Jesus Spoilers

I know a lot of clergy celebrate the Sunday after Easter as Holy Humor Sunday, but, if I’m being honest, I’m really just not that funny.  So rather than force something that just won’t work for me, this past Sunday we stuck to the things that I am good at in worship -integrating special music into the service, bringing the community together to bless a new batch of prayer shawls and gathering around the living waters of baptism as we baptized our very own Baby Jesus (or at least, he played him in the Christmas pageant last year!).  It was a wonderful Sunday and I was thrilled to see so many people come out, considering it was the end of school vacation and there is often a low after Easter Sunday, anyway.

Enjoy today’s sermon!  Felt a little strange to be out of our sermon series, but it’s always nice to just read the scripture at the beginning of the week and then see where my mind takes me.


Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 23, 2017

John 20:19-31

Jesus Spoilers

Some of you may have heard me talk before about my embarrassing affection for bad reality television. This is not something I am necessarily proud of, but it often does not matter how much of a train wreck it is to watch or how horrified I am by humankind (and, quite frankly, myself) while watching, sometimes I cannot help but get sucked in.

In more recent years, I have made a discovery that brought my intrigue of reality television to a whole a new level: Spoilers.

For those of you who, like me, did not know this was a “thing,” allow me to explain: There are people who have quite literally found a way to make a fairly lucrative living off of either spoiling the endings of the competition-type reality shows (such as The Bachelor or Survivor) or uncovering out the inconsistencies in the editing of the docu-series-type reality shows (such as Keeping Up With The Kardashians or any other show where the premise is following someone’s “real life”). All of this spoiling is kind of like seeing the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz; it spoils the illusion of what television producers are trying to create on camera by exposing what is actually happening behind the scenes.

A month or two ago, I was sitting on my couch watching the season finale of The Bachelor when Bruce came downstairs, watched for a minute or two and then asked me a question about the show. I answered, but then said, “But it’s not like it really matters, because I read the spoilers and he picks the other girl.”

To which Bruce replied, “So what is the point of watching, then?”

He had a point.

That being said, sometimes I find what is happening behind the scenes far more entertaining than what I am seeing on camera. I am the type of person that likes to know how things work; I want to know the story behind the story. I crave details about things that ordinary people never get to see or hear or experience for themselves.

And this craving follows me in my faith. When I read the bible, I always wonder about pieces of the story that never made it to scripture. I wonder things like, “Was Jesus a colicky baby?” or, “Did King David actually remember the names of all of his wives?” I am curious about details that really might not make a difference in the grand scheme of things, but that do – in some way – also contribute to the larger narrative of this story of our faith that is still being written.

Which is why something in this morning’s scripture piqued my interest this week.

This morning we heard the story of Doubting Thomas. This story shows up in the lectionary every year the week following Easter. Jesus appears to the disciples, shows them the marks on his hands and sides and they rejoice and believe he has been raised. But Thomas was not with the disciples at the time and when they shared with him what had happened, he said, “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.”[1]

First of all, I have to say that I do kind of feel badly for Thomas. The guy merely asked to see something all of his friends got to see without him and, because of that, he has this unfortunate reputation as being a “doubter”. But I also think it is good for us, after we come down off of the high of Easter – with all the excitement of the brass, lilies and confetti – to take a moment and ask ourselves, “Wait a moment, what just happened?” and create space for our own doubts in our lives and in our faith.

Because we all have doubts. And those doubts are healthy and normal and create great depth to our faith.

But this week I was struck by something different in this story; something that I have overlooked every other time I have preached on Doubting Thomas. Verse 30 – the verse that immediately follows Thomas’ conversation with Jesus after Jesus appears to Thomas and shows him the marks on his hands and sides – says:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.[2]

Which begs the question, what was not written in the book? Clearly something happened that never actually made it to scripture. What was it?

I did a little bit of research to see if perhaps anyone knew anything about these “other signs” that were not written down. And while I came up short on that question, I did learn that this verse and also verse 31 were thought to have been the original ending of the Gospel of John. In the translations we have today, there is another chapter where Jesus, again, appears to the disciples, but most scholars believe – based on the differences in language and style – this was how the original Gospel ended, by essentially saying, “There is more to the story than is written down, but we are ending it right here.”

And this has been driving me crazy all week. What were the other signs? Why were they unwritten? Were they more believable? Less believable? Did the people who were supposed to write them down forget to hand them in on time?

What else happened after the resurrection that we do not know about? What are the untold stories? What piece of the narrative are we missing?

No wonder Thomas had doubts; maybe they did not tell him the whole story, either!

Like I said, this has he been driving me crazy all week. I want to know the untold stories of Jesus, of the resurrection and of our faith. I want to know what happened, but was never written about.

But since there are not a whole lot of bloggers out there posting “Jesus spoilers,” I have kind of been left to the devices of my own imagination on this one.

Which, I was surprised to discover, got me a lot further than I thought it would.

I met with my clergy group this week and we all checked in on how everyone’s Easters went at their churches. At one point someone said, “Can I tell a story?” and proceeded to share this really powerful story about where she had seen resurrection come alive during a funeral she presided over during Holy Week.

While she was talking, it got me thinking about a moment where I had experienced resurrection in worship on Easter Sunday and so I shared that story. When I finished, another one of my colleagues shared her own resurrection story from their Easter Sunrise Service.

As I was driving home that afternoon, I started thinking about these powerful resurrection stories that we had not only experienced, but also shared with one another. And it was in that moment that I realized that it is not only in experiencing these moments that resurrection becomes real, but also sharing them with others. I began to wonder if perhaps Jesus’ signs are not all written in the Gospel of John because they are still very much happening today, in our lifetime, in the piece of this story we are writing.

Friends, resurrection is happening all around us, but the only way people will know this to be true is if we tell them our stories. We have to tell people about those moments in our lives when we thought all was lost and yet grace was found. We have to share the stories from our lives where the darkness was overwhelming and yet light still found a way to shine. We have to boldly proclaim the times of hope and promise in the midst of suffering and grief.

We are the keepers of the untold stories of our faith and we have to tell these stories. We have to pull back the curtain; we have to show people what is happening behind the scenes. The Christian faith should not be some elusive club that outsiders have no window into; it should be a beautiful opportunity for all people to experience resurrection in real and powerful ways.

The thing is: There are a lot of Doubting Thomases in this world. And they need a safe space; they need a safe space not only to experience that doubt, but also hear real stories from our faith. They need to know about this God whom we worship and trust and believe in. They need to be inspired to think about the ways resurrection could potentially happen in their lives as we share the ways resurrection happens in our lives. They need to learn about this Good News we have grounded our lives in so they can see how it might transform their lives.

We have to tell the untold stories of our faith. We have to continue to share this Christian story; a story I believe is still very much worth sharing.

This morning, I encourage you all to think about what it means to tell the untold stories of our faith; to share real pieces of your real lives where you experienced everything from doubt to belief in resurrection and to know that those stories can and will make a difference in someone’s life.

So let us write our own Jesus spoilers. And may we be inspired as we experience resurrection, believe in resurrection and share resurrection this Easter season.

Thanks be to God!

[1] John 20:25, NRSV
[2] John 20:30, NRSV

The Son Will Rise

Hello and Happy Easter!

I usually post my sermons on Sunday evening, but I figured everyone would be celebrating the Easter holiday and not waiting with baited breath for my sermon to post.

A few weeks ago, Jon and I went to see The Lion King when it came to PPAC and as I was watching, I had an idea for this year’s Easter Sermon.  After watching April the Giraffe give birth on Saturday morning (yes, I was totally sucked in!), I thought about going in a different direction, but really wanted to stick with this message.  So stay tuned for an April sermon illustration! :)

I preached out of Matthew this year.  I tend to bounce back and forth between John and wherever we are in the lectionary cycle, but have preached on John for the past few years and really was looking for something different so I turned to Matthew this year.

I hope you all had a blessed Easter celebration!


Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 16, 2017

Matthew 28:1-10

The Son Will Rise

Did anyone happen to catch The Lion King when it was at PPAC a few weeks ago? It is one of my favorite productions to see live (the opening sequence gets me every time) and I was thrilled when a friend of mine texted me and asked if I wanted his extra ticket. I am not sure who was more excited, the six-year-old girl that was sitting behind us or me.

Bruce will tell you that I have a hard time getting through any musical without having some sort of deep theological reflection on it. But, The Lion King, especially, always gets me thinking; about life and death, relationships and community, pain and anguish and hope and trust in the promise of resurrection.

Now that last one might be putting a lot on Disney, Elton John and Tim Rice, but hear me out: During the song Endless Night, Simba, still deeply mourning the loss of his father, feeling heavily the guilt of his death and wondering how he could ever go back to his homeland, sings to his father, who is no longer with him on earth. He cries out that he is alone and cannot find his way out of the darkness.

And then the chorus starts:

I know that the night must end and that the sun will rise.
And that the sun will rise.
I know that the clouds must clear and that the sun will shine.
And that the sun will shine.[1]

This got me thinking about Easter; about the cries of those who loved Jesus who watched him die on the cross, who visited the tomb and who then held onto hope until resurrection came on that first Easter morning.

I say this every year, but I will say it again: As people of faith, we cannot fully understand the power of resurrection without first experiencing the pain of the crucifixion. This is why we put in the time during Lent, doing the hard work to see who we are, who we want to be and who God is calling us to be. This is why we come to worship during Holy Week, why we listen as the story of Jesus’ death is told and why we, like Jesus’ first followers, hold onto hope until resurrection comes on Easter morning.

Because as people of the resurrection, we do not want to ignore the crucifixion. We do not want to turn away from the hard parts of our faith; we want to face them head on, knowing that resurrection is coming, knowing that on Easter morning, the Son – and the sun – will rise.

This morning we heard the story of the resurrection as told in the Gospel of Matthew. In this telling of the Easter story, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to the tomb and an angel of the Lord appears and rolls away the stone to reveal an empty tomb. The women are afraid, but the angel says to them:

Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.[2]

Just as he said, the Son did, in fact, rise.

This morning we not only rejoice in Christ’s victory over the grave, but we also remember that this was a promise Jesus made in his lifetime. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus foretold his death and resurrection three times; three times Jesus made the promise that the Son would rise.

And this promise was fulfilled.

And, as people of the resurrection, we know this was not a once and done thing. This is a promise that God still makes to us today: In the midst of our own pain, suffering and darkness, the Son will rise.

The truth is, the world can be a really scary place to live in sometimes. But on this Easter morning, I am here to remind you that in the midst of the scariness, therein lies a promise: A promise of hope, a promise of love and a promise of resurrection.

And do you know what? A lot of times people do not want to hear about or talk about the scary stuff in life because it might bring them down or challenge them in a way they do not like. But I think the Easter story gives us permission to talk about our own struggles. Because facing them head on does not mean that we are succumbing to them. It just means that we are as confident in God’s ability to create resurrection today as God did 2,000 years ago when two women found that tomb empty. We believe, even when we are standing in the midst of our own darkness, that the Son will rise.

So may we, like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, bear witness to this promise. May we see the presence of angels in our lives and know that the promise of resurrection has been fulfilled. And then may we leave quickly and with great joy and run to tell the world that death has not won, that resurrection is real that the Son will rise.

Love wins! Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed!

Thanks be to God!

[1] Endless Night, from Disney’s, The Lion King, music & lyrics by Elton John & Tim Rice
[2] Matthew 28:6, NRSV

Celebrate & Wait

Happy Palm Sunday!

It is week six of our Lenten sermon series, Boot Camp for the Soul and the theme for this morning is Celebrate & Wait.  I had a great time preaching through this series and I look forward to taking a look at some of the other series in the future.

I have always struggled with the paradox of preaching Palm Sunday when I know Maundy Thursday & Good Friday are coming.  In light of everything that happened in Syria last week, I think I lived out that paradox as I was preparing my sermon this week.  It’s always so hard to find a balance.

We really had a really wonderful worship this morning at RCC this morning, which was exactly what I needed after a challenging sermon writing week and just the icing on the cake of a great weekend that started with our Easter Egg Hunt yesterday.



Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 9, 2017

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Matthew 21:1-11

Celebrate & Wait

We have come to the end of our six-week sermon series, Boot Camp for the Soul.

When my brother-in-law finished boot camp in 2009, the Weavers all eagerly descended upon Cape May for the graduation festivities. I have to admit, the pomp and circumstance of it all was kind of exciting. There was a buzz in the air when we arrived and the anticipation only grew as we sat through the family orientation and then were shuffled into the big gymnasium for the ceremony.

When the music started and the non-rates all marched in, cheers erupted as family members frantically scanned the group to find their people (which, as you might know, is more difficult than one might think since they all kind of look the same at that point). Eventually I started to hear shouts of, “There he is!” and, “Do you see her over there?” Tears filled the eyes of proud mothers, fathers, spouses and siblings as they saw their loved ones for the first time in weeks.

The ceremony, itself, was impressive. There was music, marching and speeches that inspired not only the graduates, but also those who had come to support them.

I regret to inform you all that I have no such pomp and circumstance for us this morning as we gather and complete our own spiritual boot camp. Though it is Palm Sunday, which does have a celebratory nature to it. It is on this Sunday ever year when we enthusiastically sing hymns that make us feel as though we are marching, wave our palms and shout, “Hosanna!”

(It is also on this Sunday afternoon every year when I usually say to Bruce, “Next year I am getting a donkey!”)

Though, I have to be honest, as much as I love the, dare I say, pomp and circumstance of Palm Sunday, I have always struggled with the paradox of a story that I know does not end with Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. I know that the shouts of, “Hosanna!” we hear today will be a distant memory on Thursday night as we remember those cries, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” It is hard for me to full enter this celebration when I feel as though part of me is just waiting for what is going to happen in Calvary.

As I began to think about my sermon for this week, part of me wished this Boot Camp for the Soul sermon series was set up to go through Easter Sunday. I just kept thinking, “But we are not done yet!” After all, we have one more hurdle to get through, do we not? We have to get past the Passion Narrative this week; we have to see Jesus’ journey to the cross through before we are truly ready to see how this boot camp has transformed us.

As it turns out, the creators of this sermon series actually did this intentionally.

In the flurry of celebration, Jesus’ followers may forget that the journey is not really over, that darker days remain before Jesus’ final victory. Their biggest challenge still lies ahead. Boot camp, after all, is not an end unto itself. It is preparation for the challenges still to come.[1]

I actually really appreciate the way this prompt for the end of our spiritual boot camp honors the complexity of Palm Sunday and Holy Week. Because, quite frankly, it mirrors the complexity of what is going on in our lives and in the world right now.

It was hard not to be moved by the images and videos that came out of Syria this week. I do not know about the rest of you, but I had a really difficult time watching news footage following the chemical attacks. I actually closed out of my web browser at one point; I turned away and thought to myself, “I just can’t watch this right now.”

And the truth is, I don’t have to. I can turn it off; no one is making me watch the news or be informed about what is doing on in the world. If I wanted to, I could live my life in a sheltered bubble.

And boy, don’t I want to sometimes.

But this week I eventually asked myself, what kind of Christian would I be if I spent the last few days of Lent remembering and reflecting on Jesus’ violent and brutal death on the cross, but then ignored the realities of the violent and brutal things that are happening in our world right now? These are the hard parts of our faith that we have to face; that I believe we are being called to face.

Which brings me back to Palm Sunday; because, as much as I would like to, I do not think we can fully compartmentalize what is happening today with what is going to happen later this week. But I do think that in the midst of the paradox, we still have to celebrate this moment.

When my brother-in-law graduated from boot camp, the hard work was not over. In fact, eight year later, I think he would tell you the hard work was really only beginning. But that did not mean we should not have celebrated that moment.

And that is what we are doing here this morning.

The truth is, Palm Sunday is not just about celebrating part of Jesus’ story, it is about celebrating the hope that he carried with him in that moment. Many scholars have compared his triumphal entry into Jerusalem to imperial Roman processions, which really sheds light on his popularity at the time.[2] At that point, people had followed Jesus for three years. They had witnessed his miracles, experienced the healing of his touch and listened to the Good News he so boldly proclaimed.[3] I can only imagine the excitement, buzz and anticipation that must have been in the air that day (probably a little bit more than we experienced at Boot Camp graduation in Cape May!). This was a moment of hope for the people who followed Jesus.

In the world we live in today, it is just as important to celebrate these moments of hope. Far too often, we are struck by images of pain, suffering and violence and they can be so overwhelming at times. But as Christians, we are people of the resurrection; we believe in the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we believe in the Good News that Jesus preached throughout his lifetime and that has sustained our faith for 2,000 years.

Today we celebrate the moments of hope in our lives, both big and small. We celebrate the sun that is shining after a long week of rain, the joy and laughter of our children at yesterday’s Easter Egg Hunt, the beautiful music that fills our sanctuary today and the gift that is the fellowship of this community. We celebrate a faith that reminds us, over and over again, that love will win, that light will shine and that grace will prevail; a faith that was stronger than Jesus’ death on the cross and that will continue to be stronger than whatever we will face in our lives today.

But as we celebrate, we do not close ourselves off to the hard truths of this world; we wait for what we know is coming. We celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem knowing what is to come later this week. We celebrate the moments of hope in our lives knowing that people are experiencing real pain, suffering and sadness, both in our community and around the world. We celebrate the radical and redeeming message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ knowing there is still so much work that needs to be done.

And as people faith, we remember that we are being called to do this work.

Boot camp is over; but the real work is only beginning.

The good news is that the hard work we have all done during this six-week spiritual boot camp – thinking about the need for change, resetting, hydrating, redefining and facing those dead ends – has prepared us for the journey that lies ahead. We are ready for the challenges of Holy Week. We are ready for the hardships we will face in our lives. We are ready to watch the news and engage in some of the hard things that are happening today. We are ready to share our moments of hope and the good news of the resurrection with a world that so desperately needs hear it.

(And this is a total shameless plug, but if you are able, I would strongly encourage you to come and worship with us on Thursday evening at 7PM. It is a very powerful service; we will hear the narrative of the foot washing, share in the sacrament of Holy Communion and then the Passion Narrative will be read. A labyrinth will be open in Fellowship Hall for an hour before and after the service, as well as from 8AM to 8PM on Good Friday.)

This morning, we hear the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as told in the Gospel of Matthew. As I was reading it this week, I was particularly struck by Jesus’ instructions to his disciples when he said, “If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.”[4]

So what does God need from us today? What does God need from us as individuals and us as a community of faith?

Today, may we – like the psalmist sings – give thanks to God for God is good![5] May we rejoice,[6] may we see what is marvelous[7] and may we shout with great joy, proclamation and thanksgiving that blessed are those who come in the name of the God.[8]

Thanks be to God!

[1] A Preacher’s Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series: Thematic Plans for Years A, B, and C, compiled by Jessica Miller Kelley, pg. 29
[2] A Preacher’s Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series: Thematic Plans for Years A, B, and C, compiled by Jessica Miller Kelley, pg. 28
[3] Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A, Volume 2, edited by David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, pg. 152 & 154 (Pastoral Perspective)
[4] Matthew 21:3, NRSV
[5] Psalm 118:1, 29, NRSV
[6] Psalm 118:24, NRSV
[7] Psalm 118:23, NRSV
[8] Psalm 118:26, NRSV