Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hard Mode

Hard Mode from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2”Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

9When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God.

11You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. 12And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD.

13You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. 14You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

15you shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great; with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Matthew 5:38-48
38You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

43”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46For it you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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

Monday, February 6, 2017

Breach Repairers

Breach Repairers from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

Isaiah 58:1-12
1Shout out, do not hold back! Lift your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.
2Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways,
As if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
They ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.
3”Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.
4Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.
5Is such the fast I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

6Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
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.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Matthew 5:13-20
13You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

14You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

17Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come to not abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19therefore, whoever breaks one of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Foolish Power

Foolish Power from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


I Corinthians 1:18-31
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser that human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

26Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29So that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Matthew 5:1-12
1When Jesus saw the crowd, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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

Monday, January 23, 2017

Has Christ been divided?


Has Christ been divided? from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

Matthew 4:12-22
12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
   on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people who sat in darkness
   have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
   light has dawned.’
17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

I Corinthians 1:10-18
10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ 13Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

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

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Vision of Love



Isaiah 7:10-16
10Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 13Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. 15He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

John 1:1-18
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

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

For four Sundays at the close of autumn, the church watches and waits for God's coming. For four Sundays at the close of autumn, we seek a vision of what the world should be like, will be like, when the light of God shines on all people. For four Sundays at the close of autumn, our eyes shimmer with the light that shines in the darkness.

King Ahaz of Judah is terrified. He's staring down the armies of Syria and Ephraim, who have invaded the kingdom of Judah to remove him from the throne and set up a king who will support their goals. Judah doesn't have the strength to stand again either nation, much less both together! The Syrians and Ephraimites have brought Judah to a crisis point, and Judah's king is terrified.

He's so gripped by fear that he cannot get out of it. Even his faith has been enslaved by his fear. When God whispers in the king's ear, offering him a sign to strengthen his faith, Ahaz reacts in fear. "The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test." It's like he found a way to give the right reason for doing the wrong thing. God has drawn close to him and is offering him comfort, no matter how huge the sign needs to be. Ahaz backs away. He cannot accept the closeness of the LORD, and his terrified eyes cannot see reassuring signs. His fear has enslaved his faith, so he finds a way to refuse the grace of God in his theology. "I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test."

Of course God is not the least bit bothered by Ahaz's refusal. God loves Judah too much to leave his people alone, even when they reject grace. The prophet stands in to give the sign that Ahaz did not request, the sign that God promised, the sign that Ahaz rejected. God sends his prophet Isaiah anyway.

The love of our LORD is so great that we do not get to refuse it. It’s just not an option. God’s love is certain. We cannot earn it, we cannot lose it, we can neither accept it nor refuse it. The love of God is an absolute truth for those whom he has chosen. Even Ahaz, the ruler of Judah who is ruled by fear, is powerless to stop the loving promise of his LORD.

For four Sundays at the close of autumn, the church watches and waits for God to enter history. For four Sundays at the close of autumn, we seek a vision of how the world will be renewed in the presence of the LORD. For four Sundays at the close of autumn, our eyes shimmer with reflection of the love of God for creation.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Matthew traces Jesus’s origins to Abraham, the beginning of the covenant. Luke announces his ancestry as far as Adam, the beginning of humanity. But John goes all the way back to the beginning, the beginning of everything. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” The poetry revolving around the Word and the narrative introducing John are quilted together so that we can see beyond our fear, so that we can grasp theology in one hand and history in the other, and see that the LORD is indeed at work in the world.

The Word does the work of creation, and is the expression of God’s unending love. In a despairing world, so full of fear and so quick to anger, I find comfort in the truth that both our beginning and our end are held in the light of the LORD, even if our in-betweens lead us through darkness.

Because the vision of love that is passed through John shows us that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” No matter how tightly we close our eyes to God’s vision of love, no matter how trapped in darkness we are, the light still shines. What’s more, that light is not closeted away in heaven, it’s in the world, chasing the darkness away even when we refuse to follow it.

Ahaz is stuck in darkness. He only has eyes for a vision of fear, but the vision of love that he rejected is given to him anyway. Just as John testified to the light, so Isaiah testifies to God’s continuing love for Judah. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” The sign is given, a sign of hope for the future. The sign points towards God’s love, and the presence of God in our midst. Ahaz’s fears may not be chased away, but God’s graciously loves anyway.

For four Sundays at the close of Autumn, the church celebrates the first season of its year. For four Sundays at the close of autumn, we seek a vision of light as the days grow darker. For four Sundays at the close of autumn, our eyes shimmer with love as our fears are made irrelevant by God’s grace.

Although we connect this Isaiah passage with the virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Isaiah also pointed to a more immediate relief for Judah. The sieges of Ephraim and Syria would come to an end. The invasion and attacks would cease in the time it took a young woman to give birth and raise her child to choose the good and reject the evil. “He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.” The intervention of the LORD is close at hand, and will be accomplished even before an unborn child can start to be responsible. Even in spite of the fear that has enslaved Ahaz’s faith, the continuing love of the LORD is as sure as the love of that young woman for her child.

The child doesn’t get a choice, and neither do the people of God. The vision of love we have been given is the love of a mother who will not forsake her nursing child. And even if we reject the vision, as Ahaz did, God’s grace and love are still given to us. “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”

We do not get to choose darkness, because the LORD has chosen us for light…

who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

For four Sundays at the close of autumn, the church watches and waits for the Word made flesh, Jesus of Nazareth. For four Sundays at the close of autumn, we seek a vision of love that will not let us go. For four Sundays at the close of autumn, our eyes shimmer as God the only Son makes the LORD known to us.

We have had our four Sundays, Behold, the king of glory waits; the savior of the world is here.

Alleluia, Amen.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Vision of Joy

Vision of Joy from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

Isaiah 35:1-10
1The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, 
the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 
2it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 
3Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 
4Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you." 
5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 
6then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 
7the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 
8A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God's people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. 
9No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. 
10And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Matthew 11:2-9
2When John heard in prison what the Messiah a was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" 4Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

7As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 8What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 
9What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10This is the one about whom it is written, 
'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' 

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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Vision of Peace



Vision of Peace from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

Isaiah 11:1-10
1A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD.
3His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;
4But with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the falling together, and a little child shall lead them.
7The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8the nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall pit its hand on the adder’s den.
9The will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
10On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God