JMPC Lenten Devotional: Messages of Hope

Messages of Hope

March 30, 2020

If you are like me, you might be getting a bit stir crazy right now. Lockdown is hard on folks who are usually pretty active. Two days ago, I recommended that we use these days as a kind of sabbath. Does that mean we do nothing? Well, that is not what Jesus says. Take a look at this.

Mark 2: 23-28

23 One sabbath he was going through the cornfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’ 25And he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’ 27Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’

According to the New Interpreters Bible Commentary:

… [S]abbath concerns the periodic, disciplined, regular disengagement from the systems of productivity whereby the world uses people up to exhaustion. The disengagement refers also to culture produced expectations for frantic leisure, frantic consumptions or frantic exercise.

The fourth commandment, if followed, frees us from these things. It allows us to be God’ image bearers. It illustrates our devotion to God. It is a sabbath to the Lord. But it is also a sabbath to us. And so, we will do not “work”. But what does that mean? The Rabbis of Jesus time spent a good deal of time on that. It is one of the most frequent criticisms of and accusations against Jesus. Jesus “works” on the sabbath.

What does Jesus do that creates this conflict? He heals. He preaches and teaches. What does Jesus condone ass a response to the accusations and criticisms? Caring for God. Caring for ourselves. Caring for others. Caring for creation.

I like the way Miller summarizes the distinction Jesus makes when responding to his critics.

… “[Jesus said] [T]he sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath (Mark 2: 27). That has been the point all along. “To sanctify the Sabbath means to save lives and do good, not just to rest and give rest to others” [citation omitted]. Human need is not all the Sabbath is about, but it is at the heart of the matter. In Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath Day, the commandment becomes an embodiment of the love of neighbor.

Sabbath is a day of meeting need. For God. For us. For our neighbors. For creation. So, what do we do with this in lockdown?

Well, we are doing something by staying away from others. As I heard it put last week, “The best demonstration for Christian love today is not being together.” When we do this, we protect ourselves, others, and all those people who are caring for the sick, keeping grocery stores and pharmacies open, and driving the trucks that supply them – among many others.

So if you are feeling like doing something, you are. Stay home and stay well.

JMPC Lenten Devotional: Messages of Hope

Messages of Hope

March 27, 2020

Exodus 20: 1; 8-11

20Then God spoke all these words:

8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9For six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

When I started practicing law in 1983, I worked for a firm that billed by the hour. That was our “stock in trade” – the billable hour. A billable hour was time we spent working on client files. If we were not working on client files, the hour was not billable, and so unproductive. Unproductive time was wasted time. The thought of “wasted time” drives me to be busy and productive all the time. And when I am not busy and productive, I feel guilty and anxious.

But it’s not just about work, right? Friday night is high school athletics. Saturday morning is Betsy’s soccer game. After that we need to mow the lawn and do the yard work. Billy has his baseball game in the afternoon. We have to stop at the store on the way home to get food for the week. Now we have to clean the house. Drive the kids all over town. Then we have to do the laundry, pay the bills, and call or visit our parents. Maybe a few random hours to relax before we get ready to go back to work.

That is not the way it is supposed to be. That is not what God Commands. God commands that every 7th day, we are to give ourselves a break.

9For six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work…

Sabbath is a time where we observe the cosmic order.

Patrick Miller and Jon Levinson describe it this way in their book ion the Ten Commandments:

[B]iblical law … is of the same order as the laws of nature, the inner mechanism of creation. … The keeper of the Sabbath thus brings one’s life into harmony with the intrinsic rhythm of the cosmos, instituted by divine fiat and observed [first] by God.

The rhythm of the cosmos. I like that one. God rests on the seventh day. So should we.

Maybe we should look at our current “lock down” as a kind of Sabbath. Maybe we are getting the opportunity to make some back payments on ignored sabbaths past. What do you do on sabbath? You get away from feverish productivity. You slow down and take in things that have been set aside. Sleep late. Read a good mystery. Watch some old shows you forgot about. Call a friend. It’s OK. Really, it is.

What would Jesus do? More about that in two days.

JMPC Lenten Devotional: Messages of Hope

Getting behind while working at home. Many apologies to my followers. Catching up today.

Messages of Hope

JMPC Lenten Devotional

March 25, 2020

Many times, we, like the Psalmist, wonder if God is really involved in our lives. We wonder where God is when we are in our most troubled times. Our faith waivers. But while the Psalmist frequently asks God about God’s whereabouts in troubled times, the Psalmist always ends with a statement of trust and praise. There is one Psalm that is all about trust and praise. It is one that we can offer when we can’t seem to summon the words on our own. This one gives me peace.

Psalm 121

A Song of Ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
   from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
   who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
   he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
   the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
   nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
   he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
   your going out and your coming in
   from this time on and for evermore.

When trouble comes or when we are afraid, where do we turn? The Psalmist turns to the hills. The hills, or high places, are where the Psalmist’s help can be found. The Bible is full of hills and high places. Mt. Sinai is where Moses received the law. On top of a mountain Jesus was transfigured. These are the thin places where God is near and transforms our lives.

We certainly are in troubling times just now. How do we get to the hills where we can get some help from God? Well, the Psalmist just lifts his eyes. Maybe we can look out our windows, or stand in our yards, or remember a high place we visited once in our lives. There we will find the one who does not sleep. The one who guards us and our world. The one who protects us from the elements. The one who delivers us from evil. The one who keeps us sane. The one who is there all the time – from this time on and forever more. We surely can trust God, even on troubled times.

Massages of Hope: March 24, 2020

Messages of Hope

JMPC Lenten Devotional

March 23, 2020

One of the emotions I am feeling periodically during the coronavirus pandemic is anger. Anger is a pretty common human emotion. It seems hard wired into our psyche. The Psalmist felt intense anger at times. What the Psalmist wrote in anger are what we call imprecatory psalms. These are psalms that invoke God’s wrath onto certain people who the Psalmist blames for the Psalmist’s troubles. These psalms can be hard to read. Here is one of the best-known imprecatory psalms.

Psalm 137


1 By the rivers of Babylon—
   there we sat down and there we wept
   when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
   we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors
   asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
   ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’


4 How could we sing the Lord’s song
   in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
   let my right hand wither!
6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
   if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
   above my highest joy.


7 Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
   the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, ‘Tear it down! Tear it down!
   Down to its foundations!’
8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
   Happy shall they be who pay you back
   what you have done to us!
9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones
   and dash them against the rock!

At the outset of this devotional I mentioned that I have had periods of anger during this pandemic. I am angry at the restrictions that have been “recommended” by the government. Later I am angry that the government did not “recommend” those restrictions sooner. Then I am angry at the people who are panicking and crying out that the world is coming to an end. Later still, I am angry at the people who are still congregating in large groups and appearing to thumb their nose at the clear danger. Back and forth I go. But what makes me really angry is that I am angry! What is the point? I can’t change the circumstances. I can’t change the people who care too much or care too little. Who can I vent to? Who will hear my rant? God.

When you read this psalm, you can certainly feel the Psalmist’s anger. It is beyond our comprehension. But what is important is that the Psalmist believes, as do I, that God will listen. And that God is present. To the Psalmist, Jerusalem represents God’s presence. The Psalmist vows not to forget that. And tells God just how angry the Psalmist is.

We can do that, too. We need to remember that God is right there – at our elbow, at our fingertip, in a still small voice in our ear. God hears us and understands. Then God does what God does. God’s will. To close this devotion, take a moment and recite the Lord’s prayer. Then say, “though I am angry, God, your will be done.”

Let it Go – Control: Thoughts on maintaining "control" during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Let it Go – Control

Friday morning, I decided to sleep in a bit.

It was raining – hard.

But then I heard a whine from the bottom of the stairs.

Then another but different whine.

It was my dogs.

I looked at the clock.

It was 7 o’clock.

My usual routine in the morning is to take Lucy and Roxy to a local cemetery for their run.

We leave the house about 6:30.

It’s their routine, too.

They might be dogs, but they know the time.

They were ready to go a half hour ago.

The whining was to let me know that.

To remind me.

To tell me they were not happy that the routine had been violated.

I was, and am, sympathetic.

One of the things I crave in my life is a sense of rhythm.

I like routine.

I like predictability.

It is comfortable.

It gives me peace.

I feel in control.

Psychologists, I think, would agree.

Routine and predictability give us the feeling that we are in control of our lives.

Control even over the world around us, or at least the way we interact with it.

So, what happens when all that goes away?

What happens when it seems our world descends into chaos?

The routine is gone.

There is no predictability.

We feel like we have no control.

We get anxious, angry, frustrated, depressed.

We grieve.

We grieve over the loss of routines, the loss of certainty.

The coronavirus pandemic has destroyed just about every one of our routines.

And we are struggling emotionally.

We are anxious, angry, frustrated, depressed.

We ruminate on our lost perception that we are healthy and safe.

So, what do we do?

We need to recognize that we cannot control everything.

We need to let it go.

Letting go of control is not that “let go and let God” meme.

That implies that we just stay in bed and let God take care of us.

That is not a good theology.

Letting go of control is first learning how we can be calm in a crisis.

And second to do some small thing to make things a bit better.

First, let’s talk about staying calm.

This requires some effort.

We have many worries.

I will not give you my list.

We all have our own.

So, how doe we remain calm with all these worries?

We read Paul.

Philippians 4: 6-7

6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Paul is not saying that there is no reason to worry.

Not “let go and let God”.

What Paul says is we should offer all our worries to God in prayer.

Not expecting God to make the things you are worried about go away.

But we expect our prayers to give us some peace.

The peace of knowing that Go dis right there with us.

Paul simply says that when we pray, we are given the peace of God.

God can calm us down.

We can then go about the business of our daily lives, meeting our needs and the needs of those around us.

Easier said than done.

The trouble is that in times like these, we can become overwhelmed with our worries.

We can’t find the words that express our pleas to God.

We don’t know what to say.

Thera re too many things we want to say.

So, here is some good news.

The Bible gives us words that we can use in prayer, even when we can’t find the words.

The Psalms.

Try Psalm 3.

A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.
1
Lord, how many are my foes!
   Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying to me,
   ‘There is no help for you in God.’
          Selah

3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
   my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
4 I cry aloud to the
Lord,
   and he answers me from his holy hill.
          Selah

5 I lie down and sleep;
   I wake again, for the
Lord sustains me.

6 I am not afraid of tens of thousands of people
   who have set themselves against me all around.

7 Rise up, O Lord!
   Deliver me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
   you break the teeth of the wicked.

8 Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
   may your blessing be on your people!
          Selah

Psalm 3 is a “prayer for help of an individual”.

A plea for help.

A statement of trust that God will respond.

Then there is the Lord’s prayer.

The Lord’s prayer is the same thing.

It is a Psalm seeking God’s presence and help in our lives.

Matthew 6:9-13

Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name.
   Your kingdom come.
   Your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven.
   Give us this day our daily bread.
   And forgive us our debts,
     as we also have forgiven our debtors.
   And do not bring us to the time of trial,
     but rescue us from the evil one.

It calls on God for help.

It proclaims trust that God will respond.

And when you offer these prayers, insert your list of worries.

When you pray Psalm 3, tell God about your many foes.

Like the coronavirus, loneliness, fear and sadness you are feeling.

When you pray the Lord’s Prayer, tell God about the bread, forgiveness and protection from the evil that comes after you.

Like the empty shelves, the anger you feel, and the temptation to ignore public health warnings.

An while you are listing these things, do not be afraid to say it how you feel it.

Vent.

Rant.

Plead.

Cry.

Accuse.

After all this, then pause.

Take a deep breath and be present with God.

It is then that Paul says the peace of God surrounds our hearts and minds.

Let God be a non-anxious presence in our lives.

Then we can do something.

What do we do?

Jesus says this:

Matthew 6

33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

What does that look like today?

Thursday when I was on a video conference about communicating with congregations as we shelter-in-place, I heard something I needed to hear.

Something we all need to hear.

“The best demonstration of Christian love during the pandemic is not being together.”

Love neighbor – don’t spread the virus.

But there are other things we can do.

As I was reading in preparation for Sunday’s message, I came across an article from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

It had what I believe to be a good list of things to do in times like these.

Pray deeply. 

Here at JMPC we do that.

Email your prayer concerns and joys.

We have a prayer team that is waiting to pray with you and for you.

One way to do this is to use Facebook or Zoom or YouTube so that there is more of a personal presence. We will need to figure out the best way to do that.

Immerse yourself in the Bible. 

While our Bible studies are on hiatus, the daily devotionals will have to fill this need.

But these do not replace the need to pull out your Bible and read.

Particularly with your kids.

Guard your heart. 

This means to turn off the news, stop reading the “click bait” on social media and promote real science information from the WHO, CDC and the PA Department of Health.

While the recommendations do seem to change daily, it is entirely appropriate to disengage and distract your anxious thoughts with books, movies, puzzles, games, cooking, exercise, music, etc. …

Care for others. I

f you know anyone who is alone, call them and say hello.

If you know anyone who is unemployed, call them and ask if they need anything.

If you know anyone who is overwhelmed, call them and offer a few kind words and some encouragement.

If you know someone who needs food, go to the store for them and drop off the food at their door.

At JMPC, we will continue to support SHIM, First Pres. Of Duquesne and Family Promise financially as they try to keep their ministries going.

Support crisis ministry. 

Be sure to encourage other agencies and volunteers who are trying to do “one small thing” to help people in crisis.

We do what we can today.

Tomorrow will be a new day, with new things to pray for and do something about.

All of these things are available to each of us during this time of crisis and are ways we can strive for the Kingdom of God.

When we do these things, making them routine, we will feel a bit more in control.

We will feel the peace of God.

And then we can pray a different kind of Psalm.

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Psalm 30

A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the temple. Of David.
1 I will praise you, O 
Lord, for you have drawn me up,
   and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
2
Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
   and you have healed me.
3
Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
   restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
4 Sing praises to the
Lord, O you his faithful ones,
   and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment;
   his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
   but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
   ‘I shall never be moved.’
7 By your favor, O 
Lord,
   you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
   I was dismayed.
8 To you, O 
Lord, I cried,
   and to the
Lord I made appeal:
9 ‘What profit is there in my death,
   if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
   Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O 
Lord, and be gracious to me!
   O 
Lord, be my helper!’
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
   you have taken off my sackcloth
   and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
   O 
Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.

AMEN

JMPC Lenten devotional for March 20, 2020

Messages of Hope

JMPC Lenten Devotional

March 20, 2020

One of the things I find remarkable about the Psalms is that they speak to situations each of us has from time to time experienced. We have all experienced anxiety and grief and thankfulness and awe and anger and hope. All these things are found in the words of the Psalmist. And one thing that is important to remember, all the words are directed to God. Like the Psalmist, we are free to express what we are feeling about our world and about God – to God. That is what Jesus did. He quoted the Psalms often, even while he hung on the cross. So, I encourage each of you to pull out the Psalms and read them every day while we are apart and feel God’s presence beside you as you pray them to God.

Today I want to offer a Psalm that I find comforting.

Psalm 8

To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.
1 O Lord, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!


You have set your glory above the heavens.
2   Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
   to silence the enemy and the avenger.


3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
   mortals that you care for them?


5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
   and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
   you have put all things under their feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
   and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
   whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!

I still remember the spring break of my sophomore year at Allegheny College. Three of my friends and I went to my grandparents’ cottage on Edinboro Lake. For an entire week we had no responsibility. No to-do list. No homework. The sense of freedom was powerful. Then one night, we were sitting on the shore of the lake and my friend Flash looked up and cried out, “Look, the Northern Lights!” It is rare that the Northern Lights are visible this far south. They are not as colorful, but they are spectacular. They look like heavenly fireworks. Streaks of light flash across the sky. Swirls of light pinwheel over the horizon. Waves of light wash over the darkness. Explosions of light take your breath away. We lay down on the grass and watched the show until the sun came up. Why not, we had nothing better to do. In fact, that night, there could be nothing better to do.

While I did not know it at the time, I was experiencing what the Psalmist experienced. I was overwhelmed. I looked at the heavens and marveled at all God had made and I felt – not small – but comforted. Who was I that God who made the universe, would make me? Am I as amazing as the universe? I am certainly part of it. Then, after contemplating this Psalm, something occurred to me. Maybe I was created to see the universe. Maybe God got done with creation and then made humanity in God’s image so that we could see what God had created. Without anyone to see it, does it even exist?

So, what is the point here? While we all are sheltering in place, instead of wringing our hands and worrying about the things we cannot do, or how this will all end, why not take a look around and see what is nearby. Enjoy what is right there. It is part of creation. And it is all amazing.

This week at John McMillan Presbyterian Church (late again): March 22, 2020

Many years ago, when I was a young lawyer, I learned a lesson about control from my equally young secretary, Mary Lou. Mary Lou and I had been working together for a couple years. She was my right arm when it came to getting things done. I trusted her to basically manage my practice. But though I trusted her, when I was out of the office, I would call to make sure everything was “under control”. I called even when I was on vacation. One day, while I was on vacation, I called in. “Hi, Mary Lou. What’s going on? Any mail? Any calls?” Silence. Then, her reply. “Jeff, do you think I’m an idiot?” Uh oh. Me: “Um … No. Why would you ask that?” Mary Lou: “You seem to think I can’t do my job. You seem to think I don’t know when I need to call you about something that can’t wait. If something needs your immediate attention, I will call you. OK?” Me: “OK, then.” What I learned is that the world of my law practice was not going to hell in a handbasket in my absence. There was someone could keep things going even when I was not there. From that time on, I have followed that advice. I am sure there are others out there who have those same tendencies. “If I do not have my hand on the controls, things will crash and burn.” But those circumstances are rare, and usually there is someone to let you know that you need to resume the controls. But now there is the coronavirus pandemic. We who like to have control – don’t. There is nothing we can do to control its spread or its end or its cure. And so, we are anxious, angry and frustrated. How can we find some relief? We need to let go of control. Does the Bible say anything about giving up control in such times? Let’s talk about it on Sunday, March 22. Pastor Jeff will preach “Let it go – Control” on Facebook live at 9:30am. The message will be recorded so you can watch it later in the day if you are unavailable at 9:30. Tune in and join the virtual JMPC community. We will look forward to your “click”.

Messages of Hope: Lenten Devotional March 18, 2020

Messages of Hope

Lenten Devotional

March 18, 2020

Matt and I had planned some time back to use the Minor Prophets as our source for Lenten Devotionals in 2020. We followed that plan through 18 days of Lent (not counting Sundays). If you have been following along, you likely have noticed a theme in the Minor Prophets. Israel or Judah are constantly scolded by the prophet for neglecting and oppressing the poor; breaking covenant with God and idolatry. The penalty is always the same. Neighboring countries invade and conquer and enslave God’s people. While the prophets do offer hope, Israel and Judah are always on the brink of extinction.

Now that we are in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Matt and I did not want to sound like those prophets of doom at a time when doom is all we hear from the news. We also did not want it to sound like we were saying that this pandemic was some kind of judgment from God.       So, we decided to reboot the devotionals to offer messages of hope. We can offer messages of hope because that is what God has given us in Jesus Christ. A certain hope that God is with us and promises our souls an eternity in paradise.

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3   he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
   for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
   I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   my whole life long.

Most of the Psalms are called Psalms of Lament. Prayers for God’s help from an individual or community. They all have a similar structure. The Psalmist is afraid. The Psalmist cries out to God for help. The Psalmist acknowledges God can do something about the trouble and maybe cites some examples. The Psalmist then thanks God for helping … even before God does something about it. The Psalmist even praises God when God seems to do does nothing about it. How can the Psalmist do this? Because the Psalmist is confident that God is present, even when times are pretty bad. Even when we are sick or dying. This is an example of such a psalm.

Psalm 23 is the most well-known Bible passage. We use it a lot at funerals. We use it a lot during hard times. It is the one we recite when we want to be comforted. Why? Because it tells us that God is our shepherd. The one who leads and feeds. The one who takes us to water and a place where we can rest. The one who gives us peaceful restored souls. But this shepherd does not promise a risk-free and trouble-free life. We sometimes walk through the darkest valley. Or as some translate it – the valley of the shadow of death. What does the Psalmist say that comforts us?

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
   I fear no evil;
for you are with me …

When times are tough, we need not fear. Because God is with us. Even in the bad and scary times, God feeds us and loves us more than we need. Even then goodness and mercy follow us and we will be with God forever. That is our certain hope.

The last and the first and getting enough: Thoughts on overbuying during the coronavirus pandemic.

This weeks message was based on Matthew 20: 16 and was intended to be about letting go of expectations. Then the coronavirus pandemic worsened. The message transformed overnight. The focus became what it means to be first and what it means to be last in the race to the grocery store. The message was kind of a stream of thought and so was not written down. It can be heard on the church website and seen on the church Facebook page. Maybe this is better, after all sermons are meant to be heard, not read.

JMPC Lenten devotional 15

Lenten Devotional 15

March 13, 2020

Day 15

Micah 4: 1-5

1In days to come
   the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
   and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,
2   and many nations shall come and say:
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
   and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
3 He shall judge between many peoples,
   and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more;
4 but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
   and no one shall make them afraid;
   for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
5 For all the peoples walk,
   each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
   for ever and ever.

Who was Micah?

Micah was a prophetic preacher in Judah. He was a younger contemporary of Isaiah. At the time of Micah’s ministry, the world was not a peaceful one. The Assyrians were constantly rattling their sabers on the northern border of Israel. Other prophets (Hosea and Amos in Israel and Isaiah in Judah) were warning that the Assyrians would conquer both countries as a tool of God’s judgment for their apostacy. Micah was preaching that Jerusalem would be reduced to rubble and its people taken to Babylon. That ultimately happened, though not in Micah’s lifetime.

Did Micah offer hope?

Micah preached that after the destruction, God would bring forth a king from the line of David to rule over God’s people. That would lead to a world described in out text.

Jerusalem would rise from the rubble and become the highest mountain on earth. I would become the central place of all people. The Lord would rule with justice. All the nations would come to the mountain to learn God’s ways. Everyone would sit under their vines without fear of invasion and there would be agricultural plenty. How could this happen? The weapons of war become agricultural tools.

Does Micah say anything to us, today?

Looking at Micah’s message in today’s test, we are reminded of Jesus’ message that the Kingdom of God is a place where there is no war. It is like a return to Eden. A place Jesus called paradise. Are we there yet? No, we are not. But that is the promise Jesus gave us in the new covenant. Look to Jesus to learn how we are to live. Live the Jesus way.