Jesus… in the flesh…

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John 12:1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume…”

This is a poignant scene as Mary offers to Jesus an intimate expression of adoration and worship. Can you imagine wiping a man’s feet with your hair? Using perfume to do it? Wow.

This morning I wonder what it was like to have been in Jesus’ physical presence, to have been able to hear his voice or touch his hand. Would it have been possible to tell he was the Son of God or did he appear to be like everyone else? I look forward to the day when I will find out, when I will meet my Lord face to face. Lord, let it be so. Amen.

When a father falls down on the job…

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1 Kings 1:1 King David was old and advanced in years; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm… 5 Now Adonijah son of Haggith (his mother) exalted himself, saying, “I will be king”; he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. 6 His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom. 7 He conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with the priest Abiathar, and they supported Adonijah. 8 But the priest Zadok, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and the prophet Nathan, and Shimei, and Rei, and David’s own warriors did not side with Adonijah.

Back in the book of 2 Samuel, God proclaimed a curse against King David for his wickedness toward Bathsheba and her husband Uriah the Hittite. He was told there would be strife in his household all the days of his life – which there was. First, David’s oldest son Absolom tried to usurp David’s throne but failed. Now the second oldest son emerges, Adonijah. He wanted to do the same thing and assume the throne while his father David was yet alive.

What gets my attention in this passage is in v.6 “His father (David) had never at any time displeased him (Adonijah) by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” In other words David had never held Adonijah accountable for his actions by asking questions or requiring explanations for things. Not a good plan.

In reading this account of betrayal it’s easy to blame the son Adonijah, and in one sense this is right. He’s not a child, but a grown man. That said, plenty of the blame lies with David. When a father doesn’t do his job, the children go awry and everyone suffers. I’m not suggesting that being a good father is easy. It’s not. But fathers have an important job to do – for everyone’s sake. Heavenly Father, helps us fathers live up to the responsibilities which are uniquely ours. Amen.

The promises of God…

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Psalm 119:140 Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it. 141 I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts. 142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law is the truth. 143 Trouble and anguish have come upon me, but your commandments are my delight. 144 Your decrees are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

The bible says that faith is the assurance of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). That is what I see in the psalmist today. He’s obviously in trouble, but is remembering God’s faithfulness in the past and is strengthened by it. Brothers and sisters, God is greater than any difficult circumstances of life. This morning I’m leaning into the promises of God, to help me get moving where I’m stuck, to show me the way where I’m lost. Lord, let it be so. Amen.

The gift of… other people…

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2 Samuel 23:8 These are the names of the warriors whom David had: Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite; he was chief of the Three; he wielded his spear against eight hundred whom he killed at one time. 9 Next to him among the three warriors was Eleazar son of Dodo son of Ahohi. He was with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle. The Israelites withdrew, 10 but he stood his ground. He struck down the Philistines until his arm grew weary, though his hand clung to the sword. The LORD brought about a great victory that day… 11 Next to him was Shammah son of Agee, the Hararite. The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils; and the army fled from the Philistines. 12 But he took his stand in the middle of the plot, defended it, and killed the Philistines; and the LORD brought about a great victory.

In the first verses of chapter 23 (not included above), David describes how God came to his aid and gave him power/favor. Then in our passage for today David describes some of the people God sent to aid/support him in the work he was to do. David didn’t unite the tribes of Israel or conquer other nations alone. He had lots of help, both divine help and human help.

This passage brings to my mind how faithful God has been in sending people to partner with me in every season of life and ministry. Some people are only around for a short time, others for decades. They’re all important and I’m so grateful for them.

I also think about how I’ve been sent to others to support what God had for them to do. It goes both ways doesn’t it? God send us to others and send others to us. Of all the blessings God gives to us, other people are perhaps the greatest blessings. Heavenly Father, thank you. Amen.

A divided nation…

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2 Samuel 19:41 Then all the people of Israel came to the king, and said to him, “Why have our kindred the people of Judah stolen you away, and brought the king and his household over the Jordan, and all David’s men with him?” 42 All the people of Judah answered the people of Israel, “Because the king is near of kin to us. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king’s expense? Or has he given us any gift?” 43 But the people of Israel answered the people of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king, and in David also we have more than you. Why then did you despise us? Were we not the first to speak of bringing back our king?” But the words of the people of Judah were fiercer than the words of the people of Israel. 

In this passage we see division grow between the two sides of the Davidic kingdom – the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. After David’s death the kingdoms would officially separate and have their own kings. And, of course, both kingdoms would eventually be occupied by foreign armies. Splitting up did not turn out to be in either kingdoms long-term interest. It only weakened them and made them vulnerable. Their demise didn’t happen overnight, but the root of demise is visible h

This morning my mind goes to the words of Jesus “A house divided cannot stand.” Israel and Judah are one example of this reality. And I fear the United States is on its way to becoming another. It is a very stressful time in our country, with political/idealogical differences giving way to violence and death. Just this past Saturday 11 worshippers were killed in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Terrible.

Heavenly Father today I pray for unity – in the church and in our nation. Heal our divisions that we might be one. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voices… they are relentless…

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John 10:1 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

In the preceding chapter Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, which got him in trouble with the religious authorities – the Pharisees. In their eyes healing constituted work, which violated the 3rd commandment to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest. They weren’t sure who Jesus was, but the formerly blind man recognized Jesus as the Messiah and worshipped him. In a sense, the blind man could see while the Pharisees were blind in their seeing. In this chapter we move from sight to hearing.

Jesus gives an image of imposters calling the people to follow them. They are described as thieves and bandits while Jesus is the shepherd of the sheep. The sheep hear Jesus’ voice and follow him rather than the thief, who comes to “steal and kill and destroy”.

What comes to mind for me as I reflect on this passage are the multitude of voices that come at me every day. Many of those voices are not for my good. They are external voices telling me to get going, look better, accomplish more, buy more stuff. These voices are relentless, but nowhere near as relentless as the internal voices. I can be my own worst critic. Too often I see all my weaknesses and shortcomings before I see what’s good in me. Then there’s the voice of worry and anxiety telling me I’m getting behind. What am I forgetting? How can I rest when there’s so much left to do?

Today is Friday, which means it’s my Sabbath day. I won’t be working today. I won’t be taking phone calls or returning emails or holding meetings. I’ll be doing my best… to rest. To resist the voices that demand more from me. And I’ll ask the Lord for grace to trust that God’s ways are better than my ways. That I don’t have to perform or produce or satisfy anyone’s expectations apart from those of God. Who calls me to rest today and remember that any fruitfulness my life produces comes as a result of grace.

Lord, today I entrust myself to you. Help me to resist the voices that call me to produce, that I may rest in you. Amen.

The rejected ones…

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John 9:35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out (the man born blind, but then healed), and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. 

There is a lot packed into this passage, but what sticks out for me this morning is the contrast between the conduct of the Pharisees and Jesus. The Pharisees questioned the man born blind, but didn’t like his truthful answers so they drove him away. Jesus, on the other hands, sought him out, offered him grace and blessed him.

I come across people all the time who’ve been rejected by the church for any number of reasons. They didn’t do the right things, or say the right things, or believe in the right ways – so they were driven out. I suppose leaders of the religious establishment (of which I am a part) have always done this sort of thing. I’d like to think I’ve not done this myself, but there may be some who would challenge me on this. It’s something for me to think about for sure.

If there’s one thing we see clearly in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, it’s that Jesus went out of his way to pursue/include/embrace people whom the religious establishment considered unacceptable – the sick, the sinner, the foreigner, the person with the checkered past. And having been rejected by so many, such people tended to respond with surprise, then adoration and loyalty. The man born blind in our passage for today is a good example.

There are so many people in our midst who’ve been rejected over and over. It seems they have no home, no community, no place where they are loved unconditionally. The church was intended to be such a place, a place where people are treated as the children of God they are. I think that’s what it means for the church to be “a city on a hill”. We’re intended to be a place of hope and love for those who have neither. How are we doing with that? How am I doing with that? How are you doing with that?

Lord, give us grace to be a reflection of your love for others, especially the rejected ones. Amen.