"[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.
When LCD projectors became popular in the church, I was delighted. Now, I could put my sermon outline before my congregation and when I rambled off track, they could point to the screen and nudge me back. It seemed the perfect cure for my tendency to keep them past lunch.
I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time... but he only stayed with a foreigner
Jesus has a way of telling stories that no one wants to hear. He is like that sister-in-law at the family reunion who gathers the young teens and tells them how their grandfather drank his way into an early grave. In Luke 4:21-30, Jesus is in the pulpit at Capernaum, and he goes reaching for an illustration to help him make his point. He reaches back to the Old Testament and tells about the great prophet, Elijah, once took shelter in the home of Syrian widow. Elijiah was a refugee and the Syrian people, including this defenseless widow with her orphan son, took him in. Now, stand in the pulpit of your church and tell the same story.
If you are hearing Matthew 25 or preaching it in church this month, there are some things you ought to keep in mind. First, the context of the three parables that Jesus tells, is that of his final week on earth. Like final lecture of the late CMU professor, Randy Pausch, Jesus’ last stories have special significance. Usually, we say that these three stories are Eschatological, that is, they deal with the final judgement of humanity and the second coming of Christ. But, I think that it is worth digging deeper.
The three stories also have a common theme. In each, there is a plain distinction between good people and bad. In each story, the right thing to do, isn’t the obvious thing to do. In the story of the 10 Bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13), the good people are rewarded for staying awake and preparing for the unexpected appearance of God in their lives. In the story of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-28), the good person invests him or herself fully in life, risks everything to use what God has given them. The bad one, buries their resources and gifts in a snot rag. The story of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:29-46), similarly, talks of good people being compassionate to everyone. Bad people take the more prudent course of only doing good when they know the recipient can return the favor in some way.
Jesus tells a parable about your church in Matthew 13:31-32. He says that your congregation is like an acorn which is planted and becomes, in time, a mighty oak. OK. Jesus uses a mustard seed instead of an acorn. If he were preaching in your church, I’m sure he would choose a plant familiar to your people. His parables were meant to be simple. Too often we get hung up on the fact that there are other seeds smaller than the mustard and other plants more majestic than the mustard bush. This all misses Jesus’ point. The church (kingdom of heaven) is meant to grow until it becomes shelter for the birds of the air.