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 →

Today we’re in the spirit of Halloween as we meet a remarkable cast of characters found in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel 28:3-25. In the ghoulish theme of the season, we are taking a field trip along with ancient King Saul and a couple of his assistants. We’re off to see an unusual lady—unnamed—who has some fantastic powers. Okay, so this isn’t just some ordinary consultation that King Saul sought. The lady we’ll meet is politely referred to as a medium, otherwise known as a diviner or witch. Yikes! Hold on to your seats and don’t dim the lights during this bone chillingRead More →

Today’s lectionary from Matthew 22:15-22 addresses one of the greatest traps ever attempted for snaring Jesus. The lesson covers what people owe heaven and earth, with Jesus making a critical distinction between earthly taxes & government versus peoples’ obligation to serve God. So, who are the bad guys in today’s tale? They are the usual suspects, the Pharisees who were Jesus’ main critics. Yet there’s also some less mentioned villains, the Herodians, who were an elitist group supporting King Herod, the non-Jewish leader of Israel (duly approved by the occupying Romans). This dastardly duo of Herodian and Pharisaic conspirators unfolded their plot by first tryingRead More →

Jesus’ parable from Matthew 22:1-14 illustrates how people of faith should be prepared to accept God’s invitation with unstoppable dedication. Jesus’ metaphor of a king sending slaves to invite people to a wedding banquet is code for God’s historic connection to the Jews, and the celebration for the king’s son is a reference to Jesus’ status as God’s son. The wedding invitation has been made first to the Jews, God’s originally chosen people, but the parable suggests that they have rejected God. Over the centuries, many Christian writers and commentators have accusingly pointed to the ways in which Jews have been persecuted, as if theirRead More →

Today’s lectionary excerpt from Philippians 3:4b-14 focuses on Paul, who shares autobiographical highlights. Paul was taught as a rigorous, conservative Jew. He had it all: education, ethnic pride, great deeds, and an admirable personal morality. As for a wife, we don’t know why he didn’t mention that major aspect of his life. It would be highly unlikely that a person with his background would be single. Yet, nowhere can it be confirmed if or when Paul was married. We know that Paul didn’t think highly women, a sad fact revealed when he taught that women should have their heads covered and silent during worship (1Read More →

Today’s message from Matthew 21:23-32 examines an encounter between Jesus and religious bureaucrats. The critics asked where Jesus obtained his authority. Jesus responded by posing a counter- question, inquiring about the authority of John the Baptist. It’s funny, that responding to a question with a question is often frowned upon. We’re often taught not to do this because questioning a questioner can be impudent and impolite. However, certain situations such as with a hostile audience often require calculated violation of rhetorical norms. What Jesus asked his critics raised the controversial issue of John’s baptism, where it came from (heaven or earth). Both Jesus and theRead More →

Today’s message from Matthew 20: 1-16 showcases a parable about the kingdom of heaven. Although Jesus was a Jew, his movement differed significantly from what we think we know about first-century Judaism. In any case, it seems that Jesus (and others) had a hard time trying to reform ancient Judaism. So complete was the reform effort that a new religion emerged instead: Christianity. Jesus’ parable in Matthew introduces a strange character, a manager with some odd behaviors. The manager in Jesus’ story hires workers, some early in the day and others later. He then makes a separate contract with each group of workers. The controversyRead More →