Wise or Foolish?

Matthew 25:1-13

We presume that we have all the time in the world to tend to certain matters. So, we put off dealing with broken relationships, offering a needed word of gratitude or encouragement, learning a skill, replacing a bad habit with a good one, changing careers, deepening our relationship with God, spending time with a child, or faithfully following Christ. There seems to be so many other things that crowd into our time and push out what we say is important to us.

In our parable from Matthew 25, we have some young women who want to be part of a joyous celebration, yet they don’t make it because they were not prepared or ready. Disappointment and shame were their experience. All because the young women did not bring extra oil.

In this allegorical parable Jesus categorizes the women waiting for the celebration to begin as either wise or foolish. We often think that it is sin that keeps us from the celebration of God, but here it is not being wise.

This entire section of Matthew is driving home the point for us to be ready. The day or the hour we do not know when, but we need to be prepared. We will be startled by the shout, but we need to be watchful. This parable also reminds us of what are the consequences of not being ready for the great celebration. Simply put, will the Lord’s appearing find you wise or unwise, prepared or scrambling to get things together?

Social Event of All Eternity

Matthew 22:1-14

Human society is consumed with the “Who’s Who” of entertainment, wealth, trend setters, even our social clique, and the most coveted thing is the invite to the party. In our parable this Sunday, there is the Social Event of the decade, the Royal Wedding. The invitations are sent out, but when the time comes for the R.S.V.P. there is nothing but regrets or even ignoring of the invitation.

The invited become the disinvited. Yet, the King wants his banquet filled! So the unpopular, the losers, the outcast, and the undeserving are brought into the banquet hall to the joy of the King.

Yes, as you read the text, this is a complicated parable (the simpler version is in Luke 14.) But the surprising event in the parable is that people ignore the great invitation. This is the response that we often see to the Good News God is offering. People’s lives are filled with property, careers, entertainment that they just ignore God’s gracious invitation. The challenge of this parable, and especially Matthew 22’s record of it is: “Do we take the invitation of God seriously?” Not only the invitation to experience the forgiveness and grace through Christ, but even the daily invitation to walk with God, to be in the presence of God, and to have God in our lives. We often ignore that invitation.

That is what Lent is for, the putting aside, at least for a short period of time, the things that crowd our lives and take up the room for God. The honor it is to be invited to the Royal Wedding should signify to us the desire that God has to be in fellowship with us, to be at a party with us.

God is Still Speaking

We come now to the parable of the Wheat and Weeds. In the context Matthew sets for us there are several parables in Matthew 13. He also included a quote from the Psalms that told why Jesus talked in Parables.

“The more your story requires the hearers to think, the better your story is.” Considering this quote from a recent book on story-theory, Jesus’ stories have been occupying people’s minds for a couple thousand years. We often think that the meaning of a parable is set and often easy to understand. Yet, looking back over the history of this parable, it has said many different things in many different contexts. From the church’s experience in the world, the Rabbis used it to tell of Israel among the gentiles, St. Augustine used it to restrain church discipline, to the question of how do we know who in our church are true believers are just some of the ideations of this parable throughout the years.

That is why parables are so fascinating, God is still speaking to us through them after all these years. And even with Jesus’ interpretation of this parable that follows, there is still much that we are required to think about and allow God to speak to us.

Pastor Greg

Hope for the Authentic

Matthew 7:13-29

This is the last sermon from the Sermon on the Mount in our series.  In the end of his Sermon, Jesus is talking about genuine and false, authentic and fake, truth and lies, success and ruin.  In the picture of the Judgement, Jesus talks to some people that thought their words were all that were needed.  Words alone do not make for authentic living. 
Are our words out of sync with our actions?  Someone caught up in an addiction may say they love their family, they want to do better, they are so sorry and will never do it again; yet return to their addictive substance.  Words alone do not make us righteous.  In the end, the King of the Kingdom will not be fooled by words alone, he is able to discern the authenticity of our hearts, our self-portrayal to others.

The fact is, our words need to reflect what is actually taking place in our inner lives and unless the words are translated into concrete actions, they are meaningless.  We may be those that call for justice for the oppressed but are we kind to them.  We may do impressive deeds, signs and wonders, but are we manifesting the heart of our Heavenly Father that is redeeming humankind through the sacrifice of his son?  Are we truly doing the will of the one we call Father in Heaven?

Pastor Greg

My regular office hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 10 to 2,
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Hope for the Worriers

Matthew 6:24-34

This Sunday our text is a very challenging one for us.  As we read Jesus’ discussion of “do not worry,” we will be thinking about what disturbs our serenity and peace of mind.  “What shall I eat?” or “What will I wear?” or “What will happen tomorrow?” are the questions that are keeping us awake at night, that keep us from enjoying today, and keep us from seeing God’s provision for our life.

In the verses earlier Jesus told us to pray, “Give us today the bread we need.”  That is obviously a reminder of God providing manna in the wilderness.  As God provided manna, the Israelites has to trust the daily provision.  Those that hoarded it as they feared for tomorrow, experienced worms and stench in their tents.  Those that did not observe the Lord’s commands to respect the Sabbath, went without and were hungry.  Our daily bread comes from God, and as we understand God’s character and desire to care for us, we are able to live day-by-day not burdened by worry.

Jesus closes the section by telling us that each day is its own challenge.  That is where our energies need to go as we face this day.  Today when God’s manna is to be collected for this day.  The sixth day, when we have to collect extra for the Sabbath has its own challenges.  Then we live the Sabbath, where the provision of God is being supplied by the extra effort of yesterday.  But each day is a day for us to know the God of provision, the God that cares for each of his children each day and understands the trials that each of us face. 

Pastor Greg

The Unexpected?

Matthew 5:1-12

This Sunday begins a three-sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount.  This sermon of Jesus has been described as the outline for his kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.  The sermon begins with 9 Blessed, or Beatitudes.  Being blessed is not being happy.  Being blessed is dwelling in a place of God’s acceptance and favor.

Who is in the place of God’s acceptance and favor?  The poor in spirit, those who mourn, and those who are meek.  None of these would make the top ten list of desired places to be.  But these are the kind of people that God has designed his kingdom for. These are people who have been rejected by human society, those that are considered unclean and unfortunate, but they are the ones that God favors.

Be with us Sunday as I consider the cream of the crop in the kingdom of heaven

Pastor Greg

Confronting the Evil that comes to Us…

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “The person who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as the one who helps perpetuate it.  The person who accepts evil without protesting against it, is really cooperating with it.” 

Recently, I have been reading about human psychology, especially mass psychology.  The question was asked, “If you were in Germany in the 1930’s, would you have been a part of the Nazis?”  Most of us shirk that thought, but we need to remember these were good people caught up in a bad ideology.  Nazism was billed as the wave of the future, and the way of the enlightened.  The first steps of Nazi domination were small and billed as care for the mentally ill, or health concerns in the nation.  Soon the asylums were emptied as the patients were euthanized, and the Jews were required to wear yellow stars. 

Where would you have drawn the line?  Most people want to “go along to get along,” yet some going along really is getting on the slippery slope with no way to stop.

My earliest community memories included the last vestiges of Jim Crow South.  Many good people stood by as some black people were unfairly treated, cheated, and even physically injured because they just wanted to get along.  They may have even convinced themselves that that person deserved this treatment because they were black. 

The quote by Dr. King above is an indictment of those of us that find almost any excuse for not to raise our voice against evil.  Dr. King did view the world as containing good and evil.  He decried the evil of segregation and mechanisms that kept so many in poverty.  The evil had to be confronted, and only by showing the evil in the light of truth was the evil vanquished.

In our text this week, Jesus confronted the evil one by exposing his lies and deception to the truth of God’s Word.  So on this MLK Day weekend, how are we fortifying ourselves with truth to expose the evil that wants to dominate all around us?

Pastor Greg

“…he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove and alighting on him.”

          This Sunday’s message is from Matthew 3:1-17, the Baptism of Jesus by John.  In this event in Christ’s life, we see the presence of each member of the Holy Trinity.  The Son comes up from the water, the Father speaks from Heaven, and the Holy Spirit descends as a dove. 
          The Holy Spirit is always moving, active, and present.  In the opening pages of the Bible the Holy Spirit is moving on the waters, the dove is released from the Ark by Noah, and the Spirit “comes upon” people in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament, Jesus is compelled into the wilderness by the Spirit, the Spirit is like the wind that blows, a rushing wind on the day of Pentecost, and dancing tongues of fire on those present in the Upper Room. 
         The Holy Spirit is active.  How is the Spirit active in your life?  We often get confused by those that see any activity of the Spirit as an ecstatic experience with obvious manifestations.  But that is not the way for us to see the activity of the Spirit. 
         I read an account of a young man that wrote in his blog, “How I did not kill myself yesterday.”  He described the depressions, sense of hopelessness, and emptiness he was experiencing during the Christmas season.  He felt he had no one else to turn to and was about to hurt himself, when he called the Suicide Prevention Hotline.  The counselor there helped him to put things into perspective.  He soon realized there was hope, there was a tomorrow. 
          The article I read was written by his pastor and she noted that it was the Holy Spirit descending and using the counselor to bring hope to the young man.  It made me wonder about how many times I had not been open to the Spirit.  How many times had I not allowed the Holy Spirit to descend upon me so that I could be the tool of God building up that other person?
          For 2023, I want to be more aware of the times God the Holy Spirit is moving me so that I can be a blessing to others.  
Pastor Greg

Happy New Year!!

Matthew 1:1-17
The God of History

New Year’s Day sermon will be from a text that is rarely preached.  The genealogy from Abraham to David to Joseph.  There are many fascinating parts of this genealogy, but the big picture is the working of God in the lives of historical men and women.

Of the four Gospels, Matthew is seen as the continuation of the Old Testament.  This Gospel is showing the Jews that Jesus is the promised Messiah.  And this genealogy shows the two most important people for the covenant or promises of God, Abraham and David. 

Matthew is the Gospel for 2023.  Matthew wants us to see that the plan of God is working in time and history.  Matthew shows us that the Messiah is not some fanciful legend, the Messiah is a real person, and he deals with the real situations of our lives.

The sermons will take Matthew in the order they are presented, and not the retelling of the story of the Church Year as other lectionaries do.  We will look at this One that is the fulfillment of the promises God has made with Abraham and David.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

Luke 2:1-20

The Humiliation of God

The texts for this year’s Advent and Christmas have show the movement of God.  The movement of God in the work of redemption is a downward movement.  Paul uses, what many think is a hymn from the early church to describe this movement.  In Philippians 2 we see the gift of the Redeemer:

Christ Jesus,
who, though he existed in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

This was done to thoroughly un-impress the mighty, the powerful, the top of society, they mocked him as a “son of a carpenter” and someone from Nazareth (Hicksville).  But the low in society, the cast off, the forgotten masses of the unwashed is where the Good News is proclaimed. 

Pride is often our biggest block is speaking the good news of Jesus.  We don’t want those we are trying to impress to associate us with “those people.”  In the Advent of the Savior of the world, God eradicates all forms of human pretentiousness and self-importance.  Even the “kings from the east” must come into a humble house and bow down before a peasant girl and her baby. 

The angels were not wrong, this is the way to glory, this is the demonstration of the glory of God in the Highest and the way of peace for all peoples. 

Paul continues:

Therefore God exalted him even more highly
    and gave him the name
    that is above every other name,
10 so that at the name given to Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

The call for us at Christmas is to humble ourselves so that we can be with the rough and smelly shepherds bowing in the dung of a cattle stall.  Then we will see the glory of God coming in the perfect gift of love.