is as simple as you just decided to open their eyes! I am curious, but none of that truly matters. My larger concern is whether my eyes are opened today. Do I see you in the communion I experience in the breaking of bread with others? Do I hear you in the recitation of the scriptures? Do I know you in the love that is shared between friend and stranger alike? It would appear that there is something in the table, in the breaking of bread, and in the presence of the ‘other’ that should open my eyes to the meaning of Resurrected Life. Or maybe I am simply resurrected myself to New Life in these moments! This possibility makes my soul sing! Perhaps, the two men had their eyes opened because they became that which is new, in experiencing you. The thought intrigues and excites my heart. Could it really be that I am resurrected again and again in simple every day encounters! I am new, today! I am transfigured, today! I want to shout from the mountaintops! This is not some future event for which I hold out faith. Resurrection is an everyday occurrence and a way of life in God’s world! This is the hope upon which my soul will cling this day. This is the hope which may even open my eyes to you, if I but allow it to. Thanks be to God! Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska

WHERE IS MY LORD?

Luke 24: 2,4b,5b,6a

[The women] found the stone rolled away from the tomb…suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. [The two men said] “Why do you look for the living amongst the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” 

It was the admirable thing to do. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary (the mother of James) set out early on that morning after the Sabbath with spices to adorn the body of Jesus in the tomb. They had no idea who would remove the stone for them, but that did not matter. These women were determined to tend to their dead. Their Lord, the very one who had taught them to love this world and the life within it, was now in need of that same love and tender care. After all, his body was decomposing, and anointing him with spices would at least partially remove the stench that is death. The women were honoring Jesus’ dead body. This was an act of service. This was an act of faith. This was as much a spiritual exercise as it was a practical one. Even with all the grotesque ugliness the world had thrown at him, their devotion to the Lord was still unwavering.

So, in their state of grief, and as they prepared to carry out such a somber duty, how exactly could anyone have expected them to respond to the preposterous question of the angels, “Why do you look for the living amongst the dead?” I imagine their hearts raced as their breath stopped cold. What we celebrate today with unbridled joy, must have been a source of terror for the women in that very moment! They could not have immediately understood. Perhaps we still don’t today. But the Creation does. Beneath winter’s blankets of snow lie seeds of new life. As the earth warms, flowers peek out of their shallow graves and glow with glory for all the world to see. Buds on tree limbs literally break open, exposing life where our eyes could only see death before. Creatures awake from a seemingly endless slumber and emerge as if nothing has happened. The truth is that God’s Creation is made for resurrection life! The universe proves it to us repeatedly. Death need not be the end of a straight timeline, but rather just one point along an endless cycle. Tombs were the invention of the human mind, and therefore, in God’s Heart, something that is meant to be pried open. God is, after all, the Master Creator, and thus inherently the Master Giver of Life. All of which begs the question, “Where do I look for the Lord this day?” Maybe in all the wrong places… Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska