January 27, 2017

“Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’?”
Luke 11:5-6 (RSV)

It may seem like a simple invention, but it can be extremely helpful. It is not often that we consider something so small as being crucial to our safety and security. Franz Laibace applied for a patent for this device believing it to provide a protective measure for a homeowner or business owner. It was designed to offer the ability to know who is at the door without actually opening the door. I cannot even imagine having a front door without one of these devices. The device is, of course, the peephole.

The invention of the peephole was a simple, but very important invention to help us know who is at the door.

It is important to know who is at the door. How many of us would be willing to open the door at midnight without knowing who was at the door? I don’t think that many, if not any, of us would do so in this day and age. In fact, a lot of us would not only need to look through the peephole but also turn on the lights, turn off the alarm, and silence the dog before we would open the door. It may seem like the only consideration we may have would be the safety of ourselves, our home, or our family. I think there is also at least one other consideration we should have when considering who is at the door.

In his sermon, "A Knock At Midnight," Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. considers the fact that we need to consider who is at the door at midnight. The main idea of his sermon is that the person who is knocking at the door is someone in need. You know that you are in need, perhaps desperate need, if you are willing to go to your neighbor’s house at midnight and knock on their door. In the parable of Jesus there is a definite sense of urgency to the need. Not only is it midnight, but the person who is knocking continues to knock persistently. Jesus even says it is not his request nor his friendship that the person inside responds to, it is his persistence. Those who are in desperate need tend to knock louder and longer than those who are not in need.

The question for us in this parable is do we know who is at the door? Dr. King reminded folks in 1963 that it was midnight in many areas of the world, especially race relations. It is still midnight in many areas of our world today. There are those in desperate need who continue to knock at the door of the church in the midnight hour of our society. Do we as a church, and as individuals, know who is at the door? These are the folks who are in need and are left outside of society and the church at the midnight hour to knock at the door. They knock because they are in need. They knock because they are asking for help. They knock because they are in search of hope. These are our neighbors who are looking for us to be their neighbor.

Jesus is sharing this parable to demonstrate the power of persistent prayer for sure. Jesus is also demonstrating what it means to be a neighbor and respond to the needs of a friend (neighbor). A neighbor puts others first, losing themselves in the priority of service. A neighbor also notices who is at the door and what their need is and is willing to respond, if for no other reason than their persistence. A neighbor determines to make sure that no one is left outside the door at midnight, turned away without their needs being met. Jesus goes on to say that God, the Father, would never do that to us. We should never do that to our neighbor.

This Sunday we will continue the message series My Neighbor. We will be discussing more about who our neighbor is and how we can know who is at the door. I can’t wait to share this with you Sunday.

There are great things coming for St. Andrew’s in 2017 and it’s an exciting time. The best is yet to come. I can’t wait to see you in church!

January 20, 2017

"For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself." 

Galatians 5:14

One of the most difficult classes I took in college was biblical Greek. Learning an ancient (dead) language is difficult in that no one really speaks dead languages. So it's not like you can strike up a conversation in the local Greek restaurant. What made the course difficult to me was all of the declensions and memorization. First year Greek was easily the most difficult class I have ever taken, short of Algebra, and there were two more years of it. I wished there had been one formula that could have been used to figure out and use the whole language. It would have been a lot easier.

Maybe that's why I love Jesus' great commandment so much. Love God and love your neighbor. All of the commandments are fulfilled in these two commands. I love this because it is easy to remember, not because it is easy to do. Living out these commands in our everyday life is challenging to say the least. But the clarion call for our life is to love God and love our neighbor.

Paul is writing to the church in Galatia and reminding them what it means to love God and love others. He recounts for them the words of Jesus. Love your neighbor as yourself. He then tells them that there is a battle going on within them that works to prevent them from doing just that. This battle makes the command a little more complicated. In essence the battle is between our bent toward our own selfish desires and the Holy Spirit's leading. In order to love God and neighbor we only need to die to self.

Once we are willing to put aside our own selfish desires we are able to fully love God and love neighbor as Jesus commands. I look forward to exploring this with you this Sunday as we continue the series "My Neighbor." I can't wait to share more with you about how we can love our neighbor. I look forward to seeing you at church.

January 13, 2017

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?'”

Luke 10:29 (NIV)

In school we learn that good communication at least answers the questions who, what, when, where, and why. People need to know these answers at the very least in order to feel well informed and in the loop. They are good questions to answer. Well, it turns out they are pretty good questions to answer in our faith and theology. It is important to know what we belief and why. It is important to know when God calls us or moves in human history. When God calls us into action it is good to know where God is asking us to serve. But the most important question in our faith and theology is arguably WHO.

It is extremely important to know who God is. Who is this God we serve? What are God’s attributes? These are the characteristics that let us know who God is. We need to know Who Jesus is and why we should follow this person’s life and teaching and place all our trust in him. The who question is very, very important to our faith and the practice of our faith.

In the Scripture passage above, Jesus has been asked by an expert in the law what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers that he must love God with everything and love his neighbor the same way he is loved by God. So the expert pushes Jesus a little further and asks, “Who is my neighbor?” The question of who is very important. He knew who God is. He may have, presumably, even known who his neighbor was. The expert is getting a little snarky with Jesus in order to paint Jesus into a corner and give himself wiggle room with the law. So Jesus tells him a story.

In the story some “experts” in the law, a priest and a Levite, see a man who has been beaten and left for dead. Each of them passed the man by on the other side of the road. These experts in the law and the ways of the temple sacrificial system both fail to help. Perhaps because it would cause them to be ceremonially unclean. Perhaps because helping would jeopardize their social and religious status. But the ones who should know what to do fail to do anything. To them the who didn’t matter as much as their own needs and status.

As the story continues, a Samaritan comes along. The New Living Translation translates verse 33 as “Then a despised Samaritan came along.” This Samaritan might have known a little about the Jewish laws and traditions, but nothing like the experts who had passed by. Despite his lack of knowledge in the law…the Samaritan sees the WHO in need. It says he took pity on him and bandaged his wounds, poured oil on them, and took him to get help. The story Jesus tells the man is one of a despised Samaritan having compassion for another human being and going out of his way to help. It is the story of one person who is willing to help another person who is in need.

So Jesus asks the expert who was this man’s neighbor? Of course, the man says it was the one who had mercy on him (he cannot even bring himself to say the name Samaritan. Jesus responds, “Go and do likewise.” This is the part I cannot wait to share with you this Sunday. I’ll give you a little sneak peak, though. Jesus is telling the expert in the law to put the WHO ahead of the what, when, where, or why! The who is always more important that the rest.

This Sunday we will start a new message series My Neighbor. We will be discussing more about who our neighbor is and how we can be the neighbor Jesus describes. I can’t wait to share this with you Sunday. There are great things coming for St. Andrew’s in 2017 and it’s an exciting time. The best is yet to come. I can’t wait to see you in church!

January 6, 2017

“No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Jeremiah 31:33 (CEB)

One of the gifts I received this Christmas was an engraved metal tumbler made by a company named RTIC. It is one of the specialty tumblers that keeps things cool, or hot, far longer than I ever imagined possible. The engraving on the tumbler is simply “PT.” As I mentioned in one of my messages recently, this is one of the names I am known by around St. Andrew’s and The Florida Conference. I love the gift and I love even more that it is engraved with these letters. It means that I am the owner of the tumbler and no one else should use it. But to me it also means a lot more.

I also love this gift because of the givers. My wife and daughters gave me the tumbler for Christmas. I not only love the tumbler because of what is engraved on the outside. I love the tumbler because what is engraved on the outside represents the ones who had it engraved. This is what makes it special to me. The thought of going the extra step of having the gift personalized means that there is something special about me to my family. It means that there is something they love about the name by which I am known. It adds to the gift and makes it that much more meaningful to me.

The Scripture verse above is from The Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah the prophet is told by God that there will be a new covenant with the people of Israel. God will no longer write his laws on tablets of stone. God says the laws will be within them, engraved on their hearts. How amazing it that? God’s instructions for the people of Israel would be internalized as a unique engraving upon their hearts. Just as my example above, even more so, what is engraved is God’s very own instructions. What makes these instructions so special is the One who is doing the engraving. God sees every person in Israel as important and engraves on each individual heart the instructions God has for them.

In our experience God engraves the same instructions on our heart in the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. God the Father has created us in the image of God (Imago Dei), Jesus Christ the Son has saved us from our sin, and the Holy Spirit comforts and guides us in the ways of God. We still have these instructions within us and engraved on our hearts. We can know how to follow God fully and how to obey God’s instructions because of the Holy Spirit indwelling in the heart of every follower.

This Sunday we will be discussing the message Servant Leadership. I believe that this principle of an engraved heart is crucial to being a servant leader. I can’t wait to share this with you Sunday. There are great things coming for St. Andrew’s in 2017 and it’s an exciting time. The best is yet to come. I can’t wait to see you in church!

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Pastor Tim Machtel