Money, Money, Money (Rich Toward God)

The texts before us this morning all deal with the problems and possibilities of wealth. Because these texts concern us all, in applying them, I have sometimes changed the pronouns in the texts from the third person “they” and “them” to the first person “I” “we” and “us” and to the second person, “You,” both singular and plural. Let’s take a closer look. Continue reading

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Marthas and Marys

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

I love the Scripture for a variety of reasons.  I love it because it points us to Jesus Christ, and to the God that the New Testament calls “the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”  What does the hymnist say?

Beyond the sacred page; I seek thee Lord.
My Spirit pants for Thee, O Living Word.

I love the scripture, too, because it perfectly captures our human predicament. It lays bare the thoughts and actions of our ancestors, 100 generations removed, and as it does it penetrates deep into our own hearts and minds and shows us that we are not really so different than them.

This morning our gospel lesson looks at two sisters, Martha and Mary, who once entertained Jesus and (we can assume) his disciples and uses them to show us how we might respond in a similar situation.  When we read the text from St. Luke, with whom did you identify? Are you a Martha, or a Mary? I put that question to men and women alike, because two bachelor brothers, in the same situation, may not have acted so differently. Continue reading

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Dual Citizenship (Preached on July 3rd, 2022)

The Epistle to Diognetus was written between 130 and 200 A.D. by a member of the Johannine community.  In commenting on the place of Christians in the world is opines that “Every foreign country is (our) fatherland, and every fatherland is a foreign country.”  Every foreign country is (our) fatherland because Christians live in virtually every nation in our world. Every fatherland is a foreign country because as Christians we know that our true citizenship is not in the nations of this world but in the Kingdom of God.  As Paul says in Philippines 3, “Our commonwealth (citizenship) is in heaven, and from it we await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our humble bodies to be like his glorious body.” You and I hold dual citizenship. How then should we live?

What does the Bible say? Continue reading

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A New Commandment

This morning we are going to end up talking about love, and I thought we should begin with a definition of love. Available definitions run from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the concise to the comprehensive. 

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets of 14 lines each. No. 116 is a sublime definition of love, and my friend the late Hal Cole recited it at every opportunity. He insisted I learn the part that goes:

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.

Several years ago, in the early years of the war on terror, I saw a picture that captures the essence of this sonnet as nothing else could.  A beautiful young bride, dressed in white, is standing next to her groom, a Marine in dress blues.  His uniform is sharply creased, his gloves are pure white, and his chest is covered with medals; but his face has been horribly burned.  “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds…” Over the years, I have prayed for that Marine and his lady many times over, and I do so today. Continue reading

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What People Want

Way back in the year 2000 there was a movie entitled, “What Women Want.”  I don’t know how many people saw it, but enough people must have seen it to warrant a remake because in 2019 there was a sequel of sorts entitled “What Men Want.”  This morning I am going to fold those two titles into one and tell you “What People Want,” or, more specifically, “What Religious People Want,” especially, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, because Psalm 23 is claimed by all three major faiths.

According to the most beloved Psalm in the Bible, people want several things.

We want “No want!” The Psalmist begins, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” According to Abraham Maslow, our most basic needs are physiological needs, including food, clothing, and shelter. All those needs are covered in Psalm 23, and Jesus may have had it in mind when he spoke to his disciples saying:

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Today you and I are blessed to be among the richest, best-fed people in the history of the world. We seldom miss a meal, never really go hungry, and are surprised when we can see the bottom of our freezer.  Others have not been so fortunate.  In the 1920s and 1930s, the farmers of Ukraine were asked to give up the lands they had worked for generations and move to the collective farms established as a part of the Soviet Union’s Five-Year Plans.  They often worked the same land they had always farmed, but all the food—and I mean all the food went to the collective. Thousands of men, women, and children were sent to prison for ten years or killed for holding back even a few pounds of grain.  Ukraine has been the breadbasket of Russia the way Kansas and Nebraska make up the breadbasket of the United States. That is just one reason that Putin wants Ukraine. We ought to be concerned with the war in Ukraine for many reasons.  One that stands out is that the world’s food supply has been severely hurt by it—and shortages are ahead for many. I am pleased that our little church has now given almost $9,000.00 to the Board of World Mission for the relief of Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic and in Germany. We may be called upon to do more. Continue reading

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