Keep on Keeping On

Posted by on Sep 20, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Keep on Keeping On

Dear Lord….Thank you so much for your free gift of grace that you grant us. Thank you for the forgiveness of our shortcomings and mis-steps we often take. Thank you for guiding us in your world, upholding us and giving us challenges to work with your world to bring your Good News to others.Our readings for this Sunday, come from both Matthew 20:1-6 as well as Philippians 1:21-30. The primary consideration will be with the words of Paul to the people of Philippi as they have been working to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people of their nation. His goal is to have people know what Christ has done for us all and to exhibit this by living in Christ.Paul is encouraging the people to continue to work “in the flesh” which means to be in service to others. In verses 21 and 22, he states that to live in Christ and with Christ would be a wonderful gift. He also states that living and working with the people of Christ in the world is fruitful labor and he isn’t sure about which one to choose. Paul chooses to stay in the flesh, working with the people of Philippi as they bring the message to others in their land. He decides that the best decision would be to keep working with the people, which puts the interest of the followers before his own interest. Paul also mentions to the people that he will stand firm in the Spirit by working together for the spread of God’s message to all people. At this point, Paul states that he, along with the Philippians will put on the “mind of Christ”. By this he means that since Christ gave himself up for all people, he will give up his wishes to share the work with the people. Also, with this mind, he will have help the people pattern a life of community living with the basis being that of unity. He encourages them (and us) to “live your life” publicly and visible. Paul’s goal was to grow in Christ, which he also challenges the people he is writing to, to do the same…as we are to also do. Paul does realize that will not be an easy task. We are reminded of this when we read the text from Matthew. In this text, Jesus is specifically giving all a “true to life” parable of people who work in the vineyard for the owner/manager. The manager looked for laborers to work in the vineyard in the market place and hired some to begin work early in the morning, promising them a “days’ wages”. When the manager finds that more laborers are needed, he hires some to begin work in the afternoon, promising them to pay the “a days’ wages”. These laborers had not found work earlier in the day and were happy to have something to do and to be paid for.Normally work hours for these laborers were 12 hours….no matter when they began working…whether it was early in the morning…or later in the afternoon. Therefore, the pay would be for working for the day.This is where we see the “divide”. Those who began working in the morning were upset because the ones who began working in the afternoon were paid the same wages. No difference. Some of the “afternoon workers” may have been done with their task sooner than the 12 hours and were paid the same. The manager asked (in verse 15), are you jealous because I’m generous? It is not for them to determine who gets...

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Forgive and Reconcile

Posted by on Sep 11, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Forgive and Reconcile

Dear Lord…as we move through these times in your world, you are talking to us about changes we all need to look at in our lives to help bring people to you. Sometimes we are unsure about how we should accomplish these changes, but you assure us that you are with us always and will never leave us. Thank you for your forgiveness of our shortcomings and for commissioning us to be your disciples in your world.Our texts for consideration today are from Matthew 8:21-35 and Romans14:1-12. In the Gospel from Matthew, we find Peter asking a question of Jesus. Remember that Jesus has just completed the lesson to them about working with people who are causing issues and accepting that person back when he/she is repentant. In other words, Jesus was teaching the disciples about church discipline.In this text, Peter asked Jesus about how many times we should forgive someone who is a member of the church and has sinned against persons or the church. He asks if seven times enough. Jesus responds by saying, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy seven times times.” (v. 22). Jesus then tells the disciples a parable about a servant who asked his master to forgive a debt owed to the master. The debt was huge…10,000 talents. This was the largest amount of money in the roman world. That would equate in our money to several billion dollars and would have been almost impossible to even pay the master back.The master agreed to forgive the debt after the servant pleaded for the master to have patience in how long it would take to pay him back. Out of pity, the master forgave the entire debt. We can only imagine the relief the servant felt. The king acted as if the loan had never been made. However, shortly after being forgive of the huge debt, the servant met up with a friend who owed him money. This person owed the first slave 100 denarii. The people in this time earned one denarii a day for their work. This amount would have equated to 100 days of work. The friend pleaded with the servant to forgive him the debt, but the servant refused to forgive the debt and even began to physically threaten the friend. Friends of both men saw this action and were upset and went to the master to report what they had seen. The servant was summoned by the master and had him tortured until he could repay the entire debt. The servant did not show in any way that his debt had been forgiven, primarily because he refused to forgive a debt owed to him.What can we take from this story? The first is that owing money is not something that a church needs to gather together to consider. There are NO restrictions on forgiving, as Jesus said forgiveness must be seventy times seven times. Forgiveness is between individuals, but can often contribute to issues within an organization.This parable warns us that those who are brothers of Jesus who are saved and have received forgiveness from God are to exhibit this forgiveness by forgiving others . However, if these people refuse to forgive others, they will be disciplined by God. Paul is discussing the subject of differences in eating between Jews and Gentiles. They were at serious “odds” with the differences. Paul told them not to regard the practices and beliefs with contempt or judge the people. He is asking the people to accept each other’s decisions and beliefs and realize that God accepts all people. He asks...

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Resolution and Reconciliation

Posted by on Sep 7, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Resolution and Reconciliation

Dear Lord….We are living in a world that is full of frustration that often shows itself in anger and hostility. Please come to us with your loving, reconciling presence that we may be part of the calming of the people we live with and work with. Show us the ways we can help ourselves make our way through this time as well as be helpful to others in your world to bring them to your peace.Our gospel lesson for this week is from Matthew 18:15-20. We will also be considering the words of Paul to the Romans in his epistle…namely Romans 13:8-14. It has been very interesting that the epistle readings and the gospel readings for the past two weeks have been considering the same issues for us to think seriously about.In Matthew, Jesus is teaching the disciples within the community that is the church of their time. He is teaching them some of the more challenging things they may encounter as they speak to the people they are ministering to. In this lesson, the goal Jesus is teaching them is to retain all members, even those who are offending members of the church. Jesus does not want the disciples or the members of the churches to dismiss that offending member. Jesus does not want a single one of the sheep to be lost and is really showing how to bring that lost member back. He is teaching them the method of conflict resolution he wants them to follow. The first thing he talks to the disciples about is to meet privately with the person and ask questions, listen to the person and, if necessary, admonish the person regarding how the people in the church have been offended. The disciples are not to use gossip or slander. They want to have the truth as the goal is to win the brother back.However, if this conversation doesn’t work, Jesus tells the disciples that they, along with two or three witnesses are to talk with the offending person. This would give some seriousness and weight to the issues they are discussing. This method would also make sure that restoration was done correctly…and agreed to by the group. After this discussion as a small group, the disciples were to include the whole church in the conversation and restoration. The restoration of the lost sheep to the church is the responsibility of all. If however, the lost sheep doesn’t agree to follow any suggestions of the church, the person is to be allowed to leave as the decision to NOT follow was the choice of the lost sheep by showing that he is unrepentant for his actions. Jesus is telling the disciples, and us, that restoration is the responsibility of all people…in a town, in a church, in a country. He is also assuring us that he is always with His people in the restoration. He will not leave us…and reminds us all that restoration depends on discipline and evangelism. To summarize the points Jesus is making, the procedure he is teaching for conflict resolution is first friendly confrontation, second negotiation and third adjudication. He also assures the disciples and us that God will concur/agree with whatever decision is made by the group as well as by the lost sheep…who may decide to not follow the agreements made by the church.We all understand what Jesus is asking us as members of our churches want us to do, with His support, knowing we will not be abandoned by God. There is more, though. How can we help people in our current time frame maneuver...

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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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