Thursday, June 28, 2012

Teachers and Teachings We Remember

Teachers and Teachings We Remember
Proper 8B
July 1, 2012
Matthew 5:38-48

Mrs. Jones was a second grade teacher at James Madison Elementary School in Anaheim, California.  Mrs. Jones was an excellent teacher who cared deeply about her students.  One day in class, Mrs. Jones mentioned her home, which was a few miles away from James Madison Elementary School.  Some of the children were shocked! 

"What do you mean, 'home?'  Don't you live here at the school?" they asked.

"Why, no!" said Mrs. Jones.  "I work here at school.  I love being your teacher, but teaching is my job.  I also have a home and a family, just like your moms and dads have a job, a home and a family.  I am your teacher, but I am also a wife, a mother, a neighbor, a citizen and many other things as well.  I have many different roles in my life."

Jesus had many different roles in his life, too, just like Mrs. Jones; just like we all do.  Jesus was a son, a brother, a neighbor, a healer, a preacher and a Savior.  Jesus was also a teacher.  He explained to the people what the Scriptures meant, and taught people about God.  Sometimes Jesus explained the Scripture in ways the people had never heard before, and they were shocked!  For example, the Torah, which is what Jesus' students called their Scripture, the Torah said that if someone hurts you, say punches you in the arm, then you are allowed to punch them in the arm back, but that's all.  People were not allowed to do anything to hurt someone worse than they were hurt.  It's called "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."  But Jesus said that if someone hurts you, you're not supposed to hurt back at all!  We call it "turning the other cheek." Here's what Jesus said,

"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' 39 Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' ...40 If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it... Live generously."  (Eugene Peterson's The Message)

Jesus also taught his followers to not only love their friends, but to love their enemies also.  And he said that if people give you a hard time, don't give them a hard time back, but pray for them.  Jesus knew that God asks all of us to be the very best people we can be--not only good, but better than what is expected. 

There is a lot of discussion in schools and the news media today about bullying. Bullies can be pretty scary and hurtful. Jesus teaches us not to bully them back, but it is also OK to tell a teacher, your mom or dad, a coach or camp counselor when someone is being bullied. Letting the person in charge know what is going on will help both the person under attack and the bully to get the help they need to stop the bad behavior.

These lessons of Jesus' were shocking to his followers 2,000 years ago.  Sometimes they are still pretty hard for us to hear today.  When someone punches us, or calls us a mean name, the first thing most of us want to do is to hurt them back.  But can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone responded to meanness with kindness and generosity?  Jesus imagined such a world and called it The Kingdom of God.

Let's Pray:  Kind and Loving God, Help us to follow the teachings of Jesus, even when the lessons are difficult.  Help us to be the best people we can be, kind and generous.  May your kingdom come.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 24, 2012

Ordinary 12B
David Meets Goliath
I Samuel 17:1-49
Prop: Photo of Lion & Kitten (below--a larger version may be found using the Photo Credit link)

Who would win: a tyrannasaurus rex or an allosaurus?

Who would win: Batman or Superman?

Who would win: (Show photo) A lion or a kitten?

Photo Credit

Who would win: A heavily armed warrior or a shepherd boy?

Today's story answers that last question, at least in the case of Goliath and David.

This story takes place thousands of years ago, but the lesson it teaches is as important today as it was when the event took place.

The Israelites and the Philistines were at war.  The armies stood across from each other on hilltops with a valley in-between them.  God's people, The Israelites, watched as one huge warrior walked out of the Philistine camp and faced them.  His name was Goliath, and he was big.  He was bigger than big.  He was the most enormous person any of the Israelites had ever seen.  Goliath wore full armor and carried a huge javelin and a sharp spear. 

Goliath challenged the Israelites to send out a soldier from their army to fight him.  He shouted, "If your soldier is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I win and kill him, then you will be our servants and serve us."  When Saul, the king of Israel and leader of the army and his soldiers heard this, they were all afraid.  Goliath repeated his challenge twice a day for forty days, and none of the soldiers of Israel had the courage or faith to face him.

Now David was a young boy who took care of his father's sheep.  He was a shepherd.  David's three oldest brothers were soldiers in Saul's army.  David's father, Jesse, asked David to take some food to his brothers at the battlefield.  While he was there, Goliath came forward once again and dared Israel to send a soldier to fight him.  David said, "Who is this pagan Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God/"  That was big talk for such a small person!

Saul, the king, heard about David's bold words and sent for him.  David told the king, "I will go and fight this Philistine."  Saul said, "You can't go against the Philistine!  You are just a boy, and he has been a warrior for many years!"  Then David explained to Saul that he had protected his father's sheep from lions and bears.  "The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will certainly save me from the hand of this Philistine!," the brave boy said.

So Saul agreed to let David fight.  He dressed David in his own heavy armor, put a bronze helmet on David's head and strapped a sword on him.  But the suit was so big and heavy, David couldn't move!  He unstrapped the sword, removed the helmet, stepped out of the armor and walked to face Goliath.  He was armed only with a slingshot and five smooth stones. 

When he came closer to Goliath, the warrior became angry.  He thought the Israelites were playing a joke and making fun of him by sending such a poorly matched opponent.  David said to him, "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel."

When Goliath moved toward David, the shepherd boy ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  He placed one stone in his slingshot, whirled it around several times, and then let the stone fly.  It hit Goliath right in the middle of his forehead, and the mighty giant fell flat.

Who would win: a heavily armed warrior or a shepherd boy?  The answer is: The shepherd boy who put all of his trust in God.

Let's Pray:  Dear God, Give us faith like David's, so that we might meet every challenge in life with courage and confidence.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, June 15, 2012

God's Chosen

Sunday, June 17, 2012
Ordinary 11
God's Chosen
1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13

When I was a child, sometimes a bunch of my friends and I would get together to play ball.  Sometimes it was during recess at school, and other times at a park or someone's home.  Two team captains would stand infront of the group and take turns choosing players for their teams.  The biggest, strongest kids were always chosen first--the ones everyone knew could run fastest and hit and throw the ball farthest.  The smaller, slower kids were chosen last.  Everyone would have been surprised if the smallest player was chosen first.

Samuel was surprised this way once a long, long time ago.  God told the prophet Samuel that God needed a new king to rule over Israel.  God sent Samuel to a man named Jesse, who lived in Bethlehem.  God wanted one of Jesse's sons to be king.

So Samuel travelled to Bethlehem.  Jesse presented his oldest son, Eliab, to Samuel.  Samuel took one look at the tall, strong Eliab and through, "Certainly this is the man God has chosen to be king!"  But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at how handsome or tall he is, because I do not choose Eliab.  The Lord does not judge a person by how the person looks on the outside.  God looks at the person's heart."  Then Jesse called his next-oldest son, Abinadab, and presented him to Samuel.  He wasn't the one chosen, either.  Next came Shammah--NOT!  Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel.  God did not choose any of them to be the next king of Israel.

Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?"  Jesse said, "I have one more.  The youngest.  He is out taking care of the sheep."  Samuel told Jesse to send for him.

When Jesse's youngest son came in, Samuel saw that he was a boy--the youngest and smallest of Jesse's sons.  The Lord said, "Rise and annoint him king, for this is the one."  His name was David, and he was the greatest king Israel ever had.

I imagine Jesse, his seven older, stronger sons and even Samuel were surprised when God chose David, the shepherd boy, as king.  But the Bible tells us over and over again that God works that way--choosing people we wouldn't expect for service.

Even if you're young, or small, or not the first person chosen for the baseball team ever, you can be of service to God in making this world a better place and sharing the Good News of God's love, because God chooses YOU!

Let's Pray:  Dear God, we thank-you for the many wonderful surprises you bring into our lives.  Help us to be faithful servants, working to make this world a better place and sharing the Good News of your love and forgiveness.  In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.