To Whose House Do You Belong?

To Whose House Do You Belong?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

If I had lived as a Jew in Israel and had heard Jesus first hand I might well have expected the restoration of a Jewish King, the rededication of the temple, the liberation of the land from foreign rule and the archiving of proper census results as to people’s ancestry and claims of nationality. And if you told me that this King would have the heart of a shepherd herding a flock ushering in a new covenant, I most definitely would have thought of the reign of King David who brought all the tribes together. I would not have likely thought that Jesus had come to help all the Gentiles of the world, at least until I had heard Paul’s eloquent explanation. Who knows I might thought as Mary the mother of Jesus along with Jesus’ half-brothers, that Jesus was mad. It is interesting that this embarrassing fact made it into the Bible. But it is there for a reason. For as Jesus selects the disciples, allegiances are being formed in new ways. New history is being written. And given this dynamic we might well have in time greeted people with today’s question and a new understanding of family. To Whose House Do You Belong?

 

Scripture: Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, even the blind and the lame will turn you back” —thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the city of David. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

 

2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10 (NRSV)

 

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

 

Mark 3:22-35 (NRSV)

 

And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

 

Revelation 20:13-15 (NRSV)

 

And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'”

 

Luke 15:23-32 (NRSV)

 

In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses,

 

Colossians 2:11-13 (NRSV)

 

Message: Abraham as the father of the nation of Israel, was celebrated initially, not so much the fact that he was father of many nations but that he was the genealogical root of Israel. The Bible has a lot of lists of names making these genealogical links. It would take Paul to map that out the importance of Abraham to our faith as Gentiles beyond this focus. The religious leaders that claimed Jesus was possessed would have claimed Abraham in the nationalistic sense. They thought in terms of an earthly kingdom. But their timing and focus was off. The Son of God came to save the whole world. So, this whole episode we have been studying in Mark is more revolutionary than we might think. We can easily miss the shock of what is going on here. We miss the revolutionary nature of Jesus’ retreat into the wilderness of the mountains – up a mountain, alluding to key moments in history, like Moses and Abraham – to inaugurate a new Nation, a new Twelve. We miss the culturally seismic declaration of Jesus in ignoring his family and declaring what constitutes his true family. You see the Jewish family was the local expression of the wider Jewish family of God. You were who you were in God’s kingdom because of your family. The family was your means of salvation. You did not disrespect the family, and that is one of the shocking aspects of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Remember that one of the key defining moments of Jewish identity was the yearly family meal of Passover. Once the lamb had been slain in the Temple, the family would gather and eat together, doing this in remembrance of the Great Escape from Egypt and looking forward to a greater rescue. Not only does Jesus radically redefine the key family meal of Passover around himself, but Jesus redefines those who he calls family not along blood lines or ancestry but as whoever does God’s will. That is why the book of Revelation indicates another book of names that is about the faith family not a genealogy linked to Abraham. This is radical stuff and should make us pause and reflect on what this really means about how we are to live.

 

Pray we realize the importance of not rejecting Jesus. Pray we honor the importance of family and especially our spiritual family as children of God. Pray we help rescue people from the house of darkness. Pray we be the concrete realization of God’s covenant promises to Abraham. Pray we show ourselves to be in the family by our love for Jesus, our love for each other and by doing God’s will in the power of the Spirit. Pray our family is an eternal family that calls us to a deeper allegiance than blood or nationality. Pray we see true resurrection power at work in us as we do our part in bringing more names into the Book of Life that document those who are part of the eternal family of God. Pray we give thanks for the gift of life in being born and reborn. Pray we rejoice as part of the family of God redeemed by the Word made flesh.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Is The Humility Of Christ Guiding Your Behavior?

Is The Humility Of Christ Guiding Your Behavior?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

I imagine what is in your head put by society guides much of your vision of success. I am effected by all the world’s hype too. Still there might be some among those reading this devotion who think outside the box. The reality is a limited number think that we can find the ultimate joy in the exact opposite direction in which we usually look. Is The Humility Of Christ Guiding Your Behavior?

 

Scripture: If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Philippians 2:1-11 (NRSV)

 

Message: Jesus not only taught humility, but lived it. His journey to the Cross was the most selfless, self-giving, loving act ever performed. Interestingly, today’s scripture helps us to reach a healthier conclusion about success than what the world would have us believe. Friends, if you want to be a Joy-Full person, follow Jesus’ example of humility. Serve others from a heart of humility. When we live lives of humility, being a servant, putting others first – the result is we will shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life to others. Friends, the world is full of people clamoring for attention, for honor, for prestige. If you want your life to be set apart from the crowd, live humbly and serve.

 

Pray that we realize that to achieve true greatness as a follower of Jesus Christ we must walk God’s path of humility. Pray we accept Jesus’ sacrifice as something we cannot earn on our own. Pray we be intent on what God would have us do. Pray we listen to the Spirit and to others so that we might understand what it means to be humble. Pray we accept the kingdom with the trust and humility of a child. Pray the mind of Christ grows in us. Pray we look out for other’s interests as we would our own. Pray we find unity through humble service.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Are We Out Of Our Minds?

Are We Out Of Our Minds?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

The Bible has honest examples about human behavior outside the run of the mill. One King eats grass. People hear animals talk. David challenges a giant in one passage and drools in another. And Saul kills himself which is crazy. One guy even jumps into a pit on a cold snowy day to kill a lion. (I do not know about you, but if a Florida Panther was prowling my back yard I would not go out and pet it.) Interestingly this seemingly crazy act of a guy killing a lion is listed in the Bible as one of the reasons Benaiah was held in greatest honor among King David’s best warriors and put in charge of his bodyguard. The Bible counts him as a hero, not a crazy fool. Then in our lectionary selection from the Gospel of Mark, we have a surprising insertion of a passage about Jesus and the reality that his family thought he was crazy. So, this morning we contemplate how insane the world is and that sometimes what appears to be crazy behavior serves a strategic purpose. Some people thought Jesus was crazy. Perhaps it befuddled them why he left his humble life of carpentry and took off into the wilderness and then started traveling around teaching and healing. Maybe they thought he was out of his mind for socializing with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners. Perhaps they had heard the rumors that he was breaking the Sabbath and breaking the traditions of the elders. Considering all that was happening they surmised that he had gone mad…possessed. So, this morning I silently reflect on what we say we believe about all this and ask, Are We Out Of Our Minds?

 

Scripture: Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant warrior from Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds; he struck down two sons of Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.

 

2 Samuel 23:20 (NRSV)

 

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. On the third day, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground and did obeisance. David said to him, “Where have you come from?” He said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.” David said to him, “How did things go? Tell me!” He answered, “The army fled from the battle, but also many of the army fell and died; and Saul and his son Jonathan also died.”

Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them; and all the men who were with him did the same. They mourned and wept, and fasted until evening for Saul and for his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen! Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

 

2 Samuel 1:1-4, 11-12, 19, 23-27 (NRSV)

 

and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”

 

Mark 3:20-21 (NRSV)

 

Message:  I am sure you have all seen people do some wacky things and have thought to yourself, “These people are out of their minds”. Someone risking their life doing a stunt is one thing but, then if it really is God’s will they are following we must look at the behavior in a different light. Ok, I recognize that there are a lot of crazy Christians out there. I must admit, my own actions and attitudes might be thought crazy by some.  So it behooves us to keep seeking truth and coming to honest conclusions. The thing is that real craziness does exist and it is a very sad thing. And yet, even as we recognize the craziness that Christians sometimes represent, it is important to recognize and affirm that there is something to Christianity. I do not know exactly where you are on the journey but this morning I would like to encourage you to keep an open mind, even as the crazy Christians in your life tempt you to close yourself off to the relevance and vitality of Christ. Living for Jesus is not easy. When we face opposition, we need to handle it like Jesus did. Some people will think we are out of our minds for our devotion to Christ. In fact, we should expect it.

 

Pray we realize that what is spiritually right may appear to be a bit crazy. Pray we realize that we must make a choice for Jesus was either a liar, was crazy or is Lord. Pray we not be double minded. Pray we realize that we may be going against religious traditions by following Jesus. Pray we realize that the world is crazy and the only sanity we have ultimately is Jesus. Pray we be equipped to serve and not be deterred from doing God’s work even when it seems risky.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Just When Do We Need To Give Up Our Crutches?

Just When Do We Need To Give Up Our Crutches?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Despite the growing economic boom, suicide rates are on the rise in Florida as summertime sadness carries over into the winter flu season. And I think one of the problems is isolation of people from the people who might care for them best. But then who wants to be around a person with a cough and runny nose. You see our mental health is more fragile than we would like to think. Today’s text may not help you with your flu symptoms but is instructive on the topic of mental health. Here we see how godly friends have a role in helping keep us sane. We get this guidance clearly in the life of Jesus and an echo of this reality in the lives of Saul, Jonathan and David in today’s lectionary text as well as in the life of Mephibosheth. We see the rock star qualities of the Bible’s heroes and the transition and the drama of leadership change and marvel at how God works spiritually in all the emotions of life. So, this morning we ponder the ways we prop up our spirit. And consider that God might even use our need for support to carry out a divine purpose to the glory of God, even as we contemplate today’s question. Just When Do We Need To Give Up Our Crutches?

 

Scripture: As they were coming home, when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they made merry, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Saul was very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul eyed David from that day on.

Saul spoke with his son Jonathan and with all his servants about killing David. But Saul’s son Jonathan took great delight in David. Jonathan told David, “My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you.” Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, “The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?” Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

 

1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7 (NRSV)

 

 

Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.

 

Mark 3:7-12 (NRSV)

 

Saul’s son Jonathan had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled; and, in her haste to flee, it happened that he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth.

 

2 Samuel 4:4 (NRSV)

 

Message: We may seek a hero’s power, position and personal characteristics and even possessions, but the smart thing is to find our security ultimately in God. But the pathway there is not always in our control. So, we see in today’s text the reality that Jesus had grown in strength and became a threat to the religious leaders, so too we see in today’s text that David and his followers had grown in strength, and that David had become a very real threat to Saul. Where we find our security against real threats is the challenge of fight and flight. We do not fully see it in today’s text but, Saul’s forces will ultimately be decisively defeated by the Philistines and his three sons, Michal’s brothers, David’s brothers-in-law would be killed as a way of paving the way for David to become King. But before this happens God prepares David. God had separated David from his position in the army, and the crutch of power and possessions, and his wife Michal, and the crutch of position, his counselor Samuel, and the crutch of prophecy and ultimately his best friend Jonathan and the crutch of a promoter. And yet David survives while Saul commits suicide. So, in the end, each of us must come to grips with how we feel about power, position, and people. We must come to grips with the crutches we have and when they are useful and when they are not. And here we are to discover that there is no relationship more powerful and more important than Jesus. Given the pressures on us from family, jobs, endeavors, and pressures to worship the things of the world, we all might do well to reevaluate our emotions on this topic. And so, as we close today’s devotional reflection, let us focus for a time on what happened to Mephibosheth, who might well have been saved because of his need for a crutch. And the reality is that Mephibosheth could have lived a life of obscurity, loneliness and rejection, for he experienced tragedy. Instead of growing up in luxury, health and prestige he could have faced a life of why me. We do not know if he was ever healed physically but then we need to remember that King David brought Mephibosheth into his presence so he might dine at the King’s table the rest of his life, and that this was a type of healing. Here David honors his friend Jonathan who had saved his life. Here we get a hint of how Jesus can save ours. Friends, we are to spread the hope. Someone’s life depends on it.

 

 

Pray when the time is right we lay down our crutches so we might follow Jesus. Pray we recognize the value of good friends. Pray we realize that Jesus can overcome evil. Pray we be tools restoring relationships and honoring friendships that glorify God. Pray we accept the invitation to dine at Christ’s table. Pray we choose to live. Pray we count Jesus as our friend. Pray we offer real hope to those in need in a way the glorifies God.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Is Jesus Your Sabbath?

Is Jesus Your Sabbath?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

That we all have the rhythms of a seven-day week is truly amazing for it is not something that is justified by the moon or the sun precisely although the four phases of the moon roughly correspond to seven days. For the believer, we need to consider the Sabbath, and Hebrew word Shabbat in the light and grace of Jesus. Of course, it is related to the fourth commandment that Moses brought down from the mountain. But there is more. Many consider that it has been set in motion by the Word of God though the act of creation itself. Others consider that it developed over time to complement the choice of market days and worship in our culture. Maybe it is both. Regardless, changing a culture on how we think about this is akin to David taking on Goliath and yet that is exactly what Jesus does in today’s scripture. Again, the Pharisees were challenging Jesus. They followed the law better than anyone else could, which can be a good thing. But when Jesus entered the picture he pointed out that in their pursuit of righteousness they had become distracted from loving each other. Unfortunately, the Pharisees put their adherence to the rules over caring for people. They cared so much about following God’s law, which is doing what the Bible says, that they created extra rules that are not in the Bible just to show how seriously they took it. Now Jesus really pissed the Pharisees off when he healed a person on the Sabbath and perhaps this is the case because he was saying in a way that there are only nine moral laws in the ten commandments for you cannot have a moral law that is limited to one day. Think about this for a moment and perhaps you can more fully understand why they were so angry and why Jesus was so saddened by their reaction. They did not understand the real purpose of the Sabbath. Is Jesus Your Sabbath?

 

Scripture: Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

 

Exodus 20:8-11 (NRSV)

 

David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”

Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David’s hand. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him; then he cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

 

1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51 (NRSV)

 

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was 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 conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

 

Mark 3:1-6 (NRSV)

 

Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

 

Colossians 2:16-17 (NRSV)

 

Message: The words that Mark uses to describe Jesus in this confrontation are anger and grief. Jesus was distressed by this situation. Think about this for a minute. We understand why he was angry, but Jesus is also grieved. The Pharisees had missed the point, they put their adherence to the rules, which were mostly made up, in front of helping someone in need. We get why Jesus was angry but also hurt. He is grieving that his people, the Pharisees, do not get it. They followed the rules, but they got so distracted by their adherence to the rules that they did not see to what the rules are pointing too. God put the law in place to protect us and to help us love God and love those around us. But the Pharisees had taken the rules and twisted them into something else. Jesus is grieved in this moment not just over the person in need, but for the hardness of heart of the Pharisees. Jesus is legitimately sad. He is sad that his people did not catch the purpose of the law. He is sad that his people are ignoring the needs of others. For us, we need to take note of the reality and purpose of the Sabbath and the reality and purpose of Jesus and apply it. We need to take this emotion Jesus experienced and consider what it means. You see, God is angered by evil. And today’s Gospel passage gives us a unique glimpse about our relationship with God. When we make choices that hurt someone else. God is angered by the sin, but he is grieved that we missed the point of grace and forgiveness and a relationship with God through Jesus. And so too, Jesus is grieved that in our actions we do not show love to others as an expression of our relationship with God. Do not miss this, Jesus did not want to condemn the Pharisees. He could have, but he did not want too. What he desperately wanted was for them to love each other, to care for each other, and to provide for each other. That is true for us today too. And how we relate to the Sabbath in this regard tests the health of our relationship.

 

Pray we realize that God has already fought the most difficult of battles for us. Pray
we realize that the ceremonial laws were nailed to the cross with Jesus but that we might want to follow some of them in remembrance of Jesus. Pray that we realize that the Sabbath was made for us to enjoy and still can be. Pray therefore we have a rest in Jesus that never ceases to love others. Pray we benefit from weekly worship but keep everyday Holy. Pray we realize that it is always right to do good. Pray we never cease from worshipping God. Pray we never cease from setting aside time to gather together to study and learn the will of God. Pray that Jesus becomes our Sabbath. Pray we realize that God never prohibits us from loving. Pray we understand that the Law was a foreshadowing of what Christ would be and do. Pray we see Jesus woven throughout the entire scriptures. Pray that when we keep the seventh day Holy we never consider it a form of bondage and an act of personal works. Pray we do not ignore, avoid and reason our way around a relationship with God. Pray we remember Jesus as the key to our relationship with the Father. Pray we honor Jesus out of love. Pray we take time to draw closer to our Creator. Pray we pause to remember Jesus.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Do You Have A Heart For Making God’s Thoughts Your Own?

Do You Have A Heart For Making God’s Thoughts Your Own?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Yesterday I mentioned that the parables of the patched cloth and the wineskins were sandwiched in between two similar confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees. Today’s lectionary selection has the other side of the sandwich and indeed, no joking it is related to bread…Holy Bread. The companion scripture from Samuel, as does the passage from Mark, both relate to the challenge of following laws that are no longer helpful. In the scripture, we see the importance of the character of David and why God choose him to be King. We see a new way being formed, and it is instructive for us in understanding the purpose of the law of love. You see, Jesus uses this to teach us something very important. In the story of David, Jesus describes a discerning of the law related to David’s role and to his relationship with God and with people. As David guides his hungry troops to eat the Bread of the Presence in the Temple he realizes it is against the law but also that it is God’s will for him to eat. And that prompts today’s reflection about the purpose of laws in our church and society and our response to them. Do You Have A Heart For Making God’s Thoughts Your Own?

 

Scripture: The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

 

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NRSV)

 

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

 

Mark 2:23-28 (NRSV)

 

How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.

 

Psalm 139:17-18 (NRSV)

 

Message: We all like compliments. Mark Twain said that he could live on a good compliment for two weeks with nothing else to eat.   As a Christian, I can think of no higher compliment than to be described as a man or woman with a heart after God’s heart, and when that compliment comes from God Himself, as in today’s scripture, we had better take notice. If you read the Bible on a regular basis one of the things you may start to notice is that it rarely flatters its characters. It tells us the complete truth, good and bad, about everyone we meet. This is one of the reasons that it is Holy, for it rarely shows us in a good light but instead a true and fair light. And because of this it gives us a wonderful glimpse into the grace and mercy of God and yes, difficult though it is, even the thoughts of God. Now today’s scripture touches on one of those men that exemplifies the desire of making God’s thoughts his own thoughts and it gives us some insight into how to think about all the legalistic limitations that confront our existence and the reality that they can stunt our spiritual growth. The man I am writing about this morning is David for he overcame the challenge of the laws and instead sought a heart for God that allowed him to open his mind to the thoughts of God. Now more has been written about David than about any other biblical character. David has sixty-six chapters dedicated to him, not including fifty-nine references in the New Testament. He is important to today’s devotional because David is dedicated to God in every aspect of his very earthly life but still breaks the law. Yes, he had God’s spirit working powerfully in and through him, but he was still capable of the most glaring sins, both public and private sins, as well as private sins that went public. He was capable of tremendous grace, huge faith, deep emotions, incredible courage and immense financial generosity. But he was also subject to deep depression, fits of rage, tremendous lust, lying, and deceiving. Thankfully God chooses him as King anyway, for God chooses nobodies and makes them into somebodies. And thankfully God takes all the time necessary to develop people after His own heart. So, embrace the life-long process realizing there are some laws we were meant to break. Being perfect is only found in a relationship with God. Friends, God is still looking for in men and women whose heart is fully engaged in following Jesus. This is the only way to true obedience.

 

Pray we are honest. Pray we repent by directing our heart to God. Pray we are Spirit-filled. Pray we spend time alone with God. Pray we are obedient in small things so we might be prepared to be used by God for divine purposes. Pray we realize that God’s laws were made for humans not humans for the law. Pray we develop spiritual integrity. Pray we realize that in our fighting, praying, loving and sinning God is still at work molding us. Pray we better understand each day what God is looking for in our behavior. Pray we are a people that have a heart for God’s heart. Pray our individual and collective heart is a home for God. Pray when things get tough that we reassure our heart to trust God. Pray we are confident of God’s presence in us. Pray we realize that it is a long, long journey and we will get hungry on the way. Pray therefor we eat scripture daily so we might learn the thoughts of God and make them our own. Pray we find in them encouragement from God to do the right thing.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

What Are We To Do About Racism?

 

What Are We To Do About Racism?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

During Advent, we contemplated the life of John the Baptist and his incarceration. And yesterday we looked at an encouraging letter from Paul, he wrote while he was in jail. And this morning I decided to read a letter from Dr. Martin Luther King written while he was in a Birmingham jail in 1963 and a letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote to his parents from inside of a jail cell in Germany in 1943. And I must admit that Dr. King, the Apostle Paul, John the Baptist and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have some complementary themes. And looking at today’s lectionary selection from the Book of Samuel where King Saul is ousted for not exacting genocide on the Amalekites, I scratch my head even though I realize that the likes of Haman in the book of Esther were Amalekite and that King Saul had chosen earthly goods over spiritual obedience. So today is Martin Luther King Day and as I contemplate his letter and life, and today’s lectionary selection I confess Dr. King was right about the need for a radical non-violent departure from the status quo and that he was right about moderates being worthless to the cause of social change, and that Jesus was right about the need to create something new. So, as we look at today’s lectionary selection from the Gospel of Mark I am intrigued as to how Jesus sandwiches in two parables about the trial of social change that relates to today’s question. What Are We To Do About Racism?

 

Scripture: Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

 

Mark 2:18-22 (NRSV)

 

Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” He replied, “Speak.” Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But from the spoil the people took sheep and cattle, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is no less a sin than divination, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”

 

1 Samuel 15:16-23 (NRSV)

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

Matthew 5:43-48 (NRSV)

 

Message: Today we look at the problem that happens when people in the name of religion developed practices and certain rituals they expected everyone else to follow so that they might control others. We see it in the behavior of the Pharisees confronting Jesus for not fasting and in the atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis, and perhaps even in the excessive crime rates and lack of voting rights for incarcerated minorities in our own nation. As a teaching tool in response to this problem Jesus presents two parables, which are similar, that make the same point. The first one, about the fabric of society, says you do not put a new patch on an old garment, and the second says you do not put new wine into an old wineskin. In the first parable, if you put a new patch on an old garment, when the new patch shrinks due to washing, it will tear away from the older garment, making the tear worse. Similarly, new wine needs a new wineskin because as the new wine expands during the fermentation process, it stretches the wineskin. An old wineskin will burst under the pressure of new wine. These two parables illustrate the fact that you cannot mix old religious rituals with new faith in Jesus. Jesus’ disciples were not fasting along with the Pharisees and John’s disciples because they were now under the new covenant of grace and faith in Christ. Now there are things related to this that a prisoner might understand better than other people. John the Baptist, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Paul, Martin Luther King and Jesus posed a serious threat to the establishment. In calling for those in power to repent they all are saying that peace predicated upon tyranny and maintained by terror is not peace but sin. Therefore, we cannot just sit back and wait on the Prince of Peace to return. We cannot just submit ourselves to the logic of a sin, sick society. We cannot declare that we are preparing the way of the Lord, while accepting the status quo. As we make our way through this post Advent season, on this Martin Luther King Day, I believe we must seek a message for our nation—a nation that might well be unraveling at the thinly stitched seams of law and justice on the divided patched cloth of the rich and the poor. So, let us not put our heads in the sand. The natural consequence of ingrained behavioral patterns that are passed down from one generation to the next, poses a threat to our faith. Sorrow for what has happened is not enough. We must take personal responsibility where we can. Fear and self-protection are not the right motivators to be forgiven. Penance does not work. True repentance and lasting change is a gift from God that requires more than a little mercy.

 

Pray we awaken from our false sense of comfort, and prepare the way for the one who seeks to deliver and set free. Pray we acknowledge that something has gone awry, and we have a responsibility to confront it by embracing a new way. Pray we choose not to live within the myth that there is always a direct correlation between a person’s social class and their personal character. Pray we find peace, but not a peace predicated upon tyranny and terrorizing others. Pray we not wait to love. Pray we not wait to extend God’s grace. Pray we not wait to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God. Pray we not wait to repent and prepare the way for the one who has and will give us perfect peace. Pray we not deceive ourselves about the challenge of our society’s addictions.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Are You Living Or Dying?

Are You Living Or Dying?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

This morning’s Naples Daily News has a front-page article about Watts Mercy, 25, and her sister Sarah, 16 years of age. Watts’ was born in Haiti and her sister, Sarah, was born in the United States. The context of their story is that they were both abused in the Foster Care system and ultimately Watts became guardian of her sister. Watts has no memory of Haiti and yet faces deportation. I introduced the Naples Daily News staff to Watts several months ago, not because One by One Leadership Foundation has been in their lives for several years helping behind the scenes, but because of Watts’ resilience, in the face of overwhelming odds, honors God. The article is relevant not just because of trash talk about Haitians on the anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti eight years ago, but also how it fits into today’s text from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. For Watts is a person who is imprisoned by a situation but still has chosen to live. The reality is that bad stuff happens and sometimes we as Watts and Paul must make the best we can out of those situations. For when awful things happen, and they do, the role of the Christian is to focus on living through it instead of dying in it. So, Are You Living Or Dying?

 

Scripture: Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

 

Philippians 1:15-30 (NRSV)

 

 

Message: Paul had an interesting take on today’s question. As Paul sits in prison, under house arrest, he gives us an answer. He tells us what it means to live. Now as Paul tells us his answer, it is helpful to know the context in which this letter is penned. You see Paul may have known that he might be ultimately be sentenced to death as he writes the letter to the Philippians and awaits the Roman courts. I think it likely that Paul would have been willing to die for the cause of Christ but he was strategically buying time. So, I do not read this as an encouragement for us to seek to become martyrs as much as to risk more so that we might truly live. Yes, Paul is imprisoned, and has been for years now, falsely accused by the Jews of preaching against the Laws of Moses and for defiling the temple by bringing a Gentile into the Temple. He was arrested for this. He has been brought before numerous governors and leaders to plead his case and innocence. And as he uses these opportunities to witness, the apostle decides to activate his right as a Roman citizen to appeal before the Emperor himself. Now strategically if you are looking at self-preservation going to Rome would not be my first choice of an action. I think Paul wants to go to Rome not so much for appeal but to witness to the Emperor and the people of Rome. As Paul begins his letter, he gives the Philippians an update and some encouragement. He tells them that God is working through his imprisonment. He says that the Gospel is being advanced to people that would not have heard it without this circumstance, which was the royal guard, and Caesar’s household. Since Paul is not discouraged by his status, it has encouraged the faith and actions of others. It gave them the confidence and boldness that they needed to proclaim Jesus to a hostile world. For the apostle, life and living is Jesus. He says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” The cause of Christ was nothing less than life itself for Paul. Paul is not dying, but he is living, and living to the fullest regardless of his circumstances. But this truth led to a dilemma for Paul and for us. Since life is all about Jesus, to depart from this world and to be with Him is better but really who wants to die. Friends, if someone is about to die you do not tell them that they are going to a better place and yet that is what Paul is saying about himself. Paul wants to enjoy paradise. It is in this same dilemma that Paul points us to Christ. Jesus gave up His life for us so that we could have life, and eternal life. We live through faith in His perfect life, being forgiven, declared righteous, and as God’s child. Like with the apostle, Jesus is our life. So, maybe this is not so much about the dying with glory, but as a way to not die before we die.

 

Pray we realize that our life is in Christ. Pray Jesus is our strength. Pray we live our lives in service to Jesus. Pray Christ is the meaning of our life. Pray we live our life in Him now, living in His grace, love, protection, and care. Pray God’s grace is made perfect in our weaknesses, flaws, and inabilities. Pray we have resilience.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

What Is True Religion?

 

What Is True Religion?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

In yesterday’s scripture, we saw some men take the roof off a home in Capernaum for a paralytic to meet Jesus and in the Old Testament reading, the clamoring of the Israelites for an earthly king. And today we follow these plotlines as Jesus takes off the roof of religion by associating with sinners and Saul, in a surprising turn of events, is anointed king. So, we see that not everyone forgives sin and not everyone becomes king but that everyone needs a relationship to make their lives whole. And it is here that good religion is not really a solemn and joyless affair. It is not a bunch of rules to follow, as the Pharisees would suggest, but something very different. To experience what Jesus had in mind for us is illustrated in the scripture from Samuel as well as from the Gospel reading. The journey of religion takes a relationship where God meets us where we are. Jesus did not have a long list of things for us to do. He did not say we must become slaves of the law or to some earthly king. He simply says, “Follow me.” Now the competition seems fierce for our attention here as religious leaders argue their case. So, we ask. What Is True Religion?

 

Scripture: There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish son of Abiel son of Zeror son of Becorath son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. He had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else. Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, had strayed. So Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the boys with you; go and look for the donkeys.” He passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then he passed through the land of Benjamin, but they did not find them. When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you. He it is who shall rule over my people.” Then Saul approached Samuel inside the gate, and said, “Tell me, please, where is the house of the seer?” Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer; go up before me to the shrine, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind. Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, “The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people Israel. You shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their enemies all around. Now this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you ruler over his heritage:

 

1 Samuel 9:1-4, 17-19; 10:1a (NRSV)

 

Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

 

Mark 2:13-17 (NRSV)

 

Message: Today’s scripture selection gives us a perspective as to what true religion is all about.
It is a shout out to see if there is a doctor in the house to help heal our sin sick ways. You see, the world defines religion as: “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.” And all the world religions I am familiar with have two things in common. First, they recognize that humanity is separated from God and second that humanity needs to be reconciled with God. The differences come in how that reconciliation is acquired. Most religions focus on rules and rituals. When those rules are followed or those rituals are performed, the person is attempting to be made right with God or gain favor. After those rituals are performed, it is taught that God will accept the person who performed them. Christianity presents a very different view of finding the acceptance of God. While the other religions attempt to reach God, Christianity is about God reaching down to us. Friends, true religion is a relationship. Most world religions try to balance the scales of their good and bad deeds, hoping to have more good deeds on the day they die. Christianity is about doing good deeds too, but teaches a very different message as to the motivation for the positive actions. Christianity, until Jesus returns, is about following a heavenly King not an earthly one. Our rules and rituals are done out of a thankfulness to God and a desire to live a clean and holy life. Those rules and rituals are not done to obtain reconciliation with God or to earn God’s favor. A relationship with God is a gift we can never earn.

 

Pray we realize that often we do not know what is best for ourselves. Pray seek God’s direction instead of our own. Pray because God loved us first, through Jesus a man, that we decide to follow Jesus who is completely reconciled to the Father and also divine. Pray we realize the resurrection power of a relationship with Christ as our King. Pray our religion is based on following Jesus so we might be reconciled to God not just for a time but for eternity. Pray our motivations stem from our thankfulness for the salvation found in that relationship. Pray we love in the Spirit. Pray we are Enlighted to the True Religion Jesus had in mind.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Are We Going To Be Creative And Resilient Enough To Find A Way To Overcome Obstacles?

Are We Going To Be Creative And Resilient Enough To Find A Way To Overcome Obstacles?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Today’s devotional is about personal responsibility and paralysis. It is about the effects of kings, kin and kindness in motivating us to action. But is also about those things that might restrain us from our better selves and how we deal with them. Friends, sometimes we must crack open our comfort zone and not just follow the crowd. It comes down to this question. Are We Going To Be Creative And Resilient Enough To Find A Way To Overcome Obstacles?

 

Scripture: Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” When Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and set a king over them.” Samuel then said to the people of Israel, “Each of you return home.”

 

1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22a (NRSV)

 

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

 

Mark 2:1-12 (NRSV)

 

Message: The elder leaders of Israel seem to typically have the wrong spirit and a lack of heart. In today’s text from Samuel they demand a king be appointed to rule over them. What idiots! If only they had chosen to follow God they would not have needed a king. In comparison, don’t you just love the story of the friends bringing the paralytic man to Jesus. This is a great story, a great heartwarming testimony of faith and friendship. In the face of opposition of the power brokers, these friends find a way that not only honors God but pragmatically helps their friend. We do not know much about this paralyzed man or his friends. Some suggest that they were masons. We do not know if it was a long-term paralysis or something new in his life. We do not know whether it is the result of an illness or an accident. We do however know is this guy has a condition and is unable to move. He is paralyzed and is unable to get around on his own. And we do know he had friends. And when the friends had heard about Jesus, heard about what He was saying and what He had been doing they immediately went to their friend, put him on a bed, and carried him to where Jesus was! They were willing to do what it took to get their friend to Jesus, even if it meant raising the roof.

 

Pray we follow the right rules. Pray we are not prideful. Pray we are not unloving. Pray we are not hypocritical. Pray we do not lack joy. Pray we are not selfish. Pray we have friends. Pray we persevere. Pray we find new ways to share the experience of Jesus. Pray our lives become great stories that inspire others. Pray we realize that Jesus is all the king we need. Pray we have reliance and creativity. Pray we realize that we do not have to follow the crowd, we must follow Jesus.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson