Beautiful photograph found on Pinterest. Credit Gratefully Acknowledged to the original photographer. Thank You~
Today we find ourselves in the second week of Advent, this time of waiting and anticipation of Christ’s return. A time to reflect on our own lives and prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
The scripture from the beginning of Mark’s gospel is titled, “The Proclamation of John the Baptist.” Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four gospels, it is direct, it is to the point and each verse is filled with meaning and purpose.
Mark is direct enough that he skips the nativity and baby Jesus account and immediately begins with the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark begins his gospel and account of Christ by going back in time.
Mark goes back about 600-700 years to the time of Isaiah. From the Old Testament account of Isaiah he quotes, “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Make straight your paths, for the promised one is coming. In Isaiah’s day he spoke to a Jewish audience that had been exiled. In Mark’s account he talking about Christ and the messenger preparing the way for him.
Mark writes, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’
In this painfully hectic time between holidays, how much time are we spending preparing our hearts, souls and minds to meet and be present with our God? This time of year we don’t celebrate credit card debt or empty bank accounts. We don’t celebrate added inches to our waistline.
No, we celebrate the birth of our God. The mystery of the incarnation and the insane lengths our God went to, to reconcile us to him. To bring us closer to him.
In preparing for this sermon I read about and questioned why our God would need someone to prepare the way for him. Why would an all-present and all-powerful God need a man dressed in strange clothes – camel’s hair, and who ate weird things (locusts and honey) to prepare the way for him?
Is it because we all stand on the shoulders and accomplishments of those that have gone before us? We all stand on the ground that was prepared for us by others. All the hard work of our ancestors and their desire to see their children succeed have benefitted each of us.
Unfortunately, these bodies and minds of flesh that have short memories and are inclined to take credit for what has been accomplished.
Even our God, who emptied himself of all his divinity, needed someone to prepare the way for him. An all-present and all-powerful God would rely on a mere mortal to be the voice crying out in the wilderness.
Why would God need someone to prepare the way for him? And why would he pick a strange looking and acting guy to be that person?
….It would take someone with far more knowledge than I to fully answer that question. I think it has to do with the humility of our God. We celebrate, honor and worship a God that gave up the splendor and glory of heaven, all that beauty to come to this world riddled with sickness, disease, war, famine, acts of evil and death.
I think that I would rather look at that from a distance and bask in the beauty of heaven. But not our God. He saw the terrible consequence that sin caused and he decided that something had to be done about it.
He traded his mansion for a mud hut, he traded power for humility and splendor for suffering. He sent his messenger, John the Baptist, before him. John appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
In spite of his strange appearance people flocked to listen to him and to be baptized by him in the Jordan River. “Make straight your paths, prepare the way of the Lord.”
People came from the Judean countryside and from Jerusalem to see, hear and be baptized by John the Baptist. He had his own disciples and was popular enough or posed enough of a threat that even the Pharisees came to see what all the commotion was about.
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near, make straight your path, prepare the way for the Lord…….Repent……confess……..understand your own brokenness before your God……..ask for forgiveness for the kingdom of heaven has come near…….
What if each of us in our own way is John the Baptist? We may not go out into the timber or near the closest river and cry out or wear strange clothes, but what if each of us as we commit and recommit to our faith every day is living like John the Baptist?
Every time we commit to be read our bibles, to pray, to be a part of a small group, to do something for someone else, every time we chose to be intentional about our faith that we straighten our own path and influence those close to us.
Lives of faith can scream and proclaim the gospel without speaking a single word. Proclaim the gospel always said St. Francis, use words only when necessary.
People went to John the Baptist to repent of their sins and to be baptized. In his humility, John proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John the Baptist knew his mission was to prepare the way for the one that is coming, one far more powerful than he.
We have also been made aware that one that Christ, is going to return. Are we preparing the way for his arrival……
Are we proclaiming the good news of God’s action and arrival in this world, the coming of God’s kingdom, his ministry, death and resurrection?
As we celebrate and honor the second Sunday of Advent, let us remember all of those that have gone before us. Let us remember the spiritual giants in our own lives and Mark’s gospel does recalling the words of Isaiah.
Let us live bold, courageous lives of faith that speak to this world and those in it who we are and what we are about. In this painfully busy time of year, let us slow down and take time to reflect on what is truly important and why we celebrate with gifts, good food and precious time spend with family and friends.
Let us go with the knowledge and the truth that our God is coming back to this earth. It may not be in our lifetime, but he is coming back. If we don’t see him in the time each of us has left, that is no reason or excuse to be convenient or flippant about your faith.
Let us be about the work of the one that created all that is good and holy. Let us be about the work of a God that became the word incarnate. A penniless, nomadic preacher that come to save the souls of many.
Pastor Shawn LaRue, Seymour UMC
Author of Incomplete
We have arrived at the end of Christ’s public ministry in the book of Matthew. Matthew’s gospel was written in the last half of the first century with an emphasis on the fulfillment of Christ as the Messiah.
This passage of scripture opens with the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy from the book of Daniel, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, and then he will sit on the throne of his glory.”
Christ is in the last week of his life. He has spoken parable after parable of what it will be like upon his return and the work, we as Christians should be about until his return to this world. Christ gives fair and ample warning about what will happen come Judgment Day.
Today’s scripture is titled, ‘The Last Judgment.’ “All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.”
All nations means just that – all Jews, Gentiles, everyone from everywhere. Separating the sheep from the goats was a common practice for shepherds in biblical times.
Having mixed herds was common, at night sheep would be placed in an open pasture, while the goats needed to be protected from the cold. Sheep have more commercial value than goats do.
The bible oftentimes makes reference to the vocation of being a shepherd. God’s people are often times referred to as sheep, whether we like it or not. Have you ever wondered why………
Given the context and setting – 2,000 years ago in the Middle East, being a shepherd and tending to livestock was a common occupation – people could identify with it.
Sheep need protection, guidance and provision. It is also believed that sheep respond to the voice of their shepherd.
We share these things in common. We are also in need of guidance, provision and protection and if we take the time to listen we will also recognize the voice of our shepherd, of the one that provides, protects and guides.
A shepherd had to be willing to lay down his or her life for who and what they were protecting. Christ, our shepherd, was willing to and did the same when he laid down his life for us.
On that Day of Judgment, when the Son of Man returns in all his glory, the herd will be separated, like the parables of the past two weeks – the wise and foolish bridesmaids and the servants who were charged with investing their owner’s estate.
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.
I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
Our God is omnipotent and omnipresent. He has unlimited power, he knows everything and is always present. Everywhere all the time, to everyone. The God we serve is a God for everyone.
Our God champions the poor, the marginalized and disenfranchised. Our God is a god of the poor, downtrodden and forgotten. A god of the hungry, thirsty, sick, lame and the incarcerated.
A God of the homeless, those in care facilities, nursing homes, the homebound and all those that can’t do for themselves. We do not need to look any further than Christ’s life and who he spent time with during his ministry.
He spent time with those that needed him most. He eased their suffering through his own acts of mercy. He gave sight to the blind, provided living water and broke the shackles of sin that enslave us.
After they have been separated the righteous answered, “Lord when was it that we say you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When was it that we say you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?
When was it that we say you sick or in prison and visited you? The righteous seemed to be surprised and unsure how to answer God’s question. We don’t remember seeing you or we would have surely given you food, drink, clothing and visited you.
I am reminded of Mother Teresa’s life and example. Taking care of the dying, cleaning their wounds, teaching young children by writing the letters of the alphabet in the dirt with a stick.
She said that each person she interacted with was Jesus in a distressing disguise. Each person, every human being bears the image of the Creator and deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.
The king answered the righteous, “Truly, I tell you just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” When you treated one of the least of these well, someone that could do nothing for you, you did it for the very God that we serve.
Then, Christ will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink.
I was a stranger and you did not welcome me. The accursed when into panic mode, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry, thirsty, as a stranger, naked or imprisoned and did not take care of you?”
Pleading their case they are. If we only would have known we would have stepped up to the plate. If we hadn’t fallen in love with everything that the world has to offer we would have taken care of you.
If they had only not fallen into temptation, if they could have only gotten past themselves, if they would have only taken to know our God and his heart the accursed may have had a different outcome.
The challenge of being a Christian in a world of commercialism, advertising and temptation. The challenge of living a spiritual life in a body of flesh and blood.
It can be very difficult. I think it would be hard, almost impossible to know the heart of our God without spending time with him, without reading his word or spending time with others that believe in him.
This chapter from scripture, the 25th chapter of Matthew gives another window into the heart of our God.
There is no mention in today’s scripture of church affiliation, tradition, attendance or giving. It is about how we treat others. It is about having compassion and spending time with those that are suffering. It is about living merciful lives and easy the burden of others.
This scripture speaks to the heart of a God of compassion, a god of mercy, it speaks to a god of love. May we always be about God’s work.
Pastor Shawn LaRue, Seymour UMC
Author of Incomplete
We are closing in the on the holidays already which doesn’t seem possible. Soon we will be in the season of Advent in the church, a season of waiting and anticipation of Christ’s return.
Like last week’s scripture, today’s scripture is about what we do while we wait for Christ’s return. Today’s scripture is titled, “The Parable of the Talents.”
At this point in Matthew’s gospel Christ is in his final days. He has returned to Jerusalem for the last time. His final parables in Matthew’s account are about what we are to be doing while waiting for his return.
“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.
A talent was a measure of weight in biblical times. The master of the estate was incredibly wealthy. A talent is about 75 pounds of precious metal. 75 pounds. An ounce of gold today is worth around $1,300.
If you do the math a talent or 75 pounds of gold today is worth around $1.5 million dollars. That is one talent, the first servant got five and the second servant got two.
What does scripture say that the master of the estate did after giving this large amount of money to his servants…….He went away. He didn’t give them any instructions. He just gave it to them. It seems apparent that he trusts them to be wise with it.
Helluva nice guy isn’t he. What if I were to tell you that the master in this parable is Christ, he left but not before giving a bounty to his people? What if I told you that the servants in this parable were you and I?
That we have been given a treasure or a talent in the form of intellect, knowledge, life experience, talent, time, our ability to earn and a ton of his grace to boot?
And what if I told you that someday we will have to account for what we did with our God-given talent? I will come back to that.
The master of the estate, he just left. No directions, no instructions. The servants were free to do what they would with what they were entrusted with, much like we are. I want to talk about this for a minute.
Our God, the God that we serve limits himself in this parable and he does this often. He limits himself so that others have an opportunity to lead and flourish.
Christ, being of the same spiritual substance of The Father, came to this earth in the same limited manner that we exist, in flesh and blood. Bound by time and space among other things.
He limited himself as a penniless, itinerant carpenter turned preacher who emptied himself of his divinity to take on our broken condition. He goes beyond limiting himself, he completely emptied himself.
He lived like the poorest of the poor with the poorest of the poor and spent his time with the lowest of the low. Now, Christ did heal people, he performed miracles, he brought people that were dead back to life.
But he lives his time on this earth consistently restrained. And why would he do that………Is it because he hands the keys to the kingdom over to us, to each one of us? That he wants each one of us to be about his work.
Is it because we are in his final days in the book of Matthew and he is making sure to make his point that he is leaving and these are the expectations for those who profess to know him?
God calls us to lead in one form or another. Leadership isn’t about titles, we are called to lead our families, our church, our community, our school and many other things.
We weren’t made to sit on the sidelines idly watching the world go by. Here is another window into my cynical and twisted mind. In my experience in different leadership positions those that sat idly by, not only did they not help, they consistently attacked, smeared and hurled insults at the ones trying to get things done.
Enough of that. We are called to lives of service. He are called to lead, we are called to be in ministry and we are called to be the light in this world. We don’t retire from Christian service. As long as there is air in our lungs we are called to be of service to the church.
After leaving his servants to do what they would with his money, the master returned. “The one who had received the five talents had gone off and traded and made five more talents.” He had doubled his master’s money.
“In the same way, the one who had been given two talents made two more talents.” He also had doubled his master’s money. Pretty impressive, do you know how much time it would take to double your money – legally?
“But the one who had received one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” After a long time the master, or Christ in this example, returns. He is anxious to see what his people have done with what he has entrusted them with.
The one given five talents had pleased his master, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant, you have been trustworthy in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.” Enter into the kingdom and splendor of God’s presence.
The one given two talents had also pleased his master and is greeted the same, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant, you have been trustworthy in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.”
The servant given one talent had to give his account of what he had done with what he had been given. This servant’s response appears to be more of a reflection on his own character than the nature of the God we serve.
“Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid and I hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”
The third servant, the one given one talent sat idly by. After many years, maybe even a lifetime he had not been about his master’s work. I envision this servant shrugging his shoulders as he hands the money back and then goes on the offensive about how it isn’t really his fault. It is the master’s fault, it is God’s fault that I didn’t do anything productive with what he gave me.
The master was not happy. “You wicked and lazy servant! You knew, did you that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received it with interest.”
“Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.
“As for this servant, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
A warning parable about the accounting we will have to do when Christ returns. Everyone is gifted whether they think they are or not. The gifts we are given vary from person to person, no one gift is better or more important than another. Those gifts are not to be wasted or to sit idle.
In this season of Thanksgiving, as we approach Advent and the celebration of Christ’s birth, let us be about God’s work in this world. Let us feed, clothe and minister to the poor. Let us be the church. Let us be the light, the city on a hill that give sight to the blind and ears to hear for those that need to know our God.
Pastor Shawn LaRue, Seymour UMC
Author of Incomplete
I mentioned last week that we are near the end of Christ’s life in the book of Matthew. He had made his triumphal return to the city of Jerusalem for the last time. He had been hailed as a king, “Hosanna, Hosanna, in the highest!”
His relationship with the high priests, those that studied and were experts on religious custom and the law was contentious prior to his arrival in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, a time of celebration for the Jewish people.
The people hailed him as a king when he entered the city. Then Christ had the audacity to go to the temple and drive out those who were selling animals to be sacrificed in the temple. Jewish people traveled from great distance to celebrate, worship and offer a sacrifice to their God.
Those that did the commerce in the temple took a little for themselves. Let us exploit these travelers, these pilgrims. Christ kept reversing the norm and upsetting those that took advantage of others.
In today’s scripture, Christ enters the temple again, the very same place where he had just run those trying to make a profit. He was teaching and preaching.
Those religions leaders I spoke of have had enough of him. They approach him and ask, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
Why do you keep upsetting us, why are we the butt of these riddles you speak of, why do you keep exposing us? That is what I think is going through their minds. What gives you the right, who do you think you are?
To their defense not many people knew Christ’s true identity. He didn’t flaunt it around, instead he kept it a secret oftentimes.
Knowing that they were out to get him Christ responded to their question with a question, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”
Where did John the Baptist get his authority? It was granted to him by our God of course. He was called to be the voice out in the wilderness, paving the way for his cousin, Jesus the Messiah. John the Baptist was wildly popular and had disciples of his own.
After discussing this among themselves, the chief priests, elders and scribes respond, “If we say, ‘from heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘of human origin, we are afraid of the crowd for all regard John as a prophet.”
“We don’t know.” That was their answer, we don’t know. Christ answered them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Discovering who Christ truly is should be central to our lives. We should want the answer to the question that was posed…..Oh that’s easy, Christ is God’s son, he’s part of the trinity that many don’t fully understand, there is your answer.
That is a correct, but dangerously superficial answer. The Christian journey is a life-long adventure into finding the truth in our own lives. That search for truth always points us in the direction of our God.
You know, I read this week’s scripture early this week and I was sure that I was going to struggle with it. So I read it again and I was still sure I was going to labor with this reading from Matthew because the meaning within it wasn’t obvious to me.
I would like to think I can read scripture and know pretty quick what direction I’m going to go with it. That wasn’t the case with this in spite of the fact that my bible titles this encounter, “The Authority of Jesus Questioned.”
It was questioned during his lifetime. It is questioned now. Does God exist, can you see the work of his hand in this world, can you see the work of his people?
I like to think that I stick to the scripture, but I got to thinking about authority when I was struggling with this scripture.
Authority. Was it important to respect and obey your parents growing up? Of course it was, we didn’t always do it, but they are our parents and they are an authority figure.
Did, or are, you supposed to listen to your teachers? Your coaches? To those in law enforcement, your doctor, your attorney, your parole officer – if you have one and maybe even your pastor….Why……
Because each is an authority figure and each has power and influence and hopefully they know what they are doing. Our God is the ultimate authority figure, to whom we will have to give an account of our deeds someday.
Authority figures give us advise, they look out for our best interest and they tell us what to do and that is where things don’t go so good. How many of you like to be told what to do? How many of you didn’t do something because someone told you to do it?
All of us have probably done that. We like to have options, make our own choices, I don’t like being ordered to do something. It seems like we live in a time where authority figures are questioned, judged and blamed.
It’s not my child’s fault, the fault lies with the teacher, with the coach, the principal or whoever it was that tried to provide something that looked like discipline.
We desperately need authority in our lives. We depend on it. We need leaders within our church, our school our community that have the courage to step up and lead in spite of the insults hurled at them.
We depend on authority, we need it, we have to have it. We depend and are reliant on Christ’s authority. If Christ is not God’s son, if he did not die on a cross and was resurrected three days later we are all wasting our time. You should have slept in this morning and you certainly should not be paying me to preach to you.
We would be random people living random lives that made little sense. I would rather believe that I am wonderfully made than I descended from an ape or caveman.
We need to respect and honor our God’s authority, we need to listen for his voice, for his guidance and direction. Once we hear it, once we make time to listen for it. He has a calling for each of us.
Doesn’t mean it is to be a minister, a missionary or a monk or a nun. We have to take the courage to answer that call, to submit to that authority.
I think that is what authority is. We minded our parents, for the most part hopefully, and submitted to what they wanted us to do because they had our best interest in mind in trying to teach us and mold us into hard-working, law-abiding citizens.
Teachers, coaches, family and friends have played the same role in our lives. It is no different with our God.
He has looked after and cared for us when we turned our back on him. We’ve had to endure and suffer and we didn’t like it, it was awful. But did it make us better? Did it allow us to be grateful and feel blessed for all that we did have?
The authority of our God, in three persons, is absolute and pure. The bible is God’s word, his letter to each of us, it is how he reveals himself in the written word. It has authority. Let us honor our God who works tirelessly to bring us closer to him.
Pastor Shawn, Seymour UMC
Author of Incomplete
This week the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner, an owner of an estate, head of a household, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
Before I continue, in Christ’s parables we are invited into the story to find ourselves a part of it. With the hope that we can apply the lesson to our own lives.
The landowner, a person of means goes into town to find people to work on his land. He goes out around 6 am and makes an agreement with those he finds there to work for the usual daily wage, a Roman denarius.
The landowner went to the marketplace again at 9 am and saw others standing idle in the marketplace and said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” And so they went.
Before I continue through this parable, does anyone know or suspect who the landowner is……..The landowner is Christ. The marketplace is the world. And the vineyard is……………….Christ’s church. Any guess who the idle laborers are?
I was an idle laborer for many years. An idle laborer seems contradictory. It could be used to describe many of us at some point in our life, it but for a short season.
As a landowner seeks out laborers to work on his land, Christ is seeking, calling and employing laborers to be about the work of his church. It is important for us to be about the work of the church.
Yes, we know Pastor. I don’t know much about much, but I believe that once we become complacent, once the status quo is acceptable as a church, the church begins to die. That is an important reason it is important to be about the work of the church.
The landowner had gone out early in the morning, again at nine, he goes out again at noon and three and finds more laborers to employ. He goes out at the eleventh hour, or around 5 pm and found others standing around and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?”
What have you been doing here, nothing? They said, “Because no one has hired us.” No one has put us to work, no one has invited us to the vineyard to work, or invited us to church to be part of a community.
So, here are all these laborers. Some have been working all day under the hot sun since early in the morning. Some started at noon and some just showed up. And now we’ve arrived at the end of the work day.
It was a common practice and an expectation of those that you employed that they were paid at the end of the day in biblical times.
So, it is quitting time. A hard day’s work for some, an hour of work for others…..I’ve talked about how Christ reversed the expectations of what people expected.
In this parable the landowner said to his foreman, “Call the laborers and given them their pay, beginning with the last and giving to the first.”
This parable has been very straight forward so far, but here is where it gets tricky. Those that had started working last came forward and they were paid the usually daily wage, a Roman denarius.
What a generous guy this man is. If he paid a day’s wage for working for an hour, just think he will pay those that have worked since early this morning, since 9 am and since noon. Am I right? If I had been there since 6-7 am I would be thinking, YES. Today is going to be a good day. I’m eating steak tonight.
Guess how much the all the workers got paid regardless of how long they worked……….the same amount. One Roman denarius. One day’s wage.
And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner saying, “These last worked only one hour and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.”
I would be right there with them. This is a bunch of crap. I’ve been working all day, I deserve more. I worked harder, I worked more. Have you ever noticed how sometimes you or someone you work with or someone you know thinks they are entitled to more?
I’m as guilty as anyone. There are times when we covet what God gives to others, blind to all that he has done for us. I’m easily as bad as anyone here today when it comes to coveting. I want a nicer house, a fancier car, a bigger bank account and everything else I want and I want it right now.
If I see someone’s existence as more comfortable or easier I want it. They don’t deserve it, I do. God, why can’t I have it? I completely dismiss all that I have been given. We have all worked hard in our lives, but there is little to nothing of what we’ve accomplished or have that can’t be traced back to something we were given.
Given from our parents, grandparents, family, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors and most importantly our God. Education level, intelligence, income, good health, safe places to grow up in – those are all things granted to us by the grace of God…..
I am usually first to take credit for what I’ve accomplished. See, I am selfish. I bet I’m not the only here today that is. It is part of our human condition. We have to fight our human needs, our compulsions, our want to do whatever we want whenever we want.
One of the best lessons we can learn in this life is to learn to sacrifice for others. To be content and grateful for all that we have and all that we are.
Not all of us are called to be saints, but we are called to help those in need. We are called to make a difference in our own, small corner of the world wherever that may be. To be pioneers in social justice.
This landowner, the owner of the estate was hearing from his disgruntled employees on how unfairly he had compensated them, even though they all had agreed to work for the daily wage. He answered them, “Friend, I have not been unfair. Did you not agree with me to work for the usual daily wage?”
“Take what belongs to you and go, I choose to give to this last the same as I have given to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
We are called to live lives of service. The reward for every man, woman and child who has faith in Christ, faith in the God that we serve, will receive the same eternal reward.
So let us not be idle workers in the marketplace. Let us not sit by in this world in our sin wasting precious time. Let us be called by our God into service in his church. And let us not covet what others have.
Pastor Shawn LaRue, Seymour UMC
Author of Incomplete
“Who do people say that I am?” asked Christ. Who do you say that I am? A sharp, pointed question that might leave some struggling to answer. Have we, have you, have I, thought about the answer to that question?
After yet another exchange with the leaders of the church, Christ has some quiet time with his disciples away from the crowds, scribes and Pharisees. It was time for discussion with his disciples.
It is not uncommon to wonder what others think of you, even if you are the Son of God. “Who do you say that I am?” Maybe this question was borne out of curiosity on the part of Christ or maybe it was something of a test for his disciples.
Who do you say the Son of Man is? Christ often referred to himself as the Son of Man. Christ referring to himself as the Son of Man confirms his divinity and his human nature.
When I pose the question to you about who Christ is and who is he to you, what kind of response would I get? Maybe an objective, textbook-like answer free of emotion or attachment. Jesus is the Son of God, Savior, Lord, teacher, rabbi, to name a few.
Should our answer as Christians be far more personal and connected? I think that it should be. This man they call Christ that existed on the same plane and form as God took on flesh to live in this world of selfishness, violence and pain.
He came to this world not as a military leader or educated, learned part of the church hierarchy, but as a suffering servant. He could have had everything, but he chose to possess nothing.
Christ could have chosen more educated, sophisticated men to lead, that might have been easier. He could have stopped the beating, torture and crucifixion that he endured. He chose to follow his father’s will, out of obedience, not out of weakness. There is nothing weak about Christ or being a Christian.
When you speak about your family do you speak in stiff, unemotional tones or do you talk about my parents, my children, my spouse. I have referred to my kids as my wife’s kids when they do something that I’m not pleased with.
When you speak of your father do you say, “My biological father conceived three children with my biological mother?” I don’t know anyone that talks like that. It is personal, my dad, my mother, my grandparents, my children.
The relationship that each of us has with our God should be deep and meaningful as well. My God, My Savior, My Creator.
Christ asked his disciples this question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but other say Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Some say John the Baptist, Christ’s cousin, the man with the strange appearance, the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Others say Elijah, the prophet who upstaged 450 pagan prophets at Mt Carmel. Still others say you are Jeremiah. A prophet who was given the task of preaching to people that didn’t listen to him. History refers to Jeremiah as the weeping prophet.
The disciples had answered the question of who and what others thought Christ was. Now come this sharp, abrupt question, “But who do you say that I am?”
The pointed words, questions and parables that came from the Son of God. Had the time he had invested in them made an impact? Had they seen enough to erase any doubt they may have had?
The brash, outspoken disciple, Peter, fires back, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”….and there it is . You are the Son of the living God. A God that is alive, who works in this world to bring life to his people.
Peter did not say you are the Son of the cold and distant God. He did not say you are the son of the God that we’re not sure about anymore.
Christ is the God that took on flesh. He is the God that desires to have a relationship with those he created, to those that he loved enough to give them the freedom of how to live their lives.
The God we serve is a God that heals, reveals, that brings life, eternal life to his people. After Simon Peter had answered, Christ said to him, “Blessed are you son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, it is from my Father in heaven.”
It was not mere mortal that had told Peter of Christ’s true identity, it was a revelation, a truth spoken to Peter from God. How blessed Peter must have felt. Not only does he live during Christ’s lifetime, he is one of his very disciples. Of that chosen few God has revealed this most precious of truths.
Whether he realized it or not, Peter had attested to the truth, that Christ is the son of the living God. Truth is an interesting thing. Many search for it, but not everyone finds it. We are called to search for the truth in our own lives.
The truth is that Christ is the son of the living God. That much is truth. But we are called to continue to seek him, to seek our God, to seek the truth in our own lives. As I mentioned earlier, the relationship each of us has with our God should be personal.
It is not as easy as leaving here today saying, the preacher said that Christ is the son of God. That is truth and now I’ll be on my way. We are called into a deeper relationship with Christ and with one another.
On this truth, on this revelation, Christ said that he will build his church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. On this truth that Peter attested to Christ built his church and in spite of all the violence, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, shootings, terrorist acts, darkness, selfishness and need for convenience in this world, nothing, including the gates of hell will prevail against it. Nothing.
Who do you say that Christ is? Is it a question that you have given much thought to? The Son of the Living God. Can you see his work in your life, in others and in your church?
Christ would continue, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly warned them not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
We know that Christ’s ministry was a fairly short, it lasted about three years. He will give the keys to his church, the keys of the kingdom of heaven to his disciples to spread the good news.
It would be the acts of the disciples and apostles that would spread the gospel after Christ’s death and resurrection. It is our responsibility to do the same today. We have been granted the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
To be the church, to be on the front lines of our community. Helping those in need, assisting the poor and engaging people of all ages. My hope for each of you here today is that you would draw closer in your relationship to the Son of Gog.
That your search for truth would begin and would continue. That the revelation of truth that was granted to Peter would be granted to you as well. I hope that if the question is posed to you, “Who is Christ to you?”
That you would answer with conviction, with passion, with the knowledge of blessings too numerous to mention in your life that has come from the God we serve. Will you join me in prayer? Good and gracious God, this world needs people that know you, your son and the truth that was revealed in today’s scripture. In spite of the pain in this world, there is much that is good. We have seen examples of neighbor helping neighbor, stranger helping stranger. Continue to reveal yourself and your Son to us. Draw us into a deeper relationship. Make this church a shelter, a safe place and a place where your spirit is always present and everyone is always welcome. Amen.
Pastor Shawn LaRue
Author of Incomplete
Busy is the busybody
for she that cannot be,
and busy is nobody
if nobody was not he.
A. R. Frederiksen is a recurring guest blogger here at BnV, and her own writing blog can be found here, where she dabbles in flashfiction/poetry and reflects over the ABCs of writing.
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.” Luke 15:11-13 (The prodigal son)
I see myself in the parable of the prodigal son, and maybe you do too. He was young and brash with a desire to live life in the fast lane. He couldn’t wait for his father to pass. He needed his inheritance now.
After his father grants his wish, the young man packs his belongings and heads to a distant land. He squanders his money on fast living. He hits bottom, so much so that he asks a farmer to hire him to help with his pigs. He is so hungry that what the pigs are eating looks good to him.
Many of us haven’t sunk to this level physically, but how about spiritually? It is when we are at our weakest, hungriest, coldest and in terrible pain that we cry out to God for mercy. The prodigal son returns home and begs for forgiveness. His father waits for his return and rejoices when it happens. Much the same way our heavenly father rejoices when we return to him, he forgives us of our disobedience.
When living out all the desires of the flesh falls short, when you can’t find joy or happiness, turn to God.
Pastor Shawn LaRue
Author of the devotional, Incomplete
People wonder how I can write with so much confidence about horses and their treatment in the western portion of my stories. We had riding horses, a pony, and one horse that my husband used on round-ups while in Phoenix. I grew up on a farm where horse were used more for the farm plowing and planting than the tractor. One incident has been etched in my mine.
When I was in the primary grades, I attended Gray Consolidated School in Gray, Iowa. It was about five miles from our farm. The mode of transportation was by bus over graveled or graded dirt roads. The school bus driver during my second grade was a man named Mr. Nicely. This struck my seven-year-old brain as something that brought happiness.
When he made the stop to let my youngest brother and me off, he would make sure we were safely across the road before turning down the dirt road to continue his rounds. As an adult I’ve often wondered why he bothered waiting for us to cross the road as no one was going to be driving any faster than 30 or 40 miles in 1944. Some people were still driving Model A and Model T autos. No new vehicles had been built since the start of World War Two. Many farmers returned to using their tractors with metal wheels and that had steel lugs as treads. Any farmer that had a newer tractor with rubber tires ran the risk of not being able to use it if a tire were damaged. There were no new tires for tractors or autos. I remember some of the tubes on my oldest brother’s car looked like one big patch.
On the first day of school, I told my mother about Mr. Nicely’s name and how he watched us cross the road. She informed me that I needed to thank him nicely for such thoughtfulness. At the age of seven, one tends to be quite literal in following your parents’ instructions. The next day, I rehearsed over and over what I would say to Mr. Nicely. Of course, he followed the same routine.
As I stepped down from the bus, I said, “Thank you nicely, Mr. Nicely.” I thought he looked a little funny turning red so rapidly.
Later, at the PTA meeting in Gray, he told my mother about my thanking him and his struggle not to let me see him laugh. He was laughing when he told mother. I was slightly miffed when I heard it as I thought I had done the correct thing and adults laughing meant I had not.
All through the year, Mr. Nicely piloted the bus without incident. March in Iowa was like most: Snow, then snow melting, rain, ice, more snow, warmer weather and melting snow. It would be a challenge going to town to buy groceries and everyone made sure they had sufficient gasoline for farming by keeping a gasoline tank. The gas for the farm equipment was purple and delivered by truck. The allotment was quite high, but if any farmer were caught using purple gas in their automobile gas tank it was instant arrest. Like the rest of the populace, farmers had to use ration stamps to purchase gasoline for going to town or church.
By the end of March there were but a few lumps of snow left in isolated spots. The ground was spongy from melting snow and the plentiful spring rains. It was warm enough that mother let me wear knee highs instead of the hated long cotton socks.
As Mr. Nicely turned the corner and started down the dirt road without gravel, the bus slid into the ditch. No amount of gunning and trying to move forward or back made it budge. Mother appeared wondering why we hadn’t returned to the house immediately.
“Tell Mr. Nicely I’ve gone for my husband,” was her command.
Papa appeared shortly as he drove down the lane and onto the graveled road with the iron monster that was our tractor. This thing had metal wheel and metal lugs on the wheels. Once hooked to the front of the bus, Papa put it into gear and tried to move forward. Nothing happened.
Mr. Nicely requested to use the telephone. We did not have one. He was directed to go over to the neighbor’s house a few yards down the road and use theirs.
“I’ll go hitch up the team while you’re doing that.”
Mr. Nicely shook his head and headed for the neighbors. Few believed that horses could do what a machine could not.
Mr. Nicely returned hanging on to the seat of the neighbor’s John Deere with rubber tires. Mr. Fredrickson had purchased it in 1941 prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. They looked at Papa coming with our team as a madman and hitched the John Deere to the bus. The results were the same as with the iron monster. The bus remained mired in the red clay and dirt mud.
“Guess I’ll have to call the school, but thanks anyway. I thought sure it would move it.”
Papa brought our team over and proceeded to hitch them to the bus. Mr. Fredrickson and Mr. Nicely were shaking their heads at such folly.
A more mismatched team would have been difficult to find. Molly was older and slower, part Clydesdale and just as large as one. Betty was younger, but still less than middle-aged for a farm horse. Her background was part Morgan and part quarter horse. That meant she was at least two hands smaller than Molly. Her chest was a Morgan’s wide chest, but she had slimmer legs. If things went too slow in the fields, she would move the wagon before Papa had finished with the hay or corn. His powerful voice would be clearly audible for incredible distances as he yelled obscenities at her in both German and English.
Once they were hitched to the bus, Papa slapped the reins over their backs and shouted, “Yo up, Betty, Molly, up.”
The two horses leaned forward pushing their chests into the harness and felt the weight behind them and the resistance of the muck around their hooves. I watched their haunches descend in unison and the muscles tightened in their back haunches. Then their necks stretched out and it was like watching the stored strength in the muscles flow forward. Their steps were perfectly matched as they moved slowly, inch by inch as the bus began to move. Even to my eyes it was strange. I’d never seen them pull so evenly together.
This time Papa kept his voice lower and guided them and the bus up onto the road. Both Betty and Molly were covered with foam and their muscles were quivering while they waited to be unhitched.
The “thank you” and the “I didn’t believe it could be done” were profuse. Papa nodded and grinned and took Molly and Betty back to the barn for a rub down and probably an extra ear of corn or some other treat.
I had never been so proud of Betty and Molly and I never forgot that lesson in horse power.
Mari Collier Blog was first set up to publish my memories of growing up. This was for my daughter and son and their families. Then more of my relatives loved the posts for it included their Grandparents and fathers. Somehow I have continued to post bits of my life there. Occasionally I do post about my novels and anthologies and the struggles and processes of publishing and marketing. Perhaps the best way to explain my weird writing is my website. Such a bucolic upbringing gave plenty of time for my imagination to venture into far places.
I searched diligently for a picture of Betty and Molly, but could not find one. I have included a picture of my husband ready to go on a roundup in Northern Arizona.
Thanksgiving is admittedly an American holiday, and, being American (ssshhhh!! Don’t tell anyone, ok?) I will be knee deep in the turkey and stuffing tomorrow, to be sure, but I’ve always thought that American’s certainly shouldn’t corner the market on being Thankful. And often times, we don’t (sadly). Setting aside a specific day to Give Thanks is a noteworthy tradition, regardless of your culture or historical background, but to surround that day with rich foods, quality family time and a prayer or two makes this holiday my second favourite. No contest. Continue reading
So here we are, on the “other” side of the Holiday (relatively speaking). I do not go all out for New Years, anymore; I dare say I’ve gotten over it (well, gotten over the parties, frosty beverages and mornings after wishing I had stayed home the night before). Maybe it’s my age (be careful agreeing too quickly, you!) but I find New Years Day spent with family, enjoying a crockpot full of pork roast and sauerkraut on top of a steaming mound of creamy mashed potatoes and a lovely salad far more enticing (again, relatively speaking) than the jello shots (never a favourite, really), the bottles of vodka (more of a favourite, I do confess it, blended nicely with some LifeWater for flavour), and a few cherry bombs for good measure.
Sitting down at table with hearty food, even heartier laughter, with a dessert course of left over sweet treats from Christmas and an afternoon spent in frivolity playing games or cards (yep, I’m showing my age!) is my idea of properly bringing in the New Year. Oh to be sure, a trip to my favourite Isle across the pond would trump any such day, beyond a shadow of a doubt, but that has yet to happen, so I’ll keep it (more or less) real.
I’m a word game person, naturally, and, if truth be told, somewhat unfortunately, since I, admittedly, generally end up winning these games (Balderdash being my all time, number one pick for a great party game) (you know, the game where you get an obscure word from the dictionary and then have to make up a definition for it to win points and, sooner or later, the game) which, then, no one wants to play anymore because I’ve won the last five rounds. (it’s rather like trying to enjoy a murder mystery weekend with Sherlock, NO fun!) It’s a double-edged sword, this word-mongery!
By this point, you are, no doubt, beginning to wonder where I’m going with this post. That would make two of us! Nope, honest and true, I promise, I have no idea what I’m talking about…er, that is, I have no particular point or direction in which I am going; just sojourning (along with you, apparently) (My apologies, I think) through the vast wilderness of words that lies like a frontier before us, waiting to be explored, ever beckoning (rather like those New Years Eve beverages I’m trying to elude!)
Being a Word-Monger, I am entirely capable of prattling on, pointlessly, seemingly without end (a fact of which, I am quite sure, you are already very well aware). This continuous flow of words takes me (and you along with me) here, there and anywhere. From the hum-drum to the fantastical; from the nearby (like Cape May, NJ) to the far, far away (like the Village of Hwyndarin in my own made up world of Feyfolk); from the evocative to the entirely inconsequential, these words create a river upon which I willingly drift, day in, day out.
As Del Griffith so eloquently put it, (John Candy’s legendary and immortal bumpkin in the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles) “I just go with the flow, like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty river.” Yet, being this word-monger, (or perhaps, after greater consideration, the phrase wordsmith might make a bit more sense) (but since I’m more enamored with Word Monger, I’m staying with that) (where was I?), the river is one of my own creating, as well as the boat, and the places to which I travel. The people I meet are crafted from my own imagination, to be as interesting, sophisticated, beautiful, ridiculous or unmemorable as I so desire and the adventures I have are as exhilarating, terrifying, and/or heart-warming as I care for them to be.
It is a marvelous thing to be Blessed with such an expansive and, seemingly, never-ending imagination; I rarely get bored; I seldom have little to talk about (again, that’s a double-edged sword!) and I can always close my eyes and fill my thoughts (not to mention my blog) with magical notions that seem to be appreciated as much by you (since you are still here reading and, as far as I can tell, do not [yet] have that puzzled expression on your face) as by me. Being inclined in a verbose nature, or gifted with expression, or perhaps you might say Quietness Challenged, is as intoxicating to me as any of those New Years Eve enticements and far more lasting….
But when people are trying to beat me at a word game, being a Word Monger with a vast repertoire of colourful words and phrases isn’t, necessarily, quite as appreciated. 🙂
Wishing you ALL a Delightful and Rewarding 2017 filled with a similar Blessing of words, phrases, characters, plots, musings, verses, and lyrical Magic!
Beautiful Original Artwork by: Dary Frakes
Thanksgiving is admittedly an American holiday, and, being American (ssshhhh!! Don’t tell anyone, ok?) I will be knee deep in the turkey and stuffing tomorrow, to be sure, but I’ve always thought that American’s certainly shouldn’t corner the market on being Thankful. And often times, we don’t (sadly). Setting aside a specific day to Give Thanks is a noteworthy tradition, regardless of your culture or historical background, but to surround that day with rich foods, quality family time and a prayer or two makes this holiday my second favourite. No contest.
Of course, Christmas tops the chart, for a variety of reasons, which I shall certainly visit in other posts as the season unfolds; still, Thanksgiving Day is only second best because there has to be a first. I suppose, if I wanted to be truly impartial I’d simply rate them both as tied for first, but that would be too easy and wouldn’t give me nearly as much to write about, now would it? Nevertheless, notwithstanding, and all the same, Thanksgiving Day, in my book(nvolume) is definitely Cracking Good Stuff!
Obviously, the sumptuously roasted turkey, the 5-bread stuffing steeped in celery, onion, sage, parsley and a hint of garlic, the sweet potato and banana casserole with brown sugar and pecan streusel, the baked broccoli and cheese gratin, the winter vegetables roasted in olive oil and topped with almonds and cranberries, the succulent buttery corn, the whole berry cranberry sauce, the pies, the cookies, and the wines are reason enough (sound’s divine, doesn’t it?) Spending the morning watching the holiday parade live from New York City and eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival always starts the day off with smiles and child-like delight. (I particularly love the horses in full regalia as well as all the balloons!) Gathering with friends and family to enjoy the aforementioned feast spreads throughout the afternoon like the ruddy glow of an amiable fire beneath the heart. Spending the remainder of the day enjoying a fine glass of wine and a rousing game that fills the house with sighs of being far too full and laughter that sometimes ends in fits of tears rounds the day off brilliantly. And finally, finding room in the tummy to enjoy a slice of pumpkin or pecan pie, or some homemade holiday cookies or some far too indulgent fudge (or a smidgen of all!) sends the day spiraling right over the top of perfection into absolute euphoria. (Not to mention sets the bar on the workout regime for the next week!)
Yes, Thanksgiving is brimming over with some cracking good stuff. Undeniably! Yet my favourite time of the day comes when we go round the table and, one by one, say what and or who we are Thankful for, offering a personal portion of gratitude to our prayer before we ever, even begin. To me, this is the most meaningful, entirely wonderful, and beautifully poignant tradition we share, because, to me, without this significant element, the day is meaningless excess.
Lord We Thank You for the Bounty You have Placed Before Us.
We Thank You for this Day of Love and Joy.
We Thank You for Allowing Us to be Together,
To Share with Each Other and With You
The Fullness of Our Hearts on This
Yes, Definitely, Cracking Good Stuff!
And as I will definitely be enjoying all of the aforementioned throughout the day tomorrow, I will most certainly not be around to wish you ALL a very Blessed, Very Bounteous day filled with Friends, Family and Thankfullness for all, as I am for YOU 🙂
~Morgan~Quote from A Christmas Carol with George C Scott (My favourite Christmas Movie, by the by) (Also, definitely cracking good!)
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Blessings, BnV, BooknVolume, creative writing, Creator, Easter, Faith, Family, Friends, God, Heart, Heaven, Inspiration, Jesus Christ, Joy, life, Love, Miracle, Passion of the Christ, Poem, poetry, Praise, Prayer, Resurrection, Saviour, spirituality, Victory, Victory over Death, ~Morgan~
Sweet Heavenly Father,
Almighty and Ever Living God,
Creator of our Every Breath,
Author of our Every Thought,
We Give Thanks to You with Joyful and Amazed Hearts
On this Most Special Day,
With Family and Friends by our sides
Remembered with Great Love,
We Praise You for the Miracle of the Resurrection,
For the Unfathomable Measure of Love
Shared with All of us
Through the Life of Jesus our Saviour,
Through His Passion and Death,
Through His Glorious Victory,
Blessings we can never fully Comprehend or Deserve,
Yet which we Receive Today On this Bright Easter,
With All the Love our Hearts, Minds and Spirits
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