Friday, July 7, 2017

Divine Balance


Luke’s 12th chapter is interesting in many ways.  Jesus tells those with ears to hear to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees.  These people who have been entrusted as the shepherds of Israel have not done well with their trust.

Do not let them rule over you with fear.  The fear of the Lord is the only fear that you should entertain.  God—not these rule makers, not the devil, not any standard of compliance—holds power over life and death, heaven and hell, worry and peace.

Jesus tells those listening—then and now—that we claim him or we don’t.  There is no sitting on the fence.  If we claim Jesus as Lord, we will profess him publicly, affirm him always, and never forsake him.  He is our Lord.  Those who don’t really believe won’t know the same good standing that we have with our Father in heaven because of Jesus.

Jesus goes so far as the say not to worry even when the authorities take you into custody for believing in him.  God’s own Spirit will be right there with you and even give you the words to say.

Our Lord even spends a little time talking about possessions in what is now called the Parable of the Rich Fool.  We won’t spend time on that now as I will discuss that parable more a few weeks down the road.  Just remember that a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions.

Then it is back to do not worry.  He tells us to look at the example of the birds and the flowers.  We should trust our heavenly Father so much that we worry less than the lilies of the field.  We don’t do worry.  We don’t do fear.  Hear these endearing words from Luke’s gospel.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

There is a song that we sing frequently in our First Light service called The More I Seek You.  It has a stanza—if modern hymns still have stanzas—that says:  This love is so deep it’s more than I can stand.  I melt in your peace.  It’s overwhelming.  When we read this brief excerpt from Luke’s gospel, it’s almost like we could melt in our Lord’s peace.

But then Jesus instructed his followers once again to keep their guard up.  Be watchful.  Dress ready for service.  We could take a rabbit trail down putting on the full armor of God, but we won’t do that now.  Keep your lamps burning.  

We have been down this road before.  We understand that watchfulness and peace are not exclusive.  We are ready because we abide in the words of Jesus.  We continue to do the things that we know to do.

Jesus throws an interesting twist into this first parable.  He tells us that when the master—we translate that to our Master—comes home and finds us doing exactly what we should be doing, he will have us relax and recline at the table and he will take care of us.  Now that’s something worth staying the course. 

But—here’s the condition—we don’t know when the Son of Man will return, so we must live for him every day.  Our salvation is secured in the immeasurable love that poured out the blood of Jesus on the cross, but our Lord wants to see how much we have loved him back.

Here is where it gets fun.  Peter asked Jesus, “Is this parable for everyone or just for us?”

Don’t pick on Peter.  It’s a good question.  It’s one of those that comes up in Bible studies full of mature believers. Can everyone walk on water?  Should I be able to move a mountain.  Should I sell everything that I have?  Don’t pick on Peter.  He is asking what others were likely thinking.

The fun part is that Jesus answers the question about one parable with another parable.  At this point, I can see the other disciples giving Peter the look.  Now, we have not one, but two parables to figure out courtesy of Peter the rock.

Jesus begins.  Who is the faithful and wise manager?  The manager is likely also a servant but he is a manager.  Think of Joseph in Potiphar’s house.  He was a slave but in charge of everything.  He was a manager.

Jesus has a parable for managers.  It follows the same model as the ones for servants assigned to pick grapes or tend sheep or clean the house, but it is about managers.  What will the manager do when the master is away?

Will he run a tight ship as if the master were there checking every day or will he get lazy and careless and a little selfish?

We know how this comes out.  Stay the course and reap the rewards.  Stray away and you pay.  Don’t get too wrapped up in all this beating business.  Beatings were the performance evaluation tool of the day.  You didn’t just get a note put in your personnel file back then, you got a beating.

We must get through the part on beatings to get to the heart of the message, but you must endure a short rabbit trail first.  Every time I think about beatings, the old adage, “The beatings will continue until morale improves,” comes to mind.

Don’t get wrapped up on this beating business.  Think on how Jesus sums up this pericope. It sounds a whole lot like, “What did you do with what I gave you” in the indicative instead of the interrogative. 

If you were given much then much is expected.  If you are entrusted with much then much more will be asked—much more is required.

Here we go again.  Our salvation, our family, our homes and possessions and money are all trusts.  Our commission to share the gospel is a trust.  Our command that we hold so dear—to love one another as Jesus loved us—is a trust.
Our Spiritual Gifts are a trust.

The talents and abilities that God placed in us at birth are a trust.

If you are gifted as a teacher, God expects you to teach much more than the person terrified of teaching.

If you are a talented carpenter, God expects you to build all of your life.

If you have been blessed with an income, God expects that you will not only tithe, but give something beyond the tithe.

If you have been blessed with possession, God expects that you will be generous.

If you have a house, God expects that you will practice hospitality.

If you have authority, God expects you to practice it with wisdom and mercy.

If you have the gift to work with small children, God expects to see you in the nursery.

If you have the gift to work with small children and the gift of being a teacher, God expects to see you teaching a children’s lesson.

If you have the gift of intercession, God expects to hear from you more than the one who has the gift of service.

If you can’t hold your hands steady any more, God probably doesn’t want you lighting the candles.

If you can’t count, God probably doesn’t want you to be the church treasurer or a bank teller, though I guess these days you can run a cash register.

If you can’t handle controversy, God probably doesn’t want you to negotiate trade agreements.

If you are allergic to bee stings, God probably doesn’t want you to be a bee keeper.

There is a divine balance in what God expects from us. If he has given us a lot to work with, then he expects us to put it all to work.

If we have only been given a little, he expects us to put all of the little that he gave us to work.  There is a divine balance to God’s gifts and expectations.

Nowhere in this chapter or these two parables or any of the connecting teachings do I see which excuses are acceptable for not taking the much or little that we have been given and putting it to work.

Let’s consider where we have been so far.  We take care in what we believe.  We fear only God.  We don’t worry about the daily provisions of our life.  We don’t get wrapped up in our possessions.  We have peace but are watchful.  We don’t worry but are always ready. 

Whether a simple servant or a manager, we do what we know to do.  So what are we to do now?

We should begin with an inventory.  What do I have?

If that list begins with life and the promise of eternal life, then we continue with the inventory.  If not, it’s time to wrestle with this question of whether we believe in a God of love.  If that answer is yes, then do we believe that he loved us enough to take away our sin in the person and blood of his Son that we call Jesus?

If the answer is no, then you can skip this part and just begin a time of silent prayer asking God to open your eyes and your heart to eternal love.

But for those who already believe, let’s inventory what we have.

A home.
Cars, motorcycles, and hoverboards.
A job or income from somewhere.
Food.
Clothing.
Liberty.
Rights.
Money.
Possessions.
Education and continuing education.
Training.
Skills.
Abilities.
Attitudes.
Tools.

Those are typical areas to inventory.  We should see what we have and if we are managing these trusts well.  Here are some that might go overlooked.

Passport.
Connections or a network of connections.
Memberships.
Readerships.
Followings.

Are we managing these things well?  Are we using them to produce a good return for our Lord?

Sometimes, people venture into the “if only” world.  If only I had that skill.  If only that door would open for me.  If only I would win the lottery.  We are called to do what we can with what we have and not be surprised when God adds to it.

If you catch yourself wondering what you could do if you only had…you fill in the blank; first ask yourself what you are doing with what God has already given you.

I think, in fact I am quite sure, that all of us here have been trusted with much; therefore, much is expected from us.
We need to get out of the habit of looking at everything that we don’t have and start focusing on doing great things with what we do have.

We have been trusted with much.  Much is expected from us.
You know who realized this some time ago.  It’s someone that you will recognize.  Consider these words of Mother Teressa.

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle.  I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.”

She understood that she was trusted with much, that she must put that trust to work, and that God would see her through whatever was now in her path because she acted upon this trust.

Was she trusted with money?  Not so much.

Was she trusted with great possessions?  Not so much.

She was trusted with the gifts of mercy and communication. 

Her love was shared wherever she was and her lessons launched world-wide.

It seems that we are even trusted with the challenges of our lives.

We are trusted with much.

I am going to add something to the things with which God trusts us—geography.  Some will be calling ahead to get me sized for a straight jacket, I’m sure.  Do I not realize that we live in a one traffic light town?  We do have all three colors on the light now and even two left turn signals.  That makes us big time as far as I’m concerned.  Most intersections would have 4 left turn signals. We could petition the state for another left turn signal or two, but they would just lead people into or out of a pasture.

Geography!  Really?

Consider that we have been trusted with where we live.  We are half an hour from Walmart, which is how modern civilization is defined.  We don’t have traffic, unless two people stop in the middle of an intersection to talk.  We have affordable housing.  We have all the basic services.

We are blessed to live where we live, but we also can reach out to the world.  It’s seven miles to the interstate.  It’s a couple of keystrokes or mouse clicks to the internet, that is, unless your phone is always connected.  In less than two hours you can be on a plane, unless you can get a private lift out of our local facility.

Today’s generation does not understand what a long-distance call is.  We are connected.  Half of the people you know have never used a pay phone and tried to say everything they needed to in 3 minutes. They have just always been connected.  We have these things called Facetime and Skype.  You can see the person that you are talking to on the other side of the world or the other side of the room.

If you must have something that you can’t get here, it’s 90 minutes to Oklahoma City.  It should take a little longer, but I have seen most of you drive.  And then there is Amazon One Click and Prime.  One click, two days, it’s here.

You are not only blessed to live in small town or rural Oklahoma, you are trusted with much.  Much is expected.

I sometimes get a little terse with my fellow pastors when they ask, “How’s the church doing?”  Before I can answer, they add, “Are you all hanging on?”

It is as if the small town geography defines what God can do with us and through us and for his kingdom.  It is usually 10-15 minutes before my contemporaries get to ask any more questions because I am telling them what you are doing with what God gave you.

You were given much and much is expected.
From where I stand, much is being delivered.  You are producing much fruit.

We must never grow complacent with what God has given us, but I think that somehow we understand today’s message a little better than others.  We never retire from taking what God has given us and putting it to work to serve him.

Not everyone is called to be a theologian.  Not everyone is given the gift of intercession.  Not everyone is given the gift of evangelism.

We all understand some theology, pray quite a bit, and share the gospel, but most of the time we are sharing what we know we have been given—God’s love.

We know that we have been given much love and we are expected to love much.

If we do understand these parables and the obligatory words that connect them to us, and we do conduct an inventory; then let us also be wise as we inventory.  Let’s find the clutter and get rid of it.

Let’s identify the stuff that is getting in the way of taking what we have been given and producing a great return and get rid of it.

We might be talking about physical clutter—actual stuff—but more likely, we will find clutter in our time and senseless obligations. 

This is a complicated century but that does not mean our lives must be complicated.  We are equipped to operate in this crazy millennium, yet have the peace of a simpler time.  We are ready because we do what we know our Lord has called us to do; yet, we sleep well at night.

We realize that we have been given much and that much is expected.  We also know that Jesus gave us words so that we might put them into practice.  So, let’s take inventory of what we have and put it to work to produce a good return for our Lord; and if along the way we find things that are clutter, kick them to the curb.

We with ears to hear are the faithful and wise managers of this age.  Let us be known by our love, our good news, our faith, and the wisdom that God has granted us so generously.


Amen.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Walk A Block for Jesus Smart Pack




Walk A Block for Jesus
Smart Pack


Mission


To take the good news of life, life abundant, and life eternal to the community of Burns Flat in the fellowship of other believers.

Church Phone:  580 562 4706
Tom’s phone:  580 515 2995
Jimmy’s phone:  580 821 4942 (For Resupply)




General Guidelines
This is not a race!  Be safe and have fun.  You are sharing good news.
If you must depart early, please let us know @ 562-4706 and tell your group leader.
Hydrate.  Drink plenty of water.
Do not go anywhere that you do not think is safe.  Do not enter any home (other than your own) alone.

Operations
Do what you are comfortable doing.  That may include:
Knocking on doors.
Giving out gospels.
Giving out wristbands.
Sharing your testimony.
Inviting people to worship or participate in ministries.
Inviting people to walk a block or two or ten with you. (This year we give out an extra wristband to anyone who walks with us.  It says WALK A BLOCK FOR JESUS 2017)
Praying for an entire block or a school or a business.
Praying with individuals and families.
You may end the walk having done more than you thought you could.

Administration
There are 4 walking teams assigned to 4 areas.
Everyone must sign up on a team roster.  We will try to keep the teams about the same size.
Team leaders should have a map.  Extra maps are recommended if the team will break into groups.
Team leaders will determine the organization and transport that works for them.
Do your best to get to know and walk with people in your group that you don’t know very well.


Logistics
Leave a Gospel of John at every occupied house.  Include the VBS flier.
Take some gospels and wristbands with you.  Call for resupply before you are out.  Wristbands are only given out with personal contact and a reminder that GOD LOVES YOU!
Take one or two Bibles with each team.  These are for people who do not have a Bible in their home.  Call for resupply.
Take a few of Tom’s business cards with each group.  
Dispose of trash properly.  We don’t make a mess.


Coordinating Instructions
Everyone is to be back at the CPC church building by 11:45 am.
Lunch is served at noon.

Walk A Block Prayer

Lord,
We give you thanks that you came with salvation and sent us into the world with good news.
We thank you for the gift of grace that we cannot repay fully but that we can give back to you in part by loving our neighbor.
We confess that we don’t do this sort of thing enough.
We confess that this event is still something unique.  Help us to make it part of our daily lives.
We thank you for your pardon that you have promised and now ask that you help us get after it as we walk into the world as your disciples.
Help us to be known by our love, and today by our good news.
We ask that your Spirit precede us, walk with us, and dwell within each household that we visit.
We ask for fellowship with those who walk with us.  They are our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  Grant us joy in this fellowship.
Grant us safety.
Grant us a harvest that is plentiful.
Grant us joy and peace in knowing that we are doing what you commissioned us to do.
Bless this morning that our service is pleasing to you.
In the name of Jesus,

Amen!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Camper's High


The first thing that I am going to do is to put this proverb into the plural for application.  Train up our children in the way they should go and later they will not depart from it.

The verb leads the proverb in modern translation.  It does not in the original text, but I think the translators did a fantastic job putting the verb first.  Train up is the verb used most often.  Point, teach, start, bring up are others that we find in our modern translations.

The original word is חָנַך - chanak  (khaw-nak') - and it means to dedicate, and also to train up.  So the first meaning is to dedicate our children much like we would dedicate a building.  Many here remember that on 11 July 2004, we held an evening service to dedicate this new church building.  It was no longer a grocery store.  Not only had the outward and inward appearance been changed, but so too had its purpose.  It was dedicated to the Lord.

I chose this proverb to compliment what has transpired in our youth testimonies and the camp experience from which they came. 

Camp is a big part of bringing up our children in the way they should go in this modern world. Many of our children and youth work hard at many fundraisers to get to camp.  Many look forward to camp all year long, but camp is not life.

Camp is not life. 

Why not?  Why do you accept that statement so easily?

Let’s answer a question.  Who loves camp?

Now here’s another question.  Who loves Jesus?

Does Jesus live only at camp?  Is Jesus confined to a few acres once a year?

Can the King of kings and Lord of Lords only connect with us once a year?

For many of you, camp is fun and that’s about it, but truly, camp is training for life as a disciple.  That thing that we might call a camper’s high can live year-round if you chose to draw closer and closer to your Lord and Savior every day.

Camp should always be a special time but it must not be the only time when you draw closer to God.  It must not be the only place where you want to practice God’s love. 

There are many things on your near horizon where you can claim that special relationship with God and your fellow believers.

One is the Walk A Block for Jesus.  Is the good news that you have received, really good news?  If it is, then you must share it.

The Christian that is apathetic or ambivalent about good news worships the god of this world and not the God of all creation. 

Do I expect to see you at the Walk A Block for Jesus?
No!  I expect to see you with 3 or 4 of your friends that did not go to camp with you but that you have invited with a passion to come and walk with us.

The Walk A Block will come and go, but your passion must remain.  We will pass out many gospels and wrist bands on that Saturday, but I charge you to pass them out all year round.

Our love for Jesus and our witness to the world is not confined to a week at camp or a Saturday morning in the summer.  It is a way of life.

I challenge you this morning to follow Jesus as a way of life and not just be a Christian tourist that once a year takes a week to get a little taste of the Kingdom of God.

The choice is yours:  Tourist or Disciple?

The proverb charges parents to bring up a child in the way he should go.  This sets the stage for leading an abundant life.  The younger you are when you accept this counsel, the easier it is.

Some who are in their teens already know how hard it is to change a habit.

You don’t get up and come to worship on Sundays.
You don’t read your Bible on a regular basis.
You don’t pray until you are in trouble. 
You don’t know your God-give purpose.

Why can’t you keep that camp feeling all year?  You chose not to.  You choose not to, but you can choose to change that.

You can choose to pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus.  That’s too broad and metaphorical for most, so let’s try these simple things:
·      Read your Bible every day.  Start with the Gospel of John.  Then read the other gospels.  Then start working in the first few books of the Old Testament.  Get a reading plan if you need something to keep you on track.
·      Get yourself here on Sunday mornings by 10:00 a.m. and learn.  Stay for worship.
·      Be a part of one or two ministries.
·      Pray every day.  Give 90% of your prayer time to listening.
·      Live the God given purpose that you know:  Love God and Love One Another!  You may be called to more later, but loving one another is for everyone.
·      Fulfill the commission that Jesus gave you:  Take the good news to the world.  You can start with your friends and classmates.  You can dive into the Walk A Block for Jesus.

Do you want that camper’s high all year round?  The choice is yours.

The choice is yours!


Amen.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Parable: The Two Debtors


This parable is a good opportunity to work in one of my favorite proverbsthe borrower is slave to the lender.  That one has had my attention for many years.  I don’t like debt.  Perhaps the financial debt owed in the parable is not really the central part.

We could make some connections with Paul’s counsel that the only debt we should continue is the debt to love one another.  That’s a good figurative way to put things as we work out—live out our salvation.  There are some connections to be made to the parable before us, but the story here is perhaps more connected to our human nature.

Jesus told the parable to a Pharisee, and those gathered in his presence.  As we read through this pericope that includes this parable, we discover that the host’s name is Simon.  Simon had invited Jesus to dine with him.  Jesus accepted, arrived, and reclined at the table to have a meal with this man who by all current religious standards was a righteous man. 

To the modern-day reader, it might seem that things were off to a good start; however, Jesus got the second-class treatment. 

In what way?

If a guest was coming to your house, you were expected to greet him.  A kiss or two on the cheek would have been the norm.  As the host, you would offer your guest some water to was his feet.  If you had servants, they would do the washing for the guest.  In a home with a considerate host, he or a servant might offer oil for the head. 

You would at least go through the motions to make your guest feel welcome.  There were basic protocols to be observed.  Jesus didn’t just drop in.  He was invited.  He was an invited guest.  Someone should have made him to feel welcome.

What is it to feel welcome?

When I was assigned to the United Nations there were 20 American officers.  Half of them were Army officers and the rest were Marine, Navy, and Air Force.  My group shared an apartment in Kuwait City that each of us actually stayed in about 2 or 3 days a month when we weren’t in or around the DMZ.  Our schedules varied.

Normally if you got a day or two back at the apartment, you might see a couple of the other residents for a day.  Seldom was everyone there at once, but regardless of whether there was 1 or there were 10 American officers there, there was a greeting and excitement when someone arrived.

On one occasion, I recall being greeted as the 4th or 5th of the apartment’s residents to arrive that day.  Then gradually over the next few hours, the other half of our contingent arrived.  With each arrival, the intensity of the greeting increased.  It was something special.  There was no protocol for this.  It was not required, but the celebration was surely necessary.

If you have ever lived in another part of the world for an extended period, especially in one where your operations were run by the United Nations, there is just something special about getting together with your American friends.  Greetings and excitement built with each arrival, every time. There were no exceptions.  You were always made to feel welcome every time your arrived.

Jesus went to dine with Simon, who had invited him, and he just walked in and reclined at the dinner table.  There is no greeting or fanfare or anything that might indicate that Jesus was not only invited, but welcomed in this place.

At some point while people were dining, a woman of less than reputable character entered the dining area and washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and her hair.  She had some expensive perfume and put that on him as well.

Simon’s thoughts—revealed to us by Jesus—were if this man were a prophet or a man of God in any capacity, then he would know what kind of woman was touching him.  Surely, if this Jesus was a Rabbi, then he knew better than to let any woman touch him.

Jesus knew Simon’s thoughts but instead of just calling him out on what he was thinking, he proffers a story.  Simon agrees to listen.

Two men owed the same money lender money.  One owed almost 2 years wages and the other almost 2 months wages.  Neither could repay.  Think back to the borrower is slave to the lender.  This is not a good position for either man.

Without explanation, the man cancels both debts.  I wish this guy was in charge of our nation’s student loans or at least available the next time I need a new car.  He cancelled both debts.

I think both men were ecstatic.  This was huge.  This man who had made these loans forgave both men their debts.
Jesus asked Simon, “Which one will love him more.”

Simon doesn’t want to stick his neck out too much, perhaps warry of how others have come out of encounters with Jesus.  So he says, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.”

How much more half-heartedly can you answer a no-brainer question like this?  Of course, the one who just had two years wages forgiven loves him more.  That’s within our human nature.  Both surely are endeared to this man whom they owed money and received a clean slate, but two year’s wages; that’s big time.

Jesus does tell Simon that he answered the question correctly, but Jesus does something here that we do not see with all parables.  He makes application to his current audience.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.  Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Simon surely thought himself a righteous man.  He had surely sinned, but likewise he most certainly made the appropriate sacrifices to restore his righteous standing.  Somewhere along the way, he must have overlooked his own judgmental nature.

He surely condemned the woman who came into his house and Jesus who let her touch him.  He should have known better, especially, if he wants to be one of us.

For all of Simon’s education and stature, it was the woman who knew who held forgiveness.  For all of the protocols that had been broken that day, it was the woman who knew what was most important.  For all of the invitations that had been issued for this meal, it was this uninvited woman who had been invited into the Kingdom of God.

All that the self-righteous guests could think of was, “Who is this guy that he thinks he can forgive sins?”

This guy is not playing by the rules!

“Who is this guy that he thinks he can forgive sins?”  Had they truly sought the answer to that question, it would have been a life changing day for them as well. 

Jesus wraped up what we know about this encounter by speaking to the woman.  He has told her that her sins are forgiven.  Next, he told her to go in peace.  Your faith has saved you.

There is a little something to chew on in verses 47 and 50.  Translations vary in verse 47.  Some translations lead you to believe that the woman was forgiven because of her actions; yet, others suggest that her love was in response to her forgiveness. 

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.

As her great love has shown are powerful words.  They say that she loved not to obtain forgiveness but because she had been or knew with certainty that she would be granted forgiveness because of who Jesus was.  In this woman, we see both hope and faith producing love. 

In verse 50 Jesus told her that her faith has saved her.  Just as Jesus knew the thoughts of Simon, he also knew the faith of this woman.  She loved Jesus in response to his forgiveness that she had faith to believe would come.  She was already loving him back for what she knew with certainty he would do for her.

We have seen faith in Jesus result in healing.  Now we see it resulting in forgiveness.  This faith produced the acts of love that we witness in this account, and the woman knew how great her forgiveness was.

We could stop right there and know that we have a good understanding of this parable.  But I challenge each of us to have a good understanding of ourselves and the grace that we have received as well.

Are we excited about the forgiveness—the grace—that we have received?  Would we be more excited if someone paid off our mortgage or 5 years of our car payments?

Do we meditate upon our debt that was cancelled by the blood of Jesus?  Does that thought bring joy to our hearts?

While the parable comes from Luke’s gospel, consider the words of John in his first letter.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

How easy is it to forget the magnitude of the grace that we need day after day and week after week and for some of us decade after decade?  When we forget how great God’s love is, we shrink back from loving our neighbor into the cynical mode of judging them.

We live in a very cynical and caustic world.  Acrimony and vitriol are the order of the day; yet, God’s love and mercy and grace and favor are poured out on us in the middle of a world that does not love God.

The 4th chapter of Revelation takes us to the throne room in heaven.  What a sight!  Seeing One with the appearance of jasper and ruby seated on a throne as John looked across a crystal clear, glassy sea.  I am sure that he was overwhelmed, as we all would be.

And around the throne were four creatures who said or sang day and night:

Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.

How could anyone or anything be prepared and able to sing for all eternity?  Perhaps, the better question is how could we not?  Having all of our debts cancelled—our slate of sins wiped clean—how could we not respond by singing the praises of our Lord God Almighty!

 It might be a new song that we sing, but we will be proclaiming God’s holiness and righteousness and wisdom and glory and we will never grow tired of it.

As we sometimes identify with characters in stories, I hope that we identify more with the woman than the Pharisees in this parable.  The Pharisee took his life and relationship with God for granted.  There was little self-examination.  There was condemnation of others.  There was a matter-of-factness about life in general.

The woman still knew the wonder of life and the magnitude of forgiveness.  She humbled herself before the One who held her future.  Her life may have been a poor specimen of righteousness, but her heart lead her to repentance. 

I hope that we never become complacent in the righteousness given to us.  I hope that we are ready to respond to the grace that we know with love and thanksgiving and joy and praise for our Lord.

While I doubt that there are many murderers or rapists or people that we might regard as truly bad people among us in this assembly; we all have had a great debt forgiven.  We have been forgiven a lifetime of sins, some of which we have not even committed yet.

We all have been forgiven much.  Should we not respond to God by loving much?

Like the heavenly beings surrounding the throne in heaven, are our hearts not already singing:


is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.

Today, we don’t wash the feet of our guests or anoint them with oil and lavish them with expensive perfume.  We have other customs and traditions, but our response to great forgiveness is still great love.

The 2017 model for washing the feet of Jesus in response to our undeserved forgiveness is loving God by loving one another.  We must never forget that the command to love one another is rooted in great forgiveness. 

Let our hearts sing  Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, while our hands and feet respond to what the Lord God Almighty has done for us in Christ Jesus with great love for one another.

Part of our discipleship is that we love much.  We love much!

Let our response to God’s grace be great love.

Amen!