Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bethany Bullet - March 23, 2013

A famous musician once asked his chauffeur, “How have you been?” 

What was the response? “Oh, working hard, working 8 days a week!”

The musicians name? John Lennon, and, as the story goes, this phrase found its way into the 7th number 1 hit single from music giants The Beatles.
Ooh I need your love babe,
Guess you know it's true.
Hope you need my love babe,
Just like I need you.
Hold me, love me, hold me, love me.
Ain't got nothin'but love babe,
Eight days a week.

Boy the weeks in Lent sure feel like they are at least eight days long.  It seems as if we will never get to the end, to the celebration, to the party, to…EASTER!

But today, Palm Sunday begins the final journey.  It might be right to say there are eight days THIS week.

We are only a week away from the most important day in the history of Christianity. In eight days the celebration will begin, the stone will be rolled away, the tomb will be empty, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

There are eight days this week, and some of the lyrics from this song will serve as our theme for the next few times we will be gathered into this place, into His house, to see how much he cares, how Jesus ain’t got nothin’but love, and that he loves us all the time. 

The Gospel writer John describes the events of Palm Sunday in his 12th chapter. Let me set the scene for you. It was Passover week in Jerusalem and the crowds were gathering. Think about Disneyland in the middle of the summer and you will begin to understand. Jesus has told His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; that He would suffer and that He would die, but the disciples didn’t really seem to get it. 

As Jesus enters the city there is a parade.  Jesus and His disciples were in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem and as they began the journey they encounter a great crowd.

Next is the praise. The crowd gathers palm branches to wave and shout, “Hosanna!” a word that means- salvation, or save us, or just save, I pray. 

The crowd is ready to crown Jesus King as they use words from Psalm 118, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Then there is the prophecy.  Jesus fulfills the words of the prophet Zechariah as He continues the parade riding on a donkey, and the disciples just don’t seem to get it.

Next we see the popularity.  Many in the crowd had been there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, so our text says.  Perhaps many had been with Jesus before. I wonder if there were some who were fed along with the 5,000, or lepers who were healed, or blind that could now see, or lame that could walk; the Crowd ain’t got nothin’ but love for Jesus, on the first day this week.

The people have had the loaves, now they want a leader, a King. Is their praise genuine, or will they say anything to get something? Were they hoping for a handout? Are these just empty words to fill empty hopes, empty souls, or empty bellies? 

They ain’t got nothin’ but love, as long as they are getting something in return.

It is a common human response. As long as there is something in it for us we are motivated to act. 
·         We too, love a parade. We love to parade around feeling important, looking good in front of others. 
·         We give praise to anything that makes us feel good.  We are not looking for salvation, but for personal acclimation. 
·         We have followed false prophets or political pundits and we ride around with attitudes that are anything but humble.
·         We live for popularity and the potential riches that it brings.

We would be more comfortable riding into town for a Roman Triumph, something the occupying forces in Jerusalem knew all about.

The Roman triumph was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the military achievement of an army commander who had won great military successes, or successfully completed a foreign war. Only the Roman Senate could grant a triumph.

On the day of his triumph, the general wore regalia that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly, and a laurel wreath was held above his head. He rode in a chariot through the streets of Rome with his army and the spoils of his war. At Jupiter's temple on the Capitoline Hill he offered sacrifice and the tokens of his victory to the god. Thereafter he had the right to be described as man of triumph" for the rest of his life.

Now this, this is something that appeals to our human nature. Riding into town on a donkey? Forget about it!!  The Romans there must have laughed at the sight.

But Jesus rode into town in humble fashion, before the real conflict of the week even began.  He was identified as divine and kingly with palm branches held above His head. His arms prepared to carry the cross, to ascend a hill called Calvary to be the sacrifice to God and bring victory. 

As Jesus enters the city that day, he already is a man of triumph. In himself He brought victory over sin, death and the devil. 

“But he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:7-11)

Christ the humble King rides into town on a lowly donkey. He was getting ready for a battle, not returning from one.  He was willing to die so that you can live.  Jesus aint’t got nothin’ but love for you and for me. 

But soon the pomp and circumstance of Palm Sunday would be over. 
·         When the noise died down, somebody had to pick up the litter, the palm branches strewn about, and the cloaks upon the road. 
·         When the noise died down, Jesus was alone - but in another sense he was not alone. He was in the center of His Father’s will. 
·         When the noise died down, Jesus knew that He would have to suffer and die before another Sunday came.
Many came to see the Messiah riding into town. Many had their own ideas of what the Messiah - King would be. Some thought He would be the one who would drive the Romans from the land; others thought He would be the royal king, like David, one who would give guidance to their lives, and still others who thought the Messiah was there to fill their bellies once again. 

Jesus understood all the different thoughts that people had about him. Palm Sunday is the day when, knowing that people are fickle, get tired of parades and go home - Jesus came riding.

It s a day when, knowing that religious leaders dislike those who oppose them and look for a ways to kill the opposition - Jesus came riding.

It s a day when, knowing that the humble king will be disowned, knowing that one will sell his souls for a handful of silver, knowing that even good friends will run away and abandon him, it s a day when knowing all this - Jesus came riding.

Knowing that the crowd will turn against Him on Good Friday - he came riding anyway.

Knowing that even his most trusted disciples could not stay awake in the garden as He prayed for strength to endure the cross - Jesus came riding.

Knowing that He would be mocked and beaten, spit upon, humiliated, tortured, and disgraced - Jesus came riding.

Jesus came riding because he ain’t got nothing but love, not just eight days this week, but for all the days of our lives.  He knew that all of his children need Him to ride into our lives as the loving Messiah - king who would save us from the power of hell through his resurrection on Easter Sunday.  He is the true man of triumph!

He came riding because he knew exactly what we need. 

He came riding in the midst of our sin and he died for us.

Oh, we need his love, yes we know it’s true.  Hold me, love me, hold me, love me, because he ain’t got nothin’ but love, Eight days this week. 

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, March 25, 2013

The One Year Bible- March 25th

When I was in high school, I played on the basketball team.  My first year I warmed the bench for the freshman “A” team.  I would have liked to actually play on the “B” team but my coach was great and wanted me on his team.  My sophomore year was a blur and I think I played a total of three minutes but I loved being part of a team.  My junior year I got cut from the team and I poured my heart out to the coach and asked to just be able to practice with the team.  He said “no” but the varsity coach put me back on the team, (I think there is a story of redemption there but that is not where I am going).  Needless to say I played a total of zero minutes that year, but I never missed a practice and I worked my tail off.  My senior year I made the varsity team and was encouraged by a great coach.  Gene Campbell will always have a place of honor in my heart.  He not only put me back on the JV team the previous year, he gave me shot as a senior.  His pre-game speeches were amazing.  Our team was picked by the local paper to come in last in the league; we were small, un-athletic, and inexperienced.  That did not stop Coach Campbell from giving us confidence and inspiring us to be more than we were told we could be.  We finished the year in fourth place out of ten teams.  We missed the playoffs but made everyone stop and notice us.  I see Moses as that type of person for the people of Israel.  If the paper did a story on them, they would be picked last among the people in the area, they were small, un-athletic, and very inexperienced, but Moses had confidence in them.  As he stands at the boarder of the Promised Land, he recounts the history of the people and gets them ready and pumped up for the battle ahead.  This is how I view the book of Deuteronomy.  Keep this in mind as you read the rest of the book.  On to the rest of the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

I want to spend some time this week talking about one of the most important passages in the Hebrew Bible.  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NIV).  Mark Braun in his commentary on the book of Deuteronomy says the following:

“Israel did not worship a pantheon of gods; their God was one, undivided.  Because of that, God wanted them to give him undivided loyalty.  The Baals of Canaan were manmade pictures of the various forces of nature, but Israel’s God was one.  “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one” is the deepest statement of God’s nature as one Lord.  For centuries the Jews have called this their Shema, from the first Hebrew word of this phrase.  Observant Jews still say the Shema twice each day, as part of their morning and evening prayers, yet it is not so much a prayer as a statement of faith.”

This idea of one God is known as monotheism.  It was a distinctive feature of the Hebrew religion.  Many ancient peoples believed in many gods, or pantheism.  But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of the whole earth, the only true God.  This was an important insight for the nation of Israel because they were about to enter a land filled with people who believed in many gods.  God reminds the people over and over again before they enter the land, not to have anything to do with these other gods.  We shall soon see that this is a bit of foreshadowing, as the gods of the land of Canaan are the cause of many problems and eventually captivity and exile for the people. 

Right after the Shema, Moses then gives some instructions to the people regarding education.  The LORD wanted to make sure that the following generations would hear the stories and know of the love and mercy of God and his statutes and teachings for His people.  “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 NIV). 

Mark Braun continues in his commentary:

“God wanted education in the faith to be a family thing.  God didn’t want his people confining it to Sabbath days, leaving it to the religious professionals to conduct.  Moses’ words in verses 7-9 were probably meant in a figurative way; parents were to talk about their relationship with their Savior God and they went about their day-to-day lives.  Many later Jews, however, took these versed literally.  Jewish males, thirteen and older, tie phylacteries on to their foreheads and their left arms—two little black boxes containing tiny parchment scrolls on which are written four passages of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Observant Jews also fasten mezuzoth to the door frames of their homes and public buildings—small wooden or metal boxes that hold two scrolls on which are written this verse and Deuteronomy 11:13-21.  The Jewish teacher Maimonides said that those who look upon the mezuzoth and the phylacteries as lucky charms are ignorant, yet by obeying Moses’ words literally, many Jews many have found these outward symbols served as strong reminders of their faith.  Crosses or pictures of Jesus serve a similar purpose in our homes.”

Jesus makes mention of this practice in Matthew 23 when he says, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you...
Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'”  Jesus points out that although the Pharisees seem to be doing the things on the outside right, they are not right on the inside.  They need to do what Moses intended.  The word must come out through our actions (tied to our hands) and should be always on our minds (tied to our foreheads). 

If you do a Google image search for phylacteries and mezuzoths you will see what I mean.

The New Testament
We continue our journey in Luke and there are some amazing passages from this past week’s readings. I like the quote from Jesus, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5:31 NIV).  We are all definitely sick because of sin. We are all in need of a doctor and the great physician; Jesus himself is there for us. You may have wondered about this “Son of Man” reference that Jesus keeps making reference to. I could write a book about it but the short answer is that he is most likely making reference to Daniel 7 where a “son of man” comes in glory from the clouds to rule. This was what Jesus was on earth to do. I will try to remember to talk about that when we get into Daniel (in November).

Jesus’ teachings on loving your enemies should make us all a bit uncomfortable. Do we really have to love them? Remember that because of sin we are enemies of God. He still loved us so much that he sent Jesus to die in our place for us. How many of you would die for your friends let alone your enemies. Just amazing. To a Jew the heart was the center of the emotions, as well as all reason and intellect. When Jesus talks about the good things and the evil things that come from our hearts would really hit home. He is not just talking about emotions here. This is the whole shootin’ match. What you say flows from what is in your heart. So that begs the question, what is in your heart? Is it sin or is it love. If it is sin how can you get rid of it? If it is love, how did it get there? The only way the sin will be removed is through what Jesus did for us. Because of his death he has removed that sin and has put in it’s place love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bethany Bullet - March 19, 2013

In December of 1956 the first episode of “To Tell the Truth” aired on the CBS network in prime time, beginning the run of one of the most successful shows in television history. There were 25 full seasons of the show. Many of you remember the panel of “celebrities,” asking questions of the three individuals to ascertain who was telling the truth.   

In reality there has been a much longer version of “To Tell the Truth” playing out across the face of the earth, beginning back in the Garden of Eden.     
A twisted tale, spun by the serpent, and telling the truth has been difficult ever since.  
We’ve all done it, whether it was the size of the fish on the line or the history of our bloodline; attendance figures, or athletic endeavors, we have all fudged a bit, not told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.        
Often times our bold words give way to embarrassment and disgrace.       
Take the example of Peter, one of 12 chosen disciples. He was in the inner circle and confidant of Christ, one who should tell the truth, right? But you heard the familiar story in our Gospel reading from Sunday (John 18:15-18, 25-27), when push came to shove, Peter denied, not once, not twice but three times. This was not just a little white lie; this was an outright denial of the Messiah.    
Perhaps this may seem as being a bit out of character for Peter, but it is not for humanity. Our lives are filled with denials and lies. Often times they are words spoken in order to get our own way or to get ahead. Sometimes they are words spoken in anger or revenge or just simply to get out of trouble.         

When I was younger we had a covered patio in the back of our house.  The steps leading out of the house were covered in carpet remnants and had a few loose strands of fabric sticking out along the edges.  One afternoon I started pulling the strands and really enjoyed seeing how long I could get the pieces before they broke off.  After hours of doing this I had basically ruined the carpet. When my dad got home he was furious.  He asked, “Who did this?” My response?  “It was Josh,” my younger brother.  That day I blamed my brother for my transgression. I gave a false witness and boy did he get in trouble. I was pretty happy with myself at the time. But many years later, that sin festered inside me and tore me up. Eventually I confessed, and my brother didn’t even remember the incident.  
That day I did not stand up for my brother, I am ashamed of my actions, I asked for his forgiveness and it was granted. 
Oh, believe me, there are more stories I could tell, but really don’t want to, because looking back, there are many times I have given false testimony against my neighbor. Thanks be to God for the forgiveness found in Jesus.  
But, back to Peter, it was late on Thursday or very early on Good Friday when Peter disavows knowledge of Jesus but let me take you back a few hours.            
It was in the upper room; Jesus is celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples. As Jesus discusses what will take place in the coming hours he makes a bold pledge,

“I will lay down my life for you.”(John 13:37b)

“Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”            (John 13:38)                 
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16)        
The words from the Torah must have rung in Peter’s ears. The One, who would say that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, just informed Peter that he would deny him.           
It is interesting to note that all four Gospel writers report the denial of Peter. This is not a story that is buried within the text, and I think there is a reason. Peter’s story is our story.    
Bold claims and a tongue that cannot be tamed, result in denial and pain. 

Perhaps words from the Psalmist will help.
From Psalm 1:        
Blessed is the one who does not
           walk in the counsel of the wicked      
Or stand in the way of sinners           
           Or sit in the seat of mockers.
(Psalm 1:1)

Peter walked into the courtyard of the High priest listening to the council of the wicked, the sinfulness welling up within him. He stood by the fire as a sinner and then sat down to mock Jesus by denying that he even knew the man.
In the moment Peter did not follow what comes next is Psalm 1:      

But his delight is in the teachings (or words) of
           the Lord       
And on this Word he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2)    
It was the Word made flesh who made his way before a council of the wicked that night, who stood before sinners and mockers to take the punishment for Peter’s false witness and all of ours as well.             
We too should delight in the Word and in him we are to meditate day and night.              
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried
           our sorrows,           
Yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten
           by him and afflicted.      
But he was pierced for our transgressions
He was crushed for our iniquities;   
The punishment that brought us peace was
           upon him    
And by his wounds we are healed.  
(Isaiah 53:4‐5)      
The culminating moment of the game show “To Tell the Truth” comes when the host announces, “Will the real (fill in the blank name of person) please stand up!”  And with some posturing, the truth teller is revealed.

Perhaps it is time for us to quit the charade and stand up! The 8th commandment commends us to stand up! Stand up for our neighbors, defend them in words and actions and stop taking pot shots with our words, to speak well of them and quit dragging them through the mud, and to put the best construction on everything we say and do.              

Martin Luther has some great advice in his Large Catechism, writing about the 8th commandment, “No one shall use the tongue to harm a neighbor, whether friend of foe. No one shall say anything evil of a neighbor, whether true or false, unless it is done with proper authority or for that person’s improvement. Rather, we should use our tongue to speak only the best about people, to cover the sins and infirmities of our neighbors, to justify their actions, and to cloak and veil them with our own honor.” (LC I, 285)         
He goes on to write, “When you become aware of a sin, however, do nothing but turn your ears into a tomb and bury it.”  (LC I, 266)    
The other Gospel writers tell us that Peter went away that night and wept bitterly.         He was confronted with his sin, it was before his eyes and he realized the implication of his actions. Have you shed some tears over the actions of your past? You are in good company.         
But the story of Peter is not quite finished. John records an encounter that Peter has with the resurrected Jesus. It was after a long night of fishing and Jesus has prepared a meal for his disciples on the shore.               After sharing a meal, Jesus has a conversation with Peter and restores their relationship.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”      
“Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”         
“Feed my lambs.”           
“Simon, son of John, to you truly love me?”        
“Yes, Lord you know that I love you.”         
“Take care of my sheep.”         
“Simon son of John, do you love me?”       
“Lord, you know all things; you know I that I
           love you.”   
“Feed my sheep.”
(John 21:15-17 selected portions)

That same Jesus comes here, to share a meal with you and restore you into a relationship with him.      
He calls you to feed his lambs and take care of his sheep as we use our words to speak well of our neighbors, and he promises that he will be here again and again so that you can be empowered to tell the truth.  
-Pastor Seth Moorman

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