ARE WE BLESSED OR CURSED BY GOD?

                        SCRIPTURE FOR THIS SUNDAY: Matthew 5: 1-12                               

 (I’ll be using The Living Bible (TLB) translation.)

1-2 One day as the crowds were gathering, he went up the hillside with his disciples and sat down and taught them there.

“Humble men are very fortunate!” he told them, “for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them. Those who mourn are fortunate! For they shall be comforted. The meek and lowly are fortunate! For the whole wide world belongs to them.

“Happy are those who long to be just and good, for they shall be completely satisfied. Happy are the kind and merciful, for they shall be shown mercy. Happy are those whose hearts are pure, for they shall see God. Happy are those who strive for peace—they shall be called the sons of God. 10 Happy are those who are persecuted because they are good, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

11 “When you are reviled and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers—wonderful! 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a tremendous reward awaits you up in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted too.

Pastor Bob’s Reflections:

            This passage (Matthew 5: 1-12) is commonly referred to “The Beatitudes,” which can be defined as “supreme blessedness.” There are 8 Beatitudes that Jesus teaches his audience. The Beatitudes are also the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, which some call Jesus’ manifesto for life in the Kingdom of God. So, YES, this is important to understand for strengthening your personal relationship with Jesus.

This Sunday we will be learning more about these perplexing statements of Jesus, and why it’s those who would be least likely to be blessed, by worldly terms, that Jesus is speaking directly to. These 8 Beatitudes are both encouraging and challenging for us. And the biggest challenge for many of us is to come to know the true character of God through Jesus and these 8 Beatitudes.

Jesus has come to teach us that the “truth” of God is not about judgment or punishment or hell. Rather, Jesus introduces us to a “new” God that many find very difficult to accept. Not because this God is to be feared, but rather, because this God is to be trusted with all our sins – it’s too good to be true! Remember – as Jesus teaches – God’s judgment is not to punish or harm anything in God’s Creation, including and most importantly YOU! Instead, Jesus shows us that God’s judgment is just what we need, and should desire in our lives. God’s judgment consists of mercy, forgiveness, grace and redemption. And through God’s kind of unconditional love, we are blessed … or, as the scripture says above — “fortunate & happy.”

Questions to Consider and Reflect Upon

  • Who are the people that Jesus is talking to?
  • Who is He revealing His truth to? Why them?
  • What does Jesus mean by “happy” (blessed)?
  • What is Jesus’ teaching in this passage? What’s your take away?
  • What does this teaching mean for us … today? And for you?
  • What about all the others who either don’t or can’t hear His truth?

     Have a blessed week and pray for God’s will to be done on Earth, just like it is in Heaven, 

Pastor Bob <><


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PULPIT EXCHANGE SUNDAY

This Sunday, the pastors of the Arthur Ministerial Association will be switching pulpits to honor and celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. One of the most obvious acts of congregational unity is being there … at church, I mean.

Sunday morning worship is an important part of the unity of a church. Attending church every Sunday (that’s possible) builds unity and strengthens the Spirit in the congregation, but also enhances your own spiritual life by “suiting up and showing up” for something (actually someone) that’s of primary importance in your life – Jesus. After all, He showed up for you on the cross when He really didn’t have too!

A dear friend of mine sent this list to me of the best excuses that had been compiled for skipping church. Read through the list below and see if you recognize any! Even better, I plan to kick off the Morning Village this coming Sunday by asking you to share some of your own favorite excuses that you’ve heard for missing church. Be sure to bring some with you Sunday!

Here are some of the best excuses for missing church on Sunday as heard by pastors and churchgoers, and compiled by Thom Rainer of “Church Answers”:     

  • “I couldn’t get the lid off the peanut butter.”
  • “The church is too close to drive and too far to walk.”
  • “Both of my girlfriends attend church there.”
  • “The Pastor stays in the Bible too much.”
  • “The Pastor is too attractive. When I see him preaching, I have impure thoughts and I am distracted.”
  • “My wife cooked bacon for breakfast, and our entire family smelled like bacon.”
  • “The worship leader pulls up his pants too often. It’s distracting.”
  • “I always get hemorrhoids on Sunday?”
  • “Someone called me ‘brother’ instead of using my name.”

This Sunday morning at Vine Street, our special guest preacher will be Pastor Jill Bunker from the Arthur United Methodist Church. I hope none of these excuses are needed and many of you will suit up and show up on Sunday to worship together and hear her message.

I will be at Vine Street for Morning Village, but then I go up the street where I’ll be preaching at the Arthur Mennonite Church. Please hold me in your prayers during this time, as I will for you.

Peace & Joy,

Pastor Bob <><


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WELCOME TO EPIPHANY

FOR SUNDAY: READ JOHN 1: 29-42

When was the last time you had an Epiphany in your life? You know … a revelation of God in your presence. It seems a fair question to ask since we are now basking in the post-Christmas season of Epiphany. So, when was the last time you saw God at work in your life …. Or somewhere else in this world?

Our lectionary story from the gospels this week is about curiosity, courage, and the willingness to “Come, and see.” What if …. Someone told you that the person who can answer all your needs and fill you with the happiness and satisfaction you’ve always been looking for …. Is right over the hillside, or right around the corner, or perhaps, standing at the entrance to your heart …. And He is saying to you: “Come …. And see.”

Would you go? Or maybe the better question is, will you go? Will you come to Epiphany this year expecting to see God made visible in your midst. In our story for this Sunday, 2 young followers of John the Baptist find themselves in a precarious situation. All those things they had been hoping for and praying for, have arrived. Their trusty leader John, who has brought them out of religious rigidity and smugness, and has baptized them in water, now says to them … He has arrived. And He is right over yonder.

Would you go, and see? Andrew, and the other disciple did. They took off immediately to discover this new thing God was doing. And when they arrived at the place where “God” was, they were presented with a question: “What are you looking for?” Or, “what are you seeking?” Or, “what has motivated you to seek something new in your life?”

As we learn in the story, Andrew and his fellow disciple were not prepared for this question, so they answered His question with one of their own: “Where are you staying.” Jesus says in response, “Come … and see.”

They did.

Will you? Will you go off to an unknown destination to see what God has to offer you … Your family …. Your church? Will you be willing to open your heart and “see” and “hear” in new ways? Will you go to see … and will you stay, to discover something entirely new, from God, for you?

The season of Epiphany this year is our call to our own spiritual destiny. Each one of us is being pointed the way and told to seek and find. Imagine the 2 disciples in our story, suddenly taking off on foot with all due speed, tripping over each other and running just fast enough to be out of control, just to see what they’ve been waiting for their whole lives. 

And us? Jesus asks … what are you seeking in your life? And we ask back … Teacher, where are you staying? And Jesus urges us … “Come and see.”

What else are we to do?

And so, we go ….

To where? Only time will tell ….

Over the hill and through the woods … to see what God has done,

Pastor Bob <><

 


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