Freedom

Posted by on Jul 5, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Freedom

Dear Lord…be with us as we consider the concept of Freedom. The freedom you give to us…the meaning of the word and what it means for us. Speak to each one of us as we listen, individually, to us. Our gospel reading for this Sunday is Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. Also, considered in this message will be the writing of Paul from Romans 7:15-25a. These verses are far from easy to determine the “why” they are being written. In Matthew, Jesus is starting off by using an analogy that is a description of the adults of his time. He describes them as children….who are just sitting around, not dancing, not enjoying the flute being played for them nor offering sympathy to one who is sad and troubled. Part of these reactions is due to the fact that the Israeli people of that time were weighed under by rules and regulations that were tied directly to the regulations of the Jewish faith. They would not listen to Jesus. I’m sure people felt why try to live or do anything, because it would be wrong in the face of the Pharisees. I would only get berated for living the way I felt I should. And they did not accept either John or Jesus. Then, Jesus goes on to say that the people of the community and the church at that time talked against John the Baptist by saying he was a demon, even though he preached life in God. John did not go against the Jewish law…but the people were berating him anyway. Jesus goes on to say that he, too, was excluded even though he was “communing” with the people. They called him a drunkard and glutton…and a friend of sinners. Jesus also puts a “human” type of reference to “wisdom”…saying that wisdom would be vindicated by her deeds. The Jews found it hard to believe that the Messiah would suffer abuse and be crucified rather than deliver the people from their oppression and rebuild the temple. So, they listened to John and Jesus, but refused to believe the message they were bringing of God’s sovereignty. However, there were people in the audience that DID believe Jesus’ message as well as John’s. In the eyes of the people of that time, these children were babies because they didn’t follow all of the Laws of the Torah. These people, too, were being degraded for their beliefs. To those who believed Jesus’ words, God gave insight…which Jesus thanks God for by saying, “You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to the infants.” (verse 25). The beginning of this verse is a restatement of the first words of the Lord’s Prayer. It is this special “power” that God is giving to both Jesus and the disciples to speak to those who listen and become part of God’s family. Jesus said that “his yoke is light”…and it is light in comparison to the Torah…that is often referred to as the yoke, also. Freedom….freedom to talk to people, accept people, welcome all people. Freedom to live for God and pass His word on to the world. We battle against ourselves most of the time, which is what Paul is talking about in his writing to the Romans. We often don’t know why we do something we know isn’t right. Yes…we berate ourselves for this type of action and get depressed when we realize what we have done. We tell ourselves, “Why didn’t I call that person?” “Why didn’t I greet that person when I met him on the street?”...

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Our Mission and Our Challenge

Posted by on Jun 28, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Our Mission and Our Challenge

Welcome to the 4th Sunday after Pentecost. Dear Lord…we have been learning about how you instructed the disciples as they were to go out to minister to the people in Israel and bring them to your truths. Be with us as we, too, have been called to bring people to you for the transformation of the world. It seems to be a difficult task right now, O Lord…but we know you are with us. You will strength us. You will help us bring your love to our world. Be with us this morning and every day, Lord as we meet your challenge and work to bring people to your love, forgiveness and grace. Amen. Our gospel reading for today is from Matthew 10:40-11:1. In this portion of Matthew 10, we find Jesus instructing the disciples on the importance of welcoming people into their world. It makes no difference what size this world is…the importance is that the disciples welcome people into their world….the people they are welcoming will also be welcomed into God’s family, that includes God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is telling the disciples and us, that everyone can offer hospitality and be welcoming. We do not have to be missionaries…we welcome people as we are. So…let’s look at what “real hospitality” is. This is accepting a stranger into our own home and our lives. Think about that. Real hospitality is accepting a stranger into our home and our lives. I’m sure you can all think of a time you have done this. How did you feel? What was the reaction of the person you welcomed? There is the word “patronage” to describe what Jesus is talking about. This definition is not about shopping at a certain place, this is not backing a certain person or party to get favors, etc. The Biblical definition we are considering is a relationship between social unequals where all people are welcomed, regardless of looks, culture, experiences, careers, education, etc. Jesus means we are to welcome and be hospitable to ALL people. Have you ever been in line to purchase something and suddenly you are told that everything you have in your cart has been paid for? What was your reaction? Were you even able to thank the person who paid for your items? How about when you were in line at McDonald’s to get a lunch or snack and found out that it had been paid for when you reached the window to pay? What did you feel at that time. Have you done the same thing for someone? This is the type of hospitality our Lord was talking about. In other words, in Jesus’ definition of hospitality, reciprocation shows the same hospitality given to each other. To put it more emphatically, God has given us love and forgiveness and we are to give it to other people in His world. In the time we are currently experiencing, I know how hard it has been to not be able to see people in person. I guess that is why I like to call what we are experiencing “physical distancing” as we still need to be social and communicate with people. What stories can you think of that you have heard of kindnesses people have offered to others? Didn’t it make your heart feel warm when you heard of the feeding and care for first responders and medical personnel? What about all of the reaching out our churches have done to church members in ways we never thought possible before? We have been “socially together” while physically apart. These...

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Being a Disciple

Posted by on Jun 19, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Being a Disciple

Good morning!!! Welcome to the 3rd Sunday of Pentecost AND Father’s Day! What a good time to be able to remember and thank our fathers for their care and guidance in our lives. May you all have a GREAT day! Our gospel reading for this morning is from Matthew 10:24-39. Dear Lord…as we read your word this morning, please open our minds to what you want us to hear and what you want us to do in your world. Speak to each one of us today and every day as we work with and see your people. Remember from last week’s gospel reading, Jesus was beginning to send out his disciples to fulfill the commission he gave to them to teach, heal and work with the people of Israel. This was the first time that the disciples would be on their own in bringing the message of hope and forgiveness through baptism to the people. We will be seeing Jesus’ teachings and trainings of the disciples as we continue through this season. As we talked a few weeks ago, Jesus used parables and comparisons to teach the people and the disciples. Utilizing those “tools” he could get the point across to the listeners without immediately creating opposition to what he was saying. In our reading for today, Jesus begins by stating that a disciple is not to hold himself higher than the teacher or anyone else. They are not to think that they are “special” in any way as life will not be easy for them. The disciple is to be like everyone else…and not search for notoriety. The statement that can be a little disturbing, but as we look at it more, Jesus says that if the master has given honor to the devil (Beelzebul), the other members of the house need to be aware that they, too, will be maligned and treated badly. What he is REALLY saying is that the disciples will be facing opposition. The disciples are to function like prophets. He is telling the disciples that even thought they will be threatened, the actions of those threatening them are known. He is assuring the disciples to not be afraid as all that is done to them will be known. Jesus is also telling the disciples that they are to tell people whatever he tells them…no matter whether it is at night, what other people say, what is whispered. The words Jesus tells them are to be shouted from the housetops. He is telling them that fear may be a normal reaction for those they are speaking to, but to not be afraid. Verse 34 says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Very powerful statement. There are several truths we see in this passage. The first truth is that the identity of Jesus and his disciples will be revealed and they are to be bold and what He has told them. The second truth is that the fear of God will supersede the fear of opposition and that they are to continue their mission. The third truth is that God is aware of the distress the disciples will experience and will care for them. They are to confess Jesus before people. To understand the next verses, we need to look briefly at how families were thought of and considered in Jesus time. During this time, the family was owed the first loyalty and total attachment. If you were born into a family, you stayed with that family for...

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Really Seeing the People

Posted by on Jun 12, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Really Seeing the People

Good morning and welcome to the Second Sunday After Pentecost. Our Gospel passage for this Sunday is Matthew 9:35-10:15. Dear Lord…speak to each of us as we read and consider your words. Challenge and direct each of us to do the work you inspire us to do to spread your Word to your people. Amen. Jesus has been traveling around speaking to the people, healing the sick and casting out demons. In this passage, we read that “Jesus saw the crowds”. This becomes the starting point for our consideration today, just as it was the starting point for Jesus commissioning the disciples to bring the message to the people. Jesus was right in with the crowd. He wasn’t standing on a high mountain looking down. He wasn’t standing on the balcony of a building. Jesus was in the midst of the crowds and was able to greet them. He was WITH the people. He was part of their world at that point. Then, we see that Jesus had compassion for the people there as he could see they were harassed, helpless and wandering. Here, Matthew uses the term, “They were like a sheep without a shepherd.” They needed direction and protection. Jesus tells the disciples that the “harvest” is plentiful, but those who would harvest it (the laborers) are few. This is when Jesus commissions the disciples to be those laborers as He knows He cannot do all of the needed work himself. Jesus gives the disciples the authority over unclean spirits and cast them out as well as cure diseases and sicknesses. In other words, to care for and be a shepherd to those who were wandering and helpless. Jesus was showing his authority because he targeted the audience who had common values and beliefs. Jesus not only commissioned the disciples to cure diseases and cast out demons, he specifically said that the disciples should minister to the Israelites and not be concerned at this point about the Gentiles and Samaritans. Jesus termed the Israelites “the lost sheep of Israel.” The disciples were just beginning their mission and needed to concentrate on one nationality at this point. He also gave the disciples instructions about not taking too many “worldly” items with them…rather have one staff, one robe, one pair of sandals. They were not to take any money with them or pack a bag for their journey. Jesus instructed them to enter a town and find out which was worthy of their companionship and stay there while they were teaching and ministering to the people. They were to bless the house, if the owner accepted them. He also instructed them to shake the dust off their feet if the people would not listen or welcome them and move on to the next place. He equated the lack of hospitality they may experience to the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus also indicated that the “shaking off of the dust” was like a final judgment for those who reject the gospel and those who teach it. Now, the people Jesus was seeing were Israelites. He saw that the people of Israel needed to know they were worth something. He saw that they needed to gain strength and comfort. He wasn’t judging the people, He wanted to help them like a shepherd. He had compassion for them and He saw ALL the people. There are some interesting aspects of this passage that are very applicable to our situation in our world. When Jesus was commenting to the disciples that they were to pray for workers to help shepherd the people...

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What will we do as disciples?

Posted by on Jun 5, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on What will we do as disciples?

Sunday, June 7, has been designated as Trinity Sunday…and another term is listed, being “Peace with Justice Sunday”. I think it is rather ironic that the “Peace with Justice” label is prominent this Sunday in the light of what we have been living through these past 9-10 days. One of the suggestions in an article written regarding suggestions for themes, etc., that I normally consider when beginning my studying and preparations, was that we not try to explain the Trinity this Sunday. In my estimation, one of the most important verses to understand the Trinity is in Genesis 1:26, when God is considering who will care for the animals and earth that was created. This verse says, “Then God said, “Let US make humankind in OUR image, according to OUR likeness…”(Gen 1:26). It was the use of the words “us and our” indicated to me that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were one. All were part of the creation of the world. So…to move to our consideration of the gospel for today from Matthew 26:16-20. When we were considering the gift of the Holy Spirit last week during our celebration of Pentecost, we can read further in the book of Acts and find out that the disciples stayed in Jerusalem for awhile, After the crowd confessed their sin of crucifying Jesus, the disciples talked with and taught the crowds. Those in the crowd believed and wanted to be baptized. And there were 3000 people who were added to the disciples and spent time studying and praying and sharing in breaking of bread and prayers. In considering our gospel reading from Matthew today, we find that the disciples had been directed to go to Galilee to a mountain. Jesus appeared to them. Some of the disciples believed and some were skeptical. How did Jesus react to those who were skeptical that this really WAS Jesus? He didn’t degrade them in any way. Remember that the disciples HAD followed the words of the women who saw Jesus at the empty tomb. The disciples had seen Jesus when they were together in the room…for safety and for coming together to prepare for what Jesus was promising them. Also, Jesus was always telling them they would go to “nations”…and for these people, that meant Gentiles. The Jews did not want to consider ministering to Gentiles…they were not the same as the Jews were. (Could we classify this as discrimination on both “sides”…as the Gentiles did not like the Jews?) Yes..even though Jesus had the disciples ministering to the Israelites…they are now being commissioned to go to ALL nations. What changed their minds? Probably when Jesus said to them He had been given “all authority” in heaven and on earth. He was raised to heaven by God. He commissioned them to go to all nations, teaching and baptizing the converts in the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. There it is….the Trinity! Remember that they had been given the power by the Holy Sprit on Pentecost. These people were to make disciples to be followers and to do what Jesus taught to further God’s word to all the people. They were to teach and baptize…and implicit in this command was to forgive and teach people to forgive each other and obey what Jesus had commanded. I can just imagine how the disciples were feeling at this point. Yes…they were pleased that Jesus was commissioning them, but “now what”? After working with the people in the temple in Jerusalem, they had the sense that this wouldn’t be an “easy” job...

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Uncharted Territory

Posted by on May 29, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Uncharted Territory

Welcome to Pentecost Sunday, 2020. It’s a different type of Pentecost celebration this year than in the past. However, that doesn’t detract from the importance of celebration this day for the disciples in Jesus time…and for us in our time. Dear Lord…speak to each one of us as we consider your words today. Guide us and direct us, just as you did for the disciples. Thank you for the gifts you give us…for the love, grace and protection you provide. We are your disciples. Amen The Bible reading for today is from Acts 2:1-21. This reading is the extension from Luke’s gospel as he was moving his writing from the actions and teachings of Jesus in the world to the works of the disciples as they moved out to fulfill the commission Jesus gave them. Let us consider the meaning of Pentecost first. Pentecost means “50”. This was a day that was fifty days after the completion of the harvest. This was the day that was fifty days after the celebration of the Passover. It was also fifty days after Jesus crucifixion including the 10 days after Jesus resurrection. The celebration of Pentecost in the age of the disciples took place in Jerusalem. Remember that Jesus wanted the disciples to return to Jerusalem to wait for the Spirit to be given to them. The disciples had been worshiping in the temple after they had witnessed the ascension of Jesus. Yes…there were people who were still there following the completion of the Passover celebration as well as the celebration of the end of the harvest. Luke states that there were about 120 people gathered in the court of the temple, the disciples were in the room where they had seen Jesus. While they were celebrating, a sound like a strong wind came through the people and filled the area. I would expect we could equate the sound to that of an oncoming tornado. That wind caught everyone’s attention. In addition to the wind, tongues of fire appeared on each one of the people and everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit. What significance does wind and fire have? Fire has always indicated the presence of God, since the events of Mount Sinai, when God gave the Israelites the law. In Jewish history, the wind indicates the power of God and the fire indicates the presence of God. Not only did the disciples and people there have tongues of fire on their heads, they began to speak in other languages…as “the Spirit gave them the ability”. (verse 3) Notice that the sound did not go unnoticed. People from every nation were living in Jerusalem and experiencing this happening. In fact, they were a little concerned about the noise and wondered if the people who were speaking had been drinking a little too much wine. Peter begins to address the crowd as a teacher and prophet and explained to them that this was a fulfillment of the event written in Joel 2:28-32, which was God’s fulfillment of the giving of the promised Spirit. Let’s look at a few interesting aspects of this event. First, there were Jews in attendance at this event that were from all countries. They heard their own language being spoken. Normally, the word used for the “speaking” when the Spirit was given to the people was that they were speaking in tongues. However, they were speaking in languages that could be understood by those in the crowd. These foreign languages provide us with a sign of the beginning of a new era in the plan of redemption of...

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