Psalm 84:1-7 and Matthew 13:24-43
This week we discuss several parables of the Kingdom. The parables emphasize patience: "Faith is like a mustard seed," the world is like a field sowed with good seed in which an enemy has sown weeds, the kingdom is like yeast because only a little leavens the entire loaf and makes the bread. All the parables involve practicing patience--something we are not very good at. The scripture also encourages us not to be discouraged if our numbers are small: only a little of the "yeast" of the kingdom transforms the entire loaf.
Psalm 95:1-5 and Matthew 14:13-33
Today we read two well-known miracles in the ministry of Jesus. First is the feeding of the multitude. With five loaves and two fishes, Jesus fed a great multitude. But first, he told the disciples to feed them and their fear kept them from taking any steps to do so. Next, we read of the disciples being in a storm-tossed boat, and of Jesus walking across the water toward them. Peter then implored the Lord to command him to come across the water and Jesus did. Peter was doing fine until fear overcame his faith and he was in danger of drowning. Too often we are paralyzed by fear. We will talk about how fear blocks us from realizing our potential.
Psalm 41:7-10 and Matthew 16:24-17:84
"Take up your cross and follow me." When we follow through on our commitment to follow Jesus, we are transformed. We are no longer the people we were before, but now we have our priorities and values set on the things that truly last, the things that are eternal. After Jesus told his followers to take up his cross and follow, he took three of his disciples onto a mountain where Jesus was transfigured in front of them and where they had a vision in which Moses and Elijah appeared and talked to Jesus. Peter wanted to stay on the mountain, but we are not allowed to experience the mountain-tops of faith all the time. Instead, those extraordinary experiences prepare us for times of struggle and temptation--times when our faith is tested.
Psalm 51:1-3 and Matthew 18:1-9
For our Ash Wednesday service this year, we focus on a time when the disciples had been contending among themselves to see who was the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. The answer they got was not the kind of answer they expected. Jesus said that the key to greatness in the Kingdom is humility—the humility of a little child. He went on to talk about stumbling blocks. In our service, we will focus on humility and also on stumbling blocks; particularly on the stumbling block of pride. The ashes we impose on our foreheads in the shape of a cross represent our sorrow for our sins and also the humility that goes along with the awareness of our own shortcomings. They also symbolize our determination to do better in the future.
Psalm 32:1-2 and Matthew 18:15-35
The core of the long reading for today is forgiveness. Jesus talks about what needs to happen when a wrong is committed by someone in the church. Jesus describes a procedure to secure a reconciliation if possible, but then says if none of those things work, that person may be avoided. Then Peter asks a question we all may have from time to time: “How many times do I need to forgive? As many as seven?” Peter probably thought seven was a generous number, but Jesus reply is challenging: “Seventy times seven.” We forgive because God tells us we should. Why do you think that is? I think we are to forgive for the sake of ourselves: to rid ourselves of baggage, and for the sake of the future: carrying grudges creates obstacles between us and others and limits the potential for good things to happen in the future.
Psalm 16:5-8 and Matthew 20:1-16