Not Sure About Worship

April 21, 2019: John 19; Matthew 28; Luke 24.

Easter Sunday. I didn’t have the new song memorized. I barely learned it. We practiced for this service 10 days ago. David got me a music stand.

The first time through in practice, I got lost and skipped a line. We started over.

I decided the only way to stay on track was to sing along. It was not in my key range. I tried singing an octave above but it went too high. I ended up singing harmony. (It wasn’t pretty.)

But during the service, I belted that harmony out and gave it my all. I didn’t hold back. It still wasn’t pretty, but at least I didn’t get lost!

Matthew 28:17, “The moment they saw Him they worshipped Him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.” The Message

* * * * * * *

Proverbs 21:2, “We justify our actions by appearances; God examines our motives.” The Message

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Jospeh Of Arimathea and Nicodemus

April 20, 2019: Matthew 27; Luke 23.

When I read of Joseph of Arimathea on Friday, I wondered why he didn’t speak up for Jesus, see Mark 15:43. I found out he wasn’t there.

Matthew 27:57, “Late in the afternoon a wealthy man from Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, arrived.” The Message

Possibly, he went home because he disagreed with the plans of the council. When he returned, it was too late.

Luke 23:50-52, “There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and good character.

(51) He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea. He lived in alert expectation of the Kingdom of God.

(52) He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Taking him down, he wrapped him in a linen shroud and placed him in a tomb chiseled into the rock, a tomb never yet used.” The Message

* * * * * * *

I researched “Arimathea” and found out more about Joseph – and Nicodemus.

“We learn that Joseph of Arimathea, who retrieves the Body of Christ from Pontius Pilate, is still very much a fearful undercover disciple.

Nicodemus, on the other hand, has by now figured out that he has absolutely nothing to fear, and brings a hundred litre of myrrh-and-aloe.

And to put that into perspective: a few chapters earlier, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, had used one litre of the same oil to anoint Jesus’ feet (which, whether the modern reader likes it or not, is a perfectly proper and open allusion to the most honorable member of a bridegroom’s anatomy).

In the previous chapter, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, and John makes sure that the reader relates Mary’s act to Jesus’ act (12:1, 12:9).

Mary’s oil filled the whole house with a pleasant scent (12:3) but Lazarus’ corpse was producing the stink of death (11:39).

John also makes sure that the reader knows that Martha believed in the resurrection (11:24), and makes it very unlikely that Mary didn’t (11:45, 12:11).

The oil that Mary used was so costly that spending a litre of it had irritated Judas Iscariot.

Mary’s litre represented 300 dinari, which was a common man’s annual wage.

Nicodemus brings one hundred times as much; that’s one hundred years of labor worth of myrrh oil.

Moving that kind of oil must have involved every merchant in town.

There’s no way that Nicodemus could have amassed that much oil covertly, or even keep its purpose secret.

Surely the whole town knew about it. But why the oil?

When Judas complaints about Mary’s oil, Jesus tells him, “Let Mary be, that she may keep it for the day of My burial” (John 12:7, Matthew 26:12, Mark 14:8), and a large majority of modern commentators will state that Mary “prepared” Jesus’ Body for embalming.

That is entirely incorrect.

Embalming the dead was done in Egypt (Genesis 50:2, 50:26) but certainly not in Israel.

The Talmud allows embalming only if there is a dire emergency (such as there being no grave available) but states that it should be strenuously avoided because it desecrates the body (Avraham Steinberg, M.D. encyclopedia of Jewish Medial Ethics, page 377).

To the Jews, draining a corpse of its blood and removing certain organs constituted a horrendous desecration of the human body, and even the bodies of executed criminals were treated with respect (Deuteronomy 21:23).

Neither Mary nor Nicodemus intended to embalm Jesus.

John tells that Joseph and Nicodemus bound the Body in linen wrappings with the spices according to the custom of the Jews (John 19:40).

But that custom was not a burial custom.

Jewish burial customs are described in the Lazarus cycle and no oil or aromas are mentioned (note that only John tells the story of Lazarus of Bethany, to make sure that the reader understands about Jewish burial procedures).

The aromatic oil appears in the next chapter, and is applied to Jesus who raised Lazarus.

If Mary’s one litre had filled the whole house with scent, Nicodemus’ hundred litres must have wafted all over the region.

Its strong and bitter scent was unmistakably recognized by everybody in the wide surroundings and reminded everybody of only one thing, and that wasn’t death.

With his hundred litre of myrrh-oil (and a hundred is two times fifty, or a double witness to jubilee), Nicodemus unmistakably declared that the marriage of God and mankind had been consummated.

He never went there to bury Christ; he went there to see Him be “born again,” just as Jesus had explained him when the whole Nicodemus cycle started (John 3:3).

The only other time that word σμυρνα (smurna) occurs in the gospels is in the nativity story, when the magi from the east gave it to Mary and Jesus when He was born the first time (Matthew 2:11).

The older gospels had told the story of Christ’s burial in Joseph’s tomb but none of them mentioned Nicodemus’ massive myrrh contribution (in Mark and Luke, the women bring spices; no myrrh is mentioned).

It may have occurred to John that the audience of the older three gospels hadn’t understood the resurrection as described by the earlier versions, and he may have inserted Nicodemus’ outrageous gesture as a kind of inside joke.

To people in the know, he couldn’t have done it more obviously.

A hundred litre of myrrh-oil. Custom of the Jews.

A garden with a new tomb in which no one had yet laid, which is obvious to anyone a direct reference to the locked garden (the virgin bride) of the Song of Solomon 4:12 and the wafting spices of 4:16 (also see John 3:29).

All gospels explain that Jesus’ Body was placed in the tomb on the day before the Sabbath.

And all gospels tell that the women went to the grave the day after Sabbath.

Not a single member of a Jewish audience would have assumed that the women went to the tomb to embalm a person who’d been dead for two nights and a day (also see John’s hint in John 11:31).”

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Crossed Over The Brook Kidron

April 19, 2019: John 18; Mark 15.

“Father, it’s time. Display the bright splendor of Your Son. …So He might give real and eternal life to all in His charge. …I spelled out Your character in detail to the men and women You gave Me. …Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life. …So they can be one heart and mind. …Now I’m returning to You. I’m saying these things in the world’s hearing so My people can experience My joy completed in them. …”

Jesus’ Prayer from John 17

* * * * * * *

John 18:1, “Jesus, having prayed this prayer, left with His disciples and crossed over the brook Kidron. …” The Message

* * * * * * *

“Kidron Brook…the winter torrent which flows through the Valley of Jehoshaphat, on the eastern side of Jerusalem, between the city and the Mount of Olives. …Through the mountain ravine no water runs, except after heavy rains in the mountains round about Jerusalem. …David crossed this brook bare-foot and weeping, when fleeing Absalom (2 Samuel 15:23, 30). …It afterwards became a receptacle for all manner of impurities (2 Chronicles 29:16; 30:14) and in the time of Josiah this valley was the common cemetery of the city (2 Kings 23:6). …Its precipitous, rocky banks are filled with ancient tombs. …It runs in a winding course through the wilderness of Judea to the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea.”

King Jesus crossed the Kidron brook where King David wept as he crossed. David put his kingdom in the hands of God and God gave it back to him. Jesus put His Kingdom in God’s hands as He crossed.

The Kidron Valley was a dump and ancient cemetery. All around Jesus was dead stuff and dead bones. Even the brook died. It only ran in winter. It ended in the Dead Sea. Jesus knew He was on His way to die.

But He crossed the brook knowing God would take care of His Kingdom. God would take care of His followers – present and future.

John 18:36, “My kingdom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. …” The Message

Jesus trusted God completely. He didn’t need to explain Himself or defend Himself. I need to do the same.

Mark 15:5, “Still, he said nothing. Pilate was impressed, really impressed.” The Message

* * * * * * *

Proverbs 19:11, “Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget.” The Message

Jesus showed us how to live – even in death. He gave. He gave his last breath. They didn’t kill Him. He laid His life down.

Mark 15:37, “But Jesus, with a loud cry, gave His last breath.” The Message

* * * * * * *

John 10:18, “No one takes it from Me. I lay it down of My own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received the authority personally from My Father.” The Message

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She Did What She Could

April 18, 2019: Mark 14.

Maundy Thursday finally arrived. I made a hair appointment last September, hoping they would ask me to play. David took the afternoon off and they asked him to sing.

I worked out two elaborate transitions to cover awkward key changes. I played through the service twice on Wednesday. The guitar player was not impressed with the first transition I showed them on Tuesday. I started to second-guess myself.

Mark 14:8, “She did what she could when she could…” The Message

I played through the service one more time. The new worship leader liked the first transition. Maybe she would like the second.

After my haircut, David wanted a light supper. He took me to Kentucky Fried Chicken. 😀 Since I wasn’t singing, I ordered the chicken pot pie!

We finished eating and had over an hour to wait before our final practice. I called the church and they graciously let us wait in the hall.

The worship leader arrived 20 minutes later. I explained the 2nd transition to her. We played it a couple of times.

The guitar player also came early. We tried them with him. He thought one sounded “janky.” (That’s not a compliment.) I made sure to wait for a full measure between ending the song and starting the transition.

The lighting man asked me if the spotlight was in my eyes. Did I want him to move it?

“Yes, put it all on Barb. She’s leading!”

He did! I was a happy camper. I was wearing my favorite black top with lace, bell sleeves and black jeans. I was sitting in a dark area lit by blue lights and the light from my music stand.

David was leading the first song and Derek was on the drums. I knew exactly what to do and relaxed.

I had everyone turned down on my Aviom and the keyboard turned up. I wanted to wrestle to play the quiet parts softly. The guitar player picked up what I was doing and started playing softly, too. (We thought he unplugged! 🙂 )

I smiled as David started singing. The difficult transitions worked flawlessly. As we played the last song, I noticed another spot I could back down on.

We finished the song and I stopped. The pastor wasn’t on the platform yet! Barb whispered, “Chorus!” I tried to jump in and played the wrong chord. (I put “jazz notes,” aka wrong notes, in every service. Sigh.)

The “hard to please” drummer said I played pretty. The “impossible difficult to please” guitar player said the same.

After the service, the Senior Pastor shook my hand and thanked me. Okay, he shook the hands of all the musicians and thanked them. But, still, – the man can play circles around me!

I poured everything out for that service. Jesus filled me back up with His Spirit. That feeling lasts for days!

Do all that you can, while you can. Even when people think it’s a waste of time or money.

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After Sunset

April 17, 2019: Matthew 26.

Since the “We Remember” Service is Thursday, they canceled Wednesday’s adult service. Pastor Monte Knudsen is the guest speaker at the youth service in the E3 Center.

As the sun was setting, David popped popcorn. We got comfortable on the couch and watched a movie.

Some sunsets are bittersweet. The last sunset of camp. The last sunset of summer before returning to school. The last sunset of vacation before heading home. The last sunset with our loved one.

But what if you knew it was your last sunset on earth? Jesus knew.

Matthew 26:30, “After sunset,…” The Message

Jesus showed us how to finish our day on His last day.

  • Enjoy the sunset, v. 20.
  • Linger at the table, v. 20.
  • Talk about important things, v. 21.
  • Remember, v. 26-29.
  • Sing praises, v. 30.

My best memories were of conversations around a table full of dirty dishes. Dad would talk about deep things but there was always laughter.

When we were ready for bed, he would get out his guitar. He would sit on the bottom step playing. Sometimes, he played harmonica with it. Other times, he sang…

“There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins.”

“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?”

“He washed my eyes with tears, that I might see…”

Dad died 9 years ago today. (Yes, Dad, I remember!) And our sons carry on the traditions. Luke plays the guitar for his daughter, Olivia, and sings to her.

And on this anniversary, Derek is playing the guitar and singing. He’s leading worship at the E3 Center for over 100 teens, singing,

“Who am I that the highest King would welcome me?”

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In Complete Charge of Everything

April 16, 2019: John 13; Luke 22.

We practiced for the “We Remember Service” (Maundy Thursday) and Easter Sunday. The teams cover a range of ages from teens to fifties. There were two sets of husbands and wives. One couple’s son played with them.

A new worship leader directed this diverse crew. Yet, we remained a team. Several made suggestions. There were camaraderie and a lot of laughter. (Best comment: “I’m like a milk bucket under a bull over here.”) We are looking forward to the services!

* * * * * * *

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us the example of a Godly leader. The one in complete charge of everything chose to serve.

John 13:3-5, “Jesus knew that the Father had put Him in complete charge of everything, that He came from God and was on His way back to God. (4) So He got up from the supper table, set aside His robe, and put on an apron. (5) Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with His apron.” The Message

Everyone is equal on a team. Each has a voice, their opinion matters. They all see to their own duties.

Luke 22:6, “Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.” The Message

Proverbs 16 gives us a warning against those who do not work as a team.

Proverbs 16:5, “God can’t stomach arrogance or pretense; believe me, He’ll put those upstarts in their place.” The Message

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Now There Was Room

April 15, 2019: Matthew 21; Mark 11.

It was one of the most misunderstood acts of Jesus. He threw the money changers out of the Temple.

* * * * * * *

The Temple consisted of several areas:

  1. The Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant. The High Priest entered it once a year.
  2. The Holy Place was only for descendants of Aaron.
  3. The Court of Priests where the other descendants of Levi served.
  4. The Court of Israel.
  5. The Court of Women.
  6. The Court of Gentiles.

“The Court of Gentiles was considered as more of a social market place with vendors selling souvenirs, sacrificial animals, food as well as their being currency changers present.”

Gospels Museum

* * * * * * *

“The women’s large court contained several chambers or places where special activities took place:

  1. Chamber of Nazarites…at the end of their Nazarite vows cooked their peace offerings and burned their cut hair.
  2. Chamber of Wood.
  3. Chamber of Lepers…those healed of the disease and purified remained prior to being admitted to the inner court.
  4. Chamber of Oil and Wines.

The Court of Women (also known as the outer court…)…was…where Christ…drove out the ‘money changers’ and others from the Temple (John 2:13-16; Matthew 21:12).

At some point, the vendors moved from the Gentiles Court into the Court of Women. There wasn’t room for them there. That kept some people out. Jesus made room for those people.

Matthew 21:14, “Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and He healed them.” The Message

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Jesus Walked Through Jericho

April 14, 2019: Luke 19; John 12.

We are reading about Jesus’ last week before His death. He’s traveling to Jerusalem. He chose to walk through Jericho.

Luke 19:1, “Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho.” The Message

Jericho was the first city the Israelites conquered in the Promised Land. They marched around the walls 7 times. Each day they marched silently. But after the seventh time, they shouted and the walls came tumbling down.

Jericho was cursed, (see Joshua 6:26). The man who rebuilt the wall would lose his firstborn son when he started. He would lose his youngest son when he finished. That is exactly what happened in 1 Kings 16:34.

Why did Jesus walk through a cursed city? He was looking for Zaccheus.

Zaccheus was also looking for Jesus. He chose to climb a Sycamore tree to see Him.

Luke 19:4, “So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.” The Message

* * * * * * *

“Sycamore tree…this tree was easily destroyed by frost (Psalms 78:47), …it is found mostly in the ‘vale’ (1 Kings 10:27; 2 Chronicles 1:15)…the ‘low country,’ the shephalah, where the climate is mild. Amos 7:14 refers to its fruit, which is of an inferior character;…(Jeremiah 24:2)….”

Zaccheus chose a tree that only survived in a mild climate – a frost could kill it. Its fruit was of an inferior character. He was ashamed of cheating to become rich, see v. 8.

Jesus looked for him anyway. Jesus is looking for you!

  • No matter where you live.
  • No matter what has happened.
  • No matter if you always took the easy way.
  • No matter if your character is inferior.
  • No matter what you’ve done.

Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.” The Message

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Good Living Will Pay Off

April 13, 2019: Isaiah 1-4.

She wondered about his legs. After all, the man is almost 6′ 3″ and there’s not a lot of leg room in a passenger van.

She wondered about the long drive. They weren’t 20 anymore. The bathroom stops came more often. There would only be one stop on this trip.

But he was excited. He gave her a peck on the lips and grabbed his duffel bag. She backed out of the parking space and headed to the library. She got a couple of movies and a pile of books.

She spent the time he was away shopping in three towns. She found a new boutique in one town. And promised herself she would return to the antique shop in another.

She wondered why he didn’t call when he said they would return. He called an hour and a half later. They stopped to eat. It would be another hour.

When she finally picked him up, he was in a talkative mood.

“I didn’t have to buy supper!”

“Who bought it?”

“The Senior Pastor.”

“Did he buy everyone’s supper?”

“No, just mine because I rode in the back of the van both times. I was alone on the way home. I worked on the words for those 2 new songs I am learning for Easter services.”

Isaiah 3:10, “Reassure the righteous that their good living will pay off.” The Message

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All the Generations to Come

April 12, 2019: Psalms 78; Isaiah 6.

I don’t mind being alone all day – but not all night. When my husband was gone for the National Guard, I either moved in with Paula or had Melinda move in with me!

David had a Men’s Retreat this weekend. I called Melinda and we went shopping. She did not stay the night.

I just rehearsed the stories in the Bible and knew I would be okay.

  • If Joseph could be separated from his family for 13 years, I can sleep alone one night.
  • If Jonah could survive in the belly of a whale for three days, I can sleep alone one night.
  • If Daniel could sleep in a lion’s den, I can sleep alone one night.
  • If Samson, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Mark, Apollos, and John the Revelator could sleep in prison, I can sleep alone one night.

Psalms 78:1-7, “Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth, bend your ears to what I tell you.

(2) I’m chewing on a morsel of a proverb; I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths,

(3) Stories we heard from our fathers, counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.

(4) We’re not keeping this to ourselves, we’re passing it along to the next generation – God’s fame and fortune, the marvelous things he has done.

(5) He planted a witness in Jacob, set His Word firmly in Israel. Then commanded our parents to teach it to their children.

(6) So the next generation would know, and all the generations to come – Know the truth and tell the stories.

(7) So their children can trust in God. Never forget the works of God but keep His commands to the letter.”

The Message

This is why we read Bible stories to our children and grandchildren. At some point, they will face a dark time without us. They are never alone because Jesus never leaves. But they will need stories to remember when they are feeling insecure.

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