The Widow's Gift

24th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 12:41-44

Thoughout his ministy, Jesus calls to our attention those on the margin of society, those who have gone unnoticed:

  • the poor
  • the blind
  • the lame
  • the beggar
  • the leper
  • the military personnel
  • the widows
These are some of the people on the margin of our society today, those who are excluded and looked down upon or simply ignored.

We enter the scriptures as Jesus is sitting and watching the crowd as the temple offering is being gathered. Between the court of the Gentiles and the court of women was the gate called Beautiful. Jesus had gone there to sit quietly and restful after the arguments and the tension at the court of the Gentiles. The court of the women was nearby.

There were 13 collection boxes called the trumpets because of their shape.  Each was for a special gift to buy corn, wine, or anything needed to buy for the sacrifice. Many people threw in large quantities of coins for the offering. There came a poor widow who put in all she had: 2 copper coins valued at about 1/16 of a cent.

Jesus, seeing her gift said, “She gave more than all the rest had put into the coffer.”

Here is a lesson in giving: real giving must be sacrificial. It is never the amount of the gift, but the sacrifice one offers in giving the gift. There are few people who will offer a real sacrifice to the Lord in supporting his work. Giving that is real has a certain recklessness in it. The widow might have kept one of her coins.  It was not much but something she probably needed badly. She gave everything she had.

There is a great symbolic truth here. It is our personal tragedy that we don’t trust the Lord to be part of our activity. It is a strange and lovely thing that the widow in the New Testament is who Jesus hands down to history as a pattern of sacrificial generosity.

When we put ourselves totally at Jesus’ disposal, we can not imagine what might transpire in our lives and in his church. We have not matured from giving only what is left of our resources because we use them to maintain ourselves and our comfortable lifestyles. We are happy to offer the Lord what is left over of our resources, including time, talent, and income.

In looking in depth at my own life and actions I am appalled of how little I actually give in sacrificial giving.

When I looked at my personal property, I found 5-6 TVs, more clothes in my closets and dressers than I can wear in a month, cupboards, and freezers full and bulging with food.

While Judy and I do support our Lord with our tithes of all resources that come into our house, that is not sacrificial giving. That is only what we are obligated to give. Sacrificial giving is when we do without a multitude of our desires and wishes and support the work of the Lord with those resources.

That is the first step in sacrificial giving.  While it may be a small step it is a step in the right direction, I don’t see much sacrificial giving in my life.

I am challenging myself and you to continue giving our obligations to the Lord, our 10%, and then begin to go a second and third mile in sacrificial giving for the lords work in our lives, our community and our world, and becoming a joyful and faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May we all pray about our sacrificial giving unto our Lord.

Let us pray.

The Great Commandment

23rd Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 12:28-34

There was no love lost between the experts of the law and Jesus. The task of these experts of the law and the Sadducees was to interpret the law and to see that each rule and regulation was followed the letter of that law.

When the scribe came to Jesus with his question, which was often a matter of great debate, he was trying to trip Jesus up by the way he answered. This debate had gone on ever since Moses had received them on Mount Sinai. He had received 613 laws according to tradition. 365 were according to the days of the sun year, and 248 accorded to the generations of man.

David came and reduced the 613 to 11 in Psalms 11. Isaiah came and reduced the 11 to 6 in Isaiah 32:18. Micah came and reduced the 6 to 3 in Micah 6:8. Isaiah then brought the 3 to 2 in Isaiah 66:1. Finally in Habakkuk 2:1, the 2 were reduced to 1 with these words: “The just shall live by faith.”

We can see by the actions of the rabbinic ingenuity, that the law interpreters tried to contain and expand the laws of Judaism over the years. When the expert of the law in today’s passage came questioning Jesus, the issue of the law was still a hot issue in Jewish debate and discussion.

Here Jesus takes the 2 great commandments and puts them together. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, oh Lord! Thy Lord is one Lord.”

The Jewish law Shema is a statement in which each service in the synagogue worship service begins even today. There are 3 statements of the Shema, which is contained in a small leather box that each devoted Jew would wear around their neck or on their wrist. The statements are contained in a small circular box that is attached to the door of every Jewish household door. Here is where Jesus stated a tremendous need in each of our lives: We are to love the Lord our God with our whole being, heart, body, soul, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

It is so easy to make our worship service as a thing we do on Sunday morning within the confines of the church building, instead of an action we do constantly and daily in our lives. We need to be reminded that worship and service unto our Lord should be 24 hours a day each and every day.

We are to be concerned not only about ourselves, our family, and our friends, but also our neighbors and people around the world. We must love the neighbor as Jesus loves each of us, because His great Spirit must dwell in each of us. We should never think of them and/or us for Jesus’ blood was shed on calvary’s cross for all our sins.

Over the years we have separated ourselves from one another. We have

  • the haves and have-nots.
  • the educated and non-educated.
  • blue-collar and white-collar worker classes.
  • the pigment in our skin.
  • the nations we live in.
  • names and denominations of churches we attend.
If we don’t seek to be one in Christ, we are no better than the heathen who does not seek a relationship with the Lord. We have become so comfortable with ourselves and our relationship with the Lord that we don’t seek to reach out to those who don’t know Him.

May we seek to turn a new leaf in our life, searching and seeking that all others will love the Lord our God as their God? When was the last time you reached out to share your faith with someone outside your family circle or your church community?

Let us pray.

Healing by the Roadside

22nd Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus was passing through Jericho on the way out of town with His disciples and a great crowd, things really happened! Jericho was a very special city. The temple that had 20,000 priests. They worked in 26 groups, except at the celebration of the passover, when all 20,000 were on duty because of the great crowds.

At the edge of the city, near its gate, sat a blind beggar asking for alms. His name was Bartimaeus. Hearing the shuffling of many feet, Bartimaeus asked what was going on. He was told that the teacher Jesus was passing by.

He immediately started crying out loud, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” Many around him told him to be quiet and not badger the teacher, and Bartimaeus cried out even louder,
“Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”

When he was told that Jesus was calling him, immediately he threw off his coat, jumped up, and headed out to find Jesus. Now this could not have been very easy for him because of his blindness. Would it not be exciting to be a Bartimaeus type of person!

Look briefly with me of the action in this biblical story. There is Bartimaeus’ sheer persistence. He would not allow any one thing to stand in his was to get to Jesus.

He had a desperate desire and that desire in ones life that gets things done. His responded immediately and eagerly when Jesus called him.

Many of us hear and feel the call of Jesus in our lives, yet we don’t immediately respond to his calling. We say, “Not now. Wait until i get this done.”

Soon we forget the calling. But Bartimaeus went to Jesus like a bullet fired from a gun! He had a great need and sensed that this wandering teacher could fulfill it. We often shortchange ourselves of a great blessing when we don’t immediately respond to the nudging of Jesus.

What a blessing Judy and I have had during these last 10 days sharing openly our faith with many who stopped by. In return they shared their faith stories also.

Bartimaeus, while not having an adequate theology of who Jesus was, trusted what he had heard about Him and had faith that He could heal his blindness.

One writer penned these words: “We must ask people the think, but we should not expect them to become theologians before they become Christians.”

Indeed, in Bartimaeus’ situation he trusted his gut feelings about Jesus. When Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do?” he simply said, “I want to see,” and immediately his eyes were open and he followed Jesus.

Our faith response is the key step in walking faithfully with Jesus throughout our lives.
There is no pretraining; we must pick up our pallets and move out! There are no future glimpses of what our future might be if we faithfully respond to Jesus calling; there's only faith and knowledge that if we will follow Him daily, He will faithfully walk daily with us.

In our society today, we have been preprogrammed to want to know the outcome of our actions. In a very short time, we see Jesus on the cross-of calvary, winning eternal life for each one of us that will respond to his love. A faith journey does not tell us what will transpire in our lives, only that Jesus will walk with us regardless of what transpires.

May we all walk in true faith in Jesus love. Amen!

Faith of a Child

19th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 10:13-16

Who actually "follows Jesus" in Mark’s writings? It is not the disciples. That is for sure. They kept misunderstanding Jesus' ministry and mission for 3 years. They kept getting His theology wrong to boot. Not once in Mark’s writings are they actually described as "following Jesus," but a few situations in the scriptures we discover a few who did.
  • In Mark 15 an anonymous man did follow Jesus.
  • In Mark 14 an anonymous woman understood that Jesus the crucified was marked as the Son of the living God. 
  • In Mark 10 we discover that a blind beggar followed him. 
When Jesus walked among us here on the earth, little children who had no status flocked to Jesus. He blessed them and held some in His arms. When Jesus took them in his arms the disciples saw them as a distraction, a waste of precious time.

We understand that he was on his way to the cross and his death. Jesus' time on earth was short, yet he had one final lesson that he had to get across to his disciples and you and me: The only hope we have to enter his eternal kingdom is to come as a little child, a child who has not been misguided by the ways of the world. We must have the humility of a little child.

While there is the child who is an exhibitionist, such children are rare and almost all are products of misunderstanding. They have not yet learned to think in terms of place pride or prestige, nor have they learned to discover their importance.

They are a child of obedience. While a child often does not obey, their instinct is to obey. They have not yet learned false pride and independence that separates them from others. They are a child of trust. It seems that they accept the authority of all others and have confidence.

An example of trust and confidence is when daddy throws them up in the air as they return to him all fear is gone when they see the smile on his face and the chuckle in his voice. They have not yet learned to expect the worlds dangers and still believe in the best of all people.

And that trust in people can be a dangerous thing, because not all adults are trustworthy.

A blessing of a child is that they have a very short memory. They have not yet learned to hold grudge or harbor bitterness.

Even when a child is playing with another and they have a spat over a toy and come crying saying, “I won’t play with him again!” Before their eyes are clear of tears, they are playing together as if nothing ever happened. Praise God for the little children and their short memory.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we adults could have maintained that childlike attitude when our feelings get hurt and we don’t get our way? Jesus in our text seeks to teach his disciples that we must maintain our childlike understandings when involved with others in our adult world.

Regardless of our age and our knowledge the surest way to enter the kingdom of God is like a little child. We confess and believe in him as youth or adults, but somewhere in life we have lost that childlike understanding. Our world would be a better place if we consciously kept the humility, the trust, and short memory of the wrongs of life. It appears often that we hold onto misunderstandings and misguided remarks while Jesus our lord does not remember our failures when He forgives us.

Can you imagine with me what this world might be like if we all acted as little children act in love, and obedience without and reservation? 

Let us pray!

Two Kinds of Wisdom

17th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: James 3:12-4:3

We see in our scripture today 2 kinds of wisdom.
  1. A wisdom that guides us in our human nature
  2. The wisdom of God that guides us by his Holy Spirit
The problem is that these 2 kinds of wisdom of personal action are divided by a narrow gap. Human wisdom is one that bears little true evidence of the love of God for one another. While an individual might be a great scholar and think about the great peace he has in his heart, his actions shows a different picture of his reflection in a mirror. His words may be as sharp as any razor blade and louder than a great clap of thunder with much fury within them. His heart is full of bitterness that destroys his actions and responses to the needs of others. He is arrogant and full of self-pride. His actions are 3-fold. His standards are earthly standards. He moves by the characteristics of mortal men's impulses. His heart and actions are those of persons who live in the darkness of reality; his drive for wisdom is completely different from those God desires that we maintain.

On the other hand, true wisdom is a special gift that is given us from God. This wisdom is described as a breath of true wisdom from God that influences our thoughts and actions. In Solomon 7:25 we discover these words: "Give me the wisdom from the glory of the almighty."

True wisdom is pure. Pure evidence that the individual has gone through the right ritual relationship with the Lord.

While their hands are pure, their hearts are not.
True and pure wisdom is the wisdom that produces a right relationship with mankind and with God. It is a relationship that separates mankind from mankind, making a man look for a personal relationship with the almighty. True relationship is full of mercy and produces good fruits for the kingdom of God.

When we see someone in great need we might say:
  • “It’s their own fault.” 
  • “They made the wrong choices that produced this situation.”
  • “ It’s their problem, not mine.”
As Christians we should see the situation but place no judgment on the individual or his needs.

There is a saying: “Only by the grace of God, I might be in that same situation.” As true Christians, we cannot and should not refuse to help that person in need, for Christian wisdom comes to us from God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christians should not pause and say “it’s his fault” and refuse to lift a hand or fingers for the one in need; rather, we should praise God who has blessed us and enables us to respond to the needs of others.

Regardless of who is the fault of the situation, God has reached down and out to help us in times like these. Wherein, we need to reach out and help others in need. The ultimate choices in life are between pleasing ourselves and pleasing others of God's children.

Our battleground can not be just to please us. That is a savage battle that destroys God's image within us. The Lord asks us not to battle for self-needs, but for the needs of others. To see and to feel the pain of others we need to move swiftly to reach out and touch that situation as God has reached down in our lives to intercede in our pain and our need.

True wisdom is having the ability to alleviate the suffering of others. Remember that even a cool glass of water offered to someone who thirsts will be seen and God will bless that simple show of love and it will not go unrewarded.

What is really needed in our world today is less of the wisdom we are taught through modern education and more of the blessings we receive through God's wisdom guiding our lives.

Let us Pray.

Taming the Tongue

Sixteen Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: James 3:1-12

Each one of us has the most dangerous earthly weapon. It has the capability of destroying our character and the ability to be fruitful in our Christian witness.

It is our tongue. The church should be a place where words do not hurt others but build them up as a child of God.

Our tongue should be an instrument of peace, joy, and reconciliation, not a tool of disaster or discourse.

There is no one in the world that has not sinned because of the slip of their tongue. James echoes those words when he shares with us that the tongue can become a deadly weapon. We do not slip up intentionally, but the scriptures are full of situations about this deadly sin. Paul says, “There is none righteous for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of the heavenly father.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” In Ecclesiastics 7:20 we see these words: “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”

There is no sin into which easier to slip into that does not have grave consequences when we slip up with our tongues. James 3:7-8 includes these words: “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

The psalmist penned these words:
“Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”

Man’s ingenuity has tamed every wild beast, but the tongue alone is beyond taming. To tame means to control, and to render useful and beautiful our exchanges with one another. We all know too well that there is a cleavage in our human nature:

  • something of the ape and something of the angel
  • something of the hero and something of the villain
  • something of the saint and something of the sinner

James is sure this villain is a man’s tongue, for we can change our temperament in a split second when we open our mouth before we bridle the tongue. The weakest person can bridle a large horse, but it takes a giant of a person to bridle their tongue. While our tongues are free to speak praises and adorations, one can destroy their character in the split second if they don't bridle their tongue.

Once it is uttered, one can not take it back, and one must live with the results of that slip of the tongue. Even when we seek to make amends for our actions, we can not forget that action and it is here that the devil takes a molehill and blows it into a mountain.

I heard a preacher on TV say that when the Lord called him to preach, he had not sinned since that day. His tongue proved otherwise!

Lord God, help us not to slip into sin because of a slip of a tongue. All of us have sinned through this small mouthful of tissue when we lose control of our emotions and feelings.  Help us Lord to bridle our tongues. In Jesus' name we make this request. Amen!

Rich People

18th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: Mark 10:25/James 5:3

Why do some rich people think they are going to heaven? Do you think that Jesus was badmouthing them?

Some rich women bankrolled Jesus and his disciples. Thus it seems like it is an unfair guess that Jesus thought kindly of them. One sugar momma was Mary Magdalene, who would be among the first to see the resurrected Lord, along with Susanna, and Joanna.

Joanna’s husband was King Herod’s administrator. We see and read in Luke 8:3, “These women and other women, provided support for Jesus and his disciples.”

Not all-rich people are selfish and spiritually bankrupt, even though there’s a heap of verses that seem to  trash the rich because of these reasons.

They wrote laws favoring themselves. They bought off politicians and judge, while today the poor would get public defenders. Rich people underpaid their workers, cheated their customers, and many ignored the poor.

When Jesus said “it is harder for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven than a camel to get through the eye of a needle,” he was referring to the camels’ gate into the city. This gate was much lower in height and narrower in width than any other gate in the city. Traders use this gate because it was closest to the market place. If the camel was heavy laden with a high load, they either had to unload the camel or possibly help him crawl through on his knees.

Jesus here was using an extravagant illustration to drive home his point: Wherever your heart is, is where your treasure is. Is your treasure earthly and heavenly? Both Jesus and James both made this point.

Jesus stated, “Why do you see the sawdust in someone else’s eye and cannot see the wooden beam in your own eye?” Not all-rich people are shut out of the kingdom of God. One such person who entered was Joseph of Armethea. He donated his own tomb for Jesus’ burial. This is a wonderful example of a rich guy with a compassionate heart. Joseph had been a secret follower of Jesus’ earthly ministry, yet he was a wealthy member of a top Jewish council and a member of the Supreme Court that orchestrated Jesus execution!

He came out of the closet when he asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. He wrapped Jesus’ body in clean white linen and laid him in his own tomb. Joseph apparently respected Jesus more than he coveted his relationship with his own colleagues. He put Jesus first and he likely paid a terrible price, diminishing many earthly returns in his earthly kingdom. Joseph lost the respect of his co-hearts, lost his seat on the council, and got a cold shoulder from his Jewish business associates. All his earthly means and assets took a nosedive.

While his was concerned about this, he was more concerned about his relationship with the Lord. It’s wonderful that we seek earthly treasures, but they will not get us into the kingdom of God! There is only one treasure that we need not only for this life but also for the heavenly life. That treasure is a personal relationship with our Lord.

What earthly treasures are you willing to give up or sacrifice for your real treasure, Jesus the Christ?

Let us pray!