“Houses”February 24, 2022
WoesMarch 30, 2023
Jesus finishes his talk in the Temple in Jerusalem and tension is building that will erupt in “crucify him” on Good Friday. Jesus does not mince words but predicts woes to religious leaders and people who are disingenuous. Woe is defined in the dictionary as “a condition of deep suffering from misfortune, affliction, or grief or ruinous trouble, calamity, affliction.” When we are disingenuous, it backfires and we suffer. We might ask ourselves during this Lenten season how we might be disingenuous. Jesus points out certain ways:
· Requiring a code of behavior of others that we don’t abide by.
· Critiquing details of actions and missing the big picture.
· Shallow morality that appears right but misses the point of the practice, for example tithing to impress others.
· Living an outward show of morality while having secret “addictions” that are indulged in privately, for example pornography.
· Distancing yourself from ancestor’s faults that you know is potentially part of your life, for example alcoholism.
Jesus sums it up by condemning religious leaders who are hypocrites.
We may not be a religious leader or a governmental leader. We may not even consider ourselves as leaders at all but often we do not realize who all is watching us. I think of looking at posts on FaceBook and all the people who tap, like or dislike. But I do not think Jesus is talking about popularity or approval but about congruence between what we believe and how we live and our terrible habit of criticizing or judging others. He is saying that woe comes to people who do not walk the talk and who use their talk to hurt others.
Given we are in Lent, let us think of a couple of compliments we might give to people today to build up and not tear down the person. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will show us ways in which we are not genuine and that we need to ask God’s assistance to overcome. May we rid ourselves of the beam in our own eye before we try to pick out the speck in another
Hypocrisy or ServanthoodMarch 29, 2023
Matthew 23: 1-12
We are going through the final scenes of Jesus’ life before the cross. He certainly does not seem to be trying to make friends with the religious establishment. Interesting. Today he confronts the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. It is not what they teach but the way they model their faith.
Perhaps we could say that what I believe is foundational to my life but if I do not live out those beliefs then I am a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1Corinthians 13:1), a lot of noise and no substance. The passage shows us what false spirituality looks like. It ends admonishing us to be humble and be servants of others.
“23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
It is easy to judge others and see their weaknesses but during Lent we look into our own hearts and ask ourselves if there are ways in which we act proudly, seek attention and control, or demand of others a life style we ourselves cannot live up to. I find it easy to bow my head in shame when the light of the Gospel shines on me for indeed I am fallible. But the last word in this passage is “exalted.” There is a God who sees and knows the motives of our hearts and knows our honest desires for our families and friends. He will reward. Let us renew our desire to be servants of others today and look to God for our rewards. Blessings.
“Love”March 28, 2023
I went to the movies yesterday for the first time in years. I saw “Jesus Revolution” that took me back to my young adult years in Los Angeles. I saw familiar coastline, familiar soul searching, and the familiar response that touched my heart so deeply back then. The Supremes made a Motown hit “Love Child” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jYpqdbqXzQ) that we all sang in the 60s. Today we easily talk about a “love child” as the product of a love connection but not necessarily marriage, a child with one parent.
The Pharisees similarly were seeking and trying to trap Jesus about love so asked him what the greatest commandment was. Jesus responded,
37 He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Perhaps Christians are “love children” not because of drugs but because we acknowledge one parent – whether we call that parent Father God or Mother God for those to whom the father image brings horrible memories of abuse. We know that God loved us enough to make the Lenten Journey to the cross to pay for our selfishness. Love is not about expanding our minds to new horizons, love without responsibility, nor finding freedom from the law but realizing that our God loved us so much he fulfilled the law and so we are free from guilt and shame, free to be the child he created us to be. He does not conceive us and then leave.
I came home last night to find a letter from IRS saying I did not fill out income tax correctly two years ago! Thank goodness God is not like government but covers our mistakes with real love! I enjoyed the movie and the reminder of a phase in my journey to find a parent who would never forsake me. Blessings on your journey!
“Resurrection”March 27, 2023
The Pharisees, that’s the religious group that wants to be fair-you-see, is defeated in trapping Jesus in the question about taxes. So then the Sadducees, the ones who are sad-you-see because they don’t believe in the resurrection, try to trap Jesus their trick question. A woman who was married becomes a widow so is then given to his brother and so on as seven brothers die and finally the woman dies. The Sadducees ask whose wife she’ll be in the resurrection. Jesus corrects the first mistake by clarifying that marriage is not an issue in heaven. But more importantly he directly confronts the Sadducees about their misunderstanding about the resurrection. God “is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
The concept of eternal life is hard to get the mind around. The Bible does not go into great detail about what that means but the resurrection of Jesus points to the truth that there is eternity. Tolkien represented this idea with the race of elves that were immortal. C.S. Lewis in his 6th book in the Tales of Narnia has the four children running “high up and higher in” to reality and adventures beyond. Others like to think of choirs in clouds. It is comforting to think we will see our beloved departed hopefully without all the “oops” we know we need to apologize for. In Kenya the people would often overlook grievances because the person might be their neighbor in eternity.
Jesus is very clear. God is the God of life and not of death. We can be confident that God is working for our good no matter how horrendous our situation. So what aspects of life are precious to you as you think of eternity? Let us do an acrostic of the word “life” today…
L is for __________________
I is for ___________________
F is for __________________
E is for __________________
The journey of Lent is about a journey with a God who is willing to go the whole way that we might have life, and life more abundant. He has our back today. Thank you, Lord.
Fifth Sunday in Lent 2023: The ImpossibleMarch 26, 2023
First Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
1The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”
Psalm: Psalm 130
1Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord;
2O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
3If you were to keep watch over sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
4Yet with you is forgiveness,
in order that you may be feared.
5I wait for you, O Lord; my soul waits;
in your word is my hope.
6My soul waits for the Lord more than those who keep watch for the morning, more than those who keep watch for the morning.
7O Israel, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is steadfast love;
with the Lord there is plenteous redemption.
8For the Lord shall redeem Israel
from | all their sins.
Second Reading: Romans 8:6-11
6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Gospel: John 11:1-45
1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
28When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
CHILDREN’S SERMON: One of my favorite songs comes from Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical, Cinderella is “Impossible.” Whitney Houston, the godmother sings to Brandy, Cinderella, who is unable to attend the ball. Turn to your neighbor. What were so impossible, the barriers that kept Cinderella from going to the ball? https://www.google.com/search?q=impossible+song+in+Cinderella&oq=impossible+song+in+Cinderella&aqs=chrome..69i57j0i22i30l2j0i390l2.8087j0j9&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:46e28d2c,vid:o_5eho0zcrs
(Actually the young Julie Andrews sang the song in 1957! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FWQJex02TM)
“Impossible for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage.
Impossible for a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage.
And four white mice will never be four white horses.
Such fol-de-rol and fiddle dee of course is
But the world is full of zanies and fools
Who don’t believe in sensible rules
And won’t believe what sensible people say
And because these daft and dewey eyed dopes
Keep building up impossible hopes impossible
Things are happening every day!”
Let us pray. Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.
This Lent we have been looking at our texts through the lens of the challenges Satan gave to Jesus at the Temptation. Satan challenged Jesus to prove he was God by doing the impossible: turn rocks into bread (our wants or hungers), jump from the steeple of the Temple (security), or worship Satan to gain the world without the cross (power). We have looked at people who also wrestled with these challenges. Nicodemus wrestled with the impossible concept of being born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The woman at the well wrestled with unquenchable thirst and her search for security in five failed marriages. The man born blind, without eyes, was given eyes to see and faced the religious power systems as he declared his faith that power for good comes from God. Today’s text again summarizes with these three themes before we enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday next week. The Kingdom of this World tells us things are impossible and Jesus calls us to faith and the Kingdom of Heaven that he is ushering in. Impossible? Let’s see. We might be one of those “zanies and fools” that believes God can do the impossible.
“Lazarus is dead.”
Jesus is not in Jerusalem yet but his friend, “the one he loved,” the brother of Mary and Martha whom we hear about throughout his ministry, this Lazarus, is sick. It would seem Jesus is in northern Israel in the Galilee area and having heard the news tarries two days longer and then turns his face to Jerusalem. There is no indication that Jesus is unaware of the seriousness of the illness or that he is overwhelmed with the business of ministry. His disciples are not pestering Jesus that he should go see his sick friend. In fact, the disciples seem to question his trip to Jerusalem because it might be dangerous. The text indicates that Jesus is purposely tarrying for the glory of God and for us to learn a lesson.
The text informs us that the disciples have missed the point again. The disciples are thinking about Jesus’ reputation that might lead to conflict. Jesus clarifies. Lazarus is dead, not sleeping. The impossible to cure has happened. They have hit “the wall.” Cinderella knows she will never go to the ball unless her godmother helps. Can you hear Satan gloating, “Jesus, change this rock into bread, if you are God.” Satan is taking a victory lap.
This reminds me of our many prayers for God’s help and how often we think he is off in Galilee doing something else. As our situation worsens, it is so easy for us to jump to the conclusion that God doesn’t care. So before we go further let us think of some unanswered prayer on our heart that Satan would like us to think that God is tarrying elsewhere. Are there times we sit on our stool by the fire despairing that our dreams will come true? Be honest.
Let us now sit in this moment for a few seconds and not jump to the resurrection that we know is coming. History has only revealed that. If crossing the border from Mexico into the USA is hard for refugees, death is an insurmountable border to turn from. It is impossible to reverse, short of a miracle. I do not think the lesson here is to tell us to pray that people don’t die. Death is God’s escape route out of this world of sin and suffering. But Jesus did allow this scenario, as he will now turn to Jerusalem and the cross. We now come to a scene of grief everyone had been praying Jesus would prevent. Perhaps the lesson is that God is working out a bigger plan than my desire for someone to live and I cannot see that picture because history has not revealed it to me.
When faced with the temptation to turn rocks into bread, Jesus answered Satan, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” When life seems impossible we need to turn to God’s word. Death is never welcome and watching a loved one decline or experiencing our own aging limitations is not fun. Finding the money to pay that sudden bill can swamp our faith. Challenges like finding a spouse, surviving a divorce, passing a test or dealing with a wayward child can all feel impossible. Life is like that but it does not mean that God does not see and is not working. The impossible might be possible with God.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. “
Jesus and crew arrive at the home of Lazarus who has now been dead and buried for four days. Mourners are gathered. Martha goes to meet Jesus and laments, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Bad things happen to good people and it is so easy to think that if only God had been present then hard times would not have happened. We read that faith can move mountains and are so tempted to shift our focus to the size of our faith that did not move our mountain. Satan whispers to Jesus and to us that we can do impossible things like throw ourselves down from a steeple and God’s love will protect us from the realities of life. Lazarus need not have died. The marriage need not have failed. The car accident need not have happened. We have come to equate security with comfort and blessing. We think if Jesus had been present, if we believe in God and trust, then the painful outcome could have been avoided. Martha and actually Mary too are right that the presence of Jesus gives us security but that does not mean success.
Secondly, Martha and we also assume that if we have enough faith, Lazarus would not have died and we would not have to face dark days. If Jesus had been present, Lazarus would not have died. In the United States we have not had to face a war like Ukraine that seems so unfair, or earthquakes like Syria that kill so many innocent, or… you can name it. For the majority of us illness, old age, finances and “ordinary” challenges bring us to our knees and draw tears of lament. Our culture focuses on youth and good times and it is hard to get our souls around lives that involve so much hardship and still affirm a God who is all-powerful. This text forces us to face that security is not the same as success and bounty.
When Satan tempted Jesus with this thinking, Jesus replied, “Do not put your God to the test.” In the Message it is translated, “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.” I would offer that we are most secure when we trust that God IS present and events ARE unfolding within his awareness. That is hard to say because it implies the truth that I am the creature and he is the creator and admits I don’t understand everything. That does not make God the author of evil but it does confess that God is able to make all situations work for good and that we trust him when we don’t understand life because he has our back. Both Martha and Mary bow and profess their faith that Jesus can work in the impossible and are willing to trust that resurrection is in Jesus.
“Unbind him, and let him go.”
Lazarus has died. It is impossible in the kingdom of this world for that to be reversed as much as science works to find ways. Time marches on. Rocks do not just turn into bread. Those of us like Martha and Mary caught in the backlash of the impossible are tempted to reason that things would not have gone like this if we had the security of God’s presence. The third temptation, though, is power. Satan invites Jesus to worship him and Satan says he will then give Jesus the world.
Jesus settles the questions swirling about that deal with our hungers, our insecurities and who has the real power and is worthy of worship. Jesus calls in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” God has the power to reverse the impossible. God keeps us secure. God is the ultimate power in all situations, even the impossible. A pumpkin can be turned into a carriage. Four white rats can become four horses. Cinderella can go to the ball despite all the barriers.
Lazarus will still have to die again! Jesus will still have to go to Jerusalem and the cross. We will all most certainly walk the valley of the shadow of death but our text today affirms that Jesus has power over the impossible, power to change rocks to bread, and power to keep us secure in horrible situations. We do not need to fear. We can enter Jerusalem next week and finish our walk to Calvary and we can trust God for the future. He is the resurrection. Satan, be gone.
And the people of God said, “AMEN!”
“What a Friend We Have in Jesus”March 25, 2023
This week we have been pondering parables about a king who is throwing a wedding banquet for his son. The invited guests do not come and so others are invited because the king is determined not to waste the prepared food and that his son be celebrated. The parable is a picture of God’s desire that we all come to final feast with Jesus. We are invited. The story has a lesson to teach and as I apply it, I kinda wonder why a king would invite me, someone he doesn’t know or perhaps better that I might not know him. It made me think of the beloved hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” written by Joseph Sciven in the 1880s.
Joseph, born in Ireland like St. Patrick we celebrated last week, lost his bride to be when she drowned the eve of their wedding. That wedding feast never happened and was cloaked in grief. Some of us are struggling with grief and can empathize! Joseph, born wealthy and entitled, left Ireland for Port Hope, Canada, where he dedicated his life to helping people. He became known as the “Good Samaritan of Port Hope,” bringing joy to many. On learning that his mother in Ireland was dying, he wrote the poem sharing about his good friend, Jesus. May the words comfort you today if there are areas of grief in your life.
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.
Please enjoy this darling African children’s choir singing this hymn.
“Whose image is on this?”March 24, 2023
The Pharisees are out to trap Jesus in his own words and so set up a trick question. Is it right to pay imperial taxes to Caesar? Jesus sees through them and has them hold up a coin and asks a question, “Whose image is on this?” Jesus answers, give to Caesar what is his and give to God what is his. It is similar to two women claiming a baby and Solomon calling for a sword and threatening to cut the baby in half to appease both women. The woman who has compassion is awarded the baby.
As we look in the mirror, whose image do we see staring back at us? We are told we are made in the image of God. What does that mean to you? Certainly we do not look in the mirror and see God but we do see his creation and there is the potential for that image in the mirror to tell us something about God.
Might I suggest an experiment for reflection today?
- If you look in the mirror and see exhaustion – ask God for his strength or thank him for helping you make it through another exhausting day.
- If you look in the mirror and see worry – name it and turn it over to God.
- If you see maturity that was not there in former days – thank God for the journey and lessons.
- If you see similarity to your parents – thank God for your heritage or perhaps again ask forgiveness for their abuse.
- If you see rejection by a friend or former spouse – thank God that he does not reject you and he sees you as beautiful – amazing.
The mirror can be a place of quick prayer and a place where our image reflects back and reminds us of our relationship with God. Christ went to the cross for that person you see in the mirror! Blessings!
Do the clothes make the person?March 23, 2023
Have you ever heard the saying, “Clothes make the person”? I’m sure my parents believed it. I remember my father confronting me in the early 70s, “We the people of this town pay you a good enough salary that you don’t need to walk around looking like a beach bum.” I loved my floppy university T-shirt from my university on the ocean and my cut off jeans.
According to the Internet this saying means, ”There are actually two meanings to this saying; simply put it means that people are judged based on the clothing that they wear and are treated accordingly. On a deeper level this phrase can be understood to mean that by dressing in a certain manner you can actually shape your behavior and affect the way you perform.” Before a big test I always got a good night’s sleep and wore clothes that I felt appropriate in. The man in the parable Jesus started yesterday did not follow this advice.
A king gave a wedding banquet for his son. The invited guests did not come for their various reasons and the king was furious. The servants bought in people from all stations of life. The king notices that a man at the banquet was not dressed appropriately and had him thrown out. The parable concludes, “many are invited but few are chosen.” That feels harsh. What is Jesus saying?
Wearing clothes appropriate to the occasion shows respect for the host. Refusing the clothes that might have been provided in that culture or coming inappropriately dressed is as insulting as refusing the banquet invitation by those first invited.
I would use the word “integrity” to describe the agreement of my inner self with the way I represent myself in the world. While some dress to impress or draw attention and thus gain some sort of status, dressing appropriately is respectful.
As a Christian, we talk about being “robed in the blood of the lamb,” meaning that we look to the cross and what that says of our relationship to God. To refuse the “robe” is to refuse relationship. To refuse to wear the team uniform is paramount to rejecting membership on the team.
Let’s think today of statements we try to convey by the way we dress. And let us thank God that we are clothed in his love and forgiveness and don’t have to worry about a fashion statement. Blessings.
BanquetsMarch 22, 2023
Matthew 22 now shifts to a parable about a wedding banquet prepared by a proud father for his beloved son. It actually says a “king” prepared the banquet for his son but few of us know kings and we can picture a father. Actually, I was the bride and my groom’s father was deceased but I have been to weddings here and in Africa. As Jesus journeys to the cross, he tells a parable of a wedding feast and the dreams and aspirations that went into it.
Invitations were sent. The guests refused the invitation of a king. Unimaginable. As I reflect though, in Kenya we once received an invite to State House for a President’s affair. I was all flustered. Our car was a rattletrap! What should I wear? How does one interact with a President? Who was I to be at a King’s party? I was only the wife of one of his servants. I could have easily not gone. There was no TV so I would not know what I had missed. Maybe the guests for this banquet counted themselves unworthy, unprepared, or not important. Maybe it was not hardness of heart but faint of heart and untrusting.
During Lent we have done some serious self-introspection about our faith or lack thereof. Who are we to be invited to be in relationship with the God of the universe? That, there, is the truth. We are undeserving. The cross is necessary because we are undeserving and unbelieving. We cannot “earn” the right to be invited to a banquet by the king. It is a gift, an invitation.
Today let’s just remember wedding banquets we have been invited to and how we prepared or perhaps why we did not go. An invitation opens a window to reflect on how we respond to all of God’s invitations for relationship. Let us not be hard hearted or untrusting today. He is excited about his gift to us! Blessings.
OuchMarch 21, 2023
Jesus is down to the last week of his life and the parables he tells are pointed and understood. Matthew first shares the parable of the landowner who rents out his property that he has set up as a vineyard. The tenants, though, do not want to give the owner his share of the harvest and kill the men sent to collect. Next the owner sends his son and he is killed also. Jesus faces the religious leaders and asks, “What will the owner do?” They know the answer and know they are the ungrateful tenants mismanaging God’s property.
So what do you do when things don’t go the way you think they should and you are not treated respectfully? If you do not get your fair share, do you just forgive? In this parable, the owner does not turn his cheek and forgive the selfishness of the tenants. He does not say he will wait another year and see if they have a change of heart. He does not excuse the murder of his son. I think we sometimes confuse God and Santa Claus. We would like to think of God as some loving being off in the heavens who is on our side, willing to tolerate our short sightedness.
Lent is a time when we honestly look at ourselves and ask ourselves if we are responding to God respectfully, giving him the honor and allegiance due our creator and sustainer. If our answer is no then we must choose to repent and we can look at our excuses and see where we need to make a course correction. Humbling ourselves is not a popular message these days or back then. The religious leaders when confronted with this parable sought ways to arrest Jesus. Let us pray for the humility to have ears that hear from others and that we are willing to “get our act together” that we might grow into our better selves. God is on our side, cheering for us. Blessings.