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 †

On and Off Mountains

Exodus 34:29-35, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 and Luke 9:28-43

Let’s just say that mountains amaze most of us! It’s both the exciting travel up and down and the spectacular views.

Our scripture for Transfiguration Sunday includes Moses on Mt. Sinai and Jesus and disciples and Moses and Elijah centuries later on mountain high. Powerful revelations and changes took place on such mountains but coming off the mountains was just as eventful! A bit more troubling but important nonetheless.

We observe that covenants with God are both made, affirmed, and acted upon! The acting upon is the most difficult since the human response to God’s gracious offer to us is always complicated and less than “wholly divine.”

The life of faith toward God is like coming on and off mountains: curves, blind spots, altitude sickness, as well as spectacular views, exhilarating driving moments, and usually interesting company along for the journey.

This Sunday in worship, the number of people involved on and off the mountains is remarkable and their experiences are challenging to us today.

Prayerfully prepare for that day’s journey by reading these scriptures and see which Biblical character you feel most kin to in your own faith walk now.

God bless all in your preparation and participation!

Pastor Barry †

Something to Be Said For Singing

Psalm 32:6-7, Colossians 3:15-17 and Matthew 26:26-30

“I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free…..”. So go the familiar first lines of the hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

Besides these two reasons to sing, there must be a hundred more. People of faith are a singing, musical people. We have a “sung faith.” Charles Wesley composed over 6000 hymns and we still sing many of them in the 21st century far removed from the 1700s.

And throughout the Bible, the cast of Biblical personalities burst forth in song for worship, fellowship, and in times of trial and affliction. As much as we need devotional silence and prayerful contemplation, we just as much need to give musical voice to the heights and depths of our lived faith experience.

Our scriptures for this Sunday remind us of our singing heritage and how in different settings we hold forth in song and musicality.

We live in stressful times and uncertain outcomes. Let us be reminded in lyrics and tunes that “His eye is on the sparrow.”

Prayers and blessings!

Pastor Barry †

Winners, Losers, Seekers?

Jeremiah 17:5-10, I Corinthians 15:12-20 and Luke 6:17-26

Lots of contrasts in these three scriptures! Today we might speak of “winners and losers.” There are those who “get it” and those “who don’t.”

For instance, Jeremiah says there are those who trust in God and those who “trust in mortals.” One is like a tree planted close to water and the other like a shrub in the dry desert! Paul says you either believe in the resurrection of the dead and Christ or you don’t. If you don’t…..you are still in your sins!

In Luke 6 Jesus speaks of the poor and the hungry versus the rich and the full. You might guess that Jesus doesn’t have much good to say about the rich and those who are already full!

Contrast. Winners and losers. I would hold forth for a third possibility: that people genuinely can be in these “negative” categories but can also be seeking for change! The rich might well be open to change toward NOT trusting in riches. Those who put their trust in “mortals” might be open to CHANGING their trust toward God.

We can hope. We can try to give people the “benefit of the doubt.” We look on the outside but God looks on the heart. And we know that “love is patient…..long suffering.”

People can and do change. They may well be “moved by the Spirit” to seek the things of God. And I include myself and perhaps you in this seeking to change an identity. The old Christian term for this is “sanctification” or more the modern wording “transformation.”

Yes, we can grow from being a “shrub in the desert” to a “tree planted close to needed waters.”

Let’s join the seekers group today!

Prayers and blessings!

Pastor Barry †

Receive, Stand, Being Saved

Isaiah 6:1-8, I Corinthians 15:1-11 and Luke 5:1-11

Isaiah’s vision comes close to either a bizarre dream or the opening scene of a technicolor adventure movie! Six winged angels, smoke all around, shaking, hot coals to the lips, and a sending forth! God says to Isaiah, “I have something for you to do.”

Luke’s passage of a unexpected catch of fish and a dramatic initial putting together a team is less fantastic but nonetheless makes for a powerful beginning of the Greatest Story Ever Told. Jesus says, “I’m putting a team together!”

Then Paul reminds the folks at the Corinth church of their faith history as well as his history which he says was not admirable at first. He encourages them (and him) by telling all that they have received (grace), they stand in that unmerited divine favor now and as a result are being saved in it going forward for the rest of their lives!

Paul recounts the basics of the Christ story and where we fit in to that story.

Visions and launching vocations, frequent reminders of what we are about, and being a part of a grand group experience are various ways of talking about being the church!

Don’t miss this! We will gather in person and on line this first Sunday in February and “receive, stand, and keep being saved!”

Prayers and blessings!

Pastor Barry †

Just What Do I Do With That?!

Jeremiah 1:4-10, I Corinthians 13:1-13 and Luke 4:21-30

Whether we hear well or not, we attend to people every day bringing each of us a message. Someone in school, work, government, church, media, community or in mission has something to say to us.

It sure seems like the person of faith, a follower of Jesus, would be “listening up” each day for a message, a guidance, from God. It might be when you read a devotional, study the Bible, attend worship or join a time of fellowship. A Word for you is available.

Our three lectionary scriptures bring us a diversity of messages. Jeremiah says first you need a messenger. God calls preachers, prophets, and laity to bring a word from God by words and deeds. And we might get the “gold standard” of all scriptural messages, the love chapter in Corinthians.

When we do this kind of love then surely the “Kingdom of God is in our midst.” But some words from God through Jesus may well “set some people off!” The passage in Luke says after Jesus spoke in the synagogue some wanted to throw him off a cliff!!

Message, proclaimer, and response. Love of God, neighbor, and self is the ultimate but HOW that is spelled out may take many paths and may get all sorts of reactions. This can all be quite challenging but does make for an interesting, exciting, meaningful life!

So, let’s “listen in” this Sunday worship and other message moments and see what responses appear during the days ahead!

Blessings!!

Pastor Barry †