Thoughts: Jesus chose his twelve disciples. Then he went home.
It was not to be a restful visit. Crowds surrounded his mother’s home, the local people questioning his sanity, and the Jerusalem scribes accusing him of working with Satan to perform his miracles. Jesus told the crowd that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
More titles have been taken from the Bible than from any other written source. House Divided is the title for a novel set during the Civil War. A wealthy white Southern family discovered from family records that they were related to President Lincoln, whom they detested. One of their ancestors had fathered a child by a kitchen maid. This child was Nancy Hanks, who became the mother of Abraham Lincoln.
The Bible was one of the few books available to Lincoln while he was growing up, and he knew it very well. Indeed, he could quote long sections of the Bible from memory.
When Lincoln was nominated for the Senate in 1858, the country was dangerously divided on the subject of slavery. In his acceptance speech, Lincoln quoted Mark 3:25: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” This speech attracted national attention and helped elevate Lincoln to the Presidency.
Discussion: What unnecessary divisions arise in daily life?
Activity: Surprise someone with your sweet reasonableness when he/she disagrees with you.
Thoughts: Teeny’s Barber Stop was closed on Sundays. So was Violet’s Beauty Shop. Likewise closed were the Friesenhengst Dry Goods, Mac’s Grocery, the Ritz Movie Theatre, and Gibby’s Tavern.
Bun’s Filling Station and Harry’s Gas Station, both on State Highway 150, took turns staying open on Sundays.
All five churches – Pilgrim Holiness, Christian, Catholic, Church of Christ, and Methodist – were open for Sunday morning services and Sunday evening services.
Big Sunday dinners were prepared on Saturday, and usually there were guests for Sunday dinner. “Don’t worry about the dishes,” my mother would reassure the guests. “The girls will do them.” The girls had un-Christian thoughts.
Sunday afternoons were spent visiting, reading, writing letters, and playing Bible Lotto.
“. . . the heart of me weeps to belong to the old Sunday evenings at home . . . My manhood is cast down in a flood of remembrance. I weep like a child for the past.”
Discussion: How have your Sundays changed through the years?
Activity: Try recreating one part of your childhood Sundays.
Thoughts: When Isaiah went to the temple one day, he became part of a dramatic service. God was there, sitting on an elevated throne.
Above God were six seraphim, each one with six wings. (This is the only time in the Bible where seraphim are mentioned.)
The seraphim sang this chorus: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
The temple shook and filled with smoke.
Isaiah felt guilty and lamented, “I am a man of unclean lips. Yet now I have seen the Lord!”
A seraphim flew to Isaiah, holding a live coal which he placed upon Isaiah’s mouth, saying, “Your sin is purged.
God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
And Isaiah answered, “Here am I; send me.”
Discussion: Where do we not want to go?
Activity: “Keep thou … our lips from shame, that in thy house have called upon they name.”
Thoughts: What do we know about Peter?
1. He was the son of Jonah and the brother of Andrew.
2. He lived in Capernaum.
3. He has been called the Big Fisherman.
4. We know he was married, because he had a mother-in-law.
5. He is named first in the lists of the disciples.
6. He was the most loquacious disciple.
7. He was one of the three disciples closest to Jesus.
Do we think of Peter as a scholar, able to quote minor prophets? Well, no. But in today’s reading, Peter reels off five verses from the second chapter of Joel.
This passage has a modern outlook:
“ … your sons and your daughters shall prophesy ….”
It has echoes of poetry:
“ … your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions ….”
And it closes with a wonderful promise:
“ … who so ever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Discussion: How would a present-day audience react to Peter’s talk?
Activity: Read the book of Joel – all three chapters.
Thoughts: Shopping for groceries, I saw a sheet of paper curled around a box of Major Murgatroyd’s Marshmallow Munchies. Reflexively, I picked it up. It was a grocery list, in pretty feminine writing, concluding with “One thing you want.” I smiled and wondered what one thing the shopper chose.
The effusive first chapter of Ephesians promises these three things to believers:
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you….” Surely, this is one of the most precious verses in the Bible. We are blessed with love from God through his Son. And in perfect sequence, Jesus tells us, we are to “love one another, as I have loved you.”
When we know the blessing of love, we have love to give to others. Love that is received and given away is like the inexhaustible meal and oil which Elijah gave to the widow of Zarephath. Love gives warmth and comfort and light. Poet Sara Teasdale wrote about the light of love.
“And a woman I used to know
Who loved one man from her youth…
Never spoke of this thing,
But hearing his name by chance,
A light would pass over her face.”
Discussion: What expression crosses our faces when people ask, “What church do you attend?”
Activity: Practice reflecting the light of love.
Thoughts: Leaning through the passenger window of the car’s front seat, the father gives earnest instructions to the driver. He sees a little girl in the driver’s seat, scarcely able to see over the steering wheel, her little feet dangling above the pedals. The father loves his little girl. He yearns for her safety as she begins to drive the car.
Jesus talks all the way through John 15. He and his disciples have finished the Last Supper, and they are walking toward the Garden of Gethsemane. There is so much Jesus wants to tell his disciples, so much he yearns for them to understand.
Discussion: What words do we have for those who are facing trials?
Activity: Give thanks for the rooted vines which strengthen us.
Thoughts: We do not see pictures of Jesus scattering corn for chickens or herding cattle or currying horses. But we have seen many pictures of Jesus surrounded by sheep of all sizes and cradling a lamb in his arms.
Two of the many names we have for Jesus are the Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God. We know the parable of the 99 sheep which are safely in the fold, but the good shepherd goes to search for the one lost sheep. In the Christmas story, shepherds are the only workingmen who are told by angels of Jesus’ birth.
Being a shepherd in Jesus’ time was dangerous. They faced a constant threat of wild animals which attacked the sheep. Shepherds risked their own lives to save their sheep.
Discussion: What characteristics of sheep are admirable?
Activity: Make a list of the different names used for Jesus.
Thoughts: “It does not yet appear what we shall be.” When you are young, everything is possible in the future. Your pimples will disappear. You will pass physics class. You will wander through Scotland, snipping a sprig of heather, sipping tea in Glamis Castle, walking reverently through the library at Abbotsford.
When you are old, you feel as though what you will be has indeed appeared – along with wrinkles and aching knees. Scotland is a wistful dream. You sit by the fire and you reread old books and you listen to old music. You don’t expect to become anyone, anymore.
Yet John says we don’t know what we shall be.
Discussion: What do you want to be?
Activity: “I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies,
But take the dimness of my soul away.”
Do you know the hymn in which this verse appears?
Thoughts: At least once a week, we murmur the familiar words of the lord’s Prayer. Sometimes – with a start – we realize that we are reciting, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
So, do we? God blessed us with this promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Discussion: What sins doe we find especially hard to forgive?
Activity: Today, forgive someone who has hurt your feelings.
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