Sunday, October 23, 2016

Even Silence

Luke 18:9-14
9He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 
10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Psalm 65
1For the music leader. A psalm of David. A song.
God of Zion, to you even silence is praise. Promises made to you are kept-
2You listen to prayer - and all living things come to you.
3When wrongdoings become too much for me, you forgive our sins.
4How happy is the one you choose to bring close, the one who lives in your courtyards! We are filled full by the goodness of your house, by the holiness of your temple.
5In your righteousness you answer us, by your awesome deeds, God of our salvation - you who are the security of all the far edges of the earth, even the distant seas;
6You establish the mountains by your strength; you are dressed in raw power;
7You calm the roaring seas; calm the roaring wakes, calm the noise of the nations.
8Those who dwell on the far edges stand in awe of your acts. You make the gateways of morning and evening sing for joy.
9You visit the earth and make it abundant, enriching it greatly by God's stream, full of water. You provide people with grain because this is what you've decided.
10Drenching the earth's furrows, leveling its ridges, you soften it with rain showers; you bless its growth.
11You crown the year with your goodness; your paths overflow with rich food.
12Even the desert pastures drip with it, and the hills are dressed in pure joy.
13The meadowlands are covered with flocks, the valleys decked out in grain - they shout for joy; they break out in song!

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fear, Respect, Justice.

Fear, Respect, Justice. from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

Genesis 32:22-31
The same night [Jacob] got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of going as he wrestled with him 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, ”Jacob.” 28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Luke 18:1-8
1Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither eared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Remember and Remind

Luke 17:11-19

11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ 14When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ 19Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

II Timothy 2:8-15

8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, 9for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11The saying is sure:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us; 
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
14 Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. 

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

It's anniversary weekend at the Revolutionary War battlefield where my wife works. The battle of Kings Mountain is credited by many historians as the first link in a chain of events that led to the British surrender at Yorktown.

Each year, in the midst of coordinating volunteers and organizing school groups, the park staff host a wreath-laying ceremony. Groups of descendants of those who fought in the battle gather to remember the significance of the battle, and their own family's participation in history.

For many people, memory is a source of pride. We remember our history in a way that connects us to those who have gone before, and to those around us. Ask me some time about my family history and watch me stand a little straighter as I remember where I come from. Ask me some time about the history of the Presbyterian Church and hear my confidence as I remember the winding path of our theological ancestors.

Our memory can be a source of pride. Who we were when we did great things continues today. The way we remember shapes who we are.

But then we throw Jesus into the mix, and everything changes.

Most of us here grew up in the church, and we certainly all grew up in a culture that is heavily influenced by Christianity. So it may be difficult for us to remember a time before we heard about Jesus. Most Presbyterians don’t have a born-again, the-old-life-has-passed-away moment. And even if we can remember that moment of repentance and turning towards God, that’s not the end of our story, and we continue to grow in faith from there. Our experience tends more of growing discipleship than a climatic life-changing moment.

But when we “remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David,” we look at the world differently. We remember differently. Suddenly, pride may not describe it anymore…

We remember that the greatest king of Israel, David, had Uriah the Hittite killed so that David’s adultery might remain undiscovered. We remember his daughter Tamar, and the disaster and terror of what David allowed to happen to her.

We remember what people have done throughout human history because they feared death, injustice born of self-preservation that kept people in slavery. We remember awful reactions to perceived threats that offend the holiness of God. We remember that we too, are sinners. We have inherited patterns of behavior that invite God’s wrath, and that we will repeat those patterns ourselves, and most likely pass them on.

But Christian memory is also the source of Christian hope. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David - that is my gospel.”

We remember the good news, that we have hope. We remember that God is involved in human history, working through the Davids of the world even though they deserve condemnation. We remember that God is involved in history binding up the brokenhearted, comforting the afflicted, and challenging us to do better, to be better. We remember that even when we fail to practice the faith we profess, God refuses to give up on us, just as he did not abandon David. We remember, and we have hope.

We remember the good news that death is not the end of our story. We remember that we do not have to choose to do the wrong thing in the name of self-preservation. We remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither sin nor death defines us anymore. We are the ones whom God loves, whom he calls to deeper, more complete relationship with him. We remember, and we have hope.

We remember Jesus Christ, a human being who showed us what that meant. We remember that “only human” is an expression of limitation, but also a confession that we are created in the image of God. We remember that God became a human being so that we would be restored the kind of relationship God wants for us. We remember that Jesus Christ was offered as a sacrifice to liberate us from sin and death for all time. We remember that Jesus is Lord, and that all authority on heaven and earth belongs to him, and we are his brothers and sisters, his friends. We remember, and we have hope.

Christian hope is born out of Christian memory. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David.” Our memory shapes who we are. The grace of God transforms us in our inmost hearts, and leads to a transformation of our actions as well.

After all, when we remember our hope, when we remember the grace we have received, how can we not run back in gratitude to lay ourselves at the feet of Jesus? How can we not offer ourselves as servants of God in thankfulness and hope? How can we not find ways to participate in building God’s kingdom?

We will still suffer hardship, maybe “even to the point of being chained like a criminal.” Remembering Jesus Christ causes us to look at the world differently, to remember differently. That’s going to cause some friction, even among communities of faith. Even though we all remember our core truths, even though we work to remind one another of the sure sayings of our faith, we will often come to different conclusions, and we may practice our faith in different ways.

But God does not choose such a variety of disciples by accident. Conflict is not always a bad thing, sometimes it serves as a reminder that no single human perspective can hold the fullness of God, and that the greatness of the Holy One of Israel challenges us to continue our discipleship and our journey in faith along side one another, and alongside Jesus.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Who He Was

Luke 19:1-10

1He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who say it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Monday, September 26, 2016

Plans for Y'all

Plans for Y'all from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

Luke 12:13-21
13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “friend, who set me to be a judge or arbiter over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” 18Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

22He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Jeremiah 29:1-14
These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2This was after King Jeconiah, and the queen mother, the court officials, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem. 3The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whose King Zedekiah of Judah sent to Babylon to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It said:

4Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the LORD.

10For thus says the LORD: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14I will let you find me, says the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Runaway Faith

Runaway Faith from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

I Timothy 1:12-17
12I am grateful to Christ Jesus out Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the foremost.

16But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who could come to believe in him for eternal life. 17To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Luke 15:1-10
1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3So he told them this parable: 4”Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8”Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’

10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Making Plans

Jeremiah 18:1-11
1The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2”Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

5Then the word of the LORD cam to me: 6Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Luke 14:25-33
25Now large crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and said to them, 26”Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30Saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider where he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then while the other is still far away, he ends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.