God’s Math

Pastor Sherry’s message for 7/25/2021

Scriptures: 2 Sam 11:1-15; Ps 14; Eph 3:14-21; Jn 6:1-21

Last week, I shared about the ministry of Mother Theresa, one of my “Heroes of the Faith.” This week, I want to mention another: Heidi Baker. She and her husband, Rolland, are both Pentecostal pastors with Ph.D.’s in Theology from the London School of Theology. They are also missionaries with a heart for orphans and the poor. While praying one day, God had told Heidi that He was “giving them Mozambique”–which was, at the time, one of the poorest nations in the world. Heidi and Rolland have been living and serving in Mozambique, Africa, since 1995. She and Rolland house, feed, and educate orphan children. She has become a noted speaker and “the public face” of their ministry. Her method in Mozambique has been to train up children to pray for others. She teaches them to pray: They pray for the deaf to hear, and they do. They pray for the blind to see, and they do. They pray for the paralyzed to walk, and they do. She claims that God has raised over 100 people from the dead, through the prayers of her various prayer teams.

In this destitute country, God has worked thru her and her husband to establish schools; provide medical clinics; distribute food; drill wells; and provide physically and spiritually for over 3,000 orphans. The Bakers have raised up many indigenous pastors and have planted somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 Christian congregations in mozambique!

One of my favorite stories from her ministry is about a “multiplication miracle.” A woman from Texas was visiting with the Bakers and offered to fix them dinner. She prepared a wonderful meal for 5, Heidi, Rolland, their two children, and herself. When she called the Bakers in to eat, Heidi expressed initial dismay at the small quantity as they always fed their 250 orphans whenever they ate. Heidi immediately suggested they pray for more food, then she told the woman to keep ladling out food from the pots as the plates kept coming. The woman was amazed to discover the pots never emptied. The Lord had multiplied her dinner until all the children and adults present received food. (See her book, Compelled by Love, to read about this story and others.) Wouldn’t it have strengthened your faith to have witnessed that?

Our Gospel for today focuses one of Jesus’ multiplication miracles, the feeding of the 5,000 from John 6:1-21 (also recounted in the other three gospels). John tells us (v.4) the Passover Feast was near. Jesus is not in Jerusalem; rather, He is preaching and teaching in Galilee. As I shared last week, a huge crowd had followed Him. In His compassion, He knows they are hungry. Perhaps recalling the Exodus and Numbers about the daily manna from heaven, as well as Elijah’s encounter with the Widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-24), Jesus tests the disciples, asking them where they might find bread (and meat) for the crowd to eat. A correct answer would have been, “Lord, you know,” or “Lord, You are able to provide. But instead of thinking of heavenly possibilities, they focus on the earthly realities. Philip and Andrew seem set on problem-solving. They assert in verse 7 that the group lacks the money to buy enough; but they also point out in verse 8 that they have inventoried the current supply and found some small provisions—5 hamburger-sized loaves and 2 small, dried fish–insufficient for the numbers of folks present

Rev. Dr. J. Vernon McGee (p.99 of his commentary on John) says the 12 desired to become Jesus’ Board of Directors, and thus formed a committee to look into the problem. McGee and others have defined a church committee as “a group of people who individually can do nothing, but collectively they decide nothing can be done” (Not my experience at WUMC). He also claims a church committee is “a group of people who take down minutes and waste hours.” Sure enough, the committee report is that feeding 5,000 men (approximately 15,000, if we conservatively add in 1 woman and 1 child per each male) is impossible. They recommend to Jesus that He send them home. They have resolved the issue without considering God’s maththe mathematics of a miracle.

Jesus resolves the problem in a way reminiscent of the Old and New Testament multiplication miracles: He provides for them abundantly, passing out more than enough bread and fish to go around. Just like at the wedding in Cana, where He turned 6 large jars of water into 100 gallons of the finest wine. Just like with the manna and quail in the desert, plenty for 1-2 million people, every day for 40 years! Just like with Elijah and the widow, enough oil and flour to make bread until the famine ended.

Jesus turns His wanna-be Board of Directors into a wait-staff. He has them distribute fish sandwiches to groups seated on the grounds. Then, in a wonderful display of God’s abundant provision, He has them pick up the left overs. Now we must bear in mind that these folks were not usually well-fed.

Given free food, you can imagine that they would have eaten their fill. Instead of gathering up bites left on their plates, they collected 12 baskets full of what were probably whole sandwiches. Again, as J. Vernon McGee says, “I tell you, if you have the 5 loaves plus the 2 fish plus Jesus, then you’ve got something, Friend. Without Him, you don’t have anything at all.”

Our God is a God of abundance. He desires to bless us, extravagantly.

Before we get carried away, however, let’s remember there are limits to God’s efforts to bless. These limits often arise from our own sin and our rejection of Him. This is the point, I think, of our Old Testament lesson today from 2 Samuel 11:1-15. Up to this point in 2nd Samuel, we have encountered David’s triumphs:

1.) Anointed King as a successor to Saul;

2.) Killing the giant, Goliath, in battle;

3.) Successfully eluding Saul’s jealous and zealous pursuit of him;

4.) Finally uniting all 12 tribes under his leadership;

5.) Subduing the enemies of Israel; and

6.) Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, his capital.

Now we see him plunge into trouble, the first act of a cascade of subsequent heartbreaks.

In what may have been a midlife crisis, David does not go off to battle against his lone unsubdued enemy, the Ammonites. He sends the army ahead without him. At home in his palace, he appears to be restless and bored. Rather than take his troubles to God, or ask what he might do to better his people, he takes a walk at night on his rooftop. From this height, he sees the lovely, we-presume-naked-Bathsheba, bathing on her rooftop. Rooftops were cool at night; perhaps she was trying to escape the heat. Where were her privacy screens? Now David has several other wives at this point (he is approximately 40YO), but he sees her and lusts after her.

Do you notice the connection between wealth, power, and boredom here? It has been my observation that the evil one uses this toxic combination to lead many into sexual sin. Look at the fall of Rome. Consider Jeffrey Epstein’s “Lolita Express” in which rich, powerful men—like Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, and unnamed others–flew to an isolated Caribbean island to engage in illicit sexual activities with under-aged girls. The king summons Bathsheba to his palace and begins an affair with her. He is married, several times over. And so is she. Her husband is Uriah, a Hittite believer and one of David’s “Mighty Men” (body guards). Scholars also believe she was the daughter of another of his Mighty Men, Eliam. The couple’s actions thus hurt a number of people and seriously offend God. In one night, given moods of boredom and dissatisfaction, David sins colossally. He breaks the 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th commandments.

He also misuses his God-given powers as king. He sent for Bathsheba. Was she a willing participant? Possibly, but we don’t know for sure. She becomes pregnant. Scripture is clear (v.4) that she was not impregnated by her husband, as her monthly cycle had just ended. Now David feels forced to mount a sophisticated cover-up.

Notice that God includes David’s (and Bathsheba’s) moral failure in Scripture. God neither denies it, excuses it, nor pretties it up. God desires to use it as instruction for us. As our Psalm (14) says, Only a fool believes there is no God. David authored this psalm. He knows that God is omniscient, all seeing, all knowing. But like so many of us when we embark on sin, he isn’t thinking of God’s response. Nevertheless, God sees and knows and holds David accountable.

Because we are in Christ, as Paul asserts in Ephesians 3:14-21, we are covered by His righteousness. This is great, good news! Unlike with King David, the penalty for our sins has been taken on for us by Jesus. The penalty for both David and Bathsheba was death. Because we believe in Jesus, however, we are spared. What we may not be able to dodge, though, is the Law of Sowing and Reaping. We reap what we sow. We are subject to the ripple-effect of our sins. I could be wrong, but, as I see it, the consequences of our sins often boomerang back upon us. As the culture puts it, “What goes around comes around.” We steal from someone, someone then later steals from us. We betray someone, someone later betrays us, etc. We might say that sin ripples are often a form of subtraction.

This week, let’s focus our attention on God’s multiplication. As with Mother Theresa and with Heidi and Rolland Baker, God wants to bless us. Let’s try not to fall into sin, but if we do, let’s be quick to repent and ask God’s forgiveness. We want to experience God’s blessings, not the adverse consequences of our poor choices. Let’s ask God the Holy Spirit to help us and let’s remember, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 3:20, our God…is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine….

©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Advertisement

Faith Like A Mustard Seed

Pastor Sherry’s message for June 13, 2021

Scriptures: Mark 4: 26–32

In 2010, 8 of us from Servants of Christ Anglican Church, in Gainesville, Florida, went on a mission trip to Turkey.  There we worked with a missionary who ministered to Iranian refugees.  Through the missionary/interpreter, I was able to interview a 24 year old man who had recently been baptized.  His name was Navid.  I wanted to know how he had come to faith in Christ.  Now bear in mind that the missionary and his wife had studied Turkish for 1 year, then Farsi—the language of Iranians—for 3.  He would present my question to Navid in Farsi, then share Navid’s answerwith me in American.  It was a time-consuming but very elucidating conversation.  

Navid shared that his father had been an Islamic cleric who was desperate for him to become a pious Muslim. His father went so far as to offer to set him up in his own business—a shoe manufacturing concern—if he would just agree to worship Allah. But, like many young people from Iran at that time, he associated the poverty and rigid governmental controls with his father’s religion, and wanted no part of it. We learned that young Iranians were opting to dive into the drug culture, obtaining high quality drugs from over the border in Afghanistan, or were finding their way to Jesus and other faiths. Navid admitted a peer had approached him to consider Jesus, but he was not interested in any form of religion. That very night, as he slept, he had a dream in which Jesus appeared to him. Jesus told him three times, “I want you to reconsider.” I asked, “How did you know it was Jesus?” He answered, “You just know.”

​Somehow Navid obtained a copy of the New Testament and began attending the only authorized Christian Church in Tehran.  He read the Gospel of Matthew to the end and wanted to be baptized.  The church pastor told him he could not baptize him or they would both be killed.  Soon thereafter, the authorities did find him exiting the church and beat him severely.  He waited 3 days until he was feeling good enough to move and fled the country with his wife, Camilla.  She was so precious.  I asked the missionary to ask her what made her come to Christ.  She too had not been very interested in Christianity until she saw how knowing Jesus Christ had changed her husband.

I tell you this story to illustrate that the Kingdom of God—which is God’s rule over not just us on earth but over the universe—moves forward one person at a time. Sometimes it moves quickly, as with the 3,000 on the day of Pentecost. But I find it usually is a slow work, requiring patience, time to develop relationships, and lots of prayer. Let’s see what our Gospel lesson has to say about the gradual but compelling way in which God’s Kingdom advances.

Mark 4:26-32 contains two parables involving seeds:

​The first, peculiar only to the Gospel of Mark, involves scattering seed on the ground.  No matter what the farmer does, waking or sleeping, the seed “does its thing.”  The man may apply some fertilizer or water, but God superintends the growth!  The seed takes root, then sends up a shoot which erupts through the earth.  This little seedling becomes a stalk, which continues to grow, and then it “bears fruit” or ripens.  The farmer or the planter harvests what God has caused to grow.

​Notice the role of the person.  He or she broadcasts the seed, but he/she cannot really control the growth.  In God’s Kingdom, that part is left up to God.  As St. Paul later writes in 1 Corinthians 3:6, I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  This is the same point made again.  We do our part, but real growth only comes from the Lord.

​As a pastor, I consider myself a “water-er,” an irrigation system if you will.  Probably someone before me has introduced you to Jesus.  They spread or planted the seed.  I have then come along to explain God’s Word to you.  I can also demonstrate my faith by the way I live my life and by my personal testimony as to how loving God has changed my life for the good.  This is the kind of irrigation or watering of the Word that I do.  But neither the one who sowed Christ into your life, nor me as the “water-er,” can really control your growth as a believer.  I can’t make you love Jesus.  I can’t force you to read the Bible or to pray daily.  I can’t compel you to tell others who don’t know Jesus yet about how essential He is to your life.  In God’s Kingdom, that part is left up to God the Holy Spirit, and to you, cooperating with Him.  Recall that a young man tried to tell Navid about Jesus.  He rejected that invitation.  He accepted Christ when Jesus Himself appeared to him.  Nevertheless, I believe the unnamed peer sowed a seed that Jesus caused to take root in Navid.  In ways perhaps imperceptible to Navid, in ways inscrutable and supernatural, God then began to work in his life.  Today he has been granted Canadian citizenship, lives up North, and I understand he is now a pastor and a church planter there.  Jesus has really grown his faith, hasn’t He?!

​Consider who sowed into your life:  As we approach Father’s Day, was it your Dad or another Father-figure (a Spiritual Father) who introduced you to Jesus?  Perhaps it was a Spiritual Mother.  My grandmothers told me about Jesus.  My paternal grandmother was a Presbyterian who saw to it that I was baptized at 3YO.  She took me to Sunday School and read me the Bible.  My maternal grandmother was a Pentecostal Holiness who taught me many of the old hymns we sing today.  She also helped me learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Maybe it was the example of a peace-filled or joy-filled Christian friend who convinced you.  You may want to thank whoever it was.

The second parable is the famous one of the mustard seed. My paternal grandmother gave me a necklace containing a tiny, yellow mustard seed, when I was a child. I understood it meant that my faith might start small, but like the tiny seed, it could grow into a large tree if I nurtured my relationship with Jesus. Later I wondered if she meant to remind me that God likes to use little things, even little people, to do great works. Both of these interpretations of the mustard seed are correct, but they also seem just a little too tame!

Consider that Jesus taught in parables in order to challenge people’s thinking. He seemed to delight in overturning their usual assumptions, to frustrate and then transform them–and us:

​1.) It was a hated Samaritan who nursed the Jewish man back to ​​​health.  No Jewish listener in the crowd would have expected the ​​rescuer to be an enemy.

​2.) The shepherd leaves the 99 to go rescue the one lost sheep.  Who ​​​leaves 99 to go after one?  Surely He left other caretakers in ​​​charge or had the 99 penned up in a corral, but Scripture is ​​​silent on this.

​3.) The Father forgives the rascally prodigal son and reinstates him, ​​​while the righteous, well-behaved elder son sulks.  Both sons are ​​disappointments, but the Father loves and forgives each one.

​4.) The last laborer gets the same pay as those who toiled longest.  To ​​our American sensibilities, this seems most unfair!

Pick your favorite parable. Jesus turns human logic on its head. So we want to look for what might be radical about a mustard seed, or for the ways in which Jesus might just be challenging our common conceptions.

What if we have generally interpreted this parable from the perspective of mustard seeds that are cultivated, or “tame mustard” seeds? These are planted in neat rows in order to harvest mustard for medicinal purposes, or to be made into spices and condiments.  This interpretation doesn’t really seem authentic as it involves too much human control.  What if we thought, instead, of “wild mustard” seeds?  These varieties are the Biblical equivalent of Kudzo!  They are a weed that you would hate to take root in your yard or garden.  If you have ever struggled with getting rid of bamboo, or ivy, potato vines, or dandelions, you know what I mean.  Wild mustard just takes over!  (My farmer son-in-law tells me there is wild mustard growing here in Suwannee County!)

​Normally, cultivated or tame mustard grows in shrubs that reach about 3-4 feet high.  Wild mustard can, however, become tree-sized, if allowed to run amok.  Could our Lord be telling us, tongue in cheek, I’m not saying God’s Kingdom grows like a tame and cultivated variety of plant, carefully shaped by humankind into something resembling an English garden (or clipped and snipped to look like Mickey Mouse or Goofy at Disneyworld).  Oh no!  I’m talking about God’s Kingdom reaching out and overtaking people.  Maybe not with allot of noise or commotion.  Maybe not even in a way you and I can see and evaluate as it’shappening.  The Kingdom of God—or God’s reign in the human heart—is notsomething you or I can limit or manage.  Like the seed described in the first parable, it moves at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Our God looks within and works from within. As with the seed, from the first parable, our growth in Christ starts inside and works up and out. My prayer for you this week is that our love of Jesus may spread, like the Kudzo-like mustard seed, out of Wellborn United Methodist Church into Wellborn, Live Oak, over east to Jacksonville or west to Tallahassee. May our love of Christ transform us and take over our communities. AMEN! May it be so!

©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Correct Assessments

Pastor Sherry’s message for March 21, 2021

Scriptures: Jer 31: 31–34; Ps 51: 1–10; Heb 5: 1–10; John 12: 20-33

Do you remember a Scottish woman named Susan Boyle? She appeared on an English TV program called Britain’s Got Talent in 2001. She wowed the skeptical judges with her stunning rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.

You may remember that she looked fairly frumpy; both the audience and the judges were cynical and dismissive, until she began to sing! Then they were awed and astonished. She has since gone on to improve her appearance and create award-winning albums.

Susan’s story proves the adage that we should not judge a book by its cover. Psychological research on perception says that we tend to size a person up in five seconds. We decided we would or would not like them based on very little information. We take more time than this to buy a car or rent an apartment. This makes it easier for us to quickly move on to other things but it also results in some misperceptions and erroneous assumptions.

Thankfully, our God has much more information on people and events than we do, and never makes some wrong assessment. His assessments are always correct!

Let’s start with our Jeremiah passage. Just prior to the passage, God says through His prophet to the Israelites, I have loved you with an everlasting love. God is foretelling the day when he will call all the Jews who are scattered throughout the world back to Israel. He will make a new covenant with them. Instead of abandoning them due to their unwillingness to except His son as Messiah, He will write his law upon their hearts. Instead of punishing them for turning away from Jesus, He will claim them to Himself again. As Peterson translates it, “they will no longer go about setting up schools to teach each other about God. They’ll know me first hand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget they ever sinned.”

We should rightfully expect judgment, but instead we get mercy, grace, forgiveness, and that everlasting love only God radiates. How surprising! How wonderful! How humble and grateful we should be that God assesses us and still desires to be in close relationship with us all.

Psalm 51: 1–13 is King David’s great penitential Psalm. He has broken the sixth, seventh, and tenth commandments. He had set up Uriah, a loyal bodyguard, to be murdered so that he could claim his wife, with whom he had had an adulterous relationship. And he kept quiet about his massive sins, only to suffer torment he was highly anxious and miserable.

When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became day long groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.

The writer to the Hebrews (4:13) observes nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Sure enough, God dispatches the prophet Nathan to confront him in story form. David could’ve lied and blown Nathan off. Like many absolute rulers, he could’ve had him killed. But in a plot twist from what one might have expected from any other ancient Middle Eastern king, David admits his guilt—he takes responsibility.

  • For his transgressions—Stepping over God’s boundaries, he transgressed against Bathsheba, Uriah, and to his family. He was a poor example to his sons and to his nation.
  • For his iniquities— those things that are grossly immoral and thoroughly wrong: adultery, murder, covetousness.
  • For sins— failure to meet God‘s standards.

However, David does provide a good model for us in this Psalm. He admits his sins, transgressions, and iniquities; he begs God‘s forgiveness, and he asks God to transform him by the power of his Holy Spirit. In today’s “cancel culture,” David would be toast. His life and his legacy would be ruined. But our God loved his heart, took pity on him, and forgave him. I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of correct assessment I would prefer God had of me.

Hebrews 5:5-10 is making it clear to us that Jesus is our great high priest. But he’s from the tribe of Judah, not descended from Aaron, nor a member of the Levites the priestly clan. However, given God’s correct assessment, the Father defines Jesus as our high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek is first mentioned in Genesis 14. He congratulates Abraham on his victory against four pagan kings and blesses Abraham in the name of the Most High God. As king of Salem, he gives Abraham bread and wine. Then Abraham awards him a tithe.

John 12 2333, some Greeks come to ask Jesus their questions. As outsiders they were consigned to the court of the Gentiles in the temple and could not be present to hear Jesus teach. They approach Phillip, perhaps because his name is Greek, who with Andrew bring them to Jesus’ attention. Jesus, knowing He is soon facing the cross, meets with them briefly. We don’t know what the Greeks expect or want to ask. But Jesus reiterates He is going to die.

A millennium later (Psalms 110:4), David speaks prophetically of a priest and king to whom he would bow, Jesus the Messiah. Today’s passage from Hebrews, written just after Christ’s Ascension, asserts that Jesus is a high priest from the order of Melchizedek, a higher order than the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood. Speaking God’s truth and accurately predicting His death, resurrection, and the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus was a prophet in His earthly ministry. He will come again in glory as the universal king. And here we learn Jesus is our great high priest.

The kernel that falls to the ground but results are much fruit and many other seeds

He knows he’s going to the cross and it’s going to be very painful. He doesn’t want to, but he will. For the third time, God speaks encouragement to him. He will be lifted up as His followers hope, but on a cross not to a kingly throne…yet. Nevertheless, over hundreds of years, has He not drawn millions to Him?

So often our God does the opposite of what we might expect, or even what we wish Him to do, so how might we deal with this? We might want to remember that God’s assessments are always correct. We tend to trust in our own perceptions. Experience tells us we are sometimes—maybe even often—wrong. Nevertheless, we worship a God who is always accurate in his assessments.

Are we going to trust in our own perceptions or in God’s accurate assessments?

Proverbs 3:5– trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Proverbs 28-26– he who trust in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.

Prayer:

Lord, help us to put our trust in you, even above ourselves and our own perceptions, judgments, and assessments. Help us to rightly discern the truth and to live lives that are pleasing in Your sight. We pray this in the mighty, compassionate, grace-filled, and always accurate name of Your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright 2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Be grateful for Jesus, our Shepherd King

Pastor Sherry’s message from November 22, 2020

Scriptures: Eze 34:11-16, 20-24; Ps 100; Eph 1:15-23; Matt 25:31-46

I love funny signs, don’t you?  I found some this week that made me laugh out loud:

Signs on property fence lines:

​​​1. No hunting; No fishing; No nothing!  Go home!

2. No trespassing! Violator will be shot; survivors will be shot again!

​​​3. No trespassing!  We’re tired of hiding the bodies. 

Signs of warning:

1. High voltage. Do not touch. Not only will this kill you, It will hurt the whole time you are dying.

2. Warning. If the help desk thinks your question is stupid, we will set you on fire!

3. Unattended children will be given an energy drink and a free puppy.

​​​4. No dumping cats!  $750 fine and/or 90 days in jail.

5. My personal favorite: Warning! If you think you can run across this pasture in 10 seconds, Don’t! The bull can do it in 9.

As we approach Thanksgiving this week, I think one thing we can all be thankful for is humor. We began our service today with an opportunity for each of us to express our gratitude to God. As you may have noticed as they were read, today’s Scripture passages all focus on reasons we can and should be grateful to God.

Additionally, our Bible passages today all relate to the Kingship of Jesus Christ.

In the Ezekiel passage (34:11-16, 20-24), God is essentially firing the religious leaders of Israel. He is fed up with their ineptitude, their failures to protect His sheep, and their outright abuse of them. Instead, He shares His resolve to send a new, improved, better shepherd to watch over, teach, and guide His people: Jesus.

So, among the many things we have to be grateful for, we can thank God for sending Jesus to be our perfect Shepherd.  He has redeemed us from our bondage to sin and death; and He saved us from the penalty for our sins.  We can also thank God that Jesus, as Christ the King, is coming again.  When He does return, He will dispense true justice.  He will also establish lasting peace on the earth.  And He will gather to Himself those who love Him.

Psalm 100 is a song of praise to Christ as King. During my time at seminary, I worked my way through by directing a college counseling center. The college was “Reformed Presbyterian,” which meant, among other things, that they did not use musical instruments in church or chapel. Instead, they sang the psalms only, with no accompaniment, but in 4-5 part harmony. This psalm they called “Ole 100.” Hearing it sung in 5 parts, acapella, was both spectacular and very moving.

Verse 3 tells us that the LORD is God. He is our Creator, our Redeemer; and He is the Shepherd of Israel and of the Church. V.4 reveals what J. Vernon McGee3 calls “the password to worship: Thanksgiving! [We] Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. This is how we worship God in spirit and in truth. We express our thanks to Him. We praise Him for His goodness, grace, and loving-kindness towards us. After you have memorized Psalm 23 as well as Psalm 51, you may want to put Ole 100 to memory too, as it’s a beaut!

In our Ephesians passage (1:15-23), Paul expresses thanks to God for the faith and love he sees demonstrated by this church.

When I was ordained, my Bishop gave me a devotional that takes a person through the Bible in two years. It’s meant for a pastor’s quiet time daily with the LORD. The Bishop signed it for me, inscribing it with these verses. It was as though he was saying, “I will be praying for you just as Paul was praying for those Corinthians.” Paul was delighted that they loved Jesus, loved Paul, their pastor, and loved God’s Word. He tells them they are on his prayer list. He doesn’t pray for material blessings for them, but rather for spiritual blessings:

1. He wants them to have wisdom and discernment, especially as they meditate on Scripture. He wants the Holy Spirit to continue to lead and guide them. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, he wrote, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him; but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.

2. He wants them to be people of hope.

3. He wants them to be aware of the endless energy and the boundless strength of Christ that can and will be used for their good. Jesus runs the universe; He also rules the Church. He is no pasty-faced, skinny, 98 pound weakling, but He is both robust and powerful enough to resurrect and to ascend to Heaven. When Scripture asks if anything is impossible for the LORD, the answer is no because He holds the power to do and to act.

In our Gospel (Matt. 25:31-46), Jesus reminds us that, at His 2nd Coming, He will separate out sheep from goats.  The sheep– true believers–will be set on His right side.  These are those of us with faith in Jesus.  Our faith will be evident in the way we lived our lives.  Our charitable works on the behalf on others don’t earn us salvation; only our faith in Christ does.  But because we love Jesus, we try to love others by serving them in loving ways.  Our charitable works come from a generous heart, a trusting spirit.  And we try to be humble…Lord, when did we….Our reward will be to hear Jesus say to us, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you….

The goats—unbelievers—will be sent to His left. These are the ones who have discounted Christ, blown Him off, refused to believe in Him during their life time. They will be condemned. They will hear Jesus tell them, Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. The goats will be shocked and horrified. They will react with self-righteousness…When did we not….

What’s so alarming about this teaching is its permanence. Jesus is warning us—like some of those goofy signs I shared earlier—(v.46) [the wicked] will go away to eternal punishment, but be grateful for Jesus, our Shepherd King the righteous to eternal life. He is serious. The results of our choice—with or without Christ—is forever, changeless and without end. What’s so wonderful, however, is that we are free to make the choice. I don’t know about you, but I am so grateful that loving Jesus sets me up to be awarded an eternal place among only righteous persons. I’m so grateful that by loving Jesus, I avoid being consigned to that place where only evil-doers will dwell. I have often thought it would be horrible to be in prison, not just due to your lack of freedom. But consider who your neighbors are there. You would be confined to the company of murderers, thugs, rapists, and robbers. How would one be able to sleep at night? Hell will be so much worse!

So let’s think—as we approach Thanksgiving day—of what all of us has to be thankful or grateful for:

1. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, came to save us.

2. Jesus, our Great Shepherd King, will come again to establish justice and bring us to Himself.

3. That gratitude/thanksgiving is our password into God’s gates; the threshold into true worship.

4. Paul and other intercessors pray for us by name.

5. That Jesus calls us to give ourselves away—using our gifts and talents—in love and service to others.

6. And aren’t we just so grateful, too, for a little humor while we await our heavenly reward?

C 2020 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

God’s Grace versus Cancel Culture

Pastor Sherry’s Message for 8/30/2020

Scriptures: Ex 3:1-15; Ps 105:23-26; Ro 12:9-21; Matt 16:21-28

Recently I came across 2 examples of our current “cancel culture” at work. With the “cancel culture,” you are only as good as your social media account messages are PC.  Step out of line and your reputation is destroyed, while your future is threatened.

The first concerned a Jordanian-American named Natasha Tynes.  Tynes had researched and written about threats to free speech and a free press in Egypt and then had faced persecution in Egypt for it.  Back in the states again, she was riding the DC-area subway, the Metro, when she saw a transit worker eating in the train.  There are signs posted everywhere prohibiting this behavior, so Natasha confronted the worker and pointed out that she was violating the rules.  The worker rudely blew her off! Natasha said she frequently rides the subway hungry and so was frustrated that a person with the power to fine her for eating was herself violating the rules.  As a result, Natasha wrote a letter of complaint to the transit authorities, asking that they take some disciplinary action.  

She probably should have left the matter there, but she also “tweet-shamed” her by calling the woman out on line, including a picture of her eating on the train. Some 45 minutes later, Natasha rethought what she had done and deleted her tweet.  She also apologized on line for her actions, admitting she had responded out of a “short-lived expression of frustration.  In addition, she wrote the transit authority to ask them to overlook her complaint.  But the Twitter Mob turned on her, calling her “Metro-Molly.”  Ms. Tyne’s publisher learned of this “temptest in a teapot” and decided not to print her latest book. They claimed she had done “something truly horrible” and excused their decision to renege on their contract because Natasha “had threatened the transit worker’s health and safety.  What?

The second incident concerned that vocal young man from the Parkland high school shooting, Kyle Kashuv. We saw him interviewed on TV a number of times.  He received several offers of scholarships to college and turned them all down to attend Harvard.  Later, word got back to Harvard, via some of his classmates that Kashuv–a Jewish conservative–had made anti-semetic and racist comments in a private online chat back when he was 16 years old.  The young man apologized publically.  He even wrote a Harvard dean to admit his responsibility and to ask for forgiveness.

David French of the National Review reported that Kashuv did “everything we want a young man to do when he’s done something wrong.”  Nevertheless, Harvard believed his email remarks from several years younger were too egregious to forgive, and rescinded his admission.

 Recently, Kellyanne Conway resigned as advisor to the President when her 15 year old daughter “tweet-shamed” her and her husband on line.  I am not trying to draw in politics here.  Rather, I am making the point that people feel all too free to call one another out on line.  This teen has hurt her parents very publically by defaming their reputations.  I wonder how she will feel about this when she is 25 or 35, or a parent herself. Sadly, this child has not learned to live out Paul’s admonitions from Romans 12: V.14àBless those who [you believe] persecute you; bless and do not curse; v.16àLive in harmony with one another; and v.17+àDo not repay [even perceived] evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

This is where we are now.  A mistake, a lapse in judgment, can cost you everything today.  Thank God our Lord does not operate by cancel culture rules!  Let’s look at two He could have chosen to cancel, but didn’t, in today’s scripture passages:

First, we have Moses (Ex 3:1-15).  Last week, we saw this Hebrew slave kid rescued from the Nile, to be raised in Pharaoh’s own household.

By this week, he has advanced to the age of 40, and realized God has tapped him to champion his people, the Jews.  Without waiting on God’s direction, however, he kills an Egyptian overseer for beating a Hebrew slave. His own people, seeing him dressed as an Egyptian, fail to trust him, fearing he is an Egyptian murderer.  Furthermore, Pharaoh hears of the incident and wants to arrest him.  So Moses flees Egypt into the desert.  By attempting to do what he thought he should do, He finds himself driven away.

 He reaches Midian and rescues the 7 daughters of Reuel who were also doing what they were supposed to do—watering their sheep.  Moses observed some rowdy male shepherds attempting to push them aside to water their animals first.  Moses rescues the ladies and sends the ruffians packing.  Subsequently, he marries the eldest, Zipporah; soon has a son, Gershom (whose name means “sojourner” or “alien”—kinda suggests how Moses feels about living in Midian); and tends sheep, for another 40 years. Like King David, later, he is going to be called from tending a flock of animals to shepherding God’s people.

 In today’s passage, he encounters God (the preincarnate Christ) in aburning bush that does not burn up.  He is told to take his shoes off becausehe is in the presence of God, which makes the ground they are on holyindeed.  God calls him by name twice (make no mistake, our God knows our names!).  God also reveals who He is:  The God of the Hebrew patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God shares that His name is, I am who I am; or, as some translations say, I will be who I will be.   In other words, as the passage states, He is the God who sees, thinks, hears, knows,remembers, and intervenes for His people.

God also reaffirms Moses’ call to deliver the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian bondage.  Notice, God has not canceled him due to having murdered an Egyptian.  Instead God has hidden him out, in the back of the beyond for 40 years, so that the Pharaoh who sought to arrest him has had time to die and be replaced.  Additionally, those Israelite slaves who witnessed the murder have also passed on. God has made sure it is safe for Moses to return to Egypt.  And Moses has learned to wait on God.

Our Psalm mentions how God sent Moses, His servant, to set His people free.

 Now, let’s jump to our Gospel lesson from Matt 16:21-28.  Last week, we read how Peter confessed what the Holy Spirit had revealed to him:  that Jesus was/is the Messiah.  This week, Jesus begins to educate the Twelve regarding what God’s Messiah will do.  Despite their personal beliefs and expectations of Messiah, Jesus says He will die on a Roman cross, condemned by His own; He will die to redeem those very folks and all the rest of us too.  Like Moses before Him, Jesus is a shepherd, our shepherd and a deliverer, our deliverer.  Understandably, Rocky (Peter) is horrified! Like Moses, he gets ahead of himself.  Rather than taking in what Jesus is saying, he tries to talk Him out of it.  YIKES, Peter!  We don’t get to tell God what to do.  Jesus has just praised Rocky, but now he really tears into him—

He calls His dear friend Satan!  He rightly accuses him of interfering with God’s plan.  Whether he or we like it or not, God’s plan appears to require that we (v.24) deny [ourselves, our self-will], take up [our] Cross and follow [Jesus].  Like so many of us, Peter hears from God but he is also motivated by selfish self-interest and perhaps beguiled by the evil one.

 We know the outcome of both stories:  Moses leads the people out of Egypt—even though they wander in the desert for 40 years.  And Peter becomes a dynamic, faith-filled leader of the new Christian Church. God had grace, mercy, and forgiveness for them both!

What would have happened to Moses or to Peter—Rocky–if our Lord operated by the rules of cancel culture?  Cancel culture assumes—impossibly—that you can never make a mistake.  No grace or mercy is allowed for immaturity, anger, impetuousness.  Cancel Culture believes, Once a sinner, always a sinner.   You cannot even apologize and be forgiven.  As we have seen in the examples of Natasha, Kyle, and the Conways, judgment is swift and forgiveness is withheld!  Furthermore, cancel culture ruins the person’s future—despite a very productive present–based on one lapse in judgment or a perceived wrong response. 

Aren’t we glad our God does not operate that way?  Our God is characterized by love, grace, and mercy.  He keeps His promises and He forgives our sins.  He reinstates us. He uses us once we realize we cannot work out His program in our own strength.  Instead, we operate in His strength, surrendered to His will.  Thanks be to God that He has such patience, such forgiveness, such mercy for us.

This week, I challenge you to pray for Natasha Tynes and Kyle Kashuv, and any other victims of the media mob and the cancel culture.  Pray for peace and reconciliation between the senior Conways and their 15 year old daughter.  Let’s also be aware of God’s mercy.  And let’s be grateful that there is no cancel culture with our Lord!

 

c 2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

 

Who Gets Saved?

Pastor Sherry’s Message for August 16, 2020

Scriptures: Gen 45:1-15; Ro 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matt 15:21-28

Who Gets Saved?

Recently I came across this story of a present day American artist, Steven Lavaggi. Some years back, he encountered a number of personal set-backs:  His wife left him to marry a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine.  Not two weeks later, he learned his son was suffering from Juvenile Diabetes. Then his graphic art business failed.

Unemployed, abandoned, and worried about his son, Lavaggi turned to God’s Word.  Sitting on his bedroom floor, and by himself, Steven read the Gospels. He later reported that he skipped over the black letters, wanting only to read the words spoken by Christ. Because he was reading with the intention of finding Jesus, the Risen Christ emerged from the pages. The artist then gave his life to the Lord.

As a new Christian, he clung to Psalm 91:11: “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”  Out of his brokenness, came a passion to create a message of hope. To this end, he left the lucrative world of graphic art to become a struggling fine artist.  His paintings typically are of beautiful rural scenes usually populated with tall, graceful angels; he has also fashioned some amazing sculptures of angels.

Lavaggi’s story is of a man who has withstood and overcome the blows of life.  At a point of true despair, he began to search the Bible for encouragement.Reading only the red letters, he found it–Praise God!–and gave his heart to Jesus!  Out of the depths of his pain, Steven sought out and found salvation.  Finding Jesus inspired him to redirect his life’s work from graphic art to painting and sculpting works that bring hope to others.

One of the themes present in our Scripture passages today is that of being saved or experiences of salvationLet’s examine these together:

Last week, our Old Testament lesson, related how Joseph’s 10 brothers from other mothers sold him into slavery. This week’s lesson, Genesis 45:1-15, jumps ahead to describe Joseph’s reunion with the 10 half-brothers and with his full brother, Benjamin.  Joseph, after 13-14 years of slavery, interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and reports correctly that they predict 7 years of massively abundant harvests followed by 7 years of desperate famine.

Two years into the famine, his 10 treacherous brothers arrive in Egypt to purchase food for the family.  Unbeknownst to them, their lost brother Joseph has survived—by the design and grace of God—and is now second in command of all of Egypt.  They no doubt fail to recognize him because he is…

[1] Clean shaven rather than bearded;

[2] Dressed in Egyptian clothing and jewelry;

[3] 22 years older than when they last saw him;

[4] Speaking the Egyptian language, while talking to them thru an

interpreter.

         [5] And, not to mention, they probably never expected to see him alive ever again.  It is to Joseph that they must apply to buy grain.  Just as Joseph’s own dreams from age 17 had prophesied, his 10 brothers now bow down to him to request aid.

Wisely, before he reveals himself to them, Joseph checks to see if they have changed in the interim.  He generously sells them the grain they need to live, but also decides to test them in two ways:  1st he requires that they leave Simeon behind and bring back Benjamin.  He is testing their honesty.  He is also checking to see if they will allow another brother (Simeon) to be killed or imprisoned to get what they want.  The brothers return again, to buy more food, and bring Benjamin.  Joseph’s 2nd test involves his full brother, Benjamin.  Joseph has his servants hide a favored cup in Ben’s bags.  This is a set up to see if they will sacrifice the new favorite son.  Joseph wants to know if they have ascertained the cost of jealousy.  Have they become more loyal to their brother from Joseph’s mother?  Have they developed greater compassion for their ageing and heartbroken, grieving father?

Judah, the new leader of the 10 brothers, steps up and offers his life in the place of Benjamin.  The brothers do realize that potentially losing another brother is God’s punishment for what they did to Joseph.  At least Judah—who had been the one to suggest they sell Joseph to slave traders–is willing to sacrifice his life for Benjamin’s.  Judah had been so mortified by his father’s deep grief over Joseph’s supposed death that he had fled the family camp and lived for a time with the Canaanites.  Judah’s offer indicates a true change of heart.

So, satisfied that they have truly undergone a moral transformation, Joseph reveals his true identity to them.  At first, they can’t believe it is him.

Then they fear his retribution.  But in a truly Christ-like way, he reassures them, [Peterson’s The Message](v.5+)àI 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.  God uses Joseph to save his father, Jacob/Israel, his brothers, and his whole extended family (a total of 90 people); but Joseph’s wisdom also saves thousands, perhaps millions of Egyptians; as well as untold, unnumbered, other Gentiles.

So, who gets saved?  Joseph’s family and the fledgling Jewish/Hebrew nation.

Our New Testament Lesson, Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32, makes it pretty clear that God has not rejected the Jews as His Chosen People.  Just as God is merciful to us, Gentile believers, He too will have mercy on the Jews.  At some point in the future (probably during the Great Tribulation), many—not all—but many Jews will come to Christ and be saved.

 Who gets saved?  Many modern day Jews in the days to come.

Our Gospel lesson occurs in Matthew 15, but is also told in Mark 7.  Jesus journeys outside Israel’s borders (into Tyre & Sidon, NW of Jerusalem)because He knows He has been rejected by many of his countrymen.  He apparently needs a break.  His focus has been on reaching His fellow Jews, the Children ofIsrael.  But now He appears to indicate, through this story, that He will also receive Gentiles (aren’t we glad?).

This Canaanite (Syro-Phoenecian) woman with a demonized daughter approaches Him.  Apparently, she is noisily insistent that she see Jesus. she persists.  She won’t take no for an answer.  She has no true claim on Jesus as…

[1] She is not a Jew by nationality—wrong ethnicity;

[2] She is not a convert to the Jewish faith—wrong religion;

[3] And she is a woman—wrong gender, by the standards of the day.  And, remember, Jewish rabbis did not typically speak to women.

But this woman is a mother–and apparently a tigress–desiring healing for her child.  Clearly she believes Jesus can free her daughter from demons.  And clearly she isn’t going to be put off.

Jesus uses the metaphor of dogs to remind her, His disciples, and whoever might else might be listening, that His first priority is to the Jews.

Jews often referred to Gentiles as “dogs.”  However, Jesus uses the diminutive of “dogs”, “puppies” in the Hebrew.  He is essentially saying, just as in a family, there is an order here. The children (Israelites) eat first; then puppies get fed, but not from the table and not until the kids are done.  He is not telling her she cannot expect help from Him, but rather that there is a set of priorities to His ministry.

She gets what He is saying, steps into His metaphor, and reminds Him that (v.27)àbut even the puppies eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.  She knows she does not have a legitimate place at theJewishtable;but she indicates that she believes that Jesus can provideenough to Israel that some leftovers will be available to her and to her daughter.  She dialogues with Jesus in a most respectful way.Notice, she doesn’t say, Give me what I deservedue to my goodness or my rights—or quote “Me too” movement slogans, which some today might.  Instead, as Timothy Keller asserts in his book King’s Cross (2011, p.89), she implies,Give me what I don’t deserve on the basis of Your goodnessand, please, I need it right now.

Jesus commends her:  (v.28)àWonderful answer!  Incredible answer!  You may go.  The demon has left your daughter.  He appears to be impressed with her—and heals herchild—because she got His metaphor without His having to explain it; and perhaps too because she answers Him from within the parable.  These things tell Himshe heard and understood His message to her.

Who gets saved?  This woman and probably her daughter.

So, to sum up, who gets saved?

  1. Steven Laveggi, through reading Scripture;
  2. Joseph’s father, brothers, their wives and kids; through Joseph’s wisdom and forgiving spirit.
  3. God’s chosen people, the Jews, if they behave like they know, obey, and love the Lord; and if they accept Jesus as their Savior.
  4. And Gentiles, like us, who–as Paul reminds us in Romans 10:9–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.

To this I say “Thank you, Lord, for making it so simple.  Help us all to demonstrate our love and faith in you, daily, by what we say and by what we do.  May it all be pleasing to You!  Amen!”

©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams