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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

Lenten Bible Study – Day 6

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 – Day 6
Mark 4:21-22 
21 He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
You may be thinking; didn’t we just do a parable about lamps a few days ago? Well you are right, we did. However, when ever I read something in a few different places in the Bible I take special notice. It is either something Jesus said a lot, or something that the people remembered. We cannot nor should not hide our light. Christ’s love in us should not be hidden, rather it should shine for others to see for God’s glory.
There is a famous saying attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, he says “preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary”. I love this quote and it is a great reminder to be constantly doing mission every day. Our lives should look like we really believe the words in the Bible! Most people in the Churches across the world believe we need to be proclaiming Jesus. The Bible tells us to go out and share the good news to be a lamp on a stand, but why can it be difficult?
There are a few reasons that some of us struggle to share their faith. In our world not, everyone is welcoming to hear about our faith. Some of us don’t feel like we know the Bible well enough to share our faith. That is why our actions are so important. It is not an either or of talking or doing, it is both. However, our action can open doors to conversation. Our action can preach the name of Jesus so much better than we can with words. What makes us shine like a lamp is how we treat our neighbors. It is in our loving actions, which will always shine the brightest. So bright that it proclaims the love of Christ to everyone who sees us! 
Lord, we are thankful for your love. During this Lenten season let us be intentionally vigilant about being a bright light. Let our action be ones that we want to put up high and let others see, all for your glory. Amen. 

Lenten Bible Study – Day 5

Monday, February 22, 2021- Day 5
Luke 7: 41-43
41‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii,* and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ 43Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus* said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’
The story that surrounds this little parable is this: Jesus has been invited to diner by Simon the Pharisee. Jesus is eating with Simon and in walks a “sinful” woman. She washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. She then pours expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Simon is profoundly disturbed because he knows this woman is “sinful”. If Jesus were a prophet, and many said he was, Jesus would have known she was sinful and would not have let her touch him. Jesus, somehow knowing what was on Simon’s mind asks the question in the parable.
Let’s take it apart. Who is the creditor? Jesus, the incarnate God. Who is the 500 denarii debtor? The woman, who knows her sins are many. So, when the woman washes Jesus’ feet, dries them with her hair and anoints them with perfume, she is acknowledging her need for forgiveness.
Who is the 50 denarii debtor? Simon, who believes himself to be different from the woman. He is not sinful. So Simon has not been particularly hospitable to Jesus. He has not washed Jesus feet as was customary for hosts. He has not given Jesus a kiss on the cheek, as was also custom. Simon did not anoint Jesus’ head with oil, which would have been to honor Jesus. Simon has not given anything because he does not believe he needs anything.
Jesus’ forgiveness of the woman’s sins matches her expressed need. Simon gets what he thinks he needs – nothing. She loves Jesus a great deal. Simon, not at all.
Now which of them will love him more?’ 43Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus* said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’
What Simon misses is, in Paul’s words, this:
21 … [I]rrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.
We are all sinners and need forgiveness. Much forgiveness. That is why Jesus came and died. So that we could be forgiven. If we don’t think we need it, and so don’t want it, maybe We deny that Jesus needed to die. We deny the Gospel. Don’t be Simon. Be like the woman. We need forgiveness and must go to the only one who can give it. So go to Jesus and get it.
Lord we confess that we have not done the things we should have done, done things we should not have done, said things we should not have said and not said things we should have said. We need your mercy. We are at your feet. Lead us through repentance this Lenten season and give us the forgiveness we need. 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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