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Showing posts from October, 2015

The Many Sides of Jesus

"The Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 13:31-35.... At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'" This is one of many passages that shows both the sternness an

Choosing the Twelve

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 6:12-16.... Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Imagine if Jesus had consulted human beings when it came to his choice of his first disciples. The response he would have gotten might have been something like this.... To: Jesus, Son of Joseph,  Woodcrafters Shop,  Nazareth   From: Jordan Management Consultants,  The Solomon Building,  Jerusalem Thank you for submitting the resumes of the 12 men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests, and w

Organic Growth

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 13:18-21. . . . Jesus said, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches." And again he said, "To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened." What an important question Jesus asks: "What is the kingdom of God like?" And his second question shows to me that he thought deeply about every answer to important questions raised: "And to what should I compare it?" To translate Jesus' question into language we understand and can relate to today, we must first think of what an earthly kingdom was like in ancient times. It occurs to me that in ancient kingdoms, everyone who belonged to a particular kingdom belonged also to

California Here I Come!

I will, most likely, be taking a break from blogging this week as I head to California for a series of speaking engagements. Thanks for your prayers....

The Road to Freedom

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 12:8-12.... Jesus said to the disciples, "And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say." Today's reading continues the same underlying theme we looked at yesterday . . . fear. This reading also shows us the road to freedom from fear through Jesus. One of our greatest fears in life is the fear of rejection. And the ultimate rejection is rejection by God. Here Jesus addresses that fear. He tells us th

To Fear or Not to Fear...

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 12:1-7.... Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered by the thousands, so that they trampled on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops. I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows." To fear or not to fear . . . t

Through the Wardrobe Door

Today is the 65th anniversary of the publication of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe  by C. S. Lewis. According to Wikipedia, it is the 9th bestselling book of all time with over 85 million copies in print. You can read about the other bestsellers here:  Bestselling Books of All Time . 43 years ago, almost to the day, is when I first walked through the wardrobe door into Narnia. Everyone who has read the Narnia books and loves them has their own story to tell of what that reading has meant to them. For me, that first introduction to Narnia has led to a lifelong journey with C. S. Lewis. I have told that story in, among other places, my book, The Professor of Narnia. Here is an excerpt.... Our story begins when I was nine years old. I was living in Southern California with my family. I was in the fourth grade in public school, and that year I had the great blessing of having one of the most wonderful teachers in the world. Her name was Mrs. Ewing. She was a fantastic teacher

Breaking out of the Cage

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 11:47-54.... Jesus said: "Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,' so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering." When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him

Burden Loader or Life Lifter?

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 11:42-46.... 'But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.' One of the lawyers answered him, 'Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.' And he said, 'Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Jesus obviously was not afraid of offending others. When someone warned him that his sayings were insulting, Jesus pulled no punches. But notice whom Jesus speaks these woes against. He speaks against the Pharisees, the teachers who should have known better a


The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 11:37-41.... While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you." It seems to me that this passage points out a problem with religion and religious people that exists to this day. We tend, as religious people, to focus on outward conformity, not inward change. Why is this? Because outward conformity is something we can measure and judge. But no one can judge the heart except for God. Outward conformity to certain laws and rituals is something we can perform as human beings. But only God can

The Sign of Jonah

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 11:29-32.... When the crowds were increasing, Jesus began to say, "This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!" This passage strikes me as another example of how Jesus' ways are so different from the ways of the world. Just when the crowds were increasing, just when Jesus was becoming more popular, he said something designed to decr

The Look of Love

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Mark 10:17-30. It is one we have covered earlier this year, but I want to point out one sentence that is often overlooked.... As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, 'Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother." ' He said to him, 'Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.' Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, 'You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to h

Who is most blessed?

Today's Gospel lectionary reading from Luke 11:27-28 is an unusual one.... While he [Jesus] was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!" What was Jesus saying that drew this response from this woman? He had just been speaking about the power to cast out Satan that was obviously present in his ministry. Perhaps the woman wanted to experience such power for herself, but she could only imagine doing so "at one remove" so to speak. She could imagine being related to Jesus as his mother. And thus her spoken thought was, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" It's almost as if she was wishing that she could have been Jesus' mother and experienced him in her womb or nursing at her breast. Was she a woman unable to conceive for some reas

Binding Satan

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 11:15-26.... But some of them said, 'He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.' Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? - for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatter

Persistance in Prayer

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 11:5-13.... And he said to them, 'Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him." And he answers from within, "Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything." I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 'So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child

How to be a Mary...

... in a Martha kind of world. That is what today's Gospel lectionary reading from Luke 10:38-42 is all about.... Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." We live in a Martha kind of world don't we? By that I mean that we live in a world that not only invites but encourages and actively tempts us toward distraction. Martha was distracted with the many things she thought she needed to be doing. She was so d

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

"The Good Samaritan" by Van Gogh  The Gospel lectionary reading for today is Luke 10:25-37... Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. 'Teacher,' he said, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' He said to him, 'What is written in the law? What do you read there?' He answered, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.' And he said to him, 'You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.' But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbour?' Jesus replied, 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him

Bringing Children to Jesus

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Mark 10:2-16.... Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’ People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch th

In what are you rejoicing?

The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 10:17-24.... The seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!' He said to them, 'I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.' At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.' Then turning to the disciples, Jes

Guardian Angels

"Guardian Angel" by Cortona On the church calendar, today is the feast day of guardian angels. The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Matthew 18. However, since I shared something on this text earlier this year, I thought I would offer a comment on guardian angels in general. A few years ago, I preached a sermon on Christmas Eve all about angels. In that sermon, I had this to say about guardian angels.... We see angels as personal guardians in Scripture. Abraham, when sending his servant to seek a wife for his son Isaac, says that God “will send his angel before thee.” (Genesis 24:7) In our Gospel lectionary reading for today from Matthew 18:10 Jesus says, “See that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father who is in heaven." After Jesus’ birth, an angel warns Joseph in a dream to take Mary and the child to Egypt because Herod is going to try to kill the boy. An angel also te