Called to Follow

Posted by on Jan 24, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Called to Follow

Dear Lord….speak to us today. You call us to be your disciples. You call us, just as you called your disciples, to follow you. Please strengthen us as we move through some uncomfortable times that we may always remember you call us and we promise to follow you.The gospel lesson for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany is from Mark 1:14-20. In this passage, we see Jesus beginning to call those who will follow Him and learn from Him in preparation for his resurrection. Jesus had followed John the Baptist as John was speaking to the people who were wanting to hear his message. It could be said that John was acting as a mentor to Jesus. John knew what Jesus would be doing…as did Jesus. John helped inaugurate Jesus into his own mission by showing him how to speak to people and work with him.At this point in our gospel lesson, John the Baptist has been killed by Herod. Jesus is now on his own to bring the gospel message…the message of hope and life to people. He did realize that he needed to have more people working with him and following him to expand His message to more people. Jesus began his ministry with the words, “The time has come, the Kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.” (v. 14) He announced the beginning of his ministry here on earth. He is actually calling for a change in the nation. You ask, what does that mean? Well…the people in Israel have always been looking for a physical relationship, such as a relationship with Abraham…where they could see him. They were looking for a physical relationship with the promised Kingdom of God. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus WAS that physical relationship…but the leaders ultimately refused to acknowledge that.Jesus was calling the people to turn from one position in their life to another more fulfilling. He was calling them to repent. We have discussed this concept earlier this month. Remember that repentance is more than being sorry for actions. True repentance is ordering one’s life in a way to be acceptable to God. This requires words AND deeds in making changes.So, Jesus begins to recruit followers to learn about speaking to the people they would encounter. He is teaching them about the Gospel…that is a proclamation announcing God’s rule and asks the listeners to place their loyalty in God and make changes in their lives….or repent from their previous actions.Jesus then begins to call the disciples…or followers while he is teaching them. Notice that the disciples are called from beside the Sea of Galilee, while they are fishing. In fact, it is specifically stated that James and John were in their boat mending their nets.Mark probably stated this fact for two reasons. The first reason would have been that the men had been fishing during the night and it was now morning. Their fishing was done either in the early morning or in the evening. There were enough fish that were caught that the nets needed repair. Fishing also took place in the months between March and September while the crops they had planted were maturing. Does this sound familiar? Yes…it does to me.The second reason for this statement is much more subtle. These two men didn’t think twice about leaving their father with the hired men to continue the mending, etc. In Israel this just was not done. The sons did not break with the family and leave the parents with hired help. Families tended to stay together. But in making this statement,...

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God Knows Us and Calls Us

Posted by on Jan 18, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on God Knows Us and Calls Us

Dear Lord….Thank you for making us part of your family. Thank you for knowing us and all our faults. Thank you for calling us to be your disciples. May we continue to show our commitment to you as we work our way through this year. Be with us as we consider your words this morning.This Sunday is the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany. I have the sense that we will all be having certain “epiphanies” as the days and year progress. God’s light will continue to shine on us and enlighten us.The gospel lesson for this morning is from John 1:43-51. I am also going to be having comments about the Old Testament lesson from Samuel. These two passages work so very well together, I cannot consider one without the other.In our gospel reading, we find Jesus in the process of appointing his disciples. In the verses preceding this reading we find the names of some of those people Jesus has challenged to follow him. In our reading, Jesus went to Galilee and found Philip and said to him, “Follow me”. Philip was from Bethsaida where two other disciples had also come from, namely Peter and Andrew. While Philip was walking there, he found a man named “Nathaniel” and challenged him to come with them as they had found the prophet Moses wrote about and that the man was Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth.I was taken back by the next thing Nathaniel said, “What good can come out of Nazareth?” Doesn’t this sound a lot like things we are all too familiar hearing. A derogatory comment about someone that we do not know. It appears Philip didn’t say anything in response to that comment. When Jesus saw Nathaniel, he said nothing derogatory nor did he respond in the way we would probably have expected He said that Nathaniel was an Israelite who had no deceit in him. That was a shock to Nathaniel as he had never met Jesus before. He asked how Jesus knew him. Jesus responded that he had seen this person under a fig tree. In Jesus time, the fig tree was a symbol of peace and safety. He had possibly seen Nathaniel reading the Torah under this tree…studying the law. Immediately, Nathaniel confessed who Jesus was. What a surprise! Here was someone who had been derogatory toward the area Jesus came from, and is now confessing who he sees Jesus is…the Son of God…King of the Jews.Jesus sees us just as we are. He sees all that we do…all our choices…and promises, as he did to Nathaniel, that we and all disciples will see even greater things, such as many miracles, Jesus’ resurrection, as well as the angels descending on the Son of Man.We are now aware of the way God communicates with humanity…through Jesus Christ who is both human and divine. God sees us just as we are and accepts us just as we are. Have you had an experience similar to that of Nathaniel? Has someone recognized you by the way you talk to people, by your actions, your kindness? The other very important thing we see in the passage is that people are brought to Christ by the personal witness of people they talk to, work with, meet on the street.Then…let’s talk a little about Samuel. He was caring for the blind, aging Eli in the temple. Samuel slept in the temple by the Ark of the Covenant and was available anytime Eli needed him. When he heard his name called, he thought it was Eli. Eli’s response to the call was,...

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Visible Evidence of Christ’s Presence

Posted by on Jan 10, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Visible Evidence of Christ’s Presence

Dear Lord….thank you for the gifts you give to each of us. You have kept us safe, we have homes we can retreat to when we need it, we have food to feed our bodies and you provide food for our souls every day through your Word and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Be with us this week as we learn more about the baptism of Jesus and what it means in our lives as your disciples.This week, our gospel lesson is from Mark 1:1-11. I know that the first three verses are often eliminated from consideration, but in those three verses, we see the proclamation John the Baptist made as taken from the prophet Isaiah, who was telling people that our of the wilderness would come the messenger to bring the news of Jesus Christ.Mark doesn’t begin his gospel with any genealogy of Jesus, as the other gospel writers do. He begins with the quotations from Malachi 3 and Isaiah 40…regarding the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That is the only genealogy Mark mentions.An interesting aspect for me was the description of the wilderness. I have always thought of the wilderness as something with no people…no trees…just sand and desert. Well, in Jesus time, the wilderness was an area outside the city. There were trees. There were people living there. Mark includes it to say that symbolically, John and Jesus were leaving an established social system, which fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the promised salvation of Israel.Mark continues to say that many people from both Jerusalem and Judea (indicating both Jews and Gentiles) were following John. Mark is also showing that there were rural people in this group as well as people from a city, or both social and geographical people They were listening to his message of love and forgiveness and wanting to be baptized by him.John baptized by dipping or immersion. This was done for those who were repentant of their sins and wanted cleansing. There was no “identification” or naming connected with John’s baptism. And, even then, there was only onetime baptism for all people. With this desire to be forgiven, the people were repentant of their sins…they wanted to reconcile or get their affairs in order with God. Personal and social repentance was needed. When John baptized them, the people agreed to be brought into a transformed group of believers.Mark also states that someone more powerful than he would be coming and would baptize the people with the Holy Spirit. We see again that this follows the prophecies from Isaiah and Malachi. This presentation of Jesus is central to Mark’s gospel. Jesus left his family and his village to minister to the people of His Father, God. He, too, became the one who not only became part of the transformed believers, but brought to all the gift of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus was baptized, He dedicated his life to religious living along with other believers. It was at this point that his ministry began. Just as Jesus was coming out of the River Jordan, the heavens opened up and God spoke to Him and to all who were there. God declared that “you are my Son, the Beloved and I am well pleased.”How amazing would that declaration have been to hear! It is like God’s blessing on beginning the work of making disciples in God’s world. There is no question about who Jesus belongs to. No questions at all.How does this story help us understand our own baptism? Most of us were babies when we were baptized and...

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Called to Live our Faith

Posted by on Jan 3, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Called to Live our Faith

Dear Lord…as we read and consider the events of the 12th day after the birth of your Son, Jesus, speak to us. How can we also find wonder in many of the events and happenings in our world now? How can we live our faith in your world? Thank you for your guidance of us as we work to be your disciples.Our gospel for this Sunday is from Matthew 2:1-12 and is the story of the Wise Men visiting the baby Jesus and his parents. In fact, this is typically called Epiphany Sunday….as it is celebrated 12 days after the birth of Christ. Some call this celebration “Twelfth Night”. However, it refers to the same event.I have always been interested in this story and in the aspect of “epiphany”. Without researching it extensively, I knew that that word means a “light shines” to bring realization of an amazing event. So…I did a little research on that word. Epiphany means the appearance of a divine being…according to the Webster dictionary. To further bring depth to this word, it can also mean grasping reality through a striking, simple event or an illuminating discovery or realization.So, what contributed to the epiphany of this story? Let’s look a little further at the story. We have heard many times about the star that the wise men saw in the east. No one has a good explanation for what that “star” really was. Was it a comet? Was it the coming together of two stars or as we know now, two planets (as we experienced just a few days ago)? Whatever it was, the star caught the attention of some men who were intelligent men who interpreted dreams through studying the stars.The movement of this star caught the imagination of the wise men who started to follow it. They were probably from Babylon where Jews also lived. They were intrigued as in their studies, they found that stars were often seen at the birth of powerful men, as told in the prophets writings read in the temple. They assumed that this star would be seen because of the birth of the king of the Jews. So…they stopped to talk with the ruler, Herod, out of courtesy and wondering where the king of the Jews was located so they could pay homage to him. Of course, this rattled Herod as he was scared of losing his power and called all of the people around him to find out where the place of birth had been prophesied. It was then, that Herod found out that the event would be happening in Bethlehem…the land of Judah. This person would be the shepherd for Israel. This also connected the birth of the Messiah with King David of the previous history of this people.Herod was ruthless and not to be trusted. He sent the wisemen off and told them to return when they had found this king. He talked with the wisemen in secret as he was also paranoid about what they would find. His rule was in jeopardy. Jesus’ birth had now drawn political attention that wasn’t of the most positive attention.The wisemen found the baby…by following the star and where it stopped. After giving gifts to the baby and honoring the parents, they were told by an angel to not go back to Herod’s palace.because of impending dangers. But what they did experience was that Jesus was fully God and fully man. It was an epiphany for them, too.It appears to me that both the shepherds who visited the family and the wise men had experienced something they...

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Are we listening?

Posted by on Dec 26, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Are we listening?

The gospel reading for this first Sunday after Christmas is from Luke 2:22-40. I have always liked this section and did not want to ignore it…even if we don’t have “in house” church this coming Sunday. As we consider this section, we learn even more about the promised Son that Mary gave birth to. This story is based in the city of Jerusalem, which is about 60 miles from Nazareth. Jews traveled to this city many times to celebrate various religious ceremonies in the temple there. Mary and Joseph’s travelling there also indicated they were faithful followers of the Torah as they wanted to have their son, Jesus, circumcised and named as required by the Jewish law. The law states, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord.” (v.23)When a family brought their son to the temple for this act, they were to bring a lamb to present to the temple in a form of payment for the action. We note that Joseph and Mary did not bring a lamb. They brought a pair of turtle doves, which was accepted by the leaders. This couple did not have a lamb as they did not have land on which to raise a lamb. They were not a wealthy couple.While Mary and Joseph were still in the temple, they met a couple of people who were in the temple a lot. These two people confirmed the identity of Jesus. Please notice that Luke includes the woman, Anna, in these verses, as she was a prophet and she was elderly. She had been working in the church many years. Luke includes her as a woman who had been speaking to the people for God. Luke continues to be inclusive of all who serve the Lord God. The first encounter was with Simeon. This elderly man was often seen in the temple. He went there to pray many times. He was looking forward to the freeing of Israel and being released from the occupation by Rome. He listened to God in his prayers constantly. God has also promised him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. The Holy Spirit had guided Simeon to the temple this day. Simeon immediately realized that this child was the fulfillment of the promise of salvation for all people…Jews and Gentiles. Simeon took the child, Jesus in his arms and offered a prayer of praise to God for the gift he had given all people. The verses from 29 through 32 are the prayer that Simeon offered in praise to God for this gift. It is also in our hymnal on page 225, listed as the “Nunc Dimittis” which means Simeon’s first words. All of the listening this man had been doing to the words spoken in the temple as well as to the guidance from God and the Holy Spirit helped him realize what he had been waiting for. Simeon also blessed Mary and Joseph and told Mary what the future would hold for her son. It was more of a warning that life for this baby would be a challenge to Israel and would be a sorrow to Mary. I cannot imagine how Mary felt hearing this. How would you feel if you heard this?The second person the family meets is that of Anna. She is a prophetess and was at the temple every day. She was concerned about meeting the Messiah, but also wanted the option to tell others about this Messiah. Anna is elderly. Luke tells us that her age was 84. This fact, for Wesley, underlined...

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Live by Hope and Light

Posted by on Dec 13, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Live by Hope and Light

Dear Lord….our preparations to celebrate your birth this year are SO much different than they have been in past years. We are sorrowful that we cannot have the promise of all the fun and great things we have always done in celebration. However, dear Lord, we ARE celebrating the fact that you are a gift to us for all time. God’s gift of you to all people is one we are thankful for and will continue to celebrate our whole life.Our gospel lesson for this 3rd Sunday in Advent is from John 1:6-8, 19-28. After preparing the statement that Jesus was with God at all times, John begins to talk about the fact that John the Baptist saw the Messiah. The gospel writer also states that John was sent to testify to the light that would be coming to the people. He was also to witness to the light, which means he would tell others about the light that was coming. John was not the one people expected to precede the Messiah. The Jewish leaders questioned John about who he was. Levites, or assistants to the priests, were also sent to investigate who this person was and who was he talking about. The leaders of the temple were asking John if he was Elijah. They asked if he was a prophet. He declined both of these guesses by saying he was one who was calling for people to prepare for the Lord’s arrival. They were also asking why John was baptizing people when he wasn’t Elijah, he wasn’t the Messiah and he wasn’t a prophet. These leaders were not willing to look beyond what John was saying. Their vision was fixed on what “had been” in the past and that they were expecting the same exact thing in their lifetime. They were reluctant to change their traditions that would have meant a change in their laws. They were influential people and didn’t want to lose that sense and to be more like the people that attended the temple. John the Baptist was preparing people to see the Messiah. He said that the people were not seeing the Messiah. It’s possible they weren’t willing to see past their former experiences or visions of what the Messiah would be like. John even quoted Isaiah regarding him coming to the people to verify that he had been sent for a specific reason. The Jewish leaders always felt that baptism was the mark of the Messiah and because of these reasons, they overlooked who the Messiah really was. They clouded their own sight and closed their eyes to the truth.John had a missionary outlook to witness to the people what he had seen and to help bring the people to believe in Christ. John also asked the people to believe…to be confident about his message and the person who would be coming. However, the leaders of the Jews had very diverse opinions about what leaders had been promised to them and didn’t want to look farther. John wanted the people to receive the Messiah by faith. John was also asking the people who heard him to live by faith and light. He was asking them to open their eyes and really see who the coming Messiah was. John is challenging the people…all of the people to hope…and to do this…look beyond what they already knew and had known. They were choosing the way they wanted to view people…view John and how they would view the Messiah.How do we view the world right now? Are we looking at our world through the eyes of...

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