Do you know what your first words were? It was probably "mama" or "dada." Our first words usually are sounds we imitate because we hear them often. My parents said that my first word was "No." No surprise right? "No" is probably the word I heard most often as my curious self was trying to learn and navigate the world.
I wonder if anyone's first word has ever been "yes"
I am thinking about that this morning because of our Old Testament passage. Moses, and the people of Israel, have finally reached the land that God has promised them after 40 years. In this passage, Moses is telling the people that we should say "Yes!" He says that God wants us to say yes to loving God and following God's commandments.
This passage comes from the section of the Bible known as the Torah, which includes the first five books of the old testament.
Torah means "laws" or "instructions." The Torah law helped establish the Hebrew people's relationships with one another and with God.
Many of these laws are found in Deuteronomy and other laws are found in Exodus and Leviticus.
The word Deuteronomy means "repetition of the law" or "second law" and contains the second telling of the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5. The first is in Exodus 20.)
The book of Deuteronomy is presented as a speech or set of speeches given by Moses.
Moses said tells the people that God wants them to "choose life" so others would see that they love and belong to God. Moses talked about giving the people a choice between living with God and living without God. There is some scary language here bout death and curses - but the main point is that Moses is letting the people that God desires for the community to be blessed. God wants good things for us. So, great - how do we do that? What is God calling us to do? One of the commentaries in our weekly Sunday school lesson offers this:
Worship with all your heart.
Love your church
Believe that God loves you.
Remember the stories of Jesus.
See Christ in the people around you.
Share God's love with someone who has forgotten.
Open your heart to the spirit.
What are some ways that you are"choosing life" and saying "yes" to God?
We have updated our Emergency and Disaster Response Plan and have begun training staff, teachers, and church leaders. Our plan identifies two Evacuation Meeting Locations. In case of an emergency and the need to evacuate the building, children will be led by teachers and staff out the most easily accessible door to the closest designated meeting location. Parents are asked to go directly to designated locations to be connected with their children.
Evacuation Meeting Locations
Location 1: Carnegie Library (parking lot or inside), 5801 Forbes Ave
If your child has sensory, behavioral, or medical needs, please fill the Children’s Individual Emergency and Lockdown Plan. This will help us better aid your child in the case of an emergency. Emergency and Lockdown Plan
So, let's tune in to our next adventure with Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. If we pick up where we left off last week, we find Jesus on the side of a mountaintop with the disciples teaching and preaching what is known as "The Sermon on the Mount." In the previous passage, Jesus shared the Beatitudes (blessings). Now, once again, Jesus is using common things that all people know about to teach about how God wants us to live and be. Salt and Light. Read Matthew 5: 13-20 (NRSV) Jesus said to those listening, “You are salt to the rest of the world.”
And the people listening probably said, “Whaaaat?”
Jesus explained how salt is important to make food taste better and to keep it from going bad. Just a little pinch of salt can make a big difference in the food we eat. Jesus said that we may feel small, like a tiny speck of salt, but we are important and what we do can make a difference in the world.
Then, Jesus said we are light to the rest of the world. And the people probably said “Whaaat?” Jesus explained how even a small lamp can light up a big room. His message: Even though you are just one person what you do and say changes the world around you. He said you shouldn’t hide the bright light that you are. Show the love you have for God every day.
What am I thinking about this week? Similes and metaphors. (I know - I am kind of a nerd:) So, a simile is aa figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action which is not literally applicable. Here are some examples: Life is like a box of chocolates. (Simile) My life is an open book. (Metaphor) The baby is as cute as a button. (Simile) Baby, you're a firework. (Metaphor) So the scripture passage here has Jesus saying "You are salt. You are light." So, he's using a metaphor.
A simile would be if Jesus said: "You are like salt. You are like light." (This is the way it is sometimes repeated and translated.)
If there a difference? My answer? I don't know. This is something I am thinking about. What do you think?
Here are some other questions to think about this week:
In what ways can you be salt in your home, school, community?
What ways can you be light in your home, school, and community?
It's just such a fun word to say. Try it! Say it out loud right now! See? It's one of those words that sounds like it's meaning. Cattywampus means something that is out of order or in disarray. Something that is askew - not quite right. It's something that might not make sense.
I'll be honest - there are a lot of things Jesus said during his ministry that seem cattywampus to me. Things that I have struggled to understand how they make sense.
The Beatitudes have always been confusing to me. These are the sayings of Jesus that start with "Blessed are ..."
The Beatitudes are part of what's known as Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which the longest continuous stretch of teachings and sayings from Jesus in the gospels. It's probably some of the most familiar and best-known teachings of Jesus (it also includes the Lord's Prayer.)
Jesus is traveling around teaching the crowds and his disciples around Galilee. Matthew's gospel says that Jesus took the disciples up on the side of a mountain and sat down and shared what we call The Beatitudes. Here's what he said:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
This sounds nice, right? But what do these statements really mean? What is he trying to say to the disciples? To me, it seems a little, well - cattywampus.
What do you think?
Here is what I've been thinking about lately and maybe this will be helpful for you, too. I don't think Jesus is giving the disciples (and us) a to-do list. Jesus is not asking the crowd to become poor in spirit, or mourners, or persecuted for righteousness'sake. Instead, this is Jesus recognizing people and meeting them where they are. He is offering comfort to those of us who find ourselves, poor, mourning, and persecuted.
These are not statements telling us what to do. They are promises. They are blessings.
So, what does being blessed mean? Well, one thing that is can mean is that God is close to us. Jesus lists some people that are blessed - or close to God. Maybe one thing that all the people have in common is they all want something that God wants, too. The peacemakers want peace, just like God does.
The merciful want mercy, just like God does. And then there are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, just like God does.
I also think it's helpful not to focus on the statements individually - but to look at them as a whole. Each one is related to the others and they build on one another. What we can take from this list of statements are three main themes: simplicity, hopefulness, and compassion. Maybe we can reflect on how we can focus on these three things in our own lives.
There is a children's book that I got from the library recently to read to the Sunday school kids. It's called "The Catawampus Cat." Of course, I picked it because it has one of my favorite words in the title. The story is about a cat that walks with a lean. As he walks about town some folks try to straighten him out so he doesn't lean. But that doesn't work.
So, in the story, the people that he meets in the town decide that they will just tilt their heads when they look at him. So the book is filled with stories about the people that encounter the cat and begin to see things in a new way - because they have tilted their heads and altered their view. The painter looks at his art differently and is inspired. A woman finds a lost ring when she is looking at the ground from a new perspective. All throughout the book there are people in the town whose lives are transformed by just changing their view.
I am thinking that Jesus was like the Catawampus cat. His teachings offered new perspectives on may topics like outsiders, status, and worry. The disciples and people who followed him responded to his message in ways that transformed them.
A question to think about:
How can the Beatitudes transform your view of life and others?
How can these teachings help us see things in a different way?
Who are the people that you see in the world that are "The Blessed?"
This is not the actual car I saw... but the bumper sticker was the same.
I was driving to work the other day and I was following a car that had a bumper sticker that read: "Are you following Jesus this close?"
You've seen them right? Bumper stickers about Jesus. Some of them are actually pretty funny. Here are some of my favorites:
"I bet Jesus would have used HIS turn signal"
"Jesus is coming, look busy!"
"Jesus loves you but I am his favorite"
The one about following Jesus week reminds of the scriptures we have been reading these last few weeks. Last week we read the Gospel of John's account of Jesus calling the disciples. (You can click here to read last week's Reflections).
This week, as we follow the lectionary through Matthew's gospel - we get a different version of how Jesus invited his followers to join him in his ministry.
So, John the Baptist has been arrested and Jesus is living in Capernaum by the sea. The passage says that Jesus is beginning to preach and is telling people to "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come near." Jesus goes to the Sea of Galilee where he meets Andrew and Simon who are fishing. He invites them to "follow me" and tells them that he will make then fishers of men. The scripture says they immediately left their nets, follow Jesus, and become disciples. This version is very different than what we read last week. There is no conversation and no one is hanging out with Jesus before they decide to go. They just go. These ordinary people, for reasons that we don't know, drop everything and immediately follow Jesus.
I am reminded again about how God, throughout the Bible, calls regular, ordinary people to do amazing things. The word ordinary means something that is not special. Something or someone that does not stand out and is not hard to find. A lot of people aspire to not be ordinary, right? We want to be amazing and do important things.
If you think about it, most of us assume that teachers are looking for the best and the out-of-the-ordinary people to be their students. In Jesus' time, this was true as well. The religious leaders sought out only the best students to learn in the Jerusalem temple.
But of course, Jesus did the opposite. Jesus was in an ordinary town and called some ordinary fishermen to be his disciples. Jesus was a teacher that wanted to show and teach the disciples all about God's love so they could then teach about it, too. We know that Jesus was not ordinary from scripture stories that tell about the things that he did that were amazing and miraculous. So, it's easy to think that we can't possibly follow Jesus because we would never be able to do those things. But Matthew's gospel reminds us of what Jesus thought about ordinary people. He thought everyone could do what he could do. Jesus believes that everyone is able to do amazing things. And that should give us hope for our ordinary selves.
This week I am thinking about brains. Not like in a zombie - I wanna eat your brains kind - of way. I am thinking about how fascinating it is that we all learn in different ways.
For example, when I am trying to learn to do something new, I can't just read the directions. I learn better when I see something done rather than just reading or being verbally told step-by-step directions. I have discovered that you can find a YouTube video to teach you how to do - well, virtually anything! I currently watching beginner videos to learn how to play the banjo. Yes, it is as scary as it sounds. Just ask my husband and my cats. How do you learn best? There is a really interesting education theory about how people learn written by Howard Gardner that called Multiple Intelligence Theory. You may have heard someone say " I am a visual/spatial learner." or something similar. Gardner identified nine different "abilities" or potential categories that explain the ways people learn. They include musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and existential. It's really interesting stuff and I encourage you to read more about it. You can start here. It's been helpful for me to identify what categories I relate to the most. And of course, a person can be strong in more than one category. If you are curious - here is the link to a quiz that will help you identify yours. Give it a whirl! Take the assessment quiz
ANYHOO, I am thinking about this because just like there are many ways that people learn things - there are many ways that stories of Jesus are shared and different versions of those stories. As we explored in our Christmas pageant this year, the Gospel writers often had different versions of the same story. This week's scripture from John tells the story of Jesus calling the first disciples. But - spoiler alert, it's a little different from the version you might remember most from Sunday school. Read John 1: 29-42
The passage starts with John the Baptist talking about Jesus. He sees Jesus coming toward him and says “He is the lamb of God. When I baptized him yesterday the Holy Spirit came and it was amazing!”
And later John was talking with two of his followers when they saw Jesus. And John said “ See him? He is the Lamb of God!”
So the two disciples followed Jesus. And when Jesus saw them he asked: “What are you looking for?”
And the disciples answered Jesus with their own question. “Where are you staying?’
And Jesus said, “Come and See.”
And so they went and they stayed with Jesus all day. One of them was Andrew. And when he left Jesus he went to find his brother Simon and he said “We have found the Messiah, the one sent from God.’ According to John, Andrew and Simon became two of the first followers of Jesus.
So, most of us are more familiar with the other gospel’s version of how Jesus calls the disciples. In Mathew. Mark, and Luke, Jesus speaks and the disciples drop their fishing nets and come follow.
One thing is similar—Jesus says “Come and See” - but the story in John takes a different path. The people in the story follow Jesus after hearing someone else talk about him. Andrew learns about Jesus by spending the day with him and then tells his brother Simon about him. I think in this version, Andrew is a lot like me, He needs to see things to learn about them.
The Bible reminds us that we. like John the Baptist, are called to share our faith and invite people to come and find out about Jesus. But since we all learn in different ways, it's important for us not to just tell people - but to also show people about Jesus.
Jesus gives us an example of this. He was not a teacher who just told us what to do—he showed us by his actions.
I wonder how we can show others God’s love through our actions, too?
Things to think about: Based on what you understand about how you learn things - what are some creative ways that you can learn more about Jesus? What are some ways that you can show people about the love of God?