Hypocrisy or Servanthood

March 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, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 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. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 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.


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! 


March 27, 2023

Matthew 22:23-33

         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.

“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. 


March 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.


March 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.

The Bind

March 20, 2023

         Jesus is in Jerusalem and his time is limited.  Yet again religious leaders confront him.  They have seen his miracles, heard his teachings, sent reps to question him and still they sit on the fence.  And so they ask a question they do not want the answer for.  “By what authority do you do what you do?”  They know the answer.  Jesus asks them a question that makes apparent their duplicity.  Who was the authority behind John the Baptist?  It reminds me of grade school and the question, “Can God create a rock so big he can’t lift it?”  Yes, God is the creator and yes, God can do all things.  The question is not looking for truth but to put the person answering in a bind.  The leaders are caught behind the obvious truth that Jesus is of God and their pride that does not want to admit it.  They are in a bind and back down.

         How many times do we hesitate to stand up for what we know is true for fear of the “other.”  Faith by definition is not subject to the laws of science.  I believe in love but I have been betrayed.  I believe in air but I cannot always see it.  I had a poster that I cherished for years as a young adult.  It was the beginning of a poem,

“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when He is silent…”

It is the start of a poem scratched on a prison wall in Cologne during WWII by a Jewish person.   https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/9812347-i-believe-in-the-sun-even-when-it-is-not

         What are some things you believe in that cannot be seen but that show the power and existence of God to you?  Lord, help me not to play games with my and not to hesitate to share my faith as I walk the lenten journey with you today!  Blessings.

Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness

March 18, 2023

By Rusty Edwards, Lutheran pastor

Music by Dave Brubeck


Tomorrow our Gospel text will focus on Jesus healing the man born blind.  Jesus does this miracle on the Sabbath in the Temple and so much discussion surfaces.  The disciples wonder if the man sinned or his parents that he would be born blind.  The Pharisees wonder if an act that appears to be done by God could truly be done on the Sabbath.  The parents who have lived all these years with all the social pressures of having a differently abled child, are questioned by the Pharisees.  They cave under social pressure and admit their son was blind and now sees but ask him the “how” question because he is an adult.  The healed man, the one who was blind and now sees clearly, stands on truthwithout the cloud of debate.  “I once was blind and now I see.”  How do we explain that?  Tune in for tomorrow!

         I found this hymn I do not know but is an option for tomorrow’s service.  It is classical in format but beautiful.  Please enjoy.