We move out of the sermon on the Mount to a chapter of healing. There are five healings of people who can be identified, and we do not know how many were healed at Peter’s house. These healings came from lots of places and backgrounds. First was a man with leprosy, who boldly said, if you are willing, you can heal me. To this one, he replied, I am willing. The second is a friend of the Centurion, a servant, who is paralyzed. Jesus never saw this man, but because of the faith of the Centurion, the healing took place and the man was restored.
The leper was an outcast. He was told to go to the priest so he could be reconciled into the community of faith. The centurion was a Roman. Jesus praised because of his faith in a Jewish preacher whom he saw as one who was bringing change. The demon possessed men were considered insane. The demons were cast out and the people asked him to leave! In the middle, Jesus talks about what it means to follow one who has power over the storms of life.
Over and over Jesus reaches to the edges of society and brings healing, and he invites us to be a part of that healing of the world. We are invited into his circle of care and response.
Posted on February 08, 2017 8:47 AM
Follow the star!
Today we read Matthew 2 on Groundhog’s day! I understand that Phil saw his shadow, so that means more winter is in store! I am struck by how quickly Matthew sets up the political struggles of Jesus’ day. It is one of the themes throughout Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus was challenged continually by the Temple authorities and the rulers of the territory. The magi follow a mysterious star in the sky and come to Jerusalem. They inquire, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
This set off a panic in King Herod, whose first step is to get the magi to return to him to report on the location of this king. The magi are warned on a dream not to return to Herod, but to return another way. This set king Herod into his backup plan, to kill all the children under 2 years old, and so doing he will eliminate any threat to his Kingship. You may want to do a study on Herod. He was really ruthless in the way he ruled.
Last night at Vespers, Jesus cautioned the disciples to “Watch out — beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” (Mark 8:16). The question was asked about the yeast of Herod, and as I read Matthew 2, this is exactly what he was talking about. It had been one of those days, and I sorta went off on the 4 faithful ones to Wednesday Night Worship! I apologize again to these wonderful four!
Chapter 2 sets up what will be a constant tension between Jesus, his understanding of the Kingdom of God, and the ruling class of Israel and Judah. We know how the story ends. They win for three days and Jesus wins for the rest of eternity! Note this tension as Matthew develops it throughout the Gospel.
Another thing that Matthew wants to do is set up connections between what happens in Jesus’ life to the prophecies of the prophets. Note he quotes Micah 5 in the answer to the Magi. In this chapter, he also quotes from Hosea 11 and Jeremiah 31. Writing to a predominant Jewish audience, this is important to create this link to what God has done before.
Another note! I am asking members to write devotions to be published for Lent. If you would like to write one of these, let me know. They need to be done by Feb. 15th so they can be edited and printed. We need 47 devotions to complete the task! Reply to this email if you want to be one of the writers. Thanks.
Posted on February 02, 2017 8:01 AM
Today we begin the Gospel of Matthew. It begins with a long list of genealogy, one that most of us probably just skim over as historical fact, not really relevant to the rest of the story. But don’t gloss over it too quickly! Matthew wants us to see first the ordering of God’s timing and history. There are 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile, and 14 from the return to the birth of Jesus.
Matthew also wants us to see our history correctly! Note the inclusion of Rahab, the mother of Boaz. Yes, this is the harlot! And it is from her that Boaz took in Ruth (Naomi’s daughter-in-law) who became the grandmother of King David. Note that Matthew, as he talks about Solomon, indicates that his mother Bathsheba used to be Uriah’s wife, reminding us that we are not ever exempt from sin. He could have left that out, but David’s sin is what made him so great a leader. In humility, he faced his sin and ruled with the forgiveness of that grace sin always before him.
So don’t gloss over history too quickly! We all have in our genealogies a few we wish were not in there! Who knows, it could be our sin that may have history changing significance. I’ll preach a bit on this Sunday as we look at the justifying grace of God.
Enjoy this reading of Matthew. Again, the rules are really simple. Each day read the chapter that corresponds with the day of the month. Don’t fret is you get behind! Just pick it up and read the day you are on. Bod bless you through the reading of his word.
Posted on February 01, 2017 7:39 AM
Nov. 22 – Luke 22
We begin the passion narrative in today’s scripture, but there is so much more going on beside the passion. Judas and Peter begin to take front places in the story. Before I go there, note that while the disciples are trying to figure out who might possibly be able to betray their teacher, the conversation moves away from betrayal to superiority! There always seems to be a pecking order, even in trying times like Jesus and his disciples were not living through.
Judas eats the meal with Jesus and then goes out to set the trap. The plot had been predetermined, and Jesus’ pattern of going to the garden every night had become so predictable it would be easy to arrest him. Earlier he had said the disciples would need a sword, but when it was drawn in the Garden, Jesus healed the servant. Maybe the sword is not to protect Jesus, but to remind disciples of the need to always be vigilant.
Now to Peter. He will never betray Jesus, he says. However, it is the same evening that he, out of fear for his like, denies that he knew him at all! As the rooster crowed, he looked up at the High Priest’s house and saw Jesus looking at him. Jesus had told him, in verse 32 that he had already prayed for him, that “when he returns, he will be able to strengthen the others.”
Jesus knows our gifts and graces. He depends on us to remember who we are, even when we temporarily forget and deny him or get distracted. That is a really cool verse and probably should become a memory verse for us!
Posted on November 22, 2016 1:01 PM
Nov. 22 – Luke 22
Jesus noticed the small gift of the widow. Very small, somewhat insignificant in the grand scheme of things! We may call it pocket change. At the same time, he saw others putting in large sums, probably with great pomp and circumstance. It is hard to miss the big gifts people share, but the small gift was what Jesus chose to recognize. She gave out of her heart, and her poverty, while the bigger gifts were out of the abundance. What we often miss, or dismiss as inconsequential, Jesus notices and celebrates!
The bulk of this chapter deals with what will come later. Many see this as signs of the end times, but I tend to agree with scholars who see Jesus preparing the disciples for times of great consternation and anxiety for the people of God.
Jesus foresaw the rebellion that would take place with the people of Jerusalem and their Roman oppressors. He knew the wrath of Rome and these words tell about a time he saw coming when it would be complete chaos. Returning to the city would be disastrous, so run to the hills to escape the wrath of Rome. On this day, everything will seem upside down, and we won’t know who is on our side and who is against us. These days are days we need to trust most completely in the promises of God.
In 66 AD, the Jews rebelled against the Roman oppressors. In 70 AD, Jerusalem was overtaken and the temple was destroyed. The beauty of the temple they were admiring was indeed laid to waste and all that was left was rubble. Jesus reminded them and us to put faith in things that would last, not in the temporary things like the temple building, which they saw as never to be destroyed!
What often misses our eye, Jesus’ eye catches.
Posted on November 22, 2016 12:28 PM
Nov. 17 – Luke 17
I plan to use this scripture Sunday at the 11:00 worship service. At our early service, our thanksgiving message will be brought by the Praise Kids Choir as they share Fish Tales, Great Fish for Grateful Folks. Come early for great music by wonderful kids, and come again late for a great sermon!
The ability to forgive much is at the heart of our Christian faith. Unfortunately, it is not always at the heart of our Christian culture! Forgiving once is hard! Forgiving the same mistake over and over is harder, but this is exactly what Jesus is asking us to do in verse 4. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!” That is what the culture tells us, but Jesus is so much more forgiving than the culture!
Ten lepers were cleansed. Note that the cleansing was not immediate. He said to the very unclean men, “go, and show yourself to the priest.” And as they were going (implying to me, sometime after they had left his presence) they discovered their healing had been complete! Lepers were isolated into camps, and there were specific requirements. They could not get close, so that is why the scripture said they stood at a distance and cried out to Jesus. Showing yourself to the Priest was the requirement of the law for a leper who was healed to be reconciled to the community of faith. They had to receive a clean bill of health to be readmitted into the community.
Much is said about the one who returned to give thanks. Martin Bell wrote a piece called “Where are the Nine” in his book “The Way of the Wolf.” He speculates on where the nine were. Maybe they were so excited about being able to return to work, or to their families, or to their way of former life that they just forgot! But one, a foreigner, a Samaritan, perhaps a refugee, returned to give thanks. The link below is a sermon I found on the internet that summarizes Bell’s story.
Posted on November 17, 2016 8:35 AM
I have taken a few days off from my commentary, and this is a terrible chapter to resume it! I have never really understood the parable of the dishonest steward. I paused to read one of my commentaries, and it was not really much help! The only edifying note I can bring out of this story is that we need to learn from the steward that we need to be alert and act “shrewdly” in our dealings with the things of God or they too can be squandered! The commentary says that in verse 8, it is not the dishonesty that is being commended, but rather the shrewdness of his actions to take care of himself after his job is gone.
I do love the story of Lazarus and the rich man. This is not the same Lazarus as in John (the brother of Martha and Mary), but a random, probably fictional character used to make Jesus’ point. Jesus identifies the poor man, but not the rich man. We have wanted to name the rich man as well, and history gives him the name Dives. It is a late middle ages term that refers to the typical rich man.
What is significant to me is that once in Hades, the rich man is still looking to Lazarus as “property” to cool his tongue from the fires and to become the emissary to his brothers to avoid the torment he is receiving. Even in Hades, the rich man doesn’t see Lazarus as human, but only as a means to his own ends.
Posted on November 16, 2016 8:22 AM