Friday, May 24, 2024

You of Great Faith (Rerun)

This was originally posted on my blog in April 2016.

 

Matthew 14:25-31: Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

 

This is one of my favorite stories about Peter. It makes me a little sad, though, because Jesus seems disappointed with Peter when he becomes afraid. But when I thought about it more, I realized that isn’t the main point. The most exciting issue is that Jesus expected Peter to have great faith.

 

The first thing Jesus said to Peter when he said he wanted to walk to him on the lake was, “Come.” Jesus believes we can have that kind of faith.

 

When the Roman Centurion in Matthew 8 shows his trust that Jesus can heal his servant without coming to his house, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Verse 10

 

When the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 showed her bravery and belief that Jesus would accept her, he said, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” Verse 28

 

He doesn’t expect more of us than we are able.

 

Matthew 17: 20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

 

Sometimes in dark moments, I’ve felt I was only holding on to God with my thumbnails. But that was enough. Truly, it was not my strength that kept me holding on. God held me securely in his hands. John 10:28-30

 

God will help our faith increase, and he will do great things. Mark 9:23-34 

Friday, May 17, 2024

Grace and Truth, What Were They Thinking? John 18:28-40

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

 

What were the Jews thinking? They wanted to keep themselves ceremonially clean so they could eat during the Passover. They wanted to kill Jesus, and they were willing to let a violent criminal go free instead of Jesus.

 

What was Pilate thinking? He did not know what to think about Jesus, or what to do with him. Although Pilate was not known as a kind or just man, even he could find nothing against Jesus and offered to set him free.

 

What was Jesus thinking? Jesus said very little when he was questioned earlier by the Jewish leaders, but he had a conversation with Pilate. He admitted that he was a king and spoke of truth. I wonder if he was trying to lead Pilate to salvation. I believe that’s possible.

 

Jesus, let me listen to your truth. Thank you for wanting to draw me near to you. 

Friday, May 10, 2024

Some Good Recent Reads

A dangerous legacy by Elizabeth Camden, delightful and scary adventure, above and underground, New York City, 1903.

 

Unspoken by Dee Henderson. I recently reread another story by one of my favorite authors. A fascinating, heart-grabbing story that includes likeable well-developed characters and a detailed look into the scandalous grace of Jesus.

 

Always remember your name: a true story of family and survival in Auschwitz by Andra Bucci,; Tatiana Bucci,; Umberto Gentiloni Silveri; Ann Goldstein. A story of two women, sisters, who, as young children, survived this famous death camp.

 

Just like us: the true story of four Mexican girls coming of age in America by Helen Thorpe. Four girls from the same background, living in similar communities, friends at school. Shows the difference in opportunities for them depending on their status as citizens, residents, or not legal.

 

American whitelash: a changing nation and the cost of progress by Wesley Lowery. On the day Barack Obama was elected president, there was hope for racial change. But the change that has happened since then has been horrific. Lowery discussed personal stories of violence since 2008. He says he does not claim to be encyclopedic or comprehensive, but, he gives history from the 1600s to the 2020s of opposition and violence in America because of racial, immigration, religious and other differences.

 

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton; I probably first read this book in high school. It was published in 1967. It is one of my favorite books. I read it again recently, and I asked Sarah if she’d ever read it. She said she thought so, but “I think it was upsetting.” It is surely upsetting, but it touches me still. The copy I read recently was an audio book, and S.E. Hinton spoke before the book was read. She said she wrote it when she was sixteen, partly because she couldn’t find other books that talked about the reality of being a teenager. 

Friday, May 3, 2024

Psalm 20, A Prayer to share with and for Others

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;

    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

 Now this I know:

    The Lord gives victory to his anointed.

He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

Lord, give victory to the king!

    Answer us when we call!

 

This is a lovely prayer we can offer for others in hard times, in scary times, and in times of hope and anticipation. We can join with others and offer this prayer to glorify God, to trust him and call to him and boldly ask for his help.