Category Archives: Lectionary

Feeding the Dogs

Isaiah 56:1,6-8
Psalm 67
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

 

“It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” ESV What was Jesus thinking? He is supposed to be the essence of compassion. Was he just having a bad day?

Notice first that Jesus has led his band out of Galilee and into Phoenicia. Jesus could not have been surprised to be approached by a Canaanite woman; he was in their territory.

At first, he ignored her, possibly to see how serious she would be, but more likely to build up the teaching moment. The disciples became agitated with her, but Jesus did not. He simply pointed out that his mission was to Jews. Notice too that he made that statement to the disciples, not to the woman.

In any case, the woman finally came close to Jesus and asked him face to face for help. It was then that he uttered the contentious words above.

Jesus was not trying to cut her off or denigrate her. Yes, Jews considered all gentiles to be no better than dogs, thus the reference. But Jesus was still making the point that if he were just another Jewish man, he would refuse to help her because she was gentile, not to mention female. He needs to see how she would react.

Jesus got the answer he wanted. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. ESV She proved her faith, willingly accepting the insult because she recognized Jesus as her master, and as the one who could save her daughter.

The message from Isaiah assures us that Jesus the Messiah knew and accepted the message that gentiles would come to God’s house in swarms and that God intended that all along. My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. NIV

See my comments on these NT readings from August 17, 2014, here.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

 

I Will Listen to What God Says

1 Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 85:8-13
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

 

Elijah was a great prophet because he listened to God. He did not listen to the wind or the earthquake, as we are prone to do; he waited for the whisper. Only then did he leave the cave to commune with God.

Elijah could tell the difference between noise and the Word of God. We prefer to think God is in the noise. We like mountain top experiences when a thousand people sing praises to God, and we imagine that is where we commune with Him. We are not so good at hearing the still, small voice of God when we are alone.

Does God speak to us in a vast auditorium through the thousand voices? Yes. Does He speak out of the storms of life? Yes. But a conversation is best held in the quiet.

Jesus gave Peter a lesson in that shortly after the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Jesus sent the disciples away in their boat while he found a quiet spot for conversation with Father.

When the wind came up and kept the boat away from shore, the disciples became frightened. Possibly, God said to Jesus, ‘We can talk later. Go on and calm them.’

Jesus walked calmly into the storm because God smoothed the waves for him. When Peter asked Jesus to call him, Jesus simply said, “Come.” As far as we know, he is one of only two humans to walk on water. The rest of us must wait for it to become ice.

Peter listened. He heard the command and obeyed, even in the midst of the storm. But, like most of us, he could not stay focused on the Word. He looked at the storm and sank.

Notice: Jesus took his hand and pulled him out of the water. Only then did he say, ‘You have some faith, but not enough.’ I don’t think Jesus was critical so much as instructive. ‘Peter, you could have done better. Next time, don’t take your eye away from me.’

Jesus knew Peter would slip into the water, just as he later knew Peter would deny knowing him. Jesus also knows my weaknesses, and yours.

I cannot make myself into the person God wants me to be. Only God can do that. God asked his Son to take care of the details of making it happen. Only by listening to God—to Jesus—do I have a chance of doing the Will of God, of becoming the person He made me to be. Even then, I will be that person in the next life. For now, I am a shadow of who I will be.

See my comments on these NT readings from August 10, 2014, here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Moses the Rock Star

Exodus 34:29-35

2 Peter 1:13-21

Luke 9:28-36

Psalm 99 or 99:5-9

 

Just about every American over the age of 12 has had a chance to see The Ten Commandments directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Charlton Heston as Moses. Not so many have seen Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 silent version starring Theodore Roberts. Both films were huge budget films for their times and both sold millions of tickets.

But the real Moses was a real star. Raised in the Pharaoh’s household to become a provincial ruler. At age forty, he killed an Egyptian guard and fled to Midian where he tended sheep for forty years. At the tender age of eighty, God called him to lead the Hebrews to the Promised Land. That experience cost him another forty years.

While the Bible spends very little time on the first two/thirds of his life, it is none the less important to understanding how he became a star. His first forty years were spent learning his way around Pharaohs. God wants well-trained ambassadors. His second forty years were spent in meditation and perhaps atonement.

Finally, at the age of eighty, Moses was ready to get to work. No social security for him. First, he had to face the most powerful man in the western world, and one who held an arrest warrant against Moses. He had to talk that Pharaoh into turning thousands of slaves loose at a time when there were enormous building projects in need of labor.

Then Moses had to guide a resistant people through a nasty bit of desert and listen to their whining, complaining, and their, ‘are we there yet’s.

With all that, Rock Star status came when he spent weeks on the mountain listening to the Word of God so that he could return to his people and deliver the message to them. You might recall that the Hebrews got a bit rowdy while he was gone and Moses had to return to the mountain for a second round.

With all that face time with God, Moses’ face began to radiate like he was on fire. Moses took to wearing a scarf when he met with the people.

Moses was a prophet. God talked to Moses. Moses talked to the people. Many others have had the job, including Jesus. Jesus who met with Moses and Elijah in full view of Peter, James, and John. Peter who said, “we were eyewitnesses to of his majesty,” speaking of Jesus. NIV Peter the prophet.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Did Solomon Ask for the Wrong Gift?

1 Kings 3:5-12
Psalm 119:129-136
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

 

When we read about Solomon in the Bible, we see a king and a kingdom of power and wealth. Indeed, the years of David and Solomon saw the Kingdom of Israel reach its greatest zenith.

But, when historians compare that Kingdom with surrounding kingdoms, it is like comparing Costa Rica to the US. By any physical measure, Israel was small. Yet, its presence was large. Those two kings managed to remain independent while sandwiched between Egypt and Assyria, either of whom would have considered gobbling up Israel a light snack.

That is not to downplay the importance of David and Solomon, but we must always remember that God chose to work through a small, insignificant band of nomads to prove His point that nothing good comes without the power of God. He topped off that point by sending His Son to live a completely human existence without the assistance of angels or any of the trappings of kingship.

God of Power does not work in this world through the power players. God works through the poor, weak, suffering, downtrodden; through the day laborers, the migrant harvesters, those who cannot read but know the Word of God, those who give up the world’s riches to gain His presence.

Those are the people who hear Jesus speak of a mustard seed and know that it is not about the large plant that comes out of the tiny seed. It is about the mighty power of the Word of God that can work in any life that will accept it. The people carrying around mustard seeds do not appear all that exceptional—they have no shrubs growing out of their ears. It is the power of God that gives the seeds their expansion.

Solomon was wise, but he forgot that all that wisdom came from God. He forgot to use it for God’s plans.

Perhaps he should have asked for the faithfulness of Abraham.

See my comments on the New Testament portion of today’s scripture from July 27, 2014 here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Teach Me Your Way Lord

Isaiah 44:6-8
Psalm 86:11-17
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

 

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name
ESV

We live in a world that gives little thought to God, or even gods. We live every day struggling to satisfy as many desires as possible. We seem to believe there is nothing else but to fill the day with whatever happiness we can grasp.

Many of us wonder if there might be more. Many of us have been fortunate enough to meet Jesus and at least to see another Way. Many of us have decided to follow Jesus. But, it is easy to find ourselves bumped from that path.

We lose sight of the road signs amid all the earthly clutter of work, family, entertainment, money, responsibilities, and the physicality of our lives. We find ourselves in that field of wheat, trying to see through the weeds.

How can I fulfill the words of Isaiah? You are my witnessNJB How can I testify that God is real, that He is the only God that has ever existed, that He is my Rock?

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever
ESV

An image I carry with me comes from a novel I read too many years ago to remember its title. The story is about a black country preacher who towers before the congregation Sunday morning, preaching the Word of God, filled with the Holy Spirit. As his family walks the dusty road home, the preacher slowly begins to shed that powerful presence and arrives at the house just another hard-scrabble share-cropper.

It is at first look a depressing image, but consider that he rises to that Spirit filled power every Sunday. And there is for us an answer. I may be a stalk of wheat surrounded by weeds, but I am still wheat. I may be beaten down for a few days, but I can revisit Jesus and be refreshed. The Devil may win a few rounds, but my turn is coming.

 

For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol
ESV

Once I choose to become a follower of Jesus, I will face obstacles. Many will be the result of my ignorance, and some will be placed before me by the Evil One. But, I should always remember the words of Paul, you have been adopted into the very family circle of God and you can say with a full heart, “Father, my Father.” Phillips And, if we share Christ’s suffering, we will also share his gloryCJB

See my comments on the New Testament portion of today’s scripture from July 20, 2014 here.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence