Weekly Reflections



King's Cross Anglican Church Tucson

3 Year Lectionary

by Jennifer Callaway

body language

Nehemiah 8:1-12; Ps 113; 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Luke 4:14-21

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”

            Where is your church? What do they believe? Can you dare have anything to do with the people in that church over there? After all, they don’t believe exactly the way that you do about ______ ... These are the kinds of words and issues that have divided the body of Christ for centuries. Fill in the blank with any hot topic you want—baptism, open or closed communion, church organization models, and on and on.

            When he invented the printing press and began making copies of the Bible, Gutenberg made two predictions—that he would die rich, and that the availability of the Bible for everyone would unite the global church. As for the first prediction, he died in 1468 completely destitute. And the second prediction? I think we all know the answer to that; the church of Jesus Christ divides, and divides, and divides...

            But on one thing, we are not divided, and that one thing is what matters. Jesus Christ. For those who believe in the Truth of Jesus Christ, there is no “us” and “them.” There is only Him, and His Body. If your neighbor that goes to that “other” church believes in the same Jesus Christ as you, then you are united in His Body. To reject that person because they don’t believe the same jots and tittles you do, is to reject a part of yourself, and a part of Christ’s body. Even more, it is a rejection of God’s choice of that person.

            We may not agree on practices and expressions of our faith in Christ, but we do not get to say we are right and they are wrong. We do get to say “this person is a part of the same body I belong to, and I will care for them as I care for myself. I will honor them and their role in accomplishing God’s work. And I will be grateful for the things they do, which I cannot.”

            In this way, the mission goes forth, not with uniformity but with a miracle of harmony that only God can orchestrate.

say it!

Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96; 1 Cor. 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

            One of the most powerful gifts God has given us is speech. He spoke the world into existence. In the beginning was the Word. Isaiah declares, “I will not be silent.” The Psalm is full of voices singing, declaring, praising, and ascribing to the Lord glory and strength. Paul reminds the Corinthians how they strayed to mute idols, then he goes on to encourage them to use the gifts the Spirit has given them, gifts that speak spiritual realities into the earthly realm.

            We believers worry and think often about what we shouldn’t say, but what if instead we focus more on what we can and should say? How much spiritual reality could we bring down to earth if we were bold in using the words God has given us? What if we spoke our secret hopes out loud?

            I thought about this as I read the passage from John’s gospel this week. It was so early in Jesus’ ministry that most didn’t even yet know who He was. The miracle He did at the wedding at Cana is the focus of the story. But what about the words of faith spoken that brought the miracle about? Look at the text...

             “When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

            Mary understood it was early for Him to show Himself, but her faith could not keep silent. She knew what He could do, though not necessarily what He would do. By faith she said, in effect, “Your will be done.” He could have turned away, or just refused to act. But He rewarded her trust and spoke His first miracle.

            Her faith spoke. He acted. And that is the pattern we see, over and over again in Scripture. Believers’ words are powerful—not our power, but the power of the faith manifested through our speech.

            What spiritual realities do you want to bring to earth? Do you trust God enough to say it out loud and trust Him with the results? Faith speaks!

REVEALING TRUTH

Isaiah 42:1-9; Ps 89:20-29; Acts 10:34-38; Luke 3:15-22

I will continue this week just to take a step back from application of these Scriptures, and instead look at the eternal truths God reveals through His Word, His world, and His Son.          It seems appropriate to start with the theme of this season, Epiphany. The word “epiphany” means “revealed.” We only know God because He chose to reveal Himself to us. He did not and does not reveal Himself all at once; God says in Exodus that no one can look upon His face and live. Therefore in His mercy, He has revealed Himself a bit at a time, through creation, through the prophets, through the church, and ultimately through his Son. (Hebrews 1:1-2).

            But through the Prophet Isaiah we see that God was revealing His Son long before Christ physically came to earth. He spoke of what was not as though it was when He described His servant (Isa 42). Some of the prophecies about Christ in Isaiah proved so accurate, in fact, that for many decades the date Isaiah was written came into question; surely it must have been written after He came. It could not be that right about what had not yet happened!

            However, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1940s, all doubts about the age of Isaiah’s writing were put to rest. God clearly used Isaiah the prophet to reveal the truth of His Son, centuries before the child would be born in Bethlehem.

            Go back and read our Isaiah passage this week, putting the name “Jesus” in place of every “my servant,” “he,” and “you.” You will see what God revealed, that He spoke of His Son through the prophet in ca. 750 b.c. That’s about 400 years before the coming of our Lord. When you doubt whether God is revealing Himself, read this passage again, and know that He is. He has. And He will continue, until everything is laid bare, and we are face to face with Him.

THIS IS TRUE

Jer 37:7-14; Ps 84; Eph 1:3-14; Luke 2:22-40

“ What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus(Jhn 18:38). And humankind is still asking that question. The search has reached new levels in recent days. Between politics and pandemics, truth is defined by the extent of information, the source of information, and the agenda of the person or organization spreading the information. Even the same story, given with a certain emphasis or context, can seem wildly different from two opposing sources. Is it no wonder how confused and/or angry we all feel?

            I’ll spend the next few weeks of our readings just looking at the true statements or principles we can cling to from Scripture. I need it to help me feel grounded in the capital T truth, so maybe you can gain some encouragement as well.

            In Jeremiah, we have this week the Truth that God will judge His people. God says “the Chaldeans shall come back and fight against this city. They shall capture it and burn it with fire.”(Jer 37:8) And it happened. Of course the other side of this Truth is that God is patient, not wanting any to perish. He puts up with centuries of unfaithfulness first, and even in His judgment promises restoration.

            Our Psalm offers the simple Truth that if God withholds something, it’s not a good thing for the righteous to have (84:11). This has been an encouragement through many disappointments for me.

            Ephesians overflows with Truth, Chapter 1 focusing on the riches we inherit in the moment we say ‘yes’ to Jesus. These are the True riches that Wall Street and inflation can never take from us. We are wealthy beyond earthly measure!

            And our Gospel reading(Luke 2) shines the Truth in and through two Godly people when they first lay eyes on Jesus. Male and female, elderly servants who likely went unnoticed in the temple as “less important” were the ones who saw the answer to Messianic prayer in the ordinary child of young, inconsequential parents. Both of them saw through the layers of prideful expectations and realized that their Savior was a True Savior, true in a way that the temporary things of this world could never be.

            We have so much Truth! If you’re discouraged by the changes of this world, hold on to the only Truths that matter. These are just a few of them. May they put a song in your heart this week! 

LASTING LOVE

Isa 61:10-62:5; Ps 147:12-20; Gal 3:23-4:7; John 1:1-18

“So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”(Gal 3)

One thing we Christians struggle with is understanding what our relationship to the law is when we are given new life in Christ. Do we still need to live by it? If not, what will guide us as we make decisions in life? How do we know right from wrong? These are all important questions; the temptation is to stay in some sort of legalism in order to measure our own faith. How often we attend church or read the Bible or pray can be evidence of our strong faith, but they can often serve as great disguises for those trying to earn their way to God.

Our Galatians passage offers clear guidance. Paul points out that the law was given us for the purpose of helping us understand what life in Christ should look like. But he’s also quick to point out that the law was temporary, given as a teaching tool to show God’s people what love for God and neighbor looks like. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” The birth of His Son was not plan B, a desperate reaction to our sin. It was always there, waiting for the right time. Not only that, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” This is how we can know right from wrong. His Spirit lives in us, bringing us into such an intimate and loving relationship with Him that we want nothing more than to please Him.

            And love pleases Him. Not a sentimental greeting card love, but a life giving, sacrificial love that is more concerned with doing what’s best than it is in doing what feels good.  Paul even refers to this way of living in other passages as “the law of love,” and by His Spirit who lives in us, we have all we need to live by this law.

            Are you just trying to follow the rules, hoping that will be enough to get you into God’s good graces? Follow the love of Christ instead, and you will know His grace. 

turn again

Zeph 3:14-20 Ps 85; Phil 4:4-9; Luke 3:7-20

Why is it that we treat repentance as a necessary evil in the pursuit of God? According to most of our interpretations of salvation Scriptures, telling someone to repent is a negative command that suggests they are one step away from annihilation, unless they turn. While this may be true on the surface, I think presenting repentance as a backhanded threat leaves something out of the beauty and promise of repentance.

            God loves us. Yes, He hates evil, and therefore hates the evil that resides in sinful people. But He loves all of His creation, and most especially His crowning achievement, humankind. He loves us so much, in fact, that even though we have turned away from Him again and again and again, He has never stopped reaching down to us. Even though He cannot by His nature have fellowship with sin, He determined to make a way. And Jesus is that Way.

            That’s what repentance is about. When we repent, we turn to God. Though turning away from sin happens in the process, the important and relevant element is the One to whom we turn. We simply cannot have both. But I cannot think of one moment I’ve regretted turning. When we consider the love and mercy and care that is available to us on the other side of turning, why ever would we refuse to make the move?

            When we repent, we are making the most positive, life giving choice we will make in all eternity. And it doesn’t stop with our conversion. Turning to God is a lifelong, life giving lifestyle that says “there is nothing I must do or have that is worth losing the good will of my Father. And when I inevitably make those worthless choices, there is nothing so comforting than turning back to Him and finding His welcoming embrace.” Jesus opened the door, and invites us in over and over again. Turn around and enter in.

WAIT

Zech 14:3-9; Psalm 50:1-6; 1Thess 3:6-13; Luke 21:25-33

If there were postgraduate degrees in waiting, I would have a PhD. After 35 years of marriage to an Army man, I have experienced waiting of almost every kind. I’ve waited for him to come home from long deployments. I’ve waited for him to leave on them as well; the Army has perfected the art of “hurry up and wait.” I’ve waited to move to new places and waited to leave the places I wanted to put behind us. Learning to do it well is a lifelong task.

            I also remember waiting for Christmas morning as a child. I could never sleep on Christmas Eve; I was certain that all my dreams would come true in what I found under the tree the next day. The night seemed to last forever, and the disappointment I felt at the reality made the letdown especially hard. Surely there is more to Christmas than this? I remember thinking, even at a young age.

            Little did I know just how right I was. While the world was waiting, God was busy. His plan was moving forward at His perfect pace, and Messiah was coming. Only He was going to enter into the world almost unnoticed. The Savior would first be a baby, who would have to wait too. Wait to grow up, wait to begin His ministry, and wait to see the fulfillment of prophecy. Like me, the Israelites were waiting for something spectacular. But God worked slowly, fulfilling His plan in real time, seconds and minutes and days and years. 

            So, it is good to learn to wait well. The difference in my Christmas pasts and the wait of Advent, though, is that what we wait for will never disappoint us. On the contrary, His coming will justify every moment of the time we’ve spent anticipating Him, preparing for Him, purifying ourselves in Him so that when He appears we will be like Him. As He says in Luke, “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” How near is it? As near as Christmas. Just you wait and see!

ONE KINGDOM

Dan 7:9-14; Psa 93; Rev 1:1-8; John 18:33-37

            There is a popular saying in Christendom when we attempt to explain why, if Christ is King, He has not completely subjected the whole world to His throne. The phrase is, “already and not yet.” In other words, yes, He is the true King of everything. There is no realm that can escape His rule and authority, or His judgment. But the time for all of the final events the prophets speak of has not yet come. Though He is the King, His rule has not yet fully come.

            I struggle with that phrase, even though the logical part of my mind understands the reality of it. If He were fully reigning as the King, there would be no more of the suffering and darkness we see in the world. Justice and peace would be perfect, the lion and the lamb could take a nap together, and we would all be healthy, with relationships we can right now only imagine in their love and purity. It doesn’t require an investigative journalist to see that we’re far from that standard in the world today.

            Does that mean Christians are people without a King? Of course not. In fact, I would say that in light of the invisible nature of the Kingdom today, claiming and proclaiming our citizenship is more important than it will be when “every eye sees Him,” and “every knee bows.” We are the visible representatives of this invisible realm and Ruler. We must take seriously our responsibility to Him, our calling to be His ambassadors. Ambassadors engage through diplomacy, not conflict. We appeal, we do not demand. We achieve our goals through reconciliation and not domination.

            Such a calling requires relationships and trust. It will not come about by throwing down a gauntlet and demanding allegiance. Though the world does not see Him yet, they do see us. What impressions do the people who know His subjects have of the King?

            God’s plan is still unfolding. So the choice is ours. Do we sit silently and wait for the world to burn, or do we think and act and live as citizens of the invisible Kingdom right now? His Kingdom will come, His will, be done. 

WHAT TIME IS IT?

Dan 12:1-4a; Psalm 16; Heb 10:31-39; Mark 13:14-23

“But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.”(Dan 12:1b)

            Exactly what time was Daniel speaking of? Are we there yet? I don’t know about you, but it seems to me we are moving ever closer to the ‘end of days’ so many of the prophets spoke about. On the other hand, perhaps the march of time could go on like this forever, teetering on the edge but never actually tipping. As Christians, we follow long traditions that look for the signs of our Savior’s return. Surely every generation since the ascension of Christ has lived in expectation. And every generation has pointed to current events and attitudes as sure markers of the imminent arrival of our King.

            However, we do not and cannot know when that day will be, regardless of how dire things seem. We do know that instead of gazing at the sky in hope, we’re called to press on. The author of Hebrews says our reward depends on it.“ Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”(Heb 10:35-36)

            So how do we live in the meantime? We get a couple of hints from our readings. First, Jesus promises we will make it. “And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.”(Mark 13:20). Second, the Psalmist reminds us through his prayer of the incredible Resource we have in God. Here are just a few of his thoughts,  I bless the Lord who gives me counsel in the night; also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.”(Ps 16:7-9)

            In Him we receive understanding. We know He is with us. We know we are secure. As long as we have these things, we can go the distance. Don’t look for signs; just look for Him.

images

Rev 7:9-17; Ps 149; Eph 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-36

            I was brought up in a denomination in which any kind of image other than the empty cross was forbidden.  I believed, then, for many years that icons in the church were a form of idolatry.

            When I attended seminary though, the story I learned of church history made me rethink my notions. I learned that icons were a form of storytelling long before the printing press and widespread literacy existed. For centuries, the continuation and education of the church depended on oral instruction. The icons were supplements to the teaching, as well as visual reminders of the invisible God we worship. They were a necessary means by which believers worshipped, just as the Bible is for us today.     Some today may worship the Bible rather than the Christ revealed through it, but I cannot imagine barring the Bible from the Church to prevent that from happening. Images are important to our faith and deserve their proper place in the church.

            Our readings this week invoke many images. Angels around the throne, robes made white by washing them in His blood. Believers singing for joy on their beds. Swords of judgment and nobles bound with chains. The riches that believers possess and the enlightenment of their hearts. And finally, the many images Christ paints of the blessed and the wicked. With such images, it seems that words of instruction are unnecessary. The only appropriate response is wonder.

            If the words of Scripture have grown too familiar for you or you have trouble seeing images in your mind’s eye, find an icon online or elsewhere that tells the story you’re thinking of. Study the details; look for clues about God in hand positions, body positions and the way they interact with one another. This fascinating survey can open up brand-new insights into Who God is and what He does. He reveals Himself in many, many ways. Don’t limit your own access to Him!

perfect obedience

Deut 6:1-9 Ps 119:1-16 Heb 7:23-28 Mark 12:28-34

     The greater story of Scripture can often be lost in our microscopic approach to reading and interpretation. However, the readings this week give us a clear pattern. From Deuteronomy to Mark, the theme is to love God and neighbor, and to incarnate the love of God through obedience. From the very beginning He has offered us a relationship of love and trust. From the first temptation we have responded with hostility and suspicion.    

        But He has never given up on us. The span of the readings is probably 4-5000 years. And the greatest commandment never changed. From Moses to Jesus the message stayed the same. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. As Jesus said in another gospel, on this ‘depends all the law and the prophets’ (Matt 22:40). In other words, if we love God according to the commandment, obedience will take care of itself.

            That may seem simple, because it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It requires truly seeking His will and doing it, in every situation. It means refusing to let fear, or anger or greed or selfishness stand in the way of doing what God wants. The problem is that our human emotions and appetites get in the way, and we let our eyes guide us instead of our love for God. ‘Oh, wretched people that we are, who will save us from this body of death?’ (Rom 7:24, paraphrased).

            ‘Thanks be to God, who delivers us through Christ our Lord!’(Rom 7:25). And this is not a Savior who will fail us when we fail God and ourselves. He is able to save us to the uttermost, because He lives forever, so He never stops interceding for us. (Heb 7:24).

            Unlike the human priests and animal sacrifices that once atoned for sin, when Jesus saves someone, He saves them completely. We are free! Free to love God and to obey Him without fear of failure. We no longer need to fear failure because our compassionate and ever-living High Priest intercedes for us, and will never stop. His perfect obedience covers our failure over and over and over again. 

     And the Father’s love, out of which we were created, is the cause and effect of that. He gave us perfect obedience when He gave us His Son. Therefore, we can walk in freedom and gratitude.

faith in the dark

Isa 59:9-20; Ps 13; Heb 5:11-6:12; Mk 10:46-52

     The story of Bartimaeus is a story of faith in literal darkness. We only get a snapshot of his day-to-day existence, so it’s easy to forget that he lived a whole lifetime of blindness up to now. Think about the days of his life; hungry and often cold, his only hope the pity of strangers to help him. There were no social programs or support groups. It was indeed a desperate life, in which he surely wondered day-to-day whether he would eat.

            The faith he shows us on the road to out of Jericho is a model, an example we can learn from. First, he raised his voice above the crowd. Even though they told him to be quiet, he just yelled louder.

            Next, he knew who Jesus was. Not a rabbi, or a teacher, but the Son of David, the Messiah. When Jesus called him, he didn’t hesitate. He threw down the only bit of security he probably had, his cloak, and went to Jesus. And when Jesus asked him what he wanted, he asked for what only God could give him—his sight.    Think about all the practical needs he had day-to-day. But he asked for the one thing through which he could learn to meet those needs for himself. And even as he saw for the first time, he didn’t focus on himself. Then, he followed Jesus.

            What miracles has Christ done for you? When have you called out to Him in the dark? When has He met your need as only He could? Finally, have you used that healing and freedom to follow Him, or to make your own life a little easier? Take what He has given you and thank Him by serving Him. 

misunderstanding god

Isa 53:4-12; Ps 91; Heb 4:12-16; Mark 10:35-45

People have been misunderstanding God since the very beginning, and I think this phenomenon is reaching an all-time high. I was recently reading a book in which the author was confused to the point of renouncing his Christian faith because he didn’t understand how a ‘good God’ could allow some devastating events in his family. Defaming God because He doesn’t behave like we would wish is popular.

            It’s not new, either. From our readings this week opportunities to misunderstand Him abound. In Isaiah, we thought Christ was afflicted for God’s unknown reason. In reality, He was afflicted for our very well-known sin. By His suffering, we are healed. And here lies another opportunity for God to be misunderstood. I am not healed. Some of my physical afflictions will likely not disappear in this lifetime, and I think most of us recognize that in our own lives. But is this because God doesn’t heal, or just that we have a narrow view of what healing means?

            Likewise, Psalm 91 offers refuge and protection in battle. This Psalm was everywhere when we were first involved in the Iraq war. But does it give a false promise? Certainly soldiers who prayed this Psalm regularly lost their lives and suffered great harm even as they clung to this declaration of protection. But if we do not open our definition of what protection means, we are in danger of calling God a liar.

            Then our Mark passage gives us the ultimate image of pride and misunderstanding when John and James demand to be where they want to be in His glory. Obviously, they completely misunderstood who He was and why He was here. Even Jesus’ words, designed to show them the way of the kingdom, did not open their eyes. We laugh at them, but are we really any different?

            The Hebrews passage lands us where we need to be if we want to understand God. His word and the Word (Jesus and the Bible itself) both show us not only who God is, but who we are. The arrogance of thinking we have Him all figured out or of shaking our fist in His face because we don’t like His ways is dangerous. We are exposed before Him, obligated to give our Creator an account with only the faithful high priest, Christ, to intercede for us.

But only Christ is enough. We need to know Him, understand Him as best we are able, and learn to look at the world through our understanding of Him rather than looking at Him through our understanding of the world.

LIFELONG FAITH

Amos 5:6-15; Ps 90:1-12; Heb 3:1-6; Mark 10:17-31

Lately I spend a lot of time lamenting getting older. Just trying to stay healthy takes more time each year; aches and pains multiply and I simply cannot do all I once could do in a day. When I read Moses’ words, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away”(Ps 90:10), I feel a slight sense of panic. Can it really be over so soon? With the different health issues I’ve struggled through in the past few years, I have found myself vacillating between a sense of urgency and a sense of hopelessness. It’s almost over and I haven’t even grown up yet!

            That is the root of our restlessness though, isn’t it? We are limited beings, with limitations of time and place, perception and knowledge. We cannot know what we do not know, and we make most decisions with even less information than we think we have. For example, I can make a decision to buy a house, but I cannot know that house won’t burn down or be crushed by a natural disaster. I can make wise decisions as a parent, but I cannot know all the other factors that will play into my child’s path of life, potentially changing everything I hoped and prayed for her. We can’t control the future, or even predict it.

            But we know the One who can. Things that would sweep us away, He can sweep away as if they’re nothing (vs 5). The passage of time is completely in His hands; what He created, He will complete in His time. So the remedy for our ignorance (not an insult, a simple fact!) is to know the One that knows everything. He sees our secret sins (vs8), yet He is still our dwelling place (vs.8).

            Like Moses, we are servants of God, called to be faithful. But Christ is the Son of God who is faithful, so that we are His house.(Heb). Notice the promise in this; we are called to be faithful, but we have been given the Son of God whose faithfulness makes us faithful. That is a guarantee! As you number your days, trust His faithfulness to be assured that you will accomplish all His will for you.

PERFECT UNION

Gen 2:18-24; Psalm 8; Heb 2:9-18; Mark 10:2-16

Marriage is hard! Bringing two people together from different backgrounds, different ways of experiencing the world, and different temperaments has the potential for disaster. So it is easy to understand why the divorce rate in our country, even among Christian couples is around 50-75%.

            Divorce is in itself an expression of the fallout of the curse. When God created man, He created woman to be his perfect partner. I believe the first couple in the Garden experienced a kind of unity that we can’t even understand; after all, she was created as God’s crowning achievement, the completion of His perfect world, literally formed out of the flesh of the man.

            But the Fall happened. The entire Creation broke, becoming a crippled, twisted version of itself, and as the stewards of that creation men and women went to war, the man insisting on being in charge while the woman chafed at his forced rule. Into this environment, enter marriage. What God intended to be a beautiful expression of the unity of Him and the church now wars constantly with the temptations to live out the curse.

            But as followers of Christ, we are the new creation. The old has passed away, and God calls us to live out the dignity and majesty that Christ came to restore. He also equips us with the Holy Spirit, who teaches us and helps us to embody the qualities that make a strong marriage possible. All He asks from us is our cooperation.

            This is much more difficult than any of us ever prepare for, because we cannot know what challenges will come our way. This is why we must mean it when we say “‘til death do us part.” We make the promise to God as much as we do to one another. When we start with that understanding, no man—including we ourselves, or anyone else—can separate us.

            A long, loving marriage is a blessing. But the blessing often comes because we walked out the commitment to God and one another in the darkest of days. God has brought you together with your spouse. Rejoice in the miracle.

SIN, I PRESUME

Num 11:4-6,10-17, 24-29 James 4:7-5:6 Mark 9:38-48

Psa 19:13 “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!”

            What is a presumptuous sin? It was an interesting dive into the internet trying to discover to the answer to that question. Some believe it’s a sin you commit with full knowledge beforehand, but a look at the word meaning says ‘arrogant, proud, or insolent.’ I’d like to propose some examples we see in our readings of this type of sin.

            First, in Numbers we see a young man “tattling” to Moses about the two men prophesying in the camp. Clearly, he expected it to be stopped. Joshua, who is elsewhere known for his faithfulness, tells Moses “make them stop!” In their own arrogance, these two believed they knew whom God had authorized to prophesy. But Moses’ response tells us that their interference was itself sin. “Are you jealous for my sake?” he says. “ “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!” Moses knew something they did not. God’s Spirit was resting on these men; in their ignorance, these young men tried to exclude God’s prophets because they wanted to protect Moses.

            In James, we see a couple of examples of this kind of sin. There is the sin of judging ones’ brother. James says bluntly “The one who judges his brother judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

            James’ other example is the presumptions we make about the future, which we cannot predict nor control. He warns us to presume nothing about our life, but humbly submit it to God’s hand and direction.

            Finally, in Mark we have the disciples running to Jesus, demanding He stop others from casting out demons because they “do not follow us.” Jesus quickly reminds them that there is plenty of work to be done in His name. The disciples wanted to exclude someone, to protect their territory. That may be the most arrogant sin of all; exclusion.

            We do not get to choose the gifts God gives to others, and how He calls them to use those gifts. We cannot judge another’s heart by their outward appearance. We are promised no more than the moment we inhabit right now, and we have no right at all to exclude anyone from the kingdom based on our very subjective opinions about their worthiness. These are all presumptuous sins; sins of pride and arrogance. We must learn to walk in humility, and humbly extend the kingdom to ‘whosoever will.’ Then let God grow His kingdom.