Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Christ Encounter: A mini-miracle
Text: John 21:1-14

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The pastor was an avid fisherman, but he hadn't fished in months. One perfect Sunday morning he just couldn't resist. He called up the Vicar and claimed he had laryngitis or something. The pastor then took his boat and headed out to his favorite spot. The hook hadn't been in the water five minutes before he got a strike, and landed the biggest fish he had ever caught - although he had seen bigger ones. A half hour later, he caught the biggest fish he had ever seen. Another forty-five minutes later he landed a fish that broke the lake record. All this time St. Peter and God have been watching the pastor from heaven. St. Peter turned to God, and said, "How can you reward this pastor? He lied. He let down his congregation." God smiled at St. Peter, and replied, "I'm punishing him." St. Peter‘s confused…so God continues, "Well, after he finishes, who can he tell his story to?"

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We have all heard or told “fish stories” in our lives. Fishing is one of those activities that people do that is relaxing; it is comforting to get away from it all. In the middle of a stressful week some people start thinking of how they can get away.

In the context of John 21:1-14 we know that it has been a rough couple of weeks for the disciples. The ups, downs, and ups again have taken their toll: a joyous entrance into town, an intimate meal with their rabbi, anguish in the garden, raw emotion at the cross, confusion at the empty tomb, fear in a locked room, exhilaration at seeing their friend alive, doubt in the truth, and a sense of peace breathed upon them.

But after all of these encounters some of the disciples wanted things to get back to normal, it seemed like they want to get away from it all. From the Gospel lesson, John 21: 3, "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. It could have been years since they had gotten into the boat to cast their nets for fish. They had been fishing for men but now things seemed uncertain and they needed some comfort; a place that was “normal”, somewhere that was routine.

They had been in a boat before…for many years, before knowing Jesus, it had been to make a living. But since encountering Christ they had also battled the wind & waves and saw their Lord still the storm with a word. They had seen him walk on water. They had traveled to the other side of the lake with him to cure hundreds, cast out legions, and feed thousands. Now they were tired, the sun had come up and they hear a voice from the shore asking how they did. "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."

What was this guy talking about? You don’t catch fish after the sun comes up everyone knows that! But for some reason they listen and they are surprised by a wonderful miracle! It might have been a mini-miracle but it was a mega-catch. They had so many fish in the net they could hardly bring it on deck.

It is John who looks to the shore again and realizes that it was Jesus. Immediately, Peter puts his shirt back on, jumps into the water, and has an encounter with the Lord. Jesus was there busy making breakfast for his friends. He had a fire going and fish cooking, he had bread for them as well. In the midst of an ordinary day, Jesus does the extraordinary. Fishing was comfortable, breakfast was routine but in the middle of it all, Jesus provides a remarkable catch of fish and once again shows his majesty to his followers.

An encounter with Christ is never ordinary, but at times we all retreat to the comfortable. At times we miss the extraordinary acts of Jesus. We are fearful of the unexpected and we crave the routine. We get comfortable with Christ. Perhaps there is a bit of Peter in all of us. I am sure there are times where you have tried to get away from the pressure, tried to get things back to normal in your life. Especially when things have gone wrong or after times of stress.

  • Watching the markets collapse
  • Dealing with a budget crisis
  • Getting a pink slip
  • Hearing the test results
  • Coming home from the funeral

But when we retreat to “the comfortable” we can loose sight of the extraordinary. It is easy to become blind to the blessings and miracles that happen all around us. When the stress is up to our neck we find that Jesus is ready to have an encounter with us that will bring us back to him.

Jesus was born into an ordinary family, living ordinary lives. He called ordinary men, in ordinary jobs to follow him. He used ordinary things, said ordinary words, traveled in ordinary ways, and slept in ordinary places. From ordinary beginnings comes the most extraordinary event the world has ever seen. In the midst of the ordinary, Jesus shows his extraordinary love. His simple life of love culminates on a cross and an empty tomb. He surprised his followers with a mega-miracle that not only changes their lives but also changed the world.

Where are the mini-miracles in your life?

  • We can see the miracle of new birth, and of rebirth in the waters of baptism.
  • We can see the excitement of a child who hears about Jesus for the first time.
  • We have an encounter with Christ in ordinary bread and wine.
  • We experience the forgiveness that comes through His Word. We see broken relationships, mended.
  • We see peace that comes to people and places that only know suffering and strife.
  • We stand in amazement at the abundant blessings we have been given and we are moved to use the things we have in service to the Kingdom.

Because of the mega-miracle of Easter we are able to encounter countless mini-miracles every day.

You may think you are just going out fishing, but don’t be surprised if Jesus greets you with a miracle and breakfast to boot. This won’t be some fish story, and you can be proud to tell the world of how you have encountered Christ. So…Lets Go Fishin’!


Stimulating Stewardship

When was the last time you heard those two words used in tandem? Unfortunately, stimulating and stewardship don’t often go together in our vocabulary or our thinking. That needs to change in the church. If the church is to conduct a mission and fund a ministry that changes the world one life, one heart, at a time. Unbelievably, unexpectedly, the government is currently giving the people of God a chance to learn this lesson or continue to live it out, as the case may be.

The vast majority of us will soon be receiving, if you haven’t already, a stimulus check from the government. The word, stimulate means to rouse, stir or invigorate. The stimulus package is designed to rouse, stir and invigorate the economy. Regardless of how you view this politically, I would suggest that we could all rejoice in this spiritually! This stimulus check has the opportunity to rouse a response within the people of God by returning a proportionate gift to the Lord, to stir in us a desire to give back to God a first fruit gift from the resources He provides us, be they through our employer or our government.

It isn’t often that something beginning in the state and world of laws (what Luther calls, “the left hand kingdom”) has the chance of invigorating the church and realm of the Gospel (what Luther calls, “the right hand kingdom”) in such a way as to teach us and direct us into a spiritual discipline that is God-pleasing. The spiritual discipline, and Bethany Blueprint point, of proportionate giving can be learned, lived out, or acted upon again through this stimulus check. Wouldn’t it be just like God to use this opportunity to continue for some and begin for others a rousing, stirring, invigorating even stimulating life of financial stewardship?

If so, that means this is more than a chance to merely consider the spiritual disciple of proportionate giving, but rather a chance to act upon the opportunity and engage in this spiritual discipline by returning to the Lord a proportionate gift. A Biblical example of proportionate giving that has been practiced in the lives of the saints in Scripture and history is a tithe or ten percent.

Who would have thought it, the state stimulating stewardship in the church? Exciting to think about isn’t it!

Friday, April 25, 2008

The One Year Bible- April 25th

When I was in college I worked at Arrowhead Lutheran Camp for many summers as a counselor. Right out of college I was hired to be the program director at the camp. I was just a young kid but I had quite a bit of experience at working with children. As a counselor I always struggled with finding ways to get my campers to go to sleep. Some other counselors told ghost stories or scary tales but those freaked me out too much. Quite by accident one night I began to read stories from the book of Judges. I started with Gideon. That took about two nights then I went to Ehud, Samson, Deborah and others. My young boys really enjoyed the blood and guts stories that weren’t too scary. I liked them because they also taught that God was in control. Some people have a tough time with the book of Judges because of its violent nature and that is fine, but if you look at the stories through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy you might get some understanding. The key thing to remember is that God has mercy on his people and shows his love to them by sending a judge. Not a judge that comes to condemn, but one that comes to save. Sounds kind of like Jesus doesn’t it? On to the study for this week……

Vicar Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
As I have alluded to in the opening the book of Judges is all about God’s mercy. It seems like it is about his wrath with some blood and guts thrown in for good measure but when you really look at it you see a familiar pattern emerge with all the judges. We see this same pattern when Jesus is sent as the final Judge. Why was it necessary for the Judges to come anyway? Didn’t the people promise that they would be faithful to God? What happened to the promises they made? In the first part of the book we get the answer. “The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.” (Judges 1:19 NIV) The story was the same with the other tribes. Reading a bit further, “The tribe of Manasseah failed to drive out the people….” Then the tribe of Ephraim failed, then Zebulen failed, then Asher failed, then Naphtali. Then Yahweh (LORD in all caps) sent his angel (some think this may be the pre-incarnate Christ) to talk to the people. Judgment was to be upon the people. “Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.” (Judges 2:3 NIV) This sums up the problems that the people will encounter the rest of the Old Testament. The people living in the land and their gods will cause major problems for the people. Remember this as we read the rest of the story this year. But the LORD (Yahweh) in his infinite mercy shows love to the people and sends help. The account of each Judge has a similar pattern. It usually begins with, The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, He turned them over to their enemies for so many years. Then the LORD raised up a Judge. The people followed this Judge and were saved. The land had peace for so many years. The Judge dies and the people return to their old ways and do evil in the eyes of the LORD. Get familiar with this pattern. This is some foreshadowing of the New Testament story of Jesus. We don’t have time to discuss each Judge (we will spend more time with Gideon next week) in detail so let me give you some highlights. Ehud is my favorite. He is left-handed. Why does the writer of Judges tell us this? He was able to smuggle his dagger into the presence of the king because, being left-handed he drew it from his right side. Most people carry their dagger or sword on the left side because they are right handed. Ehud was able to get close to the king and kill him because he was left-handed. You see, God uses all things for his good purposes. I also think it is funny that Ehud escapes through the outhouse in the kings chambers and the attendants are so embarrassed to disturb the king when he is in the bathroom. Some commentators even suggest that the king was actually sitting on “the throne” (the one in the bathroom) when Ehud stabs him (you see why young boys like this story?). The account of Deborah is good to show that God works through women as well. God raised her up as a Judge and she led the people in battle. In the story it was another woman, Jael, who took care of the evil Sisera. Talk about girl power (both the boys and some of the girls like this story). The story of Gideon is a bit longer and has some interesting insights for us. We will talk about him next week.

The New Testament

In our readings for this week we begin the story of the Passion. Luke makes an interesting comment about all the praise that Jesus is receiving on Palm Sunday. Some of the Pharisees tried to get Jesus to stop the celebration and Jesus says, “If they keep quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” (Luke 19:40) This is an amazing statement. We have read in the Psalms that all creation praises the Lord, but here is proof that it can happen. Can you imagine if no one would praise God and then the rocks start to cry out? What a sight that would be!

Luke does a good job keeping the action moving in the story but there are some rather significant things to see when you dig a bit deeper. Tomorrow we will read the scene where Jesus is before the High Priest. When Jesus is asked point blank if he is the son of God he says, “I am”. OK you say? No big deal? But, the words Jesus used are very important. When he says “I am” not only is he answering in the affirmative, he also is using the name God used when talking to Moses in the burning bush. Remember that God said his name was, “I am”. No wonder the High Priest and the others wanted Jesus dead after he had said this. Jesus goes in there and uses the name of God that the Jews to this day will not even use! Jesus was saying in no uncertain terms that he was the Christ, the promised Messiah. When we get to the Gospel of John we will see seven big “I am” statements from Jesus. Remember them when you read and pour into them the Old Testament meanings.

Bits and Pieces

We will finish the Gospel of Luke this week and we will start the Gospel of John. As a quick note, the first four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are grouped together and are referred to as the synoptic Gospels. The basically have the same form and tell the same story. They probably leaned on one another for source material. John is its own animal all together. John is the only Gospel that mentions three different Passover celebrations, which is where we get the three-year ministry of Jesus. John does not have a standard birth story. John begins with creation, but more on all this next week. John also makes heavy use of metaphor. We will see Jesus referred to as the door, the lamb, the good shepherd, the gate, the way the truth the life, and others. Here are the vital stats for the book of John:

Purpose: To prove conclusively that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in him will have eternal life.

Author: It is never actually mentioned but most agree that it is John the apostle, son of Zebedee, brother of James, called a “Son of Thunder”

To Whom Written: New Christians and searching Non-Christians

Date Written: Probably between A.D. 85-90

Setting: Written after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and before John’s exile to the island of Patmos

Key Verses: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31

Key People: Jesus, John the Baptist, the disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jesus’ mother, Pilate, Mary Magdalene

Key Places: Judean countryside, Samaria, Galilee, Bethany, Jerusalem

Special Features: of the eight miracles recorded, six are unique (among the Gospels) to John, as is the “Upper Room Discourse” (chs. 14-17). Over 90 percent of John is unique to his Gospel. John does not contain a genealogy or any record of Jesus’ birth, childhood, temptation, transfiguration, appointment of the disciples, nor any account of Jesus’ parables, ascension, or Great Commission.

Have a wonderful week!!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Read John 20:19-23

There is a bit of a huddled, fearful disciple in each of us.

The disciples were fearful at the outset of the story because faith had put them in jeopardy. Jesus, at His arrest, had urged the soldiers to “let them go” as “he was the one they wanted.” Later that night one of their members had been identified as a follower of Jesus, certainly one from his party as he was a Galilean. They locked the doors, dimmed the lights, and stayed low and worried if they would be next.

That is when the story shifts in focus. All of the sudden Jesus is in their midst. He is risen from the dead. Of course, Easter changes everything. I do wonder however what the disciples’ emotional state was between the moments that their eyes saw Him and their voices heard Him?

If you trace your way through Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation…when one sees God they become a fearful, huddled mass:

  • Adam and Eve hid in the garden when they heard God, not behind a door but behind that from which they are made (a tree), for they were naked and ashamed.
  • Moses trembled not behind the bushes but in front of one that burned as God told him he was on holy ground.
  • Isaiah didn’t merely see that which was on fire, he felt it, as a coal from the altar touched his lips upon his vision of God, for he knew that he was an unclean man.
  • Saul didn’t experience a burning sensation on the mouth but upon the eyes as “Jesus of Nazareth, whom he was persecuting”, blinded him.

Over and over again when people see God they become huddled, fearful masses. After all when confronted with the holy, perfect, pure God we become keenly aware of how unholy, imperfect and impure we truly are.

So I wonder if for a moment when they first saw Jesus if the disciples weren’t more afraid than they had been previously. It had gone from bad to worse. They were afraid of the Jewish authorities and now the Authority for Jews and Gentiles alike stood before them. Faith had put them in jeopardy. Now had sin put them in peril? Remember they had fled, hid, lied, denied, and doubted…surely there was enough guilt to go around.

Then Jesus speaks, and he offers the one thing they needed. “Peace be with you.” He made no accusations, asked for no explanations, simply offered a declaration: “Peace is yours.” With the peace came a purpose, with the harmony came a destiny, and with the concord came a forward, “as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” I’ve come to get you out of this room and into the world that others might have peace, peace with God, and therefore peace of mind, peace of heart, peace with self in a world that lacks peace.

That same risen Lord does the same thing for us! He comes to grant us peace. In His Word, in worship, in the promise of forgiveness there is no requesting of explanations, no righteous accusations, only a declaration, “Peace is yours.” For your sin became His on the cross. Your guilt has been atoned for. Now with the peace comes a purpose, with this harmony comes a destiny, and with this concord comes a forward.

Jesus has entered your life that you might “leave it” and

enter the lives of others bringing, peace.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The One Year Bible- April 18th

I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I have been a big fan of the book of Psalms for many years. Remember, the book of Psalms was like the hymnal for the people of Israel. Unfortunately the tunes have been lost to history but the words are still there. I wish we had more time to dive deep into the Psalms and perhaps someday I will do just that, but every once in a while I want to highlight something that we have read during the week. This week I want to go back to Psalm 86 (April 17). This is a Psalm of David and has some great words of comfort and also can serve to refocus us when things seem to going wrong. In verses 11 & 12 we read, “ Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” I think that reading through the Bible from cover to cover is one way that God teaches us His way so that we might walk in the truth. There is just so much to learn from His word. Lets get going....

Vicar Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

This weeks readings left the narrative story behind and we received a geography lesson. If you are like me it did not make much sense since the geography of the Holy Land is a bit of a mystery to me. The list of landmarks did not help me much. Please don’t get frustrated at this. The best thing to do is go to a map. I found this one on the Internet that shows how the land was divided (click on the map to make it larger). You may have one in the back of your Bible as well. For me this visually shows what we have been reading this week.

The geography of the Promised Land will be important later in the story. Eventually this land will become a kingdom under the rule of Saul. Things go well for a while but eventually the land is divided in two. The Northern Kingdom will have ten tribes, and the Southern Kingdom will have the other two (Judah, and Benjamin). Simeon will go with the North. This will be important later because the Northern Kingdom will be taken into exile, never to return. A few years later the South will also be taken but some will return. This story points to Christ in so many ways but we don’t have the time to discuss this now. Trust me, we will discuss it later this year. One other note, the tribe of Dan will complain about their land and they will move out and head north to a city known as Dan. This is important because the city of Dan is in the far north of the kingdom and is part of a phrase we will see a number of times. When an Old Testament writer uses the phrase, “From Dan to Beersheba” they mean the entire land, since Dan is in the north and Beersheba is the city furthest south. Both places are on the map.

The New Testament

Jesus seems to talk a lot about money in this weeks readings. To Jesus, money is something that can be used for good but it can also be used as something to be worshiped. Jesus said, "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate (remember our discussion of hate from last week?) the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Luke 16:13 NIV) This was a direct attack on the Pharisees who loved money. The point is that God wants us to be faithful with the monetary blessings that we have been given but they are not to rule us and in reality become an idol that we worship. When Jesus talks to the rich young ruler, money is again an issue. Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and give the money to the poor. This man was not ready to give up his money. We all struggle with money. How much should we give away? How much is too much etc. Many of us are afraid if we do not save money we will not be able to survive. We sometimes forget the wonderful words of Jesus, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:27 NIV) God will take care of us, we should not have to worry about money because we can focus on money and it will rule us if we are not careful.

Bits and Pieces

We will finish up the book of Joshua this week and begin the book of Judges. Here are the vital stats on the book of Judges:

Purpose: To show the God’s judgment against sin is certain, and his forgiveness of sin and restoration to relationship is just as certain for those who repent
Author: Possibly Samuel
Setting: The land of Canaan, later called Israel. God had helped the Israelites conquer Canaan. which had been inhabited by a host of wicked nations. But they were in danger of losing this Promised Land because they compromised their convictions and disobeyed God.
Key Verse: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (17:6)
Key People: Othniel, Ehud (my favorite Judge), Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Jephthah, Samson, Delilah
Special Feature: Records Israel’s first civil war

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Read John 10:1-10

There are a few things that are absolutely universal. 99% of us have at some point had someone call us by our full name. “John/Jane J. Doe” and seldom has the experience proven enjoyable. Usually when my full name was strung together as a child it meant I was in danger of being strung up. It didn’t matter if it was my mother’s or father’s voice at the end of the words it meant that something was soon to be at the end of me, if you get my point.

Mary had come to the garden early Easter Sunday. In her panic, sorrow and fear she even fails to recognize Jesus when He greets her, “Why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Not until Jesus calls her name, “Mary” does she recognize him.

Now the Scripture does not give us intonation, voice inflection or anything like that. All it provides are the words. Did Jesus’ voice have a scolding edge to it, “Mary, why didn’t you believe me?” Did His voice have a frustrated sigh, “Mary, I thought you’d expect me.” Was it filled with utter compassion, “Mary, you can quit crying. I’m alive.” I do not know.

Perhaps Mary’s response can give us some insight. She throws her arms open and embraces him.

This is not the only one of His flock whom God called by name! The Good Shepherd knows His sheep and He calls them by name. God calls you by name!

Names are intimate. If you call me Kev-O, rev-kev, pk, or even Pastor Kritzer we’re on some form of personal connection. If you call me Mr. Key-von CA-r-IT-sir you’re a salesman and I’m hanging up. When Moses went to the Israelites in Egypt he asked God, “What is Your name?” God shared that intimate detail, “Yahweh—I am who I am.”

Out of the billions of people on earth, out of all who have ever walked it, God knows and calls you by name.

In a world of competing voices, from the time the alarm goes off to the time the head hits the pillow we have so many voices calling our name:
  • Work...Home...Community
  • Church...Kids...Folks
  • Friends...Neighbors...Employees
  • Employer...Customers...Clients
  • Email...Voicemail...Text message
There is no shortage of voices calling our name. Many times it is to fear and doubt, just like Mary in the graveyard. Many times it is to temptation coaxing us to wander away from the safety of the pen and the fold.

In these simple words Jesus invites us to tune our ear to hear Him call us by name.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The One Year Bible- April 11th

When I was in second grade our class was scheduled to sing in church. The song we sang was called “Everywhere I Go.” Why do I remember such a thing? Well, this song had a big impact on my life. It has a catchy tune and great words and I latched on to this song and sang it everywhere I went. I started singing this song every time I was scared or though I was in trouble. I sang it a lot while riding my bike. This song gave me comfort and security because even as I child I knew that God was there with me. This song came to my mind this week while reading the story of God’s people as they entered the Promised Land. I am sure many of them were scared and fearful of the future. But Moses and Joshua reminded the people that God was with them everywhere they would go, and to be strong and courageous. As we begin today, don’t forget that the same God is with you as well. We begin with the words of that song:

Everywhere I go the Lord is near me

If I call upon Him He will hear me

Never will I fear, for the Lord is near

Everywhere I go.

Everywhere God is there

Tending all in loving care

He is with me everywhere I go

On to the study...

Vicar Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

Let me set the stage for you once again. The people are on the edge of the Promised Land. Moses has gathered the people together to give them a pep talk and remind them of the promises of God and his continued faithfulness. Moses will not be joining the people because of his own disobedience but he is still God’s prophet. At the end of the pep talk he breaks out into song. This last bit of instruction for the people served as a reminder and a comfort for them. Just before Moses gets a glimpse of the Promised Land, he introduces Joshua as the new leader. We see in just a few short verses the phrase, “Be strong and courageous”. This is an important phrase, as the people will be doing some difficult things in the next few years. Moses as well as the Lord tells Joshua and the people to, “Be strong and courageous” at least six times. Indeed the Lord will be with them; and indeed he was. The Lord caused the Jordan river to stop as the people crossed it.

In the next few days we will see that the Lord delivered the fortified city of Jericho into their hands. The Lord blessed them, but true to form the people disobey. After Jericho was destroyed someone took some of the plunder that was to be devoted to the Lord. This caused a military defeat of the people and doubt started to creep in. It was just one small action that had big consequences. It seems that is what happens in our lives as well. Just one seemingly small sin causes us big problems. Even after the pep talk from Moses, the people disobey. This will be a theme we will see over and over again. When we look at the world today we see the same theme. We have heard what we should do, we know the right things be we find ourselves doing the opposite or not even listening to God. For the people of Israel this caused problems. Later we will see how sin begins to spiral out of control and eventually the people will be lead off to exile. We are in the exile of sin as well and we are in need of rescue. God sent his son Jesus to rescue us from our sin. Because we could not do it, Jesus did it all for us. Jesus fulfills the requirements of God and we get all the benefits. The Old Testament once again points us to Christ the author and perfector of our faith.

The New Testament
A few things jumped out at me as I read through the readings from Luke this week. After our readings in the Old Testament about washings, the section at the end of chapter 11 (readings for April 6th) where Jesus really blasts the Pharisees makes more sense to me. Jesus really lets them have it for only worrying about the outside things. He tells them in no uncertain terms that God looks at the inside as well and they need to get their act straight. In Luke 7 Jesus says some hard things. Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciple we need to hate other things. I have always struggled with this statement. In one of my seminary classes we talked about the word “hate” and how it is used in the New Testament. This is another word that we translate the Greek literally but it has some Hebrew meaning. In Hebrew the word we translate as “hate” means that we prefer one thing over the other but not necessarily at the expense of the other. In the Old Testament we read that Jacob “hated” his wife Leah, but he still cared for her, he had children with her and he provided for her. This does not sound like the “hate” we think of. Now it is true that Jacob preferred Rebekah, but he did not “hate” Leah as we see it. I hope this sheds some light on this passage for you. We are to prefer following Jesus over all others. We will still need to carry our cross and count the cost and that will only be possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.

One quick comment from one of our readings this week: In Psalm 78:41 (April 7th) a reference to the “Holy One of Israel” is found. We will see this term often when we get into Isaiah and some of the other prophets. This term refers to the promised Messiah and when you see it you can be certain that this is talking about the coming of Christ.

Have a great week and remember that God is with you everywhere you go!!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-Tuesday, April 8, 2008

“As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.”
(Luke 24:15)
Sound familiar? Earlier that same day Mary experienced the same thing. She weeps when she discovers the body of Jesus is gone.

“At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.”
(John 20:14)

Why Jesus concealed his identity from them, why their minds were clouded and kept from recognizing him, I am not sure. One thing is certain; that these events happened are a blessing to us!

There are those who argue that the early church made up the story of the resurrection. They would contend that the disciples themselves wanted Jesus to be the redeemer so badly that they ‘imagined, or hallucinated’ their resurrection experience. However, in their disciples’ own accounts they didn’t even recognize Jesus when they first encountered him after the resurrection. They were not so eager to believe. They did not immediately perceive his presence. On the contrary they were brought to faith, over and against their Good Friday experience. Only one thing could do that and that was the historical fact of the bodily, physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And, it did!

It’s what happens next in Luke’s account that floors me.

As the pair walks back to Emmaus chatting about divine matters and world affairs, Jesus takes the occasion to converse with them.

  • How often have you wanted God to talk to you?
  • How often have you pleaded to hear the voice of God?

Here it is, their great chance, Jesus is with them and he starts the conversation. What does he say? Turn to Genesis 3. Flip to Psalm 110. Hey, look at Exodus 12. Check out Isaiah 52-53. When he goes to speak to them he reads, explains and interprets Scripture to them!

Should we expect in our pilgrimage that he would engage us in conversation any other way? This Christ encounter is the one through which all other encounters must be understood, from which all other encounters will flow and by which all other encounters need be judged. In the sublime, simplicity of the sentences of Scripture—God talks to us, Jesus himself engages us in conversation and we have a Christ encounter of the closest kind.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The One Year Bible- April 4th

As I was bopping around the internet this week I came across this Easter prayer and I wanted to share it with you as we begin out study today:

Heavenly Father and God of mercy,
I believe that Jesus is alive and has
become the Lord of life.

From the waters of Baptism you have
raised me with him and renewed your
gift of life within me.

Increase in my mind and heart
the risen life I share with Christ
and help me to grow in your
wisdom and grace.

Lord Jesus, you appeared to your
apostles after the resurrection and filled
their hearts with joy when you said to them
"Peace be with you".

May the peace of your presence
abide with me and make each day you
give me the most beautiful day of my life.

Lord Jesus, you triumphed over death and
destroyed the power of death in me,
may I live only for you.

Risen Lord, you brought confusion
on the guards at your tomb but joy
to your disciples, grant me the fullness
of joy as I serve you in spirit and truth.

You promised to be with your disciples,
Lord, to the end of the world, stay with
me today and remain with me always.

King of glory, center of my life,
grant that when you come again, I may
be one with you in glory.

Lord, remember me as in my own way I
minister to your people, may my life
be holy and an example to your people.

Lord Jesus, purify my heart with your truth
and guide me in the way of holiness,
so that I may always do what is
pleasing in your sight.


Vicar Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
In the midst of a lot of do’s and don’ts this week a few things caught my attention this week and I wanted to make mention of them. Remember the scene here. Moses is giving a pep talk and history lesson to the people on the eastern side of the Jordan River. The people are about to enter the land of the promise under the leadership of Joshua. Moses cannot enter because of his actions in the wilderness. The dietary restrictions of the people serve a two-fold purpose. First of all, God was setting these people apart to be special in doing so he has selected their diet. This was a health thing. Many of the foods that were unclean were also potential health hazards. These animals carried diseases and God was making sure the people were healthy. Secondly, these restrictions served as a way for the people to be obedient to God. They could show their willingness to follow by adhering to the dietary restrictions. Most Jews still practice many of these laws and they have been expanded and interpreted in many ways. You can find kosher foods in most stores now days. If you look for the kosher label (a circle with a K inside) you can be sure that this product is made under the strict standards of modern Jewish law. The question remains, why don’t we all follow these guidelines? A complete answer is complex but the short answer is that we have freedom in Christ. We live under the new covenant of Grace and we no longer are subject to all the rules and regulations of the law, part of which is dietary restrictions. Does this mean we can do whatever we want? Well, yes, and no. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me—but I will not be mastered by anything.” More about this when we get to that section of the New Testament.

Another thing that jumped out at me was this: What is God’s deal with blood? He seems to have a fascination with blood. In our society and culture blood has become taboo. It carries disease and it reminds us of death and many get squeamish around it. I think this was probably the case for many back in the Old Testament as well. For the Israelites, blood means life. In fact the word for blood is sometimes used as a synonym for life. The life of the organism is in its blood. Blood was a key part of the sacrifice. God required punishment for sins and he accepted the life (i.e. blood) of an animal in our place. This concept gets further expanded when the blood of Jesus is shed for us. His life (and blood) were given for us for our forgiveness. Now in communion his blood (i.e. life) is offered for the forgiveness of sins. So the blood thing may gross you out but it is vitally important to understand the sacrificial system and how Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice.

On April 1st we read from Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord you God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him”. The same day we read from Luke 9:35, “A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him’”. I don’t think the compilers of the ONE YEAR BIBLE knew that these to passages would be read on the same day but it is pretty cool how they are connected. Jesus is the final prophet that Moses was talking about in Deuteronomy 18. The voice of God confirms it when he says, “Listen to him”.

The New Testament
A few books could be written regarding our reading for the past week in Luke. Just two things I want to touch on today. In Luke 9, right after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus takes some time out with his disciples. They get away from the crowds and pray. This is just a short interlude, a mini-retreat if you will. But in this time we have some very profound events. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” In the moment Peter gives a wonderful confession of faith, “You are the Messiah”. This was a big step for most Jews. They were waiting for the Messiah to come and when Peter gives this profession of faith he is saying that he now believes that the Messiah has come and that he is right in front of him. Jesus goes on to describe his mission on the earth, to suffer, be rejected, and to be killed, but be raised again. This was not at all the kind of Messiah the Jews were expecting. The key here is the profession of faith by Peter.

The other passage that I found interesting this week is in Chapter 11. Jesus talks about the sign of Jonah. What is Jonah doing here in the New Testament? Matthew records that Jesus talked about Jonah as well. You remember the story. Jonah was the prophet who was sent to Nineveh but he didn’t want to go. God made sure he got there by sending a storm and then a big fish swallowed up Jonah. Jesus uses this common story to describe his ministry. “But the only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah. What happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son Of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God.” Jonah is seen as a “type” of Christ. And his three days in the belly of the fish parallel the three days that Jesus will be in the belly of the earth. Very interesting stuff indeed.

Bits and Pieces

We will finish the book of Deuteronomy this week and start the book Joshua. Here are the vital stats for the book of Joshua:

PURPOSE: To give the history of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land
AUTHOR: Joshua, except for the ending, which may have been written by the high priest Phinehas, an eyewitness to the events recounted there
SETTING: Canaan, also called the Promised Land, which occupied the same general geographical territory of modern-day Israel
KEY VERSE: “Go through the camp and tell the people. ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.’” (1:11)
KEY PEOPLE: Joshua, Rahab, Achan, Phinehas, Eleazar
KEY PLACES: Jericho, Ai, Mount Ebal, Mount Gerizim, Gebeon, Gilgal, Shiloh, Shechem
SPECIAL FEATURE: Out of over a million people, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who left Egypt and entered the Promised Land

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