Sunday, December 31, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for January 7th: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12; Epiphany of the Lord Isaiah: This verse is about living in the light, the light of God. Chapters 58 and 59 talk about the darkness of life. The people know that God loves then, but in that love God holds them accountable. Many of the exiles have returned, and they are clashing with the people who have been in Jerusalem all along. Things are not going so well. So in chapter 60 the prophet announces that their light has come, God is with them. Instead of resenting Jerusalem, people will come to Jerusalem to see how things are done. They will know that the presence of God is there. With God present, things will start to look up and get better. Matthew: Mark does not speak about the childhood of Jesus, so we have to look at Matthew’s story. This is the story of the arrival of the three wise men, a year or so after the baby was born. By this time Mary and Joseph are back home. The wise men follow the star, because this announcement is not just for Jews, but for the world. A King of Kings has been born. They come to give him gifts. But they also realize that King Herod is not happy about this birth, so they do not want to encourage him, they go home another way in order to avoid him. That is a sign that things do not always go as we planned, but they always go God’s way. Let us focus once again on Jesus presence in our lives, not the gifts of the wise men. Questions: In our world, are we living in the darkness or the light? What are the struggles of the day? What are the celebrations? Why is it important for us to see darkness in order to see the light? What gifts would you bring to the new King? When was there a time in our life when you had to resort to plan B to achieve your goals?
Saturday, December 23, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 31st: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; Psalm 8; Revelation 21:1-6; Matthew 25:31-46; New Year’s Eve Ecclesiastes: It is appropriate for us to think about time on New Year’s Eve. At the stroke of midnight, everything changes. King Solomon wrote Ecclesiates , he was writing out of frustration. He felt that life was hopeless, because no matter how hard you tried to accomplish anything, it was all up to God. In some ways he felt that time and effort was wasted. But he gives some important truths in the midst of his frustration that all things happen in God’s time. And that there is a time and more importantly there is a season for everything. In order to know how to respond to that season, we have to have a relationship with God and know how to listen and respond to God’s leading. Revelation: This is another appropriate verse for the new year. It is time for old things to pass away and for new things to come into existence. This is a vision of what life will be like when God comes to live in our world. Presently this is a world of sorrow, or sickness, of need of want. It is a time of darkness where we have to wait for the sun to come up. Revelation says that when God comes it will be light all of the time. We will never cry because our needs will always be met. The starting of a new year is preparation for that day. We can put aside our problems, our cares, the things we have been struggling with all year. We can let God come in and take care of it all. Questions: What time is it in your life? Is it an up time or a down time? What it God telling you about the time in your life? What are the burdens that you have been carrying that you can let go of in the new year? How is God working in your life? You can view Breaking Open the Scripture online at https://breakingopenthescriptures.blogspot.comYou can view Pastor Harriette’s sermons online at https://aplaceforshalom.blogspot.com
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 24th: Isaiah 9: 2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20; Christmas Eve Luke: This is the only gospel account of the birth of Jesus. All of the others begin with Jesus as an adult. The words of Luke 2 are immortalized in the nativity scene. As a matter fact, all that we know about Christmas is contained in these scriptures. We are very familiar with Jesus coming into the world in a barn because that is all that available. Jesus not only knew what it meant to be human, he knew what it meant to be a needy child who moved from place to place, because his father was trying to keep him safe. He knew that he was also divine and had favor with God. The prophecy was right about this one. This was a child who made all the difference in the world. When we read, we become a part of the story. We too get a glimpse of the Holy We can have hope for a better tomorrow. We can watch as the child grows up to start his ministry. Isaiah: This is also a part of the prophecy. We have been caught in a very dark time in the world – 14 hours of darkness a day. They say that we meet God in the midst of the darkness. In darkness, we are better able to see light. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus can transform. I love that we learn the names of Jesus. We learn what Jesus is going to do for the world. This is actually my favorite Christmas verse . It reminds us that there is nothing new, Jesus has already been there. Jesus will come again. There is work that needs to be done. Isaiah even believes that this is it for him. But Jesus is a light that is bright enough for everyone to see and to know that this is the son of God. Questions: Do you believe in the Christmas story? Which is your favorite character in this scenario? What are some things in our world that need to be straightened out. You can view Breaking Open the Scripture online at https://breakingopenthescriptures.blogspot.comYou can view Pastor Harriette’s sermons online at https://aplaceforshalom.blogspot.com
Saturday, December 9, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 17th: Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11; Psalm 126; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28; Third Sunday of Advent Isaiah : Isaiah is the prophecy the foretells the coming of Jesus. When Jesus talks about fulfilling the prophecy, he uses the worlds of Isaiah. In the book of Luke, when Jesus starts his ministry, he gets up in front of a synagogue and tells them that the Spirit of the Lord is upon me to do ministry to those in need. Isaiah uses these words to tell us of the shepherd King who has been sent to help the people in need. He is the messiah, a man who is both gentle and powerful. He will help the people to build a new world that brings joy. He is a man after God’s own heart, because he is God’s own son. We can rejoice because this man cannot change the world alone, it takes his followers to work with him. They must also love God and God’s plan for the world. John: John, like Mark last week starts out the good news by telling the story of Jesus cousin John. John comes to set the stage for the messiah. John came to call the people to repentance. He baptized them, but told them that they needed to be better people. Last week Isaiah said that the way needed to be prepared for Jesus to come. This third Sunday of Advent, we too need to prepare the way. We too need to repent of our ways. We need to listen to the words of John the Baptist. John is the one who knows Jesus’ mission the most. He is the closest witness to the work that Jesus must do. The gospel of John says that John the Baptist was not the light, he was to testify concerning the light of the world. Questions: What are the ways that Jesus proclaimed good news to the poor? How do we continue on in that work? How do we continue the legacy of the shepherd King? Why is John’s message of repentance relevant today? How are we fulfilling John’s testimony to the light? You can view Breaking Open the Scripture online at https://breakingopenthescriptures.blogspot.comYou can view Pastor Harriette’s sermons online at https://aplaceforshalom.blogspot.com
Sunday, December 3, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 10th: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15; Mark 1:1-8, Psalm 85:1-2,8-13; Second Sunday of Advent Isaiah : Isaiah is calling for a catastrophic change in the ways of the world. God is the only one who can make that significant of a change in the order of things. So this passage speaks not of earth, but of heaven. God is speaking to the angels about what is going on on earth. God says to the angels to bring comfort to my people, they have suffered long enough. When God comes into the world and makes a change, there is no mistaking that God is present. There will be no room not to believe in God, because God will turn everything upside down, there will be chaos and confusion, but finally there will be order. Isaiah is preparing the people, so that they know when God comes into the world. But we do not need to be afraid, we can have hope on that day. Mark: This is the first chapter of Mark. Mark never talks about Jesus as a baby. Mark says that the beginning of the good news is that the prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled. How Jesus came into the world is not important to him. He starts out with a prophecy from John the Baptist. John is going out into the countryside to tell people that the day of the Lord is coming, because the messiah is present and about to start the work of changing the world. John’s concern is to make sure that we welcome Jesus into our world by repenting and changing our ways. Even Jesus responds to John and begins his ministry be being baptized into repentance. Questions: What kind of comfort does the people of God need today? What ways are you seeing God’s presence in the world? Why is repentance important in our lives? What do you need to repent and turn away from? What does the world need to repent from?
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 3rd: Isaiah 64:1-9, Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37 – 1st Sunday of Advent Mark : Even though this is the very beginning of the Christian year, we continue our journey through the apocalypse. Jesus tells us what the last days will be like. Once again he says that no one knows when it will be, but he tells us to make sure that we stay awake. That is what advent means – staying alert and preparing ourselves for what is to come. The is no cute birth story in Mark, Mark starts out by telling us the good news of Christ coming in our lives. Mark wants us to be prepared and ready for the coming of Christ and to realize what that means for us – salvation. Mark is very much an adult story about real life. Mark is telling the disciples that he will not be with them much longer, but they have no idea of what he is talking about. Isaiah: This is also an apocalyptic text. The people of Israel have been sent into exile and they are appealing to God to change the world and to once again set them free. They are describing their misery and terror in this very strange life in a very strange land. They are apologizing to God for the faithlessness that got them into this situation in the first place. They are praying to the God who has always delivered them. This is a very moving prayer to God. It is fitting for the beginning of advent to ask God to turn everything upside down, so that it can start all over again. Questions: Have you ever been in a situation where you felt there was no hope of escape? What do you think the end of times will be like? How will you stay awake this advent season? What do you situation in the world do you hope God will intervene in and change? Are you afraid of the end of times? You can view Breaking Open the Scripture online at https://breakingopenthescriptures.blogspot.comYou can view Pastor Harriette’s sermons online at https://aplaceforshalom.blogspot.com
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for November 26th: Ezekiel 34:11-16,20-24; Psalm 100, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46 – Christ the King Sunday Matthew : This is the last Sunday of the Christian year, it is the day that we are to think of Christ in all of his glory. This is also the end of the book of Matthew. Jesus is fortelling what will happen at the end of time. He wants to make sure that his disciples are prepared to face those times. The Christ will return to the earth in all of his glory. The angels will be with him. He will have the authority to judge people, but he will also have the task to love people. The criteria that we will be judged on, is how well we were willing to help others. The holiday season is coming up, it is time for us to meet the needs of those around us and show the love of God. Ezekiel: This too is a scripture of the endtimes and the judgement. God talks of being the shepherd and gathering together all of those that the human shepherds let go astray. All those who have been neglected in life, will be fed and taken care of. They will live in a nice, comfortable place, they will live in peace. Being a shepherd is a big responsibility, and we will be help accountable. Jesus tells us that we all have a responsibility to shepherd and take care of those around us. That is what it means to be a person of faith. We have to make sure that we do not say or do things that will scatter the flock. Questions: What do you do to help others? What do you think about the second coming of Christ? Do you see the needs of others around you? What does these scripture say about our modern politicians? Are they doing their job?
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for November 12th: Joshua 24:1-3,14-25, Psalm 78:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Matthew 25:1-13 1 Thessalonians : Paul was able to convert many gentiles in the city of Thessalonica by telling that that Jesus was coming very soon. People changed their lives thinking that they would not have to wait very long for the end of the world. They stopped working, they did not even worry about living faithful. Then they got worries, because more and more of their Christian sisters and brothers started to die. What was the point of being a Christians, if there would be no community. What was the point of going to heaven, if they would not be there. Paul wrote back to assure them that all faithful people would be in heaven. But he also wanted them to know that our faith will always be rewarded. None of us know when Jesus will come. But we don’t need to know an exact date in order to live in faithfulness. Paul says in the meantime, keep waiting, but wait in hope not in anxiety. Joshua: It is a new day since Joshua has taken over for Moses. The people are scattered and divided. Joshua tells them that in order to go forward, everyone must be unified under one cause. Joshua believes that cause to be God. If everyone would just serve the same God, everything would be okay. So Joshua gathers the people together and asks them to make a covenant to God. He starts with his own family, and tells them as for me and my house, we will serve God. But that each and every family must make a conscious decision. He says Choose you this day whom you will serve. Will it be God or will it be man. But each household must make a pledge – a pledge to serve God. Questions: Do you think the end of the world is coming soon? Does that change your behavior to others? To God? How do you encourage your family to serve God every day?
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 29th: Deuteronomy 34:1-12, Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46 Matthew : The religious authorities of the day had been trying to trip Jesus up for days. This seems to be the last argument that they test him with. Everytime they ask Jesus about the law, Jesus is able to prove his argument. Everyone would have known about the Love of God. Everyone would have known that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord Your God with all of your being. But there is also a law not to do what you hate to your neighbor. In other words, love your neighbor. The authorities are still trying to understand what authority Jesus has to teach all of this. Jesus goes back to the Hebrew scriptures and answers perfectly. David called the son of God “Lord” – Jesus has an answer for everything. Who else would have these answers, but the Lord? Deuteronomy: We have reached the end of the story of a great prophet. This is the end of the book of Deuteronomy. This is the end of the first five books of the bible – the Pentateuch. This is the end of the law of Moses. The final chapter of anyone’s life is death. Moses takes a walk throughout the land by himself (he is with God). God shows him all of the land that he promised to the Hebrew people. But God explains that even though Moses led the people to this land, he would not be going himself. It was time to turn leadership over to Joshua and to start a new adventure. The people find Moses’s body the next day. No one lives forever, we are just a piece of the story. But more importantly God’s plan is bigger than any of us. We have to be aware of the legacy that we leave behind, and those who will continue to journey that we started. Scripture says that there will never be anyone like Moses again. But we all have a part to play. Questions: What does it mean to put the love of God into action? What does it mean to love God with all of your being. What does that have to do with loving your neighbor? By what authority does Jesus speak in your life? Is he Lord? How does Moses work continue today? Have we reached the promisedland? What work for the Kingdom of God still needs to be done?
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 22nd: Exodus 33:12-23, Psalm 99, 1 Thessalonians 1:1010, Matthew 22:15-22 1 Thessalonians : This is one of the first letters written by Paul. Our scripture for today is the introduction of the whole letter, where Paul tells them that he is grateful for their faith, but reminds them that they have to put their faith into action. Thessalonica is a large metropolitan city with a lot of diversity. In some ways it was a home base as Paul bought the message to the Greeks. Paul reminds them that they started out as gentiles, but became an example of a church for all people as they professed their faith in Christ. He encourages them to be a beacon of what it means to be united. And to remember that the whole point of faith is to believe in the salvation of Jesus Christ. Exodus: By now, Moses has led the people out of Egypt, he has led them through their complaining and they are starting to understand what it means to be united as a nation. A nation united behind God. God has been giving Moses commands all along. Now Moses is asking for God to show God’s face. He wanted to personally know who he is talking to. God reminds Moses that God’s glory is too great, so the devises a way that Moses can see the shadow of the backside of his glorious face. God wanted Moses to know that as God told Moses what to do, that Moses was not alone in doing it. God was present and working alongside of Moses. God has a plan for Moses, for the Israelites and more importantly for us. It is important for us to have a personal relationship with our maker as we go through life. Questions: How do you put your faith in action? How is your church an example of a place for all different people to gather? What is your personal relationship with God? How does God communicate with you? How can your church be an example to other churches?
Sunday, October 8, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 15th: Exodus 32:1-14;Psalm 106:1-6,19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14 Philippians: Paul often uses references to running a race. He reminds us that faith is always moving forward. But this verse starts with Paul telling us to stand still. Stand still in the Lord. He continues to address the distress in the church, but he encourages reconciliation. For the sake of the mission, make up with the person you are mad at. He reminds us not to get caught up in believing rumors, but the believe in truth – to see truth. To know that God is always associated with the truth. Paul ends by reminding us that if we are able to stand still in Christ in the midst of chaos – there will be peace. A peace that surpasses all human understanding. Matthew: Jesus loves a party. He loves to gather people together. As a matter of fact, heaven will be a big party where everyone is invited to come. Unfortunately, not everyone who is invited will be willing to come. We come up with all types of excuses of who not to come when Jesus invites us. We are too busy, we are too tired, we have something else more important to do. In the end, no excuse is really good enough. There will be consequences for not coming to Jesus party. Always make time for the things of Christ, because you never know when it may be your last invitation. Our wedding clothes is the attitude that we bring with us when we come to church. Questions: How do you resolve conflict with others? How do you think about the truth? What does peace look like in your life? What areas do you need to find peace? What are your excuses not to accept Jesus invitation to a heavenly life? Where is there dissension in your life? Who do you need to make peace with?
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 8th: Exodus 20: 1-4,7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4-14;Matthew 21:33-46 Exodus: This lesson is a teaching of the ten commandments. These rules are the backbone of a the Jewish life. These rules give them meaning and purpose as a community. It is not an accident that these rules were written in the midst of the wilderness experience. The Isrealites were walking away from Egypt with its established rules. They were a part of this society, but with no power – they were slaves. It was a society based on economic power. They were in the wilderness to create a society based on the love and loyalty of God. With this new community, they needed to create new rules. In Egyptian society a man was the head. In this new community God was the head. The rules were based not on getting ahead, but on getting along – along with one another and with God. Philippians: The 4 chapters of Philippians tell a very important story. In chapter 2 Paul tells us that Jesus had to empty himself in order to relate to humans. In chapter 3, Paul tells his own story of emptying himself and his life in order to serve Christ. He had attained a lot of status as a priest of his religion, until Jesus appeared to him and told him that all of that did not matter. God had a bigger purpose for him rather than attaining power and status. Paul could actually brag about his past, if he had not given it all up. He was a new person in Christ now. Paul goes on to encourage us to be faithful one step at a time. The only way we are going to win the race, is to run it at our own pace trusting in God to get us where we have to go. The only way we will win, is with God by our side. Questions: Are the ten commandments still relevant in today’s society? How do they encourage us not to be slaves to our economic status? Which commandment do you like the most? Which one is the hardest to keep? Have you ever sacrificed anything for Christ? Did you get it back in time? How is being faithful like running in a race?
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for September 17th: Exodus 14: 19-31; Exodus 15:1-11,20-21; Romans 14:1-12;Matthew 18:21-35 Romans: When we gather together in faith, we have all had different levels of training in church, we all have different definitions of what it means to be Christian. Paul is saying that just because we are different, that does not mean that we are better than others. When you find yourself putting yourself above others, then you need to be careful. We need to be mindful of others. The key to being the church is in being able to accept those who are different without judging them. We are all sinners saved by grace. Christ had a reason for inviting all of us to the table. We have to learn to all get along. Matthew: This is an important next step in learning to live in Christian community. Christian community is based on love and forgiveness. Peter asks how many times should he forgive someone before giving up on them. Jesus says that there is no limit to forgiveness. He then tells a parable about a king forgiving debts – this reminds us that when we judge others, God also judges us. We have had to have some of our debt forgiven. We should keep this in mind. The golden rule is to treat others the way you expect to be treated. Forgiveness is the golden rule of Christianity. We should do it as Jesus tells us to. Questions: how do you treat people who practice Christianity different from you? How do you overcome your differences with others? What does it mean to be weak in faith? When was there a time when you needed to forgive a Christian brother? Was it easy? Did you think about what the bible tells you to do.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for September 3rd: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6,23-36,45; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28 Exodus: This is the very important story of Moses’ first encounter with God. He stands on a holy mountain and it not only speaks, but it burns with fire. Moses has several physical encounters with God where God directs him. In this one, God tells him to go save his people. He has escaped slavery, but now he must go back in order to free others. But God gives him one very important key to do that – his name – Yahweh. This name means I will become what I will become. The God of the future. Matthew: Last week Jesus makes Peter the rock of the church. This week that conversations continues. Jesus has been actively teaching others the meaning of the messiah. Now that Jesus’ identity has been established, Jesus must prepare his disciples for the next step of his ministry – to go to Jerusalem to die. This is the point when this journey finally gets real. Jesus says some real harsh words, and tells them that if they are not for him then they are against them. He tells them that not only will they have to transform their understanding of their religion, they will have to transform their understanding of a messiah that is standing right in front of them. Once again if God is the future, are they coming along for the journey ahead or not. Questions: Have you ever had a holy encounter with God? What is Holy Ground in your life? How is God working in your life? How is God calling you for the future? Are you afraid to go? How would you describe the messiah in todays terms?
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 27th: Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20 Romans: Paul has reminded us of all of the wonderful things that God has done for us. He reminded us that God is indeed there for us in all situations. Now Paul is telling us what our response is to God’s mercy. This chapter starts out with Paul telling us to be a living sacrifice. Not to kill ourselves, but to live our lives for God not ourselves. It is not a sacrifice to live for God. But it is an intentional way of living. It is easy to get caught up into what is going on in the world. It is easy to think that the goal of life is to be our best selves. Paul says that life is not about you it is about God. So he challenges us to use our gifts for the good of God. to know that God gave each of us a purpose in life. That understanding of life does not make us special, it should make us humble and willing to serve. Matthew: Jesus has been trying to teach the disciples about having faith in God. but they don’t seem to get it, until now. They are finally starting to realize that he is the Son of God. Jesus says that they did not get this knowledge from common sense, but a message from God. In this passage Peter makes the confession that he is the son of God. Now Jesus says that he can finally start to build his church. And Peter’s confession is the bedrock of the church. Peter is known as the first bishop of the church, ordained by God, because Jesus lays hands on him and says that he has the power to build. Today many of us have been ordained, not by the church but by God to continue to build. To believe for ourselves on the wonders of God, but to pass them on to others and to make a difference. Questions: What are your gifts from God? How are you using them to build God’s church? Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God, or is church just something to do? How do you know this? What are you doing to help others believe?
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Scriptures for August 13th: Genesis 37:1-4,12-28; Psalm 105:1-6,16-22, 45; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33 Genesis: As we look at the first book of the bible, we look at the first family of faith. We learn more about their mistakes, then their example. They are a typical family like one of our families. The episode for this week is a case of sibling rivalry. Jacob has twelve sons. But he does not love them equally. They all want to be loved, but Jacob loves the son of Rachel the most. He seems to spoil Joseph. Yet he is hard on all of the others. So, grown men decide that they are going to get rid of a troublesome little boy. Little do they realize that this event will have consequences that affect their family, their people and all people of faith. When they dump Joseph in a hole in the ground, they open the door to be saved from a famine. This is one of the first stories that we will hear about Joseph. And we learn how Joseph is an example of understanding and forgiveness in our own faith journey. Matthew: Interestingly when Jesus does a miracle for over 10,000 people, all he wants is some alone time. He had went off by himself when all of these people showed up. When they leave, he goes off alone again. This time the disciples are in crisis, they are caught in a boat in a storm. Jesus comes to them calmly walking on water. When Peter sees him, he wants to walk on water to. Jesus tells him that it is just a matter of faith. It is natural that we all want to do what we see Jesus do. No one has been able to walk on water. As a matter of fact, we have to be told not to walk on water, not to do miracles. I have a sign in my office that says, please do not attempt to walk on the water. Be human, be realistic, make sure that my trust is in keeping with my context. Let Jesus do the miracles. Questions: How do you feel about your sisters and brothers? How do you feel about your church sisters and brothers? Are their some people that you would like to dump in a hole? How can those people help you in ways you never thought of? How much do you trust in Jesus? When has Jesus come to save you from the waves of life?
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 6th: Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Romans 9:1-5, Matthew:13-21 Romans: Now that Paul has made a case for the omnipotence of God in all parts of our lives, He now speaks to his toughest audience – the Jews. If they are the children of God, then why do they need Jesus. Paul makes a case with them that God is doing a new thing through Christ. He says that he is telling the truth to them and not making something up. That God does indeed love the Jews, but God indeed loves all people and needed a way for others to have a pathway to him. He explains to them that Christ was a Jew and understand and respects what it means to be Jewish, so if those who are dependent on Christ, follow him they are akin to the Jews. But it is not the ways of the Jews that leads to salvation, but following Christ. Paul feel caught in the middle, but he is clear that the way to God is Christ. Matthew: The story of Jesus feeding the 5000 is present in all of the gospels, including John. This mirrors the events in the Hebrew Testament when God provided manna for those wandering in the wilderness. This story takes place in each gospel after John the Baptist has been killed. Matthew intentionally makes this the first act that Jesus does in response to starting his ministry. It tells us that Jesus can supply our needs. But Jesus also says that man cannot eat by bread alone. We need to have our bellies full in order to fully take in the gospel and to live according to it. We need to be fed spiritually. Since this story is in all of the gospels, it is an important story and one that fully demonstrated the nature of God in Christ. Questions: What part of the gospel still does not make sense to you? Are you able to accept it on grace, or are you a jew in heart and need proof? How are we like Jews? How are we different as Christians? Have you ever experienced a miracle of God? How has God used you to be a blessing to others?
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for July 30, 2017: Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33; 44-52 Romans: The book of Romans contains all we need to know about giving our lives to Christ. Chapter 8 is the pivotal chapter of the whole book. In it Paul gives a framework for living on earth, but living in the spirit of Christ. There is a constant battle between the spirit and the flesh. Paul says that the key to winning that battle is to have a prayer life. So Paul gives us a framework of what it means for us to pray, even when we do not have the words. A lot of times, we do not pray because we don’t believe that God can hear us, we are cut off from our own spirits. But Paul says that God is always with us. More importantly God always wants what is best for us and will provide a way for us to achieve it. In all of Paul’s writings, you will hear him talk about living in the spirit of Christ. That is what a Christian should strive for. We will never be perfect, but as long as we are connected and living in the spirit, God will understand us and forgive our sin. When we live in the spirit, we want to do what is right, even when we do wrong. We are always striving for something better. That is the definition of being saved. The spirit takes over our mind, our body and our soul. Matthew: in this second half of Mathew 13 Jesus continues to use parables to explain what the kingdom of heaven is like. None of us have ever been to heaven, so we have no context to put it in, so Jesus uses experiences from this earthly life to help us to imagine. Jesus tell five parables – heaven is like a mustard seed because size does not matter. Yeast that rises to the top. Hidden treasure – joy unspeakable. A merchant – a treasure. A net able to catch anything. And the scribe – able to be recorded. Why would we want to go to heaven if we did not understand it? Which is why Jesus spends so much time giving examples that we can relate to. Jesus says that anyone who wants to go to heaven should become a disciple, and disciples take what is old to define what is new – making the connection is the treasure. Questions: What does it mean to you to have a relationship with the spirit? Do you think that is a challenge to live in the flesh and the spirit at the same time? How do you overcome that challenge? What is the kingdom of heaven like for you? Which metaphor is most important to you? If you were describing heaven to someone, what would you say?
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for February 12, 2017: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37; Theme: taking it one step further; song: They will know we are Christians by our Love 1 Corinthians: As Paul went around the countryside teaching people a new way, he realized that he had a lot of work to do and that he had to keep at it. People are generally smart about the ways of the world. But we have to be constantly reminded of the things of God. When we learn one thing, another things comes up. That is perhaps why Paul points out that the people were spiritually young minded, but that he had to work so that they could get more mature. He also knew that there were other teachers who were not as dedicated as he was. So he also warned the people to watch out for false teachings. But his last lesson is my favorite. That none of us have the monopoly on teaching – we all have an important part. One plants, another waters, another reaps the harvest. The harvest is not about us but all of the work that others have put into it. Because it is not our ministry, it is God’s. But he wants us to do our part in faith. Matthew: This lesson could be called not this, but that. Jesus tells the important parts of faith – fidelity, honesty, helping. But Jesus points out that being a Christian means going above and beyond what is expected. John Wesley point this out in stewardship also. Tithing is a mandate in the Jewish faith, everyone is supposed to give ten percent. But Jesus takes it one step further. He says that if it takes more, then give more. Do it all to the glory of God. And know that God gives us what we have, so we are called to give back and to obey God. Know that everything that you do is not about God, but about you. So don’t swear on your own abilities, you don’t know when they will fail. But trust and allow God to lead you where you need to be. If you use your strength you will get tired, if you use God’s strength you will do the impossible. Being a Christian is a lifestyle not just a moment. Questions: What part has God called you to play in the building of the kingdom? How can you let others help you? What do you have to trust to others? How can you go further in your devotion to God? What areas of your life do you need to work on? How can you trust God more?