Sermon Series: Walk Humbly With God
Sermon: Forgive Us Our Trespasses
And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
As God makes a covenant with God’s people, God begins by with this description of God’s divine attributes: God is merciful, gracious, loving, faithful, slow to anger, and forgiving. In this covenant, God promised to always forgive us, to always be gracious and merciful. The question for us today is how will we respond? For what do we need forgiveness today? How can we lift them up to our God, who always offers us forgiveness?
Prayer: Almighty God, no matter what we may face today, help us to trust in your unfailing love, which surpasses our own understanding. Amen.
Too often, we keep “count” of the wrongs committed against us. We hold grudges and refuse to forgive our neighbors. The Psalmist reminds us that if God counted our sins and wrongdoing the same way we did with our neighbors, we would not be able to stand before God. But because God forgives us, we can hope for a new beginning and a better tomorrow. Do you have a grudge against someone? Do you keep track of wrongdoings against you? How can we let go of our grudges?
Prayer: Forgiving God, help us to let go of our grudges and to find hope and redemption in you. Amen.
What would happen if we forgave as God forgave us? The Psalmist paints an image of what restoration can look like–”steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (v10). When we are forgiven, we are restored into the life that God intended for us and for each other. What would our relationships look like if we could receive and offer forgiveness? What would a restored relationship look like?
Prayer: God, help us to let go of our anger and to forgo our wrath. Guide us to live into the restored relationships you intended for us. Amen.
In Jesus Christ, we are called to put to death our old ways of life and to be clothed with the attitudes and practices of Christ. This means that we must clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, and forgive each other as Christ forgives us. What old habits need to die in our own lives so that we can bear the attitudes and practices of Christ? What new clothes can we put on to be like Christ?
Prayer: Compassionate and loving God, let us put aside the ways of life that which destroys, and be clothed with the attitudes and practices of Christ. Amen.
Living a new life in Christ means changing our old behaviors. Paul encouraged the church in Ephesus to speak truth to their neighbors and to “not let the sun go down on your anger.” Being the church meant caring for each other, even when it was difficult, and to work hard to be honest with each other. Who do you need to be honest to today?
Prayer: God, help us to speak truth to our neighbors and to let go of our anger, even when it is difficult. Amen.
Being a believer means being honest about our sins and confessing them before God and one another. When we confess our sins, God will forgive us. What confessions do you need to make today? What places of sin and brokenness need healing and forgiveness? You are encouraged to spend some time confessing your sins, knowing that our God is a God of forgiveness and grace.
Prayer: God, we confess that we have sinned against you and one another. Help us to be honest about our sins, and receive your forgiveness. Amen.
Series: Walk Humbly With God
Sermon: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Scripture Reading: Exodus 16:1-8, John 6:26-35
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:32-35)
Monday March 20 — Exodus 16:1-8
When the Israelites started their journey through the wilderness, it did not take long for them to start complaining to Moses (see also Exodus 15:24). They did not trust Moses – or God – and claimed that they would have preferred to remain in Egypt. As a result of their complaining, God fed them with bread from heaven. The lesson is not that God responds to our complaints, but that God provides for our needs when we answer God’s call and follow God’s leadership. What new journey is God calling you to begin (or continue) today? What helps you move forward when you want to stay in your comfort zone instead of trusting God?
- Prayer: Faithful God, forgive me when I complain about what I don’t have instead of trusting the promises you have made. Amen.
Tuesday March 21 — Exodus 16:9-21
In the wilderness, the Israelites learned that God would provide what they needed for each day – no more, no less. This tested their willingness to trust God. When the people tried to stockpile the food that God provided, it “became foul” overnight (Exodus 16:20). Like the Israelites, we are often tempted to let fear and doubt override our desire to trust that God is faithful. We hold back, “just in case.” When have you experienced God’s faithfulness? How do those experiences help you trust that God will provide when you ask God for your daily bread?
- Prayer: Generous God, thank you for providing what I need. Help me discern the difference between my needs and my wants. Amen.
Wednesday March 22 — Exodus 16:22-36
Remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy was of primary importance for the Israelites (see Exodus 20:8-11). So, Moses instructed them to trust that God would provide enough manna that they could observe the Sabbath and have enough to eat. Surviving their wilderness journey required both trust and obedience. In the same way, our life journeys also require both trust and obedience. What helps you trust God enough to do what God asks of you?
- Prayer: God of Grace, help me trust you more fully today so that I will live the way you expect me to live. Amen.
Thursday March 23 — John 6:1-15
The story of Jesus feeding the multitude is the only one of Jesus’ miracles that is recorded in all four of the New Testament’s Gospels. John’s account includes a detail not found in the other Gospel: the bread and fish are a young boy’s lunch. Jesus took everything that the boy had, blessed it, and multiplied it so that the multitude had more than enough to eat. This powerful story points to the way God can take everything we have to offer, bless and multiply it so that there is more than enough for everything. The question is: are we willing to trust Jesus with everything we have?
- Prayer: Lord God, give me courage enough to trust you with everything that I have. Use it to bless others. Amen.
Friday March 24 — John 6:15-24
The feeding of the multitude inspired the crowd to take Jesus by force and make him their king. They didn’t understand that Jesus had come to be a different kind of king – a different kind of messiah. One of the reasons that the crowds ultimately rejected Jesus was that he was unwilling to be the kind of messiah-king that they desired, one who would provide military and political leadership. Instead he was a servant, a crucified King. What are your expectations of Jesus? Have you ever been disappointed in Jesus? What will help you trust that he is the Messiah-King that you need, even if he is not the one you want?
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for sending Jesus to be the kind of savior I need, not simply the savior I want.
Saturday March 25 — John 6:25-35
In John’s Gospel, miracles are called signs. They point beyond themselves to what God is doing in the world – beyond the boundaries of time and space. God not only answers our prayer for daily bread (to eat), God uses us to answer the prayers of others (for daily bread to eat). God also provides eternal bread of life through Jesus. We are sustained – body, mind, and spirit – through Jesus, who is God’s greatest gift. If we accept the gift of Jesus, we experience the miracle of abundant life with a capital “L”.
- Prayer: God of Life, give me the living bread that is your Son, Jesus. Grant me the gift of Life through him. Amen.
Series: Walk Humbly With God
Youth Musical: Yes, I Believe
Scripture Reading: Luke 9:21-27
He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
Monday March 13 — Luke 4:1-15
The Christian season of Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and continues through Easter Saturday. The 40 days of Lent (which don’t include Sundays) remind us of Jesus’ 40-day sojourn in the wilderness, where, the Gospels tell us, he fasted and was tempted and tested by the devil. What Jesus is tempted to do is not bad. Jesus could have fed a lot of hungry people by turning stones into bread. He could have changed the world through political power and converted many unbelievers through dramatic displays of God’s power. But he chose to trust God and God’s plan for the salvation of the world. In what ways are you tempted to do good things that are not part of God’s plan for your life. What helps you trust God completely?
- Prayer: Lord, help me resist temptation today; trust you more fully; and grow in love, faith, and service. Amen.
Tuesday March 14 — Deuteronomy 8:1-20
The 8th chapter of Deuteronomy is a warning to everyone who is tempted to forget God when life is going well. In times of trials and tribulations we cry out to God for help, but when life is good we are tempted to worship idols of our own making and forget that all good gifts – which include life itself – come from God. The Israelites were told to recall their 40-year journey through the wilderness. What helps you to remember God when your life is going well?
- Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for blessing my life. Help me to remember that all good gifts come from you. Amen.
Wednesday March 15 — Isaiah 2:5-22
One of the Bible’s central themes is that God is not honored by human arrogance. Prophets like Isaiah announce judgment on the idolatry that distorts our relationship with God and call us to repent of our sin. As Christians, we should be confident, but not in our own abilities. We are confident that God is God and we are not. We have confidence in God’s goodness, not our own. Spend time reflecting on the goodness of God today. In prayer, ask God to help you see yourself more clearly.
- Prayer: God of Mercy, forgive my self-centered arrogance. Teach me to live with confidence and faith in you alone. Amen.
Thursday March 16 — Luke 14:7-14
Like the prophets before him, Jesus also talked a lot about the dangers of the human ego. Many of his lessons point to the great reversal: “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:30). If we take seriously his teaching and example, our priorities will be challenged and our lives will be turned upside down. He wants his disciples to be more concerned with faithful service than with social status. How do you feel about what Jesus has to say? What helps you stay humble when you want to be exalted?
- Prayer: God of Love, thank you for the teaching and example of Jesus. Help me to be more and more like him every day. Amen.
Friday March 17 — 1 Peter 3:8-22
Despite its serious message, 1 Peter is a hopeful letter. It encourages Christians to be faithful in all circumstances and to be ready to give a witness – with gentleness and reverence – at any time. It says that we should do what is right, even if it is costly, because we will be following the example of Jesus who suffered on our behalf. What helps you do the right thing no matter what the consequences might be? How might you strengthen your faith so that you can follow the example of Jesus today?
- Prayer: Eternal God, grant me courage to follow the example of Jesus and do something good for someone else today.
Saturday March 18 — Philippians 2:1-11
Obedience and humility are two primary characteristics of Jesus’ disciples because they are two of the primary characteristics of Jesus himself. We are expected to follow Jesus’ example in all aspects of our lives, even going so far as to “let the same mind be in [us] that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). This is not easy. The gap between who we are and the example that Jesus sets for us is very wide. When we try to follow the example of Jesus, we discover – over and over – that we need God’s grace. What might obedience and humility look like in your life right now?
- Prayer: Lord, fill me with your Spirit so that my life will reflect Jesus’ obedience and humility. Amen.
Series: Walk Humbly With God
Sermon: Thy Kingdom Come
Scripture Reading: Luke 11:1-13, Luke 21:34-38
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” (Luke 11:1-4)
Monday March 6 — Luke 11:1-4
Like Matthew (Matthew 6:9-13), Luke gives us an account of Jesus’ teaching about prayer. Unlike Matthew, Luke’s version of The Lord’s Prayer is introduced by a question from Jesus’ disciples who ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus’ response to the disciples’ request is less about finding the “magic words” or a formulaic approach to praying the “right way” than it is about nurturing our relationship with God. Because God uses prayer to change our lives, praying The Lord’s Prayer leads to faithful discipleship. How might God change your life through The Lord’s Prayer today?
- Prayer: Lord God, teach me to pray the way you would have me pray. Transform my life by your grace. Amen.
Tuesday March 7 — Luke 11:5-13
After teaching his disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1-4), Jesus uses two illustrations to describe the importance of persisting in prayer and trusting in the goodness of God, our heavenly Father. Pay close attention to what Jesus says in Luke 11:13. God wants to give us good gifts, just like human parents give good gifts to their children, and the best gift of all is the Holy Spirit. Have you asked God to fill you with the Holy Spirit? Read Romans 8:26-27 and spend time with God in prayer.
- Prayer: Merciful God, fill me with your Spirit. Grant me the gifts I need to grow in faith and serve you today. Amen.
“Your Kingdom come” is the key phrase is Luke’s account of The Lord’s Prayer. The Kingdom of God is the primary subject of Jesus’ teaching and ministry and is supposed to be the primary focus of his disciples’ life and ministry. As followers of Jesus, we can strive for God’s Kingdom because we can trust that God will provide for our needs (by answering our prayer: Give us each day our daily bread.) How do the “worries” of your life impact your relationship with God? What will help you trust God enough today that you can pray for and “strive for [God’s] kingdom” (Luke 12:31)?
- Prayer: Eternal God, help me let go of the worries and anxieties that trouble me so that I can strive for your eternal Kingdom. Amen.
Thursday March 9 — Luke 21:29-38
When we pray “your Kingdom come,” just as Jesus taught us, we are not only asking to experience the presence of God in our lives today, we are also asking for the coming of God’s Kingdom, when Jesus’ returns. According to the Gospels, Jesus insists that faithful disciples will anticipate and be ready for the coming of the Kingdom at any moment in time. We are to be alert and watchful at all times, because we believe that God will answer our prayers. Have you seen signs of God’s Kingdom recently? Are you ready to experience the presence of God today?
- Prayer: Loving God, open my eyes and ears so that I can see and hear the signs of your presence in the world around me. Amen.
Friday March 10 — Luke 22:14-20
The sacrament of Holy Communion is one of the signs of God’s Kingdom in the world. When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we remember that God’s Kingdom is a Kingdom of love and grace. We don’t enter the Kingdom or experience God’s presence because we are worthy. We enter the Kingdom, because God loves us and sent Jesus to be our Savior. What is it like for you to depend on God’s mercy? Are you able to acknowledge your need for God’s grace?
- Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for loving us so much that you sent Jesus to offer us salvation.
Saturday March 11 — Luke 23:39-43
According to Luke, as Jesus is dying on the cross he offers salvation to one of the criminals who is dying on an adjacent cross. The other man’s request is striking: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus’ response is also striking: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The point is clear. Life with Jesus – in the Kingdom of God – is paradise. When we pray, “your Kingdom come,” we are asking that, by God’s grace, we will be with Jesus in paradise. Can you pray the criminal’s prayer today?
- Prayer: Lord Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom. Amen.
Series: Walk Humbly With God
Sermon: Our Father In Heaven
Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:7-13, John 14:1-11
“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13)
Monday February 27 — Micah 6:6-8
The title of our new sermon series is taken from Micah 6:8. The prophet describes a conversation between Israel and God. It’s about God’s expectations. What does God require? Burnt offerings? Gifts? Sacrifice? The answer, in verse 8, suggests that God’s expectations are clear: what God requires is that we “do justice,” “love kindness,” and “walk humbly with your God.” What do you think about these requirements? They seem simple, but are not easy. What helps you walk humbly with God every day?
- Prayer: Eternal God, help me do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you this week. Teach me your ways so that my life is pleasing to you. Amen.
Tuesday February 28 — Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) is Jesus’ inaugural address as he describes the coming of God’s heavenly Kingdom (see Matthew 4:17). The middle section of the sermon describes three critical spiritual disciplines, giving alms, praying, and fasting. Jesus insists that his disciples practice these disciplines, not to be recognized for extraordinary piety, but to deepen their relationship with God. Which spiritual disciplines are most important to you? Which spiritual disciplines deepen your relationship with God? Which disciplines will you practice today?
- Prayer: Faithful God, grant me the courage I need to practice the spiritual disciplines that will deepen my relationship with you. Let them be means of your grace in my life. Amen.
Wednesday March 1 — Matthew 6:7-13
What we know as The Lord’s Prayer is based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:7-13 and Luke 11:2-4. According to Matthew, Jesus’ disciples are to make six requests (petitions) to God, which reflect the themes of the Gospel and describe God’s preferred future for the world. Instead of asking God for what we want, Jesus teaches us to ask for what God wants – the complete transformation of the world. Consider the difference between your prayers and The Lord’s Prayer. Which parts of The Lord’s Prayer are most difficult for you to pray?
- Prayer: God in Heaven, let my prayers reflect your agenda for the world. Transform the world so that it more fully reflects your Kingdom of love and grace. Amen.
Thursday March 2 — John 14:1-11
In John’s Gospel, Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure by describing the intertwining relationships between God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the disciples. Jesus’ relationship with his heavenly parent is a central theme throughout the Gospel and he insists that his life – his words and deeds – ultimately reveal the nature and character of the heavenly Father. How does Jesus’ description of God as Father help your relationship with God? What does it mean for you to be a child of God?
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to reveal yourself to the world. Help me understand that you are my heavenly parent and that I am your child. Amen.
Friday March 3 — Romans 8:14-17
According to New Testament writers, Jesus refers to God as “Abba,” which was a common Aramaic word for a Father. It emphasizes the intimate relationship that Jesus had with God. To Jesus, God was not a distant, uninterested being; God was as involved in Jesus’ life as a loving parent is with a child. The Good News of the New Testament is that, by God’s grace, Jesus’ disciples can have the same kind of intimate relationship with God. Read Matthew 7:7-11 and consider how prayer to “Abba” God leads to a life of trust in God’s faithfulness.
- Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for the spirit of adoption, for welcoming me as one of your children. Grant me the ability to trust you in all things and at all times.
Saturday March 4 — Ezekiel 36:22-28
Through the prophet Ezekiel, God reminds Israel that God’s actions are based on God’s goodness and not as a reward for human faithfulness. In fact, God blesses Israel in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness. This is what it means to hallow, or honor, God’s name. In The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray for God’s purposes to be accomplished, so that God will be honored. When you pray The Lord’s Prayer, what do you expect that God will do in your life? How is God answering The Lord’s Prayer in your life? In the church? How does your life honor God?
- Prayer: Almighty God, fulfill your purposes in my life, so that your name will be honored by my words and actions today. Teach me to pray according to your will for the world. Amen.
Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: 24 Hours That Changed the World
Scripture Reading: Mark 14:26-31, Mark 15:1-15
Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:12-15)
Monday February 20 — Mark 14:12-42
The final 24 hours of Jesus’ earthly life began with a Passover meal. In a traditional Passover meal, someone asks the following question: Why is this night different from all other nights? Even though Jesus predicted his death three times, his disciples had no idea how different this Passover meal would be. They had no idea that the events of the evening would not only change their lives, they would change history. Which part of this reading speaks most powerfully to you? Which part of the disciples’ experience most closely matches your own? Can you relate to Jesus’ disciples in any way?
- Prayer: God of passion, help me to find myself in the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Increase my understanding of your will for my life. Amen.
Tuesday February 21 — Mark 14:43-72
Peter’s denial of Jesus is one of the mostly distinctly human stories in the Bible. Despite his brash protests, Peter—as predicted by Jesus—denied knowing Jesus three times before dawn. The Gospel writers suggest that both Jesus and Peter were on trial that night. Both were convicted, but only one of them was guilty. Keep Peter’s failure in mind while you read John 21:1-17. Jesus’ faithfulness under trial redeems Peter’s failure under trial. How does Jesus’ faithfulness redeem your failures under trial?
- Prayer: Faithful God, forgive my faults and failures. Redeem my life and use me as an instrument of your love and grace in the world that desperately needs to know you. Amen.
Wednesday February 22 — Mark 15:1-15
The name Barabbas means “son of the father.” When Pilate asked the crowd which prisoner they wanted him to release, he asked them to choose between two “sons of the father.” Barabbas was a rebel, a zealot who wanted to overthrow the Romans. This was the “son of the father” the people chose. In his own way, Barabbas wanted to save his people and lead to them freedom. This was the kind of savior the people chose. Can you understand why the crowd might have chosen Barabbas? Which “son of the father” would you choose?
- Prayer: Saving God, reveal to me today how much I need the saving grace that is only offered through Jesus. Help me resist the temptation to choose other “saviors.” Amen.
Thursday February 23 — Mark 15:16-39
There is great irony in the passion of Jesus Christ. Jesus was accused of blasphemy and treason because he claimed to be the Messiah and King. When the religious leaders and the soldiers mocked Jesus, everything they said was true: their taunts revealed God’s truth. The man dying on the cross was the Messiah and the King. By not saving himself, Jesus saved the world. The Gospel is consistent. Jesus is the Messiah, Savior, and King we need, not necessarily the Messiah, Savior, and King we want. Can you accept this? Can you accept a crucified King?
- Prayer: Crucified Savior, Thank you for saving me from the power of sin and death. I accept your love and grace. Today, I choose to serve and follow you. Amen.
Friday February 24 — Mark 15:40-16:8
Mark’s Gospel has multiple endings. The earliest manuscripts end at Mark 16:8. (It is believed that verses 9-20 were added at a later date.) This ending leaves the story hanging, unfinished. There seems to be some uncertainty about what happened next. Think back to the very first verse of Mark’s Gospel. Mark 1:1 says that the 16 chapters of the story are “the beginning of the good news.” This suggests that the Gospel story was still being written in the lives of the original disciples and in the lives of the disciples to whom Mark was writing. It is still being written in the life of everyone who follows Jesus today. How is the Gospel story being written in your life?
- Prayer: Eternal God, continue to tell the Gospel story through my life. Use me as a witness to the transforming power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Saturday February 25 — Luke 23:33-35
According to the four Gospel writers, Jesus spoke seven phrases before he died on the cross. What the Gospel writers recorded as Jesus’ final words tell us a great deal about what the writers believed about Jesus. They tell us a great deal about the meaning of Jesus’ death. Luke tells us that Jesus asked God to forgive those who crucified him. What do these words of Jesus mean to you? Is forgiveness one of the primary meanings of Jesus’ death for you? What do you think about Jesus asking God to forgive those who crucified him?
- Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me of my sins. Help me follow Jesus’ example and forgive others. Transform my life so that I can serve you more fully every day. Amen.
Sermon Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: The Enemies He Made
Scriptures: Mark 12:13-27, Mark 14:1-2, 10-11
Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.
While the story of the cursing of the fig tree has long puzzled readers, the point that Mark wants to make is that through faith all things are truly possible, even when it seems impossible. What would your life look like if we followed the command of Jesus to bring everything to God in prayer. This week, you are encouraged to pray, even for things that seem difficult and impossible, trusting that God is truly the author of our lives.
“Who said you could do this? By what authority are you doing these things?” These are the questions that the religious leaders demanded of Jesus as he grew in influence. They felt threatened by Jesus so they questioned his authority, hoping to undermine him. What they didn’t realize was that the source of Jesus’ authority was like nothing the earth had seen before. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to trust in Christ’s authority above all other authorities. What would our world look like if we took seriously the authority of Jesus Christ above all other authorities?
The religious leaders wanted to “trap Jesus.” This is not unlike politics to today, one side trying to trap another to gain the upper hand. But Jesus refused to get dragged into partisan politics. Instead, he challenged his audience to a deeper understanding of the scriptures. In a very politically charged climate, we are quick to make accusations, point fingers, and take sides. Christ models for us a different and unexpected path. Can we trust Jesus enough to follow him to the cross in a posture of humility?
The most important commandment is to Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. These commandments set the foundation for all of the other laws we find in the scriptures. Are you living in a way that is faithful to these two commandments? If not, what can you do this week to honor these commandments?
Stay awake! This is the message Jesus has for us today. Jesus encourages us to stay spiritual awake, to be intentional about staying active in our spiritual lives, just as we would in our physical lives. This includes setting aside time for prayer, scripture reading, acts of mercy and justice. How can you set aside intentional time today to honor God, honor your family, honor your neighbors and honor yourself?
What is the most valuable gift you have ever received? What made it so valuable? How did you treasure this gift? In this passage, a woman comes with costly perfume and anoints Jesus on his head. While she is criticized by those who were with Jesus, Jesus praises her for her extraordinary gift, thanking her for her service and telling his companions that her act will be remembered. How can you share an extraordinary gift this week?
Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: A Servant Leader
Scripture Reading: Mark 10:32-45
So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
Monday February 6 — Mark 8:14-9:1
The blindness of Jesus’ disciples is one of the themes of Mark’s Gospel. Their inability to comprehend the necessity of Jesus’ suffering and death—illustrated by Peter’s rebuke of Jesus in Mark 8:32—makes them just as blind as the man in Bethsaida. The disciples will need a second touch of Jesus’ healing hand before they will be able to see clearly. Everyone has some blind spots. Are you aware of any blind spots in your life? What part of the Gospel message is “fuzzy” for you? Where do you need Jesus to help you see more clearly?
- Prayer: God of Healing, grant me clarity of vision, so that I might see more clearly and understand more completely how to faithfully follow Jesus in my life. Amen.
Tuesday February 7 — Mark 9:2-29
The account of Jesus’ transfiguration on a “high mountain” serves as a turning point in the Gospel. Jesus is now moving toward Jerusalem, where the events he has foretold (Mark 8:31) will occur. On the mountain with three disciples, the identity of Jesus is affirmed, and the disciples are instructed by the heavenly voice, “listen to him!” The events surrounding the transfiguration show Jesus’ frustration with the disciples and their need to listen carefully and see clearly. What is stopping you from fully comprehending the truth of the Gospel? Are there parts of Jesus’ message that are hard for you to hear? Are you willing to acknowledge your need to learn?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive my lack of faith and hardened heart. Open my ears and heart to truly listen to Jesus and learn from him how to live a meaningful life. Amen.
Wednesday February 8 — Mark 9:30-49
Mark intentionally shows the contrast between Jesus, the suffering servant, and the disciples, who argue about which one of them is the greatest. Jesus insists that greatness in the Kingdom is not about being first, but is about being last, like children in the first-century world. He says that when his disciples welcome and serve the least and last, they serve Jesus himself. (See also Matthew 25:31-46.) These words of Jesus challenge our 21st century sensibilities. How do you feel about them? Are you willing to be last?
- Prayer: God of Sacrificial Love, show me today how to love and serve the same way Jesus loved and served. Help me seek the kind of greatness that Jesus describes. Amen.
Thursday February 9 — Mark 10:1-31
Jesus was unafraid to tackle difficult subjects like marriage and divorce and wealth. The fact that he often challenged the conventional wisdom of his day helps explain why he attracted a large following and created such strong opposition. The high expectations of Jesus’ teaching (see Matthew 5:20) leads to the conversation recorded in Mark 10:26-27. Read Mark 10:26-27 again. Reflect on the promise made by Jesus (in verse 27). Can you affirm this statement? Will you acknowledge your need for God’s saving grace?
- Prayer: Gracious God, please forgive the many ways that I fail to live up to your expectations for my life. I need your grace. Help me live according to your will. Amen.
Friday February 10 — Mark 10:32-46
Despite Jesus’ teaching and his repeated prediction of his suffering and death, the disciples are still blind to the truth about Jesus, about the Kingdom of God, and about Jesus’ expectations for their lives. The healing of Bartimaeus’ blindness ends this section of the Gospel. With it, Mark emphasizes the need for followers of Jesus to have their eyes opened, so that they can see clearly as they follow Jesus to the cross and beyond. Mark wants us to understand that Jesus is the Messiah we need, not necessarily the Messiah we want. Are you willing to follow Jesus to the cross and beyond?
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be the Messiah I need. Despite my reluctance to journey with Jesus, today I choose to serve and follow him alone.
Saturday February 11 — Mark 11:1-11
When Jesus enters Jerusalem with his disciples, he is hailed as a King. The contrast between the events of Palm Sunday and Good Friday is intentional. Mark insists that Jesus is God’s King, but that he will be a crucified King. His crown will be made of thorns and his earthly throne will be a cross. Sadly, many people in Jesus’ day, and in ours, are unable to accept that Jesus’ death and resurrection is God’s greatest display of divine power. Too many people prefer earthly, human power to the power of sacrificial love. Are you willing to trust the power of God’s love?
- Prayer: Almighty God, even though I struggle to understand what it means to serve a crucified King, I long to experience the life-changing power of your love and grace. Amen.
Sermon Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: A Man of Power
Scriptures: Mark 5:1-20, Mark 8: 22-26
They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’
What are the demons in our lives? While stories of exorcisms seem outdated, distasteful, or misunderstood, we have all experienced our own personal demons–regrets, failures, and fears that linger in our minds and hearts. These demons have great power in our lives and gone unchecked, can take over. This powerful story of healing reminds us that Jesus has the power to heal and overcome our demons if we are willing to submit to him.
“Your faith has made you well.” In this passage, Jesus heals a woman who had been suffering for many years and a young girl who had fallen very ill. While Jesus is the one that heals, he makes it clear that our faith is important in our healing process. Our willingness to be humble and to act in faith are powerful acts of discipleship that can cause true transformation and healing. How can you act in faith this week?
Being called as a disciple means being willing to go out and live the life Jesus taught. This is the mission Jesus intended for all his disciples! In this passage, Jesus sent out his disciples two by two to proclaim, heal, and overcome evil. Like the disciples, we are called not only to ministry of our own, but to go out in the name, spirit, and power of God to heal and to proclaim. How can you live out this calling this week?
In one of the most famous stories of the Bible, we read the story of how Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed more than 5000 that had gathered to hear and listen. The food that Jesus provides for us will always provide for us and will never run out, even when it doesn’t make mathematical sense. Read these stories this week as spiritual food, one that multiplies many times over.
What makes us good and righteous are not whether we follow the right rules or live the life expected of us, but whether we are pure of heart. Jesus cares less about whether we went to the right school, got the right job, or drive the right car, but asks instead, do we bear the fruits of the spirit in all we do–love, joy, peace, thankfulness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control? This is the true measure of our goodness. How can we live into these fruits this week?
Like the Pharisees in this passage, we are a cynical people. We demand proof and evidence, not realizing that we are blind to the truth and miracles Jesus has revealed to us. How can we open our hearts and ears this week so we can truly see and understand that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life?
Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: He Taught Them in Parables
Scripture Reading: Mark 4:1-12, Mark 4:13-20
“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” (Mark 4:3-9)
Monday January 23 — Mark 2:15-3:6
Today’s reading contains three “controversy stories.” In each case, Jesus is confronted by Pharisees. The Pharisees were a group of religious leaders who were trying to reform Judaism by enforcing high expectations of piety and morality. The conflict with the authorities foreshadows and anticipates Jesus’ passion and death (Mark 2:20, 3:6). In this section of the Gospel, it becomes clear that the values of the Kingdom of God conflict with the conventional wisdom of the religious leaders and others. Take some time for personal reflection and ask yourself if there is any conflict between the values of the Kingdom and the values you hold dear.
- Prayer: God of new creation, help me see clearly that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Help me follow him and trust him, even when his values contradict my own. Amen.
Tuesday January 24 — Mark 3:7-19a
Mark tells us more than once that Jesus’ ministry is drawing quite a crowd (Mark 1:33, 37, 2:15, 3:7). Out of the larger group of disciples, Jesus selects and appoints twelve to be apostles. By definition, an apostle is one who is sent out, and Mark describes how the apostles would be sent out by Jesus to expand his ministry in the world, fulfilling the promise he made in Mark 1:17. Even today, Jesus is calling and sending people into the world, to tell people about the Good News of God’s grace. Is it possible that Jesus has called, and is sending, you to share the Good News?
- Prayer: Calling God, speak clearly to me today. I’m willing to listen. I’m ready to hear your guidance for my life. With your help, I will go where you send me to serve. Amen.
Wednesday January 25 — Mark 3:19b-35
Even though Jesus is attracting a large crowd, his family is concerned about his behavior. Mark tells us that the controversy is continuing and that his family seeks to “restrain him.” At the end of today’s reading, Jesus makes it clear that the Kingdom of God creates a new family—a family that is a higher priority for his followers than their human families. These words can be difficult to hear. Family is very important to us and we don’t want to choose between God’s family and our own. How do you prioritize: your family versus God’s family?
- Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the family of God. Help me make difficult decisions and prioritize my life so that my life will serve your purposes in the world. Amen.
Thursday January 26 — Mark 4:1-9
The parable of the sower is not the first parable in Mark’s Gospel (see Mark 3:23), but it is arguably the most significant. It says something about God (who sows seed that bears fruit) and describes the kinds of responses Jesus and the message of the Kingdom of God receive in the world. It also describes the kinds of responses to the Church’s ministry when it spreads the Good News. It challenges hearers to ask themselves what kind of soil God’s Word will find in their own lives. Which of the meanings described above speak most powerfully to you today? What kind of soil does God’s Word find in your own life?
- Prayer: God of hope, I want my life to be fertile soil so that the Good News abundantly bears fruit in my life and advances your Kingdom. Let your Word grow in me. Amen.
Friday January 27 — Mark 4:10-25
We find two general categories of people in the Gospel story: insiders and outsiders. The outsiders include Pharisees and Jesus’ family (see Mark 3:31). A defining characteristic of the insiders is their willingness and ability to understand the parables. The insiders understand these stories of Jesus as being relevant to their own lives. Outsiders do not. The parable of the sower invites us to find ourselves in the story and change our ways (repent). What steps do you need to take today to become “good soil”?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for the hardness of my heart and for letting the cares of the world choke out your Word. Let your Word will take root in my life today.
Saturday January 28 — Mark 4:26-34
The entire passage from Mark 4:1 through Mark 4:34 is presented as a single speech or sermon. In the parables and the explanations, Jesus begins to describe the nature of the Kingdom of God and the ways his hearers can “repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). In the first four chapters of Mark’s Gospel, there are fifteen references to hearing or listening. According to Mark, Jesus says that how we hear and respond to the Good News will affect our whole life (Mark 4:23-24). How is your hearing? What can you do to hear more clearly?
- Prayer: Holy God, thank you for sending Jesus to be the Word made flesh. Give me ears to hear and a heart that is open to learning. Help me listen and grow in faith today. Amen.