Author Archives: admin

BLESSING OF THE ANIMALS

Bring your favorite furry, feathered or scaly animal friend for a special blessing on Saturday, June 8th at 6pm in the Chapel-in-the-Pines.

We will have a brief worship service to celebrate the joy we find in our beloved pets, and then invite folks to come forward to receive a blessing with their pet. All our friends are invited to join us for a relaxed and joyful day celebrating the goodness of God.

Please have your pets on leashes or in a pet carrier. A photo of your pet is fine too, if your critter doesn’t like to travel.

OLD STURBRIDGE VILLAGE TRIP, Saturday, March 28th

Dunn’s Corners Church is offering a trip to Old Sturbridge Village museum in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, on Saturday, March 28th. We will depart from church at 8 am and return by 4 pm.

Cost: $40 per person, which will include admission to the Village and transportation (either bus or van).

Sign up in Fellowship Hall and turn in your $40 check to save a spot for
what promises to be a great day for our church family.

“Live at the Corners” Racial Justice Awareness Series

We are “LIVE AT THE CORNERS!”
with our Racial Justice Awareness Series

In response to the passion of our DCCCP youth and the enthusiastic response generated from the summer Racial Justice Awareness event at our church, our DCCCP Youth Group has created “Live at the Corners!” The Youth Group is planning five live-streamed, thirty-minute presentations and panel talks relating to Racial and Social Justice. Please mark your calendars for these themed events, all held from 6:00-6:30 each Tuesday for five consecutive weeks:

October 13Youth Group Conversations:  Impressions, experiences, and awareness about Racial Justice led by two teen moderators and discussed by a Youth Group teen panel. Audience members submit online questions and comments relating to Race during the session. These audience questions and comments will be addressed in the final session.

October 20:  History of Oppression:  We will address many types of oppressions throughout history among persons of color in America and how its effects linger on today in spite of the many accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans and other marginalized groups.

October 27What the Bible Tells Us: We will investigate Racial Relations as relayed in the Bible and explore how people of faith respond to racial injustices. Tentative speakers: Minister and congregation members of Westerly Baptist Church.

November 10URI Professors address Race: Pro-active attitudes, behaviors, language, role-modeling, programs, and services that promote equity and social justice in our schools and communities. Exploration of ways in which we can all take pro-active roles in ensuring equality.

November 17Audience Input Session on Race: This final, culminating session responds to audience comments and questions relating to Race that were submitted at Session One. We explore future directions and avenues for combatting racism in America.

We look forward to the role our youth will play as we seek to grow in our awareness of racial justice and explore ways in which we can make a positive impact.

Please click this link for “Live at the Corners” sign up.
Please click this link, for our church plan to meet in person.
To join us for “Live at the Corners” via livestream use this YouTube Link.

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Forty:  Friday, July 31st, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 28

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Because he lives”
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb where Jesus had been so recently buried. It was now the third day. An angel appeared from heaven and going to the tomb, “Rolled back the stone and sat on it.” The appearance of the angel frightened the guards so badly they became like dead men. The women were probably filled with fear as well. But their fear did not last, for the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” He is risen. Those three words hold the promise of our faith. Death is not the victor. The evil arms of sin are not wrapped around us. And the devil does not have dominion. Jesus is risen. Thus, he tells his disciples as this wonderful gospel of good news comes to an end, “All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus is risen, and Jesus is Lord! Hallelujah! Glory to God in the highest!

We missed something this year that should not be missed. We missed something that is a foundation of our faith. We missed a great day of celebration. We missed Easter…at least Easter as we know it. We did not gather together to have that mighty call and response that fills our sanctuary with the sound of triumph.

The call goes out on Easter Sunday…HE IS RISEN!

The congregation roars back in response…HE IS RISEN INDEED!

We missed that this year. Even so, the resurrection is just as real as always. The resurrection meets frightened women, calming their fears and sending them out to tell others. The resurrection meets disciples with the Great Commission to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” The resurrection meets you and it meets me with the good news that Jesus Christ is alive…Jesus Christ is still alive…Jesus Christ is still our Lord…and Jesus Christ is still at work in our world to bring healing and hope to all people.

Since we missed celebrating Easter as a family of faith this year, let us bring this 40 day study of the Gospel of Matthew to a close with some of the treasured words that fill our Easter service of worship with such joy, with such wonder, with such awe, and with such hope.

    • Were you there when he rose up from the grave? Were you there when he rose up from the grave? Sometimes, I feel like shouting “Glory! Glory! Glory!” Were you there when he rose up from the grave?
    • Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia! Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia! Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia! Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!
    • Thine is the glory, Risen, conquering Son; endless is thy victory Thou o’er death has won.
    • Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes; He arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever with his saints to reign; He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

And one final hymn that speaks of how the resurrection is so much more than a distant event tied to ancient Palestine. The resurrection of Jesus gives us the power to live today.

“God sent his Son, they called him Jesus, He came to love, heal and forgive.

He lived and died to buy my pardon, An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because he lives I can face tomorrow, Because he lives all fear is gone; Because I know he holds the future. And life is worth the living just because he lives.” (Because He Lives, Bill Gaither)

Because Jesus lives we can face tomorrow. And because he lives we have hope for this very day.

HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Commentary:

“Garret Keizer, a minister in Vermont, tells of conducting an Easter vigil in his little church.
Only two people show up for the service, but Keizer nonetheless lights the paschal candle and says the prayer. ‘The candle sputters in the half darkness like a voice too embarrassed or overwhelmed to proclaim the news that Christ is risen…but it catches fire, and there we are,
three people and a flickering light in an old church on a Saturday evening in the spring, with the noise of cars and their winter rusted mufflers outside. The moment is filled with ambiguities of all such quiet observances among few people, in the midst of an oblivious population in a radically secular age. The act is so ambiguous because its terms are so extreme: either the Lord is with us, or we are pathetic fools.’ So it is always with the church. WE take a fragmentary community, a fragmentary faith, a fragmentary understanding of the Trinitarian God, and we go into the world with everything Jesus has taught us. Either the Lord is with us and all authority has been given to Christ, or we are indeed pathetic fools.” (Tom Long, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 3, p. 49…quoting Keizer, A Dresser of Sycamore Trees). So we come to the end of the gospel of Matthew. Perhaps some consider people of faith to be pathetic fools. But we have this great assurance: Jesus Christ is with us now, and forever, even unto the end of the
age. Receiving this good news let us go into all the world making disciples in his name.

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 39

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Thirty-nine:  Thursday, July 30th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 27

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Just for you”
We now come to the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of our most sorrowful and deeply moving songs of faith reflect on the death of God’s Beloved Son, a death Jesus died on our behalf and for our benefit. More than that, his death was for our salvation, for the overcoming of our sin and the sin of the world. Jesus died to wrap us securely in the grip of God’s eternal love.

    • The titles of the hymns are powerful. “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”
    • The hymns speak of heartfelt reflection. “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.”
    • The soul is moved by this act of sacrificial love. “What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul, what wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this that the caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!”

Ten years ago, I began a journey I have yet to complete. I began to read Church Dogmatics, a 13-volume set written by Karl Barth. For 8,000 pages Barth examines in great depth the incredible gift God gave to humanity by sending Jesus Christ into the world. In the seventh volume, and after 4,000 other pages, Karl Barth comes to the topic of reconciliation. As Karl Barth digs deep into the fertile soil of reconciliation rich themes come together. As those themes come together the gospel story comes to life. Some of Barth’s writing nearly breaks your heart and brings joy to the deepest places in your soul. Barth writes about the obedience of the Son of God. God did not simply send Jesus. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, accepted his mission willingly. Jesus went with obedience. The eternal Son of God became human because of God’s great love. There is a section that describes The Way of the Son of God into the Far Country. The title alone evokes images of the Prodigal Son, but now instead of a son who leaves his father and wastes the family wealth, we have a Son who in obedience goes to the far country himself, to rescue and redeem God’s precious children.

Late in the volume on reconciliation Karl Barth seeks to help us understand the full impact of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. According to Barth there comes a moment, a moment of faith, a moment of awakening, a moment of reconciliation, where the child of God looks at everything God has done, the great faithfulness of God, the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the great love that is poured out on the cross, and seeing all this the child of God realizes it was all done as Barth puts it, “Just for him.”[1] All that was done by Jesus was done “Just for him.” Christ Jesus became a servant “Just for him.” It was just his place Jesus took on the cross. Jesus died “Just for him.” It was just his pride, just his fall which was overcome. And it was just him that was filled with the Holy Spirit. Barth even says Jesus did not will to be Jesus without being just his Jesus. The world was not to be reconciled with God without just this person as an isolated individual being a human—this person—reconciled to God. The whole occurrence of salvation was not to take place but just for him.

When Barth writes just for him, he means just for you. A realization like that can change your life. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of salvation for all creation, for the whole world, for all humanity. For God so loved the world. The gospel is all that and more. And yet I agree completely with Karl Barth. The gospel that is for the whole world, the gospel that is for all humanity, is a gospel that is intended to make a personal impact. The gospel is just for you. God did all this all this just for you. I close with a words from a hymn that I return to over and over again. I close with a line from a hymn that humbly rejoices in the gift God did just for me. And I pray that each one of you will know in the deepest places of your heart that God did all he did just for you.

“Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God shouldst die for me?” (Charles Wesley)

[1] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV.1, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, p. 754.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Commentary:

A place called Golgotha, meaning SkullPlace. “Place names suggest geographicity, historicity,
and factuality of an event. No Gospel story begins ‘once upon a time…’ The death of Jesus happened on this planet on a piece of land with a strange but ordinary name like Skull-Place. We do not know if this place got its name from its shape or from its awful job of death. Hebrew Golgotha became Calvarium in Latin, from which we get our English ‘Calvary’. (Dale Bruner, The
Churchbook, p. 1039)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 38

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Thirty-eight:  Wednesday, July 29th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 27:36-75

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“The Olive Press”
The night he was arrested Jesus was with his disciples on the Mount of Olives. True to its name the Mount of Olives is home to numerous olive trees. It might be of interest to explore the process used to get oil from the olives. After tapping the branches of the tree to get the olives to fall, they would then be picked up carefully so as not to bruise the olives. The pits would be removed, and the olives gently placed in a basin. Then a large millstone would be rolled round and round in a circle over the olives, pressing the oil from the olives. The oil would flow into a container and the crushed pulp into a basket. This first pressing was the purest oil and was used mainly for lamps, cosmetics and holy anointing. The second pressing was for the crushed pulp. (With thanks to Bible History Online, “Ancient Olive Press”)

Gethsemane is a garden on the Mount of Olives. It is in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus makes his anguished prayer, his prayer that both asks for the Father to remove the cup he will face, and his prayer that ultimately yields to the Father by saying, “May your will be done.” The name Gethsemane means “Oil Press, or Olive Press”. As Matthew describes Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, can you see the large millstone of the olive press bearing down upon our precious Lord.

    • Jesus began to be sorrowful and troubled (26:37)
    • Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (26:38)
    • Jesus fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” (26:39)

The millstone continues to press upon him as his prayer ends.

    • Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. (26:49)
    • All the disciples desert him and flee (26:56)
    • Peter denies him three times. (26:69-75)
    • The high priest tore his clothes and charged Jesus with blasphemy. (26:65)
    • Everyone present at his mock trial proclaimed, “He is worthy of death.” (26:66)

All of these actions might be regarded as the first pressing. Remember the second pressing? The second pressing is when the pulp is crushed. All of the actions in Matthew 26 might be regarded as the first pressing. The actions we will read tomorrow in Matthew 27 can serve as the second pressing, where the pulp is crushed.

Through the first pressing Jesus remains faithful. Through the first pressing Jesus arrives at the place where he can pray to the Father, “Your will be done.” Through the first pressing Jesus will say twice how through his suffering the scriptures will be fulfilled.

The second pressing is when the pulp is crushed. It is no wonder people who survey the wondrous cross with somber and reverent hearts have connected the words from Isaiah 53 to the suffering and death of Jesus.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrow,
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.”

With the image of the Olive Press fresh in our minds our Savior now prepares to be crushed. There is much for us to contemplate as our reading for today begins with these words, “Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane…”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Commentary:

Consider these powerful words about the way Jesus responds during his arrest. “The way of nonviolence, non-retaliation, love of enemies, is to be pursued to the end. What Jesus has taught, he lives out, at the cost of his life. Just as he practiced the prayer he taught his disciples, so also he practices non-retaliatory self-giving. Violence is self-destructive and futile, resulting only in a vicious spiral of violence. The sword is a symbol not only of mob violence or self defense, but also of government itself. Jesus represents a redefinition of kingship; the way of God’s kingdom is to absorb evil rather than inflict it, and bring the spiral finally to an end.” (Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible, Matthew, p. 477)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 37

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Thirty-seven:  Tuesday, July 28th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 26:1-35

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Headlines”
With chapter 26 the journey to the cross accelerates. We are reading 35 verses today, and just in those 35 verses we have the following headlines to alert us to the dangerous road Jesus is walking. The headlines include the following:

    • The Plot Against Jesus (Matthew 26:1-5)
    • Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16)
    • The Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-30, where Jesus predicts his betrayal and speaks of the cup as being the blood of the covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins)
    • Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial (Matthew 26:31-35)

These headlines tell a tale of impending doom. But there is one headline in the midst of these bleak warnings of betrayal and denial that bears special note, because this headline tells of one whose worship and adoration of Jesus stands in stark contrast to the other events we will encounter in our reading for this day. The headline in my bible says, “Jesus anointed at Bethany.” Of course, Jesus is always the headline. But in this particular encounter, Jesus himself shines the spotlight on the woman who anoints him. (Matthew 26:6-13)

Here is what takes place. “While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he reclined at the table.” Her actions cause the disciples to be filled with indignation. They complain that her actions have been wasteful. In contrast to their vehement objections and accusations of the woman being wasteful, Jesus makes known in no uncertain terms that her actions are worshipful. She is anointing him, as he says, “To prepare me for burial.”

One noted author has taken the encounter of this woman who anoints Jesus and created a title for a book with the headline, “In memory of her.” That headline captures the very words of our Lord. In the midst of a whole slew of other headlines pointing to the denials and betrayals that would lead to his suffering and death, Jesus pointed to the actions of this woman and said, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:13)

These final chapters lend themselves to devotional thoughts. We are blessed to have hymns that offer just such words of devotion. As you spend a few moments remembering the worshipful actions of this woman who anointed Jesus, I hope you will find this verse from the hymn, “A Prophet-Woman Broke a Jar” to be helpful.

A prophet-woman broke a jar, by Love’s divine appointing.
With rare perfume she filled the room, presiding and anointing.
A prophet-woman broke a jar, the sneers of scorn defying.
With rare perfume she filled the room, preparing Christ for dying.
Text: Brian Wren

“In memory of her”, let us explore how we can pour out the sacrifices of our hearts so that we might anoint Jesus with our worship and adoration as he makes his way to the cross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Commentary:

“The story of Jesus’ last night has many scenes, beginning with the disciples’ preparation of the
Passover seder and concluding with the sorry tale of Peter’s denial. The mood throughout is somber, yet the story is shot through with the conviction that what is happening is not mere happenstance or blind fate but in some mysterious way the outworking of God’s plan for the world.” (Douglas Hare, Matthew, p. 295)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 36

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Thirty-six:  Monday, July 27th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 25:31-46

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“When did we see you?”
Moving from one chapter to the next usually signals what might sound obvious, that one chapter in the saga has ended, and a new one has begun. That is not the case in Matthew chapters 24 and 25. Early in chapter 24 the disciples approach Jesus with the question of “When?” We spent time exploring the question of “When?” as we did our readings last week. Although the disciples wanted to know “When?”, this past Friday we heard Jesus tell two parables that did not answer the question “When?” Instead these parables told us we must always be ready. We must keep watch. Although the chapter titles change from 24 to 25, Jesus never stops the long speech he began in the early verses of chapter 24. Our Lord told us to keep watch and to be ready and then he gave us the parable of the virgins with their lamps, which concludes with this admonition, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” He then told about settling accounts. The ones who used their “talents” wisely heard the words of their master saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Now we come to the final parable Jesus tells that relates to the question of “When?” Each parable in Matthew 25 serves to magnify the importance of keeping watch and being ready. The third parable is one of the most well known and certainly one of the most frequently quoted parables Jesus told. After welcoming all those who saw him hungry and gave him something to eat, who saw him thirsty and gave him something to drink, who saw him a stranger and invited him in, who saw him needing clothes and gave him clothing, who saw him sick and looked after him, and who saw him in prison and visited, the surprising revelation is that, “Whatever you did for the one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”

If we have not lost sight of the question of “When?” which spurred this whole lengthy speech, we will find ourselves ready to hear an absolutely extraordinary commentary on the life we live here on earth. The disciples “When?” question wanted to know when the end would come. Jesus turns that question on its head by telling us the “When?” question is not limited to the future or the end of the world or to the end times. “When?” has to do with every time…every time we encounter ones whom Jesus terms, “The least of these.” How we respond “when” we meet the least of these right here on planet earth has eternal significance.

The words Jesus uses are full of meaning. Jesus says blessed are those who fed the hungry and gave drink to those who thirst. Those words, hunger and thirst, are words we have heard before in the Gospel of Matthew. Hunger and thirst are words Jesus has said before in the Gospel of Matthew. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” In this parable, a parable that is truly glorious, a parable where the Son of Man comes in glory and sits on his throne in heavenly glory, in this parable Jesus reveals that those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness, yes, those whose hunger and thirst for righteousness was so strong that they actually fed the hungry and gave drink to those who thirst, in this parable Jesus reveals that those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness will one day hear these precious words, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

When? Now. When? Whenever we see…the least ones. When? In countless acts of kindness, compassion, righteousness, justice, mercy, peacemaking. When? In offering love to the ones who are the least.

We must not overlook the importance of this last parable. Now as chapter 25 ends, we truly do enter a new chapter. Chapter 26 will mark the final move of Jesus to the cross. These last chapters of the gospel will show us what Jesus came to die for. In the final parable of chapter 25, Jesus clearly shows us what to live for. Jesus shows us who to live for. We are called to live for the ones our Lord calls the least. And whatever we do to the least, we do unto Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


C
ommentary:
“It is easy to read this passage and miss the gospel. As we watch sheep and goats being separated for eternity, we may see and preach little more than a humanitarian call to work on behalf of society’s undervalued members. Subsequently, salvation is understood as that which we achieve. Instead, this Scripture testifies that salvation is something we discover, often when we least expect it…the righteous are surprised to realize they had cared for the King of creation; evidently, they simply shared who they were and what they had freely, without calculation or expectation…the unrighteous are shocked that they missed opportunities to show love to the King; had they known God was in their midst, they have done the right thing. Yet, the King is looking for a natural overflowing of love, not calculated efforts designed to project a certain image. This is the kind of love Jesus has come to demonstrate and to share.” (Lindsay, P. Armstrong, Feasting on the Word, Year A, volume 4, p. 337)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 35

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Thirty-five:  Friday, July 24th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 25:1-30

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Well done”
With the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 25 about the servants who are entrusted with different amounts of wealth, we are presented with a most pleasant possibility. People who are entrusted by God with the good gifts of life might just get it right. People entrusted by God with the good gifts of life might just learn to be faithful with what has been entrusted. People who are entrusted by God with the good gifts of life might hear their Master, their Lord, their God, their Savior Jesus Christ say these precious words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Today I invite you to spend some time reflecting on the faithful servants God has placed in the path of your life. The author of Hebrews sets a good example for how we can remember the faithful. After reminding the reader at the end of Hebrews chapter 10 that the “righteous will live by faith”, the author then spends the whole of chapter 11 remembering righteous ones who did live by faith. Beginning with Abel and Enoch we move to Noah and Abraham and Sarah, down through Isaac and Joseph and Moses…and on and on and on. Name after name comes to mind to the author.

I hope you will take some time today to make your own list. Read the two parables before us in Matthew 25:1-30, and then let that phrase linger in your mind. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Can you see a face of one who modeled faithful living for you? Can you hear their voice? Which of their actions come to mind? What attitudes did they display? What was the quality of their character? How did they bring faith to life in their words and deeds? How did they demonstrate the faith they had in Jesus Christ?

My guess is you will be like the author of Hebrews. You will not only have one or two names come to mind. My guess is that if you take time, if you linger with the thought, “Who has modeled faithful living to me?” you will find yourself taking a wonderful journey down memory lane.

But let me ask you to take this exercise in remembering the faithful to the next level. Hebrews does not end with chapter 11. Hebrews does not come to an end by remembering the faithful. After a long and satisfying chapter that celebrates and honors and remembers the faithful who have gone before us, the author makes an important move. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and entangles us. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)

As you hear Jesus saying those coveted words, “Well done…” ask yourself what it would mean for you to live that kind of a faithful life. And then let us run together the race set before us, the race that the righteous live, the righteous who are learning to live by faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


C
ommentary:
“The parable of the Talents must be understood against its eschatological horizon. The parable
sets for positive and negative examples of conduct while awaiting the return of the Lord. Not to be overlooked is the characterization of the master: as one who bestows gifts abundantly, carefully calibrates gifts on the basis of ability, gives his slaves freedom to respond with loving
responsibility, and rejoices in their fidelity. While the parable initially intimates that the talents bestowed are external to the recipients (i.e., only to be managed by them), the detail in verse 29—‘to all who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance’— suggests that the talents do, in fact, enrich the recipients. The parable’s ending warns of the tragedy of acting timidly in response to God’s generosity.” (Thomas D. Stegman, SJ, Feasting on the Word, Year A, volume 4, p. 313)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 34

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Thirty-four:  Thursday, July 23rd, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 24:1-51

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Keep watch”
When? That question was on the disciples’ mind as Jesus left the temple and told them, “Not one stone will be left on another.” It seems clear Jesus was referring to the temple itself, to the fall of the temple. The second temple did eventually fall in the year 70 CE. Since the gospel of Matthew was likely written sometime after 70 CE, we might simply close this chapter and say this all makes perfect sense. Jesus predicted the temple would fall and the temple did fall.

But when you read all of Matthew 24 it becomes clear Jesus is referring to much more than just the temple in Jerusalem. His words speak of cataclysmic events that will accompany a time when the earth will see “The Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky…” (Matthew 24:30) The disciples might have been the first to ask the question, “When?” but they certainly were not the last. With the Coronavirus causing a global disruption and uncertainty regarding the economy and uprisings and protests in the streets, I have heard more than one person ask, “Do you think this is the time when Christ will return?” We want to know when.

Jesus says many things in Matthew 24, and I encourage you to make your best effort to gain some measure of understanding about the words he speaks. You might refer to a bible commentary or a noted theologian to see what they make of this passage. Your bible might have footnotes that seek to shed light. But be sure to pay attention to the words Jesus says in verse 36 of chapter 24. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” When? No one knows, even though many people through the ages have purported to know. But Jesus says, “No one knows…”

Once Jesus says “No one knows…” he goes on to offer several important admonishments.

    • “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” The implication is that as Noah was busy building his ark, the sun might well have been shining with full force and the sky a bright shade of blue. Not a rain cloud in sight. What is this hare-brained fellow Noah doing building a boat? There is not one chance in a hundred that it will rain. But Noah built the Ark. Noah was prepared. Noah believed God when God said, “There is 100% chance of rain.” Noah was ready.
    • “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch…” If you know the thief is coming, be ready. Only by being ready can you thwart the thief.
    • “Who then is the wise and faithful servant?” The wise and faithful servant will be doing what the master wants him to be doing. Then when the master returns, the servant will be found doing what he is supposed to be doing. But the servant who is not doing what he is supposed to be doing…read the final verse of chapter 24 to find out the fate of the servant who was not ready.

When? Jesus does not completely disregard the question of the disciples. Jesus tells them plenty. Unfortunately, in every generation there seems to be a tendency to get caught up in the question of when. In the midst of a complicated chapter that might raise more questions than it answers, there is some counsel that must not be ignored, some counsel from Jesus that is crystal clear.

Be ready.
Be prepared.
Be doing the things our Master wants us to do.
Keep watch.

By doing these things, when God finally reveals the answer to our question of “When?” we will be fully prepared to greet Jesus and welcome him with open arms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
The prophecies in Matthew 24 are certainly difficult to comprehend. An interesting perspective on the command to flee during this difficult time is given by Eugene Boring. “The directive in 24:17-19 to leave everything and flee is neither cowardice nor eschatological (end times) panic, but is related by Matthew to the character of discipleship and the nature of the Christian mission. The disciples left everything when they were called to become ‘fishers for people’ (Matthew 4:18-22) and when they were sent out on a mission (Matthew 10:5-10). The community scattered and fleeing is the community in missionary mode. The regathering of the community is God’s responsibility and promise at the eschaton (end time).” (Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible, Matthew, p.443)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Thirty-three:  Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 23:1-39

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Woe”
Psalm one is a foundational passage for the people of God. The psalm proclaims blessing.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

This psalm of blessing also proclaims woe for those who do not follow God’s ways. After proclaiming blessing for those who follow God’s ways, we read…

“Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish.”

Having been alerted to the blessings and the woes in the opening psalm, the one who continues on in the psalms is choosing the path of blessedness, listening to the word of God, meditating on the word of God, indeed, seeking to be like a tree planted by streams of water. The blessing invites us to draw near to God. The woe warns us to guard against selfish and evil desires that pull us from God.

Early in Matthew Jesus spoke words of blessing to the people, the words of the Beatitudes. Now late in the gospel, in Matthew chapter 23, as things are coming to a head, Jesus speaks words of woe. Seven times Jesus will say woe. Jesus will say woe to the Pharisees and teachers of the law, woe to ones he calls blind guides, woe to ones he repeatedly calls hypocrites.

We cannot change how the people who heard these woes responded. Their response is recorded in all four of the gospels. They did not heed the warning. We cannot change how the people who heard these woes responded. What we can control is our response.

What do you hear in the woes found in Matthew 23? What actions warrant the words of woe? What attitudes warrant the words of woe? If the words of Jesus hit close to home for us, we do well to heed his warnings and act appropriately. Remember that both John the Baptist and Jesus called for the people to repent because the kingdom of heaven was near. How might we take these words of woe to heart? How might we repent?

Luke’s gospel also has words of blessing and words of woe. Luke weaves the blessings and woes together in one place, a sermon Jesus preaches in Luke chapter 6. Matthew has separated the blessings and the woes by nearly 20 chapters. I encourage you to bring the blessings and woes together today as you read. The woes are found in today’s reading, Matthew 23.

The blessings from Matthew 5.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
“In the Sermon on the Mount, which the Beatitudes began, Jesus taught how to live; in the Sermon of Woes Jesus teaches how not to live. (The Sermon of Woes is the counterpart of the Sermon on the Mount). Since Jesus baptizes with both Spirit and Fire (Matthew 3:11), and since Jesus is both Savior and Judge, we should allow him both to bless and to warn. Yet the church that follows Jesus has been called to extend only God’s saving mission into the world; she has
been explicitly forbidden to exercise God’s judgment (Matthew 7:1-3…thou shall not judge), except in the discipline of her own community (Chapters 7, 16, 18 in Matthew)….We must be careful to apply this chapter first to ourselves as Christians and then to our practices as churches….” (Dale Bruner, The Churchbook, p. 809)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 32

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Thirty-two:  Tuesday, July 21st, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 22:15-46

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”

    • Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
    • The crowd acclaimed, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
    • Once more they raised their voices, “Hosanna in the highest!
    • Jesus cleared the temple as he quoted the scriptures, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.”
    • When the religious leaders became indignant at the praise offered by the crowd, Jesus pointed to the psalm, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”
    • He met their question about his authority with one of his own, “John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”
    • He told a parable foretelling his rejection.
    • He told a parable about a banquet where God’s rich generosity was refused.
    • He gave Caesar his coins, but by implication asserted God’s right to the whole person.

Now Jesus is faced with questions about marriage and Old Testament customs for a brother to step in and carry on a deceased brother’s name. But this question is not designed to answer whose name would be carried on, this was just an attempt to add confusion. He answers the question about the greatest commandment perfectly, but the one asking intended the question as a test, perhaps yet another trap. In answer to their many questions Jesus again turns to the Scriptures to show that the Christ would be greater than David.

All these questions…all these attempts to test or trap Jesus…all these efforts to derail him from his mission…they seem to come to an end as chapter 22 closes with these words, “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:46) Indeed, the questions do seem to come to an end. But what follows the time of questioning is far worse. The move toward rejection comes swiftly in these last days Jesus lived on earth.

Isaiah 6 is a chapter filled with a glorious revelation. The prophet sees the Lord seated on his throne, high and exalted. The angels sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” There is a dramatic scene of forgiveness seared into our minds with a burning coal. The call of the Lord goes out, “Whom shall I send?” Immersed in the holiness of the Lord the prophet cries out, “Here am I. Send me.” And yes, the prophet is sent.

But as the prophet is sent, he is told his message will not be received, for the people will be ever hearing, but never understanding; ever seeing, but never perceiving. Their hearts will be calloused, their ears dull, and their eyes closed.

We get the sinking feeling as we read about the final week of his life on earth that Jesus has come to a people whose eyes and ears are shut, whose hearts are calloused, who will not believe his message. In the case of Jesus, the messenger is the message. He is the Messiah. He is the Son of God. To reject his message is to reject him.

What about us, the ones who read of his encounters in Jerusalem.
Are our eyes ready to see?
Are our ears ready to listen?
Are our hearts soft and ready to receive Jesus?

As we follow the movement of many to reject Jesus, let us remember it is never too late to grab a palm branch and join the great confession of faith. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
In this reading Jesus shares the two great commandments of Scripture: Love of God and love of neighbor. “In an age when the word ‘love’ is greatly abused, it is important to remember that the primary component of biblical love is not affection but commitment. Warm feelings of gratitude may fill our consciousness as we consider all that God has done for us, but it is not warm feelings that Deuteronomy 6:5 demands of us but rather stubborn, unwavering commitment. Similarly, to love our neighbor, including our enemies, does not mean that we must feel affection for them. To love the neighbor is to imitate God by taking their needs seriously.” (Douglas Hare, Matthew, p. 260)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Thirty-one:  Monday, July 20th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 21:1-22

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Whose inscription?”
We finished our readings last week with these words from the end of Matthew 21:

“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Matthew 21:42, where Jesus is quoting from Psalm 118) The tension between the rejection Jesus will experience and God’s plan to use the rejection of the Beloved Son to bring about something marvelous is on display all throughout these last chapters in Matthew’s gospel, chapters which slowly and yet unyieldingly lead us to the death of Jesus.

Tension is a helpful word as we seek to explore the events of the last week Jesus lived on earth. Tension will grow throughout the week until we hear the angry cries of the crowd, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” But tension also describes the interplay between various themes and events that help us recognize the deep complexity of God’s plan, God’s marvelous plan that includes the unthinkable, the death of his Son.

The parable Jesus tells about a Wedding Banquet highlights the tension.

    • What good news we hear: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” Such an image of celebration. Such an image of rejoicing. Such an image of a party.
    • What good news to be ones who receive the invitation saying, “Come to the wedding banquet.”
    • What an affront to the host, to the king who gives the invitation, to the son who is the bridegroom. “But they paid no attention (to the invitation) and went off…” They paid no attention and carried right on with their daily routine.
    • What alarming news follows their rejection of the invitation. “The king was enraged and sent armies to destroy those murderers.”
    • What good news that there is a second invitation, an invitation that now moves to the street corners, gathering all that can be found.
    • What bad news to hear about someone who is without proper attire being thrown out.
    • What bad news to hear that in the darkness of those outside the wedding banquet there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The tension in this parable, like the tension between the rejection of Jesus that is so marvelous for us, is not a tension for us to resolve. We seek to resolve the tension when we focus only on God’s love…or only on God’s judgment. What we will witness as we walk with Jesus this final stage of his earthly journey is that words and actions that display and describe God’s grace and God’s judgment will come to us time and time again. The tension will rise as the final chapters of the life of Jesus unfold for us. We do not resolve the tension by seeking a quick resolution or an easy understanding. There will always be a deep mystery surrounding our salvation. “At just the right time, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That is God’s resolution to the tension. Our salvation is found in the midst of that marvelous rejection.

Without seeking to resolve the tension, I do find it of great comfort to move from the parable of the Wedding Banquet to the question that follows, the question of paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus holds a coin that has the inscription of Caesar. He says give your coins to Caesar. Your coins bear the inscription of Caesar. But what about our lives. Whose inscription is on our lives? Are you ready for some good news? Our lives bear the inscription of God. We are created in the image of God. Holding firmly to the belief that our lives bear the inscription of God may we embrace the tension that surrounds the final days of our Lord Jesus. God is at work to save his precious children, precious children created in God’s very own image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
Regarding the parable of the Wedding Banquet: “Most human institutions have some restrictions and limitations on who can be admitted. Yale University received 26,000 applications for admission to the class of 2013. Of that number, only 7.5 percent were actually admitted. Yale does not say, ‘Come unto me, all that are weary and burdened.’ Most public universities admit no more than 60 percent of those who apply for admission. There is no institution or organization of which I am aware where everybody/anybody can freely come, whether they are good or bad. That is rule number one with Jesus; the Lord will take anybody who shows up. This is the good news of the gospel; Jesus Christ came to save sinners. Paul says, ‘While we were still sinning, Christ died for the ungodly’ (Romans 5:8). This is the gospel of Jesus Christ, ‘The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life’ (Romans 6:23). This is the message that has mesmerized the world; ‘For God so loved the world…that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).” (Marvin A McMickle, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 4, p. 169)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Thirty:  Friday, July 17th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 21

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“A marvelous rejection?”
Marvelous and rejection are not often paired together. Perhaps if we were dealing with an evil figure, a despised figure, a figure who has been the source of conflict, one who has used their position of authority to boost their own power while subjecting others to shame and ridicule, perhaps the rejection of one such as this would be marvelous. But that is not the case with Jesus. Jesus was a preacher who brought good news. Jesus was a teacher whose words had authority and brought life. Jesus was a healer who restored the health of many. Jesus was a worker of wonders whose acts of kindness and generosity blessed the multitudes. For one such as Jesus to be rejected is not marvelous…is it?

Chapter 21 brings us to Jerusalem. A quick review of the predictions Jesus has made alert us to the danger that awaits Jesus in Jerusalem.

    • “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21)
    • “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (Matthew 17:22,23)
    • “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death…” (Matthew 20:18)

The triumphal entry, what we know as Palm Sunday, is glorious with the crowds spreading their cloaks on the road, cutting branches from trees and spreading those on the ground, and shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” But that celebrated entrance is followed by the scene in the temple courts where Jesus drives out the money changers. In response to all this, “The chief priests and teachers of the law were indignant.” (Matthew 21:15) The authority of Jesus is questioned in Matthew 21:23-27. And then he tells a parable about rejection.

As you read The Parable of the Tenants, found in verses 33-40 of Matthew 21, watch for the theme of rejection. As Jesus links the parable to the passage from Psalm 118 where the stone the builders rejected becomes the capstone, watch for the introduction of the word marvelous. Matthew is preparing us to witness the rejection of Jesus, which will ultimately end in his death. Matthew is preparing us to read beyond his death to the amazing gift of resurrection life, which is truly marvelous. A marvelous rejection.

We have completed six weeks and 21 chapters in the Gospel of Matthew. The next two weeks and the last seven chapters will reveal to us the good news of the gospel, the rejection of Jesus, which through the power of God’s redeeming love will bring us the marvelous gift of eternal life.

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
“Cast your sins from yourself upon Christ, believe with a festive spirit that your sins are his
wounds and sufferings, that he carries them and makes satisfaction for them, as Isaiah 53:6 says: ‘The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all;’ and Peter writes ‘Who in his own self bore our sins in his body upon the tree’, (I Peter 2:24,; and Paul in II Corinthians 5:21, ‘God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf; that we might becomes the righteousness of God in him.’” Martin Luther wrote these words as he reflected on the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as the crowd cried out, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Sermons of Martin Luther, Volumes 1 and 2, p. 189)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Twenty-nine:  Thursday, July 16th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 20:1-16

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“I am”
One of the fascinating phrases in the bible is “I am”. With those words God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush. Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them. God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” That “I AM”, in the third person, is Yahweh. The Gospel of John is noted for having numerous “I AM” statements from Jesus.

    • I am the bread of life
    • I am the light of the world
    • I am the door
    • I am the good shepherd
    • I am the resurrection and the life
    • I am the way, the truth and the life
    • I am the true vine

It seems clear that John wants the reader to see the connection of Jesus with Yahweh, I AM WHO I AM.

“I am” statements are not nearly as prominent in the other gospels. Still, it stands out to me in the telling of the parable of the workers in the vineyard that Jesus uses an “I am” statement. As with the other “I am” statements in John, this “I am” statement reveals much about who Jesus is. This “I am” statement reveals much about who God is. When the final workers are paid in the parable…and note that the workers are paid in reverse order…those hired last are paid first, when the final workers are paid and as they express their displeasure at being paid the same amount as the workers hired last, we hear this question from the owner of the vineyard. “Are you envious because I am generous?”

Jesus begins the parable by telling us this is a parable about the kingdom of heaven. The identity of the owner of the vineyard is obvious. If the vineyard represents the kingdom of heaven, then God is the owner of the vineyard, As the Son of God, Jesus shares in that ownership. As human beings we are drawn into this parable because we are concerned with issues of fairness and being properly rewarded for our labors. Here in the parable, ones who have worked hard from the beginning of the day receive their agreed upon payment. But when others who work less, who do not work as long, who seem less deserving, who have made less sacrifice, when ones who started late receive equal payment, receive equal recognition, receive equal place in the kingdom, those who worked longest and who worked hardest grumble.

It is at this point the “I am” statement found in this parable appears. It would be a stretch to say Matthew had the same intention as John in using an “I am” statement. Maybe Matthews intends nothing at all by inserting an “I am” statement in the parable. But there it is, right when the early workers grumble because the late workers were treated equally, the owner of the vineyard says, “Are you envious because I am generous?” I am generous.

If we take that “I am” statement to heart, the whole parable grinds to a glorious and immediate halt. God is generous?  Surely this is good news. This is definitely good news for the late arriving workers. But if the early arriving workers ponder the meaning of what is being revealed, it is good news for them as well. God is generous. “I am generous.” Those three words lay the foundation for a kingdom of mercy, a kingdom of grace, a kingdom of forgiveness. This is no harsh God who punishes, a God who keeps score, a God who keeps a record of wrongs. This God is generous. The kingdom of heaven has a king who is generous. Our God is generous. Such is the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom where in his generous, merciful, and sacrificial love our Lord Jesus would open his arms wide so that we can all find our welcome in his kingdom. Such is the great love revealed on the cross. Such is the action of the one who said, “I am generous.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
The parable of the workers in the vineyard, “Is essentially about the generosity of God. It is
not about equity or proper disbursement of wages but about a gracious and undeserved gift. It is not about an economic exchange but, rather, about a bestowing of grace and mercy to all, no matter what time they have put in or how deserving or undeserving we may think them to be. God’s generosity often violates our own sense of right and wrong, our sense of how things would be if we ran the world. Are we unable to celebrate another’s good fortune because we have not celebrated our own? How often am I ungrateful for God’s graciousness and mercy? How often do I deny God’s love and forgiveness in my own life? Jesus leaves us with a question: can we learn to see through the eyes of God? Our ideas of right and wrong, of what is just and unjust, are not necessarily God’s ideas—and that is a very good thing. We are reminded by this parable that the tables are turned. When we look for equity, we are surprised to find generosity.” (Charlotte Dudley Cleghorn, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 4, p. 96).

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Twenty-eight:  Wednesday, July 15th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 19:16-30

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“It’s hard to be rich”
It is hard to be rich. Many of us would read that statement and respond, “Just let me try.” But it really is hard to be rich. In Matthew 19 Jesus says it is hard to be rich. “It is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.” How hard can it be to be rich? Jesus continues by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

If we have doubts about whether it is hard to be rich, we do well to remember words we have already heard Jesus say in the Gospel of Matthew.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-22)

Why does Jesus say it is hard to be rich? Jesus has just told a rich man to sell his possessions and give to the poor, with the promise that the rich man would then have treasure in heaven. The words are followed by an invitation for the rich man to come and follow Jesus. The great tragedy in this story is that the rich young man is not willing to part with his wealth. “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” It is hard to be rich.

If we have doubts about whether it is hard to be rich, we do well to remember words we have already heard Jesus say in the Gospel of Matthew.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45, 46)

Why does Jesus say it is hard to be rich? In a parable, a man sold everything he had so he could gain the kingdom of heaven, to get the treasure of the kingdom of heaven. In a parable a man sold everything. In real life, with this rich young man, the real-life reality is that the rich young man is not willing to part with his wealth, even if parting with his wealth means he would have the one thing he purported to be seeking, the kingdom of heaven, eternal life, indeed, treasure in heaven. It is hard to be rich. Jesus minces no words. “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Today we find Jesus speaking about things that are hard…even impossible. In the midst of a hard passage about hard things, even things that are impossible, Jesus speaks of the One with whom all things are possible. There is a word of hope in this hard passage. But the hope in this hard passage is a hope that is found only in God. With God all things are possible.

Along with our daily readings, a group has been meeting on Tuesday mornings at 9 am to discuss the readings in a Bible Study format. Yesterday I proposed three questions for our Bible Study group to use as we read along in Matthew. Maybe these questions will help you explore the meaning of this hard but hopeful passage.

    • What stands out to you in these verses?
    • Do you find anything that disturbs or troubles you?
    • Do you find anything that comforts or encourages you?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Commentary:

“The young man (rich young ruler) is a fine specimen who ‘has it all’: youth, money, morality, a
sense that there is still something more, an interest in eternal things. Matthew resists the temptation to make the disciples (and his own church) look the better by painting the man in dark colors. He was a good, sincere, wealthy young man, and every church would be glad to
‘get’ him. What did he lack? He anticipated being given one more commandment, one final achievement, and then his quest would be fulfilled. Not just the young man, but also the reader is surprised when he is told that he lacks all, that his salvation is impossible. At one level, the story communicates that salvation is not any kind of achievement, that on human terms entering the kingdom is not merely hard, but impossible. It is only when this ‘no’ to all human claims is heard that the ‘yes’ of God can be heard: But for God all things are possible.
Binding this pronouncement to the call to discipleship keeps it from being cheap grace.”
(M. Eugene Boring, Matthew: The New Interpreter’s Bible, p. 394).

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Twenty-seven:  Tuesday, July 14th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 19:1-15

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Let the little children come to me”
This is not the disciples’ finest moment. “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.”

The Coronavirus has taken a toll on our society in numerous ways, one of which is that for many of us, we have not had children in our lives on a regular basis. I’m sure those who are parents or grandparents with children in their homes during the crisis have had their work cut out for them, and I pray families find strength and stamina as they care for children during this extended time of isolation. But I’m writing from the perspective of one who has dearly missed time with children. And I am writing in opposition to disciples who shoo children away and rebuke those who bring the little ones to Jesus. I am not alone in my opposition to disciples like this. Jesus answered their rebukes with his precious words, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Then he placed his hands on them.

The long drought of seeing children during the Coronavirus has been punctuated by sweet moments of contact.

    • A family came by our house to pick up something Julie had made for them. The little girl was barely walking the last time I saw her. Now she bounded about our yard. The boy was full of energy with a smile that brought joy to my heart. As we tossed a frisbee around he made sure to include his sister and was such a kind and caring big brother.
    • The slide show Andy has included in our online prelude has often included the children of the church, and just to see their faces warms my heart. Some of the cute pictures bring a tear to my eye. And a few simply make me laugh at the innocence of our little ones.
    • Nancy Fortin tried an online Sunday school with the children, a zoom meeting on Sunday mornings. One morning she read the beautiful children’s story, “I’ll Love You Forever.” Listening to Nancy read and seeing the faces of the sweet little friends God has put in our life as a church family did my heart good.
    • One mom sent me a video of her daughter working hard to memorize the Lord’s Prayer. She didn’t get every word right but knowing that she was on her way to capturing this important prayer and tucking it away in heart gave me a great feeling of joy and peace.
    • And then there was the Sunday morning when families were invited to color the church parking lot with chalk. It was one of the last Sunday’s before we started gathering for worship. There was a buzz of activity as the surface of our parking lot was transformed from neat and orderly lines marking parking spaces into a bright display of creativity and energy and life.

Right now these wonderful moments are few and far between. I long for the day when they will be part of our regular routine, when children will hurry down to the front of our sanctuary to hear a message just for them, when our preschool and afterschool programs will be bustling centers of learning and play, when our Sunday school classes will be reading the stories of faith and exploring ways to express a growing love for Jesus. Now, when those days are few and far between, and someday when they will be part of our regular routine, I am absolutely certain you will join me in welcoming the children, in taking seriously the words of our Lord Jesus, who said in no uncertain terms, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
“It seems probably that Jesus’ saying was understood by Matthew and his church as authorizing the practice of including children and young people in the corporate life of the church. This is suggested also by his inclusion of children with men and women in the great feeding scenes (14:21; 15:28). Regarded from a sociological point of view, this may have been one of the reasons why Christianity spread so rapidly in the Roman world. There were popular religions for men (Mithraism) and for women (the religion of the bona Dea). Christianity offered a family religion in which both sexes and all ages could participate together. In the present context the symbolic function of the children has a special importance. They are allowed to come to Jesus
‘because of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ Matthew has already introduced this idea at 18:3: ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.’ The child is the paradigm of what it means to be helplessly dependent on the Father in heaven.” (Douglas Hare, Matthew, 224).

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Twenty-six:  Monday, July 13th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 18:21-35

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“How many times shall I forgive…”
Peter asks Jesus a question about forgiveness. Peter asks his question about forgiveness in the context of a relationship between two human beings. Peter asks, “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” Peter asks if he should forgive up to seven times.

How does Jesus answer? First, he gives an answer that blows Peter’s attempt at generous forgiveness out of the water. Peter had set the bar at seven times. It seems clear that for Peter he had set the bar pretty high. To forgive seven times, that would be to go above and beyond. Jesus takes a look at how high Peter has set the bar, seven times, and says, “Not even close.” Jesus says, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” More than likely your bible will have a footnote that the answer of Jesus can also be translated as seventy times seven. Either way, Jesus raises the bar for forgiveness far beyond anything Peter ever imagined.

But Jesus does not let his answer be the final word. Rather, Jesus tells a story. The story is significant. The story serves to let people of faith know that forgiveness is not simply acted out in the context of human relationships. Jesus portrays human forgiveness as an action that takes place in the context of the divine/human relationship. The story helps us to understand how Jesus ever got to the number he arrived at, seventy-seven times, or even seventy times seven.

The story is told like so many of the parables. The parable is set in the context of the kingdom of heaven. The parable begins with the king granting forgiveness of a huge debt, a debt that is nearly incomprehensible. Follow the story through and listen for how Jesus speaks to you. But as you follow the story through, remember where it begins. The king grants forgiveness of a huge debt that can never be paid. That is an accurate summary of our relationship to God. Our King, our Father in heaven, our Lord Jesus Christ, grants us forgiveness of a huge debt that can never be paid.

Jesus is able to tell this parable because if Israel has paid attention to the relationship they have with God, they are able to see themselves in this parable. From the first moments of the divine human relationship, God has been a forgiving God. The sin in the garden is met with God covering Adam and Eve with animal garments. One meaning of the word atonement is to cover. The very first sin of our human parents is covered with God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace. That first act of atonement is not the last. Atonement is built into the fabric of Jewish life, into the fabric of the divine/human relationship. The whole system of sacrifices was established to make clear to the people that God was prepared to deal with their sin by bringing forgiveness. One of the three major feasts the Israelites celebrated was the Day of Atonement. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed the good news that though our sin is like scarlet, God will make it as white as snow. The Psalmist rejoiced that as far as the east is from the west, so far has our God removed our sin from us.

In telling the parable, Jesus is gently reminding Israel that they are a people who have been forgiven a huge debt, a debt that has been forgiven over and over and over again because God is a forgiving God. The parable stings because the forgiveness that has been given in the context of the divine/human relationship is not practiced by the servant who has been forgiven the great amount. When he encounters a fellow servant and has the opportunity to practice forgiveness, he fails to show mercy.

As we struggle with the question of how often we should forgive a brother or sister who sins against us, let us never forget the power of this parable. Our acts of forgiveness are not only in the context of our human relationships. We have a relationship with the One who has granted us Amazing Grace, Unconditional Love, Pardon for our sin, atonement, and forgiveness for all our sin. The power of God’s forgiveness empowers us to be a people who practice a merciful and generous forgiveness with our fellow human beings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
These words about Peter’s question regarding forgiveness may be helpful as you consider the
parable Jesus tells in today’s reading. “Peter’s proposal to forgive seven times sounds extravagantly generous, especially since there is no mention of repentance by the
offending party. It reverses the sevenfold pronouncement of vengeance in Genesis 4:15. Jesus’ response is far beyond Peter’s proposal, and not only in greatly extending the quantity. The Greek number can be legitimately understood as ‘seventy seven times’ or ‘four hundred ninety times’. The difference between Peter’s proposal and Jesus’ pronouncement is not a matter of math or linguistics, but of the nature of forgiveness. Whoever counts has not forgiven at all, but is only biding his or her time. The kind of forgiveness called for is beyond all calculation, as the following story communicates.” (M. Eugene Boring, Matthew: The New Interpreter’s Bible, p. 380).

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Twenty-five:  Friday, July 10th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 18:1-20

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“One, two, three”
In the space of just 20 verses our Lord will teach us much about heavenly number theory.

“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

One…Jesus brings one little child and has the child stand among his disciples. The disciples were human. There is a human tendency to want to be first. The disciples asked Jesus who is the greatest. We know from other similar encounters the disciples had an all too human concern with who was number one. In answer to their question Jesus brings one little child and has the child stand among them.

What follows are words from our Lord about humility, about becoming like a child, about welcoming a child, about serious consequences for not welcoming the little ones in our world, about taking drastic measures to assure we are not ones who fail to welcome the little ones.

What follows is a story about one…one lost sheep.

Two…two brothers…in this case two brothers in faith, brothers in Christ…two brothers have a conflict. The number theory of our world would say divide. Split. Separate. Take sides. Fight. Argue. Battle. Jesus lays out a plan for the two to remain two, to remain in relationship. Jesus lays out a plan for conflict resolution. Rather than being limited by this basic plan for conflict resolution, creative Christians have taken these bare essentials and expanded upon them to form very helpful forms of conflict resolution, conflict resolution that seeks to find positive restoration for strained and even broken relationships.

Three…The agreement of brothers and sisters of faith, that coming together, a coming together that seeks not to be great but rather the coming together in humility, that coming together of a community that recognizes one little one, a community that tirelessly works toward resolution and restoration so that two can remain two instead of splitting, dividing, and separating into different factions, when two on earth agree…that type of agreement is powerful, even binding. In this type of community Jesus promises to be present. “Where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.”

It turns out this is not just a heavenly number theory. This is not merely theoretical. This is practical. Jesus really does want his children to learn these numbers, one, two, three. These numbers literally count. Together they lay the foundation for Christian community. I guess you could say these numbers add up to a body of believers who love one another as we have been loved by God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
“Matthew goes beyond Mark (Mark 9:33-37) not only by making the child a model of humility but also by urging disciples ‘to become little’, namely, before God. That this requires a turnaround in life is said by Jesus’ words explicitly (‘Unless you turn your lives around…’). According to Jesus not the significant one, the important one, the esteemed one who ‘in the
world’ is considered great, but the little one, the unimpressive one, the one standing in the background and in the shadow of the mighty ones is the person whom Jesus considers great…Jesus wants no Great People in his church; only disciples.” (Dale Bruner, The Churchbook, p. 635)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Twenty-four:  Thursday, July 9th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 17:1-27

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“No one except Jesus”
“They fell facedown to the ground, terrified.” The “they” are Peter, James, and John. What terrified them is one of the most stunning and dramatic displays of glory in all the bible. After taking these three disciples with him up a high mountain, Jesus was transfigured before them. Matthew tells us, “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”

Jesus was transfigured right before their eyes. The disciples caught a glimpse of his heavenly glory. We need the transfiguration. God took the incarnation so seriously he sent Jesus as a real human being. God truly became one of us. Remember how dismissive the people of his hometown had been? “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Matthew 13:54-58) In his hometown we are told they took offense at him.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, we see who Jesus really is. This carpenter’s son was the Son of another. On the Mount of Transfiguration, the Father in heaven speaks. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” The transfiguration involves more than bright lights. The pillars of faith stand side by side with Jesus. Moses (The Law) and Elijah (The Prophets) are right there with him. Disciples, even one who just six days before made the dramatic declaration, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” fall down in fear when they catch even a glimpse of the true identity of Jesus.

The scene fades. The lights dim. Moses and Elijah disappear. And there is no one there except Jesus. Peter remembered that moment in vivid detail. Long after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter wrote of that day, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (II Peter 1:16-18)

This is a teachable moment. This is a teachable moment that builds on the teachable moment that occurred just six days before. In Matthew 16 Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ. In chapter 17 God declares, “This is my Beloved son…” Eyes are opened. Hearts are moved. Glory is revealed. Divine identity is revealed. These things all work together to create a teachable moment.

What does Jesus teach in these teachable moments?

    • In chapter 16 we read, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things…” (Matthew 16:21 ff)
    • In chapter 17 we read, “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead….In the same way (John the Baptist suffered) the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’” (Matthew 17:9-12)
    • And later in chapter 17, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (17:22,23)

We have the incredible honor and privilege of walking with Jesus up the Mount of Transfiguration. We will see the stunning display of bright light. We will hear God’s voice heaping praise on Jesus. The glory of the Lord will be revealed. Then the scene fades. The lights dim. Moses and Elijah disappear. And there is no one there except Jesus. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus. We cannot take our eyes off Jesus. And now he moves down this mountain…on his way to another mountain…to a hill called Calvary. On Calvary there will also be no one except Jesus, the Beloved Son of God, who will give his life for the salvation of this world…for the salvation of you…for the salvation of me. “Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God should die for me?” (Charles Wesley, “And Can it Be?”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Commentary:

“The transfiguration does not intend to transport the faithful into a transhistorical realm, where
Jesus is lit up from the inside and having discourse with famous figures long since dead! Rather, it intends to confess that these untutored, down-to-earth men and women who left everything and followed Jesus, hardly knowing why—these same persons, later, knew that they had been drawn to him because, for all his obvious humanity, something radiated from him that spoke of
ineffable and eternal truth. Some of them remembered now, when he had left them, one incident in particular when this radiance seemed to manifest itself almost… visibly…what (the transfiguration) affirms about the early church’s foundational belief about Jesus is namely,
that he was not just another exceptional human being, prophet, or great teacher and example for all, but the decisive representation of the Divine, the source and judge of life.” (Douglas John Hall, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, pages 454 and 456)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Twenty-three: Wednesday, July 8th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 16:1-28

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“The Rock of our Salvation”
“Peter means rock.” My bible has that as a footnote for Matthew 16:18. In this one verse, Jesus not only makes clear that Simon son of Jonah (see Matthew 16:17) is Peter, which means rock, Jesus also says, “On this rock I will build my church.” Some traditions take that to mean Peter is the rock on which Jesus will build the church. But others believe the rock Jesus is referring to is the confession Peter has just made.

What is the confession Peter has just made? Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Initially Jesus asked who others said he was, but in Matthew 16:15, Jesus makes the question personal. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter, Simon son of Jonah, makes a declaration that has been the rock on which Jesus has built his church.

Simon Peter, Simon son of Jonah, Peter, the rock, makes this confession. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The hope and prayer of the Christian Church, the church that takes its name from Jesus Christ, is that one day every knee would bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. When Peter, the rock, made his confession, which is the rock on which Christ will build his church, he became the model for all who follow Jesus. Peter took the question personally. Peter’s confession was not about what others said. Peter’s confession was his own confession. Jesus asked, “But what about you?” Peter took the question personally, and so his confession was personal. “You are the Christ.”

Rock and stone are two words that have a central place in our faith as Christians. Entering Jerusalem on what we know as Palm Sunday, Jesus was greeted by an adoring crowd that called out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Those words from Psalm 118, words that an adoring crowd used to proclaim salvation in the name of Jesus, follow on another well-known verse found in Psalm 118. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The bedrock of our faith, the cornerstone of our faith, the capstone of our faith, is Jesus Christ.

Immediately following Peter’s glorious confession of faith, we find Peter still has more to learn. Peter still has much more to learn as we see him stumble, rebuking Jesus when Jesus predicts that his journey as Christ, his journey as Son of God will take him to Jerusalem, where he will suffer and die. When we confess our faith in Christ it is a glorious day, a day worthy of celebration and thanksgiving. But as with Peter, to confess Christ does not mean our journey comes to an end. The rock of our salvation is the stone that was rejected, and for many of us it is a lifelong journey to grasp the fullness of God’s strange and yet ever so wonderful gift of salvation. Our Savior suffers. Our King dies. Our God is crucified.

As the Good News of Jesus Christ is filled with references to rock and stone, so are some of the great hymns of our faith. As you read these words from this beautiful hymn, consider what your answer is to the question our Lord puts before us today. “Who do you say I am?”

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me let me hide myself in thee.
Let the water and the blood from thy wounded side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure, cleanse from guilt and make me pure.”
(Rock of Ages, first verse)

 

 

 

 

 

 


Commentary:

“From that time on…” After the Holy Spirit reveals to Peter that Jesus is the Messiah, from that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering. “While the paradoxical statement that finding one’s life comes only in losing it may have the ring of popular proverb, it has a special application in the mouth of Jesus. Discipleship requires losing one’s life ‘for my sake,’ for the sake of God as revealed in Jesus. This is not a call to lose oneself in a selfless cause—as noble as that idea may be. It is a specific demand placed upon those who would be the followers of Jesus. They must be willing to surrender their own self-centered ambitions, goals, and lifestyles for the way demonstrated by Jesus.”
(Mitchell G. Reddish, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 4, p. 25)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Twenty-two: Tuesday, July 7th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 15:21-39

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Great faith”
We encounter a troubling passage today. A Canaanite woman comes to Jesus. She cries out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Unlike so many previous examples Matthew has presented us with about how Jesus responds, responses that include compassion, immediate attention, words of comfort, words of healing, in this encounter with a Canaanite woman, “Jesus did not answer a word.”

Things become more complicated. His disciples come to him and urge him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying after us.” Now Jesus does answer. He does not speak to the Canaanite woman. He speaks to his disciples. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” His answer seems to imply his ministry is for the tribes of Israel, the children of Abraham, the Hebrews, the Jews. The word “only” is narrow. The word “only” is exclusive.

And then things become extremely difficult. The woman comes and kneels before Jesus. Speaking directly to him she says, “Lord, help me!” Everything we know about Jesus prepares us to hear him respond with the help she requests. Instead, Jesus says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” To the dogs? To the dogs?

The woman is a Gentile. In some ways what Jesus says to her is exactly what we might expect a Jewish man to say to a Gentile. The Gentiles were unclean. Peter recoiled at the mere mention of visiting a Gentile’s home and eating with him. (Acts 10 and 11) Jesus had just been criticized for allowing his disciples to forego the cleanliness command about the washing of hands. (Matthew 15:1-20 in our reading yesterday) After making such a strong statement in the previous passage about cleanliness not being something external but something that comes from the inside, from a clean heart, we are primed to hear Jesus respond with grace and mercy, with compassion, and yes, with healing to this Gentile woman as she makes a heartfelt plea for her daughter. What we are not prepared for is the answer Jesus gives. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

A few years a theological journal I receive dedicated several pages with different commentators wrestling with just what was going on in the passage. The passage is not only troubling to me. Some of the greatest biblical scholars struggle to explain this seemingly indifferent, even harsh response from Jesus to a Canaanite woman, to a Gentile.

Without offering an explanation for what is obviously a very challenging passage of scripture, I do find myself defending Jesus. Whatever he intended to accomplish with his unexpected response, whether it was irony, whether he was voicing the thoughts of the disciples and calling for them to broaden their view, whether there really was a time when his ministry focused only on the lost sheep of Israel, or whether he was testing the resolve of the Canaanite woman, I have no doubt about the ultimate purpose of Jesus. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, and that means not only the lost sheep of Israel, but the lost sheep from all nations, from all tongues, and from all tribes. I am curious what you make of this passage.

The passage ends on a note that is much more in line with our expectations of Jesus. When Jesus makes his comment about the dogs, the tenacious woman answers back, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Now Jesus says to her, “Woman, you have great faith. Your request is granted.” In his own way, through a passage filled with words that seem shocking, it is the faith of a Gentile woman that Jesus calls great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
When the Canaanite woman is initially turned away, Martin Luther asks, “But what does the poor woman do? She does not give up, she clings to the Word although it be torn out of her heart by force, is not turned away by this stern answer, still firmly believes his goodness is yet concealed in that answer, and still she will not pass judgment that Christ is or may be ungracious. That is persevering steadfastness….And her reply is a masterly stroke…she catches Christ with his own words…Truly, people let the dogs have the crumbs under the table; it is entitles to that. Therefore Christ now completely opens his heart to her and yields to her will, so that she is now no dog, but even a child of Israel.” (Sermons of Martin Luther, Volumes 1 and 2, p. 152)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Twenty-one: Monday, July 6th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 15:1-20

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“The heart of the matter”
Sometimes conflict helps to clarify. Chapter 15 presents Jesus in yet another conflict with the religious leaders, this time with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. This time the conflict is about the washing of hands. We have found ourselves gaining a deeper understanding of the vital importance of washing our hands as we seek to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. There is an aspect of physical health and hygiene that is addressed simply by washing our hands. But in this instance, the washing of hands does not have to do primarily with physical cleanliness. Instead, the washing of hands that is brought up by the Pharisees and teachers of the law has to do with spiritual cleanliness.

A whole slew of traditions had been established by the spiritual leaders to determine who was maintaining spiritual cleanliness, or spiritual purity, and who was transgressing those traditions…in other words, who was spiritually impure, or spiritually unclean. They had established traditions that said outward activities like the washing of hands before eating determined if you were spiritually clean. Jesus clearly contradicts the Pharisees and teachers of the law by saying it is not the outward activities of a person that determines their spiritual cleanliness or spiritual purity. Rather, it is what is inside a person, what is in their heart, that makes them spiritually clean or pure.

The battle over the traditions of the spiritual leaders was not new to the people of Israel. Jesus justifies his emphasis on the heart over outward actions like the washing of hands by turning to the prophet Isaiah, who also encountered a people focused on outward actions, traditions, or as the prophet says, “Human rules.”

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” (Isaiah 29:13)

The Apostle Paul was also well acquainted with this passage from Isaiah 29. Paul references the same Isaiah chapter to make a powerful declaration in chapter one of I Corinthians. Surprisingly, Paul speaks in favor of an outward action that will accomplish an inward purity, an inward change of the heart. However, the outward action will not be like the rules established by the religious leaders. The outward action will not involve washing hands. The outward actin will not involve staying away from certain foods that are declared unclean. The outward action will not involve staying away from people who were considered unclean. Most importantly, the outward action will not be an action we will take.

The outward action that will make our hearts clean, that will make our hearts pure, that will make our hearts new, is the outward action Jesus takes by giving up his life on the cross. In I Corinthians 1:18 and following Paul writes, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’” (Quoting from Isaiah 29:14)

The conflict Jesus faces in our reading today does indeed help to clarify. A pure heart, a clean heart, a new heart will not come by external actions like washing our hands. A pure heart will not come from human traditions and rules. But a pure heart will come when the Son of God offers his life as a sacrifice of atonement, when the Son of God dies on the cross, when the Son of God becomes the Passover Lamb for the people of God, and when the Son of God takes our iniquities upon himself. As the Coronavirus continues to present a grave danger to our society, I am all behind washing our hands, frequently and without fail. But when it comes to purity, hope, forgiveness, new life, and a relationship with Jesus Christ, there is only one way to get to the heart of the matter. And that is what Jesus did for us when he gave his life on the cross. Jesus got to the heart of the matter. Thanks be to God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
“This passage (15:1-20 has much to say to modern Christians. It reminds us, in the first place, that we too can be guilty of placing tradition ahead of God’s moral will. Local tradition (We have always done it this way) can impede the work of the kingdom. Ecclesiastical tradition can get in the way of ecumenical cooperation. And, like Jesus’ opponents, we too must be warned not to put the merely legal above the the truly moral. It is a regrettable habit of many Christians to speak disdainfully of ‘Jewish legalism.’ Rabbis sometimes ask ministers, ‘Why is it legalism when we take our tradition seriously, but when you do, it is merely a matter of carefully observing the mandates of your book of order?’” (Douglas Hare, Matthew, p. 175)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Twenty: Friday, July 3rd, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 14:22-36

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Failure is an option”
Peter fails! Peter saw Jesus walking on the water during a turbulent storm and Peter wanted to be out on the waves with Jesus. Peter heard Jesus say to the frightened disciples, “Take heart! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Bold and adventurous as always, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water. And then he didn’t. Then Peter saw the wind. Then Peter became afraid. Then Peter began to sink. Then Peter failed. His failure brought forth a strong reaction from Jesus. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?

Here in just a few verses we find that Peter fails. This might be the first time Peter fails, but it will not be the last. The other disciples will also fail. Matthew highlights the failure of the disciples.

    • Peter rebukes Jesus for talking about the death that awaits Jesus in Jerusalem.
    • The disciples rebuke those who brought children to Jesus.
    • The disciples argue over who gets to sit on the right and left of Jesus in the kingdom.
    • The disciples argue over who is greatest.
    • Peter denies Jesus three times.
    • All the disciples scatter.
    • And then there is Judas.

Disciples fail.

Knowing that disciples fail, let’s give Peter some credit as we read our passage today. Peter tried and failed. But Peter did not fail to try. He got out of the boat. Yes, he took his eyes off Jesus. Yes, he began to sink. Yes, he failed. Nevertheless, Peter did not fail to try.

And Jesus did not give Peter the heave ho when he did fail. By the time this dramatic episode comes to a conclusion, Jesus and the disciples are all safely back in the boat. They are all safely back in the boat. Peter is back in the boat. Peter is still part of the twelve. Failure is an option for those of us who follow Jesus. And true to who we hope and expect Jesus to be, our failure does not mean the end of our relationship with Jesus. Peter fails, but Peter remains a disciple. As our story concludes Peter is in the boat and the disciples are off with Jesus to their next adventure, hopefully with a deeper faith and a growing trust. The story does not end on the note of failure. The story ends with those in the boat confessing their growing faith. “Truly you are the Son of God,” they say to Jesus.

If failure is an option, if it is not only par for the course to fail as a disciple, but perhaps even a necessary part of our growth as disciples, might we move from taking a critical view of Peter to seeing Peter as a bold example of what our faith can be? Peter got out of the boat. A while back there was a book circulating in Christian circles with a wonderful title. “You can’t walk on water if you don’t get out of the boat.” Peter got out of the boat.

How might God be calling us to get out of the boat? These recent days of the Coronavirus and protests proclaiming Black Lives Matter highlight the obvious…like the turbulent seas the disciples encountered, we also live in turbulent times. It will take all the faith we have to get out of the boat. When we get out it will be tempting to see the power of the wind and lose heart, to see the power of the wind and lose faith. But there is a moment in today’s story that ought to encourage and inspire us. For a few moments Peter does not look at the wind. For a few moments Peter looks at Jesus. We get the impression that if he would have kept his eyes focused on Jesus…well, you never know what might happen until you actually get out of the boat and keep your eyes focused right on Jesus. That day Peter took a few halting steps on the water. Dear Lord, give us the courage to get out of the boat. Dear Lord, give us the faith to keep our eyes focused on you.  And if we fail…and when we fail…thank you for never giving up on us. Help us remember that although Peter tried and failed, he did not fail to try. And for that bold example we give thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
Take Heart, It Is I; Do Not Be Afraid (v. 27). Jesus says ego eimi (Greek), which can mean simply ‘it is I’; but more is being suggested here. For Matthew’s audience, this Greek phrase is packed with significance. These are the words that the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) uses to translate the Hebrew name of God revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Jesus is using the divine name to announce his presence. I am is here, trampling victoriously over the waves. In these brief but charged words and in the awesome vision that unfolds before the disciples, Jesus is identifying himself with God, the liberator and redeemer of Israel, who is at the same time the creator of the world and the victor over chaos. His words, instilling courage and banishing fear, assure the disciples that this awesome vision in the midst of the storm is intended as good news…Given its utterance at important moments throughout Scripture…’Do not be afraid’ is a keynote of the gospel itself. The unveiling of God’s majesty is not intended to terrorize or diminish, but to save, uphold, and establish the creature.” (Iwan Russell-Jones, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 3, p. 334, 336).

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Nineteen: Thursday, July 2nd, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 14:1-21

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“He gave thanks and broke the loaves”
John the Baptist is beheaded and Jesus breaks bread and feeds the multitude. The death of the Baptist causes Jesus to withdraw by boat privately to a solitary place. In life Jesus and the John the Baptist were connected. Now in the death of the one who went before him, Jesus yet again has a connection with John.

The feeding of the 5,000 shows that Jesus is not only connected to John the Baptist, but also to two of the major prophets who stood tall in stature in the history of Israel. Elijah and Elisha were prominent prophets who both did miracles that involved food. During a time of famine Elijah caused the jar of flour belonging to the widow of Zarephath never to run out as day after day the flour in the jar was replenished. (I Kings 17:7-16). The miracles God did through Elisha included feeding one hundred men, and as with Jesus there was some left over. (II Kings 4:42-44)

By showing that Jesus was intimately connected to the powerful prophets who preceded him, Matthew most assuredly wants us to recognize the power and the authority of Jesus. But Matthew is also alerting us to the fate of the prophets of God. Often things ended badly for the prophets. Our reading yesterday found Jesus saying at the end of chapter 13 that a prophet is without honor in his own house. As Jesus entered the final week of his life he stood in the temple, in the house of the Lord, in his Father’s house. After overturning the tables of the money changers Jesus said, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Matthew 21:13, where Jesus weaves together words from Isaiah and Jeremiah to proclaim a dramatic judgment on the religious life of Israel) It was provocative statements like this, prophetic statements like this, that led the chief priests and the elders of the people to gather together to plot how to arrest Jesus in “some sly way and kill him.” (Matthew 26:4)

As we come to the miracle of the loaves and fish we have the report of the death of John the Baptist and words of Jesus about a prophet not being honored in his hometown ringing in our ears. Time to get away, which is just what Matthew tells us Jesus did, withdrawing to a solitary place. But in that solitary place, in that private place, we discover Jesus will not withdraw from his mission. Jesus will not retreat from the call he has been given. When Jesus saw the large crowd that had found him out, instead of sending them away he has compassion them. He heals their sick. He won’t even send them home hungry after a long day of ministry. Jesus takes bread. Jesus looks to heaven. Jesus gives thanks. Jesus breaks the bread. Jesus gives the bread to his disciples who in turn give it to the people who eat and who are satisfied.

While Matthew is connecting Jesus to the powerful prophets who preceded him, if we pay close attention to what Jesus does with that bread, we realize Matthew is also setting Jesus apart from all who went before him. Jesus is not only a prophet. Jesus is God’s chosen one, the Beloved Son of God who came to take away the sin of the world. Matthew tells us Jesus gives thanks and breaks bread. Jesus will do that again at the Passover we have come to know as the Last Supper. And it is the breaking of bread and the pouring of the cup, in remembrance of Jesus, that plays such a pivotal role, a sacramental role, in connecting us to the salvation God has given through Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
“In words and actions anticipating the Eucharistic scene, Jesus breaks the bread, and the disciples distribute it to the crowd, satisfying their hunger. The abundance of leftover fragments is not a moralizing lesson in conservation, but a documentation of the greatness of the miracle. It is a counterpicture of the Mosaic manna, which could not be preserved, and portrays the messianic times, when hunger will be replaced by extravagance. (Matthew: The New Interpreter’s Bible, M. Eugene Boring, 325)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Eighteen: Wednesday, July 1st, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 13: 1-58

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Sowing and growing”
Jesus tells us many parables in our reading today. First is the parable about a sower. The parable does not get off to a promising start as the first three examples are of soil that does not lead to a good harvest. Thankfully, there is a fourth soil, the good soil. That soil receives the seed and the harvest multiplies, thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.

In a wonderful parallel to that parable, we have seen seed that has found good soil. Some seed landed among the eager hearts of members and friends at Dunn’s Corners, and the result is a sewing ministry. Because the seed that was sowed found good soil, our sewing ministry has brought us into relationship with some amazing ministries.

DRESS A GIRL AROUND THE WORLD makes sundresses that are sent through various projects to those in need. Dress a Girl Around the World is a program within Hope 4Women International that has been serving women and girls at risk since 2008. To date, more than 500,000 dresses have been made and sent to 82 different countries.

QUILTS BEYOND BORDERS makes quilts for children in need, especially orphans living in under-served areas of the world where the warmth of a quilt is needed at night. More than 153 million children in the world today have lost one or both parents. Quilts Beyond Borders has delivered thousands of quilts around the world, most recently to Native American Indians have been receiving quilts for adults.

TPQM Small Kennel Quilt Team is a volunteer organization that makes quilts for animal shelters that have been impacted by disasters. After disasters strike not only may a shelter be destroyed, but there are cats and dogs who have been injured, lost or abandoned, and these quilts will be in their crates adding comfort to their disorientation.

The Coronavirus has rudely interrupted our whole sewing ministry. Without workdays this year we have not been able to sow our seeds, so to speak. But we will be back. Even though our sowers were sidelined, many of them immediately transferred their calling and their skills into making masks.

Jesus refers to the harvest several times in this chapter on parables, as well as a mustard seed that grows into a mighty tree, a pearl of great price, and a hidden treasure whose discovery brings great joy. All of these images, in one way or another, are called to mind when the Sewing Ministry has their completed work on display. Oohs and aahs are heard and many expressions of joy and gratitude are voiced as we, the members and friends of Dunn’s Corners, stroll through the aisles and take in the beautiful handiwork. We have been assured the reception is even more joyful when these works of love make their home in places far away, touching hearts and bringing hope to people in need.

May these parables that we read today spark within us a desire to seek first the kingdom of heaven, knowing that when the good seed finds the good soil, there is no telling what bountiful harvest our Lord will bring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
As you read the parables in Matthew 13, consider these words about the kingdom. “Jesus did not say that the kingdom was like a rock, fixed and solid and firm and unchanging. Jesus did not say that the kingdom was like a giant machine that you put some things in and you get some things out and that what you get out depends upon what you put in. He said it was like an enormous tree that grows out of a tiny seed. A tree that grows so enormous that all the birds of the air can come and find shelter in its branches, even strange little ducks like you and me. He said that God was like a housewife who puts a smidgen of yeast in three measures of flour and that yeast yields its life into the whole batch of dough. That is the way that the kingdom is, growing from the very beginning into all that God has intended…From the foundations of the world, the very first moment of creation, it is the kingdom that has been on God’s mind, and God is infinitely patient as it grows.” (Patrick J. Wilson, “God is not finished,” a sermon quoted in Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 3, p. 265)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Seventeen: Tuesday, June 30th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 12: 22-50

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Come in to stay”
The opposition is growing. All the people were astonished at the miracle of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man so completely that the man could both talk and see. They were so astonished they asked, “Could this be the Son of David?” But the Pharisees said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” As you will see in our readings from Matthew 12, Jesus does not shy away from this conflict.

At one point, Jesus says words that played a significant role in my formation as a person of faith. When I was in high school, sixteen or seventeen years old, something drew me to the bible. At the time I was not very interested in church or attending worship services. I did not actively participate in our church youth group. No one who knew me would have considered me a spiritual person. But I was interested in Jesus. I had been given a cool translation of the New Testament titled, “Reach Out.” It was a copy of the New Testament written in contemporary language. It was not a literal translation. It was more of a paraphrase, written so a young person could understand it. At the end of the day, at the end of every day, I would open that paraphrase of the New Testament and read a chapter or two. I did not read the whole New Testament. I got lost in Paul’s letters and I was not even remotely ready for Revelation. But I was fascinated with Jesus. I wanted to learn more about Jesus. So I read the gospels over and over again.

It was during this time that I read the verse from today’s passage where Jesus says, “He who is not with me is against me…” (Matthew 12:30) This particular verse is one of those that appears in exactly the same form in the gospel of Luke, chapter 11 and verse 23. I must have been reading from Luke at the time, because when I read the words, “He who is not with me is against me,” those words made me stop and take notice. Something troubled me about what Jesus said. You see, just two chapters earlier in Luke 9, when the disciples encountered someone who was not with them, Jesus had told them, “Whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:30) That was a watershed moment for me. Looking back, I see I was starting to try to understand the words of Jesus, to make sense of them, to wrestle with them, to try to incorporate them into my life. I felt like I had come upon a contradiction. I turned back and forth between Luke 9 and 11 many times asking what Jesus might have meant in two passages that were so different. Now reading those words of Jesus again, the words where he says, “He who is not with me is against me,” I give thanks to God that he has given us a book we can wrestle with, examine and explore, compare and contrast, all in an effort to know Jesus better and understand him more fully.

Jesus tells about an evil spirit who comes out of a house only to return later and find the house unoccupied. The house had been emptied out of the evil spirit, but nothing had come in to fill that empty place. Around the time I was first learning to wrestle with God’s word, I realized there was a deep emptiness in my heart. I was searching for someone to fill that emptiness. I am so grateful God did not leave my heart empty. Jesus Christ himself came in and filled my heart, filled my life, giving me a sense of meaning and purpose, a sense of joy and peace that has sustained me now for more than forty years.

A children’s song says, “Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart Lord Jesus. Come in today, come in to stay, come into my heart Lord Jesus.” When my heart was empty, Jesus came in to stay. He will do the same for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
“The idea of an unforgivable sin, axiomatic to first-century Jews and Christians, is problematic to modern Christians, because it seems to set limits on God’s ability to deal with even the worst sinners. It is probably that Jesus and others who espoused the idea of an unforgivable sin did not by any means intend thereby to restrict God but wanted instead to emphasize as strongly as possible that human resistance to God is ultimately futile. God’s patience with those who insist on calling good evil and evil good will come to an end. Innumerable Christians have tormented themselves unnecessarily by the thought that they are guilty of the unforgivable sin. As wise interpreters have frequently reminded us, those who worry about the unforgivable sin cannot be guilty of it!” (Douglas Hare, Matthew, 140, 141)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Sixteen: Monday, June 29th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 12:1-21

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Mercy, not sacrifice”
Once again, the Old Testament helps us gain a better understanding of Matthew’s gospel. The actions of the disciples lead the Pharisees to challenge Jesus with allowing unlawful behavior on the Sabbath. Seeking to assert his authority over the Sabbath, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath,” Jesus answers the challenge of the Pharisees with a challenge of his own, to learn the meaning of these words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Jesus is quoting from the Old Testament prophet Hosea, chapter 6, and verse 6.

If those words from Hosea sound familiar, it is because Jesus has already turned to the prophet when he was called to account for eating with tax collectors and sinners in chapter 9. Using the exact same passage, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13)

Using an Old Testament passage twice is not unprecedented in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew uses another passage two times. The other passage is Leviticus 19:18, where we read the command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The importance of the command to love our neighbor alerts us to the importance of the passage from Hosea, which in my reading is the only other passage referred to twice.

In our interactions with other people, particularly ones the religious leaders look down on, ones labeled as “Tax collectors and sinners,” Jesus calls for mercy, not sacrifice. When practicing God’s central command of observing the Sabbath, Jesus calls for mercy, not sacrifice. We have to be careful with the Sabbath, because we could easily set the Sabbath aside and say it is legalistic and outdated and it does not fit with the freedom we have in Christ. The numerous examples of Jesus observing the Sabbath serve to let us know we are not to cast the Sabbath aside.

And yet we learn much from the way Jesus observed the Sabbath. Jesus links Sabbath observance with mercy. Could it be that a people who carefully observe the Sabbath discover that God is shaping within them hearts that are merciful, hearts that learn to trust God completely, hearts that revel in and relish the delight of having time set aside to give ourselves wholly to the one who gave himself wholly for us? And if that is true, doesn’t it make sense that we who have been loved so completely and so deeply would in turn develop a deep love and concern for our fellow human beings, for the needs of ones who are also created in the image of our good and giving God?

Here are two things you might explore.

  1. Read Genesis 2:1-3. On the first seventh day, the seventh day of Creation, God rested. God not only rested, God blessed the seventh day. If the Sabbath day is a day blessed by God, how does Jesus seek to extend the Sabbath blessing to others?
  2. Sabbath observance is built into the fabric of Israel’s covenant with God. The command to observe the Sabbath receives mention both in Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15. There is a slight variation between the commandments as they are listed. The Exodus passage links Sabbath observance to God’s wonderful work creating the heavens and the earth. In Deuteronomy our Sabbath observance causes us to remember that we were once slaves in Egypt who never had anyone concerned enough to give us a day of rest. Now our Deliverer graciously grants us a day of rest. And whether the motivation for Sabbath observance is God’s good creation or God’s gracious act of deliverance, one of the ways Israel was called to observe Sabbath was by showing concern for others who were less fortunate, even vulnerable, their servants, and yes, the aliens and foreigners who lived among them.

With those thoughts to guide us, let us seek to understand what it means that God loves mercy, not sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
“The words of Jesus have irony: ‘So it is biblical on the Sabbath day to do the right thing.’ God’s purposes in giving the Sabbath command were for the good of human beings, to give them a rest, to contribute to their physical and spiritual health, to give people time to ‘be’ and not just ‘do,’ and then to give them time for worship, which is the world’s most wholesome reality. ‘It is biblical to do good on the Sabbath.’ The fact that the Pharisees have to be told this shows the pit into which they have fallen.” (Bruner, The Christbook, p. 452)

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Fifteen: Friday, June 26th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 11:1-30

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“Great expectations”
“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” In a very real sense, the gospels all have the same intent, to announce to the world that Jesus is the one. Jesus is the one who has been long expected by Israel. To hear John the Baptist ask that question catches us off guard, because the Baptist had spoken so clearly at the Jordan that one was coming after him who was more powerful than him, who would baptize not with water but with the Holy Spirit. And yet questions obviously linger for John the Baptist.

While the question of the Baptist might catch us off guard, it can also serve to raise our guard, to heighten our awareness, to help us pay close attention to what is being revealed in the Gospel narrative. If we do pay close attention we will discover how clearly and definitively it is proven that Jesus is the Beloved Son of God, and how with Jesus God is well pleased. So Matthew 11 gives Jesus the chance to report on all that people have been hearing and seeing: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. That is what has already happened. And we are only up to chapter 11. The question of the Baptist has prepared us to pay close attention to what follows in the remaining chapters and how the events that unfold will help us move from the question, “Are you the one?”, to the bold and beautiful declaration, “You are the one!”

Earlier in our readings I made reference to the key role the Old Testament prophet Malachi plays in preparing our hearts for the coming of the Messiah. The question from John the Baptist provides Jesus the opportunity to connect the ministry of the Baptist to God’s prophetic promise in Malachi. “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” (Malachi 3:1) Jesus makes a direct connection between his coming and the coming of John, who came before him to prepare the way for him.

Those who take time to explore the four chapters that make up the book of Malachi will find an unexpected surprise about the long expected Jesus. One of the most beloved Christmas carols draws directly from Malachi to help proclaim the good news of great joy that caused a choir of angels to sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” In a delightful little book entitled “Mr. Dickens and his Christmas Carol” the author suggests that Dickens favorite carol was “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Frank Capra used that very carol to bring his chronicle of George Bailey’s wonderful life to a soaring and happy conclusion with the whole cast joining to sing, “Joyful all ye nations rise…”

When Charles Wesley wrote his Christmas favorite he not only told the story of the birth of Christ, he drew on Malachi to announce that Jesus was the one whose coming the prophets foretold.  In Malachi 4:2 we read, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” That verse in Malachi, a verse pointing to the long expected Savior who would one day bring salvation to this earth, is featured prominently in the third verse of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the sun of righteousness!

Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.

Today John the Baptist wants to know if Jesus is the one. Charles Wesley and a multitude of joyful souls have discovered the truth that Jesus is the one. So I leave you with words declaring Jesus is indeed the one who brings salvation to this earth.

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled.”

Joyful, all ye nations rise; join the triumph of the skies; with the angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
The twentieth-century Protestant theologian Karl Barth regarded John the Baptist as the prototype of Christian discipleship. Over Barth’s desk in Basel, Switzerland, hung a reproduction of the Isenheim altarpiece (executed by Matthias Grunewald). To the left, John the beloved disciple holds Mary, Jesus’ mother, as she looks in horror at the body, pierced body of her Son on the cross. To the right, John the Baptist, in bare feet and camel’s hair cloak, holds a book in one hand and with the other raises his long bony index finger toward Jesus on the cross. That, says Barth, is true discipleship; simply to point to all that God has done for us in Christ…In John the Baptist, we find an answer: to be a disciple is no longer to look at oneself, but rather to look at Christ. In pointing to him alone, the disciple’s own identity finally becomes clear: “Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God. I am thine.” John Burgess, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, p. 72) The final lines Burgess quotes are from Dietrich Bonheoffer in his letters and papers from prison.

BIBLE STUDY, Matthew 14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Fourteen: Thursday, June 25th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 10:1-42

Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:

“I am sending you”
Reading Matthew 10 for the umpteenth time, it occurred to me for the umpteenth time there is much in this particular chapter I do not understand. I’m curious how you will respond to this chapter. Jesus says words that sound very different from the comforting words of the beatitudes. Jesus says words about family relationships that seem to contradict his words about loving others. Jesus says words that seem to be the opposite of blessing those who are peacemakers. There is much in this particular chapter I do not understand.

Then it occurred to me why there is much in this chapter I do not understand. My life is so drastically different from those first disciples. At 19 years of age I heard the call of Jesus to be a pastor and I was eventually sent out as a pastor. But my call and sending looked nothing like the call and sending of those first disciples.

    • I was raised in a church, surrounded and supported by an established community of believers who nurtured me, cared for me, challenged me, encouraged me, and supported me in tangible ways every step of my journey.
    • I was sent to serve churches that had buildings, budgets, and boards. There was an infrastructure in place with policies and procedures.
    • I was called into a denomination that had the benefit of 200 plus years of a rich history, a network that covered not only our entire nation but one that connected me to workers all around the world.
    • I had a salary, a steady flow of income.
    • I had access to a seminary, to libraries, to professors, to mentors, to fellow staff members, to local clergy groups, and to colleagues who helped me work through whatever challenges would arise.

In short, my call and sending was nothing like those first disciples, those first ones who were sent. They went into uncharted territory. They went with a small and fledgling support system. They had no experience in church planting or establishing and forming a community. And they went into a world that was in many ways hostile to the message and to the messengers. These first disciples faced opposition, hardship, personal struggles, imprisonment, and even persecution.

Reading Matthew 10 for the umpteenth time has encouraged me to do two things. Without understanding everything in this passage, these are the two things I will do as I read this chapter today.

    1. Try to understand what these words might have meant for those first disciples as Jesus sent them out on a mission of unparalleled risk and a mission that had yet to contain any infrastructure or support system.
    2. Try to understand what these words might have to say to me, to us, as we seek to continue carrying the word of our Lord Jesus into our particular world, at our particular time, in our particular place(s) of ministry.

To these I will add a third.

 3.  I will give thanks for the support system that surrounds me. I will give thanks for those who went ahead of me. I will give thanks for the ones who trained and equipped, who comforted and supported, who blessed and encouraged me. And I will give thanks for the people I serve alongside, for the congregation and individuals who are my brothers and sisters in faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary:
“The intent of verses 7-8 is summarized in the two imperatives ‘preach’ and ‘heal’. As in the ministry of Jesus, the disciples’ proclamation of the good news of the kingdom must be corroborated by signs of the kingdom. Although the miracles they are empowered to effect are not insignificant, the emphasis clearly lies less on producing spectacular displays of supernatural power than on manifesting concern for God’s hurting people. The message about the coming of God’s rule must be rendered believable through concrete demonstrations of God’s caring. The modern church understands this principle and tires to be faithful to it. Mission boards send out not only evangelists but medical personnel, educators, agricultural missionaries, and others who will communicate the living gospel through visible acts of compassion. Likewise churches reach out to their neighborhoods in effective evangelism when concern for souls is accompanied by genuine concern for bodily existence…There must be no divorce between ‘preach’ and ‘heal.’” (Douglas Ware, Matthew, p. 112)