November 2, 2008

Matthew 23:1-121 Thessalonians 2:9-13 Those poor old scribes and Pharisees! The Gospel writers sure give them a hard time! It’s easy to start thinking of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day as really terrible people — as hypocrites, as stuck-up, high & mighty, selfish people who enjoyed lording their knowledge and authority over everyone else. The Pharisees really do get a bad reputation in the Gospels as the people who were too concerned with the letter of the religious law, and not enough concerned with the spirit of it. Matthew’s Gospel has Jesus pointing to the scribes and Pharisees and saying, “do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” Now, the Pharisees aren’t ALL bad. Jesus is acknowledging that most of their teachings are okay. The problem is that they’re not following their own teachings. They’re not really living by them. They’re talking the talk, but not really walking the walk. I feel for the Pharisees though, because walking the walk can be tough. Most of the time, it’s not too hard to figure out what would be the right thing to do. It’s actually following through and DOING the right thing that’s more challenging. And as soon as you’re in a position of teaching someone else how to do something, the pressure comes on for you to get it right too. Perhaps those of you who are parents can relate to this… when you find … Read more »

October 30, 2011

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 Matthew 23:1-12 In many churches, including Presbyterian ones, the last Sunday in October is designated as “Reformation Sunday.” As Presbyterians, we are part of a Christian tradition or a family of churches that is called “Reformed.” And although we don’t celebrate Reformation Sunday every year, we have the opportunity on this Sunday to remember and give thanks for the Reformed tradition of which we are a part. I suppose that a good place to start on Reformation Sunday would be with a few definitions of terms. My apologies to those of you who may have grown up in a Presbyterian Church and heard this stuff about a million times already. First of all, there is the word “Presbyterian” – the Christian denomination of which we are a part. The word “Presbyterian” doesn’t describe our theology or our beliefs as a church, but it describes the way our church is structured and how we make decisions. “Presbyterian” comes from a Greek word “presbyter” which means “elder.” Presbyterian churches are ruled by elders who come together in the courts of the church. These courts are called sessions at the local, congregational level, presbyteries that oversee a number of congregations and ministers in a geographic area, synods that cover larger areas, and General Assemblies for whole countries. This Presbyterian type of church structure was a significant reformation from a structure that included rule by bishops. So significant, I suppose, that it came to be the actual name of our denomination. … Read more »