Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Goodness and Love

Reading: Psalm 118: 1-2 & 19-29

Verses 1 & 29: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever”.

The words that bookend our passage today is a familiar verse. It is found in calls to worship, in prayers, in communion liturgies, and in at least one praise song. Just reading those words triggers the tune in my head. The Psalm is full of other imagery and words and phrases that are also familiar. Several lines of our text for today bring to mind Palm Sunday, when the gates were opened wide and people joined the “festal procession” with boughs in hand. Like the people did, we too will wave palm branches and say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” this Sunday.

In verse 22 we hear another familiar phrase – the stone the builders rejected. Jesus paraphrases this verse, calling Himself the cornerstone. We cannot miss the next verse: “the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes”. We will celebrate what the Lord has done on Easter Sunday. And then the next verse, #24, is the start of the chorus in a popular praise song and is also often used in prayers. The Psalm is just full of lines and imagery that helps us connect to our faith.

When we slowly read through and consider the words and the meaning that we have attached to them, we too are led to “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever”. We praise God for His goodness and His love. We also have personal verses or songs from verses or experiences from our lives that also remind us of God’s love and goodness. May we each take a few moments today to recall some of these and to lift our praises to God.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you so much for the ways big and small that you are weaved into my life. You will ever be my God and I will ever praise your holy name! Amen.

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Kingdom Fruit

Reading: Matthew 21: 42-46

Verse 42: The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Jesus transitions quickly from the parable of the tenants to today’s passage.  We recall that in this parable Jesus revealed that God is true owner of all and we are simply tenants.  In today’s passage, Jesus opens with a quote from Psalm 118. But before the quote, Jesus says to the chief priests and Pharisees, “Have you never read in the scriptures…”?  He transitions from God and the kingdom to claiming His own place in it.  He is proclaiming this role as He quotes from Psalm 118, saying, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”.  Jesus’ implication is that the chief priests and Pharisees are rejecting Him but that He will still become the cornerstone of the church.

Yes, Jesus is giving it to the chief priests and Pharisees and many of us relish these scenes.  But, we must also evaluate our own faith and see where we place Jesus in our lives.  Is Jesus the cornerstone – that upon which all else stands?  Or is He in a room that we go to just in our times of need or want?  Is He the first and last consideration in all the decisions we make, in all of our words and actions?  Jesus wants to be our cornerstone.  Is that where He is in our lives?  If so, we will see kingdom fruit producing a deeper faith within us as well as the fruit that comes from sharing the good news with others.

The chief priests and Pharisees are not producing fruit.  More than anything, Jesus sees them and all of their man-made rules as barriers to people connecting with God.  He blatantly tells them, “the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce fruit”.  Ouch.

Are we people who are producing fruit?  To produce fruit, our words and actions must always draw people to Christ.  To produce fruit, we must be humble servants, allowing others to see the example set by Jesus as the way of life that we are all called to follow.  To produce fruit, our love must be Jesus’ love – a live for one and all that places self last.  In all we think and do and say, may we love God first and neighbor second.  Then we will produce much kingdom fruit.

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Standing on the Rock

Throughout the Bible we find God using the unlikely or the outcast or the rejected.  From shepherds to elderly women, from the child sold into slavery to the child left to float down the river, from the prostitute to the wandering prophet, God used them all.  From the lawyer to the waitress, from the rancher to the teacher, from the oil field worker to the stay-at-home mom, God wants to use them all.

When we look at Jesus and the men he chose to be his disciples, we see the same concept – a widely ranging group of men.  Some simple fishermen, one a despised tax collector.  When we look at who Jesus ministered to, we see that concept expanded.  Jesus ministered to all who came to him.  Jesus met each person with no pretense and no hint of judgment.  He met people where they were, loved them and accepted them.  Then Jesus most often found a way to move them along in their faith.

The church in general, and many of us as Christians, would do well to better follow Jesus’ example of who to love and minister to.  All were His neighbor and all are our neighbor as well.  To think or even say that some people do not ‘fit’ in because of race, ethnicity, class, education, and so on is in error.  To think or say that someone is too big a ‘sinner’ to be welcome is so far away from right that you can’t event see ‘right’ from there.  The church was and is built for the lost and the broken.  It is who Jesus loved and who we need to love.

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118).  Many years ago the Pharisees missed Jesus standing right there in front of them.  Today the church and sometimes we as Christian miss Jesus standing right in the midst of our lives.  May we learn to see Jesus and to be like Jesus.  May the stench of judgment and the sting or rejection fall away like rain.  May the love of Christ and the heart seeking to serve rise up like the morning sun, bringing light, love, and hope to all that it casts its rays upon.  May we come to stand on our cornerstone, our rock – Jesus Christ.