Are we entitled? Thoughts on doing God’s work.

Matthew 20: 1-16

20‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; 4and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” 7They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” 13But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

This summer, one of the big sports stories in Pittsburgh was the Le’Veon Bell hold out.

Bell was a restricted free agent and wanted a new contract that would make him the highest paid running back in the NFL.

The Steelers were not ready to go there, so they did what the NFL player contract allowed.

They labeled him their “Franchise Player” and thus committed to give Bell a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position.

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This Week at John McMillan Presbyterian Church

In the movie Caddyshack, Bill Murray plays Carl Spackler, a groundskeeper at the country club Bushwood. Spackler is a ne’er-do-well fellow who claims to have caddied for the Dalai Lama on one occasion. This is the story:

So I jump ship in Hong Kong and I make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a [caddy] at a course over in the Himalayas. … I tell them I’m a pro [caddy], and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. … So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

I’m not sure why, but this came to mind when I was writing the sermon for Sunday. Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who purportedly overpays workers who do little (and impliedly underpays those who worked much harder and who expect more). Spackler is given the honor of spending the day with the Dalai Lama. But he wants more. The Dalai Lama tells Spackler that he has been given total consciousness for the time spent with the Dalai Lama, because that is all the Dalai Lama has to give. There is no more. There is no less.

Really, Jeff? That is the same message as is taught in the parable. Maybe not quite, but it is something like that. Come and hear about it Sunday at 8:30 and 11 when Pastor Jeff preaches “Are We Entitled?” based on Matthew 20: 1-16. Come and hear.

This week at John McMillan Presbyterian Church

Love means never having to say you’re sorry? I don’t think so! I never read the book or saw the movie “Love Story”, but I do remember the most famous line: “Love means you never have to say you’re sorry.” Um … that is simply ridiculous. Love means having to say you’re sorry often. Really often. All the time! But we don’t like to do it. We need to be willing to admit fault. We need to ask for forgiveness. But it’s not human nature. And even if we do ask for forgiveness, there is the other side. The one we seek forgiveness from must forgive. And for most of us, that is harder than saying we are sorry. “I forgive you” are difficult words to say. Sometimes seemingly impossible. In these circumstances, how can there ever be peace? How can there ever be reconciliation? Redemption? Jesus has much to say on these points. We will explore them this Sunday at 8:30 and 11 when Pastor Jeff preaches “Forgiveness” based on Matthew 5: 21-26.

But there will be more. The world seems to be descending into hateful chaos. We appear to be more polarized in our opinions and biases and prejudices than any of us can remember. How can we ever reach out to those with whom we disagree, those we might consider enemies, and live in peace? We need God’s help! So, at 7pm Sunday evening, John McMillan Presbyterian Church will sponsor a Service of Prayer for Peace where we will gather and pray for peace in our community, country and world and light candles to bring light into a seemingly darkening world. Come and pray with us as Pastor Jeff preaches “Blessed are the Peacemakers” based on Matthew 5: 1-12.

What Do These Stones Mean? Thoughts on passing on our stories.

Joshua 4: 1-8

4When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: 2‘Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, 3and command them, “Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.” ’ 4Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. 5Joshua said to them, ‘Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, 6so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, “What do those stones mean to you?”7then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial for ever.’

8 The Israelites did as Joshua commanded. They took up twelve stones out of the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord told Joshua, carried them over with them to the place where they camped, and laid them down there.

Have you ever walked into a room to do something and when you got there forgot why you went?

You look around and say to yourself, “Why am I here?’

You ask yourself, “What did I come in here for?”

It happens to me all the time.

What is interesting is that it happens to everyone, even your kids.

Why does that happen?

Because we didn’t pay enough attention?

Because too much time passed?

Because it just wasn’t important enough?



But there is something else.

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This Week at John McMillan Presbyterian Church

Kick-Off Sunday!

Every morning I take my dogs to a cemetery near my house where I can let them run off leash. As I walk along the paved road that circumvents the cemetery, Lucy the vizsla and Roxy the dachshund run around the headstones. Over the years I have come to know, in a way, the people whose names are on the headstones. I stop from time to time and read the information on the headstones and wonder about the person memorialized there. What was that person’s life like? What was going on in the world when they lived?  What does that symbol carved into the headstone mean? Who is it that comes every so often and plants flowers or cleans up around the grave? Sometimes I see people there standing by a particular grave and I want to go over and ask them about the person they came to visit. That is what headstones are for. They are memorials to the lives of those buried beneath them. They remind us that there are stories there that need to be passed on to the next generation. Stories that remind us where we came from and who we are.

If you read the Old Testament, you will see many instances of the Israelites building alters, piling up stones, and naming wells (among other things) that commemorate events the people want to remember. These icons are supposed to be obvious, public and a bit mysterious. The purpose is to get people to ask about them so that the story can be told and passed on to the next generation and to history.

What does this have to do with this Sunday? It is Kick Off Sunday when we start the new program year, and more importantly, we kick off Sunday School. It is the beginning of a new season where we tell our stories of faith and fellowship while we answer the questions of those who come. So, come! Hear Pastor Jeff’s sermon “What Do These Stones Mean?” based on Joshua 4: 1-8. We are back to our regular hours of worship at 8:30 and 11 with Christian Education at 9:30. Come and join us. We will be looking forward to it.