Today’s reading from Luke 2:22-40 narrates adoration of Jesus by two elderly persons, Anna and Simeon, who were wrapping Jesus in great expectations. Speaking of Great Expectations, that’s the title of Charles Dickens’ hallowed, 1861 novel, whose central character is an orphan child named “Pip.” Jesus and Pip have something in common, including an adventurous life amid many colorful characters and situations. In some similar sense, Anna and Simeon in the biblical text remind people of faith how wonderful can be the great expectations of God’s blessings, which can bring joy to faithful people of all ages (and despite the hardship of age and fragility).Read More →

God bless you on this marvelous Christmas Eve. Prepare for the Christ child to inspire and empower you this season and beyond. Amid the holiday cheer looms a relevant and serious question: Do you have a [spiritual] life? Christmas is the time when people often focus on birth, including the manger scene with the baby Jesus and all the pastoral trappings of his ancient family. Even more so in the here-and-now, God wants everyone to embrace the wonders of spiritual life that Jesus’ birth represents. Are you ready for a decisive spiritual transformation?  What better time than now to embrace rebirth, renewal and restoration. Jesus’Read More →

Today’s lectionary message from John 1 continues to emphasize John the Baptist’s unusual role. The sense is that John is proclaiming an attention-demanding message as a prelude or preparation for whom he describes as the true Messiah (i.e., Jesus). John the Baptist’s exuberant announcement of Jesus aligns splendidly with the Advent theme of joy. We may never know for sure just how much of an impact John had on the Judaism of his day. Nonetheless, there was something significant in John’s message and methods because the Bible suggests that John was a public sensation, a messenger of God whose form of baptism and repentance attractedRead More →

Today’s selection from Mark 1:1-8 presents John the Baptist. Surpassing his well-known title, John is more than just a historical curiosity. In the context of the gospel story, John is interpreted as a transition to Jesus. “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way. . . ‘ “ (Mark 1:2b). In their looking back, it is likely that the author(s) who collected and wrote Mark perceived John as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. John’s distinctive teachings may have been interpreted as paving the way for Jesus’ Gospel. What is John’s background?Read More →

Today we highlight Jesus’ talk about a universal cataclysm which will end history (Mark 13:24-37). It’s challenging to wrangle such a depressing topic into hopeful holiday cheer. There’s only so much that can be done to transform the last judgment of death and destruction into an uplifting message. What drives some peoples’ preoccupation with catastrophic biblical prophecies? Financial gain and a morbid fascination with enemies’ destruction feed some of the end-time mania. Sensationalist captains of the apocalypse industry create a self-justifying enterprise that builds egos and bank accounts. The culmination is that the horrible end of history has grown into a lucrative endeavor and aRead More →

 Today’s focus is Matthew 25:31-46, a passage about final judgment. The text reveals a Jesus who, along with angels, will come and gather all the nations, dividing everyone between good and evil, sheep and goats, right and left. Jesus places himself at the center of this psychodrama, saying that he is the king who will decide who gets to pass into heaven or, sadly, into a lake of fire which is also reserved for Satan and his entourage. For those who crave stark dichotomies, the idea of dividing everyone into either good or evil at a final judgement is irresistible. The Bible words suggest thatRead More →

Today message arises from Jesus’ parable about talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Jesus’ overt language focuses on using talents—ancient units of money—in a manner that multiplies through wise investment. What was an ancient talent worth? The closest reckoning indicates that in Jesus’ day, one talent was the amount that an ordinary day laborer would receive in twenty years.             In the parable, three slaves had each received talents from a departing owner. One slave received five talents, the second was given two, and the third received only one talent, each according to their ability (an important qualification). When the master returned, he demanded an account of whatRead More →

Today’s focus is Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus’ stark parable about bridesmaids and lamps. The story reveals five wise bridesmaids who were prepared with extra lamp oil, and five foolish bridesmaids who chose not to bring extra oil. The situation became serious when the man of honor arrived, the bridegroom who would soon be married.  The bridegroom became angry when he discovered that only the five wise bridesmaids with extra oil were prepared for his imminent wedding celebration. Prior to the bridegroom’s arrival, the foolish bridesmaids tried to get the wise five to lend them some oil. “‘No!’” was the reply from the wise bridesmaids, who rightlyRead More →

  Today’s message includes insights from both Micah 3:5-12 and Matthew 23:1-12. The timeless topic includes avoiding false prophets while also practicing what you preach. Or put another way, avoid life-destroying hypocrisy by matching your life walk with your religious talk. “Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths” (Micah 3:5). This verse highlights fake religious prophets, those who speak from comfort and convenience but who have no sympathy or empathy for the vast majority of citizens trying to survive. ThisRead More →