Becoming Followers

Posted by on Aug 28, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Becoming Followers

Dear Lord…as we consider your words to your disciples about following your example, please let us realize that genuine love, honesty, loyalty and forgiveness are some of the keys to us as we continue growing as your followers and your disciples. Our gospel for this Sunday is from Matthew 16:21-28. We will also be considering the words Paul wrote to the Romans in Romans 12:9-21 as we consider how we can continue growing as followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I would ask that you take the opportunity to put yourself in the story of Jesus beginning to tell the disciples about his coming journey to Jerusalem and what He must suffer there. As you do this, you will remember that you, as a disciple, have witnessed many incidents of Jesus healing people who needed his touch. You will remember that you were with the large groups of people who were ministered to by Jesus and who were fed by Jesus and the disciples with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. You would have witnessed Peter walking on the water, losing sight of Jesus and Jesus saving Peter from drowning. You would have witnessed the calming of the Sea of Galilee as well as the conversation with the Canaanite woman and finally, Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. What a wonderful group of miracles to have experienced. Since you would also be a part of the Jewish community, you would expect that, as everyone else of this community, you would expect that the Messiah would defeat those who were persecuting you and your families. Not only that, but they expected the Messiah to provide political, economic and spiritual relief for them by restoring the temple. They expected this would happen within their lifetime. Yes…the disciples, themselves, did not really realize what Jesus would be saying to them.So, when the disciples heard that Jesus would be taken prisoner by the scribes and Pharisees and would suffer greatly at their hands and would be killed, I’m sure it was difficult for them to hear and to accept as truth. Wouldn’t you feel the same way? I also think we would have also let the words “on the third day he would be raised”, slide by our thoughts as unbelievable. So…when Peter spoke up for the disciples saying this shouldn’t happen we would all have been agreeing with him. We would also have been shocked when Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan.” What would we have felt? In reality, we would have agreed with Peter that our “human senses and interests” would have been primary in our minds and we would have been “clouded” to what Jesus was actually saying. Jesus said to him, “Stop opposing what I’m saying and start following me with genuine love.” Jesus then asks those who want to be His followers to take up their cross and follow him. In other words, put their own lives in the background and think of the others who need to hear the good news. Take up our life…our choices for our own benefit and think of others. This challenge is also stated in the Romans text when Paul challenges us to let our love be genuine, hate what is evil, love one another, outdo one another in showing honor…” (v 1-2) Is our love and concern out of self-interest, or can we put others interests and well-being ahead of our own wishes? We have seen many fine examples of people helping others out these last two weeks after the storm that...

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Show and Tell

Posted by on Aug 22, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Show and Tell

Dear Lord…open our minds to your message this day. How can we spread your love and grace to others? This is what you are asking us to do every day….to spread your message to the whole world. The message for this Sunday is based on the gospel of Matthew 16:13-20. In this section, we are seeing more of the maturity and learning of the disciples as to who Jesus is and preparation for what the disciples will experience and observe when they witness Jesus’ crucifixion.Before studying these verses, we need to go back to the first 12 verses of Matthew 16 and discover what brought Jesus and the disciples to this point. In the first four verses of this chapter, Jesus is being asked by the Pharisees and Sadducees to show them a sign from heaven.Jesus tells them they cannot interpret any signs, except for what the skies reveal and the only sign “evil and adulterous generations” will receive is the “sign of Jonah”. In looking up that phrase, I found that Jesus referred to this phrase a lot. It means “resurrection”. Jonah was in the belly of the whale for 3 days….and came out alive. It is a very pointed reference to the fact that Jesus will die on the cross, but will be resurrected on the 3rd day. Most of the people hearing it would not understand.After saying this to the rulers of the temple, Jesus left with the disciples. They went “to the other side”…where they are, we do not know. But, they forgot to bring food along with them. Jesus told them to be careful and aware of the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He is not referring to the actual bread or yeast and gently reminds them of feeding the five thousand, feeding the four thousand and of the amount of bread gathered up by them that was left over. Jesus asked them why they thought Jesus was speaking about bread when he was really warning them of the false teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees…that grew when people heard only what they wanted to hear. So…the whole group moved on to Caesarea Phillippi….and Jesus asked the disciples who they thought Jesus was. Jesus uses the term, “Son of Man.” The disciples repeated what they had heard other people say about who Jesus was. However, Jesus wanted them to say who “they” thought Jesus was.This town is about 25 miles from the Sea of Galilee and the town is totally pagan…not believing in God. Here is where we see Peter state, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” He is representing the disciples in this statement. It appears they are all seeing Jesus as a direct agent from God. Matthew also records that God spoke directly to Peter to give that revelation to him and the remainder of the disciples. Someone just had to voice that. Jesus renames Peter the “rock”, or another name for Peter. Jesus also states that on the rock, he will build his church. Matthew is the first writer to use the word, “church”. He also states that the “keys to the kingdom” will be given to him. And, he ordered the disciples to not tell anyone that he was the Messiah.So, you say, what does this have to do with us? This section from Matthew is about the identity of Jesus as well as our identity as followers of Jesus. In the statement Peter made, he declared that Jesus is the one who connects, who brings together human need and divine presence. Jesus reconciles and...

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Bound Together in Unity

Posted by on Aug 14, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Bound Together in Unity

Dear Lord…in our readings this morning, we are often confused and questioning what has happened since the feeding of the 5000 and you calming the waters of the Sea of Galilee and saving Peter from drowning. But, you are asking us to remember what Jesus mission was and to find some information about the mission in these passages. Be with us in our reading of the passages and enlighten our hearts to your word.The gospel message for the 11th Sunday of Pentecost is from Matthew 15:10-20, 21-28. These verses follow a healing that Jesus had done right after he and the disciples had gotten out of the boat on the Sea of Galilee. People recognized Jesus and flocked to see him, hear him and to touch his robe to be healed. Also, in the first part of Chapter 15, the Pharisees came out of Jerusalem to question Jesus on the “clean and unclean” traditions of the Jewish faith. Please keep in mind that they are accusing Jesus of not keeping “the tradition of the elders” that are part of the Jewish oral traditions, not what was written in the Torah. These are “rules” they have made up themselves to follow that have nothing to do with worshiping the God who created them.In verses 10-20, Jesus counters their objections with a different question that is done purposely to bring the crowd into the discussion that will bring the tradition of the elders into question by all. He does this with a simple question about what “defiles” a person…relating to what goes in and comes out of a person’s mouth. The Pharisees had neglected the scripture and Jesus was telling the crowd and the disciples that it is not what goes into the mouth that is the problem. The problem is what comes from the heart that hurts people and defiles God’s laws. Peter asked Jesus to explain the parable. It was a little shocking to Jesus that the disciples did not understand what he was saying, but he did go on to tell them that the harmful actions and words that are expressed by a person to others show a person’s character and defile the person. In other words…what comes from the heart and is either spoken or shown through actions shows the real character of a person. This is a very pointed, specific statement Jesus is making to the Jewish rulers of the temple. He is doing it because they have turned the people in the temple away from the law of God…to elevate themselves in the eyes of the people. Jesus was given the task by God to bring the Jewish people back to worship of the one who saved them from the wilderness and persecution many years before. So…here is one aspect of the mission of Jesus, very specifically shown to us.The second part of this gospel reading is showing us the other aspect of Jesus’ mission on earth. It is time for Jesus to be showing these specific areas to the disciples as they will soon be going out to proclaim the love, grace and salvation that is offered to them through belief in God and acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God and savior.In these verses, Jesus and the disciples have traveled about one day from the Sea of Galilee to the area of Tyre and Sidon. This area is populated primarily by Canaanites who are natives of this area. The Canaanites were conquered by the Israelites and have been considered as a lesser group of people…often referred to as “dogs” and viewed by...

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Walking Out in Faith

Posted by on Aug 10, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Walking Out in Faith

Dear Lord….We sometimes do not know what to do in your world. We hear your voice challenging and encouraging us, but we are not always confident that we can do the job you ask us to do. Forgive us for this doubt, Lord. Thank you for loving us, never abandoning us, and always teaching and leading us. Our text for this Sunday is from Matthew 14:22-33. This text comes immediately after the feeding of the many people gathered by the Sea of Galilee that we considered last week. Remember that the crowd numbered that of a city….and had just been fed by Jesus and the disciples. We read that Jesus “immediately made the disciples get into the boat”. Now, Jesus was not with them. Why do you think He did this? One writer said that this response is explained in John 6:15. John was one of the disciples who was with Jesus and in that verse, we read, “When Jesus realized that “they” were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” The people were excited by the miracles as they had seen Jesus healing the sick and feeding all of the people, they wanted Him to be king, which would have begun a revolution against Roman rule. This possibility of the people flocking to Jesus would also have put the disciples in danger.Also, Jesus was still needing to be alone to talk with His Father…and mourn the death of John the Baptist. We can only imagine how the disciples felt when they were to go alone in the boat while Jesus went to the mountain. We find that the disciples were on the Sea of Galilee. This wasn’t a lake. This was the sea…where the winds are often hard to forecast or depend on. The boat had been swept from the coast by the wind and the waves…as the wind was against them. We, too, often face experiences that appear to be “against” us…that oppose us. How did you maneuver through that? Did it strengthen you?The gospel writer states that this event happened “early in the morning”. This would have been between 3AM and 6AM…when Jesus began walking toward the sea and the boat with the disciples. It may have been close to 6AM…as it was light enough for the disciples to see Jesus as he stood on the shore. However, they didn’t recognize Jesus and thought it was a ghost and were afraid.Jesus called to them and said they should not be afraid as he said, “It is I.” (This was another of his “I AM” statements to reveal to all who Jesus was.) In fact, when God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, he said, “It is I.” This is a statement that is made to affirm the fact that Jesus is the Messiah and that God was the one helping the Israelites. That statement was to be a calming statement for the disciples…assuring them that Jesus was with them and knew what they were facing.Peter, being his normal impetuous self, wanted proof that it was Jesus and asked that Jesus command him to walk on the water, if, in fact, the person really was Jesus. Jesus told Peter to “come”. Jesus was walking on the sea….not on water in a river or a lake. The sea could have swallowed Jesus up in an instant. This indicates not only his power but also the assurance that Peter would be safe in keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus. So… Peter got out of the...

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Miracles and Compassion

Posted by on Aug 2, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Miracles and Compassion

Dear Lord…as we consider your words to us this day, remind us of many ways we can help grow your kingdom through kindness and compassion. Thank you for your examples to us of helping people all through your life. We are so very thankful for the love you showed us when you gave yourself up for us on the cross….so that we always have your love, grace and forgiveness in our lives.The Gospel readings for today are from Matthew 14:13-21. This is a very familiar passage to all of us and I’m sure you are asking…OK…I know this passage. It seems very clear…what is new there?Well…I asked myself the same question when I found out what the reading would be. Then…I began studying and thinking even more about this lovely passage and some thoughts came through to me for sharing with each of you.First, it will help us to look at the passage preceding this passage. The preceding verses tell of the elegant meal that Herod had prepared. Herod was worried about what he heard about Jesus through John the Baptist. John was arrested and put in prison. During this birthday celebration for Herod, the daughter of Herodias was dancing and made Herod happy with her dancing. He asked what he could grant her as a gift and she replied (upon urging from her mother) that she wanted the head of John the Baptist on a platter. When the disciples heard this, they buried John’s body and told Jesus. That is the incident that begins our text consideration for today. Jesus was mourning the death of his friend, John, and needed to withdraw from people for awhile. In fact, he went to a boat and out to the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee. He wanted and needed to be alone for awhile.However, while he was on the boat, he saw the crowd of people gathering on the shore. They, too, had heard of John’s death and followed Jesus and the disciples to this place. So, Jesus went ashore to meet with the people….and we read that he healed the sick and tended to the needs of those gathering.Please keep in mind that even though the writer states that there were 5,000 men, there were also women and children. With the size of this crowd, it could have equaled that of a town. That is how big this gathering was.It was also getting to be close to evening. People were not wanting to leave. The disciples were concerned about how they were going to eat. How were the people going to eat? There was no village close to this location. They were in the wilderness. The disciples wanted to “excuse” the crowd to allow them to go to the nearest village to get some food. I’m sure that the disciples also wanted to just have a quiet time themselves.Well, Jesus had other plans. He didn’t want the people to go away. He asked the disciples to feed the people. The disciples told him they had 5 loaves and 2 small fish. Jesus took those items…took the food, looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves and gave them back to the disciples. Does this remind you of our service of Holy Communion? This also reminded the people, some scholars have surmised, of the feedings of Moses, Elijah and Elisha…that they had heard about in the temples. The typical meal for them was to look up to God, bless the food, break the loaves and then eat. Yes..we all know that there was more than enough food for...

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