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Lenten Bible Study – Day 22

Saturday, March 13, 2021- Day 22
Luke 17:7-10
7 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8 Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
There was a story some years ago of a son who was suing his parents. His thought was that while they provided him with a lot of things, including all his basic needs, they should have gotten him more. His friends’ parents had given his friends nicer cars, newer video game systems, and even paid for their college! He had to work hard to get a nicer car and video games. He spent summers working hard at a lumber yard in the hot summer sun, while his friends lounged by the pool. He estimated what he was owed at 425,000 dollars.
The parents of course were taken back. They had bought food, diapers, vacations, beds, clothes, and everything else you could think of. They estimated they spent over 1 million dollars for their son before he turned 18. They could not believe why he was so upset, they had provided everything he needed plus tons of extra things, why did he feel like he didn’t have anything in his life?
This Bible story can be difficult for us sometimes. We can read it and think why does the servant have to work so hard? Why does the servant have to work so hard in the field and then come in and make dinner? Certainly, our understanding of servanthood can be difficult to understand in our culture. In this culture being a servant meant doing your duty and obeying your master. A servant obeyed the master and was thankful for what he was given.
Our focus in this parable should be on the work of the servant. However, it shouldn’t be us thinking it is too much work. Rather we should recognize that we serve God in obedience, not to gain anything. God has given us everything we need and more, in fact we have the greatest gift, grace. We are servants of God, who provides for us. Our extra work does not earn us extra grace, and we should not work harder to earn it (we cannot). We need to work in obedience knowing what our master has given us. We work and serve God in response to what God has given us, not what we still think we deserve. 
Thank you Lord for your love and grace. Thank you for giving to us in abundance and let us respond to each other in strength and love, knowing how blessed we are.   

Lenten Bible Study – Day 21

Friday, March 12, 2021 – Day 21
John 10: 1-5; 7-18
10‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’
7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’
Here is a story I read a while back. It’s a common illustration for this parable. I hear there is truth in it.
A tourist was traveling in the Middle East. He saw several shepherds watering their mingled flock of sheep at a small creek. One of the shepherds turned toward the sheep and basically said follow me! His sheep separated themselves from the rest and followed him. The same thing happened when the second shepherd left. The tourist was impressed. The tourist asked the third shepherd to let him put on the shepherd’s cloak and turban to see if the tourist could get the rest of the sheep to follow him. The shepherd let the tourist put on the cloak and turban and call the sheep. Not one of the sheep moved. The shepherd explained that he had been in charge of the sheep for a long time. The sheep know that the sound of his voice meant food or water. So, the sheep followed him, and only him. The only time sheep will follow someone else is if they are sick.
Of course, the metaphor in the parable is obvious. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and we are the sheep of his pasture, we know his voice and when we hear it we follow him. Jesus’ voice is the gate that keeps the strangers away. Listen only for Jesus’ voice and you will be safe from the wolves. He is no mere hired hand who cares little for the sheep, who runs away at the first sign of trouble. Jesus dies before he lets the thieves in to abuse or exploit the sheep. Jesus loves them. This is exactly what Jesus did n the cross. He laid down his life for the sheep of his flock – us! Why would we ever listen to the voice of another? Because we are broken and lost from time to time. Even sheep get lost, right? If we get scared enough, or hungry enough or thirsty enough, we might follow someone else. But when we figure out our mistake, we listen carefully and hear Jesus calling to us. Come back to the flock! Come back to me – and be saved.
By the way, don’t overlook that one-liner in the middle:  16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So, there will be one flock, one shepherd.  What that means is worth some contemplation. Who might those other sheep be?
Dear God, thank you for sending the Good Shepherd to care for your us, and those other sheep we do not know. Help us hear and recognize his voice so that we can follow him and not get lost. And if we do get lost, Lord, we thank you that the Good Shepherd will seek us out, find us and make us safe – though it cost him his life. Amen.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 20

Thursday, March 11, 2021 – Day 20
Matthew 18:12-14
12 What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of your[c] Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.
Since the early church this tory has always been understood allegorically. We are the sheep that gets lost and Jesus is the shepherd who loves us so much that he leaves the others and finds us. It also tells us the rejoicing of the shepherd when the sheep is found! This is truly the God we serve, a God that loves us so immensely that there is celebration in our return. In fact, this same parable in Luke tells us that all of heaven rejoices when we are found!
I do not know a lot about sheep, but I am told they are not the most intelligent animals. In fact, they can get lost simply by following another sheep or following something like a butterfly. So many times, when I think about people being “lost” I think of drastic things that they have done (murder, stealing, drugs). However, the reality is that often we get lost more like sheep, not even noticing that we are getting lost.
When I was 8 years old I went to Myrtle beach with my 10-year-old cousin Charlie. At one point we both got on a raft and went into the ocean. We kicked our little legs for awhile until we got hungry. We decided to go back, but when we turned around we didn’t see land. We panicked and began kicking in every direction until we had no idea which way to go. Eventually we heard my dads voice and headed that way.
How many times in our lives do we get lost from God simply by living our busy lives? It seems like busyness gets us lost more than something intense and painful. If a wave had launched me and Charlie into the sea we would have known, we were lost and called out immediately. However, our little kicks got us so lost that we didn’t even realize it until we couldn’t find our way back.
It doesn’t take a big action or act of defiance to get lost, sometimes it is just busyness and us not paying attention. Know that no matter how lost you may get Jesus will seek you out and rejoice when you return.
Thank you, Lord, for always seeking us out and thank you for a love that rejoices for finding us despite our failures. Amen.   

JMPC Sunshine 02.26.2021

On June 28, 1972, Chiffon Margarine started running a commercial starring Dena Dietrich as “Mother Nature”. She is handed a stick of what she presumes to be butter, tastes it and gushes over the sweet, creamy taste of natural butter. Then she is told that it’s not butter; it’s Chiffon Margarine. “We fooled you, Mother Nature!” the announcer says. Mother Nature scowls, raises her hands and a there is a clap of thunder. This is followed by an elephant stampede in the direction of the announcer in one of the commercials. This amusing and popular commercial illustrated the common response of one offended by some perceived “lesser” person. Mother Nature is going to bring down a natural disaster on them because she was “fooled” into believing margarine was butter. We see this type of behavior in James and John, much to the annoyance of Jesus. Join us at John McMillan Presbyterian Church Sunday at 10 on Facebook Live as Pastor Jeff preaches “Sons of Thunder” a biography of apostles James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

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