Things To Talk About Around The Table Before Passover

Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:10-14 and John 12:1-8

Table conversation during and around holidays can be fun, interesting, and potentially conflictual. You put together the host family, siblings, uncles and aunts, and friends from all walks of life, and you never know where the talk might go!

Our Gospel text from John has a family of sisters and a brother, a “prophet/rabbi,” a deceitful disciple, and a question about the proper use of a very expensive perfume and you can sense the tension. Add to this the fact that the brother Lazarus was previously dead for days!

The Isaiah passage boldly declares that God is about doing New Things when all we thought was that nothing will ever change. Paul adds the fact that Resurrection changes our perspective on what is most important in guiding us through our earthly days.

Yes, such “table talk” is uncommon and when it does occur both awkwardness and excitement are likely to appear! It’s always conventionally safer to just talk sports, weather, and work! The talk and the presence of Jesus has a way of leading us to ultimate concern about our lives and relationships.

Sunday we will hear, respond, and share together at the Lord’s Table. It is difficult to imagine we will remain unchanged or unmoved in some way.

God’s blessings upon us as we prepare for worship!

Pastor Barry †

He Who Has Ears To Hear

Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 and Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

The parables of Jesus are prominent in the middle chapters of Luke. The one about the lost son is perhaps the most memorable to most of us. Poignant and painful because we know it happens today as in every age. And perhaps we know it all too personally!

What’s also interesting is the wide range of the audience who first heard this parable: tax collectors, sinners (?), Pharisees, teachers of the law. And the parable’s list includes a son, father, older brother, and servants! And then there is us!

What, if anything new, can be discovered in this story of a family struggling and in recovering relationships? Sunday we will look at the cast of this human/spiritual drama and see who and what is going on! Can it still speak a fresh Word of God to us who are within the family of God?

As Paul instructs in the II Corinthians passage, we do well when we “regard no one from a worldly point of view” but rather from the way Christ sees us.

That should help us a lot as we hear the ever endearing Parable of the Prodigal! Yes, we and those we relate with are ever within that story!

Blessings as you hear this Word!

Pastor Barry †

THEY Sure Better Repent! Or Is That Me?

Isaiah 55:1-9, I Corinthians 10:1–13 and Luke 13:1-9

We have a dog and two cats. I suspect they can’t repent for behavior we find bad. But at least the dog will look away or look remorseful if we scold her for unacceptable behavior. Now the cats……no remorse. No sense of guilt. They do what they like! They might run from threat of punishment……but no repentance whatsoever.

Our scriptures for Sunday have a lot of examples of at least a call to repentance. The Israelites knew better but sinned while in their Wilderness wanderings. Jesus has to strongly caution others about comparing sins. ALL have reason to repent. Paul points out that Corinthian behavior wasn’t something to shrug one’s shoulders to and just ignore.

Who needs to repent? All. And it’s not just outward behavior but thoughts and words as well.

Few of the offenses mentioned in our texts may apply to us today, (after all, we are Christians yes?), but there will be some “issue” that needs to be personally addressed to God.

Let’s not be cats or dogs on this matter, either “faking” remorse (dog for fear of getting a “talking to”) or cats “we do what we want to do!” After all, we “know” better! We just have a hard time admitting that!

By the way…….there is Good News somewhere in all this!

Don’t despair over sin!

Pastor Barry †

Jesus as Citizen

Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1 and Luke 13:31-35

For better or worse, people belong to nations: Lands with boundaries, distinct cultures and practices, and governance. With the current crisis in Ukraine impacting economies and peace around the world, our scriptures this Sunday are timely speaking to individuals, churches, and nations.

Paul tells the churches that our “citizenship is in heaven.” Other translations say “commonwealth” or “citizens of heaven.” And that we have a “Savior, from there, The Lord Jesus Christ.”

Luke 13 reminds us as well, that Jesus teacher from Nazareth, ministering and teaching under the reign of both Galilee’s Herod and Pilate, the occupying governor of Rome’s Province of Judea, has to deal with earthly authorities. Jesus is of Heaven but for our sake is a citizen of earth in a specific time and place!

Followers of Jesus are “citizens of heaven” but reside as members of certain nations while on earth. From this situation comes both joy and conflict, blessings and struggle.

Jesus even has a sly remark about Herod being a “fox.” And the critical Pharisees have warned Jesus that Herod was out to “get him.” Jesus takes this as another opportunity to teach about God’s Kingdom and goes to a prominent Pharisee’s house even though those “fellow citizens” usually opposed him!

Our uneasy task but missional priority is to live in the two worlds of Heaven and Earth. And we are never asked to do this without heavenly help! Just listen to Psalm 27: “wait, be strong, take heart. I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Citizens of heaven, indeed!

Stay in prayer!

Pastor Barry †

Simple Truth, Complex Life

Psalm 91:1-16, Romans 10:8b-13 and Luke 4:1-13

K.I.S.S. The classic Keep It Simple Stupid. Certainly for the Church a variation on this would be Keep It Simple Sinner. “Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved,” says Paul in Romans 10. Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart.

Truth. But “lived Truth” over a lifetime is more full and complex. Our Bible is far from simple to understand and practice. Psalm 91 raises as many questions as it does in providing confident answers about God’s care. And Jesus sets for us an example of question and answer with our Adversary (temptations and the like) which is ongoing for daily living with ups and downs, valleys and mountains.

But with many practices in life, we often return to the “basics” from time to time to recapture our footing! Stay grounded in where you started! Believe the Gospel! Don’t let the complexities of Christian living overwhelm you!

The season of Lent moving toward Good Friday and Easter is as good as any time to remember the basic Gospel but also live into the challenges and hard questions of a life of faith.

Let us do this together over the next Forty Days. May our journey be both a path through Paradise and the Wilderness!

Blessings upon your journey here and now!

Pastor Barry †