June 15, 2015

 Isaiah 61-63
The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.  He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners.  God sent me to announce the year of his grace-  a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies— and to comfort all who mourn,...Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit....Because you got a double dose of trouble and more than your share of contempt, your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever...

I will sing for joy in God, explode in praise from deep in my soul!  He dressed me up in a suit of salvation,  he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo and a bride a jeweled tiara.  For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers, and as a garden cascades with blossoms, so the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom  and puts praise on display before the nations....

I’ve posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem.  Day and night they keep at it, praying, calling out, reminding God to remember.  They are to give him no peace until he does what he said, until he makes Jerusalem famous as the City of Praise.  God has taken a solemn oath, an oath he means to keep:...

Walk out of the gates. Get going! Get the road ready for the people.  Build the highway. Get at it!  Clear the debris, hoist high a flag, a signal to all peoples!  Yes! God has broadcast to all the world:  “Tell daughter Zion, ‘Look! Your Savior comes, ready to do what he said he’d do, prepared to complete what he promised.’”  Zion will be called new names: Holy People, God-Redeemed, Sought-Out, City-Not-Forsaken.

The watchmen call out, “Who goes there, marching out of Edom,... “It is I: I speak what is right, I, mighty to save!”

“And why are your robes so red, your clothes dyed red like those who tread grapes?”  “I’ve been treading the winepress alone. no one was there to help me. Angrily, I stomped the grapes;  raging, I trampled the people.... I was set on vengeance. The time for redemption had arrived. I looked around for someone to help —no one.  I couldn’t believe it —not one volunteer. So I went ahead and did it myself, fed and fueled by my rage. I trampled the people in my anger, crushed them under foot in my wrath,...  

I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings, all the things God has done that need praising, all the generous bounties of God, his great goodness to the family of Israel— Compassion lavished, love extravagant.... So he became their Savior. In all their troubles, he was troubled, too. He didn’t send someone else to help them. He did it himself, in person.  Out of his own love and pity he redeemed them.  He rescued them and carried them along for a long, long time.

But they turned on him; they grieved his Holy Spirit.  So he turned on them, became their enemy and fought them.
Then they remembered the old days, the days of Moses, God’s servant: “Where is he who brought the shepherds of his flock up and out of the sea? And what happened to the One who set his Holy Spirit within them?  Who linked his arm with Moses’ right arm, divided the waters before them,  Making him famous ever after, and led them through the muddy abyss as surefooted as horses on hard, level ground?  Like a herd of cattle led to pasture, the Spirit of God gave them rest.”

That’s how you led your people!  That’s how you became so famous!...Whatever happened to your passion, your famous mighty acts, Your heartfelt pity, your compassion?  Why are you holding back?  You are our Father....Why, God, did you make us wander from your ways?  Why did you make us cold and stubborn so that we no longer worshiped you in awe? Turn back for the sake of your servants.  You own us! We belong to you!  For a while your holy people had it good, but now our enemies have wrecked your holy place. For a long time now, you’ve paid no attention to us. It’s like you never knew us.

Luke 20 - 
One day he was teaching the people in the Temple, proclaiming the Message.  The high priest, religious scholars and leaders confronted him and demanded, “Show us your credentials.  Who authorized you to speak and act like this?”  Jesus answered, “First, let me ask you a question.  About the baptism of John --who authorized it, heaven or humans?”  They were on the spot and knew it.  If they said heaven, he’d ask them why didn’t they believe him, but if they say humans, the people will tear them limb from limb, convinced as they are that John was God’s prophet.”  They agreed to concede that round to Jesus and said they didn’t know.  Jesus said, “Then neither will I answer your question.”

Jesus then told the story of the corrupt farmhands who were given responsibilities by the owner when he went on a trip.  When the owner sent three different servants back to check on how things were going, the farm hands beat them up.  So the owner sent his own son believing they were bound to respect him.  The farm hands, however, thought this was their chance to have the land to themselves so they killed the son.  Jesus then asked, “What do you think the owner of the vineyard will do?  Right.  He’ll come and clean house.  Then he’ll assign the care of the vineyard to someone else.  Those who were listening said, “Oh no!  He’s never do that.”  But Jesus didn’t back down.  “Why then, do you think this is written, “The stone the masons threw out--it’s now the cornerstone?  Anyone falling over that stone will break every bone in his body; if the stone falls on anyone, it will be a total smashup.”  The religion scholars and high priests wanted to lynch him on the spot, but they were intimidated by public opinion.  They knew the story was about them.  

Watching for a chance to get him, they sent spies who posed as honest inquirers, hoping to trick him into saying something that would get him in trouble with the law, such as whom to pay taxes to,...try as they might, they couldn’t trap him into saying anything incriminating.  His answers caught them off guard and left them speechless. 

Some Sadducees came up and asked a questions about marriage in eternal life if a widow were to marry the brother of her deceased husband....Jesus said, “Marriage is a major preoccupation here, but not there.  Those who are included in the resurrection of the dead will no longer be concerned with marriage nor, of course with death.  They will have better things to think about, if you can believe it.  All ecstasies and intimacies will be with God.  Even Moses exclaimed about the resurrection at the burning bush, saying...God isn’t the God of dead men, but of the living.  To him, all are alive.”  Some of the religion scholars said, “Teacher, that’s a great answer!”  For a while, no one dared put questions to him.

Then he put a question to them, “How is it that they say that the Messiah is David’s son?  In the book of Psalms, David clearly says, ‘God said to my Master, sit here at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.‘  David here designates the Messiah as ‘my Master‘ - so how can the Messiah also be his ‘son’?”  

With everybody listening, Jesus spoke to his disciples.  “Watch out for religious scholars.  They have to walk around in academic gowns, preen int the radiance of public flattery, bask in prominent positions, sit at the head table of every church function.  And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless.  The longer their prayers, the worse they get.  But they’ll pay for it in the end.”