Category Archives: Articles

Article: Holy Week 2023

Holy Week crown of thorns background.

We begin the most important week of the year: Holy Week.

Jesus came to forgive. To repair what was broken shortly after creation: Our Rebellion.

On Good Friday, Jesus gave his life as a ransom so that we can be truly free.

Much happens between Palm Sunday and Easter morning. More than we can describe in worship this coming week.

If you are interested in a timeline of the week, you came to the right place.


  • Jesus arrives in Bethany six days before Passover (Jn12:1)
  • Stays with Lazarus, Mary and Martha (his Judean home)
  • Possibly the supper and anointing in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper where Jesus is anointed by Mary. (Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9; Jn 12:1-8)

Palm Sunday:

  • Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mt 21:1-9; Mk 11:1-10; Lk 19:28-38; Jn12:12-18) Fulfills the prophecies of Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9
  • Jesus weeps over seeing Jerusalem and predicts its destruction. (Lk 19:39-44)
  • Jesus cleanses the temple. (Mt 21:10-17; Mk 11:11; Lk 19:45-46; Jn 2:13-25)

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday:

  • Jesus curses the fig tree. (Mt 21:18-19; Mk 11:12-14)
  • Parable of the wicked tenants (Mt 21:33-46; Mk 12:1-12; Lk 20:9-19)
  • Returns to Bethany at night.
  • Jesus denounces the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:1-36; Mk 12:37-40; Lk 20:45-47)
  • Jesus teaches in the Temple (Lk 21:37-38)
  • Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple. (Mt 24:1-3; Mk 13:1-4; Lk 21:5-7)
  • Possibly, on Wednesday, the supper and anointing in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper. (Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9; Jn 12:1-8) Mark’s account is just after he says that it was two days before the Passover.

Holy Thursday, Thursday Night, Early Friday Morning:

  • The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and preparation for the Passover for Jesus and the disciples. (Mt 26:17-19; Mk 14:12-16; Lk 22:7-13; Jn 19:14)
  • The Last Supper (Mt 26:20-25; Mk 14:17-21; Lk 22:14, 21-23; Jn 13 “before the Feast of Passover”)
  • Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; the betrayal of Judas and the arrest of Jesus.
  • Jesus taken to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest. Annas sends Jesus to Caiaphas (Jn 18:12-25)
  • Jesus taken to the high priest Caiaphas’ home where the scribes, elders, and the chief priests had gathered. (Mt 26:57-75; Mk 14:53-72; Lk 22:54-71)
  • Peter denies Jesus three times.
  • Jesus was kept overnight in a cistern below Caiaphas’ home.

Good Friday:

  • Early in the morning, the Sanhedrin meets, they lead Jesus to Pilate. (Mk 15:1; Mt 27:1-2; Lk 23:1; Jn 18:28)
  • Pilate sends Jesus to Herod (Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee) (Lk 23:6-7)
  • Herod mocks Jesus and then clothes him in gorgeous apparel, and sends Jesus back to Pilate (Lk 23:6-12)
  • Pilate examines Jesus and finds him not guilty of the Jew’s charges against him. Pilate has Jesus flogged and plans to release him. (Lk 23:13-16; Jn 19:1-13)
  • Jesus is crowned with thorns. (Jn 19:1-6)
  • Jesus is sentenced to death and is crucified at 9:00 in the morning (Mk 15:25)
  • Jesus dies at 3:00 and is buried in the tomb. (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34; Lk 23:44)

 Holy Saturday: Jesus’ body in the tomb.

Easter Sunday:

  • Early in the morning of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (Joana?) brought spices to anoint Jesus’ body. The stone had been rolled away, the tomb was open, the body was gone, and they were told by an angel (two angels, a young man or two men in white clothes) that Jesus had been raised, and to go tell the disciples that Jesus has risen and would see them in Galilee. (Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:1-8; Lk 24:1-12)
  • The disciples did not believe the women, but Peter ran to the tomb. (Lk 24:10-12)
  • Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and tells her to go to the disciples. She is the first person on record to see the risen Jesus. (Jn 20:11-17)
  • Matthew’s account: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were on their way to tell the disciples what the angel had said, when Jesus met them and said, “Hail!” “And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Mt 28:5-10)
  • Mary Magdalene tells the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”. (Jn 20:18)
  • Jesus appears to Peter (Cephas) (Paul’s account in 1Cor 15:5)
  • Two disciples walking to Emmaus recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. (Lk 24:13-32)
  • The two disciples immediately return to Jerusalem, find the Eleven gathered, and are told that Jesus has appeared to Peter (Simon). (Lk 24:33-35) “While they were saying this, Jesus stood among them…” (Lk 24:36) “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week…Jesus came and stood among them…” (Jn 20:19) “Now Thomas…was not with them when Jesus came.” (Jn 20:24)

Click here to look at the graphic more closely:

Make the journey with us this week. From the triumphal entry to the upper room to the cross and finally to the empty tomb.

God bless you,
Pastor Ben


Article: The Face of Jesus

What does the face of Jesus look like in the world? It looks like this…

Please click on the play button and watch. You will not regret it.

It resembles Jesus whispering into the ears of children to help other children.

It looks like the Holy Spirit giving power to an idea that becomes a reality because of an unstoppable drive and determination to help others.

It is a simple message, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) For when we do, things like this happen and the world is a better place.

God bless you,
Pastor Ben


Article: Lent Is For You

I like the season of Lent. This is the time I dig deep and look inside myself.  In the words of Alcoholics Anonymous, I take a “fearless moral inventory” of my life. I know some people make New Year’s resolutions; I prefer the internal reflection over the 40 days of Lent. No rush and no rash decisions, just time spent looking inward while spending more time in community at Community Lutheran Church.

On Wednesday at our first mid-week Lenten service, I said that spending time with Jesus also means spending time with each other because Saint Paul told us that the Church is the “body of Christ.”

I look at this way, being around other Christians brings out the best in me. That gives me strength to be my best when I am around others in the world. I want to be an example of God’s love in the world.

Last weekend in worship, I talked about the wisemen from Persia who followed a star to find Jesus. I know we all want God to write it in the sky that he is real and Jesus is the Son of God. But Jesus empowered us to be that star of Bethlehem for others in the world.

It is helpful for me to spend more time with the “Light of the world” (Jesus) so that I may reflect that light of love, joy, faithfulness and kindness to others.

Remember, Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything or even feel more guilt ridden in the season of Lent. The season is for us not for God. It doesn’t matter if it is March or November, God still wants to draw close to us and change our hearts by filling it with love.

Lent is for me and it is for you. Do with it as you wish (or nothing at all). Jesus will do the same thing he always does: Love.

As for me, I don’t want to miss a thing, so I’ll be at the feet of Jesus this season. There is a spot for you too.

God bless,
Pr. Ben


Article: What Kind of God do You Believe in?

What kind of God do you want? Or to put it a different way, what kind of God do you believe in?

John the Baptist was expecting one kind of God. A God who will bring punishment.

John talked extensively to the crowds about what God is like and what God is going to do when the Messiah comes.

The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 3:10


His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Matthew 3:12

John’s expectation was that God was going to show up angry and kick butt. It was clear that he was passionate about this, and he was convinced that some people were going to face a literal “come to Jesus” moment in their lives. He even called the religious leaders of the day a “brood of vipers.”

John believed in an angry God. A God who will wreak vengeance and judgment on all his perceived enemies.

Then Jesus comes, and doesn’t meet John’s expectations. After John was arrested by Herod Antipas the Roman appointed leader of parts of Israel, John sends a few followers to go ask Jesus if he is the actual Messiah (the chosen one of God).

John is having his doubts because Jesus isn’t doing the things he thought a Messiah should be doing.

When these followers of John asked Jesus if he was the “real deal”, he responded this way…

 “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the person who does not fall away on account of me.” Matthew 11:4-6

Do you see the disconnect between John the Baptist’s expectations and the reality of Jesus Christ’s actual agenda? There is a huge ideological gap between the two.

Humans are really good at making God in our own image. We sometimes convince ourselves that God hates the same people  we do and despises the same ideas we do. We want God to punish our enemies or at least smite those we disagree with on any major topic.

Instead of creating a God that looks like a superhuman version of ourselves, we should turn to the scriptures to see what God is really like.

When we read the gospel stories of Jesus, we discover a God who loves, forgives and is always present in our time of need.

Jesus wants to draw close to ALL people and not just the people we agree with. Jesus was willing to die to make that happen.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: Jam in the Valley

We’ve been spending some time on the weekends telling stories about people who found themselves in a “jam.” No likes obstacles or trouble, but they are a fact of life. Some of the most revered people of the Bible faced great difficulties.

The question is not how to avoid all potential jams because we can’t. The question at hand is how do we navigate the trouble when it is upon us? Certainly, some of our problems are self-inflicted and some are not. We can armchair quarterback the decisions we made in the past, but those conclusions don’t alter the present reality.

Psalm 23:4 reminds us how to face the problems of this life and clarifies the how we move forward.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

The operative word in this verse is “through.” We don’t backtrack, avoid, or circle around. We move through those less than pleasant experiences to get to the other side.

There is no way to avoid a jam– and spending any time to avoid life’s potholes will leave you empty and afraid.

With God’s help, we chart a course through the valley of the shadow of death. With God’s comfort, we can take the steps necessary to move beyond the current jam in our lives.

Jesus knows the valley of the shadow of death and its companion: Death Valley. No, not the one in California, but death itself. Jesus took the journey through both and emerged on Easter morning to aid us in our moments of fear and strife.

Jesus also gave us the gift of the Church so that we may always have each other too.

We don’t ever need to be alone in our struggles, and we are promised that Jesus will walk with us through everything, big or small.

Remember: Jam is always better when we share it with others.

God bless,
Pr. Ben


Article: Water

I’ve been thinking a lot about water. Specifically, the water supply in southern Nevada. As most of you know, our water supply has been dwindling for the past 20 years. Lake Mead has served as our primary water source since 1935 when Hoover Dam was completed.

As most of you know the water serves another purpose: It generates electricity. As the water from Lake Mead passes through the dam the hydroelectric generators produce massive amounts of electricity. Each year, 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power is created at the dam. That electricity can power 1.3 million homes. Wow.

There is potential in that water! Water is essential for life AND if channeled properly it can provide needed power for the lives we live.

The same is true for our baptism.

The moment we were baptized, God laid a claim on our lives. We are born into a new family: The family of God. Nothing can undo that declaration by God.

Once we have received the water joined with the Word (Jesus) at Baptism, we are both a reservoir of God’s grace but we are also full of potential power.

At our baptism we are also given the gift of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Spirit can change us and change the world!

Look at the disciples after the resurrection. They went from being afraid when Jesus died to fearless! That is the power of the Spirit at work.

Every Christian has potential Holy Spirit power in their lives.

How do we unleash that power? We surrender to it. Let God take the lead in your life. Remember: Thy will be done, not my will be done.

Gracious God,

Thank you claiming us and making us your children. Help us to surrender our wills to yours so that the potential power of the Holy Spirit is unleashed in us… today… right now. Help us to stop, look and listen for your direction in all things. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

God bless you,

Pr. Ben


Article: Christmas 2022 Reflections

We come to the last few days of the year with an eye on New Year’s Day. Even as the world has moved on from Christmas, that is the season we are in and will be until Epiphany on January 6th.

I know it seems odd that it is still Christmas. After all, the stores and the radio told you it was the Christmas season on the day after Thanksgiving.  But here we are.

Before the season officially ends, let’s look at where we have been in the past month.

First, we created an alternative holiday to-do list…

  1. Be present in the lives of others instead of just buying presents

  2. Wrap others in love instead of just wrapping presents.

  3. Be the light instead of just going out to look at lights. (I really wanted this to be “eat cookies instead of making them.”)

  4. Send peace to others by reaching out and contacting someone.

Of course, these are things we can do all year long and I personally will strive to do those things with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Although we didn’t look at all the stories of Jesus when he was an infant, let’s take a quick peek. These stories tell us something about Jesus’ identity and his future.

  1. The angels announced the birth to shepherds not Kings, Caesar’s, and nobles. Jesus will spend his time with “real people” like us.

  2. King Herod is threatened by the birth of Jesus. Herod’s power is threatened by the One who truly has power.

  3. When Jesus was dedicated at the Temple of Jerusalem as was the custom of that day a man by the name of Simeon knew who Jesus was and what he would be about. This is what he said to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:34

  4. The Wise Men come from afar reminding us that Jesus is for all people and not just some.

All the stories point to who Jesus is and what he would do for us. A good reminder for us before we put Christmas back into storage until next year.

God bless you and Merry Christmas,

Pr. Ben


Articles: Cookies!

This past Sunday at church, I told everyone that Rachel (my wife) made an old family cookie recipe that goes back several generations. That old Swedish cookie is called “Pepparkakor.”

The house smelled wonderful as the first batch of cookies baked in the oven. The aroma took me back to when I was a child when my mother would make these cookies for the family.

As the cookies came out of the oven, I jumped up from my seat to “help” Rachel in the kitchen. OK, I went into the kitchen to have a cookie. I was promptly told that these cookies were for the church bake sale.

The irony was that I went to church to buy back the cookies Rachel made in our home! (FYI: I didn’t buy them all!)

This week, Rachel suggested I share the family recipe of Pepparkakor with the church family! What an excellent idea I thought, now everyone can make me cookies! Just kidding!

Below is that recipe… enjoy!

1 c. butter
1 egg
1⅓ c. sugar
2 T. light molasses
2½ c. flour
1½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. each of the following:
Ground cloves, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom
3 tsp. orange peel, fresh grated fine

Cream butter, egg, sugar and light molasses. Sift flour, baking soda, spices and orange peel. Combine all and blend. Roll out as thin as you can.

Use cookie cutter. Bake 375° on cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes.

Merry Christmas!

God bless you,
Pr. Ben


Article: Making Room

John weeks looked into the origins of the word Advent (the church season we are in right now) and this is what he discovered…

The word Advent comes from the Latin word, “advenire”, conjugated as “adventus” which is a combination word of “ad” meaning, “to” or “toward” and “venire”, “come” which is conjugated as ventus, which means more specifically, “coming”. Combining them gets us literally, “toward the coming.” The Latin definition is, “(a thing) about to happen.” Expectation would be an appropriate synonym here.

Funk & Wagnall’s defines the lower case version of advent as, “a coming or arrival, as of any important event or person.” So you can see that the definition has not changed significantly since it was taken from the original Latin.

We are preparing for the advent of Jesus. Not just in the Christmas story but also the advent of our King at the end of time. After all we profess in the Apostles’ Creed that, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

Christmas is the reminder that God comes to us! Sure, he came to us 2000 years ago in Bethlehem when Jesus was born! We also beleive that he will return one day to take us home. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit dwells within us and promises to never leave us.

If we know that Christmas is coming and that Jesus will return one day… let me ask the question, “Are you ready?”

If you don’t know the answer to the question I am asking, let me tell you by turning to one of our favorite Christmas hymns, “Joy to the World.” The first verse tells us everything we need to know. “Let every heart, prepare him (Jesus) room.”

It is that simple. Make room for Jesus in your heart. Not just once, but each and every day. By the way, you might need to push out some other stuff to create more room for Jesus but I will leave that to you to figure out.

Let your heart be a manger to lay the Christ child in.

The promise of Advent is real, don’t be the inn, be the stable. Make room for Jesus today.

Happy Advent,

Pr. Ben


Article: Thankful

By the time I write my next article, it will be the season of Advent. We will be getting ready for the advent of our King.

Before we get to that next season of the church, I want to take a moment to wish you, your family and your friends a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving.

Whether you will be alone or in a crowded house next Thursday, it is always a good time to thank God.

Since our children grew up, we have had many Thanksgivings where it was Rachel and me. We didn’t dwell on who wasn’t at our table, we gave thanks to God for each other.

This year our house will be full, and it will be the first time since 2015 that we will have the entire family around the Thanksgiving table. We will take time to give thanks in between the lively conversations.

Whatever season or situation I find myself in, I know that that there is always a reason to give thanks to God for the blessings in my life.

No, my life isn’t perfect and I could tick off a list of things that I wish I were different or better in my life, but I choose to be thankful.

I know that Jesus loves me and I know that he loves you. That is more than enough for me.

If you are unsure of your blessings, join us at Community Lutheran Church at 6pm pst this coming Wednesday as we worship the God who gives and gives and gives. If you live in the Las Vegas Valley, join us in person! If you live out of state, join us online. We will be waiting.

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

God bless you,
Pr. Ben