The Lesson of Messiah

Lectionary Reading – Matthew 2:1-12

Down through the ages, people have loved to explore who the magi were, where they came from, what astronomical event became the Star of Bethlehem, how evil King Herod was, and how God protected Joseph, Mary, and her son from Herod. No one really knows about the star or the magi but I like to think the magi were Zoroastrian astrologers/astronomers from Persia because the Zoroastrians also believe in a messiah. I have read several ideas of what was going on in the skies around the time of Jesus’ birth and all I can say is that timing is crucial. But these discussions, while fun, do not speak to the hidden lesson.

Herod, arguably knew the teaching that a messiah would come, but when the magi appeared to him, he called the chief priest and scribes.

In my head, I hear the conversation going something like this.


Herod: Do you know where this Christ is supposed to be born?

Scribes and priests: Sure we know. Bethlehem in Judea. Micah wrote,

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherds my people Israel.


What did those CHIEF PRIESTS and scribes do then? Nothing. There was a general expectation of a messiah at that time. There was always an expectation of a messiah when the Jews were not their own self-governing nation and were being persecuted, but also, Daniel 9 spoke of 483 years, by the Jewish calendar, between the word to start rebuilding Jerusalem and when messiah would be cut off. Time was getting short. The people were expectant.

So when King Herod asked them about this, why were the religious leaders not interested? Why did they not pursue the matter or start searching for this child themselves? This is the first indication of the hearts and minds of the Jewish leadership. They were completely apathetic to coming of the messiah. They ignored Him. He did not affect them. They would not let Him affect them.

How many of us use Christmas but ignore the Christ? We use the Christmas season to talk about peace, joy, goodwill toward men. The idea of a child bringing peace to the earth has been a favorite theme for generations. We use the themes of the child, the angels and shepherds, and the wise men without understanding and thus without meaning.

The Messiah does not call us to use Him once a year for some feel-good time. He is not apathetic about our response to Him. He calls us to know Him to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind, to understand our need for Him, 24/7/365. It is important to Him for us to know that we are a rebellious creation and that the Messiah is our vehicle to back to God. He will not let us ignore Him.


Note – I do not necessarily agree with everything on the Disciple of Christ website but they do give a detailed explanation on the Daniel prophecy. For more information, click here.

Courage Every Day

Lectionary Reading Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

I have never attended a church that used a lectionary to govern the weekly scripture reading and sermon but Rachel Held Evans invited everyone to blog once a week on one of the lectionary readings and I thought I would give it a try.

This week, it is the story of Joseph’s brothers selling him into the slavery which eventually landed him in Egypt. According to verses 3 and 4, Joseph’s brothers hated him because their father loved him more than all the others. The famed varicolored tunic along with other things just added to their hatred. Joseph was the child of his old age and the son of his favorite wife. I would like to look at the two main characters in this reading, Joseph and Reuben.

Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn and as such, should have inherited the responsibility as head of the family upon Jacob’s death. He should have been the one the other brothers looked to for leadership. Earlier in the book, we saw Simeon and Levi murder every male in a village, the other brothers coming behind to loot. Reuben did not provide any leadership there. Jacob was sorely displeased with his boys but they took little notice. Reuben had also slept with his father’s concubine as a sign of defiance of his father’s authority.

Apparently, Reuben’s conscience did engage when it came to the thought of killing one of his brothers though, one of his blood. Reuben suggested that they just toss him in a pit with no water and let him die of his own accord. Reuben secretly thought to come back later to rescue Joseph. Unfortunately for both Reuben and Joseph, Judah suggested they make some money from him and sell him as a slave. (This is the Judah that became the ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ.) Evidently, they did this while Reuben was not around because in verse 29, Reuben returned to the pit to retrieve Joseph and he was not there. What if Reuben had had the courage to say and do the right thing the first time against the prevailing hatred of the others? If he had said to his brothers, “No, this is wrong; we will not cause harm to our brother,” their father would have been saved many years of pain and heartache.

Please don’t say that if Reuben had prevented the deed, Joseph would not have been in place to take care of his family in Egypt. That serves to justify the actions of the brothers. God always wants us to do right in every situation. God’s providence and care are not dependent on our actions or inactions, right or wrong.

The first thing we learn about Joseph is that at the age of seventeen, he pastured flocks with his half-brothers, the sons of the concubines, and gave a bad report of them to their father. Later, Jacob sends Joseph out to check on his brothers and the flocks, wearing his beautiful varicolored tunic. The verses not included in the reading tell of Joseph’s two dreams that his brothers, father, and mother would bow down to him. His father rebuked him for this but remembered the dream.

The entire story of Joseph gives us to believe that Joseph was a righteous follower of God, that he told these dreams in all innocence without any pride or pomposity. But how did these dreams, his coming out to check on his brothers, his very visual sign of his father’s favoritism, and his reporting on his brothers come across to them? Am I saying that their crime against him was his own doing or that he deserved it? No, I am not. All parents should be aware of the effects of favoritism and do everything in their power to prevent sibling animosity so Jacob bears some blame here. But, my main point is that we can say things or do things innocently without ever having a thought that the attitude that comes across is not the attitude we are feeling; but that attitude that comes across can be just as devastating as if it were real. I challenge you to ask your friends and family what attitudes you exude.

I pray that we all will have the courage to do right at the first opportunity because we may not always get that second chance to make it right and that we will have the courage to examine how we present ourselves to the world as Christians.


Pride is my greatest failing

I had such expectations for my children. They were going to grow up to be Christian as I am. They were going to love God as I do and go into the ministry as I had wanted to do at one time.

Imagine my surprise when they developed different ideas. I thought it was going well until they hit high school. I never had as much control as I thought I did. I spent many years with a guilty conscience and wondering what I did wrong. I apologized to God over and over for allowing it to happen.

Years ago, I accepted the fact that my children are what they are, precious human beings that God gave to my care for a short time. I have never stopped loving and enjoying them as they are and for what they have become. But it has been just recently that God has brought home to me the arrogance I displayed in ever thinking that I might have a final say. It says a lot about me that I considered my influence so great and unassailable. Pride is my greatest failing.

Burden of Proof – The Magic Table

Recently, a Facebook friend of mine posted this to me in a discussion thread.

If I claim to my friends that I have a magic table that you cannot see or feel, they would say to me, correctly, “Prove it.” You claim that there is a being that no one can see. I say, “Prove it. The burden of proof is on you.”

Let’s change this a bit to an experience that many people have had, pain.

Let’s say you have pain in your back. It is debilitating. Sometimes, you can’t move the pain is so bad. So, you go to the doctor. The doctor checks you out and says, “I can’t find anything wrong with you. Take these pills and rest for a few days.”

The first time this happens, you take the pills, and rest. It does not get better. You go back to the doctor. He does an MRI, x-ray, and blood work. All the results come back and the doctor calls you to say, “There is nothing wrong with you. It’s your imagination.”

“NO! It is not my imagination. I hurt. Something is wrong!”

You know something is wrong. Just because the doctor can’t see anything in the tests, does not mean that your pain does not have a cause. That pain is real.

Christians, at least some of us, experience God as a reality, a positive reality, not as a voice such as the product of schizophrenia, but as the presence, the comfort, the peace that fills our lives. We cannot hand that to you for you to touch. We cannot paint it with colors for you to see.

We can talk about the statistical improbability of DNA arranging itself into sentient beings, or the temperatures or force being exactly right for our universe to have come about, but you have already rejected those arguments (illogically in my opinion). All we can do is describe the presence and tell you how you can have it. We do this because we love you and want everyone to experience the inner peace that knowing God brings. To take that away from us puts the burden of proof on you.

Please read The Scandinavian Sceptic. It is rather long and some points are better than others but the good ones are good, and… he gives references.


note: This post deals only with burden of proof.

What have we to do with judging outsiders?

Why do we as Christians feel as though non-believers should behave as we do? Non-Christians have no reason to adhere to the moral laws of the Judeo-Christian Bible and trying to make them do so is not only counterproductive, it is putting things in the wrong order.

Matthew 28:19-20 tells us to go and make disciples, baptize them, THEN teach them to observe all that He taught. The first step is to make them disciples.  If we could outlaw homosexuality, promiscuity, and drunkenness, if we could manage to enforce those laws, if we could eradicate all immoral, criminal, and addictive behaviors, if everyone went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night, would we have made them Christians?


Jesus had scathing comments to those who appeared clean and beautiful on the outside but were “whitewashed tombs” filled with death and decay. Creating a whitewashed environment does not accomplish our goal. What we would accomplish is making ourselves comfortable. We would no longer have to be confronted with the different. I am afraid that being comfortable is not what Jesus had in mind for us. Jesus befriended the different, those that made the religious establishment of the day cringe. Now we have set ourselves up as the religious establishment and are  doing the exact same things. We have become modern day Pharisees, glued to the letter of the law while ignoring the the main point. We have become Caiaphas, more interested in maintaining power and tradition than in the lives and souls of our neighbors.

We are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves. Who are our neighbors? They are the group of rowdy young college kids that rented the house down the street and block the street with cars on Friday and Saturday nights for their parties. They are the elderly that can’t get out of the house and have to have food delivered. No one visits them. They are the lesbian couple that just moved in next door that you try very hard to ignore.

“..Even as I have loved you,” Jesus said. He died for us. I think that is what God is telling us to do, to love our neighbors so much that we would die for them if necessary. Our love should be that blinding. It should be attractive, not repelling. We are God’s representatives on earth. When people see us, do they say, “I want what that person has,” or do they say, “I want no part of that!”?

The point of this ramble is that I think we are making a serious mistake when we use politics to coerce non-believers into a system that does not belong to them, AND it is not constitutional.  What the religious wing of conservative politics is doing is wrong, both morally and constitutionally and I think the fight will lead to the end of our religious freedom.

His name is Dennis Ingolfsland. I had never heard of him before I found this but his logic is sound. I don’t agree with the idea that it is a compromise. I just believe it is the right thing to do and the consequences he predicts are probable.

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Paul in First Corinthians 5:12-13

Beating everyone into submission by law builds barriers between them and God.

If any non-believers are reading this, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience is constitutional. Do not force a doctor to perform an abortion if she/he feels it is wrong. Do not force the Catholic Church to pay for things they have been against for centuries. They did not come up with this idea just to spite women of 21st century America. God gives you the right to accept or reject Him so I do too. I am giving you the freedom to be right or wrong. Do the same for me.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me but I do hope people will start thinking in a different paradigm. I want to hear what you think, respectfully of course. Please leave a comment.