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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.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 7

Wednesday, February 24, 2021- Day 7
Luke 12: 16-21
16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
I have a confession to make. Jesus is talking to me here. Back when I was just a youngster, with my life ahead of me, I was a true believer in the bumper sticker that read: He who dies with the most toys wins! And I wanted to win!
Over the years I have acquired a lot of stuff. And that stuff consumes most, if not all, of the storage space in my house. I know I am not alone. I see storage pods behind people’s houses that are filled with stuff that won’t fit in the house any more. I read that as of 2009 there is almost 2.5 billion square feet of self-storage space used in the United States. When our stuff outgrows our house, we rent big barns.
And for what? When my parents died, my brother and I had to go through all the stuff they had in their two homes. It took us 4 years. Almost all the things my parent’s stored were thrown away. Why did they keep this stuff? Stuck in an attic or garage or drawer, they never used it. They never even looked at it. As we did this, I realized that I would be leaving such a task to my kids. I have a lot of stuff in the attic and garage. Who will want it?
Why do we do this? Why do we fill our attics and pods and self-storage units with possessions we will never see or use again? I think it is because we believe our possessions define our lives. Prove our accomplishments. Value our worth. Things that we hope someone might look at and say: “What a great life he had!” But then something happens. We lose a job. We lose our health. We lose our life. And we realize that our stuff is really not so important. Maybe we look at it and realize that we have spent so much time preserving what we have that it distracted us from something better.
Which brings me to our parable. This is not a parable that denounces wealth. It does not denounce productivity or the benefits of financial security. What it does denounce is greed! Jesus says that the value of a person’s life is not based on the stuff the person possesses. Only greedy people think that way.
What does greed look like? The man’s attitude is entirely self-centered. There is no thought for the greater good or the greater community. Jesus is saying that there is an obligation to share. The Jewish listeners would have understood this quite clearly. Greed was unconscionable. It was bad for the community. Bad for the community because it left some community members behind. And that created conflict. Nothing creates more conflict that a shortage of resources. Abundance had to be shared. The ethic of the Old Testament was to care for all in the community.
But there is a bigger problem. How does this man describe his stuff?
My field.
My crops.
My barns
My goods.
My grain.
My soul.
It’s all mine! It is all within my control. And I will use it for my benefit.
God is given no credit. God is given no say. God is simply ignored. Jesus put it this way: 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”  What makes us rich toward God? Sharing the abundance we have received from God. So maybe we need to de-clutter. Simplify our lives so that we are less concerned with our stuff and more concerned with living a life that is rich in God.
Lord, during this Lenten season, help us to set priorities that imitate yours. Encourage us to share. To share out of our abundance to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, welcome the strangers, love our neighbors. Teach is that to do these things proves our love for you, and so enjoy the riches of God. Amen

JMPC Sunshine 01.15.2021

I am a big fan of Indiana Jones, the fictional adventurer/archeologist of the silver screen. One of the great movie quotes I have used many times comes from the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. Maybe you have seen the movie. There is a race to find the Holy Grail. The cup Jesus drank from at the Last Super. Indiana Jones’ father, also an adventurer/archeologist, has been searching for the Grail his entire life. Indiana is recruited to help when an evil Nazi kidnaps the elder Jones in order to find the Grail first and take it to Nazi Germany. After an action packed quest, Jones and his Nazi adversary end up in a room filled with bejeweled cups. One of them is the Grail. The keeper of the cups tells them to choose. If the choice is correct, the one who chooses can have the cup and whatever power it yields. Jones’ adversary goes first and looks for the most beautiful cup. He picks the one with the most gold and jewels. Certainly, he says, this is the one Jesus would have preferred. He drinks from it, chokes, screams in pain, and literally disintegrates on the spot. The keeper then calmly recites my favorite words in the movie. “He chose … poorly”. It’s Jones’ turn. He picks up an old, beat up cup, recognizing that Jesus would have used the common, simple ordinary cup of a carpenter. He drinks from the cup and he lives. He uses its power to heal his father’s gunshot wound. He chose … well. Both the evil Nazi and Jones use their wisdom to decide which is the true Grail. The evil Nazi uses a different kind of wisdom than Indiana. This is an illustration of what James, in his letter, refers to as the “two kinds of wisdom”. James’ words were true when James wrote them and are true today. Join John McMillan Presbyterian Church on January 17 at 10am via Facebook Live to hear what Pastor Jeff has to say about this passage and how we should think about it in 2021. We hope to virtually see you then.

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