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14 Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16 Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. 17 The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, 19 and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 20 He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. 21 He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.” (Luke 4:14-21, CEB)

What would you do if a person you grew up with came back to your home town after being away for a while and read holy scripture in your temple and said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.” You would probably say, “isn’t that Joe who we use to go to the creek with, what has gotten into him?”

We get so hung up on a person’s past because we think we know them, we don’t allow God to make changes we have no clue about. We make the past reign supreme and don’t allow God to be God.

Can we move past what we think we know and let God be God?

Loving People. Loving God.

Lost a child?

39 When Mary and Joseph had completed everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to their hometown, Nazareth in Galilee. 40 The child grew up and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him. 41 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. 42 When he was 12 years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to their custom. 43 After the festival was over, they were returning home, but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t know it. 44 Supposing that he was among their band of travelers, they journeyed on for a full day while looking for him among their family and friends. 45 When they didn’t find Jesus, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple. He was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and putting questions to them. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed by his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were shocked. His mother said, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Listen! Your father and I have been worried. We’ve been looking for you!” 49 Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they didn’t understand what he said to them. 51 Jesus went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. His mother cherished every word in her heart. 52 Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people. (Luke 2:39-52, CEB)

Have you ever lost a child? In a store, or at a park, or anywhere?

It is a feeling you never forget when your child is not to be found and you worry you will never see them again. It is a sinking feeling of loss and remorse. How did I let this happen?

Mary and Joseph traveled a full day looking for Jesus and when they couldn’t find him among the family, they went back to Jerusalem to look. And there he was.

And like any good parent, they flip the blame on the child, how could you do this? I told you to stay with me! Maybe if we always try to love, and not blame, we would grow more into who God has made us to be.

Love as you go and share the light of Jesus. Knowing you will not always get it right, but don’t blame others for our own shortcomings, and show we are trying to be who God made us to be.

Loving People. Loving God.

Spiritual Worship

So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature. Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful. (Romans 12:1-8, CEB)

I remember this verse from the NRSV, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Here above it is your appropriate priestly service. I was always confused by spiritual worship and to be honest priestly service doesn’t really make it any better. Unless…

The rest of the passage talks about gifts we get and how we should use them. Whatever we are good at we should do for the world. Not for recognition, but to make the world better. And we are all a part of the priesthood of all believers, gifted for the body of Christ. So our spiritual worship or priestly service is to use the gift God gave us to make the world a better place.

How can you make the world a better place?

Love more.

Follow the Spirit.

Be a person of integrity.

Loving People. Loving God.

Spirit

Brothers and sisters, I’m talking to you as people who know the Law. Don’t you know that the Law has power over someone only as long as he or she lives? A married woman is united with her husband under the Law while he is alive. But if her husband dies, she is released from the Law concerning her husband. So then, if she lives with another man while her husband is alive, she’s committing adultery. But if her husband dies, she’s free from the Law, so she won’t be committing adultery if she marries someone else. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you also died with respect to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you could be united with someone else. You are united with the one who was raised from the dead so that we can bear fruit for God. When we were self-centered, the sinful passions aroused through the Law were at work in all the parts of our body, so that we bore fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law. We have died with respect to the thing that controlled us, so that we can be slaves in the new life under the Spirit, not in the old life under the written Law. (Romans 7:1-6, CEB)

Only the living are held to the law. We have died in Christ and are new creations. We are not subject to the law but are subject to the Spirit.

Now does that mean we can do whatever we want? No, it doesn’t. The law does not affect us, but the law would never have gotten us what being dead in Christ has. The Law shows us how we are separated from God, but the Spirit brings us new life.

Live in the Spirit and love out loud.

Loving People. Loving God.

Who do we follow?

33 Some people said to Jesus, “The disciples of John fast often and pray frequently. The disciples of the Pharisees do the same, but your disciples are always eating and drinking.” 34 Jesus replied, “You can’t make the wedding guests fast while the groom is with them, can you? 35 The days will come when the groom will be taken from them, and then they will fast.” 36 Then he told them a parable. “No one tears a patch from a new garment to patch an old garment. Otherwise, the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t match the old garment. 37 Nobody pours new wine into old wineskins. If they did, the new wine would burst the wineskins, the wine would spill, and the wineskins would be ruined. 38 Instead, new wine must be put into new wineskins. 39 No one who drinks a well-aged wine wants new wine, but says, ‘The well-aged wine is better.’” (Luke 5:33-39, CEB)

John’s disciples were fasting and praying.

Jesus’ disciples were eating and drinking.

You wouldn’t put an old piece of fabric on a new garment if you needed a patch. Well, obviously Jesus didn’t know about fashion, because this would be all the rage, but the point is the old fabric won’t hold up as well as the new fabric.

And older wine is better, usually.

The point here is that no one should judge the faith of anyone based on the perceived faith of another person or group.

We are not supposed to follow other believers, but Jesus. So what Jesus leads you to do in your faith practice is what you need now and where you need to be now.

Do not judge others by your faith, or allow others to judge your faith by theirs.

Loving People. Loving God.

Who am I?

13 Now when Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Human One is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” 15 He said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Then Jesus replied, “Happy are you, Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. 18 I tell you that you are Peter. And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. 19 I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. Anything you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19, CEB)

Who do others say you are?

We spend a lot of time trying to make the right impression sometimes we get lost in the shuffle. We are not our authentic self and we put on masks to fit in or make others like us. Jesus didn’t do that. This passage comes from a time when Jesus and the disciples were in Caesarea Philippi, which was an interesting place, and Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do others say I am?” And “Who do you say I am?” But here is the twist, Jesus was always his authentic self. He did not change to please people, he stayed the course of what he knew was right and needed to be said. He was not concerned about how people liked him. He always told the truth and live love out loud.

So don’t worry about how others see you, or like you. God loves you as God made you. Live out Loud, Love out Loud, and be who God created you to be.

Loving People. Loving God.

Love

Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. 11 Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! 12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. 14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. 17 Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good. 18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. 19 Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head21 Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21, CEB)

Love each other like the members of your family. I was struck by this sentence as I read this. And to be honest, my initial thought was, do I really always love my family?

But the point of Paul here is we need to love everyone because repaying evil with evil is not going to work. The only way we defeat is evil is love.

Love is the answer.

Loving People. Loving God.

do with me?

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.” Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.” His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. The headwaiter called the groom 10 and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now.” 11 This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11, CEB)

There is so much in this text.

First off Mary, Jesus’ mother, tells Jesus the party they are at is out of wine, and Jesus responds, “Woman…” Now I don’t know about you but if I called my mother woman there would be hell to pay. But she just says, do what he tells you.

And the 6 stone jars are huge. Jesus makes 180 gallons of wine…

Jesus likes to celebrate and have fun in life. We should do the same.

In everything you do drive to bring joy into the world and show the love God has for us all.

Loving People. Loving God.

A house divided

14 Jesus was throwing out a demon that causes muteness. When the demon was gone, the man who couldn’t speak began to talk. The crowds were amazed. 15 But some of them said, “He throws out demons with the authority of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons.” 16 Others were testing him, seeking a sign from heaven. 17 Because Jesus knew what they were thinking, he said to them, “Every kingdom involved in civil war becomes a wasteland, and a house torn apart by divisions will collapse. 18 If Satan is at war with himself, how will his kingdom endure? I ask this because you say that I throw out demons by the authority of Beelzebul. 19 If I throw out demons by the authority of Beelzebul, then by whose authority do your followers throw them out? Therefore, they will be your judges. 20 But if I throw out demons by the power of God, then God’s kingdom has already overtaken you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his possessions are secure. 22 But as soon as a stronger one attacks and overpowers him, the stronger one takes away the armor he had trusted and divides the stolen goods. 23 “Whoever isn’t with me is against me, and whoever doesn’t gather with me, scatters. (Luke 11:14-23, CEB)

People were saying Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Satan…

People are saying…

That is the most hated statement by ordained leaders and nonordained leaders in the church. It is not liked because usually it is the person telling you people are saying that is actually saying, or the people who are saying it do not have the actual gumption to stand up for what they think is wrong.

But here Jesus knew who was saying what and told them, that if a house is divided it can not stand. If Satan casts out demons, then Satan’s house will fall.

We can not fight against ourselves and continue to exist.

Share love, and help others see the love God has for them.

Loving People. Loving God.

a gift…

Now, about what you wrote: “It’s good for a man not to have sex with a woman.” Each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband because of sexual immorality. The husband should meet his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should do the same for her husband. The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Don’t refuse to meet each other’s needs unless you both agree for a short period of time to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come back together again so that Satan might not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I’m saying this to give you permission; it’s not a command. I wish all people were like me, but each has a particular gift from God: one has this gift, and another has that one. (1 Corinthians 7:1-7, CEB)

We look at sex in society as bad and dirty. It is something we do not talk about because it is something very personal.

It is taboo and a topic we do not want to discuss.

But it isn’t dirty, or bad, or something to hide or run from. Sex is a gift. Given to us by God.

It is a way for us to be intimate with another human and to meet the needs and desires they have. These are also gifts from God.

Let us celebrate the gifts God gives us and live into them.

Loving People. Loving God.