Sunday March 17 the
2nd Sunday of Lent
lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord, who
made heaven and earth.
will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor
Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your
shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the
moon by night.
Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep your going out and your
coming in from
this time on and forevermore.
John 3:1-7 Nicodemus Visits Jesus
3 Now there was a Pharisee
named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by
night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from
God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see
the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus
said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a
second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered,
“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born
of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and
what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished
that I said to you, ‘You] must be born from above.’
Lets us take a few moments and ponder this
man Nicodemus. As a leader among the
Jews, Nicodemus was supposed to have a bead on his faith and his position in
the world. He was a Pharisee, which
meant he was supposed to be an expert on the Law. He was a member of the Sanhedrin court, the
highest body among the Jewish religion whose seventy-one members included great
scribes, legal experts, and religious figures; including the High Priest
himself, who served as president. Most
of its members were Sadducees, making Nicodemus even more special as one of the
few Pharisees chosen to serve. He would
have also been very busy with all of his duties and responsibilities. All of this might also have led to him being
at least a little on the prideful side.
We are not told what made this great and
learned man was compelled to trust in Jesus enough to seek out His
counsel. This would have been very
unusual behavior for anyone in his position.
However, something was bothering Him that only Jesus could help
with. Whatever it was, it led Nicodemus
to risk embarrassment by going and talking to this man who was nor prominent
among either sect of Judaism nor very popular with the establishment by this
point. So what led him to go?
We notice that he went under the cover of
darkness. Perhaps this was because he
was a prominent man and did not want to be seen consorting with those lower
than him. Perhaps he was a busy man by
day and had to do such business at night.
Perhaps his pride would not let him be seen asking advice from such a
man as this. We are not told why he
chose the time; but perhaps he, like many of us when troubled with a deep
issue, could not face another sleepless night without answers.
What we do know is what was troubling
him. He seemed to need to know how to
attain the salvation which Jesus spoke so highly of. He must have realized he was not right with
God and needed something deeper. In our
vernacular, Nicodemus was “under conviction” because he realized he was
“lost”. If this is truly the case, he
needed to know how to enter into right relationship with God.
Jesus of course had the answer, Nicodemus
had to be “born from above” and “born
of water and Spirit”, what we call being “born again” and baptized. The great blessing for Nicodemus was that he
lived as a contemporary of Jesus and seemingly knew where he was in the city.
Many of us know from experience that all are, like Nicodemus, in need of the
salvation offered by and thru Jesus the Christ.
Though we cannot simply go across town and meet with Jesus at the local
coffee shop or His local apartment. We
must contact Jesus in another way.
Though we might see this as a weakness; it perhaps is far better than
the way Nicodemus had to do it.
we find/found ourselves lost and under conviction, we do/did not have to go
find one man in a specific place to get that which we need(ed). In fact, we do/did not even have to go to
church; though many do. All we had/have
to do is hit our knees and make an altar where we are at; whether that altar is
our bedside, car dash, tree stump, etc.
It is not the location which makes the experience happen; it is our
humility and God’s loving grace. We are
born again when we answer the call of Jesus in the positive way when He passes
by and says to us, “come follow me.”
was seeking an answer to a question he had never heard asked. He wanted to know what someone had to do to
see the Kingdom of God. Jesus told him
what he really was asking was how to inherit the Kingdom. In other words, Jesus knew what Nicodemus
really wanted to know but was unsure of how to ask was, “How does one become a
true child of God, adopted into the family of God, and co-heir with the Son of
answer took Nicodemus aback a little.
His learned and legalistic mind could not understand the answer at
first, but would some understand and become one of Jesus’ greatest
disciples. It was he who would later go
with Joseph of Arimethea and request the body of Jesus so He could have a
proper burial before the Sabbath.
Nicodemus went out in the dark that night to figure out who this Jesus was. He returned that night not only knowing Jesus, but knowing his true self. No more was his life defined by his education, his position, or his pride. It was no longer defined by WHO he was. It was now defined by WHOSE he was; for he knew what it meant to be “born again.”
Sunday February 24
Scriptures: Genesis 45:3-15
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father
still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And
they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into
Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed, or angry with
yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve
life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years;
and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor
harvest. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant
on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was
not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord
of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry
and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made
me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10 You
shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your
children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and
all that you have. 11 I will provide for you there—since there
are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all
that you have, will not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes
and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to
you. 13 You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in
Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then
he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his
neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and
after that his brothers talked with him.
Luke 6:27-36 Love for
I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless
those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone
strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away
your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone
who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them
again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what
credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If
you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even
sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope
to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to
receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and
lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be
children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be
merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Let’s be honest. It is hard to love
people we don’t like and even harder to love those who just do not like us. Call them enemies or whatever; they are the
people who often get on our nerves because of their attitudes, personalities,
or behaviors. We do not like to be
around them, talk about them, or even associate with them in any way. Many of these people are the ones who go out
of their way to hurt us, belittle us, an even bully us. Whether this abuse is verbal, emotional, or
even physical, we all have good reason to not like them and even avoid them at
all costs. However, Jesus tells us we must love them. That’s right; LOVE THEM.
Perhaps one of the hardest things we need to do as Christians and have to do
to really call ourselves Christians is to love those who dislike and even hate
us. It is often not only really hard and
may even seem impossible to love those who are our enemies. It would be so much easier to hate them
back. No, we may not have it in us to do
them harm; we simply just want to avoid them and wish them ill fortune. Unfortunately for our human sensibilities,
this is not how we are supposed to live our lives as Christians. Just the opposite; we are supposed to go out
of our way to treat our enemies just as we would our friends. If they are in trouble, we help them; if they
are hungry, we feed them; whatever their needs, we are to treat them with
respect and kindness.
In the ancient Mid-eastern culture, and even some parts of that world today,
it was customary to Play the good host to all who found themselves at your tent
door; even your enemies. In fact, you
were expected to host them for three days without question. Turning away a friend, stranger, or even an
enemy in such a harsh climate could spell death for them, especially if they
were already tired, hungry, and thirsty.
This went far beyond rendering basic aid; this meant feeding and sharing
space with even those who may have been looking to do you harm. This is the type of action we see in the
parable of the Good Samaritan. And Jesus
was/is telling us that we should do the same for our enemies. This is not to
say you have to invite them over for a weekend long sleep-over, but you do have
to treat them as you would anyone else in need.
Oh, it’s not easy. It may not even be
safe in some instances. However, it is
what we are expected to do if we are to live a Christian life and follow the
example of our LORD and Savior.
Remember, Jesus asked God the Father to forgive the very people who were
killing Him. That would be hard and
might even be beyond our concept of loving our enemies. How can you love someone who is responsible
for your death and the death of others?
History is full of the un-lovable; tyrant, killer, monsters.
Ok, so maybe we can love the guy at work who used office politics to get the
job we felt we had earned honestly.
Maybe you can love the lady who cut you off in traffics just so she
could turn at the next intersection. You
might even be able to love person who took your favorite parking spot. But how do you love someone who both you and
the entire culture deems monstrous; men like Adolf Hitler and Charles
Manson. Sure their mothers probably
loved them, at least at one point, but how are we supposed to put aside our
disgust and love someone like that. You
do it by remembering two simple truths.
First, God does not make trash and all people have sacred worth. Second, you have to remember that God loves
them just as God loves you; for better or worse. No. it is not easy, but it is what we are
called to do when we become a child of God and a co-heir to the Kingdom.
P.S. You also have to pray about it, because it is often something you cannot do alone and always requires a change in yourself that can only be brought about by the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday February 17
Scriptures: Jeremiah 17:5-10
5 Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the Lord.
6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
8 They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.
9 The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it?
10 I the Lord test
and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings.
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there
is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection
of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ
has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has
been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God,
because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it
is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are
not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has
not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then
those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19 If for
this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from
the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.
formal training in the art of rhetoric really shines in this passage. His ability to use well constructed words and
phrases to persuade others served him well here and in many other cases during
his career as an Apostle. Many scholars
believe he was not as charismatic or visually appealing as his Greek
counterpart Apollos, but what he lacked in those areas he made up for with
mastery of verbal persuasion. We see
this when he “almost” convinces Agrippa to convert to Christianity and we see a
brilliant example of his skill in the argument he made here in this passage.
what a brilliant argument it was and still is.
Using his earlier argument for the Resurrection of Jesus as a platform,
Paul is now lifting up our resurrection in the future. His argument arose from an issue involving
the denial of Jesus’ Resurrection by some in the Corinthian church and
beyond. His argument stems from the fact
that if it were not Jesus’ Resurrection that we would have no hope of our
resurrection; which in turn negates the story and power of the Gospel. In other words, if you do not believe in
Resurrection of Jesus, then you cannot believe in ours and all hope is
Evidently this is what was happening with some in
Corinth. They were denying the Resurrected
Jesus, which means they were denying the resurrection of all. Of course, we know that our resurrection will
not have the same effect as Jesus’ or even those raised during His or the Apostles
days. We will not rise from the death bed
or the tomb and wander again with those yet to die. However, we will rise in new bodies in the
next life. This was hard for some to
grasp. Evidently, they were under the
impression that those who died in Christ would again walk with them on this
earth as did Lazarus and Dorcas.
However, Paul sets the record straight that this was not the true
resurrection. The true resurrection for
us will be permanent and everlasting.
Lazarus, along with the many others who were raised before, during, and
after the earthly ministry of Jesus, went on to pass again from this life. We will also pass into the next, but then be
resurrected in a new body.
What a wonderful gift. We will not only receive everlasting life though an act of resurrection, we will live that life in a new body. It matters little whether that body is just a better non-flawed version of our current body, or if it is something different. We cannot be truly sure what is meant by a “glorified body.” We know Jesus still had the wounds and scars of the Crucifixion when He appeared to the Disciples before the Ascension. What matters is that this future body will be whole and in the presence of the Creator. Christ’s Resurrection provided a path for our resurrection. Our resurrection is our current hope and future reward; grounded in our faith and supplied by the grace of God.
Sunday February 3
I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you
seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom
you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But
who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he
will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the
descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present
offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and
Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the
days of old and as in former years.
14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he
himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy
the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and
free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For
it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of
Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and
sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high
priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of
the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he
suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
we hear the word “emancipation”most
of us think about the“Emancipation Proclamation”
signed by President Abraham Lincoln in January 1, 1863 which provided legal
freedom from slavery to African Americans in the United States. However, emancipation is a word with several meanings. It can refer to the process of giving people
social or political freedom and rights; as in the case above. It can refer to the act of allowing a minor
to take on adult responsibilities and freedoms, usually due to a unique set of
circumstances. It can also refer to the
act of freeing a person from another person’s control; the definition which
applies to us this week.
we are born innocent of sins of our own, each of us was born in a fallen state
due to the curse of original sin. We
were born in a yet to be redeemed broken world.
We also have been a slave to sin and as a citizen of the world, ruled
either directly or indirectly by Satan.
This also makes us a slave to death, which is the wages of sin. This is a terrible state in which to be found
is for this reason Jesus was born. He
came to teach and show the world a better way.
He died to pay for the sins of those who would walk in that way. His death and subsequent Resurrection was and
still is our “Emancipation Proclamation” releasing us from the rule of Satan
and sin. Though we can still sin, for
those saved by the grace of God, it is no longer our natural state. The mark of Original Sin has been erased, as
has our pre-salvation self-applied sin mark. We have been made free by the grace
of God and the blood of Christ.
for many of us, it is hard to live into that freedom. In our Communion liturgy, we thank God that
we have been freed for “Joyful Obedience” which may seem too many of us as an
oxymoron. How can we be both free and
fully obedient? We are at the same time
free children of God and servants to the Gospel. This is only possible because of the power of
Jesus’ love and His great sacrifice.
Jesus tells us that His yoke and His burden for us are light.
who has ever bore the burden of guilt, shame, and various other issues related
to sin, know how heavy they can be.
Being a slave to sin breaks us down and destroys our self-esteem and our
relationships. It makes us less than we
is where the real difference between slave and servant come into focus. Slaves to sin are owned and are therefore not
paid for their labors; their only reward is death. Whereas, servants of the Gospel are given
compensation for their labors and rewarded in many ways, both in this life and
The gift of emancipation is a wonderful gift given freely to us, paid for by the blood of Christ. It is nothing we can earn, purchase, or barter for. It can only come from one greater than us; one who has the power to defeat the old forces of sin and evil. Original Sin could only have been defeated by one older that itself. This means only the LORD could provide an adequate solution to the problem of sin and death. In doing so, He provided us with emancipation from that which seeks to destroy us, evil, sin, and our own human frailty.
Sunday January 27
Scriptures: Nehemiah 8:9-10
9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and
scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day
is holy to the Lord your God; do
not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the
law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and
drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is
prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord;
and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord
is your strength.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-26 One Body
with Many Members
just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body,
though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the
one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or
free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the
foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that
would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the
ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that
would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole
body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing,
where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God
arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If
all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is,
there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to
the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no
need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that
seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of
the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our
less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas
our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the
body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that
there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same
care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer
together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Body Many Members”
We quite often refer to the church as the
Body of Christ, but do we really know what that means. Do we really take that metaphor to
heart? Notice, I said metaphor not
simile. This is an important distinction
that needs to be made. A simile is used
when we say something is like something else.
A metaphor is used when we say something is something else. Paul does not say that we the Church are
“like the Body of Christ”; he says we “are the Body of Christ.” Therefore, Paul is not just making a causal
comparison, he is drawing a strong link between the way the human body works
and the way the Body of Christ works.
doing this, Paul lets us know that each of us is important to the function of
the whole body. This also reminds us
that when one part is hurting, we all should feel it. A wonderful illustration of this is seen when
someone visits a chiropractor. If you
hurt your foot and are limping for a long period of time, this will cause your
weight to shift, which in turn affects your back. I have often found, when I visit the
chiropractor, that my back is sore because some other part lower down is not in
the right place.
The same thing is often the case in the
Church. When one person in the
congregation is hurting, for whatever reason, it often causes a ripple effect
across the pews to others. In fact, if
this is not the case, that particular congregation is not healthy. We should feel the pain of others. Just as the body reacts when a certain part
is hurt, we should react when one of our members is in pain.
Of course, we all know people who are
private and keep their pain hidden.
However, this too is an issue. As
a part of the Body of Christ, we should all be willing to share our pain. This does not mean we have to give every
minute detail, but we should be willing to at least let others know we are
hurting. Often we do not do this out of
shame, guilt, or mistrust. We often let
our pride get in the way. These are
issue we must learn to overcome, both as individuals and as a community of
If we are to function properly as the Body
of Christ, we must also be willing to step up when the need arrives. Often we find ourselves missing a part of the
Body. This may be our nature. Like
someone being born blind or deaf. It may
be because of an injury, such as loss of a limb due to combat, or it may be due
to an internal disease within the church, similar to the surgical removal of an
organ damaged by cancer. These things
happen in the Body of Christ just as they do in the human body. This often means another part of the body
must become more efficient. We see this
when a blind person’s hearing becomes more acute. In the Church, this often manifests as
someone taking on a new role.
The bottom line of all of this is that we are supposed to function together as one unit; one body with many members, just as our own body functions. This means there are those who are meant to be seen and/or heard; and there are those who must work on the inside. This can cause a lot of health issues if we let pride, greed, or envy get in the way. We often do not get to choose our gift received from God and therefore our place in the Body. Just as with our own body, the Body of Christ works best when each part does that which it is called to do. None of us can run as well while walking on our hands or write as well when using our feet. We must be obedient to our place for the Body to do its best work.