Tuesday, August 22


Dearest church family,

Good morning to you all. I hope you are well and survived eclipse mania.

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are:

Morning – Psalm 123 & 146          Evening – Psalm 30 & 86

Our Gospel reading for today is Mark 11: 27 – 12: 12. Jesus continues to teach about the conflict between human and divine authority. He sets the theological stage for what is about to happen. Jesus uses the parable of the tenant farmers to strengthen the message.

“But those tenant farmers said to each other, ‘Let is the heir. Let’s kill him and the inheritance will be ours’.”

Mark 12: 7           CEB

If you ever struggle to understand what took place during the betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, read the parable of the tenant farmers found in our reading today. Through a parable, Jesus explains in no uncertain terms precisely what was about to happen. Human greed took over and overshadowed divine reality.

The reality for the tenant farmers was that they had been given everything they needed by the owner of the vineyard. The owner had established the vineyard and set it up for production. All that was asked was a portion of the proceed. The agreement was not enough to satisfy the tenant farmers, as it turned out.

God gives us everything we need to thrive in the earthly kingdom. God asks for the first fruits of all labors to be returned to God for the sake of enriching the lives of all. All children of God are heirs to God’s promises. Humanity demonstrates time and time again that this arrangement is not enough to satisfy us.

Why is this? The most interesting aspect of the parable as I see it is that the tenant farmers killed the only son of the owner in order to claim the son’s inheritance. Jesus made it abundantly clear in his teaching and witness that the inheritance he received from God was meant for everyone. He pointed out to all that would listen that the covenant life of faith includes the inheritance of eternal life. It follows, then, that killing the only son of the owner would actually gain the tenant farmers nothing.

The parable ends with Jesus explaining that the owner would destroy the greedy tenant farmers and give the farming opportunity to others. God did not destroy those responsible for the death of Jesus, however. Any who reject the teachings of Jesus cut themselves off from recognition of divine blessing.

Jesus spoke a truth that was heard by a great number of people. The truth Jesus shared changed their lives for the better. A few people did not receive God’s truth as Jesus shared it. Their lives were changed for the worse. Strive every day to live according to God’s truth as witnessed to by Jesus Christ.

Peace,

Jonathan

p.s.

Please keep my family in your prayers. My aunt Margaret Darnell passed away yesterday morning following a long journey with Alzheimer’s. She is finally at peace, as is the rest of the family. Her peaceful death is truly a blessing. Arrangements have not been made at this point for her memorial service.  



Monday, August 21

Dearest church family,

Good morning to you. I hope you are doing well this eclipse day.

Our readings for daily devotion this week will be the Gospel selections from the daily lectionary. We will be reading from the 11th & 12th chapters of the Gospel of Mark. Theses chapters feature Mark’s telling of the ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem and how the two kingdoms of heaven and earth are often in conflict. I will also list the Psalm readings for each day for those who want to incorporate daily Psalm reading into devotion.

The Psalm readings for today are:

Morning – Psalm 135 & 145          Evening – Psalm 97 & 112

The Gospel reading for today is Mark 11: 12 – 26. Following his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus and the disciples return to Bethany the next day. Jesus stops at a blooming fig tree looking for something to eat. The tree was barren of fruit and Jesus cursed the tree. Upon entering the temple, Jesus encounters the money changers and throws them out of the temple. The next morning. Jesus and the disciples pass by the withered fig tree and Jesus offers a lesson on prayer and forgiveness.

“And whenever you stand up to pray, if you have something against anyone, forgive so that your father in heaven may forgive you for your wrongdoings.”

Mark 11: 25         CEB

The turn of events surrounding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a whirlwind in each of the Gospels. The story moves very quickly in Mark’s account. Jesus continues to share powerful teaching in a variety of settings. Some teachings are easily recognized and embraced by the disciples and the gathered crowds, but other teachings are mysterious and elusive. The cursing of the fig tree is one in particular that seems to have no resolution.

According to Mark, Jesus uses a seemingly disconnected series of events to support an essential teaching regarding the life of faith. The teaching informs us all about the practice of prayer. What Jesus shares, essentially, is that prayer originates in the heart of the believer and that prayer is powerful.

Jesus reminds all willing to listen that forgiveness starts at home, so to speak. Before anyone offers a prayer for someone else, especially asking for forgiveness, the heart must be pure. If there is malice in the heart, forgiveness will not be realized. Verse 25 of our reading today makes that very clear.

What is implied is easy to miss, however. God is in the business of forgiveness. We often times are not. If we want to realize God’s gift of grace, we must begin with asking to be forgiven of our own wrongdoing. That is our starting point each and every time we pray, and God is waiting at that point for us to share the power of redemptive love.

Peace,

Jonathan


Friday, August 18


Dearest church family,

Good Friday morning to you! I hope you are having a good day thus far.

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are:

Morning – Psalm 51 & 148            Evening – Psalm 29 & 82

Our final Epistle reading for this week is Acts 19: 21 – 41. Conflict emerges in Ephesus as gospel good news spreads. In particular, the warning against idolatry strikes at the heart of some who wish to continue worshipping other gods. The setting begins to lend itself to a violent showdown.

Meanwhile, the assembly was in a state of confusion. Some shouted one thing, others shouted something else, and most of the crowd didn’t know why they had gathered.

Acts 19: 32           CEB

The story of the spreading of the gospel has direct application to the life of faith in every time and place. It is, in part, a commentary on human behavior. Throughout the Bible, the word of God offers a close look at human behavior, especially when crowds gather. Acts – the story of the early church – is certainly no exception.

In our reading today, we encounter a showdown. A sculptor who acknowledges having made a very good living crafting god idols criticizes the gospel message warning against idolatry. God’s good news as shared by Paul and his colleagues was a threat to the sculptor’s way of life and livelihood.

Pay close attention to this small fact. God’s message was rejected because it potentially infringed upon the livelihood of a group of people. This reality has not changed since. God’s good news is often rejected and / or condemned when it challenges the human way of doing things.

It is most important to pay attention to the way the situation resolves. Paul’s supporters urge him to stay away from the assembly for safety’s sake. Fortunately, cooler heads prevail. The false claim that God’s good news is heresy is put down.

As we encounter a time of heightened speech and activity in the name of division and hatred, we should all be reminded of a powerful reality. The voices instigating riots in our nation and world come from the extremes. Acts 19: 32 reminds us that often in situations like these, the majority of the crowd does not understand or even embrace the reason for the gathering. They are allowing themselves to be led by the shouting of a few who have a distorted view of reality.

The same is true in our  time and in every time. Do not allow yourself to be misled by the shouting of others. Focus your heart and energy on the truth of God’s grace and good news.  Let God be your God in every assembly.

Peace,

Jonathan

p.s.

Remember that we are providing a team of volunteers at the Elmore County Food Pantry tomorrow. Any time you have to share between 9:30am and 1:30pm will be greatly appreciated.


Thursday, August 17

Dearest church family,

Good Thursday morning! I hope your day is shaping up nicely thus far.

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are:

Morning – Psalm 97 & 147: 12 – 20            Evening – Psalm 16 & 62

Our Epistle reading for today is Acts 19: 11 – 20. Paul continues to minister in Ephesus. God worked many miracles through Paul. Some Jews attempted to drive out evil spirits in the name of Jesus but were unsuccessful.

This became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus. Everyone was seized with fear and they held the name of the Lord Jesus in the highest regard.

Acts 19: 17           CEB

Our readings from Acts this week present a paradox. In some instances, faithful Jews reject the gospel of Jesus Christ and seek to snuff it out. In other instances, faithful Jews embrace the gospel and minister and witness in the name of Jesus. God works miracles through some of Jewish origin, but not through others. What is the deal?

Sorcery was a common practice in the time of Jesus and Paul. People who believed they were possessed by evil spirits would contact and contract with sorcerers to have the spirit expelled. There were numerous rituals and practices associated with this form of exorcism.

Our reading today is a commentary on sorcery. It is not a condemnation of the practice as much as it is a distinction between the ways of magic and the ways of God. In short, our reading demonstrates that Jesus is not God’s sorcerer, nor is anyone truly ministering in God’s name.

Jesus liberates people from possession by evil spirits without force or coercion. Jesus speaks to the spirits and the spirits know Jesus. The spirits recognize they have no power or authority over Jesus and obey him. End of story.

Jesus gives us the power and authority to release captives from evil spirits, but the gift is not a gift of magic. The gift is a sharing of the power of God’s redemptive love. We do not have that power on our own, nor can we conjure it through any means. We can only channel it in the name of God. I don’t know about you, but I am okay with that.

Peace,

Jonathan


Wednesday, August 16


Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. I hope your day is going well thus far.

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are:

Morning – Psalm 89: 1 – 18 & 147: 1 – 11                Evening – Psalm  1 & 33

Our Epistle reading for today is Acts 19: 1 – 10. Apollos, a well known and respected Jewish leader, continued spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in Corinth. Apollos had accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah and reaffirmed the good news shared by Paul in the region. Apollos gained favor and was increasingly received. Paul traveled on to Ephesus.

Paul went to the synagogue and spoke confidently for the next three months. He interacted with those present and offered convincing arguments concerning the nature of God’s kingdom.

Acts 19: 8             CEB

The confidence of Paul is sometimes a touchy subject. Many followers of Jesus Christ struggle with it. What often comes across in Paul’s preaching and witness is arrogance. Paul himself talks more about “boasting” more than any other figure in scripture.

Regardless of how you may or may not care for Paul, there is something interesting to be found in his witness. Paul blends confidence and humility in ways we should all acknowledge and strive to embody. Paul is confident and at times arrogant. Paul is humble in his service to God and the spreading of the gospel. Both of these are true statements.

What unfolds in the later part of Acts chapter 18 informs what happens at the opening of chapter 19. Paul shared the gospel in Corinth and was rejected by Jewish authority. Apollos, a Jew, comes along after Paul sharing the same message and is received. Paul continues to minister elsewhere with confidence.

How is this possible? A truly arrogant and confident person would undoubtedly be negatively affected by the rejection and replacement that had just taken place in Corinth. Paul was not. He continued his witness u hindered by the response.

Acts is the story of the early church. There are more lessons to be learned there than we could possibly name, but the main lesson must be claimed. Ministry and witness is not about the recipient. It is about the giver.

Have confidence in the witness God calls you to share. Share it with everything you have. Live your discipleship on God’s terms, unhindered by anyone else’s.

Peace,

Jonathan

p.s.

Please remember that we will be volunteering at the Elmore County Food Pantry this Saturday as a church group. Any time you have to share between 9:30am and 1:30pm is greatly appreciated. Contact me for more information.