pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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#1 Tradition

Reading: Matthew 15: 10-28

Verse 18: The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’.

Every year for Christmas my family gathers after church on Christmas Eve and we open one present.  The present is always the same: new pajamas.  For Thanksgiving every year we always have green bean casserole and chocolate chess pie.  It feels like we have been doing these things forever.

Our churches also have traditions.  Most churches do.  In today’s passage, Jesus is addressing one of these traditions.  It began like many of our church traditions did and has become almost law by this point.  One day long ago someone started something and soon enough it became tradition.  For the Pharisees that Jesus is addressing, these traditions were very important.  Many of their traditions or laws were based on generations of interpretations of the Bible.  Much of it therefore had come not necessarily straight from God but from man’s interpretation of the Word.  A good, modern day example would be baptism.  In the Bible we do have some examples of baptisms and some understandings of what it means and why one is baptized.  But there is no place in the Bible where it defines exactly how and when a baptism should occur.  Yet this topic causes division and differences and barriers between us.  The same can be said of communion.  I think this makes Jesus sad.

In today’s passage Jesus is dealing with a rule that creates a barrier.  Many of the religious traditions or laws created barriers to people because they kept people away from God.  Ritualistic and detailed handwashing became the rule for the Pharisees.  Eat without perfectly pristine hands and you know what happens…  But Jesus says to the Pharisees, “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean'”.  He is saying that what is in a person’s heart is what makes them spiritually clean or unclean, not the condition of their hands.  If evil resides in our hearts, then we are unclean spiritually.  If good resides, then we are clean.  To Jesus, a person’s heart is what mattered.

Jesus’ most important question is: “Do you love me”?  For Jesus love was always the guide and the first consideration.  That’s why He ate with unclean sinners and why he healed on the Sabbath.  Love triumphed.  Faith is not about the tradition or the laws or the unwritten rules.  It is about letting love lead and serving and ministering to others in love.

What traditions or ‘rules’ create barriers in our churches?  How do we make love the #1 tradition or the rule?

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Praying for Our Leaders

Reading: Psalm 72: 1-7 and 10-14

A good king in Israel would rule with justice and righteousness.  A good king would protect the people and provide for their needs.  A good king was sensitive to the needs and concerns of the poor and needy, giving them voice and meeting their basic needs.  A good king ruled according to God’s will.  The people prayed daily for the King, asking God to bless their reign with justice and righteousness.  Life was simply better when a good king reigned.

Today we do not have kings but have presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, senators, representatives, judges, governors, legislators, mayors, councilmen, and councilwomen.  The titles have changed by the roles should not.  As whatever level one serves, it should still be with righteousness and justice.  All should serve for the good of the people and the prosperity of the nation, state, city, or community.  It should not be a self-serving role.  Our role should not change either.  Our role is still to pray daily for all of our leaders.

As the people of God, we should pray each day for our leaders, at all levels, whether or not we align with their political leanings.  Each day we should pray for our leaders to govern with righteousness and justice, with compassion and understanding.  Each day we should pray for our leaders to be sensitive to the needs of the poor and the outcasts, for those without voice.  Each day we should pray that our leaders would lead according to God’s will.  And each day we should pray for our leaders to know and walk with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

May we be faithful in our daily prayers for our leaders so that God’s blessings and justice and righteousness may touch the land.  May we ever lift up our leaders so that God’s glory may shine through them.


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Promises

In today’s psalm is the root of the promise that our faith rests upon.  God promises David that a descendant of his will always be on the throne of Zion, God’s chosen resting place.  Jesus was the last in David’s human line.  The resurrected Jesus completes the ‘forever’ part of God’s promise as He leads us from beside God’s throne.

In Jesus we see God’s love poured out as He kept this promise.  This should be no surprise as God always keeps His promises.  Just as God chose Zion, through Jesus Christ He chooses you and me as well.  We are each God’s beloved children.  But sometimes we forget that.  Sometimes we turn our relationship with God into a relationship like our other human relationships.  Sometimes our relationship with God digresses to bartering, dealing, if-then statements.  If I go to church, then God will…  If I help my neighbor, then God will…

But God does not promise us an if-then relationship.  He does not love us more or less based on our actions, words, and deeds.  He simply loves us.  He simply loves us.  The gift of salvation offered through Jesus Christ is God’s unmerited, no-strings-attached, free gift to us, His children.

Jesus was and is the embodiment of God’s love.  This is why Jesus brought and offered this gift for you and me.  When we are tempted to slip back into the wheeling and dealing relationship, we must remember Jesus’ example of perfect obedience to the Father’s will.  When we want to pick and choose when to be a Christian, we must remember how Jesus loved all who came to Him, no matter the time of day or season.  And when we question, when we falter, we must remember Jesus’ promise as well: I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.

Scripture reference: Psalm 132: 10-18