Sunday, August 31, 2014

Trinity 11

Luke 18:9-14 - Trinity Eleven - August 31, 2014
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
A couple springs ago on the Saturday evening before high school graduation, I was fiddling around in my garage with the garage door open.  There evidently was some sort of graduation party nearby because there were cars parked up and down the block and plenty of teenage voices to be heard.  It brought back fond memories of not so many years ago when I was walking in the same shoes.  But I was a little bit embarrassed as they passed my house by the thought that perhaps I also once talked, so-to-speak, in the same shoes.  A whole conversation which I could hear begin a block away and carry on for a block in the opposite direction consisted of two boys and two girls taking polite turns speaking sentence after sentence.  I must have heard about 30 or 40 complete sentences … and every single one – I kid you not – began with the word I.  They weren’t talking filthy or rude or starting fights.  Like I said, they weren’t even interrupting one another.  Everything was very civil.  But despite their best behavior, a certain egotism was plainly revealed. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Trinity 10

Jeremiah 8:4-12 (Luke 19:41-48) - Trinity Ten - August 24, 2014
Hanging on Jesus’ Words
You shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord: When men fall, do they not rise again? If one turns away, does he not return? Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return. I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle. Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the judgment of the Lord. How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them? Therefore I will give their wives to others and their fields to conquerors, because from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.  They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.”
The prophet Jeremiah records God’s frustration with his people.  It’s a frustration with sin, and of course with the unbelief that’s at the root of sin.  Sin is unlike anything else.  The natural inclination in our sinful hearts is not simply an unfortunate tendency to make the wrong choice here and there.  It is, in fact, rebellion against God.  He created earth and all that fills it to be good.  The sin that spoils what God made good begins in our own hearts.  By nature we are enemies of God.  By nature, we deserve his wrath. 
By nature.  But how natural really is sin?  Isn’t it rather a corruption of nature? 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Trinity 9

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 - Trinity Nine - August 17, 2014
Written for Our Learning

The Apostle Paul does not want us to be ignorant.  No teacher wants his students to be ignorant.  He wants them to know what he knows.  Consider his subject matter.  He wants us to know the Bible.  The Bible that he used as his textbook when writing to the Christians in Corinth was of course the Old Testament prophets, along with the New Testament Gospels that by this time had already circulated throughout the growing Church, wherever the Apostles had gone.  The Gospels are the history of the life of Christ, the Son of God.  The Old Testament is the history of the life of God’s chosen people, the children of Israel.  The events of the Old Testament are not just historical events that have some religious or moral lesson to them.  They are more.  They are the accounts of what God did through and for his people in order to teach them of their future redemption in Christ.  And they continue to teach us.