Friday, December 14

Dearest church family, 

Good, soggy Friday morning to you! I hope you are warm and dry wherever you are today. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 102 & 148         Evening – Psalm 16 & 130

Our final Gospel reading for today is Luke 22: 14 – 30. Jesus shares the Passover meal with the disciples. The disciples have a conversation about assessing greatness. 

So which one is greater, the one who is seated at the table or the one who serves at the table? Isn’t it the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

The time had come. Jesus and Judas knew the betrayal was about to break wide open. When Jesus shared the Passover meal with the twelve, he indicated what was about to happen. An argument broke out among the disciples, which led to a debate about assessing greatness. 

Luke’s account of the meal in the upper room focuses on this debate. There is little attention given to Jesus’ statement regarding his betrayal. The disciples again become lost in their own concerns and begin to argue with each other. 

In the midst of their rampant humanity, Jesus affirms the disciples’ decision to remain with him. He affirms the authority given to them by God. He lifts them up and continues to prepare them for what is to come. 

Jesus is the perfect example of a servant leader. He speaks truthfully and without hesitation about his own reality, but his concern is always for the well being of others. He could have changed the outcome of the situation for his benefit. Jesus continued to walk in faith with God. 

Isn’t this the essential truth of Advent? The one who came into the earthly kingdom as the word of God in the flesh could have saved himself. Instead, he saved everybody else. This is the gift we celebrate Christmas morning; God’s gift of redemption and salvation. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s. 

There is a lot happening in the life of the church this weekend.! 

Tonight is the progressive nativity in downtown. It begins at 6pm. I will be singing Christmas carols on the street and welcome any and all who want to sit in for a few songs! 

We host a team of volunteers at the Elmore County Food Pantry tomorrow. Any time you can share between 9:30 & 12:30 is appreciated. 

The Christmas on the Coosa Parade is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. The parade rolls out at 1:30 in front of the church. 

Youth Caroling – the youth will go caroling to shut ins Sunday evening. We will meet at the church at 5pm and make a few caroling stops. We will have supper together afterwards. Adults are welcome to join us!


Thursday, December 13

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. I hope you are doing well this morning. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 18: 1 – 20 & 147: 12 – 20            Evening – Psalm 62 & 126 

Our Gospel reading for today is Luke 22: 1 – 13. Following yesterday’s departure to the Gospel of John, we return to Luke and encounter Luke’s recording of the plot to kill Jesus. As the Festival of Passover approached, the plot and Judas’ role in it unfold. 

The chief priests and legal experts were looking for a way to kill Jesus, because they were afraid of the people.

Luke 22: 2            CEB 

Of all the people who might want Jesus out of the picture for one reason or another, the chief priests of the temple should be the last group anyone might suspect. After all, Jesus, the Son of God, the fulfillment of prophecy, brought the idea of living by faith to more people than any temple ministry ever could. Jesus went to church regularly for heaven’s sake. You would think any priest would love Jesus! 

Luke’s account of the plot to kill Jesus identifies the chief priests and legal experts as the originating culprits. We know and remember that fear of Jesus is what led to his trial and death. Luke specifies that the ones behind the plot were afraid of the people Jesus was ministering to – not Jesus himself. 

This is significant in understanding how they were able to create and carry out such a heinous plot. Throughout the period of testing Jesus, the chief priests and legal experts tried everything in their power to discredit Jesus and turn the people against him. Why would they do that? Maintaining power and control is the motive of their actions. 

Jesus did not attack or threaten the chief priests in any way. Jesus shared the truth of God with all who would listen to him. That truth puts human power and authority in its proper place. The truth of God points out all inequity, and systems of power and authority cringe every time it does. 

What does it mean to embrace the power and authority of God rather than reject it? More to the point, what does it mean for the church and whatever authority it possesses to embrace and witness to divine authority? If we are not careful, we can easily allow our humanity to justify rejecting divine authority in the name of protecting the power and authority we assign to ourselves. 

Peace,

Jonathan


Wednesday, December 12

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you. I hope your Wednesday is off to a good start. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 50 & 147: 1 – 11             Evening – Psalm 17 & 53 

Our Gospel reading for today is John 7: 53 – 8: 11. Our readings in Luke for this week are interrupted by a one day departure to the Gospel of John. Our reading is in the same time period as our Luke readings. Jesus continues to teach and is aware of the plots by the Pharisees to kill him. 

They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.”

John 8: 7              CEB 

The legal experts and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus. They questioned Jesus’ application of the laws of Moses. They did so in an effort to trap Jesus, not to achieve any measure of justice. 

The Bible is clear in its teaching that every child of God is called in some measure to hold others accountable. We are to resist placing stumbling blocks in the paths of sisters and brothers, and we are warned not to condone sinful activity. This is part of living the life of faith faithfully. 

In both instances, the piece of the puzzle the Bible leaves out relates to judgment. Yes, we are called to hold one another accountable, to lift one another up, and to avoid causing ourselves or others to stumble in sin. We are never called to pronounce judgment against others. 

It is important to recognize that the call to leave judgment to God is part of God’s original plan for the earthly kingdom. It is not borne out of some human sense of political correctness. God gives humanity a great deal of freedom and authority, but the burden of judging others is not part of that gift. 

Our reading today does not dispute the guilt of the woman in question. She is not given a pass for her indiscretion. She is judged by God in Jesus Christ, rather than the legal experts and Pharisees. She is forgiven by Jesus, restored, and encouraged to witness accordingly. 

Jesus’ response to the legal experts and Pharisees is freeing for anyone occupying any means of religious authority. It is a sign of strength, not weakness. Jesus’ response reminds us that we never have to bear the burden of judgment. 

Peace,

Jonathan

p.s.

Wednesday Bible Study will meet today at noon in the Seekers classroom. Our Wednesday afternoon program will not meet again until mid January. There is also no Choir practice this evening. Choir will meet at 10:30 Sunday morning in the Choir room.


Tuesday, December 11

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you. I hope you are doing well and enjoying a bit of sunshine for a change. 

The Psalm readings for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 3& 146               Evening – Psalm 85 & 94 

Our Gospel reading for today is Luke 21: 29 – 38. Jesus shares the parable of the fig tree. The parable illustrates what Jesus had just shared regarding the fate of the temple. 

In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that God’s kingdom is near.

Luke 21: 31          CEB

Signs, signs, everywhere signs. So the song goes. The song Signs from the 1960s was a protest song about human efforts to reign in the diversity of God’s kingdom on earth. One line of the song makes reference to God’s reaction to those efforts and offers a response from God, “Man, you’re some kind of sinner!” 

The signs of the times can be devastating. This is true in every moment in human history. There are always signs that things are not good, and people of faith wonder if that means God is about to come back and set everything straight. 

It seems vital to the life of faith to see the signs of the times from God’s perspective. While scripture reminds us that God weeps over the inequities of the earthly kingdom, God continues to work and promote a better way for the earthly kingdom. There will indeed come a time when the earthly kingdom as we know it will come to and end, but God is not waiting for that time to get involved. We shouldn’t either. 

The signs of the love of God and the hope God has for life in the earthly kingdom are all around us. They are more prominent at Christmas time, but they are equally present all the time. Are the signs of our times destroying your hope? Try focusing instead on the signs of God’s time instead. 

Peace,

Jonathan

Monday, December 10

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. I hope you are enjoying a good Monday morning. 

Special thank goes out to Brian, Katy, our Choir, and narrators Michael Armstrong and Stanton Yarboro for a wonderful Christmas Cantata yesterday. What an incredible blessing and sharing of God’s gifts! 

Our readings for devotion this week will be the Gospel selections from the daily lectionary. We will be reading from the 21st  & 22nd chapters of Luke with a mid-week departure to the Gospel of John. I will include the daily Psalm readings for your own use in devotion. 

The Psalm readings for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 122 & 145         Evening – Psalm 40 & 67 

Our Gospel reading for today is Luke 21: 20 – 28. The daily lectionary cycle does not follow the Christian calendar in the same manner as the Sunday cycle. Luke 19 concludes with Jesus clearing the temple and throwing out the money changers. Chapter 20 tells of Jesus being questioned about authority and attempts by the religious authority to trap him in heresy. 

They asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are correct in what you say and teach. You don’t show favoritism but teach God’s way as it really is.”

Luke 20: 21          CEB 

Jesus’ earthly ministry began with an encounter with Satan in the wilderness. The devil did not challenge God’s truth as Jesus represented it. Instead, the devil sought to manipulate that truth to fit the human desire for power and authority. 

The religious leaders of the day asked Jesus if it was in keeping with religious law for the people of God to pay taxes to Caesar (verse 22). The question was a trap. Seeking understanding was not the purpose of asking the question. 

Before the question is asked, the religious authority of the day makes a declaration about Jesus in order to soften him up a bit. They acknowledge that Jesus speaks God’s truth and presents God’s way accurately. The sincerity of their declaration may be suspect, but the truth of it is not. 

The statement made in verse 21 is worthy of committing to memory. Jesus is correct in what he says and teaches. Jesus does not show favoritism and teaches the ways of God as they really are. 

This is why we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ. This is why we identify ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ. This is why we identify ourselves as the church of Jesus Christ. This is why we celebrate the example Jesus continues to provide to us all. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s. 

Thanks to everyone who helped make the Salvation Army stockings project a success. They will be loaded up later this morning and delivered to the Salvation Army in Montgomery. Special thanks to Simeon, Sophia, and Chris Scott, Skyler and Mackenzie Worden, Jackson Hudson, Therese Carter,  Lori Biegler, Judy Morrow, and Marsha Johnson for all their work yesterday afternoon!