Archive

Uncategorized

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. – Mark 2:23-3:6

20200625-DSC03824-HDR-Edit

Creekside Tree | Wimberley, Texas | June 2020

My Sunday School teacher made a big impression on me. He was a carpenter. Calloused hands. No queen’s English. Sincere. Dedicated. Faithful. I recall him asking us boys if it was OK to go fishing on Sunday. Granted, these were the days of Blue Laws, and no open stores on Sundays. I didn’t think he meant taking the day off, going to the lake all day. I took him to ask whether it was it OK to go fishing on Sunday afternoon. Period.

Now I wonder. Maybe he was thinking we would miss the Sunday evening service if we chose to go. I think, today, he meant for us to realize going fishing on Sunday was not a good thing to do because we would not be able to follow the godly rhythm of worship and rest before taking on the week ahead.

A photo buddy of mine is a dedicated Christian who was planning to build a house in Colorado. He had drawn up the plans. He had the land. I gather that he had the money as well. But he told me that he and his wife had committed to teaching a Sunday School class. They knew that if they built the house they would abandon their class at least 50% of the time. The plans went in a drawer. The land remains undeveloped.

Jesus challenged the Sabbath laws for an entirely different reason. The people of his day had turned these laws upside down. They had made these laws so formalistic that one could travel 1499 paces from his home, but not take the next step; otherwise they would break the Sabbath. Carry 4 sticks of wood: OK. But don’t take a 5th, or else you’re breaking the Sabbath law. The law became more important than love.

In the face of their objections Jesus makes two points. He is Lord of the sabbath. It’s his law. He will define what it means – not even the best rabbis would dare try to instruct God! And it is always good to do good. Always. Keeping the sabbath or helping your neighbor in need. And when it comes to loving God, the best way we can show our love for God is to love our neighbor.

Jesus went back again to the shore of Lake Galilee. A crowd came to him, and he started teaching them. 14 As he walked along, he saw a tax collector, Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in his office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.

15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts was following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16 Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?”

17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”

18 On one occasion the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and asked him, “Why is it that the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?”

19 Jesus answered, “Do you expect the guests at a wedding party to go without food? Of course not! As long as the bridegroom is with them, they will not do that. 20 But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

21 “No one uses a piece of new cloth to patch up an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear off some of the old cloth, making an even bigger hole. 22 Nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, because the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Instead, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:13-22

20100616-IMG_8763

Sunset Over the Vineyard | Paso Robles, California | June 2010

On vacation this week, we have enjoyed family, sightseeing, Gulf shoring, Swimming pool cooling, cooking and eating, and an occasional glass of wine. The other afternoon, a fellow guest saw me with my plastic wine glass and commented, “Ah…a glass of wine. I had my glass of wine and now I’m going for a walk.”

Foolishly, I began to brag about our current challenge from our gym: walking a marathon over a period of two weeks. It amounts to 2 miles a day. And we had walked 2.25 miles that morning. “We walked 2-1/4 miles this morning.”

“I walked 55 miles last week. I walk down to Pleasure Pier and back after a 30 minute warm-up.”

“Wow. How far a is that?”

“It’s 7 or 8 miles down there.”

Silly me: bragging on 2.25 miles. I decided I was out of his league, but still enjoyed my glass of wine. There is little real pleasure in bragging about walking 2.25 miles. There is great pleasure in a glass of good wine.

Jesus was very familiar with wine and the skins in which it was stored. New wine would expand over time and wineskins would lose their elasticity over time. Store new wine in old wineskins and they will burst as the new wine ages and ferments. New wine requires new wine skins.

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t believe in Jesus. My earliest memories are of getting ready for Sunday school and singing Jesus Loves Me, as I stood on my parents’ bed. Those like me who are for all practical purposes lifelong Christians may not realize just how radical the transition is from unbeliever to Jesus Follower. But if Jesus changes a life, it’s a major change and not to be underestimated.

Andy Stanley says, “Time in erodes awareness of.” The longer we are in any particular setting or mode of life, the less aware we become of our surroundings and the uniqueness of it. The longer we are Jesus followers, the less aware we become of what that means. It becomes second nature. It also becomes something we take for granted. Old wine. Old wineskins. It can stifle new expressions of faith and love. 

But if we become more intentional about living a redeemed life, and more aware of the incredible rescue he has provided for us, the more the old wineskins will cramp our style. 

I don’t think that means we must jetisone every cherished tradition or sacred custom. But it will certainly mean we are more aware of other’s lack of appreciation for these treasured practices. It will mean that we don’t expect those who don’t follow Jesus, or who are new to the faith to appreciate how precious these ways are to us – or even how truly edifying they may be. We might also be a bit less dismissive of new follower’s zeal. Even new wine ages over time and new wineskins will allow that to happen in a decidedly delightful way.

Jesus went back again to the shore of Lake Galilee. A crowd came to him, and he started teaching them. 14 As he walked along, he saw a tax collector, Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in his office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.

15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts was following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16 Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?”

17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”

18 On one occasion the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and asked him, “Why is it that the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?”

19 Jesus answered, “Do you expect the guests at a wedding party to go without food? Of course not! As long as the bridegroom is with them, they will not do that. 20 But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

21 “No one uses a piece of new cloth to patch up an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear off some of the old cloth, making an even bigger hole. 22 Nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, because the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Instead, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:13-22

img_1981

Tanzanian Wildflower | Shinyanga, Tanzania | February 2020

Our parties are pretty tame by modern standards. I’ve seen soirées and even helped cater parties the likes of which I cannot imagine paying for. My colleague’s wife worked for a place where the liquor bill for a gala wedding reception was $75,000 alone. Dom Perignon for everyone? As I said, “I can’t imagine.”

So what will the heavenly celebration look like? The Old Testament offers a picture:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.

He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.

It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:6-9

Jesus gives us a further clue in this encounter with Matthew and his friends. The clue is the guest list. And the key is the host. The guest list of the Great Last Day Eternal Party is filled with sinners. Others need not RSVP. If you don’t need forgiveness, mercy, hope, and grace you won’t want to come. In fact if you’re uncomfortable with being in the presence of down-and-outers, you might want to adjust your comfort zone. And if you think everyone will be like you, you’re just plain wrong.

Except for one thing: we’ll all be delighted at being with Jesus. We’ll all be astonished at his grace. We’ll have a hard time comprehending just how good, gracious, abundantly generous and delightfully enjoyable his presence can be. That’s the lot of those who are invited to the party that will be hosted in Jesus’ honor at the end of time.

We’re enjoying some mighty luxurious digs this week. Our granddaughter was totally blown away by it. Balcony. Swimming pool. Beach. All very nice. And all reserved for the owners and their guests (by virtue of renting the condo we are allowed as guests). And we’ve had a couple little parties ourselves. But they’ll hold nothing to the Jesus party to which repentant sinners and former outcasts are all invited.

When Jesus was with his disciples on earth the religious leaders thought his disciples should act with more decorum. Jesus told them it was time to celebrate for the bridegroom was present. On that Day, the groom will summon the bride and we’ll enjoy a celebration the likes of which has never been seen before. $75,000 liquor bill? That’s nothing. Our party has been paid for by the blood of the Lamb of God and he’s been working on the preparations for 2000 years! It’s gonna be some party!

Jesus went back again to the shore of Lake Galilee. A crowd came to him, and he started teaching them. 14 As he walked along, he saw a tax collector, Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in his office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.

15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts was following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16 Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?”

17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”

18 On one occasion the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and asked him, “Why is it that the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?”

19 Jesus answered, “Do you expect the guests at a wedding party to go without food? Of course not! As long as the bridegroom is with them, they will not do that. 20 But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

21 “No one uses a piece of new cloth to patch up an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear off some of the old cloth, making an even bigger hole. 22 Nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, because the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Instead, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:13-22

20200624-DSC03724

Pride of Barbados | Wimberly, Texas | June 2020

We’re on vacation now. Everything is different and new. Our schedule has changed. Our routine is upended. Our normal is anything but. Our digs are really nice, but really unfamiliar. And let’s not talk about the internet connection: nothing like at home.

But tonight we had a real live board game. And this morning we were at the pool for a few hours. Grandkids played. We read. No emails answered…well maybe just a few. And this afternoon I indulged my latest guilty pleasure: I binged on the National Geographic program Wicked Tuna. Vacation time is a whole new and different way of life.

But it’s only temporary. Monday will find me back in my groove. Not sure about our workout tomorrow. But come Monday, Lord willing, we’ll be back at it for sure. All that remains is for us to complete our walking challenge – which I totally flaked out on today. We’re on vacation after all.

Jesus was not on vacation when he came to earth and called his disciples to follow him. He was not on vacation when he healed and taught and cast out demons. But he did bring a new way of life into view. A totally new way of life. A wineskin-bursting change of pace, priorities, and pursuits. His ways are unlike any before or since. His call is unlike any others.

So he calls for new wineskins for this new wine way of life. It won’t work to treat our Sunday morning foray into religion as a vacation from the world. He doesn’t want us simply to put a patch of religion on our daily pursuits. He doesn’t want to be a slice of the pie of life. He is the source of all of life. He will change us from the inside out.

I’m not sure what that means for you, but I know it means that for us, Jesus is still center of life for us. We continue to pray. We read Scripture. We praise God for his good gifts. We look for opportunities to seek his reign and rule.

Yesterday at the pool I saw a man reading a book, The Truth About [something I couldn’t see]. I asked him, “You book: The Truth about what?” He said, “It’s the truth about us. It’s about self-righteousness. And we’re all self-righteous.” Indeed. Then we agreed that it’s true, and that we need a righteousness that is outside of ourselves. Jesus is that righteousness. And when he moves in, self-righteousness must go. That’s the old wine. And the new wine of his grace is the best there is.

Jesus went back again to the shore of Lake Galilee. A crowd came to him, and he started teaching them. 14 As he walked along, he saw a tax collector, Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in his office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.

15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts was following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16 Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?”

17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”

18 On one occasion the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and asked him, “Why is it that the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?”

19 Jesus answered, “Do you expect the guests at a wedding party to go without food? Of course not! As long as the bridegroom is with them, they will not do that. 20 But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

21 “No one uses a piece of new cloth to patch up an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear off some of the old cloth, making an even bigger hole. 22 Nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, because the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Instead, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:13-22

20200625-DSC03779-HDR

Top of the Pile | Wimberley, Texas | June 2020

Some of my friends and colleagues frighten me. Mark was one who did. He led a new and innovative ministry connecting with people in the urban areas of Dallas/Fort Worth. He took the Gospel and the church into places we had not previously been. He was willing to talk with all kinds of people. All kinds. Religiously non religious. Morally amoral. Artists who were really out there, and others who were not the churchly sort. 

Another Mark led me on a mission walk once. I had no idea what we were to do, or how to engage people in conversation. Neither did he. But we went nonetheless. It was scary to be doing things unknown to me that were also not normal things to do. 

I’m wondering if that’s how the religious leaders thought about Jesus. He was doing things that really challenged their comfort zones. He was interacting with people who needed God but were far from religious. How could their system handle these people? How was their system going to handle Jesus himself.

Sadly they would not handle either well. They would continue to ostracize and ignore the non-religious tax collectors and other outcasts. They would not ignore Jesus, though. They would conspire to kill him. Which do you say is worse?

Before we too quickly conclude that killing Jesus was worse, let’s be careful to consider the impact of inaction and avoidance has on people who need God but who are far from the church or religion. That, essentially, is a death sentence. If we refuse to intersect with people far from God, who will bring them the grace and truth of Jesus? 

Our discomfort must be overcome somehow. And the reach to do so might not be as far as we imagine. They may be the people down the street from us – not just people in the seedy parts of town. They may be members of your own family, not just people you don’t even now know. 

There may come a time for you to intersect with people in the seedy parts of town, or with people you don’t now know. When that time comes, it will likely be a bit uncomfortable. Jesus’ willingness to join the party with these outcasts should open our hearts to a new way of thinking and living. When we realize that we ourselves are no less in need of the Great Physician of our souls than they are, we will find their company to be much less frightening than we thought. Now that’s a scary thought!

Jesus went back again to the shore of Lake Galilee. A crowd came to him, and he started teaching them. 14 As he walked along, he saw a tax collector, Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in his office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.

15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts was following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16 Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?”

17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”

18 On one occasion the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and asked him, “Why is it that the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?”

19 Jesus answered, “Do you expect the guests at a wedding party to go without food? Of course not! As long as the bridegroom is with them, they will not do that. 20 But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

21 “No one uses a piece of new cloth to patch up an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear off some of the old cloth, making an even bigger hole. 22 Nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, because the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Instead, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:13-22

20200625-DSC03768-HDR-Edit

Rock Monument | Wimberley, Texas | June2020

I wrote two letters. In one letter I expressed my desire to continue to serve the congregation to which I had been called 11 years previously. It was true, heartfelt, and sincere. The other letter was to the congregation I currently serve. It was true, heartfelt, and sincere. When I read the two letters, I knew which one I would be sending.

And so I came to St. John Lutheran Church in Cypress, Texas. I was happy where I was currently serving. We had great friends there. We would miss them when we left. But there was an opportunity in Cypress and I was compelled to accept the call. It was an invitation from God through the people here. I’m glad I did.

The opportunity offered to Matthew was directly from God, not mediated through a congregation or even a religious official. It was simple and direct: “Follow me.” And Matthew got up, left his tax office, and followed Jesus. 

There is no hint in Mark’s account about whether Matthew had any previous encounter with Jesus, or knew anything about his teaching or ministry. There is no indication that Matthew had grown tired of his duties as a tax collector. But we do know that Matthew was not the only one. He hosted a dinner party for Jesus where a “large number of tax collectors and other outcasts…joined him and his disciples at the table.”

Most of us don’t have such profound life-changing encounters with Jesus…at least not at first blush. But there come opportunities day after day which can change the course of our lives in ways beyond knowing. 

You agree to serve as a Sunday school teacher and end up encouraging a young man to take his faith seriously. He does and becomes a pastor. You are invited to serve as a confirmation table guide. A girl in your group struggles with issues of sexual identity and you listen and teach her that God created us male and female. She grows up to claim her identity as a young woman of God. You accept a friend’s invitation to a Bible class and you make a friend who becomes your best friend forever. 

Sometimes such opportunities are obvious beyond measure. Most often they are more ordinary and mundane. But make no mistake, whenever you accept Jesus’ invitation opportunities will unfold that you may never have imagined. And whenever that does happen, throw a party. Invite your friends. Keep following him.

Each Sunday I post verses from five Psalms – according to the day of the month. Today’s Psalm verses are from Psalm 2, 32, 62; 92; 122

Psalm 2:10-11

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.

Psalm 32:1-5

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. 

Psalm 62:1-2

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Psalm 92:1-4

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
    and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
    to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
    at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

Psalm 122:1

I was glad when they said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

 

Several days later Jesus came back to Capernaum. The report went out that he was home. Many people had gathered. There was no room left, even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking God’s word to them.Four men came to him carrying a paralyzed man. Since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. Then they lowered the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying.When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Some experts in Moses’ Teachings were sitting there. They thought, “Why does he talk this way? He’s dishonoring God. Who besides God can forgive sins?”At once, Jesus knew inwardly what they were thinking. He asked them, “Why do you have these thoughts? 

Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’? 10 I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then he said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I’m telling you to get up, pick up your cot, and go home!”

12 The man got up, immediately picked up his cot, and walked away while everyone watched. Everyone was amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” – Mark 2:1-12

20200624-DSC03720

Prickly Pear Cactus Buds | Wimberley, Texas | June 2020

Have you ever said more than you know? Done less than you said you’d do? Made a claim you could never substantiate? Put yourself forward only to learn that your talk outran your walk? All hat no cattle. All bark no bite. All bluster no muster.

That’s not Jesus. The religious experts of Jesus’ day had run into many all talk no action folks time and again. They thought Jesus was no different. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt in this case, saying that they thought he was dangerous in his teaching and claims of power, authority, and identity. He wasn’t who he said he was, and posed a danger to the people they genuinely cared for. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt on that matter.

That being the case, what would their reaction be to Jesus’ words and deeds on this occasion? If they believed he was a charlatan and imposter they would surely oppose him strongly. They would concoct all manner of excuses to discredit Jesus. They would accuse him of blasphemy. They would take council on how to rid the world of this man’s influence. And so they did.

But what did Jesus do? Jesus taught the people. He allowed interruption. He saw the men’s faith. He forgave the man’s sin. He healed the man, allowing him to walk away with his no-longer-needed cot.

And he asked a question: “Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’?” It’s safer and easier to say that someone’s sins are forgiven if all you’re going to do is say it. But Jesus is hat and cattle, talk and walk, promise and performance.

For Jesus to say, “Your sins are forgiven” holds far-reaching consequences for him. It will mean his suffering and death. It will mean that the religious leaders will align themselves with the Roman authorities to have Jesus convicted and executed. It will cost him his life. But he is willing to say it because he is who he says he is: the Son of Man who came to seek and to save the lost. 

Not only does he speak on this occasion, he also shows his authority over sickness and disease. He commands the man to get up, take up his cot, and go home. And the man does just that. Jesus speaks and acts. In both cases he brings grace and mercy to people.

When I think of this account, I can imagine myself in any number of characters in the story. Except Jesus. He is singularly unique. He is like no other. Even so I am very much like Jesus. Just as he endured temptation, saw people and responded to their needs in mercy, prayed to his heavenly Father, and lived and died, I am doing and will do all those things also. Not perfectly like he did. But as one who has been brought to Jesus, heard his words and been eternally changed by his loving grace.

Jesus saved and redeemed you and me, and he’s still at work in people’s hearts today. Thanks be to God!

Several days later Jesus came back to Capernaum. The report went out that he was home. Many people had gathered. There was no room left, even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking God’s word to them.Four men came to him carrying a paralyzed man. Since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. Then they lowered the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying.When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Some experts in Moses’ Teachings were sitting there. They thought, “Why does he talk this way? He’s dishonoring God. Who besides God can forgive sins?”At once, Jesus knew inwardly what they were thinking. He asked them, “Why do you have these thoughts? 

Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’? 10 I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then he said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I’m telling you to get up, pick up your cot, and go home!”

12 The man got up, immediately picked up his cot, and walked away while everyone watched. Everyone was amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” – Mark 2:1-12

20200625-DSC03780-HDR

“Surrendering Tree” | Wimberley, Texas | June 2020

A friend hosted a party in his home. Many people came. Much fun, conversation, good will and refreshment was enjoyed. The next day he went into the guest bathroom only to discover that the toilet seat had been broken…and placed (hidden???) behind the toilet! Have you ever loaned something to someone only to have it returned in poor condition, or completely broken? Don’t you think that if you loan someone something that it will be returned promptly and in good order?

We’ve considered this miracle of Jesus from the standpoint of the once-paralyzed man, the friends who brought him, and the scoffers who questioned Jesus’ authority and ability to forgive and heal. What about the guy whose house Jesus used and whose roof was dismantled? What about him? Are you, maybe that guy?

You’ve let your home be a place of gathering. People have come and scratched your floors, left water rings on your tables, and consumed your precious toilet paper! Or worse, you’ve let someone borrow your car. They needed it, and you were able to get by without it for a few days. When they returned it, it was dirty and the gas tank was empty. How rude!

But that’s different than loaning your house to Jesus isn’t it? Maybe not. Remember Jesus’ words, “Inasmuch as you’ve done it to the least of these brothers of mine, you’ve done it to me.” So what needs to change? Perhaps it is your expectations. Maybe it’s the loanee’s thoughtfulness. Could be something even greater: your awareness of the kingdom impact of giving letting Jesus use something.

Mother Teresa famously said that the poor are a reminder to us of our need to give. And if we give, we should give expecting nothing in return. If our gifts are truly gifts, and if we are giving our things for Jesus’ use, the wear and tear, potential damage, or consumption of those things may have a kingdom impact far beyond the cost of the gift.

What was that impact? We’ll look at that tomorrow.

 

Several days later Jesus came back to Capernaum. The report went out that he was home. Many people had gathered. There was no room left, even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking God’s word to them.Four men came to him carrying a paralyzed man. Since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. Then they lowered the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying.When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Some experts in Moses’ Teachings were sitting there. They thought, “Why does he talk this way? He’s dishonoring God. Who besides God can forgive sins?”At once, Jesus knew inwardly what they were thinking. He asked them, “Why do you have these thoughts? 

Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’? 10 I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then he said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I’m telling you to get up, pick up your cot, and go home!”

12 The man got up, immediately picked up his cot, and walked away while everyone watched. Everyone was amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” – Mark 2:1-12

20200624-DSC03722

Prickly Pear Cactus | Wimberley, Texas | June 2020

I don’t remember the specifics of the occasion, but I do remember the question: Who authorized you to do that? I was a young pastor with good intentions but lacking a sufficient degree of finesse in making changes or proposing new ways of doing ministry. A very similar question was, “Did you write this?” I do recall the specifics of that question. It was in regard to the need for an organ renovation that was doubted by the one who asked the question.

He accused me of deceiving the congregation. I had not. But the accusation had been made. It was followed by an even more grave judgment: “You have raped and pillaged this church!” Obviously my accuser had much at stake in his assessment of the way things ought to be.

Thankfully the accusation did not stand. And the accuser was unable to substantiate his claim or make his case successfully. All this many years ago. I’m sure I could have done better in every aspect of the affair. But his accusation betrayed an insecurity and judgmental too often displayed even by those who claim to follow Jesus.

The conclusions and accusations of the religious experts regarding Jesus’ actions and teaching was similarly motivated. They were threatened by Jesus’ authority and teaching. They feared much from him. They thought him a blasphemer. He had no authority to forgive sins. He was completely without authorization to do this thing he was doing. Or so they thought.

Jesus’ miraculous and merciful healing showed otherwise. He had authority to forgive sins. He had power to heal disease. No one could question his authority after seeing that: surely. But they would question Jesus’ authority. They would accuse him of further blasphemy. They would eventually kill him.

It is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” But Jesus didn’t just say it. He sacrificed himself for it. He died for it. By his own authority. And now all authority has been given to him. When we follow him, we are part of his story of redemption and healing in the lives of many. Best we recognize Jesus’ authority rather than question it.