pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Sufficient for Us All

Reading: Matthew 20: 1-16

Verse 21: You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.

Today’s parable is challenging.  It has been prompted by Peter asking Jesus what the disciples will receive for following Jesus.  After all, they left everything behind to follow.  Peter’s question is prompted by the response Jesus gave to the rich young man who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life.  If we recall, the young man went away sad because Jesus asked of him more than he could give at the time.  Peter is told by Jesus that they will be by His side in eternity.  In fact, Jesus says that all who leave things or people behind will inherit eternal life.  Jesus ends this response with, “Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first”.  From here, Jesus tells today’s parable.

In short, workers are hired throughout the day to come to the vineyard to help with the harvest.  The owner of the vineyard promises each of them the same thing: a fair wage.  They work and line up at the end of the day to receive their pay.  Some had worked all day, some just an hour.  The last are paid first and all receive the same pay: a denarius.  Those who worked the longest are upset, saying to the owner: “You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day”.  The landowner responds with this: “Or are you envious because I am generous”?

In life, Christians come to faith at different stages in life, each joining in in the building of the kingdom.  The Lord of the harvest promises the same reward to each of them: eternal life.  They go to work and then line up for the reward at the end of their lives.  Some labor for all if their lives, some for just a short time.  The lifers and the new converts receive the same pay.  Those who have been faithful all of their lives can be tempted to say, “Lord, you have made that person who just accepted you equal to us who have served you all of our lives”?  The Lord of the harvest will respond with words of grace and love and invitation.

Yes, God loves us all.  He loves the saints and the sinners.  He loves the saved and the lost.  Heaven rejoices each time a lost soul becomes a part of the family.  His grace is sufficient for us all, whenever and however we come to faith.  The promise is the same: love God and claim eternal life.  Thanks be to God!


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Shine

Reading: Psalm 80: 4-7 & 17-19

It is dark outside.  The street lights and Christmas lights shine brightly in the cool, crisp air.  In dark places, even one small light can seem so bright.

The psalmist also writes of darkness, although it is a different kind of darkness.  Our Psalm today speaks of “eating the bread of tears” and drinking tears “by the bowlful”.  At times this is the darkness we experience.  Life has become difficult and we feel like we are alone in the dark.  If not us right now, it is true for someone we know.  This time of year can be particularly hard for folks.  For all those who are in pain and feel like they are in darkness or in a dark place, one small light can seem so bright.  God’s love is that light.

Light shines into darkness, casting the dark away.  There can be no darkness in the presence of light.  Whether it is depression or loss or loneliness, darkness can settle in like an unbearable weight.  Often with the darkness comes a loss of hope.  A kind word, a simple gesture, a warm invitation, a gentle hug, a short prayer offered, just our presence – all bring light into darkness.  All bring God’s love to bear.  None of these human efforts, by themselves, cures depression or loss or loneliness, but they bring in God’s love, they begin a step in the right direction.

The psalmist writes, “Restore us, O Lord God Almighty, make your face shine upon us”.  When we reach out, when we pray, when we offer our presence, then we are helping God’s light to shine in dark places.  God’s love can restore anyone and can heal any brokenness.  May we be willing bearers of the light and love this day.  May our lives help God’s light shine into the dark places of light.  In dark places, one light can seem so bright.


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Community, Personal

Reading: Romans 15: 4-13

Community and personal connection to God flow through this section of Romans 15.  Paul reminds us that the coming of Jesus that we await is also the one spoken of by the prophets of old.  The Root of Jesse will save the world from its sins.  He is the one who offers endurance and encouragement and a spirit of unity among all believers.  Through this unity we glorify God.  There is a deep sense that unity pleases God.  Paul goes on to quote several Old Testament passages that include the Gentiles in God’s family, again seeking to build unity amongst all believers.

The vision that God sent Jesus for all people is a great one to lift up during Advent and particularly around Christmas.  As we draw nearer to the day, it is upon each of us to invite all to the celebration.  Paul clearly spells out that Christ came for all people.  Thus is a message we all need to share.  It is an open invitation that we need to proclaim.  May we fling wide the doors of our churches to welcome all into the gift of Jesus Christ!

We invite to allow others to begin to know and develop what we have – a personal relationship with Jesus.  It is this personal connection that underlies and undergirds our overall sense of Christian community.  The joy and hope and love and peace that we celebrate in Christmas is the same joy and hope and love and peace that we live with all year long because we know Jesus as Lord of our life.  While we are called to share this with others and to invite them to the birthday celebration, this season is also a time when we ourselves again invite Jesus into our hearts.  We prepare our hearts to once again welcome the Christ child.  It is a deeply personal time of connecting to Jesus Christ.  May our own hearts be filled with the gift of Jesus Christ as we fling open the doors of our hearts to welcome in the joy and hope and love and peace of our Savior.


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Praise

Reading: Psalm 150

Psalm 150 is the last Psalm.  It concludes the fifth ‘book’ within the larger book of Psalms.  But unlike the other four books, it does not end with a conclusion.  All of the other books in Psalms, and most other books in the Bible, have a definite conclusion to them.  Most often it is the word “Amen” and it usually functions much like ‘The End’ does in a novel or movie.

Psalm 150 ends with two sentences that invite a continuation of the action instead.  Verse 6 reads, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord”.  The invitation to praise is not limited either.  It does not say Israel or even human beings but ‘everything’.  As the bird lifts up its song one can certainly find praise in that.  As the cat purrs in response to affection one can feel love and bring God praise.  If one is open to a broad definition of breath, one can connect to God in the gentle breeze on a hot summer day or in the stream gently bubbling along.  From the beauty and awe of nature we often bring praise to God.

So why does God, through the psalmist, close with an open-ended invitation to continue to praise the Lord?  On the large, upper level it is just one more example of the Bible as the living Word of God, always active and moving.  On the more personal level, it is God asking each of us to live a life of praise.  God desires for our verbal praise to be not only daily but frequent within our days.  It is our grateful response to His many blessings.  But it is also more than words.  God desires for our actions to bring Him praise as well.  How we love and care for and treat others, both our friends and family as well as the enemy or stranger, should bring praise to God.  May He so shine in our lives that all we do and say brings praise to the Lord!


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Things That Satisfy

Reading: Isaiah 55: 1-5

Today we hear an invitation to come to God to be satisfied.  Isaiah calls us to the waters that will satisfy our thirst.  He calls us to come and eat without cost.  Isaiah is calling us to come and find salvation and blessing, to enter the reign of Christ.

The passage is full of actions we must take.  “Come” is not the only one.  Isaiah also urges us to listen to what fills out soul, to spend what we have on things that truly satisfy, and to eat of the good that God offers.  When God invites us to partake of all this, Isaiah asks, why do we still seek what does not ultimately satisfy?  It is a good question to ponder.  It is one we wrestle with.

The things of this world can be alluring and enticing.  Satan is excellent at dangling that which draws each of us in before our eyes in a number of ways.  He works at those insecurities and doubts, deftly trying to pry them open just a bit wider all the time.  He nudges us into thinking more of ourselves and less of others as we play the blame and judgment games.

In the season of Lent, may we be increasingly aware of all that has appeal but that does not satisfy.  May we heed the voice of the Holy Spirit ad it warns, convicts, and corrects.  May we draw close to our Lord and Savior to drink and eat of the living water and the bread of life that He alone offers.


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Presence

Psalm 99 opens with, “The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble.”  This line evokes a powerful God.  goes on to speak of how God is holy and mighty and that we should worship at His footstool.  These words and images indicate a God that is far above mankind in status and place.  The psalmist almost makes God so far above us that we can barely connect to Him.  At times, particularly when I have sinned, it can be easy to see God in this manner.

But beginning in verse six, we are reminded that God connects with mankind in personal ways.  We are reminded of how Moses, Aaron, and Samuel all called on God and of how He answered them as He spoke directly with them.  Our mighty and holy and powerful God desires the same intimacy with us.  He longs for this on a daily, moment-by-moment basis, not just once a week or once in a while.

Often when we gather for worship, we begin by inviting God’s presence to be among us.  The words of the prayers, liturgies, sermon, and songs are all meant to help us connect to God and to feel His presence in our time of worship.  Our praise builds out of this sense of connection and relationship.  Our mighty and holy and powerful God desires a one-on-one connection with each of us.

As in the psalm, God desires to be our defender, our redeemer, and our champion of justice.  This desire is for all of the time, not just on a Sunday morning.  May we begin each day by inviting God to be present in our lives that day.  Throughout the day may we reach out and connect to Him, continually inviting Him into our lives.  And at the end of the day, may we thank God for His constant presence with us throughout that day.  May the Lord God be with you!

Scripture reference: Psalm 99