Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coming at an unexpected hour

Good morning all,
This morning's passage feels like it comes out of nowhere. It is actually the Gospel lesson the lectionary assigned for this past Sunday. Since Advent is the beginning of the church year, we begin a new lectionary year and a new Gospel, Matthew. It seems strange that our first reading would be from so late in the book, but Advent is not only about preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus; it's also about preparing for Christ's return. Jesus teaches his disciples that he will return suddenly, so they should always be ready.

There's a part of me that is ready for Jesus to return, part of me that knows we can't solve all the world's problems, that we need God's righteous kingdom to make everything right. But I the bigger part of me is scared of Christ's return because I am too attached to the injustice of our current system. It's that part of me that most needs to hear Jesus' warning to be ready. I need this Advent season to prepare my heart and to turn my whole being towards God. Into my fear and into my selfishness, come Lord Jesus.

God bless,

Matthew 24:36-44

36"But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.

40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wake up!

Good morning brothers and sisters,
In our reading for this morning Paul encourages the church in Rome to wake up because the time is near. Paul felt that Christ's return and God's kingdom was right around the corner, that the fulfillment of history was noticeably closer at that point than it had been when the church began. Two thousand years later, we're still waiting, but Paul's urgency has something to teach us. Now is still the time to recommit ourselves to Christ. We don't know when Christ will return, but we know that our lives are short and unpredictable. There's no point putting off living out our calling. Now is the time to take that next step in faith. Now is the time to invite a neighbor to church or to share your faith with a friend. Now is the time to ask God to lead your next step. Now is the time to act on faith.

Advent is about waiting, but it's about waiting expectantly. It is an active waiting, a hopeful waiting. In Advent we look ahead to Christ's return and the coming of God's righteous kingdom. We look back at the birth of Jesus and we prepare for a new birth of hope within us. To help us in this expectant waiting we'll be offering weekly services of prayer and contemplation at Laurelton in the evening. Tonight at 7 is the first of those services. Come from work or from home. There's no need to dress up, just come as you are ready to enjoy some quiet and singing. Come ready to wait with others, to allow the stillness and hope of Christ to fill your heart.

God bless,

Romans 13:11-14

11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ain't gonna study war no more

Good morning friends,
In our reading from Luke this morning the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus are sharing that experience with the other disciples when Jesus appears to all of them. As he did with the two disciples, a big part of this visit with the gathered disciples is opening the scriptures to them. Remember that for Jesus and the disciples "scriptures" meant just the Old Testament. Jesus explains how things in the Bible predicted and explain what they have now seen unfold. With this scriptural foundation to understand Jesus' ministry and the disciples experiences, they are now ready to preach the good news to the world. That's one of the main goals of worship and religious education, helping us to understand scripture and how it fits with our experiences and God's promises. That combination of scripture and experience equips us to share the good news with others.

Our passage from Isaiah is one of the passages that points forward to Jesus. When God's chosen ruler comes into power in the world war will come to an end and peace will reign. I love the image of the weapons of war being refashioned into farming tools. Imagine what we could do to improve lives if the resources we pour into war could be redirected for peaceful life.

Come quickly Lord Jesus,

Luke 24:36-53

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.”

50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.


Isaiah 2:1-5

1The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Meeting Christ in everyday life

Good morning sisters and brothers,
First, please keep Ted Miller in your prayers. He went into Strong on Wednesday with nausea and severe pain and was diagnosed with pneumonia. He may be having surgery early in the week. I'm sure he and Barb would appreciate cards or phone calls.

This is one of my favorite resurrection appearances. Two disciples meet the risen Christ on the road but don't recognize him. He explains the scriptures to them and fills them with joy. When he breaks bread with them at the table they recognize him and run back to the other disciples to share the good news: "Christ is Risen!" This passage was read at the presbytery meeting as part of a service of recognition for Susan Orr for completing her certification as a Christian educator. We still see Christ in the opening of scripture and the breaking of bread. May your day be filled with the joy of the risen Christ today.

God bless,

Luke 24:13-35

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. 17And 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.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christ is risen

Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving friends,
As a refresher, the passage before this ends with, "And the women saw where Jesus was buried, went home and prepared spices for anointing. Then they rested on the sabbath in accordance with the commandment." Notice that the first resurrection announcement is to women, but even the disciples don't quite believe them. Jesus welcomed people without distinction, especially in Luke's Gospel, but we disciples have never done as good a job of that radical welcome.

This morning I'm grateful for time with family and for ministry with you. I'm incredibly thankful that death couldn't hold our Lord and that he always goes ahead of us to challenge and lead us.

God bless,

Luke 24:1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Good morning friends,
Our reading for this morning gives us a glimpse of Israel's thanksgiving tradition. The first-fruits offering was an offering of gratitude for God's gift of a good land for Israel. Not only did the offering remind the people of what God had done for them, it also reminded them of the story of their liberation from slavery. Telling the story again with each offering helped keep their gratitude alive. The offering also reminded them of their responsibility to care for others. They offered their first fruits to God by celebrating a harvest meal with their family along with the immigrants in the land and the Levites. The Levites were the priestly tribe; they had no land of their own so they relied on the offering of their brothers and sisters from other tribes. The immigrants likewise had no land and relied on the kindness of their hosts. As former wanderers the Israelites, and we Americans, are called to care for the immigrants God brings to our land as part of our gratitude to God for his gifts. As we give thanks with family today, may we always remember that all we have and all we are comes from God, and God calls us to reach out to others.

Thanksgiving blessings,

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

1When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, 2you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, "Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us."

4When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, 5you shall make this response before the Lord your God: "A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. 6When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, 7we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; 9and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me."You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. 11Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

suffered death and was buried

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Yesterday I had the joy of celebrating with Susan Orr as the presbytery recognized her achievement in completing her certification by the Presbyterian Church as an Associate Christian Educator. That certification represents lots of hard work and we're grateful for Susan's many gifts as she continues to serve the church in education and mission. We'll have a chance to recognize this achievement in worship at Laurelton on December 5th. I hope you'll be there to take part.

Today's reading shows us Jesus' death and burial. It feels strange to be reading this part of the story as we get ready for Advent; at the same time Christ's death and resurrection are the culmination of his ministry. The cross humbles me and helps me see how deeply God loves each of us. As we give thanks with friends and family tomorrow let us also give thanks for God's love for us in Jesus Christ. There could be no greater gift, and it came at great cost to our Lord.
May God bless you in your ministry today,

Luke 23:44-56

44It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

50Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, 51had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. 52This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. 54It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. 55The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christ the head

Good morning brothers and sisters,
First, a reminder about out North East Cluster Ecumenical Thanksgiving service tonight at 7. Worship will feature leaders from several area churches and will be held at St. Mark's and St. John's Episcopal Church (1245 Culver Rd, maybe 2 blocks south of Merchants). It should be a good time with our neighbors; I hope you can make it.

Our reading for this morning focuses on Christ's majesty and our unity in him. Paul reminds his readers that even though they may often feel weak, they are on God's side. They can count on the strength of Christ, a man in whom the whole fullness of God dwelt. Christ is the head and center not only of the church but of all creation. Think about that the next time you feel like the church has become irrelevant. As long as we hold faithfully to Christ, our message will always be important.

God bless,

Colossians 1:11-20
11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Monday, November 22, 2010

shepherd king

Good morning friends,
As a reminder, Jane Van Lare's memorial service will be held at Laurelton this morning at 10:30 with burial to follow at Oakwood Cemetery in Pennfield. Please keep the Van Lare family in your prayers. Today's reading is a rebuke to the leaders of Judah and Israel. God is speaking through Jeremiah and accuses the leaders, the shepherds of leading the people of Israel astray. Then God promises that in their place he will raise up a new king, a faithful shepherd to lead the flock to safety.

God also refers to this future king as a "righteous Branch" of David. That means the future king, the Messiah, will be a descendant of David, fulfilling the promise God made to David to keep one of his descendants on Israel's throne. Christians believe that this promise was fulfilled in Jesus, who we call the Messiah or Christ. Jesus gathers together lost sheep not just from Israel but from the whole world. May you feel Christ's gentle shepherding today.

God bless,

Jeremiah 23:1-6

1Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. 2Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. 3Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.

5The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

trial and a cross

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Sorry for the long readings this morning; I want to have the whole story of Christ's crucifixion in front of us for today's service. We've read in the last couple of days about Jesus' arrest, trial and conviction by the religious leaders. Today they bring him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor to be sentenced there, because the religious authorities were apparently not allowed to execute a person.

God bless and see you in a couple hours,

Luke 23:1-25

Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” 6When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.

8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

13Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” 18Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19(This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.)

20Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” 23But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.


Luke 23:26-43

26As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

denying the Lord

Good morning friends,
Yesterday we read about Jesus' last supper with his disciples, his prayer in the garden and his arrest. Today Jesus is examined and mocked by the chief priests and other religious leaders. Their charge against him is that he blasphemed by claiming to be the son of God. In Old Testament law blasphemy had to be punished by death, though as we'll hear later, the religious leaders were not allowed by Rome to execute anyone.

This passage also includes Peter's denial of Jesus, a moment in the story that's always very powerful for me. It's easy to judge Peter, since Jesus warned him this would happen. At the same time I think about how often I deny Jesus in my actions. With my failings in mind I can always read Peter's experience sympathetically. Imagine his grief and disappointment with himself at that moment. Put yourself in his shoes as the cock crows and Jesus looks at him. Then remember that Jesus forgave Peter and gave him power for ministry and leadership in the church. Wherever we have gone wrong, Jesus forgives us and calls us back to ministry.

God bless,

Luke 22:54-71

54Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. 55When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” 57But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” 60But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62And he went out and wept bitterly.

63Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; 64they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65They kept heaping many other insults on him. 66When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. 67They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; 68and if I question you, you will not answer. 69But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” 71Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

Friday, November 19, 2010

betrayal and arrest

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Simon, better known as Peter is the focus of Jesus' prayer because his leadership will be important in getting the disciples back on track after they scatter in the days to come. Jesus again warns the disciples of trouble to come. His words about needing a sword have always been a bit confusing to me, though later thinkers used the idea in thinking about state power as part of supporting the church. Jesus praying in the garden is one of the images from this story that haunts me, as is Judas's betrayal with a kiss. This is a powerful passage; one that shows Jesus in his humanness and faithfulness to God's call. I pray this passage will stay with you today and any time you face hardship, knowing that Jesus has been through trouble and will be with you.

God bless,

Luke 22:28-53

28“You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 31“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” 34Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”

35He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” 36He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” 38They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”

39He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 41Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” 43Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. 45When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, 46and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

47While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; 48but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” 49When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” 50Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? 53When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

serving at the table

Good morning friends,
At his last supper with the disciples Jesus gives them the symbols we remember at communion: his body broken for us and his blood poured out. Even at that late stage of his ministry his disciples don't get it. When he says that one of them will betray him, rather than examining themselves they look at others and deny the possibility. Then right away they start arguing about which of them is the greatest. It's almost comical: at that table, having just heard the Lord tell them again that he's about to be betrayed by one of them and killed, they would argue about something like that. It would be comical if the church had learned its lesson. Instead, the church is often consumed with bickering. As individual churches or as factions within denominations, as individual people within churches we often let our egos get in the way of ministry. Jesus stands in our midst to remind us that even as our Lord, he came to serve, even to die for us. How will you use your power and leadership today?

God bless,

Luke 22:14-27

14When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

21But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this. 24A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

preparing for teh end

Good afternoon all,
Sorry to get this out so late. I woke up at 8 for an 8:30 meeting. Jesus and his disciples are near Jerusalem for the Passover. This holiday remembers God's liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The King of Egypt refused to let Israel go so God sent plagues against Egypt to humble the king. The Passover itself involved marking the doors of all the Israelite homes in Egypt with blood on the doorposts. When the final plague, the death of every first-born male struck, the angel of death killed each Egyptian first son, but passed over the houses marked with blood. Since that night more than 3000 years ago Jews have keep the Passover feast. The lamb talked about in the passage commemorates the lamb used to mark the houses. It was (and is) eaten along with other symbolically important foods including unleavened bread.

Jesus instructs his disciples to get an upper room ready so they can celebrate the Passover together. That dinner becomes what Christians know as the Last Supper. Like God freed Israel from slavery in Egypt, in Christ God frees us from selfishness and all the other ways the power of sin can keep us in slavery now. The blood of the passover lamb kept the Israelites safe from the angel of death; Christ's blood on the cross keeps us safe from Satan's grasp. The bread and wine at the passover table becomes the new covenant of love sealed by Jesus' blood, which we remember each time we come to the communion table. As Paul writes, "As often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes again."

May you remember God's love poured out for you today,

Luke 22: 1-13

Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. 2The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. 3Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; 4he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. 5They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. 6So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.

7Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” 9They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?” 10“Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters 11and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 12He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” 13So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

still waiting...

Good morning friends,
Today's reading concludes this section of Jesus' teaching on the coming of the kingdom. Jesus uses the analogy of knowing that summer is coming by seeing the new leaves on the trees. He says when we see the turmoil and destruction he predicts we know God's kingdom is coming in power. There are two problems here: the first is that wars and insurrection are always going on, as are earthquakes and floods. That has led many people across the generations to think they are living in the end times, but the end hasn't come. The second problem is that Jesus says all these things will happen within a generation of his proclamation, but we're still here 2000 years later.

At the same time in other parts of the Gospels Jesus says he doesn't know exactly when the end will come, only the Father knows that. The time between Jesus' ministry and the end of the world is an opportunity for the world to repent and hear the good news of God's love. As I said on Sunday, that time is an opportunity for us to testify to the world that God loves us and wants a relationship with us. We don't know when the end will come but we are called to be prepared for it any time. We are called to live in such a way that if the kingdom comes or we die tomorrow we won't regret how we spent the time we've been given.

Blessings as you use the gift of the new day,

Luke 21:29-38

29Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” 37Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. 38And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.

Monday, November 15, 2010

judgment and redemption

Good morning friends,
Jesus continues his description of the trouble that will mark the approach of the end of history. The description of Jerusalem's fall has a lot of similarities to the warnings of the Old Testament prophets when they described what would happen to Jerusalem. He talks about the military defeat and destruction of the city and he talks about how the people will be scattered in exile. Specifically, his quote about the Son of Man coming in the clouds comes from a vision of the prophet Daniel as does the idea that "Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."

These times will be terrifying and he warns the disciples to flee from Judea. At the same time, he tells them to "raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Even though the judgment will be terrifying for everyone, for those God has called the coming of God's kingdom is something to look forward to. We still look forward to that day when Christ will come and make everything right. We know that we will face danger and persecution, but we also know that God is with us as we minister. In everything we seek to put our trust in God.

God bless,

Luke 21:20-28

20“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; 22for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written. 23Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; 24they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

trust in danger

Good morning friends,
First, please join us for brunch and discussion after church today at Bayfront Restaurant. We'll be discussing some moral dilemmas or the morning's message; your choice. Our first reading today is a song of praise for God's great power and salvation. Israel faced all kinds of trouble and Isaiah proclaimed that even then God's salvation was near. When we trust in God we can be free from fear and full of joy.

Our passage from Luke will be the center of today's sermon, so if you're confused, come to church. The short version is that Jesus expected God's kingdom to break into the world very soon. Between his ministry and the end there would be all kinds of turmoil and trouble and the church would face serious persecution. Knowing that prepared the disciples for the dangers they would face and it equipped them to trust God through it all. When we put our trust in the Lord we are safe from every danger because we know that even in death we are safe in the arms of Jesus.

God bless,

Isaiah 12:1-6

1You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. 2Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.

3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. 5Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. 6Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.


Luke 21:5-19

5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6"As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down." 7They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?"

8And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is near!' Do not go after them. 9"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." 10Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

12"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

new heavens and a new earth

Good morning brothers and sisters,
The book of Isaiah is actually thought to be several books, but the common theme is God's word to Jerusalem. The Prophet Isaiah himself had his ministry in the 8th century BCE, a time when Jerusalem and the kingdom was doing pretty well in some ways and teetering on the edge of destruction in others. The main idea Isaiah was sent to bring was that Judah's injustice would bring disaster and defeat. This part of the book is roughly Chapters 1-40. Second Isaiah is the second part of the book (Roughly Chapters 40-55) and speaks into the time of Judah's exile in Babylon. Since the people have seen God's judgment first hand, these words are mostly words of comfort and hope for a future in the land as God's people again. Third Isaiah, from chapters 56-66, deals with the people after they have returned to their land and have not found complete renewal. These words are words of challenge and hope that God will complete the work of salvation begun in the Exodus and continued in the liberation from Babylon.

Second and Third Isaiah are often read during Advent because of the promise of God's kingdom and renewal. Our passage from today is one of Third Isaiah's visions of the completion of God's kingdom. We see harmony, abundance, peace and joy as a result of God's closeness. This future sustains us in hard times as we seek God's justice and love in a troubled world today.

God bless and enjoy the beautiful day,

Isaiah 65:17-25

17For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. 20No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.

21They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

23They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD-and their descendants as well. 24Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent-its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.

Friday, November 12, 2010

work and expectation

Good morning sisters and brothers,
More than in some letters, 2 Thessalonians talks about the last days of the world. Early Christians expected the end very soon, which created a powerful sense of urgency to reach as many people with the good news as possible in the time remaining. It seems that some Christians took that expectation in the wrong direction by quitting their jobs. Paul writes that this is the wrong thing to do. Yes, the end is coming and the most important thing is faith and evangelism, but that doesn't mean we can abandon our other responsibilities.

The line: "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat..." might be the best known line in the letter and has been used by Christians in opposition to helping the poor or unemployed. That teaching is meant to discourage Christians from being lazy, and indeed Paul warns Christians even to stay away from those in the community who are lazy so they'll see that they are wrong and change their ways. That in no way means that Christians shouldn't help those in need; that responsibility is assumed. The challenge in the Christian life is striking the right balance between active work and ministry in the world and expectation of God's kingdom. We work and we hope for Christ's return, and because we live in expectation work and the world don't dominate our lives; they are part of a bigger picture.


2 Thessalonians 3:6-17

6Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, 8and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. 9This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate.

10For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. 11For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. 12Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 13Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right. 14Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. 15Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers.

16Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. 17I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

the widow's mite

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today is Veterans' Day, so as we turn to God in the morning let's remember our service men and women serving far from home and those who have served in the past. No matter how you feel about the wars we are fighting and have fought before, we owe a debt of gratitude and care for those who have served. As a society we don't always live up to that obligation, so let's hear the day as a call to work for fair treatment for our returning veterans. If you're free this morning there is a Veteran's Day service at Irondequoit Town Hall at 10:45, but wherever you are today you can lift up a prayer of thanksgiving and comfort for our veterans.

Today's reading is familiar to many of us. Widows in Jesus' time were especially vulnerable because women's economic opportunities were very limited and their voice in society was almost absent. At the same time, scripture says over and over that God is especially receptive to the cries of widows, orphans, and other vulnerable people. This story of the widow's contribution comes right after Jesus has accused the religious leaders of "devouring widows' homes." Looking at the two passages together we see that this widow, and many others, have supported the temple (and church) even when they could barely afford to do so, but the religious leaders haven't always cared for these vulnerable members of society enough. May we always hear the voices of those in need.

God bless,

Luke 21:1-4
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

going after the leaders

Good morning friends,
Jesus has faced a lot of criticism from the religious leaders: the scribes, pharisees and teachers of the law, etc. Today the scribes concede that he speaks well, but Jesus goes on the offensive. In particular, he criticizes the scribes for caring about their honor and appearance, but "devouring widows." In other words, they take advantage of the vulnerable for economic gain. It's not exactly clear what Jesus is alleging, though it probably has to do with making money on religious services while not paying attention to the justice for the vulnerable that should be near the heart of faith and religious leadership. We are called to be especially aware of the needs of those who have no one else to speak for them.

God bless,

Luke 20:39-47

39Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40For they no longer dared to ask him another question. 41Then he said to them, “How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son? 42For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 43until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 44David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?”

45In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, 46“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. 47They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

gospel fruit

Good morning all,
A quick reminder about the Irondequoit Veteran's Day service on Thursday. This is a service to honor and remember our veterans and their service. It will be held at Irondequoit Town Hall at 10:45 Thursday morning with light refreshments after. I'll be leading opening and closing prayers and it would be great to see others there to honor our vets.

This morning's reading is less unsettling than yesterday's, but it contains the same sense that Christians will always struggle against the powers of darkness in the world until Christ returns. Here the writer gives thanks for the Thessalonians' faith. He calls them the "first fruits of salvation through sanctification by the Spirit." That idea of early Christians as first fruits is common in the letters. That means that as Christ and the apostles and the church planted the seed of the gospel (the good news of God's love in Jesus Christ) those early Christians were the first to grow. The Old Testament talks about the first fruits of the harvest being holy and offered to God. In the same way the first Christians are set apart for God's service to continue to plant the seed and prepare a harvest of faith for God.

We later Christians are also set apart for God and are still called to plant the seed of the gospel. It often feels like the world doesn't want to hear the good news because people don't go to church the way they used to. I am convinced that people are as hungry as ever for it, but many people don't know that the church has any good news. People from 20-60 grew up in a culture that distrusts institutions in general. From embezzling televangelists in the eighties and nineties to widespread sex scandals of the last 20 years and high profile intolerance and hatred in many parts of the church even today people could be excused for thinking the church is about greed, self-service, and prejudice. Who will welcome our neighbors into a relationship with a loving God and accepting church if not us?

In addition to welcoming, we are called to pray frequently and seriously for the word of God to bear fruit in the world. Think about finding a way to make prayer a daily practice and include in your prayers the ministry and mission of the church around the world. Remember especially churches that are still persecuted (Burma, parts of China and elsewhere). We might be surprised what widespread, concentrated prayer can do to open the hearts of others and to open our eyes to opportunities to share the word. Don't fear but believe.

God bless,

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17, 3:1-5

13But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

16Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

3:1 Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you, 2and that we may be rescued from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith. 3But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 4And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command. 5May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

Monday, November 8, 2010

lawlessness and the coming of Christ

Good morning sisters and brothers,
This passage is sort of a strange one and can confuse us with images of "the lawless one." The gist of the passage is a warning not to think the final day of Christ's return is already here. There was a movement of Christians who believed that in the early years of the church. The writer warns the people not to believe it. Beyond that, he also warns them that before the end there will be a powerful movement of evil led by Satan through "the lawless one." In other words, they should expect evil in the world to be powerful but at they shouldn't loose heart at that because it is actually a sign of God's coming triumph. The call is to persevere through hardship, knowing that God is victorious in the end.

Blessings on your perseverance and ministry today,

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.

3Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. 4He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. 5Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?

6And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming.

9The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, 10and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, 12so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

resurrection and the body of Christ

Good morning sisters and brothers,
First, a huge congratulations to everyone who helped make the dinner and talent show a success. A lot of hard work went into the evening, and it seemed like all our guests (and hosts) had a great time. Second, remember to set your clocks back and enjoy an extra hour this morning. Third, our readings for this morning are also our readings for the service. After worship, we'll have a sermon talk-back session to give us an extra opportunity to dig into these readings. Start thinking of questions and insights now to make the most of the opportunity.

We hear a lot about Jesus' disagreement with the Pharisees, but less about his interactions with the Sadducees, another major religious group of his time. The Sadducees and Pharisees both took scripture and Jewish faith very seriously during Roman occupation. The Pharisees were mostly teachers in the synagogue, and in addition to the clear teaching of scripture they also believed in additional revelations from God through angels and the resurrection of the dead in the future. The Sadducees were more associated with the Jerusalem temple and the priesthood. They did not believe in angels or the resurrection. They want to explore/challenge Jesus' views on the resurrection with a scenario based on levirate marriage, the tradition of a man marrying his brother's widow if his brother had died without having children. This seems like a creepy custom to us, but the purpose was to provide for the widow (since women didn't really have other economic options) and to preserve the brother's inheritance, land and name.

Our passage from Ephesians reminds us of the importance of prayer and of the amazing power of God. When we face struggles in our lives or in the church it can be easy to forget God's wonderful love and power. Paul reminds his readers that God's power raised Jesus from the dead and put him above every power (emperor, council, jailer) imaginable. We are part of Christ's body as the church, so in that power we can do anything through Christ. We have an important mission as Christ's body, to seek and save the lost, to heal the sick, to comfort the lonely. With the Spirit's power there's nothing we can't do.

God bless,

Luke 20:27-38

27Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30then the second 31and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her."

34Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."

* Sunday
Ephesians 1:11-23

15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Caesar and God

Good morning sisters and brothers,
First, I want to remind everyone of the dinner and talent show at the church tonight. We'll be serving a fabulous spaghetti dinner at 5:30 for our neighbors. Everyone is welcome and the dinner is free. After dinner we'll enjoy a talent show featuring several different musical acts as well as our very own Adam Ozuna on the devil sticks. It should be a fun evening and a great chance to get to know our neighbors a little better.

This is one of the Jesus conflict stories most people know. The religious leaders are watching his every more to see if they can get him to slip up and give them an excuse to arrest him. They have tried many of the religious hot-button topics without success. Now they try to catch him in his political opinions. As a proudly and religiously independent people, paying taxes to Rome was a touchy subject for most Jewish people at the time. If Jesus says Jews shouldn't pay taxes the religious leaders can trap him with the Roman authorities. If he sounds favorable to Roman rule they can try to paint him as a sellout. Beyond his deft response, Jesus' answer keeps asking us a question: are we giving to God what is God's; are we giving to Caesar what is Caesar's?

God bless,

Luke 20:20-26

20So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. 21So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. 22Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 23But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, 24“Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” 25He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.

Friday, November 5, 2010

the parable of the vineyard

Good morning friends,
The religious leaders figure out right away what Jesus is saying with this parable. He tells a story about a vineyard that a landowner leases to tenants. The landowner is God and the tenants are the religious leaders. At the harvest God sends his servants, the prophets, to collect what is owed of the harvest, in other words righteousness, love and obedience. Instead of hearing God's voice the leaders beat and throw out the prophets. Finally as a last resort, God sends his son, Jesus, to the tenants to call them back to their duty. Instead of listening, they kill him, and God judges them harshly.

To go along with the parable Jesus quotes scripture from the Psalms about the stone the builders rejected becoming the cornerstone. Jesus identifies himself with the cornerstone: though rejected by the builders, he is the foundation of the world. He is also powerful in a way they do not expect; even though he is rejected, he will finally be victorious. Amen, come Lord Jesus; give us your peace.

God bless,

Luke 20:9-19

9He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. 10When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. 12And he sent still a third; this one also they wounded and threw out.

13Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

When they heard this, they said, “Heaven forbid!” 17But he looked at them and said, “What then does this text mean: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” 19When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

whose authority

Good morning friends,
Luke has already told us that the religious leaders are trying to trip Jesus up and find a way to kill him. He knows that he is going to be arrested and executed, but he's also trying to be somewhat careful, it seems. The leaders ask who gave him the authority for his miracles and teaching. They are trying to get him to say something that will clearly be considered blasphemy. Jesus turns things around on them by asking about John's baptism, whether it was from God or from human origin. The leaders don't try to figure out what the true answer is to that question; they just try to figure out what answer will serve their purpose.

That's really the problem and the reason Jesus' discussion with the leaders won't go anywhere; they are not willing to learn or be changed. They have already decided what they believe and anything that doesn't fit their expectations will be rejected. Last night at the Boulevard we were reading one of my favorite stories about close-mindedness versus openmindedness: John chapter 9. In the story Jesus heals a man born blind. The religious leaders interrogate the man about what has happened and in the end they kick him out of the synagogue. They can't face the evidence in front of them: Jesus has done something amazing by the power of God. The passages question to us is are we blind or do we see what's in front of us. When Jesus calls do we answer and accept the fact that we don't understand everything or do we ignore the calling because it doesn't fit our expectations?

May we always seek the truth even when it challenges us.

God bless,

Luke 20: 1-8

One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders 2and said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?” 3He answered them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: 4Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” 5They discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8Then Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

tears and anger

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Yesterday we saw the triumph of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and his enthusiastic welcome. Today we see his entry from an emotional perspective. Jesus is touched by being in Jerusalem and knowing that he will be rejected. He's known that for a long time, since he's told his disciples about his death three times, but there seems to be something powerful about being in the city in person. Jesus weeps for Jerusalem because it doesn't recognize the opportunity to return to God through his visit. Knowing Christ means knowing peace; Jesus knows that Jerusalem as a whole will not know him.

We get anger as well as grief in this scene as Jesus drives the merchants out of the temple. He's angry because commerce seems to have overwhelmed faith. The commercial activity actually started out with good intentions. Sacrificing animals had always been a part of temple worship, so making animals available for people from far away made sense. Roman money, which most people would have to use in their daily lives wasn't acceptable to give to the temple because it had an image of Caesar on it in conflict with Jewish law. "Money changers" in the temple exchanged Roman money for coins without the image so people could make a financial offering as well. To Jesus' eyes at least, this activity distracted from the worship of God and may have been an opportunity to cheat people, especially the poor. Are there any distractions we need to drive out of our worship life to focus on God?

God bless,

Luke 19:41-48

41As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

45Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; 46and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” 47Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; 48but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

welcome the king

Good morning friends,
We've been walking with Jesus towards Jerusalem for some time; today we finally get there. Jesus sends disciples into a nearby village to get a donkey for this procession. The crowd of people following Jesus welcome him not just as a teacher or prophet. They cry out praises to God and sing to welcome a king into Jerusalem. Not surprisingly, this makes the religious leaders uncomfortable. For one thing, they are scared of the Romans. The Romans have become pretty attached to ruling Judea, so they won't like the idea of a Jewish man claiming to be king without their blessing. On another level the Pharisees are uncomfortable because they expected a holy king from God, the Messiah to restore Israel's independence and faithfulness. They weren't expecting someone like Jesus to fill that role.

Jesus responds to their concern that if the disciples didn't welcome him with all this fanfare, the rocks would. In other words, Jesus is affirming that he is the anointed king. His redemption is so significant that even creation praises God for it, not just people. Jesus accepts this calling and is ready for the conflict and rejection that comes with it. May we hear our calling today.

God bless,

p.s. Please make sure to vote today.

Luke 19:28-40

28After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34They said, “The Lord needs it.”

35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Monday, November 1, 2010

using our talents

Good morning friends,
Luke says that Jesus told this parable because people were expecting the kingdom of God to appear immediately. With that introduction, we expect to hear a parable about the kingdom of God. The parable puts that kingdom sometime in the future. The landowner goes to receive royal power. Jesus already has royal power, but it's not obvious. The fullness of power comes to him through the cross and resurrection, but still won't be obvious until he returns again in power at the end of history. During his journey the landowner leaves his servants/slaves with his money to make good use of it. When he returns he judges the efforts of each servant.

The parable invites us to think about how we use our gifts. God gives us different abilities to use while we are alive and before Christ returns in power. We can use them well to make the world a bit more like God's kingdom or we can be fearful and use them poorly or not at all. We can also expect the kingdom to come in the future or reject God's rule. In the end Christ will be king and we will answer for how we used our time and talents.

Blessings on your ministry this week,

Luke 19:11-27

11As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. 13He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ 14But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’

15When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. 16The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ 17He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ 18Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ 19He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities.’

20Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, 21for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ 24He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ 25(And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) 26‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”