the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sunday 11/5/06 - Year B - Ordinary 31

Liturgy of the Word:

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Psalm 119:1-8
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34
Collect (BCP):

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

How Far Are You
from the Kingdom of God?


Our last scripture was the end of Chapter ten and now we are cotinuing with the latter part of Chapter twelve. We have skipped all of Chapter eleven and most of Chapter twelve.

At the beginning of Chapter eleven Jesus and his disciples finally arrive at Jerusalem on the Sunday before his resurection. He rode into Jerusalem, like a Judean King, on the back of a donkey with the crowd hailing him

King of the Jews.

He arrived at the temple and entered, driving out the money changers and overturning the tables where sacrificial animals were being sold. He virtually halted the operation of the temple by his actions, which angered the Jerusalem Religious Establishment.

The next day, he began his ministry in Jerusalem, teaching in the Temple itself. There he was challenged by the Chief Priests, the Pharasees, the Herodians and the Sadducees. They sought to entrap him so he would lose the support of the common people.

Then, in today’s scripture, a scribe, a student, perhaps even a teacher of the Jewish Law, overheard all of the challenges and the way in which Jesus responded to the tests of entrapment, out witting them all.

Here, in the scripture we read a few moments ago, we have one of the most famous dialogues in the whole New Testament, perhaps even in the entire Bible.

Possible Themes

1. The Great Commandments - Loving God and Loving Neighbor.
2. The Vertical and Horizontal ways of serving, loving and obeying God.
3. What this passage tell us about being near the Kingdom of God.
4. Questioning Jesus, putting him to the test, Jesus silencing his critics.
5. What is more important than organized worship.

Some Questions
(from Dylan)
Here are some questions that may help us in our study and application of this passage, or any passage.
1. What is difficult, puzzling, and/or shocking in the passage?
2. What would be challenging about trying to live out the message of the passage?
3. What comes across as Good News in the passage?
4. Why would someone want to take on the challenges of living this way?
5. What invitations are in the passage to experience more fully the life God offers?

What is difficult, puzzling, and/or shocking in the passage?
To love God with all one's heart, soul and strength is hard. We worship and serve that which serves us best. Usually that is whatever provides us with the things we want. If we loved God in this way, we would only want those things He wants for us, the things that are consistent with his nature. But we don't love God as much as we love ourselves and we want things that gratify our pleasures.

To love our neighbor as ourselves is hard for two reasons:
1. We have a difficult time deciding who our neighbors are.
2. And, we can't love anything or anyone more than we love ourselves.

What would be challenging about trying to live out the message of the passage?
1. we would have to give up wanting to be wealthy.
2. we would have to give up being respected by those who are wealthy.
3. we would have to be satisfied with the presence of God and the ilimunation of the Holy Spirit.

What comes across as Good News in the passage?
The good news here has to do with the concept we call "The Kingdom of God." The Kingdom of God is not so much a place as it is a state of being. It is being willing to be the servant of God and letting His rule govern our thoughts and actions. What's good about that is that we don't have to wrestle with keeping a long list of commandments to be governed by God. In fact, being governed by God means letting Him have his way with us. It means letting go of the things that we worry about and trusting in Him, completely and uquestionably, to take care of all of our own needs and the needs of our loved ones.

Why would someone want to take on the challenges of living this way?
Well there is always the "Pie-in-the-sky-bye-and-bye" reason. I mean, loving God and loving our neighbor has it's rewards in eternity. But most of us aren't usually motivated by things that reward us in the afterlife. If we were, we'd all live our lives more in tune with God's will and Jesus' teachings. It wouldn't be a struggle to follow Jesus if we were truly motivated by the promise of life after death.

What motivates most of us are consequences, both punishments and rewards, that affect our life in the only world we know: this one. So, why would someone want to seek answers to happiness and pleasure by focusing on the happiness and pleasure of others? Isn't it a bit foolish to trust in a concept such as God which can't be proven to exist? And isn't it more than a bit foolish to spend all of the energy we have and the money we make looking out for other people? Why can't they look out for themselves? And if I do spend all of my energy and earnings looking out for them, who is going to look out for me?

So the question we have before us is Why someone would want to take on the challenges that this life in Christ presents? I can think of a few:

1. Jesus tells us that he came that we might have life, and life more abundantly. What do you value? Possessions? Financial freedom? Or is it peace of mind, a clear conscience, a sense of goodness and fairness in your dealings with others? If it is the former, you are on your own, but if it is the latter, living our lives loving God and our neighbors as ourselves brings rewards in this life. Rewards in the form of peace of mind, a clear conscience and a clear sense of goodness.

2. Scientists tell us that one of the causes of depression is continual and obsessive introspection. It is not healthy to always think of ourselves. They also tell us that part of the treatment for depression it to look ouside ourselves at the condition of the world and those around us. Look at how they live, what their issues are, what their problems are. Looking at and thinking about others gets our minds off our own problems and issues and helps us to see that, compared to others, our lot is not so bad.

3. Jesus tells us not to worry about the things that could make us happy. He bids us to look at the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and consider who takes care of them. He says to us:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

What invitations are in the passage to experience more fully the life God offers?

1. There is the invitation to stop trying to follow a list of rules and encoprorate the spirit of all the rules contained in the two Great Commandments.

2. There is the invitation to come near to the Kingdom of God in your life. Let God have his way with you. Stop trying to do it all yourself and start laying your burdens at the feet of the Master.

3. The most important invitation of all is the one given by Jesus to Come unto me...
a) All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
b) The wages of sin is death
c) But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
d) All we, like sheep, have gone astray, and God hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
e) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

The invitation is for you, won’t you come to him and let go and let God...

Thanks be to God!
Let us pray,

Deliver Us
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil
of selfishness and calculation
and open us to your love.
Keep us free from the fear
of committing ourselves in love
to anyone who needs us,
and let our love for those around us
be the test of the quality
of our love for you.
Help us to be one in heart and soul
and to be a community of service,
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.
For the Kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
both now and forevermore.


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