pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Remember

Reading: Joshua 5: 9-12

Verse 10: “The Israelites celebrated the Passover”.

After crossing into the Promised Land, the Israelites set up camp. They have just witnessed another miracle. God led the people through once again. Although at “full flood stage”, the people walked across on dry ground. As soon as all had crossed over, the waters returned to flood stage. They built an altar from 12 stones from the river bed to remember this miracle. Then they set up camp and, “the Israelites celebrated the Passover”. This is another remembrance. The yearly festival is a celebration of how God freed them from captivity as slaves in Egypt and led them out of Egypt.

The Passover is a remembrance of all the details of the time when God acted on behalf of His people. This celebration reminds the people of both the power of God and of His love for them. As children of God we too celebrate and remember experiences and moments when God has acted on our behalf. We remember to remind ourselves of God’s love for us. This is why we celebrate Christmas, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost… These are powerful movements of God. These reveal God’s love for us. Like the Israelites and Passover, we celebrate these events each and every year. We also have movements of God that we celebrate more frequently. Churches regularly celebrate communion. All of these events that we celebrate remind us of God’s power and of His love for us.

As children of God, we all have personal experiences that also remind us of God’s love and power. Our God is a great God who acts in mighty ways. Some of the time, these are personal. God is involved in the details of our lives. We have moments and experiences when we encounter God in our lives. That night in the balcony at church, that afternoon in the emergency room, that morning atop the mountain, those days in worship. We can all remember times when our God came up close and became intimately personal. We store those away in our hearts and we remember them in our minds.

When were your moments? How has God been up close and personal with you? Take a moment or two to remember and give thanks to the Lord our God.

Prayer: Lord, you have been present in many ways. I thank you that over and over, at just the right time, you have come to me in real and personal ways. Continue to do so over and over again. Ever be my God. Amen.

Advertisements


1 Comment

Outside

Reading: Luke 2: 41-52

Verse 49: “Why didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house”?

The Passover pilgrimage is one of those yearly traditions for Mary and Joseph and family. Every year pick up cousin so and so in this place and then add in uncle so and so in that place along the route to Jerusalem. The caravan grows as it makes its way to the city. Yes, there have been changes – someone had a baby and someone has passed on. By 12 or 13 Jesus has gotten the pattern down quite well. It is no wonder that Mary and Joseph assume Jesus is somewhere in the caravan as they head home. After all, they did tell him that they were leaving that morning at 9.

In our passage Jesus appears to be disobeying Mary and Joseph. Instead of leaving Jerusalem He goes to the temple. In a foreshadowing of what it to come, Jesus amazes the teachers and religious leaders with His answers and understanding. But apparently the temple is not the first place Mary and Joseph thought of to look for Jesus. After three days of searching, they find Him. In response to Mary’s question about treating them this way, Jesus says, “Why didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house”? Of course – where else would He be? For now, Mary and Joseph do not understand what Jesus is saying.

In His Jewish upbringing Jesus would have seen the temple as the place where God dwells. At 12 or 13 this is a logical frame of understanding. To us it makes sense as well. In our worship and in times when we want to be alone with God, we too feel connected to God in the sanctuary or chapel. As Jesus grows, however, His understanding of where we meet God expands greatly. It is along the road, in the house, on the mountain, by the lake, beside the well, and about anywhere else you can name. Jesus does spend some ministry time in the temple, but the vast majority of His ministry is spent outside in the world. This puzzled the religious leaders of the day and it continues to puzzle many today. But the unquestionable reality is that Jesus Christ found the least, lost, and last outside of the temple, in everyday life. That is where we will find them too. So may we go out today to share the light and love of Jesus Christ with the world.

Prayer: Lord, unbusy me. Help me to get outside the walls more and more. Help me to be better at doing your work in the world. Amen.


Leave a comment

The Blood

Reading: Exodus 12: 1-11

Verse Seven: Take some of the blood and put it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses…

After many years of slavery in Egypt, God is about to free His chosen people.  He has heard their cries and has sent Moses to free them.  Nine plagues have hardened Pharaoh’s heart but the tenth will set them free.  It will become a touchstone moment for the Israelites.  This event is so important that God resets the calendar to zero to begin the next stage in the history of His people.  It is an event that continues to be celebrated yearly in Jewish homes.

God gives specific instructions for this night – select a lamb or goat without defect and care for it for four days in your home.  Slaughter it at twilight and roast the meat over a fire.  Do not boil it or eat it raw.  Eat or burn all of it.  Eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.  Eat it in haste – with your cloak tucked in and sandals on your feet and staff in hand.  Be ready when Pharaoh relents.  And the blood.  “Take some of the blood and put it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses”.  Take the blood from the sacrifice and use it to mark yourself as mine, says God.  Celebrate the meal exactly this way.  Trust in God and the plan He has laid out.  Trust and follow the plan.  Know that God is with you and will go with you wherever you will go.  Every year Jews celebrate the Passover, remember God’s promises, and look forward to continuing to live in His promises.

The same imagery and message come on the cross.  Remember the blood of the Lamb.  Remember how Jesus bled for you and for me.  Celebrate the blood that washes away our sin and marks us as holy and pure in God’s sight.  And remember the promises: the cross is because I love you.  I will be with you always.  I will never leave you or forsake you.  I love you.  Thanks be to God for His everlasting promises of love and grace.  We are and always will be His.  Thanks be to God.


Leave a comment

The Parade

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday.  Many children in many churches will parade into places of worship waving palm branches and singing songs.  It will be festive.  It will be joyful.  It will be like a good parade.

Parades usually accompany a special holiday or a special event.  It can range from a holiday like St. Patrick’s Day to an event like winning a big championship.  Parades are a celebration of something or someone.  The folks along the route cheer, encourage, and support those in the parade.  The folks in the parade wave, smile, thank people for coming, and maybe pass out candy.

On that first Palm Sunday, there certainly was a parade, although it was kind of an accidental parade.  The Jewish people were gathered to celebrate the Passover, a remembrance of great significance in the Jewish faith.  The spontaneous parade that broke out was for this prophet Jesus.  He too was born and raised a Jew so many in the crowd would assume He was also coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  And partly He was.  Even the disciples and followers who went along with Jesus did not really know what was about to unfold in the week ahead.

As Jesus rode along He must have smiled and waved to the crowd – you know, the parade wave.  Upon entering the city He went to the temple.  He took it all in and then went out to Bethany for the night.  He would return to the temple the next day, but, for now, He was just observing.

For us, Palm Sunday is a little like that.  We see and observe but know what is coming too.  Tomorrow may we celebrate with Jesus, the King.  May we be a part of the parade and may we celebrate His willingness to walk into the week ahead.

Scripture reference: Mark 11: 8-11 and 15-18


Leave a comment

Means to Draw Near

Israel continues to celebrate the Passover with the same elements and practices of the first Passover.  The food is the same, the gathering together of family units is the same, the worship – all serve to reconnect to God and the experience of the exodus from bondage.

We too do the same.  At Easter we commonly give something up (or add in a new spiritual discipline).  When we do these things we come to points where we are physically reminded of and spiritually connected to Jesus.  When we ‘miss’ that things we gave up, we are denying ourselves as a means to remind us of the sacrifice and suffering Jesus endured for us.  When we spend extra time in study or prayer, we learn new things about Jesus or our relationship with Him.

At Christmas we exchange a gift with a loved ones.  This symbolizes and reminds us of the gift that the baby Jesus was to us all.  Almost all churches and some families light the wreath to remind them of what Jesus is to them – peace, hope, love, and joy.  Some use a holiday calendar to remember the story.

On a simpler level we sometimes fast.  By practicing the discipline of fasting, we are practicing a habit of Jesus.  When we fast we are reminded of Him every time we feel the hunger in our stomachs.  This prompts us to pray and reminds us of our need for Him.  The hunger can also be channeled into a spiritual hunger.  Our physical cravings can become a spiritual craving.  That time spent over food can become time spent in the Word and in prayer.

Like Israel and the many festivals they celebrate, we too have many means to draw near to grace.  Small or large, we have many ways to connect to God and Jesus!

Scripture reference: Exodus 12: 11-14


Leave a comment

What Are Your Days?

Each and every year the people of Israel celebrate the Passover.  It was their touchstone moment in their relationship with God.  In a grand show of His love for them, God rescued Israel from bondage.  For them it was important to remember, to recall, and to give thanks.

We Christians also celebrate moments where God touched the lives of humanity.  Each and every year we remember the gift of Jesus’ birth and the great sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.  We back that up with celebrating the resurrection and all that brought to humankind.  Once we know the stories and their importance, we do not stop celebrating the events.  We celebrate Christmas and Easter each and every year – to reconnect, to remember, and to give thanks for our relationship with Him and to give thanks for all He does for us.

What personal faith moments do you celebrate?  Is it your baptism (or the date of it if you were an infant) or your confirmation?  Is it the day you entered into a personal relationship with Jesus?  Is it the day you were married…?  These events or moments are essential to remember, to recall, to reflect, and to celebrate.  So… what are your days?

Scripture reference: Exodus 12: 1-10