Today’s lectionary selection from Matthew 18:21-35 has people forgiving—or not—the financial sins of others. Enter the case of an anonymous slave, let’s call him “Ralph,” who petitioned his master for forgiveness and who subsequently was forgiven. Ralph was then asked to forgive the debt of another slave like himself. Ralph refused to forgive the debt of the other slave and, when the master found out about it, Ralph was thrown into prison, constituting the spiritual equivalent of going to hell. Ouch! A lesson here is that if we want forgiveness then we had better offer forgiveness to others. Is forgiveness as straight-forward as it firstRead More →

This morning’s lectionary message comes from Romans 13:8-14, where we’ll begin by quoting Paul: “[F]or the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8b). Paul emphasizes the preeminence of love, which is a wonderful quality to highlight. We know that there is nothing greater than love, and that all the Old Testament Law is fulfilled when people love one another. Love is also one way to describe God’s very essence, which is at core spirit. People who want to know who and what God is must embrace love. Both Jesus and Paul reiterated how when people love one another they are also lovingRead More →

The first part of today’s message (Romans 12:9-21) reveals that the earliest Christians couldn’t always get along. It is strangely comforting to know that even Jesus’ ancient followers struggled with the same interpersonal issues that cause trouble today. I don’t want to dwell on negativity, but the early church was as divided and nasty as anything we’ve seen since. Any purported golden age of Christianity is only a cruel myth. Then as now, people act badly and it remains a monumental challenge to live Christian principles. Now get ready to be positively energized. Paul’s enthusiasm leaps up from the page with rapid-fire advice. There’s soRead More →

Today’s message will focus on Paul’s discussion about sacrifices and transformation (Romans 12:1-8). Paul begins by describing people of faith as living sacrifices. This idea implies that Christians are offerings to God. Unlike butchered sacrificial animals, we are not to be literally slaughtered (thank goodness!). Paul emphasizes our holy status, like the way an animal might be specially prepared for God. Paul claims that seeing ourselves as living sacrifices contributes to “spiritual worship,” which seems to involve a great attitude of piety (Romans 12:1). Paul’s use of the term sacrifices is understandable given that he lived and wrote to a world where both Jews andRead More →

Today message from Matthew 15: 10-20 is a story of Jesus responding to critics. The issue was ritual purity, in this case a shallow, perfunctory hand-rinsing. Now before you feel that this ancient washing was done for germ reduction, you must understand that there was no such knowledge prior to the nineteenth century. There is no evidence that Jews or any other ancient culture understood germ theory, the science of how microorganisms cause infections. Sure, people in ancient times could see bits of surface dirt just as you and I can. But it isn’t what you can see on your skin that kills you butRead More →

A theme of faith emerges from two of today’s lectionary scripture readings, Romans 10:5-15 and Matthew 14:22-33. The scene in Matthew has Jesus miraculously walking on the Sea of Galilee to join his disciples, who were waiting in their fishing boat. Hardly believing their eyes, the disciples were fearful because they thought that Jesus was a ghost. Then Jesus reassuringly announced himself, after which Peter walked on the water toward Jesus. But the power of the wind and waves scared Peter and he began to sink. Jesus reached out and rescued Peter, saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”(Matthew 14:31b). The vivid situationRead More →

The gist of today’s message is this: One of Israel’s founding fathers, the man Jacob, defeats God in an all-night wrestling match. Go to Genesis 32:22-31 and read it for yourself. As Jacob prevails, God knocks Jacob’s hip out of joint to get loose. Jacob holds fast and won’t let God loose until he receives God’s blessing. Honest, I am not making this up. Before we referee the wrestling, we must raise the issue of Jacob’s peculiarities. Jacob is known as the originator of the nation of Israel, and he supposedly had twelve sons by no less than four different wives (Rachel, Leah, Rachel’s handmaidenRead More →

We will advance on two fronts this Sunday, covering the lectionary selections from Romans 8:26-39 and Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. In Romans, Paul writes about how God’s Spirit helps people with their prayers. This suggests that the Holy Spirit acts as an intermediary between ourselves and God. It is all quite a mystery, but it seems that the very essence of God helps get the core of our prayers delivered properly. Then Paul writes one of the most popular verses in the Bible, Romans 8:28: “. . . all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”Read More →

Today’s message will highlight the lectionary selection from Romans 8:12-25, where Paul the author encourages life by the Spirit. The holistic way in which God created people means that humans are a combination of spirit, emotions, intellect and physical bodies. Thankfully, God calls each person to accomplish is a life of wellbeing that maximizes potential for each of the four vital areas. Paul repeatedly emphasizes the contrast between the spiritual side and the more troublesome parts, which are the self-destructive attitudes and behaviors. “[F]or if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deedsRead More →

This Sunday we’ll spend quality time with Jesus as he discusses seed scattering, reminding us of spring planting and the summer growing season (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). Farmers rely on good soil along with water, sunshine and nutrients as crucial to a healthy crop. Similarly, Jesus’ words in Matthew remind us that our spirits require nurturing. Speaking of which, is God your Master Gardener? If not, then perhaps Jesus’ parable about seeds will convince you. Planting seeds involves sowing, and Jesus’ story has four examples. The first is seed that had fallen on top of the earth before being planted (the birds quickly ate these dueRead More →