Thoughts: In my dear but unlettered little home town, a favorite saying was “Them as has, gits.” Matthew 25:29 expresses it more formally: “For unto everyone that hath shall be given ….”
And so it often seems. The bank president’s son drives a red convertible, captains the basketball team, marries the prom queen, inherits his father’s position, and lives in a big, pillared house.
But even those who have only one talent have God’s love. And if we use that talent the best we can, God will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant ….”
Discussion: Paul admonished Timothy to “stir up the gift that is within you.” Why do we fail to stir up our gifts?
Activity: Write a note of appreciation to someone who contributed to our Sunday morning service.
Thoughts: Reg was a proud graduate of West Point. He had a distinguished career in the Army, rising to the rank of full colonel. He was horrified when West Point began admitting young women.
The daughter of an Army friend of Reg was in the first class which included women. When she came home for Christmas, Reg saw her at a Christmas party.
“Merry Christmas, Uncle Reg!” she trilled. “I’m a Black Knight now, just like you!”
Wincing inwardly, Uncle Reg smiled at her. “Well, well,” he coughed. “How do you like your D.I?"”
“Oh, I just love him!” she squealed.
(Drill instructors are usually feared and detested. Uncle Reg asked no more questions.)
In the 11 ½ verses in our scripture, the word “love” (in different forms) is used 27 times. Manifestly, it is clear that we must love others, because god first loved us.
Discussion: What different kinds of love do we experience in our lives?
Activity: Think of someone you have known and have not liked nor loved. Then think of any lovable qualities which this person had. If there be any virtue, think on these things.
Thoughts: I cry easily. A neglected child in a book, an injured horse in a movie, a friend’s illness, a soldier’s funeral – just the sound of a bugle playing “Taps” – and our children would chorus, “mom’s crying!”
So I love the promise that “god shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” This image of our Heavenly father wiping away all tears from our eyes is ineffably sweet and comforting.
“So, the all-great were the all-loving, too.” – Robert Browning
Discussion: Another person’s grief can be uncomfortable for us. Why is this?
Activity: Remember someone you know who needs comforting, and give that confort through a phone call or a note or homemade muffins or a pot of hyacinths.
Thoughts: Biblical scholars believe that David – a Renaissance man before the Renaissance – wrote 76 of the 150 psalms. Temple musician Asaph wrote 12. David’s son Solomon, a name synonymous with wisdom, wrote two. Another temple musician, Aleph, wrote one, as did Ethen, a wise man who was a contemporary of Solomon.
And Moses, one of the best-known men in the Bible, wrote one psalm, which contains our scripture for this week.
Along with leading thousands of contentious Israelites through the wilderness, writing and administering laws, providing food and water, and climbing Mount Sinai twice to secure copies of the Ten Commandments, Moses found time to write one of our most exquisite psalms.
Discussion: Many people would choose Psalm 23 as their favorite psalm. For the sake of variety, what is your second favorite psalm?
Activity: Memorize the blessing in verse 17. “and let the beauty of the Lord our god be upon us, and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands, establish thou it.”
Thoughts: When our children were little, they delighted in asking me questions I couldn’t answer. One school morning we were scrambling around, finding the lost mitten, smoothing the crumpled homework – you know the drill.
When we opened the back door, we could barely see the garage through the heavy fog.
“Mama, what is fog?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted, “but we’ll look it up in the encyclopedia* after school.”
And we did. “Fog is a cloud come close to earth.” Short. Easily understood. Beautiful.
One of Jesus’ uncountable gifts was his ability to answer questions so perfectly that his questioners were silenced.
Discussion: Which was most important in Jesus’ earthly ministry?
(a) his teaching (b) his answers to his enemies (c) his miracles
Activity: Learn one useful and/or interesting fact.
*Encyclopedia – a comprehensive reference book, still invaluable.
Euodias: Well, Syntyche, how is everything at your house?
Syntyche: Oh, not ideal. Its been hard, having Lydia and the children move back home.
Euodias: I told you when Lydia married that Canaanite that it would never work.
Syntych: I remember your warning, Euodias. But then, I warned you that your son Jebu would never make a living selling sandals.
Euodias: Well, he did better than your son, Zorab, trying to be a tent maker.
Syntyche: You know perfectly well that his artistic hands were too frail to handle that heavy canvas.
Euodias: But not too frail to pick figs from my trees.
Syntyche: He picked up a few of your precious figs that had fallen in our yard!
Euodias: Your yard, my grandfather’s skull cap! Ill have you know…
Discussion: How can we best cope with discord between faithful church members?
Activity: Try to compliment at least three people at church each Sunday.
Thoughts: Paul had a special affection for the church he founded at Philippi. The first two chapters are filled with his love for the Philippians.
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.…”
“…I have you in my heart.…”
“…how greatly I long after you all….”
By chapter three, Paul is less doting and more admonitory. He warms the Philippians against false teachers, who have convinced the Philippians that they are practically perfect – a concept the Philippians were delighted to accept.
Even I, Paul writes, am not perfect. But, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Discussion: What does Paul mean by “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gains”?
Activity: Find your own favorite verse in Philippians and memorize it.
Thoughts: Minerva never said no to any request. She was always cheerful – unfailingly kind – completely willing.
Of course, I’ll bake 8 dozen cupcakes for coffee hour! I have this great recipe for carrot cake!”
But there were no cupcakes. “My oven wouldn’t light.”
“I’d love to work at the rummage sale! I’ll come every day!”
But Minerva never came. “I found out I’m allergic to used clothes.”
“Of course, we’ll greet on Sunday morning! I just love to meet new people.
But Minerva and her family were not at church on Sunday morning. “the road between our house and the church was closed for repairs.”
“I’d love to be secretary for the administrative board! I can use shorthand I learned in high school!”
But Minerva never came to the meetings. “Oh, I can’t go anywhere on Tuesday nights. Abner bowls, and sometimes Abner, Jr. has a history test on Wednesday.”
Discussion: Would it be better for Minerva simply to say no? Why or why not?
Activity: Write the thank-you note to Uncle Zebulon for your April birthday present.
Micah: When did you start working here in the vineyard?
Haggai: Oh, about an hour ago.
Zephaniah: I’ve been working here since noon.
Habakkuk: You’ve been here since noon, but how many grapes have you picked?
Hosea: The owner should pay us according to how many bags we fill.
Obadiah: Oh, good idea! Maybe he’ll hire you to manage his vineyard.
Malachi: Here come the owner and his steward now.
Zechariah: Quitting time, guys.
(The laborers are paid.)
Amos: I got $10.
Nahum: You didn’t start working until three o’clock this afternoon!
Micah: I started at nine this morning, and I just got $10.
Jonah: Catch me working for that joker again!
Discussion: What do you think of the vineyard owner’s pay scale?
Activity: Think about the owner’s statement: “Is your eye evil, because I am good?”
Thoughts: Predictably, Pharaoh regretted letting the Israelites leave Egypt. He stormed at his servants, “Why did we (!) let Israel go from serving us?.”
So Pharaoh and his army, with 600 chariots, pursued the Israelites and caught up with them on the banks of the Red sea.
“Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt?” The Israelites raged at Moses. “Why have you brought us out into the wilderness to die?”
Moses assured them, “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
And with the miraculous parting of the waters, all the Israelites passed safely between the walls of the parted Red Sea. When the Egyptians pursued the Israelites, the waters roared over them. Not a single Egyptian survived.
I remember reading that, during the filming of The Ten Commandments, Cecil DeMille used thousands of boxes of red jello to create the walls of water. God didn’t need any red jello.
Discussion Do we accept the parting of the Red Sea as a miracle, or do we search for scientific exploration?
Activity: Send a donation for flood relief. Make checks payable to Troy First marked Advance #901670.
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