04/07/2019 = John 19:30 = The Seven Last (pre-crucifixion) Words of Jesus: “FINISHED”

This message is coming late, with my apologies (I have been with little internet while in far northwest Alaska for the last 16 days).

And this message, preached by Pastor Kathy Sandusky, is AUDIO only. Be blessed, my friends!

(PS, next week’s message will not appear at all, 04/14/2019, Palm Sunday – our church sings a copyrighted cantata, and I am still in Alaska)

Advertisements

03/31/2019 = John 19:28 = Seven Last (pre-crucifixion) Words of Christ: “THIRSTY”

Click HERE to listen in on what we said.)

Mark Wheeler

John 19:28

Seven Last (pre-crucifixion) Words of Christ: “THIRSTY

03/31/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

“Father forgive them for they do not KNOW what they are doing.”

 “TRULY I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 “[Jesus] said to [His mother], “Woman, HERE is your son,” and to the disciple, “HERE is your mother.”

 “My God, my God, why have You FORSAKEN me?”

 

Maybe if they didn’t KNOW, they should be offered grace. That’s what God does; do we do that?

The TRUTH is always bigger than the agony we might currently feel, and Jesus promises paradise in this life and immeasurably beyond this life.

Jesus points us TOWARD one another so that, with open arms and hearts, we might learn to love one another.

Jesus quotes Psalm 22’s question about God’s WHEREabouts in times of trauma, and He expects us to supply Psalm 22’s answer that God is always right here with us!

 

Today’sword” is THIRSTY.

 

For this series, because Lent is a season of personal reflection and devotion, we are starting each message with a couple questions to set the stage, questions for you to ponder, and maybe to answer at the close of the message:

  • Think of a time when you’ve participated in a ritual with water or juice or wine – like Baptism or foot-washing or Communion – what was that like? What did it mean to you?
  • Do you think it was difficult for Jesus to say, “I am THIRSTY”? When is it hard for you to admit you need help with something?

 

Today’s reading comes from John 19:28. Jesus is already on the cross, having endured the pains of betrayal, a late-night arrest, an all-night, illegal trial, a predicted denial, and a conviction resulting in being whipped with a scourge and forced to carry His cross (until Simon of Cyrene stepped in to help) to the place of crucifixion where He was nailed and hung to die.

Hear the Word of our Lord …. —-

 28  “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am THIRSTY.’”

 

I’m not a big drinker of water – 8 glasses a day? Really? – but in the summer after a long lawn-mow, not much feels better than a tall glass of lemonade. In the fall, maybe a good yard raking deserves a warm cup of apple cider. In the dead of winter, who doesn’t cozy up to a cup of hot chocolate. Right? Next week I will enjoy a delicious cup of jet-black coffee with a plate of sourdough hot cakes at Clifford Weyiouanna’s  kitchen table.

When we are THIRSTY, it’s often our body’s way of reminding us that we need something, that we lack something. Without enough water we get headaches, or dizzy spells, or worse. We need a cup, or an IV of liquid to satisfy our longing. My absolutely thirstiest moment in life was when I thought I had a stomach flu and was treating it by hydrating with soda, Orange Nehi. I could not drink enough soda to satisfy my thirst.  First note: sugary sodas should not be our first remedy to quench a thirst.  What I learned on day three of my growing-need-for-another-Nehi was that I did not have a stomach flu, I had Type I Diabetes Mellitus, and the sugary liquid was just making it worse, so that my body evacuated the soda out faster than I could replace it – thus increasing my feeling of THIRST!

Sometimes it’s our spirit that craves some kind of refreshment. Maybe it’s a friendly face or an encouraging word or a hug. The 1980s TV sitcom Cheers demonstrated meeting both those needs in a fun way. “Norm” came for a beer, but he really came for the friendly fellowship, the company, he came because “everybody knew his name…” (For me those places tend to be Taco John’s, Little Nevada, or DQ, for food, a drink, and friendly company. Church-family is my go-to group to just hang with.)

Jesus uses some of His very last words to say, “I am THIRSTY.”

 

I wonder if the people gathered at the cross were surprised to hear Jesus cry out that He was THIRSTY…. I wonder if they were surprised how that sentence ended. I mean, surely Jesus felt a ton of things, lots of needs, while He hung on that cross. John tells us that this was His cry to fulfill what the Scriptures foretoldPsalm 22 speaks of His tongue sticking to the roof of His mouth and Psalm 69 talks about someone using vinegar to satisfy His THIRST – but I wonder if John even recognized this at the time.

 

I wonder if they expected to hear something more profound. What else does Jesus say in John’s Gospel? “I am the Bread of Life…. I am the Light of the world…. I am the Good Shepherd…. I am the True Vine…. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life….” I am … THIRSTY?

When He started with “I am …” did everyone lean in?  Were they hoping for a meaningful metaphor? A new revelation? One more saying that would shed light on who Jesus is? But, I am … THIRSTY?

Maybe they felt relieved. Finally, here was an “I am” statement they all easily understood. Everyone knows what it’s like to be THIRSTY.

 

Put yourself in their place for a minute. You love this Man, admire Him, revere Him, and He’s dying nailed on a cross, and He’s THIRSTYWho has a jug of water? How can we reach His parched lips?

Maybe we’re feeling ashamed. Here’s this Man whom we have followed for three years, and now He’s been abandoned by His closest friends, mocked by His weakest antagonists, and tormented by His fiercest opponents. But He doesn’t cry out for mercy, He just pleads for something to whet His whistle!

And what happens next? Someone lifts a sponge soaked in vinegar for Jesus to suck on! He cried for liquidthat’s what He got!

 

That the Scripture might be fulfilled! Was He THIRSTY for an unjust world to find justice? For a world parched with wrong to be filled with righteousness? Was His THIRST for a place where no one suffered at the hands of another, where no child went to bed hungry; where, as the Old Testament Prophet Amos prayed, an ever-flowing stream, like water, righteousness to flood our lands?

In John 4 Jesus met a woman at a well and He promised her “living water” that satisfies our THIRST for God. Was He thinking about the waters of Baptism, wherein we are inundated with God’s salvation and love? Maybe people thought about the foot-washing ceremony that welcomed strangers into our homes. Was He recalling His 40-days in the wilderness, when in His hunger and THIRST Satan tempted Him to abandon His calling. Maybe, while drying out on the cross Jesus remembered His own Baptism when He heard His Father say, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love”!

 

That’s a lot of speculation. I don’t know everything that was going through Jesus’ mind, or through the minds of those gathered together on that hill. But, because the Scriptures were fulfilled, we do know that God’s purpose was being played out. And we know that Jesus found satisfactionnot in the vinegar, but in His relationship to His heavenly Father.

 

We live in a world that is filled to the brim with THIRST! All around us, in school, at work, next door, down the hall, in the very seat each of us is sitting – we see THIRST – for water, for connection, for God’s love and mercy and justice and grace.

How do we offer God to those we know who are THIRSTY?

How do we quench our own THIRST?

If you’re THIRSTY and dry, look up to the sky – it’s beginning to rain!

 

As we move into our time of prayer, let’s begin by sharing our thoughts about

  • Think of a time when you’ve participated in a ritual with water or juice or wine – like Baptism or foot-washing or Communion – what was that like? What did it mean to you?
  • Do you think it was difficult for Jesus to say, “I am THIRSTY”? When is it hard for you to admit you need help with something?

 

 28  “Knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am THIRSTY.’”

 

Resources:

Illustrated Children’s Ministry, LLC; 2019.

03/24/2019 = Matthew 27:46 = Seven Last (pre-crucifixion) Words of Christ: “FORSAKEN”

(To LISTEN to this message, click HERE.)

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 27:46

Seven Last (pre-crucifixion) Words of Christ: “FORSAKEN

03/24/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

“Father forgive them for they do not KNOW what they are doing.”

That was March 3rd’s “word” from our Lord. Maybe if they didn’t KNOW, they should be offered grace. That’s what God does; do we do that?

“TRULY I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

TRUTH was March 10th’s “word” from our Lord. The TRUTH is always bigger than the agony we might currently feel, and Jesus promises paradise in this life and immeasurably beyond this life.

“[Jesus] said to [His mother], “Woman, HERE is your son,” and to the disciple, “HERE is your mother.”

Jesus points us TOWARD one another so that, with open arms and hearts, we might learn to love one another.

 

Today’sword” is FORSAKEN.

 

For this series, because Lent is a season of personal reflection and devotion, we are starting each message with a couple questions to set the stage, questions for you to ponder, and maybe to answer at the close of the message:

  • What are some songs or poems or Scriptures you know by heart, like Jesus and His community knew the Psalms?
  • Listen for the two voices in Psalm 22 – how would you describe these voices? And which voice is yours today?

 

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 27:46. Jesus is already on the cross, having endured the pains of betrayal, a late-night arrest, an all-night, illegal trial, a predicted denial, and a conviction resulting in being whipped with a scourge and forced to carry His cross (until Simon of Cyrene stepped in to help) to the place of crucifixion where He was nailed and hung to die.

Hear the Word of our Lord …. —-

 46  “My God, my God, why have You FORSAKEN me?”

 

In many ways, this fourth “word” from our Lord is the hardest to hear. Jesus – the One who so closely communes with God that people know God through Him, we feel God’s love and grace and power and healing just by being near Himcries out in pain and despair! “My God, my God, why have You FORSAKEN me?” He knows God is always with Him, but He cannot feel God’s presence in this moment! He knows God loves Him, and yet this struggle makes Him feel alone and abandoned, like God doesn’t care, isn’t paying attention, maybe doesn’t even exist.

These words are hard to hear. Right? But, I believe they say more than what might be easily apparent to us. These words are a code, a cue, for anyone who might have been “at the cross” listening; or for anyone who might be hearing or reading the story 2,000 years later on the other side of the globe.

Jesus uses these words from the beginning of Psalm 22 – what we read in our Call to Worship today. You probably know that the Psalms are the songbook, the hymnbook, the prayer-book, of Jesus and His people. And this Psalm, 22, is actually a dialogue between two voicesone desperate, persecuted, nearly hopeless; the other voice, confident in the memory that God has always been there, and promises to always be there, with and for him and his people.

I have wondered if maybe Jesus didn’t recite the entire Psalm from the cross, but Matthew only recorded the opening line. Or, probably more likely, Jesus started the Psalm knowing that others would finish it from memory.

Listen to the beginning of this “conversation”:

My God, my God, why have You FORSAKEN me?

Why are You so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;

And by night, but I find no rest!

          Yet You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

          In You our ancestors trusted; they trusted and You delivered them!

          To You they cried, and were saved; in You they trusted, and were not put to shame!

But I am a worm, and not even human;

Scorned by others, and despised by the people.

All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me; they shake their heads;

“Commit your cause to the Lord; let Him deliver you-”, they say,

“Let Him rescue the One in whom He delights!”

          Yet it was You who took me from the womb;

          You kept me safe at my mother’s breast.

          On You I was cast from my birth, and since my mother more me You have been my God!

 

The people of God in the 1st Century AD knew this anguish. It had been some 400 years between the last Old Testament prophet speaking God’s Word and Matthew’s Gospel story of the incarnation of the Son of God! 400 years of silence! My God, my God, why have You FORSAKEN me?

 

But the Jews knew and sang this Psalm, in faith, even when God was silent.

Anyone who heard Jesus cry out these opening lines of Psalm 22 from the cross would have heard more than just these words! They would have heard the whole conversation, the whole Psalm – they would have finished the Psalm, by heart.

Let’s try it for a second: “Jesus loves me this I know …”… “for the Bible tells me so.”

For God so loved the world…” … “that He gave His only begotten Son…”

This is your birthday song…” … “it isn’t very long…”

The Lord is my shepherd…” … “I shall not want…”

That’s what would have happened with “My God, my God, why have You FORSAKEN me?

 

Therefore, these words point to the truth that all is not lost, that God, who has journeyed with God’s people through all of history, is still by their side right now, even in their depths of despair!!

 

We can probably all think of a time when God seemed very near and present, right? I mean, there are countless stories when everything was “going right” and we praised God, right? When we’re “in the land that is plentiful, where God’s streams of abundance flow … when the sun’s shining down on me and the world’s ‘all as it should be’”. Then we easily say, “Blessed be Your name!

25 years ago, when LPC’s Pastor Nominating Committee called me for a visit – I felt God’s nearness in a very palpable way! He was right in the mix!

But, even when we’refound in the desert place, walking through the wilderness … when we’re on the road marked with suffering and there’s pain in the offering”. Even then, Blessed be Your name!

35 years ago, when I felt ill, and in the matter of three days lost 28 pounds, went to the doctor, was admitted to Placentia-Linda Hospital with a blood-sugar reading of 983 (I was on death’s door!), God was very near!

 

And I’ll bet we can all think of times when we cried out with Jesus, “My God, my God, why have You FORSAKEN me? ” But we didn’t have the rest of this Psalm’s dialogue in our hearts.

When someone I dearly love shared with me life-style choices that seemed so far from God’s will and God’s way, I cried out for God’s presence, for God’s will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Psalm 22, Jesus’ words from the cross, reminds us to remember that God has always been there, and promises to always be there, with and for us and our people!

 

That eternal truth does not take the temporal pain Jesus speaks any less; it does not remove our losses or our hurts, our injuries or our illnesses. But it does remind us that the pain and agony are a part of a much larger, longer, unfolding story. It is meant to remind us that as far as Jesus felt from God at that moment on the cross, this is not all there is.

This reminder may not answer Jesus’ question ofWHY have You forsaken me?” – or any of ourwhy” questions. But it very much answers the main “where” question. The “forsaken” part of “why have You FORSAKEN me?” is really the “where?” question. “Where is God?” “Where is our hope?” “Where is the love that every single one of us was born into? Where is that love that promises to hold us forever?

And what is the answer? Even when all else is still unknown, the answer is always, “right here, God is right here.”

 

As we move into our time of prayer, let’s begin by sharing our thoughts about

  • What are some songs or poems or Scriptures you know by heart, like Jesus and His community knew the Psalms?
  • Listen for the two voices in Psalm 22 – how would you describe these voices? And which voice is yours today?

 

The beginning of the dialogue asks, Matthew 27 46  “My God, my God, why have You FORSAKEN me?” And it ends with the reminder that God is right here with us, always.

 

Resources:

Illustrated Children’s Ministry, LLC; 2019.

03/17/2019 = John 19:26-27 = Seven Last (pre-crucifixion) Words of Christ: “HERE”

(Click HERE for an audio of this message)

Mark Wheeler

John 19:26-27

Seven Last (pre-crucifixion) Words of Christ: “HERE

03/17/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

“Father forgive them for they do not KNOW what they are doing.”

That was March 3rd’s “word” from our Lord. Maybe if they didn’t know, they should be offered grace. Do we do that?

“TRULY I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

TRUTH was last week’s “word” from our Lord. The TRUTH is always bigger than the agony we might currently feel, and Jesus promises paradise in this life and immeasurably beyond this life.

Today’sword” is HERE.

 

For this series, because Lent is a season of personal reflection and devotion, we are starting each message with a couple questions to set the stage, questions for you to ponder, and maybe to answer at the close of the message:

  • Who has cared for you when you’ve been sad or struggling? How have they done that?
  • What is one way you’ve shown care for someone else (not your own children)?

 

Today’s reading comes from John 19:26-27, Jesus is already on the cross, having endured the pains of betrayal, a late-night arrest, an all-night, illegal trial, a predicted denial, and a conviction resulting in being whipped with a scourge and forced to carry His cross (until Simon of Cyrene stepped in to help) to the place of crucifixion where He was nailed and hung to die.

Hear the Word of our Lord …. —-

 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, HERE is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “HERE is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

 

With these words, Jesus continues some of the most important work He did in His life, even as He’s dying on the cross. With these words He turns people toward each other. Like maybe never before in our nation’s history – and I’m talking even during the Revolutionary and Civil War eras, the 1960s’ Civil Rights, Viet Nam, Sexual Revolution decade – our nation in 2019, our neighborhoods, our familieswe need to turn toward each other, with open arms and hearts, with respect and love.

With these words Jesus offers His mother and His youngest Disciple, dearest friend, to each other!

 

This is what He did when He called His 12 DisciplesIsraelite zealots and traitorous tax collectors, business administrators and union member laborers, northern Galileans and southern Judeans, political and theological progressives and conservatives. He taught and trained them and sent them on mission together to proclaim God’s peace and to heal.

This is what He did when His relatives came looking for Him: His teaching drew a big crowd, and someone told Him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you; and Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to His Disciples He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt 12:46-50)

And now, from the cross, Jesus sees the two people who perhaps love Him the most, His mother Mary and His dear friend John both in pain, both in grief, both in despair. And with some of His very last words Jesus gives these two to each other. 26  “Woman, HERE is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “HERE is your mother.” (One quick word about Jesus calling His momWoman” – He did the same thing at the wedding in Cana, His first recorded miracle when He turned water into wine, He told His mom, “Woman, why do you involve me?” (John 2:4) In our culture that sounds like a super rude way for a son to talk to his momma, but not so in the 1st Century Hebrew culture. “Woman” was a revering term of respect – it was like a non-sarcasticma’am”.)

Has anyone ever been “given” to you, like how Jesus gave these two to each other? At our wedding, Jennifer’s parentsgave this woman to this man in holy matrimony”. And they expect me to love her and cherish hertill death us do part.

When our children were born, they were “given” to us to raise into responsible, loving, caring, productive children of God and members of society.

At every child baptism, we the Church, are “given” these children to help raise in God’s Kingdom.

 

In today’s story, Jesus knows His mom and His dear friend are entering into deep sadness, real anger, a sense of guilt, and lots of questions that have no good answers. He knows that surviving this loss may be the hardest thing they’ve ever done. As is true with any grief, theirs will be complicated and will remain with them a long time. They will probably “hear His voice” and look for Him; they will prepare His favorite meal and then be overwhelmed with sadness when they remember He won’t enjoy it; they will see His Disciples carry on His work, and wish He could see it; and they’ll see others who ignore His work, and they’ll wish they could make everyone receive Him and believe in Him. Memories of Jesus will consume them some days and other days they’ll be too busy to remember Him and then feel guilty….

Who here relates to this kind of grief? Jack lost Betty one year ago this Thursday. This Wednesday would have been my Dad’s 91st birthday. We’ve all lost loved ones and know the pain of loss.

 

That’s why Jesus gives Mary and John to each other. 26  “Woman, HERE is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “HERE is your mother.” He is instructing them that “this is where their attention should go”. Looking in on one another does not take all the pain away, but it helps us get through it. Also, this was not the only thing Jesus wanted His mother and John to do. But it was among the things He assigned them to be about.

If Jesus might speak these words to us today, to whom do you think He might want us to turn our attention? Obviously to each otherlove one another, as Jesus loves us. And, I think maybe a group of orphans in and around Kiminini, Kenya. I believe with my whole heart that God has called LPC to partner with Fellowship Church so that we might hear Him tell us, “HERE are your children. HERE is where your attention should be cast!”

As Christians, called to love our neighbors, our enemies even, do we grieve with the world’s Muslim community after the massacre in New Zealand last week? Are we called to turn toward them with love?

 

Jesus offers us each other, brothers and sisters in Christ – He calls us, multiple times, to love one another even when we disagree with each other, to love another. And to know that we are loved, fully, by God, always, and by His Church. Do you know that love today?

26  “Woman, HERE is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “HERE is your mother.”

 

As we move into our time of prayer, let’s begin with talking about

  • Who has cared for you when you’ve been sad or struggling? How have they done that?
  • What is one way you’ve shown care for someone else (not your own children)?

 

26  “Woman, HERE is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “HERE is your mother.”

 

Resources:

Illustrated Children’s Ministry, LLC; 2019.

03/10/2019 = Luke 23:43 = Seven Last (pre-crucifixion) Words of Christ: “TRUTH”

(Click HERE to LISTEN to this message)

Mark Wheeler

Luke 23:43

Seven Last (pre-crucifixion) Words of Christ: “TRUTH

03/10/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Father forgive them for they do not KNOW what they are doing.

That was last week’s “word” from our Lord. And we talked about how Christ’s prayer for God’s grace might also be our prayer when we are offended or injured or betrayed – respond with the possibility that perhaps the offending party just “did not know”. They should have known, but maybe they didn’t know. That possibility opens our doors for forgiveness to be offered as well.

Today’sword” is TRUTH.

 

How do we know what’s true? In John’s Gospel, during the trial just before the crucifixion, Pilate is interrogating Jesus and Jesus says, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me”; and Pilate bounces right back with, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38).

A day earlier, while Jesus and His disciples were preparing to eat in that famous Upper Room, Jesus told His disciples, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me….” (John 14:6).

Sometimes what is true is easy to see. Sometimes it can be very difficult – because of conflicting evidence, because of differing backgrounds and opinions, because of shifted perspectives due to pains and hurts.

Remember the last time you were in so much pain that the only thing you could see was the pain itselfphysical pain from a fall or an accident, or from violence or age; emotional pain from a loved one’s betrayal or neglect; fearful pain from financial threats or debts.

When we’re in pain – that is often the only truth we can know! The injury or sadness occupies every cubic measurement of our minds and hearts. Right? Who here relates to what I’m saying? But, from an objective standpoint we can look in and know that there is more truth than merely the hurt and pain. It is easy to focus on the hardships and forget all the good things that surround us, the people who care for us, the big and small ways we are loved every day. All of that can be overshadowed when we’re in pain, but that does not make it any less true!

 

For this series, because Lent is a season of personal reflection and devotion, I am starting each message with a couple questions to set the stage, questions for you to ponder, and maybe to answer at the close of the message:

  • Who makes you feel better when you are sad? How do they do that?
  • How do you imagine Paradise? What is Paradise like in your mind?

 

Today’s reading comes from Luke 23:43, Jesus is already on the cross, having endured the pains of betrayal, a late-night arrest, an all-night, illegal trial, a predicted denial, and a conviction resulting in being whipped with a scourge and forced to carry His cross to the place of crucifixion where He was nailed and hung to die.

Hear the Word of our Lord …. —-

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

The Gospel According to Luke tells us that Jesus was not crucified alone. There were two others, hung on crosses on either side of Jesus. And one of them asks of Jesus, “Remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.” And Jesus gives a nearly unbelievable response: Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

I wonder if Jesus knew how unbelievable this response would sound. Is that why He started it by assuring the thief next to him that He really meant it? Truly I tell you! KJV says, Verily! “Hear this TRUTH! Today we’ll be together in Paradise!

All of this pain you are in the middle of – public scrutiny and humiliation, sin and guilt, desecrating the family name, leaving your children fatherless, your wife widowed and in poverty – all of this is not everything that is real! It is absolutely intense. “Overwhelming” is not a big enough word. “All-consumingbarely scratches the surface.

It would be understandable if Jesus and the man next to Him felt like their pain was the only certainty, the truly only real thing in that moment. Right? It would have been understandable if they had trouble seeing anything beyond the horror of the immediate situation they were in.

 

What was this nameless criminal being justly crucified next to Jesus thinking? What did he expect?Remember me in your Kingdom.” Was he claiming the hope from Psalm 25 we read in our Call to Worship? “Guide me in Your TRUTH and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my (only) hope is in You all day long. Remember, Lord, Your great mercy and love, for they are from [everlasting to everlasting].”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

I would guess that this man knew something about Jesus, had heard stories of His healing, His walking on water, His turning water into wine, maybe His raising Lazarus, or the centurion’s daughter, from death. Seemingly impossible things were very real in this Jesus’ hands. Was he hoping for release from the cross? Did he wish for an empirical pardon?

Jesus gave this man hope beyond just merely sleeping in his own bed tonight. 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

When we’re confronted with suffering, when our family and friends fear for their lives and their loves, what words do we offer? Can we also share hope for tomorrow?

This man requests some kind of salvation from Jesus whilst they suffer together in their terrible shared-moment. When we share times of struggle or sadness or grief or pain with another, we might find our own sadness deepen. Sometimes it feels like it’s too much to bear. We avoid someone else’s pain because it reawakens our own. Ash Wednesday would have been my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary – and while I was anointing one of our member’s foreheads with ashes I almost lost it over my own grief. Some of you know very well of what I speak.

 

But there’s also a blessing in being with each other through our struggles. We find kinship. We are not alone! Pain connects us with each other in important ways. A couple weeks ago Kathy, here, prayed for herself and the other two in our congregation all going through Kidney Dialysis. That’s a shared struggle no one wishes on their enemies, but when we find fellow Dialysis patients we also discover life-long friends. What do they say? When we share our sorrow we halve it, when we share our joy we double it.

What Jesus offers does not lessen their current struggle, but He promises joy without measuretogether in Paradise.

 

When pain feels like that’s everything that’s “true”, how do you remember God’s promises?

Jesus teaches us to pray that God’s love, God’s power, God’s will, be made realon earth as it is in heaven”. Jesus promises that while the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; [Jesus has] come that [we] may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). Abundant life here and now – and way more when we are with Him in Paradise through faith in His revealed Word!

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

As we move into our time of prayer, let’s begin with

  • sharing stories of who makes you feel better when you are sad? How do they do that?
  • How do you imagine Paradise? What is Paradise like in your mind?

 

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

Resources:

Illustrated Children’s Ministry, LLC; 2019.

03/03/2019 = Luke 23:34 = Seven Last (pre-crucifixion) Words of Christ: “KNOW”

(Click HERE for an audio of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Luke 23:34

Seven Last (pre-crucifixion) Words of Christ: “Know

03/03/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Today we begin our 50-day journey with Jesus from wherever we currently are in our walk with Christ all the way to the cross where Jesus submits his body to death on our behalf. The Season of Lent begins this week, on Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, and lasts the 40-days between Wednesday and Easter Sunday when Jesus rises from the grave. Obviously, the number of days between March 6 and April 21 is more than 40 – it’s actually 47-days. So, why do we call it the FORTY days of Lent? Here’s why: It IS 40-days, plus Sundays. The 40-days are meant to represent Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness after His baptism, praying and preparing for His ministry, fasting and suffering to prepare for His ultimate sacrifice on the cross – it also represents the Israelites’ 40-years in their wilderness after their exodus from Egypt, praying and preparing for their entrance into the Promised Land. So, we, also, “suffer” by “giving something up” for Lent, praying and preparing for our lives with Jesus. But, we don’t suffer on Sundays, because that’s the day we celebrate Jesusresurrectionthat’s a feast-day, not a fast-day!

We have just concluded a study on the Bible as God’s authoritative Word for humanity. These next seven Sundays will study some specific sentences said by our Savior from His final hours before death.

 

For this series, because Lent is a season of personal reflection and devotion, I will start each message with a couple questions to set the stage, questions for you to ponder, and maybe to answer at the close of the message:

  • Think of a time someone spoke words of grace to you, words of forgiveness. Who was that? What did they say?
  • What are some of the kindest, nicest, most caring words you know?

 

Today’s reading comes from Luke 23:34, Jesus is already on the cross, having endured the pains of a late-night arrest, and all-night, illegal trial, and a conviction resulting in being whipped with a scourge and forced to carry His cross to the place of crucifixion where He was nailed and hung to die.

Hear the Word of our Lord …. —-

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

 

What don’t you know?

Have you ever been asked to play a role in a project that you really don’t totally understand? A simple example for me is that about a week ago I was copying some papers for our Sunday School class; I was in a hurry, and apparently I do not understand our copier – everything came out sidewayslandscape instead of portrait. Aaagghhh! Sometimes when I go to GloryBand concerts, Pastor Cary will ask me to run the sound board and computer for the projector – that’s not a genius job, but every soundboard is different, and some Power Point projects just don’t click like they’re supposed to.

Maybe you’ve felt a little of this when you’ve been asked to lead the Call to Worship or serve Communion (right? You’ve seen it done hundreds of times, but suddenly you’re doing it and you have no idea what’s next!) That’s on me. Fuller training and explanations are needed.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

 

Have you ever participated in something you later regretted? Or maybe you knew it was wrong from the start, but you got caught up in the moment? Who here listened to Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress last Wednesday morning? I do not know what the truth about all of that is, and I’m not here to pass any judgment in any direction, but simply to use his words as a confession of someone who claims that very reality. He says that he got caught up in supporting someone in powerful leadership whom he knew was “bad for the country” (his words).

On a much lesser scale, and more personal, my brother and I used to fight – sometimes it was for fun, sometimes it was over bedroom territorial rights. We shared a room for 12 years, and Larry is four years older than me! Can you imagine how much he must have hated sharing that space with his little brother? One time, in a fit of rage, I swung a golf club and clobbered him in the head. One time he threw a knife, it missed me but it stuck in the wall behind me. If either of us had known it might turn out with a hospital visit, we probably wouldn’t have started that time.

Or, here’s one we can probably all relate to on one level or another: when someone tosses a piece of trash on the ground. It is hard to see how one piece of trash makes a difference. But then the wind picks up that trash, carries it from where it was tossed into the woods or the ocean where a curious creature crawls up to it or swims into it – and loses its ability to crawl or swim or breathe. The person who tossed the trash never intended for that to happen, but rarely can we know everything that might unfold from our actions.

Who remembers that 1971 TV PSA where an American Indian named Iron Eyes Cody, after canoeing from the past stands at the side of a road and a driver tosses some fastfood garbage out the window at his feet? Today his slow-rolling tear would be a silly meme, but almost 50-years ago it became an award-winning icon for earth care [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95ser7CC2iY] (there is way more to that story, but we’ll talk about that during the Fellowship Time after worship [https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-indian-crying-environment-ads-pollution-1123-20171113-story.html]).

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

 

The word “know” means to understand, to see, to recognize. And at times we don’t understand, see or recognize because we don’t try very hard. Sometimes it’s because we simply are unable to know the consequences ahead of time. And sometimes, if we’re honest, we’re just plain wrong about what we’re doing – out of self-centeredness, fear, hurt, hatred – sometimes we know better and we’re just plain wrong!

 

And Jesus knows all of this. He knew this even when He was hanging on that cross – during those hours of pain, sorrow, hurt. He knew they didn’t really understand what they were doing – that they were caught up in lies they didn’t recognize, that they didn’t fully understand their actions. He also knew that if they had challenged their instructions they would be punished, lose their jobs, cast out of their community. They were as trapped as He was – and they might not have even known that! (Yes, Jesus was “trappedvoluntarily, with perfect knowledge of what was going on….)

So what does Jesus do? Jesus shows grace! Jesus offers mercy! Jesus speaks forgiveness!

 

Jesus knows that not even the choices people make in these moments can separate us from God’s love. He uses some of His last Words to tell us that. Perhaps Jesus suspected that His tormentors would understand this moment differently later. Don’t we often see things differently, more clearly, after something passes than while we’re in the midst of it?

 

Jesus does not speak these Words to excuse bad behavior, but rather to offer grace to us in spite of our bad-ness.

If you know of something you’ve been involved in – gossip, rumors, cheating, stealing – please also know that God knows – and God sent His Son as a propitiation to be received through faith.

And because we are created in His image, to be salt and light to the world, imagine if we responded with similar grace – yes that comment has upset or angered or saddened me, but “maybe they didn’t know…”. How might that affect our ability to love this person better tomorrow?

 

As we move into our time of prayer, let’s begin with

  • sharing stories of when you have heard words of grace, of forgiveness, spoken to you
  • sharing some of the kindest, nicest, most caring words you know….

 

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

 

Resources:

Illustrated Children’s Ministry, LLC; 2019.

02/24/2019 = Matthew 22:34-46 = Learning Where to Look: “Why Do the Scriptures Exist?”

(The AUDIO is available HERE)

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 22:34-46

Learning Where to Look: “Why Do the Scriptures Exist?

02/24/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

We have invested the opening two months of 2019 investigating what it is about the Bible, the Word of God, that we might claim gives it authority and a compelling call on our lives. Today we transition from messages about God’s Word to, what will begin next week as we venture into the Season of Lent, the closing specific, seven words of Jesus.

In our study last week, we talked about how and why Jesus read the Old Testament as God’s Word which pointed toward Himself as the fulfillment of every promise, prophecy and proverb made.

Today, we take a look at how we read this book.

 

St. Augustine, a 5th Century Church leader, a Bishop in what is now the northern African nation of Algeria (that’s the nation directly across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy, the ground-zero of what was becoming the Roman Catholic Church), one of history’s more influential Church Fathers, gives us this quote (listen carefully): “Anyone who thinks he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them.

If wecannot by [our] understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, [we have] not yet succeeded in understanding them.

 

What Augustine is suggesting is that as those who say we believe in Christ, who say we trust the Bible to be Truth-telling, our lives should better demonstrate something about God’s character whom we are created in the image of. Do you see where he’s going?

 

Today’s reading comes from a section of Matthew’s Gospel, a day or two into Jesus’ last week before His arrest and crucifixion. On this occasion the Sadducees have been questioning Jesus, and Jesus’ answers put them to silent awe. So now, the other party of Jewish religious leaders try their hand at catching Jesus in a compromising answer. When acrimonious foes discover a common “enemy” they might decide to work across the aisle and get things done. (If only we might see this kind of cooperation today….) Listen to these words from Jesus’ lips from Matthew 22:34-46 …. —-

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Deuteronomy 6:5, immediately following the second recording of the Ten Commandments).’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18, this whole book is about how we interpret God’s Law).’  40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:    “Sit at my right hand              until I put your enemies    under your feet.”’ (Psalm 110:1, we quoted this verse last week when we talked about Jesus reading this verse as His Heavenly Father speaking to Him, 1,000 years before He was born.)

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

 

Verses 34-40 of this passage contains the reason the Scriptures even exist!

  • So we can know God and His character traits of sovereignty, perfection, justice, and love
  • The Ten Commandments are there to remind us how to live as the image of God in which we are created
  • To simply know God’s Word is not enoughreading God’s Word leads to living God’s Way!

Verses 41-46 then remind us why these reasons are needed

  • So we can see the resultsGod’s love demonstrated through Psalm 110’s fulfilled word from the Father to the Son

 

David Briones, professor of New Testament theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, FL, says, “Too often we read Scripture like we fill up our gas tanks. We pull up, put our card in, fill up our tanks with gasoline, and drive away. There is neither a relationship with the owner of the gas station or with those around us filling up their individual tanks. Our interpretation of Scripture can’t be that way. Studying Scripture, as Kelly Kapic [professor of theological studies at Covenant College in GA] emphatically asserts, ‘is not just the acquisition of information.’ It’s not just about gaining knowledge. It is ‘emphatically and deeply relational.’ More to the point, Kapic insists that ‘faithful theology is relational.’ We shouldn’t want merely to be good interpreters of a text. We should want to be faithful disciples who submissively come under the God of the text.…

We should want to be faithful disciples who know God and love God, who also know our neighbors and love our neighbors. [Wheeler, do you know our neighbors? It doesn’t really matter. Luke tells a story of a father who so much loves his prodigal son that he anxiously waits for his return and then throws a party when he doesthat father is a picture of our Heavenly Father who loves you that much (Luke 15:11-32). That’s who God is! Luke also reports Jesus talking about an Israelite who is injured during a mugging, and then it takes an across-the-aisle opposition from Samaria to stop and take care of him and see to his costs and recovery (Luke 10:25-37). That’s who we who live-like-we-believe-what-we-say-we-believe are!]

 

Why do the Scriptures exist? Our Almighty God of creation and redemption preserves His written Word for us because He loves us! And we read it because we want to hear His voice! And because we love Him, our lives are changed by His Word heard and kept. We are created in God’s image – and through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, our broken, fallen image of God has the opportunity for redemption – to be re-made in that image!

It is a relationship, right?! The Scriptures exist as a relational gift to us. Relationship with God, and with each other! Love the Lord your God, with everything you’ve got; and love your neighbor as yourself!

May God give us the grace to ask, as Augustine did 1,600 years ago, if we have succeeded in understanding the Scriptures – living like we believe what we say we believe – according to the Word of God.

 

That’s my prayer for each of us. That we may be constantly and consistently blessed by the reading, the receiving, of God’s Word which always transforms and offers us God’s grace and mercy.

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for the gift of Your Word, written and living and ever applicable to our cultures and our lives, and for the ultimate revealing of Your perfect Word though Jesus Christ; and it is in His name we pray, Amen.

 

Resources:

Briones, David E.; “Hermeneutics and the Heart”; TableTalk; November 2018; Pp. 24-25.