When I was eleven years old and in sixth grade, my mom took me to an informational meeting at church regarding Boy Scouts of America. Attendees discussed the idea of organizing, or I should say reorganizing, a troop. The organization came to fruition, and I was blessed to take part until my eighteenth birthday, when I completed my Eagle Scout rank. My scout leaders taught me a great deal regarding citizenship, the outdoors, manhood, self-reliance, responsibility, and more.
During nearly thirty years of professional church work, I have often wondered which sin is most damaging to the local congregation. In my experience, it is not disregard for worship and Bible study, arguments over money, lack of unity regarding mission and ministry, lack of forgiveness, theft, or even adultery. In my experience, the single sin which most damages congregations is mismanagement of conflict between brothers and sisters in the faith. There are numerous reasons. Foremost, this mismanagement destroys trust, which damages relationships. But it also breeds gossip and character assassination, which can lead to loss of good reputation and even loss of employment. Mismanagement of conflict blurs the facts and leaves the conflict unresolved. Such unresolved conflicts are infected wounds in the Body of Christ. Let’s look at what Jesus has to say.
Telling nice people things they don’t want to hear is an unavoidable part of being a faithful pastor. On one occasion, a pleasant couple from the neighborhood came to my office. The husband and wife wanted to know my opinion of ghosts and spirits.
It seems the land on which our house is built is the perfect breeding ground for thistles, a particular type of weed that is painfully prickly and extremely difficult to remove. No matter how many plants my wife and I remove, there are always more. Related to this month’s reading from Matthew, the parable of the sower, these thistles can grow abundantly regardless of the location or quality of the soil.
In this study, Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs explores what it means to make disciples. Jesus commands us to make disciples, but what does that entail? Dr. Gibbs’ perspective helps us understand the Great Commission and what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The following is adapted from Matthew 21:1–28:20 in the Concordia Commentary series.
A quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin regarding taxes is “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I have yet to encounter anyone who is pleased to pay taxes. What is more, were one to survey every taxpayer in the United States, such an effort would produce an endless variety of opinions on how much taxation is appropriate and what are legitimate uses of tax dollars. Matthew, a tax collector, lived under the disdain of those from whom he collected taxes.
Having just passed my fiftieth birthday, I am well into adulthood. I noticed several years ago that I not only look but also behave like my father. My hands are an excellent example. The shape of my fingers resembles his, as do my fingernails and wrinkles. Even more interesting is that when driving, I place my hands on the steering wheel in the same places he did. This happened naturally since he was deceased before I learned to drive. There are a myriad of other examples in both appearance and behavior. The point is that beyond my birth certificate, there is evidence that I am my father’s son.
An interesting phenomenon takes place at Halloween. Mom and Dad get dressed up in costume in anticipation of attending a party or taking the children trick-or-treating. Oftentimes their costumes include a mask or face paint. When the children first see Mom or Dad in the mask or face paint, they are often afraid, especially the younger ones. Mom and Dad have changed. They sound the same, and their height and general stature are unchanged. Yet the face, the point of connection between parent and child, has changed. Children cry out and cannot be consoled until Mom and Dad remove the mask and wash off the paint. At some point in growing up, children can suspend what appears to be reality, recognizing that it is still Mom and Dad under the disguise.
Given the high status the Gospel of John gives to Jesus, it is not surprising that certain passages from this Gospel would play important roles when questions arose concerning Jesus’ precise relation to the one God of Israel. In an adapted excerpt from the second volume in the Concordia Commentary series on the Gospel of John, read about the classic interpretation to John 10:30.
I am dating myself to share that I was five years old when the movie Star Wars came out. Mind you, this was 1977. At this point, there was only Star Wars without the context of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, let alone the prequels or the sequels. We called the movie Star Wars, not Episode IV. If you were alive then, you recall the impact the movie had on the public. It was a phenomenon for both adults and children, men and women, boys and girls. Perhaps the reason for the movie’s great success was its ability to capture the imagination of even those not enchanted by science-fiction. Star Wars was also an exercise in patience. We knew the next movie wouldn’t arrive until 1980. We simply had to wait.