Here we are on the last Sunday of June. We have had an incredible week. The weather has been wonderful. I can’t remember a stretch of beautiful weather like we have had. The daytime has been sunny – except for yesterday. We have had rain overnight and some rain yesterday, but over all we haven’t had a stretch of weather like this since before winter arrived.
It was a great week of Vacation Bible School. We did the Go Fish Guys, “Backstage with the Bible. While we didn’t have many children, we did have a great time. Here’s a little recap video.
Not only did we have Vacation Bible School, but we had our grandkids here all week. It was great fun – and on both ends of the time together we had Chick-fil-A. Our grand daughter Anna finally got over her stranger danger and we both enjoyed that.
Currently our family is watching Apollo Moonshot. July is the 50th Anniversary of man stepping on the moon.
We had a good worship service this morning – playing the recap video and singing some of the VBS songs as well as doing our regular worship. I preached about Jonah. Our series this summer is called “This Ain’t Hollywood.” We are going to look at some of the stories in the Old Testament.
So, that brings me to the end of tonight’s update. Have a great one!
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. So they went on to another village.
As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”
He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”
The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”
But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”
Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”
But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
This week we find ourselves in Luke’s gospel. Luke is about halfway through his account of Jesus’ life and starts today’s passage with this…As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven…Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
Each one of the gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, write in a different way. Luke sets up Jesus on a journey, and that journey is to Jerusalem. Interestingly enough, Luke tells us that Jesus was going to go from Galilee to Jerusalem by way of Samaria. Apparently this was Jesus’ standard protocol, instead of the typical way the Jewish people did things. Samaria was a piece of land between Galilee and Jerusalem. Most Jews would end up avoiding Samaria altogether – they would cross over the Jordan, follow up the east bank until they passed Samaria and then cross the river again. John and Luke record Jesus going through Samaria. Now in this case the people of Samaria weren’t too fond of Jesus coming through. We don’t know exactly why, but Jesus’ people come back and tell him that Samaria doesn’t want him.
I was about to write that it must have been James and John (the Sons of Zebedee) or otherwise known as the Sons of Thunder, who wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy the village – but then noticed Luke included this detail. Jesus rebukes James and John and tells them, we will go to another village.
This is where it gets interesting. First, a man approaches Jesus. He tells Jesus, I will follow you where ever you go. Jesus gives a very curious reply. He reminds him that the cost of following Jesus is very high – high enough that even though the animals of the earth have homes – the Son of Man (or Jesus) does not. Jesus is an itinerant preacher. His disciples follow Him where ever He goes. They might not even know where they are spending the night. As a pastor, we have had those times when we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from. Several years ago, we were between ministry assignments and we didn’t know what God had in store. The question is, are you willing to follow even when you don’t know the plan – even when you don’t know where you are going to lay down your head? Many Christ-followers around the world are not like us here in America – we have our religious freedom. There are Christ-followers who are fearing for their very lives simply because they follow Jesus. They don’t know if their house may be burned down – whether their children might be taken away – whether they might go to prison – but they follow. This is what Jesus was asking the first man to do – and he was unwilling.
Then instead of hearing how more show up to follow Jesus, we hear now that Jesus is asking others to follow Him. Jesus asks them to preach the Good News of the Kingdom. But again they have issues. They want to follow Christ, but are unwilling to pay the price. The first man says, “I will follow you, but I want to bury my father.” Now at first glance, Jesus’ response seems harsh, but Jesus knows this man’s father has not yet died. The man is not ready to pay the cost of leaving family. It’s a tough thing to leave family to preach the gospel. Pam and I have been there. We know what it feels like to pay that price.
Another man who was asked to preach the Good News said, “Let me say good-bye to my family.” Again Jesus’ response seems harsh, but this was an excuse to delay doing what every believer has been called to do and that is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ at any cost. Every believer has been called by God to preach the Good News. For some, it may cost everything they have…for others it might be different. The cost for each person is different, but the call is the same. Are you willing to pay the cost of following Jesus – and the call to preach the Good News.
Wow, that about sums up tonight. It’s been an amazing day…from the moment we got up…to the final light of day…which is just about now. We serve an amazing God. This past week, Pam and I have been preparing for Vacation Bible School, which started tonight. We also have our grandkids and our daughter with us. We picked them up the other night in Syracuse. It has been wonderful to have them.
This morning, we had a wonderful service. Revs. Steve and Ruth Strand who head up a wonderful ministry in Buffalo were here. Their ministry is called Urban Advocacy – it is a ministry that ministers to the least of these. I loved hearing their stories of Kingdom building.
Following worship, we had an International Dinner. Anna made some Tikki Masala and I made some Chicken Souvlaki. There was nothing left of my dish so we may reprise it this week while Rebecca is here. The rest of the afternoon was spent preparing for night one of Vacation Bible School. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. We are doing “Backstage with the Bible” by Go Fish Resources. It is great stuff – high energy. I think the kids really enjoyed it as well as several adults who were here.
Vacation Bible School will occupy most of the rest of the week, but each day, we get rid of stuff in our dining room. I think that’s about all I have for today. Below are a few pictures from tonight’s Bible School. Blessings…
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I pulled back a little last week, so I wanted to increase this week. As I look back I was able to get in 6 more miles. I was able to run 4 times this week. This is one of my goals for the rest of the summer – 4 runs a week. This was a week of ups and downs and trying to keep my schedule with some summer school bus runs and trying to avoid the raindrops. But I did good. Yesterday’s six miler was beautiful, but I struggled today. I was planning on a six miler, but just after mile two, I had some dizziness and felt I should back off. Also I didn’t want to be running on the back side of the river trail – which is paved, but not heavily used early in the day. If I ran into trouble, I wanted to be near traffic, so I stayed on the sidewalk and ran back to the Y, where Pam was working out. It shortened my run by 1.5 miles. For the month I am at 88.8 miles, so it looks like I will make 100 miles for the first time this year, but still leave me short of my goal of 125 – which was last June’s total. Still with yesterday’s good run, I feel like I am making progress. That is what keeps me going and pressing on – pressing toward the goal!
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
So they arrived in the region of the Gerasenes, across the lake from Galilee. As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in the tombs outside the town.
As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down in front of him. Then he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had already commanded the evil spirit to come out of him. This spirit had often taken control of the man. Even when he was placed under guard and put in chains and shackles, he simply broke them and rushed out into the wilderness, completely under the demon’s power.
Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, for he was filled with many demons. The demons kept begging Jesus not to send them into the bottomless pit.
There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby, and the demons begged him to let them enter into the pigs.
So Jesus gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned.
When the herdsmen saw it, they fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons. He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed. And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them.
So Jesus returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake. The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.
When I looked at this scripture, my mind went back to a series that I preached while we were in Martinsville, VA. I would say that it was one of my more successful series that I preached while there. It was based on the CD that Casting Crowns released called “Lifesong.” I preached a series of messages taken from the titles of the songs on the CD. Most of the messages included the song. I still remember the reaction I got from this message. This series was before the recession of 2008, but Martinsville experienced it early. Many of the furniture factories and fabric mills had already moved further south or overseas. People were used to dropping out of high school and getting a great paying job…but when the factories moved…they didn’t take the employees with them for the most part. This left people hopeless. It left people with a great distrust of authority…including preachers. Many turned to alcohol and drugs…this was long before the current opioid crisis.
Not only did this effect older people, but it affected teens and pre-teens. Our ministry in Martinsville was a unique one. We had two churches – our Sunday church and our Wednesday night church. While we were there, bus ministry was still a thing, so we would go pick up kids for church, have a time of musical worship, send them to their classes and then finish with a hot meal. Many of our students would not receive a hot meal, except for school. The students came from all sorts of situations.
As you can see, this would leave many people feeling trapped. In many ways our current ministry is in a similar situation. Many like to talk about the urban poor, but not many like to talk about the rural poor. Here in rural McKean County, the opioid crisis is real. It is real in the neighboring counties in both PA and NY. People are looking for ways to break the chains, but they find themselves trapped – whether it be sex, porn, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, etc.
I this week’s passage, Jesus is confronted with a man called Legion – a man trapped with 1,000’s of demons. While he can physically break any chain, he is trapped. How this man ended up demon-possessed we don’t know. We do know that he came to Jesus for help and the demons were afraid. Let’s face it, demons know who Jesus is.
Jesus doesn’t need many words to cast out the demons – after all everything is under his authority. Jesus puts the demons out into a herd of pigs and they throw themselves over a cliff.
What demons do you feel trapped by? It could be any number of things…it could be one of the things that I listed above. Jesus is the one that can set you free. That is His desire, if only we ask in faith.