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Choose or Lose, Part 2

"Nazareth" by William Holman Hunt
Matthew 13:54-58

Jesus came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?" And they took offence at him. But Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house." And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.When Jesus finished teaching the parables we have in Matthew 13, Matthew tells us that Jesus went to his hometown of Nazareth and taught in the synagogue. However, unlike Jesus' disciples, the people in the synagogue did not welcome Jesus’ teaching. “How could this hometown boy have anything to teach us?” they asked.…

Choose or Lose

Stan Caffy was about to get married. So he and his fiancĂ© figured it was time to do a bit of house-cleaning. They cleaned out both of their garages and gave everything they didn’t need to a local thrift store. The items discarded included an assortment of clothes, bicycles, tools, computer parts, and a tattered copy of the Declaration of Independence that had been hanging in Stan’s garage for the last decade.

What Stan didn’t know was that particular copy of the Declaration of Independence was a rare manuscript made in 1823. A man named Michael Sparks spotted it in the thrift store and bought the document for $2.48. Sparks later auctioned it for $477,650.

Jesus told stories similar to this one. One of them is in Matthew 13 beginning with verse 44.... The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. …

The Power to Set Us Free

Today is the feast day of Saint Martha. Martha, as you probably know, was one of the sisters of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. Here is a link to a sermon I preached a few years ago on John 11 dealing with this family....

The Power to Set Us Free

Wiretapper

A friend just alerted me to the fact that this film about my father is now on You Tube. You can see the whole thing right here. Enjoy!

While We Wait

"Wheat Field" by Vincent Van Gogh  Matthew 13:36-43

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!Yesterday we looked at two parables of Jesus. Today we look at a third that Matthew place…

Two Parables, Two Questions

Matthew 13:31-35

He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’ He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’ Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth to speak in parables'.The parable of the mustard seed raises the question: why does the kingdom of God seem so insignificant?
The first disciples of Jesus must have felt very small and unimportant when they considered themselves against the backdrop of all of Jewish history and in the context of the wider world of the Roman Empire. If Jesus real…

The Power to Feed the Multitudes

Here is a link to a sermon I preached some time ago on our lectionary text for today: John 6:1-15. Enjoy!

The Parable of the Sower

"The Sower" by Van Gogh  Matthew 13:18-23

"Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."
Have you ever walked through a maze? It can be very confusing can’t it? I’ve walked with my sons throu…

Why speak in parables?

Matthew 13:10-17

Then the disciples came and asked him, 'Why do you speak to them in parables?' He answered, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that "seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand." With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:"You will indeed listen, but never understand,and you will indeed look, but never perceive.For this people's heart has grown dull,and their ears are hard of hearing,and they have shut their eyes;so that they might not look with their eyes,and listen with their ears,and understand with their heart and turn-and I would heal them."But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. T…

Mary Magdalene

Today is the feast day of Mary Magdalene. We read part of her story in John 20. Mary came to faith in the resurrected Christ through tears. Mary visited the tomb in the darkness of early morning, between 3 and 6 am. All she wanted to do was weep over the body of the man who had cast seven demons out of her. Faith had died; hope had died; but her love for her Lord had not died.

As Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as Jesus spoke to her, she could not recognize him at first because of her tears. Secondly, she could not recognize him because she was facing away from him toward the tomb. However, when Jesus called Mary’s name, her tears turned to joy. When Jesus called her name, Mary experienced her own resurrection, a resurrection of hope and faith.

In 1872, the poet Christina Rossetti wrote a poem that only appeared after her death. About thirty years later, Gustav Holst set the poem to music and it was originally entitled simply: A Christmas Carol. Today, we know it as In the Blea…

Follow the Clues, Part 2

Yesterday, we looked at the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. This account is followed by a story about what it means to be part of Jesus’ family:While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”This section of Matthew's Gospel has focused on the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. We have seen how the Pharisees called Jesus demon-possessed. Now they are cynically asking Jesus for a sign of his identity. The Pharisees, it would seem, have made their decision. They are opposed to Jesus and his mission.

However, it would seem that Jesus' family was opposed to his mission as well. Here Jesus’ famil…

Follow the Clues

I love murder mysteries, most especially—English murder mysteries. My interest in detective fiction started with Encyclopedia Brown when I was about nine years old. Then in my early teens I discovered Agatha Christie. I think I’ve read at least forty of her eighty novels. In more recent years I have enjoyed Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series as well as the works of P. D. James.

I’m not very good at figuring out “who done it”. I’m usually more interested in the story as story—the characters, the setting, as well as the tingle that goes up the spine when you know one of the characters is about to discover another dead body. However, those readers of detective fiction who are good at figuring out “who done it” are the ones who are able to notice the important clues within a mass of information.

Apparently on more than one occasion, Jesus’ contemporaries asked him for a clue that would help them understand who he was and where he came from. Jesus was none too happy with that reque…

Two Lessons

Mark 6:30-44
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 
The first lesson we see in this passage is about the rhythm of the Christian life.
Jesus’ disciples have just returned from their first mission trip out on their own. They have experienced ministry opportunities in preaching, healing, and exorcism for the first time. They were excited about all they had said and done and no doubt reported to Jesus about their activities with enthusiasm.

However, Je…

God's Chosen Servant

Why were the Pharisees so “dead set” against Jesus? Basically, Jesus wasn’t playing by their rules. He broke some of their petty regulations regarding Sabbath observance. Jesus was healing people on the Sabbath, and he was drawing crowds. The Pharisees were afraid of losing their power and position to Jesus, the young and popular up-start.

What was Jesus’ response to the Pharisees? Did he try to seize power and take it away from them? No. Rather than throw his weight around, Jesus chose to act as a servant. And that is what we see in Matthew 12:15-21. . . .
Aware of this (the Pharisees’ plan to kill him), Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out…