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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Good News of Repentance

Posted by on Dec 6, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Good News of Repentance

Dear Lord…as we continue to prepare to celebrate your coming to us as a baby, please help us to prepare our lives to reach out to your people. Please help us to share your good news with all we meet….we can share your good news in so many ways. Guide us, dear Lord, as we are your disciples in your world.The gospel reading for this 2nd Sunday in Advent is from Mark 1:1-8. Mark does not go through the genealogy of Jesus as do the other three gospels. Mark begins immediately with the prophecy from Isaiah and states that this is the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God. Another of the readings for this Sunday is from Isaiah 40:1-11 where God promises through Isaiah that God will send the people comfort and all will see the glory of the Lord together. Mark quotes this portion when he says, “See I am sending my messenger ahead of you who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Well…Mark follows this quotation with the mention of John the Baptist who appeared from the wilderness and was proclaiming the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. This message was one that all of the people who heard it flocked to hear more from John and to be baptized. The quotation from Isaiah grounds John’s work as part of scripture. And, it sets Jesus’ ministry as the work of God in and with the people of Israel and neighboring countries.The good news that John and Jesus proclaim is that of God’s actions in the world. They promise the coming of the kingdom that will become true in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. In reality, John is calling the people of Israel to repentance and promises that the one coming after him will baptize the people with the Holy Spirit.John had come from the wilderness. This was an area outside of the populated cities….so we are looking at two completely different areas. In the wilderness, there was no structure…as there was in the city. So, he was speaking to people who were both socially and geographically different. But, they understood what he was saying and wanted to be baptized by him. This was a baptism of repentance. As we see from the last verse, John said he would be baptizing with water, for people requesting repentance. The one coming after him would baptize with the Holy Spirit. However, even at this time, there was only one baptism. John was proclaiming what the Son of God would be doing. So…what was John preaching about baptism. He was speaking about the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. The people would be spiritually cleansed in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. It was bringing people into a transformed group whose sins were forgiven. This was good news to the people of Israel and it is good news to us. Let us look at what John was calling people to do. He was calling them to repent. I believe I have always thought of repentance as being sorry for my actions. But…what about after that type of confession and repenting for actions that were not indicative of a follower of Christ. What does our repenting really mean? This means that we are ready to prepare our lives and order our lives to reflect this change in thanks to God. Our actions MUST reflect our words. If we are sorry for what we have done or not done, our actions must reflect the change in our lives.If...

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Pray—Praise—Prepare

Posted by on Dec 1, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Pray—Praise—Prepare

Dear Lord….thank you so much for all you have provided for us. We often take for granted all you give to us…like a home, a bed to sleep in, food to eat, friends, family, your Son. We are so very thankful to you for the care and safety you provide for us. May we continue to realize what gifts we have been given by you, be thankful for them and help others who need to know your love and saving grace.Our gospel lesson for today the first Sunday of Advent is from Mark 13:24-37. In this reading, Jesus is speaking to his disciples for the final time before he is to go through the events of his arrest, trial and crucifixion. In these verses, Jesus is telling the disciples and followers to be alert and ready at all times. These words really speak to the people of Jesus time about the eventual destruction of Jerusalem and the devastation of the war with Rome. Jesus tells them that they will know the time may come when the fig tree’s leaves begin to appear…and the branches are tender. This means it could be close to summer. Jesus also says that the Son of Man will come with power and glory, but the time will not be known. He also says that time will pass away, but his words will not pass away. He also underlines the fact that no one but the Father knows what the day or hour will be for the coming. And…he challenges the people to always be aware….and ready. He then uses the illustration of a man leaving on a journey and leaving his house in the care of stewards. This illustration also speaks to the fact that those who are caring for his house do not know when the owner will return. I really believe this illustration also speaks to us as believers. You say…what does this have to do with us this year…and now as we begin the celebration of Advent…leading to Christmas when this man, Jesus, was born as a baby and we all received the gift he would provide for us.Just as Jesus was training the disciples in this section…He is also training us. We are to be alert, but to keep on with the work God has asked us to do as His disciples. We are to be ready…to be alert…to be good stewards…to prepare.This time of all of our lives has been so very challenging. Not only have we had to be separate from family and friends, but we have been warned to be sensitive to where we go…to avoid potential exposure to the virus. Many of us have not been able to attend our “normal” Thanksgiving celebrations due to the potential dangers. Yes…we have been able to get other things done, but we are missing our friends. We are now missing out on having the privilege of attending church services and worshiping together. We pray every day for calm…for guidance in making the decisions to keep ourselves and our relatives safe and well. It is also important that we pray for our leaders, the incarcerated, our family, friends, nation, church. This is vital. In the middle of this trying time in our lives, we now have the chance to again celebrate the coming to us of Jesus as a baby. It’s a good time to praise God for this gift…to thank Him for giving it to us. Even though the times are different…we can still sing God’s praises for his gifts. We can still listen to and sing along with...

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