Tag Archives: Love of God

Here Is My Servant

Isaiah 42:1-9
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17
Psalm 29

Key verses:

I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness.

God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

The Lord blesses his people with peace.

In the first century the difference between a servant and a slave hardly recognizable to 21st Century eyes.  True, a servant could quit, but that was seldom done because no one else would hire someone who quit.  Day-to-day, both did what their master said and both ate the same food, wore the same clothing, and worked the same long hours.

Isaiah records the words of God in speaking of the Messiah by starting with, “Here is my servant.”  Jesus lived the life of a slave.  He did nothing that God did not give to him to do.  He fulfilled all the prophecies about the Messiah, especially the one about bringing justice and righteousness to the world.

John was reluctant to baptize the Son of God, but Jesus insisted it was necessary.  He symbolically took on our sins with that act and carried them into death so that we would not have to do it ourselves.  That is not just important, it is essential.  You and I cannot go to the grave with our sins and expect to live with God.  Only if we are sin-free can we expect to see God.

Peter summed it up by preaching the same Good News that Jesus preached.  God loves all of us and Jesus made it possible for us to die and die sin free.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Comfort Ye

Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 35:1-10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11
Luke 1:46-55

 

Isaiah directed his words to a suffering people, lost in a wilderness of self-indulgence, caring little for others.  He spoke of punishment and suffering, of justice for those who have caused pain to others.  And he spoke of comfort.

The wilderness will rejoice and blossom.  …the ransomed of the Lord will return.  They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.

When Mary visited Elizabeth, the soon to be mother of John the Baptizer, she gave a prophecy that Isaiah might have uttered.  He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts….  He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

Jesus, the Messiah, he who had begun to form in Mary even as she met Elizabeth and the yet to be born John, gave comfort to John as that great prophet languished in prison, awaiting his execution.  Jesus did not claim anything that had not been promised centuries before by Isaiah and many others, all speaking the Word given to them by the God of the Word.

The blind see, the lame walk, lepers cured, the deaf hear, the dead raised.  Take comfort John.  You have done a mighty deed.  Accept the Peace of God.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yAVMVZCwuQ

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Shake the Earth

Haggai 1:15b-2:9
Psalm 145:1-5, 18-21
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

 

The Gospel reading today deals with marriage.  True, it was a trick question designed to show the people that Jesus was not the Messiah and, true, Jesus turned the trick back on them, as usual.

 

I picture Jesus sitting politely listening to the Sadducees present their conundrum, perhaps with a little smile when they said at the resurrection.  But he didn’t jump on that, even though Sadducees rejected any notion of life after death.  Nor did he quote the several passages from Job, Psalms, Isaiah, and others that refer to life eternal.  He chose instead to use the example from Exodus, probably because the Sadducees rejected all the writings except the Torah, the first five books.

 

He was able to use the encounter of God with Moses to show that life exists after death on this earth and he did it within the strict rules of the Sadducees’ belief system.  It is sad to consider the fact that nearly all the leading priests at the Temple were Sadducees and that many of the ordinary priests were as well.  I wonder at how they could attend to the worship without believing in the Living God.

 

Back to marriage.  Jesus spoke of the church as the Bride of Christ.  When I became a disciple of Jesus, I joined in a marriage contract with him.  As is common in wedding vows today, the two become one.  It is no accident that John placed the miracle of turning water into wine at the top of the list, the first public event in his Gospel account.  It is no accident that marriage plays a dominant role in his Book of Revelation of Jesus.

 

Do you remember?  God created all.  He came to us in the form of an ordinary man to show us how we can live and then offered to be our groom and stand with us in the eternal Kingdom, vouching for our purity even as we are impure.  Do you remember? Continue reading Shake the Earth

Second Chances

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

Luke has done something very interesting by placing this event immediately after the fig tree parable which starts in verse 6.  Farmers understand the idea that a fig tree, or any other plant, that does not yield fruit has to be eliminated to make room for those that do yield.  Yet, in the parable, the tree was given another chance.  The main point being that God gives Israel and each of us second chances.
Now Luke places Jesus in a synagogue on the Sabbath with a woman.  Picture a room perhaps the size of the average Seven-Eleven.  There are benches along the sides, but most of the men are standing or sitting on the floor.  The elders use the benches.  At the very back, or if it is a well-to-do synagogue, in the balcony are the women.  Jesus, as a visiting rabbi, has been invited to read the scripture and comment on it, so he is near the front of the room where the ark is positioned.  The ark is the cabinet containing the Holy Scrolls.
So, Jesus is teaching and people are either enthralled or repealed by his words, when he spots the woman who can barely lift her eyes high enough to see him.  Jesus did the unthinkable.  No other Jewish man on earth that day would have done what he did.  His Twelve Apostles probably gasped out loud.  He asked the woman to come forward.
You have to understand that in the synagogue on Saturday, a man would not even look at his wife, even if she went into labor.  The other women would take care of her.  He probably wouldn’t even turn around for fear of catching a glimpse of her or any other woman.  And that was not just the Pharisees.  Even Jews who seldom went to synagogue would have known the rule.
I’m sure men were suddenly interested in the floor.  Let’s hope it has a beautiful mosaic to help them focus their attention away from the woman.  We wouldn’t want them to be defiled. Jesus, on the other hand, ignored all decorum.  He first spoke to her, then touched her.  I imagine some men hurried away at that point.  This was not a small infraction.  Jesus chose to do something that hit people between the eyes. He worked on the Sabbath by healing the woman.  He brought a woman to the front of the synagogue.  He spoke to a woman in the synagogue.  He touched a woman in the synagogue.  Tisk, tisk.
What was going on?  Why did Jesus make such a public display?  He had the power to heal the woman without even pausing in his teaching.  No one would have known the woman could now walk upright because of Jesus.
Which is the point; the people needed to know that Jesus had that power.  Psalms reads, “Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness.”  In Jeremiah, a pre-Messiah, God says, “I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”  The author of Hebrews writes of God saying, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.” The Messiah is the power of God on earth to heal and fulfill.  The Messiah can take a bent, unfruitful fig tree and nourish it until it is as good as new.  He can un-bend a woman and give her new life.  He can untie her and lead her to living water.
The word “set free” in the NIV literally means “untie” which is instructive in verse 15 where the animals are untied to be watered. Two more notes about the healing.  Even the synagogue ruler believed that Jesus could heal the woman.  He simply wanted him to do it tomorrow, and not in his synagogue, thank you.  Which brings us to the last point I will make here; nothing is said about faith.  Many of the healing accounts have Jesus mentioning that faith healed the person, but not here.
Why?  I think the woman’s response tells us.  The woman already understood what had happened.  She praised God.  Not Jesus.  Healing comes from God as she knew.  We Christians sometimes forget God in our passion for Jesus.  Jesus never did.  He always gave God the credit, even when he hinted at or accepted the possibility that he might be God or the Son of God.  God is the source of all, period.
Be righteous and do good.
Mike Lawrence

On Judgment

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

None of these passages are warm and fuzzy.  Hot, yes, but destructively so.  Psalms is a good place to start the lesson.  We like to think of Psalm 23 when we talk of the Psalms, but Psalm 80 is about burning the grape vine in the fire.  It describes what happens to those who turn away from God.

“You brought a vine out of Egypt,” that great Exodus with its saving Passover.  The vine, Israel, was planted and produced some good fruit, including, “the son of man you have raised up for yourself.”  Yet, the next verse reads, “Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire.”

Isaiah explains why God has to send the fire.  “When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?”  And, “He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”   God can be difficult, He expects the best.  We produce good fruit or we burn.

The author of Hebrews eases the pain of this message by stressing the positive.  We need the faith Moses and the Hebrews had at the Red Sea, the faith Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, and all the others who have shown us the way.  But mostly, we need to, “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”  Jesus is that very Son of Man Psalm 80 spoke of.  He is the Vine.

The vine was such an important symbol for Judeans in Jesus time that they sculpted a vine growing all around the entrance to the Holy Place of the Temple.  The vine was made entirely of gold and the grapes on the vine were as large as a human head.  We need to take a lesson from the fact that the gold ended up in Rome, probably to help pay for the construction of the Coliseum.  God expected His people to feed the hungry, nurse the sick, visit the lonely, in short, do good.  God wants justice, not our gold.  Of course, our gold can often bring justice, that is, to feed the hungry, nurse the sick, etc.

Now for the difficult passage:  “I have come to bring fire on earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”  Throughout the Tanak, the Christian Old Testament, fire is used to describe the Word of God and the Judgment of God.  All of chapter 12 is loaded with Tanak images and many of them deal with the end times, that is, with judgment.

But let’s consider the other meaning of fire first.  “I have come to bring fire on earth.”  Jesus spent his ministry delivering God’s Word to Abraham’s people; the Words of justice and love.  “How I wish it were already kindled!”  And why not?  Imagine a world filled with the Love and Justice of God.

At the beginning of his ministry, Luke records the visit Jesus made to his home in Nazareth where he read the passage from Isaiah about preaching good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom, giving sight to the blind, and proclaiming the Year of Jubilee.  He made it clear that he was here to fulfill God’s promise.

But that promise is the Word and the Word of God is fire.  It is not possible to speak of Love without speaking of burning away sin.  The Word burns.  Love is not a squishy feeling, all loaded with chocolate and sprinkles.  Love is a fire that consumes our old ways.  Love demands giving up everything that is not like God.  We are made in his image, not the image of the Liar.  When we return to God and live the life of His Love, the darkness of the Liar will be burned away.

Love demands that we think of others before ourselves and that we think of God before others.  Anything less comes from the Liar.  If I give to the poor, but only after I’ve made sure they’re good people who really deserve it and I only give from my extra money, I’m not practicing Love.  Love is full time, no reservations.

So, what does all this have to do with Judgment?  Think of two people going through the airport security.  One has no belt, no shoes, no pockets.  He walks through with hardly a pause.  The other is weighted down with “stuff” and he makes jokes about bombs.  He will have plenty of time to get to know the TSA staff.  That’s Judgment.  If I practice Love and trust in God, it will be of little notice.  If I follow the Liar….

 

Be righteous and do good.

 

Mike Lawrence