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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.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 13

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 – Day 13
Mark 4: 26-29
26 He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
Have you noticed that there are a lot of parables about seeds and plants? It makes sense. If Jesus wanted to provide an illustration that his rural listeners would understand, crop farming was always a good choice. One of the things we see in this parable is an insight that is still applicable in 2021. Most of us have no idea how a dry seed thrown on the ground can sprout into a seedling, stalk, flower, seedpod and finally more seeds. The biology and chemistry, for the vast majority of us, including farmers and gardeners, is a mystery! And Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like that, too!
As disciples of Jesus, we proclaim the word made flesh like a farmer broadcasts the seeds. Then, like the farmer, we wait to see what happens. When the word takes root and begins to grow, we, like the farmer, don’t really know how it happens. What we do know is that we don’t make it grow. We can plow, fertilize and water the seeds, but the biology and chemistry that cause the seed to transform over time into a full-grown seed producing plant is a mystery to us. That part is out of our control, and entirely in God’s control. This is comforting because we are unsure of what to say to a person in order to convince them that our faith claims are true. We just “testify” to what we believe and let God take it from there.
But there is a second part to this parable that is also comforting. If you are the recipient of the seed, the timing and mechanism of its growth within you, is equally out of your hands. God is in control of that as well. Your spiritual growth, while it can be fertilized and watered, will come to maturity in God’s time, not yours. I find that comforting as well.
Dear God, you are the source of all spiritual growth, be it in a community or an individual. Help us to understand that you are in control of the growth and maturity of our faith, be it in our community or in our individual selves. Help us to be patient as these spiritual seeds grow. Encourage us to accept that you control the mystery of a faith that grows, blooms and produces good fruit in abundance for your kingdom. Amen.

JMPC Sunshine 02.12.2021

The CBS sitcom Gilligan’s Island premiered in September of 1964. The premise of the show was 7 wildly dissimilar people stranded on a deserted, uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. The initial theme song was a catchy tune that listed five of the seven characters. “Gilligan, the Skipper, too, a millionaire and his wife, a movie star…. The remaining two characters, the Professor and Mary Ann, were listed as “… and the rest” …. Why? They were originally considered “second-billed co-stars” But with the growing popularity of those characters in the first season, their names were inserted into the lyrics in the second season. “the Professor and Mary Ann” were added in place of “and the rest”. What does that have to do with the Christian religion? Nothing, of course. But it comes to mind when I am asked about the apostles. There are twelve, right? Can you name them all? Certainly Peter, James, John, Matthew, Judas and maybe Andrew. But what about “the rest”? Who are these second-billed co-stars? What do we know about them? What happened to them? Well, Pastor Jeff and Pastor Matt will be trying to find out answers to those questions in their 2021 Lenten Sermon Series,” Strange Companions”. We will be able to cover 7 of them, but we will cover all of them in time. This week Pastor Jeff will preview the series with a bit of background. We hope you will join us on Facebook Live at 10am on Sunday, February 14, 2021 (or later to watch the recording on Facebook or YouTube).

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