Friends, it’s no secret throughout the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that Jesus and the Pharisees (the religious “legal beagles” of the day) didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye in matters of faith. Whenever they were in the same place at the same time, the Pharisees were constantly pointing out that whatever Jesus was doing—usually helping someone—was a violation of some religious rule. Their point clearly was to discredit Jesus as merely a “hack” at this “doing God’s will” thing. And therefore, Jesus could NOT be a legitimate rabbi, and so instead of following Him, people ought to outright reject Jesus. In fact, if the people wouldn’t reject Jesus, the religious elite would just eliminate Him.
Of course the motivation for eliminating Jesus was NOT because He was “doing it all wrong,” when it came to The Law of Moses, but because Jesus clearly threatened their power. Left un-checked, they feared Jesus’ growing popularity would quickly displace them as the most influential in the Jewish theocracy. (Theocracy refers to the “religion-based” form of culture and government—with a definite nod to the Romans occupying power notwithstanding.)
For Jesus however, the confrontations with the religious elite were never about power. He knew He had all the power anyway. Instead, Jesus used these confrontations to teach about God’s Kingdom and Kingdom Living. When the Pharisees would point out the “what” of The Law, Jesus would simply take them to task about the “why” of The Law. They would point out the ways Jesus violates the rules within The Law, and Jesus would remind them why The Law exists in the first place—to have relationship with God. Essentially, they were about crossing every “t” and dotting every “i” while Jesus was busy “reading the sentence” by reminded them about God’s incredible love.
Matthew 9:9-13 is just one of many examples: As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (NLT)
The Pharisees were about excluding the sinner “scum” while Jesus reminds them how God goes out of His way to include and transform them through love. To the religious, sinners should be expendable. To God, they are invaluable. The WHY of the Law of Moses was to establish real relationship with God and His people. The WHAT of the Law was how those “least like them” were easily dismissed.
The next time you are tempted to simply forgo wearing a mask or ignore minimum social distancing in a public place with persons who are not part of your household, remember the “why.” Remember that it is established fact that you could be carrying and therefore spreading COVID-19 to others while having no idea you’re infectious because you have no symptoms. And these measures, while not foolproof, have been shown to have some degree of effectiveness in preventing or reducing transmission. The WHAT of these present times is doing “all the things” like wearing a mask appropriately, while the WHY is your motivation for doing them. Jesus emphasized going out of His way to love people, so I personally think we should do the same until “all the things” become no longer necessary.
There is light at the end of this pandemic. Let’s not grow weary of doing good and let down our guard. Please read the updates below for some good news.
GOOD NEWS & UPDATES:
1. Please continue to make your reservations to attend in-person worship. These numbers help us plan for worship as well as give us indicators of when it will be appropriate to add additional worship times. Please make the reservations by the deadline if at all possible. However, if you don’t know you are going to attend worship until after the deadline, PLEASE COME SUNDAY MORNING ANYWAY! As long as you are well and wear a mask, you will not be turned away because you didn’t make a reservation in time. (Read that again.) Please reserve if you can, but don’t just not come because you’ve missed the deadline. Currently, you may make worship reservations through November 1 (for the entire period or week-by-week) by calling the church office at 317-359-9651 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember your telephone number must be included with your reservation request and reservations are due by 10am each Thursday.
2. Kid’s Church is BACK! After Small Talk, the kids will be dismissed to the back of the sanctuary to meet their teachers. They will then be taken outside if possible (take your jacket if you need to) or stay inside (with adequate distancing) as appropriate. No additional reserving is necessary. Just make the worship reservation for your household.
3. NEXT SUNDAY, October 4, is World Communion Sunday! We will celebrate Holy Communion during service. So, if you are participating via livestream or an archived version, please secure your communion elements (bread and juice, etc.) prior to the service.
4. The Marion County Public Health Department is hosting a flu shot clinic at Old Bethel on Wednesday, October 7, from 9am to 12 noon. You will enter through the main door under the portico where a nurse will do a quick health screening before you enter the building.
5. Happy 100th Birthday! Ruth Hanlon will celebrate this milestone birthday October 23rd. Her family invites all of the Old Bethel Family to shower Ruth with cards sent to Ruth Hanlon, 8025 Double Day Drive, Apt. 205. Indianapolis IN 46216.
6. This year Old Bethel will host a Pumpkin Party instead of Trunk-or-Treat. The Pumpkin Party will be Saturday, October 31st from 1pm-3pm in the Grove and offer a variety of social distanced activities for families to enjoy. Pre-registration by October 26 is required to attend the Pumpkin Party. To register you may text your name and number of kids attending to 317-500-4889. Kids are encouraged to wear costumes as we decorate pumpkins, play games and hand out bags of candy.
We need donations of lots of individually wrapped pieces of candy which we will start collecting October 1st. in the marked bin in the lobby. Volunteers are also needed for the activities. Contact Community Life Minister Schellenberg at email@example.com to sign up to serve.
7. Community Partnerships are important to us. What “partnering” looks like has changed and continues to evolve during this unusual time. Pleasant Run Elementary School is just one of our community partners. We have been collecting school supplies and will continue to do so. Teachers, who are also adapting to many changes, are learning they need different items than they did last year. Added to the list this week is 8-count washable markers and sidewalk chalk.
8. New Directory Underway: We are in the process of updating our annual Guide Book & Directory (the small phonebook style directory) for the church. In preparation for this, it is time to update our database with any changes, additions, or deletions that may have occurred in YOUR family over the past year. Have you changed your phone number? Have you moved? Are you preparing to move soon? Are all of your children still at home? Have you been blessed by a new child? Make sure your record is current by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with any changes which have occurred over the past 18 month. IF YOU DO NOT WANT your address and phone number published let us know that too. Personal Info Updates/Changes and Opt-Outs are due by October 20. Please note: due to limitations of our new database software, only primary household phone numbers will be published.
This book is being provided and direct-mailed to each family included in the book at no cost to our church, and it is again being subsidized by local businesses that advertise. If you own or manage a business and would like to find out about advertising in our book, please contact our Administrative Assistant Lynda Preston at email@example.com or by calling the church office.
9. Coat Distribution Update: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a difficult, prayer-filled decision has been made to cancel this year’s coat distribution. However, we would like to provide new hats, gloves and scarves to the participants of our Community Outreach Thanksgiving Meal on November 22. You are invited to donate NEW hats, gloves and scarves, for all ages and sizes, both children and adults, by November 8. Please place your donations in the marked collection tub in the church lobby. Previously donated coats will be shared with the Wheeler Mission. Thank you for your continued support of this outreach initiative.
10. THIS SUNDAY we are focusing on what to do in life’s valleys (we seem to be having a bunch of those this year). Our focus will be on Psalm 23:4. The Message Notes are below. Print them out and follow along.
September 27: Psalm 23: The Cure for Life’s Valleys
“Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 (NLT)
Five facts about valleys:
1. Valleys are _______________.
“In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33b (NIV)
2. Valleys are ___________________.
“Wave upon wave of destruction rolls over the land, until it lies in utter ruin; suddenly, in a moment, every house is crushed.” Jeremiah 4:20 (Living)
3. Valleys are ______________.
“He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and He sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong.” Matthew 5:45b (NCV)
4. Valleys are _________________.
“There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here.” 1 Peter 1:6b (Living)
5. Valleys have a _____________.
“Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.” 1 Peter 1:7 (Msg)
What I can do when going through these valleys:
1. ____________ to be discouraged.
“Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid…”
Being discouraged is a _____________ because I can ____________ what I think about.
“God will strengthen you with His own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient.” Colossians 1:11 (NCV)
2. ______________ that God is with me.
“…for You are close beside me.”
“When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)
In the valley, I don’t want to talk _________ God. I want to talk _______ God!
3. ________ on God’s protection and power.
“Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.”
The rod and staff represent both ___________ and _____________.
“The righteous face many troubles, but the Lord rescues them from each and every one.” Psalm 34:19 (NLT)
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What versus Why from Pastor Rusty