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Lenten Bible Study – Day 26

Thursday, March 18, 2021- Day 26
Luke 14:7-14  
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Unfortunately, it seems that our culture is running away from humility. Social media has exasperated this in every way possible. Youth are expected by their peers to constantly be filming and taking pictures of all their experiences. If you are doing something great you need to let others know about it. This is nothing new for young people, except that social media has expanded the scale. This is one part of humility that Jesus warns us about. This is the part where he tells us to not take the most distinguished seat. We should not be bragging about ourselves and everything we have or do. We should not see ourselves as more important than others.
However, Jesus continues to talk about humility. He tells us to not invite our friends and family to dinner, but to invite the poor, crippled, and lame. His reasoning is simple, these people cannot pay you back in any possible way. You will receive nothing quantitative from your invitation and hospitality. This is the true meaning of humility, it is giving up of yourself so that others may benefit. 
Every year around Christmas I hear a news story about someone who calls the water company and pays off random stranger’s bills. I love these stories, they are filled with selflessness and humility. I have had people give money to help children and youth go to camps and mission trips but insist on being anonymous. These actions are so powerful and loving because they don’t glorify any person, they glorify God. This is where we should understand humility, being humble glorifies God. This should be our goal in life, to glorify God. We glorify our creator, savior, and best friend. Humility should be our goal every day, it serves our neighbors, it loves our enemies, and it glorifies God… what could be better?
Jesus let us think less of ourselves and more of others. Lord let us think less of our “stuff” so we will give it to those in need. God let us glorify you in our humility. 

Lenten Bible Study – Day 25

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 – Day 25
Luke 11: 5-8
5 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.”7And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
Believe it or not, this is a parable about prayer. But it is also about hospitality. First the prayer part.
Imagine this: A man has surprise company. But he’s a bit short on supplies. So he goes out to his neighbor’s house and asks for help which he expects to get. His neighbor’s response? “I’m in bed with my family. Don’t make me get up.”
The tone of Jesus description of the friend in bed is sarcastic.
“Could something like this actually happen?”
And all his listeners would be shaking their heads no. It would be unheard of. Shocking! Shameful! Jesus says we are to respond to shameful refusals of hospitality with persistence. In other words, keep asking. That is how we pray to God. With perseverance.
Jesus puts it another way:
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
But what do we get? In the words of Mick Jagger:
You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need!
This is how God responds to us. God will give us what we need!
What do we need?
What did hospitality look like in 2016?
A bit like this, I think. Well, 15 people from JMPC and one from Florida went to Sibol, Chiapas, Mexico to help a Presbyterian congregation build a wall for their church compound. We were travelers on a long journey. When we got there, we were welcomed by our host, Randy DuVall. He had transportation waiting that took us to a place where we could eat and sleep half way to Sibol. We were fed … and given coffee! When we got to Sibol, we were fed lunch, given rooms to sleep in, hammocks or beds to sleep on and a worship service to welcome us. For the next seven days we were taken care of with food specially made to make sure we did not get sick. We were given purified water, so we could drink. And we were given places to bathe, though the favorite place was in a local stream. We were counseled on appropriate conduct and safety measures and directed to places where we could touch base with home if we wanted to. We were provided immense hospitality.
But we did not come empty handed. We brought our own form of hostess gift. To honor them. We came with supplies. Cement and VBS materials. And our labor. It was a mutual offer of hospitality. Mutual hospitality. We provided for each other’s needs. It is what God calls us to do and be.
Dear God, help us to understand our own needs and be willing to ask that they be met. Help us to see what others need and provide it to them. Keep us persistent in prayer and generous in providing hospitality. Amen

Lenten Bible Study – Day 24

Tuesday, March 16, 2021- Day 24
Luke 17:7-10
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[k] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
You have to love a parable you have probably heard a lot of times. The “good Samaritan” is a parable that has been looked at from many different lenses and angles. Today I would like to look at the initial purpose of the parable. The question that leads to this parable is in verse 29 and it says, “who is my neighbor”? When you read the Bible, you will see Jesus telling you to love 2 different groups of people. He tells us to love or neighbors and our enemies! We know who our enemies are (note I’m am writing this after my beloved Flyers lost to the penguins). We are told to love our enemies, it is hard, but we can identify them. However, Jesus also calls us to love our neighbors, so who are they?
Jesus gives us a parable in which 2 of the people you would expect to help and who were technically neighbors (countrymen) walk by the man. The third man stops and goes out of his way to help the man in every way possible. While many people see this as extreme (loving a foreigner) it should not have been. Numerous times in the old testament scripture God tells his people to care for foreigners. This was not a radical new calling, rather it was something people really struggled doing. What Jesus was trying to convey to them is that everyone is your neighbor because all people belong to God. What Jesus was also showing them is that being a neighbor is in your actions, not in your location. We aren’t called to help the people closest to us, we are called to help all people. 
The best example I can think of when it comes to being a neighbor is mother Theresa. This amazing woman was born in Macedonia, yet she spent a life time loving her neighbors in India (over 3,000 miles away). The children in India recognized her as one of their own, not because she was born there, but because she loved them. The answer to “who is my neighbor” is simple, it is everyone. Loving foreigners when Jesus gave this parable was not new, there were commandments to care for the foreigner in Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Malachi, Exodus, Ezekiel, and many other books. Yet, the people still asked, “who is my neighbor”? Jesus reinforced who our neighbor is and let us know how to care for them. Will we truly understand this, or we will we still be found asking “who is my Neighbor”?    
Lord give us strength to love our neighbor. Let us see everyone as our neighbor, whether they live in our country or another country. Give us wisdom and power to take actions to love foreigners, fully recognizing they are neighbors. Amen. 

JMPC Sunshine 03.15.2021

Who is your favorite traitor? There are many to choose from. In the movies, we could identify Ephialtes, the disabled Spartan soldier want-to-be who leads Xerxes army around the flank of Leonidas’ “300” Spartans or the evil Saruman who betrays Middle Earth in “The Two Towers”. If we want to look at historical figures in the US, we can look at Aldrich Ames who while at the CIA disclosed the names of over 100 agents to the Soviet Union for $4.6M resulting in the deaths of 10 American agents. Or how about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who delivered classified information to the Soviet Union on the building of an atomic bomb. Or John Walker who provided code translations, the positions of US nuclear submarines, submarine defense systems and plans for military operations in Vietnam to the Soviet Union over his 17 years as a US Navy communications officer. But the one that comes to everyone’s mind is clearly Benedict Arnold. Arnold was an American military leader in the American Revolution who claimed responsibility for several military victories against the British. When he felt “overlooked” for promotions by the Continental Congress and General George Washington, he decided to defect to the British and attempted to surrender the American fort at West Point. When the plot was discovered, Arnold fled, was commissioned a brigadier general in the British army after which he led attacks on New London, Connecticut and Richmond, Virginia, including a massacre of surrendering American forces at the Battle of Groton Heights. That should make him number one on anyone’s list. But there is one “traitor” whose name is infamous. Judas Iscariot, the “betrayer” of Jesus. What do we really know about him? Join us at John McMillan Presbyterian Church on Sunday March 21 as we continue our sermon series “Strange Companions” and fill out the biography of Judas Iscariot. We will be on Facebook Live at 10am, as we stream from the church parking lot. So, join us online or here at the church.

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