July 31, 2016

Pentecost 11 July 31, 2016    Acts 17 ****** In Thessalonica first, then in Berea – again we see the familiar pattern of the book of Acts – as Paul and his companions come into town – and go first, always, to the local synagogue, where they teach Jesus, the Messiah, risen from the dead. Some are  convinced and believe. Some take issue. Often confused responses to the gospel leads to attacks on disciples, sometimes even riots, wherever the disciples go. This is the  pattern we see at work throughout the book of Acts. But… What catches my notice most in all our readings today is – how the disciples keep functioning, pretty smoothly, through it all.. In our first reading they’re accused of claiming Jesus is king, not Caesar. The same crime Jesus is accused of in the gospels (Luke 23, John 19). (We know what happened to him.) Now his disciples are accused also…But that doesn’t seem to faze them. They know this pattern of mixed response to their message. They’ve learned by now to keep calm and pray on, preach on, teach on, move on…. And… What grabs my attention in our second reading is how, in Berea, the new believers are testing everything the disciples teach them – by reading the scriptures, every day. “As a result” (we’re told) “many of them believed…” There’s a sermon series here… We should of course do likewise. Test everything we hear with scripture. As I’ve heard even some of our radio preachers say: “Don’t take my word for it. Don’t believe the gospel just because I say so. Open your bibles – see for yourself…” (If you don’t agree with the gospel don’t blame me… Take it up with Jesus… Who has told us all along… ) Part of the gospel is that not everyone’s going to agree with the gospel. Some would rather “Do it my way.” (Me and Mr Sinatra.)  Not everyone is going to welcome the good news of Jesus Christ being king over all. This Way of Jesus we’re talking about is threatening to the power, privilege, and preferences of those who would rather do it our own way…Rather than taking the harder but much happier way of Jesus… And just as Jesus taught us, of course – we still need to love those who reject Jesus, and pray for them anyway… But we don’t have to – and ought not to – let other people’s disbelieving keep us awake at night… Because people rejecting God is also part of the story of God… From the beginning…(Know this reality. But don’t take it as the last word… This is the gospel balance….) And – knowing all this – when people are running amok in Berea – and knowing Paul is a bit of a lightning rod – his friends take Paul over to Athens to get some breathing room for him and for the church in Berea – time to chill and let things cool down… But Paul has a commission from Jesus to preach the gospel. And Athens is the intellectual and philosophical capital of the world… A wonderful challenge for an evangelist… So after a visit to the local synagogue Paul is soon  hanging out in the public marketplace, talking about Jesus, resurrected…...

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August 9, 2015 – Bread of heaven

Pentecost 11 August 9, 2015   John 6:35-51   Bread of heaven ******************************** My mother will very soon be moving in with my sister, and we’re thinking of mom every day…And I keep remembering things my mother said when I was little. And probably because once again we’re talking about eating… I’ve been especially hearing my mother’s voice saying, “Eat all your food, dear…” Now days I seldom have any problem eating everything served. But back when I was little, my parents sometimes had to tell me more than once…to clean my plate if I wanted dessert… or wanted to stay up even a little while after supper… And sometimes Jesus reminds me (just a little…) of my mother… We’re into the third of a four or five course meal… served by Jesus in John chapter six. Picking up where we left off, recapping briefly, hearing again in our opening verse of our first gospel reading, Jesus’ last word from last week: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Last week Jesus was counseling us – (as if we were young people just about to enter the workforce) – not to go to work for bread that perishes – but to work for the food that feeds us for eternal life… The crowd asks ‘what then must we do…to do the work that God requires? Jesus said ‘this is the work God requires – to believe in the one God has sent.’ (That, of course, would be Jesus.) What sign can you give to show us we should believe you? Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, the bread of heaven,’ the crowd says. ‘It wasn’t Moses who gave the manna,’ Jesus says. ‘It is my Father who gives the true bread from heaven that comes down to earth and gives life to the world.’ ‘Sir, give us this bread always,’ the crowd says. ‘I am the bread of life… Whoever comes to me will never be hungry… Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty,’ Jesus says. Now, maybe if Jesus had just stopped a little earlier… this dinner party would have been a huge success. If Jesus had only said, ‘That’s all for tonight folks. Tune in again tomorrow, same time, same station…We’ll be feeding you with all the finest bread you can eat…’ If only Jesus had better marketing staff… All the guests could have gone home happy, saying, ‘Great dinner, Jesus. We’ll be back tomorrow. And yes, we’ll be sending our offerings to support your ministry. And yes, please, do send a copy of that twelve CD sermon series boxed set your assistants mentioned. Thank you, Jesus. See you later…’ But…so often (a bit like my mother long ago) Jesus has a lot more on the menu than we’re prepared to eat… And instead of sending us home when we think its time to go, Jesus brings on another course, saying, I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever… And even before these words are out of his mouth, the dinner guests – the large crowd that’s actually experienced, remember, eating till completely satisfied, starting from nothing but a tiny plate...

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August 24, 2014 – The one who draws out

Acts 7:9-22 “The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and enabled him to win favor and to show wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. Now there came a famine throughout Egypt and Canaan, and great suffering, and our ancestors could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there on their first visit. On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five in all; so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died there as well as our ancestors, and their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem. “But as the time drew near for the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Abraham, our people in Egypt increased and multiplied until another king who had not known Joseph ruled over Egypt. He dealt craftily with our race and forced our ancestors to abandon their infants so that they would die. At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house; and when he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. So Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds. Exodus 1:6-22 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation. But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them. The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this,...

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