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Lenten Bible Study – Day 16

Monday, March 8, 2021 – Day 16
Matthew 13:44
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
A few years ago I was honored to serve with a group of people from JMPC in Houston Texas. We were tasked with repairing houses that had been flooded. We were told that one area received 55 inches of water. Immediately, your heart hurts for the people that had to deal with the flood. I imagine myself having to deal with rising flood waters and I wonder how I would react.
Joel, was a young man who we met in Houston. He was helping us with one of the houses and his 2-year-old daughter would be living in the house. He was telling us about the night the waters were rising. At a certain point their family decided they had to leave the house. With waters already waist high they had to decide what to take with them. What were the most important things in their lives? For Joel, he put his 2-year-old on his shoulders and put the dog in a basket and attached a rope to himself. 
When we read the parable this morning the treasure is what should summon our attention. What sticks out to me is not just that the man finds a treasure, but that he understands the value of the treasure. The man sells everything he has so that he can have the treasure. He recognizes that he doesn’t own anything that can compare to the treasure. 
Many times, in our lives we give too much value to things in our lives. Often, we are missing what Jesus is offering us through his sacrifice on the cross. This treasure is more valuable than anything we have in our lives. The question is, do we understand its value? Are we ready to give up the things in our lives that don’t matter to fully embrace this real treasure?
Lord let us understand the treasure that we have in the kingdom of God. Let us know the value of the life Christ gives us. In all of this, let us let go of arbitrary things and embrace eternal things. Amen. 

Lenten Bible Study – Day 15

Saturday, March 6, 2021- Day 15
Matthew 13: 33
33 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’
A few years back my son and I took up beer brewing as something we would do together from time to time. One of the ingredients needed for brewing beer, and perhaps the most important, is yeast. It is the yeast that ferments the beer and produces the alcohol and some of the carbonation. It also provides a distinct flavor to the brew. If the yeast fails, the beer fails. As I read the parable for today, I wondered about yeast in bread. If yeast in beer produces alcohol, what does it do in bread? Here you go.
This according to “What’s Cooking America?”
The main purpose of yeast [in bread dough] is to serve as a catalyst in the process of fermentation, which is essential in the making of bread. The purpose of any leavener is to produce the gas that makes bread rise. Yeast does this by feeding on the sugars in flour, and expelling carbon dioxide in the process. As the yeast feeds on the sugar, it produces carbon dioxide. With no place to go but up, this gas slowly fills the balloon. A very similar process happens as bread rises. Carbon dioxide from yeast fills thousands of balloon-like bubbles in the dough. Once the bread has baked, this is what gives the loaf its airy texture.
So, yeast makes the bread expand. It makes the bread rise. If the yeast fails, the bread does not rise. We want the yeast to work!
What is interesting about this parable is that it talks about yeast in a positive light. Most every place else in the Bible, yeast is spoken of as an evil invader that “ferments” trouble in God’s kingdom. So why the change?
Jesus wants to know that the kingdom, once it invades a person or community, “ferments” so that faith expands or rises. And it might add a bit of flavor as well.
During this Lent, ask yourself how the kingdom yeast has cause your faith to grow and how it has added a bit of flavor you your life.
Dear God, thank you for bringing yeast into my life. Help it to ferment so that a strong faith can grow, expand and give a Godly flavor to my life.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 14

Thursday, March 4, 2021 – Day 14
Matthew 13: 31-32
31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
We have been talking a lot about sowing and seeds and now Jesus tells us the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. The scripture tells us that it is the smallest of all seeds, but becomes the greatest of shrubs and a tree. Certainly, we get the imagery of the kingdom of God not being what we expect, just like a little tree becomes a tree. It even becomes a tree that the birds will place their nests in.
While a small mustard seed does become a tree, I would classify it as a really large shrub. A better analogy for us might be an acorn into an oak tree. Jesus could have also given us an image of a much grandeur tree, that birds nest in like we see in Ezekiel 17:22-23. So why does Jesus pick the mustard tree, of all the trees he could have picked? Wouldn’t a slightly smaller seed with a much larger tree make so much more sense, like the cedar?
I believe that Jesus is pushing us to understand that the Kingdom of God is something we will not expect. It is not just something that would surprise us (like a tiny seed to a large tree) it is something that we will completely not expect. This is especially important for us to think about during lent, as we think about Jesus as the messiah. The Jewish people were expecting a king to return and rule Israel, instead Jesus was born humbly surrounded by animals. They expected the messiah to come and conquer their enemies with power, instead he conquered through death on the cross.
I don’t know exactly what the Kingdom of God is like, but I know it won’t be what I expect. This is a really good thing, it will be much greater than anything I can think of or imagine. It will be so amazing that we can’t possibly fathom its greatness. Thanks be to God for giving us the promise of being able to enter the Kingdom of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!
Jesus so many times in our lives we have false expectations for you. We put words in your mouth and think we know what you would do in every scenario. Thank you for the reminder that we are wrong sometimes, that what we are expecting will not be as great as what is to come. Amen.

JMPC Sunshine 02.20.2021

When I was in Elementary School, I was given a history lesson about George Washington, the Father of our Country. It was said that he never told a lie. Even as a child, he would not tell a lie. The story we heard was that his father gave him a hatchet as a gift. Washington was anxious to use it on something. He took it and cut down one of his father’s cherry trees. When his father, outraged, cried asked who could have done such a thing, young George said, “I cannot tell a lie. I did it.” Washington’s father purportedly embraced him and rejoiced that his son’s honesty was more valuable than a thousand cherry trees. Wow. That story is supposed to teach young folks that telling the truth even when punishment is inevitable is better than lying. An important lesson indeed. But did it really happen? No. It was a story made up years later by Washington’s biographer Mason Locke Weems. Why do we continue to tell that story? Because it is cute, and the message is a good one. This reminds me of the disciples. When we hear strange stories about them, we wonder if they are true and where we might find the sources. Peter for instance is who we meet at the “Pearly Gates” of heaven after we die. Peter decides if we get in. What’s with that story? How did Peter get that job? What doe we really know about Peter? Join us an John McMillan Presbyterian Church Sunday at 10 on Facebook Live when Pastor Jeff preaches “The Keeper of the Keys” and summarizes what we know and don’t know about the Apostle Peter.

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