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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

Lenten Bible Study – Day 1

Ash Wednesday – February 17, 2021 – Day 1
Matthew 9: 16
16 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made.
Have you ever gone into a clothing store and seen “worn” jeans for sale? You know, the ones that are frayed and already have holes in them? Times have certainly changed. When I was a kid, the last thing you wanted was to get a hole in your jeans. Because if you did, your mother would go get one of those iron-on patches to cover the hole. Every kid I knew thought those patches looked ridiculous! Plus, they always pealed away. Putting these new patches on the old pants made things worse. Putting a new patch on an old pair of pants. It was better to get new pants. (Or just ignore the holes … or make them fashion statements.) This is what Jesus is talking about in this brief parable. Instead of trying to fix the old way with something that just won’t work, get something new altogether. Jesus was saying he was the “something new”. He was not here to mend the ancient rules of the old covenant. They were obsolete. Jesus was the new covenant. The one that said God so loved the world that he sent Jesus and that everyone who believed in Jesus would be reconciled with God In God’s kingdom. Jesus teaches us that we need to move on from the old covenant and move into the new. It is a new day, and a new way. And we acknowledge this new covenant during Lent. Lent is a time for preparation. Preparation for our celebration of the fact that Jesus reconciled us to our one and only God. What kind of preparation? The kind that keeps our thoughts on Jesus, who he was, what he taught, what he did, and the eternal impact he made. That is the purpose of these daily devotionals from Matt and me. To keep our minds on Jesus as we prepare to celebrate his great love for us.
Lord, it feels like we are embarking on a Lenten journey together, you and I. You talk about a new way, a new day and a new covenant between us. That feels like what I am looking for – and what you are looking for from me. I want to remember how much I need you in my life and how much my life needs redemption. I want to remember it clearly in the background of my day today and all through Lent. Amen.

JMPC Sunshine 12.16.2020

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is a Christmas song written by Andy Williams and Kathy Troccoli. It is a holiday favorite. Here are some of the lyrics:
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle bell’ing
And everyone telling you, “Be of good cheer!”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
Caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be much mistletoe’ing
And hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It took me a long time to understand why it included a reference to “scary ghost stories.” OK, I’m a bit slow on the uptake at times, but I think now that this Must be a reference to Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Which makes sense when we think about this week’s part two of the Advent Sermon Series based on the four ghost stores in that great book. Another interesting tie into the book is the joyful nature of the rest of the song. There is a good deal of joy described in this book as well. This week we explore the Ghost of Christmas Past. What does this ghost and our scripture have to say this week? Join us Sunday at 10am for Pastor Jeff’s sermon on the Ghost of Christmas Past in the parking lot or on Facebook live or later on YouTube.

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