Thursday Morning, 17 Oct 2019 – Matthew 23:1-22 ~ Blind guides!

Thursday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (A Collect for Guidance – Thursday)

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: Guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our lives we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
__________

Morning Reading – Matthew 23:1-22 (NLT)

Jesus Criticizes the Religious Leaders

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

“Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.
__________

Morning Reflection:

Blind guides!

“What sorrow awaits you!” – Matthew 23:16 –

In today’s reading Jesus confronts the Pharisees – arbiters of religious observance- as hypocrites and blind guides. The irony of it all was In their attempt to honor the Word of God, they were actually farthest from God.

Hypocrites – they presumed to take on Moses’ teaching authority, however…

  • They don’t practice what they teach
  • They crush people with unbearable demands
  • They’re all show, self righteous attention seekers

Blind guides

  • They rejected the Kingdom of heaven
  • They rejected Jesus’ kingdom authority
  • They did more harm than good in people’s lives
  • They misunderstood and misapplied Scripture
  • They led people to hell, over the cliff of legalism

Instead of serving people, they used their leadership positions to control them.
Jesus, by way of contrast in Matthew 20:27-29 (NLT).

“Whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Questions for consideration:

  • How would you assess the leaders of your faith community? Do they practice what the teach? Do they make excessive demands on you? Do they draw attention to themselves? Please explain.
  • How would you assess your faith community on a scale of 1 to 10 if legalistic were 1 and gracious were 10? Please explain.
  • Do you know anyone who has been harmed by the misunderstanding and misapplication of scripture? Please explain.

_________

Morning Prayer – For Inner Renewal Through The Word of God

Gracious God and most merciful Father, you have granted us the rich and precious jewel of your holy Word: Assist us with your Spirit, that the same Word may be written in our hearts to our everlasting comfort, to reform us, to renew us according to your own image, to build us up and edify us into the perfect dwelling place of your Christ, sanctifying and increasing in us all heavenly virtues; grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

__________

“Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)” – Hillsong Worship (Germany)

__________

Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Thursday Morning, 10 Oct 2019 – Matthew 20:1-28 ~ “Do you begrudge my generosity?”

Thursday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (A Collect for Guidance – Thursday)

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: Guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our lives we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
__________

Morning Reading – Matthew 20:1-28 (NLT)

Parable of the Vineyard Workers

“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.

“At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.

“At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’

“They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’

“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’

“That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’

“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

Jesus Again Predicts His Death

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

Jesus Teaches about Serving Others

Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. “What is your request?” he asked.

She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”

But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?”

“Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”

Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
__________

Morning Reflection:

Following Jesus even when it doesn’t add up.

“Do you begrudge my generosity?”
– Matthew 20:15 –

The parable of the vineyard workers contrasts our human way of reckoning the value of work with God’s way of reckoning the value of people. The landowner needed to have the work done and hired workers at different times to do it. But in the end, he hired the last worker out of generosity and human kindness, not because of his value as a worker.

The appeal to fairness of the early workers was not unreasonable if you view people from the perspective of value added to an endeavor; the early workers had added more value to the landowners workforce. But what did they expect from the landowner – an increase in wages, a decrease in the last workers wages, or were they just complaining. But the landowners response is telling – the early workers have already received the wages agreed upon, but it’s his money, and he can do what he wants with it… he can be as generous as he chooses with it. The landowner in the story was both gracious and just.

The point of the story is that God will reward all His disciples justly, graciously, and generously. In some cases the last called will be among the first in rank of blessing. Conversely in some cases those whom God called early in their lives may not receive as much reward as those called later in life.

Questions for consideration:

  • Do you consider yourself a long-time follower of Jesus, or a newcomer? How has God blessed you as a follower of Jesus? Please explain.
  • When you consider other believers in your fellowship of faith, how do you view newcomers in comparison to long-time members? Do either of them receive special treatment from other believers? Please explain.
  • How does this story affect your understanding of God’s fairness? Please explain.
  • How does this story affect your understanding of God’s goodness? Please explain.
  • If the first will be last and the last will be first in the Kingdom, how do you view those who get ahead of you in line? Please explain.

_________

Morning Prayer – A Litany of Thanksgiving –

Give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us:

+ For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea,
We thank you, Lord.
+ For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,
We thank you, Lord.
+ For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.
+ For health and strength to work, and time to rest and worship,
We thank you, Lord.
+ For all who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.
+ For all who earnestly seek after truth, and all who labor for justice,
We thank you, Lord.
+ For all that is good and gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.
+ For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord; To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen

__________

“His Mercy Is More” – Shane and Shane

Praise the Lord!
His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness, new every morn
Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more

What love could remember no wrongs we have done
Omniscient, all-knowing, He counts not their sum
Thrown into a sea without bottom or shore
Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more

Praise the Lord!
His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness, new every morn
Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more

What patience would wait as we constantly roam
What Father, so tender, is calling us home
He welcomes the weakest, the vilest, the poor
Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more

Praise the Lord!
His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness, new every morn
Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more

What riches of kindness He lavished on us
His blood was the payment, His life was the cost
We stood ‘neath a debt we could never afford
Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more

Praise the Lord!
His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness, new every morn
Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more
Praise the Lord!
His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness, new every morn
Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more
Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more
__________

Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Thursday Morning: 26 Sep 2019 – Matthew 14:22-36 ~ “Don’t be afraid. Take courage, I am here!”

Thursday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (A Collect for Guidance – Thursday)

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: Guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our lives we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
__________

Morning Reading – Matthew 14:22-36 (NLT)

Jesus Walks on Water

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.
__________

Morning Reflection:

“Don’t be afraid. Take courage, I am here!”

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him.
“You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
– Matthew 14:31 –

Jesus’ response to the disciples’ fear centered on, “I am here!” The disciples could take courage because Jesus was there. The words, “I am,” were a term Jesus used to claim deity.

On one hand, the disciples feared drowning because of the ferocity of the storm. On the other hand, Peter feared drowning because he climbed out of the boat. But in both cases the message is the same – “Don’t be afraid, I am here!” – Jesus stills the storm, and hauls Peter back into the boat.

Courage comes from knowing that Jesus – the One who is “I am” is present.

Questions for consideration:

  • What sort of storms have you experienced in your life? What was  your greatest fear when you were caught up in the middle of it? Please explain.
  • How did Jesus see you through it? Did you experience his encouraging presence in the midst of it? Please explain.
  • Are you currently experiencing a storm in your life, or is there a storm on your horizon? What do you need Jesus to do for you? Do you believe that he will? Please explain.

_________

Morning Prayer – For Times of Suffering or Weakness

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: I hold up all my weakness to your strength, my failure to your faithfulness, my sinfulness to your perfection, my loneliness to your compassion, my little pains to your great agony on the Cross. I pray that you will cleanse me, strengthen me, guide me, so that in all ways my life may be lived as you would have it lived, without cowardice and for you alone. Show me how to live in true humility, true contrition, and true love. Amen.
__________

“Be Not Afraid” – John Michael Talbot
(Video clips from the 1998 movie The Prince of Egypt)

__________

Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen