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For January 17, 2021

1 SAMUEL 3:1-10

THE BACKGROUND

The story of Samuel is an interesting one, and I recommend that you read chapters 1 & 2, so that you can enjoy the whole story. Samuel is the son of a faithful woman named Hannah.  She was barren for many years.  After praying in the temple, God granted her request for a son.  As soon as he is weaned, she dedicates him to service to the Lord; she hands him over to the prophet Eli, to raise and train.  Today’s reading takes place in the temple.  According to Jewish tradition, Samuel is 12 years old when this occurs.

THE DETAIL

  • Verse 1 tells us that the people of the Lord had fallen out of relationship with God.
  • Eli is old, and Samuel is young.  It must be nighttime, the early morning hours, because the lamp of God was still burning.  (vv. 2-3) As specified in Exodus 27:21, this lamp was to burn “from evening until morning”. 
  • The Lord calls to Samuel, who is in his bed.  Samuel has not heard the voice of the Lord before, so he thinks that Eli has called him.  He rushes to his side.  Eli denies calling him, and sends him back to bed.  This happens twice.  (vv. 4-7)
  • When this happens a third time, Eli finally figures out what’s going on, and tells Samuel what to do. (vv. 8-9) 
  • The Lord gives Samuel the bad news—Eli and his sons will not live much longer, because of their actions.  (vv. 11-14)
  • Samuel doesn’t want to tell Eli this bad news.  Eli has been his mentor and perhaps like a father to him.  After all, he cared for him since he was a toddler. But Eli takes the news on the chin. He already knew this was coming. (vv. 15-18)
  • This is the beginning of Samuel’s relationship with God, and the end of Eli’s. (v. 19)

 

THE TAKEAWAY

God calls us into His service.  Some heed the call, and others do not.  Let’s be like Samuel, saying “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

 

 

1 CORINTHIANS 6:12-20

THE BACKGROUND

Paul, Timothy, and Silas had started the church in Corinth, staying there “a considerable time.” (Acts 18:1-18)  But they had the Lord’s work to do, and moved on. A letter is sent to Paul, listing several problems that have arisen since his departure.  Paul’s letter is a response to the church in Corinth, to address these issues and set them back on the right path. 

THE DETAIL

  • Some members of the church there are twisting Paul’s words regarding the freedom of the Christian from the Law of Moses.  Some feel that anything goes.  Paul quotes their sayings in verses 12 and 13a.  It appears that they are not only eating anything and everything. That’s pretty much OK.  But, they are having sex with prostitutes, saying “all things are lawful for me”.  This is not OK.
  • Paul reminds them that since they are the Lord’s, when they lay with a prostitute, they also defile God.  (vv. 13b-18)
  • We have all heard verse 19 when we were teenagers—“our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit”.  I am especially fond of verse 20—“…you were bought with a price…” 

THE TAKEAWAY

Jesus “bought” us with his blood.  We belong to him.  Our lives are His.  We must live our lives to the glory of His name.


 

JOHN 1:35-51

THE BACKGROUND

Note:  The lectionary for this Sunday is verses 43-51.  I have chosen to  cover the larger story, beginning with verse 35.

The Gospel of John starts out with a bang.  No sooner does John explain to us that Jesus was there at the beginning of creation, but he jumps right to Jesus baptism and the calling of His first disciples. 

THE DETAIL

  • The day after Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptist points Jesus out to two of his followers.  They ask Jesus a question.  Jesus simply answers “come and see”, and they decide to follow Jesus.  One of these is Andrew, and the other is not named.  (vv. 35-40) 
  • Andrew calls his brother Simon to tag along, saying that they have found the Messiah. Jesus renames Simon Peter “Rocky” (in my translation, since Peter means “rock”).  (vv.41-42)
  • Jesus calls Philip simply by saying “follow me”.  (v. 43)
  • Philip finds his friend Nathanael, and tells him who they’ve found. Nathanael says something a little snobby about Nazareth.  Maybe there was some small town rivalry here, but it is a curious comment.  But, Philip simply says “come and see” [“come and see for yourself” in my silly translation], and Nathanael follows. (vv. 45-46)
  • Next, we have an interesting dialogue between Jesus and Nathanael.  Their first impressions of one another must have been huge. It is interesting that all of these disciples are from the same small town, Bethsaida.  They obviously knew each other.  Were they friends?
  • In verses 50 & 51, Jesus says “If that impresses you, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”  (Again, from my personal translation.)  Verse 51 is a subtle reference to a dream that Jacob had, as told in Genesis 28:10-12.

 

THE TAKEAWAY

I would like to give this passage the title “Jesus Calls His Disciples”, but that would not be accurate.  Andrew calls Simon Peter.  Philip calls Nathanael.  So disciples are also calling others to become disciples.  It is also very interesting to me that very few words were needed to compel these men to drop everything and follow Jesus.  Was Jesus that charismatic?  Was the Holy Spirit working in their hearts?

Today, Jesus calls us to follow him.  If you’re reading this, chances are that you have already chosen to do so.  If not, I encourage you to read one of the gospels, and learn more about Jesus.  (Mark is the shortest one, and a good place to start.)

Today, since we are Jesus’ disciples, we have the responsibility to carry on His work; we must call others to also hollow Him. Sometimes, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it only takes a few words.  Other times, a discussion might ensue.  Whatever the situation, ours is the task to urge those around us to follow Jesus.  We have the help of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s spread the Good News!

For January 10, 2021

THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD

GENESIS 1:1-5

THE BACKGROUND

I have said many times that when I read the Old Testament, I try to discover the God Lesson.  This is especially the case, when I read the creation accounts.  Yes, there are two of them, and they do not “line up”, as far as the sequence of events.  (The first is in Genesis 1:1-2:3.  The second is in Genesis 2:4-25.)  This really tells me to not focus on the scientific details, but rather to try to discover what God wants to tell me about Himself and my relationship with Him. 

THE DETAIL

Today’s reading is from the first creation account, and describes the first day.

  • The first thing to notice is what God started with—what was there in the beginning? Verse 2 tells us that it was water. In the beginning, our world, was only water. 
  • Verse 2 also tells us that “a wind from God” swept over the waters.  The Hebrew word that was translated “wind” here is “ruah”.  Ruah can mean “wind”, “spirit”, and “breath (of life)”.  Ruah is what God did to Adam in the Garden of Eden. 
  • Now, in verse 3, God takes action.  Using only His Word, He creates light.  He makes day and night, and says it is good.  He’s done for the day!

 

THE TAKEAWAY

  • Hebrews were land-dwellers.  Farmers. To them, a large body of water like the Mediterranean Sea was a horrific, chaotic place, full of sea-monsters. (The sea monsters were called Leviathan.)  So, according to this account, in the beginning, there was chaos. 
  • God’s ruah was there on Day One of creation.  God’s spirit
  • God cuts through the chaos, and calmly creates our world using only His word. Other ancient creation stories include gods fighting in wars.  There is blood and gore, and chaos abounds.  Our God, by contrast, calmly creates order from the chaos.  And it was good.
  • The Gospel lesson for today is Jesus baptism.  It is fitting to have an Old Testament lesson that begins with water.

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Last week’s Gospel lesson told us that Jesus was present at the beginning of creation.  Do you think there might be a connection between God creating light on the first day, and Jesus being the “light of the world”?  Also, since God’s ruah swept over the waters, this tells me that the Holy Trinity was there right from the beginning—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  What do you think?

 

ACTS 19:1-7

THE BACKGROUND

This is a great baptism story, written by Luke, but about Paul’s work.  Paul, Timothy, and Silas are on a missionary journey.  They are spreading the Good News, baptizing, and bringing people into life in The Way.  (The Way is what the early Christian church is called in the book of Acts.) 

A new disciple, named Apollos, appears in the verses just before our text.  He is a Jew from Alexandria, Egypt.  He has been a disciple of John the Baptist, and is a gifted evangelist. Paul’s team fills him in on the Good News of Jesus.  He is baptized in Jesus’ name, and sent on to Corinth to continue the work that Paul’s team had begun.

 

THE DETAILS

  • With Apollos continuing God’s work in Greece, Paul and his disciples can focus on the church in Ephesus, which is in modern day Turkey.  They discover some disciples of The Way.  (vv. 1-2)
  • Verse 3 says that they were baptized “into John’s baptism”.  In other words, they were followers of John the Baptist, and had not yet heard of Jesus.  Apollos’ story is similar to this one.  It’s worth reading, in Acts 18:24-28.
  • Paul explains the difference between John and Jesus.  These disciples recognize that Jesus is the fulfillment of John’s preaching, and are baptized in His name.  (vv. 4-5)
  • After their baptism and Paul’s laying his hands on them, they are filled with the Holy Spirit, and begin speaking in tongues and prophesying.  (vv. 6-7)

 

THE TAKEAWAY

  • Speaking in tongues and prophesying were the results of baptism and laying on of hands.  This was the proof back then that the Holy Spirit dwelt in the hearts of the new believers.  Today in most churches, these gifts of the spirit no longer appear.  The Holy Spirit is most certainly present, but in a less dramatic way. 
  • All Christians today are baptized, either at infancy or at the age of conscience. Whichever time it is done, and however it is done (immersion or sprinkling), the Holy Spirit enters the life of the baptized, and dwells within them. 

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

From this story, and from Apollos’ story just before it, we learn that John the Baptist also had a following, even after Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  The word needed to get out to these people, that God’s word had been fulfilled.  How many people around us today are longing to hear this Good News?  Can we be like Paul, and share this good news with them?

 

 

MARK 1:4-11

THE BACKGROUND

The Gospel of Mark begins with the story of John the baptizer (or Baptist, if you prefer).  The verses preceding our passage quote the prophecy of Isaiah, which tells of “a voice crying in the wilderness” to prepare the way of the Lord.  John is a Nazarite—someone who was “set apart” from society, and had dedicated their life to serving God.  There are many Nazarites in the Old Testament, but John is one from birth.  This was exceptional.

THE DETAIL

  • In the first paragraph, we see John going about the Lord’s work.  He urges people to confront their shortcomings before God, their sin.  He urges them to pledge to change, and to start over on a new and right path.  We call this whole process “repentance”.  It takes all of it to being repentant. (Just being sorry doesn’t count.)
  • In verses 7 & 8, he makes it very clear where he stands.  He is just the one preparing the way.  Back then, untying someone’s sandals was the lowest task that a slave would be given to do.  John is telling everyone that compared to the one who was coming, he is the lowest of the lowly.
  • The second paragraph tells us that Jesus comes to be baptized by John.  At his baptism, the Holy Spirit comes, and God the Father speaks.
  •  

THE TAKEAWAY

  • The Holy Spirit is present at Jesus’ baptism, just as it is present in baptisms today.
  • Because of our sinful nature, none of us are worthy enough to untie Jesus’ sandals. Yet, through our baptism, we become the adopted children of God.  Jesus is our brother! 

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Jesus lived his life without sinning.  Yet, he came to be baptized.  He did not need to repent; yet, he came to John, and entered the River Jordan.  Why?  I believe this was Jesus’ way of telling us that baptism, such as the one that John was doing in the Jordan, is a good thing. That repentance and baptism is part of living a life as a follower of Jesus.  It is a way of receiving the Holy Spirit—a means of grace.

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