Let’s Sing All the Verses

December 1, 2019 – God is waiting for us to sing all the verses in Isaiah 2:1-5. We are waiting for the frustrating roadblocks of our time, to be removed. When we sing all the verses, we see a path forward through the roadblocks. Some Christians sing vv. 2-3, because the focus is worship, teaching and evangelism. Some Christians sing v. 4, because the focus is international peacemaking. Few congregations sing all the verses! Do we want to be known as a congregation that sings all the verses?

Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44

Who drinks the cup of cold water?

November 24, 2019 – Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Mt 25:31-46) concludes his teaching ministry in Matthew’s account. Its interpretation hinges on two questions: Who are all the nations? And who are the least of these who are members of my family? The most common interpretation: give generously and compassionately to the poor and oppressed. But a different application emerges when a few basic biblical interpretation principles are applied. Though it is about end times, it speaks to how then we should live today!

Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46

Growth Happens

November 1, 2019 – Jesus explained the Kingdom of God with a parable of seeds growing secretly and automatically (Mark 4:26-29). It is instructive for Mennonite “quiet in the land” syndrome. We are responsible to plant seeds which others will harvest, and harvest grain which others have planted. Our job is not to control or understand growth—that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. If we do our job, the Spirit does her job. But the Spirit can’t do her job if we don’t plant. Our words and actions become guaranteed to grow Kingdom seeds, when they emerge out of our centeredness in Jesus.

Scripture: Mark 4:26-29

Jesus’ Concrete Plan

November 10, 2019 – Luke 10:1-24 reveals Jesus’ plan for assembling his Church. Jesus’ concrete plan had three essential components then, and those components have not changed: lots of ordinary people, a strategic plan, and Holy Spirit power. Concrete will be an analogy: it requires gravel (ordinary people), cement (strategic plan), and water (Spirit). Any two out of three are worthless, in making concrete or being Jesus’ church.

Scripture: Luke 10:1-24

The Operating System for Jesus’ Church

November 3, 2019 – Spiritual gifts are the operating system for Jesus’ church! They function behind the scenes, enabling all programs to function well. Paul summarizes his teaching on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7 The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. When we serve in the area of our passion, using Spirit-given gifts, we serve without burning out. Jesus refers to this concept in Matthew 11:28-30: When we take on his yoke (our unique calling), the Kingdom work is not heavy.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-11, 24b-31

On Earth, as it is in Heaven, (part 2)

October 13, 2019 – The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:11-22 and 3:1-11, provides direction for Jesus’ church, in experiencing the oneness and community of the Trinity, on earth, as it is in heaven. The key is recognizing that on the cross, Jesus destroyed the walls which divide us. The world keeps building walls, but as Jesus’ followers, we know the foundation for walls (hatred) has already been destroyed. Our task is to live as if the walls are not there, even though the world sees them. We continue the reconciling work Jesus began, even as the world calls us naïve. Community is not an aspect of the gospel, community IS the gospel, when it is breaking down the barriers which divide us.

Scripture: Ephesians 2:11-22, 3:1-11

On Earth, as it is in Heaven (part 1)

October 6, 2019 – On earth, as it is in heaven, part 1, focuses on unity and community within the Trinity. Andrei Rublev’s icon, The Trinity, conflates the story of Abraham and Sarah’s three visitors (Gen. 18), with Jesus prayer in John 17. The worshiper is invited to pull up a chair, and listen in as the Trinity talks about their visit with Abraham and Sarah, the events of Holy Week, the birth of the church at Pentecost, and all of Church History. Rublev conveys the essential unity/community of the Trinity, and God being free from the constraints of time as we humans understand time. This understanding of what’s going on in heaven (oneness of purpose/community), will lay the groundwork for our Oct. 13 focus on Jesus’ desire for oneness of purpose for his Church.

Scripture: John 17:20-26, Genesis 18:1-15

Three Strikes and Ruth’s Babe

September 29, 2019 – The story (and Bethlehem society) defined Ruth by the three strikes held against her: foreigner, woman and widow. She was called out on strikes—an “outsider.” Three strikes and Ruth’s babe invites us to go beyond welcoming the outsider, to valuing relationships with, and learning from the outsider. When we don’t, we unintentionally become self-appointed umpires, calling strikes on others because they are different from us. Romans 12:1-8 is clear: we are to allow God to change the way we think. When we are transformed, our invitations to others to change the way they think will be better received. Would we recognize a Ruth, if we saw one? 

Scripture: Ruth 4, Romans 12:1–8

Do the Right Thing

September 22, 2019 – In the third episode of Gleaning Right, Boaz simply followed through by doing the right thing. His life was characterized by humility, putting the community first, and valuing accountability. Most of the Christian life is follow through—doing the little things on a regularly basis, which build up our character, enabling us step up and do the right thing when called upon to do so. We note wisdom for 21st Century economic policy in Jeremiah 29:1-9, an illustration of putting community needs first.

Scripture: Ruth 3