What Were They Thinking?

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Judges 9-10; Luke 5:17-39

17 One day when Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and legal experts were sitting nearby. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea, and from Jerusalem. Now the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal. 18 Some men were bringing a man who was paralyzed, lying on a cot. They wanted to carry him in and place him before Jesus, 19 but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they took him up on the roof and lowered him—cot and all—through the roof tiles into the crowded room in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The legal experts and Pharisees began to mutter among themselves, “Who is this who insults God? Only God can forgive sins!”

22 Jesus recognized what they were discussing and responded, “Why do you fill your minds with these questions? 23  Which is easier—to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24  But so that you will know that the Human One[a] has authority on the earth to forgive sins” —Jesus now spoke to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, get up, take your cot, and go home.” 25 Right away, the man stood before them, picked up his cot, and went home, praising God.

26 All the people were beside themselves with wonder. Filled with awe, they glorified God, saying, “We’ve seen unimaginable things today.”

I am wondering when it will happen this year. Every year, about this time, the Bishop and district superintendents  shuffle the deck and deal a new hand as it were. While the overwhelming majority of us will stay right where we are for the year to come. Those who will move on to other places of service will begin the new work in July. But, it is during this time of year, right around Easter, when I hear one or more of my colleagues say (about the bishop and district superintendents, “What were they thinking?” in regard to the appointment of a particular pastor to a certain church. Of course we all think we can do better than those who are tasked with actually doing the job.

There are any number of situations where we can ask the question, “What were they thinking?”  A person treats the interstate highway like the German autobahn. What were they thinking? They want to burn back the grass in a field on a day with a 25 mile per hour wind. What were they thinking. They are out playing golf in the rain with plenty of lightening in the sky. What were they thinking (Right Lee Trevino?)? Wearing white after Labor Day. What were they thinking. Cutting a hole in someone’s roof to lower a buddy down to get healed by Jesus. What were they thinking?

Actually that last one is a bit easier to understand than some of the others. What were they thinking? They were thinking, “I love my friend and I am not going to let anything stand in the way of getting him in front of Jesus to find healing, certainly not something like a roof.”

So, how far are willing to go to get a friend in front of Jesus? Not that far? Well, what are we thinking? They need Jesus.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Betrayal and Denial

Good Friday Sermon at First United Methodist Church, Sweeny TX

47 While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came. With him was a large crowd carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 His betrayer had given them a sign: “Arrest the man I kiss.” 49 Just then he came to Jesus and said, “Hello, Rabbi.” Then he kissed him.

50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him.

51 One of those with Jesus reached for his sword. Striking the high priest’s slave, he cut off his ear.

69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant woman came and said to him, “You were also with Jesus the Galilean.”

70 But he denied it in front of all of them, saying, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

71 When he went over to the gate, another woman saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.”

72 With a solemn pledge, he denied it again, saying, “I don’t know the man.”

73 A short time later those standing there came and said to Peter, “You must be one of them. The way you talk gives you away.”

74 Then he cursed and swore, “I don’t know the man!” At that very moment the rooster crowed. 75 Peter remembered Jesus’ words, “Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.” And Peter went out and cried uncontrollably. (Matthew 6:47-51, 69-75 Common English Bible).

For many people, the lesson tonight is something they find troublesome. As I told you Sunday, at Elwood, my first appointment, we had a Bible study that had been a part of that congregation’s Christian education program for many years. They had begun reading in the first chapter of Genesis and would continue, studying two chapters a week, until they reached the end of Revelation. Then they would start over. I have no idea how many times they went through the Bible during those years. When I arrived they were studying Matthew 20. When I left, they were somewhere in Galatians.

I was really surprised a four weeks later when a few members of the study wanted to skip past chapters 26 and 27 and go straight to Matthew 28. They wanted to skip the crucifixion and go straight to the resurrection. I heard some say, words I had heard before and really heard after Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ. “I just hate what THEY did to Jesus.” I heard my grandmother say it. With nobody admitting their sins were just as much a part of what WE all did to Jesus. As we got to each of the other Gospels the same scene played itself out.

Since those days at Elwood, I have thought more about what they were saying. I am not sure what triggered the resolution in my mind. I did, however, come to realize that many of us came to realize many of us want to skip over the pain of the crucifixion. It does little to make us feel good. The resurrection, on the other hand, now there is an event of which we want to have a part. It’s an event where we can jump in and celebrate.

Though it was not a popular decision with some in the group, we didn’t skip over Matthew 26 and 27. After all, you cannot have the resurrection without first having the crucifixion. As we read Matthew 26, the discussion turned first to Judas and then later to Peter. The discussion led in the direction we all might imagine. “How could Judas betray Jesus? How could Peter deny Jesus? After all, Jesus loved them both so much. Jesus had taught them so much. Now, after all that they had been through together, these two, two of the most trusted disciples turned their backs on Jesus. How could they do it?

As the discussion continued I heard things like, “I wouldn’t have turned away from Jesus. I would have stood right there beside Him. They could crucify me right there with him, but I would never, ever, deny him.” Those were the kinds of comments made again and again at that night’s Bible study.

Funny, I believe Peter said almost those exact same words to Jesus only a short time before he denied ever having seen Jesus, much less knowing him. It is really easy for us to say we wouldn’t do the same putting us in the disciple’s place. It is easy for us to say what we would do if we were in the place of one of the martyrs of the early Church. It is a far different thing to live and experience Christian persecution. We live in a relatively free society. We can worship if we want, when we want, and even where we want. Some may pester us and nag us, they may question us about the existence of God in a world such as the one we live in. But when you get right down to it, living in the United States, we don’t really face much physical harm for worshipping God. We might take some emotional abuse, but our lives are not in any real danger.

The same isn’t true in other parts of the world. Nor has it been true in the long history of the Christian Church. Throughout the Church’s history there have been men and women who have lost their lives for the faith. Peter, who we often criticize for his actions in our lesson, tradition says was himself crucified for his faith. When we read the book of Acts we can read the story of Stephen who was stoned to death because of his faith in Christ. Others could be named right along with those heroes of the faith.

During times of persecution of the Christian Church has not been filled with just these martyrs alone. There are others who in some way or another, often for reasons we will never understand, have, at least for a time denied Christ. They have betrayed Christ.

There are two characters of note in Shusaku Endo’s novel producers turned into a movie a year or so ago, Silence. This powerful, gripping book is set in Japan in the sixteenth century. The book has two very different characters who are central to the story.

The first is Father Sebastian Rodrigues, a Catholic priest and missionary from Portugal. As the book opens we find a very committed priest who just learned his mentor, who was a missionary to Japan, has just denied the faith. Father Rodrigues wants to travel to Japan to search for Father Ferreira and to minister to Japanese Christians and witness to those who are not Christians.

After receiving permission from the Church to travel to Japan, Father Rodrigues and his companions go first to India and then to China. In China he meets another man, a Japanese man named Kichijiro, the second central character in the story. Kichijiro agrees to take them into Japan and introduce them to Japanese Christians. They make preparations for secretly entering Japan.

Once in Japan, Kichijiro is true to his word and leads them to the Christians. After some time, however, Kichijiro, who himself is a Christian, though he often denies it, he denies Christ, turns Father Rodrigues over to the authorities for 300 pieces of silver. He betrays Jesus by betraying Father Rodrigues. He tells Father Rodrigues he is a weak man and asks for Rodrigues’ forgiveness. Again and again Kichijiro denies faith in Christ to get himself out of a tough spot and again and again he comes back to Father Rodrigues, confessing and asking to be absolved of his sin.

For his part, because he is a priest, Father Rodrigues listens to Kichijiro. He listens but has little use for the man who betrayed him and betrayed Christ. Rodrigues sits in a Japanese jail.

He is treated well by his captors and he wonders how his teacher could have come to deny his faith when treated this way. But after some time has past he discovers the Japanese authorities are not going to torture him, at least not physically. They are, however torturing the Japanese Christians and have been since his capture.

Because of him, the very ones he came to serve are now being tortured. All he has to do is step on an image of Christ and the torture will stop. For Rodrigues, at least in his mind, it means he is being asked to deny Christ.

And that, is exactly what he does. There is a powerful scene where the Japanese officials, with Rodrigues’ teacher present, are trying to convince him to step on the image of Christ. The image seems to come alive and tells him, “Trample, trample.” That moment is a time of crystal clarity for Father Sebastian Rodrigues. Endo writes, “The priest raises his foot. In it he feels a dull, heavy pain. This is no mere formality. He will now trample on what he has considered the most beautiful thing in his life, on what he has believed most pure, on what is filled with the ideals and the dreams of man. How his foot aches! And then the Christ in bronze speaks to the priest: ‘Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross. The priest placed his foot on the fumie (the image of Christ). Dawn broke. And far in the distance the cock crowed.”

Father Rodrigues realizes what God is saying to him at that moment is “That is why I came into the world, so people could step on me.” In that moment, by the standards of the world, by the standards of the Roman Catholic Church, by the standards of Sebastian Rodrigues, he denied Jesus. He lost his identity. But, in that moment he performed the hardest act of love and self-sacrifice that could ever be asked of him. He gave up his life as he knew it for the lives of the Japanese Christians.

Do you still think you would never deny Christ? Could you stand strong if you saw innocent people suffering and it would stop if you denied Christ? Could you stand by and watch your neighbor tortured or our parent or your child or your spouse?

It is easy to say we would never deny Christ. It is something much harder to live. But, I would further submit to you, while there is, without question, an allusion to Peter in the line, “somewhere off in the distance a cock crowed,” stepping on that image of Christ is the most Christ-like think Father Rodrigues could do. It was all the life he knew. In that moment he picked up his cross and followed He followed out of love of God and love of neighbor. He didn’t deny Christ. In that setting the only way he could have denied Christ was to not step on the image to save those Rodrigues was called to serve.

It would be hard for us to live out our words in such trying times. Why, it is even hard, better yet, it is impossible, for us to live out our claims of faithfulness here and now. We are Kichijiro. We are Judas. We are Peter. We deny Christ, we betray Christ when we fail to live in neighborly. We deny Christ and betray Christ when we fail to feed the hungry or cloth the naked or give the thirsty something to drink, etc. etc. etc. Friends, we deny Christ, we betray Christ every day by the things we say and the things we do. Didn’t Jesus tell those around him and through Matthew tell us, “For if you’ve done it to one of the least of these you’ve done it to me?” When we deny others the love of Christ, we are denying our love of Christ. When we fail to meet the needs of others, we are betraying Christ. And yet, sometimes we even manage to be Father Sebastian Rodrigues.

That is good news and there is more. Sebastian Rodrigues spent the rest of his life living in Japan in exile. He spends the rest of his life believing in his heart that he denied Christ. Still, Kichijiro comes back asking Rodrigues to hear his confession. Each time the priest tries to convince Kichijiro that he is no longer a priest. Kichijiro continues to come. It seems to me, without knowing it, Kichijiro, enables Rodrigues to continue his work as a priest, he allows Rodrigues to maintain some small amount of his identity. Kichijiro was, for Rodrigues, an instrument of God’s grace. And I think it safe to say, every time Kichijiro came back asking for forgiveness, God found a way to forgive too. After all, despite his denials of Christ, we know Peter still managed to find forgiveness and went on to lead the early Church. If God can forgive Peter, God can forgive Sebastian Rodrigues and Kichijiro too. I believe God could have even found a way to forgive Judas, had he asked.

And, if God can forgive them, God can forgive the likes of you and me as well. God will forgive us. Yes, we are just like Peter and Judas and Sebastian and Rodrigues and Kichijiro. Yes, we deny Christ and yes, we betray Christ. But also, just like Peter and Rodrigues and Kichijiro, we can find forgiveness through the grace of God.

 

 

The Rise and Fall of a King

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Judges 9-10; Luke 5:17-39

 

Abimelech, Jerubbaal’s son, went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem. He spoke to them and to the entire clan of the household to which his mother belonged: “Ask all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which do you think is better to have ruling over you: seventy men—all of Jerubbaal’s sons—or one man?’ And remember that I’m your flesh and blood!”

So his mother’s brothers spoke all these words on his behalf to all the leaders of Shechem. They decided to follow Abimelech because they said, “He’s our relative.” They gave him seventy pieces of silver from the temple of Baal-berith, with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men, who became his posse. He went to his household in Ophrah and killed all seventy of his brothers, Jerubbaal’s sons, on a single stone. Only Jotham the youngest of Jerubbaal’s sons survived, because he had hidden himself. Then all the leaders of Shechem and all Beth-millo assembled and proceeded to make Abimelech king by the oak at the stone pillar in Shechem. (Judges 9:1-6, Common English Bible).

For most of us, when we think of Israel wanting a king, we think about Scripture in 1 Samuel 8, when Samuel is the Judge over Israel and the Israelites demand a king. That led to Israel’s first king and it wasn’t the most positive of experiences when Saul (not Saul who became Paul in the New Testament) becomes King of Israel.

The thing is, today’s lesson isn’t even the first time. In yesterday’s reading (not used in my post), Judges 8, the Israelites wanted Gideon to become their ruler. While they didn’t actually use the term “King,” they asked Gideon to rule over them and then Gideon’s son and to be followed by Gideon’s grandson. Even without the term “King,” it sounds like a king in the making to me.

Gideon was smart enough to not take the job without getting the official okay from God. Gideon told the Israelites he wouldn’t rule over them and neither would his son. The Israelites already had someone to rule over them, God.

In today’s lesson, the Israelites didn’t take Gideon’s no as a final answer, when Abimelech becomes Judge, the Israelites once again want a king to rule over them and they grab Abimelech and want him to do what Gideon did not. It would seem that Abimelech liked the idea of being the ultimate power for all of Israel. He took the offer and ran with it.

Abimelech, perhaps thought God was okay with him being in control as nothing happened, at least not initially. Abimelech remained in power for three years. He had one of his servants kill him. He believed it better than a woman dropping a millstone on his head.

In the end, there is a lesson for us in this passage. Before you “do,” consult with God to learn the will of God. Gideon understood that. Abimelech did not. It was a deadly mistake for him.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With joy and thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

 

The Fourth Cup

 

Sermon from Maundy Thursday Service at First United Methodist Church, Sweeny Texas.

10 Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to give Jesus up to them. 11 When they heard it, they were delighted and promised to give him money. So he started looking for an opportunity to turn him in.

12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, the disciples said to Jesus, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?”

13 He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city. A man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him 14Wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks, “Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?”’ 15He will show you a large room upstairs already furnished. Prepare for us there.” 16 The disciples left, came into the city, found everything just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

17 That evening, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 During the meal, Jesus said, “I assure you that one of you will betray me—someone eating with me.”

19 Deeply saddened, they asked him, one by one, “It’s not me, is it?”

20 Jesus answered, “It’s one of the Twelve, one who is dipping bread with me into this bowl. 21The Human One goes to his death just as it is written about him. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! It would have been better for him if he had never been born.”

22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 I assure you that I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way in God’s kingdom.” 26 After singing songs of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Mark 14:10-26, Common English Bible)

Christine Oscar, pastor of St. Mary’s United Methodist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, tells a story of her, at the time, four-year-old niece, Alisha:

One day while babysitting, Christine fixed the children their favorite lunch of burritos and apple juice. As she left the room, she heard four-year-old Alisha begin to celebrate communion with her lunch items. She seemed to have memorized the liturgy really well, except when it came to the cup. Alicia was heard to say, “And Jesus took the cup, and he blessed it, and he gave God thanks for it, and he said, ‘Fill it with Folgers and wake ’em up!'”

            There are four cups of wine in the Jewish Passover liturgy and when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, tradition holds He was actually using the third cup.

            Late last week I ran across something in my study time that intrigued me. As a result, I have spent a great deal of time looking, reading, researching and studying. Tradition also holds that when Jesus said, I assure you that I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way in God’s kingdom,” Jesus was declining to partake and even to serve the fourth cup. The article I was reading went on to say that Jesus did indeed take the fourth cup, just not in the manner we might expect.

We are going to talk about that four cups but because many here tonight have never participate in a Seder meal, the traditional Passover meal, I think some explanation is in order.

There is a great deal of liturgy and Scripture that is part of the meal. I am not going to attempt to share all that is said and done during the meal. Our primary focus tonight is on the four cups.

These cups of the Seder are based on the promise God made to Israel when He sent Moses to deliver them from Egypt. God said, Therefore, say to the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord. I’ll bring you out from Egyptian forced labor. I’ll rescue you from your slavery to them. I’ll set you free with great power and with momentous events of justice. I’ll take you as my people, and I’ll be your God. You will know that I, the Lord, am your God, who has freed you from Egyptian forced labor. (Exodus 6:6-7)

The first cup is called Sanctification. The liturgy used comes from the first part of verse six (Therefore, say to the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord. I’ll bring you out from Egyptian forced labor.) This cup is served at the beginning of the meal, before any food is actually served. Following this first cup, an appetizer of fresh herbs is served to the participants. The herbs are usually parsley. The symbolize the bitterness of the tears of the Israelites in slavery.

The second cup is the cup of Blessing. The liturgy uses the second part of verse six (I’ll rescue you from your slavery to them). Following this cup, the main course, consisting of the Passover lamb is served. Bread would have been an important element in this part of the dinner. It also made it possible for Jesus to take the bread, break it and give it to his disciples.

If you remember our communion liturgy, we read the words, “After the supper He [Jesus] took the Cup and after giving thanks… The tradition of the Church indicates that Jesus was using the third cup, the Cup of Redemption and is tied to the final portion of verse six (I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgment).

Both the serving of the bread and wine were a departure from the traditional Passover Seder. There was also another departure from the Seder meal, the Fourth cup. It is the cup of Acceptance. The liturgy brings verse seven into the picture (I will take you as my people and I will be your God.). Tradition says that when Jesus said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you,” He was referring to the 3rd cup of the Passover, the Cup of Redemption. By His shed blood, we can be redeemed from our bondage to sin, just as the Israelites were redeemed from their bondage to Egypt. Jesus then said He wouldn’t drink wine again until the Kingdom had come.

            First the host would ask God to sanctify those present. Then there was a cry out for blessing. Third the prayer would be for God to redeem those gathered. And fourth, had it happened, would have the host praying God would accept them and they would accept God. The fourth cup is the cup of acceptance. Only Jesus never said the fourth portion of the liturgy that night. He then said He wouldn’t drink wine again until the Kingdom had come.

            Scholars almost universally agree, that night, neither Jesus nor the disciples took of the fourth cup. In his Gospel, Mark moves from the serving of the third cup and Jesus’ unusual words to singing hymns of praise. Following these hymns, Jesus and the disciples left for the Mount of Olives.

            That brings us to what I stumbled upon last week. Jesus did, according to some scholars, and I was surprised by the number I found believe Jesus’ liturgy of the fourth cup begins in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus has left the disciples and moved on by himself to pray. When many picture the scene, we think of the famous Heinrich Hoffman painting where Jesus is on his knees, arms resting on a rock with a peaceful covering his face. It is a beautiful painting but it really isn’t very biblical. The Scriptures say,” He said to them, ‘I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert.’” Those are not the words of a man who is serene and peaceful.

            The fourth cup begins in those prayers. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”

            Then he is arrested, put through a sham of a trial, and nailed to a cross. And, it is there the fourth cup becomes complete. Jesus says he thirsts. Someone, using a pole and a sponge soaked in “sour wine.” He said he wouldn’t drink wine again, until the Kingdom had come. He is drinking wine, sour wine, sure, but wine non-the-less. Then he said, “It is finished.”

            Most of my life I have accepted the idea, “It is finished,” to mean God’s redeeming work was now complete. Everything needing to be done was now complete. And, remember, the fourth cup is the cup of acceptance. Jesus was essentially saying, “Passover is over. The need for Passover is no longer. Passover involved blood sacrifices that were no longer needed because the ultimate blood sacrifice came to an end. With that, Passover and the need for it were no longer necessary.

            As Jesus drank the Cup of Acceptance, he was saying to all present and even us now, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” And, as we drink from the Cup of Acceptance, we need to realize we need to accept Him. Without Him there would be no covenant. There would be no need.

Robert Benton’s Academy Award-winning film Places in the Heart … is the story of a young woman, widowed within the first few minutes of the film, struggling against principalities and powers of evil incarnate in everyday life of central Texas during the 1930s. Forces work to take away the only thing her husband has left her and her two small children – a small farm in Texas. Lynching’s, brutality, infidelity, racism, greed, duplicity all of these are woven into the lives of those who make up the tapestry of Benton’s story.

The film ends with a communion service. At first the camera shows you a few of the good folk in town. Next, some of the not-so-good. Then the banker and others who conspired to take away the farm. The camera continues to move with the cups of wine. There is the faithful black farmhand who helped bring in the crop so the widow might pay her mortgage; next to him, the blind boarder. The plate passes to the children, then to their mother. She is seated next to her late husband. As you are trying to take this in, the plate moves to the young man who shot her husband. They commune, and each respond: “the peace of God.” All are gathered at table, to share the bread and cup of salvation. Suddenly this is more than Sunday morning; this is the kingdom, eternity captured in time…

This is not a human point of view. The camera has given us a look at life, the way Jesus said God looks at it. God has done something to enable everyone to come home. The apostle Paul says it this way: “In Christ, God was reconciling us to himself, not counting our trespasses against us…”

Be Clean

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Judges 7-8; Luke 5:1-16

12 Jesus was in one of the towns where there was also a man covered with a skin disease. When he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged, “Lord, if you want, you can make me clean.”

13 Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do want to. Be clean.” Instantly, the skin disease left him. 14 Jesus ordered him not to tell anyone. “Instead,” Jesus said, “go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses instructed. This will be a testimony to them.” 15 News of him spread even more and huge crowds gathered to listen and to be healed from their illnesses. 16 But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer. (Luke 5:12-16, Common English Bible)

I can’t begin to tell you why, but I don’t like to get my hands dirty. I don’t mean that in a metaphoric way at all. I, quite literally, do not like to get my hands dirty.

I know I am not alone. Over the past twenty or so years, I have worked quite a few UM ARMY (United Methodist Action Reach-out Ministry by Youth) camps. One of the more popular places around camp was the showers. There quite possibly is nothing that feels better than a nice shower following a good, hard-working day out in the hot sun of East Texas. You come in soaked in sweat and that is only half of the story. Most of the time you are covered with dirt from being down digging in the dirt or covered with paint.

One year I worked a camp in Daingerfield Texas. The first day was really hot. She didn’t have much to say when she came in from her job site. She went in, got her stuff for the showers and left with her work team for the local high school where we showered and otherwise cleaned up. Some 30 or 45 minutes later, she returned. As she walked through our main activity room she said, “Ahhh, I feel like a girl again.”

Such is what we think about when we think of being unclean. Our hands, our feet, or our whole body is dirty and we need to apply a layer of soap and water to get clean.

In the Biblical era, that was not what being unclean meant. Skin diseases, like leprosy, were very common and very contagious. Because of them being contagious, the infected person was an outcast from society and was, by law, when they saw a person coming, was to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” so the person approaching would know they needed to avoid contact with these folks. I imagine it didn’t do much for one’s ego at all.

Jesus comes along and as he walks through town, this man who has a skin disease said to Jesus, “If you want you can make me clean again.” In studying I have come to an understand there is a difference between being made clean and being healed. Many things, not just an illness, could make a person unclean. Until the priests were able to declare the infected person clean they couldn’t rejoin society.

Jesus, as he almost always did, touched him and made him clean once again. Jesus gave the man back his life. When we take the things that rob us of life as we pray, there is a good chance God will take that away too.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

They Didn’t Want Him to Leave

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Reading:
Judges 4-6; Luke 4:31-44

Bag-Man-500x333.jpg

40 When the sun was setting, everyone brought to Jesus relatives and acquaintances with all kinds of diseases. Placing his hands on each of them, he healed them. 41 Demons also came out of many people. They screamed, “You are God’s Son.” But he spoke harshly to them and wouldn’t allow them to speak because they recognized that he was the Christ. 42 When daybreak arrived, Jesus went to a deserted place. The crowds were looking for him. When they found him, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said to them, “I must preach the good news of God’s kingdom in other cities too, for this is why I was sent.” 44 So he continued preaching in the Judean synagogues. (Luke 4:40-44, Common English Bible).

The blind could see. The deaf could hear. Those who had not had use of their legs could walk. Those with fever, like Peter’s mother-in-law, had their illness leave. And then there is the guy who had an evil spirit living inside him. And then, the spirit was gone.

It may have been early in Jesus’ ministry but things were happening and people were reacting. They kept coming. They kept bringing their friends and family who were sick or had other problems so Jesus might attend to them.

If you think about it, for any of us, under similar circumstances, it would be pretty overwhelming. Jesus came into this ministry from the little town of Nazareth. He probably spent just about his entire day, working alone, in the carpenter’s shop. He was working the family business to keep his mother and family afloat until the time came for one of his brothers to step into the shop and take over.

When the day finally came, Jesus left Nazareth and started his three-year ministry. He was baptized by John the Baptist. He spent 40 days in the desert being tempted by the devil. Though Luke doesn’t say how at least not to this point, Jesus has already gotten to know Simon Peter at least a bit because he goes to the home of Simon’s mother-in-law and heals her of a fever. All of that has happened in a period probably not longer than about three months. Talk about a whirlwind.

But, as quickly as these things may have happened, news of what Jesus was able to do spread even faster. People were coming to find him and when they did, he was almost swallowed by the crowd. For a man who had lived his life in small-town Israel, it may have felt stifling, even overwhelming. Jesus did not seem to have a time or a place to even pray.

So, he seems to escape to a private, secluded place. It was a quiet place. It was a secluded place. It was a place where he could pray. It was a place where he could think. It was a place where he could leave the crowds behind. That is, until…

That is until the crowds found him and the rat-race (he probably wouldn’t have called it that), started over again. Luke tells us the crowds didn’t want Jesus to leave. Jesus’ reply? “I must preach the good news of God’s kingdom in other cities too, for this is why I was sent.”

And then he moved on, preaching in the Judean synagogues as he went.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Here We Go Again

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Judges 1-3; Luke 4:1-30

here-we-go-again

The Israelites did things that the Lord saw as evil, and they forgot the Lord their God. They served the Baals and the Asherahs. The Lord became angry with Israel and gave them over to King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim. The Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But then they cried out to the Lord. So the Lord raised up a deliverer for the Israelites, Othniel, Kenaz’s son, Caleb’s younger brother, who rescued them. 10 The Lord’s spirit was in Othniel, and he led Israel. When he marched out for war, the Lord handed over Aram’s King Cushan-rishathaim. Othniel overpowered Cushan-rishathaim, 11 and the land was peaceful for forty years, until Othniel, Kenaz’s son, died.

12 The Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil, and the Lord put Moab’s King Eglon in power over them, because they did these things that the Lord saw as evil. 13 He convinced the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, defeated Israel, and took possession of Palm City. 14 So the Israelites served Moab’s King Eglon eighteen years.

15 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord(Judges 3:7-15, Common English Bible)

It was just yesterday we read of the Israelites promise before God, Joshua and each other that they would follow God. They promised. And, when Joshua told them they were witnesses unto themselves, they readily agreed.

How quickly things can change. Please understand, I am not saying this was literally the next day. In fact, we know some amount of time passed because by the time of our lesson today Joshua had died. With their leader gone, the Israelites immediately start doing evil in the sight of God.

It is the beginning of what we have talked about a couple of times already, the Israelites cycle of evil and good. Without Joshua to lead them, they fall into evil. And, apparently, their current version of evil was pretty bad as God turned them over to their enemies. God worked against His chosen people. But, there was grace that followed as God raised up leaders that turned the people around.

In our lesson today, it is at least the second time for Israel to go in a direction other than the one God would have them go. God became angry. God let their enemies run over them and the Israelites cried out to the Lord. God raised up a new leader, Othniel. Apparently, Othniel was the quintessential leader. Othniel came in, raised up an army that tossed the enemies of the nation. The lesson says that once the Israelites defeated their current set of enemies, Othniel continued to lead them and God gave the Israelites peace for 40 years until the death of Othniel.

Then again, the Israelites backslide once again when there is no leader. Their enemies overrun them again (because God allowed it) and there was an enemy force that occupied the land until the Israelites cried out again to God. Until God raised up Ehud as the judge and leader. Once again the Israelites defeated their enemies and again there was peace in the land. This time for 80 years.

I wish I could tell you Israel finally learned their lesson, but they did not. It was a pattern we will see again. And again.

There is one other thing. I find it interesting when the Israelites had a leader they seemed willing to follow. Without a leader, they fell back into evil. While I don’t think it is so much a leader, it is someone who held them accountable. We all need accountability partners. We need people in our lives who will walk with us, reminding us of what is good and what is evil before God. If you don’t have an accountability partner, I urge you to move in that direction.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved