Monday, October 31, 2011

woe to you, Pharisees

Good morning friends,
Happy Halloween, please be safe tonight. Our reading this morning picks up on Jesus criticizing the scribes and Pharisees for hypocrisy. You can almost picture Jesus moving from calm argument to angry denunciation. He goes after the religious leaders for getting in the way of people coming to God and for imposing traditions that don't have anything to do with faithfulness. I wonder if Jesus has been holding back this kind of fierce talk and finally comes to a point where he doesn't want to hold it in anymore. We can see the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders becoming more intense as Jesus moves closer to the cross.


Matthew 23:13-22
13“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. 15Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

16“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ 17You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ 19How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Good morning friends,
Paul writes that suffering is part of following Jesus. He also openly shares his love for the Thessalonian church and says they are the reason for his confidence about Christ's coming. In other words, their faith testifies to his faithful ministry. Jesus also talks about leadership, but very differently. He criticizes the Jewish religious leaders for paying too much attention to appearances and status. True leadership in faith is about following God together humbly.
God bless,

1 Thessalonians 2:14-20
14For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, 15who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone 16by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.

17As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. 18For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20Yes, you are our glory and joy!

Matthew 23:1-12
1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.

8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father — the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crossing the Jordan

Good morning friends,
We skip ahead a little bit for today's reading. The spies have returned with the news that God has made the people of the land afraid of the Israelites. Now the Israelites prepare to cross over into the land God is giving them. God shows the way by dividing the Jordan River like God divided the Red Sea. God proves to the people that God is with Joshua and with Israel as they begin this next stage of their life.

Joshua 3:7-17
7The LORD said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses.8You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’”9Joshua then said to the Israelites, “Draw near and hear the words of the LORD your God.” 10Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: 11the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. 12So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.”

14When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. 15Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, 16the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

Friday, October 28, 2011

kept safe

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Yesterday we read how Joshua sent spies to Jericho to check out the area before Israel attacked. The spies found refuge in a prostitute named Rahab's house where she hid them from the King of Jericho's soldiers. Today we see what she has to say to them about why she is helping them. Matthew's Gospel adds Rahab to the genealogy of Jesus. One of the things I love about the Bible is how the heroes are often surprising people: women in a sexist society, poor people, the sick, the forgotten. God's kingdom looks very different from the pages of a celebrity magazine. Each of us may has a part to play in God's story.

God bless,

Joshua 2:8-16
8Before they went to sleep, she came up to them on the roof 9and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. 10For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you.

The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. 12Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith 13that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14The men said to her, “Our life for yours! If you do not tell this business of ours, then we will deal kindly and faithfully with you when the Lord gives us the land.”

15Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the outer side of the city wall and she resided within the wall itself. 16She said to them, “Go toward the hill country, so that the pursuers may not come upon you. Hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers have returned; then afterward you may go your way.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

spying out the land

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Forty years earlier, when the Israelites arrived at the border of the Promised Land for the first time, Moses sent spies into the land to see what it was like. Ten of the twelve spies reported that the people were too scary to fight and the Israelites lost their courage. That led to forty more years of wandering in the desert. Joshua was one of the two spies who brought an encouraging report. Now Joshua is leading the people of Israel, and he decides to send spies as well. The spies go specifically to Jericho, which is the first town they will attack. This time the outcome will be very different as Israel begins a new phase in their life.

Joshua 2:1-7
Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there. 2The king of Jericho was told, “Some Israelites have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.” 4But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. 5And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” 6She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof. 7So the men pursued them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. As soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

strong and courageous

Good morning friends,
It's with sorrow that I share that Scott Fralick's uncle Glen (Carol's brother) died suddenly yesterday morning. Details of the service are still up in the air, but please keep Carol, Scott, Todd and the rest of the family in prayer. I'll let you know more details when I can.

On Sunday we read about Moses' death and how Joshua, his assistant, took on leadership by God's calling. Today we hear God speaking with Joshua and confirming that calling as well as the promise to bring Israel into the Promised Land. God tells Joshua twice to be strong and courageous, and this is something of a refrain in the beginning of this book. The task ahead is challenging, but God is with them. What do you need God's strength and courage for this week?


Joshua 1:1-9
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, 2“My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. 3Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. 4From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. 5No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.

7Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. 8This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. 9I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

words and actions

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Paul continues to remind the Thessalonians that his actions matched the gospel he proclaimed. He also praises them for hearing God's word well. Paul's message is a reminder for us in our evangelism. If our actions don't match our words, no one will listen. May we always grow in faith as we are nurtured by God's word.

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
9You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. 11As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, 12urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

13We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.

Monday, October 24, 2011

preaching for the right reasons

Good morning sisters and brothers, Paul reminds the Thessalonian church of his first visit to them, apparently after being persecuted in Phillipi. He writes about how much he and his partners in ministry care about the Thessalonians and how they worked gently with them. Paul is probably referring to the fact that in his ministry he worked on his own to support himself financially. He also contrasts his pure motives with the selfish motives of others. That probably means he has someone in mind who he thinks is teaching or living the wrong way, someone who is using the gospel for personal gain rather than as a ministry. We may find our more about this as the letter continues. blessings on your week, Sam 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 1You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

resurrection and law

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Jesus is still teaching in Jerusalem when some Sadducees approach him with a question. Every era has its important theological questions and Jesus' time was no different. There was a division between two groups of religious leaders in Judaism: Pharisees and Sadducees. Sadducees often controlled the temple and followed only scripture. In other words they didn't believe in the resurrection of the dead or angels. Pharisees were famous for interpreting the law carefully and separating the people of Israel from their gentile neighbors, but they believed in some teachings that went beyond the scripture including a belief in the resurrection of the dead and the role of angels as God's messengers.

In this story the Sadducees come to question Jesus. True to form, they ask him a question that brings into question the logic of the resurrection. Jesus shows himself firmly committed to a belief in the resurrection, a belief Jesus will embody in his own life. For Jesus, while the future will have something in common with today, God's kingdom is also radically different. As often, we won't know what the resurrection will really be like until that last day. Until then we trust in God's love and work for greater justice in the world.
God bless,

Matthew 22:23-33

23The same day some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, 24“Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.’ 25Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. 26The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. 27Last of all, the woman herself died. 28In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.”

29Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. 30For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 32‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” 33And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.

Friday, October 21, 2011

legacy and disapointment

Good morning sisters and brothers,
This is a hard part of the story of Moses because Moses has this incredibly intimate relationship with God and has devoted his life to leading the people out of slavery into the Promised Land, but he does not get to enter the land himself. I'm grateful he got to see it, and I'm sure that meant a lot to him. Still, I'm also sure he was sad not to complete the journey. The word this passage has for us, and one we'll explore in more depth on Sunday, is that most of us are in a similar situation.

We won't see the completion of most of the things we care most about. We probably won't see poverty and injustice eliminated in our lifetime, though we may see progress in that direction. We probably won't see everyone come to know Christ. We often won't see our children or grandchildren develop their gifts to the fullest before we die. We are still called to commit our life and work and prayer to making the world better, to share the gospel and to raising our children well. We are called to trust that God's purposes continue beyond our lifetime and that our work and legacy are in good hands when we are called home.

God bless,

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

1Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3the Negeb, and the Plain — that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees — as far as Zoar. 4The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 5Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. 8The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

9Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses.

10Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. 11He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

building our worship life together

Good morning friends,
Today we get some of God's instruction for Israel's worship. Exodus goes into great detail about how the tabernacle, which is also called the Tent of Meeting and is an elaborate traveling tent-sanctuary, is to be constructed. We'll skip the detail but focus instead on how God instructed Moses to invite people to bring offerings of material and skill to build the tabernacle and other things needed for worship. We're doing the same thing now in the church as we invite members of our community to contribute some of your time, talents and income for the worship and life of our community. We are all part of the community and so we all share in building and maintaining it; each of us as we are able and willing to help. This Sunday we will commit our pledges for the life of the church; if I can answer any questions for you about stewardship please don't hesitate to call or write.


Exodus 35:1-19

Moses assembled all the congregation of the Israelites and said to them: These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do: 2Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy sabbath of solemn rest to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3You shall kindle no fire in all your dwellings on the sabbath day.

4Moses said to all the congregation of the Israelites: This is the thing that the Lord has commanded: 5Take from among you an offering to the Lord; let whoever is of a generous heart bring the Lord’s offering: gold, silver, and bronze; 6blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen; goats’ hair, 7tanned rams’ skins, and fine leather; acacia wood, 8oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 9and onyx stones and gems to be set in the ephod and the breastpiece.

10All who are skillful among you shall come and make all that the Lord has commanded: the tabernacle, 11its tent and its covering, its clasps and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; 12the ark with its poles, the mercy seat, and the curtain for the screen; 13the table with its poles and all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 14the lampstand also for the light, with its utensils and its lamps, and the oil for the light; 15and the altar of incense, with its poles, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the entrance, the entrance of the tabernacle; 16the altar of burnt offering, with its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin with its stand; 17the hangings of the court, its pillars and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court, and their cords; 19the finely worked vestments for ministering in the holy place, the holy vestments for the priest Aaron, and the vestments of his sons, for their service as priests.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

let your light shine

Good morning sisters and brothers,
In his anger, Moses broke the tablets God carved out of stone, so God tells him to carve new tablets and to come back up the mountain. Moses spends time there and God rewrites the ten commandments and explains the covenant to Moses. Then Moses comes back down the mountain to share the covenant with the people. Being so close to God leaves a mark on Moses and his face begins to glow. That reminds the people that what Moses tells them doesn't just come from Moses, but from God. When we spent time in prayer with God it doesn't leave an outward mark, but we will notice that spending more time with God slowly changes us in other ways. Try and find out how God's light can shine in you.

God bless,

Exodus 34:27-35

27The Lord said to Moses: Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel. 28He was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. 29Moses came down from Mount Sinai.

As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.

33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Good morning brothers and sisters,
God warns Moses about the people who live in the Promised Land now. God commands Israel to drive them out completely because otherwise they will be seduced by their worship and go astray from God. As things happen, foreign gods are a snare for Israel, but more in the temptation King Solomon faces because of his many marriages. The lesson here is not about warfare, but more about the risk of conforming to the culture around us. Christians are in danger today of following the gods of our culture (greed, security, success) instead of following the true God. That's a danger we always need to be aware of so we can stay on the right path.

God bless,

Exodus 34:10-17

10He said: I hereby make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform marvels, such as have not been performed in all the earth or in any nation; and all the people among whom you live shall see the work of the Lord; for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

11Observe what I command you today. See, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 12Take care not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you are going, or it will become a snare among you. 13You shall tear down their altars, break their pillars, and cut down their sacred poles 14(for you shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).

15You shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to their gods, someone among them will invite you, and you will eat of the sacrifice. 16And you will take wives from among their daughters for your sons, and their daughters who prostitute themselves to their gods will make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods. 17You shall not make cast idols.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

compassion and mercy

Good morning brothers and sisters,
In this reading God brings Moses back onto the mountain to remake the tablets of the Law, though this time Moses has to carve the tablets. God also makes good on God's promise to let Moses see him, but only his back. Notice that God's name and character as merciful goes along with seeing him. Muslim's capture this fact well by beginning every Sura (basically a chapter) of the Qur'an with the phrase: "In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate." God is forgiving to the heart, something we learn most clearly in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

God bless,

Exodus 34:1-9

The Lord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you broke. 2Be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai and present yourself there to me, on the top of the mountain. 3No one shall come up with you, and do not let anyone be seen throughout all the mountain; and do not let flocks or herds graze in front of that mountain.” 4So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the former ones; and he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tablets of stone.

5The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, “The Lord.” 6The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. 9He said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

taxes and inspiring others with faith

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Worship today will include a skit to reflect on the scripture for the morning. We won't be hearing this scripture, but we will be thinking about what is really important in life. I think you're in for a treat. I am hoping yesterday's wind dies down for my race this morning in Toronto. I'll hit the halfway point somewhere in the middle of worship, so prayer would be nice.

In our epistle readings we begin a new letter, this one to the church in Thessalonica. Paul writes that the faith of the Thessalonians is so strong that they are an inspiration for other churches throughout the region. In Matthew Jesus teaches on balancing our role as citizens and as people of faith. Citizenship in a democracy like ours is very different from being a subject in an empire in which one had no input as Jesus was. Still Jesus' teaching helps us remember that we are dual citizens.

God bless,

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

1Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

2We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.

6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. 9For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.


Matthew 22:15-22

15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?“ 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

God's goodness and presence

Good morning sisters and brothers,
This morning is Dominic Gammariello's memorial service at Laurelton at 10:30 am; please continue to keep Dom's family in your prayers. Today's reading is a strange one. Moses craves a greater assurance of God's love and presence. God loves and values Moses, so God does just what he asks. Moses gets to see God in some physical way while God protects him from seeing more than he can manage.

Many of us crave a deeper sense of God's love but won't see what Moses saw. When we feel far from God or worried about anything, we can look at the cross. There we clearly see all God's goodness and God's amazing love for us. Seeing that image of God's goodness we know we have nothing to fear because we are not alone.

God bless,

Exodus 33:12-23

12Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. 16For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

17The LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” 19And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” 21And the LORD continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; 22and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

tents and meeting

Good morning friends,
Please remember to keep the Gammariello family in prayer as they continue to mourn Dominic's death and celebrate his life. The memorial service will be tomorrow morning at 10:30 with refreshments to follow. It would be great to see you there.

Today's reading gives us a snapshot of everyday life in Israel's traveling camp. Outside the camp was a tent for worship called the Tent of Meeting. It had altars and the ark of the covenant just like a mobile temple. Moses went out to speak with God there because he had a uniquely intimate relationship with God. We also get a glimpse of Joshua, Moses' assistant and successor. Even in those days of travel there were rituals and routines for keeping in touch with God. We don't need an elaborate tent, but finding regular ways to meet with God in our own lives is just as important today.

God bless,

Exodus 33:7-11

7Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each of them, at the entrance of their tents and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. 10When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise and bow down, all of them, at the entrance of their tent. 11Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Good morning friends,
First, I'd like to announce that Sunday's worship will be special. In place of a sermon, the Discipleship Ministries team will present a short skit to reflect on scripture. It should be an especially fun and engaging worship.

In today's reading Israel repents and with Moses help they are on their way again. At the same time, the relationship with God has had some bumps because the sin of idolatry is a major breach of faith. It seems like serious damage has been done, and God and Israel have to figure out how to move forward together. All of our relationships involve forgiveness. In the end forgiveness makes the relationship stronger and it allows us to work through challenges that come up.

God bless,

Exodus 32:30-33:6

30On the next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.” 33But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.” 35Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf—the one that Aaron made.

33:1The Lord said to Moses, “Go, leave this place, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, and go to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” 4When the people heard these harsh words, they mourned, and no one put on ornaments. 5For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, and I will decide what to do to you.’“ 6Therefore the Israelites stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Good morning brothers and sisters,
Moses is angry with the people about their idolatry and he's also angry with Aaron. We read earlier how it was Aaron who made the calf, but today he wants Moses to belief that it just came out of the fire. He puts the blame on the people, rather than taking responsibility as a leader. The bloodshed in this passage is disturbing, and is certainly not a good model for solving religious disputes. What we can learn from it is the danger of putting other commitments before God. When we go astray from God, the idol isn't as obvious as a golden calf, but idolatry is still a constant threat.

God bless,

Exodus 32:21-29

21Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” 22And Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil. 23They said to me, ‘Make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off’; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

25When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), 26then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27He said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor.’“ 28The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. 29Moses said, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

righteous anger

Good morning brothers and sisters,

We saw Moses plead with God for mercy on behalf of Israel, now Moses sees Israel's sin for himself. His anger is understandable, but even so God written word is destroyed in Moses' rage. Jesus warns his hearers that anger is closely related to murder. Anger is part of being human, but a part we need to watch carefully. May we always be angry with injustice, but may we use our anger in just ways.

Blessings on your day,


Exodus 32:15-20

15Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. 16The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. 17When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.”18But he said, “It is not the sound made by victors, or the sound made by losers; it is the sound of revelers that I hear.”

19As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

content in prison

Good morning brothers and sisters,
This closing piece of Paul's letter seems to have been written in response to a gift he received from the Philippian church. Throughout his ministry, Paul took pride in working to support himself, rather than being supported by the communities he served. It seems that the Philippian church was a bit of an exception, since they did support him and continue to support him in prison. Paul's comments about being able to be content in any circumstances through Christ is a helpful piece of encouragement, though we also know that as Christians we are called to serve those in need material and not just serve spiritual needs.

God bless,

Philippians 4:10-22

10I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

14In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress. 15You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. 16For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account.

18I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

20To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. 21Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The friends who are with me greet you. 22All the saints greet you, especially those of the emperor’s household. 23The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

joyful faith

Good morning friends,
Today's readings both talk about joyful faith. Our passage from Philippians is mostly closing thoughts commending the efforts of some of Paul's coworkers and urging the community to stand firm in faith. Our passage from Matthew is a parable we will explore in worship today. Jesus compares God's kingdom to a royal wedding feast. We are invited to that feast and called to invite others. What's holding you back?

God bless,

Philippians 4:1-9

1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.


Matthew 22:1-14

1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’

5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Saturday, October 8, 2011

idols and parenting

Good morning friends,
Sorry to miss yesterday's reading. The short version is that after delivering the Ten Commandments the people saw a cloud of God's glory settling on Mt. Sinai and Moses went up to speak with God and spent 40 days there. Today we see that 40 days was too long for the people to be without Moses. They felt scared and abandoned so they asked Aaron to make gods for them. This is a troubling reading because it reminds us how often we turn away from God, though usually less dramatically. The comic relief in the reading is that Moses and God act like frustrated parents. Notice how each calls the people, "Your people, who you brought out of Egypt." Fortunately, Moses stands up for the people and God's mercy prevails.

Blessings on your weekend,

Exodus 32:1-14

1When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.” 6They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

7The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

11But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

the covenant sealed

Good morning sisters and brothers,
As this section of legal material fleshing out the Ten Commandments comes to a close, Moses and the leaders of Israel ratify a covenant with God that includes these laws. Covenants in that time were sealed with sacrifices and here both the people and the altar that symbolized the covenant with God were splashed with blood. As we remember each month at Christ's communion table, the new covenant based on God's grace in Jesus is sealed in his blood. We are still a people of covenant, tied to God by love and calling.

God bless,

Exodus 24:1-8

Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship at a distance. 2Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.” 3Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” 4And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord.

He rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5He sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed oxen as offerings of well-being to the Lord. 6Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar. 7Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, “See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sabbath rest

Good morning friends,
Today's ordinances begin with a focus on the Sabbath. Notice that sabbath rest is not only the seventh day, but also the seventh year. Also, the Sabbath is partly about worship, but also is a gift to allow us the rest we need, but often won't take. As usual, there is a special focus on the need of the vulnerable to rest as well. The other rules talk about more "religious" matters: celebrations, worship and dietary law. These laws give us a picture of how God wanted Israel's life to be. I think a little focus on Sabbath rest would be good for us as well in our crazy, constantly running culture. This is the Commandment I have the most trouble following, but I try to remind myself that it is one of the Ten Commandments for a reason.


Exodus 23:10-19

10For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; 11but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. 12Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed.

13Be attentive to all that I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips. 14Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me. 15You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread; as I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. No one shall appear before me empty-handed. 16You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God. 18You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my festival remain until the morning. 19The choicest of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

court conduct

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today's legal guidance talks a lot about court issues and the responsibilities of witnesses. The basic idea is that honesty in legal disputes is critical, and witnessing falsely is a terrible crime. Elsewhere in the Law it says that if someone bears false witness against another person, they should received the same penalty the accused faced for the crime in question. Our reading warns against following the majority in doing the wrong thing. We are each responsible for our behavior and speech, no matter who else is going down the wrong path.

While Christians are not bound to follow the Old Testament law, the law does shed light on what God values, especially as a society. May we always have open hearts and ears for our neighbors.

God bless,

Exodus 23:1-9

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. 2You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; 3nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit. 4When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back. 5When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free. 6You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. 7Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. 9You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Monday, October 3, 2011

debts and immigrants

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Much of the Book of Exodus following the Ten Commandments contains other commandments and laws that flesh out the main ten. I've selected some of these sections in the days ahead based on teaching I think is illustrative of God's covenant with Israel or particularly relevant today. My selection is not unbiased, but I hope these readings shed light on God's priorities without bogging down in legal detail.

Today's selection deals with lending money, which in Israel was a method for relief of the poor, not a profit making opportunity. Notice the "pledge" or collateral for a loan to a poor person must be returned because the person will likely have to put up something they need to secure a loan. A good deal of concern in this covenant is given to making sure the vulnerable are protected. Immigrants are subject to similar protection, and Israel is reminded that they were once vulnerable and oppressed, so they particularly should not be oppressing those who seek refuge in their land.

Blessings on your week,

Exodus 22:21-28

21You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 22You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. 23If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; 24my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children orphans.

25If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them. 26If you take your neighbor’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; 27for it may be your neighbor’s only clothing to use as cover; in what else shall that person sleep? And if your neighbor cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate. 28You shall not revile God, or curse a leader of your people.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

commandments and leadership

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Today after worship some of us will head across the street for lunch and some discussion of our Bible reading. If you've been reading through the Bible, it's a great time to compare notes. If you haven't but are interested in starting the journey, it's a great chance to dive in. After that there is an ecumenical worship service at St. Ambrose celebrating St. Francis of Assisi and blessing pets. If you'd like to celebrate your furry, feathered or scaled friend, bring them on over to the gym at St. Ambrose at 1 for a blessing.

Our reading from Exodus completes the Ten Commandments and shows how visibly impressive the appearance of God was for Israel. Our reading from Matthew tells the parable we'll be discussing in worship today. This is a favorite of mine because it warns us of the danger of believing we own the religious community rather than guiding it on God's behalf. Today in worship we'll listen for God's calling and seek strength at Christ's table for the journey that lies ahead. I hope you'll be there.


Exodus 20:21-21

12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13You shall not murder. 14You shall not commit adultery. 15You shall not steal. 16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

18When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, 19and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” 20Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” 21Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.


Matthew 21:33-46

33“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? 43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ten Commandments, part 1

Good morning friends,
It's been a little while since we've read from Exodus. Earlier we read how God brought Israel out of Egypt and how twice in the desert Israel cried out to God about being hungry or thirsty and God satisfied them. Our reading moves forward a few chapters. The people have arrived at Mt. Sinai to worship God. If we look back to when God first called Moses to speak to Pharaoh, God said that the sign of God's presence would be that after their liberation the people would worship at Mt. Sinai. Now that promise has been fulfilled and God gives the people the Ten Commandments, which are the "bullet points" of the covenant God makes with Israel to be their God. The commandments are given application and depth by further laws and ordinances that God shares with Moses after the Ten Commandments, but we can tell that these commandments can be read broadly to guide community life. Thousands of years later, they still speak to us. Today we'll consider the first four commandments.


Exodus 20:1-11

Then God spoke all these words: 2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.