Prayer for the Week

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

March Running Update

It’s Saturday and normally on Saturday I do a weekly running update, but since it’s the last Saturday of March and I won’t run tomorrow, I figured March is done so it’s time for an update.

March continues the string of mainly inside running – indoor track and treadmills – although last Wednesday, I went out for an outdoor run. I was able to complete 72.87 miles in March, which is much better than last year’s 20 miles in March. I have completed 174 miles this year – not where I would like to be but 60 miles ahead of last year. The last two weeks have put a serious crimp in my style but hopefully April will be different – mainly in regards to my schedule.

This morning I did run on the indoor track at the Y in a three segment workout. The first three miles were a run at a 10:30 pace – not too bad and I was pushing it and could feel it. The next mile was at a 14:14 walk pace and then I decided to kick it up – I was able to do a 1 mile run at just over a 9 minute mile pace…It WAS AWESOME. So faster times are possible.

That about wraps it up and I continue to PRESS ON!

Lost and Found

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Joshua 5:9-12 • Psalm 32 • 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 • Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

So Jesus told them this story:

“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

Luke brings us to Jesus’ parables of lost things. In today’s passage we look specifically at the Parable of the Lost Son. The parable is rich and has so many applications – depending on which way you look. But if you think about it – the prodigal son is us – he is the everyman in this story. This is a story of us.

Pam and I have been reading a devotional during Lent called “Finding Life: From Eden to Gethsamane – the Garden Restored” – (Link) by Jane Rubietta. It is a great reminder of how God created us and gave to us paradise in the garden of Eden, but we weren’t satisfied with it and thought we could do better – we tried, but we didn’t do very good. Jesus came to die on the cross so that paradise could be restored.

This is really the story of the Prodigal Son. The son had it all – he had his father’s riches, but he decided that he knew better. He asked his Father for his portion of the inheritance – his father gave it to him – and he set off and soon spent it all in wild living. A famine comes to the land and the boy ends up feeding pigs – a real offense to a good Jewish boy. He longs to eat even the slop. At this point he comes to his senses and realizes that even the servants back home eat better than this.

He makes several promises – he determines that he will repent – and except any punishment his father deals out and even live as a servant – believing he is outside the realm of the father’s love.

As he reaches the gate of his father’s house, the father is looking for the son and runs to meet his lost son. The son recites his promises, but all the time the father is so happy that his son has returned and sets up a big party. It’s an interesting theme in all of the parables found in chapter 15. There is joy in finding things that are lost.

The father represents God. God the Father longs to see his children repent and come back to him. God the Father longs to throw a welcome home party for us.

And yet the reason Jesus told this story was for the so-called religious elite. The Pharisees were upset that Jesus was hanging around sinful people. The Pharisees in this story are the older brother. They too could have what the younger son had – if only they had asked. The father says, “You don’t have to be jealous, we should all be rejoicing for what was once lost is now found.”

We are reminded that we need to show everyone the love of God – to tell everyone of the amazing love of God who relentlessly pursues us.

Sunday Night Thoughts

We are home from choir practice as we continue to rehearse for our community Palm Sunday concert. Our community choir is doing a great job. We are a few voices shorter than we were last year. For a small community, we have a great group of singers. One of the things we are doing differently is that I am directing the choir, but on several songs, I am playing guitar along with our regular piano accompaniment.

Its been a busy week. Since it is the Lenten season, we had a weekly luncheon on Wednesday. I lead the musical worship, so it makes for a long day, especially with three different bus runs. Our church also provided the food this week, so it was a little crazy on Wednesday.

Thursday we went north to Buffalo for our monthly Leadership Development meeting with other district pastors. We had some great discussion on being disciples.

Saturday, we were up early for a church trip to Cartwright’s. This is a “local” pancake house that is only open from mid-February to mid-April. We had 15 people go and we had a great time. It was busy because this weekend was Maple Weekend in Western New York.

This morning it was time to worship and the day started cold but with beautiful blue skies. We gathered for worship and God met us in a special way. I am so thankful for the way the Holy Spirit has been working in our midst. Following worship, we had the aforementioned choir rehearsal and now we are relaxing and getting ready for a new week.

I look forward to what God has in store this week!

Running Update

I wanted to write this yesterday. It’s a short update because not much happened this week. I did get in 16 miles this week. 5 miles on an indoor track on Tuesday. 6 miles outside – my first time outside since January – when I ran in Florida and then 5 miles on the treadmill on Friday. This brings me to 57 miles for the month. I was really hoping to be near 200 miles by the end of March, but I am going to miss that goal. But the good thing is the weather is getting better and I can always run on the treadmill on Wednesday through Fridays. We all of that said, next week it will be an end of month update. Pressing On!

Prayer for the Week

Third Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Repentance and Grace

Third Sunday in Lent | March 24, 2019

Isaiah 55:1-9 • Psalm 63:1-8 • 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 • Luke 13:1-9

About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”

Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’

“The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’”

Luke 13:1-9 New Living Translation (NLT)

As we continue looking at the Gospel of Luke, we come upon this curious account. Last week, we looked at the Pharisee’s coming to Jesus to warn him that Herod wanted his head on a platter (so to speak.) This week, again we have people coming to Jesus – not so much to warn him – but to inform him of goings on in Jerusalem. We find out that some people from Galilee – the region in which Jesus was ministering – were killed by Pilate while they were offering sacrifices at the Temple.

Before we go on, it is important to note that we often see Pilate with compassionate eyes because of his dealings with Jesus on the day of his crucifixion. But Pilate was ruthless. He was not going to let anyone stand in his way. I believe in many ways, he was more powerful and ruthless than Herod himself.

Jesus finds out that people from Galilee had been murdered by Pilate – and then he proposes a question, “Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Perhaps the people who came and told Jesus this did think that. After all, it was part of their culture. If you were following God and his commandments, you would be blessed. If you didn’t, you would suffer. Just look at the writings of Job. This philosophy is written all over in the early part of those writings.

Jesus very sternly reminds the people that all will perish! UNLESS they do to things. Interestingly enough, we have heard these words before:

Repent of your sins and turn to God (or as we said them on Ash Wednesday, “Be faithful to the Gospel (or to Christ.)

Luke 13:3

Jesus goes on and gives another example and then repeats:

Unless you repent, you will perish too!

Luke 13:5

Then Jesus tells the parable of the Barren Fig Tree. In this story a farmer has planted a fig tree that refuses to bear fruit – and it continues to not bear fruit for three years – and the farmer has had enough. He tells his gardener to cut it down. BUT the gardener “pleads” to save the life of the tree. He asks the owner to give the tree ONE MORE YEAR. He even tells the owner, I’ll give it special attention – I’ll feed it – I’ll water it – I’ll make sure it is fertilized – all in an effort to see it bear fruit.

Wow. That is a picture of the grace of God. Listen to what Peter writes when people are asking when the Lord will return and why it is taking so long.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

2 Peter 3:9

This is the grace of God. God could come and wipe all who haven’t repented off the face of the earth, but he is rich in mercy – he is rich in grace and doesn’t desire that any should perish without him, but he also desires that we would repent from our sins and follow his ways – to follow after Jesus.

I think this is a reminder that we Christians should not rejoice when the unrepentant perish. We should be doing all that we can to bring them to repentance, so that they can follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ.