Monday, March 31, 2014

Mark 14:1-11 - Get Rid of Him; Betray Him

Mark 14:1-11 NIV
Get rid of them! Yep! That's what you do if you don't like the way someone is or does something. Get rid of them!

Not every who was present when the woman anointed Jesus' head with expensive perfume appreciated Jesus' allowing her to do that. What a waste of money! Judas, as the treasurer, was especially not happy about it. So what did Judas do? He plotted to get rid of him. Jesus did not act or do exactly like Judas thought he ought to be behaving so he went behind Jesus' back and betrayed him.

How often we see this happen! When those whom we have entrusted with leadership positions in the church or community make choices that we would not make, how often are their plots to be rid of them? From what I hear and see, it happens more often than we'd like to think. Don't like what the Pastor or Council or other leaders in the church do because it's not exactly like we want it and we plot to be rid of them.

Jesus did not usually act like society would expect him to. What makes people think that his followers; his servants would act like society expects them to?

Jesus was pretty generous in accepting people as they were and are. I often hear that he was not judgmental. But, how judgmental are we when we refuse to accept Jesus and his followers as they are?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mark 13 - Keep Alert! He Will Come Again!

Mark 13 NIV
No one knows. No one knows when our end will come; not for the individual; not for the world. There have been days when I thought "isn't it about time, LORD?" So many wars and threats of wars; families fighting within themselves and with their neighbors; congregations and communities battle with one another; will there ever be peace?

These are not things that should lead us to despair. Jesus tells us that all these things and more will and must happen before the end. We must be prepared. We cannot give up hope. We cannot let our faith lie dormant or die. Be alert! Watch! Wait! He has come. He is present now. He will come again. “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens." (Mark 13:26-27)

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:35-36)

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mark 12:41-44 - Widow's Mite

Mark 12:41-44 NIV
Jesus sat and watched the crowd put their offerings into the temple treasury. That's something to think about. Since, he's with us always; he's always watching. He is there when I choose what I want or what my family wants (not needs) over service to him. I'm thinking I preach about stewardship so often because deep down I know that I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to withholding offerings that would/could/should go to serve the poor. Not, that I don't give. I tithe. But, in comparison to most of the world I am quite comfortable. I lack nothing that I need.

Something to think about: Jesus commends the poor widow for, out of her poverty, she put in everything she had to live on for the service of God. May God help us to be more generous in our giving so that the hungry might be fed with the Word that nourishes the soul and food that nourishes the body.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mark 12:35-40 - Teachers Don't Know Everything

Mark 12:35-40 NIV
The teachers of the law have knowledge; but, they don't know everything. They can't comprehend how Jesus is David's Lord; they spend much time making a display of their own piety to build up their own egos; their own honor. They live by the letter of the law to make themselves look righteous. Yet, they forget or do not have any understanding of the spirit of the law; to serve others, to support those (like widows) in need.

The teachers of the law have knowledge of the letter of the law; but, have very little knowledge of the spirit of the law. They have very little understanding of what it really means to "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Mark 12:30-31 from yesterday's reading)

There are times in our own lives that we might want to ask ourselves if what we are expecting and demanding of others is because of our love of the written law (our personal interpretation of the law) or if it is born of a genuine love of God and others. May the Spirit of Jesus, the Messiah, fill each of us that we might have more discerning and loving hearts and minds.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mark 12:28-34 Love God; Our Ultimate Concern

Mark 12:28-34 NIV

As I think about it, there is probably no scripture that I quote more often in my sermons than this one that answers the question which commandment is most important.

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

All of the big ten commandments have to do with loving God or others. This is how we teach it to our children. It is not so much about what we cannot do; but, about what we get to do. We get to love God with our whole hearts, minds, and souls. We get to love our neighbors. It just naturally follows that when loving and serving the LORD is our ultimate concern followed by loving and caring for our neighbors that all else falls into place. It just does. It is as simple as that.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mark 12:18-27 - No Marriage In Life After Death

Mark 12:18-27 NIV

Well, here is one tradition that I am glad we do not following: the widow marrying her late husband's brother! My brothers-in-law probably would not appreciate it, either. Not that I don't love them; not that I don't love my husband; but, here in my latter years, I have come to know a love greater than any love that is possible within the hearts of man or woman. It is the unconditional love of God for his children. It is the love of God for His bride, which is the church (all God's people). Isaiah (54:5 NIV) tells us:
"For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth."

The Sadducees were concerned about this world and wanted to dispel any notion of eternal life. They wanted to trip Jesus up regarding whether there would be a resurrection or not with a question about marriage after death. Of course, the Sadducees thought that when you're dead, you're dead. Jesus tells them that they are wrong on both counts. There will be no marriages between man and woman in the Kingdom and that there definitely is life after death. He tells them: "Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12:26-27) Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been long gone at the time of Moses. Yet, God affirms that He is their God. The dead cannot love or worship anyone. Yet the great "I AM" is their God; therefore, they must be living. Makes absolute sense to me....

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mark 12:1-17 God's Property

Mark 12:1-17 NIV
Every Sunday I give thanks, publicly at worship, to God for all that He has given us. Every Sunday, I wonder if everyone really gets its. All that we have are gifts from God, given to us for use for the good of not just us, but for all people, for the glory of God. He is the landowner and we would put his Son to death over and over again in order to keep those things that God has given for our own glory rather than His.

When we are gone from this earth we will leave many possessions behind. Others will get to choose what is done with them; whether they are used for God's glory; whether they are used to grow the Kingdom.

Give to God what is God's. Does not everything ultimately belong to Him?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mark 11:12-33 Authority

Mark 11:12-33 NIV
What kind of authority must one have to curse a fig tree to wither and die for not bearing fruit even out of season and walk through the temple courts turning over the tables of those who are earning their living exchanging money?  What kind of authority is this that could say to a mountain "Go throw yourself into the sea and it will happen?" 

The chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders want to know who Jesus thinks he is, anyway. By whose authority does he say and do these things? Jesus responds to the question with a question. "Jesus replied, 'I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  

John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!” (Mark 11:29-30) They're kind of been put in a corner and dare not answer. No matter what answer they give, their unbelief will be apparent.  

"So they answered Jesus, 'We don’t know.'
Jesus said, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'” (Mark 11:33) 

What kind of authority do we believe that Jesus has? Do we believe that God has power and authority over all things? Do we believe that he will answer our prayers? And… if we do then what would be more fruitful: to be buying and selling (or maybe bartering and begging) in order to sustain a church building trusting in our own works or ask God, in prayer and believing that He will provide for all things necessary to continue in the ministry of proclaiming the Good News of His Kingdom, through Jesus Christ, our LORD. 

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24) God does have the power and the authority to answer your prayers. Believe it!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mark 11:1-11 Triumphant Entry

Mark 11:1-11 NIV
We remember and celebrate the "Triumphant Entry" of Jesus into Jerusalem the Sunday prior to Easter Sunday. Jesus rides on a colt as people spread branches and their own cloaks on the road in front of him to welcome Him. "Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9)

We welcome Jesus on the first day of the week. Many of us remember Him on Sunday morning. But, what about the rest of the week? Are we running from Him, hiding, or ready to deny Him by Thursday or Friday? The people welcomed Him at the beginning of the week and then crucified Him by the end of that very same week.

When the crowds around us are excited and praising God, it is easy to celebrate Him. However, when the crowd turns it is often just as easy to turn with the crowd, denying our faith, denying our God.

May God help us to be faithful to Him every day, every minute of our lives and not swayed by the crowds that happen to be around us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mark 10:32-52 Following Jesus

Mark 10:32-52 NIV
As Jesus leads his followers on their journey to Jerusalem, he tells them that he is going to be killed and after he is killed he will rise, three days later. I'm not sure if the disciples fully grasp the significance of this, because James and John ask to sit at his right and left hand in His glory. Do they realize that in order to see His full glory they are going to have to follow Him with their own deaths?

Following Jesus is not the "walk in the park" that many would assume. The disciples didn't quite "get it" and I wonder if, sometimes, maybe we don't "get it," either. Following Jesus, means a life of service to others; not a life of serving ourselves. It means a life of carrying the cross that others might hear, see and believe.

Blind Bartimaeus wanted to see. Jesus came along and gave him sight. Once, Bartimaeus could see, he picked himself up and followed Jesus along the road to Jerusalem, on the way to the cross.

May God grant that our eyes should be opened so that we might follow Jesus wherever He may lead us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mark 10:17-31 Costly

(Mark 10:17-31 NIV)

A wealthy man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He's kept all the commandments. He's been good. But, Jesus tells him he must sell everything. He must give up everything and follow him.

What does it cost to enter the kingdom of God? Well, for you and me to enter the Kingdom, it cost Jesus his earthly life. Then he says we must follow Him. We must follow him to the cross and through the grave. We must be willing to give up everything in this world. This not only upsets the wealthy man, but his disciples are a bit confused as well. They have given up everything to follow him, after all. Jesus comforts them with these words:

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life." (vs 29-30)

These words, at times, seem to be our only hope. They comfort us in times of persecution and when, indeed, we lose family and friends (as many of us have) for following the path that Jesus has set before us. It is a hard path. There are times when we wonder if it the cost is too great. But, then we remember what it cost Jesus so that we might receive the promised eternal life in the Kingdom of God, in His presence.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mark 10:13-16 Let The Children Come

Mark 10:13-16

One of the practices that I have seen in many smaller congregations here in the Midwest is the practice of having a children's sermon at the beginning of the service and then "dismissing" them so that they can go to Sunday School. It is not too much different here at Zion. It is not a great practice; but, it happens. There are practical reasons that congregations do this. One reason being that we are located so remotely that if the Sunday School were at a separate time from Worship parents wouldn't know what to do with themselves while the children are in class (of course they wouldn't attend a Bible study; that's a silly thought you're thinking!) and in most cases the children would never be at worship if Sunday School were before or after worship. So, what we have opted to do for many years is start Sunday School classes 15 minutes before worship. They hear and discuss stories from the Bible during this time and so are hearing the Word through their teachers. Following my sermon, the children join us; actually, they join me at the altar rail, where they kneel. I do not do a children's sermon; rather, we talk for a few minutes about what they learned in Sunday School. They are not always too excited about answering questions; especially when they didn't pay attention. But, here comes the parts that they love being included in. They lead the appointed Creed with me (yes, most of them know it by heart at a very early age) and then they pray the prayers of the church. Each child (that can read) prays a petition or two. They then go out and share the peace of the LORD with the rest of the congregation prior to two of them receiving and bring the offering forward. And... now comes the main reason that we have the children coming up after the sermon instead of for a few minutes at the beginning of worship. It never made sense to me to begin communing children so young and then sending them to Sunday School during worship so that they don't receive the Lord's Supper again until Christmas Eve, Easter morning or when they are too old for the Sunday School classes we have to offer. The children come forward; some with their friends; some with their teacher; some with their parents for Holy Communion. They need to be able to come and receive the Sacrament. They need to be fed. Children who are not yet receiving the Sacrament (as well as adults who for whatever reason do not) come to the Table, as well. They come for the laying on of hands and a blessing.

A couple of years ago, we tried integrating the Sunday School youth even more into worship and it is working. On the last Sunday of every month, Sunday School is held at Worship (not in the basement classrooms). No, they don't have a lesson like they would normally. They are learning how to worship. They help lead worship. They read the lessons for the Sunday and they pray all of the prayers: Prayer of the Day, Prayers of the Church, Offering Prayer; they lead the Creed, and they collect the offering. Sometimes, they provide special music. On these last Sundays of the month, they all come to the Lord's Table first as a group. We are small and they are small so they all usually fit. Together, they receive the Lord in His Supper. Together, they receive His blessing.

This mixing of Sunday School and Worship is not an ideal situation; but, we have attempted to ensure that they feel fully included when they do come. One of my pet peeves over the years at more than a few congregations was the habit of including our youth in the life of the congregation is to have them rake the church yard. This is not what I nor what most children would consider welcoming. Let them come. Let them be blessed. Let them be a blessing to us all. They are gifted and most of all: They love Jesus.

Let the little children come and may God help us all to learn how better to include them in the life of the whole congregation.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mark 10:1-12 Marriage/Divorce

Mark 10:1-12 NIV
Today we have a hard reading for today's society.

"He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)

Divorce is a difficult thing. When God joins two people they truly become one flesh. Then because of the hardness of our hearts, we attempt to tear apart what God has joined together. In the case of a divorce we can succeed in distancing ourselves, but we will always be a part of that other person. Whether for the good or bad we cannot ever be separated completely.

Divorce is not God's will, according to Jesus. But, because of the hardness of our hearts, Moses wrote the law allowing divorce in order that there would not be even more hardship to either person. Divorce happens. Sometimes, it may even be necessary for the safety of everyone involved. But, in today's society, it happens all too often. It is routine. Families are separated. Children grieve and suffer. The divorcees grieve and suffer. "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." (Mark 10:9)

One way to avoid divorce and the hurt it causes would be to take marriage more seriously even prior to the wedding. Marriage is a life-long commitment. It is the joining together of two people by God. Marriage is not one big reception after the wedding. The marriage can be a lot of work. It takes real commitment and most absolutely the constant and continued help of God. I'm not really sure why so many think they should commit themselves to marriage without first committing themselves to trusting God to help them.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mark 9:38-50 - Disrespecting Jesus

Mark 9:38-50 NIV

Yesterday, I listened to a barrage of negatives. Sometimes, it seems, that some people like to disrespect our faith; disrespect our Jesus, in order to express their independent thinking. Having heard God's name taken in vain so repeatedly and purposefully for such a lengthy period left me completely spiritually, emotionally and physically drained.

All I could think of was where does this stuff come from? How can anyone who would openly and publically slander Jesus ever think to have my trust or the trust of anyone else. To try to hurt someone with their faith is just totally uncalled for. It is hurtful. It is discrimination.

Jesus told his disciples "for whoever is not against us is for us." (vs 40) But, what happens then to those who are against us; who are not for Jesus? What will become of those who willingly and openly slander His name, using it to hurt others rather than do good? Jesus, encourages us to do good to one another. "Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward." (vs 41) Jesus came to do good. He came to save us. We are to use His name for the good of others; not to disparage them; not to hurt them; and definitely not in order that we would have a name (His name) to slander.

And, again Jesus said, "If anyone causes one of these little one - those who believe in me - to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea." (vs 42) It will not be good for those who spend their lives slandering Jesus causing others to stumble; causing others to lose faith. It will not be good for those who would lead others astray.

What to do with those who would use the name of Jesus in an unholy way? Pray for them. Pray that they might turn around, follow Him, and glorify His Holy name.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mark 9:30-37 - Children Abound!

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37 NIV)

How to welcome children in the community we call the "church" or "congregation" is often on my mind. This Sunday, I am hoping due to a return to below zero temperatures, attendance was very low at worship. There were thirty-nine in attendance. Nine were children of pre-school and/or elementary age; as well as four teen-agers. Fully one/third of our congregation, this Sunday, were young people. Most of the youth came with a parent or other close relative, so we had families worshipping together. It warms my heart to have the little children participating in worship and, yes, they do participate in worship. We welcome them as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We welcome all people. While it is good (awesome) to see their eager young faces, looking for love and fellowship; I wondered where the older brothers and sisters (adults) in Christ were to reciprocate. Our children look at the congregation as a family; a place where they are unconditionally loved. Where are all their older brothers and sisters in Christ when they could  be there to welcome the little children?

Our children need a safe and welcoming place. They need a place where they can all feel truly included. They need to get to know Jesus and the love and peace that He brings. Wherever you are, join in worship, welcoming all of God's children.

But, you have to be present in order to do that.

God's Peace - Pr. J

BTW... Having children make up 1/3 of the congregation is not a problem! It is a very good thing! It wasn't long ago, we were hoping just to have a few join us every now and then.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mark 9:14-29 If You Can

The disciples could not drive the evil spirit from the boy; so the father asks Jesus to try.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:21-23 NIV)

How often do we plead with God to help us or our children with something akin to; "if you can do anything;" with unbelief? When we pray; we are speaking with Almighty God; creator of all that is. When we pray; we are speaking with the author of life. How absurd it seems to say to Him "if you can." Yet, in our unbelief, we approach Him, all of the time, thinking that our prayers are like some sort of magical incantation. Our words do not produce results that we want. We merely bring our petitions to the LORD. He hears our prayers of faith and answers according to His will. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (vs 23)

LORD, we do believe, help us overcome our unbelief! (vs 24)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mark 9:1-13 Rising From The Dead

They had just seen Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus on the mountain. Moses and Elijah had both died long before; yet, the three disciples had seen them with their own eyes talking with Jesus.

"As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant." (Mark 9:9-10 NIV)

We still discuss this among ourselves today. What does it mean to rise from the dead? Is it a spiritual awakening? Is it a physical resurrection? For Jesus, it meant that even though he died a physical death and was buried; he rose from the dead. He lives, again! Yet, in the garden when Mary was looking for Jesus, she did not recognize her until he called her by name. Had his physical appearance changed so much? How did those three disciples even recognize Moses and Elijah on the mountain? They had never met them. There were no photographs of them for the disciples to have seen. Yet, they recognized them.

It is most certainly a physical resurrection with a transfiguration as we see in the case of Jesus. But, there is a spiritual resurrection that occurs, as well. Through faith, the old Adam dies and the new man in Christ arises. We shall live, not in the darkness of the tomb; but, in the light of the living Christ. Thanks be to God!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mark 8:22-38 Get Behind Me Satan!

"Get behind me, Satan!"

I love reading the stories about some of the events in Jesus' life. He can be so sweet! When I read some of these stories, I cannot help but wonder what people would do if I acted like that.

For example: a blind man is brought to him for healing and what does do? He spits on the man's eyes. Yep, I can already see what would happen if I spit on some one's eyes.

Then, there is the story about how after predicting his persecution and death and Peter rebukes him for talking like that. What is Jesus' reply?  "Get behind me, Satan!" (Mark 8:33 NIV) Can the reaction if you talked to someone like that? I confess, I have. It does not make for warm and fuzzy relationships. But, still I would probably do it again if the occasion called for it.

Jesus' words and actions are not always what we expect. We expect him to be the most generous, indulgent person ever - never offending anyone. The fact is that he offended a lot of people. He offended them so much he ended up on the cross.

But, I find, that often, the most offensive of all of Jesus' words, to many, are the words he used when "... he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)

Tough words, indeed, to swallow for those who choose to gain the world; who are ashamed to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mark 8:1-21 - Sign Of God's Will

The other day someone was lamenting that God was refusing to give them a sign to let them know what God's will was for them. They ask and ask for one, but God does not answer. Since they do not receive a sign from God to stop them from doing what they already know is wrong; they do it anyway. If you are one who is still waiting for a sign from God, let me remind you that God has already given us a sign of His purpose for us. Jesus Christ, Himself, is the sign. We can find His will for us in His Word.

The Pharisees wanted a sign from heaven. Jesus' response was to sigh deeply and say, "Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” (Mark 8:13 NIV)

The disciples find themselves, with Jesus, worried because they had no bread, with them, to eat. This was after they had witnessed him and even participated in feeding the multitudes with a handful of loaves and fish, twice. Twice! They witnessed this and they did not understand! There are signs all around us; signs of God's gracious love and concern for us. But, sometimes, our desires and our fears for ourselves keep us from seeing the mighty and loving acts of God. They keep us from hearing God's plan; His purpose for our lives.

Are we seeing it? Are we hearing it? Are we living according to God's plan for us? Or maybe we have chosen to be stubborn, since God hasn't seen fit to come to us and in an audible voice speak and tell us personally what we should or should not do, and do exactly the opposite of what God's Word tells us is His will for? God does speak to us. Just not in the way we're trying to dictate to God; but, He has made His will known to us. May God open our eyes to see; our ears to hear; and our hearts and minds to a greater understanding of His will for us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mark 7 - Judgments

Sometimes, judgments are made about others. They do this or they do that thing which they ought not do. Sometimes, we judge others by what they neglect to do; like the washing of the hands before they eat. Jesus makes it pretty clear that we often misunderstand the law.

We often judge others by our own misunderstanding of who or maybe what someone is. (Just maybe they are a child of God - you think?) Jesus makes it pretty clear that he discerns things in a way most of us do not. The religious leaders all thought he should be about them, about the temple and about the law. But, here we have Jesus serving pagan gentiles! Oh, my! He exorcises the Syrophoenician woman's daughter and heals the deaf man from Decapolis.

The religious leaders come to judge him; while the gentiles come, in faith, to be delivered from their infirmities. What a loss those religious leaders suffered by not being as open to accepting Jesus as he was in accepting others.

May God grant that we would, rather than question the faith of others, treat them as Jesus would.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mark 6:30-55 - Miracles

Jesus feeds the multitude on five loaves of bread and two fish! Many have tried to reason away this miracle. But, let me ask you this: have you ever had a meal with God's children and did not have enough food to feed them all? I know that it has never happened at Zion or in communities that I have worshipped with or served. There have been a few meals where we may have run out of something, but there has always been something else to put on the plate to feed the people with. Most often we have so much left that we're busy trying to figure out who in the community we can bring food to that was not able to make it to the meal.

On Saturday, we held a funeral service for a very dear sister in Christ. The great crowd of people who came to hear the Gospel stood in the narthex as well as in the kitchen. While grieving our loss, it was a joyful celebration of her eternal life in Christ. When it came time for the fellowship meal, the line went up the stairs and into the narthex for a very long time. It never crossed my mind that we would not have enough food to feed them all, only maybe not enough chairs for them all to sit at. We all ate. We all sat (except for those who were serving). God provides.

We don't have to reason out how God performs the miracle of feeding the multitudes. We don't have to justify Jesus walking on water or how he did it. We don't have to figure out how Jesus heals the sick. Like Sylvia, we just know that He did and He does. Thanks be to God!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mark 6:14-29 Love Not Lust

Love or rather lust can really lead one astray. Have you ever promised someone that you thought you were in love with something and then found yourself backed in a corner having to do something you know you ought not be doing?

That's Herod's story. He married his brother's wife, which he ought not have done in the first place. That man, John, whom Herod understands to be a holy man, lets him know that he has done wrong. Herod's wife is embarrassed by John and wants his head. So, she tricks King Herod into promising to have John beheaded by having her daughter dance for him. Isn't there inherently something wrong with having your daughter dance for your husband to please him? But, King Herod is pleased and has put himself into the position of being embarrassed by John or embarrassed by his wife. He follows through with his promise to his wife. John is killed and his head served up on a platter.

True love would not call a man to do something that goes against his conscience. But, lust will. Lust for his brother's wife; lust for his brother's wife daughter; lust will get us into all kinds of predicaments that we would have preferred to avoid.

Another famous biblical character that got himself into a whole lot of trouble over lust for a woman was Samson. He was to be a savior for his people; but, driven by lust, he ended up betrayed by the woman he thought he loved and who he thought loved him.

There is a definite difference between love and lust. Love does no harm to others. It certainly does not end in the death of our loved one's enemies to satisfy our loved one's egos.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mark 6:1-13 Pigs or Jesus?

 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.”  And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. (Mark 5:6-10 NIV)

It seems to be that in the Gospel of Mark, it is the demons who recognize Jesus. They recognize that he is the Son of God and has power over them. They beg him to allow them to enter into a herd of about 2000 pigs. This herd of about 2000 then rush over a steep bank and drown themselves in a lake.

You would think, the people would be happy that these 2000 demons were no longer in their presence. They were no longer torturing the man that they had come out of. But, no! They are not happy. They want Jesus to go away. The man who was healed of the demons is pretty happy though. He recognizes who this Jesus is and he wants to follow him. Jesus said no. "Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." (Mark 5:19)

The demons recognize the power of God in Jesus and are afraid. The man who was healed recognized his power and honored him, wanting to follow him. But, the people who were afraid because personal property, pigs, were lost wanted nothing to do with him.  

When was the last time we chose unclean personal property over Jesus?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, March 7, 2014

Mark 4:35-41 Jesus Stills All Storms

When we are faced with seemingly over-powering obstacles, we might wonder why God would allow these bad things to happen to us. We might even wonder if God has deserted us completely. Be assured, He has not left us. In fact, in the story of Jesus getting into the boat with the disciples that we read today, the storm does not begin until Jesus gets in to the boat with them and takes a nap.

They wake him, fearful for their lives. He proceeds to command the wind and the waves to "Quiet! Be still!" (Mark 4:39 NIV) Our Savior has power over even the wind and the waves. Be not alarmed. Have faith. God is with you in every time of trial. The storm will pass! Jesus has power over all storms!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mark 4:21-34 How Does Your Garden Grow

How does your garden grow? With light... It needs sunlight.

It has been a very long, cold winter here in the U.P.. Most days we've seen below 0 (F) temperatures and there have been very few days that have been above freezing. We have spent a lot of time indoors staying warm so we have not had the benefit of much sunlight. Many of us are feeling the result of that. Each day we grow in some direction; but, without the benefit of the light of the sun or Son in which direction are we growing?

Do not hide the light which is needed for fruitful growth. Rather, let the light of Christ shine on and in and through you, so that the Body of Christ, here in this place, might grow like the mustard seed "when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” (Mark 4:32 NIV)

Do not hide the light under a bowl or a bed; but, let it shine! And, may the light of Christ shine upon you and all of your neighbors.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mark 4:1-20 Planting

My first garden, years ago, was a travesty. Well, not totally, a few things grew. But, my cucumbers, which grew to full size were orange. It was just weird. I found there were a couple of problems that I had not considered. First, there was not enough drainage as the garden was at the bottom of a slope and second; the soil was not good for cucumber growth. That was my last year for cucumbers in North Carolina.

For good growth there must be a good start. The ground must be just right to receive the seeds and help them to grow. There must be enough water, but not too much and there must be enough sunlight and, again, not so much that they burn and die.

And, so, we have the parable of the sower. I am always astounded when people tell me their children have never been in a church. They want them to make their own choices of religion when they grow up. I'm thinking this is an excuse given mostly by people in whom the seed has not been placed in fertile ground in the first place, My concern is that if they do not prepare their children to receive the Word as adults, they will be like the path where once the seed has been planted, the birds will eat it up. Or, like the thorny or rocky places where plants do not grow well. There is a chance, a small chance, that they will grow; but, odds are against it.

Like the garden that I planted without much forethought; so parents who do not plan ahead and give their children fertile ground to grow in, the fruit will not be what we hope for. I have known full grown adults who have never been to a worship service - not in their whole lives. And, they are genuinely afraid to enter because they do not know what to expect. I have just never figured out how anyone could think that their children will be able to make a real choice, if the parents do not even begin to teach them what their choices are when they are young.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mark 3:7-35 House Divided

Will demons kick out demons?

As the people flocked to Jesus and were healed and exorcised of their demons, they recognized who this Jesus was. They would cry out: "You are the Son of God." (Mark 3:11)  Jesus has the authority to remove demons. He also gave this authority over demons to his twelve disciples.

Yet, the teachers of the law accuse him of being possessed himself. They say, "He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house." (Mark 3:22-27)

Why indeed would Satan destroy his own house? It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that demons fall and run. (see vs. 28) Jesus has been anointed by this Spirit. His disciples, also have been given authority, in the Spirit. What is evil is all around us. Do you stand in the Spirit so that the evil will fall or run? Or do you accept it as something that is just because it is? The devil has no power over us; the demons have none; except that we allow evil to enter into our lives by denying the power of God.

A house divided cannot stand. Is your house divided between God and Satan? Do you allow God into some parts of your life and Satan into other? Stand, in the name of Jesus, who is the Son of God, before all evil that threatens you and your house.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mark 3:1-6 - Sabbath Healing

So what exactly is lawful to do on the Sabbath? Jesus and the leaders in the church were having a bit of a go-a-round in the last part of chapter two and the first part of this chapter regarding the Sabbath. He dares to heal a man of a shriveled hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath.

I note, with joy, that this was done in the synagogue. He was not neglecting to worship the LORD or study His word. He was there in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He didn't say, I can do whatever pleases me on the Sabbath; rather, he reminds us of the commandment that "thou shalt not kill." This includes not killing on the Sabbath. And... what does "thou shalt not kill" mean? According to what we teach our children in confirmation classes, from the Small Catechism, it means: "We should fear and love God so that we do our neighbors no bodily harm nor cause them any suffering, but help and befriend them in every need." The Pharisees, you see, would have a person hungry, or sick, or dying; rather than have one of the heaps of ordinances the church had created to regulate the Sabbath observance, broken. Their written laws and traditions were placed above the spirit of the law.

When we regulate or manipulate the law in such a manner that it does not leave us room to do God's will and serve our neighbors in need, we are indeed breaking the spirit of the law. Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment was. “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29:31 NIV) In our reading today, we see an example of how Jesus did both.

May God grant that we should follow in the footsteps of Jesus, worrying less about the letter of the law and more about the spirit of the law, which is loving God; as well as our fellow man.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mark 2:18-27 Fasting and Eating

Jesus addresses the accusations of not fasting and eating grain that was picked on Sunday be his disciples. His response reminds us that there is a time for everything. His disciples did not fast because he (the bridegroom) was with them. They, in a sense, were newly married. One hardly expects a newly married couple to put on sack cloth and fast, do we? No, rather we expect that they are celebrating their time together. There is a time to fast and a time to celebrate. Human traditions (laws) are not necessarily the greatest guidelines for when these things should happen.

The same goes for the disciples picking some heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath. Would the LORD, who was willing to die for us, really desire that we should go hungry, insisting that we not walk through a field and pick some heads of grain for sustenance - in order to keep tradition? I believe the command was to rest on the Sabbath. But, what does rest mean? I've actually had people tell me that since they are commanded to "rest" on the Sabbath they are sleeping in instead of attending worship. Or maybe they will golf or fish instead? That's rest to some. The reality is that it was the church who came up with all the specific do's and don't do's of the Sabbath.

Personally, I find the "rest" that does me the most good and refreshes me for another week is spending time in God's presence, in His house, with His people, worshipping Him. “The Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath." The Sabbath, the day of rest, was made for you;" (vs 27)  that you might rest and be refreshed by the power of Almighty God. Take advantage of this gift, celebrate His love, so that you might live life, empowered by His Word and His Spirit.

See you in a few hours at Worship where we can be refreshed by His Word and Sacrament together.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mark 2:1-17 - Your Sins Are Forgiven; Rise; Live Life

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 NIV)

We've all been there; feeling down, feeling sick, more like sin sick. The guilt that can come with knowing that you have sinned; knowing that you have damaged another human being can drag us down not just spiritually, but physically as well. When times like this present themselves; there is nothing more healing than hearing these words, "You are forgiven." Your sins are forgiven. The debt is erased. Pick yourself up and live life.

Jesus is criticized for healing the paralyzed man with these words: "Your sins are forgiven." "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." Jesus is criticized, not for healing the man; but, for daring to declare that he has been forgiven.

Jesus' mission, here on earth, was to forgive us our sins, so that we might be made whole and reconciled to God our Father on earth and in heaven. We are forgiven so that we might live abundant life in the presence, in the kingdom, of God.

I'm thinking that there are not too many congregations in the world today who do not recognize that Jesus came to heal us sinners, not to patronize those who think and act as though they are without sin. But, then again, there may be a few congregations left who think in this manner and Jesus came to heal them as well. After all, thinking that we may be without sin and in need of forgiveness, is a form of sickness, in itself.

Such few words, but for the sin-sick soul they bring such relief; such healing; such wholeness. Your sins are forgiven you. Rise up and walk. Rise up and live the life that God has given you through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.

Pr. J