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February 13, 2024

Tuesday morning Bible study on the Gospel of Mark 7:14-23

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ washed over each of us in our Baptisms, and to this very day continues to bring renewal of our hearts in the face of the darkness that we each know through the sin that surrounds us, and sometimes overtakes us.

Today is Fat Tuesday.  In the church, the day before Ash Wednesday is known as Shrove Tuesday.  Rather than partying, this is a day of preparation for the days of darkness which grow to their fullness in the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is a day when we are to be mindful of the forgiveness and absolution which enters our lives through the Grace of the Savior.  Please join us at American tomorrow at Noon or 7PM to receive the imposition of ashes, and the renewing love of Christ in the Holy Communion.

an open bible with a pen and notepad with an invitation to join a virtual bible study online
Meet us online for our virtual bible study

Today we are covering another portion of text in the 7th chapter of Mark, verses 14-23.  This is perhaps the most radical change which Jesus brings to the people.  For centuries, Hebrews/Jews lived by the strictest of food laws created by man.  I want to indicate that there may well have been a good reason for not eating pork.  It carried diseases that could create health crises.  But there were many other issues too over food, and a myriad of rules for not eating certain foods to maintain a good relationship with God.  In this passage Jesus makes it most clear that there really are no food rules.  A person doesn't become unclean because of eating something, rather their defilement comes from their own hearts.  Let's take a few minutes to look at the list of the things which Jesus says come from the hearts of people. 

1.       The first is evil designs. (dialogismoi) Every outward expression of sin comes first from the inward act of choice.

2.     The next is fornication. It is any and every kind of traffic in sexual vices. (porneiai) It will finally include adultery.

3.     Third on this list is theft.  It is described by two Greek words.  (klopai) meaning the act of taking something which is not the thief's.  But there is another kind.  The Greek is (lestes) or brigand.  Judas was this kind of thief.  Words to describe it would be deceitful, dishonorable, pilferer, without any redeeming characteristics.

4.     Covetous deeds, (pleonexiai).  This love of having is the spirit which snatches at things not to hoard them like a miser, but to spend them in lust and luxury.  This love of having can never be completely satisfied. It is finding joy in things rather than in God!

5.     The desire to do harm. (poneriai) This person is willing to do harm to anyone.  They are literally filled with poneros, the name for Satan.

6.     Wanton wickedness. (aselgeia) This is one whose spirit resents all discipline.  One who feels no restraints, no shame. Jezebel was the worst in the Bible and fit this issue to a tee.  She had envy controlling her life.

7.     Pride (huperephania) The Greek literally means showing oneself above all others, including God!

8.     Slander (blasphemia) This is literally using words against people, or even against God.

9.     Folly (aphrosune) This is not a reference to a person with limited abilities, rather it speaks to those who play the fool. 

Please do not be too critical of my Greek.  I want to thank the writing of William Barclay for its assistance in this.

This list is certainly a list of terrible characteristics that come from the hearts of people.  Stop, take time to think about yourself, and how you may be carrying some of this in your own heart.  Is it any wonder that we need confession on Sundays at worship!  Jesus said that eating any food was never the issue between God and His children, it was, and is the hearts of God's children.  That is every one of us.  In our Ash Wednesday service we begin with the imposition of ashes which is our knowledge that the wages of any sin is death, and we all have it.  But then later in the worship we come to the loving forgiveness of Christ, our Savior, in the bread and wine of Communion, the Body and Blood of the Savior given and shed for each and every one of God's children so that our sins will be forgiven.

I give thanks every day for the Christ of God, and His Love for you and me!

In Christ's Love, Pastor Kim

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February 12, 2024

Monday morning Bible Study on the Gospel of Mark 7:5-13

Blessing be on you on this crisp February morning.  May Christ lift your faith and grant you His Peace too.

Dear friends in Christ, today I am battling either severe allergies, or I have a cold.  I have been able to keep my schedule together, but I am hoping to get a rest period this afternoon.  On Saturday six members from American Lutheran attended the Installation of The Rev. Kurt J. Fangmeier at Sierra Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Vista as their newly called pastor who will serve the Gospel in their midst.  We had beautiful snow as we drove into Sierra Vista from Benson.  Thankfully it cleared on the road surfaces by the time that we headed back from this wonderful event.  Prayers please for the Keen family whose sister-in-law died this past weekend.  Prayers continuing for cancer victims Kandice Kartchner and Jeff Hovelson, both have cancer that is very difficult to treat or remove.  Also, please pray for Jeff Daniels, and his son, Jonah, who both have covid.  Please also pray for peace in the Ukraine and between Israel and the people of the Gaza Strip.  In both of these wars there are thousands who have been killed.

an open bible with a pen and notepad with an invitation to join a virtual bible study online
Meet us online for our virtual bible study

Today, we continue on in chapter 7 of the Gospel of Mark.  Remember that this entire chapter builds the division between Jesus and the religious authorities of His time.  The first passage that we will look at today is 7:5-8.  The issue that continues from 7:1-4 is all about the fact that the disciples do not follow the ritual cleansing of hands and all of the niceties of how hands ought to be ritually cleaned between courses and types of food.  The passage does not indicate that the disciple's hands are not physically washed.  So, Jesus turns to the prophet Isaiah 29:13, and tells the Pharisees and experts in the "law" that though they serve God with their lips, they really do not have Him in their hearts and minds. Jesus sees all of this body of man-made laws as superfluous (unnecessary for a person's relationship with God), and in the process of obedience to "man's rules and regulations" the true faith and obedience to God's Law (the ten commandments) has been abandoned.   I know you are asking how they are doing that, but we always must remember that Christ really did know what was in their hearts in their relationship with the Father in Heaven. 

In this passage Jesus accuses the Pharisees and Experts of hypocrisy.  The Greek word "hupokrites" has several ways in which we might approach its use in this setting.  First, it meant "One who answers".  Later it goes on to mean "One who is in a fixed conversation" which indicates that "One is an actor in a closed setting", and finally its meaning comes to be "One whose whole life is a piece of acting without any sincerity behind it at all".  Christ's statement is meant to be a high insult, the Pharisee or the expert might hate their fellow man or living with a heart of jealousy and concealed bitterness and pride, yet because that man keeps all of the rules created by man, he believes himself to be in a right relationship with God, and he IS NOT!  Our lives are not meant to be just outward actions that make others think that we are really in a good place with God.  In fact, if all we are really doing at church is form and ritual, without our heart and mind being healed from our sin, and we head off to vent our anger and bigotry, or our frustration over giving of our resources for the health of Christ's Church and its benevolence in the world, we are, as Paul would say, "most to be pitied".  However, this is not the only accusation that Christ levels at the leaders.  Jesus says that they have substituted the efforts of human ingenuity for the Laws of the Voice of God!  The Truth of religion will never come from people.  It will always come simply, listening, and then accepting, the Voice of God.

Chapter 7:9-13 finds us in yet another accusation of Christ against the leaders of the Temple and the synagogues.  The basic argument of Christ here is that some use the excuse of Jewish man-made laws to dismiss their responsibilities under the Law of God.  Much of this portion of Scripture depends on the use of the word "korban" or in the RSV, "corban".  Here it could mean a way of avoiding honoring one's parents, to care for them and hold them in esteem with available resources for their care.  In this time a person could dedicate everything to the Altar of God, or in the synagogue, and there by completely void their responsibility for their parents' lives.  Under the rules of "men" this was seen as being completely appropriate.  We all know about this.  In our world today we often see children continue to use their parents' wealth, but when the time comes for much needed care, there are no resources from the children to help out.  Honestly, don't we all plan hoping to be able to care for ourselves?  We do it mostly because we have little confidence either in our children's desire to help, or in their having resources with which to help.  In our lives, from generation to generation we very often find ourselves in the very same place as those who would make their resources corban for the purpose of avoiding God's Law, and do we ever remind our children that this God Law exists for them too?  The strange thing about the Scribes was that they said that any dedication of wealth was unbreakable even if a person changed their heart and mind in obedience to the fourth commandment.  So, the Scribal rules actually were intended to prevent that change of heart from being able to happen, especially when it came to money and resources.  The claim of God's Fourth Commandment was the claim of Love and Compassion.  Nothing that prevents us from living with the Love of Christ in our hearts and minds is worthy of our relationship and faith in God's promises in Jesus Christ.  When we are compassionate and caring, and not just for our parents, but for every person we meet, and some who we will never meet, we are alive knowing through faith, that is the very heart of God's Law.

Thanks for letting me share with you today.

In Christ's Love, Pastor Kim

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February 8, 2024

Thursday morning Bible Study on the OT book of Ezra 8:1-23

Good morning this Thursday, February 8, 2024.  This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  I know that there are plenty of reasons to awaken to the new day with trepidation and sadness, but this statement of faith in God always helps to remind us that our God is always present with us, no matter the outcome of today.  God is always with us to guide and protect His gift of faith that we have received from His Spirit.  And, through Jesus Christ, the final victory over evil has already been won on the Cross.  It may not always feel like it, and we are faced with a whole generation of people today who seem to think that they have no use for Christ's Church.  However, like you, the Church and her members must always remember that this day, and every day, has been made by our Lord.  And though the times seem to be against Christ's work, we are to rejoice and be glad for all that God does for us every day of our lives.

This Saturday, February 10th, a group from our congregation will be heading to Sierra Vista to Sierra Lutheran Church for the 11AM installation of The Reverend Kurt Fangmeier as the new pastor of that parish.  Kurt is a former member of American, a UA graduate, attended the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, and has had a variety of calls in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  We are pleased to welcome Kurt to his new pastorate, and to have him back closer to his home church, American Ev. Lutheran in Tucson.  Congratulations Pastor Kurt!

A holy bible open to the Old Testament book of Ezra
The Old Testament book of Ezra

Today we move forward to chapter 8 in the OT book of Ezra, and we will cover the first 23 verses.  In the majority of this passage from Ezra we receive a record of all of the family groups and their numbers who have come to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple about a hundred years after the first exiles went back.  There is a definite benefit to doing this.  It builds community and unity.  When I go back to the Swedish Lutheran Church were my relatives started it in the 1870s, I am always drawn to a 2' by 4' stand in the parish hall.  On that stand are large photos of all of the congregation's pastors since it chartered, and also every confirmation class since then too.  I found pictures of my mother and her four siblings, taken for their confirmations in the late 1930s.  It helps me to remember who I am, and where I have come from over the years of my life.  Though relatively short pastorates are usually the reality in the ELCA, my first pastor, The Rev. John Landine was at my home church for 40 years.  Keeping such pictorial records must not have been an easy task, any more than recording all of the names and numbers of family members who came back from exile to continue the hard work of rebuilding.  Today in most of our congregations we do a periodic member directory. 

Curiously there are apparently no people in this large group who are going with Ezra who are identified as being of one of the priestly families.  We do know from the last day's study that there were large numbers of items of gold, silver, and brass which had initially been taken from the Temple at the time of the defeat of Jerusalem in 597 BCE (before the Common Era, which indicates our more common dating from the time of Christ)  It was to be the work of the priestly families to be bearers for all of the holy furnishing which were now being returned by Artaxerxes.  To make all of this happen, Ezra had to send back to find some priestly family members who were willing to leave their lives in Babylon.  Unlike some of the more legendary parts of the Old Testament, (see "The Bible Unearthed") here we have a list of real people who are becoming immigrants to their home promised land, now some 150 years after the first exiles were taken in 597BCE.  Now we have to remember the offerings which had been made for this group to carry with them back to Jerusalem, and that's in addition to the wealth of the plundered Temple furnishings.  So Ezra has much wealth for which he is ultimately responsible.  This second, Exodus-like journey begins with prayer and fasting (affliction), like the Passover, so that God is made aware that this is a group of faithful Hebrews who are headed back to their homeland from exile. IN fact, this is such an Exodus-like journey that the group starts out by crossing a small river to duplicate the Red Sea story. There is also something else here.  Ezra had told Artaxerxes that God would protect this group in their entire journey, so that it was now a matter of saving face, that Ezra could not go back to the king of Persia and tell him that the Hebrew's God would not be strong enough to protect these gifts of money and furnishings.  We will see in the book of Nehemiah, that he does not make Ezra's mistake, and instead makes certain that he has protection for his journey.  Ezra's journey makes it, by the Grace of God.  Next Thursday we will take a more in-depth look at how this call on Ezra unfolds in this new setting, especially since Ezra is a relative latecomer.  

In Christ's Love, Pastor Kim.

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