Jesus' Teachings

"All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." -Jesus

In matters of religion, we should expect reversals. Those who start out well, don’t always end well. Getting into heaven is not a matter of joining the right church or developing the right theology or holding on to traditional values, whatever those might be.

For: 
October 27, 2019
Luke 18:9-14
Pentecost 20
And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores... - Luke 16

For fun do this: take an empty chair and put it out in front of the congregation. Say, “Here sits the invisible man. Jesus tells us that his name is Lazarus, but none of his neighbors know that. He sits here hungry, but no one notices his situation. Lazarus is homeless, living in the street near the rich man. Since he lacks an address, the census doesn’t count him, he can’t vote, and his congressman doesn’t see him as a constituent, and his president considers him a loser... 

For: 
September 29, 2019
Luke 16:19-31
Pentecost 16
"[Jesus] welcomes sinners and eats with them." - Luke 15:2

A young married couple find their money disappearing and their credit cards running amok, until they draw up a budget and measure where it’s all going to. So much in life doesn’t count unless you count it carefully.

For: 
September 15, 2019
Luke 15:1-10
Pentecost 14
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

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