Category Archives: Bible

April 18, 2022

Luke 24:6 The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery?” (The Message Bible)

Don’t you love Easter Egg hunts? Before covid we had one each year with hundreds of plastic eggs scattered all around the grounds. Inside each egg was a piece of candy and children would seek them out, open them up and enjoy the treat. But this would only happen once a year for an hour. At no other time would children come nor would their parents bring them to look for eggs among the bushes. If they did, we would think it very strange. Even if they came the very next day, we would have to tell them the eggs are all gone and ask “didn’t you see the date and time on the signs or website?” In the above passage, the men (we later hear they are angels) tell the women who came to anoint Jesus’ body that they are too late. Jesus was no longer there. Had they missed the signs? They certainly had missed them! How about you? Where are you looking for Jesus this Easter? 

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April 11, 2022

Luke 19:36 As he rode, the people gave him a grand welcome, throwing their coats on the street. (The Message Bible)

The Sunday before Easter is referred to as Palm Sunday but I am not sure why. Of the four gospels, only John makes any reference to palms. Matthew and Mark use a word that gets translated as “leafy branches” but is not the same word John uses that gets translated as palms. Luke only mentions articles of clothing being thrown on the street as Jesus passes through on a donkey. The Old Testament talks about a general named Jehu who used military force to take the throne of the son of the hated king Ahab. 2 Kings 9:13 tells us that Jehu’s supporters “quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, ‘Jehu is king!’” Whether it is palms or leafy branches or clothing, the point was that the people were giving Jesus royal treatment as he came to Jerusalem on that Sunday before Passover. How will you give Jesus royal treatment this year? 

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April 4, 2022

John 12:3 The fragrance of the oils filled the house. (The Message Bible)

Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, has just dumped some expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. Smells are amazing things. A scent can elicit a feeling or thought that can connect you with a moment from your past in a way that is even stronger than an image. The smell of a special meal cooking can do that or flowers in the air or home. I think the writer of this passage knew how impactful smells can be and perhaps was even calling upon the memory of this fragrance or a similar one that might connect the reader with a powerful occasion. We sometimes hear people ask, “What does God look like?” Perhaps another question raised here is “What does Jesus smell like?” In the context of the whole story from verses 1-8 the answer might be that he smells of love. What does love smell like to you? For Mary and Jesus in this moment it smelled like this special perfume that reflected Jesus’ upcoming death on the cross and his burial. When was the last time the fragrance of Jesus enveloped you?

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March 28, 2022

Luke 15:30 ‘Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’ (The Message Bible)

This line is insightful because in the very next passage the father responds “This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive!” (32). They are both referring to the same person. Of course, many of us are both children to parents and siblings at the same time, but we may not always acknowledge the relationship for one reason or another. Back in the ‘60s there was a popular song titled “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” Wikipedia informs us, “James Wells, Moderator of the United Free Church of Scotland, tells the story of a little girl carrying a big baby boy in his 1884 book The Parables of Jesus. Seeing her struggling, someone asked if she wasn’t tired. With surprise she replied: “No, he’s not heavy; he’s my brother” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_Ain%27t_Heavy,_He%27s_My_Brother). Who is the person next door, down the block, in your office or class, across from you at the dinner table? Are they someone else’s concern/responsibility/problem? Or are they God’s opportunity for you?  

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March 21, 2022

Luke 13:2 Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all. (The Message Bible)

Most of us grew up in school systems where grades were given regularly on report cards and we knew they were important. The better the grades the more likely you were to get privileges around school, get into a better college, and end up with a more lucrative job. If you were on the other end of the spectrum, you were likely to have a much harder time, or at least we feared so. Many people came to view God in a similar manner, dispensing rewards to those who performed in a superlative way while punishing those who didn’t make the grade. The above verse is one place among several where Jesus says that is not an accurate picture. We don’t know why some people seem to get a greater degree of suffering than others, but Jesus assured us that there was not a one-to-one correlation between being bad and having bad things happen to you. That is not necessarily good news. Most of us take comfort in believing that we can manipulate the system to our advantage, that we can be good enough to avoid tragedy, that if we are vigilant all will be well. Without such a system we are helpless in the hands of a God who we cannot totally comprehend. Well, yes, maybe there is more going on with God and God’s ways than we can completely understand. What do you think? 

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March 14, 2022

Luke 13:35 Just then some Pharisees came up and said, “Run for your life! Herod’s got your number. He’s out to kill you!” (The Message Bible)

The person these Pharisees are warning is Jesus. Of course, Herod is a mortal threat. After all, he had John the Baptist arrested and beheaded. But when did the Pharisees become so concerned for Jesus’ well-being? Maybe these were a special few that weren’t as antagonistic towards Jesus as their other representatives are portrayed in the gospels. Maybe they just wanted Jesus out of their territory and thought this was a good way to make that happen. Maybe they wanted to be against Herod and, well, for the moment at least, the enemy of my enemy can be my friend. We simply don’t know. But the statement above allows Jesus the opportunity to explain that he is not about to change his course in response to outside influence. He knows what he is about, what he is called to do, and plans to see it through no matter what the threats or consequences may be. Can you say the same? 

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March 7, 2022

Luke 4:3, 4 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

One of the interesting things about this temptation is that, at another time, Jesus is recorded as having produced a lot of bread. In Luke 9:10-17 there is a story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Where did all that bread come from? I guess this isn’t breaking news, but sometimes it is not the action alone that makes something right or wrong, good or bad, but the attitude or motivation behind it. In the above passage he may have been tempted to satisfy his own hunger in a non-traditional way. But perhaps he was tempted to prove his status as Son of God by changing a stone into bread. Prove it to whom? To the devil? Maybe. But maybe the temptation was to prove it to himself, to not trust his inner connection to God but to rely on outward confirmation. We can easily dismiss this temptation if we only think of the action involved. How many of us will ever consider turning a stone into bread? But if we think in terms of our attitudes and motivations, of whom we truly trust, of what assurance we require or demand…. Well, that could be a Lenten journey.

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February 28, 2022

Luke 9:41 Jesus said, “What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? (The Message Bible)

There is an older folk song that asks “Where have all the flowers gone?” If you don’t remember it here is a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hxg3B-1OsA. In the past week our TVs have been filled with the images of fighting all too reminiscent of WWII. There is hardly ever a time on our big blue ball of a planet that one group of people, big or small, hasn’t been active in killing off another group of people, big or small. The song asks “O when will they ever learn.” Jesus’ words above are not specifically addressing war but they are addressing the lack of faith and love in the human condition. He was condemning that generation but he could just as easily been condemning ours. How many times does he have to go over these things? O when will we ever learn. Prayers for the Ukrainians and the Russians and all who are suffering this time around. 

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February 21, 2022

Luke 6:37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

This is Jesus preaching. Presbyterian ministers wear black robes at formal services. They represent academic garments like those worn at graduations and symbolize their study of the scriptures. I’ve watched too many Law and Order episodes, so they sometimes remind me of judges in court settings. Of course, Jesus didn’t mean we don’t have to make value decisions on what is right and wrong in personal conduct. That is part of life. But it does mean that we shouldn’t conduct our affairs like our world is a courtroom and we are sitting on the bench. We judge athletic performances on Sports-talk radio. We judge celebrity fashions on red carpet shows. We judge others based on which college they attended or which neighborhood they live in or which beach community they frequent. Judgement becomes a form of entertainment, a source of comedy, and, too often, a way of life. The standards we project out on others have a nasty habit of circling back on ourselves and have more to do with personal taste than with moral goodness. Can you discern without judging? I believe Jesus implies here that you can. How would you go about that?

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February 14, 2022

Luke 6:20, 21 You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding. You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal. You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning. (The Message Bible)

This has been a period of time for celebrating success. We are watching for medal winners at the Olympics. We viewed the biggest sporting event of the year Sunday evening and judged the commercials. And today we celebrate achievements in romance. Our world wants winners! But what percent of the population competes in the winter Olympics? How many kids that dream of playing in the Super Bowl actually get there? What number of romances really turn out to be a happily-ever-after? Congrats to those who make it in these categories, but what about the rest of us? If you feel left behind sometimes, remember that Jesus taught that the scale is just the opposite of all this. It may be those who lack the things associated with success who find, in their need, God providing, sustaining and comforting. Could it be that they are the real winners after all?

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