Friday, September 30, 2011

Christ or the world

Good morning/afternoon brothers and sisters,
Paul sets out two choices for his readers: set our minds on Jesus or follow the ways of the earth. Notice, that doesn't mean that all people who follow Christ will agree on everything, only that our focus is on what Jesus calls us to do. We see daily examples of the way of the earth, the focus on what is ours and how to get ahead. We see those examples, but we are called to turn away, to hope, work, invest and pray for something better.
May you feel Christ's presence today,

Philippians 3:15-21

15Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

17Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

moving forward

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Paul talked about the reasons he could have confidence in the flesh and the law, but said that all that doesn't matter any more to him. Now he says his past doesn't matter, only knowing Christ. Next to Christ everything else in Paul's life is second. He also looks forward to the new life he will share with Jesus on the other side of death. All these hopes keep Paul going when threats and hardship surrounds him.

We all need hope to keep us going in hard times and to put minor annoyances in perspective. For many, hope in God's love gives us strength to keep going. For others trusting in the love of family and friends is our source of strength. All love comes from God, and love's power can free us from the grip of jealousy and fear.

God bless,

Philippians 3:8-14

More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

confidence in the flesh

Good morning brother and sisters,
As is often the case in Paul's letters, one of the risks he warns the Philippians about is the faction of the early church often called the "circumcision party." One of the most important early conflicts in the church was whether gentiles converting to Christianity had to first become fully Jewish and obey the Law of Moses. At its council in Jerusalem the church decided that this was not necessary, but it seems that some leaders in the church continued to insist on circumcision and Jewish tradition.

Paul writes here that these people are "dogs" and "mutilators of the flesh." He backs up his rejection of this teaching by reminding them that he has followed every kind of Jewish religious obligation, but in Christ has come to see that this is not what counts. He makes the point this way to prevent people from arguing that he rejects circumcision out of ignorance or a desire to be lax. The point for Paul is Christ, everything else comes second.

God bless,

Philippians 3:1-8

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard. 2Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! 3For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh— 4even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

friends in Christ

Good morning friends,
Today's reading reminds us of the close-nit community of the early church. It also reveals that even then there were disagreements and problems within the church. In some ways the problems churches face today are nothing new, just a new version of old problems. And just as then, the church finds its way forward by relying on God and working together with love.
God bless,

Philippians 2:20-30

20I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22But Timothy’s worth you know, how like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23I hope therefore to send him as soon as I see how things go with me; 24and I trust in the Lord that I will also come soon.

25Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus—my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need; 26for he has been longing for all of you, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. 28I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, 30because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

shining brightly

Good morning sisters and brothers,
I just love Paul's letter to the Philippians. We read the most familiar part of it in worship yesterday, the "Christ hymn," which talks about Christ not regarding equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself. The letter overall has a tone of such love and encouragement that it always inspires me. It is one of the letters Paul wrote from prison, and though he knew his death might be imminent, he was unafraid. Today he encourages the Philippians to live in community without arguing. He reminds them that the world is hard and often twisted, but for that reason if they are blameless, their example will shine brightly. He reminds them also that their faith is what he will boast about when Christ comes again and that even if he is "poured out" (killed) he will still rejoice as that will be an offering to God. All I can say is praise Jesus and amen. May we find such joy and courage in Christ as well.

Blessings on your week,

Philippians 2:14-19

14Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. 16It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— 18and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me. 19I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

God's will

Good morning brothers and sisters,
I just heard yesterday evening from our neighbors at the Fire Department that they are hosting an open house beginning at noon on Sunday. It sounds like a lot of fun, and it would be great for people to go. It also means that if you can, it would be best for you to park at the dentist's office across Helendale Rd from the church to free up the parking lot as much as possible. We'll also be meeting after worship to talk about youth ministry. We're also looking forward to the choir's return to worship led by Dr. Soo Yeon Kim. It's quite a full and exciting weekend.

It shouldn't surprise us that Jesus' tearing up the temple caused some anger and confusion among the religious leaders. They ask him what gives him the right to act the way he does. Rather than answering the question, he asks one of his own. He follows that up with a simple, but challenging question about what it means to do God's will. That's always a good question for us to reflect on: what does God want from us and how are we responding?


Matthew 21:23-32

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

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

Friday, September 23, 2011

prayer and growth

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Jesus teaches the disciples about prayer in our passage for today. This passage is a troubling passage for those of us who have ever had a prayer not answered. At the same time, the Christian prayer that guides all others asks for God's will to be done. Prayer is effective, but not always the way we want or expect it to be. What I know from my own journey is that the more I pray the more I find myself in synch with God. I trust that process will continue in my life and I hope for the same in your life.

God bless,

Matthew 21:18-22

18In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry. 19And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 20When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21Jesus answered them, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. 22Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

money changers and children

Good morning brothers and sisters,
I'd like to remind you that after worship on Sunday we will be meeting to talk about possibilities for youth ministry at Laurelton. I hope you can make it since this is an important conversation for all of us.

In this passage Jesus cleanses the temple of those who sold items for worship. The "money changers" were people who exchanged the money people used every day with Caesar's picture on it for approved coins that could be contributed to the temple. The Roman money had an image of a person on it and so was not permitted to be given to the temple. The role of money in our faith is often touchy, but Jesus talks about money more than almost any other topic, so we are called to consider it carefully.

God bless,

Matthew 21:12-17

12Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” 14The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?” 17He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

a triumphal entry

Good evening/morning sisters and brothers,
This is a familiar reading for many of us from Palm Sunday, but we're reading it here because we're reading basically straight through Matthew. Matthew sees Jesus as the fulfillment of prophetic promises about the Messiah. The funny thing about this passage is that Matthew has Jesus riding two animals, which is difficult to imagine. The sad thing about this passage is that within a week the crowd's joyful welcome of Jesus will turn to abandonment, leading to the cross. Even knowing about how the story goes, we can enjoy this moment when people recognize who Jesus really is. Of course, Jesus knew the cross was ahead of him all the way to Jerusalem, and followed that path for our sake. His love for us truly is amazing.

God bless,

Matthew 21: 1-11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

don't assume

Good morning friends,
This is a simple and powerful healing story from Jesus' ministry. Like with the people bringing children to Jesus to bless them, many people in the crowd feel it's inappropriate for the blind men to be calling out for help. As we might expect, they continue to shout for Jesus; they know this is a special opportunity. The other thing that always catches my attention about this passage is that Jesus doesn't assume he knows what the men want. It may well have been obvious that they were blind, but Jesus doesn't assume that's what they want him to help with. He asks them what they want and then heals. If Jesus took the time to ask what kind of help people needed from him, we can take a lesson not to assume about other's needs as well.

God bless,

Matthew 20:29-34
29As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, “Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!” 32Jesus stood still and called them, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

status and the cross

Good morning sisters and brothers,
This is a classic moment in the disciples missing the point. Jesus explains to them that he is about to be crucified and the next thing that happens is the disciples get worked up about status symbols in the kingdom of heaven. It's almost funny when we watch the disciples do it, but when we look at our own lives we probably can find plenty of times when we have forgotten to apply Jesus' teachings about power and service as well. May we be open to the Spirit's leading as God transforms our lives.

God bless,

Matthew 20:17-28

17While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, 18“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; 19then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”

20Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 21And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

24When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 25But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

food and work

Good morning friends,
Our reading from Exodus is one of many episodes where the people complain about their situation in freedom and long for the comfort of Egypt and slavery. Moses and God are annoyed about this complaining and lack of trust, but God provides for the people.

Jesus' parable of the workers in the field is a favorite of mine for reminding us that God's economy is not like ours. We worry a lot about getting what we deserve. God gives to everyone fairly, but does not need to give some people more to make us feel special or better than others. It's also true that being in God's field is its own reward; the workers who started earlier may have worked longer, but they didn't have to carry the burden of not being hired. We know to whom we belong and that is a huge comfort.

God bless,

Exodus 16:2-15

2The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

4Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.“ 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” 8And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him — what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”

9Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12“I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

13In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”


Matthew 20:1-16

1“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

accentuate the positive

Good morning friends,
Paul's trust in God is inspiring. He lifts up the positive aspects of how his time in prison has helped open opportunities for evangelism, and he trusts that even his death could serve that purpose. Impressive in a different way is that he is even able to see how Christians with selfish motives can also be God's tool for spreading the good news. It's amazing how Paul is able to walk the path set before him even though there's a lot of uncertainty, and give everything up to God. I pray we can learn from him.

God bless,

Philippians 1:12-20

12I want you to know, beloved that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear. 15Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment.

18What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. 20It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death.

Philippian greeting

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today we begin the short and sweet letter of Paul to the Philippians. Right away you'll notice the intimacy and care of Paul's tone towards the church in Philippi. This is one of the letters written during Paul's imprisonment, which makes him particularly reflective about his life and ministry. You'll also notice that twice he talks about the "day of Christ," by which he means the time when Christ returns to bring history to its conclusion. For Paul and many other early Christians the assumption was that the end of time was approaching rapidly. That gives his ministry an urgency because he felt there wasn't much time to get the gospel out to people. Paul also expects the Philippians to grow in faith and become more spiritually mature. I think we often think about faith in terms of maintenance and constancy, but really our faith should change us day by day and year by year. Next year we should be stronger in our faith than we are today. What do you need to grow in your faith in this coming year?

God bless,

Philippians 1:1-11

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3I thank my God every time I remember you, 4constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

treasure in heaven

Good morning brothers and sisters,
This morning's readings is one of the moments in the Gospels that often haunts me. A man asks Jesus how to receive eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell everything and give to the poor. Jesus doesn't say the same thing to everyone, and there were several wealthy people who served Jesus from their position of comfort. Still, it's clear that wealth and possessions can get in the way of radical devotion to God and to other people. Possessions, and the pursuit of more, tend to bring our focus inward on ourselves, our families and our needs and wants. Giving things away tends to open us to the needs of others and the joy of community. Christ's words are challenging but they are an invitation to let go of the false life the world is selling and take hold of love and true live.

God bless,

Matthew 19:16-29

16Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” 27Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

marriage and divorce

Good morning brothers and sisters,
This morning's reading is sort of cool for the small group reading the Bible together, because we just read the passages Jesus is quoting (Genesis 1 and 2). The religious leaders ask Jesus if one can divorce his wife for any reason (at that time a man could divorce his wife but not the other way around). Apparently there was debate among experts in the Law about whether one could divorce his wife for any reason (one scholar suggested burning dinner was enough of a reason) or if some specific threshold had to be met.

Jesus, as usual, turns the question upside down. He talks not about rules and regulations, but the purpose of marriage. The point of marriage is for two people to join their lives together permanently and share the whole journey. The rules governing divorce came because make a mess of things (especially relationships). We've changed in our thinking as a church, recognizing that there are times when a relationship hurts rather than builds us up. Jesus is uncompromising and even suggests in private to his disciples that for those who have the gift of staying single, that may be a blessing in their spiritual lives (Paul says the same thing). As a church (nationally) we have compromised on this, and that can be a good thing. The important thing is to remember that the point of marriage is lifelong commitment, but like the law of Moses recognizes, when that commitment can't work a legal divorce that protects both parties is better than putting the first spouse aside at will.

Even though Jesus seems harsh here, we also know that he welcomes everyone. Even if our marriages and other parts of our lives haven't gone according to plan, God will always give us a fresh start. God's purposes can be hard to work out in our lives, but Jesus example in going back to the root of things instead of the rules is a helpful guide.

Matthew 19:1-15

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there. 3Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” 4He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” 8He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.”

10His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. 12For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

13Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Good morning sisters and brothers,
A few of us began reading the whole Bible yesterday using a simple reading schedule. I've attached the schedule through October in case you're interested in joining us. It takes about 15 minutes each day and we'll finish the Bible in a year. I can guarantee that you'll find it worth the time you put into it, and reading with others makes it easier to stay on track.

Today's reading was the main text for worship yesterday. God's forgiveness is incredible, but it comes with the expectation that we will also forgive others. The parable of the merciful king and the unmerciful slave is a favorite of mine because it illustrates the point clearly. We have all had the experience of needing forgiveness and of needing to forgive, and forgiving others is a constant struggle. God's grace allows us to let go of old wounds and move into a more loving future.

God bless,

Matthew 18:21-35

21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.

28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.

32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Good morning sisters and brothers,
On this morning we remember the fear, grief and loss of ten years ago. This afternoon there are two interfaith worship services in memory of September 11. One is at 1 pm at Third Presbyterian Church, and the other is at 4 pm at George Eastman House.

Our Exodus passage is familiar to most of us. Pharaoh and his army went to retrieve their slaves, the Israelites, to find that God was fighting for them. In Romans, Paul urges us not to fight about our differences, but instead to welcome each other. We may have differences in our faith or practice, but we all want to honor God with our lives. That's a lesson I keep wanting our national church to learn as well as our nation as a whole.

God bless,

Exodus 14:19-31

19The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. 20It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

21Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. 22The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. 23The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. 24At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. 25He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

26Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.“ 27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea. 28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. 29But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

30Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.


Romans 14:1-12

1Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

5Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

the enemy approaches

Good morning friends,
Unfortunately, just as Pharaoh changed his mind about letting Israel go before, he changes his mind this last time too, even though Israel has already left. Understandably, the Israelites are scared to see the Egyptian army. This is one of the most powerful armies in the world, and Israel hasn't had a chance to be a nation or to develop an army. We'll hear this refrain many more times as Israel journeys with God through the wilderness. Time and again the people complain about the journey and long for the security of Egypt, even in slavery. It takes time to make a nation of free people who can use their freedom well. Good thing God is patient and doesn't give up on Israel or on us.

God bless,

Exodus 14:5-14

5When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed toward the people, and they said, “What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?” 6So he had his chariot made ready, and took his army with him; 7he took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly. 9The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

10As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. 11They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 13But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. 14The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

Friday, September 9, 2011

God is with us

Good morning friends,
When God led Israel out of slavery it was a hasty exit, but also clearly thought out. God worried about how the people might react to different dangers and guarded them along the way. God's presence isn't usually as obvious as a pillar of fire, especially when we're going through hard times. But even in the darkness God is always with us. Often we see God most clearly in our friends and family; other times in the kindness of strangers or a subtle feeling of calm in our soul. God is here.


Exodus 13:17-22

17When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, “If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle. 19And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, “God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here.” 20They set out from Succoth, and camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. 22Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

firstborn sons

Good morning sisters and brothers,
On Sunday we'll welcome our new music director, Soo Yeon Kim to Laurelton. Soo Yeon brings wonderful musical and educational gifts, and I'm excited for how she will strengthen our music ministry. Please help make her feel at home.

God and Moses both recognize that education is critical in forming faith generation after generation. That's a big part of the reason for the religious observances God commands. There's special attention to telling the story to the next generation, the folks who didn't see God's amazing action in Egypt and might not have as clear a sense for God's power. This passage encourages us to think about how we tell the story of God to our kids. When your kids or friends ask why you go to church or why you celebrate a holiday or event, what do you tell them? How do you connect God's love to your daily world and help others do the same?

God bless,

Exodus 13:11-16

11“When the Lord has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your ancestors, and has given it to you, 12you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your livestock that are males shall be the Lord’s. 13But every firstborn donkey you shall redeem with a sheep; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. Every firstborn male among your children you shall redeem.

14When in the future your child asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall answer, ‘By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from human firstborn to the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every male that first opens the womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16It shall serve as a sign on your hand and as an emblem on your forehead that by strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

leaving slavery

Good morning sisters and brothers,
On Sunday I mentioned that I was going to start reading the Bible over the next year, and I invited people to join me. It takes about 15 minutes a day and is very rewarding. I figured if we have a group reading together we could get together once or twice a month to talk about what we're reading. We could also set up some kind of online venue to share thoughts between meetings. This isn't meant to be arduous, but supportive. It also won't replace the daily readings for me; I'll still send these out. But if you're interested in reading the Bible with a small group, we'll begin on Sunday. Send me an email so I can put together a group list and send you a reading plan to organize the reading. You won't regret the time you spend with it.

Today's reading relates the actual departure of Israel from Egypt after 430 years there. It tells us that God kept vigil over Israel to bring them out and that Israel still keeps vigil on that night annually to remember God's deliverance. There are moments that define who we are as people and who we are nationally. This moment is one of the most important events that shape Jewish identity to this day.

God bless,

Exodus 12:37-42

37The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38A mixed crowd also went up with them, and livestock in great numbers, both flocks and herds. 39They baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt; it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. 40The time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred thirty years. 41At the end of four hundred thirty years, on that very day, all the companies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42That was for the Lord a night of vigil, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. That same night is a vigil to be kept for the Lord by all the Israelites throughout their generations.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Good morning sisters and brothers,
After nine previous plagues failed to convince Pharaoh to release Israel, God kills the first-born son of all the Egyptians. This is one of those stories in the Bible that I sometimes wish wasn't there. I love God's power and the fact that God acts for the oppressed, but I wish there was less "collateral damage" of God's salvation here. At the same time we know in history and in the news that pride, greed and stupidity on the part of powerful people doesn't just hurt them. The powerful almost always involve others in their mistakes as well. For better or for worse people are not islands; our actions affect others. So as we remember Israel's salvation, we also remember the cost. We pray for wisdom in our own lives to seek the well-being of all people as we consider our actions.

God bless,

Exodus 12:29-36

29At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians; and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. 31Then he summoned Moses and Aaron in the night, and said, “Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said. 32Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone. And bring a blessing on me too!”

33The Egyptians urged the people to hasten their departure from the land, for they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35The Israelites had done as Moses told them; they had asked the Egyptians for jewelry of silver and gold, and for clothing, 36and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And so they plundered the Egyptians.

Monday, September 5, 2011

first Passover

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Today as we reflect on labor we're grateful for the labor movement that has furthered the cause of equality for workers. We also remember, especially now, that we have a long way to go. We remember those who want to work but can't and those who work so much that they can't rest.

Moses tells the Israelites how to mark their homes so God's destroying angel won't kill their first born sons along with the Egyptians. It's interesting too that even in the midst of this moment of trial and liberation God has Moses set the Passover up as a permanent tradition rather than a one time thing. The role of tradition is to keep reminding us of how God has saved us in the past to keep us humble and grateful. May we always remember God's love for us.

God bless,

Exodus 12:21-28

21Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the passover lamb. 22Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. 23For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down.

24You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children. 25When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. 26And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this observance?’ 27you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.’“ And the people bowed down and worshiped. 28The Israelites went and did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Passover and conflict

God morning sisters and brothers,
Thanks to Robyn Fitzgerald for getting tickets for us to watch a great baseball game last night. It was a fun night out on a perfect evening. Our Old Testament reading this morning gives us God's instructions for Moses and Israel about the Passover and how to remember it. Not only was the Passover blood a sign for the angel of death not to punish the Israelites along with the Egyptians, the meal in years after that was to remind Israel of God's power and love for them. Like the Passover, our monthly communion meal reminds us physically of God's amazing love for us in Jesus.

In our reading from Matthew Jesus gives very concrete instructions for handling problems within the community. I think of this passage whenever I am tempted to complain about someone to a friend of mine. I also think of it whenever I think about church conflict. It's often easier to a friend about what someone has done wrong to you, but that never solves the problem and often makes it worse. Jesus calls us to talk first to the person we're having trouble with. That's good advice in the church and in any other community we are a part of.

See you at Christ's table,

Exodus 12:1-14

1The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.

5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 7They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.

11This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. 12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.14This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.


Matthew 18:15-20

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

Saturday, September 3, 2011

following love

Good morning sisters and brothers,
This passage picks up from the end of yesterday's passage where Paul tells his readers to give people what they should. If they owe taxes they should pay taxes; if they owe respect, they should give respect, etc. Here he continues by encouraging people not to owe anyone anything, in other words, don't leave debts unpaid. The only thing we should owe is love, since we can never finish loving anyone. He says if we really love everyone all of our other responsibilities will be covered, because when we dedicate ourselves to love we always treat others right. That's a good word today and one we'll dig into a bit further tomorrow.

Blessings on your weekend,

Romans 13:8-14

8Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

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.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Good evening/morning friends,
This is a helpful and challenging passage that deserves its own sermon. On the one hand, Paul reminds us that Christians and government generally serve the same goals and so we can work together. He also reminds us that it is our duty as citizens to obey those in authority. That's a good reminder that there is a bigger picture than our convenience; the community has needs that we ought to take account of.

What Paul doesn't say, but we know from his life, is that there are times Christians can't obey both God and those in authority. When the religious leaders ordered Peter and John not to preach about Jesus, they replied that they had to obey God, not human authority. The same held true for civil rights activists sitting in at segregated restaurants: when the law violates God's law, we sometimes have to disobey it. In all things we are called to follow Jesus who was faithful to God no matter what the cost.

God bless,

Romans 13:1-7

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.

6For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 7Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

children in the kingdom

Good morning sisters and brothers,
In the Gospels the disciples are often examples of what we do wrong, even though after Jesus resurrection they become examples for us of faithful discipleship. Here, they are concerned about status in the kingdom of heaven. There's a part of us that always wants to be first, and the disciples are as tempted by status as anyone else. Jesus turns the question upside down by saying a child will be first in the kingdom. This is partly about humility and partly about God's constant care for the most vulnerable in the world. How can we be like children in the right way to fit into God's kingdom? What can kids teach us about God's way?

God bless,

Matthew 18:1-14

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2He called a child, whom he put among them, 3and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 6“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

7Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes! 8“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire. 10“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. 12What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.