Friday, July 19, 2019
35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
I’ve never been a servant in a rich person’s household, but you and I have been employees at a company, with expectations and responsibilities laid upon us. I may have certain clothes that I have been asked to wear as I do my work. If I am not on designated breaks I should be about the tasks assigned to me. Whether the head of the company is on the premises that day or not, I should be faithful to carry out my assigned duties.
Maybe you have endeavored to always follow good work ethics. But probably you and I have each met employees whose work ethics are far from good. They hide in a restroom so they can shirk their share of the work. They sit on their phone in inappropriate times. They speak badly of the boss when he or she is not around. They call off work whenever possible, not caring if their absence requires their co-workers to take up the slack. Need I say more?
Jesus says, “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching and waiting for his return.” It is good if we are about our tasks no matter whether the boss is around or not. I would rather be caught doing good rather than be reprimanded for loafing around. Jesus’ point is that the time of our judgment will come, though it may not be when we expect. Be ready at all times by being faithful to God’s word and God’s commands. We do not know when will be the end of our earthly lives; we do not know the moment of Christ’s return. “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Father, I am not saved by my good works, but you expect that, putting my trust in Christ my savior, I will endeavor to serve faithfully according to your word. Faith is not a matter of sitting back and doing nothing. We are given the task of caring for others though our respective professions, as neighbors, or even as a friend. There are those in poverty who need a hand up, those in mourning needing comfort, or those who would appreciate support and help. Let me be ready for service, and faithful to the work you give me. For this I pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Thursday, July 18, 2019
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
God is saying to major in the majors, and not on the minors. What is most important here – bigger barns to store grain for oneself, or a bigger faith to let God guide one on how to make best use of that abundant harvest? We are such people of tunnel vision. We see what best suits us – having a comfortable home and abundant bank account to take us through retirement years. And that’s fine, as long as that is not the sole focus of our lives.
The man in Jesus’ parable believed that with larger barns to store his harvest, he could relax and take life easy. “Eat, drink, and be merry!” Nothing in the parable indicates that this rich person had a desire to share his wealth with those in need. But God said that this man’s life was in imminent danger. His material goods would accomplish nothing because he was not rich towards God. Faith was not a priority in his life. He was only interested in being comfortable and self-indulgent.
We in this country do not always think about the extreme poverty that others around the world suffer on a daily basis. We may not consider how persons in this country who grow up poor have a difficult time breaking out of the cycle of poverty because, among other things. a lack of opportunity, an unhealthy family background or no means of aiming for higher education.
Our mission projects at church aim to help others in need, both locally and around the world. As we are able, let us be of help to others and share our resources in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Gracious God, break me out of my self-indulgence to see how I may care for others and share of my resources in ways that honor you. I praise you for those who work hard on behalf of underprivileged persons, both here and around the world. Let me prayerfully find good ways to share as I am able, for the good of my neighbor. This I pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
This is as much a teaching as it is a parable, following on the heels of Jesus teaching on the Lord’s Prayer. What is Jesus telling us here? Where is God in the story? God is the friend whom you go to at midnight because you have an urgent request. No, God won’t say, “Don’t bother me.” God doesn’t turn his back on us because the door is locked and it is late.
Jesus is saying that, like a friend who keeps knocking, who desperately needs help from his neighbor in order to care for his late-arriving guests, so God will listen to our pleas. God will answer our prayers. Jesus wants to remind us to keep asking and not give up. Yes, it may take some time for the answer to come. It may seem as though God is not listening and is not ready to give his neighbor the bread he needs. We are too quick to give up on God, when God has a time and a plan that we do not know.
So may we not become discouraged when help is delayed. May we not stop praying and trusting in God’s love and power. May we keep asking for what we need, keep seeking and believing God has our best interests at heart, and keep knocking even when it is tough.
I wonder if sometimes God delays in order to test our resolve, our tenacity in asking. How strong is your faith when circumstances don’t seem to support it? Will you buckle under the temptation to give up? Or will you keep believing that God has a plan that is good, even if you cannot see it right now?
Ask God and know that God hears your prayers. Like a lost coin (or passport, or keys or phone!) , keep searching until you find what you need, for God is worth it. Keep knocking even if the door seems firmly locked. Never give up. God is there.
Forgive me, Lord, if I give up too soon. Forgive me when I become discouraged or lose sight of your goodness despite the troubles I face right now. Forgive me if I ask once and think you will instantly grant my request like some genie in a bottle. You are worth waiting for. Let me keep asking and trusting in you, through all the circumstances of my life. I give you all praise in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
In this most famous parable, Jesus did more than answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” He also answered how a good neighbor acts. Clearly, a neighbor is anyone in trouble whom we have the capacity to help. The priest and Levite had the capacity to help, but they chose not to. Their religion told them that to help would be to defile themselves; they followed the letter, but not the intent, of God’s law.
Then there was the Samaritan. Considered an outcast by the Jews because of family history many centuries back, this man was a stranger to the one who was robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho. The Samaritan had both the capacity to help and a heart of compassion that led him to go out of his way for this man. He bandaged the man’s wounds. He dropped whatever business he might have had to care for him. He provided transportation and lodging out of his own expense. Then as he was going on his way the next day, he asked the innkeeper to care for the man, saying that when he returned, he would pay whatever additional charges the innkeeper incurred while caring for the man.
No matter how you look at this story, the Samaritan did a great deal for this man who had been beaten and robbed. No doubt, those hearing Jesus tell the story would have been incensed to think Jesus made the Samaritan, an outcast in their eyes, into a hero. Apart from this dynamic, however, Jesus is telling us that we are to be a neighbor to anyone in trouble, if we have the eyes and the heart to want to make a difference. There was one time I saw a car on the other side of the interstate that came tumbling over and over into the median. I pulled over and ran to help. Thankfully they were not seriously hurt, and I stayed until EMS professionals arrived. But to my sorrow, I know there are many other instances where I have in essence declined to help, when I have failed to be a neighbor as the Samaritan was. May God help us grow a heart of compassion for others in need.
Father God, you love us with a deep and abiding love, so deep that you would send your only son to die for our sake. Jesus teaches us to love others in need with the same selfless compassion. Open my eyes to see the needs around me. Grow my heart to perceive how I can be as your hands and feet in the world. May my actions be grounded in faith and love, giving praise to your name. Amen.
Monday, July 15, 2019
46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
Why do we fail to follow Jesus’ words? Why are we willing to sink our lives into the unstable sands of anything other than the bedrock of God’s word? Some of our foundations may seem solid. There’s the person who wants to be liked so will present to others his or her best face. We say, “What’s wrong with that?” Nothing, of course, except when that desire to be well liked and considered nice is an effort to earn one’s way into heaven and discounts the work of Christ on the cross. That person has put the attribute of being “nice” ahead of trusting only in Christ’s redeeming forgiveness and grace to be called worthy of God’s kingdom.
Consider what happens when “nice” falls short, perhaps even from some circumstance out of his or her control. What then? What will “nice” trust in then? The same could be true of a person whose physical strength or endurance has been his or her foundation, or one, sadly, who has long been a manipulator to get what one wants. Strength wanes and we get tired. Eventually someone will see through the manipulations and name them for what they are. These are the storms and floods that test our status quo and threaten the techniques we use to get what we want out of life.
Jesus is asking us to hear his words and put them into practice. But Jesus is not all about works righteousness, as if doing good things will be enough. We have to sink our lives into the foundation of trusting in God for our salvation through Jesus Christ, and following him in all we do and say. May we give this day to the Lord, asking God to help us both trust in him and follow Jesus.
Lord, I want to be considered “good,” but I don’t want to bypass my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I cannot set myself up as “good” apart from him who is my light and hope, my redeemer and savior. Help me to pay attention to Christ’s words and apply them to my life, but let me also keep him at the center of all I do, trusting in him alone for my salvation. All praise and glory to you in Christ. Amen.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
It has been a while since Jesus uttered those words, several millennium, in fact. No surprise that these words are not high on most believers’ radar. Are we on guard for Christ’s return? Are we alert and watching, lest Christ comes to find we have not done all we should as his servants?
In the words of his parable, today could be as early evening, or it might be midnight, the time when the rooster crows, or dawn when Christ’s arrival is imminent. It could be many more years before Christ’s return, or it could be tomorrow.
Jesus’ words to us are a warning, certainly, but they are also a promise. Christ will return. Justice will come. The faithful will be gathered together to live eternally with the Father in heaven. We will be judged. We are redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, by whose death our judgment has been paid. We are given grace. We are forgiven as we confess and repent.
Still, we have been given a commission, a set of marching orders, so to speak. Christ has work for us to accomplish during our time here on earth. The time may be drawing near for any one of us, when our earthly life will be complete. Will it be said that we have done what Christ asks of us? Will we be deemed faithful or faithless, hard-working for Christ or sleeping on the job? Keep watch, Jesus says.
Today is the only day I have right now, Lord, in order to follow your will. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow is not yet come. Yes, some things today are out of my control, but not yours. I may not get everything accomplished that you wish, but let me be faithful as I am able. I give this day to you, by the grace of our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Friday, July 12, 2019
Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.
This parable is found in three of the gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke. Jesus intends that the priests and Pharisees would get the point of the parable, because Israel was often referred to as God’s vineyard. God of course is the landowner who planted Israel, meaning the vineyard. God took good care of the vineyard – building a wall around it (remember Nehemiah and the wall around Jerusalem?), making a winepress and a watchtower to protect the people. God rented out the vineyard in that the political and religious leaders were charged with taking good care of Israel.
The problem arises when the landowner sends his servants to collect the owner’s share of the profits after the harvest has been gathered in. The servants in the parable represent the prophets of the Lord, who were historically not treated well. Elijah had to run for his life from the wrath of King Ahab. Jeremiah was beaten. John the Baptist was beheaded. Other prophets were stoned. The question Jesus is asking through this parable is how the chief priests and Pharisees can presume to be obedient to God’s commands while rejecting God’s prophets?
No surprise who the son in the parable is but Jesus himself. Jesus realized how the Pharisees were against him and were plotting to kill him. The gospels are full of situations that demonstrate the extent to which the religious authorities were angry with Jesus. This parable was undoubtedly additional fuel for the fire.
How hard it is to be told a truth we don’t want to believe! I don’t want to hear an uncomfortable truth about myself, no different from the chief priests and Pharisees. Praise God when we can listen, repent, and seek to act better in the future.
It’s difficult being confronted with a truth we don’t want to hear, Lord. We can get angry and deny the allegations, even if we know in our heart what we have done. Our hearts become hardened, lest we repent and be changed. Move within us to accept what is hard truth, and mold us into your obedient servants. In Christ we pray, Amen.
What We Believe
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son and our savior, who lived among us to teach us and die for us. He rose again to give us the promise of eternal life in him John 3:16. He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is God dwelling in us John 14:15-17. We seek God’s word in the Bible, the foundation of our faith. Our mission as a church is to proclaim the good news of Christ to all. We honor Christ through worship and fellowship, encouraging one another in faith, hope and love 1 Corinthians 13:13, and serving our neighbors with compassion and justice.
We belong to the United Church of Christ. As a congregation we are granted the autonomy to govern our local church, and prayerfully make the best decisions we can on how to live out our calling as believers. Each person has the freedom and responsibility of discerning for themselves how faith in Jesus Christ impacts their daily walk and their worldview. We respect one another’s differences because even though we are diverse, we are still part of Christ’s body.
We look forward to welcoming you some day soon. Peace to you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
10:00 am Worship Service
10:00 am Children's Adventure Hour