pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Mercy

Reading: Romans 11: 1-2a and 29-32

Verse 29: God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.

Romans 11 deals with Israel, the people of God, and their rejection of Jesus as Messiah.  Paul writes from the perspective of one who used to be a very devout Jew but is now a follower of Jesus Christ.  He looks at the people he dearly loves, his fellow Jews, and is heartbroken that by and large they do not accept Jesus as the Messiah.  Through his own personal encounter with Jesus and his subsequent faith journey,  He knows Jesus intimately and he loves Jesus deeply.  Because of this, Paul wants all people to know Jesus as Lord – especially the chosen people of God, his own countrymen, his fellow Jews.

In today’s passage, Paul emphatically declares that God has not rejected the Jews.  Paul writes, “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable”.  The call of God upon the Jews is irrevocable.  Since the beginning of time, God has been in relationship with this people.  In the beginning He walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden.  The conversation continued through Moses and Samuel and Elijah and… as God continued this relationship with His chosen people.  The conversation continued with Jesus, who was born of the chosen people, born from the line of David.

Paul then turns the conversation to present reality.  Because of the Jew’s rejection of Jesus (which Paul calls disobedience), the way was opened for the Gentiles to end their disobedience and to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  It was through God’s mercy that the relationship was extended beyond the chosen people.  For Paul, God’s mercy is still present, waiting for the Jews to respond.  God’s call to the chosen people is still in tact.  But to Paul, the tables have now been turned.  The people who were not chosen have accepted Jesus and through this merciful act of God, they now are called to minister to the Jews, “that they too may have mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you”.  In other words, because of the mercy they have received others may now receive it.  

Jesus commissioned all believers to go out and share the good news and to make disciples of all nations.  Part of the good news for us is the mercy we receive from God.  Paul saw the chosen people as one of many nations who needed to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  There continues to be many who need to experience God’s mercy and to hear the good news.  Like Paul, who did all he could to share Jesus with others, may we too do all we can to help others know Jesus and God’s mercy.


Leave a comment

Love and Justice and Mercy

Reading: Genesis 37: 1-4 and 12-28

Verse Four: They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph is clearly the father’s favorite.  Israel loves Joseph more than any of his other sons.  In today’s passage, Israel makes Joseph a “richly ornamented robe”.  For a second, recall Joseph and his dreams of his brothers and even his father and mother bowing down to him.  For a second, recall Joseph’s penchant for tattling on his brothers.  Now Joseph waltzes in, showing off his new coat.  Joseph certainly plays up his favored son status.  His brother’s reaction?  “They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him”.

Later in our passage, Israel decides to send Joseph out to check on the others sons and the flocks.  He tells Joseph to “bring word back to me”.  As the brothers see Joseph coming, they plot to kill him.  In our society today, does this still happen?  Do some who live without look at those who have much with hatred and envy?  Thanks without may desire to do away with the ones with privilege and power, especially the ones who flaunt it.  So, when we go to the city to serve in the rescue mission, do those in line look at us this way?  If we act as if we are stooping down to do something ‘good’ or if we act aloof, certainly we are seen this way.  If we are unwilling to sit and hear another’s story, to communicate that they are worthy of our time and attention, then we remain distant and privileged.

Reuben speaks up for Joseph and plans to come back later to rescue him.  When violence and injustice and hatred arise today, do we act as Reuben acted?  Do we try and lessen it and plan on coming back later to partially address the situation?  Or do we stand up for what is righteous and choose to stand in the gap, saying ‘no more’?  At times we will see prejudice or hatred, injustice or abuse.  Then and there, do we addresd it fully?  Do we stand for those in need of our voice and courage?  Do we love and care for all as God loves and cares for all?  Or do we leave them in the cistern and hope to come back later?

O God of love and justice and mercy, make me an instrument of Your love and justice and mercy.


Leave a comment

Hope

Reading: Luke 24: 13-21

Verse 21: We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel.

Two followers of Jesus are walking along the road to Emmaus.  The events of the last three days must have dominated the conversation.  They had passed through the dark days of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.  They had sat through the ‘now what?’ of Saturday.  They have heard the women tell of an empty tomb and of angels saying Jesus is alive.  But no one has seen Jesus at this point in their minds.  It is just a story at this point and much of their minds are caught up in the events of the past few days.

Instead of appearing as Jesus to these men, his identity is hidden.  He invites them to share their story and emotions and recent experience with Him.  He invites them into sharing the hopes they had, the disappointment they felt, and the desire to believe again.  All of these things are part of life.  We go through them as well.  For the disciples and followers of Jesus, these things must have been swirling around in their heads.  In this little part of the road to Emmaus story, Jesus draws out of these two men all that they are feeling and what is in their hearts.

At times our trials and disappointments can ‘here’ Jesus from our eyes as well.  The grief or anger can blind us or be a barrier that gets in the way.  These parts of life that we’d rather avoid are unavoidable.  Life brings us all the good as well as all the bad.  Jesus desires to walk along through it all with us as well.  Jesus wants to be our constant.  Jesus wants to hear it all.  He wants to hear our joys and our sorrows, our dreams and our disappointments, our requests and our thanksgivings.  He wants our joyous choruses and our angry rants.  He wants it all because He wants all of us.

The men confided their ultimate hope in Jesus, saying, “We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel”.  Soon they would better understand all that has recently transpired and soon they would know that indeed their hope has been realized.  Their eyes would be opened and they would recognize their Lord and their Savior.  Jesus wants to be the same for each of us: Lord and Savior, ever present help and ever present peace.  Thank you Jesus!


Leave a comment

Breath and Hope

Reading: Ezekiel 37: 1-14

Verse 14: I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.

Ezekiel is living amongst and speaking to a people living in exile.  They were carried off long ago and feel as if they have been living in exile forever.  The people of Israel cry out, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off”.  There is great sadness in these verses.  It is very difficult to live without hope.

As Ezekiel prophesies, the scattered bones come together as tendon, flesh, and skin covers them.  They are capable of having life now but there is no breath in them.  They are flesh and bone, but that is all.  At this point they represent Israel in exile.  Living but not truly having life can also represent many we know ourselves.  Yes, they are physically alive – they go to work, spend time with their families and friends, maybe even play on your softball team.  But they only know earthly life; they do not know or live for anything outside of the here and now.

For the Israelites in exile, life has become about simply surviving in the day to day.  They are barely getting by.  They feel ‘cut off completely’ from God and all they knew back home.  It is hard to live without hope and they are fast losing hope.  God instructs Ezekiel to prophesy that the breath of God enter the dry bones and flesh so that they would have life.  Ezekiel does this and a vast army arises.  This is the vision Ezekiel brings back to the people living in exile, to a people fast losing hope.  In this, the people know that God has heard their cry and that He will respond.  It brings much needed hope to the nation of Israel.

In a very similar way, we too can offer hope to those we know who are alive but only in the earthly sense.  We too can share the hope that comes when one lives with Jesus as Lord and Savior.  We too can share the joy that comes when the Spirit of God enters our hearts and brings us each the hope of eternal life.  May we each seek to be spreaders of the Word of God to those living in exile, so that they too may know abundant life in Christ in this place and eternal life with Him in the life to come.


Leave a comment

Listen to My Voice

Reading: John 10: 22-30

Ever since mankind has known God, it has been all about the relationship.  Adam and Eve walked in the Garden and talked with God.  Although His presence changed, God has continued to communicate with mankind.  Initially it was through prophets and angels.  Then God entered the world in the flesh.  Jesus lived, walked among, taught, and even performed some miracles.  In His earthly life Jesus revealed who and what God is.

With Abraham, God established a covenant with His chosen people.  Israel was to be God’s people and He was to be their God.  This covenant came with some guidelines.  Over time the Law  grew to be something cumbersome.  Yet the covenant relationship remains.  God’s chosen people, by and large, continue living in covenant relationship with Him.

In time though, it became necessary to establish a new covenant.  Jesus came to accomplish this.  He reminded God’s chosen people of parts of the old covenant: love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love neighbor as self.  He added to the second: love as I have first loved you.  This was a different kind of love.  It was a radical kind of love.  In His love there are no outcasts, no outsiders, no strangers.  Jesus loved all.  He loves you and me.  Through His body and blood, He established a new covenant and offers the gift of eternal life.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”.  The new covenant is about relationship too.  It is about hearing Jesus say, ” love as I have first loved you”.  It is about Jesus knowing each of us as a follower.  May we ever hear His voice.  May we ever follow.


Leave a comment

Expanding the Covenant

Long ago God made a covenant with the people of Israel to be their God.  As humanity spread and covered the earth, we can assume that most people did not have a close connection to the God we identify with.  Many people came to worship a creator god as one of many gods they worshiped.  This situation continues today.  Christianity is widespread but remains definitely in the minority.  In fact, in many of the developed countries which were founded on Christian principles, we now live in the ‘post-Christian’ era.

Long ago God identified Israel, of all the Peoples of the earth, as His people.  They were set apart as the chosen people of God.  From the vast and varied tribes of people, God chose Israel and entered into a covenant relationship with them.  It was and is a small, select group of people who follow the Torah and worship the one true God.

Over time though, the Israelites came to focus more on the letter of the Law and its interpretation.  Life became more about the 613 laws rather than loving God and neighbor.  God saw the need to refocus faith on loving God and loving neighbor, so He sent His Son, Jesus, to establish a new covenant.  Jesus lived out the two great commands to love God and love neighbor with every fiber of His being.  He was setting an example for us to follow.  In the end, Jesus gave His body and blood as a means to defeat the power of sin and death and to offer us salvation and eternal life.

God also sent Jesus to expand the original covenant beyond the small nation of Israel into the whole world.  Through the work of Jesus, the apostles, and many Christians that have followed, Christianity has spread to many places throughout the world.  As followers of Jesus Christ, it is our continuing call to do the same – to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth and into the corners of our neighborhoods and churches.

Scripture reference: Ephesians 2: 11-22