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Lenten Bible Study – Day 4

Saturday February 20, 2021 – Day 4
Matthew 7: 24-27 
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
A few years ago I was leading a youth retreat in Texas. During one of our sessions we had 2 youth leaders share their personal faith journeys. Even though they were both really young they had both been through some very tough struggles. Jack was a 24 year old man who had already had cancer. Sarah was 23, she shared with the group how her father was a drug addict and physically abusive. The stories were very powerful and detailed the struggle and pain that each had experienced. The common theme in their stories was how their faith in God got them through the struggles. At the end of the stories one of the 8th graders inappropriately asked, “do bad things have to happen to you to be a youth leader”? 
The truth is obviously everyone will go through difficulties. Some of us will suffer more than others, but we will all experience some pain. Jesus never makes any promises of an easy life, or even pain free life. What Jesus promises is that we won’t have to go through it alone. That if we keep our faith and live a life according to Jesus words that we will be able to weather the storm. There are many people who see terrible things in the world and say God doesn’t exist. However, a “perfect” life was never what was promised. Think of all the people blessed by God in the Bible, they all had a lot of pain in their lives (Abraham, Job, Moses, all the disciples, etc).
We know storms are brewing and will affect our lives. No matter how much we have gone through we know there can always be another one coming. We must always be thinking about what our foundation is in our lives, what are we building our houses on? We must be learning about Jesus words and acting on them, by doing so we know we will be strong enough for the storm.
Jesus let our focus be on you. Build us into strong disciples that care for each other. Let us always remember your promises for us and be thankful for your love and grace. Amen.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 3

Friday, February 19, 2021 – Day 3
Matthew 5: 14-16
14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Krista Tippet’s book Becoming Wise is worth your time to read. In one part of it, Tippet interviews Jewish physician Rachel Naomi Remen who recounts her Hasidic rabbi grandfather’s strange, mystical story of creation. I was moved by the interpretation of the creation story though here, with respect to the Rabbi’s Jewish mysticism, I do re-interpret the story a bit to fit my theology.
In the beginning, there was only God, the divine light, who was the source of life. God created the universe using the divine light and gave it to humanity to tend. But humanity broke the universe and the light was scattered and became hidden. God sent more light into creation in the form of Jesus. Jesus gave humanity “… the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby restore the innate wholeness of the world. … It’s the restoration of the world.”
Remen goes on to say something profound.
And this [restoration of the world] is, of course a collective task. It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive, all people yet to be born. We are healers of the world. That story opens a sense of possibility. It’s not about healing the world by making a huge difference. It’s about healing the world that touches you, that’s around you.
Think about that during Lent. While Jesus came to heal the whole world, we are called to continue the healing – to the part of the world that touches us. What part of the world can you heal? Use this Lent to make a plan.
Lord, I want to be one of those who gather the light you have shined on us and reflect it onto others that they may feel your presence and know your love, that they may see the good works that heal those parts of your creation we touch. Amen

Lenten Bible Study – Day 2

February 18th – Day 2
Luke 5:37-38 
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.
The parable today is somewhat easy to understand, do not put new wine in old wine skins. The old wine skins had been worn down and new wine would ferment and expand which would burst the old wine skins, which ruins the old wineskins and spills the wine. The question of course is what is the “new wine” and what are the “old wine skins”. It seems to me that Jesus is the new wine. The Pharisees were constantly trying to force God into their rigid laws and set structure. Jesus message to them is that God does not fit into their religious structure, God is much bigger. Even more so, God’s grace did not fit into their laws, it bursts them.
The Pharisees could not get out of their laws and judgment. In essence, they had put boundaries around God, not allowing space for grace. There formula was to follow the rules and you would be in right relationship with God. If you mess up you made a sacrifice and returned to right relationship. Jesus saw the kingdom of God as so much more than this, our relationship with God is so much more than this! God’s love and grace could not be constrained to the old law, the new wine could not be put in old wine skins. 
We worship a mighty God! So many times, in our lives we try to put boundaries and limitations on God. It is important for us to know that God is not limited by anything we say or do. As Presbyterians we say we are reformed, but we are always reforming. God did not stop interacting with us at any point in time, especially at the end of the old testament. Rather God continues to be revealed to the world in our lives as well as others as time marches forward. We must not try to fit God into an old model of how we understood God like the Pharisee’s tried. We must continue to seek out God and see how truly amazing and transcendent God truly is in our world.
Gracious God, let us see you in your fullness. Don’t let our limited world view and understanding of you stop us from experiencing and knowing your love and grace. As we think of you today in Lent and move closer to the cross let us understand how changing the sacrifice of Christ truly was for each one of us. Amen

JMPC Sunshine 01.08.2021

On December 21, 2020 there was a celestial event that has not been seen since the year 1226 CE when Genghis Kahn was rampaging in Asia. The celestial event was the conjunction of two planets in our solar system – Jupiter and Saturn. Normally these two planets are just bright lights in the sky and are misidentified as stars to the astronomically challenged. From time to time, orbital paths across the sky of Jupiter and Saturn make them line up in a way that intensifies their brightness to the point they look like one bright star. This conjunction on December 21 was labeled the “Christmas Star” mainly because it appeared so close to Christmas. Such celestial events are something we humans have always looked at with wonder. From solar and lunar eclipses to passing comets, human beings have historically interpreted such sights as heralds or omens of some kind of change in the course of human history. (See Genghis Kahn rampaging Asia in 1226.) Halley’s Comet was said to have appeared just as the Normans were invading England in 1066 CE. King Harold of England saw it as a bad sign while King William of Normandy saw it as proof he was to succeed (which he did). A 585 BCE solar eclipse was so frightening it the warring Medes and Lydians in that they ended their war and left the battlefield. Then there was the Star of Bethlehem that portended the birth of a new king. Many believe that this star was, in fact, a Jupiter/Saturn conjunction. Whatever it was, the three “Wisemen” or “Kings” used it as a navigational aid to find the new king that was heralded by the “star”. This story only appears in Matthew’s Gospel. What do we make of this story? What does it mean to us in 2020? Hear about it Sunday, January 10, 2021 when Pastor Jeff preaches “Three Kings” at 10am on Facebook Live. You can also come to the parking lot and listen on the radio, though the worship team will be inside. We hope you join us.


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