What Are You Searching For?

The Woman of Canaan by Michael Angelo Immenraet, Public Domain

I am going to preface this with a reflection on the media coverage of the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. Several commentators rightfully bemoaned the Talban’s record on women’s rights.  But what got my attention was one comment on social media that said Christianity is no better in that regard.

Since my planned message was going to focus on 4 Biblical women and their examples, I felt moved to address this topic first before proceeding to the main message.

Is Christianity anti–female?  Some argue that Eve being made “from Adam” as a helper shows subservience.  Let’s examine that.  The English says God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and God took one of Adam’s ribs and fashioned a “help meet for him.”

A better reading is that rather than rib, it should be seen a “flesh of his side.”   Note not flesh of his heel that he rule over her, not skin of his head that she reign over him; but flesh of his side that they might be equals, standing side by side.  She was a companion, not a slave.

Some Christian traditions move beyond this and say that priesthood is male.   John Paul II once said that when the priesthood was established on the night Jesus was betrayed, only Jesus and the apostles were present.  But is we read John’s account it is not only the mission of evangelism that is established in that meeting, but communion.  Does this suggest that only men can partake of the bread and wine?  Few if any would say so.

In fact, the first person to ever proclaim the full gospel of the resurrected Christ was not one of the Twelve, but Mary Magdalene.

Let’s look at the Second Temple period for a moment.  After the close of Malachi, a number of rabbinic writings and prayers became common.  One of these is known as the three blessings.  Jewish as part of morning prayers thank God for the new day, and that they are not Gentiles, slaves, or women.  This reinforces the often-cited misconception of Eve’s daughter’s lesser status.   But as we have seen this is not a Biblical principle.

Jesus’ ministry also shows and acceptance of women.  In His parables he uses women as key actors (See the Lost coin: Luke 15:8 – 10, the Parable of the Yeast:  Matthew 13:33, and the Ten Virgins of Matthew 25:1-13).

We can also note that Jesus’ teaching in the Temple were by their context in the outer courts where women and men could both hear his message (note the Widow’s Mite).  His public teaching as well was in homes where Mary and Martha were both called to listen, and on hillsides where men, women, and children could hear Him.

But if we look at Jesus’ ministry, we see that He treated woman in unexpected ways for His time –

It is now that I will note not His parables but His actual interactions, and what the women in these accounts can tell us about our main theme of “What are you searching for?”

I: Woman at Welldidn’t know what she was looking for or needed.    

John 4 tells us of Jesus’ interaction with a Samaritan woman. Their dialogue is one of mutual give and take, and she questions his request for water from her.  She is a Samaritan and a woman (remember the 3 blessings prayer).  He then reveals knowledge of her life, and she tries to deflect only to come to see what she is in need of.  Her life had been irregular if not outwardly sinful.  She had been seeking the wrong things, much as the majority of humanity does. See Romans 1: 35 where people look for the wrong things and worship the created or our own desires (like the woman and her multiple husbands did).

Jesus’ response in another passage reminds us (Matthew 6:33) to “Seek first the kingdom of God. . . and all other things will be given to us). 

Many of us need to learn that lesson and turn our focus to Him and His righteousness.

II: Woman with issue of blood Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48 is another human type.  This woman was afraid to ask.   She had suffered a bleed for 12 years, and the doctors couldn’t help her.  She knew (unlike the Samaritan woman) what she needed but couldn’t bring herself to ask.  She secretly touched Jesus’ garment and her act of faith after being confronted compassionately by Him led to her healing.

Jesus’ teachings on this can be summed up in – Matthew 7: 7-8, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” 

Are we prepared to ask?

III: Mary – who we have already noted as the first preacher of the Gospel, was looking in the wrong places.  She had witnessed the crucifixion and the burial, and when the first day of the week arrived went to finish the burial process.  She had not understood Jesus’ words that the temple would be restored in three days.  

We too get caught up in traditions, religiosity, or our own plans.  In Matthew 28, Mary goes to the tomb to seek a dead Jesus only to be told by the angelic figure, “He is not here He is risen (verse 28).  

Don’t get waylaid by those things that blur our focus on the risen Lord!

IV: Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28)

This woman’s child has unclean spirits assailing her.  Though a Gentile and a woman she approaches Jesus.  She is initially rebuffed being told that Jesus has come the feed the children of Israel.

But shecontinued to seek what was beyond her reach or hope.

Are we any different? Remember “All have sinned and fallen short;”None righteous no not one,”

She therefore stands her ground.  She notes that the dogs can eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table.

Jesus recognises her faith and commends it.  We too should not get caught up in our unworthiness, but trust in His mercy.

“While we were yet sinners” He came to seek us (Romans 5:8)!

Do we know what we are looking for? Are we afraid to ask? Do we sometimes look in the wrong places?  Are we trying to perfect ourselves? Or do we accept our own limitations and despite them seek the kingdom and His righteousness? 

I challenge you to know where your focus should lie.  I encourage you to ask, praying without ceasing for what you need.  I remind you to look to God, not to religion or yourself. 

We should be like the Syrophoenician woman.  He is here for us.


Padre

A Step at a Time: Towards Authenticity

Chain, Broken, Link, Freedom, Unleashed
Pixabay

Last week Pastor Vince spoke to us about the need to be authentic.  In that message he said he was going to use a text, not to make a theological exposition but as a jumping off point.   I will start off the same, before moving on to some expository.  Yes, I am a theologian.

As such I am going to scratch the surface of a technique known as systematic theology which formulates an orderly, and rational account of the doctrines of the Christian faith.  I will take topics that Pastor Vince has addressed recently and arrange them as steppingstones, or a path we can take a step at a time to get to our destination.

A few weeks ago, Vince noted that Praise not only glorifies God, but can left us like an eagle’s wings.  So here is my first foundation stone in tying to days message together.  Praise and worship are in our present age opened, like the tearing of the curtain in the temple.  The Holy of Holies is open to us because Christ has torn the barriers to approaching God down.

Vince in the past has told us about the structure and importance of the Tabernacle and later Temple.  As you approached that place of worship and praise, note we have the approach theme again, you would go from the mundane world to a sacred space, arriving eventually to the Most Holy Place. 

During the period of the Babylonian Captivity, worship, prayer, and praise began to be made in the synagogue as the Temple had been destroyed and the people dispersed.  When the Second Temple was built this new synagogue, system continued to operate along side of it as we see in the Gospels. 

Not only this but structure of the Second Temple was extended from the Tabernacle plan to include an outer court sometimes called The Court of the Gentiles.   It was open to non-Jews, though they could approach no closer to that to the Holy Places.  But they were allowed in!

The synagogue too had a similar design, but in modern synagogues the holy place is replaced with the Ark where the Scriptures rest.  These are brought out onto a platform called the Bimah where they are read aloud.  The congregation sits facing this platform. 

Look at Luke 4:

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

        because he has anointed me

        to proclaim good news to the poor.

        He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

        and recovery of sight for the blind,

        to set the oppressed free,

19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.

So, what does that have to do with being authentic?

As Pastor Vince noted last week, authentic faith – loves and serves. 

Our praise may help us soar like eagles, but never at the cost to others.

Hebrews 13:1 tells us, “Let brotherly love continue.” First John 4: 7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. He that loves not doesn’t know God; for God is love.”

In what is often called the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus makes it clear.  Note some of the parallels from the passage we just looked at in Luke 4.  “When I was hungry, when I was naked, in prison, etc.”  

Authenticity is not about us soaring, it is about lifting others.

This authentic love was something Jesus had to teach.  You may not know this but in the culture of Jesus’ times there was a belief that honour was a finite resource like gold or diamonds.   If I had it, you didn’t.  I kept it by keeping you down.

Vince spoke about humility, and what authentic humility is like.  But this was a hard sell in Jesus’ day.  This makes the Sermon on the Mount even more profound with the Meek, and Humble being praised.

Luke 16:19-31 gives us the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  Their lives are contrasted, as are their deaths.  Notice that even in Hell the rich man doesn’t change his attitude of superiority.  “Send Lazarus to me.” “Send Lazarus to my brothers.”

Paul’s letter to Philemon is a wonderful study in authenticity.   It shows Paul giving authentic and loving praise, It makes an example of authentic humility, and it shows not coercion as some have suggested, but rather Paul’s call on Philemon to realistically see things are the really are.  Systematic theology at its best.

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Philemon needs to extend himself.  He needs authentic humility to get past any perceived wrongs.  He needs to show love, and unconditional love that frees captives, and restores relationships.  He needs to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and help fulfil the promise of the prophesy found in Luke Chapter 4.

Paul one step at a time calls for authenticity, and I have one step at a time taken three of Vince’s themes and presented them to you.  Let’s be real together.


Padre

Drawing At Midday

Fountain, Old, Water, Old Well, Stone
Pixabay

What are you afraid of?  If we are honest most of have our fears and insecurities.  We may, under the present circumstances have anxiety over Covid or about financial difficulties brought about by it.  Some of us have a fear of for intangible things like our reputations.  Others fear threats that might be realistic, but exaggerated in our own minds, such as spiders or snakes.   I am not at first going to address the fear themselves, but rather I am going to examine some individuals from the Bible that seem to be influenced by their fears.

The first of these is the woman at well from John chapter 4:

“Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John—although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.  So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria.  So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans).

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

We find our second story in in Judges chapter 6.  Gideon is threshing his wheat in a winepress when he is approached and addressed by an angel.  The angel calls him a mighty warrior of God.  This leads Gideon to question how can a man from the weakest tribe in Israel, who you found hiding in a winepress be mighty?  The angel tells him that he has been chosen by God for saving his people, and Gideon goes and brings a food offering to the stranger.  This is by a mighty act of God consumed in fire, and yet Gideon despite this sign, calls for two more signs before accepting the call.

Jumping to our third account back in John, this time chapter 3 we find the Jewish leader Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night.  There is again a dialogue and Nicodemus too, leaves a changed man.

In examining these three accounts we find they are parallels.  Theologically speaking Gideon is straight forward about why he is in the press.  He is afraid.  The woman’s tale requires some social and contextual inference.  And if I am honest Nicodemus’ story requires a little speculation on our part.  But I believe the theme of fear can be seen in all three. Gideon fears for his property.  He is in the winepress so that he won’t be seen, and the Midianites take his grain.

The Samaritan Woman seems to fear of scorn and gossip.   Water was not normally drawn at midday.  It was done in the morning and evening.  She, and if we look at her background, is avoiding the other women of the town.  Drawing water in many cultures is a social interaction.  Yet, she is avoiding the contact.

Nicodemus seems to fear for his reputation.  Okay, he might have been busy during the day, he is an important man.  But, this seems unlikely as it was not normal to seek an interview with someone “out of hours.”  Perhaps he was just avoiding the crowds that followed Jesus for privacy.  Or, he is more importantly avoiding their prying eyes?

What all three do is encounter God.  They are given clear messages of what God expects of them.  Gideon was hesitant.  Remember he came up with his tests.  Samaritan woman at first seems to deflect Jesus’ attention away from her personal life, and then she is curious.  Nicodemus on the other hand is seeking something.  Fearful or not, he wants answers.

All three received answers.  Gideon had to look beyond himself and his self-interest.  The woman had to look beyond guilt and sin, and Nicodemus beyond education and religiosity.

In some ways these three are embodiments of the parables Jesus told in Luke 15.   The Samaritan was like the lost sheep.  She was lost outside the fold, and the Good Shepherd found her and brought her in.   Gideon is like the lost coin.  He is in the house (Israel), but just as lost until found and put into action.  Nicodemus is like the lost son (not the prodigal but his brother), he is active in God’s house, but still doesn’t see the bigger picture. 

But all were found.  And in their gathering back to God, their fears became secondary.    Gideon leads the Jews.  The woman goes into the town and boldly makes proclamations calling attention to herself.  And Nicodemus publicly comes to Jesus’ defence in John 7.

What is your fear? What are you seeking?  What thing that is greater than the sum of all your fears is God offering you?  Where will he find you?   He is looking and waiting!


Padre

Scriptures from NIV

Notes from today’s sermon

New Beginnings

image source unknown

The following are my sermon notes from a message I shared today. It is a reminder that we should make the most of the new year and the new opportunities that we are given in it.

“Pastor Vince spoke last week drawing on the image of a wineskin or bottle in the smoke from the Psalms.  He noted that old things and the new are not easily combined, like new wine in an old skin.  But we like those skins can be transformed and made new when we look at the world from God’s perspective.

Some time ago I spoke to you about seeing as God sees.  That we so easily fall back on seeing with human eyes.  I noted that Abraham and Gideon had to move beyond the old way of seeing things in either trusting in their own abilities, or by being afraid to anything. {expand}

Last week Brother Vince noted for us that we see the examples in the Scripture of people could see in a new way.  There were hard times are found in the Bible, but approaching them spiritually was the way they were overcome. 

Let’s face it – 2020 was rough:

Covid and its lockdowns put us in fear and restricted our accustomed lifestyles.  We couldn’t travel, mix with loved ones, or for many weeks gather physically to worship.  Many struggled with this last one – citing that the Bible said not to neglect the gathering of ourselves together.   Racial unrest, political turmoil, in America and around the world were easy to get caught up in.  They became part of our daily discourse, our social media lives, and again for many of us our fears.   Even Christians began to focus on conspiracy theories than on the plan of God.

But we also have seen amazing things: thousands of people who turned to God.  Communities of Christians coming together both spiritually and electronically.  We weren’t forsaking the assembly but found new ways to come together through Facebook or Zoom. As a community of believers, we have established or expanded food banks, and crisis centres for those facing the struggles of lockdown and isolation.  We are seeing the new beginnings.

There are some however that have only been able to focus on the negative using the old tired human eyes, like Abraham and Gideon did.

So, let’s take Pastor Vince’s advice and see what the scripture tells about the struggles of new beginnings.

In Exodus God’s people were suffering from trials that are akin or worse than what we saw in 2020.   They were slaves, and their baby boys were being murdered at birth.   But God had a plan for them and the people of Israel, and the Egyptians as well, witnessed the absolute might of God.  They saw God bring 10 plagues onto Egypt.

So, let’s examine that for a moment.  God showed will by sending Moses to tell Pharaoh, King of Egypt let my people go.  When he refused, the Nile and all the fresh water was turned to blood.  Later frogs flooded the land.  They were everywhere, even in the bed and their food. 

And what does the king do?  He tells Moses I will let the people go.  Tomorrow!   But give me one more night with these frogs.    New beginnings, friends, is not staying where you are at.  It is moving on with God’s plans.

The plagues continued and the Hebrews were freed from slavery.  They then saw the Red Sea divided and the armies of Pharaoh destroyed.  God was in control. The people had more than sufficient evidence of it.

But facing new beginnings isn’t always easy, especially if we are holding on to the past.

And many New Beginnings aren’t always easy, they may seem fraught with danger.  We enter into the unknown.  In Numbers 13, when the spies brought back the reports on the nature of the Promised Land, they moaned.  They wanted to go back to Egypt.

Numbers 14: 1-4 tells us: “That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.  All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

They wanted to go backwards.  If following God’s plan isn’t standing still like Pharaoh, it definitely isn’t going backwards.

We can see this is Joshua and Caleb’s response in verse 8: “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.”

Great starts – New decisions to follow Jesus, online worship, cooperation between churches.  Do we want to go back to the way things were?  Having some desire for the good old days when we were not following Jesus, or when there were divisions between denominations of God’s people?  Certainly not!  Just because we want to meet physically together doesn’t mean the gains should be lost, in the future which is God’s hands – why not do both meeting physically with those who can, and at a distance by those who are shut in?

Remember, we Christians aren’t exempt from this backwards looking.

The disciples had followed Jesus for three years, but after the crucifixion even Peter looked back to the old ways.

Peter said “I’m going fishing” –  I’m going back to my old job.  But the risen Jesus intervenes and gives him a new job to do “Feed my sheep,” and “Go tell the world.”

We like Peter are new creations.  Paul says 2 Corinthians 5: 17 and following –

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

We are new – we have a new beginning before us.  The Bible has a word: Metanoó or “turn around, change direction.”  It’s usually translated “repent,” but it fits our message today as well.  “Turn from the old ways and go forward into your new beginning.”

Paul reinforces this by saying, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).”

And we should show the fruit of this new focus.  Paul again wrote, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).”

As we get firmly into 2021 let’s show that fruit.  Not looking back, not standing still, but going forwards into God’s plan.”


Padre

Testimony

Illustration of Isaiah by John Heseltine. – Slide 9
Free Bible Images

Testimony – “a public recounting of a religious conversion or experience.”

I have been blessed to hear the testimonies of Pastors Vince and Larry, and more recently last week from Brother James.

When discussing such testimonies with my students I like to call them “Peter Testimonies.”  How someone had played spiritual hide and seek with God, before being confronted by God’s saving grace. 

You might recall when Peter first encountered Jesus he wanted to flee from Him.  “Go away Lord, I am a sinful man.”  But Peter was called and flourished in the Lord.  That is often the nature of Peter Testimonies and that is what makes them such powerful witnessing tools.

A while back Brother Rich K. gave his testimony and it was of a different type.  It is one of meeting the Lord early in life and growing in Him.   In Rich’s case he grew with intent of being preacher even when still a teenager.

My own experience is very similar.   But mine is a “Paul Testimony.”  One of being in the faith from childhood, but becoming caught up in it for its own sake.

Paul in various places talks about his religious credentials, in Philippians 3, he states that he was “circumcised on the eighth day, (and) of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, . . . . as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”  In Acts 22 states “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city (Jerusalem). I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.”

But Saul needed to find the Lord as much as anyone.  He had persecuted the church.  He was caught up in his own righteousness.

He went from Hebrew of Hebrews, super Pharisee complete with cape and utility belt.

To find his salvation and relationship with God.  It was developmental:

In Acts, “zealous for God”

1 Corinthians 15: 9 least of the apostles

In 1 Timothy 1:15 Chief of all sinners

But as we have said before there are many parts to the body.  And when it comes to testimony, this is clearly true.

Some of these other testimonies types are – “The come in the night” testimonies.  It is like when Nicodemus came by night to seek understanding from Jesus.  He had his encounter in secret, whether from fear or by accident.

Mark 5 presents us with a contrast of styles as well:

21 Jesus went back across to the other side of the lake. There at the lakeside a large crowd gathered around him. 22 Jairus, an official of the local synagogue, arrived, and when he saw Jesus, he threw himself down at his feet 23 and begged him earnestly, “My little daughter is very sick. Please come and place your hands on her, so that she will get well and live!”

24 Then Jesus started off with him. So many people were going along with Jesus that they were crowding him from every side.

25 There was a woman who had suffered terribly from severe bleeding for twelve years, 26 even though she had been treated by many doctors. She had spent all her money, but instead of getting better she got worse all the time. 27 She had heard about Jesus, so she came in the crowd behind him, 28 saying to herself, “If I just touch his clothes, I will get well.”

29 She touched his cloak, and her bleeding stopped at once; and she had the feeling inside herself that she was healed of her trouble. 30 At once Jesus knew that power had gone out of him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 His disciples answered, “You see how the people are crowding you; why do you ask who touched you?”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 The woman realized what had happened to her, so she came, trembling with fear, knelt at his feet, and told him the whole truth. 34 Jesus said to her, “My daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your trouble.”

35 While Jesus was saying this, some messengers came from Jairus’ house and told him, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the Teacher any longer?”

36 Jesus paid no attention to[a] what they said, but told him, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” 37 Then he did not let anyone else go on with him except Peter and James and his brother John. 38 They arrived at Jairus’ house, where Jesus saw the confusion and heard all the loud crying and wailing. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this confusion? Why are you crying? The child is not dead—she is only sleeping!”

40 They started making fun of him, so he put them all out, took the child’s father and mother and his three disciples, and went into the room where the child was lying. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha, koum,” which means, “Little girl, I tell you to get up!”

42 She got up at once and started walking around. (She was twelve years old.) When this happened, they were completely amazed. 43 But Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone, and he said, “Give her something to eat.”

One sought help, but tried it without trying to bring her needs to the attention of anyone but Jesus.   Jairus came humbly but openly to Jesus, and his testimony of though Jesus said to keep it quiet was equally public.

A Phoenician Woman came boldly to Jesus as well.  Though outside the faith, she was willing to make her needs known.

Philip and Eunuch gives us the story of a seeker.  This African man had gone to Jerusalem to seek knowledge, and seemingly left still wanting.  But God sent Philip to meet on the road, and God’s will was made clear to him.

There are loads of models but in each, the needs and personality of the individual gave them a story to tell.

What is your story, where were you found, where will you be found?

What tale do you have to tell?


Padre

Setbacks

Detour, Sign, Warning, Right, Arrow, Roadsign
Pixabay

We are facing a second spike of the Corona virus.   Just as life was beginning to look normal again, whatever that means, we have new lockdown restrictions, which impact our social activities, face to face worship, and our lives more generally. 

It is easy to get discouraged by such things.  Questions like “what now?” rise, and it seems that there is no relief in sight.

But I would like to look at a few individuals in the scripture, that their “improved” lives took backwards turns they might not have expected. 

Joseph in Genesis 37-50 is one of these.  I am not going to look at too many particular verses, but at an overview to make my point.  Joseph, while a younger son, had dreams in which there seemed to be clear prophecy that he was chosen for greatness.  These dreams suggested that he would have authority of his brothers, and in fact over his parents as well.  Things seemed rosy for Joseph.  Later he finds the favour of his father, and he is given a special garment, marking him out as the favourite.  Life was good to be Joseph, then the setback came.  His brothers in a fit of jealousy beat him and sell him into slavery. 

Does he fall into despair at this unexpected turn?  No.  He works hard and wins favour with his master.  He becomes the lead and most trusted servant.  All is good in being Joe again.

But then he comes to the attention of his master’s lustful wife, and being a man of integrity he resists.  False accusations follow and he is thrown into prison.  This time it looks like there is no way out.  Whatever happened to those dreams?  But even there he became favoured.  God remained with him, because he remained with God.  He eventually through more God-centeredness becomes all his dreams predicted, becoming second only to Pharaoh.

There is a lesson in this.  Exodus shows us the same in reverse as well.  God had rescued the Jews with a mighty hand through a series of plagues, and the parting of a sea.  But as soon as the people come up against adversity, they see only the problem, not the solution.  The spies had seen that the Promised Land was good, but all they reported back was the setbacks of walled cities and giants before them.  All except Caleb and Joshua.  They for their part experienced the promise. 

Do we look at situations, and only see what is wrong with them?  Job’s friends and wife were the same.  His blessed life took a detour as well.  But he trusted God, not curse him.  He received all he lost back and more.

The disciples were no different than the people of Exodus , or Job’s friends.   At what we call Palm Sunday, Jesus rode in triumph into Jerusalem.   All was looking up. But then came betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and death.  The disciples despaired.  The put themselves in a self-imposed lock-down (there’s that word again).  But it wasn’t the end of the story.

Romans 8:28 says it all – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

We face the re-emergence new measures.  We see our forward progress, being set back. 

My pastor, back when I was a teenager, told a story about him in college.  He played football.  And in one game, with them trailing by only three points, he received a pass and dodged and weaved his way through the opposition.  Things were looking up, glory was on its way.  Well until he was tackled on the 3 yard line as time ran out.  He was at a Christian university, and as he returned despondent to the bench, his coach asked him a question that changed the course of his life.  He asked, “What does it mean in eternity?”

Our lives may be having setbacks right now, but remember ALL things work together for good!

Padre