The Overflowing Tea Cup

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Sometimes our insight into Scripture can be enhanced by hearing a story from another source. On considering today’s Gospel, I have gained a deeper sense of its message through a Zen Buddhist story told about Nan-in, a teacher who was active a hundred years ago in Japan. It seems that one day, Nan-in received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself. “It is overflowing! No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” [Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, compilers, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writing (Tuttle Publishing, 1998), p. 19.]

In today’s Gospel, Jesus encounters a group of people who, like Nan-in’s visitor, are full cups that need to be emptied if they are ever to receive his message.

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Why Go To Church?

Have you ever wondered… why go to church?

It's not necessary to go to church in order to get saved and therefore go to heaven, but going to church still has very important benefits that can help improve your life and keep it in order.

Below are 13 reasons why we should attend church services on a regular basis.

1. Because it is an act of obedience to God and it honors the Lord's Day. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Ex. 20:8).

2. Because we need to belong to a community of faith that includes our brothers and sisters in Christ who are trying to live out the gospel just like we are.

3. Because we will benefit from being taught and led in worship by others, rather than always depending on ourselves to read and study the bible.

4. Because we need regular reminders of our standing in Christ, help in acknowledging and confessing our sins, and teaching about God's truth.

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4th of July - Origin of Taps

Reportedly, it all began in 1862 during the Civil War when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison’s Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land. During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention. Crawling on his stomach, the captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment.

When the captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead. The captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own son. The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the Confederate Army.

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The Lord's Prayer - What does it mean?

Luke Chapter 11

This week, we’re learning about how God would like us to pray. Even Jesus’ closest friends, the disciples, wanted to know how to pray.

The disciples were with Jesus all the time and were with Him when He went to pray and heard his prayers to God, as well, yet they still weren’t sure how they were supposed to do it. So Jesus gave them the Lord’s Prayer.

Before Jesus teaches the prayer, He says that we should keep our prayers simple. God listens to us no matter if our prayers are long or short. Even if you don’t have the right words, God knows what we mean without having to use fancy words. Jesus also says that we shouldn’t show off’ when we pray.

He said this especially to the people that used to stand on the street corners praying, so that everyone would think how great they were at praying. He wants us to pray in a quiet place with our own words. We need to tell Him our needs, give Him thanks, praise Him, and tell Him what we’re sorry for.

At first, this prayer might be a little hard to understand, but let’s go through it and try to explain what it means.

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We have entered into the “Green Season,” green representing new growth… perhaps new growth in this place.  This summer we will continue to explore The Gospel of Luke.  We will walk with him as he writes to his friend “dear Theophilus.”  To begin, let’s start with the subject of prayer.

Prayer is not only at the heart of the Christian life, it is also at the heart of a lot of Christian frustration, misunderstanding, and even pain.

How do we pray? How does God answer prayer? Why does God sometimes seem to ignore my prayers? With these questions in mind, could there be a better - or more challenging - passage on prayer than Luke's depiction of Jesus teaching his disciples to pray?

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What about the Trinity?

What about the Trinity?

The doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to the Christian faith. It is crucial for properly understanding what God is like, how he relates to us, and how we should relate to him. But it also raises many difficult questions. How can God be both one and three? Is the Trinity a contradiction? If Jesus is God, why do the Gospels record instances where he prayed to God?

While we cannot fully understand everything about the Trinity (or anything else), it is possible to answer questions like these and come to a solid grasp of what it means for God to be three in one.

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Pentecost Being Different for Jesus

 1 Peter 1:13-22; 2:1

In C.E. Montague's novel, Rough Justice, a memorable scene describes a little boy named Bron going to church for the first time with his governess. He watches with interest every part of the service. The preacher climbs into the high pulpit and Bron hears him tell some terrible news. It is about a brave and kind man who was nailed to a cross, terribly hurt, a long time ago, and who still feels a dreadful pain even now, because there was something not done that he wants them all to do.

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Ascension of Christ

The Bible describes the ascension of Christ in a scene told both by Luke and by Mark. The scene portrays meaning to the believer and is supported by other Scripture, as well. It is really a very poignant picture when you think upon its meanings.

The ascension communicates Christ's glorification. Jesus' work here was done. Mark says, "After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God" (Mark 16:19). The scene communicates that He was leaving earth in His bodily form and that He was going to His former place of glory, having won victory over death (John 17:5).

Jesus' ascension brought to an end the time of His ministry as God in man. And it began the time of His ministry as God in man, the church. God would minister through His Word and His ministers in the church. The church is Christ's body in the earth (Ephesians 5:30; 4:15-16). The ascension forms the point of continuity between "all that He began to do and to teach (Acts 1:1), and what the apostles and the church continued to do and to teach after His departure.

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Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is a real person who came to reside within Jesus Christ's true followers after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven.

Jesus told His apostles...

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, (Paraclete) that He may be with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:15…

The Holy Spirit is not a vague, ethereal shadow, nor an impersonal force. He is a person equal in every way with God the Father and God the Son. He is considered to be the third member of the Godhead.

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The Great 50 Days of Easter

   As there are 12 days of Christmas, so there are 50 days of Easter. The season of Easter ends with Pentecost – the 50th day.

     Society has a hard-enough time understanding the twelve days of Christmas. I am afraid the concept of celebrating 50 days of Easter is not really going to catch on. At least with Christmas, many of us still have trees up and decorated, and a few of us even make sure the outdoor decorations are still on until the Feast of the Epiphany or 12th Night, January 6. For most people, Easter ends on Sunday, Easter Day, when the last of the meal is finished, or when the Easter candy is gone. For society it is now time to look toward Memorial Day, opening the cottage, putting the boat into the water, and enjoying the summer. Check, we’ve had Easter, time to move on.

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Live as Easter People

Easter has arrived! We made the long way through Lent; some of us journeyed through the liturgical marathon that is Holy Week, with its multiple services leading up to the Great Easter Vigil.

Now we dwell in the weeks prior to Pentecost. Yes, we keep looking forward to the next event in the Christian year. Jesus has risen from the dead; in the coming weeks, as we hear in the Gospel stories, he will appear to many people. Those who believe in him will understand that he has conquered death. Jesus will tell them that he’s leaving again but will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. So those who love and follow him live in tension still; of course, they want him to stay, forever. What will happen when the Holy Spirit comes? They do not yet know the day it will happen. All they can do is stay together and pray and hope that Jesus’ leaving will not be soon.

Even after the great Resurrection has occurred, we continue to live in paradox and tension. We believe Jesus rose from the dead and that we, too, will one day be resurrected. In the meantime, though . . . in the meantime, life continues and people suffer, and the answers we want don’t come, and Jesus the Man-God is nowhere to be seen.

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What is Maundy Thursday?

Good Friday, we know. And Easter most certainly. But what is Maundy Thursday? Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, believed to be the day when Jesus celebrated his final Passover with His disciples. Most notably, that Passover meal was when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples in an extraordinary display of humility. He then commanded them to do the same for each other.

What does Maundy Thursday Mean?

Christ's "mandate" is commemorated on Maundy Thursday---"maundy" being a shortened form of mandatum (Latin), which means "command." It was on the Thursday of Christ's final week before being crucified and resurrected that He said these words to his disciples:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34).

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The Cab Ride

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I walked to the door and knocked.

'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. 

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie.

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"All we like sheep have gone astray..." The stirring music of Handel's Messiah includes the well-known passage from Isaiah: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

This text leads us to the theology of the Atonement, which can be summed up in the common bumper sticker quote: "Jesus died for your sins." Basic to the traditional Christian doctrine of the Atonement is the notion that somehow something went very wrong in God's creation - specifically, WE went wrong. And God is so holy, so righteous, so judgmental, that God needs to punish us for our sins. But God provides an out - a deal, so that God can love what God created, flawed as it is. So according to this interpretation of Atonement, God's acceptance is purchased through the death of Jesus, the sinless one. Jesus redeems us (to use pawn-broker terminology) or Jesus takes our place (a substitution in which Jesus takes the punishment that this righteously angry God intended for us.)

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How are you doing spiritually?

The following questionnaire is designed as a self-assessment test of your spiritual health. Complete the questionnaire truthfully and it will act as a good gauge of how your spiritual life is progressing.

1. Are you happy with what you are becoming?
Have you ever come across a bitter old man? Well, he did not become like that overnight. What type of person are you becoming? Are you holding onto all the hurt and nastiness you meet along your journey in life or do you keep your heart pure? The choices we make determine the person we become. God has given you the grace to do the right thing. Are you doing it?

2. A religious person attends church regularly but never allows the teachings of the church to affect his or her life?

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Meditation for today...

The fourth word Jesus spoke from the cross was the worst. It revealed how utterly alone Jesus was in his death struggle with Satan.

This battle was fought not with swords or spears, light sabers or lightning bolts, energy blasts or physical strength. The battleground was in the mind of Christ himself, where he fought Satan’s temptations alone and physically exhausted. He had been abandoned by his disciples (save one), condemned by the religious leaders of his own people, and condemned by the Roman government that was supposed to dispense justice.

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Wonderful Trust

"Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in Me." ~ John 14:1

     Prayer does not stand alone.  It lives in the fellowship with other Christian duties. 

Prayer is firmly joined to faith.  Faith gives it color and tone, and secures its results.

      Trust is faith accomplished.  Trust is a conscious act, a fact of which we are aware. 

 it is the feeling of the soul...the spiritual sight, hearing and taste.

      All these have to do with trust.  How bright, distinct, conscious, powerful, 

and scriptural such a trust is!

      Dear God, I put my trust in You all day long.  Amen.

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Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and is always 40 days before Easter Sunday. Lent is a 40-day season (not counting Sundays) marked by repentance, fasting, reflection, and ultimately celebration. The 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, marking an intentional season of focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection.

Have you ever noticed how once a year, usually in February or March, there are a lot of people walking around with an ash cross on their foreheads? You probably knew it had something to do with Lent, but you weren’t sure why the ash cross was significant.

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Why Do We Find It So Hard to Forgive?

One reason we resist forgiving is that we don't really understand what forgiveness is or how it works. We think we do, but we don't.

Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scot-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We also may think that we have to be friendly with them again, or go back to the old relationship. While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us.

The first step to understanding forgiveness is learning what it is and isn't. The next step is giving yourself permission to forgive and forget, letting go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries.

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