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“Pronoun Jamboree”

Micah 7: 18-20: “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depth of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from days of old.” In writing about God, Israel, and their rebellious sin, Micah uses alternately the second person and third person for God, and both the first person plural and third person for Israel. Why the bad grammar? Perhaps to highlight the al

“Strange Command”

Matthew 20: 21b: “[The mother of James and John said to Jesus]’Command that in Your Kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right and one on your left.’” Think about it: if Jesus gives a command based on the command that the mother of His disciples gave to Him, who is really giving the command? What’s behind this? If the disciples argued among themselves about who was the greatest, surely their mothers (or mothers-in-law, in Peter’s case) did the same. Even today, this is the context of far too many church “discussions”, which end in sheep commanding their shepherd to give the commands they as sheep deem proper and suitable. Oddly, we call it prayer....

“E.T. Is Home”

1 Peter 2: 11: “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.” As Christians, some days we do feel like aliens—every effort we make to resist temptation makes us seem odd to everyone else! If we are aliens to them, they are alien to the Kingdom of God, and as aliens, one day they will be deported. As Jesus says, the stumbling block will be removed (Matthew 13: 41) and this earth will be inhabited exclusively by those for whom it was created.

“Judgment for Esau”

Obadiah 15: “As you have done, it will be done to you, your dealings will return on your own head.” We are familiar with how this principle applies to individuals (Psalm 7: 16), but it also works with nations. The nation of Edom (the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother) had persecuted and mocked Israel as they were being conquered by Babylon, and now, as Obadiah says, it was payback time. Likewise, our nation must operate as a righteous nation, or it will reap the wages of unrighteousness. After all, has anyone heard from Edom lately?

“Strange Question”

Matthew 19: 17b-18a: “Jesus said, ‘If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ The man said to Jesus, ‘Which ones?’” What a question! Did Moses ever say, “I’ve got some commandments here for you, and you can keep the ones you like best”? Did God ever hint that man could be selective in his obedience? No, and no. It’s just another case of man playing “Make Your Own Religion,” a game God does not play.

“Well Connected”

Psalm 106: 2, 3: “Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord, or can show forth all His praise? How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times.” At first these two verses seem arbitrarily placed next to each to each other, with no connection. Maybe not. What if verse three is the answer to the question posed in verse two? We speak of God’s might by keeping justice, and we show forth all His praise by practicing righteousness. In other words, we preach by our actions, and worship with our lives as much as, if not more than, with our lips. With God, little or nothing is arbitrary.

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Walking in Christ's Kingdom”

Jeremiah 23:1-6 Psalm 46 Colossians 1:13-20 Luke 23:35-43 We are here to know God and to make Him known. This is our Diocesan Mission Statement. In everything we do, it is geared towards this statement. Today is the Feast of Christ the King. We celebrate His kingship; we declare the Lord as King! The first thing that Jesus said when He started His ministry was, “Repent!” because the Kingdom is at hand. The Kingdom is here! Repentance means to change your mind and to renew it. The Kingdom is at our grasp and within our reach. It is not out there, up in the sky but right here! ! The time has come to renew ourselves in preparation. It doesn’t mean that we become more spiritual or more

Feast of Christ the King: The Kingship of Christ

Jesus is King, not president, not prime minister. That means He's not voted in or out as democracy dictates. That means His term and reign are permanent. That means absolute allegiance and obedience are due to Him. That means if He is our King, He is the center of our lives. Christians of the first century proclaimed that Jesus is Lord. This was clearly considered rebellion against the dominant empire ruling over almost one-fourth of the earth. The emperor was the acknowledged lord of this kingdom and of the individual lives of his subjects. To say there is another lord was a crime punishable by crucifixion. What the followers of Jesus were proclaiming was that He is the true Lord and King a

“Forgiveness on Steroids”

Matthew 18: 21, 22: “’Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” This question was triggered by the previous instruction (vv. 15-20), when a hypothetical brother refused to forgive when he was asked to. Jesus’ answer to Peter is saying that this should never be the outcome. And when He says to treat the one who did not extend forgiveness as a Gentile and tax-collector, He means to pray for him until he is converted. The number of chances is not the issue; Jesus wants us to keep at it until forgiveness is offered and received.

“Has Anyone Seen My Menorah?”

1 Maccabees 4: 36, 56: “Then said Judas and his brothers, ‘Behold, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it’ … So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise.” The victories God gives are always for the purpose of facilitating worship. This feast, the Feast of the Dedication, is still celebrated today, under the name of Chanukah. If it seems strange to you, remember: Jesus celebrated it (John 10: 22, 23) and made no apologies.

“Road to Emmaus”

1 Maccabees 4: 13, 14; 24: “Then the men with Judas blew their trumpets and engaged them in battle. The Gentiles were crushed and fled into the plain … On their return they sang hymns and praises to Heaven.” After being threatened by the Greeks for years, Judas the Maccabean (meaning, The Hammer) got serious and whipped a force much larger than his own, just like in the glory days of David and his army. The battle site? The village of Emmaus. No wonder the Lord let it figure in the Resurrection Day story (Luke 24: 13), to be an image of the great victory Christ had won!

“Realtor’s Dream”

Revelation 21: 16: “And the city is laid out as a square … and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.” Why does the New Jerusalem need a wall that high? That’s five times higher than the edge of the earth’s atmosphere. For sure, you’d have no problems with burglars! Actually, the Lord is showing us here the Trinity (L x W x H all equal) and the fact that there is no property shortage in Heaven. With the city limits that large, there’s plenty of room for everyone!

“Sheep-in-Charge?”

Psalm 100: 3: “Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He Who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” When we try to approach God under the framework of being co-partners on an equal standing with Him, it just doesn’t work. The foundation of Covenant is knowing Who’s in charge. With God, it’s Him; not us. We’re sheep; not supervisors. We are the created, not the Creator. This makes His love more, not less; for it seems the higher His transcendence, the greater His love.

“Give It Up!”

Revelation 20: 13: “And the sea gave up the sea which were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them….” How can God resurrect from the dead someone who has been cremated? Does the Bible even say He does such a thing? Yes, it says that all the dead are raised, no exception. If God can make the sea give up its dead, all of whom have long been devoured by scavengers both monstrous and microscopic, can He not, will He not, make the dead from the mortuary oven rise again? Their body might look a bit different (as in better), but it will still be the resurrected form of the body God gave them at birth.

“Walking in Unfeigned Trust”

THE WIDOW Sometimes the point of this story is debated. Is Jesus advocating for all to “Go, sell everything you have, give to the poor, and come follow me”? He said it to the rich young ruler, perhaps now he expands the command to cover all. But there is another way to hear this parable. What if Jesus isn’t using the widow as an object lesson; perhaps the point is the simple fact that Jesus notices her. That is not a given. Note that Luke records that Jesus is watching “the crowd putting money into the treasury.” Moreover, “many rich people put in large sums.” Yet despite that fact that she is just one in a crowd, and that many people were putting in significantly larger sums, Jesus’ atten

“Can You Make Jesus Stumble?”

Matthew 16: 23: “But Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, satan! You are a stumbling block to Me.’” I don’t know what’s worse to be called: Satan, or a stumbling block to Jesus. Think about it, how hard it would be to make Jesus stumble! Also, remember what fate Jesus said awaited stumbling blocks. (Matthew 18: 7) But from this auspicious beginning (and it got even worse, i.e. Holy Week), Peter ended up pretty good. Can we see in this the power residing in the mercy and grace of God?

“Heavy Revvy”

Matthew 16: 16: “And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” Do we give Peter enough credit here? Very few people at that time understood that the Christ was the Son of God, and even fewer recognized that Jesus was the Christ. Today, we have a problem with many who don’t even believe that God is alive. But Peter hit it on all three points! But, just to make sure he didn’t get proud….

“Regrettable Relapse”

1 Maccabees 1: 11: “In those days lawless men came forth from Israel, and misled many, saying, ‘Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles round about us, for since we separated from them many evils have come upon us.’” Less than 250 years after Israel’s re-establishment, they are once again under threat from the Gentiles; this time, the Greeks. But rather than remain faithful to the God Who has delivered them against so many other kingdoms, they blame God, rather than their own faithlessness, for their past problems. The rest of this chapter, and the entire Book of Maccabees, shows us the tragic results of that choice. What can today’s people of God learn from this?

“Bang-up Beginning”

Nehemiah 8: 3:“And Ezra read from the Law before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the Law.” The people had returned, the temple was rebuilt, and a wall once more protected Jerusalem. Were the people grateful to God? The fact that they stood, lifting their hands to Him, worshipping Him, and listening to His Word for six straight hours would imply in the affirmative. It was a great start to the post-exilic period! But did it last?

“Wanted: Steadfastness”

Psalm 78: 36, 37: “But they deceived God with their mouth, and lied to Him with their tongue. For their heart was not steadfast toward Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant.” The next three days gives us a great object lesson in the need to be faithful and consistent to God. We already saw last week how the unfaithfulness of the people led to their exile from the Promised Land, and how, in His mercy and faithfulness, the Lord still brought them home. But did the exile give His people steadfast hearts? At first, it seemed so, as we will see tomorrow.

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