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Lenten Bible Study – Day 31

Wednesday, March 24, 2021 – Day 31
Luke 15: 11-32
11 Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. 13A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” 20So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” 22But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
25 ‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” 31Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’
When my kids were little one of the bed time stories we would read them was “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown.
Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.
So he said to his mother, “I am running away.”
“If you run away,” said his mother, “I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.”
The mother rabbit will follow and find her little bunny no matter where he goes. She will not stop until she finds him. Kind of like the parable of the lost sheep, right?
But there is something different about this parable. The prodigal son leaves … and the father does not look for him. What the child said to the father is this:
“It would be better if you were dead. Then I would get my share of your money. And I could get out of this place. Let’s pretend you are dead. Give me the money and I’ll get out of here.” There seems to be little point in going after him. He has “killed” his father. He has rejected his family. What would be the point of the father searching? Maybe Dad knew something about the son we don’t. A lesson needed to be learned. Tough love was necessary. So the father let him go.
But we read later that the father saw the boy return from far away. I wonder about that. I get this image that the father went out on the front porch of the home every day and looked down the road. Maybe today. Maybe he will come today. And when he did, the father then ran to this prodigal child. Lost and now found. Repentant and forgiven.
Then there is another prodigal child to contend with. His other son, the one who stayed, resents the prodigal. He will not welcome his brother home. He literally walks away from the family reunion. He wants nothing to do with a father who welcomes home a disloyal child. He leaves the father. Just like his brother. But there is something different between the two brothers. This one the father goes after. Maybe that is what this one needs. Maybe this one will listen to a lesson. When he finds him the father explains: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.
Everything I have I have shared with you. But now you are the prodigal. Here we are at home, your home, and you refuse to be part of this family. Just like your brother did. I let him go. But I am not letting you go. I will not take that risk with you. I have come after you.”
Prodigals come in many different forms. Which are you? I think that is how God deals with in a way that fits our needs. Are we the one who walks away for the world? Are we the one who resents grace? Are we the one the father waits for or are we the one who the father goes after. Whichever, grace abounds.
Today, read Psalm 139: 1-18 as your prayer.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 30

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 – Day 30
Luke 15:8-10
“Or what woman having ten silver coins,[a] if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15 is my absolutely favorite part of the Bible! In many ways I think it explains a lot of what Jesus was trying to tell us. It all starts with the setup, Jesus is eating with sinners and the Pharisees are complaining, Jesus gives them 3 parables. Fun fact, the early church always read these parables allegorically (we are the sheep and Jesus is the shepherd, we are the prodigal son and God is father). In our section today, it was read that the woman was the holy spirit and we are the coins. Extra fun fact, the noun for Holy Spirit RUAH is a feminine noun. 
There are 3 things that are present in each parable and should be seen through the lens of Jesus eating with sinners. First, something gets lost and has such value that everything is left abandon to be found. Second, there is community involved in each story. Lastly, there is a call to party! People are lost in this world, there is no doubt about that in any way. We need to recognize that we are all in this together, we are all part of a community, belonging to God. We need to party when people come back to God. We need more joy in this world, we need to love each other so much that I am not just desperate for a relationship with God for myself, but I am desperate for you as well!
I am not sure what your relationship is with God, but please know I am cheering for you and I am ready to party. I truly want you to know Jesus, just like my mailwoman, our politicians, the prisoners, and people in Norway. We are all God’s children and we need to support them and let them know we care for them. So please know I love you and want to party with you. I hope to rejoice with you soon. In case I didn’t mention it, I love Luke 15.
Lord in spite of our urge to run, you seek and find us. Give us strength to be a community and truly rejoice with each other, just as you rejoice in us. Amen.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 29

Monday, March 22, 2021 – Day 29
Luke 15: 4-7
4‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.
There was a commercial on TV a while back – for what I don’t know – where a young couple were driving somewhere, and after a stop, he (you knew it was the guy, right?) could not find his sunglasses. The two of them looked everywhere. They backtracked every place they had been that day. No luck. Finally, late in the day, he was coming out of a cave they had visited, and a bunch of bats flew out. He put his hood up and the sunglasses fell out of the hood. The young man looked a bit sheepish, but you could tell he was overjoyed! Even the young woman had to smile.
This parable and that commercial speak to me! When I have ever lost something that has some kind of value to me, whether monetary or sentimental, even if I don’t need right then, the fact I don’t know where it is drives me nuts! Looking for it becomes a virtual obsession. I cannot rest (at least not well) until I find it. And if I never find it, I always wonder about it.
This parable is about that kind of obsession. The kingdom of God is like that. The shepherd lost a sheep. The shepherd obsesses over the sheep until the sheep is found. Then there is a celebration. Even the neighbors are invited over! Can you imagine inviting the neighbors over each time you found your lost keys? But that is what happens in heaven when one lost soul is found. All the heavenly hosts gather together and celebrate.
God is obsessed with finding and saving lost souls. God was obsessed with you and me. When we were found, there was a celebration in the kingdom. They did that for you. They did that for me.
Dear God, thank you for rescuing me when I was lost. Your amazing grace is sweet and sure. Amen.

JMPC Sunshine 03.26.2021

Back around the turn of the century, I went on a mission trip with the high school youth group from my church. This was long before I became a pastor. I was just an adult volunteer. It was the second such trip I had chaperoned. In the previous year, I learned that one person was responsible for feeding the kids and adults their three meals and a snack every day for 6 days. There were a lot of people to feed. For reasons that I cannot explain, I volunteered to be the “cook” for the upcoming trip. I was given a book titled “Feeding Fifty” along with a pat on the back and the church credit card. I prepared the menu for each day. The only advice I got from the previous year’s cook was not to buy generic because the kids won’t eat it. When we arrived at the mission site, I was dropped off at the local grocery store and started to buy the food we would need. Probably about 8 carts full (they set up a special lane for me every time I came in and gave me every special they had running). My daily schedule thereafter was basically to give the kids breakfast (surprisingly easy because few ate it), put out lunch food so they could make their own lunches (not as easy), go to the store to buy 8 more carts of food (they knew me by name and I was very popular in the store), head back to the church where we were staying, unload the groceries and start getting dinner ready. This was all done by me, alone. I did not get to go to any of the work sites. Surprisingly, there were few complaints about the food. Yet, I was always in the kitchen, one of the “chaperones” and so basically ignored by the kids. I’m pretty sure a lot of them did not even know who I was. Here is the interesting thing. It was maybe my favorite youth mission trip. Even though few, if any, of those kids remember who cooked for them that week, they did the mission work, had great fellowship, and learned a bit about Jesus. I had a part in that. What does that have to do with the disciples? With Palm Sunday? It’s this. Jesus sent two disciples to get the colt he was to ride into Jerusalem. Who were they? No one knows. Join us Sunday at 10am in the John McMillan Presbyterian Church parking lot and/or on Facebook Live for Palm Sunday – this coming Sunday! – and hear something about the rest of the disciples.

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