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Give the Savior Your Best

Epiphany

Give the Savior Your Best

Text: Matthew 2:1-12

In September of 3 B.C., at the time of the Jewish New Year, Jupiter (which is the “King” Planet) became aligned with Regulus (the “King” Star).  It would have been a bright display of two of the brightest lights in the sky.  A few months later, Jupiter looked to have reversed course and went in retrograde motion (which happens occasionally because of our sight perspective as the planets pass each other).  Even more rare and something that has not happened again since, Jupiter reversed course a second time.  It was almost as if the “King” Planet was dancing with or forming a halo around the “King” Star—like a coronation perhaps.

All of this happened within one constellation in the sky—Leo, which is the lion and also the symbol for the tribe of Judah.  Meanwhile, at the exact same time the constellation Virgo (the Virgin) was rising behind the constellation Leo.  So by early 2 B.C., the Virgin would have been aligned with the Lion (of Judah) and also the King Star being crowned by the King Planet.  Even more interesting?  Nine months later, the length of a pregnancy, by June of 2 B.C., Jupiter became aligned with Venus the Mother Planet.

Could this have been what the Magi saw in the sky?  Did they see these rare signs and sights in the sky and then set out from the east to start looking for the Messiah, only to see the final signs nine months later?  It’s an interesting theory, but we don’t know for sure.  We don’t know if it was a supernova or just a very bright star.  We don’t know if it was high in the sky or very low and finally hovered above the house like you see in many pictures.  We don’t know for sure if only the Magi could see it or if everyone in the world could see the star.  We don’t know a lot about that star. Read the rest of this entry

Are You Ready for Judgment?

Last Judgment Sunday

Are You Ready for Judgment?

Text:  Matthew 25:31-46

Oh boy.  Here we go.  The father steps up to the mic.  He’s been waiting for this moment for a very long time.  But he’s ready.  He knows what to say.  He has lots of heartfelt words for his daughter and her new husband at this wedding reception.  But of course, he would be remiss on this wedding day if he didn’t show at least a few pictures.  The pictures pop onto the screen.  Everyone laughs while the blushing bride becomes just that.  Daddy was kind enough to share pictures of his young daughter in the bathtub, pictures in diapers, and even a few pictures kissing some other two-year-old boy.  “Daaad!”  How embarrassing!

Old friends stop by.  You haven’t seen them for ages!  How fun to catch up on old times!  “Oh let me tell you—did you ever know what he was really like back then?”  Your friends proceed to tell your spouse some not so great stories about some not so great things you’ve done.  How agonizing!

But can these embarrassing and shaming moments of life even compare to what we hear about today?  Daniel painted the picture first:  Thrones were set in place.  The Ancient of Days too his seat.  His clothing and hair were white.  His throne was flaming with fire.  A river of fire was flowing from before him.  Tens of thousands encircled him.  And the last sentence said:  The court was seated, and the books were opened.” Read the rest of this entry

Which Son Do You Identify With?

19th Sunday after Pentecost

Which Son Do You Identify With?

Text: Matthew 21:28-32

I.

Ooh their blood was boiling.  They already despised Jesus, but now the chief priests and elders of the people—they were really hot.  The day before the people had made a crazy ruckus in the city.  They were shouting and waving palm branches and treating Jesus like a king as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  Later that same Palm Sunday Jesus entered the temple, turned over the tables , of the money lenders, and drove out all the people who turned that holy house into a den of robbers.

Now it was the next day, Monday of Holy Week, and Jesus was back in the temple teaching.  The chief priests and elders nearly had steam shooting out of their ears.  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked.  They just didn’t get it.  Their hearts were hardened with hate and unbelief.  So Jesus told them a series of parables.  The first one is before us today.

It’s a simple and short parable.  There was a father who had two boys.  Certainly he loved them.  He addressed them each as “Child,” or “Son.”  But like all parents, this father expected his dear children to work.  They couldn’t just sit and play Super Mario Brothers or watch Scooby Doo all day.  They had work to do for the family.  You might expect your children to clean their rooms or do the dishes or mow the lawn.  In an agricultural society, these two sons were asked to go and work in the vineyard.

The first one refused.  I will not,” he said, giving the response that we parents dread hearing: “NO!”  But later on he changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard.  The second son did just the opposite.  He answered, I will, sir.”  If only!  If only our children would be asked to do something and would always respond with a, “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” like this son.  However, though he talked a good talk, the second son didn’t walk the walk.  He never went to work in the vineyard. Read the rest of this entry

Love Leads Us

16th Sunday after Pentecost

Love Leads Us

Text:  Matthew 18:15-20

Intro

Look around this room for a moment.  Go ahead, you can actually take your eyes off me for a moment.  Look at the people sitting around you in this room.

How much do you love these fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?  Do you love them enough to smile when you arrive at church, maybe even be bold enough to say, “Good morning”?  Do you love the people sitting around you enough to take it one step further?  Would you ask the people next to you how they are doing—and actually care enough to really want to know how they are doing?  Do you love the people around you enough to compliment and commend them—to tell them when they have done something well, that they have a beautiful singing voice, that they did something important for the church?  Do you love the people around you enough to work together with them—to partner with them on a campus work day or at the kids carnival or in bringing a dish to share at an Easter brunch?

I’m guessing that you would reply “Yes” to most or all of those questions so far.  Maybe you are a quieter type and you don’t always like being social, but I would guess that you would do all of these things.  After all, these are your brothers and sisters in Christ.   Read the rest of this entry

What Makes a Great Faith?

13th Sunday after Pentecost

What Makes a Great Faith?

Text:  Matthew 15:21-28

What Makes a Great Faith?  Have you wondered that before?  What is it that makes someone’s faith great?  You probably know it when you see it.  Maybe you’ve said things like, “That guy is a man of faith,” or “Wow!  She really has faith.”  We might be able to identify great faith when we see it.  But  bigger questions are What Makes a Great Faith?  and, How do I get it?

Maybe who you are and what you do makes your faith great.  The Pharisees thought so.  They weren’t content with simply obeying God’s laws, they had to add several hundred of their own so they could look more holy.  They proudly paraded around town like their sandals didn’t stink.  Jesus even told the story of a Pharisee praying out loud, “I thank you Lord that I am not like that tax collector.”  The Pharisees certainly thought they had great faith because of who they were and what they did.

The disciples weren’t quite like that.  The knew they weren’t a special breed of Jews.  Some of them were simple fishermen.  Matthew was a tax collector—not exactly the most respected profession among the Jews.  They seemed to always be caught by Jesus in fear or doubt.  Like two weeks ago when they were dumbfounded when Jesus asked them to feed the 5,000.  Or like last week when they thought Jesus was a ghost walking on water.  It’s hard to think you have great faith when Jesus himself tells you, You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Read the rest of this entry