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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

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

JMPC Sunshine 02.12.2021

The CBS sitcom Gilligan’s Island premiered in September of 1964. The premise of the show was 7 wildly dissimilar people stranded on a deserted, uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. The initial theme song was a catchy tune that listed five of the seven characters. “Gilligan, the Skipper, too, a millionaire and his wife, a movie star…. The remaining two characters, the Professor and Mary Ann, were listed as “… and the rest” …. Why? They were originally considered “second-billed co-stars” But with the growing popularity of those characters in the first season, their names were inserted into the lyrics in the second season. “the Professor and Mary Ann” were added in place of “and the rest”. What does that have to do with the Christian religion? Nothing, of course. But it comes to mind when I am asked about the apostles. There are twelve, right? Can you name them all? Certainly Peter, James, John, Matthew, Judas and maybe Andrew. But what about “the rest”? Who are these second-billed co-stars? What do we know about them? What happened to them? Well, Pastor Jeff and Pastor Matt will be trying to find out answers to those questions in their 2021 Lenten Sermon Series,” Strange Companions”. We will be able to cover 7 of them, but we will cover all of them in time. This week Pastor Jeff will preview the series with a bit of background. We hope you will join us on Facebook Live at 10am on Sunday, February 14, 2021 (or later to watch the recording on Facebook or YouTube).

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