Friday, April 18, 2014

GETTING THE ROOM READY

(based on Mark 14:12-16)

Two disciples went to prepare the room for Passover and I bet they talked while they worked. My imagination can fill in the gaps.

"Did you hear what they shouted? 'Hosanna, to the Son of David'."

"Yes and do you think Jesus has been different this week? Reflective as if he knows something is going to happen. He was mad in the temple."

"I say! Stuff sure went flying. He called it 'my Father's House'."

"Did you see the look on the faces of the chief priests and the teachers of the law? I am afraid they will be after Jesus even more now. We must keep our eyes and ears open."

"Did you see Jesus' face when he was telling us 'to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'? He was so serious. I felt like he was speaking only to me."

"I was confused when he talked about the temple being rebuilt in three days. I thought I understood what Jesus was trying to teach us until then."

"Maybe this evening we can ask him to explain about the temple being rebuilt."

"What about the woman pouring expensive perfume on his head? He sure set us straight. But why would she have been preparing him for burial now?"

"By the way, have you seen Judas?"

"No, I don't know where he is."

"Is that everything? Are we ready for the Passover meal?"

"I think we are ready. I have a feeling this is going to be a very important evening with Jesus."

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU

The disciples prepared a room for what they thought was going to be another Passover meal with Jesus. They were thinking ritual, food and fellowship.

It could happen to you. How would you prepare a room if Jesus was coming to eat?

"Tonight Jesus? Well, of course, I mean who am I to tell the Son of God this is a bad night, what with work and the kids having ball practice and I haven't been to the store. Yes, tonight will work."

Would you go into warp speed? Would you notice the dust behind the couch and realize there are shoes everywhere? And hasn't anyone taken out the trash all week? Good china? Yes, I will have to get out the good china. Now where is the lace tablecloth my mother-in-law said would come in handy? Better call and cancel ball practice and tell the kids to get home early so they can shower and put on their good clothes.

"Yes dear it would help if you ran the sweeper and went to the store. Pork chops. Oh, he is Jewish. Make it a beef roast. I can put one of those in the oven and forget it."

"AND WHERE IS THE BIBLE?"

If Jesus was coming to your home tonight to join you for supper, how would you act? Would you panic? Would you be afraid? OR ----

Would you set the table, get out the leftovers and wait at the door?

Jesus doesn't care if there is dust. He doesn't care if the floor is swept or if you put the most expensive cut of roast in the oven. Jesus doesn't care if you leave an old, ugly lace tablecloth hidden in the back of the closet. It is simple.

Jesus wants you to open the door.

Jesus wants you to invite him in.

Friday, April 11, 2014

LET GO OF THAT STONE

(based on John 8:1-11)

My imagination can grasp only so much at a time. It has trouble dealing with a peaceful scene that turns angry. I don't want people to be angry, but there are always trouble makers.

It is peaceful and quiet. Jesus has had his breakfast and goes to the temple courts. He is quickly surrounded by people wanting to hear him. Wanting to be near him. Can you see him sitting there, using his hands to make a point? Jesus was enjoying time to teach. When --

When he is interrupted by the teachers of the law and Pharisees who quickly point out "this woman" has been caught in adultery and they want to know exactly what Jesus is going to do about it.

This is where the scene goes from peaceful to angry. All those people who were listening to Jesus quickly find stones. They realized a good stoning was about to happen and they did not want to be left out. After all, the law says!

Yes, Jesus knows the law but instead of grabbing a stone, Jesus kneels down and writes in the dirt.

But they kept questioning him and he finally stood up and said, "So who here is perfect? Have any of you made it this far in life without committing a sin? If so, throw your stone."

Again Jesus knelt down and wrote on the ground. We have no idea what he wrote but we know what he heard.

Can you hear it? Listen. Oh, close your eyes and listen.

There! The first stone dropped. And then another. Another. Another. Another.

Now what my imagination sees is the person who dropped the first stone. The person who looked into their heart, into their life and realized they could not throw any stone.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU

Can you now hear and see those stones being dropped. All because one person was the first to let go.

It could happen to you. You could be the first person to let go.

I don't think it was easy to be the first. Think of the pressure. All those people standing around, with a stone which keeps getting heavier and heavier. Fingers getting tired of holding on. But no one wanting to be the first to throw their stone or be the first to let go.

What if you let go and everyone else went ahead and threw their stone? Then they would look at you wondering exactly what sin you were guilty of.

What if you threw your stone only to have everyone else drop theirs? That would be a bit awkward.

Besides those teachers of the law and the Pharisees were standing back there waiting and you knew if you didn't follow the law, you would get a chapter and verse lecture on stoning.

"But I am a sinner," you think. "Jesus is right. How do I throw a stone? If they knew my sins, I would be next."

Throw. Don't throw. Weigh your options. Throw. Don't throw.

Quietly you drop the stone. And turn and walk away.

Your hands hold stones and you have to choose. Do you throw a stone because their sin is bigger than yours? Do you throw a stone because you are too proud to let it drop? Do you throw a stone? Do you throw a stone?

Or do you drop the stone, turn and walk away?

Does someone have a chance to "go and sin no more" because you let go of your stone?

Friday, April 04, 2014

WHAT'S FOR LUNCH

(based on John 6:1-14)

Don't ya love children? They are so considerate of their parents. Always wanting to help. Never causing any extra work. There is one boy who caused him mom some worry and extra work.

In a grown up voice, the boy asks, "Mom, I know I have chores to do but Jesus, the man we have been hearing so much about, is speaking today. I really want to hear him. Yes, I know the way. Some of my friends are going. May I go, please? Pretty please with honey?"

"Lunch? No, I won't be back for lunch. Oh, mom. I am not a baby. If it will make you happy, fix a lunch and I will take it with me," he said. Under his breath he muttered, "And I bet it won't be a peanut butter sandwich. It will probably be the same old fish and bread. Whoopi."

So off the boy goes. See him? There in the middle of the crowd walking over the hill. He keeps looking around for his buddies but he is beginning to think their moms wouldn't let them come. He thinks, "I am going to hear this Jesus even if I have to do it by myself!"

"You said your name is Andrew. Come with you?" the boy asked. "Why? Yes I do have some food but it isn't much and to be honest it is cheap bread and fish. Not a lot you can do with so little. Besides, have you even tried to count the people? There must be 5,000 men. Plus the women and children. I can guarantee you what I have in this sack won't do it."

The next thing the boy knew he was in front of the whole crowd. Standing there with his sack lunch and looking right at Jesus. Then Jesus speaks to the boy and asks if he will share his lunch.

As everyone sat down and received their fill, the boy thought, "No way is mom going to believe this. And I thought it was a miracle she even let me come."

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU

It was cheap bread and some fish. Barely enough for one boy but enough to feed thousands.

It could happen to you. You could be asked to share something you have.

When you read about this miracle, do you picture Jesus sitting at the bottom of a hill? Do you picture families sitting in groups, relaxing and eating? Do you see men discussing what they had heard preached this morning? Do you see women taking care of children?

When you imagine this miracle where is the boy? Do you see him hand his food to Jesus? Do you see him watch as Jesus turns a little bit of food into basketfuls? Do you see the wonder in his eyes? Do you see him realize he helped others?

All the footnotes say this shows Jesus is the supplier of our needs. He is the bread of life. And it is true. But it also shows how we help Jesus. How Jesus can use what we have to feed others. To feed their bodies. To feed their faith.

What do you have Jesus can use? And "nothing" is not the correct answer! There is something unique about you. God made you special and gave you a talent, a gift, to use. Yes, it might be hidden but you can find it. Look deep. Deeper. Look outside of the box you put yourself in! Still looking? Feel like you have nothing to give? How about a few suggestions?

Call someone who is lonely

Visit a shut-in

Send a card to encourage a friend

Bake some cookies for the fire department

Teach a small group study

Help someone learn to change a tire

Teach plumbing to new homeowners

Babysit so a new mother can have a break

Plant vegetables to share

Read to those who cannot see

The list of possibilities can be long. God does not expect you to do them all. Maybe he only expects you to do one. Maybe he wants you to share some cheap bread and fish.

Friday, March 28, 2014

THAT'S THE DADDY I WANT

(based on Luke 15:11-32)

I do believe this is the most discussed, most preached, most one sided parable there is. Let’s get the given out of the way: Yes, this is a parable about us coming home to God. Coming home after we have taken his blessings, wasted them, hit rock bottom and hoping we will be forgiven.

My problem is I think the older brother is getting a bad reputation he does not deserve. I do not think he is mad about his brother coming home. I do not think he is even mad about the fattened calf. He might have been a bit upset about the ring, but who knows for sure.

Here is the visual. The older brother has been out working all day. He is hot, tired and sweaty. All he wants is a shower, clean clothes, supper and the remote control.

Confused the older brother asks a servant, "What is all the fuss about? Is my father okay? He isn't ill is he? Where is he? Is he in bed?"

The servant, really too busy to stop and talk, says quickly, "Your father is fine. Your brother is home." Then he adds, "We are having a party to celebrate. The fatted calf is almost done."

Now angry, the older brother yells, "Fatted calf? Did he give him a ring too?"

"Father! Father!" he yells as he runs into the house.

Smiling the father said, "Settle down, son. Your brother is home. I saw him …"

"You were watching for him?" the older brother asked in an indignant tone.

"Why yes," the father replied. "I saw him when he was still a long way off and ran to him, threw my arms around him and kissed him. We are now having a party to welcome him home."

The father said, "You have worked hard and everything I have is yours, but your brother is no longer lost. He is home and we have to celebrate."

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU

“My son you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But…” You see, it is the little word "but" that causes the problem.

It could happen to you. You can be steady and loyal and still not get the fatted calf.

The older brother wanted a father who was so excited to see him he would run to meet him. He wanted a father who loved him enough to throw him a party. He wanted a father who showed love. Not one who said "but." My take is the older brother was upset because he wanted his brother’s father.

Are you more like the older brother than you want to admit?

"I always did the dishes when I was told and I kept my room clean, but he leaves everything a mess. Why doesn't he get in trouble?"

"Just because she stayed out past curfew doesn't mean I will. Why am I punished for her behavior?"

"But that piece of pie was mine. I told you I was going to eat it later. Why did you let him eat it?"

The problem is you expect your parents to be perfect. To be everything you need. To be fair. To love you. To protect you. Here is where a "but" comes in. BUT no parent is perfect. No parent is always fair. No parent can protect you at all times. No parent except one.

Do you know your Creator, your Heavenly Father, your God loves all of his children equally. He loves you unconditionally. He is watching and waiting for you to come home.

That is the Father you want!

And your Heavenly Father has gifts for you so exorbitant they will make a robe, sandals, ring and even a fatted calf seem like pocket change.

Friday, March 21, 2014

BRING ON THE STORM

(based on Luke 8:22-25)

Jesus tells his disciples to go to the other side of the lake and then takes a nap. This makes me picture a large lake, because Jesus was going to have time to take a nap and a large boat, because it would hold thirteen. Plus, remember many of the disciples were fishermen. They were very familiar with boats and water. I picture it this way ---

"Jesus must really be tired if he is going to take a nap," Simon says. (Sorry couldn't resist.)

James added, "Let him sleep. He has been healing and teaching so he needs a break."

Thomas chimed in, "The lake is calm. Jesus' nap will be as soothing as being rocked in a cradle."

"I hope so. Remember I was a tax collector and my legs get a bit wobbly out here," Matthew said with a smile.

The disciples had failed to check the weather channel and a squall came down on the boat. The cradle nap Jesus was enjoying was soon to be interrupted. The disciples woke Jesus.

"Master, Master, we're going to drown!"

Jesus got up and told the wind and raging waters to settle down. All was calm.

"Where is your faith?" Jesus asked his disciples. I am sure Jesus shook his head, got a bottle of water out of the cooler and found a place to sit down.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."

When I read this I want to say, "Really? You have listened to Jesus. You have seen him heal. You have eaten with him. Sat around when no one else was there. Prayed with him. Don't you get it?"

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU

How did they not get it? Why were they surprised when the wind and water obeyed Jesus?

It could happen to you. Do you sometimes not get it? Do you sometimes not understand?

When you have questions and when you don't understand, think about the disciples. They spent time with Jesus while he was in human form. They ate with him and told jokes. They watched him talk to children. They watched him heal the crippled lady. And they still did not comprehend!

Do you ask why? Then feel guilty because you apparently don't have enough faith. If you had enough faith, you wouldn't be asking why. You would simply trust.

When you ask why, think about the disciples. They asked Jesus why all the time. Why aren't you taking out the Romans? Why are you talking to the Gentiles? Why aren't you going straight to Lazarus so you can heal him? Why aren't you making Mary get in the kitchen with Martha so she can help cook our supper? Why are you talking to the Samaritan woman?

Do you ever deny Jesus? Say you don't know this man?

When you deny Jesus, think about Peter. Jesus told Peter, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." Jesus asked Peter, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ." And yet Peter denied Jesus three times.

When you have questions and when you don't understand, think about the disciples.

When you ask why, think about the disciples.

When you deny Jesus, think about Peter.

The disciples did not understand, they asked why and Peter denied Jesus, but Jesus loved them.

Just like Jesus loves you.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

WHO IS JESUS' MOTHER?

(based on Matthew 12:46-50)

Have you ever had a reunion with your house overflowing? The kids table is empty and the adults have finally moved into the living room where the chairs are softer. Some people are sitting on the floor. Some are standing because there is no place to sit. Then everyone's favorite uncle starts telling stories. All eyes turn to him and outside noise disappears as the voice pulls them into the story. Even those in other rooms become quiet so they can hear.

Now take your memory and place it in a home during Jesus' time and Jesus is the one speaking. The people are listening, when someone interrupts Jesus and tells him his mother and brothers were waiting outside. Seems they wanted to tell him something.

Now here is where my imagination takes over. I picture Mary outside waving her hand, trying to get Jesus attention. I am pretty sure she wanted to tell him it was time to eat and rest. Her little boy had a busy day, what with casting out demons and dealing with those Pharisees, and she was looking out for him. We all know how mothers can be.

Then it happened. Mary heard HER SON say, "Who is my mother? Who is my brother?" Pointing to his disciples, he continued, "Behold my mother and my brothers."

Now my imagination really kicks in because those words would upset any mother.

Mary did a quick spin and turned to her best friend. "Behold my mother and my brothers. Did you hear that? I gave birth to him. I fed him. I cleaned up after him. I am the one who was worried when he was missing because he felt the need to be about "His Father's Business." And I'm standing out here instead of being in a comfortable chair where I can hear and see my son and he makes a statement like that instead of saying, 'Hi mommy.' Well, I never!"

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU

Take a step back Mary! How Mary reacted is not recorded but it could have been this way. Mary was 100% human and humans often take offense when none is intended.

It could happen to you. Especially when you have worked really hard and come home tired. Or have had a bad day. Or feel unloved.

Feelings are fragile. Tempers can flair. Pride moves front and center. Ears close. Minds are made up. The rest of the conversation goes without comprehension.

As a parent, your children often say things to hurt you. Even though they don't mean it, their words and actions cut you to the very core. Words or actions which leave you wondering if they have the smallest inkling of what you do for them. You want to shout, "Do you have clean clothes? Did you eat the supper I fixed? Do you really think I want to read Goodnight Moon every night before you go to sleep?"

You want to quietly ask, "Do you love me at all?"

At home, at work, at places where you volunteer and even at church, you can be offended by hearing half of a sentence as you pass the coffee machine. You take offense when your efforts are not recognized with an atta-boy. Your walls go up when someone you love, says one thing but you hear another.

Jesus was not offending his mother. Jesus was letting us all know we are his family. He wants us to sit in the easy chair or on the floor or even lean against the wall and spend time with him.

Mary was Jesus' mother and I am sure she understood. Do you understand or are you quick to be offended?

Thursday, March 06, 2014

COME ON DOWN

(based on Luke 13:10-13)

My goodness. The black words in this section have caused a whole movie in my brain! The set is a synagogue and the time is a Sabbath morning. The extras are milling about and the director is giving last minute directions. Everyone is ready. This is Take 1.

Jesus is the center of attention. He is speaking. He is teaching. The men are crowded around and wearing their best robes. The ruler of the synagogue is watching every move Jesus makes. He is listening to every word. He is wondering what the people see in this guy.

On the outer edge of the men, where they belong, are the women. Do you see them leaning forward trying to hear? Holding onto each word. Standing on tippy toes trying to get a glimpse.

Then Jesus stops speaking. Out of all these people, Jesus sees the one woman no one else sees. She is there. Clear in the back. Not standing tall. Not seeing Jesus because she is so crippled. So bent over. For eighteen years she has only seen the floor.

All eyes are on Jesus but he has his eyes on a crippled woman. Can you hear Jesus calling her to him? In front of everybody! How do you think she felt walking through the people? Did they clear a way for her? Were they mumbling about how bent over she was? Did they wonder what was going to happen? Then Jesus -

Then Jesus set her free from her infirmity and put his hand on her. Can you hear the tenderness in his voice? Can you imagine the feel of his touch? Can you picture the woman slowly straightening her back? Standing tall! Standing upright! Can you see the tears on her cheeks as she looks into the eyes of Jesus? Can you hear her praise God?

Can you hear her telling everyone, "My life is different today than it was yesterday!"?

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU

A crippled woman, unseen by those around her, but seen by Jesus. Healed and standing tall, this woman could now see where she was going.

It could happen to you. You can be healed.

Can you picture the joy of the crippled woman upon being healed? Think of your everyday activities and how hard it would be to do them bent over. But how often do you stay bent over because you refuse to forgive, hold a grudge or hang onto a sin?

What joy would come into your life if you didn’t have to carry those burdens?

How much better would your life be if you allowed Jesus to set your free?

Talk to Jesus about setting you free. Life is much better when you are standing straight and can see where you are going.

Your tomorrow can be greatly different than your today.

Go ask the crippled woman. She will gladly share her story.