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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


Tuesday May 25, 2021 Bible Study


John 3: 1-16 NRSV

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.


John 3:1-16 The Message

3 1-2 There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.”

Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”

“How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?”

5-6 Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

7-8 “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”

Nicodemus asked, “What do you mean by this? How does this happen?”

10-12 Jesus said, “You’re a respected teacher of Israel and you don’t know these basics? Listen carefully. I’m speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God?

13-15 “No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.




Commentary, John 3:1-17, Ginger Barfield, WorkingPreacher.org, 2015

  • "What is crucial in our proclamation is the reality of God's activity in Jesus, God's only Son, sent and given for the sake of the salvation of the world. Only through the awakening of belief through the Spirit can this be known."

Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks.

  • "I don't think that the doctrine of the Trinity and orthodox Christian faith can be separated -- even if we can't completely understand it."

Don Stewart https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/stewart_don/faq/the-trinity/02-why-is-the-doctrine-of-the-trinity-important.cfm

  • Here is the claim. Jesus, who is Himself God, came to earth to reveal God to us. If we want to know what God is like, all we have to do is look to Jesus. However, if Jesus is somehow less in nature than God the Father then we could never be certain He was speaking accurately for God.


Pastor's Notes

We have read these verses from John's Gospel several times over the last few weeks but today we want to look at the portrayal of God as Trinity in these verses. Remember that, while the word 'trinity' does not appear in the written scripture, the concept of trinity was accepted by the earliest Christian congregations as a general understanding of the nature of God. There are many scriptures that point not only to the persons of the Godhead as each having their work but also establishing a relationship in the unity of oneness.


Right at the outset let's ask the question: "What does 'the trinity' mean?" One brief, time-tested definition of the Trinity reads like this: There is one God, eternally existent in three Persons — the Father, the Son,and Holy Spirit.

 This short statement summarizes the biblical concept of the triunity, or three-in-oneness, of God.

1 Corinthians 2:14  The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because theyare spiritually discerned. Our minds cannot fathom the deep mystery of the Trinity though we have often used analogies and stories to help us gain a limited understanding.

1 John 5:7, “ For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit and these three are one.

Three are one.” Three divine Persons — the Father, the Word [Jesus], and the Holy Spirit. Yet they are said to be one.” ONE.
There are many other verses in the bible clearly indicate that God is indeed a Trinity — one God, eternally existent in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Scripture Reveals the Trinity

Read Matthew 3:16-7

Matthew 28:19

John 14:16-17

2 Corinthians 13:14  

Ephesians 2:18  

1 John 5:7


Summary: The bible clearly teaches us that there is one God. The Bible also reveals that there are three divine Persons (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) and that these three are one”. Not three Gods, but one triune God, eternally existent in three Persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This, in sum, is the Holy Trinity explained in a concise biblical statement of trinitarian theology.


This idea of the Triune God, the Trinity, is a difficult idea to grasp. And it has been difficult for Christians from the early church down to the present. Some attempts have failed miserably to capture the three-in-oneness of God completely. These imperfect attempts to define the Trinity became early Christian heresies. A heresy is a doctrine or teaching that is incompatible with the Church’s view of Scripture and the traditional understanding of those who have gone before us.


There are two primary heresies about the Trinity. they are modalism and subordinationism. First modalism: there were those who said that God was One God who just appeared in three different roles — or modalities —  as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A good illustration of this is one I have heard used to describe the Trinity, but unfortunately it falls short.

The example is an easy one to grasp. I am at once daughter to parents, mother to three children, as well as pastor to this church. So, I am one person in three roles. But this only gets at one aspect of the Trinity, it is actually a good example of the heresy of “modalism” — one God playing three different parts.

The other heresy is that God the Father is the supreme figure, while both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to him in some way. The details are complicated but not important for us here and trust me, this is not what the Bible teaches.


Early Creeds Address Misunderstandings About the Trinity

So, in order to correct the theological conversation, the early Church developed creedal statements that expressed what the Church believed. The first was the Apostles’ Creed, with which we are rather familiar. The Apostles’ Creed simply affirms in three statements a belief in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed also deals with the concept of Trinity.

Question to Ponder

Why is it so important to the knowledge of the Trinity? 

How does that affect my salvation?


Tuesday Bible Study (Pentecost) May 18 2021 KPC


John 15:26 – 27 and 16:4b-15

26” When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

16:4b “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.

7Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgment because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

John 15:26-16:15 The Message

26-27 “When the Friend I plan to send you from the Father comes—the Spirit of Truth issuing from the Father—he will confirm everything about me. You, too, from your side must give your confirming evidence, since you are in this with me from the start.”

16:4-7 “I didn’t tell you this earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on my way to the One who sent me. Not one of you has asked, ‘Where are you going?’ Instead, the longer I’ve talked, the sadder you’ve become. So let me say it again, this truth: It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you.

8-11 “When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.

12-15 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’


From the Geneva NotesChapter 16

    • "The Spirit of God works so mightily by the preaching of the word that he forces the world, whether or not it wants to, to confess its own unrighteousness and Christ's righteousness and almightiness."

  • From Matthew Henry's CommentaryChapter 16

    • "Christ's departure was necessary to the Comforter's coming. Sending the Spirit was to be the fruit of Christ's death, which was his going away. His bodily presence could be only in one place at one time, but his Spirit is everywhere, in all places, at all times, wherever two or three are gathered together in his name."

  • The Holy Spirit, Convincing the World of Sin, Righteousness, and Judgement (John 16:8): sermon by George Whitefield.

    • "For, as God is a sovereign agent, his sacred Spirit bloweth not only on whom, but when and how it listeth. Therefore, far be it from me to confine the Almighty to one way of acting, or say, that all undergo an equal degree of conviction: no, there is a holy variety in God's methods of calling home his elect."

  • From Wesley's NotesChapter 16

    • "It is universally allowed that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost dwell in all believers. And the internal agency of the Holy Ghost is generally admitted. That of the Father and the Son, as represented in this Gospel, deserves our deepest consideration."

  • From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871). Chapter 16

  • From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891. Chapter 16

    • "What seemed then a crushing sorrow was a real blessing. His mission could never be accomplished unless he went away."


Pastor's Notes

Jesus as he walked this earth was limited by time, distance, and physical presence. When he was crucified that relationship changed but the disciples still perceived him as physically among them. They did not realize that the work would continue by their work and faith. While we did not look at the Ascension this year, it was important to the disciples to actually see Christ ascend into heaven to come to the realization that Jesus was no longer going to physically appear to them from time to time. He was gone from this world and their eyesight.

But Jesus was not going to leave them as orphans. The Holy Spirit is the indwelling agency of God. The Spirit gives power to the community of believers not to identify themselves as abandoned or forsaken, but rather as empowered and sent to bear witness to the world that in the events of the Son God's love has indeed been made real and present for all the world. 

The Spirit is not limited by time, distance, or physical presence so the message of the Gospel can be spread without any limitation. The Holy Spirit is present and powerful in the preaching of the Word, the testimony of God's love, and the salvation purchased for us through the gift of the cross. The Holy Spirit can give wisdom and enlightenment to every believer that calls on God and the Holy Spirit can reach the hearts of the unsaved wherever they are. The Holy Spirit can repeat the lessons we have not yet learned and give us insight into what we need to do even to the point of prophecy, a word of wisdom, or knowledge of future events as well as our role in them.

As Presbyterians we proclaim that we are reformed and being reformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and so our lives, our faith, and our theology should be ever moving forward in the light of truth. Today's understanding may pale in the light of the Spirit's revelation for tomorrow. The Spirit will never deny the truth but will broaden that truth and our understanding.


Questions to Ponder

  1. The question we are left with is whether we will listen to the Spirit and be open to newer and deeper understandings of our faith and to the implications of Jesus's revelation for us today.

  2. What 'Truth' still lies hidden or forgotten for you? What do you wonder most about?




May your study be prayer.


Bible Study for May 4, 2021

John 15:9-17          NRSV

9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.


John 15:9-17 The Message

9-10 “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.

11-15 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

16 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

17 “But remember the root command: Love one another.



"Love How?" Peter Woods, I Am Listening, 2012.

  • "Would I be pushing too hard to suggest that a contemporary reading of Jesus' words would be, 'There is no greater unconditional love than when someone gets their ego out of the way for another.'?"

"Abiding in Christ (John 15)," by Robert Deffinbaugh at the Biblical Studies Foundation.

  • "Abiding in Christ (verses 4-8) stressed belief, dependence, and endurance. The emphasis in verses 9-25 is on obedience. This is how we abide in Christ' love: “?If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His Love” (John 15:10)."

Join the Feast, John 15:9-17, Barry Chance, Union PSCE, 2009.

  • "The theological implication is that the identity of the disciples is tied up in the fact that they are loved, they are Friends of Jesus, Friends of God."


Pastor's Notes

In this week's text, John 15:19-17, immediately following on the metaphor of the Vine and the branches, Jesus teaches the disciples that discipleship means friendship with him and with God. Discipleship is being a branch of the vine. It is relational. Hence, Jesus' use of the term "friends" for his followers: "I no longer call you servants . . . I have called you friends" (v. 14). Jesus distinguishes friendship from servanthood. To be a friend is to share a personal relationship and to be made aware of the plans and purposes of the other. This is how the Father has related to the Son (Jn. 5:20). Thus, just as Jesus learned from the Father, so now he makes known his purposes to his disciples. (Hillmer, 87) And he states the core value of friendship in the community of followers: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn. 15:13).

I'm fascinated by how fascinated we are with the topic of friendship. Theologians, philosophers, poets, songwriters, novelists, filmmakers, sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists have all dealt with this topic. Song lyrics and quotes by famous and not-so-famous people abound on the topic.

The best quote on friendship of all comes from the best friend of all: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn. 15:13). The friendship of the best friend of all is highlighted in John's gospel. In the synoptic gospels the concept of friend is not nearly as prominent as it is in the gospel of John. In Luke and Matthew, the concept is found in rather negative contexts. Luke refers to friends as handing over Christians in times of persecution (21:16). In Matthew, Jesus as a friend is a source of criticism for his opponents. They accurately accuse him of being "a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (11:19). He is criticized for recognizing no boundaries in friendship, for disregarding ritual purity. (Ford, 108)

But the gospel of John is a different story. Here the word friend (philo) occurs six times. Jesus mentions the "friend of the bridegroom" in a positive context in 3:29. Jesus refers to Lazarus as "our Friend" (11:11). We are told that the good shepherd "lays down his life for his friends" (10:11). The disciples are elevated from servants to friends (philoi) in John 15:13-15. The crowd taunts Pilate, calling him "no friend of the emperor" (if he releases Jesus) in John 19:12.

Then there is the verb to love: phileo. The Father loves the Son and shares his plans and purposes with him, which is what friends do (Jn. 5:20). Jesus loves his friend Lazarus (11:36). The one who loves his life will lose it (12:25). The Father loves the disciples because they have loved Jesus (16:27). There are five references in John to the disciple whom Jesus loved. And in chapter 21:15-17, there is the conversation between Jesus and Peter about Peter's love, or lack thereof, for Jesus. (Ford, 108)

Sallie McFague, in her book Models of God, discusses the characteristics of friendship in biblical, theological terms. Friendship does not arise from necessity. We enter into it freely. As such it represents the very essence of divine election in which God chooses to enter into relationship of friendship with Israel. Friendship is based on a disinterested love for the unique characteristics of the other. Friendship forms strong bonds and the betrayal of a friend ranks as the most dastardly of deeds. She points out that Dante reserves the inner circle of Hell for Judas, Brutus, and Cassius. (Ford, 73-74)

Then and now, friendship with Jesus brings followers into a relationship of reciprocal love, creating a community in which people who addressed each other as "friends" could realize the ideal of mutual self-sacrifice (15:12-14). (Koester, 241)

There are, as you'll see from the list below, many descriptions of who friends are and what they do, in the form of quotations and song lyrics. I find it inspiring to read them all through the lens of my best friend. After each one, I nod my head and say, "Yes, that's my friend all right."

"Lean on me, when you're not strong, and I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on, for it won't be long, 'til I'm going to need somebody to lean on." ~ "Lean On Me" lyrics by Bill Withers (1972)

"Friends hold all things in common" ~ Pythagorus, 570-495 B.C.E. Greek philosopher, mathematician and founder of religious movement known as Pythagoreanism

"Should auld aquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind?" ~ Robert Burns, 1759 - 1796, Scottish poet

"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, the one will lift up the other." ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

"If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair." ~ Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British lexiographer

"For a shield from the storm, for a friend, for a love to keep me safe and warm . . . I turn to you. For the strength to be strong, for the will to carry on . . . for everything you do, for everything that's true, I turn to you." ~ "I Turn to You" lyrics by Diane Warren 1996, recorded by Christina Aguilera, 1998

"Even one who possessed all goods would not wish to live without friends." ~ Aristotle, 384-322 B.C.E., Greek Philosopher (Nicomachean Ethics)

"You've got troubles, I've got 'em too. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you. We'll stick together to see it through cause you've got a friend in me." "You've Got a Friend in Me" lyrics and music by Randy Newman, 1995

"Earthly friends may prove untrue, doubts and fears assail, but one still loves and he cares for you. One who will not fail." ~ Song "Jesus, Never Fails" lyrics and music by Arthur Luther, 1927

Quotes and songs on friendship abound. But the best quote on friendship of all comes from the best friend of all. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn. 15:13).

Questions to Ponder:


Have you ever considered that as a disciple of Christ you are truly building a friendship with Christ? Does that change how you have viewed discipleship in the past? How you view disciples of Christ that are traveling this way with you?


Do you have a friend that demonstrates God's love to you or encourages you on your faith journey? Are you that kind of friend to someone else?


Have you ever written a letter to family and friends saying what you would want them to know if you were suddenly not with them anymore? What things have you left unsaid to family? To Friends? To God? To Yourself?





Bible Study for April 27, 2021

John 15:1-8

1”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.


John 15:1-8 The Message

 1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.



From Augustine's Tractates on John:

  • Tractate 80 (15:1-3)

    • "For as the vine and its branches are of one nature, therefore, His own nature as God being different from ours, He became man, that in Him human nature might be the vine, and we who also are men might become branches thereof."

  • Tractate 81 (15:4-7)

    • "And so their having Christ abiding in them, and abiding themselves in Christ, are in both respects advantageous, not to Christ, but to the disciples. For when the branch is cut off, another may spring up from the living root; but that which is cut off cannot live apart from the root."





Pastor's Notes

Like the good shepherd of last week's text, this week's image of the vine is another extended metaphor, which also borrows from and adapts Old Testament imagery for Israel.


In this second farewell discourse, Jesus invites us to remain steadfast in the midst of the world. The discourse is divided into four parts:

the parable of the vine: I have sent you to produce fruits.

the world will hate you.

the work of the Holy Spirit.

in a little while you will see me again.

First, the parable of the vine. Jesus uses an image from the Bible, but he changes the original meaning, as he did before when speaking of the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:1). The vine represents the people of Israel. Planted from selected stock, cared for by the Lord, it should have produced fruits of justice (Mk 12:1).

Now the true Vine has taken root. Christ is the trunk from which the branches sprout, that is to say, all of us who live by him. He is also the entire plant, trunk and branches together: the Christians are really the body of Christ.

The vine was the people of Israel, and what mattered more to them was the collective conduct of the community as one body. What mattered was not the individuals but Israel. Now Jesus does not say: The Christian community is the vine, but: I am the vine. So each of us has to consider how he is joined with Jesus through faith, prayer, and keeping his word. Each one has to bear fruit. Jesus does not specify what these fruits should be: whether service, understanding, action for social justice, or a life silently offered to God. Rather he insists that these fruits should come from the Spirit and bear his proper seal. The success of the Church is not measured by its achievements, but by the progress of those who interiorize Christ’s mystery and share in his cross and resurrection. [The Community Christian Bible


God not only gives us fruit to consume, He wants us to produce much fruit. In John 15:5,  Jesus tells us “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” He’s telling us that to be able to do the things that make a difference in the world that we need to stay attached to Him. He is our primary source of nourishment and we need to be solidly connected to Him. Just as fruits that we eat nourish us, being closely attached to Him gives us what we need most to do the things He wants us to do in our lives.



Questions to Ponder

  1. "Love brings about the keeping of His commandments; but does the keeping of His commandments bring about love?"

  2. How do you you stay joined to Jesus? What are they ways that you abide in his presence?

  3. What are the fruits you’ve recently experienced in your life because you’re solidly connected to Jesus?




Bible Study for John 10:11-18 Fourth Sunday of Easter  4/20/2021

The Love of the Good Shepherd

John 10:11-18

11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”


John 10:11-18 The Message

11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.

14-18 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”




From the Geneva Notes.

    • "The distinguishing mark of the Christian Church throughout all the world is that it has only one head, that is Christ, the only keeper, and only shepherd of it."

  • From Matthew Henry's Commentary.

    • "Christ is a good Shepherd; many who were not thieves, yet were careless in their duty, and by their neglect the flock was much hurt. Bad principles are the root of bad practices."

  • From Wesley's Notes.

    • "The wolf - signifies any enemy who, by force or fraud, attacks the Christian's faith, liberty, or life. So the wolf seizeth and scattereth the flock - He seizeth some, and scattereth the rest; the two ways of hurting the flock of Christ."

  • From Augustine's Tractates on John: 

  • Tractate XLVI (Chapter 10:11-13)

    • "All, therefore, hear the voice of their Shepherd saying, "I am the good Shepherd." He would not add "good," were there not bad shepherds."


Pastor's Notes


This story of the Good Shepherd finds its entire basis in God's love and care for God's people, creation...but “love” is difficult to understand and to accept (as difficult as it is for modern-day people to understand the role of a shepherd).


Love” is a word everyone knows and everyone understands.  Or so we think.  But if that is so, why is it that when we are called to explain “love,” it can feel so daunting?  Maybe it’s because we use the same word for so many things.  It would not be unusual, for instance, to hear someone say one moment “I love my children” and then ten minutes later declare, “Oh my goodness, I just love pizza!”  Really?  The same word for your kids as for a slice with pepperoni and sausage?

Or is it more that “love” is so huge a topic in the Christian faith that there is a sense in which every time we share our faith journey it is somehow about love?  If so, then when we get to a passage that forces us to concentrate on love, we feel like we’ve got nothing to say that we have not already communicated in 100 different ways or heard preached 1000 ways already!

There is a sense in which that is true: Love is a word that everyone uses but no one can fully define, love is also the keynote of the gospel.  God is love.  Jesus is love.  God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.  This is my commandment that you love one another.  If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I am nothing.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. Peter, do you love me?  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love and the greatest of these is love.  The fruit of the Spirit is love.

Love is huge.  Love’s scope and influence are so vast that it plays a role in the entire sweep of the Christian life. 

Maybe we can better understand love by seeing what love is not.

In one of his many canny passages in The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis imagines the demon Screwtape writing the following to his nephew Wormwood, “God really does want to fill the universe with little replicas of himself.  We want cattle who can finally become food; he wants servants who can finally become sons.  We want to suck in, he wants to give out.  We are empty and would be filled; he is full and flows over.  Our Father below [the Devil] has drawn all other beings into himself, [God] wants a world full of beings united to him but still distinct.”

Here Lewis captures not just the essence of God and creation but of love versus hate: love always overflows and expands outward to include others.  Love reaches out to others not to snuff their distinctiveness but to embrace them for who they are.  But hatred seeks to conquer, to eliminate differences until only a single master race of like individuals is all that remains.  Hate seeks to eliminate the other so that the self can be all in all.  Hate, John writes, makes you like Cain the murderer.  Hate seeks to isolate itself for the sake of nursing of your own ego and, if necessary, hate will kill off others if that is what will create a private world in which you not only keep looking out for good old Number One but in which looking out for Number One is the main event.




Questions to Ponder

William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

  • "The ancient shepherd of Palestine or Asia Minor had to be tough, worked often in areas of sparse growth, frequently amid danger from wild animals and sheep stealers, and, above all, had to protect the flock, especially at night, when they would often be rounded up into a small pen. John 10 reflects this less than idyllic world."

  1. How does this historical explanation of a shepherd compare with your concept of Jesus as “the Good Shepherd?”

  2. Should love always produce a soft action or response in your Christian journey? Are there times when you need to be tough as nails to give a faithful response?



Tuesday Bible Study    4/13/2021

Luke 24:13-49

13Now on that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. sAnd he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem, and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence. 44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”


The Message The Road to Emmaus

13-16 That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

17-18 He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

19-24 He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

25-27 Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

28-31 They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

32 Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

A Ghost Doesn’t Have Muscle and Bone

33-34 They didn’t waste a minute. They were up and on their way back to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and their friends gathered together, talking away: “It’s really happened! The Master has been raised up—Simon saw him!”

35 Then the two went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.

36-41 While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.

41-43 He asked, “Do you have any food here?” They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes.

You’re the Witnesses

44 Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.”

45-49 He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses. What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.”



The Center for Excellence in Preaching, Scott Hoezee, resources from Calvin Theological Seminary: Comments & Observations, Textual Points, illustration ideas, 2015.

  • "Everything that needed to be shown and told and taught had already taken place, apparently, in Jesus' ministry as narrated in the whole Gospel up to this point. All that remained was for the disciples to understand how all that they had experienced in Jesus' presence represented nothing short of cosmic history coming to a head."

"We Are Witnesses," Karoline Lewis, Dear Working Preacher, 2018.

  • "As it turns out, witnessing is not voluntary, but a state of being."

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

  • "The Lord, about to send them forth to preach, "opens their mind that they might understand the Scriptures," and then repeats the Commission, before given in Galilee. He requires that (1) Repentance, (2) Remission of Sins, (3) Shall be Preached in his Name, (4) Unto All Nations, (5) Beginning at Jerusalem."


Pastor's Notes


Jesus had told them to remain in Jerusalem many times throughout his teachings.. He taught that salvation would come from Jerusalem. But here they were on their way home. They still carried their belief with them but not an understanding of what would come next. They were grieving most certainly but what were these disciples thinking?

I may have a clue. In my first year of seminary, my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, we were told she had about six months left but it would be a confusing time for her as her mental abilities faded. She had nursing care and my father wanted things to be peaceful for her as she couldn't take too much interaction at a time. One by one her children would spend a day with her and try to care for my father, who was also in poor health. He was still quite an independent spirit and would tell you so. I stayed with her the first week and then planned to go back to school to prep and take my midterms. I no sooner finished my testing than I was called home with the message that it would not be long – our 6-month prognosis turned to one month and then she was gone.

I know many people think that you go through stages of grief in an abbreviated time and then just have to get on with life. That is seldom the true case. I went back to school the next Monday after the Friday funeral so as not to miss the required internship assignment in December but it was hard to function, my heart wasn't in it. I did postpone the internship and headed to the safe, familiar place called home. I knew my mother would not be there but still, it seemed to be calling me – there was no place else I needed to be but home.

This Gospel text tells the story of two disciples that had been close enough to Jesus to know the events of the previous week but they were not part of Jesus' inner circle. Their world had been shattered. And though they were making their way home – home would not be the same either. Nothing was ever to be the same again once they left their lives behind to follow Jesus in the first place. And now another transition. Having followed him all the way to Jerusalem, they've seen it all come to a horrific end. Indeed, we can be certain that their walk home was marked by grief and confusion. I expect that they, like the other disciples, were now also living with a sense of regret for all they did not do that they could have, should have done.  As they make their way towards home they are left only with their memory and every trudging step this must have caused them pain.  Even though they, may have heard the outrageous rumor that Jesus was not dead after all, they were still going home. Back to the familiar, the safe, the comfortable. Back to people who knew and loved them before their worlds had turned upside down. 

Only while perhaps all they wanted to do was go home, home is clearly not where they were meant to be.  Indeed, even as this part of the story begins, it is evident that while they may have left Jerusalem behind, what they had seen and heard there wasn't leaving them.  Even while they are making their way towards home, they are pursued by their still raw memories and pretty soon it is clear that they are also pursued by Jesus himself. Even though they don't know it yet.

And yes, I have met Jesus, too, whenever we gather at the table as Cleopas and his traveling companion did so long ago.  I meet Jesus again whenever I speak words recalling all the "choirs of angels" who join us when we break the bread and pour the cup. I meet Jesus in the hearts of others, both in joy and in pain.

And surely I have met him, also, whenever I have experienced the forgiveness of others when I have failed to do and be all that I should.  I meet Jesus again when I hear and repeat the promise that the promises of forgiveness and life are 'for you and for whosoever will come.'


1 When have you experienced the journey to Emmaus – not recognizing Jesus in the walk but knowing something was burning within you?

2 Did you then recognize Jesus? What brought about that realization?

3 What do you know now that you may not have known then?



Pastor Michaele



Tuesday Bible Study  April  6, 2021

John 20:19-31 NRSV

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.

John 20:19-31 The Message

19-20 Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.

20-21 The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were awestruck. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”

22-23 Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

24-25 But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”

But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”

27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.





From Matthew Henry's Commentary.

    • "A sight of Christ will gladden the heart of a disciple at any time; and the more we see of Jesus, the more we shall rejoice."

  • From Wesley's Notes.

    • "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."

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

    • "And when he had so said, he showed them his hands and his side--not only as ocular and tangible evidence of the reality of His resurrection ... but as through "the power of that resurrection" dispensing all His peace to men."

  • "The Evidence of our Lord's Wounds," John 20:27, Charles H. Spurgeon, 1888.

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

    • "Perhaps our Lord in glory continues to bear the marks of the cross. Perhaps these will forever, as we gaze in glory, remind us of the story of our redemption."


Pastors Notes

The Sunday after Easter is devoted to doubt. The story of Doubting Thomas is always read, no matter what year of the three year cycle we are in. Doubt is huge. And since the very first Easter, everyone has known doubt is important.

But waiting a week to bring doubt into focus makes it seem as if there is a Doubt Delay – first, you get excited and run around and celebrate – then, you doubt.

That isn’t the real story about doubt. Doubt was part of the entire Easter picture, from Maundy Thursday right through Easter Day. At the Last Supper the disciples drew back from Jesus’ foot washing – doubting his gesture, divining his meaning and shrinking from the changes to their own intentions, still intent on glory.

Outside his trial, Peter shrank into famed betrayals, unable to leave, unable to step forward, doubt and love struggling within him.

All the disciples were paralyzed by grief, the intense doubt that overwhelmed Jesus’ oft spoken assurances that he would rise, until it was Joseph of Arimathea who was able to handle the details of burial.

Pain is a guise of doubt, the mind and body unable to muster enough light to dispel the darkness. There is no record of what was said between the disciples from Friday until Easter morning, but we know what it would be among us: long silences punctuated by if onlys, why didn’t wes, how could theys. We know from their Easter astonishment that no one was saying, Let’s wait and see what happens.

Yet on Easter morning, doubt was as much their angel as their demon: some, certain of death, set out for the tomb to prepare the body. Each gospel lists different women. Always, Mary Magdelene, often his mother, and then various names. John lists Magdelene alone, who, on discovering the absence of the body runs back to tell the others, and Peter and John rush out, running ahead of her, racing each other. John arrives first  but does not go in – overcome, at that point, by inner conflict, doubt surely being part of that. Peter rushes by him, enters in, sees the folded grave clothes, and his doubts and grief fall away.  He rushes out, rejoicing. But Mary needs more than absence, more than clothing, more even than sight. When she hears her name, she knows.

Thomas wasn’t there in the Upper Room when they returned, wasn’t there when Jesus came and amazed them all by eating a fish. And all their telling, all their amazement, did not dispel his skepticism.  Yet there was enough faith in him to keep him from walking out, exclaiming You’re nuts! and leaving their madness behind. He proclaims he has to touch those wounds in order to believe, but he stays with them, his doubt as much an angel as a demon. Some days later he has the chance to touch those wounds, it is written.


Thomas is a Greek name, and it means twin, though his twin, if he had one, never appears, and some suggest we are, each of us, his twin. For each of us has our nagging doubts that sometimes prompt us to get up and investigate a situation that needs our attention, and that sometimes hold us back. If Thomas’ doubts are the most persistent, then he is our twin because our doubts persist, and at times are insistent, and they have the ability to lead us to new discoveries about ourselves and in our relationship with all that is holy.

My doubts are not so much about whether Easter happened, though I do question that at times, but about whether it is important,  whether it has anything to do with me. After all, it is from my own suffering that I long to rise.

Easter insists on an end to our victimization, and opens an endless Day of Peace,  which we must begin to proclaim. The disciples move through degrees of despair and doubt in each other’ company in a long, varied conversation, in which all the things they think and feel are transformed from Demons into Angels. Easter is new life, rising. Not about escaping with our life, but walking in the power of God’s love, even into death. And that’s what it has to do with each of us.


Questions to Ponder


Thomas had the courage to ask what we seldom admit to wanting to know. He asked for proof. How has God proven Himself to be alivein your life?


Can we come to faith by our reasoning alone or is faith God's gift to us? Cite two scriptures that explain your point of view.


 What is it that would prompt a similar confession of faith from us today?


Do we long to see Jesus like Thomas? Do we look for a loving and accepting community of believers? Do we hope to see the mercy of God enacted in the service and witness of our congregation?


Do we seek someone to hold on to us when we struggle in faith or life? Or do we just need to hear John’s acknowledgment that faith is hard and receive Jesus’ invitation to faith and promise of blessing?




May your study be Prayer.




John 20:1-18 NRSV

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.



20 1-2 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, gasping for breath. “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him.”

3-10 Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home.

11-13 But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been laid. They said to her, “Woman, why do you weep?”

13-14 “They took my Master,” she said, “and I don’t know where they put him.” After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him.

15 Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”

She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Sir, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”

16 Jesus said, “Mary.”

Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!”

17 Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her.



From the Geneva Notes.

  • "Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John, are the first witnesses of the resurrection, and these cannot justly be suspected, for they themselves could hardly be persuaded of it; therefore, they would obviously not invent such a story on purpose."

Commentary, John 20:1-18, Barbara Lundblad, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2016.

  • "Three disciples. One sees the grave clothes neatly folded and believes. One sees the same thing and there is no indication that he believes anything. One is surprised into believing by hearing the sound of her name. To all and each of these we preach."

"The Secret in the Dark," Frederick Buechner, Buechner Blog.

  • "It has always struck me as remarkable that when the writers of the four Gospels come to the most important part of the story they have to tell, they tell it in whispers. The part I mean, of course, is the part about the resurrection. They are trying to describe it as truthfully as they can. It was the most extraordinary thing they believed had ever happened, and yet they tell it so quietly that you have to lean close to be sure what they are telling. They tell it as softly as a secret, as something so precious, and holy, and fragile, and unbelievable, and true, that to tell it any other way would be somehow to dishonor it."





Pastor's Notes

Our faith rests more on conviction than on concrete fact. Like John and Peter, we have to go with our heart more than with our head, for in the end our faith rests on little tangible evidence. There comes a point in our journey where we have to simply take it on faith.


Women came to the limestone graves to grieve Jesus’ death. They were Mary Magdalene, Mary and her sister Salome. The women approached the burial chamber and exclaimed, “O no, someone has rolled away the stone.” They went inside that vault and thee were two angels, two messengers there who said, “He is not here. He has been raised from the dead by the powers of God just like he told you it would happen.” And the women? I know their reaction. They were astounded and astonished, amazed and awestruck, dazzled and dumbfounded. They ran as fast as their little legs would carry them to report the news to Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, John himself, the eyewitness of the four gospel authors. Only John’s gospel written by an eyewitness tells us so many juicy historical details. The women found Peter and John and told them about the empty tomb. Peter and John ran as fast as they could to the burial crypt. Young John arrived first and then older Peter. Peter walked into the crypt first and John followed. There was the linen shroud and the napkin that had covered Jesus’ face all neatly folded and sitting there. The disciples must have looked at each other and I know their reaction. They were astonished and astounded, amazed and awestruck, dazzled and dumbfounded. The two disciples left.

Mary Magdalene was there alone, weeping, crying, perplexed. She thought that she was speaking to the gardener and asked where he had put the body of Jesus. Jesus spoke one word, “Mary.” She knew the voice. She knew his voice. It was the voice of Jesus. She turned around and was the first person on earth to see the resurrected Christ. I know what was going on inside of her. She was astonished and astounded, amazed and awestruck, dazzled and dumbfounded at his presence. He said, “Do not touch me because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”

From Wesley's Notes.

  • "Touch me not - Or rather, Do not cling to me."

    Jesus is not telling Mary that he is beyond her reach. He is saying that he no longer can be limited to the physical Jesus she knew. Death has freed him from all earthly bonds to time and distance. He is now her high-priest in the heavenly court interceding for his people. Some traditions hold that Jesus was on his way to the heavenly temple to present himself to his father as the perfect sacrifice and the holy one that had been promised. It was Mary's heartbreaking cries that caused Jesus to pause long enough to let her know he was alive before completing his work of redemption. There is Old Testament prophecies to support this. (Daniel 7 and Zachariah)


  • "In the first creation story God drove Eve and Adam out of the garden. But in this new creation Jesus sends Mary out of the garden rejoicing."


Questions to ponder

Do you think Mary didn't recognize Jesus because she came to the garden expecting to find only death? A body to be tended to?

Do we sometimes miss the real Jesus in church and ministry because our expectations are not on worshipping or serving the living Christ?


TUESDAY BIBLE STUDY March 23, 2021 Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1-11 NRSV

11When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.


11 1-3 When they were nearing Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany on Mount Olives, he sent off two of the disciples with instructions: “Go to the village across from you. As soon as you enter, you’ll find a colt tethered, one that has never yet been ridden. Untie it and bring it. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ say, ‘The Master needs him, and will return him right away.’”

4-7 They went and found a colt tied to a door at the street corner and untied it. Some of those standing there said, “What are you doing untying that colt?” The disciples replied exactly as Jesus had instructed them, and the people let them alone. They brought the colt to Jesus, spread their coats on it, and he mounted.

8-10 The people gave him a wonderful welcome, some throwing their coats on the street, others spreading out rushes they had cut in the fields. Running ahead and following after, they were calling out,

Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!
Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David!
Hosanna in highest heaven!

11 He entered Jerusalem, then entered the Temple. He looked around, taking it all in. But by now it was late, so he went back to Bethany with the Twelve.



Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen "The use of palm branches in Maccabees was related to military victories. Is that what the people were expecting from Jesus?"

Join the FeastMark 11:1-11, Kirby Lawrence Hill, Union PSCE, 2009.

  • "Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan suggest there was not only a procession from the Mount of Olives on the east that day, but also a Roman procession entering from the west, which would have had as a focal point the Roman governor named Pontius Pilate. The juxtaposition of these two processions would have set up quite a contrast."


Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Mark 11:1-11, David Ewart, 2012.

"The Bible doesn't tell us about Pilate parading in the main gate of Jerusalem, or what the crowd shouted, but you can bet it wasn't, "Blessed is the coming of the Kingdom of our ancestor David." That would be treason. And treason was punishable by? You guessed it, by execution on a cross. "



Perhaps the most notable thing about Mark's version of this story is how anti-climactic it is. All the excitement of the parade, the crowds chanting, the road strewn with coats and branches - it all leads up to, well, nothing. Jesus looks around, and then turns around and returns to Bethany.

Whatever the disciples expected to happen, and whatever the crowds expected, just didn't happen. Their expectations and Jesus' agenda are worlds apart.

Their agenda is a coup d'état. Jesus' agenda is to scope the place out for a teach-in.


Their agenda is a revolution that will sweep away one empire and replace it with - a new empire. Jesus' agenda is a revolution that will replace empires altogether with a humanity in which everyone is included.

Their agenda is to co-opt God to legitimate their vision of utopia. Jesus' agenda is to realize the divine image that lives in every person.

So, at the end of the day, after all the excitement, nothing happens. The expectations are utterly unmet. This is indeed the beginning of the end, where the unmet false expectations turn the crowd's adulation to disappointment, and finally to bloodthirsty anger.

Their agenda unmet they settle for the disappointment that comes with the failure having never looked at God's plan for their salvation.



It's fine to have great expectations. What happens when your expectations go unmet?

Do you turn to thoughts and/or actions of vengeance?

Does it cause you to consider whether your expectations were what they should have been to begin with?

Do you give up on God or entertain the thought that God has given up on you?



March 16, 2021 Bible Study


Tuesday Bible Study March 16, 2021 Lent 5

John 12:20-36

20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

27“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 

John 12:20-33 The Message

20-21 There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?”

22-23 Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

24-25 “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.

27-28 “Right now I am shaken. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”

A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it, and I’ll glorify it again.”

29 The listening crowd said, “Thunder!”

Others said, “An angel spoke to him!”

30-33 Jesus said, “The voice didn’t come for me but for you. At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.” He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.






From the Geneva Notes.

    • "The death of Christ is as it were a sowing, which seems to be a dying of the corn, but indeed is the cause of a much greater harvest: and such as is the condition of the head, so will be the condition of the members."

  • From Matthew Henry's Commentary.

    • "Christ was willing to suffer, yet prayed to be saved from suffering. Prayer against trouble may well agree with patience under it, and submission to the will of God in it."

An Abundant Harvest, from The Poor Man's Portions, Robert Hawker, c. 1800.

  • "Had Jesus not descended to the grave, how would he have been the life-giving, the soul-quickening root of all his church and people? But now, by this one precious corn of wheat falling into the ground, and dying, how hath the garner of God been filled, and is now continually filling, with his seed!"


Pastor's Notes

This lectionary text is the opening section of Jesus’ final discourse for the world.

Greeks arrive on the scene, find Philip, and make one of the most extraordinary requests of the entire Gospel, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Jesus’ discourse that follows is, in part, a response to this request. If you wish to see Jesus, then this is what you will and must see. There is a reason this verse finds itself carved on or engraved in our pulpits. It is a summative theology of preaching, particularly for the Fourth Gospel. Any sermon on the Gospel of John has this as its goal, the very real presence of Jesus that needs to be experienced by any or all of our human senses.

Jesus’ response to the request of the Greeks announces that the hour has come (meaning the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension). In many respects, what follows is an interpretation of the hour for the world to hear. One way to view Jesus’ last public discourse is as an interpretation of the “final” sign in the Gospel: Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Both this discourse and the Farewell Discourse (chapters 14-17) are based on the fact that the hour is here. These two discourses share that perspective and shape what Jesus will say and how he will say it in the chapters that follow.

A call to discipleship

An immediate example of how Jesus’ last public words foreshadow his personal words to the disciples is the image offered in John 12:24. The metaphor of bearing fruit will receive fuller treatment in the image of the vine and the branches in chapter 15. Verse 25 is further commentary on the agricultural metaphor presented in verse 24, but has less to do with function of Jesus’ death as it does with the possibility of what the disciples will do when Jesus is gone. They will do greater works than these (John 14:12) because Jesus is returning to the Father. So much of this last discourse from Jesus is about discipleship. To serve Jesus (John 13:16) is to follow Jesus and to follow Jesus is to do the works that he did, to feed and tend his sheep (John 13:36-37; 21:15-19), to testify on his behalf (John 15:27).

Don’t forget who Jesus is

John 12:27 is demonstrative of how different the portrait of Jesus is in the Gospel of John. John’s Jesus would never ask for this cup to pass (John 18:11) but willingly lays down his life in the events that are to come. John 12:28-30 should be reminiscent of both the baptism of Jesus and the event of the Transfiguration in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36), though Luke omits the words from heaven at the baptism of Jesus. In the Gospel of John, Jesus does not need confirmation of who he is (John 12:30). He is perfectly aware of his origin, his relationship with God, and his identity (John 1:1). The voice from heaven does not confirm Jesus’ origin, his relationship to God, or his identity, but rather testifies that in Jesus, God’s name has been glorified (John 12:28-30).

A moment of decision

This section of John’s Gospel, particularly 12:31-33, is also the moment of judgment because this is the last time the “world” will hear Jesus’ words. To listen to Jesus is to believe in him and this, for all intents and purposes, is the last chance. The ruler of this world will be cast out, which will be acted out in the next chapter, with the departure of Judas to the dark side (13:27-30). This is another example by which to know that what Jesus says is true. Verses 32-33 at first glance seem to foreshadow the crucifixion. At the same time, literally, “what sort of death he was about to die” suggests that the “the sort of death” includes also that that death leads to his resurrection and ascension. When Jesus is lifted up from the earth to draw all people to himself, that lifting up is simultaneously all three events: crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. The Farewell Discourse provides confirmation of this in that Jesus’ parting words are not just in anticipation of his death, but in anticipation of his ascension, perhaps a far more difficult reality to face than his inevitability in a tomb. To what extent the ascension is even harder theologically because of the resurrection? Jesus must prepare his disciples for his twice departure, his death and his ascension.

As the Gospel lection chosen for the last Sunday of Lent, this passage might help us imagine a theological element that fully realizes the implications of the crucifixion but also gives witness to what we know lies beyond — the resurrection and ascension. This is not to discount Good Friday or to suggest a fast-forward to the “good parts” of Lent. Rather, it is to acknowledge that the Jesus of John is preparing his disciples for more than his death. Let’s be honest. We know death. We know it all too well. Much, much harder is to imagine the truth of resurrection and the comfort of ascension.


Question to Ponder


  • Today's reading begins with the Greeks request, “Sir we want to see Jesus.” Do you think people outside the church are still making that statement given what they see of the church today? Why or why not?


March 9, 2021 Bible Study


Tuesday Bible Study March 9 2021

John 3:14-21

14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”




"God's Offensive Love," David Lose, ...in the Meantime, 2015.

  • "The kind of self-sacrificing love Jesus offers is frightening to such a world. No wonder some run and hide, as it requires us to trust nothing other than God."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, John 3:14-21, David Ewart, 2012.

  • "No one is saved by intellectual agreement with a belief. Salvation is all about the restoration of broken relationships. Being saved means being restored to the proper bond and trust of true kinship with God."

Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks.

  • "If the solution in Numbers was a snake raised up on a pole -- because the problem was poisonous serpents on the ground; so in John if the solution is a human (the Word made flesh) on a pole, the problem must be the humans on the ground."

"John 3:16 - The Rest of the Story," Carl Gregg, Patheos, 2012.

  • "Some Christians have called John 3:16 'the Gospel in a nutshell,' but John 3:16 is not enough to form a fully mature Christian life."


Pastors Notes

 The very first word of John 3:16 in Greek is outos. In the vast majority of English Bibles, this word is translated as “so,” as in “God so loved the world.”   The problem is that many of us hear that “so” in the wrong way.  We hear it in terms of degree: “God didn’t just love the world; God loved the world a LOT.” But that’s not the way John meant it.  Another meaning of the English word “so” is the sense of “in this way” or “in this manner.”  Try to hear the “so” in that sense: “God so loved the world. God loved the world in this way. God so loved the world. God loved the world in this manner.” You can see this understanding represented in a handful of recent versions that have resisted the influence of traditional translations like the King James Bible. It is difficult sometimes for translation committees to agree to change the wording of well-known verses, but sometimes it happens:

  • The Holman Christian Standard Bible says, “For God loved the world in this way.”

  • The New English Translation: “For this is the way God loved the world.”

  • The New Jerusalem Bible: “For this is how God loved the world.”


John 3:16 is difficult to preach because of ingrained traditional ideas but it is only the beginning of faith. Once we believe in Christ's life giving work we must continue to grow in the knowledge of God and our faith.

We need to learn the lessons of being loved unconditionally by God. How do you view God's love? Many people accept that God loves them but then then live as if they have to earn that love, often afraid of making God angry or losing their salvation if they mess up. Its as if they were waiting for lightning bolts to pierce the air around them. That is not Christianity – its religion.

If God has forgiven you and there is no condemnation (Jn3:16-17) then we need only to repair and develop our relationship with God. God's love forgives not once but continually as we strive to work out our salvation.

God's love is a self-sacrificing love, a love that you cannot purchase and cannot earn. It is a gift freely given. We cannot understand it or control it and, so, we are often afraid of God's love. The people who seem to need God's love the most try to hide from it. Even as Christians we tend to hide from God and God's people when we have failed to be perfect or are facing hardships. The times that we really need that relationship with God or God's people is the exact time when we pull away, we seclude ourselves, we avoid prayer and church. Why is that?


Questions to Ponder


Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks.

  • "If the solution in Numbers was a snake raised up on a pole -- because the problem was poisonous serpents on the ground; so in John if the solution is a human (the Word made flesh) on a pole, the problem must be the humans on the ground."


  • How do you feel about the above quote?

  • Do you avoid people when you fail or are facing trouble? Do you avoid prayer and fellowship in those times?

  • How do you understand God's love? Does your heart fear trusting in God only?

  • Are you a Christian or just religious?




March 3, 2021  Bible Study

Tuesday Bible Study                                       Lent 3                                    March 2, 2021


John 2:13-25                       NRSV


13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.


John 2:13-25 The Message                                                                                                                                          


13-14 When the Passover Feast, celebrated each spring by the Jews, was about to take place, Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem. He found the Temple teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves. The loan sharks were also there in full strength.                                                                    15-17 Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, “Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” That’s when his disciples remembered the Scripture, “Zeal for your house consumes me.”                                       


18-19 But the Jews were upset. They asked, “What credentials can you present to justify this?” Jesus answered, “Tear down this Temple and in three days I’ll put it back together.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

20-22 They were indignant: “It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and you’re going to rebuild it in three days?” But Jesus was talking about his body as the Temple. Later, after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this. They then put two and two together and believed both what was written in Scripture and what Jesus had said.





    From the Geneva Notes.


"Christ being ordained to purge the Church with great zeal begins his office both of Priest and Prophet."


From Matthew Henry's Commentary.


"Those now make God's house a house of merchandise, whose minds are filled with cares about worldly business when attending religious exercises, or who perform Divine offices for love of gain."


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


    "The great crowds who came to Jerusalem at this time could not bring victims, and the traffic in oxen, sheep, kids and doves became enormous. It would have been proper enough if it had been conducted at stockyards, but the priests made a monopoly of it and installed it right in the temple. The Court of the Gentiles, "a house of prayer for all nations" (Mark 11:15-19), was filled with cattle, ordure, and the din of traffic."Commentary, John 2:13-22, Karoline Lewis, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2015.


        "The first thing to notice when interpreting and preaching the temple incident in the Gospel of John is its different location compared to the Synoptic Gospels."


    The Center for Excellence in Preaching, Scott Hoezee, resources from Calvin Theological Seminary: Comments & Observations, Textual Points, illustration ideas, 2015.


        "Typical of John, of course, we get a theological aside—a holy parenthetical—to inform us that the "Temple" in question was Jesus' own body. The very Son of the Living God was standing right in front of these people but they were far more impressed with brick-and-mortar than they were with flesh-and-blood."




Pastor’s Notes


The first thing that we notice is that the priests and temple leaders had allowed the animals and the money-changers into the temple. There was a court set for Gentiles to come and pray, to learn, and should they desire to convert to Judaism. This is where the business people were set up. Everyone had to pass through this area on their way to worship. Jesus proclaimed that God’s house was a place of prayer for all people. The problem was that by using the Gentile’s court for business transactions there was no place for the Gentiles to enter or be converted. The business of the temple merchants had effectively blocked out the people who were not part of the “in crowd.”


It has long been a problem for those exploring a church or belief to be driven away when they find no place to be accepted.






In this light, it will be important to hear today’s gospel for its radical critique of the Temple.  It is generally thought that in Jesus’ day the business oversight of the Temple establishment was good, and Jesus was unlikely to be concerned about specific abuses within its financial practices.  What he attacked was nothing less than the very phenomenon of the Temple and its sacrificial system, much as Jeremiah had done (see Jeremiah 7: 1-14, scripture that Jesus actually quoted, according to the synoptic accounts of this episode).  In effect, God’s covenant people have made the Jerusalem Temple into an idol — a very dangerous thing to do, according to the second commandment!


This may be the sharpest challenge to anyone who aspires to be a disciple of Jesus.  A Temple, a Church, or indeed any religious institution can become an end in itself, and therefore a method of ‘managing’ the Ineffable Mystery, replacing the One Holy God with a manageable idol.  Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to sanctify its abuses.


The Outrage in the Temple (it is no mere ‘cleansing’) but it is presented as the defining episode of Jesus’ mission from the beginning.


John’s entire portrait of Jesus is drawn expressly from the perspective of the Paschal Mystery.  He, therefore, combines into one both Jesus’ action in the Temple (which, in Mark, comes before his arrest) and Jesus’ saying, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up” (which, in Mark, comes after his arrest); he then observes, “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered...and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”  It is by finding in Jesus’ words and actions the fulfillment of scripture that we will recognize what he was really up to.




So Jesus did not come to prop up our religious institutions, but to build the temple of his body.  And the sign he gave to those who asked for one was the impending destruction of his body — which would then be raised from the dead as the company of his disciples.  That is how God’s law will come to its fulfillment in us; that is an acceptable form of a temple, a ‘holy place’ where God’s presence can be known.


Last Sunday Jesus told us, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  That is really all we can recommend to those who are seeking meaning for their life!  But it is enough.  All around us, the majestic temples we have built are crumbling; this fragile temple of Christ’s body is the one that will endure.


In the end the temple was destroyed but worship continued in the hearts and minds of the people and still does even in places where there is no temple or brick and mortar building.


Questions to Ponder


    "What might it mean to look with fresh eyes at our sacred institutions --- especially our churches --- and to be a part of 'cleansing them' so that others might more fully encounter God?"


    Will we live for God, desiring above all to fulfill God’s will for the world? Or will we live for our own self-advancement, by allowing things in our lives, our congregations,  and churches that do little to promote the Gospel message so that others may understand?


    Do we sometimes miss what God is doing in our lives now because we are hanging on to what we have seen God do in the past? Does that apply to the church as well?


    Has the church lost the concept of the sacredness of God?


Blessings. And may your study be prayer

Pastor Michaele



February 23, 2021  Bible Study


Tuesday Bible Study                                                                                                                       February 23, 2021

Mark 8:31-38                      NRSV


31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”


34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”


Mark 8:31-38      The Message


30-32 Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it.                                                 32-33 But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”                                                                                                                                                                34-37 Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “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 saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?                                                                                                            38 “If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.”








    peaceonjustice, Barbara Born, 2018.


        "Jesus asks us not to save our lives for our sake, but to lose them for His sake AND the sake of the gospel."


    "Then and Now: Picking Up Our Crosses," Janet H Hunt, 2018. "What do you hear when you listen to Jesus’ call to deny ourselves and to pick up our crosses and follow him?"




Pastor’s Notes


We often focus on Peter’s attempt to deter Jesus from his declaration that he must suffer. We all can identify with the idea of avoiding suffering. We can also identify with the idea of having our own way of thinking about how things should be. Jesus rebukes Peter, calling him Satan, as Peter is speaking against God’s plan of salvation and sounding every bit like the devil.


Jesus then turns to the crowd and speaks of taking up our cross in order to follow him and for the sake of the Gospel (Good News?), although at this moment it does not seem like good news with all this talk of suffering and death. The crowd is well-acquainted with the punishment of crucifixion as it was a very public humiliating death imposed by the Romans. To hear that you need to be crucified in order to follow this teacher would strike fear in the heart of the listener and cause the faint of heart to find another teacher. Even Peter who has followed Jesus from the beginning and just declared Jesus to be the Christ is looking in another direction.


Some followers were indeed crucified or martyred by other means. Many simply lived lives of faith and service. We do not choose our cross, referring to our life events. We trust our days to the Sovereign God. But we are still called to crucifixion - to pick up our cross and follow Christ.


So how do we ‘pick up our cross’ today? First, we do so in our spiritual life. As God deals with our lives there will be certain things that are contrary to the kingdom. It may be a quick temper, a tongue prone to lying or cursing, or just thinking of yourself and not others. Whatever is not glorifying God must be done away with - crucified that its death makes room for new life.


The second way we pick up our cross is to do the work of the church in the world. For some it may mean works of mercy, for others it may mean justice issues. Whatever your heart finds to do in the name of God do it with all your strength.


We may know all this but remember also it is never too late to lift the cross to our shoulders and take the first step or the next step in being and doing as Jesus did. We might hear this as a call to follow not just once, but more as it is spoken in Luke 9:23 where Jesus calls those within hearing to take up our cross not once and for all, but daily.


Questions to Ponder


    What do you hear when you listen to Jesus’ call to deny ourselves and to pick up our crosses and follow him? Is this a one time response or is it something we do day after day after day?


    What examples would you offer of others having done so — in your life, in your community, in the history of your community, or elsewhere? How do such stories help (or hinder) our understanding of Jesus’ invitation today?


    If we have in the past failed to pick up our cross or we have failed to do it ‘perfectly’ would that discourage you from doing so at all? Do you find this to be true? Why or why not?


February 16, 2021  Bible Study

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21     NRSV

6“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

5“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

16“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The Message 6:1-6, 16-21 

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.

2-4 “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people makinga regular show out of their prayers, hoping for fifteen minutes of fame! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

16-18 “When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well.

19-21 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.



From Matthew Henry's Commentary. "What we do, must be done from an inward principle, that we may be approved of God, not that we may be praised of men."

  • "Christ holds it for you, safe beyond the spoiler's reach. Like the child, you shall receive day by day what is required for the day's need." Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, Ellen G. White, 1896.


A LOOK AT OUR PIETY Based on thoughts by Rev. Dr. Luke Bouman, Conroe, Texas.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of a 40 day time span that ends on the eve of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. The “ash” of Ash Wednesday implies something destroyed, demolished, gone. Not only destroyed are the palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday’s palms, but also destroyed was the life of a person, a man, a figure we can never fully even begin to comprehend the God-man, Jesus. It is well that you and I contemplate, meditate upon, and spend time and effort on the astounding attitude of the person dying for us, what it means, and then fall down “in humble adoration” before the Lord God.

The 40 days of Lent has been in the church since the time of Pope Gregory the Great (540~604). The 40 days remember the 40 days of temptation of our Lord when he fasted and prayed. And so should we, every year, fast and pray in special ways to honor our Lord’s life — his suffering, dying, his death and his time in the grave — all for us. Then we shall be able to experience with joy beyond our description the end of our death, our grave, our hell, our sin, as we shout out: “He is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!”

The Word of God in front of us this day speaks about sacrifice (almsgiving), praying, and fasting. Our Lord gave up the glories of heaven to save us in that great act of love on the cross, for no man has greater love than to give his life for another. Jesus was often found in prayer but we only know the contents of a two prayers: the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and his prayer as our great high priest immediately before in the upper room at Passover.

In our 40 days of Lent this year, I would like us to look at our piety — how we demonstrate our faithfulness, our actions inspired by our devotion to this Jesus, and our humility as we view the One who was there before the world began, before we existed, travel the road to Calvary, the cross and the grave.


Our Almsgiving

“All the church wants is money.”You have heard that accusation I am sure. Bt all God wants is us. In a culture that reveres wealth and its acquisition more than it reveres the Lord God, our giving needs to be examined. I remember the days when the giving of each adult person in the local congregation was published at the end of the year. As a financial officer in earlier years, I have prepared statements for people so that they would have a record for their taxes and any inquiries from the IRS. I had often been amazed at who the real givers were. They were normally unassuming people with big hearts and dedicated to ministry. Often the loudest or most demanding either gave little of themselves and their treasure. One minister I knew made the comment that folks tipped a waiter more than they gave to God. That is one reason I am glad Presbyterian pastors are not informed as to a member's giving.

I wonder if God was looking at what was given, and asked, (because God who knows the hearts and minds of men, including ours): “Is this how this family honors me?” Would our Savior say: “This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts [where their treasure is] is far from me”?

In this day and time when few people know what we give, we can fool ourselves, we can present a picture of giving which fools others, and we can fool both ourselves and others. We need to examine our giving during this season of Lent. And if we arrive at some area in the region called “Guilt,” then remember why we observe Lent. Examine your giving well during Lent and let your giving truly honor the Savior!

Our Praying

The prayer life of the pious Jew consisted of the Shema: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” This was said in the morning and evening. Hourly prayers were spoken at 9 AM, 12 PM and 3 PM. There were prayers before and after meals. Many prayers were spoken during the worship of God in the synagogue worship, and, of course, many prayers were spoken on special occasions as well.

In order to demonstrate how pious you were, you found yourself in the market place, the mall, the cafeteria at 9, 12, and 3, when suddenly you dropped everything and prayed. How pious you looked! And you might have been, but you got what you wanted from those prayers. Your payment in full, your reward for praying was for people to think you were pious. That was all they got. Nothing from God.

Prayer in communication with God, the God who loved you so much he gave his one and only Son into death, that we might be with him always. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.

Lent is a time to spend time reviewing, possibly repairing, perhaps enlarging your time of communication with God. Is it possible that we view our sin and the sacrifice which eliminated all alienation from God so lightly that we do not think speaking to him is a peripheral, nonessential, a marginal, an unimportant part of daily existence?

If Jesus needed to pray, and he prayed often, alone, in worship, and with disciples, prayer should be a highly important, essential, central part of our life. Examine your prayer life during this Lenten season and give serious thought to what part God in Christ has to do with every day’s privilege of God’s gift to you.

Our Fasting

Some folks see fasting as giving up, getting rid of dependence on and ending indulging in all kinds of sinful stuff, such as worry, gossip, greed, spiteful criticism of others, an unforgiving spirit, and so much more. That kind of fasting is most highly recommended at any time of the year.

Fasting, in the more traditional sense, is not starving, but rather simply not eating whatever foods you decide not to eat during these 40 days. This kind of fasting is very simply to remind us of what our Lord gave up, his life as a ransom for all of mankind. This kind of fasting may also urge us to be alert to the fact of the starving millions who die of hunger, of the lack of spiritual food to far too many people in the little world we live in and cause us to share all that we have with others, particularly our faith in the gracious God who gave up his life for us, to us, and in us, so that we might live.


  1. During Lent we to focus our discussions on sin and death. Both are very real. How does this focus help you appreciate the joyful reality of God's love and forgiveness?
  2. What one, important, change would you like to make during Lent? Why?
  3. We often speak of doing something we don't want to do because it is our duty or responsibility. Is the change you desire to make (#2) because of duty? A desire to be seen? Or a heart of commitment and compassion? How can you be sure of your answer?
  4. Jesus says to “Lay up treasure in heaven.” How are you personally obeying that directive?
  5. Do you believe that what you do with your treasure shows your heart for God?


May your study be prayer.

Pastor Michaele



February 8, 2021  Bible Study


Transfiguration Sunday Feb 14 2021


Mark 9:2-10 NRSV

2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.


Mark 9:2-10 The Message In a Light-Radiant Cloud

2-4 Six days later, three of them did see it. Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them. Elijah, along with Moses, came into view, in deep conversation with Jesus.

5-6 Peter interrupted, “Rabbi, this is a great moment! Let’s build three memorials—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah.” He blurted this out without thinking, stunned as they all were by what they were seeing.

Just then a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and from deep in the cloud, a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love. Listen to him.”

The next minute the disciples were looking around, rubbing their eyes, seeing nothing but Jesus, only Jesus.

9-10 Coming down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy. “Don’t tell a soul what you saw. After the Son of Man rises from the dead, you’re free to talk.” They puzzled over that, wondering what on earth “rising from the dead” meant.





Transfiguration – is one of the most mysterious events in Jesus' life. This event is significant enough to be included in all three of the synoptic Gospels. Here Jesus goes up on a mountain seemingly to pray. When he reaches the top his whole form changes to glorious white. The glory of eternity shines through his physical human form. Two men appear with him who the disciples identify as Moses and Elijah. They are talking of the soon departure of Jesus and his manner of leaving.


The significance of these two Old Testament figures:

Moses - was that of the Giver of the Law. He experienced God in the burning bush on this mountain.

Elijah – experienced God in the still small voice on this mountain. Elijah was the major prophet of the Old Testament and even established a School of the Prophets in Israel. (Sinai, Tabor, and Horeb are believed to be the same mountain) both experenced God here. It is fitting that Jesus meet them here.



We could say that what happened on the mountaintop is that the divine nature rose to prominence in a way that had not generally been the case throughout Jesus’ earthly existence up to that point.  Or we could say that for a few brief moments the Father showed the disciples what Jesus (as Son of God) had always looked like before he emptied or stripped himself of certain ordinary divine traits so as to become incarnately human (think of it as a temporary reversal on the kind of kenosis spelled out in Philippians 2).   Either way or both ways, however, it was not that Jesus became something he generally speaking was not but more the case that something that was a part of who he had been all along was displayed in a different way. (Scott Hoersbe)

On the mountaintop, Jesus is revealed to be more than meets the eye.  It is as if the quantum energy of the universe is localized in his mortal frame.  Jesus radiates divine energy: the energy of incarnation and resurrection.  He is found to be more than we can imagine.  Yet, the mountaintop is not an end unto itself.  Personally, I would add verses 14-21 to the gospel reading.  As go forth from their ecstatic experiences, Jesus and the disciples encounter a desperate parent and a demon-possessed (epileptic) boy.  We go from mystical heights to the messiness of human pain and the cross in the distance.  The energy of the universe goes forth in healing and a child is transfigured and made whole.(B. Epperly)


Pastor's Notes: Things we learn from the Transfiguration

  1. The word 'transfiguration' signifies a change in form. Not that it was a change in who he was but that what we see changed.
  2. What happened just prior? Jesus says that “There are some standing here that will not die before seeing the kingdom come.” Peter thought that Jesus was talking about John, the beloved disciple but some feel that Jesus was speaking of this event in which Peter, James, and John saw a vision of heaven on this mountain and the true person of Christ.
  3. Did such a manifestation really occur? On the mountain the three disciples see the power of God and the kingdom.. Peter later records again the event in his epistle and it is recorded in three Gospels.
  4. Peter, James, and John were the only ones who were allowed to see the event. Perhaps because they would be central figures during the passion of Christ and the recording of events.
  5. Why did it occur? To strengthen their faith. The ascent to the mountain foreshadows the ascent to Calvary. Faith in anticipation of his passion-revealing the divine hand of God.
  6. Luke mentions several more details – Jesus was praying, disciples awaken to see Jesus and the others. Peter tries to keep them there in the glory of the moment by offering to build them a place to live.
  7. The two principle components of the Old Testament – Law and prophets – point forward to Jesus. (scriptures point to him). Jesus is also the fulfillment of all of the Law and prophets.
  8. Peters idea of booths misguided. He wanted to prolong glory and stay on the mountaintop. Contrary to the conversation about Jesus' departure through the cross.
  9. Privileged experience for apostles to strengthen their faith. Sometimes God allows us momentary glimpses of the joy of heaven to help us face what is coming. We need these experiences to encourage us on our journey that will eventually lead us to eternity.
  10. They are not meant to continue forever. We should not be resentful or afraid when they cease. We should be thankful for the experience knowing that we are now to move forward in the work of ministry.





1 Jesus is the presence of God on earth.

2 Jesus is the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets.

3 Jesus is the Word of God – the beloved Son- the Christ of God – listen to him




Do we recognize Jesus as the presence of God – the Word of God. And do we personally listen to him?

In what way do you hear from God? Experience God?

What do you do with that experience?



Pastor Wood


February 2, 2021  Bible Study

Mark 1:29-39 NRSV

29As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.


Mark 1:29-39The Message

29-31 Directly on leaving the meeting place, they came to Simon and Andrew’s house, accompanied by James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning up with fever. They told Jesus. He went to her, took her hand, and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than she was up fixing dinner for them.

32-34 That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew his true identity, he didn’t let them say a word.

35-37 While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.”

38-39 Jesus said, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I’ve come.” He went to their meeting places all through Galilee, preaching and throwing out the demons.


1 Corinthians 9:16-23

16If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! 17For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 18What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

19For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.






The gospel text contains the first instance of what scholars call Jesus’ “Messianic Secret,” with Jesus not allowing the cast-out demons to speak. It was important that God's plan of salvation unfolded as Jesus was revealed in his work and his person, else the devil could take credit for revealing the Son of God.

Marie Sabin (1998) writes:


"It cannot be fortuitous that Mark, in portraying the beginning of Jesus' ministry, describes three healings: of a demoniac, a mother-in-law, and a leper. The first and last make clear that he is depicting Jesus' outreach to the most reviled of the community; situated between a demoniac and a leper, "the mother-in-law," we assume, is an ancient joke. But there are serious implications here as well: before the time of Hillel and Jesus, women, like lepers, were relegated to the outer courts of the Temple, and women received social status only through their relationship to males -- usually their fathers or husbands; for a woman to be known through her son-in-law is so extreme as to suggest that Mark is making a special point of her social anonymity."


You could also surmise that Mark is making a point here by having the kingdom start at home. That may not be Mark's intention, but its truth stands nevertheless. Home would be a complex house where extended family lived, including Peter's mother-in-law. So Peter was married and Paul in 1 Cor 9 seems to confirm this. It is a pity we hear nothing of his spouse, but this was a world in which in men's stories women are mostly invisible if they are not either a source of trouble or delight. Here is an exception. Even if unnamed, we have a woman. She matters. Jesus cares about her. He heals her. Her temperature drops. She serves them. Let us not romanticise Mark. He is a man of his time as are those who passed on to him the story. The woman remains unnamed. She is healed to do what women stereotypically did: look after the men. It is spinning a yarn to make too much out of the word, 'serve', here, as if she is the first deacon. We can espouse such values without fiddling the text. On the other hand, note that Mark tells us in 15:40-41 that many women from Galilee followed Jesus and they were there at the end when the men fled.

Observance of sabbath law rather than climate is reflected in the fact that people waited till the evening to bring their sick and deranged to Jesus. The sabbath ended at sunset, so such work was acceptable in the evening. 1:32-34 is a short summary through which Mark tells us that the two kinds of activities, exorcism and healing, which he has recounted as events on the first day were typical. They were repeated in the evening and on following days. Notice how Mark carefully builds links to what has gone before and what follows. Crowds at the door. We shall find that happening again in 2:2. Demons who knew him �this recalls the incident in the synagogue, but also recalls what they knew, namely the truth set forth in the baptism. http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/MkEpiphany5.htm



Four little vignettes from the early ministry of Jesus.

The first a healing miracle involving Simon Peter’s mother-in-law.

The second a summary of Jesus’ healing ministry, set at an evening hour.

The third, Jesus drawing strength from prayer.

And the fourth, Jesus going out to preach and teach and heal in Galilee.


All of them point to revelation, the theme of Epiphany. Here Jesus reveals Himself and His ministry – what He has come to do and to be in the world. The healer, the One connected in prayer to the wholeness of God, and the teacher. There is also a flick-flack from a private event, to a public event, to another private moment, to the final public ministry. God is revealed in the private and public spheres of life. God is not hidden, God is made manifest in actions, and in words; in touch, in silence and in speech.

The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is one of those tiny, but powerfully beautiful moments in Mark’s gospel. It happened in a house, reflecting the earliest Christian communities which were house churches where the life of the Christian community was made possible. Here we find that same God, in Christ, kneeling at the feet of those in need, reaching out to touch and help and heal, and give a prominent place to women. Here we find the response to Jesus’ revelation, one of service. We find Jesus next with the crowds, and particularly with the marginalised who were sick in body or in mind.


They brought them in the darkness of the evening, at sundown. In the darkness of the pain, or suffering, the light of healing shines. Jesus is revealed, in healing.


In the darkness of the morning of the new day, Jesus goes to a lonely place to pray. Revelation and ministry need to be rooted in connection to God. In prayer the Father ministers to the Son, through the praying presence of the Spirit. Prayer reveals the connectedness of the Trinity, and when we pray in quietness, in private or public worship, very often it is in that stilling of our hearts and minds and bodies that God will be revealed to us, in inspiration, and in comforting presence.


Fortified by prayer, Jesus returns to the busy schedule of His ministry. He is supremely confident in His vocation. His calling is to bring the presence of God into every situation where people are oppressed by sickness and death, hunger and disability, despair and hopelessness. As one commentator notes, Jesus begins His ministry at home and immediately (Mark’s favourite adverb!) extends it beyond the home.


And more than that, as the Biblical Scholar Elizabeth Johnson says, a contemporary Church that thinks it has remained faithful by keeping its theological skirts clean without getting its hands dirty in the mess of a broken and suffering world neither hears nor follows the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel. It is in the speaking and the doing that God is revealed – not only in the heavens above, but on the earth below.


Two things I take away from today's readings:

  1. We are healed to serve and as a testimony to others of God's presence among us. Sometimes our illness, our challenges are simply for God to reveal his glory to others as we are healed and delivered.
  2. It is only reasonable to serve God after we know all God has done for us. This is our work as Christians today, speaking and living out God’s word. For some people, we are the only Jesus they will ever meet. Think about the Jesus you have introduced to others by the way you live, serve, and pray.





May your study be prayer.

Pastor Michaele


Tuesday Bible Study for January 25, 2021


Mark 1:21-28NRSV

21They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Mark 1:21-28 The Message 

21-22 Then they entered Capernaum. When the Sabbath arrived, Jesus lost no time in getting to the meeting place. He spent the day there teaching. They were surprised at his teaching—so forthright, so confident—not quibbling and quoting like the religion scholars.

23-24 Suddenly, while still in the meeting place, he was interrupted by a man who was deeply disturbed and yelling out, “What business do you have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you’re up to! You’re the Holy One of God, and you’ve come to destroy us!”

25-26 Jesus shut him up: “Quiet! Get out of him!” The afflicting spirit threw the man into spasms, protesting loudly—and got out.

27-28 Everyone there was spellbound, buzzing with curiosity. “What’s going on here? A new teaching that does what it says? He shuts up defiling, demonic spirits and tells them to get lost!” News of this traveled fast and was soon all over Galilee.


  • From Matthew Henry's Commentary.
    • "The devil is an unclean spirit because he has lost all the purity of his nature, because he acts in direct opposition to the Holy Spirit of God, and by his suggestions defiles the spirits of men."
  • From Wesley's Notes.
    • "Christ would neither suffer those evil spirits to speak in opposition, nor yet in favour of him. He needed not their testimony, nor would encourage it, lest any should infer that he acted in concert with them."
  • From the Commentary on the Whole Bible(Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871).
    • "The frequency with which this character of "impurity" is ascribed to evil spirits--some twenty times in the Gospels--is not to be overlooked."
  • From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891.
    • "The New Testament plainly teaches that demonic possession was a real and actual possession of the soul by a fallen spirit."


By At the time of the writing of Mark the church had collected sufficient witness to unfold the ministry of Jesus. Therefore within the first chapter, we find the text carried th early Church rapidly through scenes of his baptism, sending, the wilderness challenge, and his calling of the first disciples. We now find him centering his initial ministry in Capernaum, on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. 

After calling his disciples, Jesus gathered them in the synagogue. By the context and the following episode at Peter’s home, we know that both the disciples’ families and the larger faith community were present in sabbath worship. In answer to customary and polite invitation then, Jesus as being the guest rabbi was invited to teach in the Synagogue. All present were astounded at his teaching and at his authority. But his teaching did not satisfy everyone and perhaps, disturbed a few.

Jesus did what every rabbinical teacher would do… he read scripture and explained it using other scripture. But this teaching was not the book report style that the people had grown accustomed to hearing. They sensed the divine authority that came from his own spirit - as if he knew the scripture on a deeper level.

This was disturbing to one person in particular. He is the one who is noted as challenging Jesus - who are you? Have you come to bother us before the time? Demons knew there is only a certain time in God’s plan of salvation that they may roam the earth. If the man was challenging Jesus from what he thought he knew and that with which he had become comfortable, it could be that he had resisted hearing God for so long that he could not readily hear the truth. Whether you believe this person was literally possessed by an unclean spirit (demon) as Mark says or had been disturbed in his own self because of his own spiritual standing the result is the same. He exhibits an unwelcoming and unclean, turbulent or disturbed spirit. He got worked up by what Jesus said and so he challenges Jesus as to his calling and authority to minister. Jesus is more than up to the challenge.

We may not believe in demon possession as a rule in our day but then there are other times no other explanation seems possible. I would, however, venture to say that there are still times when the Word of God spoken in authority still causes (and certainly should) a reaction in the spirit of a person. Do we offer these same words when we are challenged by the Word of God? Do we respond by questioning what the word has to do with us? Or perhaps, we are disturbed by the one who brings the message because they aren’t what we expected?

Perhaps we are disturbed because deep down we do recognize the authority of Jesus in the word spoken. In any case, the man is torn because of his own resistance to the Word of God for whatever reason. Perhaps it is his resistance to repentance, or fear of leaving his comfort zone or what it will cost him, to accept the word..

We hear that the man is experiencing a deep unsettledness leading Jesus to address the demon and commanding it to be still a come out of him. To the man, Jesus speaks peace. Jesus demonstrates his authority over both demon and humanity with just a word.



The gospel of Mark was written and read in the synagogues in the early times of Christianity. The truth of Mark's Gospel challenged those new Christians who were so deep in ritual and tradition that they could not see Jesus as the Christ beyond their Jewish traditions. Couldn't we say that the text challenged those who were so heavily invested in a certain theological and liturgical position that they would cry out when disturbed? Indeed what would happen to any gathered Church community when each scene questions human traditions and comes to realize the Truth of what our Lord has taught?


“Take note! The answer was historically seen amongst those churches and nations that first heard the good news. This Truth is recognized yet today in our various denominations, churches, and peoples who receive the Word of God.  Receiving the Word of God proclaimed rightly disturbs, challenges, convicts, frees us through forgiveness and empowers our witness. But know this! Through our proclamation of this Truth anchored in writings as such in Mark’s gospel, our Lord’s fame shall indeed spread far and wide. Thanks be to God.”

Calvin insisted that a true church is defined as a place where the word is rightly preached, sacraments are rightly administered, and discipline being rightly discerned. (WCF, Chapter 25, paragraph 4).


Questions to Ponder

  1. Do we recognize the darkness in ourselves? Even if you have been in church all your life are there areas that we still attempt to hide from ourselves? From others? Even from God?
  2. Have you ever found yourself speaking against those who bring the word when it makes us uncomfortable even when you know its what you need to hear? Are you afraid that someone will shine a light over certain areas of your life that you still want to hide? Do you hide in your own opinion to avoid a challenge.
Are there traditions that no longer serve a purpose in your life but you are afraid to release because you think they define you? Do you insist others keep those traditions for your own comfort?


January 19, 2021  Bible Study


Jonah 3:1-10

3The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2“Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. 6When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. 8Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. 9Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” 10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

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

  • "...arose and went--like the son who was at first disobedient to the father's command, "Go work in my vineyard," but who afterwards "repented and went". Jonah was thus the fittest instrument for proclaiming judgment, and yet hope of mercy on repentance to Nineveh, being himself a living exemplification of both--judgment in his entombment in the fish, mercy on repentance in his deliverance."

Commentary and Illustration Ideas, Scott Hoezee, Center for Excellence in Preaching, 2015.

  • "Maybe we are not actively awaiting and licking our lips over the potential destruction of this or that group, but if certain types of people did come to us (as they are), would we generate the kind of joy over this one might wish for?"


Mark 1:14-20

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

The Message                                                                                                                          14-15 After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.”                                    16-18 Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed.            19-20 A dozen yards or so down the beach, he saw the brothers James and John, Zebedee’s sons. They were in the boat, mending their fishnets. Right off, he made the same offer. Immediately, they left their father Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands, and followed.



 Brian Stoffregen, at Crossmarks.

  • "The two verbs in the second part of Jesus' proclamation are present tense imperatives. That implies continued or repeated actions. "Keep on repenting!" "Keep on believing." Repent and believe are not like a door that we pass through once, e.g., I repented and I believed, so now I'm in the kingdom. Rather they are part of an ongoing lifestyle of the people to whom the rule of God has come near."                                   

 Caspar Green, Scarlet Letter Bible, 2012.                                                                                         

  • "Every endeavor that sets out to change the world, or even a little rural village in upstate New York, or on the Kansas prairies, or a forgotten neighborhood in East LA, or an affluent suburb of Austin starts with three or four people, maybe 12, who have a vision and are ready to leave everything they have to make it happen."


Pastors Notes

Last week we talked a good bit about being called of God to ministry. This week we look at two instances of being called that turn out opposite to each other. Those of you who are acquainted with the story of Jonah will recall that he is a known prophet at home who is called to go to Ninevah to preach the coming judgment of God. Jonah doesn’t want the people to repent, partly because of his own prejudices regarding the Ninevites. He tries instead to go the opposite direction but God finds him on the way and has a fish bring him back to Ninevah. Jonah repents and does what is required of him. 

In the New Testament reading, Jesus calls several fishermen and they immediately drop their nets and follow him as they are called to do. 

I can understand the idea of repentance and another chance to get it right for Jonah. The disciples often needed to try again after failure. However, I can’t help but wonder what makes the endings of these stories so different. Jonah ends up being angry at God for forgiving the repentant Ninevites, being more concerned about a plant that brought him shade than he is about the people who have been created in God’s image. The disciples’ story ends with them changing the world by carrying the Gospel to the ends of the earth. 

So here is what I find to be different. Jonah did what he was supposed to do out of simple duty. He repented of his action of running away but, in the end, he did not let repentance affect his heart or his thinking. He remained angry and intolerant. True repentance means to turn around completely. Repentance brings a change to the core being of a person and allows them to see people as God sees them. Repentance brings vision to the call of God on a person's life. Jonah never really saw the people of Ninevah as God saw them. He only saw them as ones to be hated, unworthy of God’s mercy or salvation. We don’t see Jonah as called to anything more beyond this day.

The disciples each had their own faith crisis - some in one-on-one meetings with Jesus, some at the base of the cross but all repented at each juncture and moved on with Christ. They eventually saw the people as Christ did through eyes of compassion, as souls awaiting the good news of the Gospel. Many of the disciples had their own prejudices as to who was worthy of forgiveness but soon realized their own unworthiness too. Repentance is something we need on a continuing basis if we are going to be mature in Christ, to be part of God’s vision for this creation and for the kingdom.

In this next season of ministry, we must choose how the end of our story will be written. We must then, be willing to do the work of repentance in our own lives and carry the Gospel forward according to the vision we receive from the Lord.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Have you ever neglected to minister to someone because of your opinion of their worthiness to receive from you? From God?                                                                                            
  2. Have you ever been denied help you needed because of someone else's opinion of you? How did you respond?         
  3. Are you working for the kingdom out of duty or love? How do you know? How would you explain the difference, given your situation or ministry call?                              
  4. Jonah or disciple? Where do you find yourself today? "Whenever we read the Bible and use it to exclude, deny, and reject living creatures of God, there is Jonah."                 
  5. "So the story of this old prophet is much more than a whale tale. Its message is meant for those mature enough to understand the ways of God, and to face the ways we try to lay claim to God and God's gift of grace." (Beth Tanner. Working Preacher 2009). Have you ever felt yourself to be more worthy than another?

And may your study be prayer


JANUARY 1, 2021  Bible Study


1 Samuel 3:1-20

3Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. 2At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

John 1:43-51

43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Pastor’s Notes


The Lectionary scriptures this week seem to focus on the idea of God’s call to the individual. In the Old Testament, God calls Samuel into the office of prophet before the boy understands the God he has been called to serve. There is a ministry within him waiting for God to call it into action. In our New Testament reading, Jesus calls Philip to follow him in ministry.


A note from one of my sources says that it was common for women to leave their children under a fig tree when they went to work in the fields, so "I saw you under a fig tree" was a euphemism for, "I have known you since you were a baby." It might be a reflection on the call of Jeremiah (Jer. 1:4-7).

The reference that Jesus makes to Nathaniel as "an Israelite in whom there is no guile," I believe is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Certainly there is plenty of guile in Nathaniel. Jesus is using Nathaniel’s own attitude to get his attention maybe even with a touch of sarcasm. Jesus is giving Nathaniel "a hard time" catching him in what he thought was a private remark to Philip. The depth of knowledge Jesus has about him obviously leaves a strong impression.

Perhaps the connection between the lessons is this: OT Lesson - waiting to hear and see ("The Word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread"). Both Samuel and Nathaniel hesitate to believe the one calling them is God-not recognizing the voice - it's not familiar to them. In the Gospel Lesson - Nathaniel, having heard the Lord’s voice discovers the issue is not merely to see, but to be seen. Jesus looks at Nathaniel with eyes of love that win him over.


About the reference to the fig tree: Gerard Sloyan's commentary suggests that this may be a reference to Zechariah 3: 10 or Micah 4:4. In those passages, the Israelites are told that when the Branch of David appears, they will invite one another to sit under their fig trees (traditionally the rabbi’s would discuss Torah as well). Thus, this statement to Nathaniel is intended to reveal the identity of Christ as the long awaited Messiah. 


Why were Andrew, Peter, Phillip, Nathaneal, and others so willing to follow Christ on moment’s notice? Perhaps it has to do with expectation. They, along with all Israel, had waited for the Messiah to come for generation upon generation. So, when he appeared, some (not all) were ready to respond. They expected God to do something in their midst. 1 Samuel 3 creates an interesting contrast. Old Eli didn't seem to expect much at all. He had grown lazy and complacent and was just marking his days. So it took God three tries to break thru to Samuel, Eli's protege. Maybe our ability to respond to God's call is largely dependent on whether we really expect him to be active in our lives. 


As Presbyterians we talk often about “call” when we are considering ministry particularly in reference to ordained ministry as a teaching elder, ruling elder, or as a deacon. But every aspect of our lives is part of what God has called us to be, including the relationships with family, spouses, and church members. Our job also is part of our call for we are all called to minister to others from wherever we find ourselves to be. How can this be so? If all we are and are to become is found in Christ then all we do should bring glory to the call of Christ.




Points to Ponder

Are you willing to follow Christ’s instruction on a moment's notice?

Are you expecting anything from God? A word? An intervention? A miracle?

Have you grown complacent in your faith? What do you need to see or hear to ‘enliven’ you again?

Advent Study Video for December 2, 2020




-------------------------------------Scripture Study for December 1, 2020-----------------------------------


Mark 1:1-8 NRSV

1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”


Mark 1:1-8 The Message


1-3 The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Watch closely: I’m sending my preacher ahead of you;
He’ll make the road smooth for you.
Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!

4-6 John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.

7-8 As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”

  • From the Geneva Notes. "A metaphor taken from the practice of kings, who used to have ushers go before them." Kings would send messengers to secure the way and announce their arrival. In this manner all could be made ready for the royal visit.

  • From Matthew Henry's Commentary.

    • "When God sent his Son into the world, he took care, and when he sends him into the heart, he takes care, to prepare his way before him." We talked of God's preparation for the first coming of Christ in putting the things of the world in order. The Greeks set up education libraries and Greek was the universal language for art and education – making it easy for the Gospel to be written. Rome then came along and established peace and a road system to make travel possible to spread the word from place to place.

    • God still sends His word to prepare us to receive Jesus in our lives.


  • From Wesley's Notes.

    • "Preaching the baptism of repentance - That is, preaching repentance, and baptizing as a sign and means of it.

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

  • "Repentance signifies, not only sorrow for sin, but the resolve to sin no more."

Bob Cornwall, Ponderings on a Faith Journey, 2014.

  • "As we stop to take stock of our lives it is important that we remember that the journey we take is one empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit."


Pastors Notes

The birth and mission of John was foretold by the angel of the Lord.

Zacharias the priest was visited by the angel Gabriel while offering incense. He heard a sixfold prophecy by this heavenly messenger.

a. He and his wife, Elisabeth, would have a son (Luke 1:13).

b. His name would be John (Luke 1:13).

c. He would become a Spirit-filled Nazarite (Luke 1:15).

d. He would have a successful ministry (Luke 1:16).

e. He would prepare the way for the Messiah (Luke 1:17). f. His style would be similar to that of Elijah (Luke 1:17).


As foretold by the Spirit of God

  1. The witness of the Holy Spirit prior to John’s birth—“And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost” (Luke 1:41).

  2. The will of the Holy Spirit at John’s birth—“Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered, and she brought forth a son. And her neighbors and her cousins heard how the Lord had shown great mercy upon her, and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zachariah, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marveled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God” (Luke 1:57-64).


The message of John as predicted by Isaiah and Malachi


1. Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa. 40:3-5)—“And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth, And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:3-6).

  1. Malachi’s prophecy (Mal. 3:1)—“For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger which shall prepare thy way before thee” (Matt. 11:10).

  2. To the world—“The next day John saw Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

  3. I. The ministry of John

    1. A. He baptized the converts of Israel—“Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:5-6).

    2. He baptized the Christ of Israel. 1. The acquiescence—A reluctant John agreed to baptize Christ. John admitted that Jesus to baptize him but Jesus told him to fulfill prophecy. (Matt. 3:13-15).

  4. The anointing—“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him” (Matt. 3:16). 3. The approval—“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). 4. The assurance—“And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said to me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizes with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:33-34).


John did not desire any glory for himself. (John 3:31-34) is factual in reference to that question. John performed no miracles (John 10:41). All he said about Jesus was true. John was an ordinary man made extraordinary by his willingness to be led by the Spirit of God. He was ordained before his birth to be the forerunner of Jesus the Christ. Yet he was every inch a man, rugged, fearless, with a one-track mind. His life matched his message. He was never silent about the messiah or the need for repentance.


He had such a depth of conviction that he commanded the attention of the nation. Even the king was not out of reach for John's words. Herodias had sinned by taking his brothers wife. John was arrested for reprimanding the king because of his actions. While in prison John was beheaded because of a foolish promise the king made to his wife's daughter. She asked for the head of John and Herodias did not have the backbone to deny her and embarrass himself. He was responsible for John's death.

  1. One interesting point is that John's public ministry only lasted roughly a year and yet so much was accomplished that Jesus called him the greatest of all prophets.

  2. Did you realize that John would have been just under two years old when Herod slaughtered the newborns after the Magi informed him that a king's star had been seen? Zachariah's neighbors did a lot of talking about John's birth and the scripture says they feared what he might become. The priests also knew of the circumstances surrounding John's birth. Perhaps that is why the king said all children under 2 years of age were to be killed. Tradition holds that Elizabeth escaped to the wilderness with John just prior to the soldiers coming. Zachariah remained in the temple serving until the soldiers martyred him there. Perhaps he was the Zachariah that Jesus later refers to as being slain before the altar.




Questions to Ponder


  1. What was really unusual about John's birth?

  2. Why do you think John's message was so quickly accepted by the common people?

  3. Have you ever made a promise without thinking it through (like Herodius did) or to make yourself look good to others? How did that work out? Did it cause others harm?


----------------------------------Scripture Study for November 24, 2020---------------------------------


Tuesday Bible Study Nov 23, 2020

Luke 1:5-22, 57-80 NRSV

5In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. 8Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” 21Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak.

57Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

67Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: 68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. 69He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. 72Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. 78By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 80The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.


The Message

5-7 During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.

8-12 It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering. Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.

13-15 But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.

15-17 “He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”

18 Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”

19-20 But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”

21-22 Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary. When he came out and couldn’t speak, they knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people.57-58 When Elizabeth was full-term in her pregnancy, she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives, seeing that God had overwhelmed her with mercy, celebrated with her.

59-60 On the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child and were calling him Zachariah after his father. But his mother intervened: “No. He is to be called John.”

61-62 “But,” they said, “no one in your family is named that.” They used sign language to ask Zachariah what he wanted him named.

63-64 Asking for a tablet, Zachariah wrote, “His name is to be John.” That took everyone by surprise. Surprise followed surprise—Zachariah’s mouth was now open, his tongue loose, and he was talking, praising God!

65-66 A deep, reverential fear settled over the neighborhood, and in all that Judean hill country people talked about nothing else. Everyone who heard about it took it to heart, wondering, “What will become of this child? Clearly, God has his hand in this.”

67-79 Then Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;     he came and set his people free.
He set the power of salvation in the center of our lives, and in the very house of David his servant,
Just as he promised long ago through the preaching of his holy prophets:
Deliverance from our enemies and every hateful hand;
Mercy to our fathers, as he remembers to do what he said he’d do,
What he swore to our father Abraham— a clean rescue from the enemy camp,
So we can worship him without a care in the world, made holy before him as long as we live.
And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,” will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,
Present the offer of salvation to his people, the forgiveness of their sins.
Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.

80 The child grew up, healthy and spirited. He lived out in the desert until the day he made his prophetic debut in Israel.


Pastors Notes

The reading for today is a lengthy one but it tells a story of Hope, a story that is seldom used in the church lectionary. For the next few studies, we will be looking at the people of the Christmas story that played an integral part without being recognized for the importance of the role they played. Today we look at Zachariah, husband to Elizabeth.

Priests of Israel in Jesus' time enjoyed an upper-class status. The upper class of that social structure consisted of the descendants of Aaron, the officiating priesthood. There were about 20,000 of them in and around Jerusalem at the time, and unfortunately many were proud, bigoted, overly indulgent, self-seeking men, religious only in those external matters that would impress other people.

But there were a few who were different and among them was an old priest named Zacharias, whose name means “the Lord remembers.” Since the law of Moses insisted that a priest marry only a woman of the highest reputation, Zacharias had chosen the daughter of another priest to be his wife. Not only was she a descendant of Aaron, but she bore the name of Aaron’s own wife, Elisheba or Elizabeth, which means “the oath of God.” Their names would spring alive with new significance before the sun set on their life together.

Zachariah and Elizabeth were both righteous in the sight of God. They submitted to the will of God and obeyed the Word of God. And they did it “in the sight of God,” that is, to exalt the Lord alone rather than to make a good showing before the rest of the world. In that, they were different from most of their contemporaries. They did not even care about the status that went with the priesthood. They lived in some obscure village in the hilly region south of Jerusalem rather than, as the other priests, in the elite section of the city itself, or in Jericho, the luxurious city of the palms. Their piety was no outward show; it was a heart relationship with the Lord. They cared more about what God thought of them than what men thought.


That is not to say that Zacharias and Elizabeth had no problems. While many of our problems stem from our own sins, God does allow some to invade our lives for no other purpose but to help us grow. Zacharias and Elizabeth had one like that, and it was a big one. “And they had no child because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.” Many Jewish Rabbis insisted that childlessness was evidence of divine disfavor. While Zacharias and Elizabeth may have been righteous before God, some of their friends probably suspected them of serious secret sin. And there was no way to erase that blot. The phrase “advanced in years” meant at least sixty years of age, well beyond the time of childbearing. It was a hopeless situation.

He was also a man of the Scripture, as his famous “Benedictus” later revealed (Luke 1:67-79). After Zacharias had committed his problem to God, he simply kept on with the job God had given him to do. He did not stop praying because his situation looked hopeless. Our God is the God of the impossible! It is so much easier to quit and run away from difficult circumstances, but that usually compounds the problem. God wants us to take our difficulties to Him in prayer together, search the Scripture together for encouragement and direction, and then wait patiently for Him to work.

Look next at their most memorable day.  It was Zachariah's turn to minister before the altar of incense. Entering the Holy Place and kindling the incense upon the golden altar was quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But this was Zacharias’ day. When all was prepared he would enter the temple alone bearing the golden censer, and at the given signal he would spread the incense over the coals. As the incense kindled and a cloud of fragrance arose from the altar, the prayer of the worshipers outside would rise into the presence of God (Luke 1:10). It was a beautifully symbolic experience of worship.


When the ritual was finished an angel of the Lord appeared to Zachariah, standing to the right of the altar of incense. The personal visit of an angel from God. It was a frightening experience. Immediately the angel spoke: “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth” (Luke 1:13, 14). God can do impossible things, and that is exactly what he promised to do for Zacharias and Elizabeth. But their child was not to be just any ordinary child. He would be the forerunner of the Messiah predicted by the Prophet Malachi (Luke 1:15-17; cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5, 6).

All this was too much for Zacharias to grasp. He had been praying for a son, but this Word from God—it was too good to be true. He blurts out, “How shall I know this for certain? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18). Zacharias was a man of God, but he was a man, and he had human weaknesses.

Zacharias knew the Old Testament Scriptures. He knew how God had given a son to Sarah in her old age. But he did not think about that great Old Testament precedent at this moment of need. Even people of the Word may fail to appropriate it at times. But God did something very gracious for Zacharias to help him believe. He gave him a sign. “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place because you did not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their proper time” (Luke 1:20). It was not very pleasant for him to lose his voice. (cf. Luke 1:62). But I don’t think Zacharias minded very much. His inability to speak and hear were God’s confirmation of His Word, and they served to strengthen his faith in God’s promise.

When Zacharias emerged from that Holy Place he was a different man. He had long been a godly man, but his encounter with the angel Gabriel left him with a new awareness of God’s greatness, a new sense of his own unworthiness, and a strong, virile faith.

And after these days Elizabeth, his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months” (Luke 1:24). That conception was a miracle. God had chosen this godly couple to be part of the thrilling events surrounding the Messiah's birth. John was the prophesied forerunner to Christ.

As the custom was, their relatives and neighbors gathered to rejoice with them over this extraordinary event, and on the eighth day, at the child’s circumcision, they tried to call him Zachariah after his father. But Elizabeth protested, “No indeed; but he shall be called John” (Luke 1:60). Why John? This was unheard of. Nobody in either of their families had ever been called John. Maybe this was just Elizabeth’s folly. They had better ask Zacharias. “And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet, and wrote as follows, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God” (Luke 1:62-64).

John means “The Lord is gracious.” And how very gracious He had been to them. They merely asked for a son to carry on the family name and priesthood. God gave them the forerunner of the Messiah, a child upon whom the hand of God was evident from his earliest days, a man whom Jesus Christ would call the greatest among men (cf. Matt. 11:11).


After 400 years of silence many Jews were beginning to think God had forgotten His promise, that their situation was hopeless. But Zachariah and Elizabeth never thought so. Together their names were a constant reminder that “Jehovah remembers his oath.” And their miraculous experience proved it to be true. God not only remembers His promises, He keeps them!

While their names are not mentioned again after the birth of John, they have left us a lovely legacy of faith in the promises of God, the God of the impossible.

Circumstances surrounding John's birth did not go unnoticed. Reread verses 65 and 66. The priestly class were concerned about what this special child would do and, perhaps, what it would cost them. Herod, too, heard and eventually had Zachariah murdered.


Here is one historical vew of the event.

When King Herod heard from the Magi about the birth of the Messiah, he decided to kill all the infants up to two years old at Bethlehem and the surrounding area, hoping that the new-born Messiah would be among them.

Herod knew about John’s unusual birth and he wanted to kill him, fearing that he was the foretold King of the Jews. But Elizabeth hid herself and the infant in the hills. The murderers searched everywhere for John. Elizabeth, when she saw her pursuers, began to implore God for their safety, and immediately the hill opened up and concealed her and the infant from their pursuers.

In these tragic days Saint Zachariah was taking his turn at the services in the Temple. Soldiers sent by Herod tried in vain to learn from him the whereabouts of his son. Then, by command of Herod, they murdered this holy prophet, having stabbed him between the temple and the altar (MT 23: 35). Elizabeth died forty days after her husband, and Saint John, preserved by the Lord, dwelt in the wilderness until the day of his appearance to the nation of Israel.

On the Greek calendar, Saints Zachariah and Elizabeth are also commemorated on June 24, the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.


[ https://www.oca.org/saints/lives/2019/09/05/102502-holy-prophet-zachariah-and-righteous-elizabeth-parents-of-saint]


Let’s talk it over

1. Zacharias and Elizabeth were “righteous in the sight of God.” What things in your lives might make it difficult to apply that same statement to you? Would you be willing to covenant with God to seek His victory in these areas?

2. What promises in God’s Word do you find difficult to believe? Memorize them, meditate on them, and claim them from God.

3. Is there a situation in your life that seems impossible? Maybe you think the Lord has forgotten you in your hopeless situation. Commit it to God in prayer and ask Him for the patience to live with it graciously until He changes it.

4. All of Israel had been waiting expectantly for the coming of the Messiah and his messenger since God expelled humanity from the garden, including 400 years without a word from God or God's prophets. This belief was the Hope of Israel so often foretold. Now as God's plan is about to come to pass, they become fearful of a child and eventually the human king , Herod, tries to kill the promised one. Only Zachariah stands to protect the child who will herald the coming Messiah. This one person safeguards the plan of God for salvation. Have you ever done something that seemed inconsequential at the time but you later discovered it had a monumental impact on someones life?


* Just a thought.

There are four priests/prophets name Zachariah in the Bible. Remarkably, they are all martyred by their own people as they faithfully prophesied in the Name of the Lord. Only minor details are different in their stories which causes some confusion for Bible scholars. Acordingly, when Jesus speaks of Zachariah being killed in service it could apply to any one of them or Jesus could be speaking to a pattern (cycle of events). Jews recognized cycles as a natural series of circumstances and outcomes continuing throughout history.

----------------------------------Scripture Study for November 17, 2020---------------------------------

Tuesday Bible Study                         11.17.2020     Reign of Christ Sunday

Matthew 25:31-46

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The Sheep and the Goats

31-33 “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

41-43 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

44 “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

45 “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

46 “Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”


Pastors Notes

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

  • "It should be noted (1) that the duties named are such duties as every one can perform. Chrysostom says: "He said not I was sick and ye healed me; or in prison and ye set me free; but ye visited me and came unto me." (2) A real, personal service of Christ is implied, one involving some sacrifice of ease, time and property."
  • The Reward of Righteousness (Matt 25:34)
    • "Good works are so far from being hindrances of our salvation; they are so far from being insignificant, from being of no account in Christianity; that, supposing them to spring from a right principle, they are the perfection of religion."                 John Wesley: 


In Matthew 25:31-46, the final parable in this triad of Final Judgment parables of Matthew 25, we get one last look at Matthew's piety, which was revealed early on in the Sermon on the Mount.  We recall the words of Jesus, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." (7:21)  So it is.  Both the righteous and the unrighteous refer to the king as kyrios but they have starkly different ends.  The many parallels in this parable behoove us to pay attention to the details which lead to these ends.

1.  How does the Word function in the text?  There is no doubt that the Word is functioning as Law here.  The final verse seals it:  "And these will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life."  There is a strong sense of the Law functioning as mirror here, showing us our sin.  We have all neglected those in need, and so we all stand under judgment.  As the prophet said, "There is none righteous; not even one."  But the Law is meant to drive us to repentance, and so it does, urging us to take care of our siblings in need.

2.  How is the Word not functioning in the text?  Like the previous parables in Matthew 25, the Gospel is not immediately obvious.  One important statement gives us a hint, however:  "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."  Notice that this inheritance was set up long before anyone had had an opportunity to earn it.  It has been God's will since the foundation of the earth to keep in readiness an inheritance for the blessed ones.  This inheritance is evidence of God's great love for all creation.  It is equally important to note that the eternal fire is not prepared for the cursed, but for the devil and his minions.

3.  With whom are you identifying in the text?  We are those on the right and those on the left.  We are those who both see the needy neighbor and those who are blind to them.  We are those who are called to repentance by this parable.  Again, there is none righteous; not even one.

4.  What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text?  This text, just like the previous two parables, can be understood as a call to obedience.  Here we are called to minister to those in need in no uncertain terms.  As recipients of God's grace, as joint heirs with Christ, we are compelled to reach out with compassion to our siblings in need.

5.  Exegetical work: Some of the details of this text appear noteworthy:  One is the obvious same wording that is used when the king speaks to the faithful and to the unfaithful.  Neither see Christ in their needy neighbor.  Both encounter the same neediness; one ministers to them, one does not. One interesting detail is that the king describes "the least of these" as those who are "members of my family" in speaking to the faithful, while the king leaves out that detail in talking to the unfaithful.  It makes me wonder if a key to a life of compassion isn't in seeing the needy as siblings of ours.  Another interesting parallel, alluded to above, is that the eternal fire and the kingdom have both been prepared beforehand.  The word could be translated "kept in readiness."  God's kingdom is kept in readiness to be inherited by the blessed.  The eternal fire is kept in readiness for the devil and his minions.  Both have been kept in readiness since the foundation of the world.  St. Chrysostom in commenting on this says, "He did not say [to the blessed] 'take' but 'inherit' as one's own, as your father's, as yours, as due to you from the first. 'For before you were,' he says, 'these things had been prepared and made ready for you, because I knew you would be such as you are.'" "But concerning the fire, he does not say [prepared for you from the foundation of the world] but 'prepared for the devil.'  I prepared the kingdom for you, he says, but the fire I did not prepare for you but 'for the devil and his angels.'  But you have cast yourselves into it.  You have imputed it to yourselves." (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT, vol. 1b, p. 232-234)

Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount are echoed here. 


Have you noticed how Matthew uses couplets to demonstrate his point?

There are obviously some very neat couplets present in the text: 

1.      cursed/blessed;                                                                                                                                   

2.      shunned/embraced. 

You might explore others.


The amazing thing is that we often find ourselves on both sides of this equation. Sometimes our actions bring blessing and sometimes they do not. Sometimes we are shunned and sometimes embraced. Sometimes we follow Christ as sheep following a shepherd. Sometimes we are as goats – butting our heads against everything we know. Christ is with us in all things – teaching, encouraging, healing, and correcting..

Finally, the good news is that we are not sheep or goats, but "members of God's family."   That is the good news.

To that we say, Thanks be to God. May your study be prayer.

Pastor Michaele

 References: http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/matt25c.htm


-----------------------------Scripture Study for November 10, 2020----------------------------

Matthew 25:14-30 NRSV

14“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all 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. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’


Matthew 25:14-30 The Message

14-18 “It’s also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s money.

19-21 “After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

22-23 “The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

24-25 “The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe

and sound down to the last cent.’

26-27 “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

28-30 “‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’





  • From Matthew Henry's Commentary.

    • "Christ keeps no servants to be idle: they have received their all from him, and have nothing they can call their own but sin. Our receiving from Christ is in order to our working for him."

  • From Wesley's Notes.

    • "So mere harmlessness, on which many build their hope of salvation, was the cause of his damnation!"

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

    • "He takes the servant's own account of his demands, as expressing graphically enough, not the hardness which he had basely imputed to him, but simply his demand of a profitable return for the gift entrusted."

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

    • "Every attainment of honor, wealth, knowledge, or spiritual grace helps to render further attainment more easy and more assured; while it is spiritually as well as materially true that "the destruction of the poor is their poverty" (Prov. 10:15)."


Pastors Notes


We have read and studied this parable for years but what does it really mean to the church today? Most often when we talk about the Parable of the Talents we stop at the financial point of using the money to make more money. Some are brave enough to admit that these “talents” also speak to our God-given abilities and gifts. There is some element of stewardship here, such as proper use of those abilities, giving us the idea that its not just about money.


The real question addressed in this parable is, “What are you doing with what you have been given?”


And, secondly, are you using those gifts for the sake of your own gain or for the sake of the Kingdom of God.


In this parable Jesus calls out our squandering of all that has been entrusted to us. Can you imagine your answer if Jesus were to call you into an accounting this day? He already knows the truth but your answer decides the response you receive from your Savior. In the parable those who spoke well of their efforts for the master received a reward. The one who spoke ill of the master to cover his own failure received according to his own words.


If you think that the gifts God gives are solely for your own needs then read again the Sermon on the Mount. What you do with what you have been given is never, ever, for your benefit alone, but for the sake of the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, so that we might actually become the salt of the earth and the light of the world.


So, what will I do with what I have been given? I will continue to insist that the Gospel should govern all we do. I will continue to resist any and all theology that attempts to sanction discrimination. I will continue to insist that Scripture demonstrates God’s intention to love, to free the oppressed, to care for the rejected, to uplift the marginalized, to empower the powerless. I will insist that is our call as well having been called into the kingdom.

I will continue to challenge those who hide behind scripture to spread hate and discord and those who replace God- righteousness with self-righteous justification.

At the end of the day, judgment in this parable means an acute awareness of God. An awareness of God’s presence. An awareness of God’s promise to God’s creation. An awareness of God’s justice. An awareness of God’s insistence that a commitment to being the salt of the earth and the light of the world really, really matters. It means believing that God meant it when God called you.

We have been given much. What we choose to do with these gifts is the very question of Jesus’ parable this week. How will you answer?



  1. Do you identify with the servants who went to work and furthered the masters holdings or the one who buried his talent? Perhaps somewhere in between?

  2. Our gifts and talents sometimes change with our age and experience. When was the last time you took a moment to see if you have developed new talents? New interests?

  3. Did anyone ever take you under their wing and teach you or help you develop your abilities?

  4. Have you ever taken the time to teach or share your gifts, talents, or abilities with someone of a younger age or having less experience?

  5. Paul had Timothy to follow him in ministry and encouraged the young man in his faith and teaching. In what areas in your life are you like Paul – teaching and training the younger in the faith what you know and have experienced? Do you have a Timothy to share with or will your ministry end with your generation? Don't hide that talent.

There is a lot of introspection and accountability in these verses. Be brave.

And may your study be prayer.


--------------------------------- Scripture Study for November 3, 2020 --------------------------------

Tuesday Bible Study KPC November 3, 2020


Matthew 25:1-13 NRSV


Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.



Matthew 25:1-13 Message

25 1-5 “God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.

“In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bride-groom’s here! Go out and greet him!’

7-8 “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’

“They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’

10 “They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.

11 “Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’

12 “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’ 12 “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’

13 “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.




Pastors Notes:

What does the Christian life consist of? What does God expect from us?

Here’s Jesus’ answer, according to Matthew’s Gospel: “Wait faithfully. Together. Or there will be consequences.” Sure, that isn’t an exact quotation, but it sums up, according to Matthew — what Jesus says to his followers when he instructs them about how they should live after he has departed from this earth. However, it is the consequences that usually attracts the most attention.


In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus is teaching on judgment and retribution. This is the second of four parables to that end . At the conclusion of each of the four parables Matthew tells how certain characters don’t fare so well. They are cast out to where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” locked out of a banquet by the one who invited them in the first place, tossed into “outer darkness,” or punished in “eternal fire.” Matthew’s Gospel has generated a large share of distress through the centuries. (read all of Matthew 25 for the other parables along this theme).

We can see clearly that no other gospel comes close to calling so much attention to such awful consequences. Matthew's gospel also expresses much concern about how to determine what differentiates true believers from the pretenders. The promise of a day of reckoning in which Jesus will reward the persistent faithful and expel the posers seems intended to soothe these worries, perhaps to keep fragile and wounded communities from tearing themselves apart.

If there’s any good news in these parables it resides in their insistence that judgment is God’s prerogative, not ours. One seasoned preacher stated that he wasn't concerned when people judged him because they didn't have a heaven or a hell to send him too anyway.

But God's judgment is not arbitrary, for it discloses and affirms those people whose lives express the virtues Jesus embodies: faithfulness, perseverance, readiness, obedience, and compassion.


This brings us to the reason why we must wait faithfully together, which is also one of the primary reasons why we go to church: on my own, I’m not capable of expressing those virtues. I need a community to help me, so we can work at them together, relying on God’s help. Individually, none of us can muster the endurance or the faithfulness we need; nor can we fully trust our private motivations.


A Parable about Waiting Bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13)

This parable about ten bridesmaids characterizes Christianity as a waiting religion. Awaiting the fullness of the “kingdom of God” Jesus promised, Christians hope for new realities to come into existence. Christian faith involves waiting with confidence.

The ten bridesmaids await a bridegroom’s arrival, when the wedding festivities will begin at last. When fullness will arrive. But the wait proves to be difficult, as it usually is for people with high expectations. It lasts deep into the night.

The ten who wait look almost identical, except for one detail. All are bridesmaids. All were invited. All want to see the bridegroom and join the party. All wait into the night. Even the five wise bridesmaids fall asleep, too; none is especially heroic or invulnerable.

Only one difference separates the two groups: some, those described as wise, were prepared for the bridegroom’s absence. These five took pains to do what was necessary while the bridegroom remained away, symbolized by their surplus lamp oil. The others, the foolish ones, are exposed when they find their lamps empty at the big moment: because they did not bother to equip themselves to wait the right way, they will not be equipped to share the party with Jesus the bridegroom when he becomes present. So they find themselves disinvited and locked out. The bridegroom claims not to know them. What happened?


Faithful Readiness

What does it mean to live in readiness. Such a life is marked by active waiting as we expect God to make all things new. It’s more like eagerly expecting and diligently preparing in anticipation of your future graduation than it is like waiting silently in line to get through the TSA checkpoint at the airport.

Despite Jesus’ absence, despite the presence of circumstances that conspire to rob us of wakefulness and hope, Christians express expectation. They anticipate. And so we pass faith along to our children. We rely upon one another and upon the best of our traditions to sustain us when doubt and fatigue prove overwhelming. We forgive one another’s sins, study scriptures, baptize people into a new identity, and share a meal to recognize the sustenance God provides. These things aren’t mere rituals or time-fillers. They sustain us in Jesus’ absence, when the hazards of nighttime, fatigue, and resignation confront us all. They promote readiness.


But there is another dimension to waiting. Living with deferred hope also prompts us to consider others who experience unfulfillment or absence in their own lives, especially absence of opportunity, absence of justice, or absence of hope. And so faithfulness must also consist in serving those who are poor, oppressed, and outside. It involves working for reconciliation.


Active Readiness Faithful readiness must be active readiness.

Too many Christians read this disturbing parable and fixate on the reality inside the door, as they long for a promised wedding banquet to come and neglect their present circumstances. Other readers focus on the locked door and can’t abide an exclusion that appears harsh and unyielding — all that, just for forgetting an oil flask?

As important as those details are, they miss the fact that most of the action in the parable takes place on this side of the door, in a world that waits, in a world that suffers as it waits. Faithful waiting involves more work than the parable may first let on.


Bible Study Questions:

  1. How do you respond to the statement “Christianity is a waiting religion”?

  2. What is your take on waiting? How well do you wait for something promised to you?

  3. Have you ever given up because the promise seemed too long in coming?

  4. Did you ever miss a blessing because of impatience?

  5. How have communities and interactions with others nurtured your faith and helped you understand the Christian life in helpful ways? How have communities been detrimental to your faith?

  6. What does active waiting look like in the Christian life?

  7. What are you doing to show yourself faithful to the mission of Christ while you wait?


-----------------------------------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 




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.





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.




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.


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."


"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.


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.



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)


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."



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


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.



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.




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.










 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? 






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.




•                      "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









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:



And May your Study be Prayer.


Pastor Michaele






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 )








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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