What Kind Of Reward Are You Seeking?

What Kind Of Reward Are You Seeking?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

The ability to calm the soul and wait for God is one of the most difficult things in a Christian life. It seems that it is so much easier to worry than it is to worship, to be restless and even reckless than to rest in the prize and plan God intends for us to both claim and obey. What Kind Of Reward Are You Seeking?

 

Scripture: “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Matthew 11:16 – 19, 25-30 (NRSV)

 

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)

 

Message: Here is the truth…There is no short cut to love. It takes time. Only when we act from a place of rest are we prepared to act in the right way. Thoreau called it productive idleness. You see rest is vital to our spiritual, physical and emotional lives. It is essential to our effectiveness. Follow the divine model. God rested after He created. Jesus recharged His spiritual and emotion and physical batteries when he walked the earth. Jesus prescribed time off for His disciples. We too need to rest… Let us remember, even as we rejoice in his gracious forgiveness that there is a purpose in taking a vacation. We are to be rejuvenated. We are to drink from the fountain of rest in the rhythm of life God intended. We are to relax in the redemptive love that calms as we are showered in His blessings and rescued from death. So friends, find a sinner’s rest and let Jesus carry your heavy burdens so you might have salvation. Find a saint’s rest of communion with God as you rejoice that you have been rescued from tears because you obeyed the key to a relationship of love with God. The Fourth Commandment sets the tone but today’s scripture in Matthew presents an even better way. Here we are freed to come to Jesus, freed from even the heavy burden of the law and religion, freed to be motivated and respond with our full effort. We live in a tense, uptight and fast paced world and may also face a heavy burden of religion and family as well… a heavy burden to produce at all costs. The combined affect can be very unpleasant if priorities are out of order. Today we learn that we can find rest in the Lord…rest not found in the church…  rest not found in work or family but rest found in relationship with Him who hears the voice of the Father. Instead of working to find rest we can work out of the rest we find in Jesus. In Christ, we are completely forgiven… absolutely accepted and totally loved…. So each day we put on the yoke of His friendship…each day we respond to His gentle voice…each day we grow more mature in the faith we realize that the real work has already been done… we just need to join Jesus in the joy of His purpose. What Jesus promises to those who seek is ultimately a rejoicing in God. Yes, we enjoy the gifts. We treasure them. We exult in them. We give thanks for joy, and peace, and answered prayer. But the real business of life is in seeking God and finding this divine presence. The infinite potential of human work is only realized with God when we are not at earthly work. Only then is it properly productive. What we are to seek is the ecstasy of Christ.

 

Pray we are inspired by the great invitation and realize its reward is what we all are to seek. Pray we discover the rewards of prayer and compassion for those in need. Pray we honor Christ in our relationships and love with abandon. Pray we discover the rewards of hospitality and endurance and quality and faithfulness. Pray that we give up our way of self, for His yoke and His way. Pray that we would be connected to Jesus…to follow His lead and complement His power, as we learn to cooperate in His work and find rest when His strength is combined with our obedience. Pray that we find rest for the stressed in a relationship with Jesus.
Pray we seek rewards not for our own sake but seek them in God as a fruit of our relationship with the Divine. Pray
that we shed the burdens we should shed. Share the burdens we should share and shoulder those burdens we need to shoulder. Pray that we help to restore those who have faltered in the faith though the patient, kind and loving acts of Christian friendship. Pray that we not be tempted in the process but do what is noble, right, lovely, praiseworthy and excellent. Pray that we have compassion on others and when the relationship gets time consuming, expensive and just plain hard, know that it is Jesus we serve and whatever burden we are carrying, He is there yoked to us teaching us and lightening the load.
Pray that we help to restore those who have faltered in the faith though the patient, kind and loving acts of Christian friendship. Pray that we not be tempted in the process but do what is noble, right, lovely, praiseworthy and excellent. Pray we pray without pride. Pray we pray seeking God’s person, presence, pardon, provision, and purpose. Pray we not play at religion observing life but become actively engaged in it. Pray we develop a sense of wisdom and history on our vacations this summer.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

When Is A Good Time Not To Fast?

When Is A Good Time Not To Fast?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Today’s scripture is about changing traditions. We see it in the story of Jacob claiming Esau’s blessing and birthright and in Jesus and the disciples not keeping traditional fasts while others felt so obliged. There is a fairness issue the arises out of both stories, but also a motivation for us to open our eyes to what God has ordained in Holy History. It becomes clear that Jesus was not out to reform Judaism but to transform Judaism into something new. Both stories set into motions a series of events that ultimately give life in a new form, and a new way to experience God. They both are incidents in conflict with traditional approaches. They are about changing the rules of opinion and practice in families and in the practice of religion. Think about the story of the Prodigal and the elder son. The tension and drama is real. Likewise, in today’s lectionary stories, some new questions are posed. Jesus gives us some images to help us understand. So, meditate on the images of a new bridegroom, new clothes and new wine and contemplate, When Is A Good Time Not To Fast?

 

Scripture: Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore, he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

 

Genesis 25: 29-35 (NRSV)

 

When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite; and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.

 

Genesis 26:34-35 (NRSV)

 

When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” He said, “See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.” Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob. So he went in to his father, and said, “My father”; and he said, “Here I am; who are you, my son?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.” But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” Then he said, “Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

 

Genesis 27:1-5, 15-29 (NRSV)

 

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

 

Matthew 9:14-17 (NRSV)

 

Message: Let’s face it, today’s scripture can be a bit controversial. Jesus did not conduct His ministry as the Pharisees thought He should. And Jacob was a trickster that we have trouble loving. Pursuing peace with everyone is a tall order. We need to assert our position but I wonder if we are stealing someones birthright to a relationship when we exclude them. The challenge I think is having the right mind set in approaching this delicate situation.  It is a renewing of the mind that we need to seek, being in the world, but not of it. Not conforming to the world’s expectations but being transformed. Certainly, for the Christian there is a time to be removed from the world, seeking holiness, and fasting, the Bible is clear on what that is, but as we mature I think we need to embrace the world once again, not in its worldliness and ungodliness but as a place of redemption. That is what Jesus did. That is what we are to do too. Scripture does not command Christians to fast. God does not require or demand it of us. But at the same time, fasting can be good if not forced. Too often though, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food not about experience God in prayer. It is a matter of timing. Being too hungry can lead to poor outcomes, such as in the forfeiting of Esau’s birthright but also can wake us up as in the story of the prodigal. Generally, though the purpose of being a little hungry should be to take our eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God and then return to the world to help others. Fasting may indeed be a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting is to be a tool to help us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. But as today’s scripture makes clearer the point is to be transformed for a blessing. And if that blessing is already with us, as close as Jesus and the disciples, the point of the fasting has already been met and it is time to eat, drink and be merry.

 

Pray we are not just reformed but transformed. Pray our attention is on God. Pray we not give in to the empty allure of immediate gratification but also pray we not miss out on the wonders of life and its joys. Pray we value our inheritance as Christians. Pray that when we face injustice in a world of sin, we seek Jesus’ redemptive act in our life. Pray we extend the grace and growing sanctification in our lives in the form of the peace of forgiveness to others so that they might experience something new.  

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Are You Willing To Follow In Love With A Relationship Of Promise?

Are You Willing To Follow In Love With A Relationship Of Promise?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

The setting for the passage from Matthew is the call of Matthew and a dinner with sinners. The passage from Genesis today has the passing of one generation to another as the setting but it is really about the story of Isaac and Rebekah and though the most winsome of the passages have been left out of today’s selection, it is still a love story with a sweetness and simplicity of mutual devotion for the ages…literally a marriage made in heaven. What they have in common with the verses from Luke is that they are about strong willed people and that some will be being willing to follow and that others will not be committed. Are You Willing To Follow In Love With A Relationship Of Promise?

 

Scripture: Sarah lived one hundred twenty-seven years; this was the length of Sarah’s life. And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. Abraham rose up from beside his dead, and said to the Hittites, “I am a stranger and an alien residing among you; give me property among you for a burying place, so that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but will go to my country and to my kindred and get a wife for my son Isaac.” The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land; must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb .Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

 

Genesis 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67 (NRSV)

 

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew 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 the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

 

Matthew 9:9-13 (NRSV)

 

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

 

Luke 9:57-62 (NRSV)

 

Message: There is a cost for following Jesus. And frankly it is a relationship where there is no earthly security. It is worth it if you love, but you must be strong enough and that means abiding in the Spirit and forfeiting earthly ties. If you are called to be a disciple of Christ, then it must be a priority above all else. We are to leave our other priorities behind…family…business…everything. Friends, the point Jesus makes in Luke, and let no one mistake it, is that if you’re going to follow Jesus Christ then the claims of His Kingdom come before anything and anyone else. We are not to be distracted by the world…by money…by power… by family. And there is no turning back for once you start with Jesus you are spoiled for everything else. People still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow Him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved, well enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. If you practice a religion that protects you from the hard unpleasantness of life, then it is little more than escapism. The Great Physician came to heal us for life eternal not to insulate us from it.

 

Pray we are not lukewarm Christians. Pray we finish the race. Pray we go deeper with our faith. Pray we are authentic Christians. Pray we commit ourselves completely and hold nothing back.
Pray we not look back but always forward. Pray we consider the cost of following Jesus but also consider the cost of not following Jesus. Pray we are guided with a purpose in this life we have been given and discover an opportunity to glorify God in a relationship of promise. Pray we learn to love. Pray we follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Pray we are healed for a purpose. Pray we experience God’s mercy.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

So, Is This Why We Ask For Less Than God Is Willing To Provide?

So, Is This Why We Ask For Less Than God Is Willing To Provide?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Today we continue to look at lectionary scripture from Matthew and frankly I am amazed at the close textual connection between this Gospel and the book of Genesis which we have also been reading. There is an order in the history and the writing of it. But more specifically, today’s texts both show us examples of God providing more that we might imagine, and that might well be an example to us, for God also want us to give in abundance, but also, in the reading of it there is a sense of chaos here that is both troubling and intriguing. Scripture tells us that we are to ask for immediate needs but what about future needs, will they too be given unto us without negative consequences? The story of the Garden and the Tree should trouble us enough for us to consider innovations and the unintended consequence of becoming like gods. So, Is This Why We Ask For Less Than God Is Willing To Provide?

 

Scripture: After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.

 

Genesis 22:1b-19 (NRSV)

 

 

And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he then said to the paralytic—’stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

 

Matthew 9:1-8 (NRSV)

 

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Philippians 4:6-7 (NRSV)

 

Message: God puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we will not settle for less, but too often we do. And I wonder why this is and then I realize that at some level I understand that innovation has challenges. Emotions cloud our thinking in the life of new things. And let’s face it, technology creates new problems such as the war between my computer and my printer and my sanity. But calamities lead to advances. Inventions benefit from tragedies. Penicillin was mass produced because of war. Dislocation and going into something else can have a stimulating effect. Creative things happen from problems. We need to take a positive view of what unintended consequences can do for us. Sometimes we become anxious in facing those times when the Lord puts us into a situation where we cannot see the answer and our only option is to rely on God or an IT Guru for the solution. We have learned that trying to resolve the dilemma on our own only makes the matter worse. No Murphy’s Law is not a real law but there does seem to be a conservation of complications. We see this challenge in the story of the Lord providing a ram for Abraham in a time a testing and in the story of Jesus being tested as well in his own home town. The beauty is that if we are always seeking the best from God, especially in challenging situations, we tend to also have a new and fresh encounter with God. Interestingly, historically the greatest innovations come out of times of difficulty. So, for Christians the message is that we are to look at unintended consequences as an opportunity for an even better innovation. And that means one thing intellectually and then another emotionally and spiritually for we must walk with sincerity, honesty, holiness, and integrity of a relationship with God if we want to receive what God is willing to provide. So, if we want the best of God we need to give our best as well, especially in those situations that are most challenging. Listen, God always is persistent with his promise to give us the best but we are not able to achieve it because many times we are satisfied with what we have instead of really learning from the intended consequences of life such as loss and failure. Perhaps you have dreams you have lost. Perhaps you think you are a failure. Think again. We need to get better at learning how to innovate with God. Remember God wants to give us success but brilliant ideas without God fall apart. Remember that Jesus promises that we will do greater things than He did. And that friends requires a great faith and prayer that wants everything that God can give us, but not for our glory but for God’s. For in the end chaos happens and we need God by our side if we are to have hope of getting better at using it.

 

Pray we
change our thinking and believe we can do all things though Jesus who gives us strength. Pray we believe that God has a plan for our welfare and a future with hope. Pray we remain steadfast in a time of testing believing we will always be loved. Pray we believe that because God gave us his Son for us that we should believe that this grace would extend to all things we might need. Pray we believe that when we are called to God’s purpose and we love God, all things will work together for good. Pray we not compromise our life’s calling.  Pray we do not think the best is behind us but that it is yet to come and that God will fulfill it for us. Pray we remember that God is persistent in giving the best for us and we need to respond with our best.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Who Wants to be Free?

Who Wants to be Free?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

This morning in the text from Genesis we have the story of the expulsion of Hagar, the Egyptian slave woman who had given birth to Abraham’s first son Ishmael. The story has drama because Sarah became pregnant and she gave birth to a son, and Abraham named him Isaac. Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 years old when he was born. God’s covenant with Abraham was being fulfilled. Understandably Sarah and Hagar did not get along for the obvious reasons. Unfortunately, Hagar doubted that God would keep the promise made to her in the desert and protect and watch over them (See Genesis 16). Much like the disciples in the storm Hagar doubted. But then things got worse for Hagar, her doubt moved to despair. And in her despair, she had given up on God. Then God, keeping the promise made to Hagar, opened her eyes to the destiny for Ishmael and herself. And friends, let’s face it, we have the same opportunity and challenge today. Our culture brings objections against Christianity. It is popular to object to Christianity because sometimes the truth of Christianity is painful…sometimes it is scary…sometimes it is unpleasant. It requires us to change. It requires us to give our best to God. It requires our faith in a destiny. Unfortunately, some people claim, “that it may be true for you but it is not true for me,” and then rejecting the truth, some come to the crazy conclusion….Who Wants to be Free?

 

Scripture: Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.

 

Genesis 21:5, 8-20a (NRSV)

 

When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go!” So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.

 

Matthew 8:28-34 (NRSV)

 

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

 

Proverbs 3:7 (NRSV)

 

Message: Today we have already looked at the story of Hagar in the book of Genesis. Now let us reflect on it considering a passage from Matthew about two demon possessed men. Jesus had just done a great deal of emotional and spiritual work and seemed to want to get away with His disciples perhaps to do some teaching. He had calmed the storm on the boat ride to a place called the Gergesenes. When they landed two men came to meet Him. They were possessed by demons. Interestingly it was the demons that recognized Jesus and begged Him for mercy. Apparently, the demons knew that Jesus would cast them out of the men. We see the complexity of the situation in today’s story from Matthew that shows forth the problem when the demon of despair grips us. We also see the simple solution. We see how the love of money and income and position gets in the way of our experiencing Jesus. We see the fascination with death and demons and the desire for power, bound by evil. We see how Jesus trumps everything. Friends, choices still have consequences. There is right and wrong and we need to do the next right thing. But if we petition the Lord to provide us what we need, most of us have no need to enter the doorway for the depressed. Real freedom is found in Jesus. We are to invite Him to join us in the fight. We are to find the truth by holding to His teachings and obeying them. When we choose Jesus, He is the truth and the promise of life abundant.

  
 

Pray that we reject the myths that make us miserable, but pray we not give up on God. Pray that we commit to seek the truth. Pray that we commit to live the truth. Pray that we commit to believe the truth. Pray that we experience the uncommon freedom of grace. Pray that we realize that Jesus is in charge no matter what people believe. Pray that we realize He has authority over everything and will meet us wherever we are. Pray that we give our lives to the one who gave His life to us. Pray that we are never content to just hear the word. Pray that we see His word manifested. Pray we realize that despite doubts and even moments of depression we each have a destiny as Christians. Pray that we give God the best, because when we do His grace abounds and we become free indeed.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Where Do We Go From Here?

Where Do We Go From Here?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Here it is the Fourth of July, Independence Day. And I ask you to join me in contemplating our lectionary scripture on the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the story of Jesus controlling the weather, with the history of our nation as a backdrop. And as I think about the scripture considering our nation and about how close we have come as humans to becoming like gods, I seriously wonder what our culture is going to look like in a hundred years if humanity accomplishes all the things that people have contemplated. We have come a long way over the last 241 years. It is of course a blip in human history but prompts today’s question. Where Do We Go From Here?

 

Scripture: When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, they said, “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.” And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords; your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die. Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one? —and my life will be saved!” He said to him, “Very well, I grant you this favor too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there, for I can do nothing until you arrive there.” Therefore the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord; and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the Plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace. So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the Plain, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had settled.

 

Genesis 19:15-29 (NRSV)

 

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

 

Matthew 8:23-27 (NRSV)

 

Jesus began to weep.

 

John 11:35 (NRSV)

 

Message: Today’s question is taken from a book title authored by Dr. Martin Luther King and its prodding is not limited to a vision of a world at economic peace but something more. You see, Lady Liberty, beyond her call to national allegiance on this Fourth of July, suggests the full possibility that beyond the American Dream is the Kingdom of God… that it is not to be so much for the privileged, but more a comfort for the homeless, a welcome to the stranger, a hope of the possibility for the poor who seek a better life. I have often said that Immokalee is the Ellis Island of Florida. And what greets the immigrant here is not so much Lady Liberty but the Lady of Guadalupe, the mother of Jesus…Here the charity is hopefully not so toxic as the guaranteed income that the Seminole Tribe members receive. So today we contemplate where Jesus’ liberating ministry of justice, love, kindness and humility is taking us. And the first thing we must acknowledge is that we are a privileged lot. We are privileged to disagree, privileged to speak, to worship, to petition, to hope and to dream. We are privileged to share with others the greatest resource in the universe. And in so many ways we some are becoming like gods and that troubles me, for a world of have and have nots is not the sea change we hunger for. The reality is that we live in a changing the world that is even forcing the traditions of religion to transform. Deep down we hope with one accord that there will be a just and equal sharing of the things that the earth affords for the healing of the nations. Such is the picture of heaven on earth. But not all are of one accord in this vision. The future has both the hopes and challenges of our past. Change takes time. For example, in the Declaration of Independence, the word united in referring to the United States of America is not capitalized. It would not be until after the Civil War that we as a nation would be referred to in the singular. We have indeed been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven as President Lincoln once said.  But instead of being proud to be an American, on this day, perhaps we ought to be saying, is that we are grateful that we are American while realizing the character of this changing world is indifferent to tradition. Friends we have a choice of community or chaos. The world is unforgiving of frailty and is unlikely to respect past reputations. The new customs and practices to be formed are critical. Just as those who formed the beginnings of this nation and led it through civil war, those who suffer today from an economic condition of existence without security will eventually gain a voice. Economic systems that exploit labor are not sustainable. Still we will need to be worth our salt. Thankfully where there are tears there is hope of unity.

 

Pray we share the good news of transformation in Christ to the poor and to the rich. Pray we realize that the poor are more than those who live in human poverty but also the wise and the great, the good and the bad and the financially rich too, for God loves them all. Pray we realize that there can be spiritual and relational poverty that keeps us from enjoying our freedom as well as physical and financial poverty that captures most of our attention. Pray for the leaders of our nation, the leaders of our churches and the leader in each of us. Pray that we might be free…free indeed. Pray that we follow God’s call to welcome the needy. Pray we recognize our own poverty and weep in it. Pray we realize that we cannot hope to change the political, economic or social conditions of people by merely giving them a better education or begrudgingly welcoming them to our shores. Pray we realize that the legacy is in building up His Kingdom and righteousness for the greater glory in the transformational power of God. Pray we have not become a nation of heretics.

 

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson 

Where Do You Bring Your Doubts?

Where Do You Bring Your Doubts?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Well there is a lot we just do not know about Thomas the Apostle. He was called the twin but that could have been metaphorical for he had a believing side and a not believing side to his character. The stories about him though are interesting. Some say that Thomas was the only witness to the Assumption of Mary into heaven.  And as her body entered heaven, she dropped her belt.  Medieval art often depicts Thomas catching it. Thomas is perhaps best well known for not initially believing the apostles when they saw Jesus the first time after the resurrection.  Thomas saw Jesus himself during his second appearance, and touched the wounds on his hands. Some traditions say that Thomas traveled to eastern lands, including modern day Iran and Iraq, to evangelize to the people there about Jesus and these include stories of him baptizing the three Magi.  He is said to have settled in India, where perhaps at first, he was a stranger in a strange land, but then before he was martyred, I think he found a new home. Thousands of Indians claim to be descendants of the Christians that Thomas helped to convert.
For My Catholic friends, today is a feast day for Thomas. It was once held on the Winer Solstice but was changed to July 3rd. So, here’s to Thomas and since so many of the stories about him are not in the Bible, it prompts today’s question. Where Do You Bring Your Doubts?

 

Scripture: So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

 

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NRSV)

 

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

 

John 20:24-29 (NRSV)

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

 

John 14:1-4 (NRSV)

 

Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

 

John 11:16 (NRSV)

 

Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.

 

Luke 17:33 (NRSV)

 

Message: Originally the feast day for St. Thomas was on Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year around Christmas.  All sorts of traditions surrounded the day, including serving meat pies and charitable giving and dreaming about future spouses. The traditions are rich, and whether you believe them is not the focus of today’s communication. The core of the message and meditation today is about how our emotions effect whether we believe in things we cannot see…like acts of God and honest to goodness miracles. Essentially it is about trusting events though we are anxious. It is about the miracle of Jesus and the miracle of believing. And yes, the miracle of life itself. Of course, we all have doubts from time to time and sometimes they are intellectual about whether the stories in the Bible are true, for example, and sometimes spiritual about our own insecurities about being a Christian and whether we measure up, and sometimes they are circumstantial, encompassing all the “whys” of life, like why Thomas was challenged about the resurrection of Jesus when he had recently seen Lazarus raised from the dead. The point is that it can be hard to keep believing when we are anxious and fearful about circumstances. The thing is that Thomas gets a bad rap and that probably Thomas was not the hard-core skeptic that history has made him out to be. I think he was a man of courage. When Jesus decides to go to Bethany, to help Lazarus, his disciples tell him it would be suicidal to go back. But Thomas says in John 11:16, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” This is not a man that doubts Jesus. Maybe there is another reason why Thomas desired to inspected the pain of Jesus. Perhaps he wanted to know Jesus on a much deeper level so he could better face the pain and fears of life. Maybe that is why he brought the issue to Jesus.

 

Pray we bring our doubt to God. Pray we realize that doubt is not the opposite of faith. Pray we realize that our doubt is forgivable. Pray we realize that struggling with God is a sure sign that we indeed do have faith. Pray we realize that it is all right not to except easy answers and it is all right to ask deeper questions. Pray we not think small but have courage. Pray we realized that doubt can spring from a broken heart. Pray we rejoice because we believe and have not seen first-hand the resurrection. Pray we realize that when we seek to secure our life we lose it, but when we lose our life we gain it. Pray we believe that the strongest doubters can become the strongest believers. Pray God make our mind, soul and body a place where we feel comfortable and safe and loved. Pray God makes a home in each of us.

 

 

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

How Are You Helping The Cause of Christ?

How Are You Helping The Cause of Christ?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

After many stern warnings and instructions to His disciple makers, Jesus closes a focused discourse on mission work with a simply amazing promise from today’s text. Jesus had instructed His disciples to stay in homes and towns where they were welcomed. Now He promises to give rewards to those who receive His missionaries. The rewards promised to those who help His righteous servants are most meaningful, as if to say this is all going to be worth it if you are strong enough to follow it through and open your doors and share a meal and a cool drink. The mystery is that having heard all this, apparently, the disciples did not go out and start preaching the Gospel right away. This, for the most part, would happen after the resurrection, but little of it is written down in the Bible. We really know very little about the evangelical work of most of the disciples. But that is not essential. The real issue is not about us and the world knowing what we do, it is about being part of the experience of the Body. How Are You Helping The Cause of Christ?

 

Scripture: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

 

Matthew 10:40-42 (NRSV)

 

Message: In today’s text, we have a very important promise.
Those who faithfully served the Lord and who faithfully support mission workers will be rewarded. Jesus is identifying Himself with those in the mission field. The idea is that of a commissioned or authorized mission or emissary. The mission was that of the Father who authorized it and sent His Son who brings it into being, and who in turn authorizes and sends His disciples on the Father’s mission. The promised blessing is that while the disciples are on mission for Christ those who receive them as Christ’s messengers and representative will be blessed by Jesus. It is hard to even imagine receiving a greater blessing. The motive here is the motive of the Christian faith. It is not just charity but more. Ponder the possibility that the very giving of a cup of cold water to a missionary in need is like an offering of the Holy Grail of Christ that in a transformed state is given back to us in the power of the Spirit. You see these acts of unselfish service are to build up the Body and be motivated by a love for Jesus. And perhaps most powerfully our love for Jesus can be seen not only in how we treat and minister to those who cannot return the favor, but in the residual reality of the Body of Believers who continue the journey and in the promise because of this love. Friends, if we recognize a person as a disciple of Christ and treat them with kindness and hospitality, it will be remembered and rewarded. The value of these relationships is real. The engagement in purpose fulfilling. The reward amazing when we do this for Jesus and in the name of Christ.

 

Pray we realize that when we help a missionary of the Messiah it amounts to providing support to Christ. Pray we recognize the assistance of others. Pray we render service. Pray we rejoice in the reward. Pray we are true to our assigned mission. Pray we realize we might give without loving but that we cannot love without giving. Pray we are focused on Kingdom business as servants and stewards… as those receiving and those giving for the cause of Christ.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Is The Universe Friendly?

Is The Universe Friendly?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

I do not know about you but I need wisdom and affirmation on my faith walk. In the lectionary readings from Matthew we see that the Centurion had a measure of faith and he also had a deep concern for his servant. So too in our reading from Genesis we see that Abraham had faith and we see it played out in the story of the manifestation of the Trinity at the entrance to his tent and his servant like actions that followed. Faith is crucial to both stories birthing a hope rooted in an awareness of God and the promises of God as we walk with God. Thankfully God sends signs to cheer those who believe so we might answer in the affirmative today’s question about the journey of life. Is The Universe Friendly?

 

Scripture: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 

Micah 6:8 (NRSV)

 

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate. They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

 

Genesis 18:1-15 (NRSV)

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour. When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

 

Matthew 8:5-17 (NRSV)

 

Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.

 

2 Peter 1:4 (NRSV)

 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Romans 8:37-39 (NRSV)

 

Message: The word walk in the bible often symbolizes the way we live, the way we act, and the way we conduct ourselves in a certain way. People are typically strategic about everything they want to accomplish, unfortunately they often lack plans to know the God that knows the solution to their problems. Then they realize that after all effort is exerted in their cause of planning they must acknowledge God for the answer to their desires. It happened to Abraham and to the Centurion. We see this walking with the Lord clearly in the two lectionary stories from Genesis and Matthew. It is about a walk of faith that acknowledges the fact that life is a journey and life is a pilgrimage. But it is also a walk that acknowledges that God is with us and can be an amazing friend. So, to walk by faith is to live in the confident expectation of things that are to come. A good faith acknowledges that the universe is indeed friendly. Still, the people of this world are influenced by the things that are seen so be careful who you walk with. Too many live for wealth, power, and possessions; for the things, which this world can give. But the Christian is to look beyond what is seen. And so, to walk by faith requires that we become familiar with the promises that God has given to us. Thankfully the bible is filled with promises for believers. Nothing is more encouraging or nurturing to our faith than reading the promises of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the word of God shared by those on the journey with us.

 

Pray we believe in the power of one small step. Pray we walk in faith daily. Pray we realize that faith makes us soul compatriots of the Patriarchs. Pray we realize that God is in all life in the universe and God is love so we must affirm that creation is friendly. Pray we realize that the deepest reward of faith is a joyous friendship with Jesus. Pray we hang our faith on a promise of God. Pray we walk strategically and passionately with God.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

How Are You At Keeping Your Promises?

How Are You At Keeping Your Promises?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 
 

After healing a man of leprosy Jesus instructed the man to go to the priest, as was required by Jewish law, but with a warning not to say anything about the miracle to anyone on the way. To our way of thinking, Jesus would want everyone to know about the miracle for it was evidence of the Messiah. But Jesus knew that publicity over such miracles would hinder His mission and divert public attention from His primary message. And in addition, a lot of extraneous interventions would detract from the authenticity of the miracle, which was a stake in the ground saying the Messiah had arrived and the promise of God was about to unfold before their very eyes. Of course, the man told everyone and perhaps that is why Jesus was greeted the way he was on his return to Jerusalem with palm branches…the sign of a conquering king. The same issue is relevant today. God desires us to be focused on the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ more than the miracle of physical blessings. It is this Covenant of love…this surprising promise of purpose that we are to desire in our heart. How Are You At Keeping Your Promises?

 

Scripture: When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!” God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.” And when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

 

Genesis 17:1, 9-10, 15-22 (NRSV)

 

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

 

Matthew 8:1-4 (NRSV)

 

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Philippians 3:12-14 (NRSV)

 

Message: Normally it is a good thing to spread the Word of Jesus but when this goes against Jesus’ specific directions it becomes a little bit of a problem, for opinions about who God is, what God is like, how God deals with humans and what God expects of us differ widely. Telling people that God was incarnate on the earth before the time had come set the wrong expectations. You see not everyone that begs Jesus to be healed is healed physically…spiritually yes for God forgives sins and that was why Jesus came. But it is not easy to have an accurate perspective on Jesus and Christianity. The wrong emotions get in the way of the message. You see it is not easy to be blameless as Abraham in today’s text. We must be all in the game…fully committed to the cause. Let me give you an example of what I mean about the commitment to love and the promise it brings. There is a legend about Saint Francis of Assisi who had a natural horror of lepers. One day as he was riding his horse near Assisi he met a leper on the road. He felt frightened and repelled, but not wanting to disobey God’s command and break the law of love, he dismounted from his horse and ran to kiss him. As the leper stretched out his hand, expecting something, he received both money and a kiss. Francis immediately mounted his horse and although the field was wide open, without any obstructions, when he looked around he could not see the leper anywhere. Friends the earthly life we lead is such as this. We are to be challenge to be perfect in our love, obedience, benevolence and good works. So, even though this life is a puff of smoke we need to get out of your comfort zone and into the end zone. Here we might just meet Jesus.

 

Pray we realize that everyone needs to be touched by Jesus. Pray we are obedient Christians. Pray we have the right perspective on the promises of God. Pray we have faith in God keeping promises. Pray we are servants of Jesus and stewards of the mysteries of God worthy of the name Christian. Pray we trust God to lead us in our life to learn to love.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson