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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.

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.

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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