September 30, 2012

In Numbers 11:16,24,26-29, Moses appoints 70 elders to discern God's Truth for the people. Here we see the burden of leadership weighing too heavily on Moses. He selects 70 elders to speak for God. In the context of more voices speaking for God, a young man approaches Moses with a complaint. Eldad and Medad are prophesying. Joshua stepped forward and insisted that Moses stop them. Moses, after all, was their spokesman. Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!" Wherein lies authority? Who speaks for God? In a world where some people are viewed as more "enlightened" than others, this passage suggests that every person is capable to finding his or her own truth. A strikingly similar event happens in the New Testament (Mark 9:38-40). John complains to Jesus that someone is casting out demons in Jesus' name, yet he is not a follower of Jesus. Jesus says not to stop him. "Whoever is not against us is for us."

September 23, 2012

There are two trees in our garden. The Adam & Eve story is about our choice between them. The "Tree of Life" offers security in Eden. The "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" casts us from Eden and bars the gates. The drama of this story continues today. As long as people play “god” by nibbling from the latter, the world will know chaos, hunger, and strife. In the midst of people continuing to live out their self-enforced exit from Eden, Christ offers a way back in, but we first have to give up our "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" and stop playing "god" over our private little kingdoms. Beautiful poetry in the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, says that when the time comes, "the leaves of the tree will be for the healing of the nations." Why is there so much conflict and hurt in the world; to see it, we have only to watch the evening news. James discerns two kinds of “Wisdom.” "Wisdom from Below" is self-centered. It is full of self-ambition, and creates disorder. "Wisdom from Above" is pure, gentle, and peaceable. It is "willing to yield." It is "without partiality." It is "without hypocrisy." As Mark tells the story, the disciples follow just steps behind Jesus arguing about "which was greater"? Who has done more "good"? For Jesus, this is a red flag. He turns and tells them that anyone who would be great, anyone who wants to lead, must first humble himself or herself and become a servant. The sermon Sunday will be on the ever-so-subtle nuances of humility.

September 16, 2012

The texts for Sunday pair Psalm 19 (the meditations of the heart) with James 3:1-12 (similes about the untamed tongue—like a spark igniting a forest, rudder turning of a ship, bit in the mouth guiding a horse). These texts call to mind Jesus explaining how a tree is known by its fruits. A good tree produces good fruit. A bad tree produces bad fruit. He goes on to say that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. On another occasion, he said that it is not what goes into our mouths that defile us, but what comes out of our mouths. And again, Jesus tells us that by our words will we be justified and by our words will we be condemned. Much to think about, here. The title of the sermon Sunday will be "Out of the Heart, the Mouth Speaks."

September 9, 2012

If you get a chance before Sunday, please read this week's text, Mark 7:24-37. A Syrophoenician woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter. Why did Jesus call her a "dog"?