Jesus' Teachings

Lo, I am with you always

There are 3 and 1/2 ascension storys. Why? Jesus says good bye to each person he met on this earth in a different way. Each group of people, each church, might need to hear something different.

Acts 1:6-9
Matthew 28:16
Ascension Day
Easter 6
"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another."

In too many governments around the world, and perhaps even here, the competitive spirit of partisanship and winning overtakes the basic task of government, that is to be in a healthy and positive relationship with the people. In too many churches, perhaps your own, the routine of being churchy has buried the joy of being in fellowship with each other and in love with Christ.

For: 
May 19, 2019
John 13:31-35
Easter 5

Jesus doesn’t distinguish between type one enemies and type three enemies. He doesn’t distinguish between moderate enemies and total jerks. He doesn’t have one response for those who are merely annoying and another for enemies who are dangerous. He says, “Love them all.”

For: 
February 24, 2019
Luke 6:27-38
Psalm 37
Epiphany 7

Because we aren’t there, in the same place as those crowds, we are reluctant to consider Jesus’ promises of blessing as something that is already happening. Those who were blessed in Jesus’ sermon were the same people who saw the blessings of his healing touch and his compassionate lifestyle. We tend to put these blessings up in heaven. Those who encountered Jesus looked for his blessing to be right now, on this earth.

For: 
February 17, 2019
Luke 6:17-26
Epiphany 6
No prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown.

In Luke 4, Jesus goes over the wall between us and those we consider foreign or different. He does this in two ways: First, by physically placing himself where he encounters the foreigner. Second, Jesus used the scriptures to show that all of the great people of the Old Testament went over the wall and lived with foreigners. Jesus' own stories, which have become our scriptures, always showed foreigners in a good light.

For: 
February 3, 2019
Luke 4:21-30
Epiphany 4
...he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

Since the beginning of time, those with means have shown little restraint in screwing over those who are born poor, or on the wrong side of a border, or to the wrong family. What is different about the current government shut down, is that our rulers have decided to go one step further and screw over middle-class people. What would Jesus do?

For: 
January 27, 2019
Luke 4:14-21
Epiphany 3
As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

You can live 2019 with the peace of Christ in your heart. Always be compassionate.
Always try to understand as much as you can. Never let the ends justify the means, that is, don't forsake your principles or good behavior to get your own way.

For: 
December 30, 2018
Colossians 3:12-17
Luke 2:41-52
Christmastide 1

Instead of being afraid by what we see happening in this world, we are supposed to be watchful. We are supposed to be ready. When we act like Jesus would act, we don't have time to be afraid.

For: 
December 2, 2018
Luke 21:25-36
Advent 1
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Pittsburghers are prone to think that Jesus borrowed the words, "Love your neighbor as yourself," from Mr. Rogers. Actually, "Love your neighbor" can be found in every one of the world's great religions.

For: 
November 4, 2018
Mark 12:28-34
Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Pentecost 24
All Saints Sunday
Do you believe that the poor actually have been chosen by God to be rich in faith?

When I read James, I find myself reconsidering the radical statement that some Liberation Theologians make, that being poor is a prerequisite for understanding Jesus. Throughout the Bible we hear an oft repeated warning, friendship with wealth never ends well. Those who have been born with it, need to flee into the wilderness — do a Saint Francis of Assisi style run — to be purged of its effect. Those who have earned it, must cauterize all thoughts that they are somehow better people because they played life’s game to achieve this sordid end.

For: 
September 9, 2018
James 2:1-5
 1 Timothy 6:6-10
Pentecost 18
[Real religion is] to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep neself from being polluted by the world.”

Religions is all about widows and orphans, James says. They were the most vulnerable members of first century society. Their position correlates today to those among us without adequate health insurance, those whose jobs or military service may be dangerous (leaving behind widows/widowers), those who fail to earn a descent wage, and those who must flee their country in search of refuge.

For: 
September 2, 2018
James 1:16-27
Pentecost 15

I have been thinking a lot about small groups lately. Jesus begins with a small group — twelve disciples. At the end of the Last Supper, before he leads his disciples out to the garden where he will be betrayed and taken to his passion, Jesus dedicates this small group to God. The way John remembers that prayer (John 17:1-26), it was filled with references to the importance of this small group. Jesus prays that the spiritual truths that has imparted in the course of his work with this little fellowship might be established. He presents these eleven before God (Judas had left), as if they were a trust, that he has been a steward responsible for. When we join a small group for Bible study today, we are entering into a spiritual trust. We pray for each other as Jesus prayed for his disciples and the Holy Spirit used the group to protect and nurture our souls.

I think that even today, Christians who participate in small groups for spiritual study and prayer, enter into a deeper covenant with God, than those who simply come to worship. Why? How about the following:

  • Character is not learned from lectures or sermons. Discipleship formation happens in small groups.
  • Real physical, psychological, and spiritual Healing happens in small groups
  • Small groups are often the incubators for leadership development and transforming change in the community.

Through small groups, Jesus continues to engage the world today. He says that we are to be in the world, even if we are not to be of it (John 17:15-18). How can we negotiate this narrow path without the support of other Christians who know us well and speak about faith in an intimate context.

For: 
May 13, 2018
John 17
Easter 7

John asks a tough question: “how can the love of God abide in us, if we have in our hands the things someone else needs to survive, and we don’t offer what we have to help them” (I John 3:17). The context of John’s question is a call for Christians to help other Christians. This verse follows his command, “we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (v16). Obviously, he is writing to people adjacent to people experiencing persecution. In the first three centuries of the church, the sharp focus of physical persecution (imprisonments and executions) was always surrounded by a broader circle of people losing their jobs and homes because of social prejudice, and these sufferers are surrounded in turn by people like you and I who are doing okay, but not sacrificing to help. Could such a thing happen today?

 

John’s question goes hand in hand with the way another John, John the Baptist described the kingdom of heaven, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise” (Luke 3:11). Jesus said many similar things and he intentionally broadened this command to say that we must even share our coats with our enemies (Luke 6:29). Jesus calls us to be compassionate on both Christians and strangers, and never permitted the kind of circle drawing that we see in today’s church. Many congregations have a rule that they won’t directly help someone who not a member, or at least, a Christian. How can we abide with God and hold onto such narrow minded behavior?

 

For: 
April 22, 2018
1John 3:16-24
Easter 4

The story of Jesus falls into two halves; the part before Palm Sunday and the week after it. Before Palm Sunday, Jesus very rarely says or does anything overtly political. He doesn’t seem to have any ambition other than to teach and heal people. Then suddenly he comes to Holy Week and everything he does is political. Before Palm Sunday, Jesus deals with us on the level playing field of interpersonal relationships and the fair exchange of ideas. He teaches in open fields where people can interrupt him and ask him questions. He forms an intimate circle of disciples where everyday life — how are you today, Peter?—is valued. He heals by touching and his favorite miracle is having a few loaves of bread multiply as they are passed from one hungry person to another.

On Palm Sunday he exits the egalitarian world and enters politics as we know it today. As he transitions into the walled and gated city of our newsfeed world, he does three symbolic acts to ask for our vote: 1) He accepts the nomination of his followers who shout that he is Messiah or King of Jews, 2) He rides a donkey through the Eastern Gate, fulfilling prophesies relating to a new political age, 3) He has people wave palm branches, which are symbolic reminders of an earlier revolution when the Maccabeans kicked the Seleucids out of Jerusalem.

In doing this Jesus challenges our hierarchal world. In a world where Caesar is over Pontius Pilate, who is over the people of Judea, Jesus says, “You would have no authority if God hadn’t given it to you.” In the religious world where the High Priest rules over lesser priests who rule over laity, Jesus announces his own unique relationship as the son of God. His very presence in Jerusalem, the capital, circumvents the established authority.

For: 
March 25, 2018
Mark 11:1-11
John 12:12-16
Palm Sunday
Lent 7

Jesus once called Peter, Satan — as in, “Get behind me, Satan.” I’ve come to think of Peter as a mother hen. He wants to protect Jesus. Keep him from any harm. I tell the people I love to be careful when they go out into icy weather. I have not yet resorted to hiding my wife’s keys when she plans to drive in the snow. That would be silly. Jesus is telling Peter that he is more than being silly. Peter’s urge to protect Jesus borders on being traitorous. He is, in this moment, Satan. For Jesus’ mission involves going to the cross. He plans on being harmed. Jesus plans on dying. That is why he reacts to Peter’s concern so dramatically.

Jesus goes on to say that each of us will go to the cross, in our own way. We must plan it into our lives. We must not let our urge to protect ourselves cause us to back away from our mission. We must not let the concerns of our loved ones keep us from doing what we are called to do. If a mother hen stands between us and doing God’s will, we call him or her Satan.

I think of Martin Luther King. As the fight for civil rights intensified, he knew it would cost him his life. He said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will” (“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” Montgomery, April 3, 1963).  I imagine his wife had a hard time listening to that speach. Jesus says that each of us will go on to the cross in our own way.

What does Jesus mean when he says, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it”?

For: 
February 25, 2018
Mark 8:31-38
Lent 2

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Jesus' Teachings