pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Love for All

Reading: Jeremiah 23: 1-6

Verse 5: “I will raise up… a righteous branch, a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land”.

The people have cried out to God. Bad shepherds have scattered the flock. They have not led well. God heard their cries and recognizes the negative impact of poor leaders. God will punish them. God will also restore his people. The remnant will be gathered up from all the places they have been scattered. God will bring the nation back together so that “they will be fruitful and increase in number”. Shepherds who will tend the flock well will replace the bad shepherds. Restoration is coming.

This is the short-term fix. God addresses the immediate needs of the people. God’s desire for all of his children is to have a life of joy, peace, love, contentment. God’s plan is not for all of us to be wealthy but to simply have good lives. This is the vision we read about last week in Isaiah 65. As followers of Jesus Christ we each have a role to play as well. That role may be feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. It may be caring for the sick. It may be teaching a basic finance class. Maybe it is leading a small group through a basic Christianity study. We all have a role to play in tending the other sheep. It is not just the leader’s job (or just the pastor’s job) to bring healing and hope and love to the world.

In verse five we read “the days are coming”. One day, Jeremiah says, God will bring a new king, one from the house of David. We read, “I will raise up… a righteous branch, a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land”. The righteous branch will be Jesus. He will rule wisely and will do what is just and right. He will be righteousness.

From our New Testament perspective this is a past tense event. Jesus did rule wisely, justly, righteously. Jesus set us an example for how to live out God’s love. It was a love for all people. Now we live in a time awaiting his final return. Jesus left us with a charge to complete as we wait: go and make disciples of all nations and all people. May it be so as we in turn live out God’s love in the world.

Prayer: Righteous Lord, you seek to redeem and restore all people. You desire to bring healing and wholeness to all nations. Lead me to be a part of your work in this time and place. Amen.


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Holy Marriage

Reading: Psalm 45: 1-2 & 6-9

Verse 7: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness, therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy”.

Wedding, baptism, or funeral? Based on the conversations that I have had with fellow clergy, a wedding would be their last choice. A baptism could involve a crying, unhappy baby when those waters run down their faces. A funeral could have some tension if the families do not get along, but that usually does not spill over into the celebration of life service itself. But a wedding… Oh the wedding horror stories. You have perhaps heard some. Maybe you’ve been a part of one yourself.

Myself, I like officiating weddings. Perhaps that will change. I’ve been blessed by all of the weddings that I have done. Meetings with the couples have been both fun and fruitful. There has not been a crazy mother of the bride or groom. No bride-zillas. The worst thing that has happened at a wedding was the three-year-old ring bearer who refused to walk down the aisle. (He did not have the rings though). Perhaps I am due for a doozy.

In today’s Psalm, a wedding is the focus. It sounds like a wonderful wedding – almost ideal. In this wedding, God is present and central to the event. The wedding covenant that Christians hold to understands that God is part of the covenant being made. The essence of a Christian marriage is captured well in verse 7: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness, therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy”. The couple promises to love no matter what, practicing righteous love in their marriage. The vow is one if exclusivity – setting aside all other companions, the spouse becomes the center of the others love and care. God anoints the new union with the oil of joy. What joy is experienced in the love consummated in Christian marriage!

Father God, today is a day when many will celebrate a wedding. God, please pour out your anointing oil of joy on all who join in holy marriage today. Bless them this day and forever more. Amen.


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Fruitful Witness 

Reading: Colossians 1: 1-8

The Bible is full of stories of the Word bearing fruit.  The parable of the sower is perhaps the best know story of fruitfulness as it tells of the witness of the believer producing a crop 30, 60, or 100 fold.  In the great commission Jesus compels all disciples to go forth to make disciples of all nations, to grow fruit everywhere we go to spread the kingdom of God.  The Word also speaks of the fruit of our faith in our own lives: peace, joy, patience, kindness,…

Paul opens his letter to the Colossians by commending them for the ways they are being fruitful.  He comments them for their strong faith in Jesus Christ and for the love for one another that grows out of their faith.  Then Paul notes that this love and faith is bearing fruit and growing as others in their community experience these things.  In turn, they are coming to know Christ through the faithful witness of this congregation.  How the Holy Spirit takes the witness to the love and truth of Jesus Christ and causes it to become faith in an unbeliever is one of the great works of God.  There is much rejoicing in heaven each time another accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior!

God’s call to churches everywhere is still the same as we see here in Colossians.  He calls upon us to continue to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.  This includes the corners as well: the neighbor next door, the coworker one cubicle over, the classmate across the lab table…  As we bear witness to our faith in our every day lives we are living out the Gospel and we are planting seeds.  As we practice justice, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and love we are bearing witness to Jesus.  As we allow the Gospel to bear fruit in our lives we are planting seeds of faith in other’s lives.  May we be fruitful today in our witness and may the Holy Spirit move powerfully in people’s hearts.  May our witness come to bear much fruit for the kingdom of God.


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Being Fruitful

Reading Luke 13: 1-9

The world is sometimes filled with tragedy and sorrow.  You do not have to watch the news too long to feel the urge to turn off the television.  In today’s passage the people come to Jesus with a story of death and tragedy and are seeking help to make sense of it.  Jesus instead bring sup another story of loss and sorrow.  He warns us that tragedy can strike us all and that we must therefore repent, lest we will perish.  Jesus is implying that death will come to us all; it is up to us how we choose to live our lives between now and then.  Will our lives lead us to perish to hell or to rise to eternal life?

Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the fig tree.  The owner comes for a third year and again finds no fruit on the tree.  He instructs the gardener to cut it down.  The gardener asks for one more year.  He will tend to it and water it and fertilize it in an effort to help the tree bear fruit.  In this parable we are the fig tree.  Year after year Jesus pours into us through the Word, in worship, in small groups, …  He yearns to see us bear fruit.  The Holy Spirit works on us also, pruning and fertilizing and guiding us along so that we are more able to bear fruit.

As we continue to grow in our faith, we will bear fruit as we mature, just as the tree will.  As we touch the lives of others, bearing fruit and shining the light and love of Jesus, we will bring hope and comfort amidst the darkness and tragedies of this world.  It is through our witness and love that others will come to know Jesus, the only source of strength, healing, and understanding in the midst of pain and sorrow.  As we are fruitful and faithful witnesses, we are living for and pointing others toward the one and only way to true, eternal life: Jesus Christ.

 


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Pruning for Fruit

In the spring it is natural to clean, to prepare for a season of growth, to unclutter.  This week I uncovered and set out the patio furniture and rototilled the garden.  The lawn was mowed for the first time and I noticed that the rhubarb is almost ready to be picked.  Other plants are springing to life as well.

Down by the shed my grape vines are a mess.  An early storm last Fall toppled over the poles and wired that had supported the vines due to all the weight of the snow on the thick leaves.  I attempted a ‘fix’ last Spring, but it was largely unsuccessful.  I’ve come to realize hat I must tear out all the support and wires and really trim back the vines to be able to rebuild and start over.  It will mean that the grape crop this summer may be pretty minimal.

In today’s passage Jesus speaks of God pruning the fruitful branches and cutting off those bearing no fruit.  All this is done so that the whole plant can bear more fruit.  Energy goes more fully into what is fruitful.  With my grapes, I know this is true in the long run as well.

As I think about what I must do with my grape vines next week, I also come to realize that maybe I need to look at my life as well.  Are there things in my busy schedule that are not as fruitful and should go?  If I purge this or that, will newly available energy go into more fruitful pursuits?  This analysis may be a bit hard and maybe painful too, but God calls for my best.  Today’s question is where is God calling me to be invested.

Scripture reference: John 15: 1-8