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Lenten Bible Study – Day 32

Friday, March 26, 2021 – Day 32
Luke 16:1-8 
Then Jesus[a] said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
On March 8th, 1987 my father gave me a talk that I recently had the privilege of giving to my daughter around 30 years later. It starts very simply, “if you want a dog you have to promise to take care of it”, the child responds with “I will, I promise”. The parent then continues “you need to walk it, feed it, bath it, etc.…”, “I will, I promise responds the child”. Now to Emma’s credit she has done a lot more for her puppy than I did when I was her age. She had been begging me for a puppy for 2 years now and finally I decided to cave and give it to her, mostly because I love her. I certainly had some reservations because I didn’t know if she would hold up her end, but I decided that I wanted her to be happy, so I caved.
This parable is considered by many scholars to be one of the most difficult parables to understand. We see a manager will be fired for squandering his masters property. He realizes he cannot do manual labor and doesn’t want to beg so he begins settling his masters debt by making the people give less than what is owed, he does this so that those people will like him and maybe give him a job. The master then commends the manager for doing this, though it seems it was a completely selfish act. There are many ways in which people try to justify this parable. Some believe the manager was commended because he didn’t take a commission. Other scholars believe the manager was commended for collecting and showing compassion at the same time (word of a caring master would encourage more business). While I’m not completely sure which of these I agree with, I will say that it is not the point of the parable.
God has given us many things in our lives. We have money, food, houses, and lots and lots of stuff. We were given this stuff not to own or use just for ourselves, rather it was given for us to manage. The questions become are we wise with our money? Are we compassionate when others owe us money? Are we managing it well for our master, or are we squandering it away. God has given us a responsibility to manage this world, will we be shrewd, or will we squander it away?   
Jesus, we thank you for everything you have given us. We recognize that we don’t always use the things you have given us as well as we should. Let us recognize that we are managers of your things, and we need to manage your resources in caring and careful ways. Amen.

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.

Sunshine 04.01.2021

Holy Week has a new meaning for me during this COVID-19 pandemic. I do believe that it illustrates why we need hope in what, at times, seems to be a hopeless world. The pandemic has been with us for over a year now. But we are beginning to see the world re-emerge. Not quite resurrection, but it is the hope of a new beginning. But even if the emergence falters, Jesus remains our hope. We need to be patient. We are like his followers as he entered Jerusalem. We want Jesus to do things our way. To work a bit of magic and make all this virus go away. To demonstrate his ultimate power over the world and make it the way we want it to be. But Jesus does not work that way. Jesus did not become King, and Jesus does not magically make our lives just the way we want them. What Jesus does is make a promise. That he knows what we know. Feels what we feel. And walks with us through the darkest valleys and the highest mountains. This week, we try to understand that.
Like most churches, we at John McMillan Presbyterian Church traditionally experiences Holy Week in many ways. I say “experience” because we try to put ourselves in the shoes of those who were there with Jesus as he traveled to the cross – and then returned alive. We start our Easter journey on Thursday evening at 7:30 with our Tenebrae Service in the cold, cold parking lot. A service of “shadows”. The world gets dark as the disciples have their last Passover with Jesus. Someone betrays, others sleep, they all run away in the end. We listen to the story of Jesus’ last 24 hours with scripture readings and music. It all ends in darkness and silence.
Next, we gather at noon on Good Friday for a vigil where we hear the story of the crucifixion and try to understand what it has to do with us.
Saturday is silent, as we, like the disciples, are … well … speechless. Then! Then! It is Resurrection Day! We gather at 10:00 for a worship service in the parking lot and celebratory that old, old story. The one that we never get tired of. Jesus Christ is risen today. He is risen indeed.
And by the way, who knew first? Join us Easter Sunday and hear about that when Pastor Jeff Preaches, “The First Apostle”.

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Jul 21, 2019
A Walking Signboard
"A Walking Signboard" - 7.21.19 - Rev. Deborah Evanovich
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