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Lenten Bible Study – Day 13

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 – Day 13
Mark 4: 26-29
26 He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
Have you noticed that there are a lot of parables about seeds and plants? It makes sense. If Jesus wanted to provide an illustration that his rural listeners would understand, crop farming was always a good choice. One of the things we see in this parable is an insight that is still applicable in 2021. Most of us have no idea how a dry seed thrown on the ground can sprout into a seedling, stalk, flower, seedpod and finally more seeds. The biology and chemistry, for the vast majority of us, including farmers and gardeners, is a mystery! And Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like that, too!
As disciples of Jesus, we proclaim the word made flesh like a farmer broadcasts the seeds. Then, like the farmer, we wait to see what happens. When the word takes root and begins to grow, we, like the farmer, don’t really know how it happens. What we do know is that we don’t make it grow. We can plow, fertilize and water the seeds, but the biology and chemistry that cause the seed to transform over time into a full-grown seed producing plant is a mystery to us. That part is out of our control, and entirely in God’s control. This is comforting because we are unsure of what to say to a person in order to convince them that our faith claims are true. We just “testify” to what we believe and let God take it from there.
But there is a second part to this parable that is also comforting. If you are the recipient of the seed, the timing and mechanism of its growth within you, is equally out of your hands. God is in control of that as well. Your spiritual growth, while it can be fertilized and watered, will come to maturity in God’s time, not yours. I find that comforting as well.
Dear God, you are the source of all spiritual growth, be it in a community or an individual. Help us to understand that you are in control of the growth and maturity of our faith, be it in our community or in our individual selves. Help us to be patient as these spiritual seeds grow. Encourage us to accept that you control the mystery of a faith that grows, blooms and produces good fruit in abundance for your kingdom. Amen.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 12

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 – Day 12
Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears[g] listen!
This is the beginning of the “Kingdom of God” parables. This parable is great because Jesus explains who each person is in the parable, well except 1 group. Jesus never tells us who the slaves are in the parable. The slaves first challenge the master, asking if he sewed good seed. The second thing they do is ask the master if they should go and gather up the weeds. The master tells them no, because they might pull up some wheat as well. We don’t know who the slaves are, but we do know they are told not to pull the weeds.
It is important to note that Jesus tells us that the angels are the ones who will come and reap the harvest. It is not any human being that is charged with pulling the weeds. So many times in this world I see some Christians who want to be overzealous weeders. They want to identify who the weeds are, and they want to get rid of them. Jesus doesn’t call us to be weeders, the reason is because we cannot do it without hurting others. In fact, many times in the Bible when it talks about judgment many people are surprised.
Jesus lets us know that we can’t responsibly decide and pull weeds. We are not responsible for pulling weeds, lets leave that for the angels. Let’s concentrate on our mission, to love God and love our neighbors.
God there are times when we feel judgmental towards others. Let us always remember that our purpose is to love others, not separate or divide. Amen. 

Lenten Bible Study – Day 11

Monday, March 1, 2021- Day 11
Matthew 13: 3-8; 18-23
3And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
18 ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’
Have you ever taken one of those personality tests? Myers Briggs comes to my mind. The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a questionnaire designed to determine how people perceive the world around them and make decisions based on personality traits. There are four principal traits – sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and all impact how a person interacts with others though one of these four traits is dominant. According to the Myers Briggs website: “Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas. Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived.” The benefit of knowing your “personality type” is that you understand the way you perceive and interpret the world.
In some respects, that is what Jesus is describing in this parable. Only Jesus’ description of the important personality traits is based on a different question: 
“What kind of soil are you?”
Are you the kind of soil that is so cynical that you not even listen to or try to understand what Jesus teaches? Maybe you need to soften your skepticism.
Are you the kind of soil that is so excitable and impulsive that you accept what Jesus is saying without any effort to make his words a part of your everyday life? Maybe you need to spend time seeking a deeper understanding and application of what Jesus says.
Are you the kind of soil that is easily distracted by all the things in the world that seek your attention and divert you from what Jesus would have you do? Maybe you need to spend some time in quiet contemplation of Jesus and his words.
Jesus says that if we seek understanding of the word, apply it to our lives, and remain focused on it, we will bear good and abundant fruit in our lives.
Which soil are you? It might be different every day. But by spending time devoted to Jesus, his word and the life he calls you to, you can become better soil, over time. That is one purpose of these daily readings during Lent. Make daily devotional time a habit and bear spiritual fruit in abundance.
Dear God, I confess that I sometimes do not listen or seek to understand what you are saying to me. There are other times that I enthusiastically hear your instruction but do not apply it to my life. And often I allow myself to be distracted by the diversions of the world around me. Help me to be contemplative and to devote time to hearing, applying and focusing on your word so that I can bear good and abundant fruit. Amen.

JMPC Sunshine 02.12.2021

The CBS sitcom Gilligan’s Island premiered in September of 1964. The premise of the show was 7 wildly dissimilar people stranded on a deserted, uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. The initial theme song was a catchy tune that listed five of the seven characters. “Gilligan, the Skipper, too, a millionaire and his wife, a movie star…. The remaining two characters, the Professor and Mary Ann, were listed as “… and the rest” …. Why? They were originally considered “second-billed co-stars” But with the growing popularity of those characters in the first season, their names were inserted into the lyrics in the second season. “the Professor and Mary Ann” were added in place of “and the rest”. What does that have to do with the Christian religion? Nothing, of course. But it comes to mind when I am asked about the apostles. There are twelve, right? Can you name them all? Certainly Peter, James, John, Matthew, Judas and maybe Andrew. But what about “the rest”? Who are these second-billed co-stars? What do we know about them? What happened to them? Well, Pastor Jeff and Pastor Matt will be trying to find out answers to those questions in their 2021 Lenten Sermon Series,” Strange Companions”. We will be able to cover 7 of them, but we will cover all of them in time. This week Pastor Jeff will preview the series with a bit of background. We hope you will join us on Facebook Live at 10am on Sunday, February 14, 2021 (or later to watch the recording on Facebook or YouTube).

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