Monthly Archives: January 2013

01-27-13 PEOPLE OF THE BOOK


PEOPLE OF THE BOOK

Luke 4: 14-21

 

Most orderly societies, clubs, nations and religions are, to some degree or another, people of the book.  I don’t know how it is in school now, but when I was growing up, for math class we needed our math book, for English class we needed our English textbook, and for social studies we needed our social studies book. In my early Sunday School classes we learned from a Bible stories book, and when I was old enough to read on my own, my church gave me my own Bible as a gift like we do.  As I became a Boy Scout we needed to follow the Boy Scout Handbook; as I have been a choir member over the years I have needed either a cantata book or sheet music to follow. As The ritualist of my college fraternity, I was the keeper of the initiation rituals and kept the ritual book. At the inauguration of the president of the United States, he raises his right hand and takes an oath with his left hand on the Bible. As a charter board member of our homeowner’s association and as its secretary, I was in charge of keeping not only the notebook of minutes, but also the original Articles of Incorporation. As the 2002 Moderator of Central Florida Presbytery I had to learn and follow Roberts Rules of Order. As a Presbyterian, I know and follow not only the Bible, but also the Book of Order, that gives operational guidelines, and the Book of Confessions that describe what we believe. In virtually every job and every walk of life, there is a book or a manual to be followed. Sometimes people drift away from the book, that is, until some rule or guideline is broken and then the book provides established fences against infractions and wonderful trails for people to get back to the truths of the organization. Even as more and more files are kept electronically, we may still refer to them as “books.” As we open our Kindles or Nooks, we can still refer to them as books. A book is a container of knowledge or story, of pleasure or horror, or a host of other things. We as humans are people of many books. In spite of Google and other search engines online, I still kept a dictionary, a Thesaurus, a Bible, and a hymnal at my desk where I write my sermons. I keep other books close at hand; and I find stories about human nature in the books I read. We as Christians are people of a particular book: the Bible. Our webmaster Cecil keeps his Bible on his cell phone and some keep theirs on their computer! However you have a Bible, many people own one. Some people have read it and know it; and still others work to remember and assimilate parts of what they’ve read.

 

In Jesus’ day Scripture was Torah, the Books of the Prophets, the Writings, and the Wisdom Literature. Today Christians call it “The Old Testament” and Jews call it “The Hebrew Bible.” In Jesus’ day there were really no books bound like we have them. There were scrolls called books. And when a person was selected to read the Scripture in a synagogue, he would be handed a scroll and would generally have the place pointed out where the reader stopped reading the last time. He would sit on what was called “The Mercy Seat,” and begin to read while it was the custom for those gathered to stand. That’s how it was in those days: the reader sat and the people stood! But notice that Jesus, perhaps out of his sense of proclamation, stood according to Luke 4: 16. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, but the founder of the Presbyterian Church, John Calvin, said this in his commentary on this passage: “There is no doubt that Christ deliberately selected this passage. Some think it was presented to him by God, but, as a liberty of choice was allowed by him, I choose to say that, by his own judgment, he took this passage in preference to others.” [Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume XVI, p.227.] A reading such as this makes Christians see Christ through Old Testament prophesies, even though Isaiah said those words at least 500 years before Jesus read the words and claimed them. In fact, many people know this passage because Jesus proclaimed it; fewer know it because Isaiah said it first. These words were poetry in Isaiah, and they become poetry again coming from the mouth of our Lord Jesus.

 

What do we think about Jesus’ decision to read this passage? If we know the original source in Isaiah, we know that it was part of a description of what has been called “glory land” or “the promised land” or the true “Kingdom of God.” Messiah would utter those words, but Jesus chose to utter them in his hometown. What was the wisdom in that? Those who read further find the townspeople murmuring about Jesus: “”Isn’t that Joseph’s son?” one asked. And Jesus said, throwing gasoline on the fire he had just created: “Truly no prophet is acceptable in his own country.” Messiah? Prophet? No one in his hometown saw him that way. Then he dared to say that foreigners could spot people of God better than the people of Israel could. At that point an impromptu mob formed that sought to take him to a high cliff at the edge of town and throw him over. Jesus had started his first theological fire on earth.

And it all started when he read from the book; Isaiah’s book. An ancient copy of that book is still preserved in the Dome of the Book Museum in Jerusalem.

 

It has been said that an “expert” is a person with a briefcase from at least 20 miles away! It can certainly be difficult for a child from a church to become its pastor! As I went away to seminary some asked me if, some day, I thought I would come back to pastor my home church. No; was my answer! I could not have gained the wisdom, the authority, and the maturity necessary to lead the people of God in my own home church. Such an experience was certainly Jesus’ too. It almost seems like he wanted to be cast out of his hometown! Scripture lets us know that Jesus then began to claim Capernaum as his adopted hometown. All this happened not b
ecause he came to a home synagogue to read, but because he came home and claimed to be a prophet.

 

We know that Scripture has created lightning rods of divisions and stands over the ages. Quoting Scripture divides believers from non-believers, fundamentalists from progressives, and Christians from Muslims and others. The book, that is, the Bible, is powerful. It is a guide, a source of inspiration, and it contains our best insights into the ways of God. It is history, yes, but it is also guidance. And parts of it, like Luke, are called gospels. Scripture can lift us up or it can trouble our souls and provide a balm for our wounds. This best seller is best for a reason: it is the inspired word of God.  Christians believe no other book can make that claim. So let me ask you, how many of you own a Bible? Think carefully now before raising your hand: Who has read it? All of it?  Parts are quite hard aren’t they? That’s in part because it is more than a book; it is a library. It is not a novel. And with old translations like the beautiful King James Version, and new translations that put Scripture into our vernacular, the Bible is mysterious, explanatory, comforting, and troubling all at the same time. If we believe what Jesus said in this passage; and if we believe that he gave his power to his disciples according to Acts 1:8 (You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem … and to the ends of the earth) then aren’t we, baptized Christians like they were, also empowered by the same Holy Spirit?  Aren’t we among those who know in our hearts and say to ourselves “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; sent me to proclaim release to captives, recovery of sight to those who cannot see; to offer liberty to oppressed persons; and to proclaim 2013 as a new year of the Lord.” What could you do to be not one of the 12, but certainly a disciple of the Lord?  You may say: “I can’t preach,” but many of you preach at least as good a sermon with your life as with your lips! How was your sermon last week? What did people learn from you? Who might you have influenced, or changed for the better?  Have you given extra food, or given to 2 cents per meal, or helped distribute or serve food to hungry people? Perhaps you yourself cannot literally open blind eyes, but what could you do to help people whose eyes have closed (like their minds) to see things in new ways? Who do you know who feels captive in an abusive relationship, or might be captive because of ignorance, or need justice to be worked out so their shackles may fall?  How can you help others have life and have it abundantly? That’s what Jesus did; that’s what he wanted the remaining eleven apostles to do. And that, I believe, is what he needs people of the book, Christians who know him, to do in his name. Make a difference in your world. Do some things that, Jesus calls all of his disciples to do: to work to make a difference. What would Jesus do? He would do exactly that.

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                                 January 27, 2013

01-20-13 UNITED IN DIVERSITY

Last May I traveled with a number of others from the church to Scotland. We spent a week and a half traveling and learning about the country. We even spent a day at the Protestant Monastery on the Isle of Iona. I could have happily spent a month exploring and listening and looking.

One of the things I noticed while we were there was the tendency of visitors to try to figure out their clan tartan. Even if they only had a drop or two of Scottish blood, they wanted to see if they could trace their roots back and have a tartan of their very own. There are huge books in the kilt stores, tracing last names back to clan roots. And even if you don’t have a clan you can rightfully claim, there are a number of professional tartans that people use, such as firefighters or police. There is even a clergy tartan for pastors leading a Kirkin without a tartan they can call their own.

I can claim I belong to three different clans now. My grandmother is a member of clan Gordon and that is the kilt I am wearing this morning.  I also can claim clan McCullough and have married into clan McKay. I take pride in my tartans. And if you look at my wedding photos you can clearly see how much pride my husband takes in his.

Tartans are a symbol of clan loyalty. Of belonging to an individual family. Of claiming its values and allies as well as enemies. It is a symbol of personal pride and a chance to show who you belong to. Tartans show our differences. And for a period of several years they were banned in Scotland.

The period fell after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 — the defeat of Scottish highlanders in combat against the British royal army. After the defeat, England passed laws that banned all things Scottish.

The Scots couldn’t wear their native tartans and bagpipes were banned as weapons of war. England banned the wearing of tartans and the playing of bagpipes because it was trying to unify the Scottish people under English rule. Tartans emphasized diversity.

The legend says that British troops would attend Presbyterian services to make sure that the restrictions were followed. But the Scots would sneak bits of clan tartan in under their clothes. When the minister would say a certain phrase, they’d clutch the tartan and bless it in Gaelic. That way they could keep their pride in their heritage despite the laws in the land. The laws were repealed in 1782.

While the validity of this legend is questioned, the Kirkin does have a history in the Americas since the Reverend Peter Marshall introduced it in 1943, trying to create pride in Scottish Americans for their homeland. The Kirkin of the Tartans brings all of those individual clans together and blesses them under the yoke of God.

Later on in this service we will call up all of the tartans to be blessed and lay them out together. It is an eye catching combination of colors and patterns from many different families. Yet all of them are laid side by side under the cross of God.

I think that is such a powerful symbol. All of those different, divided and often feuding clans, coming together under the one God. Many different parts working together as one.

In our first text we hear about the gifts of the Spirit. All of the different gifts that people have, all working together for the same God. I’ve been gifted with the ability to preach and to teach. But I have absolutely no athletic capabilities whatsoever. Trust me. I can trip walking over flat ground.

But there are people who would never want to speak publically who are great athletes. Or there are those who are good at caring for others. Others are driven by deep and abiding faiths. What makes you unique? What are the gifts that make you different? Do you embrace them?

Now, you may be thinking, well this is common sense isn’t it? That we’re all good at different things. But it’s more than that.

We are all gifted with a different view of the world. We see and understand things differently. We have different priorities, different loyalties, different hopes and dreams. And that is how God wants us to be!

We tend to think that if someone disagrees with us, we have to change their minds. If they have a different way of living, we need to change it because its wrong. But there are so many gifts in the world. So many different ways of seeing it. Instead of trying to force agreement on others, maybe we should embrace the idea of living with those differences.

Consider this. Central to our faith is the idea of the Trinity. One God in three persons. Father Son and Spirit. Creator Redeemer Sustainer. We have one God who lives in three persons. Our text from John talks about these different persons. First Jesus talks about his relationship to the Father. “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” Or put another way “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was with God.”

Now the Creator, the Father, created the universe and all that is therein. It is to this Father that Jesus speaks in the dark times. It is the Creator that the Israelites pray to. The Creator is the first person of the Trinity

Jesus, the Son and Redeemer is the second. Jesus who is one with the Father. And it is Jesus who lived as a human. who dwelt among us and cried and laughed and ate and breathed. Jesus who is unlike the Creator, but part of the Trinity.

Then there is the Spirit, the Revealor of hidden things. Jesus mentions this Spirit in the passage from John as being sent after him. This is also the Spirit that Paul is talking about in Corinthians. It is the Spirit who blew across the waters at the beginning of the world. It is the Spirit who came down at Pentecost. It is the Spirit who dwells among us now, guiding us, Sustaining us. The Spirit is not Jesus or the Creator, but still part of the same God.

One God in three persons. Three persons with different gifts. Different purposes. Different ways of reaching out to humanity. In God’s very being, God shows us how to live together.

Don’t you see? God shows us diversity brought together and working together as one God.

We have such diverse lives. We come from different backgrounds. We have different priorities and hopes and dreams and opinions. And that’s okay!

People with differing opinions can work together towards God’s Kingdom. I don’t have to agree with your way of doing things for both of us to be doing God’s work. The body is not made up of one member but of many. We might disagree on important things, but we can disagree with them in a Godly way. We can respond in a Christian fashion to one another.

We can liv
e diverse lives and still work for the One God. We can embrace our own home clans and be united under the larger banner of Christ. This is something we can all do. We have to start by not trying to change each other. Can you embrace someone else’s differences? Can you allow them to think differently, take a different path and trust that it doesn’t make them any less of a child of God?

When we celebrate the Kirkin of the tartans, we are upholding everything that makes us unique. When we spread the diversity of the tartans on the table, we can see just a part of how different we all are. Though only a fraction of people here today have tartans to bring forward, we all have our own unique patterns that we bring together. Here. Where we are united in the Spirit to work towards one goal, through our diversity. Amen.

Rev. Cara Milne Gee
January 20th, 2013

01-13-13 BAPTISM FROM HEAVEN’S VIEWPOINT

BAPTISM FROM HEAVEN’S VIEWPOINT

Luke 3: 15-17; 21-22

 

Mark Schultz is a contemporary Christian music writer who has written many popular songs. One of them is called “Letters from War,” a song that many people have loved since it was first written in 2003. Inspired by the letters that Mark learned that his Uncle Gus had written to his Great Grandmother during World War II, it’s the story of a son who was in a war across the seas, writing to his mother to tell her what he saw, how he felt, and why he had chosen to serve. It is a moving song.  His mother always wrote back; he was connected to her by their love. One day the letters from her son stopped coming. His mother was patiently waiting, but the regular schedule of letters from him never came again. What she got instead, late in December, was a letter from a man who was also in that war. He wrote “I was up on a hill, I was out there alone, when the shots all rang out, and bombs were exploding; and that’s when I saw him; he came back for me, and though he was captured, a man set me free, and that man was your son. He asked me to write you, I told him I would, oh I swore. It was the last of the letters from war.”  Well the story in song goes on with his mother never giving up on her son. She prays for his safety and begs God for his return and she never stopped writing to him. One day two years later, a car pulled into the driveway and out stepped her son, with a small box full of letters: his fellow soldiers had apparently saved the letters she had sent him and gave them to him once he was out of enemy hands. The point is, she kept writing.

 

Another story of a desire to bless and keep connected comes from the Bible, but it has been mightily expanded and augmented by author Bruce Wilkinson in his book that was wildly popular years ago, THE PRAYER OF JABEZ.Making reference only to 1 Chronicles 4:10, which is the geneology of Judah, in that geneology is a man named Jabez, never named again in the Bible, but Jabez prayed to God to enlarge his territory and the Bible says God granted what he asked. From that Wilkinson decides that God has countless blessing waiting to bestow on us if only we ask. I don’t know about that, but what I believe is that God the Father is most pleased and anxious for his children, the human race, to invite him into their lives.  Christians who understand God’s wishes and decide to invite Christ into their heart is the first step of responding to God’s RSVP:  in large part we were created so that God could have a relationship with us! The first step of answering that offer is with a prayer for Jesus to come into our hearts and “rule our unruly lives.” That must certainly make heaven sing and God to be filled with joy.  I know how I have felt as I have baptized my own grandson, other children, youth, and also adults. Every baptism is special; every ceremony moves me, and every person is unforgettable, and I’m just their pastor! Imagine how our Creator feels! Did Heaven applaud and angels sing at our baptism? But then comes the part God longs for; God longs to hear from us and feel devotion from us; even love. God wants those letters, even letters of love, that we call prayer.

 

The Bible just gives us clues about heaven. Classically it has been treated as “up,” but if we sent a rocket with inexhaustible fuel straight up would it enter Heaven’s airspace? Or is Heaven another dimension, or a state of being? Answering that is quite important, for of all the places in the universe where God is, we know that God is certainly in Heaven. Jesus told his followers that with his prayer “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name.” So God is in Heaven. But God came to Earth as well, right? Jesus was identified as “The Word” in John chapter one; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So God is on the Earth too! Then when Jesus departed the Earth, the Holy Spirit, also referred to as the “Spirit of the Living God,” remained with the Earth when Jesus left. The question is, where did that Spirit live? And where does that Spirit live today?  Even in Jesus’ day he was breaking the mold of the understanding that God’s Spirit only lived in the Temple or, earlier, wherever the Ark of the Covenant traveled. (By the way, our Sunday School classes will present our recreation of the Ark of the Covenant in church on the last Sunday of this month!) No; Jesus said the Temple where God would dwell would become our bodies instead of a building according to John 2: 21. So our amazing God has the ability to be in many places, and we call the various persons of God names like Father or Creator; names like Christ or Savior; names like Holy Spirit or Great Comforter. But since God gave us free will, God gave us a choice about whether to invite that Spirit into our body, mind, and heart. That leads us to our text today.

 

Imagine the person of God that Jesus called Father planning for another Godly person, Jesus, to be placed in a family born from a perfectly chosen human mother, and who would raise her son in a family of faith. In those days although there were pools of water called mikvas around the Temple for ritual washing, there was not baptism of babies, there was circumcision of faithful sons on the eighth day after their birth. In those days, as John the Baptist knew, baptism was for repentance. In other words, it was to take sins, or former life bad choices, and begin again. But even then there was no clear sign that God would be chosen as a consultant in their prayers. Then came the momentous day; it was a baptism different from everyone elses. Some people are intuitive in our world; and others are insightful or gifted with special sight. It is possible that both Luke the gospel writer and John the Baptist were so gifted.  For when the description of Jesus being baptized by John in the Jordan River is explained, Matthew uses a figure of speech called a simile, saying “the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on [Jesus.]” You can’t just make up something like that; it is very specific. Another gospel writer, Mark, says: “the Spirit descended on [Jesus] like a dove.” Mark is known for brevity but he describes the same event. And then there’s the gospel of John when we get decisive language from a man of God. John the Baptist testified that: “I saw >the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. And then heard a voice that said: “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” Notice how he calls the dove “the Spirit.” And then we get our text in Luke; it is even more descriptive! “The heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on [Jesus] in bodily form.”  This is quite convincing evidence of what happens in baptism, not during John’s baptisms up until that point, but from that point going forward! It suggests exactly how, when, and where the Holy Spirit—comforter, counselor, and the strength of God—fills the lives of disciples.  This makes the case that at Baptism, by our own invitation or that of our parents, God comes to live in you. Can you consider that? Talking to God is not a long-distance call to Heaven, it is a prayer that can be even offered softly or in your heart and God will hear it. So there is power, and blessing, and wonderful life not waiting for you somewhere else; at baptism those are placed in you. All you have to do is call for them.

 

So we take the step of naming Christ as our Savior. The next step in all of classic Christianity is Baptism; we might think it’s just for ritual cleansing but today’s texts teach us differently: it’s to give God’s Holy Spirit yet another home in our world, and the dove, like the messenger of peace and hope it was in the Noah story of Genesis 8:11, is the way it looks to those with eyes to see. Now I’ve never seen a dove land on anyone I’ve baptized. But every time I put my hand in that holy water and bless a child of God with baptizing, I picture in my mind God’s Holy Spirit finding a resting place in them. That’s why we only baptize once. The invitation is extended and God’s Spirit has a new home in you. The Spirit never barges into our hearts, but comes at our invitation or the invitation of our parents. Certainly there might be times when you do wrong things, but God’s Spirit does not desert you; consult God again in prayer to get back on track. And there is joy in Heaven when God’s hopes for communication from his beloved are fulfilled with acknowledgement of God and invitation for a place for God to live with you. Like the mother who never stopped writing to her son, God never stops hoping that one day he’ll hear from us too. May you delight the heart of your Creator by communicating praise, thanks, and even love in your prayers.  God can’t wait to hear … from … you.

 

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                                   January 13, 2013 

01-06-13 WHAT’S NEW WITH YOU?

WHAT’S NEW WITH YOU?

Isaiah 60: 1-6 Matthew 2: 1-12

There is a saying that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. Certainly there is scientific evidence that as, dogs age, or as people age, our brains tissues and blood vessels become more brittle and less pliable, so people get set in their ways, and dogs get used to a schedule. I am not an old dog, nor an old man, but I acknowledge to you that I can learn, but I have had to let go of some earlier beliefs to do so.  As I have spent three years in doctoral work, I have stretched my mind and my assumptions. As I have talked with my friend Rev. George Painter, his current philosophies and theologies have stretched and challenged me. And as we start this new year, with Sunday landing exactly on Epiphany, I have had to take my learned understandings about the magi, the star of Bethlehem, and the timetable for the events we love and rethink them. I have done new research on the old story.  It makes my mind stay pliable, but it only happens when I admit that I can learn something new, rather than sticking with what I learned at Princeton Seminary thirty years ago. I’ll tell you some of what I’ve learned in a minute. But as we have crossed the threshold into 2013, you too may be helped a great deal by letting go of what is old and picking up something that is new, or novel, or fresh. It was not at Epiphany, for example, but it was in March a number of years ago when I finally put let go of an old grudge that I had nursed and spent energy on for three years! Three years of wasted energy just nursing resentment! What a joy it was to let that go. And it was in November of 2009 that I entered seminary training again for the first time in almost 30 years, wondering if I could cause my mind to think in scholarly ways again. It has been worth it.  And this December as we showed our Sunday School DVDs each week, the leader said that many believe that the magi arrived as much as two years after Jesus’ birth. I told the class that I thought he was wrong, that the magi arrived sooner than that; days after Jesus’ birth is what I had been taught. Then Rev. Gee said she too had been taught that it happened two years later, and I still I didn’t agree. I didn’t agree because my training years ago taught me differently. And then a congregation member said he also understood the magi arrived 2 years later; I decided to take a new look at my old assumptions. Today I recommend that you try that in your life too. Holding on to old assumptions about people, about type or classes of people; about God; or about religion can keep you locked in the past. I am convinced by new information that my old understanding needed updating or at least to be challenged. I want you to know I will trade a piece of humble pie from being outdated, for an “ah ha!” or fresh revelation, any day! In fact, Epiphany means something like “Ah ha” technically it’s called a manifestation; a new appearing. Perhaps the message that we have taken away from the Epiphany story over the years is about gifts, and the gospel crossing cultural lines, and the Christ child. But it is more than that. At least that’s the new trick this middle aged dog found out.

One new thing I learned about the story: God controls this story: from the time of Jesus’ birth, even to the time of his death and beyond, stars gave signs. Astrology used to be combined with the study of astronomy as one science. We have since divided it, naming astronomy as scientific and astrology as informational or recreational. Using stars for information, however, should not upset God. God created the stars and the constellations; there could be much to be learned from them. Even God claims the creation of the constellations in the book of Job. But constellations, and planets, and many stars have names; names that have stood for thousands of years. It was stunning to be reminded of what that star in Matthew might have been. Only rarely had Jupiter—the brightest and largest planet in our solar system—whose name means “ruler” or king”; and Regulus—one of the 25 brightest stars visible to earth and whose name means “Prince” or “King” from which we get the word “regal”—been seen next to one another. Messiah was predicted to come from the clan of Judah, whose symbol was the lion. (In Genesis 49: 9-10, God says “You are a lions cub, o Judah… the scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.”) Only once in the span of time when Jesus was born did Jupiter appear to touch Regulus, and it was in the constellation of Leo, the lion. That would make learned people connect a new king with Judah, the lion!  And then amazingly in that Christmas sky, the constellation Virgo, the virgin, followed Jupiter in the sky. Virgo, at that time, was “clothed with the sun and had the moon at her feet” as described in Revelation 12:1! And soon, in that Christmas sky, Jupiter, the king planet, appeared to move so close to Venus (the mother planet) that that union created the Christmas star. As expert Rick Larson put it, “No one alive had ever seen a “star” that bright.”   Was God telling the world something he had planned eons before, and it took people from this reputable school in the east, perhaps in Babylon, to be able to see it and to act on it? We recall that Daniel had been brought to Babylon by Nebucadnezzar ages before and had the ability to interpret dreams and stars. Were some of his descendents, who perhaps continued to serve subsequent kings in Babylon, among those who might have started such a school in the East, a place where Magi were trained? We don’t know; but the Jewish philosopher, Philo, in the first century, mentions a fine eastern school of magi that were in Babylon, east of Jerusalem; east of Bethlehem, which is just 5 miles due south of Jerusalem. As Matthew 2: 1-2 describes, when the magi speak to Herod, they knew there was a birth; they knew it was in Judah, and they knew it was a king.

My new findings pushed me further. I went back to my Greek and found that the word in most of our Bibles in Matthew 2:11 that is translated “child” means “child” in the sense of “toddler.” Could this arrival of the Magi have been over a year later, not just a week later?  And what about the gifts? Three gifts don’t necessarily mean three magi; but as I taught the children today, in those days those gifts were fit for a king; and in that day, each was of great value, even though in our day gold is clearly the costliest.

style=”text-align: justify; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;”>So friends I would like to unpack more of my new findings in a Westminster Institute class I will hold Wednesday night January 23rd, at 7:00 p.m. I have preached on this passage for thirty years, but this year, it told me something brand new, and only because I was willing to drop what was old. I recommend it; I think God recommends it. Our Lord Jesus took the Ten Commandments from the Scripture of his day that we call the Old Testament, and taught them in new ways. It was life affirming, fresh, and new. The Psalmist implores us to sing a new song to the Lord. God, through Jeremiah, says he is doing “a new thing.” Jeremiah foretold a new covenant coming; where would we be if were not a part of the New Covenant? And Jesus himself told us a new commandment: to love one another as he loves us. The communion table is a New Covenant table. New is everywhere in the Bible; new is a part of my ever changing understandings. May “new things” delight you, and even change you, in 2013.

Jeffrey A. SumnerJanuary 6, 2013