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Lenten Bible Study – Day 10

Saturday, February 27, 2021- Day 10
Luke 13: 6-9
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’
There are 2 things that strike me when I read this parable. The first is that we are supposed to bear fruit. That is, we should be changed when we accept Jesus in our lives. The “fruit” should be born in a way that is loving and pleasing to God. This should be delivered in loving God and loving your neighbor. We recognize the grace we have received from Christ and in turn love and worship.
In many ways this is a great parable for the Sunday after Easter. We go through this time of lent and we keep our minds a tune to the sacrifice of Jesus. During holy week we mourn the death of Jesus, but then celebrate the incredible resurrection. Through all this we know that we now have grace, a way to get past our sinfulness. This gift is not for us to keep for ourselves. It is our job to share the gift and all of our gifts with others. We are expected to bear fruit, we are expected to care for others, it is our purpose.
The second thing I notice is the tree is given another year to bear fruit, even though it has not in 3 years. This seems odd, there would be no logical reason to expect a tree that has produced nothing to produce in the future. The point is God does not give up on you. It does not matter what type of life you lived or what you have done, God still loves you. I was at a funeral home a few months ago when a man came up to me in tears. He had wandered over from a different room in the funeral home looking for a priest (I guess a pastor was close enough). All he wanted was for someone to pray for him. I asked him what he wanted me to pray for and he just said I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. My prayer for him was letting him know God loves him and that it was never too late to accept God’s love. It may sound weird to some of us but not everyone knows God loves them, we should be telling them. Many people think it is too late for them, we should be reminding them it is not too late. Lastly, you should know God loves you and if you were wondering, it is not too late.
God thank you for loving us. Let us be reminded to bear fruit in our lives. To be humble servants caring for the people in our lives. 

Lenten Bible Study – Day 9

Friday, February 26, 2021- Day 9
Luke 12: 42-48
42And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? 43Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 44Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 45But if that slave says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming”, and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful.47That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. 48But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
During the summer when I was a teenager, my father would “ask” me to mow the lawn while he was at work. Mowing the lawn was not one of my favorite things to do and I would often put it way down on the bottom of the list of things that were my favorite things to do. Like lay on the couch for instance. So I would put it off. Which was OK because he did not give me a deadline. I figured that the next time the lawn was mowed, I would be the one to do it, and so I would have done what my father asked. Then I would hear the lawn mower. I would look out the window and there would be my father mowing the lawn. I would run out to him and we would have this conversation:
Me – I was going to do that!
Dad – Oh, yeah? When?
Me – Later!
Dad – When later?
Me – I don’t know … before you got home.
Dad – I’m home now.
Me – I didn’t know you were going to be home this early.
Dad – So what have you been doing all day?
Me – I’ll do it now.
Dad – Too, late. I’m doing it.
I hadn’t been doing anything all day. I just was procrastinating. Dad just came home before I got to it. I wasn’t beating anyone. I wasn’t binge eating. I wasn’t getting drunk. I just wasn’t doing something I was put in charge of that day. And when my Dad got home before I got to it, I was … well … punished. I was, for instance, not trusted to do the lawn and so not trusted to drive the car. My Dad’s glare cut me to pieces and I was counted among the untrustworthy. I knew what my Dad wanted and did not do it.
What Jesus is saying is that God has asked us as a community of faith to do something before he comes. We are to do our chores. Our assignments. What chores? What assignments? To go and make disciples. To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned. What Jesus is saying is that we really, really, really shouldn’t put these things off. Jesus didn’t put off his responsibility. He didn’t procrastinate. He did what he was called to do – on the cross.
Dear God, we are a people who procrastinate. We want to do the chores you assigned but we want to do them when we want, when it is convenient for us. Give us a sense of urgency, Lord, to do what you have called us to do, just as Jesus did what you called him to do – on the cross. Amen

Lenten Bible Study – Day 8

Thursday, February 25, 2021 – Day 8
Luke 12:35-40 
35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he[g] would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Why don’t we live our lives with more of a sense of urgency? We logically know every day could be our last, but we are still very complacent. Urgency was something that Paul understood, as we see in many of his letters to churches in Galatia, Thessalonia, and Corinth. It helped him deal with being shipwrecked, imprisoned, and angry mobs. Paul was certain that Jesus was returning before he would die. This didn’t happen, in fact here we are close to 2,ooo years later and we are still waiting.
All of this waiting has made us complacent, it has given us the notion that we can put things off until a later date. As someone who works with young people I see this again and again. High Schoolers look forward to college to find their own church to grow. College students become to busy to do “church stuff” and will wait until they graduate and are less busy (they will be in for an unpleasant surprise). Graduates get busy with jobs, relationships, kids, etc. The truth is we can consume our time with a multitude of different things, but if we really lived like Jesus was returning how many of those things would be important?
Of course, we need jobs to pay our mortgages and there are many other things that take up our time that are necessary (like the dreaded grocery store). However, there needs to be urgency in our lives. What in this world do you want to change? There is so much need and God has given you gifts and a short amount of the time on this earth. You can live like Jesus is coming tomorrow by fighting for justice, donating to soup kitchens, or simply letting the people in your life know they are loved. 
Lord our prayer today is a simple one, give us urgency in our lives to make this world a more loving place whether we are 8 years old or 88 years old. Amen.

JMPC Sunshine 01.21.2021

I am not a morning person. I have a hard time waking up. Which means I have sort of a love/hate relationship with my alarm clock. Every night I turn it on so that it wakes me up in the morning. When it goes off, I know it’s time to get the day started. Some people wake up to the alarm refreshed and ready to go. They are the people depicted in the TV commercials who wake up with a smile on their faces, give a quick stretch and are ready for the new day. I tend to hit the snooze button several times until it’s imperative that I throw the covers off and slouch to the coffee maker for a cup of caffeinated beverage that gets me ready for the new day. There are other alarms that result in quick action. Some announce the need for quick action to prevent or avoid a danger. A smoke alarm fills that need. We know what to do and are ready to do it. Some end a time of toil and free us to go play. A bell at the end of the school day is such an alarm. The kids know what to do and are ready to do it. Alarms tell us that it is time to act. The action called for depends on the type of the alarm. Whatever the alarm tells us it is time to do, we are best ready to do it. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he announced that the time was fulfilled. That was the alarm. Time to do something! Do what? Repent and believe in the good news. Why? Because the kingdom of God had come near. But there was something else that needed to be done. Were we ready to do it? Want to hear more? Join us at the John McMillan Presbyterian Church Facebook Live stream of Pastor Jeff’s message “Game Time” on Sunday January 24 at 10am. Set your alarm!

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