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Bible Study
Readings for This Week's Bistro Bible Study

Each week we gather on Tuesday morning for Bible study. Until recently we met at the Bistro but this time of quarantine does not permit that for this time. Attached you will find the scriptures according to four different sources. The NRSV and NIV are translations that stick to "just the facts" of the Bible. The Message and The Voice are paraphrased readings that add a modern understanding to the Holy Scripture.

Read the Bible versions first. Then,  prayerfully, review the notes that follow here. Pray for each other and the needs of our congregation, our land, and our times. May your study be prayer.
Pastor Michaele
 

 

 

 

-----------------------------------Scripture Study for October 20, 2020 -------------------------------------

Tuesday Bible Study October 20, 2020

Matthew 22:34-46

34When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

41Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42“What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, 44‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? 45If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Matthew 22:34-46 The Message

34-36 When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

37-40 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

41-42 As the Pharisees were regrouping, Jesus caught them off balance with his own test question: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said, “David’s son.”

43-45 Jesus replied, “Well, if the Christ is David’s son, how do you explain that David, under inspiration, named Christ his ‘Master’?

God said to my Master,
    “Sit here at my right hand
    until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Now if David calls him ‘Master,’ how can he at the same time be his son?”

46 That stumped them, literalists that they were. Unwilling to risk losing face again in one of these public verbal exchanges, they quit asking questions for good.


 


 

Pastor's Notes 

http://gluthermonson.blogspot.com/2017/10/shamed-by-shema.html


 


 

Michael Anthony Howard, The Pacific Pilgrim, 2014.

  • "...when Jesus explains that the law and the prophets all hang on the commandments to love God and love our neighbors, he is inviting his hearers to see that those around them were created in God's image."

Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Matthew 22:34-46, David Ewart, 2011.

  • "The "love" that is being called for is not emotion; it is not "liking," "getting along with," "desiring," or "feeling warm about." The "love" Jesus is talking about here is trust, loyalty, enduring devotion, being attached to. You may actually hate your neighbour, but you will still love them in the Biblical sense if you continue to act for their well-being. "


 

Brian P. Stoffregen at CrossMarks.

  • "While Jesus quotes two OT passages (Dt 6:5; Lv 19:18), I think that we should stress the triple aspect of these two commandments: love God, love neighbor, and love self. I don't believe that Jesus is telling us to loose self in our care for neighbor -- or, in other words, become co-dependent. I also find it interesting that Jesus isn't proposing anything new, but using the authoritative writings for both Pharisees and Sadducees."


 


 

The severity of Jesus' response was more than just a casual rebuke. The commandment that Jesus' said was most important was part of the daily prayer in the temple. As temple leaders they recited the Shema every morning. In fact, they led the prayer. The words of their own mouths were a testimony against them. By posing such a question they called themselves to task.

Did they love God with their whole being? Did they love their neighbors as they loved themselves? Perhaps their astonishment was that they knew they had fallen short and Jesus' caught them with their own words.


 

Another interesting thing in verse 46. Some interpreters say that Jesus silenced the Sadducees. Others, such as the NRVS, simply say that no one dared ask him any more questions. The original Greek word is ἐφίμωσεν. According to the Greek Lexicon it means 1) to close the mouth with a muzzle, to muzzle.

They were done asking after that answer – like muzzling a barking dog – they were finished talking.


 

1. What difference does it make that the question regarding the greatest command is another trick question, a test, to ensnare Jesus?

 

To many Christians, this scripture is precious and powerful because it gets to the heart of the matter – What is the greatest of the commands in the law? It is to love God with everything and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. However, given the context of this chapter, especially from v.15 on, Matthew argues that the Pharisees are conspiring to entrap Jesus. Mt 19, Mk 12, Lk 10.

There are other places where something as fine and wonderful as this text can be found apart from a trick question. The latter part of the greatest command is found in Matthew 19:18-19, where Jesus answers the question of what commands one must follow to gain eternal life. Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

I think Matthew’s indicates that this question emerges out of a continued attempt to entrap Jesus. Still, it is a marvelous question, which opens up the possibility that a devious intent may still lead to a marvelous teaching moment.

 

2. What is the relationship between the three trick questions? (Some covered previously)

The first question was a question about the Imperial Tax, which, I believe is one of those enduring questions that arise again and again: What is the relationship between or ultimate loyalty to God and our relative/required loyalty to the Empire? In many ways, I think this is the question at the heart of much of the drama of the Old Testament and even of the history of the church (as H. Richard Niebuhr describes in his classic, Christ and Culture.)

The second question was about the resurrection, which I also think is a politico-theological question. When Jesus tells the story of the landowner whose slaves and son are murdered by evil tenants (21:33-46), he asks what the landowner should do. The Pharisees and chief priest answer, “Kill them!” Jesus answers with what I consider a form of resurrection, which is present throughout the Old Testament: “The stone that the builders rejected has returned to be the chief cornerstone.” Resurrection, in this sense, is the opposite of revenge. It is not just a religious doctrine of life after death; it is a political direction that is posited over and against the cycle of violence that comes from vengeance.

The third question is at hand: What is the essence of our calling? And it is a radical love of God that is inseparable from a love of neighbor. I feel than answer to be a resounding, “No!”

It strikes me that these questions are not just trick questions, but are trick questions that reveal the heart of faith for the People of Israel in Jesus’ time. From the perspective of his enemies, Jesus would not be liable for action by the Romans or for rejection by the people over a fruitless question, but over questions in which the people have investment of meaning.


 

3: What is the relationship between the first half of this reading about the greatest command and the second half about the argument that Jesus makes regarding the Son of David?

Jesus moves directly from the conversation about the greatest command to the argument about the superiority of the Messiah to David. I suspect that the question “Whose son is the Christ?” is a huge matter. If the Christ is the son of David – therefore subordinate to the glory of David – then the activity of the Christ would be to restore the throne of David. If the Christ is greater than David – to the point that David calls him “my lord” – then the activity of the Christ would be greater than restoring the throne of David. Is this, perhaps, a way of saying that the radical love, which fulfills the law and prophets, is greater than a restoration of the Davidic throne?

 

It's all about priorities and your vision of who Jesus is.

 

May your study be prayer.

 

Pastor Michaele

 

------------------------------------Scripture Study for October 13, 2020---------------------------------------

Fritz Wendt, Political Theology Today, 2017.

  • "We will give Caesar what is his, but nothing more; we will give God what is God’s, and that’s everything."

 

Exegetical Notes by Brian P. Stoffregen at CrossMarks.

  • "We cannot say that "this part belongs to God, so I will give it to God." Everything we are and everything we have belongs to God. Everything we are and everything we have we are to give (back) to God. We are but mere managers or stewards of these gifts God has given to us."

"First Thoughts on Year A Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 19, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

  • "With this passage we must expose the fallacy of dividing reality into God's area and other areas."

 

///\\\

 

Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

This phrase has become ubiquitous in our times, and western culture as a whole. It seems, at face value, a support for the separation of “church and state,” and a framework for understanding that we each have civic responsibility and religious responsibility–and that those are separate endeavors. We have duty to the state, and duty to our God.

However, that isn’t even close to what Jesus is talking about here.

First of all, in the ancient world there was no concept of a separation of civic and religious life. There was no way to even express that in language.

To suggest that that’s what is going on here is to read our own cultural norms into the culture of Jesus’ day. And that’s not helpful. At least, not if you’re looking for the truth.

For Caesar wasn’t just the secular head of state there…he was proclaimed (certainly self-proclaimed) to be a god. The Caesar was worshipped–with full religious honors. And those who didn’t exalt the Caesar as Lord were in big, big trouble.

In Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s book “The Last Week,” they have a very good treatment of this, and quite rightly say that when Jesus asks the disciples of the Pharisees and Herodians to produce a coin, and they produce a Roman coin with an image of the Caesar on it, they show how guilty they are.

Carrying around an image of a pagan god in their pocket, they are guilty of idolatry.

At this point in the encounter, Jesus has won. They have self-identified themselves as part of the pagan-religious-state. They have broken the first and second commandments.

At this point Jesus could just walk away, victorious.

But, he doesn’t.

He has more.

He raises the question: what then belongs to the Caesar, and what belongs to God?

If we reframe the question just a bit, the clear answer emerges. If we gave to Zeus the things that belonged to Zeus, and to God the things that are God’s…what would WE end up giving to Zeus?

Hopefully nothing. He is a sham. A non-existent entity, with no more divine power than the average tsetse fly.

And, what belongs to God, then? Everything.

In the words of King Solomon, and echoed in many of our churches every week: “All things come of thee, O God, and of thine own do we give to thee.”

Obviously then, this isn’t a call for separation of state and religion. This isn’t the establishment of a dual responsibility to God and country.

This is a call to give all that we have and all that we are to God. And, I have to say, that both our religious and civic lives could use a little more of that these days.

 

http://www.rickmorley.com/archives/1039?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=proper24a-gospel

 

 

Questions to Ponder:

 

Have you ever been trapped by conflicting priorities?

How did you handle it?

What might you do differently?

 

 

May your study be prayer.

 

Pastor Michaele

-------------------------------------Scripture Study for October 6, 2020-----------------------------------------

Matthew 22:1-14  NRSV

22Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22:1-14 The Message                    The Story of the Wedding Banquet

22 1-3 Jesus responded by telling still more stories. “God’s kingdom,” he said, “is like a king who threw a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out servants to call in all the invited guests. And they wouldn’t come!

“He sent out another round of servants, instructing them to tell the guests, ‘Look, everything is on the table, the prime rib is ready for carving. Come to the feast!’

5-7 “They only shrugged their shoulders and went off, one to weed his garden, another to work in his shop. The rest, with nothing better to do, beat up on the messengers and then killed them. The king was outraged and sent his soldiers to destroy those thugs and level their city.

8-10 “Then he told his servants, ‘We have a wedding banquet all prepared but no guests. The ones I invited weren’t up to it. Go out into the busiest intersections in town and invite anyone you find to the banquet.’ The servants went out on the streets and rounded up everyone they laid eyes on, good and bad, regardless. And so the banquet was on—every place filled.

11-13 “When the king entered and looked over the scene, he spotted a man who wasn’t properly dressed. He said to him, ‘Friend, how dare you come in here looking like that!’ The man was speechless. Then the king told his servants, ‘Get him out of here—fast. Tie him up and ship him to hell. And make sure he doesn’t get back in.’

14 “That’s what I mean when I say, ‘Many get invited; only a few make it.’”

 

Old Testament Scripture:

Exodus 32:1-14

32When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” 6They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

7The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!< 9The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” 11But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’“ 14And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

 

 

Exodus

Commentary: John C Holbrook

  • "Do not imagine that Aaron is dead; he is alive in us whenever we try to have it both ways: a little bit of YHWH and a little bit of the calf, too." 

From Matthew Henry's Commentary.

  • "Weariness in waiting betrays to many temptations."

Commentary, Exodus 32:1-14, Callie Plunkett Brewton, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2014.

  • "The fact that the people’s rejection of YHWH and the covenant is not the end of the story is a testimony to the ancient Israelites experience of the grace of God."

 

This week’s readings lend themselves to many questions as to our service, our attitude, and our commitment to God. (and which false gods we try to add to our belief system).

In Exodus look at Aaron. He has stood next to the leader of all Israel. He has been on the front lines of miracles and stood before the most powerful king of his time as Moses called down judgment. He has walked out of Egypt a free man after knowing the hardships of slavery. He was a leader even in captivity. He was a Levite – the tribe who would be priests and he would be the High Priest. He knew his brother Moses and had seen God’s hand on him. And yet, when pressured by the people he was charge to care for, he gives in to their wishes. He makes for them a golden god and declares that this creation of his own hand led them out of Egypt. Yes, Moses had been gone for days but had the will of God changed to allow them to serve another? It makes no sense to us when we look at Aaron.

Questions:

How many times have we known what God requires of us and given into the pressure to do what others want or are doing instead of standing for what is right?

How many times have we given up on God or our mission because it is taking too long?

How many times do we listen to the voices of others for an extended period of time until we begin to question our call, find an easier way or give up altogether? Wouldn’t it be better to stop listening to those other voices at the first instance?

 

Gospel Parable

  • From Matthew Henry's Commentary.
    • "Our merciful God has not only provided food, but a royal feast, for the perishing souls of his rebellious creatures
    • From Wesley's Notes. A king, who made a marriage feast for his son - So did God, when he brought his first-begotten into the world."

Christopher Burkett, Preacher Rhetorica, 2014.

  • "...there is still a choice to be made. Don't gloat over those first unfortunates. They were calculating instead of being open to receive. And that calculation did them no good. You have received open heartedly but you must make sure the gift touches your heart and soul."

From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891.

  • "It was the custom among the ancients for the guests to be twice invited; or rather first invited, that they might prepare themselves, and then summoned a short time before the banquet, that they might be there at the proper time."

From the Geneva Notes.

  • "Not all of the whole company of those that are called by the voice of the gospel are the true Church before God: for the most part of them would rather follow the conveniences of this life: and some persecute very cruelly those that call them: but they are the true Church who obey when they are called, such as for the most part are those whom the world despises."

Questions:

"How is this a parable teaching about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like?

 What sort of behaviors and attitudes does it call for now?

Knowing you have been called are you anticipating the coming feast? Are you ready or are you still holding tight to the things of this world?

Does waiting for the call to the banquet discourage your faith in God’s call to faith?

What about the wedding garment? We have been taught that the wedding garment is representative of Christs righteousness applied to our lives. Do you agree? What then would be the cost or value of such a garment?

Having decided the cost, how does that effect your view on the man’s punishment for not wearing what was provided to him?

 

May Your Study be Prayer.

Blessings,

Pastor Wood

 

-------------------------------------Scripture Study for September 29, 2020-------------------------------------

Tuesday Bible Study                                                                         September 29, 2020 KPC

Matthew 21:33-46                 NRSV

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

The Message

33-34 “Here’s another story. Listen closely. There was once a man, a wealthy farmer, who planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, put up a watchtower, then turned it over to the farmhands and went off on a trip. When it was time to harvest the grapes, he sent his servants back to collect his profits.

35-37 “The farmhands grabbed the first servant and beat him up. The next one they murdered. They threw stones at the third but he got away. The owner tried again, sending more servants. They got the same treatment. The owner was at the end of his rope. He decided to send his son. ‘Surely,’ he thought, ‘they will respect my son.’

38-39 “But when the farmhands saw the son arrive, they rubbed their hands in greed. ‘This is the heir! Let’s kill him and have it all for ourselves.’ They grabbed him, threw him out, and killed him.

40 “Now, when the owner of the vineyard arrives home from his trip, what do you think he will do to the farmhands?”

41 “He’ll kill them—a rotten bunch, and good riddance,” they answered. “Then he’ll assign the vineyard to farmhands who will hand over the profits when it’s time.”

42-44 Jesus said, “Right—and you can read it for yourselves in your Bibles:

The stone the masons threw out is now the cornerstone.
This is God’s work; we rub our eyes, we can hardly believe it!

“This is the way it is with you. God’s kingdom will be taken back from you and handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life. Whoever stumbles on this Stone gets shattered; whoever the Stone falls on gets smashed.”

45-46 When the religious leaders heard this story, they knew it was aimed at them. They wanted to arrest Jesus and put him in jail, but, intimidated by public opinion, they held back. Most people held him to be a prophet of God.

Pastor’s Notes

From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891.

  • "The "corner-stone" joined two walls. Alford thinks this is a reference to the union of Jews and Gentiles in the church."
  • Commentary, Matthew 21:33-46, Emerson Powery, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2014.
    • "Proper care and oversight of those people and things entrusted to us should receive fair hearing from this parable. We, too, are like those who wish to receive more credit for our labor, as if we 'own' the 'land.'"

In his parable of the vineyard and the rebellious tenants Jesus mirrors his own predicament in regard to the religious leaders in Jerusalem, as well as providing a template for understanding similar predicaments of faithful followers. 

We need to be concerned with what is happening here. It is the religious leaders who are challenging Jesus not the entire Jewish race. Leaders who are not only questioning Jesus’ authority but are ready to kill him because his righteousness challenges their own lack of it. Just as the tenants in this story killed the messengers and the son of the landowner so the religious leaders throughout Israel’s history had killed the prophets who came before Jesus (and will eventually even kill the Son of God himself).

This parable warns us that the very authority that God gives to His leaders often puts them in the crosshairs of the opposition setting us up for false claims against us, challenges to our faith and calling, and even assassination of our character or worse. If we claim to serve Christ can we expect anything different than what He received?

As leaders we are to protect those under our care, doing what is right and protecting the message we have received. We must, however, be careful not to protect the institution at the cost of the people.

  • Commentary, Matthew 21:33-46, Sharon H. Ringe, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.
    • "This parable does not use the story to set forth the surprising nature and qualities of God's reign, as do so many others in the Gospels. Its focus is rather on the futility of debates about, and maintenance programs for, the institutions of this age."

There is a story told of a news reporter interviewing a one hundred year old man. After hearing his life story the newsman commented, “It seems as if you’ve known nothing but problems in your life. What has kept you going?” The man replied it was his favorite scripture that had kept him going. The newsman asked, “What scripture is that?” The man replied, “And it came to pass.”

Nothing is permanent but the Word of God.

 

We also must be careful not to let our responsibilities for God’s vineyard make us think we are more important than we are. Like these tenants, some leaders begin to think as if they own the vineyard deciding who can stay and who is unworthy. We have all met church folks who have done a particular job so long that they allow no new ideas or people in their portion of the vineyard. If left that way a portion of ministry dies with them for there is no one to take their place.

There are folks that do away with the messengers of the Almighty who have come to help until they don’t hear from God any longer, or worse yet, they confuse their own voice with that of God. No matter how long you work in the kingdom or how much you think you have done in God’s name you do not and will never own any portion of the vineyard.

The Pharisees had come to that point where they considered their own understanding equal to that of God, their own authority to be the same as God-given authority. In that delusion they were about to deny their own salvation by denying the very One God had sent to provide it for them. As a result, that rejected one would be their destruction.

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes”

Jesus speaks some hard words in this passage but the warning comes in love to all those who have been called to the vineyard – to the service of the Lord.

  • "This world operates on the basis of do unto others as they have done unto you, just like the characters in the parable. But the "Kingdom of Heaven" operates on a very different basis: on the basis of God's grace, God's unconditional love, and God's unfailing mercy."                         Alan Brehm, The Waking Dreamer.

 

Questions to Ponder

"How do you hear Jesus' parable today? Does the fact that he paints such an extreme picture make it easier or more difficult to apply to your life?"

Are we willing to listen to new voices, even as we seek to safeguard the tradition passed down from generation to generation? What are the issues we need to wrestle with?"

 

May your study be prayer,

Pastor Michaele

---------------------------------------------Scripture Study for September 22, 2020------------------------------------------

Matthew 21:23-32

23When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

 

Pastors Notes

From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871).

  • "The publicans and the harlots were the first son, who, when told to work in the Lord's vineyard, said, I will not; but afterwards repented and went. Their early life was a flat and flagrant refusal to do what they were commanded; it was one continued rebellion against the authority of God. The chief priests and the elders of the people, with whom our Lord was now speaking, were the second son, who said, I go, sir, but went not. They were early called, and all their life long professed obedience to God, but never rendered it; their life was one of continued disobedience."

Both sons in the parable insult their father. Both sons clearly need a change of mind and heart. But the one that acted, however reluctantly and late, proves to be the righteous one after conquering himself. Like the prostitutes and tax collectors who repent, knowing their need of grace, the first son shows up and does the work and the will of his father.

The first son immediately says he will do as the father has asked. He looks like the obedient son, he sounds like a dutiful son, he acts as if he is of the same mind as his father, but he never follows through with what he has been asked to do. Scholars, over the years, have likened this son to the nation of Israel. They answered the Father’s call in the beginning. They promised to keep the ordinances and commandments of God. Their sacrifices and festivals reminded them of what God had asked of them. They truly looked the part of the obedient son with their temple worship, robes, and golden implements of sacrifice. In time, however, God says their worship lacked commitment and action. They did not think as their Father did. They did not seek out the lost and many times the Old Testament records God’s rebuke for their actions without repentance.

The second son represents all those who said, “No” when called by God and all those who practice lifestyles contrary to God’s will. In time, some of these repent and go into the field to do as the father has asked.

The concern in this text is simply without a son to tell them the fathers will there is no authority, no leadership to accomplish the fathers desire – either in the vineyard or in the field that is our world. There is no one to shepherd the workers or lead the people. Getting to the field late suggests that something will not be accomplished – someone may be missed.

The second concern is that we sometimes accept the leadership of those “who look the part” but really aren’t doing anything and so we do nothing. Even more often we miss the leadership in those who come to the field late because we know them only as their former selves when they were still living for themselves. You can not always know the heart of a person by their appearance or evaluate their work by their appearance.  

The Pharisee and the Drunk
A drunk man who smelled like beer sat down on a subway next to a priest. The man's tie was stained, his face was plastered with red lipstick, and a half-empty bottle of gin was sticking out of his torn coat pocket. He opened his newspaper and began reading.
After a few minutes the man turned to the priest and asked, 'Say Father, what causes arthritis?'
The priest replies, 'My Son, it's caused by loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol, contempt for your fellow man, sleeping around with prostitutes and lack of a bath.'
The drunk muttered in response, 'Well, I'll be damned,' Then returned to his paper.
The priest, thinking about what he had said, nudged the man and apologized. 'I'm deeply sorry.   I didn't mean to come on so strong. How long have you had arthritis?'
The drunk answered, 'I don't have it, Father. I was just reading here that the Pope does.'
                                     -
internet joke making the rounds contributed by (the now late) Jim Guthrie

  

 

 

Commentary, Matthew 21:23-32, Stanley Saunders, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2017.

  • "Matthew highlights Jesus’ authority as a central, albeit contested issue throughout the Gospel..."

Those who have usurped authority or who have themselves up as an authority are often the last to see the one with true authority when they appear. The Pharisee’s were allowed authority because of their position in the religious culture of the day. As we have seen repeatedly in scripture, they were concerned with keeping that authority and squelching all threats to that. One thing we seldom talk about is the Pharisees did have a long history of keeping the temple pure – they began with pure hearts for the God they served – but over time became entrenched in the acts of God without growing in the spirit of God. This is where the problem arises.

Alan Brehm, The Waking Dreamer.

  • "Whenever we use our religion to make ourselves look good at the expense of others, we're really only deceiving ourselves so that we can avoid facing our own sins."

Jesus was a threat to what they knew even though it was a legitimate question to ask, “by whose authority do you do these things?” Any answer Jesus would give would be evaluated by their own preconceptions. Jesus speaks instead about the Spirit as Author of his Words. This is a vastly different kind of authority. The pure of heart among them would see God’s hand in Jesus’ work. Those caught up in their own self-preservation would not. Those who did not acknowledge the sin in their own life were always pointing out the flaw in others so as to keep their own flaws hidden. Jesus threatened to reveal that hidden nature by his very presence. That is why the common people could so readily accept Jesus – they had no pretense of self-worth to be challenged.  

"I don't think the focus of this scene and parable is on us nearly as much as it is on God. God the author of all life who regularly decides to invite a new relationship with us. God who will not count our past deeds, mistakes, griefs, or hurts against us. God who refuses to define us by what we do (or what has been done to us), but instead regards us always and only as God's beloved children." (David Lose)

 

Once we have dealt with our true selves and have come to know that our only value, our only hope is found in Christ we are free to go to the field as the father has requested, not out of guilt or duty but out of love for our siblings. With that knowledge we can only experience the joy and thanksgiving that is ours through knowing the truth and authority given to us to take the Gospel to the world.

This quote from Raimundo Panikkar (1918-2010) sums it all up for me.                            Grateful living: an alchemic operation of converting "disgraceful" things into grateful events.

Something of a specialty for our God.

I expect most of us can think of times when we have been like both of the sons in Jesus' parable today. Where do you find yourself today?

 

----------------------------------------------Scripture Study for September 15, 2020--------------------------------------------

  • Karoline Lewis, Dear Working Preacher, 2014.
    • "This parable is a reminder of the absolute gift of generosity that does not demand response, that does not account for reciprocity, that does not calculate metrical measures. Because then generosity is not generous. By definition, generosity is not measurable, accountable, or calculable."

·         Bob Cornwall, Ponderings on a Faith Journey, 2014.

o    "However we choose to read the parable, whether spiritually or economically, the word we hear in this passage is that in the kingdom of heaven, the king is generous."

·         Peter Lockhart, A Different Heresy, 2014.

o    "Heaven, God's rule, is a rule that promises generosity in life that for us living in a market driven world which is almost unfathomable – yet this is the kingdom we pray for."

 

 

we must not consider this parable in every detail, but confine ourselves to the leading thought, that which Christ designs to teach by it. We should not consider what the penny or shilling means, not what the first or the last hour signifies; but what the householder had in mind and what he aims to teach, how he desires to have his goodness esteemed higher than all human works and merit, yea, that his mercy alone must have all the praise. 

 

Now in this way Christ strikes a blow first against the presumption (as he also does in today's Epistle) of those who would storm their way into heaven by their good works; as the Jews did and wished to be next to God; as hitherto our own clergy have also done. These all labor for definite wages, that is, they take the law of God in no other sense than that they should fulfil it by certain defined works for a specified reward, and they never understand it correctly, and know not that before God all is pure grace. This signifies that they hire themselves, out for wages, and agree with the householder for a penny a day; consequently their lives are bitter and they lead a career that is indeed hard. 

  •  
    •  Matthew Henry's Commentary.
      • "The direct object of this parable seems to be, to show that though the Jews were first called into the vineyard, at length the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and they should be admitted to equal privileges and advantages with the Jews."
    • From Wesley's Notes.
      • "That some of those who were first called may yet be last, our Lord confirms by the following parable: of which the primary scope is, to show, That many of the Jews would be rejected, and many of the Gentiles accepted; the secondary, That of the Gentiles, many who were first converted would be last and lowest in the kingdom of glory; and many of those who were last converted would be first, and highest therein."
    • From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871).
      • "This parable, recorded only by Matthew, is closely connected with the end of the nineteenth chapter, being spoken with reference to Peter's question as to how it should fare with those who, like himself, had left all for Christ."

 

Questions for Ponder

If the reward (or wages) is heaven how can one expect to get more “heaven” than the other? For example, if a family decides to meet for a family reunion at a given destination, say Disneyworld, does it matter if Uncle Joe has to drive farther than the rest of the family? Or is it a concern that some drive while others choose to fly? Or that some begin their trip a week earlier so they can stop at roadside attractions? Or that some have children to bring along while others are alone? The only thing that matters is that family members meet at the appointed time and place. There is no person deserving more than the other or a better reward than the goal set for us.

This earthly journey reminds me of this family trip. The reward is God’s home for eternity. You may spend your life looking at what others have, comparing it to what you have been given, focusing on the heat of the day, and all the negative circumstances of your life and make yourself miserable. The alternative is that you can take what you have and share it with others, enjoying the trip and your traveling companions. Our only responsibility in God’s vineyard is to go to work when God calls us and do what God requires of us. If we do it because of love we will find the joy in our calling.

 

I am amazed that the first workers have the audacity to question the landowner for what he does with his own belongings. It’s as if they have seen the landowner’s wealth and decided they are worthy of more than what was promised simply because the landowner has more than they do.  The problem here is the first group is given what had been promised them but they then presume they should decide who is worthy of the landowners generosity. This parable is often read as the first group being the chosen people who knew of God’s grace and generosity but did not share it with others in the world leading them to faith in God. Those who come to the field later are the Gentiles who accept the Gospel – all are called to the work and will be rewarded at the end of the day.

Before we are too hard on the workers remember we are often just like them. How often do we question God when we do not receive what extra we think we should? Have you ever asked God why you have been placed in the vineyard at this particular time? Have you ever looked at a brother or sister and thought God was being easier on them? Why does another seem to be more blessed or have better things that I do? Why aren’t they going through all the problems I am? What have they done to deserve God’s blessing? Or what about the famous (and dangerous) exclamation, “God, it’s just not fair?”        We, like Peter in the previous chapter, want to know what happens to those who give up everything to follow Jesus. Our joy is in doing the task God has given us, not in keeping score or a tally sheet. We try to hold God accountable for His choice of blessing another as if we had authority to demand God sign our time sheet for overtime wages. God has promised us all – what more could you ask?

Jesus reminds the first group quickly that they have no say in who works or is rewarded in His vineyard. Neither do we have a say in how God chooses to bless. Heaven is always before us – all of us – no matter when we come to work in the kingdom.  As Karoline Lewis said, “The good news is that Jesus persists in telling us the truth about ourselves.” [Lewis, K. Dear Working Preacher, 2017.] My prayer is that we continue to listen.

This parable highlights the generosity of God. As the ultimate "landowner," God will use what has always belonged to the Creator for the good of all even if humans fail to view the world through God's eyes. By definition, generosity cannot be measured. It cannot be calculated. Generosity is simply the manifested, physical, expression of God’s love toward us, a love without limits. I would much rather experience God’s loving generosity than to settle for what I thought I deserved.

No matter how we view this parable the word that we need to hear in this passage is that in the kingdom of heaven, the king is generous. The king does not limit his gifts and blessings toward us and the economy of heaven is very different from our own.

"Heaven, God's rule, is a rule that promises generosity in life that for us living in a market driven world which is almost unfathomable – yet this is the kingdom we pray for."                          "The Generous Landowner," Peter Lockhart, A Different Heresy, 2014.

-----------------------------------------Scripture Study for Tuesday September 8, 2020--------------------------------------

Matthew 18:21-35

21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35                 The Message

21 At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

22 Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

23-25 “The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

26-27 “The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

28 “The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’

29-31 “The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

32-35 “The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”


 

Pastor’s Notes

 

D Mark Davis, Left Behind and Loving It, 2017.

  • "I expect that we are not ready to accept either, a) That our debt that God has forgiven was really all that hefty to begin with; or b) that the debt we refuse to forgive someone else is really all that light."
  • Living by the Word, Chris Dorsey, The Christian Century, 2017.
    • "The failure to forgive disrupts, distorts, and degrades community."
  • A Provocation, Richard Swanson, provokingthegospel, 2017.
    • "Forgiveness may indeed set them free, but not if it comes as a demand that perpetuates the abuse."
  •  Matthew 18:21-35 | Lisa Michaels | A Plain Account, 2017
    • "There is nothing about this passage that suggests the master forgives the debt and then offers the offensive servant unlimited access to his resources! There is nothing that suggests forgiveness is equal to allowing for perpetual cycles of abuse."
    • Eric Barreto says, “"Confrontation without forgiveness does not reflect the good news, and neither can forgiveness that eschews the confrontations that made forgiveness necessary in the first place speak truthfully about reconciliation and healing."

 

“How often should I forgive, Jesus?” Of course, Jesus’ response to Peter’s question does not really provide an answer but rather points out the misdirection of the question itself. How many times should we forgive? The issue is not how much or how often we are asked to forgive or should forgive. The act of forgiveness is already a limitless, measureless act. Forgiveness is never not present in our lives and in our relationships. That is the issue. Forgiveness is part and parcel of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a constant. It is not optional. It is not a choice. We want it to be -- and that is at the heart of Peter’s question.

 

This is forgiveness according to the Kingdom of Heaven and it is a hard truth to hear. As much as we want to exercise one of the essential marks of the Christian faith, we often cannot bring ourselves to accept or imagine the endless and inestimable nature of forgiveness that Jesus assumes.

 

Honestly, it’s a hard truth to hear. We are inclined toward order and measure. As I may have shared before I worked with insurance and finances in my previous career. My favorite class in school was Astro-physics, a very exact science involving use of formulas and precise calculations. I rather like the precision and predictability that comes with acquired skills, practice, and accountability. But, if we have learned anything from Matthew thus far, especially Matthew’s parables, it’s that the Kingdom of Heaven refuses to bend toward our need for reasoning and explanations, our desire for chartable paths and existential equations.

It’s also a hard truth for us to hear because it sets in motion reflection. This is the truth of this passage as well. It sets in motion -- deeply, tragically, painfully -- memories of those people I was reluctant to forgive. It sets in motion thoughts of those waiting for my forgiveness. It sets in motion reminders of those whom I do not think I can ever forgive. Ponder all of that this week. What is holding you back? What quid pro quo am I expecting to make my forgiveness more palatable or possible?

 

Forgiveness is a decision – the feelings may come later.

 

So what do we do with this statement?

    • "Forgiveness may indeed set them free, but not if it comes as a demand that perpetuates the abuse."

 

When we forgive, we release a person from anything we may do, therefore, as a consequence. We turn them over to God to deal with, thus setting ourselves free from desiring vengeance which holds a heavy penalty – one we cannot carry. We literally must take our hands off the situation and not keep checking to see if God is handling it as we think God should. We do not continue to remind the person of the injury, etc.

 

Situations to ponder

 

There are times when we forgive someone for our own sake rather than theirs. For example, if someone robs your home, you must choose to forgive to gain your own freedom from the situation. It does not mean that you are hostile to them if you meet them on the street but it also does not mean that you invite them into your home as if nothing happened. 

 

This is important to remember also in cases of abuse. If a family member or friend abuses a child, the family may forgive him but that does not mean that the family should insist the child  treat that individual like a non-offending member of the family. Forgiveness releases them into God’s hands but a change in their life may take time for spiritual growth, counseling, and legal intervention to bring about that change.

 

 

Is there a limit to Gods forgiveness? We quickly can answer, “No.” Should there be a limit to our ability to forgive?

----------------------------------------Scripture Study for September 1, 2020-------------------------------------------

Tuesday Study for Sept 1 2020

 

Matt 18:15-20                        NRSV

15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Matt 18:15-20                        The Message

15-17 “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.

18-20 “Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”

 

Pastor’s Notes

From the Geneva Notes.

  • "We must strive for agreement, and not to revenge injuries."

Karl Jacobson, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.

  • "Jesus says, essentially, that being a member of the church means you have a responsibility."

Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman, Matthew 18:15-20, ON Scripture, 2011.

"Is Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus simply helpful or inspiring because we [Presbyterians] think it has located us on God’s side, on the right side?"

 

Jesus has just heard his disciples disagreeing about who is going to be greatest in God’s kingdom. He has rebuked Peter for his [or Satan’s] effort to stop him from going to Jerusalem. It is the right time to talk about handling disputes but still, this has got to be one of the most difficult and unsettling passages in Scripture.

Maybe it is that I've known way too many Christians who are more than eager to "go and point out the fault" of someone who has sinned. Or maybe it is the reference to treating the one entrenched in sin as "a Gentile and a tax collector" -- nice. Or maybe this all goes back to my early days in Christianity when this passage was regularly cited first as a way to handle disputes and then as a rationale of why a "backsliding" member of the fellowship should now be shunned. Or maybe it is just the huge promise tacked on near the end about asking and receiving. No matter how you cut it, I just can't seem to find a reason to be overjoyed with this passage. Which is of course the reason I must pursue it.

Here is what I've discovered.  As much as I may not like what feels like an inherent legalism in this text -- and, truth be told, in much of Matthew -- when I read the passage carefully I realize that Matthew's deep concern in this passage and in so many other places is community -- honest-to-goodness, authentic Christian community. And the two things I have seen time and again about community is

1) we all say we want it and

2) we usually have no idea how difficult it is to come by.

 

Community, after all, is one of those feel-good words that draw us into idealisms -- we imagine something out of Cheers, a place where you're accepted for who you are, where you're never lonely, and where, of course, everyone knows your name. But the really difficult thing about community is that it's made up of people! And people -- not you and me, of course, but most people -- can be difficult, challenging, selfish, and unreliable. Which means that usually when we're daydreaming about community we're often prompted to do so because we don't particularly like the people -- i.e., the community! -- we're currently a part of.

It's into this reality that Jesus, according to Matthew, speaks, and I find his candor refreshing. Let me summarize what I take to be the salient points:
    *People sin.
    *Communities are made up of these sinning people.
    *When that happens and you're involved, do something about it; namely, go talk to the other person directly like a mature adult rather than behind his or her back.
    *If that doesn't work, involve some others of the community. (As Karl Jacobson points out in an excellent commentary on this passage, this isn't a "gathering of witnesses" but rather a way to involve and preserve the larger community that is affected by this dispute.)
    *If that doesn't work, then things are serious and you're all at risk. (To tell you the truth, I'm not totally sure what treating the offender "as a Gentile and tax collector" means, especially given Jesus' actual treatment of Gentiles and tax collectors -- wasn't that what Matthew was?! -- in the rest of the Gospel.)

To get even more succinct, I'd put it this way: Authentic community is hard to come by. It's work. But it's worth it. Because when you find it, it's like discovering a little bit of heaven on earth; that is, it's like experiencing the reality of God's communal fellowship and existence in your midst. And, as Jesus promises, when you gather in this way -- with honesty and integrity, even when it's hard -- amazing things can happen because Jesus is with you, right there, in your very midst, forming and being formed by your communal sharing.

So here's what I'd like to ask this Sunday:  just what kind of community do we want to be? Because "community" is all over the place. There are cyber communities, and social-media communities. There are work-related and school-centered communities. Many of the communities we're a part of we fall into as affinity groups -- our kids' playgroups, or a running club, or the folks we eat with in the dining room of our college or elder-care facility. All of these communities are different, and each shares distinct characteristics. So what kind of community do we want from our congregation -- largely social, somewhat superficial (which is, of course, safe)? Do we want something more meaningful or intimate (which is riskier and harder)? Do we want a place that can both encourage us and hold us accountable? Are we looking for a place we can be honest about our hopes and fears, dreams, and anxieties? Do we want somewhere we can just blend in or are we looking for a place we can really make a difference?

 

 And then how much are you willing to risk or work for this kind of community? Remember that as we struggle to be together in Christ, the Christ who formed a community, around his message and his cross is here, right here, in the heart-center of us.

-------------------------------------  Scripture Study for Aug 25 2020 -----------------------------------------

 

Matthew 16:21-28     NRSV

21From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 27“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

 

Matthew 16:21-28     The Message

You’re Not in the Driver’s Seat

21-22 Then Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive. Peter took him in hand, protesting, “Impossible, Master! That can never be!”

23 But Jesus didn’t swerve. “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.”

24-26 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

27-28 “Don’t be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You’ll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift. This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory.”

 

 

Pastors Notes                         Picking up your cross

 

From  Wesley's Notes.

  • "Should we not consider all crosses, all things grievous to flesh and blood, as what they really are, as opportunities of embracing God's will at the expense of our own?"

From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891.

  • "Christ saw in the words of Peter a suggestion not so much of his as of Satan's. It was a temptation to shrink from the work for which he came. It was the same temptation that called out from him the same rebuke once before."

Biblical Scholar Sarah Dylan Breuer looks at readings for the coming Sunday in the lectionary of the Episcopal Church. https://www.sarahlaughed.net/lectionary/2005/08/proper_17_year_.html

  • "As we follow Jesus, things will change -- us, our relationships, our world. Change means losing things as they were, but if we've caught Jesus' vision for how God is redeeming the world, we know that what we gain is of far greater value than the chains we lose.

Last week we heard of Peter's confession of Jesus as God's anointed and now he's rebuked in this Sunday's gospel. Peter thinks that Jesus was anointed to defeat their enemies, and that's the star he wants to hitch his wagon to: he wants to share in the victory he anticipates Jesus will win.

Peter is going to share in Jesus' victory, but it's not the kind of victory he anticipated when he first called Jesus God's messiah. It's a victory won not by killing enemies, but by forgiving them. It's a victory won on the cross, and Peter will share it when he's ready to take up his cross and follow Jesus.

But what does that mean, to take up one's cross? It's clearly something that's important to Matthew, as he reports Jesus saying something very like this twice: here in chapter 16, and earlier, in Matthew 10:38-39, and I think the context from chapter 10 can help us figure out what "taking up the cross" means in chapter 16 as well.

Let me start first by saying one thing that it does NOT mean for most of us: it doesn't mean that we're supposed to seek literal or figurative martyrdom. If Jesus' death on the cross was a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, [and it was] then nobody has any right to demand bloodshed or suffering for sins or crimes. For some of us, the hard part of taking that in and living it out is that we have to give up vengeance or holding a grudge against someone who injured us. For some, the hard part is to stop punishing ourselves. Paul writes in Romans 12 that we are to present ourselves as "living sacrifices," but that is a vastly different thing from becoming a kind of living dead. God wants us to live as fully and joyously as we possibly can. Jesus did tell us that he came that we would have life abundantly.

We might be surprised, though, at what the path to that full and joyous life looks like. In Matthew 10, it looks like sons set against fathers, daughters against mothers, persecution from one's own family. And as emotionally painful as that must have been, that was not the end of it. In Jesus' culture, extended families lived together; many of those adult sons and daughters set against their parents would be losing their homes. And honor was family honor: cut off from family as rebellious and shamed sons and daughters, Jesus' followers were also cut off from the source of honor that made others willing to be in any kind of relationship with them; they could find themselves with no way to make a living in their community, nowhere to turn except to their sisters and brothers in Christ. In losing their home and family, they lost the life they had known.

Like the Beatitudes, the passages in which Jesus tells his followers to take up the cross implicitly tell the story of what happened to many who followed Jesus. Some were left destitute -- and some ended up on literal crosses of their own. They had heard Jesus' call to follow him, and had left everything they'd known. In some cases, their example was inspiring others. Women sneaked off to nighttime meetings where they consorted with men as freely as they did with their brothers, and they refused to marry those their fathers chose from them; they said they would not be "unequally yoked," and so would marry whom they chose. Slaves were saying that they had only one Lord, and it wasn't the person who'd bought them at the market. They had to be made examples of how the Empire treated troublemakers. Otherwise, they might be seen by other sons and daughters and slaves as examples of how to behave, and the good order of the Empire, which rested on the authority of fathers, masters, and governors, would crumble. Some were scourged; some were executed.

They could have known that the price was steep for the way of life they were choosing. So why, then, did they choose it?

On one hand, it was because they also saw a cost to remaining where they were, to the way of life that would have earned them praise, respect, and/or relative material security. For that reason, it was somewhat easier to choose to follow Jesus for those for whom the price for staying put was more obvious and immediate -- younger sons who might not inherit; young women whose older sisters had died in childbirth after their marriage at age 14 or less, and who feared the same fate when they were married; slaves whose masters mistreated them.

But I don't think that these people chose to follow Jesus because they lacked hope where they were so much as it was because of the hope they found in Jesus. Jesus himself was homeless, and if Mark 3:21 is any indication, his own family thought he was crazy (while the NRSV says "people" said he was crazy, the Greek just says "they" said so, in which case it would be more natural to assume that the "they" in question is his family, who are the "they" of the first half of the sentence), and if Matthew 13:57 is any indication, Jesus saw himself as being without honor in his homeland and family. And still Jesus was known as a "party animal," in the words of John Dominic Crossan, in contrast to the grim figure of John the Baptizer (Matthew 11:16-19). Jesus offered real freedom, deep peace, and abundant joy -- and those who saw him living it believed him.

We've got decisions of our own to make. There are times when there's tension or flat-out contradiction between how our culture defines being a good, patriotic citizen -- or being a good liberal, for that matter -- and following Jesus. It might be at a point when we're advocating forgiveness for enemies and a neighbor sees this as a slight to a son in danger while serving in Iraq. It might be when we're accused of being bad parents as we encourage our children to spend time on their spiritual formation and serving the poor even if that displaces some studying or going to an S.A.T. prep class. It might be when we're accused of betraying "the cause" by working with people on the other side of important and divisive questions. It might come when we let go of needing others to see us as right in service to letting someone else feel deeply heard and fully understood. There's a price to pay for defying these cultural mandates, and though it's often miniscule in comparison to the price Jesus paid on our behalf -- or, for that matter, the price paid by those murdered for their stance against apartheid, for example -- it's going to feel like a steep one for those of us accustomed to privilege.

But there's a price for staying where we are too. We can give up the rest and play that we need for health so that we can achieve more (at least in the short term); we can give entirely in to our culture's assertion that we are what we accomplish and what we can earn. And if we do, that's what we're going to pass along to our children, who will believe their worth to be at least as conditional as our lives say that our worth is. We can try to protect ourselves by threatening violence to any who would harm us, but we'll find the number of those who would harm us multiplying because of the fear and resentment our policies instill. The bottom line is that the networks of dysfunctional relationship that we think will get us ahead in the eyes of the world will enmesh and enslave us if we don't make serious changes.

And if we do answer Jesus' call? What if we did present ourselves as living sacrifices to God, not conformed to the world's expectations, but being transformed in Christ's image? Let's be clear about who this "Christ," this anointed one, is: he's Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified as a threat to the order of families and of the Empire. This Jesus is the one the God of Israel chose as the Son of Man, judge of the nations, who repays evildoers by calling down forgiveness rather than fire. And so believing that the nations will be judged can bring freedom from fear, when we believe that the judge is Jesus. We can be at peace even when we're in conflict with the authorities of this world when we're in the care of the Prince of Peace. We do not have to prove to anyone, even ourselves, that we're worthy of love if we take in that Jesus loved us without regard for deserving.

As we follow Jesus, things will change -- us, our relationships, our world. Change means losing things as they were, but if we have caught Jesus' vision for how God is redeeming the world, we know that what we gain is of far greater value than the chains we lose. Jesus brings us out of old ways of being and relating that bring sorrow and death so that we can be free for new ways of relating to one another, and in the self-giving love in which Jesus forms us, we find real, deep, and eternal joy.

Thanks be to God!

-------------------------------------------------------- August 18, 2020 ----------------------------------------------------------

 

Tuesday Bible Study August 18, 2020 (for Sunday 8/23)

 

Matthew 16:13-20

13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

 

The Message

 

13 When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

15 He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17-18 Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.

19 “And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”

20 He swore the disciples to secrecy. He made them promise they would tell no one that he was the Messiah.

 

Pastor's Notes

 

  • "...I don't think Jesus asks us to confess who we believe he is for his sake, but rather for ours, that we might be caught up in the power of his love and life.:

David Lose, ...in the Meantime, 2014.

 

  • "But whom say ye that I am? This is the great and smaller catechism, the one great and essential question. Christ is the one object of the Christian's faith."

The Peoples New Testament B.W. Johnson, 1891.

 

3. Matthew 16:13-20

 

A. Jesus was perceived as being in the prophetic tradition. Jesus sounded like the Baptist; maybe he was John come back to life. Elijah, who was taken to heaven directly, was thought to return just before the Messiah would come. Jeremiah is an unusual suggestion and could have been based on Jeremiah 31, where the prophet foresaw a new covenant, which Jesus inaugurated.

B. Scholars note that Matthew presents Jesus as a second Moses in many ways, so he might have had Deuteronomy 18 in mind. John the Baptist made the point of saying he was not “the prophet,” but one coming after him could be.

C. Not flesh and blood, our human powers of intellect, but rather God himself revealed the true nature of Jesus. We must not divorce our minds from our faith, for being faithful to the Gospel in our times demands our best thought and imagination. But our confession that Jesus is Lord comes by the Spirit alone.

D. The two are intimately related. Matthew’s vision is that the church will be absolutely in tune with God’s will so that what it does on earth will reflect the heavenly decrees. That vision, of course, is quite optimistic.

E. Having been openly identified as the Messiah, Jesus then tells his disciples what kind of Messiah he will be : the suffering servant. The idea repels them and they can’t understand it. Actually, they don’t understand it until after the resurrection.

 

Questions:

In the text the word we translate as “rock' refers back to a previous noun in that sentence. Traditon says it refers to Peter but others translators insist that it refers back to the revelation that was given to Peter. If that is the case then the “little rock'' is not Peter but the revelation of who Jesus is.It is this revelation that will sustain the church. Who do you say Jesus is? What is your revelation? How does the way you envision Jesus effect your faith and your response to God's call for you?

 

Can we get so focused on heavenly things that we are of no earthly good? In light of your answer remember that the confident hope of eternity with God, where all wrongs will be righted, is an important dynamic in our faith.

 

Our forgiveness has connections with God’s forgiveness. God wants us to forgive as God forgives. Think for a moment, “What if the reverse is true, that God won’t forgive unless I forgive?,” We realize the importance of forgiveness. Of course, we don’t control God in this way, but it is sobering to consider the possibility to help us understand just how important it is to forgive without any strings attached.. Are there folks you need to forgive at this depth?

 

---------------------------------------------------- August 11, 2020 ----------------------------------------------------

Matthew 15:21-28

21Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Matthew 15:21-28     (The Message) Healing the People

21-22 From there Jesus took a trip to Tyre and Sidon. They had hardly arrived when a Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded, “Mercy, Master, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly afflicted by an evil spirit.”

23 Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, “Now she’s bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She’s driving us crazy.”

24 Jesus refused, telling them, “I’ve got my hands full dealing with the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees, and begged. “Master, help me.”

26 He said, “It’s not right to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to dogs.”

27 She was quick: “You’re right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master’s table.”

28 Jesus gave in. “Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!” Right then her daughter became well.

 

Pastors Notes

The challenge of reading this story is that it presents Jesus in a non-flattering light and good people throughout Christendom have been taught never to consider Jesus in a non-flattering light. Some biblical commentators do not accept the starkness of this story, insisting that Jesus is merely testing this desperate woman’s faith. I would argue that – as Jesus is made known to us on the whole – he would gladly test the faith of a pompous, self-righteous, person of power and entitlement, but it seems strange that Jesus would do so to a desperate mother whose child is tormented. The plain reading is that Jesus acts according limitations of his mission and the mother responds according to a desperate need outside of that limited view. And Jesus calls it faith.

This story reminds us that no matter how limited your call seems to be there will be times (and needs) that stretch you beyond what you have been notable called to do.

·         Scripture may not give you the full understanding of the desperation of this woman. The Greek word used here is from the verb (κράζω) kratzo is onomatopoeia for a raven’s cry.  ‘To squawk’ is a close English equivalent, but it is intended to be more, a piercing scream of desperation. Matthew uses this term for blind men, demons, disciples in a boat during a storm, Peter sinking in the sea, more blind men, crowds saying “Hosanna,” children repeating that in the temple, crowds calling for Jesus’ death, and Jesus in his last breath. See 8:29, 9;27, 14:26, 14:30, here and the next verse, 20:30 and 31, 21:9, 21:15, 27:23, and 27:50.

·         In verse 23 the disciples demand Jesus send her away – just like they did with the 5000 hungry people in the previous story. I imagine her continuous desperate screaming was getting on their nerves. The disciples don’t plead with Jesus to heal her daughter – just to get rid of her.

·         And then, adding to the confusion, the woman comes and knelt before Jesus. Again, the Greek word adds more meaning to the situation. (προσκυνέω) – it means to continually bow and bow repeatedly. This is a humiliating persistence that only adds to the picture of her desperation. No matter which way Jesus moved she was in his path, screaming and bowing.

·         Jesus speaks to her from what is declared by Jewish law – she is not entitled to anything from the Jewish perspective. She should not be addressing a man or asking for anything. She is a foreigner and a woman of no status. Jesus answers her from the established norms for the society of his day.  She answers him from the spirit behind the law. Yes, God will deliver Gentiles but Jesus has not yet completed his mission to the Jews. Is she simply asking him to look beyond that limitation?

·         She calls him Lord, the Son of David. Jesus calls her a dog.  In Israel of that day, dogs were not pets as much as tolerated scavengers that lurk around the edges.

·         Jesus has recently, and repeatedly, done battle with the Pharisees about how the law should be enacted. He has just fed 5000 people leaving 12 baskets of food left over, an abundance by any standard. I am sure the woman had heard about it even if she had not participated. She is not asking for what Israel has been given but what remains. There were 12 baskets full leftover in the feeding of 5000. Is that a symbol of fullness for Israel, or for the world? Abundance always seems to mean leftovers, sharing, an opportunity for generosity. She knows of the healings that Jesus has done, is there not a scrap left for her?

·         Contrast these viewpoints: Jesus appeals to the habit of distinguishing between the needs of one’s children and the needs of a dog’s puppies. The woman appeals to the habit of allowing the puppies to feast on the leftovers from what one feeds one’s children.  

·         The woman is appealing to him for leftovers. She is making her case based on Jesus' words and on the very activity of Jesus.

·         In the verses that follow, Jesus leaves the region of Tyre and Sidon, returns to the sea of Galilee, many people come to him, bringing people who need healing, and … “they glorified the God of Israel.” (v.31) That is a curious way of putting it. One would think that if Jesus were in the region of the sea of Galilee, then it would be taken for granted that “they glorified God” would mean “they glorified the God of Israel.” But Matthew makes the point that it is the God of Israel whom they glorified. This would lead us to understand that the crowd that met Jesus in the wilderness, bringing their sick and lame, and ultimately being fed (again) with loaves and fish, is not a crowd from only the “house of Israel.”

·          If they are from outside of the house of Israel, then this encounter with the Canaanite woman radically changes the extent of Jesus’ ministry. The gospel is going to the Gentiles who are often referred to as dogs! The dogs are being fed straight from the table. 4,000 dogs are going to be fed in 15:32-39, just like 5,000 children were fed in 14:15-21. Perhaps, this is why Matthew includes a second feeding of a mass number of people that were most likely outside the House of Israel.  (God also saved anyone that traveled with Israel as they left Egyptian bondage and these dogs become part of the people of Israel whom God fed in the wilderness during their Exodus from Egypt.)

·         The lesson for today? God will move outside of social norms to reach a desperate heart no matter the heritage of a person. Scripture tells us that salvation comes from the Jews – yes, the savior was Jewish from the heritage of Abraham and the only one who could fulfill all the law. But scripture does not say salvation is only for the Jews. For Jesus to be sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel is ultimately good for the whole world, including Syrophoenicians, Canaanites, and Gentiles.   

Questions to Ponder:

1.       Does the kind of power that delivers a child from being demonized have a limited quantity, like bread on the table? Would it be the case that, for Jesus to administer deliverance for this girl, it would mean there would be less deliverance for the next Israelite who was demonized?

2.       Is anyone truly outside of God’s reach? Is God ever limited by any obstruction?

3.       If we are called to share in Christ’s mission to the world (and we are) is there anyone that we should avoid or exclude from hearing the Gospel or sitting at table with us?

4.       Are there areas in your own life where you find one person “more worthy” of your love than another? Have you assigned conditions to your love? How does this affect your relationship with God?

 

 

 

              ------------------------------------------------------------ July 28th, 2020 ----------------------------------------------------

Matthew 14:13-21

13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.


The telling of this story lends itself to presenting several acts and attitudes as if we were presenting a play. There are several sets of statements that are linked together to bring this enactment to life.


 

I. The first pair (Act 1) is "when Jesus heard this" and then "when the crowds heard it."

This pair of statements are linked to present a contrast between Jesus' disheartenment, having just heard about John the Baptist’s arrest and death by beheading, and the crowd’s enthusiasm in following him. Jesus had a retreat in mind at the beginning of the story – he clearly wants to get away. When he comes ashore and sees the great crowd waiting for him, his retreat is blown. So, seeing the great crowd is not “Whoopee!” but “Oh no!” His compassion is then in contrast to his first response. We all get tired and need a break but we need to allow God's compassion to form our actions. Many times caring for others gives us what we need to encourage our own spirit.

These statements create a change of mood or spirit between Jesus and the crowd. Jesus is reacting to the bad news of losing his cousin to the whim of an evil-hearted king. He is, after all, human, suffering as we would in the same circumstances. Like many things our the physical world, there is what seems to be unbearable pain serving no purpose. It seems as if Jesus' spirits are lifted by the presence of the crowds. Even the evil of death itself only encourages Jesus to react in a positive manner. In fact, it provokes him to do greater works of ministry such as the miracle we read about today.


 

II. The The next act of our play is presented by the contrast of what the disciples demand of Jesus and Jesus' response. "Send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages" and Jesus’ response: “They need not go away." ( NRSV) Jesus' response seems like a rebuke but actually it's simply a contradiction: "They don't need to go away. You give them something to eat."

The disciples’ concern about what to do with these people is a natural response. There's nothing wrong about it. They are trying to figure out what to do. Their command to Jesus probably has some of the tones of an impatient student dealing with a teacher who isn't paying attention to the time and has gotten carried away with his teaching. They are concerned about the people and it looks to them as if Jesus is just continuing to teach and not paying attention to what time it is while these people need to get something to eat. {Many a preacher/teacher has preached on longer than necessary}.

Maybe a more relevant translation for verse 16 today would be “They don’t need to go away.” There is a definite tension in this verbal exchange between the disciples’ giving Jesus an urgent order and Jesus' response. Jesus first contradicts what the disciples believe to be undisputed fact and then calls on them to take care of the problem. After all, they have been traveling together for a while now and should know what to do. Then the disciples have to figure out what to do with only two fish and five loaves of bread. Are they waiting for manna from heaven? God has already “Been there. Done that.”

This story often reminds me of the “let George do it” crowd who are unwilling to put their own effort into a job while they wait for someone else to do it. They often have reasons that sound like, “Oh, they will do it better” or “I might not do it right” but God is calling on all of us to do something about the needs that are brought to our attention. I know I probably would have responded with something like, “Do I have to do everything myself? Have you learned nothing?”


III. The third act of our play is the response to having five loaves and two fish. Once again, we have a contrast between the disciples’ naming the five loaves and two fish with a tone of pessimism about the meager resources they have found and Jesus’ blessing and giving thanks for the five loaves and two fish.

Jesus calls the crowd and orders them to sit on the grass, the question is, what is he going to do? The description of Jesus taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven and blessing and breaking the bread is a liturgical moment that was almost certainly accompanied by the gestures of lifting the elements to heaven as he pronounced the blessing. Then there was the breaking of the bread and distribution by the apostles to all the people.

This story reminds us of the Last Supper as well as Exodus 15-16 story of God feeding the multitude. In each instance we have hungry people (physically and spiritually), complaining people (Israelites and Apostles), and God's miraculous providence (manna and the Bread of Life himself). We have nothing specifically written saying such, but the Jews of Jesus' day would know the Exodus story and we know the Exodus as a type of the Last Supper.

The miracle of Jesus feeding this multitude is connected with God's feeding Israel in the wilderness. There are no verbal threads or specific words in the story that make this explicit. But for any listener who knew the Exodus feeding story (Exodus 15-16), the connection is the overall story of the people being miraculously fed.

The closing of the story is the amazement at the sheer number of those fed, 5000 men plus women and children (could be as many as 10,000 – 15,000 people in total) It is a truly extraordinary number that was fed. The last episode is an intensity of wonder that is more amazing with each thing described.

All that is left of our play is the closing credits: “God provides for God's people and gets all the credit, (glory)!”

Questions and Food for Thought:

  1. Would Do you surmise that how you view your resources play a large part in what you are going to accomplish with them? For example, the disciples pictured the loaves and fish as too little while Jesus saw the same loaves and fish as more than enough. How does this affect how you perceive your own needs in light of God's provision?

  2. Have you ever looked at the problem in front of you as too big to handle? (even for God). Be honest.

  3. Have you ever heard the saying, “Ministry carries its own reward?” What does that really mean? Is this an instance where it truly is better to give than to receive?

  4. How has God amazed you recently? Have you taken the time to thank Him? Has God ever disappointed you? Have you looked at resolving that disappointment? Perhaps in prayer and repentance? Don't worry God can handle anything you have to say.

  5. In Hebrew tradition “5” is the number portraying grace and “2” portrays agreement between heaven and earth. In Christianity, we also look at “2” as portraying the two natures of Christ. How do these facts change how you look at this story?

 

                 ---------------------------------------------------------- July 14th, 2020 ----------------------------------------------------

 

Matthew 13:24-43 NRSV

24He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” 

 36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

 

The Message Matthew 13:24-43 The Message (MSG)

24-26 He told another story. “God’s kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his hired men were asleep, his enemy sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. When the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up, too.

27 “The farmhands came to the farmer and said, ‘Master, that was clean seed you planted, wasn’t it? Where did these thistles come from?’

28 “He answered, ‘Some enemy did this.’

“The farmhands asked, ‘Should we weed out the thistles?’

29-30 “He said, ‘No, if you weed the thistles, you’ll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I’ll instruct the harvesters to pull up the thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn.’”

 

The Curtain of History

36 Jesus dismissed the congregation and went into the house. His disciples came in and said, “Explain to us that story of the thistles in the field.”

37-39 So he explained. “The farmer who sows the pure seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the pure seeds are subjects of the kingdom, the thistles are subjects of the Devil, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, the curtain of history. The harvest hands are angels.

40-43 “The picture of thistles pulled up and burned is a scene from the final act. The Son of Man will send his angels, weed out the thistles from his kingdom, pitch them in the trash, and be done with them. They are going to complain to high heaven, but nobody is going to listen. At the same time, ripe, holy lives will mature and adorn the kingdom of their Father.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?

 

 

 

 

Pastor's Notes

 

From Matthew Henry's Commentary.

  • "So prone is fallen man to sin, that if the enemy sow the tares, he may go his way, they will spring up, and do hurt; whereas, when good seed is sown, it must be tended, watered, and fenced."

From the Catena Aurea, Patristic Commentary by St Thomas Aquinas.

  • "The Wheat & The Tares," Matthew 13:24-30, Martin Luther, c. 1525.

    • "People securely think here God is enthroned without a rival and Satan is a thousand miles away, and no one sees anything except how they parade the Word, name and work of God. That course proves beautifully effective."

  • From the Geneva Notes.

    • "God begins his kingdom with very small beginnings so that by its growing (even though men neither hope nor expect it to) his mighty power and working may be displayed all the more."

 

 

This week we are again dealing with seeds and planting. Only this time we look at bad seed being planted among the good seed. Bible scholars suspect that the bad seed is something called:

 

Tares [N] [S] the bearded darnel, mentioned only in Matthew 13:25-30 . It is the Lolium temulentum, a species of rye-grass, the seeds of which are a strong soporific poison. It bears the closest resemblance to wheat till the ear appears, and only then the difference is discovered. It grows plentifully in Syria and Palestine.

Reference: Bible Study Dictionary

{https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/tares/#:~:text=Dictionaries%20-%20Easton%27s%20Bible%20Dictionary%20-%20Tares.%20Tares,appears%2C%20and%20only%20then%20the%20difference%20is%20discovered. }

The enemy sowed this darnel seed in with the good seed.

  1. Let it grow together?Why?They both look enough alike that you cannot tell the difference until the seed is almost ready to harvest.

  2. Because they look so much alike a person may pull the good plant thinking it to be the bad one. Or may allow a plant to continue to grow that turns out to be a tare.

  3. Since they have grown together for such an extended time, the roots are most likely entangled. If you pull one plant, even if you pull the tare, it may pull up several around it that are the product of the good seed.

  4. "The grain is in just the proper stage to illustrate the parable. In those parts where the grain has headed out , the tares have done the same, and then a child cannot mistake them for wheat or barley; but where both are less developed, the closest scrutiny will often fail to detect them. Even the farmers, who in this country generally weed their fields, do not attempt to separate the one from the other." The grains of the L. temulentum , if eaten, produce convulsions, and even death.  See also Thomson ("The Land and the Book" p. 420).

 

What does this mean for the church? For each of us?

  1. Only God can see what is truly in the heart of a person. If we rush to judge another we may pull up young plantings of faith and kill the spirit of a person.

  2. Not all tares come from outside the church. Oftentimes the one who does the most damage are the ones who identify themselves as believers. They know how to act & speak but draw attention away from God's word to themselves. They are not interested in spiritual warfare against evil but are consumed with fights to keep everyone stirred up about things that won't matter in the long haul.

  3. Even the true faithful can be used against a brother or sister as a pawn in the eternal fight between good and evil continues. We must be wary of our own thoughts and actions and the harvest that will come from the seed we are planting.

  4. Well-meaning Christians can sometimes see the wrong thing if they are relying on there own understanding. Think of Peter in Matt 16:21-24 when he denied what Jesus told him was going to happen. Peter loudly protested and Jesus' response was “Get behind me Satan.” Peter had not turned into the devil but he was being influenced by Satan to get Jesus off track.

  5. Sometimes a Tare is simply someone who draws you away from God's plan for your life.

  6. Tares are folks that may look like Christians but do not act accordingly – they are pretenders, often spurning the laws of the land and the laws of God. Sometimes defiant – sometimes arrogant- often causing division to elevate their own agenda. You will know them by their fruit.

  7. The apostle James deals with such persons in the early church letting us know that we may have to extend discipline to such individuals to return them to the right path and insisting we not let them choke out the good seed that needs to be tilled, watered, and fed by the word of God within the congregation. (a study for another day).

 

  • But before we get to pointing fingers, I would again like to remind each of us that we sometimes have both wheat and tares growing in our own fields, our heart. Like we talked about last week we are not always 100 % good seed bearing good fruit.

  • God lets our good and not so good grow together until such time as we are ready for God to harvest our field.

  • When we look at the world as the field, we know that God allows the rain and sun to fall on all people – good and bad. There is a time for repentance – for change in every life – but it won't last forever. When the angels are sent to harvest they will do it as God sees into the heart of each. The harvest will be without hesitation or negotiation for the time will have been spent.

 

As a believer, I pray that you are able to recognize the tares that inhibit your faith journey. Whether they be in the field of your heart, the field of our ministry together, or the world we live in – don't let them derail you or discourage you. Remember it is a spiritual battle and it can only be won in the Spirit of Christ.

The good news is that we have been promised the Victory!

May your study be prayer.

Blessings, Pastor Wood

 

 

---------------------------------------------------------July 7th, 2020---------------------------------------------------------

Matthew 13:1-23 NRSV

13That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!” 

 

10 Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets[b] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

 

18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

 

Matthew 13:1-23 The Message (MSG)

A Harvest Story

13 1-3 At about that same time Jesus left the house and sat on the beach. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the shoreline, forcing him to get into a boat. Using the boat as a pulpit, he addressed his congregation, telling stories.

3-8 “What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.

9 “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

 

Why Tell Stories?

10 The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”

11-15 He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again:

Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing. Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads! They stick their fingers in their ears so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut so they won’t have to look, so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
 nd let me heal them.

16-17 “But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.

 

The Meaning of the Harvest Story

18-19 “Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.

20-21 “The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.

22 “The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangles what was heard, and nothing comes of it.

23 “The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”

 

 

Pastor'e Notes - Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

The crowd that has come to hear Jesus is so large that he teaches from a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus teaches using the Hebrew method of telling parables. Parables are stories designed to challenge the listener and inspire them to seek further, to pose more insightful questions, and to search out the deeper meaning than what is obvious in the telling. They are more than a story or proverb with only one lesson.

The hillside by the sea makes a natural amphitheater. He tells several parables;

  • The first one (vs. 3-8) he explains in vv. 18-23, but only partially. People were familiar with Palestinian farming; sometimes seeding preceded ploughing.

  • The “sower” (v. 3) and the seed are constant; where it lands varies: in three unfruitful places (“on the path”, v. 4, among rocks, v. 5, “among thorns”, v. 7) and in one fruitful place (v. 8). V. 9 lets the crowd know that this is a story with a deeper meaning.

  • People naturally thought of the sower as God and the various soils as the people of the world.

  • They probably linked “birds” (v. 4) with evil as several Old Testament stories that link birds with destruction and death. (one example is the baker who was imprisoned with Joseph. Remember his dream?)

  • Here the sower is anyone who tells the good news, who speaks God's word.

  • Growth represents receptivity. While Jesus has invited listening (vs 9)  understanding  is required in order to be fruitful (vs 19-23): reflect on Jesus’ message.

  • Those who brush off the message are seduced by evil (v. 19).

  • Vv. 20-21 also speak of lack of understanding: of superficiality, of reflecting insufficiently to withstand “persecution”.

  • Discipleship is demanding. Then v. 22: following Christ requires undivided loyalty, single-mindedness. The avoidance of distractions is paramount to serving and becoming a disciple.

  • Finally, only those who adequately reflect, come to understanding, who meet the demands of the faith, and who are truly dedicated are fruitful. The fruit is those who we bring to Christ.

 

 

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. (From the poem by CT Studd)

Blessings, 

Pastor Michaele

 

 

 

-------------------------------June 23rd, 2020 -----------------------

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (NRSV)

16“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

25At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you,  and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:16-30 New International Version (NIV)

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

“‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge,     and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:16-30 The Message (MSG)

“How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Next Jesus let fly on the cities where he had worked the hardest but whose people had responded the least, shrugging their shoulders and going their own way.

Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”

Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

 

Pastors Notes

Peter Woods, I am Listening, 2011.

  • "The proud and arrogant, those who have all the answers, those who think they are “self-made” will never see and receive what the burdened and heavily laden ones will see and receive."

 image.png

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT

1.       Have you ever been disappointed in your relationship with Jesus? Most of us want more from Jesus than he apparently delivers to us. Perhaps you just want things to go the way you planned it to go. Perhaps “being Christian” has interrupted your future plans. When these things happen, how do you handle it? Is there a better way to deal with it?                                                                                            

2.       Christian humility means recognizing that we are not on the same level as God. How do you recognize true humility? Have you ever put on “public humility” for personal reasons or know someone who has? What were the results?                                                                                                                           

3.       What about trust? Do you really trust God with your future even when you don’t see one?                               

4.       We are called to love others, but we cannot foresee the results of our loving actions. We are called to love our neighbors and so we must demonstrate that love through our actions. We cannot withdraw from human interaction and say we love humanity. How does loving one another demonstrate your love of God?                                                                                                                                                

5.       Have you ever stopped to evaluate something God was leading you to do because you were unsure of the cost to you personally? Did you do what God was asking?

 
-------------------------------June 23rd, 2020 -----------------------
 

Matthew 10:40-42                                      Romans 6:12-23  

Matthew 10:40-42 NRSV

 40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

Matthew 10:40-42 NIV

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Matthew 10:40-42 The Message (MSG)

“We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”

Pastor’s Notes – This text does not stand alone but is part of the studies of the last several weeks.

Chapter 10 is the mission of the twelve disciples during Jesus’s life

·         Jesus places the disciples in pairs. (Why is that important?)

·         They are given instruction on the message that they are to take to the communities. It’s not an easy message, but they are also offered the gifts that will allow them to bring healing within communities.  (What gifts do you use for healing in our communities?)

·         Jesus encourages them to embrace the places where they are made welcome, and to shake the dust from their feet where they are not welcome.

·         The world Jesus sends them to with the message is not an easy world. It’s a world where people wage war against one another, and their encounters will sometimes have them fleeing for refuge. There is no equipment for the task, other than the clothes they wear, for they are to rely on the kindness of others.

·          This last section of the chapter moves from being addressed to the disciples, and instead is an instruction for those who might welcome disciples. Those who arrive at the door, or into our lives, bringing the presence of Christ are to be offered hospitality. Offering hospitality brings us into the community of Christ, allowing us to become prophet and disciple, and inviting us to participate in the mission.

How do you understand hospitality?

No good deed is too small to be left undone. Pastor Michaele

From Matthew Henry's Commentary.

"Christ does not say that they deserve a reward; for we cannot merit any thing from the hand of God; but they shall receive a reward from the free gift of God."

From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871).

"And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones--...Originally taken from Zec 13:7. The reference is to their lowliness in spirit, their littleness in the eyes of an undiscerning world, while high in Heaven's esteem."

Debra Dean Murphy, Ekklesia Project 2014.

"My neighbor, in all her neediness, is Christ for me." (Want to see Jesus? Look to the needs of others).

 

Alyce M. McKenzie, Edgy Exegesis, 2014.

  • "When we give our lives away for some purpose beyond ourselves, that paradoxically results in a gain. As Christians we would call that the reward of the righteous."

"Life, wrote Kierkegaard, can only be understood backwards. But it must be lived forwards. And that's where the heart finds its pure hour, and its holy day." (Pastor Michaele)

Romans 6:12-23 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

 

But be warned that anyone who does not accept the grace offered to them through Christ remains under the law and will be judged by that law.

Pastor Michaele

 
 
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Tuesday Bible (Haile) Study 06/16/20

 

Tuesday (Haile) Bible Study                                     June 16, 2020 (12th Ordinary Time)

Matthew 10:24-39 NRSV

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

 

Matthew 10:24-39 New International Version (NIV)

“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

 

Matthew 10:24-39 The Message (MSG)

“A student doesn’t get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn’t make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, ‘Dungface,’ what can the workers expect?

“Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.

“Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.

“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.

“Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?

“Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.

“If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.

 

PASTOR’S NOTES

Matthew 10:24-39                                                 COMMENTARY BASED ON 1996-2016 Chris Haslam

·        Jesus continues to prepare the twelve for the continuation of his mission. He is both “teacher” and “master”. His disciples are students. There is so much to learn that they should never set themselves up as authorities independent of him.

·        He has been called “Beelzebul”, (v. 25); his disciples will be called worse. Do not be intimidated. At the end of the era, all ungodly and godly behavior, now hidden, will be made known (v. 26).

·        Now is the time to proclaim all that Jesus has told his disciples privately (v. 27). Do not fear your persecutors for they can only end your physical life; rather hold God in awe, for he can “destroy” (v. 28) you totally if you do not do his will. God cares for the life of even a sparrow (v. 29, sold as food in the market), so “do not be afraid” (v. 31) of losing the real life.

·        Honest and forthright witness – and outright refusal to do so – will have eternal consequences (vv. 32-33). At the Last Day, Jesus will testify to the Father for those who have witnessed faithfully; he will declare those who turn against the gospel unworthy of life in the Kingdom.

·        Jesus gives a new interpretation to Micah 7:6, a verse thought to foretell the breakdown of society as the end-times approach (vv. 34-36).

·        Spreading the gospel will have unfortunate side-effects. (Truth often is not well-received). There will be tension and division (even within families) between those who accept Jesus’ message, and the demands it makes, and those who oppose his way.

·        Christians must put loyalty to him above family loyalties (v. 37). Following Jesus involves the risk of death (“cross”, v. 38).

·        Finally, a paradox: if one aims to preserve one’s earthly life, one will lose all (“life”, v. 39), but one who dies for Jesus will find true life, eternal life.

 

Questions for Meditation

How can the “Prince of Peace” bring a sword into the world? For what purpose? How can “the word of God is as a two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12)  help our understanding of these verses?

Are Christians still persecuted today? If so, in what way?

How do you respond when your witness is not received? (particularly within family)

How do you understand Jesus statement “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.?” 

 

References: Beelzebul

Alternative Titles: Baalzebub, Beelzebul                                                     (Britannica)

Beelzebub, also called Baalzebub, in the Bible, the prince of the devils. In the Old Testament, in the form Baalzebub, it is the name given to the god of the Philistine city of Ekron (II Kings 1:1–18). Neither name is found elsewhere in the Old Testament, and there is only one reference to it in other Jewish literature. 

 

What does Beelzebub mean in Hebrew?    www.behindthename.com › name › beelzebub

From Hebrew בַּעַל זְבוּב (Ba'al Zevuv) meaning "lord of flies", possibly intended as a mocking alteration of בַּעַל זבל (Ba'al Zevul) meaning "Ba'al of the exalted house", one of the Canaanite names for their god BA'AL.

 

Beelzebub, prince of devils, from Latin. It often referred to the flies found surrounding the dung heap outside the city.

 

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Tuesday Bible (Haile) Study 06/02/2020

Matthew 28:16-20 NRSV

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed

them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and

said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore

and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the

Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded

you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20 NIV

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to

go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to

them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go

and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the

Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20 The Message

 

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain

 

Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some,

 

though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.

 

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and

 

commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in

 

this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy

 

Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as

 

you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

 

Matthew 28:16-20 The Voice

The eleven disciples, having spoken to the Marys, headed to Galilee, to the mountain where they were to meet Jesus. When the disciples saw Jesus there, many of them fell down and worshiped, as Mary and the other Mary had done. But a few hung back. They were not sure (and who can blame them?). Jesus came forward and addressed His beloved disciples.

The disciples don’t know what to think or how to act. Nothing like this has ever happened before.

Jesus: I am here speaking with all the authority of God, who has commanded Me to give you this commission: Go out and make disciples in all the nations. Ceremonially wash them through baptism in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and postures that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.

 

Pastor's Notes

This year Trinity Sunday comes immediately after Pentecost. The doctrine of the Trinity

is not easily understood, nor can it be, by the human mind. Nevertheless, the Trinity is

an important concept if we are to understand how God deals with the creation from

Genesis through Revelation. All persons of the Trinty are fully involved in every

moment and event. Matthew 28:18-20

 

The Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20

  1. Jesus was given complete authority in heaven and on earth. ALL authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth. Jesus has complete authority over everything, everywhere. In heaven and on earth tells us of His divinity and is another direct claim to that regard. This statement of authority has a direct correlation to His command to the disciples in the next verses.  He has authority over anything or anyone that would oppose the work of the kingdom.

  2. The disciples were to go in this authority. This authority was given to Jesus by the Father and Jesus in turn gives that authority to the disciples to fulfill the mission given to them. The disciples might think this task was too big and impossible. The answer, Jesus has authority over everything. Jesus would be with them. Jesus would help them accomplish it.

     

  3. The disciples were to make disciples. But the statement is even more than that. It is a reminder that the authority is Jesus’ and not theirs. The disciples might be tempted to go in their own power, but this would be sin. They must go in Christ’s power (1 Thess 1:5, Acts 1:8). They might be tempted to teach their own traditions or opinions, but this would be sin. They must teach under the authority of Christ. They might be tempted to become prideful and take credit for the work that was being accomplished, but this would be sin. The glory goes to the one in charge and Jesus was in charge.

  4. They were to make disciples of all nations. What is the essence of this command? Go. The word in Greek is poreuomai and it has a lot of slightly different meanings: to traverse, travel, depart, go (away, forth, one’s way, up), take a journey, or walk. There is some debate as to if this can mean only “as you are going”. This definition is often given to people in churches to remind them to share the gospel with others wherever they are and that it is not necessary for everyone to go to foreign peoples. But Jesus does tell them to go and make disciples of all nations (ethne), thus acknowledging that not all will remain in one locale. That still leaves the question, is everyone to go? I believe here we enter the idea of being called to a particular ministry in other lands but all can share the Gospel wherever they are.

  5. This making disciples required baptizing. That is a whole lesson of itself. Suffice to say for this point that baptism is obedience, identification as God's child, and an invitation for the Holy Spirit to begin a work in us.

  6. This making disciples required teaching obedience. This obedience was to the same commandments Jesus gave to the disciples. Knowing what to do and not doing it does not demonstrate discipleship nor does it aid in fulfilling the commission Christ gave us.

  7. Jesus would be with them (and us) until the end of the age. This is a promise of comfort, presence, and empowerment. We are not going alone or in our own strength. Yes, we are all in this together – not just with each other by with the Trinity.

  8. Does the Great Commission still apply to us at whatever stage of the journey in which we find ourselves?

 
 
 
 

 

 

05/26/20 Tuesday Bible Study Notes from Pastor Wood

 

John 7:37-39 NRSV

37On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” 39Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 7:37-39 The Message (MSG)

37-39 On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let

him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes

in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in

him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

 

Acts 2:1-21 NRSV

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Acts 2:1-21 The Message (MSG)

1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
   Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs!

They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”

13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
    I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke, the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives, the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help to me, God, will be saved.”

 

Pastor's Notes

From Wesley's Notes.

    • "The miracle was not in the ears of the hearers, (as some have unaccountably supposed,) but in the mouth of the speakers. And this family praising God together, with the tongues of all the world, was an earnest that the whole world should in due time praise God in their various tongues."

  • From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871).

    • "...'disparted tongues'. that is, tongue-shaped, flame-like appearances, rising from a common center or root, and resting upon each of that large company:--beautiful visible symbol of the burning energy of the Spirit now descending in all His plenitude upon the Church, and about to pour itself through every tongue, and over every tribe of men under heaven!"

Acts 2:1-21 (Pentecost C), Matthew L. Skinner, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2016.

  • "Acts does not regard Pentecost as an entirely singular occurrence. This scene introduces a sequence of occasions in which the Spirit mobilizes Jesus' followers and inaugurates new directions for ministry and community."

 

Plenty of Symbolism in this week's reading. What does it all mean? 

  1. In the Gospel reading Jesus promises living water to those who come to him through the (Holy) Spirit. This promise is a river of life – water enough to flow out to others, a spiritual life in abundance. In creation the Spirit hovered over the waters of the deep and darkness (KJV), the wind of God blew over all bringing life from nothing and order where there had been chaos, setting the stage for the fullness of creation beginning with light.                              Genesis 1 “In the beginning when God created[a] the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God[b] swept over the face of the waters.”

  2. Hebrew word translated as wind in KJV means the “breathe, soul, person, psyche.” The Greek similarly means the “breath, spirit” of a person.

  3. In the account of Pentecost we again have the wind blowing over the place where the disciples waited as Jesus instructed them. Just 50 days earlier Jesus had “breathed on them,” and said, “receive the Holy Spirit, ” again reminiscent of Creator God breathing life into Adam in the beginning. Now the wind (breath, Spirit) of God again blows new life into this rag-tag bunch hiding in the upper room. Its not a beach breeze its the strength of a small tornado and loud enough to draw the attention of all Jerusalem.

  4. And what about the Fire? Tongue shaped flames of fire coming from the one center source God – plenty enough for all to receive – a symbol of burning energy of the Spirit in the about to be established church. Psalm 69:9 speaks of the zeal of God consuming the worshiper – the fire of the Spirit is the source – The spirit fans the flames of God's love in the believer to a new level of service and sacrifice.

  5. Speaking in other tongues. Why Tongues? In the Old Testament story of Babel, people had come together to build a tower to heaven. The story leads us to believe that the unity of that misguided purpose was a concern for God who says that it was possible the people would achieve that purpose because they were of one mind. God decides to confuse their languages to stop that building effort. And so people went their way unable to communicate or find unity of purpose. On Pentecost, the disciples speak in languages they did not learn, as the Spirit directed, so that all there understood the message they were preaching. This spiritual language could again bring unity of purpose – but by Spirit's direction.

  6. Not a one-time accurance. The day of Pentecost was just the first on several instances in the Book of Acts where the Holy Spirit demonstrated God's power in such a manner and motivated the church to action. (And it didn't end there if you read the stories of the saints throughout the ages).

  7. We have water, wind, and fire as symbols of the Gift of God – the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer and moves us to action...and we have this treasure in earthen (physical) vessels... no wonder the disciples were overwhelmed by the presence of the indwelling Spirit.

2 Cor 4:7 New International Version
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Just a few thoughts for your consideration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 5/5/20 Tuesday Bible Study Notes from Pastor Wood

 

 

John 14:1-14 NRSV

14“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

John 14:1-14 The Message (MSG)

14 1-4 “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

6-7 Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

8 Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

9-10 “You’ve been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don’t understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, ‘Where is the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.

11-14 “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.

Pastor's Notes

From Matthew Henry's Commentary.

  • "Here are three words, upon any of which stress may be laid. Upon the word troubled. Be not cast down and disquieted. The word heart. Let your heart be kept with full trust in God. The word "your." However others are overwhelmed with the sorrows of this present time, be not you so."

 

  1. Jesus tells us that since we know him, even if we don't see him, there is no need to be stressed, depressed, or distressed. Nothing should rattle you. Oh, your physical body may act up and your mind may try to make you panic but your spirit knows God is in control. Live by what is spirit and truth and let God's peace rule in your life.

  2. Our hearts need to be fully involved with God, trusting God with our whole selves. There isn't room for all the clutter that we allow into our lives. If you have ever watched the movie,” The Karate Kid” you know the famous saying, “Focus Danielson.” Nothing worked for Daniel until he learned to focus on the instruction that was given. How much more do we need to focus on God and what God's Word is telling us in this uncertain world?

  3. Don't be overwhelmed with sorrow or what trouble you see around you. You are safe in God's loving hands and God will take care of you.

 

Another main idea of this passage is “Home.”

Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for you – an eternal home. We often read these words at funerals when we need to hear them most. There is a home prepared for you. I have no idea of what that home will look like, this place which Jesus goes to prepare for us. 

We spend the majority of our life he on earth establishing a home, building a home, repairing, remodeling, etc. whether it is a brick and morter house or our body that houses our spirit we are always trying to make things better. Homes that we buy or build here have histories of others who may have come before and will bear the marks of the changes we make. Some walls do talk (Haile Plantation) and others really shouldn't with what they have seen. Even if you build a home from scratch the land itself has a story.

But God's house built for us?  Its story isn't marked so much by those who have lived there. Today we are reminded that this home is marked and made, shaped, and molded by God's love --- by the builder himself.  And this Builder assures us that there is plenty of room in this house  ---we won't need to remodel it or add more room- when we arrive, each one of us, we will feel at home. 

It is no wonder that these words are often read at funerals --- at that time when we need to hear them most of all.  What a gift it is to stand still in the promise that when our time for 'making a home' here is done, a place is waiting for us for us in God's own house. 

 

May the promise that there is another Home waiting for us enable us always to live in hope for what is yet to come.

  • What is the story of your 'home?'  Is it in the design, the architecture, the furnishings, the people?  How would you tell the story of your home?

  • What comes to your mind when Jesus speaks of 'going to prepare a place' or a home for us?  What do you picture?

  • How does this promised future shape your present life now? 

 

 

 

 

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Haile Bistro 4/14/20 Tuesday Bible Study Notes from Pastor Wood:

 

2nd Sunday of Easter

John 20:19-31

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name

Acts 2:14-41               (Acts 2:14a, 22-32)

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 

22“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. 27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ 32This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

 

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•                      "He breathed on them - New life and vigour, and saith, as ye receive this breath out of my mouth, so receive ye the Spirit out of my fulness: the Holy Ghost influencing you in a peculiar manner, to fit you for your great embassy. This was an earnest of pentecost."

 

This scripture always reminds me of the creator breathing life into Adam. Jesus breathes on them.     For me, it is the second Adam breathing anew the breath of God into creation and the promise of the fullness of the Holy Spirit not many days further on.  Jesus, the second Adam, is restoring what the first Adam had lost. It was His to give

 

I've always thought Thomas got a bum rap. He wasn't there for whatever reason when Jesus appears to the disciples the first time. They got their first hand experience and Jesus thought it necessary for them to see him. Thomas adds demands to his need to see – he wanted to touch.

When I look at Thomas, I see a man who yearns for a living encounter with God.  A man who can not settle for someone else’s experience of resurrection, but sticks around in the hope of having his own.  A man who dares to confess uncertainty in the midst of those who are certain. A man who recognizes his Lord in woundedness, not glory.  ( D. Thomas)

 

Thomas had a hard time believing “second hand” accounts. He had to have his personal encounter with Christ just as the other disciples had. He had seen Jesus crucified and buried from the same distance as the other disciples. He needed something tangible. It was a week before Jesus came to Thomas. Imagine how uncertain, how painful that week was for him. Waiting for an answer, trying to decide what to believe, wondering if God cared about him. But Jesus never leaves a soul in pain.

 

Thomas' doubt really leads him to get a response. Aquestion gets an answer and doubt is often the beginning of faith. History holds that after this Thomas went on to carry the Gospel all the way to India where he was martyred for his faith. His doubt led him to the eternal answer.

 

This year, this story of hope in the face of fear, peace in the middle of chaos and belief in resurrection despite deadly circumstances resonates loudly and Thomas becomes more relatable than ever.

Are we not in the same situation? We are sequestered alone or with a few family members. We are not certain if it is safe to come out. We have similar concerns. We have dreams that must be put on hold- graduations that may never happen, trips we cannot take. Anxiety levels are higher than ever and we cannot make any plans because we don't know when the world will return to our definition of normal.

 

Thomas gives us the opportunity to question and to share our anxiety without fear. Jesus knows where we are and will answer us with his peace.

Thomas' surname means twin and yet we have not met his twin in scripture. Perhaps Thomas is the twin to every person who just needs to know God for himself or herself.

 

Think about it and May Your Study be Prayer.

 

Pastor Michaele

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April 7, 2020

 

Notes and Teachings

 

Pastors Notes John 20:1-18 Acts 10:34-43

 

  • It was still dark when Mary came to the tomb. The fear, confusion, and despondency following the crucifixion were still there. Imagine the emotions as Mary finds Jesus' body gone and things not quite what they should be. Fear and darkness can be overwhelming.

  • Three of Jesus' followers come to the tomb. Each has a different reaction to what they see. Mary comes first and is disturbed by what she sees. She tells Peter and John what's happening and they run to the tomb.

  • John arrives first, sees the wrappings laid aside and the cloth that had covered Jesus' face laying separately. That cloth would have been comparable to the covering men wore during prayer. It would be folded with all respect and laid aside by a good Jewish man at the close of prayer.

  • (Zechariah 3:1-10 speaks of the vision of Joshua, Jeshua, presenting himself before God in the sight of the accuser or Satan. Many people believe this is the account of the work of the Messiah during the three days his body lay in the tomb and that the prayer cloth was used in that appearance before the Father)

  • The Gospel says that John saw and believed.

  • Peter goes into the tomb and sees the same linens etc as John did. There is no record of a response from Peter. Perhaps he was still remembering his denial. All that follows is that he (and John) went home. A grave robber or someone removing the body to hide it elsewhere would not have taken the time to fold the prayer linen and lay it aside and if it had been a Roman soldier he would have had no clue to leave the head wrapping. Had someone moved the body the wrappings would have been gone too. But Peter wasn't certain what had happened.

  • Mary is heartbroken but she remains at the tomb, perhaps waiting for something more. When the man, who appears to be a gardener comes, she quickly states all the possibilities for the empty tomb – all but resurrection. She recognizes Jesus when he says her name.

  • Three disciples, three different reactions. Only Mary remains through the darkness waiting for her Lord. Only Mary sees the risen Christ – Christ calls her by name and brings her out of the darkness and confusion, settling for her the question of what happened in the tomb.

  • Even though the message of the morning reached Mary first she ran to tell the others what had occurred. We are called to do the same. Press through the fear and share the answer God gives.

  • One part of this story that has been discussed at length over the years is Jesus telling Mary not to hold on to him. Why did he do that? There are several valid viewpoints here.

  • The first idea is that Mary's tears so disturbed the Lord that he stopped on his way to heaven to present himself, the risen sacrifice to the Father.

    A second view is that Jesus, the pure and perfect sacrifice would have been contaminated by her human touch before entering heaven as the sacrifice and high priest of the sacrifice.

  • I tend to agree with the third idea. Mary could not hold on to Jesus anymore as a man among the people for God was no longer going to deal with us through a physical Jesus limited by time and space. God was now going to deal with and empower God's people through the Holy Spirit which would be sent (proceeds from the Father and the Son...[re: Nicene Creed]) to earth after Jesus return to heaven.

  • There was much running to and fro on Easter morning but the disciples accomplished little even in their own faith and understanding. With all they had been taught, they still did not put the pieces together.

 

We learn not to run from fear, confusion, etc even when times seem their darkest. Look for the light in the darkness. Look for Jesus in the circumstances and emotions that strive to overwhelm you. And when you hear him call your name, accept what gifts and wisdom he gives you. Then go and tell others.

 

*for more on Joshua before God see the following link:

 

https://newchristianbiblestudy.org/bible/story/vision-of-joshua-the-high-priest/king-james-version

And May your Study be Prayer.

Blessings

Pastor Michaele

 

 

 

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March 31, 2020

 

Notes and Teachings

 

  1. "Now Jerusalem is not a large city. And what the authors of the Bible take for granted and fail to mention is that while Jesus is parading in on a donkey through one of the back gates, on the other side of the city Pilate is parading in on a warhorse accompanied by a squadron or two of battle-hardened Roman soldiers. Do you think anyone at Pilate's parade heard about Jesus' parade? Heard what the crowd had shouted? Let's see what unfolds in the week ahead." (Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Matthew 21:1-11, David Ewart, 2011.)

  2. Note also that Jesus rides in on an unbroken colt – never ridden. This colt, by nature, should have refused the rider and thrown him off but the Gospel of Peace brings peace to the spirit of even the wildest among us.

  3. After a great parade, Jesus and His disciples walk into the temple area, and what He sees enrages Him. He sees moneychangers, buying and selling. He sees men sitting on benches, hawking doves to those who have come from the countryside to make a sacrifice. He sees that the salesmen and teachers have turned a sanctuary of worship into a place of spiritual prostitution. This is the place where Jesus came as a boy to sit with the great teachers. It is the place where His Father receives the offerings of His people. It is more than Jesus can take. Can anyone be surprised at this other side of Jesus? He has turned out to be not just a kindly teacher; instead, He is the Anointed One, not to be taken lightly. In the midst of this scene filled with joy and chaos, there are extremes. Some are beginning to understand who this man from Galilee is—the Anointed—but the rulers are having great difficulty with the disruption to their orderly world.

  4. Living as a Christian not only means showing love in a quiet way but also standing for truth that involves confrontation. It is God's love that brings Jesus to earth from the quiet gift of love lying in a manger to the gift of love crucified on a Roman cross.

  5. Palm Sunday invites drama, serious drama. Here is the procession to end all processions. Here is adulation. The creative imagination can place the hearer among the crowd beside the road, reluctant, fully adoring, standing aloof in confusion or alienation, perhaps remembering key events from Jesus' ministry. We share the same drama as we live this life of faith. We aren't always celebrating Christ's coming. Sometimes our praise, our witness, is lacking, etc. but Jesus is always there before us.

  6. It is important to keep this story of Palm Sunday in the context of the time in which Jesus lived. It is not just a triumphal celebration of a conquering king. Matthew and Mark both indicate that this is the fateful entry that will take Jesus to his death.

  7. The ironic thing here is that while the crowd celebrate and welcomes Jesus as they would a king and conquerer this day, Jesus will not be proclaimed King of the Jews until Pilate places the sign on the cross of a condemned man wearing a crown of thorns, declaring “This is Jesus. King of the Jews.” It is on the cross that Jesus conquers sin and death. It is on the cross that the world government declares heaven's representative the ruler of God's people.

  8. The cross is both the end of sins' reign and the beginning of a new life of freedom in Christ.

  9. God was not surprised by any of the coming events. Look how God has planned. A good example of this is the disciples being sent to find the animals. Everything is just as Jesus said even down to the conversation with the owners of the donkey.

  10. As for the crowds of Sunday, they will, in Matthew, call Jesus' blood upon themselves and their children. That will have fateful consequences - according to Matthew in the destruction of the temple and the widespread slaughter of its inhabitants, according to subsequent history in the annals of anti-Semitic hate. People do not always understand what they are saying or what it will cost them in the end.

  11. This The procession scene is full of danger and denseness. John's gospel shows some sensitivity to when he adds the footnote that the disciples did not really understand what was happening or what it meant until after Easter (12:16).

  12. Jesus was not entering a foreign city, nor entering the city of 'the Jews'. He was a Jew. He was entering the city which symbolized in his faith and his scriptures God's promise to Israel. To confront one's own faith and its traditions is painful. This is part of the drama of the event, both in Matthew's account and in the earlier forms of the story, not least in the event itself.”

    (Loader, William. 2020 Mar 30. http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/MtPalmSunday.htm )

 

 

 

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MARCH 24, 2020   Tuesday Study Scriptures – Haile Bistro Group

 

We may not be together in person but we can still study the Word.

John 11:1-45

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

John 11:1-45 New International Version (NIV)

11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

 

 

John 11:1-48 The Message (MSG)  The Death of Lazarus

11 1-3 A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord’s feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Master, the one you love so very much is sick.”

When Jesus got the message, he said, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.”

5-7 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days. After the two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”

They said, “Rabbi, you can’t do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you’re going back?”

9-10 Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in daylight doesn’t stumble because there’s plenty of light from the sun. Walking at night, he might very well stumble because he can’t see where he’s going.”

11 He said these things, and then announced, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”

12-13 The disciples said, “Master, if he’s gone to sleep, he’ll get a good rest and wake up feeling fine.” Jesus was talking about death, while his disciples thought he was talking about taking a nap.

14-15 Then Jesus became explicit: “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”

16 That’s when Thomas, the one called the Twin, said to his companions, “Come along. We might as well die with him.”

17-20 When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus already four days dead. Bethany was near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him. Mary remained in the house.

21-22 Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

23 Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”

24 Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”

25-26 “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”

28 After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”

29-32 The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there. Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33-34 When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?”

34-35 “Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept.

36 The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him.”

37 Others among them said, “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.”

38-39 Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.”

The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, “Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been dead four days!”

40 Jesus looked her in the eye. “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

41-42 Then, to the others, “Go ahead, take away the stone.”

They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.”

43-44 Then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face.

Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.”

The Man Who Creates God-Signs

45-48 That was a turnaround for many of the Jews who were with Mary. They saw what Jesus did, and believed in him. But some went back to the Pharisees and told on Jesus. The high priests and Pharisees called a meeting of the Jewish ruling body. “What do we do now?” they asked. “This man keeps on doing things, creating God-signs. If we let him go on, pretty soon everyone will be believing in him and the Romans will come and remove what little power and privilege we still have.”

 

John 11:1-48- The VOICE

 

John points to stories where Jesus returns to the issue of faith again and again. The crowds are fickle, believing sometimes and not others. The religious leaders refuse to believe because Jesus doesn’t fit their paradigms. The disciples and close friends constantly face situations that challenge their faith, and this especially happens when Lazarus dies. John is implicitly urging his readers to have faith in Christ, even in difficult times, because He is the source of life and well being.

There was a certain man who was very ill. He was known as Lazarus from Bethany, which is the hometown of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary did a beautiful thing for Jesus. She anointed the Lord with a pleasant-smelling oil and wiped His feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus became deathly ill, so the sisters immediately sent a message to Jesus which said, “Lord, the one You love is very ill.” Jesus heard the message.

Jesus:His sickness will not end in his death but will bring great glory to God. As these events unfold, the Son of God will be exalted.

Jesus dearly loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. However, after receiving this news, He waited two more days where He was.

Jesus(speaking to the disciples): It is time to return to Judea.

Disciples:Teacher, the last time You were there, some Jews attempted to execute You by crushing You with stones. Why would You go back?

Jesus:There are 12 hours of daylight, correct? If anyone walks in the day, that person does not stumble because he or she sees the light of the world. If anyone walks at night, he will trip and fall because he does not have the light within. (Jesus briefly pauses.) Our friend Lazarus has gone to sleep, so I will go to awaken him.

Disciples:Lord, if he is sleeping, then he will be all right.

Jesus used “sleep” as a metaphor for death, but the disciples took Him literally and did not understand. Then Jesus spoke plainly.

Jesus:Lazarus is dead, and I am grateful for your sakes that I was not there when he died. Now you will see and believe. Gather yourselves, and let’s go to him.

Thomas, the Twin(to the disciples): Let’s go so we can die with Him.

As Jesus was approaching Bethany (which is about two miles east of Jerusalem), He heard that Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. Now many people had come to comfort Mary and Martha as they mourned the loss of their brother. Martha went to meet Jesus when word arrived that He was approaching Bethany, but Mary stayed behind at the house.

Martha:Lord, if You had been with us, my brother would not have died. Even so I still believe that anything You ask of God will be done.

Jesus:Your brother will rise to life.

Martha:I know. He will rise again when everyone is resurrected on the last day.

Jesus:I am the resurrection and the source of all life; those who believe in Me will live even in death. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never truly die. Do you believe this?

Martha:Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Anointed, the Liberating King, God’s own Son who we have heard is coming into the world.

After this Martha ran home to Mary.

Martha(whispering to Mary): Come with me. The Teacher is here, and He has asked for you.

Mary did not waste a minute. She got up and went to the same spot where Martha had found Jesus outside the village. The people gathered in her home offering support and comfort assumed she was going back to the tomb to cry and mourn, so they followed her. Mary approached Jesus, saw Him, and fell at His feet.

Mary:Lord, if only You had been here, my brother would still be alive.

When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.

Jesus:Where have you laid his body?

Jews:Come and see, Lord.

As they walked,Jesus wept; and everyone noticed how much Jesus must have loved Lazarus. But others were skeptical.

Others:If this man can give sight to the blind, He could have kept him from dying.

They are asking, if Jesus loves Lazarus so much, why didn’t He get here much sooner?

Then Jesus, who was intensely troubled by all of this, approached the tomb—a small cave covered by a massive stone.

Jesus:Remove the stone.

Martha:Lord, he has been dead four days; the stench will be unbearable.

Jesus:Remember, I told you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God.

They removed the stone, and Jesus lifted His eyes toward heaven.

Jesus:Father, I am grateful that You have heard Me. I know that You are always listening, but I proclaim it loudly so that everyone here will believe You have sent Me.

After these words, He called out in a thunderous voice.

Jesus:Lazarus, come out!

Then, the man who was dead walked out of his tomb bound from head to toe in a burial shroud.

Jesus:Untie him, and let him go.

Once again Jesus amazes everyone around Him. How does He raise Lazarus? What kind of man can speak life into death’s darkness? Throughout His time on earth, those around Him are continually surprised by Jesus. He is unique. How does He have power over death? It takes a while, but more and more His followers become convinced this is no ordinary man.

As a result, many of the Jews who had come with Mary saw what happened and believed in Him. But some went to the Pharisees to report what they witnessed Jesus doing. As a result of these reports—and on short notice—the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting of the high council.

Pharisees:What are we going to do about this man? He is performing many miracles. If we don’t stop this now, every man, woman, and child will believe in Him. You know what will happen next? The Romans will think He’s mounting a revolution and will destroy our temple. It will be the end of our nation.

 

 

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

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