Sunday, October 1, 2017

What The...?


What The ...? from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

John 6:28-35
28Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ 29Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ 30So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ 32Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’

35Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Exodus 16:1-5, 13b-31
1The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. 2The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’

4Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’

13…In the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16This is what the Lord has commanded: “Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.” ’ 17The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. 18But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. 19And Moses said to them, ‘Let no one leave any of it over until morning.’ 20But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. 21Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23he said to them, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: “Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” ’ 24So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. 25Moses said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26For six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none.’

27On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. 28The Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? 29See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day.’ 30So the people rested on the seventh day.

31The house of Israel called it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

They Will Stand

Matthew 18:21-35
21Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ 22Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

23‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” 29Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Romans 14:1-12
1Welcome the person who is weak in faith--but not in order to argue about differences of opinion. 2One person believes in eating everything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3Those who eat must not look down on the ones who don't, and the ones who don't eat must not judge the ones who do, because God has accepted them. 4Who are you to judge someone else's servants? They stand or fall before their own Lord (and they will stand, because the Lord has the power to make them stand). 

5One person considers some days to be more sacred than others, while another person considers all days to be the same. Each person must have their own convictions. 6Someone who thinks that a day is sacred, thinks that way for the Lord. Those who eat, eat for the Lord, because they thank God. And those who don't eat, don't eat for the Lord, and they thank the Lord too. 7We don't live for ourselves and we don't die for ourselves. 8If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore whether we live or die, we belong to God. 

9This is why Christ died and lived: so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10But why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you look down on your brother or sister? We all will stand in front of the judgment seat of God. 11Because it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. 12So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

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

I’m always grateful, after a short time away, to come home to this congregation. We’re not in our usual worship space, but that doesn’t deter us. We know that things can be different, and still be okay. This congregation has a deep, strong faith that has nurtured hundreds of members in our more than 70 year history. Those whom God has gathered here are committed to the ministry of this congregation, and to the mission of God’s Church.

The challenges we have faced in our history, especially over the past fifteen or so years, have given us many opportunities to practice our faith. We’ve grown into a mature congregation and we love to think of ourselves as welcoming to all people. It’s right there in our mission statement: In response to God’s call, the Presbyterian 
Church of Lowell seeks to worship God, grow in faith, and show God’s love to everyone.

Enter Romans 14. “1Welcome the person who is weak in faith--but not in order to argue about differences of opinion.” As a congregation, we’re pretty good at that. We’ve got a lot of tolerance for questions, and this really is a community where it’s okay to not be okay. I think that’s wonderful, I think it’s a strength of our congregation and I think it’s a huge asset to our community.

Because in the world outside, most folks only entertain a difference of opinion so that they can show the weakness of that person’s beliefs.

Examples: news with token opposition, straw man arguments online, denominational competition,

Even when we talk about politics or theology among our friends, how often to we welcome those ideas that we consider “weak?” Or is it more common to listen only long enough to get to our own argument, so we can show them how right we are, and how wrong they are…

“2One person believes in eating everything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3Those who eat must not look down on the ones who don't, and the ones who don't eat must not judge the ones who do, because God has accepted them. 4Who are you to judge someone else's servants? They stand or fall before their own Lord (and they will stand, because the Lord has the power to make them stand).”

We’re pretty good at welcoming others. Our congregation has room for more than one side, and that in itself is a powerful witness to Christ, who has accepted them, and us, no matter what. 

Examples: suits and sweatpants, guitar and pipe organ, introspective and expressive, liberal and conservative.

As a community, we’re pretty good at this welcoming stuff. As individuals though, we sometimes miss the mark, and fall back into the selfish patterns that are so often modeled in the world around us.

Paul, the author of Romans, pulls quite the pastoral and political move here. No matter what your spiritual practice is, you can take the side of being e one who is strong in faith. “5One person considers some days to be more sacred than others, while another person considers all days to be the same. Each person must have their own convictions. 6Someone who thinks that a day is sacred, thinks that way for the Lord. Those who eat, eat for the Lord, because they thank God. And those who don't eat, don't eat for the Lord, and they thank the Lord too. 7We don't live for ourselves and we don't die for ourselves. 8If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore whether we live or die, we belong to God.” We who are strong enough in faith to resist the temptation to eat bad food, we must welcome those who are of weak faith. We who are strong enough in faith to know that God is okay with eating whatever, we must welcome those who are of weaker faith, and limit themselves.

Paul is using that same selfishness that has the tendency to grasp all of us, and is manipulating it for the glory of God…

Paul is showing us how even people of weak faith can come to share a strong faith.

Before I was called to be the pastor for our congregation, I spent four months in an unpaid internship with the chaplain’s office at a hospital in Spartanburg. The program is called “Clinical Pastoral Education,” usually abbreviated “CPE.” The idea is that they throw you into intense situations, then you reflect on how you functioned pastorally. Ideally, you learn something so that you can be a better pastoral presence the next time you’re called out.

There’s also a pseudo-therapeutic portion to doing this kind of supervised ministry. Walking into crisis after crisis and responding with compassion can draw out anybody’s crazy. Our supervisor met with each of us individually a number of times so that we could talk through the stuff that bubbled up as we connected with so many people on their worst day. His job was to help us explore why we acted the way we did, to unpack how unconscious biases affected our behavior. He was meant to be a teacher, a guide.

Y’all know that I’m a big fan of the sovereignty of God. I’d rather talk about the greatness of God than the goodness of God. I want a God who is strong enough to save me, who is powerful enough to call into being things which are not, who raises the dead. My supervisor was not so much into that. A powerful God was not all that attractive to him, and during one of our sessions, he wondered if perhaps I needed a powerful God because at some point in my life, someone had taken away my power.

He was right. As soon as he said it, I knew what specific moment in my life connected with his wondering. It got me thinking, maybe I need for God to be strong because my faith is weak.

Scripture certainly points to a God who is powerful. God creates out of nothing, raises the dead, parts the seas, ruins and redeems nations, we could go on quoting chapter and verse of all the myriad passages that point to an all-powerful God. So if you’re like me and need a strong God, it’s not like you’re just making it up.

But it’s not just about believing that God is great, my supervisor’s point was that I need for God to be powerful. My life experience has taught me that I am not powerful, and so some defensive part of me needs for God to fill that role for me.

Examples if I had a strong faith, I wouldn't… instead I would be better at…

Maybe that's where you are as well. Maybe your faith is strong sometimes, and weak at others. After all, faith isn't an achievement, it's a process.

I’m grateful that there’s good news for folks like me, who have a strong call, but a weak faith. We will stand, not because of our strength, but because God ha the power to make us stand.


“9This is why Christ died and lived: so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10But why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you look down on your brother or sister? We all will stand in front of the judgment seat of God. 11Because it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. 12So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.”

Monday, September 4, 2017

That Time

That Time from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Romans 12:9-21
9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; but outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in Zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Matthew 16:21-28
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.! 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what does it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27For the Son of Man is to come with his angels and the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Who He Was (Preach It Again)

Isaiah 60:1-5, 19-21 
1Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
2For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.
3Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
5Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

19The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
20Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.
21Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land for ever. They are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands, so that I might be glorified.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

How's That Working Out For You? (Preach It Again)

How's That Working Out for You? from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Acts 15:5-19
5Some of the believers from among the Pharisees stood up and claimed “The Gentiles must be circumcised. They must be required to keep the law of Moses.”

6The apostles and the elders gathered to consider this matter. 7After much debate, Peter stood and addressed them, “Fellow believers, you know that, early on, God chose me from among you as the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and come to believe. 8God, who know’s people’s deepest thoughts and desires, confirmed this by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, but purified their deepest thoughts and desires though faith. 10Why then are you placing a burden on the shoulders of these disciples that neither we nor our ancestors could bear? 11On the contrary, we believe that we and they are saved in the same way, by the grace of the Lord Jesus.”

12The entire assembly fell quiet as they listened to Barnabas and Paul describe all the signs and wonders God did among the Gentiles through their activity. 13When Barnabas and Paul also fell silent, James responded, “Fellow believers, listen to me. 14Simon reported how, in his kindness, God came to the Gentiles in the first place, to raise up from them a people of God. 15The prophets agree with this; as it is written,
16After this I will return,
and I will rebuild David’s fallen tent;
I will rebuild what has been torn down.
I will restore it
17so that the rest of humanity will seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who belong to me.
The Lord says this, the one who does these things
18known from earliest times.
19Therefore, I conclude that we shouldn’t create problems for Gentiles who turn to God.

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Jonah 4:1-11
1But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. 2He prayed to the LORD, “Come on, LORD! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. 3At this point, LORD, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live.”

4The LORD responded, “Is your anger a good thing?” 5But Jonah went out from the city and sat down east of the city. There he made himself a hut and sat under it, in the shade, to see what would happen to the city.

6Then the LORD God provided a shrub, and it grew up over Jonah, providing shade for his head and saving him from his misery. Jonah was very happy about the shrub. 7But God provided a worm the next day at dawn, and it attacked the shrub so that it died. 8Then as the sun rose God provided a dry east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint. He begged that he might die, saying, “It’s better for me to die than to live.”

9God said to Jonah, “Is your anger about the shrub a good thing?”
Jonah said, “Yes, my anger is good - even to the point of death!”

10But the LORD said, “You ‘pitied’ the shrub, for which you didn’t work and which you didn’t raise; it grew in a night and perished in a night. 11But for my part, can’t I pity Ninevah, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people who can’t tell their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Morning Routine (Preach It Again)

Morning Routine from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Isaiah 58:9-14
9Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

13If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; 14then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Luke 13:10-17
10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ 15But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Daybreak Delayed (Preach It Again)

Daybreak Delayed from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Matthew 25:14-30
14For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20The the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you haves over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master. 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

24Then the one who had received one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master replied, ‘you wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not cater? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

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

Psalm 90:1-17
1A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
O Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation.
2Before the mountains came into being, before you brought forth the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity You are God.

3You return man to dust; You decreed, “Return you mortals!”
4For in your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that has passed, like a watch in the night.
5You engulf men in sleep; at daybreak they are like grass that renews itself;
6at daybreak it flourishes anew; by dusk it withers and dries up.
7So we are consumed by Your anger, terror-struck by Your fury.
8You have set our iniquities before you, our hidden sins in the light of Your face.

9All our days pass away under Your wrath; we spend our years like a sigh.
10The span of our life is seventy years, or, given the strength, eighty years; but the best of them are trouble and sorrow. They pass by speedily, and we are in darkness.

11Who can know Your furious anger? Your wrath matches the fear of you.
12Teach us to count our days rightly, that we may obtain a wise heart.

13Turn, O LORD! How long? Show mercy to your servants.
14Satisfy us at daybreak with your Steadfast love that we may sing for joy all our days.
15Give us joy for as long as you have afflicted us, for the years we have suffered misfortune.
16Let your deeds be seen by Your servants, Your glory by their children.
17may the favor of the Lord, our God, be upon us; let the work of our hands prosper, O prosper the work of our hands!

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God