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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. 

Sunshine 04.21.2021

I am my father’s son, so, like him, I enjoy a beer or two from time to time. My current brand of choice is called “Burning River Pale Ale” brewed at Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland, Ohio. The first time I was handed a bottle, I laughed because the label is a picture of a river on fire. The name and label come from a famous event on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire. It was a “burning river”. This was not the first time, either. This from the Ohio History Connection website:
The Cuyahoga River was once one of the most polluted rivers in the United States as represented by the multitude of times it has caught fire [.] [A] recorded number of thirteen starting in 1868.  The most potent blaze occurred in 1952 which caused over $1.3 million in
damages[.] [H]owever, the most fatal fire happened in 1912 with a documented five deaths. The 1969 fire, which did not incur maximum damages or fatally wound any citizen, was the most covered incident occurring on the river.  This was in part because of the developing [concern] over industrial actions[.] [T]he United States was becoming more eco-aware.  Also, due to the shift from industry to technology, waste dumping to recycling Time Magazine produced an article about the incident. 
A burning river … What does that have to do with our worship of the living God? Join us Sunday, April 23, 2021 when we celebrate “Creation Day” at John McMillan Presbyterian Church. We are on Facebook Live and in the church parking lot at 10am. See you then.

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