Stay in Tune

Pastor Sherry’s message for 4/24, 2022

Scriptures: Acts 5:27-39; Ps 150; Rev 1:4-8; Jn 20:19-31

I don’t know much about organs—the musical instrument—but I have read that among the many “stops” on most organs there are 4 of particular importance:

1. The Diapason or principal stop, which appears to heighten volume;

2. The Flute stop, which gives us the tones of a flute;

3. The String stop, which gives us the tones of string instruments like the violin, viola, etc.;

4. and the Vox Humana (the Human voice), which, ironically, is very seldom in tune. It seems if it is tuned when the temperature is cold, it will go out of tune when the environment warms up. If tuned when warm, it goes out of tune when the AC is turned on. This is such a lovely image of us, isn’t it? We easily get out of tune with God.

The Bible commentator, J. Vernon McGee uses the metaphor of these 4 stops to explain the meaning behind Psalm 150. He says opening up the Diapason/principal stop is like when Jesus stepped up to speak creation into existence. It burst forth in all of its glory! Stars, space, earth all sang out praises to God the Father. Remember, Paul said (Romans 8:19-22) that all creation groans as it awaits Jesus’ 2nd Coming. And Jesus told the Pharisees that even the rocks would cry out if He forbade His disciples from praising Him (Luke 19:40). The Flute stop, when opened, sounded like birds and angel choirs who then added their songs of praise. When the String stop was opened, light hummed across the universe, and all of creation sang in harmony to the Lord!

(Rev. Dr. J. Vernon Mcgee, Commentary on Psalms, pp.191-192.)

As Psalm 150:6 says Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! You see, we were created to worship God. He is both our Creator and our Redeemer. Perhaps you remember the Westminster Shorter Catechism question–written in 1646 by a team of Anglicans and Presbyterians, containing 107 questions that explain Christian doctrine– “What is the chief end [purpose] of man [kind]? The answer is, It is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” By glorify is meant that we give Him the weight He is due because He is preeminent over all other things. Because of His supremacy, we are to praise Him/delight in Him always.

When the Vox Humana was added, however, it was found to be out of tune. We human beings are often out of step with God and out of tune.

So the question presents itself, “How do we humans stay in tune with creation and with God?”

A. Psalm 150 tells us we stay in tune with God when we praise Him and when we allow Him to carry the most weight in our lives.

Many folks today are out of tune with God because they either do not know Him; or, they do not respect Him. Many rich folks believe their money and their ingenuity are all they need. Similarly, numerous university professors, scientists, and medical doctors believe their intelligence saves them. Other folks use drugs, alcohol, serial love affairs, and other addictions to fill the God-shaped hole in their lives. They don’t trust God to help them, so they rely on whatever they can find to comfort themselves or numb themselves out.

Thus, McGee writes in his commentary on Psalm 150, p.194 “Today you and I are living in a created universe that is actually singing praise to God. But men are out of tune. Man is in discord. God’s great purpose is to bring man back into the harmony of heaven.” That is why Jesus went to the Cross, died, and rose again. His costly and loving sacrifice brought those of us who believe in Him back into tune with God and with the universe.

B. The apostles knew this. In our Acts 5:27-39 passage, we read of the account of early persecution of the enfant Christian Church. Led by the Sadducees, the Sanhedrin convenes to reemphasize to the apostles—who they have arrested–that they should stop teaching in Jesus’ name.

Peter and the other 10 reply (v.29) We must obey God rather than men! Jesus had told them (in the Great Commission) to take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Teaching and preaching in the Temple was their faithful response to the first part of this command.

Their insistence on continuing, despite the Sanhedrin’s condemnation of them, infuriated the Jewish leaders. Some hotheads among them urged them to execute them. But Rabbi Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher, recommended a wiser course of action (vv.38-39)…in the present case, I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God. (The presence of Christ-followers to this day proves Gamaliel right.) Gamaliel prevailed and the apostles kept right on preaching the Gospel.

Even though they were flogged, they rejoiced due to their release, but also due to God’s power over the views of men, and because they had shared in some of Jesus’ suffering (the flogging). They had seen the Resurrected Christ! They were empowered by the Holy Spirit. And they were very clear about their purpose. Obeying Jesus, whatever the cost, was how they stayed in tune with Jesus.

C. Our Gospel lesson, John 20:19-32, recounts the need for the apostles, but especially for Thomas, to see and to touch the risen Christ. The 10 believed because they saw Him and interacted with Him on Easter Day. Because Thomas was absent at the time, he missed out. But once he touched Jesus, a week later, he knew the resurrection stories were true.

He then exclaims (v.28) My Lord and my God! This is a profound and a beautiful expression of his faith. But notice that Jesus goes on to bless all of us who have not seen Him in the flesh–who have not touched His crucifixion wounds—and yet we believe. Clearly, Jesus commends faith that arises out of something beyond physical experience. As the writer to the Hebrews asserts (11:1) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. You just know that you know, even if you can’t always explain it to someone else. We stay in tune with Jesus when we believe in Him.

D. In Revelation 1:4-8, the apostle John journeys into heaven (in a vision) where he sees that Jesus is the One Who is all He claimed to be:

1. He is the faithful witness the One who came from heaven to earth to reveal and explain to us the Truth.

2. He is the firstborn from the dead the first to rise from the dead and never to die again. Jairus’ 12 year old daughter, the widow of Nain’s son, and Lazarus were all raised from the dead by Jesus. However, unlike Jesus, they all experienced death a second time. By His resurrection, Jesus Christ overcame death for Himself and for us.

3. He is the ruler of the kings of the earth the rightful heir to the promised eternal throne of King David.

4. He is (v.8) the Alpha and the Omega…the One who is [currently in heaven], and who was [walked the earth 2000+ years ago], and who is to come, the Almighty.

In verse 4, John mentions the seven spirits before His [God the Father’s] throne. This means the complete Holy Spirit, not that there are 7 separate Holy Spirits. The number 7, to the Hebrews, meant either perfection or completeness. Consider how often 7—for completeness–appears in the context of God’s dealings with humankind: The Sabbath and worship of God occur on the 7th day (We Christ-followers changed it to the first day of the week in honor of Jesus’ resurrection.) In Joseph’s Egypt, there were 7 years of plenty and 7 of famine. Namaan the Syrian was told to wash in the Jordan 7 times to be healed of his leprosy. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylonia, was crazy for 7 years. There are 7 Beatitudes in Matthew. There are 7 petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. Seven loaves (and 2 fish) fed the 5,000. Jesus made 7 statements from the Cross. (See J. Vernon McGee, Commentary on Revelation, p.39.) And John reports in his Gospel that Jesus made 7 “I am” statements, all ways of saying He was and is God. So, we stay in tune with Jesus when we believe He is completely and thoroughly God, as well as man.

Our scripture passages today all attest to the ways we can stay in tune with our God:

1. When we praise God and allow Him to carry the most weight in our lives.

2. When we obey God.

3. When we learn to enjoy God first of all.

Think of what He has done and continues to do for us. It is human nature to think we experience joy when we meet our needs first. But the paradox is the Truth: When we learn to enjoy God above self (and others), we tap into the “organ stop” that blasts out joy.

4. When we believe without seeing Jesus in the flesh.

5. When we believe because we know Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the be-all and the end-all, the completeness of God.

Alleluia, He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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Easter Punctuation

Pastor Sherry’s message for 4/17/22,

Scriptures: Acts 10:34-43; Ps 188:1-2, 14-24; 1Cor 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12

Remember the days of punctuation marks? Now we tend to use emojis. But try to recall the time when a comma, a period, a question mark, and an exclamation point were commonly used and meant something. Now ask yourself, “Easter morning: Would I describe my response to this day with a period, a comma, an ! or a ?” If it’s just another day, having no real meaning for you, then a period will do. But maybe a comma better describes it…it gives you a pause as you think about it, but then you rapidly move on to the next thought or activity, and the next, etc. Non-believers, if they consider it at all, would probably use a ? Huh?

This week I saw one of those episodes on the news where they ask folks on the street what they think of certain issues. This time, the interviewer asked people in a New York City park what Easter was. Sadly, most didn’t know. A few said it’s about the bunny, finding eggs, and eating chocolate. Only one woman said that Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We truly are living in a post-Christian America. But for those of us who love Jesus, Easter deserves a series of exclamation points. Fireworks emojis might also capture it. You may even throw in some smiley faces with hearts and praying hands.

But to the eyewitness disciples that original Easter, their morning was punctuated first by a period. They thought Jesus was dead, gone, buried, period. End of story. Their expectations of Him as their Messiah were disappointed. They were overwhelmed with dejection, grief and sorrow. Then the women arrive and tell what seems an unbelievable or even a crazy tale. His tomb is empty? A question mark at this point is more distressing than a period. A ? introduces doubt; it’s perplexing. Where could His body be? Who might have taken it? And why?

But thank God for angels, supernatural messengers (that requires an exclamation point)! Two angels are present to say (Luke 24:5-6) Why [?] do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ [?] The angels ask them a question, but they also expect them to remember what Jesus had said to them, repeatedly. OK, now they remember—thanks for reminding us! Even so, Peter and John (John 20:8) race to the tomb to see for themselves. Later that evening, the resurrected Jesus appears to the others. As is common with many folks, the disciples only believe when they can see for themselves. (Joe LoMusio, as quoted by Chuck Swindoll in The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, Word Publishing, 1998, pp.171-172}.

By the end of Easter Day, the periods are gone. The question marks have been satisfactorily resolved. As our readings today attest, there remain, instead, several massive exclamation points! Alleluia, He is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

St. Luke, in Acts 10:34-43, wants us to know that one reason for an exclamation point was that Jesus’ death on the Cross—followed by His resurrection–had opened the way for Gentiles, like ourselves, to gain entrance into God’s Kingdom. As we have often noted, ethnic divisions were deeply ingrained in the Jews and others in 1st century Israel. For them, there were only two categories: Jews (the chosen people) and Gentiles (everyone else). Knowing this, Peter is surprised to be summoned to the home of the Roman centurion, Cornelius (who commanded and led over 600 soldiers). His household already knew about and believed in Jesus. Peter enters his home and announces: (v.34) I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men [and women] from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.

His sermon from verses 36-43 is truly a great summary of the entire Gospel. In short, he says Jesus lived and walked among us, preaching, teaching, healing, and doing miracles; He died on the Cross for our sins;

Then He rose again, demonstrating His power over sin and death. Following Peter’s sermon, the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his “congregation.” Peter considered this to be the Gentile Pentecost, and proceeded to baptize these Roman believers into the enfant Christian Church.

Scholars tell us that Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, was a Hillel psalm. This meant it was one of several psalms sung from memory at the Passover meal. Jesus would have sung it with the apostles after they drank the final cup of wine at their Seder supper. The psalm celebrates the victory of a reigning king who had once been looked down upon by rival nations.

Several verses are particularly meaningful when viewed in the light of the resurrection: Verse 18 reads (and prophetically, Jesus would be the speaker) I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord…He has not given Me over to death. Jesus was laid dead into a tomb; but He did not remain there as we would. Instead, He rose again, overcoming death! And, in verses 22-23 He says the stone [the Rock: Jesus] the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah; they rejected the cornerstone. Later, Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:4 As you come to Him [Jesus], The Living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…. So a 2nd exclamation point is that Jesus’ resurrection fulfilled Old Testament prophecies (from the Psalms).

Third, St. Paul exhorts us to believe (in 1 Corinthians 15:19-26) that Jesus’ resurrection is the defining moment of Christianity.

First, (vv.5-8) he catalogues who all saw Jesus following His resurrection:

1. Peter,

2. The 12 minus Judas;

3. More than 500 disciples;

4. His brother, James;

5. And Paul himself.

Scholars tell us there is more eye-witness evidence that Jesus lived after His resurrection than there is for the existence of Julius Caesar (and many other important historical persons). There are many ancient manuscripts (all in museums now) that cite Christ’s resurrection. Josh and Sean McDowell, who wrote More than a Carpenter, researched proof of the resurrection and spent more than 700 hours discovering how well validated it is.

Next, in verses 13-19, Paul asserts that our entire faith depends upon the truth of the resurrection: Verse 14 If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. In other words, Christ’s resurrection from the dead is incontrovertibly true and forms the basis of our belief in Him. We worship a God who has the power to bring His Son back from the dead. I want a strong, powerful God like that, don’t you? We worship a God who loves us so much that He sacrificed His one and only Son to redeem us. We worship Jesus, the One and Only, the God Who—due to His self-sacrificing love for us and His obedience to His Father–was willing to suffer to cover the cost of our sins. The sinless Son of God gave up His life so we might have new life, and have it abundantly. We can connect directly with the Father because Jesus opened the way for us (As He hung on the cross, the Temple curtain—a huge thick drape of goat’s hair—was torn in two). We can anticipate being resurrected because Jesus opened the way for us. And, when He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead, He will destroy death…Praise God!

I’ve already commented extensively on our Gospel lesson today. Let me just add how ironic it is that the first to disbelieve Jesus’ resurrection were the apostles themselves. They didn’t believe the reports of the women who saw the open and empty tomb. Even after Peter viewed the physical evidence, he had to go off by himself to puzzle out what it meant. However, let’s offer them some grace—though difficult to believe, Jesus’ resurrection is nevertheless true, and they eventually got it!

As we wish one another Happy Resurrection Day, let us punctuate the day with exclamation marks as we remember the lyrics to an old Welsh Easter hymn:

We welcome glad Easter when Jesus arose

And won a great victory over His foes.

Then raise your glad voices, all Christians in song.

Bring glad Easter tidings to Jesus your King.

We tell how the women came early that day

And there at the tomb found the stone rolled away.

We sing of the angel who said: ‘Do not fear!

Your Savior is risen and He is not here.

We think of the promise which Jesus did give:

That he who believes in Me shall also live.’

Someone named S. Lewis Johnson has said (I don’t know who he is but I want to give him credit), “The Resurrection is God’s Amen! to Christ’s statement, “It is finished.” Alleluia, He is risen! The Lord is risen Indeed! Thanks be to God!

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Looking for Jesus

Pastor Sherry’s message for 04/10/2022

Scriptures: Isa 50:4-9a; Ps 31:9-16; Phil 2:5-11; Lk 23:1-49

Two of my favorite Bible commentators, the Rev. John Fearless (a Baptist) and the Rev. Delmer Chilton (a Lutheran), who call themselves “Two Bubbas and a Bible”), recount the following story:

“…an American was vacationing in a small [Danish] fishing village. On Sunday, he attended services in the ancient church, which dated back almost a thousand years. He went early so as to see everything. There was one thing that stood out. During the prelude, everyone who came in stopped halfway down the aisle and, turning to the right, bowed in the direction of the blank wall. Everybody, no exceptions. When the choir and the pastor came in, they too stopped and bowed to the blank wall. After the service, the visitor stood outside and talked to a few folks who knew English and eventually he asked them about the practice of bowing to the blank wall.

“And they all said, “We don’t know, we’ve always done that.” He asked the pastor. He said, “I don’t know. They were doing that when I came and I saw no reason to stop them.” The pastor did promise to find out and write the visitor.

“A few months later he received a letter from the Danish pastor. When the church was built, around the year 1150AD, there had been a mural of the Madonna and Child painted on that spot on the wall. At the time of the Reformation, when the Danish church went from Catholic to Lutheran, the mural was painted over and the people were instructed to stop bowing to the wall. But the people of the village ignored a long line of ministers telling them to stop bowing to the wall, until the clergy gave up, and eventually the people and the pastors all bowed to the wall and all forgot why.”

(Fearless & Chilton, The Lectionary Lab, Year C, 2015, pp.142-143)

I think this story provides such a good example of how our expectations and habitual ways of acting—even if incorrect—get set into stone. This is Palm Sunday, the day we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. They welcomed Him as King and Redeemer, laying palm fronds at the feet of the donkey on which He rode and shouting “Hosanannas,”—the Hebrew version of “hurray” or “glory be!” Jewish kings traditionally rode donkeys rather than large white chargers (horses), as we would imagine. So, He entered the Holy City as Israelites would have expected of a King. Then, as they observed Him teach daily in the Temple, we see some become more and more disappointed in Him. The Jewish religious leaders find Him intelligent and extremely knowledgeable about Scripture—and able to cast out demons and heal people– but not their idea of the Messiah they expected, so they charged Him with blasphemy.

Judas, too, expected a military Messiah who would rid the Jews of pagan Roman control. Over time, he lost faith in Jesus’ meek and mild approach. He wanted the King Jesus we will see in the end times, at His second advent, coming to slay evil doers. Surely some of the crowd that gathered at His trials felt similarly. The Messiah Jesus demonstrated was not the Messiah they wanted. So they would rid themselves of Him, and continue, figuratively, their empty, vapid practice of “bowing to the blank wall.” They are still waiting for the Messiah. (Please understand I am not mocking the current practice of Jewish worshippers who pray at the “Wailing Wall” in Jerusalem. Although it is a blank wall, it is also the remains of the Temple and they gather there to pray not to the wall but to our God.)

Just prior to our Isaiah passage today (50:4-9a), in verses 1-3, God explains why He has set Israel aside: It is precisely because they rejected His Son, Jesus. Persisting in “bowing to the blank wall,” they overlooked how perfectly Jesus’ life fulfilled Isaiah’s descriptions of the Suffering Servant. Isaiah 50 contains the 3rd of 4 Servant Songs. All four, written some 700 years before Christ, describe exactly how the Messiah would behave. Biblical scholars tell us the Jews did not know what to make of these passages. Some parts seem predictive of the prophet Isaiah’s life, but most descriptions contained therein do not fit him. They do fit Jesus.

In today’s passage, Jesus is speaking (thru the prophet). In verses 4-5 He says the Father has given Him an “instructed tongue.” He steeped Himself in Scripture study, during His years as a carpenter, before beginning His public ministry, so He knew God’s Word. Then God guided His actions thru prayer The Sovereign Lord has opened My ears. Jesus conversed often with His Father; He listened to and obeyed God’s directions.

Jesus asserts I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back.

The Gospel writers–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—all record His treatment at the hands of His enemies (v.6) I offered My back to those who beat Me, My cheeks to those who pulled out My beard; I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting. He could have resisted them (John 19:11), or disappeared as He had in Nazareth (Luke 4:28-30); but He knew He had to die on the cross to save us from the penalty God’s justice demanded for our sins.

Isaiah further records that because Jesus trusted in God, His Father, He was able to suffer through what they did to Him (v.7b-9) Therefore have I set My face like flint [He was determined], and I know I will not be put to shame. He Who vindicates Me is near…It is the Sovereign Lord who helps Me. They may not have seen Him as their Messiah, but He is God’s Messiah and He is our Messiah.

Psalm 31 was written by King David as a prayer for deliverance from his enemies. The portion we read responsively today (vv.9-16) seems to speak prophetically for both David and, later, Jesus. In verses 9-10, they both are asking for God’s mercy because they are exhausted physically and emotionally. In verses 11-12, David and Jesus both express grief at being abandoned by their friends in their time of need (remember Peter, James and John fell asleep in the Garden and only John stood as a witness at the foot of Jesus’ cross).

Despite their grim circumstances and their despair, however, both Jesus and David exclaim (vv.14-15) I trust in You O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hands….Actually the number of our days are all in God’s hands. No wonder God considered David, “a man after My [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). No wonder God honored Jesus’ great faith and obedience.

Paul describes Jesus’ great faith and obedience in Philippians 2:5-11. Scholars believe this was originally a hymn sung by the early Christian Church that Paul is quoting to make his point. He wants us to have the same attitude as Jesus: Be humble; Be guided by agapeo love, that longsuffering, loyal, merciful, grace-filled love that God has for all of us. Further, he wants us to be cognizant of Jesus’ great sacrifice of Himself for us: He left His heavenly prerogatives behind—but not His divinity–when He left heaven for His incarnation. The King of the Universe became a servant so as to…(1) walk among us; (2) experience life as we do; and (3) to die—though sinless–as a criminal to redeem us.

God the Father then exalted Him such that at His name, every knee in the universe will [someday] bow and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. This means all evil doers. This means all atheists and nonbelievers.

This means everyone who worships other gods. All of them, and all of us, will agree that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.

Our Gospel passage is the Passion of Christ according to Luke (23:1-49). It’s a long passage in which Dr. Luke leads us from Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin to His death on the Cross and burial in the tomb.

Remember, Luke’s motive was to write an orderly account of Jesus’ ministry by interviewing Jesus’ contemporaries, followers, and relatives. He compiled and recorded eye-witness testimony from those who were there. So we learn some in the Sanhedrin paid for slanderers to bring false accusations against Him. They claimed He …subverted our nation, though He never incited violence. They lied and claimed He…opposes paying taxes to Caesar, when He had in fact produced a fish with a coin in its mouth to (Matthew 22:21), Render to Caesar what is Caeser’s; i.e., to pay the tax. They charged Him with falsely claiming to be the Messiah when He was and is the Messiah.

Pilate tried to get the mob to back off, but they pressured him to crucify Him—just a few days following His triumphal entry into the city.

Jesus hung on the Cross from 9am until 3:00pm. Darkness covered the land from noon until 3. He called out to God, surrendering His spirit to the Father.

We also learned that a Pharisee named Joseph of Arimathea (a town 20 mi. NW of Jerusalem) laid His body in a new tomb, just before the Sabbath began. Jesus was the passover Lamb, slain to save us from death.

As John the Baptist proclaimed (John 1:29) Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Are we like the folks in Jerusalem, looking for our idea of Jesus? In looking for the Jesus we have placed in a box bordered by our own expectations, are we overlooking the One who is real and true? This Holy Week, we want to look for Him as He reveals Himself… in the Scriptures; in prayer; in our worship together (Good Friday service at noon; Easter Sunday); and in our lives.

We want to cast off all of our mistaken ideas of Who we imagined He is (stop bowing to the blank wall) and come to terms with the reality of Who He is:

(1) Suffered, crucified for our sakes;

(2) Risen, glorified, opening the way to heaven for us;

(3) Later resurrected as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

We want to say, like Jesus and like King David, in Psalm 31:16) Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Amen! May it be so!

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Resisting Temptation

Pastor Sherry’s message for March 6, 2022

Scriptures: Deut 26:1-11; Ps 91:1-16; Ro 10:8-13; Lk 4:1-13

Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet and playwright once wrote, “I can resist everything but temptation.” The story is told of a pastor who stayed in a moderately-priced Bed and Breakfast (B&B). He noticed at breakfast that the table was set with a lovely pewter salt and pepper set and with a matching pewter cream pitcher. He coveted the beautiful items before him and thought to himself how easily he could hide them away in his suitcase. He told himself the inn would hardly miss them. Then he thought some more and decided–if his theft became known–that it would…

1.) Definitely damage his Christian example to the inn-keeper,

2.) Scandalize his congregation,

3.) Form a terrible example to his children,

4.) And embarrass his wife and himself.

So he talked himself out of pilfering the items. Later, on a Sunday like today, when the Gospel centered on Jesus’ temptations, he told of his own temptation at the B&B. He wanted his congregation to know that we all–even including their pastor–could be tempted, but that the Christ-like response was to turn away from the seductions of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

A week later, a package arrived addressed to him. It contained that very set of dining accessories that he had been tempted to steal. Some kind soul in his congregation wanted him to have the pewter items he had loved at the inn, purchased them from the BNB, and sent them to him. The next Sunday he mentioned how grateful he was that someone had sent him the items from the BNB…and then went on to state that he had recently seen a new Lexus he loved (as recorded by Chuck Swindoll in The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, Word Publishing, 1998, p.560).

Temptations are all around us, aren’t they? Are we like Oscar Wilde, unable to resist any? I hope not…and yet some temptations are very difficult to overcome.

Last year, on the First Sunday of Lent, I focused on how Jesus’ temptations were aimed by Satan at Jesus physically (turn stones into bread), psychologically (impress the crowd by jumping from a great height and being saved by angels), and spiritually (worship the devil, not God)—and that the evil one targets us in these ways also. This year, I want to focus on what Scripture tells us about how to overcome temptations:

1. Our Old Testament lesson, from Deuteronomy 26:1-11, focuses on our need to express our gratitude to God. In this passage, Moses was reminding the Israelites to offer to God always the first and finest of their harvest. This was a tangible means of expressing to the Lord their gratitude for all He had done for them:

a. He had fashioned them into a nation — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not Israelites (until God changed Jacob’s name to Israel). They were wandering Arameans (Syrians). 90 + Joseph, his wife and their 2 sons, or 94 of them sojourned in Egypt, where the Egyptians referred to them as He-bar-ew. 400 years later, they exited that country numbering 2 million Israelites.

b. He had led them out of slavery through Moses’ leadership at God’s direction.

c. He had tested and strengthened them during their wilderness wanderings.

d. And He had brought them, after 40 years, into (v.9)…a land flowing with milk and honey. As a kid, I took this literally and envisioned rapid rivers of milk and sluggish rivers of honey all over the Canaanite landscape. This phrase is metaphorical, however, meaning a peaceful, prosperous land. Cows don’t produce milk in chaotic conditions. Bees don’t settle in and manufacture honey when agitated. God was leading them to a new (to them), peaceful land where they could unpack their belongings and set down roots.

If they couldn’t think of anything to thank God for, Moses was suggesting they express gratitude to God for rescue and deliverance; for gracious provision (manna from heaven and water from rock); for His guidance and protection; for His love for them as individuals and as His chosen people.

Gratitude is a very fine place to hang our hats. To be grateful forces us to remember when God has met us and cared for us. Gratitude is also a good means of overcoming temptation. Temptation always focuses on what we do not have at the moment and creates an appetite for it. Gratitude reminds us to be content with what we have—you could say it helps settle cravings, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual.

2. Psalm 91 lays out for us beautifully how extensive is God’s protection of us. J. Vernon McGee talks about how many servicemen he knew in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam who would meditate upon and pray verses from this psalm daily—and then lived to tell their story.

Verse 3 asserts Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare [this can be any kind of trap], and from the deadly pestilence [Covid 19, poisonous gases, and other biological warfare]. Verse 5 declares You will not fear the terror of night [bombing, shelling, saboteurs] nor the arrow that flies by day [bullets or missiles]. Verse 13 proclaims You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent [any fierce enemy known for its strength/lethality]. How reassuring, how comforting to quote to self or comrades the following:

Verse 4 He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. This brings to mind how some bird mothers will cover their chicks as fire sweeps over them. The mother sacrifices her life to keep her babies alive.

Verse 7 promises ten thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. Why? The answer if found in verse 14 “Because He loves me,” says the Lord, ‘I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.’ Here are 2 keys to God’s protection: Loving God, and having respect and reverence for, faith in His name. We can pray these same verses for the Ukrainians currently fighting to save their country. On a less drastic front, we can pray these same verses asking God to protect us from our many temptations.

3. In Romans 10:8-13, Paul is telling us that Jesus’ resurrection is at the very heart of the Gospel. He points out how easy it is to be saved: Verses 9-10 avow …if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. It’s not a matter of impressing God with your goodness or your ability to keep the rules. It’s not even a matter of regular church attendance or of receiving the sacraments—though both are very helpful to us. The thief on the Cross may never have attended Synagogue, nor was her probably baptized, yet Jesus told him his belief in Christ would place him in paradise that day. It’s a matter only of saying yes to Jesus: Believing He was resurrected from the dead, and inviting Him into your heart. And, if we aren’t already convinced, Paul reminds us (v.13) …for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. As I have said here before many times, God has made it easy. It is only skeptical people who want to make it more difficult than it is.

4. Jesus’ temptation by Satan is covered in 3 of the 4 Gospels– Matthew, Mark, and Luke—who were all concerned with demonstrating Jesus’ humanity. Each gospel assures us that Jesus was tempted as we are. We are only told of 3 major temptations, but we can be confident that our Lord was constantly bombarded by the evil one for 40 days–and did not succumb.

He is our model for overcoming temptation. First, He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Remember, He was filled with the Holy Spirit at His baptism just prior to His 40 days in the desert. We too are empowered by the Spirit. We can’t often overcome temptation just by our own will-power. When I worked as a psychologist at a residential treatment center for alcohol and drug addiction, I often told the clients that if will power were sufficient to free them, they would already be free. For many people, will-power is not enough. We need the power of God to break free. The right thing to do is often the difficult thing to do…we need God’s help to do the right thing. Who did the pastor in my opening story think reminded him of the consequences of his proposed theft? That wasn’t just his own thinking. That was the Holy Spirit bringing to his mind all of the negative consequences of his proposed theft.

Second, Jesus was committed to following the Father’s will. This is a tough one for many of us. To discover God’s will for us, we need to read the Bible often to learn God’s general will for us; and then pray and listen to learn God’s will for us in a specific situation. The Rev. Mike Flynn, a famous American faith healer, says he envisions Jesus on His heavenly throne, looks to His face, asks if he should take a certain action, and looks to see if Jesus nods “yes” or shakes His head, “no.” Then he does what he believes the Lord has told him.

Third, Jesus quoted Scripture to Satan! Jesus countered every test with a verse from Scripture. Satan can cause us—like Eve in the garden when he asked, “Did God really say…?”—to mistrust God if we do not know His Word well. The Bible teaches us to know God’s character, and to recognize His Word, so that if someone tells us something is OK to do, we can extrapolate correctly what God would want us to do or to avoid. A lot of contemporary fictional works (novels, TV shows, and movies) promote sex outside of marriage as normative and right—just as they excuse abortion and encourage curses that abuse God’s name. These are sins. But we know that while God loves the sinner, He still is the final word on what constitutes sin, and He wants us to avoid these actions/behaviors/attitudes.

I remember when I first moved to assist at a church in New Orleans in 2003. The church clerical staff was reading Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, and thought it was true. I was appalled! Brown was raised a Christian, but totally misrepresents the truth of Christ in his novel. Skillfully weaving in fact with fiction, the author claims in his novel that the Catholic Church has for centuries tried to cover up the “fact” that Jesus bore a child with Mary Magdalene. Lord have mercy! Jesus Christ was sinless! He would never had had sex with a disciple only to abandon her and the child—afterall, he made provisions for His widowed mother from the Cross. My boss and I spent time with the staff to point out to them the errors and heresy in the novel. It became clear to me then that it is difficult to discern truth from error if you don’t know Scripture.

So how might we overcome temptation? We can…

1. Express our gratitude to God for all He has done for us.

This involves being mindful of and thankful for our many blessings. Each day recently, I awake, turn on the news, and praise God that the Ukrainians have held out against a massive aggressor for another day. Pray that these brave Ukrainians might have water, heat, food, electricity, medicine, and safety—all things we take for granted.

2. Pray for the Ukrainians to be protected and pray that God would continue to protect us from the assaults of our enemies, both human and demonic.

3. Rest in the knowledge that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

We can also look to Jesus’ example: He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. He was obedient to God’s will. And He responded to Satan’s temptations by quoting Scripture. As we work on our spiritual inventory this Lent, let’s put into practice the strategies our God has given us to overcome temptation. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory [over temptations] through our Lord Jesus Christ!

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

The Trouble With Forgiveness

Pastor Sherry’s message for 2/20/22

Scriptures: Gen 45:3-15; Ps 37:1-11, 39-40; Lk 6:27-38

Corrie ten Boom was a Holocaust survivor, a Christian, and a member of the Dutch underground resistance during WWII. Scott Sauls (in his book, A Gentle Answer, Thomas Nelson, 2020, pp.19-20) tells the following story to demonstrate the trouble with forgiveness:

“After the defeat of Hitler’s Nazi regime in World War II, Corrie returned to Germany to declare the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. One evening, after giving her message, she was approached by a man who identified himself as a former Nazi guard from the concentration camp at Ravensbruck, where she had been held and where her sister, Betsie, had died.

“When Corrie saw the man’s face, she recognized him as one of the most cruel and vindictive guards from the camp. He reached out his hand and said to her, “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea! You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk. I was a guard there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?” About this encounter, Corrie writes:

‘I stood there—I whose sins had again and again been forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place. Could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I ever had to do . . . I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. . . . But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently.’

“As she reached out her hand to the former guard, Corrie says that something incredible took place. She continues: ‘The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ . . . I had never known love so intensely, as I did then. But even then, I realized it was not my love . . . It was the power of the Holy Spirit.’”

The trouble with forgiveness is that it is easy to talk about but difficult to do. It feels at the time like the emotional equivalent of having your toe-mails curled backwards.

Remember the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons by Bill Watterson? In one of them, Calvin—about 6YO–is sharing his guilt with his tiger friend, Hobbes. He admits he feels bad for calling someone named Susie names and for hurting her feelings. He says he is sorry. (Good for him!) Hobbes, a wise toy tiger, suggests Calvin apologize to Susie. After thinking it through for a moment, Calvin replies, “I keep hoping there’s a less obvious solution.” Isn’t that just the truth for most of us? We know that apologizing or asking for forgiveness is going to require that we humble ourselves and admit our fault. We also suspect that this action will be emotionally painful for us.

Jesus gives us His take on forgiveness in this famous portion of the Gospel of Luke (6:27-38). It is a continuation of the Sermon on the Plain. Jesus directs us to (v.27)love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. YIKES! This is such a tall order! Foundational to the ability to do as He directs is a willingness to forgive. Corrie ten Boom found it very difficult to extend a hand of forgiveness to the former Ravensbruck guard.

She knew she had just talked about it publically, and hated to be seen as a hypocrite—if she could not. And she wisely asked Jesus to help her. Such forgiveness is beyond our human abilities. It requires the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit.

Additionally, in verse 29, Jesus commands us to famously “turn the other cheek.” Rev. Dr. J. Vernon McGee tells the story of an Irish prize fighter who was converted and became an itinerent pastor. “He happened to be in a new town setting up his evangelistic tent when a couple of tough thugs noticed what he was doing. Knowing nothing of his background, they made a few insulting remarks. The Irishman merely turned and looked at them. Pressing his luck, one of the bullies took a swing and struck a glancing blow on one side of the ex-boxer’s face. The former boxer shook it off and said nothing as he stuck out his jaw. The bully took another glancing blow on the other side. At that point the preacher swiftly took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, and announced, “The Lord gave me no further instructions,” Whop! ( As related by J. Vernon McGee in Charles Swindoll’s Tale of a Tardy Oxcart, 1998, p 214.)

Clearly this is a joke as Jesus told Peter the trouble with forgiveness is that we are to forgive the same person not 7 but 77 times (Matthew 18:22). Jesus sums it up by charging us to (v.31)Do to others as you would have them do to you. We are not to seek revenge or repay evil with evil. Instead, we are called to treat everyone– even enemies– with love and mercy.

Furthermore, He exhorts us (vv.37-38)Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For, with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

The story is told of the famous artist, Leonardo Da Vinci. He was painting “The Last Supper,” (in oils on a plaster wall in a convent in Milan, Italy) and had fashioned the face of Judas at the table to resemble one of his greatest detractors. Then, when he approached painting the face of Christ, he found he could not get it right. He tried and tried unsuccessfully, until he repented of how he had depicted the Judas figure. As soon as he painted over his enemy’s likeness with one more anonymous, he found he could then depict Jesus’ face.

Notice how God withheld blessing Da Vinci’s great work until the artist let go of avenging himself. The trouble with un-forgiveness is that it blocks our ability to receive God’s blessings. The “Cancel Culture” today tells us it is OK and even expected of us to get revenge. But according to Christ, we are blessed in the measure to which we bless others.

Jesus’ admonitions to forgive, not judge, and not condemn are so beautifully lived out by Old Testament Joseph (Genesis 45:3-15). Joseph is probably the most Christ-like person described in the Old Testament. Recall that his 10 brothers from another mother had sold him into slavery (he was about 17). They fully expected him to die in Egypt, as slaves were not treated well. They compounded their sin by lying to their father about Joseph’s supposed death, and causing him great grief. His grief was so profound and so agonizing that his brother Judah ended up leaving the family camp to live among Canaanites for a time.

But because of Joseph’s supernatural skill as a “seer,” he was rescued from prison by Pharaoh to interpret (see the meaning of) his ominous and perplexing dreams (by this point Joseph was 30YO). Previously, he had been able to see into the motives of his brothers, which got him sold into slavery. He had also correctly read the motives of Potipher’s wife, but received a prison sentence anyway. And, finally, his ability to see into the future of his prison roommate’s life had brought him to the attention of Pharaoh.

Now, with his brothers gathered around him in all his splendor (aged 39, having lived in Egypt for 22 years), as Vizier of Egypt, he sees as well as discerns and reveals God’s purposes in what his brothers had done to him. Prior to this passage, he has tested his felonious brothers twice to see if their character has changed at all in the 22 years since he last saw them.

It appears they have come to regret their past actions toward him, as well as the inconsolable grief they have caused their father, Jacob.

So, as per Peterson’s The Message, he tells his kin–>I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t feel badly, don’t blame yourselves for selling me. God was behind it. God sent me here ahead of you to save lives. There has been a famine in the land now for two years; the famine will continue for five more years—neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me on ahead to pave the way and make sure there was a remnant in the land, to save your lives in an amazing act of deliverance. So you see, it wasn’t you who sent me here but God. He set me in place as a father to Pharaoh, put me in charge of his personal affairs, and made me ruler of all Egypt.

The trouble with forgiveness is that it is difficult for us to offer. Our sinful human nature wants us to pursue revenge. But God will bless our efforts to forgive others. Joseph’s forgiveness results in a Jew, rising to the #2 power position in all of Egypt. It fulfills the prophetic dreams he had had as a young man. In addition, God uses Joseph to save his Father, all 11 of his brothers, and his extended family (approximately 90 people in all). He also saved unnumbered thousands of Egyptians and other Gentiles.

Joseph also demonstates the truth of Psalm 37, which is “Do not fret.” No matter what our circumstances, we do not need to worry.

Verse 3 tells us to Trust in the Lord and do good. Verse 4 encourages us to delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. It took 22 years, but Joseph—despite being sold into slavery and falsely accused of rape– does not appear to have lost his trust in God.

He did not get angry with God, he forgave his brothers, and God delivered him.

I think that examples like that of Old Testament Joseph and of Corrie ten Boom validate for us that it is possible for us to forgive others and to extend love to our enemies. Even though difficult for us, we can do it with God’s help.

We want to forgive because…

1. Christ commands it of us.

2. Christ demonstrated it to us, by forgiving us through His saving death on the Cross.

Stuart Strachan Jr. relates a tale written by Ernest Hemingway in this way: “The story revolves around a father and his teenage son Paco, set in Spain. Paco was an extremely common name in the Spain of that time. With desires to become a matador and to escape his father’s control, Paco runs away to the capital (from which the title is derived) of Spain, Madrid.

His father, desperate to reconcile with his son, follows him to Madrid and puts an ad in a local newspaper with a simple phrase: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the Madrid newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you.” Hemingway then writes, “the next day at noon in front of the newspaper office there were 800 “Pacos” all seeking forgiveness.” The world is full of people in need of forgiveness and reconciliation. The model for such forgiveness is most profoundly found in Jesus Christ.”

3. And because God gives back to us as good as we give.

This week, let’s allow the Holy Spirit to bring to our minds those people we need to forgive. Then let us go before the throne of God and offer up our desire, our intent to forgive them. God can work with the fact that we may only want to want to forgive. Pray for those persons daily for 30 days and watch and see what our Lord does to them and to us.

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Alleluia, Alleluia!

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Changing our Lives for the Better

Pastor Sherry’s message for January 2, 2022

Scriptures: Jer 31:7-14; Ps 147:12-20; Eph 1:3-19; Jn 1:1-18

The story is told….of a guy named Bill who called his folks to wish them a Happy New Year. His dad answered the phone. Bill said, “So, dad, what’s your New Year’s Resolution for 2022?” His dad answered, “To make your mother as happy as I can each day of this new year.” When Bill’s mother got on the line, he asked her the same question: “Mom, what’s your New Year’s resolution?” His mom replied, “Why, to make sure your dad keeps his New Year’s resolution.”

An unknown wit has added, “Dear Lord, my prayer for this New Year is to develop a fat bank account and a thin body. Please don’t mix these up like You did in 2021.”

This is the time of year that we resolve to begin again to make a better person of ourselves: Perhaps we resolve to be less critical of others and more grace-filled. Perhaps we choose to tame our tempers or our frustrations with others. We may decide to count to 10, to perfect deep breathing (inhale through the nose to a count of four; hold for a count of 4; exhale from the mouth to a count of 5). It is a robust finding in both psychological and medical research that these techniques lower our blood pressure and our respirations, and help us to relax. We may try to breathe out anger, then breathe in peace. Maybe we resolve to read a Bible passage each day, or to pray more regularly. Maybe we aim to become less self-focused and more loving towards others, more Christ-like.

Whatever resolutions you have made—and I hope you have made some—our Scriptures today focus on changing our lives for the better.

A. Jeremiah 31:7-14, our Old Testament lesson, is derived from a dark time in the history of Judah/Jerusalem (around 587 BC). A wicked nonbeliever, a puppet king, Zedekiah rules. The Northern Kingdom (Israel) has already been destroyed and dispersed by the Assyrians (722 BC). As onlookers, the citizens of the Southern Kingdom have learned nothing from Israel’s example. So now King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians is attacking Jerusalem. His 30 month siege resulted in horrible deprivation. Those within Jerusalem’s walls had plenty of water from a natural spring. What they began to lack, though, was food. By the time the Babylonian king broke through the city walls, some had been reduced to eating their children. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city and the Temple, and carted off all the able-bodied to Babylon.

In the midst of this awful set of circumstances, Jeremiah is prophesying beyond this horrible time to reassure the people of God’s love. Yes, their idolatry (spiritual adultery) has brought upon them God’s just punishment. But the Lord wants them to know—that at some future date– He will gather them up from wherever they are and return them to “the Holy Land.” Furthermore, embedded in this message of comfort are indications of Jesus’ 1st and 2nd Comings. Yes, God will punish the idolaters; but because He still loves them, He will not abandon them. God says, through the prophet, (v.13) I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow

History tells us God did not give up on His Chosen People! God has not abandoned we true believers either! He sent Jesus Christ to change their lives for the better. He has sent Jesus Christ and He has changed our lives forever! Think back to when you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Haven’t you changed? I have. A show of hands in our congregation confirms that you too have changed, often radically, since being “born again” in Christ.

B. Ps 147 is a hymn of praise to God, the Creator, for His special grace extended to Israel (and by extension to us). It affirms that God controls the universe and all that is in it. Verse 2 reaffirms that the Lord loves Israel, His Chosen People. Just as in the Jeremiah passage, the psalmist prophesies that God will re-gather His people. He also states that God… heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds

A time is coming (2nd Advent of Christ) when God will again visit His people. He will then bless us with peace, plenty, and protection/safety. These actions will certainly change their lives (and ours) for the better.

C. In Ephesians 1:3-19, our New Testament lesson, Paul prays for this church out of his love for them (which he models for us). He wants the Holy Spirit to strengthen them (and us) internally, spiritually, so that they might be rooted and grounded in Christ and rooted and grounded in love. Paul wants them to be so firmly established as Christians that they never doubt God’s love for them.

Finally he prays that they (and we) might be (v.19) filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. If they—and we—are internally strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit, rooted in Christ and grounded in love, as well as filled with the fullness of God, we are going to be radically different, phenomenally better persons! And the impact we have on others will also generate positive changes in them.

D. Finally in the Gospel lesson appointed for today, John 1:1-18, the apostle John wants us to be assured that Jesus Christ was not just present at Creation, but that He spoke Creation into existence. This is why He is called “The Word,” or “the Word made flesh.” The Word spoke and creation came into being. Additionally, John wants us to know that Jesus both brings forth life and is Himself light. John admits that not everyone—then or now–will believe in Jesus, but for those of us who do, we will become/we are children of God. We will have seen God the Father in the face and in the actions of Jesus, His Son.

And, by implication, this faith of ours in Jesus will change our lives for the better.

As we say goodbye to 2021 and embark on what will unfold in 2022, let’s be intentional about changing our lives for the better.

Let’s follow the advice offered by Frances Ridley Havergal in his poem entitled “New Year’s Wishes”:

What shall I wish thee? Treasures of earth?

Songs in the springtime, pleasure and mirth?

Flowers on thy pathway, skies ever clear?

Would this insure thee a happy New Year?

What shall I wish thee? What can be found

Bringing thee sunshine all the year round?

Where is the treasure, lasting and dear,

That shall insure thee a happy New Year?

Faith that increaseth, waking in light;

Hope that aboundeth, happy and bright;

Love that is perfect, casting out fear;

These shall insure thee a happy New Year.

Peace in the Saviour, rest at His feet,

Smile on His countenance, radiant and sweet.

Joy in His presence, Christ ever near!

This will insure thee a happy New Year

In 2022, we have a new opportunity to change our lives for the better. Really, it all hinges on loving God and loving others more. I know I must sound like a broken record to you, as I say this to you repeatedly. But God is love and we worship Him, the God of love. He wants us to become more loving. By being grounded in the love of Jesus, we can change ourselves for the better; and our demonstrations of love will make a more positive impact on the people with whom we interact. If you doubt your ability to do this, remember, I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Amen!

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Epiphany

Nursing Grudges

Pastor Sherry’s message for August/8/2021,

 Scriptures: 2 Sam 18:1-33; Ps 130; Eph 4:25-5:2; Jn 6:35, 41-51

    When I studied the readings for this Sunday, I realized pretty quickly that our Lord was speaking to me.  As a friend of mine from Tallahassee would say, “He had His thumb on my spine!”  You know that happens to us when we hear the Scripture passages read on Sunday, or there is something in the sermon that seems directly meant for me/us.  Back in the mid-80’s, when I was just coming to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, it was hard to get myself to church on Sundays.  It was my only morning to sleep in.  But, often, when I would make myself go anyway, there was always something that spoke directly to me.  I realized that Satan tries to keep us from church.  The very time we think we just can’t go is the exact time that God has something special for us to hear or to learn.

    In our Old Testament lesson, 2 Sam 18:5-33, God really spoke to me this week, so I want to spend our time together this morning examining it.  This is one of those passages where the LORD does not sugar-coat the truth.  We see David, a man after God’s own heart, a mighty warrior and a great King, as a very imperfect father.    The context of the reading is Civil War.  Our passage opens with King David telling his army commanders to take it easy with the young man Absalom.  Why? What’s the deal? To find out we have to hit rewind:

    Some years prior, Amnon, the eldest of David’s sons, (born to David’s 3rd wife, Ahimnoan) raped his half-sister, the beautiful Tamar.  David was angry about this, but did not avenge Tamar.  (The patriarch, Jacob/Israel was going to allow the rapist of his daughter to marry her.)  This enraged his sons who then perpetrated vigilante justice toward the guy.  We don’t know why these two fathers did not bring their daughter’s rapists to justice.  Perhaps King David was still feeling guilty about his own sexual immorality with Bathsheba.  Perhaps he thought, “Who am I to punish him for actions I also took?”  Or maybe he realized this is part of the playing out of the consequences of his past sin:  The prophet Nathan had told him—even though God had forgiven him– Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house (2 Samuel 12:10).  Or perhaps David feared taking any punishing action would bring about some sort of bloodshed.  So, even though he could have insisted Amnon marry Tamar, David did not.  This apparent inability of King David to discipline his wayward son incensed Absalom, Tamar’s full brother (both children of David’s 4th wife, Maaca).  Absalom plotted revenge against Amnon—slyly, covertly– for 2 years.  He did not have the teaching of Paul in our Ephesians 4:26-27 lesson to guide him:  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry; and do not give the devil a foothold.  So he invited Amnon, together with his father’s other sons, to a sheep-shearing festival at his country home.  Absalom got Amnon drunk, then had him killed.  Now, just as David had Uriah killed so he could marry the pregnant Bathsheba, David must realize Absalom’s murder of his eldest son mirrors his own homicidal act.

     Knowing he has committed murder, punishable by death, Absalom hits the road and is separated—in exile– from his father for 3 years.  Scripture tells us that, all that time, David longed to see Absalom and mourned his absence (2 Samuel 13).  Curiously, though, he does not send for him.  Absalom is as good as banished.  David has now lost his 2 eldest sons-1 dead, one exiled. 

    in a complicated maneuver, Joab, David’s cousin and general, manipulates David into calling his Absolom home (2 Samuel 14).  David agrees, but does not allow Absalom into his presence.  Another 2 years go by and Absalom grows embarrassed, embittered.  Again, he has a long time to nurse a grudge against his father.   

    Notice that David is uncharacteristically unforgiving!  God has forgiven him of massive sins, but he has taken and nursed an offense toward his son.  The King has to be urged by his cousin to recall Absalom to Jerusalem.  Then, 2 years later, he has to be again urged by his cousin to reconcile with his son.

    So, 5 years after Absalom has killed Amnon (7 years after the rape of Absalom’s sister), David finally summons him.  He greets him with a kiss, but it is too little, too late.  The damage to their relationship has been compounded.  Many cultures in the ancient Near East then, as now, were “Shame-based cultures” (Honor bound).  A son, even a prince, did not shame his father.  By taking a father’s right to discipline Amnon, Absalom has shamed the King.  David had exhibited his corresponding displeasure by not inviting his son back home.  Contrast this with God’s example in the Prodigal Son story.  Privately David loves him and misses him, but publically his pride has taken a hit, and he harbors an offense against Absalom—he nurses a grudge.  He has built up a wall in his heart.  He has emotionally abandoned his son.

    For his part, Absolom is no better.  After having been exiled for 3 years, then waiting on his father to invite him back into his presence another 2, Absalom has grown embittered.  Like Father, like son.  He too has registered a hit to the pride, to the heart.  He too has taken offense and held onto it.  He too has established walls in his heart against his father.  From there, it’s a simple step to betraying his father.

    So Chapter 15 describes how he campaigns—over the next 4 years–to win over his countrymen.  He was exceedingly handsome, and we know from very robust Social Psychology research, that “pretty people” are often thought of more highly than they may actually deserve.  Though he had slain his ½ brother at his own table (a huge violation of ancient Near Eastern hospitality rules), he is now nice as can be to everyone.  It’s a presidential campaign!  He is kissing babies, promising tax cuts, and making promises he has no intention of keeping.  If he had had TV, he would have been giving interviews on cable news, and funding political ads, trying to displace his aging father in the public eye.  Then, before David even suspects what is happening, Absalom launches a coup.  And so we find ourselves in the current chapter:  Civil War, between father and son!

    David, the seasoned warrior, flees the city.  He has his experienced and loyal, professional army with him (like our Navy Seals, Special Forces, or trained military snipers).  They beg David not to go to battle with them due to his age (mid-50’s or 60’s?); they fear that if he were captured, it would mean certain defeat.  So David sees them off and asks them to spare the life of Absalom.

    But Absalom is not a warrior (he is instead a shrewd politico). He takes time to call in Israelite citizens to bear arms in his name.  These may be like our national guard, having some training, but lacking the experience of life-long soldiers.  The armies encounter each other in a large forest—never a good place for a battle.  Trees, hills, cliffs, and lakes appear to have impeded troop movements.  David’s veterans overcome the larger, inexperienced forces.  Absalom may have been trying to retreat, when his marvelous hair entraps him (He was known for his good looks and his long, thick, beautiful hair).  Even though Joab, David’s cousin (Absolom’s 2nd cousin), had been told to capture, not kill the rebel prince, Joab kills him anyway and buries his body in a pit.  Perhaps Joab reasoned that Absalom’s implacable hate would never soften into forgiveness, and that he would always present a threat to David’s throne.  Whatever his reason, he ruthlessly brings a sad chapter to an end:  A second cousin kills a second cousin; the predicted sword has clearly become embedded in David’s house.

    All that is left now is the duty of telling the king.  In an strange little sidebar, two men compete to bring the news.  Oddly, the priest’s son, Ahimaaz—a speedy runner—wants to bring David the bad news.  But cousin Joab insists on sending a foreign slave, a nimble, fleet-footed Ethiopian.  Ahimaaz beats the Cushite to David, but finds he cannot tell the King his son is dead; neither really can the slave.  They both answer the King obliquely, but David guesses the truth.  David is bereft!  Oh my son, Absalom!  My son, my son, Absalom!  Many commentators call this the most moving scene of a father’s grief in all of literature!  David’s heart appears to be broken.  In spite of all that Absalom had done to hurt him, in spite of having to again flee from a rival king set on killing him, David grieves the loss of his son.

    What might God be saying to us today through this ancient account?  

    1.) What do we do when people we care about take offense?  We cannot hang on to offenses, nurse grudges, or harbor hurt feelings.  They expand over time.  As we see in this account, they harden into bitterness.  They shrivel our hearts and separate us from God.  We must recognize and take responsibility for our own sins of pride—who are we to hold onto resentments when Jesus Christ forgave His murderers from the Cross?  We must forgive the offense, pray for the person who offended us, and attempt to make amends.  From the perspective of time and distance, we can see where either Absalom or David could have mended the breach.

           2.) Isn’t it true that we reap what we sow?  David killed a man so he could have that man’s wife.  In the very next generation one son is sexually immoral, ravaging a woman who was not his wife.  The second son kills the first.  God forgives us of our sins—if we just humble ourselves and ask it of Him.  But He often lets us live with the fruit/the consequences of our mistakes, either in our own lives, or in our children’s or grandchildren’s generations.

3.) Forgive, before it’s too late. I picture King David wailing, keening his grief, sobbing with regret, wishing he had handled Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom differently–three children’s lives ruined. David must have been so sorry that he had not been as competent a father as he had been a king. What if he had sought out God in his parenting, as he did in so many other facets of his life? In Psalm 130:1 the psalmist laments, Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. In parenting, in all things, let us call upon the Lord…for wisdom to respond to our children in a righteous way; for assistance in not taking offense (or holding onto one); and for the grace to forgive as we have been forgiven. Amen! May it be so.

©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

The Dangers of Pride

Pastor Sherry’s message for Jul 11, 2021

Scriptures: 2 Sam 6:1-23; Ps 24; Eph 1:3-14; Mk 6:14-29

Last week, we looked at what Scripture had to say about humility…about how frustration and disappointment—if we will depend upon God–can teach us patience, deepen our faith, and develop our character. This week, as the Lord would have it, our readings demonstrate how our God deals with pride, the opposite of humility.

The following are three illuminating stories of pride:

1. There is a fable of two ducks and a frog who lived together happily in a farm pond. The three were the best of friends. When the hot, dry days of August and September came, however, their pond began to shrink, and it soon became evident they would have to move. This was no problem for the ducks, who could easily fly to another, bigger pond, but the frog was out of luck. One of them developed the bright idea to put a stick in the bill of each duck that the frog could hang onto with his mouth as they flew to another pond. The plan worked well, so well, in fact, that–as they were flying along–a farmer looked up in admiration and mused, “Well, isn’t that a clever idea! I wonder who thought of it?” The frog said, “I did….” Poor frog! Taking credit for the idea led to his death! If he’d kept his mouth shut, he might have survived.

2. During the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War, Union general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. At one point he came to a parapet in the fort, over which he gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers suggested that this was unwise and perhaps he ought to duck while visible to the enemy. “Nonsense,” snapped the general. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist–.” A moment later Sedgwick fell to the ground, fatally wounded. This General was arrogant. His prideful dismissal of his subordinates’ wisdom cost him his life.

3. Finally, A young woman asked for an appointment with her pastor to talk with him about a habitual sin about which she was worried. When she saw him, she said, “Pastor, I have become aware of a sin in my life which I cannot control. Every time I am at church I begin to look around at the other women, and I realize that I am the prettiest one in the whole congregation. None of the others can compare with my beauty. What can I do about this sin?” The pastor replied, “Mary, that’s not a sin, why that’s just a mistake!” The young woman had developed “the big head” about her looks. She was blinded by her pride and failed to consider that she might not have been, as they say, “all that.”

Some well-known proverbs reveal to us what God thinks of our pride:

1. Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction [certainly true of the frog and the general], a haughty spirit before a fall [true of the young woman].

2. Proverbs 19:23 A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit [a humble man] gains honor.

3. Isaiah 25:11 Speaking of one of Israel’s enemies, the prophet announces, God will bring down their pride despite the cleverness of their hands.

Our Scripture passages today reveal more about how God responds to the proud (and to the humble):

A. Our Old Testament reading, 2 Samuel 6:1-23, describes King David’s two attempts to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Back in 1 Samuel 5, we learned that the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant. This was a trunk-sized wooden box, made of acacia wood, and covered with gold. It is said to have been a foreshadowing of Christ. Its wood represented Jesus’ humanity; its gold, His divinity. Thus, the box signified God’s earthly throne or reign and His presence with His people (Immanuel, God with us). So when the Philistines captured it, they thought they had control over Israel’s God and thus over Israel.

But God had other ideas. When the Philistines put the Ark in the temple they had built to their god, Dagon, they were shocked to discover the first morning thereafter that the stature of Dagon had fallen on its face before the Ark. They set Dagon back upright only to discove, on the 2nd morning, that the idol had again fallen before the Ark, this time with its head and hands broken off. God was signifying to them that their idol was witless and powerless before Him.

Next, they tried placing the box in different Philistine cities. But each time, the citizens there broke out in a plague characterized by gross tumors all over the body; and the city was overrun by a horde of rats. Totally freaked out, these citizens would then rush the Ark to another city. In each of the 5 major Philistine cities, the same thing happened. Finally, the Philistines decided it was dangerous for them to hold onto the Hebrew “God-in-the-box.” Respectfully, they placed the box on a cart and let it loose. The cows pulling the Ark “miraculously” traveled back to Israel. Interestingly, the Philistines were not killed for the handling the Ark, due to their ignorance of Torah.

This is where we find ourselves in today’s passage King David wants to bring the Ark to Mt. Zion (highest point of Jerusalem, but with no Temple as yet). So, with all the best of intentions, he takes 30,000 men, 7 choirs, an orchestra and priests, and goes to retrieve the Ark. Obviously, he made of this a big deal. David recognizes that he reigns at the pleasure of God Himself. His government is less a monarchy than a theocracy, with God at the top. Thus, bringing the Ark to Jerusalem would indicate that the Lord was sovereign over both David and all the people.

Again, let’s remember that David’s intentions were the best.

But the way he went about it infuriated God. With our God, the end never justifies the means. The Ark had settled on the property of a man named Abinadab. King David brought a new cart and had Abinadab’s sons, Uzzzah and Ahio, guide the oxen. But, when it looked like ruts in the road might cause the Ark to slide off the cart, Uzzah put his hands on it and was killed…YIKES! Everyone was shocked! Their joyous worship immediately ceased! David is stunned and becomes angry at God. No doubt he experienced colossal embarrassment and humiliation. But he also lacked understanding: Just because he is king doesn’t give him license to approach God any old way! The Lord wants him to realize and model reverence to God the way God wants to be reverenced.

In his wounded pride, King David withdraws and sulks. The procession leaves the Ark at the farm of Obed-Edom—for 3 months–and retreats to Jerusalem. Thankfully, the king humbles himself and studies Scripture to learn from Torah how God desires His Ark to be approached. Maybe David reread Numbers 4:15 in which God gives His specific instructions re how to carry His Ark After Aaron and his sons [the high priest and priests at the time of the Exodus] have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, the Kohathites [Cohans] are to come to do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. Levites from the family of Kohan were to carry it. They were not to lay their hands on it, but to place poles through the rings on is corners, and carry those poles on their shoulders. God is not harsh, He is HOLY! There are right and wrong ways to approach Him. In other words, for the Israelites, ignorance of the Law is no excuse.

Notice, David pouts for a while, but he does not turn from God when he doesn’t understand His actions—he doesn’t let his pride get in the way of his relationship with the Lord. Instead, he humbles himself and tries to understand the Lord. So, after 3 months, David goes back to get the Ark. Notice what he does differently: He had the Ark carried as God required. After 6 steps, he had the procession stop and make an offering for their sins. He admitted his sin and the sins of the people. Hebrews 9:19-22 tells us that all true worship of God is predicated on sacrifice: David sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. (But we have Jesus, the once and for all perfect sacrifice for our sins…no more animal sacrifices, Praise God!) Then King David lead the procession, worshipping God with total abandon. Our psalm appointed for today was written by David to celebrate bringing the Ark to Jerusalem. By dancing, without his royal robes, He was showing his people that even their king humbled himself before the Lord.

However, his wife, Michal (Saul’s daughter), was scandalized!

Filled with pride, she judged her husband‘s behavior as demeaning and vulgar. But David would not be deterred, saying, (v.21) I will celebrate before the Lord. He apparently then separated himself from her, keeping her in the palace but never again visiting her. She died childless, an indication to the Hebrews of having not been blessed by God.

B. Let’s also consider the cost of pride in today’s Gospel, Mark 6:14-29. Herod Antipas, a Roman puppet and not a true believer, is serving as ruler of Judea. Believing enough to seek and dabble in religion, but not enough to commit or change the way he lives, he is respectful of, maybe even intimidated by, John the Baptist. His wife, Herodias, hates John the Baptist because he has publicly denounced them both as adulterers; and he has also called them to repent of their moral and leadership failures. Some scholars believe Herod may have had JtB arrested to protect him from his Herodias’ vengeance.

Nevertheless, she gets a chance to gain revenge when Herod makes a rash promise to her dancing daughter, the alluring Salome. Herod is so pleased with her performance that he offers her whatever she wants, up to ½ his kingdom. What a foolish boast! At Herodias’ advice, she asks for the head of JtB. What a senseless jam Herod has put himself in! He has sought to protect John from Herodias; but, if he rescinds his boast to Salome, he stands to lose face before his guests. In the choice between righteousness humility and foolish pride, he chooses pride. JtB is immediately beheaded,

Salome is later married off to Herod’s brother, her uncle—YUCK! This could have been quite the punishment. Finally, the Romans eventually banish Herodias and Herod to Gaul, the primitive outer-beyond of those times.

So what is our Lord telling us about pride through these Biblical folks? We want to avoid the dangers of pride because pride is costly. At best, it costs you your reputation, your influence, your marriage.

At worst, it can cost you your life. Ben Franklin, in his autobiography wrote, “There is perhaps no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”

We also want to recognize when we are acting out of pride, then apologize to God and humble ourselves. When we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, He will lift us up (James 4:10).

Honestly, most of us need the assistance, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to overcome our pride. But remember, King David got it and so can we!

©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

God’s Faithfulness

Pastor Sherry’s message for November 8, 2020.

Scriptures: Jos 24:1-25; Ps 78:1-7; 1 Thess 4:13-18; Matt 25:1-13

Oscar Wilde once said: God likes to forgive, I like to sin; it’s a nice arrangement.   His statement was meant to be funny, but like a lot of folks, he’s kind of missed the point, hasn’t he?  We don’t just stand on our trust in God’s mercy—though He is wondrously merciful.  As Paul writes in Romans 6:1-2…shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or as Peterson paraphrases it in The Message, So what do we do?  Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?  I should hope not!  If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there?  No, our response to God’s mercy and generosity towards us—His faithfulness to us—should be generosity and mercy we express toward others, and faithfulness we practice toward Him.

Our lessons today all revolve around the theme of God’s Faithfulness:

Our OT lesson is from Joshua 24:1-25.  In this Joshua challenges the people—3 times—to remain faithful to God.  He wants them to renew their covenant agreement with Godat Shechem, before he dies.  He especially wants them to be mindful of avoiding idolatry.  They did not kill all the tribal peoples living in Canaan, as they had been directed to do by the Lord.  (Remember, God had given them the 400 years–while the Israelites were slaves in Egypt–to come to Him but they resisted.)  So both God and Joshua realized they would either intermarry and adopt the idolatrous practices of their spouses; or they would be so intrigued with the sensual and often sexual religious practices of their pagan neighbors, that they would fall away from worshipping God.

In V.15, Joshua challenges them:  Choose this day Whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.  In V.24, the people, united, say:  We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him.  However, over time, they prove faithless.  They promise fidelity to God, but they fall into idolatry. Just as we promise fidelity in our marriage vows—agreeing to forsake all others—they were promising to forsake all other gods.

Psalm 78:1-7 is the introductory portion of an extended history of the people of Israel, from Moses to King David, from Exodus to 2 Samuel. The people repeatedly fail in their promise of fidelity, faithfulness to God; but God remains steadfastly faithful to them!  Amazing!  How many of us would remain faithful to a spouse who repeatedly cheated on us?

Our New Testament lesson is from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Paul, the consummate church planter, is instructing essentially baby Christians on the Rapture!  Paul was in Thessalonika less than a month. He left there, on his 2nd missionary journey, for Berea; then he journeyed to Athens; and then to Corinth.  At Corinth, Timothy and Silas, who had remained behind in Thessalonika, rejoined him and brought him theological questions from that newly formed church.  Since Jesus 2nd Coming had not yet occurred, they were worried that their friends who had died in the faith might have missed the rapture.

Paul had apparently already taught them that Jesus was coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead.  They had learned from him that those alive were to be raptured.  The word in the Greek is harpazoà it means the following:

[1] to catch up or grasp hastily;

[2] to snatch up;

[3] to lift;

[4] to transport;

[5] to rapture.

Paul apparently underestimated the length of time of the Church Age (what we are living in now, the time from Pentecost until now), and taught that the Rapture would be the next great event on God’s agenda for humankind.  These sincere Christians were worried that their believing friends and neighbors who had already died were out of luck.  “No,” Paul says!

In fact, dead Christ-followers will rise first!  They will rise up out of their graves.  They will be supernaturally pulled up to meet Jesus in the sky. Then, those of us still alive will meet Jesus in the air as well.  It will be a fantastic and joyful “family reunion.”

 The Left Behind series came out when I was in seminary.  A number of my professors dismissed it, implying it was unscriptural.  I read all the volumes and could see for myself that it was scripturally faithful and presented a plausible explanation of what might happen with the rapture.  The protagonist is an airline captain flying a cross-Atlantic trip, and considering an affair with one of his stewardesses, when some passengers on his plane disappear.  Crew members say purses and glasses and jackets were left behind on seats, but could neither explain nor account for what had happened to them.  After all, they are in the air and no doors have been opened.  When the pilot arrives home, he discovers his believer wife and son had disappeared as well.  He is joined by his non-believing daughter and the two of them make their way to his wife’s pastor—funny that a pastor would not be raptured along with his flock!  But I guess someone needs to be available to teach those others who missed being beamed up to heaven.  As he searches the Bible and puts together what has happened, the pastor’s faith becomes solid.  He is able to lead the airline captain and his daughter to belief in Jesus as well, but they all have to contend with the persecution of the Great Tribulation because they had essentially discounted Jesus.

According to Scripture, when we die, our body goes to sleep until the resurrection.  In a sense, we lie down in death and stand back up, like Lazarus, when we are resurrected.  Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 5:8 To be absent from the body [our Christian community and/or our flesh] is to be present with God.  To truly understand the faithfulness and great mercy of God, we need to remember the cultural beliefs of the day:

  • A Roman inscription found in Thessalonika read, “After death no reviving, after the grave no meeting again.”
  • The Greek poet, Theocritus, wrote “Hopes are among the living; the dead are without hope!”
  • The Persians taught that the dead become gray “shades” who sit about languishing, doing nothing, having no hope.

But, because of Jesus, we believers have hope!  Paul writes in v.14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep [died] in Him.

If I may offer an additional point, it appears that the Archangel Gabriel will not be blowing a horn.  I could be wrong, but as I read Paul and John, it is not an angel who will announce Jesus’ 2nd Coming, nor a trumpet.  Instead, it will be the commanding voice of our Lord Himself, loud as a trumpet.  The Gospel of John tells us He spoke creation into existence and, in Revelation 1:10, St John writes, I was praying in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.  When he turned, he saw the glorified Jesus.  We also know that when He meets the forces of evil at Armageddon, He will speak a word or words, and they will be destroyed.

Because of God’s faithfulness throughout the ages, we can accept that this will happen as prophesized, as written.  Since some 300 prophesies about Jesus have been fulfilled by Him, we can safely assume these end time prophesies will be as well.  They also tell us what to expect.

Our Gospel Lesson, Matthew 25:1-13, contains yet another warning, this time from Jesus Himself.  He tells the story of the wise and the foolish bridesmaids.  The 5 wise ones come to the bridal procession with their own supply of oil.  The lamps Jesus was referring to were like current day “tiki torches” with cloth wicks.  They tended to burn out of oil in about 15 minutes.  Oil, in this parable, is synonymous with the Holy Spirit.

So these wise bridesmaids were filled with the Holy Spirit and had a personal, heart relationship with Jesus Christ.  The 5 foolish ones, on the other hand, act like they are with the program, but they lack the Holy Spirit.

They ask the wise maids to share, but it’s too late.  They are not prepared for Jesus—the Bridegroom’s—arrival.  Jesus says they will be left behind.

But don’t feel too bad for them.  There will be time for them to come to accept Jesus in their hearts during the 7 years of the Great Tribulation.

These will be very difficult times, but they will also provide an opportunity for those who simply went through the motions of faith to truly come to Christ.  The point of the parable is that we can be asleep (dead) or awake (alive), but either way, we need to be prepared for Jesus’ 2nd Coming.

Our God is faithful.  Each of us needs to Choose this day Whom you will serve.  Choose Him again each day!  He said He is returning to earth again and we can believe it! Our preparation for His return is to remain faithful to the One who is faithful to us.

©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams