What’s Most Important

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost | July 21, 2019

Adriaenssen, Vincent, 1595-1675. Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56209 [retrieved July 19, 2019]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_Adriaenssen_-_Christ_in_the_House_of_Mary_and_Martha.jpg.

Amos 8:1-12 • Psalm 52 • Colossians 1:15-28 • Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 New Living Translation (NLT)

We continue our journey through Luke. Two weeks ago we looked at Jesus sending out his disciples. Last week we looked at the most important commandment. We are in Luke 10 again this week with a short story about Mary and Martha. Luke reminds us again that Jesus is continuing toward Jerusalem. He comes to the house where two sisters live, Mary and Martha. If you are like me, you’ve heard many interpretations about this passage. This afternoon, James and I went out for ice cream and I began to think about this passage again. While my application is similar – it comes with a little twist.

As you remember Martha welcomed Jesus and disciples into her home. If this is the same Mary and Martha who had a brother named Lazarus, they weren’t far from Jerusalem. We don’t get that sense in this passage. Martha is busy preparing a meal. Her sister Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him. We’ve all been there – working on a big dinner – trying to keep up with it all, but we would love someone to help us. Martha doesn’t say anything, but you know how that goes. You are working and working and it seems like nobody even cares. Finally she blurts out to Jesus, “Doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?” She even tells Jesus what she wants out of it, “Tell her to come and help me.”

Jesus gently rebukes Martha, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it…” Ouch. I’m sure that Martha wasn’t expecting that.

So what can we learn from this little exchange? It wasn’t as if Mary was not concerned about the preparations for the meal, but Jesus was here! What would you be more concerned about if Jesus came to visit you in the flesh? Would you concerned what your house looked like? Would you be overly concerned about entertaining him? Apparently this is what distracted Martha, but Mary wanted to hang on to every word. She wanted to know how to follow Jesus more closely. Martha was busy taking care of business. It’s quite like us at times – we are like Martha busy taking care of the business of the church and fail to get close to Jesus – and yet there are those – who aren’t interested in going through the motions – they want to be like Mary and learn from Jesus. This is what discipleship is all about. It’s learning how to be more like Jesus.

But wait…there’s more. What if learning to be more like Jesus also means that we are doers of the Word – doers of Jesus? (James 1:25) Not doers like Martha was – who was simply concerned about the externals…not only listening to Jesus – being a disciple – being a Christ-follower, but doing what He tells us to do. Several weeks ago, I was reminded of this statement: “We are educated well beyond the level of our obedience.” Sometimes we hunger for more and more and more of God’s Word and yet God wants us to act on what we already know. Perhaps this is what Martha was lacking. Jesus knew that she needed to hear more from Himself (God’s Word) in order to obey the Word better. Sometimes we need to listen, but more often we simply need to act on what we already know.


Do This And You Will Live

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost | July 14, 2019

Amos 7:7-17 • Psalm 82 • Colossians 1:1-14 • Luke 10:25-37

Image by falco from Pixabay

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Luke 10:25-37 New Living Translation (NLT)

Following hard on the heals of last week’s passage comes this nugget from the gospel writer Luke. It’s a question that many people have. One of the religious leaders came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Maybe it was a trap – maybe the leader really wanted to know.

Jesus answers the man with question. Isn’t it annoy when someone asks a question to your question? But Jesus knew this man knew the answer. Jesus asks the man, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The ball was now back in the religious leader’s court. He quotes from the Shema (a traditional Jewish prayer.) “Listen, O Israel God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (See Deuteronomy 6:4-5, New Living Translation) – this is part of the law of Moses. Then the man moves on and says, “AND ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus says, “Good answer! Now do this and you will live.” The man had quoted what Jesus said in another gospel when asked what is the greatest commandment. Perhaps this man was there at the time and remembered what Jesus said.

Luke tells us that the man asked another question to justify himself – and perhaps trap Jesus. “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus then tells the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus purposely tells a story that would get the man’s attention. The protagonist of the story is a Samaritan, someone who would not be well thought of by the Jewish people. It’s a story of mercy. The Samaritan shows a Jewish man mercy, when the Jewish men who passed by didn’t. Jesus finishes the story by asking, “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by the bandits?”

The man replies, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus now replies very similarly to the “Do this and live statement.” Now he says, “Yes, now go and do the same.” Interestingly enough this passage was discussed on our Wesleyan Pastors Facebook group this week. Some would say that Jesus is advocating a works-based theology. I don’t think so. This dual-pronged approach of loving God and loving people is evident throughout the scripture. Even as we look at the Ten Commandments. The first 4 deal with our relationship with God – the last six deal with our relationships with people. Jesus, when he said we should love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbor has ourselves, is simply paraphrasing the Ten Commandments.

We should love God with everything we have and love others the same way. Imagine a world where those who claim to be Christ-followers would do this. I imagine the world would be radically different.

The Wesleyan Methodist Church was started on this principle of holiness – this dual-pronged approach of loving God with all we have – and loving others. This idea also shows up in the book of James:

27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 1:27

Again caring for others – having mercy and compassion is not in conflict with loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Sometimes we really struggle with things being “both/and”. As if we can’t love God with all of our heart and care for others.

Just a few paragraphs later James talks about those who break just one of the Ten Commandments, break all of them. Then James writes these convicting words:

12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

James 2:12-13

In another translation we are told, “Mercy triumphs over judgement.” James reminds us that there is only mercy for those who have shown mercy to others – which sounds much like Jesus’ statement “that you will only be forgiven if you forgive others.” Several years ago, I did a series on the fruit of the Spirit. When it came to patience, I discovered another word for patience is forbearance – or mercy or compassion.

We are even reminded just after this in the book of James that faith without good deeds is dead. “How can you have faith if you don’t show it by your actions?” James asks. He goes on to say, (and this is my paraphrase) “If your faith does not produce good deeds…it is dead and useless.”

Our faith and action work together – just as love for God and love for our neighbor work together. If we simply love God, we are missing the point. God came to earth in the person of Jesus to save us from our sins – even when we were not worthy of it. If there is anyplace where mercy triumphs over judgement is in the life of the one who has been saved by the grace of Jesus.

So remember – love for God and love for others work together – living a life of holiness requires refusing to let the world corrupt you and taking care of the widows and orphans. Do this and you will live.

Disciples Making Disciples

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost | July 7, 2019

2 Kings 5:1-14 • Psalm 30 • Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16 • Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

10 The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.

“Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.

“If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you. Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’ 10 But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’

Luke 10:1-11 New Living Translation (NLT)

In today’s passage in Luke, we find Jesus sending out his disciples. We often think of just the twelve disciples that are commonly mentioned, but here we get a glimpse that there were more…there are at least 72. Jesus sends them out in pairs. These disciples that go out are to go find more workers for Jesus’ harvest fields – they are to make more disciples. One of the things that I love about the Wesleyan Church is our emphasis on discipleship – celebrating every time a disciple makes a disciple and the church multiplies itself until the Wesleyan Church has a transforming presence in every zip code. This is exactly what Jesus was sending out his disciples to do. They were to go and make disciples so that the transforming presence of Jesus would be felt far and wide – in Galilee – in Jerusalem – in Judea – in Samaria – and all the places beyond.

He tells these disciples that they are not to take extras – and find a place to stay a while – not move around. We have learned that you can’t really have a transforming presence if you are not willing to stick around. Even though the church doesn’t really exist yet, It feels to me that Jesus is starting – even before the Gospel is complete – a house church system – a micro-congregation system. In reality Jesus was starting the first multi-site. There job was to make disciples – so that they could make disciples.

Interestingly enough, he tells them to stay only where they are welcome. If a town or village doesn’t want them, they should shake off the dust from their feet and move on. But Jesus reminds them sternly – “Know this – the Kingdom of God is near!” We are called to preach and teach the Good News of the Kingdom and to make disciples – so that they can make disciples – so there can be a transforming presence in every nook and cranny of this earth!

The Cost…

Third Sunday after Pentecost

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 • Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 • Galatians 5:1, 13-25 • Luke 9:51-62

Luke 9:51-62 New Living Translation (NLT)

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.

That They May Be One

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Seventh Sunday after Easter | June 2, 2019

Acts 16:16-34 • Psalm 97 • Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 • John 17:20-26

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”

John 17:20-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

We have reached the last Sunday in the season of Easter. It’s a reminder that we celebrate Christ’s resurrection every time we gather for worship. Again our reading from John is before the crucifixion, just before Jesus and his disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane. However, before they go, Jesus prays a prayer for his disciples

Our scripture today takes us toward the latter part of this prayer, where Jesus prays that his disciples – and the ones who would come to Christ through their message would be ONE. Jesus prays that the disciples would be one, just as the Father and He are one. I don’t want to get into the complexities of the Trinity this week. We will save that for two weeks from now. But the Trinity is an amazing thing. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are three and yet one – especially one in mission. I really believe that this is what Jesus was calling his disciple to be – to be one in mission. In is our unity in mission and love for each other that gives us credibility to the world.

Last night, we had a farewell dinner for one of the pastors in our ministerial association. He won’t be going far, but will be outside the boundaries of association. I love our ministerial association. There are eight churches represented, but over the last year, we have really become united in mission and that mission is to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was great to see the fellowship around the table. Unfortunately the table was so large that we couldn’t talk to everyone at the same time. Nonetheless, the fellowship was wonderful.

Our love for each other should prove to the world that Jesus was sent to save everyone from their sin. Our unity ought not glorify ourselves, but it ought to glorify the Father and the Son.

Finally Jesus prays this: “I have reveal you [the Father] to them and will continue to do so.” What I see here is again our mission. Our like-minded, single focus as believers should be to reveal the Father to the world. We do that for our love for God, the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit and we do that through our love for each other.

Ascension Day

Ascension of the Lord | May 30, 2019

Acts 1:1-11 • Psalm 47 • Ephesians 1:15-23 • Luke 24:44-53

Luke 24:44-53 New Living Translation (NLT)

44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things.

49 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

50 Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.

Today is Ascension Day – 40 days since Easter – 10 days before Pentecost. Jesus had gathered his disciples on the Mount of Olives and gives them some parting instructions. This event is important enough that Luke records it both in his gospel of Luke and in the first chapter of Acts.

(The first version of this didn’t post – so I’m trying again.)

There are three things that Jesus mentions in these final words – the Gospel of Jesus – that he would suffer, die, and then rise again on the third day; That He was giving authority to the disciples to proclaim this gospel; thirdly, he told them that they would be able to proclaim this gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Paul writes in Ephesians:

19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 1:19-20

It was through the Holy Spirit that Jesus received His power while here on earth. Remember Paul also tells us that Jesus humbled himself to the point of being a slave – with no power – even obedience in death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8.) It was the Holy Spirit who raised Christ from the dead. We are told that the same power that raised Christ from the dead also dwells in us. Jesus told His disciples that unless He went away, the Holy Spirit couldn’t come. This Holy Spirit would dwell in the hearts of all his people. It is this Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead that gives us power to be witnesses to the story of Jesus. Jesus tells his disciples:

46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’

Luke 24:46-47

Jesus wants the people who call themselves Christians – or Christ-followers to be witnesses to the power and authority of the Gospel. When ministers are ordained, they are commanded to:

take authority to preach the Word of God, to administer the holy sacraments, and to perform the duties of an ordained minister in the Church.

On the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave this authority to everyone who was a witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Even though we are now many generations removed from that moment – through the power of the Word (Jesus) we have been given authority to do the same – in the same power that raise Jesus from the dead. So what are we waiting for?

The Perfect Tabernacle

sky-690293_640.jpg25th Sunday after Pentecost | November 9, 2018

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17  •   Psalm 127    •  Hebrews 9:24-28  •  Mark 12:38-44

24 For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. 25 And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. 26 If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.

27 And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, 28 so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:24-28 New Living Translation (NLT)

Again the writer of Hebrews shows us how Jesus Christ is superior to the old way – the way that we know as the Old Testament.  Jesus is our great high priest.  The tabernacle that the Jewish people constructed here on earth was simply a foreshadowing of the thing to come.  In many ways you could say that the tabernacle was “seeing through the glass darkly” or looking a mirror and seeing a dim reflection.  The magnificent temple that is heaven, makes anything here on earth a pale reflection.

Christ entered the true tabernacle to cleanse us of our sins – and again – Christ did it once and for all time.  Christ is the perfect sacrifice and the tabernacle he entered in the heavens is the perfect tabernacle. There is no need to repeat the sacrifice over and over again.  He does not have to enter the Most Holy Place once a year because the atoning sacrifice is done when Christ died on the cross.  As the writer says, “he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own sacrifice.”

The writer continues, that when we die, we come to judgment, but when Christ died, it took away the sins of the people who trust in Him.  AND one day he is coming back – not to deal with our sins – because those are already dealt with – but to bring us full and complete salvation.  That day is coming and we need to be ready for it.  We need to have our hearts prepared.  Christ died and rose again so that we may have life and live it to the full.