Certainly Wrong

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” That’s what Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft said in 2007. 

It’s a funny topic to research, the hilariously wrong predictions that some folks have made throughout the years. There’s a notoriously wrong assessment of Jesus that we find in the gospel of Mark where Jesus’ hometown rejects him as significant because they knew him for so long. We’ll be reading about that this Sunday as we explore Mark 6:1-6.

When the text tells us that the people of Nazareth were amazed at Jesus, the context makes it a negative reaction. The questions they ask indicate that they are suspicious of his training and ability to say and do what he has. What is the reason they give for being doubtful of his calling?

Why do you think his family and trade have any bearing on their evaluation of him? They were certain about who he was…but they were certainly wrong.

If we would have asked them why they rejected God’s kingdom, what do you think they would have answered?

What can we learn from the closed-minded way the people of Nazareth reacted to God’s unexpected kingdom? What would a godly open-mindedness look like to you?

These will be important and timely questions we’ll consider this Sunday. And it’s SURF N GRILL this Sunday…and FATHER’S DAY! If you haven’t been baptized and would like to be, sign up online!

The Kingdom at the End of the Rope

You know what the phrase “I’m at the end of my rope” means, right? It is a descriptive way of emphasizing that one is out of options, there’s nothing left to try. That’s a place most of us spend our lives trying to avoid. We work hard to make life predictable and secure.

The problem is, things go stupid. Sometimes so stupid it is beyond our grasp to fix things.

Try as we do, there is nothing that we can find in this world that will make us immune to the troubles of this broken world.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Mark 5:21-43, and we’ll read about two different characters who are at the end of their ropes. It will be another Markian sandwich – something Mark is prone to do. We’ll find a story within a story.

As you read the text, try to list off all the ways in which the two characters who interact with Jesus are different from each other. For instance, one is a man, the other a woman. Keep in mind the purity code of the Mosaic Law as it concerned this woman. Remember how important the Synagogue was to Israelites in the 1st century.

Once you’ve got a good picture in your mind about how different these two are, start looking at what is the same about them? What is it that brings them to the same place?

What can that tell us about those times when we are at the end of our rope?

What is it that stops Jesus to ask who touched him? What do you think Jesus meant when he told the woman that her faith had made her well again? What does Jesus say to Jairus when the news comes about his daughter?

What does God seem to be looking for from us in our times of trouble? What does trusting God in difficult times look like to you?

Looking forward to digging into this on Sunday – hope to see you there!

Do You or I or Anyone Know?

“Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley grow. Do you, or I, or anyone know, how oats, peas, beans and barley grows?”

This Sunday we’ll be having our Surf-N-Grill Sunday – which means we will have a shorter than normal service, and then head down to St Andrews State Park for a beach day. The weather looks pretty good for that!

If you haven’t been baptized and would like to, you can still sign up online: Baptism Sign Up

We’ll also be continuing our study in Mark, reading 4:26-34 which contains two parables about seeds. I drew a coloring page for the kids to work on during our teaching – and it may give you something to talk about afterwards.

As you read the first parable in v 26-29, we should take our cues from the previous parable about what the seed stands for: the news of God’s kingdom advancing in this world. In this story, what does the emphasis seem to be on? What impact does human agency have in the growing of the crops? How would you correlate scattering seeds and gathering a harvest with our activity as the church? What lessons do you believe Jesus is intending to teach us with this imagery?

The second parable about the small mustard seed seems pretty straightforward. What would you say constitutes those seemingly insignificant ways in which God’s Kingdom grows in this world?

I’m looking forward to a family day at Eastgate! Hope to see you there!

The Heart of God vs the Hardened Heart

There’s a scene from the first Incredibles movie that reminds me of the text we’ll be reading this Sunday. Mr. Incredible is a superhero forced into retirement who had taken on a job as an insurance salesman. He keeps looking after his customers best interests, which gets him called into his boss’s office. Rather than describe the scene to you – let me just put it here for you to watch:

This Sunday we’ll be reading Mark 3:1-6 in our study of this gospel.
Do you see the parallels between a puny and petty boss trying to exert authority over a superhero?

As you read this passage, think about the contrasts. Who is Jesus looking at? Who are the religious leaders looking at? Following that, contemplate this question: what is the main concern of the religious leaders and what is the main concern of Jesus?

Answering those questions will unlock the lessons of this text.

What is it about the religious leaders that made Jesus both angry and sad? How does Jesus’ reaction to this help us to identify the priorities God intends for us to live by?

In a fast changing world we, as followers of Christ, often struggle to know how we interface our Christian values with this morally fluid society. Sometimes we’ve fallen into the same snare that the Pharisees did. In what ways has the church been blinded by a commitment to what might be considered necessary rules that we miss God’s overarching value of compassion? How can we keep that from happening while still holding to a conviction?

Those are the topics we’ll consider – it should be a thought provoking text to explore!

Priorities

There is a strange tension between the letter and the spirit of a law.

The “letter of the law” refers to how a law is spelled out in the penal code, vehicle code etc. The “spirit of the law” is the reasoning behind why the law was enacted; the original intent for its institution. It is possible to violate the “letter of the law” but not the “spirit of the law”. In such cases, law enforcement and prosecutors hopefully use discretion and don’t usually enforce violations of the “letter of the law” as long as the “spirit” wasn’t violated.

A sign may be posted in the park which says “no vehicles allowed”. That’s the letter of the law. The intent, however, is to prohibit large, motorized vehicles from entering. If a person in a wheelchair wants to enter the park, it may technically violate the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

Something along those lines is happening in our text for this Sunday as we continue our study in Mark. We’ll be finishing chapter 2, reading v 23-28.

Why do you think the Pharisees accused the disciples of “harvesting” on the Sabbath? Apply the letter versus the spirit of the law principle here. Do you think it was God’s original intent to keep people hungry on the day of rest?

The story Jesus references in his rebuke is found in 1 Sam 21. It’s an interesting story because it’s filled with all sorts of ethically disconcerting stuff, the least of which was the showbread (to me anyway). What do you believe Jesus’ point to the Pharisees is? What seems to be God’s priority when it comes to his intent behind any commandment?

How can we keep God’s priority in view as we attend to our own life of faith and the values that stem from that?

It will be a thought provoking study, hope to see you there!

The Joyful New

I’m back from vacation! I had a great trip to the Great Northwest – but I’m also glad to be back.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Mark 2:18-22. This text is in the midst of a grouping of religious controversies that confront Jesus in his early ministry. Jesus, from the get go, was upending religious expectations left and right.

Israel’s expectation for who the messiah would be judging and what the messiah would be doing were pretty straightforward. Messiah will come to dispense judgement to the Roman Empire, to condemn those who didn’t adhere to the law of Moses and command righteousness without reserve.

And then there was Jesus. What were they to make of this rabbi? He hangs out with the wrong crowd, he seems to only condemn religious people while giving the riff-raff a new start. He just didn’t meet people’s expectations.

That was true of our text on Sunday. The disciples of John the Baptist fasted regularly while awaiting the arrival of God’s kingdom. The Pharisees fasted regularly to show how sincerely they longed for the end of exile…and it didn’t hurt that it made them look really religiously pious.

When Jesus is asked why he and his disciples don’t fast (a question posed right after Jesus was at a dinner party with disreputable people), the people are merely expressing that he is not meeting their spiritual standards. Fasting was only required in the Old Testament for the Day of Atonement. This wan’t about Mosaic commands, this was about religious expectations.

  • Why do you think Jesus answered their question about fasting with the imagery of a wedding? How does v 20 help us understand that Jesus isn’t opposed to fasting? What religious standards have you felt pressured by? How have you found yourself pressuring others to meet a standard you have set?

The two further explanations by way of parable are the new cloth and new wine-skin pictures. New cloth, in shrinking, would tear away from old, pre-shrunken fabric. An old leather, brittle wine-skin would tear open during the expansion of fermentation.

Jesus’ point is straightforward – he didn’t come to reform something old but to establish something new.

  • What does this mean to our relationship with the Old Testament Law? How do we understand the purpose and value of the Old Testament?

Anyway – hope to see you on Sunday!

The Power of Forgiveness

“As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
   he has separated us from our sins. ” ~ Psalm 103

At the core of the Christian hope, there is the promise of forgiveness from God. Sometimes I wonder if we have become so acquainted with with that truth that it’s impact gets dulled. It can easily happen. That’s why I love revisiting the gospels, because the core truths that our faith is formed around are ready to be apprehended afresh with every reading.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Mark 2:1-12 which is the account of a paralyzed man being healed by Jesus, but is also a story that highlights the power of divine forgiveness.

The house is packed, not one more person can be squeezed in. Locals look up and down the street at the crowds who have descended on their tiny village to hear and see the young Rabbi.

Four men enter the fray, carrying a paralyzed man on a make-shift stretcher, asking people to make way to they can get through. A few people oblige, but the mass of humanity is too thick and progress comes to a complete stop. One of the four looks at the outside stairs of the house they are trying to enter.

  • What do are your thoughts about these four men? Why do you suppose they are so persistent? Where are they trying to take their friend?
  • If we imagine a symbolic meaning to their story, what lesson can we, the church, learn from these four men about our own priorities?
  • What can tearing up a roof in order to get someone close to Jesus teach us about our mission?

After they lower the man down to Jesus, the story takes a rather strange turn. Instead of immediately healing the man, Jesus by begins declaring his sins forgiven by God.

  • Why do you think Jesus declared forgiveness before healing the man?
  • What do you suppose get the religious leaders angry about this? What did they infer from this declaration?
  • The inward healing of forgiveness is something unseen and immeasurable – the outward healing of the man’s limbs was something everyone could observe. In what way does that help us to understand Jesus’ actions here?

I really love this story – Hope to see you Sunday!