Weekly Reflections

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FOR OCTOBER 23, 2022

JEREMIAH 14:7-10, 19-22


It seemed like a good and simple plan.  God created our world.  Then, he created us.  He gave us some guidelines for living our lives.  He did all this so we could be in a loving relationship with him.  The people of God in Jeremiah’s time claimed to love Him, but did not show it in their daily lives.  I did a quick scan of chapters 1-13.  Several verses popped out, showing the situation:

Jer. 3:1  If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her?  Would not such a land be greatly polluted? “You have played the whore with many lovers, and would you return to me?” says the Lord.

Jer. 3:19-20  I thought how I would set you among my children, and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful heritage of all the nations.  And I thought you would call me My Father, and would not turn from following me.  Instead, as a faithless wife leaves her husband, so you have been faithless to me, O house of Israel, says the Lord.

Jer. 7:8-10   Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!”— only to go on doing all these abominations?

The book of Jeremiah is not a happy book.  Last week, we studied how God listens to our prayers, and is willing to change his mind to lovingly grant our petitions.  In today’s reading, God is fed up.  He is tired of seeing His people run off and do anything else but be in a loving relationship with Him.  He has turned a deaf ear to their pleas.


  • This reading begins with a confession by the people that they have sinned against God.  The word “apostasy” means the act of refusing to follow God’s path.  (v. 7)
  • The people call out to God.  They beg Him not to be a stranger, and not forsake them.  (vv. 8-9)
  • God acknowledges their philandering ways.  “They love to wander.”  Don’t we all know someone who is like this in their marital relationship?  Don’t they always come back, begging for mercy, and professing undying love, only to repeat the cycle?  God does not accept their empty words.  He’s fed up.  It’s time to take action,  (v. 10)
  • In the next verses, God uses the word “we” to refer to Himself.  We Christians quickly to jump to the conclusion that He is referring to the Holy Trinity.  But this was written hundreds of years before Jesus and before the concept of the Holy Trinity was formulated.  God was using what is called the “Majestic Plural”.  Kings and queens use “we” instead of “I”, when making proclamations.  It seems weird to us, but it was a common practice.  When God uses the Majestic Plural, he is ascending to his throne to make a proclamation.  Verse 19 is full of “we” and “us” referring to our Lord as our king. 
  • The dialogue shifts back to the people in verse 20, so the “we” here is the wayward people of God, begging for forgiveness once again.  In the end, God says no.  It’s too late.  It is time to do something about it.  (vv. 20-22)


Sometimes, things go haywire, in the world of computers. The first thing you should try, when you have a problem is to turn the computer off, and restart it.  We call it hitting the reset button.  Quite often, that is all it takes.  I like to say that when God created the Flood in Noah’s time, he was hitting the reset button.  Things had gotten bad on earth, and He wanted to start over.  In Jeremiah’s time, things had gotten out of control again.  It was time for God to hit the reset button, and send His people into exile.

Fortunately for us, God has taken a new direction. Since then, He decided to send His only Son to us, to clarify the Law of Moses, teach us The Way, and die for our sins. There will be no more reset buttons, at least until Jesus’ second coming! 


We no longer worship the Canaanite god named Baal. But many other things threaten to crowd God out of the #1 spot in our lives.  What other “gods” interfere with our relationship with our Lord?

2 TIMOTHY 4:6-8, 16-18


Paul is concluding his letter to his beloved friend Timothy.  Paul is writing this from a Roman prison cell.  Increasingly, it appears that he will not survive imprisonment this time, and will be put to death soon.


  • Paul calls himself a libation—a sacrificial drink-offering.  He knows that his time has come.  He offers his life’s work as a sacrifice to God. (v. 6)
  • He lists his accomplishments three ways in verse 7.  Let’s look at each separately.  He has:
    • Fought the good fight. Being an evangelist in Paul’s time was a constant struggle.  Because of his work, he had been beaten, imprisoned, and thrown out of towns.
    • Finished the race. His work is complete.  He does not say “won”, but finished.  There is still much work to be done, but it must be left for others like Timothy to do.  For us, to do, also.
    • Kept the faith. Paul has stuck to the basics of the faith.  While other evangelists of his day have strayed into the weeds with their preaching, Paul has remained true to the teachings of our Lord. 
  • Having thus summarized his life’s work, he is ready for his crown.  Not only does he get one, but all those who long for Jesus’ reappearing.  (v. 8)
  • In the second paragraph, Paul appears to be talking about the first hearing he had, due to his current imprisonment.  Even though others came to support him, it did not matter—the Lord stood by him the whole time.  He vows to continue putting his trust in the Lord, focusing on the promise of Jesus. (vv. 16-18)


We, too, are called to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.  We can finish the race, trusting in the promises of Jesus.

LUKE 18:9-14


In the following parable, Jesus contrasts the attitudes of two people.  In order to gain the full impact of the message, it is good for us to understand how society in Jesus’ time regarded these two figures.

  • A tax collector was local person, who was a government employee.  In other words, they were a local Jew, employed by the Roman government, whose job it was to exact taxes from the local Jewish populous. Often, they would exact more than required, and keep the difference for themselves.  They were considered dishonest traitors to the Jewish community. 
  • We often have a distorted perception of Pharisees.  Because they clashed so many times with Jesus, we think of them as the villains of the story.  In some ways, they were the villains.  But in fact, Pharisees were considered the cream of the crop, religiously speaking. In Jesus’ time, there were several special religious sects, for those who wished to set themselves apart from the common religious community—Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. All three followed a stricter faith walk than the average lover of God.  Some theologians even suspect that Jesus came from a Pharisee family.  This might explain why Jesus was extra critical of their ways.  He knew all too well the pitfalls of that faith-walk.  He had insider information.


  • Jesus notices that some of those around him “trusted in their righteousness, and regarded others with contempt”.  They had an attitude problem.  Jesus tells them this parable to challenge their thoughts and actions. (v. 9)
  • So, a tax collector and a Pharisee come to the temple to pray.  (v. 10)
  • The Pharisee prays first.  He has worked hard in his faith-walk.  He is proud of his accomplishments.  “Other people” have not worked as hard.  He is confident that he has pleased God with his hard work.  (vv. 11-12)
  • The tax collector, on the other hand, is keenly aware of his failure to live up to God’s expectations.  He stands “far off” in the back of the temple.  He displays penitent body language, and pleads for God’s mercy.  He knows that he is a sinner.  (v. 13)
  • Then, Jesus turns conventional thinking on its ear.  He says that the sinful, traitor of a tax collector is the one to go home forgiven (“justified”), not the holy man!  (v. 14a)
  • Jesus summarizes why this is.  It’s all about attitude.  Humility is to be treasured.  If you want to exalt yourself, you can expect to be humbled by God.  (v. 14b)


I have heard people say things like “I’ve been a Lutheran my whole life”, or “I’m Baptist to the bone!”  God knows and treasures our hearts.  He is looking for us to walk humbly, rather than proudly.


For October 16, 2022

GENESIS 32:22-31


After The Flood, God chose to work through one faithful man, Abraham.  Abraham’s son Isaac begat the twins Esau and Jacob.  Their stories fill the latter pages of the book of Genesis, beginning around chapter 25 and continuing on past today’s reading.  This family and their stories are full of deception and the lust for power.  Jacob in particular was eager to be the top dog of the family, even though Esau was the firstborn.  As firstborn child, Esau is entitled to inherit all of Isaac’s property.  But while they were still in their mother’s womb, God told their mother Rebekah

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other;
    the elder shall serve the younger.”  Gen 25:23

So, right from the start, Jacob was destined and blessed by God to be the leader of the family.  But Jacob, through many power moves, strove to guarantee this position nevertheless.  Today’s story is just one example of Jacob’s struggle for power.


  • Jacob, his family, servants, and livestock are all fleeing for their lives.  Jacob has tricked his brother-in-law, and is fearful of reprisal.  They are headed towards the home of Esau, who is angry about Jacob tricking him out of his birthright.  Upon reaching the Jabbok river, he sends everybody across the river, and he stays behind.  (vv. 22-23)
  • During the night, Jacob dreams that he is wrestling with a man.  Or is it not a dream?  As they wrestle, Jacob becomes aware that this is no ordinary man, but God himself. In the course of the struggle, God dislocates Jacob’s hip.  Unfazed, Jacob wants to know God’s name.  God does not respond.  Jacob won’t release God until He gives Jacob a blessing!  (vv. 24-26)
  • God renames Jacob; he is now to be called Israel.  Naming will be discussed in The Takeaway.  Jacob asks for God’s name.  God doesn’t answer this question, but blesses Jacob.  (vv. 27-29)
  • According to tradition, seeing God’s face brings certain death.  Yet, Jacob saw God’s face as he wrestled with Him.  In honor of this event, he named the place “Peniel”, which means “face of God”.  Penuel is an alternate spelling of Peniel.  Jacob/Israel now walks with a limp, because of his God-encounter.  (vv. 30-31)


In Hebrew, the name “Jacob” means “heel-grabber”.  At his birth, Jacob was clutching his brother’s heel.  Even at birth, the power struggle had already begun!  God renames Jacob “Israel”, which means “wrestles with God”.  Naming or renaming something is a sign of ownership.  Adam named all the animals in the Garden of Eden as a sign of his dominance over them.  When we bring a rescue pet home from a shelter, we often name it, even if it had been given a name at the shelter.  Jesus renamed Simon as Peter, and Saul as Paul.  It is a way of signifying the beginning of a new relationship.  In spite of Jacob’s incessant power-grabbing actions, God lives up to the promises he made to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham. He wrestles with and blesses this less than honorable man.  He wants to be in relationship with Jacob, in spite of Jacob’s behavior.

Even though we are less than perfect beings, God wants to be in relationship with us, too.  God continues to send the Holy Spirit to us, to wrestle with us in matters of faith.  Wrestling with God is OK, as long as we are faithful.  Just keep in mind that something might get thrown out of joint in the process.

2 TIMOTHY 3:14-4:5


This is the second to last week that we will study the letters of Paul written to his beloved follower Timothy.  In the first part of chapter 3, Paul talks of a host of deceitful preachers who are leading Christians astray.  A good conclusion is given just ahead of today’s reading, in verse 13:

But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. 


  • Paul turns the discussion away from those people, and focuses on Timothy.  This is excellent advice for all of us today.  Paul tells Timothy (and us) to get back to basics. Remember the teachings that Paul gave Timothy.  He summarizes them in last week’s reading in 10 words: 

Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David…

  • He encourages us to use Holy Scripture as our reference point.  (vv. 16-17)
  • Next, in verses 1-2, comes a directive from Paul that is so serious, that he calls upon the name of Jesus.  We are urged to:
    • Proclaim the message
    • Be persistent, convince, rebuke, and encourage [others]
    • Be patient in teaching
  • We are cautioned to be aware that people’s “ears are itching” to hear what they want to hear, rather than what God wants them to hear.  (vv. 3-4)
  • We, on the other hand, need to keep focused, doing the work of an evangelist.  (v. 5)


Most workshops have some sort of reference point.  It is called a benchmark.  Sometimes, it is a yardstick that is attached to the bench.  It is a place where one goes, to ensure that their work measures up. Holy Scripture is our benchmark. We must still distinguish between the bible users and the bible abusers.  That is not easy.  But if we use Paul’s basic 10 word benchmark, it is a good start.

LUKE 18:1-8


Jesus has just given his disciples a glimpse of the end times.  He has also told them that the kingdom of God is already amongst them. They must have been a little perplexed, because he tells them this parable.


  • Oftentimes, to understand why Jesus told a certain parable, we must dig around and read the verses preceding it.  Then, we must figure out what it means.  Here in verse one, the work is done for us.  (v. 1)
  • Jesus paints the picture of a judge who is corrupt—one who does not respect the justice laid down in the Law of Moses, nor does he respect justice for the people’s sake. (v. 2)
  • A widow comes to him, seeking justice.  In that patriarchal society, widows had no influence, power, or authority.  Society was supposed to grant widows an extra measure of compassion and charity.  Her chances of getting either of these from this corrupt judge were pretty slim.  (v. 3)
  • But she was persistent, and kept on pleading here case.  In the end, she received the justice she came for, merely because she had worn this judge down!  (vv. 4-5)
  • Jesus brings the story home.  How much more will our God who loves us listen to our prayers than this widow to the judge?  God will answer our prayers, especially those prayers that are said “day and night”. (vv. 6-8)


Sometimes, I find it hard to believe that a mere mortal like I can persuade God to see things my way. Yet, here is God the Son telling me to go ahead; pray night and day, and God may be persuaded. 


God is able to be swayed by our prayers.  Could this be one sign of his love of us?

For October 9, 2022


2 KINGS 5:1-17c


This is a story about a miracle that the prophet Elisha performed in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (aka Samaria).  It is also a story about pride and humility.

Note: The selection to be read in church omits verses 4-6.  I have included them here, to avoid confusion.


  • Naaman was the head of the military in the army of the Aramites.  Aram was situated just north of Samaria.  It’s capital was Damascus.  Naaman was not only a great warrior, but he was a “great man”.  The Hebrew word translated as “great” in this translation could also be translated as “influential”.  The good news was that this man, who was a great warrior and influential, was highly respected by the king of Aram.  The bad news is that he had leprosy.  Leprosy was a contagious, incurable disease.  A cure for this disease was only discovered in the mid-1940’s. People suffering from it experienced crippling of the hands and feet, paralysis, and blindness.  Because it was so contagious, there were laws which excluded its victims from normal society.  (v. 1) 
  • The Aramites went to war, off and on, against the Northern Kingdom.  On one of these battles, a Samaritan girl had been taken captive, and became the handmaiden to Naaman’s wife.  This slave girl knew of Elisha, and believed that he could heal Naaman’s leprosy.  She mentioned him to Naaman’s wife., who must have then mentioned it to Naaman.  (vv. 2-3)
  • Naaman is desperate to be cured of this shameful disease, so he goes to the king, and tells him. The king offers to write a letter to the king of Samaria.  In order to hide his shame, Naaman heads south with a mammoth amount of money, as well as ten fancy suits of clothes.  (vv. 4-5)
  • Naaman first goes to the king of Samaria with the letter.  The king freaks out!  How can you expect someone to cure leprosy?  He tears his garment as an outward sign of his internal agony.  He’s also afraid that Naaman’s king is trying to start a fight. (vv. 6-7)

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  • Elisha, on the other hand, tells the king—“Why did you do that?  Send him to me, so I can show him the power of our God.”  (v. 8)
  • So, Naaman proceeds to Elisha’s house, dressed to the nines, riding in a war chariot pulled by war horses, and bringing a treasure chest full of money.  All of this is intended to impress Elisha into doing something for this foreigner.  But Elisha is not impressed.  He doesn’t even come out to see Naaman.  Instead, he sends a servant out to tell him what to do.  What an insult!  (vv. 9-10)
  • Naaman is visibly upset.  He has not only been upstaged by Elisha, but he was told to simply wash in the river! He wants nothing to do with it, and leaves in a rage.  (vv. 11-12)
  • His servants convince him to do as he was instructed.  In humility, he goes to the river and washes seven times, as instructed. It works!  (vv. 13-14)
  • He returns to Elisha, praising the God of Israel.  And he gave him the present of money.  (v. 15)


I believe that Naaman had to first learn to be humble, before he could approach the man of God for healing.  The same holds true for us.  It is impossible to approach God without humility.



2 TIMOTHY 2:8-15


Paul continues to give Timothy (and us) some very useful device, in spite of the fact that Paul is chained and in a Roman prison.


  • In verses 8 & 9, Paul instructs Timothy to remember something.  And in eight short words, Paul explains why he is not ashamed to be in chains in a Roman prison.  The words below in bold type are the words.  Each has my explanation.  Paul says that Jesus is:
    1. Christ—the Anointed One.  The Messiah.
    2. Raised from the dead—His resurrection is the proof positive we need to put our trust in him.
    3. Descendant of David—He is our king.  The promised rule of the Davidic line has been restored.
  • Paul says it is for this reason that he suffers—to bring the Good News of salvation in Christ Jesus to all.  (v. 10)
  • What follows is either a summary of his other teachings, or an old Christian hymn which encourages us to be faithful, even in the face of suffering or embarrassment. (vv. 11-13)
  • We are reminded that when we Christians argue amongst ourselves, that not only do we accomplish nothing, but we taint the name of Jesus to those [non-believers?] who might be listening.  (v. 14)
  • Paul closes with words of encouragement.  Don’t be ashamed, but present yourself with confidence, as you are approved by God himself. Good advice for us as well!  (v. 15)


Paul’s eight words say it all.  The problem we Christians have is that we can’t keep it that simple.  We need to wrangle with one another, discussing the finer points of prayer, number of sacraments, what a proper baptism is and isn’t, when to baptize, etc.  We fail to realize how foolish we look to non-believers.  In one breath we say “love your neighbor”, and in the next we argue with our brothers and sisters over details.  Yet, we all agree on those eight words.  Let’s get along!



LUKE 17:11-19


In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals ten lepers.  I believe that this miracle was to demonstrate to others that his spiritual prowess was on a par with Elisha’s.  But other dynamics are also at work here. 


  • Jesus is headed to Jerusalem, which will be is a one-way trip.  But at the time of this story, he is in the border area between Galilee and Samaria.  While the Jews tolerate Gentiles, they hate Samaritans.  Oddly, Samaritans worship the God Yahweh, but have somewhat different traditions than Judean Jews.  I guess their “wrangling” over details went ballistic at some point in time.  (v. 11)
  • Ten lepers approach him, but at a distance.  As lepers, this was required by Mosaic Law.  After all, they were highly contagious.  (v. 12)
  • They call Jesus “Master”, which was normally a title for Jesus that only his disciples used. I take it as an expression of humble admiration.  They ask for mercy.  (v. 13)
  • Jesus heals them on the spot, and tells them to show themselves to the priest.  This was the instruction from the Torah—if you were cleansed from leprosy, a priest needed to examine you.  If he deemed you clean, you could re-enter society.  If not, you were still an outcast, and could not touch or come in contact with anyone.  (v. 14)
  • One of the ten was so elated at being cured, that he returned to Jesus, shouting praises to God.  “And he was a Samaritan.”  (vv. 15-16)
  • Jesus is quick to point out that this “foreigner” was the only one of the ten to return and praise him.  He sends the former leper on his way.  (vv. 17-19)


This story, and the story of the good Samaritan, makes it clear that Jesus’ promise of saving grace is not reserved for “God’s Chosen People”, but for everyone; it is for the most despised group of people you can think of.  Even this despised Samaritan.


Why is it, then, that if a foul-smelling homeless person steps into the back pew of our church, we are disgusted, and can’t wait for them to leave?

For October 2, 2022

HABAKKUK 1:1-4, 2:1-4


We know very little about the prophet Habakkuk, other than that he was a prophet to Judah during the first stages of Judah’s downfall to Babylon.  The first two chapters of the book are a dialogue with God.  The third is a psalm-like prayer.



  • The first chapter, which is exemplified in verses 1-4, seems to challenge God with the question “Why, God, are you allowing these brutal Babylonian pagans to conquer your chosen people.  As bad as we are, we are certainly more righteous than they are.”  In verse 4, the “wicked” are the Babylonians, and the “righteous” are the Judeans.  Habakkuk simply cannot figure God out.   Habakkuk asks why would God allow this to happen?
  • The second paragraph, from the second chapter, has Habakkuk shrugging, and taking his place on the ramparts.  (More on ramparts in the Takeaway.)  In faith, he will await God’s answer.  And God does just that.  God tells Habakkuk to write down the holy vision, and make it understandable even to a runner.  (vv. 1-2)
  • The vision calls for the people to be patient.  God will make things right, but it will take time.  Just wait for it.  (v. 3)
  • In the final verse, “the proud” are the Babylonians—their spirit is not right in them. “The righteous” are the Judeans.  God’s chosen people are told to live lives of patient faithfulness.  (v. 4)


A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of walking on the ramparts of an old castle in France. From the ramparts, the outer walls of the castle, I had a clear view of the surrounding countryside.  It is a beautiful place to go, when you are in prayer. Or in Habakkuk’s case awaiting an answer to prayer.

We all know and believe that God answers prayer.  But we often want immediate answers.  God answers in his own time, and calls on us to be patient and faithful. 

2 TIMOTHY 1:1-14


This is Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  Paul is in a Roman prison.  His hopes of being released are fading fast.  In spite of this, Paul has words of strength and encouragement for Timothy.  This reading can be grouped into three sections. 

  1. The greeting, verses 1-2.
  2. Thanksgiving and personal remarks, verses 3-7.
  3. Words of encouragement, verses 8-14.


  • In spite of Paul’s impending death, he writes of the “promise of life”.  He is referring, of course, not to life on earth, but eternal life.  (vv. 1-2)
  • Paul is thankful for Timothy and his family, who have been pillars of the church.  Paul would love to see him again, but probably knows that this will not happen.  Perhaps this is the reason for the tears.  (vv. 3-5)
  • He reminds Timothy (and us) that through the Holy Spirit, we have the spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.  That’s quite a combination!  We’ll see why we need all three in the next verses.  (vv. 6-7)
  • Timothy is encouraged to not be ashamed to stand up for Jesus or Paul.  We sing a song about standing up for Jesus.  It’s a fun and happy song.  But back in Timothy and Paul’s day, Jesus was considered by many to be nothing more than a criminal who was executed by the Roman authorities.  And now Paul is in jail and will surely die there. Both facts offer a lot of opportunity for embarrassment and shame.  But Paul reminds Timothy of God’s grace—the loving grace that the Father had by sacrificing His only son for us.  This is something to be proud of.  (vv. 8-10)
  • Paul goes on to say that this is why he preached the gospel, and is why he is suffering for it. He encourages Timothy to have the love, power, and self-discipline (remember verse 7?) to do the same.  I love the beginning of verse 14—“Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit…”  (vv. 11-14) 


We are blessed to live in a land where all are free to worship and practice their faith as they chose. We need to be committed to preserving this right for all people of faith, not just to those who believe as we do. Nobody should have to suffer for their faith like Paul and so many Christians of his day did. 


What is the “good treasure” that is mentioned in verse 14?  How do we guard it?

LUKE 17:5-10


Earlier in Luke, chapter 14, Jesus warned the disciples of the cost of discipleship.  In the four verses just ahead of today’s reading, Jesus warns his followers of being a stumbling block to other’s faith, and of being willing to forge others, even if they do it repeatedly.


  • In response to all the above, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith.  Obviously, they recognized the need for more faith for the challenges that lay ahead.  (v. 5)
  • Next, Jesus tells them a parable.  He uses the example of a slave/servant and his master.  I’ll try to explain this in the Takeaway.


There was a TV series that my wife and I loved, called Downton Abbey.  It was about an English aristocratic family, their social circle, and the lives of the servants.  We also watched a program called “The Making of Downton Abbey”.  It was explained that it was not proper for the family to thank the servants each time they did a task to serve them.  If the family did this, they’d be thanking everybody all day long.  After all, it was the servants’ job to do what they did.  No thanks was required or expected.  We modern Americans are not accustomed to this, so Jesus’ parable might seem odd.  Maybe knowing how servants and masters interact, we might better understand his parable. 

By telling this peculiar parable, I think Jesus is telling them that it is not how much faith you have, but about the quality or strength of we have.  Strength of faith comes from doing.  It comes from teaching, healing, feeding, picking up those who stumble and from forgiving.  It’s like spiritually pumping iron!  But if you think about it, this is simply our job as Christians.  We should not be looking for thanks, praise, or even for heavenly “brownie points”.  It is simply what we should be doing as lovers of God, servants of our Lord. When you get to that point, you’ve got a strong faith.


For September 18, 2022

Amos 8:4-7

The prophet Amos lived at a time of prosperity for both Judah and Israel, the northern kingdom.  He was not from the prophets’ guild, but was a farmer.  When the Lord called, he heeded the call to be a prophet.  At that time, commerce was in high gear.  So much so, that businessmen were more acquiring wealth than justice and equity.  They often ignored the Law of Moses (Leviticus 19:36) and cheated the poor.  Amos reminds these people that God is taking notice of their dealings, and remembers.

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Here is an interesting, almost contradictory instruction from Paul to Timothy.  He urges Timothy to pray for everyone, including those in political authority, such as kings.  This might make sense to you and me, but things were different back then.  

Timothy, and all Christians living under Roman rule were required to walk a tricky walk.  The Romans “asserted human Caesar [w]as the only Lord over the empire and the only living son of the Roman deities.” * All Roman subjects were expected to worship all the Roman gods and hail Caesar as their only Lord.  In the latter half of this passage, Paul states that there is only one god, and that Jesus is our means of salvation, not Caesar.  

According to this passage, we should all pray for everyone, including our political leaders.  At the same time, we need to recognize that our ultimate trust should not be placed in the hands of any other human except Jesus.  

*Sunggu Yang, Sept 11, 2022, Working Preacher.org

Luke 16:1-13

Here is one of the most perplexing of Jesus’ parables.  It has been a troublesome passage to understand for wise bible scholars throughout the ages.  I will not attempt to explain everything that Jesus says here.  Anybody who claims to have all the answers to everything said here is not to be trusted.  But let’s study it, and see if we can figure out what Jesus’s main point was.  After all, all parables were taught with the purpose of making only one point.

At the time, wealthy businessmen employed stewards to manage their business for them.  Sometimes they were slaves, and sometimes they were freemen.  Common practice of the day for these stewards was to charge a heavy markup on goods.  From this markup, they would pay Roman taxes, as well as make a lot of money for their owners, as well as taking a big cut for themselves.  In the financial community, for example, it was not uncommon for some to charge 25-50% interest on loans.  

In our parable, the steward learns that his benefactor disapproves of his methods, and he is going to be fired.  If this steward was a slave (it does not say), he would have been sentenced to hard labor.  The steward presumably eliminates his cut, thereby gaining some business allies.  The benefactor likes this clever move, and does not press charges.

Verses 8b-13 are Jesus’ conclusion to this parable.  Some of his sayings here are downright confusing.  But the main theme throughout is that we should be both faithful and clever, when faced with life’s challenges.  

In a way, this is one of the most applicable of Jesus’s parables for us.   Living our lives according to the teachings of Jesus is not always easy in this day and age.  Our bosses sometimes require us to work on the sabbath, lie and even cheat for the company at times.  It is fun and easy to sing “Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus” at church.  But if your boss is breathing down your neck and your children expect dinner on the table, sometimes being a Christian is a tricky walk.  We need to get clever, and find a way through this maze we call life.

For September 4, 2022



Deuteronomy is a sort of sequel to the book of Exodus.  It is presented as a final discourse between Moses and God’s people.  There are a few chapters of review of God’s saving acts, followed by many chapters of the Law of Moses.  These laws will define Israel, and set them Part from their neighbors.  In the final chapters, like the one we read from today, Moses calls on the people to make a decision.  Chose the God who saved you, and live by His rules, or chose another god.  Chose Lord God Yahweh, and live.  Any other choice is death.  This message mirrors today’s Gospel lesson.  Let’s summarize these two together.



Paul wrote this letter to the affluent Christian named Philemon.  We know that he was well-off, because he was a slave owner.  We’ll come back to that, but first, notice the other addressees mentioned in verse two, in particular Apphia.    This was a Christian woman.  In a society dominated by men, it is significant that a woman is mentioned..  The early churches were small, and met in peoples houses.  This church met in one of these three’s house.  

Paul is going to ask (or command!) Philemon to do something that is not something Philemon wants to do.  It appears that Philemon expelled (or gave to Paul) one of his slaves named Onesimus.  Something unpleasant happened between him and Philemon, but we do not get the details.  Paul calls Onesimus “his child” (v. 10) and “my own heart” (v. 11).  He calls on Philemon to embrace Onesimus not as a slave, but as a brother!  (v. 16)  He is told to welcome Onesimus as Philemon would welcome Paul.  In other words, Philemon is asked (or commanded) to look upon Onesmius through the eyes of Christ, and not through human eyes.  

We, too, are called upon to look at others through the eyes of Christ, rather than society’s lens.  It should no longer matter if one is rich or homeless,  black, white, Asian, etc.  It isn’t always easy, but I’ll bet it wasn’t easy for Philemon, either.

LUKE 14:25-33


Jesus has been preaching, teaching, and healing.  He has acquired an enthusiastic following.  People are excited, and want to see and hear more.  It is time for a reality check.  Jesus warns them that if they intend to follow him, it will come at great cost.  They need to be prepared to give up everything.  Especially at that time, if you decided to follow Jesus,  it could mean severing ties with friends and family.  It could cost you your job and social standing.  Just like Moses, Jesus calls his followers to chose.  Jesus calls his followers to not be distracted by outside influences like family or money matters.  What matters most is following Jesus— putting God first.  We call this the cost of discipleship.  

OK, sure.  We live in a generally Christian society, so most of us live in Christian families.  But we have many other distractions that can draw us away from a total commitment to following Jesus.  


What are the things that pull you away from a solid relationship with God?  How can you reduce or eliminate these influences?

For August 28, 2022

Since I am traveling without my laptop, I will be giving you much shortened reflections, as time permits.  



There is no error in the selection; verse 7 ends in mid-sentence.  I suggest crossing out the sentence fragment, or looking up verse 8 for the rest of the sentence.

Proverbs is a book of wisdom.  What we have in Verses 6-7a is a wise saying.  This is the gist of what Jesus will teach us in the gospel lesson, so let’s move on and summarize this with the gospel.



These are the author’s concluding remarks.  They offer a wealth of advice for daily living. This is as applicable for us today as they were when first written.

LUKE 14: 1, 7-14


Jesus is at a dinner party where he notices some curious selfish behavior.  I believe this might have reminded him of today’s proverb.  He elaborates on the proverb, and what he says makes good sense.

He goes on to give some advice to the host of the party.  I’m not sure that this set very well with that host, But it is good advice for us to consider.  I’m not sure that we should be taking Jesus’ advice to earn heavenly brownie points.  But God the Father and Son are intensely interested in having us care for the disadvantaged.  How many times have I harped on this subject?  How many times have They harped on this subject? In the USA and locally, one in five children go hungry.  What are we doing about this?