Weekly Announcements

Announcements 9/5/2021


Kick off the new season at JMPC:  JMPC will kick off its new season of worship, Christian education, mission and fellowship on September 11 and 12, 2021 when we gather together for worship and Christian education. We will begin with an all-church picnic on Saturday the 11th at 1pm at Bethel Village Green Park. Then on Sunday at 10am, we will gather for worship in the sanctuary while our children will enjoy Children’s Church in our newly redecorated and designated Children’s Church Room. Adult Christian education will begin with the Adult Bible Class and Pastor Jeff’s book Reviews beginning on September 25. Kid’s Club and Youth Group will begin soon as will Brown Bag Bible Study and After Dinner Bible Study. Details for all of these can be found in the announcements or on the church website. We will be off to a great year, so come and join us!


Fall Sermon Series:  Beginning on Kick off Sunday, JMPC will begin a five-week sermon series entitled “Church on Purpose” that will explore why JMPC exists, how we can accomplish that purpose, what each of us can do to play a part, and the impact JMPC can have on us, our families, and our world. Join us. 


Week 1 – September 12

Why Are We Here?

Matthew 19: 16-26

Week 2 – September 19

To Know God

Matthew 25: 1-13

Week 3 – September 26

To Glorify God

Mathew 25: 14-30

Week 4 – October 3

To Serve God.

Matthew 25: 31-45

Week 5 – October 10

To Change Lives

Matthew 28: 16-20


Children’s Church News:   Children’s Church will be resuming in OUR NEW ROOM 16/18 for Kick off Sunday on Sunday, September 12th. We are so excited for our new program and so many fun activities! Please bring your children ages 3 to third grade to come learn and play with us. 


If you are available to teach or assist any Sunday, please contact Emily Shubilla. “Training” will be provided so no teaching experience needed. We just need loving and energetic people who are willing to hang out with the children of our church for an hour. 


Nursery:  The church nursery will open back up on Kick Off Sunday (September 12th) for children under 3. The caregivers will be so excited to see the little ones again so please leave your little one with them and enjoy the church service. 


Church Picnic:  Saturday, September 11th @ 1pm at Bethel Village Green Park.  The Deacons will provide burgers, hot dogs, BBQ pork sandwiches, and drinks. We ask that families bring a side dish or dessert or a game to play, like corn hole. Please RSVP at:. https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0f4cabaa2ca3f5c43-jmpc

Coffee Hour:  There will be a coffee hour after worship on Kick-Off Sunday September 12 outside as you leave worship (weather permitting). Join us for some food and fellowship. (If it rains it will be the following week.)


The ABC (Adult Bible Class): will start meeting again on Sunday mornings, September 12th.  The tentative time will be 9:00am and we will meet in Fellowship Hall.

We will be studying the book of Romans and topics for the first few weeks will be:

Romans 1:1-17 Good News from God

Romans 1:18-32 The Wrath of God

Romans 2 The Judgment of God

Romans 3:1-20 The Verdict

Romans 3:21-31 The Righteousness from God

Join us on Sunday mornings for informal Bible study, lively discussion and coffee. If you have questions, see Dan or Susan Zearley.


Pastor Jeff’s September Book Studies:  Over the last year, Pastor Jeff has received many questions on two matters. The first is “What is the future of the church?” The second is “What can I do about my aging parents? Pastor Jeff proposes to start to answer such question by offering a review of two books that address these topics. 

  • “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande will be discussed on Sunday, September 26 at 11:30am here at the church. This book discusses “end of life” care and concerns from the perspective of a geriatric physician.  The discussion will seek to offer guidance and encouragement to those decision makers who are caring folks who are or are nearing the end of mortal life. 


  • “Christianity After Religion” by Diana Butler Bass will be discussed on Sunday, October 24 at 11:30am here at the church. This book discusses the possibility that we are in the midst of a new spiritual awakening and a wholly new kind of “postreligious” faith. The discussion will enlighten us on where we are and where we are heading as church that is part of “THE CHURCH”.


Brown Bag Bible Study returns:  Pastor Jeff will lead the Wednesday lunchtime Bible Study again beginning on September 22 and will meet every other week. We are planning to meet at the church at noon, so bring your lunch and your Bibles.


After Dinner Bible Study returns:  Pastor Jeff will lead the Tuesday evening Bible Study again beginning on October 12 and will meet every other week. We are planning to meet to meet at the church at 7pm, so bring your dessert and your Bibles.


The Women’s Breakfast Club:  The women will meet for breakfast on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 8:30am at Eat ‘N Park across from South Park Shops. Everyone is invited and can bring a friend! We have great fun and fellowship and look forward to seeing you.


Men’s Breakfast Returns:  The men of the church will begin gathering for breakfast once a month beginning on September 27, 2021. We will meet at Eat ‘N Park on Rt. 88 across the street from the South Park Shops at 9am. While there is no longer any buffet (much to Pastor Jeff’s disappointment) we can still eat our fill and chew the fat. Hope to see you there.

Book Club:  JMPC book club meets on the fourth Monday of each month @ 7:00.  We begin our new season in September.  Anyone is welcome to join us.  Please email Pam Dobos @ dob914@aol.com if interested in joining. 

The Vanishing Half  by Brit Bennett – September 27th

The Spy and The Traitor  by Ben MacIntyre (nonfiction) – October 25 

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel – November 22


Christmas Affair Craft Show—November 6, 2021:   We’re back! After a long-hard year of closures, we have made the decision to get back in the festive spirit and host our annual craft show. If you are interested in leading a committee or volunteering please contact Samantha Pauley at samantharpauley@gmail.com or Leslie at jmpc@johnmcmillanpc.org If you are interested in being a crafter or know someone who is, please contact Darlene Pauley at darsamjake@gmail.com or Leslie to get an application. *Please note some changes will be made to prioritize the health and safety of our volunteers and crafters due to Covid-19. 


The Church Officer Nominating Committee is back in action!
We are looking for spirited and dedicated individuals interested in serving our church as Elders and Deacons. This is a great way to be an integral part of church decision making and helping carry out JMPC’s vision and missions.
Please contact Emily Shubilla if you are interested or have a person to recommend. E.shubilla714@gmail.com or 724 984 8202.


SHIM Garden:  Thanks be to God!  The SHIM Garden is pumping out fresh, organic produce for our neighbors in need at SHIM.  Our gardeners have been busy picking beans, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, beans, squash, kale, lettuce, chard and, did I mention, beans.  We have harvested over 100 pounds of beans.

Come on back and visit the garden or, better yet, join us on Monday evenings at 6:30 as we tend the garden.  You don’t need any gardening experience to join us.  We will teach you what you need to know.  We harvested 150 pounds of vegetables last week. 


Parking Lot Radio Broadcast:  We have a radio broadcast that reaches into the parking lot. Simply drive to John McMillan and tune your radios to 89.7 FM. You can remain in your car and stay warm, while joining in worship with everyone else at the church. We will also continue to stream the services on Facebook Live.


UPDATED Worship and Building Use Guidelines: As we gather to worship in the sanctuary and for activities in the church building, JMPC requests that we follow these guidelines based on the CDC recommendations.  The Session approved these guidelines at the August 17, 2021, meeting.

  • Masks are requested inside the church building, regardless of vaccination status, for as long as Allegheny and Washington Counties are in the “substantial transmission risk” category (the current category for both) or higher.
  • Masks can be removed during worship to take communion and the choir or other featured vocalists may remove their masks while singing.  Liturgists and the pastors may remove their masks when speaking.

The purpose of this policy is to support the vulnerable among us – those who are immunocompromised and those who have continuing contact with unvaccinated or immunocompromised people. These guidelines will be updated and modified as necessary and appropriate.

CHOIR Practice:  The Chancel Choir will practice on Thursdays, at 7:00 PM.  We would love to welcome some new members, especially men.  All who love to sing are welcome.


An important message from the Church Office: The Church Office is now open. The hours are Monday through Thursday, 9am to 3pm and Friday 9am – Noon.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 40

Sunday, April 4, 20121- Day 40
Matthew 25: 31-46
 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
He has Risen! He has risen Indeed! What a great parable to be heard this Easter morning. Though to be honest, I don’t think I have ever read this passage on April Fool’s Day. What I love about this parable is that it is a message that Jesus continues to give his followers. Love God and love each other! By loving each other, you are loving God!
I once heard a speaker say that he could tell a person’s relationship with God by the relationship that person had with other people. I think there is a lot of wisdom in his words, and it reflects our parable today. When we love and care for the least in this world we are loving and caring God. We do not get to disconnect our theology from our actions. How you treat the homeless, orphans, neighbors, jerks, and your family is how you treat God. So, let’s go out and love and care for everyone we meet, let’s go love God.
Jesus, we thank you for having your grace and love. Guide us to care for and love everyone in this world. Amen.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 39

Saturday, April 3, 2021- Day 39
Matthew 25: 14-30
14 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.”21His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” 23His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed;25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Some years back I started seeing T-shirts that say something like this: I [something they did] and all I got was this lousy t-shirt! Is that what that event meant to them? All they got out of it was a lousy t-shirt? Doesn’t seem like a very good use of time and money. I started to wonder if folks think about life generally that way. Just about every morning I take my dogs to a cemetery and let them run off leash. As I walk I look at the headstones. I read the names. I look at the dates. I try to think what their lives might have been like. Did they go to meet their maker thinking “I lived a life and all I got was a lousy headstone? “I hope not. That would not have been much of a life. I choose to think that those folks did something that gave their lives value. Something worth the time and effort. I think all people want to live a life that has value. Abraham Lincoln was one of those. As a young man, his greatest fear was that he would live a life that had no impact on the world. That he would not do anything worth remembering. In her book Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin writes this about Lincoln’s ambition.
“Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition,” the twenty-three-year-old Abraham Lincoln had written in his open letter to the people of Sangamon County during his first bid for public office in the Illinois state legislature. “Whether it is true or not, I can say for one that I have no other [ambition] so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy if their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed.”
Well, he certainly pulled it off. I think we all have that same ambition to some extent. We want to leave a legacy. Not many of us will achieve the status of Abraham Lincoln. No one is going to write a book about us. But we can do better than a name on a headstone. Even if no one knows who we were. If you have ever been to a national cemetery, you know what I mean. The headstones have names, but they also testify to the sacrifice those folks made or were willing to make for their country. There is a community story there. A legacy. A life of value. Which brings us to today’s parable. God has given us gifts and resources. God has invested in us. We are called to use these investments in a manner that gives God a great return on his investment. We want to be a good investment for God. Are we? If we live the Jesus way, and are his disciples, we are a good investment, and so will get the reward Jesus describes in the parable. What will be on your headstone?
Dear God, we want to be a good investment for you. We want to return many-fold to you all the blessings you have bestowed on us. Help us to choose well how we will use the gifts and resources you have provided so that we can be good and faithful servants. Amen

Lenten Bible Study – Day 38

Friday, April 2, 2021 – Day 38
Matthew 21:28-32
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father[e] went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
It is important for us to understand that right before this in the gospel of Matthew the temple chief priests and elders are questioning Jesus authority. At this point in time Jesus has done a few years of ministry and has entered Jerusalem. Recently, he cleared out the temple of money changers and has been healing people throughout Israel. Jesus is no longer out in the country of Galilee, he is in the city of Jerusalem with the temple of God and all the high up Pharisees.
The people in Israel had been expecting the messiah. The question was never will there be a messiah, the question was “is Jesus the messiah”? We often see (not always) in the gospel of Mathew that the people with established power did not want to believe he was the messiah, while the poor and outcasts did believe. The rich and powerful believed they had a lot to lose, they were not willing to accept Jesus. Even though they saw Jesus performing miracles and teaching in amazing ways they were not willing to give up what they believe. 
For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle’s death. In 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten- pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right. 
What we already believe is deeply ingrained in every piece of our thought. To give up something we have believed for so long is very difficult. Many times, we can read the Bible and be critical of the Pharisees, and rightfully so. However, are we so sure that we would have given up our station in life to follow Jesus? Would we be willing to change our minds and change what we would believe? Are we willing to change our lives today in response to Jesus? 
Lord, open my heart and mind to follow you in my life. Do not let me be closed off by what I already believe, and let me recognize you as the living word. 

Lenten Bible Study – Day 37

Thursday, April 1, 2021- Day 37
Luke 19: 12-27
12So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. 13He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ 14But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’ 15When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. 16The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ 17He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ 18Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ 19He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities.’ 20Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, 21for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ 24He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ 25(And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) 26‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”
This is a parable spoken by Jesus the day before he rides into Jerusalem. It is an illustration to explain what he is about to do. You need to know that for the parable to make any sense.
But you also need to know a bit of Judean history. When Herod the Great (the Herod from the Jesus birth stories) died, he had two sons, Archelaus and Antipas. Both wanted the throne. Archelaus, to get the throne, was required to go to Rome and be appointed. When he left, a delegation of Judeans and Samarians followed to oppose him. He was successful and … well … the delegation was not. One can assume things did not go well with them on their return to Jerusalem. This was history known to the folks listening to Jesus. Jesus said that this was a bit like what was going on right in front of them. Jesus was talking about God returning to the people.
God had not gone off to a distant country, though. The Judeans had done that. That happened when they were exiled and the original Temple, the residence of God, had been destroyed. Now God was returning. Jesus was his incarnation. And now the king was going to ask what his loyal followers have been doing with what he had left them. Some had done well. Some had done not quite as well, but pretty well nonetheless. Others had done nothing. The returning king was going to redistribute the authority among his people so that the ones who were good at it got more and the ones who were less good at it got less, and those that did nothing, got authority over nothing. Kind of makes sense. There is no punishment, just authority redistributed in accordance with gifts.
But there was more. What about those who did not want God to be in charge? They were punished. They did not want God. They did not get God. The kingdom was not theirs.
There are those in the Christian community who believe that if we have enough faith, we will be rewarded with riches and wellbeing. This parable seems to say otherwise. In this parable Jesus seems to say that our reward is based on what we do to serve God. What we do to carry out God’s will. It is all in the doing in this parable.
We should all consider what we are doing for God this Lent. But not just quantity; quality. What gifts do we have that we are exercising to increase the recognition of God’s presence in the world? What do we do well that contributes to God’s kingdom? Worth some thought.
Dear God, you know that we want you to be our king. We also want to be good stewards of the gifts you have given us and to use them for the benefit of your kingdom. Help us to know what we do well and what you would have us do. AMEN

Lenten Bible Study – Day 36

Wednesday, March 31, 2021- Day 36
Luke 18:10-14
1“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
As we think about this Lenten season humility should be something that is always on our mind. We see Jesus come into Jerusalem riding a donkey. We see Jesus beaten with a crown of thorns on his head. We see Jesus hung on a cross next to criminals though he was blameless. Humility is something that should be foundational to Christians, it was certainly modeled by Jesus. However, humility seems to be something that is hard for us to come by, especially when it comes to religion and politics.    
Two famous pastors George Whitefield disagreed with John Wesley on some theological matters, he was careful not to create problems in public that could be used to hinder the preaching of the gospel. When someone asked Whitefield if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven, Whitefield replied, “I fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and we at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him.”
Too many times in our lives we think we are right and the other person is wrong. In fact, it seems that being right is very important to most of us. So much so that we need the other person to admit they are wrong. If they don’t agree with us they are an idiot, fool, or crazy. Many times, in the church we look at other people and denominations and think they have it wrong. We assume what we believe about God is correct and what they believe is not the “true” word of God. 
I see the same when I see people argue about politics. I see many different kinds of people coming from many different backgrounds all insisting they are correct. There doesn’t seem to be any learning or compromise because we already think we are correct.  
Our scripture today is Jesus telling us that we need to be humble. We cannot be people who insist they are right about everything. We cannot be like the man thanking God for not being like other people. We cannot be people who don’t care about the people we disagree with, and label them in large generalizations. We need to be humble in every aspect of our lives. We need to listen to the people we disagree with and assume we can learn from them. We don’t need to agree with each other, but we do need to care about each other. Being humble is thinking less of ourselves am more of others. It is what Jesus did, and it is what we need to do ourselves!
God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Amen.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 35

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 – Day 35
Luke 18: 2-8
2He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ’ 6And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’
During the 30 years I practiced as a trial lawyer before I was called to ministry, I spent a great deal of time in court. I appeared before judges in every county in western Pennsylvania as well as in the Federal District Court in both Pittsburgh and Erie. If I tried to name every judge I appeared before, it would be an impossible task. For the most part, the judges I encountered were ethical, intelligent, unbiased and fair. But there were a couple who were … well … more like the judge Jesus depicts in today’s parable. Not particularly faithful to the law and not particularly respectful to those who appeared before them. Going before those judges was always hard. You never knew what they were going to do, and it did not appear that they were concerned with justice. Fortunately, there are few of them. But the woman in the parable must go before such a judge when she seeks justice. This judge ignores her pleas and refuses to do her justice. But rather than throw up her hands and give up, she devises a unique strategy. She continues to come before the judge pleading her case. She is so persistent that he finally gives her what she wants just to get rid of her. So in the end she gets her justice.
What could this story possibly have to do with God? Jesus point is that if someone can get justice from an unjust judge, how much easier is it to get justice from a just and merciful and loving God. Pretty easy, Jesus says. Just ask God for justice and you will get it. This of course begs the question: When you are doing the asking, are you seeking justice, or just asking that you succeed? Are you asking that God’s will be done, or your will? If you are asking for God’s will, it will be done.
Then Jesus asks a strange question. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? What faith does Jesus hope to find? Faith in God. Faith that God will do justice in accordance with God’s will. Faith that this will happen whether we recognize it or not. Faith that tries to recognize God’s justice and mercy and love. Faith that makes us look for it and try to understand it. That should be easy in Lent. God’s justice is that we are forgiven through the suffering and death of Jesus. That we receive mercy and love from a just God.
Dear God, help us to be persistent in our prayers that your justice prevails in all things. We pray also that you encourage us and empower us to look for it, recognize it and thank you for it. AMEN

Lenten Bible Study – Day 34

Monday, March 29, 2021 – Day 34
Matthew 20:1-16
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage,[a] he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And 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?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When 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.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.[b] 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.[c] 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘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.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?[d] 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’[e] 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”[f]
When I was a young man, maybe 14 or 15, I washed dishes at a local restaurant. I worked extremely hard washing dishes, taking out the trash, and mopping the floor. I would be working non-stop on the weekends and would come home late at night tired and smelling like fish. My reward for my work was $5.35 an hour. As any young person I was shocked to look at my paycheck and see just how much taxes I had to pay on my already small check. On the flip side my younger sister babysat neighborhood kids. She would play with the kids and then put them to bed and watch tv.  She was paid by the families 8 dollars an hour and it wasn’t taxed because the people just handed her cash. She was literally making twice as much as me and was working not nearly as hard.
While I was completely jealous and bitter as a young person, I can look back at appreciate my experience. While at the time I felt it was un fair, both of us agreed to the money we would be paid. I could have left any time I wanted and was not forced to work for the wage I agreed upon. I used to think it was unfair that I had to work so hard for so little. Now I look back and realize that it was really good for me. It built in me a strong work ethic and made me appreciate money much more than some of my peers who just had money given to them by their parents. 
Often times when I read this parable I can understand why the early workers are upset. They work much harder and longer than the late workers. However, I now think that maybe there are other benefits to being an early worker than just the money. 
God’s grace is available to all people through faith in Jesus Christ. This can happen to some as children and others as adults. Some hear God’s words as children and cling to them, while others ignore it for years and years, maybe coming back to you later. I have heard some people say that the people that ignore God and live a crazy life don’t deserve God’s grace. The truth is none of us deserve grace, but it is available to all of us no matter when we call out to Jesus. If you haven’t taken Jesus as your savior I hope that you do, recognizing the grace and love that is waiting for you. I also hope that you do it today, there are a lot of benefits of living knowing how much God loves you!
God, we thank you for your grace. Let us be reminded that your grace is for all people no matter how old they are, or how they have lived their life. Let us also be thankful that we are living our lives knowing the promises we have in you. Amen.      

Lenten Bible Study – Day 33

Saturday, March 27, 2021 – Day 33
Luke 16: 19-31
19 ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” 25But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” 27He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” 29Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” 30He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” 31He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” ’
Rich people do not fair well when Jesus speaks of them in Luke’s Gospel. Woe to them, Jesus says. They are fools for building big barns to keep all their stuff that they will not need. They will never follow Jesus because they have many things. Their idols are their wealth and possessions. And they do not want to share. When they die, these things that gave them comfort are gone and there is no comfort to be had. That is the rich man in this parable. Unimaginably wealthier than the poor sick Lazarus, yet he does nothing for Lazarus. At death the roles are reversed. It is the rich man who craves just a finger of water, but Lazarus because both are now dead, can do nothing. He wants to warn is brothers, but that warning must come from the Hebrew Scriptures.
This reminds me of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Marley and his fellow ghosts are condemned to drag the implements of their wealth around for eternity. There is no rest. There is no end to the torment. But then there is this: they finally feel empathy for those they ignored in life, but now, because they are dead, can do nothing to help those they now want to help. That is the rich man’s fate. He is burdened and can do nothing.
What does it have to do with us? We are Scrooge. We are given this story by Jesus and can learn from it. What do we learn? That we are to care for those who need it. The hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned, the oppressed. If we do, we do so to Jesus and are welcomed into the Kingdom of God. Jesus knows that no one can take care of all of the world’s Lazaruses, but if we take care of one, in some way, we take care of all. Who are you caring for this Lent? Something worth considering this Lent.
Dear God, help me to serve and give to those who are in need. Help me not to judge who is worthy of my service and resources, but to give as I feel called by you to do. You gave the full measure of service to us on the cross. Help me to do my part as well. Amen.