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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. 

Lenten Bible Study – Day 23

Monday, March 15, 2021- Day 23
Matthew 18: 23-34
23 ‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him;25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” 29Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt.
Every Sunday we pray the Lord’s Prayer. It is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when they asked for a way to pray. This is how it appears in the Bible:
Matthew 6: 9-15
9 ‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name.
10   Your kingdom come.
   Your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven.
11   Give us this day our daily bread.
12   And forgive us our debts,
     as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13   And do not bring us to the time of trial,
     but rescue us from the evil one.
14For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Note the verses I underlined. This is important. This is what the parable means. And it is hard. That is why we pray for the ability to do it. If you are asked to forgive, you have to do it. Jesus teaches us to seek forgiveness from God by praying these words: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Which means: 14For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  You want to ask God to be forgiven? You have to be willing to do the same. How do we do that?
Adam Hamilton wrote a book called Forgiveness. We are studied this in Discovery Class a few years ago. In it, Hamilton uses stones and a backpack to illustrate the way we deal with people who hurt us. Small stones are small slights. Medium stones are more hurtful. Large stones cause serious pain. We collect such stones every day. And we have to decide what we are going to do with them. We can put them in our backpacks and carry them around with us until we are so weighed down by our resentment and grudges that carrying the backpack hurts us. Or we can forgive and throw the stones away. Each sized stone requires a different amount of forgiveness. Small stones should be just ignored. Just let them go. Say to yourself, “Have I ever done that and just sort of walked away without asking for pardon?” If you have, you have no right to begrudge the person who has just done something you have done. Let it go. The resentment goes away, too. The burden is lighter. It works. Medium and large stones require more work. Forgiveness starts by giving up the right to retribution. An eye for an eye simply does not work. It only escalates into a death match.
But giving grace does not mean we condone what happened. The consequences of the act remain. A liar is not trusted. A criminal stays in jail. That kid was still grounded. We are called to forgive, but not to forget. But there is reconciliation.
Now there are those who do not want forgiveness, do not ask for forgiveness and do not believe they need forgiveness. What do we do with them? We forgive them, too. Not because it is good for them. Because it is good for us. We are freed of their power to feed our anger. Freed of their power to prevent us from entering God’s presence. We must just let it go. Why? Because God will treat us the same way we treat others, at least that is what we are willing to accept by praying Jesus’ prayer. It is certainly not our nature. Forgiving is hard. But not forgiving is harder.
Dear God, forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. But now that you have already forgiven us, at the cross, help us to respond in kind by forgiving others, no matter how hard it might be. Amen.

JMPC Sunshine 03.04.2021

Most folks have three names. Two are the “given” names. A first name and a middle name. Then we have the surname, which is a hereditary name common to all members of a family. To family and friends, we are generally referred to by one of our given names (except in school when we are often called by just our last name, or some nick name). Most folks are called by their first name but, interestingly, some are called by their middle names. That is true in my family. My dad, whose name was Thomas James Tindall, Sr. was called Jim. I don’t know why. My brother, Thomas James Tindall, Jr. is called Tom. My full name is Marshall Jefferson Tindall. The name I have answered to most of my life has been Jeff (purportedly because Tom could not pronounce Marshall when I was born). What is interesting is that when I was in Middle School and High School, everyone called me Marshall. Before and after that everyone called me Jeff. So, when I meet someone from my past, and they call me Marshall, I know I knew them in middle school or high school. One time I was courting a girl in high school who thought Marshall and Jeff were two different people. I never asked her which one she preferred. This was a problem the apostle Matthew had in the early church. He was known by two different names. Some thought in those days (and some think now) that Matthew was two different people. That is just a
minor point of information on Matthew that I will explore when we examine the life and legends of the apostle Matthew, the tax collector.
Join us at 10am in the parking lot or on Facebook Live as we continue our apostles’ biographies.

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