Based on: Philippians 1:18-26
“To be, or not to be, — that is the question.” These words begin one of the most famous soliloquies in the English language. Written by William Shakespeare in the play “Hamlet”, these words describe the intense inner conflict of Hamlet as he considers taking his own life. Which would be better – to live or to die?
Based on: Mark 10:17-27
Are you ready for the trick-or-treaters? Halloween is this Saturday and, depending on where you live, you may have kids coming to your door expecting candy. Don’t forget, it is also Reformation Day, the day when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses regarding indulgences to the church door in Wittenberg – more about that next week.
Based on: Mark 9:30-37
Today we look at another paradox of the Christian faith. Last week we heard Jesus say that in order to keep your life you must lose it. And now we hear that in order to be great in God’s kingdom you must be least. In order to lead you must serve. These paradoxes are not simple mental exercises to be solved in the mind and then cast aside in order to solve the next. No, each one is to be a constant paradox within the whole person of the believer. All our life we struggle to let go of life so that we can have life. We struggle to be least among the people of God so that we can be great in the eyes of God . . . in a sanctified way. This struggle to follow God’s will for us even when it doesn’t make sense to us is the ongoing paradox of the Christian life.
Based on: Mark 8:27-35
Over the summer I finished reading “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy. It is a very long book and I will not say when I started. To be honest I don’t remember when I started – it was that long ago. “War and Peace” is historical fiction. It describes Russia at the time Napoleon invaded Russia, interweaving the stories of fictional characters into the historical events of the time.
Based on: Mark 4:26-34
How many times have you prayed the Lord’s Prayer and said “Your kingdom come”? But what is the kingdom of God and how does it come? First, the kingdom of God is not a geographic location. It is God ruling in the hearts of his people. For example, when Elijah talked to God on Mount Sinai, Elijah claimed that he was the only believer left. God told him that he had reserved 7,000 in Israel who had not worshiped the false god, Baal. That was God’s kingdom in the hearts of those 7,000 believers who only worshiped the true God. Now, how does His kingdom come? Or to ask the question another way, how does God’s kingdom grow? Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God grows in ways that we don’t understand and it grows to a size that we don’t expect.
Based On: Mark 11:1-10
We don’t know what it is like to have a king. It has been more than two hundred years since the original thirteen colonies separated themselves from the king of England and began ruling themselves. We have long lost the sense of awe and reverence people once had for royalty.
Certainly the President of the United States gets very special treatment. Whenever he goes anywhere there are many people preparing the way for him – in a sense, laying down their coats and palm branches before him.
Based On: Mark 9:2-9
The Old Testament prophet Elisha was the best spy Israel could have. He knew exactly what the King of Aram was going to do and when. Of course it was God who supplied him that information, but the King of Aram was so frustrated by this he sent a large group of soldiers and chariots to capture Elisha. They surrounded the town Elisha and Elisha’s servant were in. The servant was terrified so Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” When the servant looked he saw horses and chariots of fire covering the hillside and surrounding their Aramean enemies. What comfort that glorious sight must have given the servant. As we approach Lent and focus on the suffering of Christ, we have an even greater comfort. Christ’s glory brings us comfort. It brings us comfort as Christ suffers and also as we suffer.
Based On: Mark 1:4-11
(In the Gospel we heard about Jesus being baptized by John. For today, we will end up talking more about our baptism than Christ’s baptism, but the two are certainly related.)
Imagine being the subject of one of Christ’s miracles. What would it be like to be blind Bartimaeus when Jesus called for you and gave you your sight? Or what would it be like to be the paralyzed man who needed his friends to carry him wherever he went? What would go through your mind after Jesus tells you to “pick up your mat and walk” and you suddenly find yourself walking out the door carrying the mat that has carried you for so many years? Perhaps it would be just plain cool to be Lazarus as you wake up to find yourself in your own tomb dressed for burial and you hear the voice of Jesus calling you from death back to life. (Actually, you and I will have that very cool experience one day.)
Based on: Mark 1:1-8
Someday, off in the future, it just might happen that the President of the United States comes to Sleepy Eye. I don’t know who the President will be when that happens, but you can be sure that if and when it does happen, someone will come ahead of him to make sure everything is ready.
This person will need to prepare the town of Sleepy Eye for the arrival of the President. He will make sure the road is suitable for the President to travel on. He will make sure people will show up to listen to the President when he stops to speak. Of course he will also make sure everything is safe for the President so that no one is able to hurt the President.
Based on: Mark 13:32-37
Did you ever wonder just how the wise men from the east knew to watch for the savior? How did they know when they saw that special star in the sky that the “King of the Jews” had been born? Some suggest the prophet Daniel, an exile in Babylon, told the wise men of Babylon about the promised Savior more than 500 years before Christ was born.