March 7, 2021
THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS!
We are four weeks from Easter. The day that marks the most important event of human history. The next three Sundays we will look at some of the things that happened in the life of Jesus and his disciples leading up to what we celebrate as Easter. At this point Jesus knows the clock is ticking and the countdown is truly underway. Jesus is trying his hardest to prepare the disciples for what is about to happen. There is still much he wants to teach his disciples. The verses we read this morning show the disciples are also wanting to learn everything they can from Jesus. They are not asking because they know the time is short. They are asking questions because they know there has never been anyone like Jesus before and they want to learn what he is about as well as get a better understanding of who he is.
In the first verse of Chapter 18 they ask a very simple question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” They probably were not ready for the way Jesus would answer their question. Jesus called a little child over and said to the disciples, “unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. The disciples wanted to know who the greatest in heaven is and Jesus was telling them before you think about that you better know what it takes to get to heaven. Are you sure you will make it to heaven? Then Jesus goes on to say what will happen if anyone causes one of his children to sin. Jesus was not just talking about this child. He was talking about all of God’s creation because we have all been created to be God’s children. Whether you are as young as Presley Born or as old as me, God cares about all of us and no one had better mess with God’s kids.
In the 7th verse, Jesus says, “Woe to the world because of the things that cause men to sin!” Jesus acknowledges that people will lead people astray but woe to the man that causes people to sin. In the Bible when the word is written “woe” it is not a good thing to those caught in that situation. Jesus closes out the verses we read with some unique encouragements. Jesus said if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. Jesus goes on to say that you will be better off lame or blind in heaven than “whole going to hell.”
In the remaining verses of Chapter 18 Jesus uses illustrations to tell how God’s people should deal with one another. We are not going to read them, but I will give you the headings of three different things Jesus was teaching his disciples.
First the parable of the lost sheep—An example of God’s love for you and me in such a powerful, yet simple story. Next is entitled “A brother who sins against you.” Jesus is showing how Christians should resolve disagreements that arise between believers. Jesus goes on to explain that when brothers and sisters agree in the Lord the power of God is released in that place. He also says when two come together and agree in prayer God listens and can do great things. Jesus goes on to say, “When two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with you.”
The final thing Jesus is sharing with his disciples in the 18th chapter is the parable of the unmerciful servant. In this parable Jesus is sharing about forgiveness, mercy and hypocrisy. It talks about two different servants that owed money. The first asks for mercy in regard to his debt and asks the master for more time to pay. Not only is he given more time but the fact is the master told him he did not have to pay him back. Just so you know, this man owed a lot of money to the man that forgave the debt. As we continue on, the man who just had his debt forgiven ran into a man that owed him a little bit of money. This man also asked for more time. Not only was he not given more time, he was thrown in prison for not paying. When the first master who forgave the large amount heard what this man had done, he ordered this man tortured by the jailer. Jesus closed out the 18th chapter with these words, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from you heart.”
Jesus knows the countdown has begun. He wants to teach his disciples as many of God the Father’s principles as he can in the time he has left. As I thought about all the things Jesus was sharing with his disciples, I thought about the role you and I have in God’s plan today. For those of you who are moms and dads, we are given a period of time to help the children we have been blest with be ready to go out on their own. Those influences are not limited just to moms and dads. Aunts and uncles can play important roles in helping the next generation be ready for what lies ahead as well. Jesus and his disciples had, to this point, experienced both good times and difficult times. Jesus knew the disciples were soon going to be challenged in ways they have never experienced before. We may come back at a later time and go over these teaching moments Jesus had with his disciples again.
Just as parents want to do as much as they can to help their children be ready to go out on their own, Jesus wanted his disciples to be ready for the time he would no longer be with them in person. Jesus was not candy coating what God wants from his people. The time for honest and sometimes blunt teaching was at hand. Jesus knew if the disciples were to continue to share the message Jesus had given them, they would need to have the right mix of blunt, honest truth about who God is and what he expects and yet at the same time an understanding of God’s patience, love and mercy. All these years later it is yours and my turn to keep the message alive. A message of faith, hope and love. That does not ignore God’s call for justice and warning of future judgment. This is why we gather together. This is why the message of Easter and what it means to all who will believe is just as important today as it was 2000 years ago. Over the next couple of weeks, we will continue to see what Jesus is saying to the disciples and what Jesus wants the church of 2021 to know as well.
May God reveal to us even more this Easter season what he wants us to know. Not only now but how we can be more victorious in our personal life and be more effective as God’s church right here in Cerro Gordo.
Every Tuesday 9:30 Bible Study. All are invited to attend.
March10 Full board meeting—6:15 Executive Committee, 7:00 Commissions, 7:30 Board meeting
March 16-20 District “Potluck” via Zoom. See details on bulletin board--worship and workshops. Carol will send you the links if you are interested in attending any or all of the sessions.
Care packages for college students et al: bring snack items by the end of March please. We know of 4: Madison Warren, Michelle Wright, Jordan Wright, Sadie Sawyer
Please place your offering in the plates at the back of the sanctuary. Thank you for your continued giving!
Thank you for wearing masks and helping contain the spread of the virus. Extra masks are at the back of the sanctuary.
Donation Box: Camp Emmanuel
First Sundays: food donations for food banks
Pastor Larry Traxler- (217) 454-2362
To keep up on Church of the Brethren news:
Denomination: www.brethren.org/news Sign up for Newsline by clicking link on left side of page.
District: iwdcob.org (click on newsletter link) and on facebook
Our pages: cerrogordocob.com (printed sermon, announcements, & calendar) and on facebook
Keep in Your Prayers
Tera Runyan; Holly Flenner; Carl and Wilma Cable; Larry Albro; Mike McCleery; Sherry Wright; Tim and Betty Sue Laird; Mike and Carol Seidenstricker; Sonna Hall; Brittany Wright; Evelyn Eads; Anna Gentry Thompson; Marlene & Arnold Schultz; Clyde and Nancy Fansler; Adiline Young; Kim Lehmann; Dylan Junior; Doug Fansler; Liza Yore; Candy Dobson; Anna Rose Larrick; Gary Jesse; Norm & Marge Starr; Shawn Cain; Robert Cripe; Mayo & Darlene Hanaver; Zola Copeland; Patty Cripe; Lauren Gross; Stacie Warren; Nancy Gorrell; many unspoken requests; Coronavirus crisis; healthcare workers and first responders; the families of the 520,000+ people who have died from COVID-19; those who are ill from the virus; the unemployed; school teachers, staff, and students; victims of natural disasters; District of IL/WI search committee; nursing home residents; the Nigerian church; our nation’s government
Military and Other Services and their families
Brethren Volunteer Service workers; Disaster project workers
Our Mission Statement:
Love God, grow with others, serve faithfully, reach the lost, find peace.