Your Redemption is Drawing Near

Bible:

[Jesus said:] “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25-28 ESV

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:29-31 ESV

Reflection:

Ann Nystrom and her friend were hiking at Mt. St. Helens on the Sunday morning back in 1980 when the mountain erupted. The ground shook and hot ash poured out of the top and side of the mountain. Many people died in this terrible eruption, but Sue and her boyfriend survived. They were trudging through the ash and the toppled trees when suddenly, from the sky, a National Guard helicopter dropped down to them. They were lifted away from the dangerous mountain to safety. Ann never forgot the helicopter pilot who had saved her life when it seemed as if the world was falling apart and that she was sure to die.

Jesus talked about the destruction of Jerusalem to come, and he also talked about the end of the whole world. He said that when the day of final judgment comes, the whole world will be shaken with disaster. He talked about the sun and the moon going dark and the stars falling from the sky, while the waves of the ocean roar and foam. He said that people will be terrified when they see these things happening, but he also said that for his people, there is no reason to be afraid. Instead we should look up, because our redemption is coming. Jesus will come on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory, and angels will blow trumpets and gather all of his people from all over the world to be with him forever.

We know we don’t have to worry about the day when Jesus comes again, because he came to us the first time to save us. Jesus took all of God’s anger and judgment over sin onto himself, and he carried it all to the cross and paid for it there. Because of what he did for us, we can be sure that when he returns, he will send his holy angels to bring us home to be with him forever.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for dying to make us your people. We look forward to the day you will come to bring us home. Amen.

Source:

http://www.columbian.com/news/2018/jan/14/mount-st-helens-pbs-series/

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Not One Stone Left Upon Another

Bible:

And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, [Jesus] said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.” Luke 21:5-6, 20-22 ESV

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44 ESV

Reflection:

When Jesus had entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he cried over it and said that the days were coming when enemies would come and tear the city down to the ground. This was going to be God’s judgment on the city that did not believe in the promised Savior who had come to them. Now a few days later some people were talking to Jesus about their beautiful temple, and all the offerings and the lovely stones that had made it such a wonderful building. But Jesus said again that the time was coming when every stone of the temple would be torn down. He warned the people who were listening that when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies, they should run away out of the city and into the mountains. If they were outside Jerusalem, they shouldn’t try to go back into the city, because it wouldn’t be safe there.

In 66 A. D., a little more than 30 years after Jesus’ time, the Jewish people started a rebellion against the Roman empire. The Roman army came against the city, and in 70 A. D., Titus, a commander of the Roman army, surrounded the city. He dug trenches and built a wall around the city so that he could put it under siege. Then the Romans used a battering ram to enter Jerusalem and the troops fought their way from street to street. Some people had gone into the temple thinking they would be safe there, but the Roman army burned the temple down. The city and the temple were destroyed, and over one million Jewish people died. Some Christians who had remembered Jesus’ warning escaped the city when they saw the trouble start, and they fled to a place called Pella and survived the attack.

God’s judgment on Jerusalem was a picture of his judgment on the whole world that has turned against him in sin and rebellion and refused to believe in Jesus as their Savior. When God brings the world to an end, there won’t be any place that anyone can run and hide. But we have a safe place that we can hide now, and that is with Jesus. Jesus died on the cross to take on himself all of God’s judgment against sin and evil, and everyone who believes in Jesus will be safe from God’s final judgment. We are always safe when we run to Jesus for forgiveness and life.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross and being our safe place from God’s final judgment. Amen.

Source:

https://www.britannica.com/event/Siege-of-Jerusalem-70

Giving Her All

Bible:

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44 ESV

Honor the Lord with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine. Proverbs 3:9-10 ESV

Reflection:

Pa Ingalls’ boots were old and mended, and they had a crack clear across the toes of one boot. His red socks showed through the slit, and the leather was thin and curling. Pa had three dollars to buy new boots, and when he went to town Saturday he took the money to town so he could get them. But when he came home in the late afternoon, he was still wearing his old boots. The church in town needed a bell, and they had almost all the money they needed. They just needed three more dollars, so Pa gave all his money for the bell, and he didn’t get any new boots.

Jesus saw a gift that was even more generous than that. He was watching people put their money into the offering box, and rich people were putting in a lot of money. But then he saw a poor widow putting in two little coins that added up to about a penny. Jesus told his disciples that this poor widow had given more than all the money the rich people had put in, because the rich people had just given some of what they had, and they could easily afford it, but the widow had put in everything, all the money she had to live on.

Does this mean that Jesus expects his people to give all the money they have back to God? Some people do that, and trust God to take care of their needs while they work for him. But God gives money to most people so that they can meet their responsibilities and take care of their families. The important thing for everyone to remember is that everything we have–our money, our other possessions, our time, and our abilities–all come from God, and so we are thankful all the time and use his gifts in ways that please him. We also give him the first gift of everything we have. We might end up not being able to have everything we want, and sometimes giving God the first of our gifts might even mean we don’t get something we need, like Pa Ingalls. But when we give God our first and our best, we can trust him to take care of us.

When we were lost in sin and death, God gave us everything. He gave us Jesus, our Savior, who gave his life for us on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be God’s people. Anything we give to God is a gift of thanks for everything he’s given us in Jesus.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all of your good gifts, especially Jesus, our Savior. Help us to give you our first and our best. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Wilder, Laura Ingalls On the Banks of Plum Creek New York: Harper and Brothers, 1937.

O Jerusalem!

Bible:

[Jesus said:] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:37-39 ESV

For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bones shall flourish like the grass;
and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants,
and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.” Isaiah 66:12-14 ESV

Reflection:

Many different kinds of animal mothers love their babies very much, and they do amazing things to protect and care for them. For example, did you know that mother alligators carry their babies in their jaws until they are big enough to learn how to defend themselves? Mother polar bears build a den in the ice and snow and keep their babies safe during the cold winter until they are big enough to come out in the spring when it is warmer. The mother polar bear nurses her babies, but she doesn’t get to eat anything herself for eight months! Mother wolf spiders carry their eggs and also their new babies on their back even after they have hatched. After a mother octopus lays her eggs, she will protect them from predators and starve herself rather then leave them. She might even eat one of her arms!

After Jesus spoke harsh words of judgment to the religious leaders, he became very sad. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” he said. The city with its religious leaders had had a long history of resisting God’s mercy and of being rebellious against him. Jesus said that so many times he had wanted to help and protect them just like a mother hen protects her baby chicks. He said he so often wished he could spread his wings over them and gather them close to him, but they didn’t want that. They kept on being stubborn and going their own way, and the time for judgment was coming soon. They were rejecting the promised Savior, and soon they wouldn’t see him again until the very end of the world. Jesus said someday they would have to say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” This is what the crowds had said on Palm Sunday. When Jesus comes again in glory, everyone will have to say that he is the Lord, including people who have rejected him.

God is our Heavenly Father, but he is as loving and tender and protecting as a mother to us. He sent Jesus to be our Savior and to bring us back when we had wandered away from him. Jesus died on the cross to make us God’s children, and God loves us very much. He keeps us close to him and protects us from the sin and evil that would hurt us. We can trust in his loving care, now and forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your wonderful love and protection. Please keep us close to you and help us never to turn away from your mercy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/animals/top-10-animal-mothers.aspx

Outside and Inside

Bible:

[Jesus said:] “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:25-28 ESV

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:6-7 ESV

Reflection:

Once a little mouse came out of his hole and went to take his first look at the outside world. Before long he came running back into the hole, very frightened. His mother asked him what had scared him, and he told her that he had first seen seen a pretty animal with soft, striped fur and shining green eyes, that had waved her tale when she had seen him. But then he had seen a terrible monster with a red head and long claws that had shrieked, “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” The little mouse had been so frightened that he had rushed back into his hole. His mother told him that the terrible monster was only a rooster, and that the rooster wouldn’t hurt him because he only eats seeds, but the first creature he had seen was a cat, who would catch him and eat him if she could.

Something that looks good and harmless might actually be very dangerous. Jesus said that the religious leaders were like that. They often prayed in public and wore clothes that made them look very holy and righteous and did things everyone could see that seemed to be good. But Jesus said they were like cups that were clean on the outside but still dirty on the inside, or like graves that were whitewashed so that looked beautiful on the outside but inside were dirty and full of the bones of dead people. Inside the religious leaders were full of sin and rebellion against God.

We might try to make ourselves look good and righteous on the outside, but God can see into our hearts. He can see the sin and rebellion and hatefulness we all carry inside of us, and he isn’t interested in how good we look to others. The sins inside us separate us from God and his love, but Jesus came to die on the cross to pay for the sins of our hearts. Because of Jesus, God forgives us, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to give us new hearts that love and serve him.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive the sins of our hearts. Thank you for sending Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Knowing What is Important

Bible:

[Jesus said:] “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” Matthew 23:23-24 ESV

I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:21-24 ESV

Reflection:

All over the United States, and the rest of the world as well, there are some laws that seem a little silly. Here are some of them: In Alabama, it is illegal to play cards on Sunday. In Arkansas it is illegal to mispronounce “Arkansas.” In Boulder, Colorado, it is against the law to put a couch on your front porch. In Fenwick Island, Delaware, you aren’t allowed to change your clothes in your car. In Eagle, Idaho, it is illegal to sweep dirt from your house into the street. In Indiana, it is against the law to catch a fish with your bare hands.

Jesus scolded the scribes and the Pharisees for some of the silly rules they followed. God’s law told them to give a tenth, or a tithe, of everything to God, but they took this law to a reall extreme. They would take small herbs, like mint or dill or cumin, and carefully separate the seeds into little piles. They would count nine seeds for themselves, and one for God! But at the same time, they didn’t care about justice to poor people and widows and strangers, or showing mercy to sinful people or people who needed help, or being faithful to God and his ways. The religious leaders were so busy keeping the silly rules they made up that they didn’t obey the really important parts of God’s law. Jesus said that that was like straining a little gnat out of a drink, then swallowing a camel!

We all sometimes ignore God’s will and his ways, and make up rules of our own. It’s really foolish to think we will earn God’s blessing or favor when we do that. The Lord calls us to learn his will and to have our priorities straight so that we know what is important. But none of us can do that perfectly all the time. Only Jesus understood God’s will perfectly, and he knew what was important. He followed his Heavenly Father’s will, and it took him all the way to the cross, where he died to pay for our sins and our disobedience. Because of Jesus, God forgives us every day, and he speaks to us through his word, the Bible, to help us understand his will and his ways.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, help us to learn your will and to follow your ways. Thank you for forgiveness through Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.dumblaws.com/

The Greatest Commandment

Bible:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34 ESV

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:8-10 ESV

Reflection:

Mike had lived with his mother, but she had some serious problems, and she wasn’t able to take good care of him. So he was put into a foster home. As he settled into his new home, his foster parents taught him what the rules of the house were. They wanted him to understand what they expected of him so that he could adjust to life with them. But there were so many rules to remember! Mike had lived for a long time without any rules or structure, so it was hard for him to remember them all. “You must ask permission to use something that belongs to someone else. You must treat the pets kindly. You must do the weekly chores that are assigned to you. You must do your homework before you can watch TV.” The list went on and on. How would he remember them all? Mike thought he would start with the most important rule, so he asked his foster parents which one that was. They told him, “Everyone in this house will show respect for everyone else.” They told him that all the other rules were just ways of helping him understand how to obey the most important rule.

While Jesus was debating with the religious leaders, one of them asked him which of God’s commandments was the most important one of all. There were so many laws that God had given, and it was hard to remember and follow all of them! Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord with everything a person has–heart and soul and mind and strength. Then he said there was a second-most important commandment, to love other people as much as a person loves himself or herself. The religious leader agreed with Jesus, and said that these two commandments were more important than all the sacrifices and burnt offerings that God required. Jesus heard his wise answer and said that he was not far from God’s kingdom.

If our love for God and for each other were perfect, we wouldn’t need any other commandments or rules. But because we are sinners, our love and our understanding are very imperfect, and we need God’s laws to guide us in the best ways to love and please the Lord. Even the help that God has given us through his law isn’t enough, because we break his commandments all the time. None of the sacrifices or burnt offerings that God required could ever take away our sins, but Jesus obeyed God’s laws perfectly in our place, and he went to the cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because of Jesus, our sins are all forgiven, and we are part of God’s kingdom now and forever.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for your perfect love and your perfect obedience that brought us into your kingdom forever. Amen.

Life after Our Resurrection

Bible:

There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” Luke 20:27-38 ESV

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 25:6-8 ESV

Source:

There’s a story for children called The Littlest Angel that talks about a little boy who died and became an angel in heaven. This little angel wasn’t happy in heaven. He always arrived late for choir practice, and he couldn’t sing on key when he got there. His halo was always slipping and becoming crooked, and he couldn’t fly without tripping and tumbling. Finally an understanding angel talked to him, and the littlest angel explained that there was nothing for him to do in heaven, and that he was homesick for the earth and all the fun things he used to do there. The story continues, and it’s really a very sweet story, but the person who wrote it didn’t understand much about what heaven is like. It isn’t a boring place where children won’t be happy, and also, while Jesus said that we will be equal to the angels in heaven, we will not become angels.

Some religious leaders called Sadducees had some wrong ideas of what life was supposed to be like after the resurrection. They actually didn’t believe in the resurrection, and they wanted to make Jesus seem foolish by asking him what they thought was a clever question. They talked about a woman who had married seven brothers, one at a time, after the brother before him had died, and finally the woman died, too. In the resurrection, they asked, which brother will she be married to? Jesus scolded them for not believing in God’s power to raise people from the dead. He said that things will be different in heaven, and nobody will get married, just as angels don’t get married. Then he told them how wrong they were for not believing in the life to come. He reminded them that when Moses heard God speak to him from the burning bush, God had said, “I am the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.” Jesus said that God is the Lord of living people, not of dead people, so that means that God had given Abraham and Isaac and Jacob life after they had died on the earth.

God gives us many beautiful pictures of heaven in the Bible. He gives us pictures of a glorious city, and of a rich banquet on a mountaintop, and of a harvest celebration for people all over the world, and of a peaceful place where lions and lambs will lie down together. We really can’t say for sure what life will be like for us after our resurrection, but we know that it will be absolutely wonderful. God will wipe all our tears away and put an end to death, and he will be close to us forever and ever. We can look forward with joy to the life to come, and remember the terrible price Jesus paid for us in this life. Jesus died on the cross so that we could be forgiven and have a place in heaven, and he rose again to defeat death forever. Because of Jesus, we know that we will be with him always in the glorious new world to come.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for dying and rising again to defeat death and bring us to eternal life. Amen.

Source:

Tazewell, Charles The Littlest Angel Chicago: Children’s Press, 1946.

 

Two Kingdoms

Bible:

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. Luke 20:19-26 ESV

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Romans 13:1-7 ESV

We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29b

Reflection:

Did you know that it’s possible to be a citizen of more than one country at a time? For example, if you were born in the United States, the law says that you are a citizen of the United States. However, if your parents are citizens of another country such as Denmark or South Africa, you might be considered a citizen of that country, too. If you are a citizen of more than one country, that means that you can freely travel and own property in both countries, vote in both countries, and enjoy the benefits of both countries. However, it also means that you might have to pay taxes to both countries, and you might be called to serve in the military of either country. If the two countries where you hold citizenship go to war with each other, and you fight for one country, you will probably lose your citizenship in the other one.

The religious leaders were really angry with the stories Jesus was telling, because they knew that he was telling the stories against them. So they tried to trick him. They sent some spies to ask him if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, the Roman emperor, or not. If he said yes, that would get him in trouble with the Jewish people who wanted to be free of Rome. But if he said no, that would get him in trouble with the Roman government! But Jesus saw right through their trick. He asked them to show him a coin, and asked them whose picture was on it. They said that it was Caesar’s picture, and then Jesus said to give to Caesar the things that belonged to Caesar, and to give to God the things that belong to God.

This was really a tricky answer, because everything in the whole universe belongs to God! But God has allowed the governments of this world to have the authority to rule, and because of that, he wants us to obey our government and laws. Everyone who believes in Jesus is part of two kingdoms. One kingdom is the kingdom of this world, with families and schools and communities and jobs and governments. God wants us to help and serve the people he puts in our path in these areas. But because Jesus died on the cross for us, we are also part of the kingdom of God, and that is where our highest loyalty is. Most of the time we can work and help and serve and pay taxes and obey the people in authority in the world, but there are times when the kingdom of this world will try to call us away from our loyalty to God. That’s when we must give to God the obedience that belongs to him, even if it means disobeying the authority in this world. Jesus gives us strength to follow him until the end, when all the kingdoms of the world will become his forever.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for making us part of your kingdom. Help us to serve and help and obey in this world, but to always give you first place. Amen.

Telling a New Story

Bible:

And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” Luke 20:9-18 ESV

Let me sing for my beloved
my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem
and men of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard,
that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and briers and thorns shall grow up;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice,
but behold, bloodshed;
for righteousness,
but behold, an outcry! Isaiah 5:1-7 ESV

Reflection:

A few hundred years ago William Shakespeare wrote a play called Romeo and Juliet, a story about a young man and woman who fell in love with each other even though their families were enemies who were feuding with each other. Many people have loved this story through the years, and in the 1950s this story was told in a very new way in a play by Arthur Laurents called West Side Story. Instead of the two lovers being from feuding families in Italy in the 1500s, in West Side Story the lovers were named Tony and Maria, and they were from two different gangs, the Sharks and the Jets, in New York City in the 1950s. The Jets were white, and the Sharks were Puerto Rican. In retelling the story, Mr. Laurents brought out some new characters and ideas, especially about racial tensions and gang violence in New York.

Jesus took an old story and told it in a new way, also. Do you remember when the prophet Isaiah talked about a vineyard that a man had planted? He did everything he could do for this vineyard, but it only grew wild, sour grapes. The prophet Isaiah said that this vineyard was a picture of God’s people, and that God himself was the man who had planted the vineyard. When Jesus told the story, he added some new characters. He talked about the people who rented the vineyard from the owner, and were supposed to give him some of the harvest to pay the rent. But when the man sent people to get his share from the tenants, they kept beating these messengers up and sending them away without paying anything. Finally the man sent his own son, but instead of respecting the son, the tenants decided to kill him so they could keep the vineyard for themselves. Jesus said that the owner of the vineyard would come to judge and punish the tenants of the vineyard.

The religious leaders understood what Jesus meant by this story. He was saying that they were the tenants who were supposed to take care of God’s people, and that they hadn’t done their job. When God had sent them prophets to warn them, they had treated these prophets very badly and hadn’t listened to them. Finally, God had sent Jesus, his Son, and they were planning to kill him. Jesus warned the religious leaders that God would punish them for this, but all they could say was, “Surely not!” Jesus told them that the stone that the builders had rejected had become the most precious stone in the whole building. Jesus is a stone of judgment for people who keep on turning away from God, just as a stone can crush someone or hurt people who fall on it. But for people who believe in Jesus, he is the beginning of a brand new building. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins of turning away from him, and everyone who believes in him becomes part of the new story of God’s love for all people.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and for sending Jesus, our Savior, and making us a part of your story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sources:

Shakespeare, William Romeo and Juliet
Laurents, Arthur West Side Story: a musical New York: Random House, 1950.