just a minute – 03.01.21

When the Hebrews received the Commandments, they had seen God’s works and God’s power, God had rescued and provided, and more.  In our time the 10 Commandments are used more often as a weapon instead of what they are, a gift from God to the community of his followers.  Many Christians demand that the commandments be hung in prison and jail cells as well as in classrooms and government buildings.  A southern Judge who defiantly put a monument to the commandments on a courthouse lawn quickly becomes a hero and a saint at the same time.  

The 10 commandments were taken away from the Hebrews when it became obvious that they did not deserve it, then given back after they proved their commitment to fully receive God’s gift. It was never meant as a tool to persuade people to follow God, nor was it a magical list to change a person’s propensity to sin.  Our view of the Ten Commandments is similar to us blaming the other driver for a collision because they are driving on the left side of the road and not on the right side when we are driving in England or Europe.

just a minute 02.26.21

Single Focus – Mark 8:31-38

Jesus was was singularly focused on his mission. While we often think that his mission was about the cross – his mission was actually about living,

My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.’ John 10:10b (MSG)

From the beginning, Jesus preached life leading folks to a full life.  His thrust was to alleviate suffering, to heal and cure, confronting injustice while revealing compassion and mercy. Early on, to the religious officials he refuted their claim that religious practices take precedent over addressing suffering. Sure, Jesus would have to go through the cross , but this was not his mission, his mission was life.  Even along the path to Jerusalem, even as he experienced the brutality of the cross, his mission did not change, he was always singularly focused on life.

Our passage come just after Peter has made the proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah – now Jesus calls him Satan. Early on it was the religious leaders now it was Peter encouraging Jesus to tone down his rhetoric – Jesus would not let anyone keep him from the path of life (even it meant his death).

See you Sunday!

just a minute – 02.25.21

Psalm 22:23-31

Doctor Rolf Jacobson, in speaking about Psalm 22, says, ‘the sudden turn in Psalm 22 from the desperate cries for help in 22:1-21a and the words of thanksgiving and praise that comprise 22:21b-31 is both unexpected and confusing.’ 

The conclusion for those that have attempted to explain this oddness has been to say that either this Psalm is actually the combination of 2 separate Psalms, however most, now just accept the oddness and move on. You can understand the confusion by first reading verses 1-21a, stop and think about every aspect of these verses, then read verses 21b-31, think about the tone of those verses – then, reread verse 21 to see where and how there is a total change of tone.

Honestly, I think this quick turn is typically human – we are negative when we are intently focused on the negative, then, as we begin to turn to God, remembering his love and rescue, then we have a change of attitude and spirit. This allows us to read this assigned passage as a Psalm of thanksgiving and praise.

Now, as you read this Psalm of thanksgiving and praise – imagine that it begins with a choir leader calling his choir together and getting them ready for a huge performance. Then, as you progress from these notice the other groups of people that are added to this choir, poor, hungry, thirsty, angry, fearful, families, etc. this is becoming a large group that began with a small group, all with the single purpose of thanking and praising God.  Then, at the climax, the Psalmist (verses 29-31) includes those who have already died and those who have not yet been born.  What an amazing, and personal, testimonies of thanksgiving and praise.

What a moment of recognition of God.  How, today, does your proclaimed ‘praise’ sound, and what are the specifics of your ‘gratitude?’

Looking forward, alongside of you, to finding out what nugget God gives us tomorrow for our minute!

just a minute – 02.24.21

Forgotten People Remembered – Genesis 17:1-16

Wherever we find Abraham in scripture we are left with questions. We will not hit everything in this minute but here are a few things to have in your brain as you read.

  1. This passage is really not about Abraham receiving the promise, he has already heard it.  This passage is about the promise, but the message is a reprimand to Abraham who seems to have forgotten that Sarah is a vital part of this promise. 
  2. This passage is about the other forgotten people as well. Woman, slaves, non blood line members of Abraham people and property.  It doesn’t give closure on the issue of the marginalized but we do see that they are noticed by God.
  3. This passage is a reminder about Ishmael who seems to be a priority for Abraham over Sarah. This is consistent with the culture of the area and time. Notice that Ishmael DOES receive the marker of ‘people.’
  4. Name changes: Abram can be interpreted as ‘Exalted Father’ while Abraham is ‘Father of Multitudes’; Sarai is ‘My Princess,’ and Sarah is ‘Princess.’

Don’t be overwhelmed.  Take baby steps!

Tomorrow – Psalm 22:23-31

02.23.21 – Small Steps

We humans sometimes try to take on more than we are physically, mentally, or even spiritually able to handle.  That is sometimes my biggest obstacle in putting together sermons, I want to share everything that I have in my studies, however, doing so within less than thirty minutes, and before the listeners eyes glaze over is impossible.  God understands this human characteristic which is why he only gives us what we can handle, he only tells us what we are ready to know. The Bible can be overwhelming if we try to take everything in all at once, Romans might even be more overwhelming, even if we just narrow it in on one section it can keep us up at night.  Romans chapter 4 can do that to you, however, it actually is a warning of this very problem as it tells us the story of Abraham and faith.  

To lead Abraham on a complicated path in a very simple way, God gives 2 pieces of advise:

  1. Remember it is about God’s power not our power (sometimes we get stuck on our limitations).
  2. Keep your constant focus on God, not self, not others, just let God guide you in steps that are the size you are ready to handle.

Just a Minute 02.28.21

2nd Thoughts On Monday

My Sunday afternoons and Mondays morning consist of critiquing myself – analyzing my sermon including horrible explanations, weird facial expressions, and everything. This morning, however, is different.  Don’t worry, I didn’t wake up patting myself on the back, and yes, I am aware that I need to start seeking fashion advise after Andrea has finished a cup of coffee. Today, instead of critique it has been epiphany – following the crucifixion, Jesus went to preach to the souls in prison! I cannot explain this sceanario and what it does to the evangelical concept of salvation, …however, I do understand that Jesus never gave up.  These that he was going to preach to were not lovable souls, and, even more so, they had not been loving people in the flesh. They were miserable and hopeless human beings.  These souls that belonged to the people of Noah’s day had a year and a half to consider Noah’s call to turn back to God, instead of listening though, they ridiculed Noah for building a boat.  They rejected God then…God’s persistent pursuit just made the people more hardened in their rejection.  Centuries in soul prison only served to harden their rejection of God, they were not going to listen.  Yet, Jesus went there, to give it another try, to give them another shot. I know this shouldn’t surprise me, after all we are talking about the God who bathed us in his love through he sacrifice of the son long before we had come anywhere near turning back to God. Still, it is a known truth that is nonetheless unknowable.

just a minute 02.20.21

I Peter 3:18-22

Written to Christians in Asia Minor are a minority faith population split between cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Most are probably native to this geographical area, they are now outcasts due to their choice to follow Jesus. Their suffering has historically been attributed to the hostility of the political leaders/institutions toward Christianity.  Credible Biblical scholars have, more recently, come to believe this suffering has more to do with Christians inability to hold to the social expectations of the culture of the time while remaining faithful to Christ. Basically, unwritten, community expectations that everyone worshipped the same idols, held to the same attitudes, and practiced the same behaviors were cemented into the thinking of the community.  Anyone making a choice to pull away from these expectations became social pariahs – dismissed and shunned by their communities and even their families.  This explains Peter’s emphasis on being respectful to all. This is a letter for 2021!

just a minute 02.19.21

Six times in God’s truth we see a covenant between God and Man.  While there were surely other agreements  – these six covenants are pivotal.

Covenants exist between nations or peoples, usually a dual responsibility type of agreement where both parties agree to do/not do something.  Covenants with God, however, are primarily, if not totally, one sided.  They are a promise to mankind, there is not a ‘condition of cooperation’ on the covenant allowing one side to walk away if the other fails to hold to their side of the agreement.  No, these covenants with God are set in stone, and in which the onus rest exclusively on God. 

After the ark, God makes this covenant to never again disrupt the work of mankind with such a destructive forces as water.  

As you read, allow your mind to ask questions such as….

  1. Why did God make this covenant after and not before the flood?
  2. Does God need a reminder of covenant?
  3. How do you process God’s insertion that this covenant is between him and ‘all flesh’?
  4. What pros/cons for you are seen in this covenant?

Passage for tomorrow: 1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:9-15

Mark is a master of efficiency he tells this story in 143 words. Matthew uses 747 and Luke 1162 words to tell the same story. Mark, however,  can never be accused of compromising the truth.  Even with such few words, Mark manages to leave us with some profound questions – questions are always a gift because they send us on a search that may be a lifetime quest.

Let’s look at just one of these questions:

Why did Jesus need to be baptized?  The answer is in the impact. John’s baptism was one of correcting course, it was to give a new perspective. The people accepted this baptism because they needed a change so they could recognize Jesus. The people rose out of the water looking at life differently; Jesus rose from the baptism looking at water differently, he saw heaven, he received the presence of the Spirit, and he heard the voice of God – he had spent 30 years living from the perspective of humanity, now he saw it through the filter of holiness. The impact of Jesus’ baptism was to surround him in the presence of God. It was not to wash away a sin/sins, but to powerfully pursue his calling

Tomorrow’s Reading – Genesis 9:8-17 (Noah)

just a minute

Ash Wednesday

Many of us come from Christian backgrounds where Ash Wednesday received barely any noticed at all.  I grew up in a Baptist tradition where this day, and all of Lent, received little, if any, recognition at all. Somewhere along the protestant journey, our fear of any pre-reformation religious practices has caused us to abandon a lot of observances that could have, and still can,  serve to enhance the mystery and depth of the truth we all hold to.

Martin Sheen, actor and faithful practicing Catholic, describes the beauty of his yearly Ash Wednesday experience –

“How can we understand these great mysteries of the church? I don’t have a clue. I just stand in line and say Here I am, I’m with them, the community of faith. This explains the mystery, all the love. Sometimes I’m just overwhelmed, just watching people in line. It’s the most profound thing. You just surrender yourself to it.”

Sheen on ‘On Being with Krista Tippett’. I learned of it through a wonderful commentary of Matthew 6:1-16, 16-21 written by James Howell, Senior Pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. Thanks Dr. Howell!

On Ash Wednesday we individually yet privately commit to our 40 day Lent journey of remembrance and deep observance of Christ’s walk to the brutal cross and his followers surreal experience at the empty grave. It is a day built on silence and contemplation, sacrifice and self denial, oddly though, we often wear a very public and visible ash cross on our forehead, put there by an extremely unskilled artisan who is trained in the practice of faith not of visual artistic expression. It is a day where we internally commit to the practice of laying aside the things that usually cause us to forget the cross and empty tomb. We choose our level of sacrifice, our level of house cleaning, we give up Facebook, we temporarily quit drinking soft drinks, we deny ourself the vices we have grasped tightly to since our teens – we say ‘this is my cross for the next month and a half.’ Or, possibly we add to our practices, maybe we decide to add kindness to our behavior patterns, maybe we put aside criticism and judgement towards others, we adopt the practice of seeing others as God’s created and beloved.  How we navigate the coming days is totally up to us.

Today is our Lenten baptism day where we exit the waters committed to spending the coming days and nights between now and Resurrection Sunday in the most life impacting manner possible. 

Have an amazingly contemplative day on this first day of your/our Lent journey!