Pastor Kirk

Notes from Scio Community Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Birth: Real Woman of Danger, 21 December 2014

Big Idea: Mary was real, raw and dangerous.

Key Scripture: Luke 2:6-20

Introduction

In January of 2003 the Discovery Channel began airing a show called MythBusters. It has continued as one if its oldest and most popular shows. Originally from Australia, it has become a global phenomenon testing various popular beliefs and Internet rumors to see if they are true. The myths are ultimately rated “buster,” “plausible,” or “confirmed.”

It’s one thing to hold beliefs about sunburns, explosions, traffic patterns, or boarding airplanes. It’s quite another to entertain myths about the Bible and, ultimately, God. One of the most frustrating things for me as a follower of Jesus is hearing so-called Biblical quotes that are simply not, such as:

God helps those who help themselves.
Jesus turned water into grape juice instead of wine.
Eve gave Adam an apple in the Garden of Eden (all we know is it was a fruit).
I’m good and, therefore, will go to heaven when I die.
Always pray with your eyes closed.
Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God.
Suffering is always the result of sin since true believers are rich and healthy.
The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.

This Advent season is filled with its own myths:

Three kings from the Orient visited Jesus at his birthplace.
Jesus was born on December 25.
Jesus never cried.
Jesus’ birthday has been celebrated for about 2000 years.

True: Christmas is from “Christ’s mass.”

We’re in the middle of an extended series on Mary, the mother of Jesus. It seems that she is possibly overrated by Catholics and underrated by us Protestants. She is arguably the most important female to ever walk this earth, not only for giving birth to Jesus but also for enduring the consequences of being pregnant out of wedlock, raising the Messiah, and witnessing His brutal death. She was specifically chosen by God to be Jesus’ mom for reasons we don’t entirely know, but good reasons nonetheless.

The center of God’s will is not the safest place to be, but often the most dangerous. Mary is often depicted as a sweet, innocent, almost angelic figure. The real Mary, however, was dangerous. She was dangerous to Augustus and Herod, claiming her son was born to be king. She had a dangerous mission that threatened the Jewish society and the Roman Empire. Rather than a somber-faced girl in a baby-blue robe, Scot McKnight says, “Mary was a muscular, wiry woman whose eyes were aglow with a dazzling hope for justice and whose body evoked a robust confidence in the God who was about to turn the world upside down through her son.”

To fully understand the story, we need to understand the context. We’ve sanitized the account, making it so quaint and comfortable. Imagine North Korea. A tyrant ruler dictates what people can and cannot do. There was no movie to shut down, but Caesar Augustus was literally considered “son of God” in the lineage of his dad, Julius Caesar who was officially declared to be a god. Augustus brought peace to Rome and was considered its savior. His rise was considered good news or “gospel.”

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:6-7)

Guest room is more accurate than an inn. It was likely in a relative’s home. There’s nothing in the Bible about a stable. The manger may have been in an open-air living area like a patio.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)

This is familiar language to the shepherds who knew Augustus as savior. They were now confronted with two kings; Augustus and Jesus.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

Augustus didn’t exactly have angels announcing His birth.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15)

They needed to do something to respond to the celestial symphony!

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:16-20)

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

“What does it mean that Mary was treasuring and pondering? These are standard words in Judaism for thinking about events in one’s life so one could make sense of and narrate what God was doing in history . To ponder is not to withdraw into silent meditation, as we might mean when we use the word “ponder,” but to deliberate in order to interpret. Instead of imagining Mary sitting quietly meditating in some corner all alone, while everyone else was singing and dancing and clapping and dreaming of the end of Augustus’ rule, Mary was actively figuring out what in the world God was doing in the world. Mary pondered the tale of two kings: Augustus and Jesus. And she composed the story of Jesus in her head in order to proclaim it to others.” (Scot McKnight)

She would tell the story orally, a tale of two kings. What we read in the Gospels most likely came from her lips. She got the word out.

So What?

Perhaps the greatest myth of all in the account of the birth of Jesus is that somehow the characters are super-human. They aren’t real. It’s fantasy. Jesus was God so therefore never pooped or cried, Mary floated above the earth like an angel, effortlessly giving birth without a whimper or tear. Joseph—well, Joseph just stood there watching while his wife and step son get all of the attention. The animals smelled like Febreze. The night was silent and perfect, tranquil and sweet.

Last week we examined the journey to Bethlehem. After 80 miles or so on rough, rocky roads Mary’s attire was not clean and tidy. She may have been sick from the pregnancy and/or the travel. She may have had arguments with Joseph during the days they traveled. As an unwed, pregnant woman Mary undoubtedly received sneers and glares from those in her small town

It was likely cold, dark, uncomfortable, and harsh. Sure, the angels provided an incredible soundtrack and they had some unexpected visitors, but this was not the scene depicted on Hallmark cards. Joseph was real. Jesus was real. Mary was real.

Real by Nichole Nordeman

“It matters that Jesus had a real body. For Jesus to be really human he had to be born, as the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Galatians, of a woman and not just through a woman. God didn’t just use Mary as a “rent-a-womb” but actually became DNA— Mary’s. The theological expression at work here is “incarnation,” and the underlying principle is this: What God becomes, God redeems. God becomes what we are—with a real body— so we can become children of God. That’s why Jesus’ real body is important for our faith.”

“For Mary there was another issue. When Mary held that newborn little body in her hands, Mary witnessed the living reality of the promise Gabriel had made to her nine months earlier. She was holding the promise-come-true. The real body she held proved to her that what God said really would take place. For theologians, the birth of Jesus is about the “incarnation.” That is, that God became real human flesh. Yet, for Mary the birth of Jesus was about “coronation.” I doubt Mary thought in the terms theologians use today. I doubt she wondered if her son was God and human or the God-man or what about his natures and person— how they were related. That’s the stuff of theological discussion. For the real Mary, that live body named Jesus may have been a messy, fussy, physical little body, but that real body was an undeniable witness to the truth that God could work miracles.” (Scot McKnight)

Conclusion

There are many myths in our world. The reality of Mary and Joseph are not among them. They were real people like you and I that laughed and cried, were sick and scared, played and prayed while living in a dangerous world.

The reality of Jesus, His birth, His death, His resurrection, and His future return are also not mythology. Jesus is real. He came once to show us what it means to be truly human, serving and sacrificing, reconciling us to our heavenly Father. He is real. His love is real. It is my prayer for you this Christmas that you would experience King Jesus and prepare for His imminent return.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Traveler: Woman of Perseverance, 14 December 2014

Big Idea: Mary persevered through not only a difficult journey to Bethlehem but a life of trials and suffering.

Key Scripture: Luke 2:1-5

Introduction

Do you like to travel? What is the greatest place you’ve ever visited? Where would you most like to go?

I love to travel. I’m fascinated with humans, especially those from other cultures. The sites, smells, tastes, and sounds of Israel are so different from South Korea, Toronto, and London (to say nothing of Columbus, Ohio!).

I used to love flying. I still do, but since 9/11 TSA can be a hassle…and don’t get me started on fees for checking in bags, fees for carrying on bags, fees for reserving a seat, etc. Soon we’ll have to pay to use the toilet!

The journey is important, but unless you’re on a cruise ship, you don’t travel for the journey as much as the destination. Business travel is much different than pleasure. Staying with family can be different than being in a hotel. A family adventure is different than a solo excursion. I once heard someone say a trip is with kids and a vacation is without kids!

Are you traveling for the holidays? Where?

Traveling can be one of the most stressful parts of the holidays—or one of the most gratifying. Strange relatives, icy roads, and uncomfortable bedding can make things challenging while joyous reunions, great food, and special gifts can make the journey worthwhile.

We don’t know exactly when Jesus was born. I estimate there is a 1 in 365 chance He was born on December 25! We do know His birth followed a trip—from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a trip that must’ve been difficult for Joseph…and even more for Mary.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3)

Was this trip business or pleasure? It was certainly not pleasure! Caesar issued a census. Every ten years the United States has a census that helps obtain information about who lives in our country. It’s a simple form typically sent via mail and returned the same way. In the future, I’m sure it will be done online.

Mary and Joseph were not as fortunate. They had to travel to complete the census mandated by Caesar Augustus (which means “exalted”), possibly the greatest Roman emperor. He instituted a republic form of government, expanded the empire to include the entire Mediterranean world, and led during the golden age of architecture and literature.

The census was used for taxation and military services, though Jews were exempt from Roman military service. So they traveled to pay a tax. What fun!

It’s amazing how God could use a pagan leader to bring Jesus to Bethlehem in fulfillment of Micah 5:2…

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

I love seeing Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament!

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:4-5)

You’ve no doubt heard of Nazareth and Bethlehem, but where are they? It was about 80 miles—at least a three-day trip from Nazareth to the birthplace of David…and Jesus! That’s about from Ann Arbor to Frankenmuth.

There is much we don’t know about the journey to Bethlehem, but it certainly required perseverance. It would’ve been less of a pain if they simply had to load up the car, make the drive, register, and return home but, of course, they didn’t have a car. We don’t know if they walked or used an animal (a donkey is usually depicted in illustrated Bibles). Carpenters often had a donkey to carry pieces of wood and tools so perhaps Mary didn’t have to walk, but it was not as simple as running up to the drug store and back.

Traveling such a distance without an SUV with GPS and a DVD player would be long, tiring, and potentially even dangerous. You think our roads are bad? Imagine a rocky, hilly path that would make our dirt roads feel like glass.

Are we there yet?!

It wasn’t just a stroll down the street. Keep in mind, too, several days of travel meant several nights of sleep—either camping or from hospitable Jews along the way.

Women 12 years of age and older had to register for the poll tax so Mary had to travel (she was obviously at least 12 years of age). She was from the house of David. Even if Mary rode a donkey, eight-plus months pregnant—simply to register for the census—must’ve been grueling. Not that Mary had a choice! Nevertheless this is but one example of Mary’s perseverance.

So What?

We don’t know Mary’s attitude toward the journey, but it seems likely she accepted her fate and saw this as just one of the many hardships related to bringing the Messiah into the world. Her song, the Magnificat—which we looked at last week—praised God despite the countless trials she would experience as the mom of Jesus. She was a woman of great perseverance. Her pregnancy was a social catastrophe. She became a young mom. She later experienced disappointment and even witnessed the death of her son. Yet she persevered. She endured countless trials—as did her boy.

There are two ways we can look at trials: we can
groan or grow.

We are a spoiled, pampered people in this nation. We complain at the slightest sign of adversity, expecting to be safe and comfortable 24/7. We are told it is our right to pursue happiness. Jesus had a different message:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)

That’s a promise—we will have trouble! As I’ve often remarked, I’m among the wealthiest 1% on the planet (not the USA, but the world!). You may be, too. Regardless of who you are or where you were born, you will encounter troubles because this world is broken and filled with sin.

We will have trouble, but don’t miss the second promise: Emmanuel—God with us. He is always with us…and He has overcome the world.

I’m both challenged and encouraged by these words from the book of Romans:

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

Therefore, since we have been justified
through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Recently I heard the incredible testimony of former mobster Michael Franzese. He said he has experienced every conceivable emotion but one is far worse than the others—hopelessness.

It seems odd that suffering would lead to hope, but that’s often the result.

I’ve been amazed at one recent amputee and her attitude of gratitude for a surgery that took her leg (http://myelephantsintheroom.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/why-i-am-grateful-for-my-amputation/). If she can be grateful…

During these final days of Christmas chaos I encourage you to count your blessings and seek God’s will and purposes in your sufferings and stress. Every day is filled with things that we can complain about and things we can celebrate. God is still sovereign and in control. He is still on the throne. Mary persevered through much because she continually trusted God rather than feeling sorry for herself. The journey to Bethlehem is but one small example of the things she endured for the purpose of bringing honor and glory to God.

"Sometimes we think to ourselves, “I’m being obedient, so why aren’t things going better?” We face discomfort or inconvenience and immediately think either that we have misread God’s will or that God has made a mistake. But watch this quiet couple as they head toward Bethlehem. God did not soften Joseph’s bumpy road, but strengthened him. God did not provide a luxurious inn for Joseph and Mary, but brought his Son into the world in humble surroundings. When we do God’s will, we are not guaranteed comfort and convenience. But we are promised that everything, even discomfort and inconvenience, has meaning in God’s plan. He will guide you and provide all you need. Like Joseph, live each day by faith, trusting that God is in charge."

- Life Application Study Bible, Luke 2:4-5

May God be glorified in not only our praise and worship in the midst of blessings but also the way in which we suffer and persevere. This world is temporary and the best is yet to come.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Magnificat: Woman of Praise & Humility, 7 December 2014

Big Idea: During a visit with Elizabeth, Mary bursts into song, exclaiming timeless truths about God’s power, holiness, mercy, sovereignty, and provision while extolling the virtues of humility. It is one of the first hymns of ancient Christianity and frequently sung in many churches more than two thousand years later.

Key Scripture: Luke 1:46-56

Introduction

This will be a great revelation to you, but I love music! It’s one of God’s most beautiful gifts. From the time I was brought home from the hospital to today music fills my ears, my mind, my life!

The Advent season is one of my favorite times of year, not the least of which is because of the music. It’s the only time of year in which it is politically correct to sing about Jesus.

What is your favorite Christmas song?

This week I found an article that exposed many of the disturbing lyrics in popular songs. For example, in the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” the true love would end up receiving 184 birds total. What would you do with 184 birds (I’d rather have the golden rings!).

In “Santa Claus is coming to Town,” Santa is presented as a stalker, always watching if you’re good or bad. Creepy!

In “Do You Hear What I Hear?” the singer hears the night wind and a little lamb talking to them. Hmm.

In “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” the tone is one of cheer and happiness…until the figgy pudding is mentioned. First they demand, “Bring us some figgy pudding” and then threaten by saying, “We won’t go until we get some!”

My favorite Christmas song might be “O Holy Night.” Listen to these lyrics:

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

There’s great power not only in lyrics, but music itself. In fact, hospitals today are not only filled with physical therapists and occupational therapists but also music therapists who play soothing music to promote relaxation and healing for patients.

Of course music is nothing new. One of my favorite stories is how some rabbis believe when God spoke creation into existence He actually sang it into being.

The Bible is filled with music, with songs. The book of 1 Samuel describes another powerful use of music.

Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.

Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. (1 Samuel 16:14, 23)

We are in the midst of a series on Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a remarkable young woman, likely a teenager when she was chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah.

For the record, while I believe Roman Catholics overrate Mary, Protestants tend to underrate her, some afraid to even talk about her for fear of worshipping her as some have alleged Catholics of doing (disclaimer: two weeks ago I showed a video in which two Catholic priests insisted they do not worship Mary, but they do pray to her which is problematic for me since Jesus is the only mediator between us and the Father, but that’s another matter entirely). We worship and adore God and honor Mary.

In addition to her own purity and devotion which led to her selection, she knew the scriptures and wrote one of the most famous songs in history. I don’t think it’s ever been on Top 40 radio, but two thousand years later people are still reading the lyrics and incorporating them into new songs.

We will look at this special song from Luke 1 today, a song called the
Magnificat, Latin for the first words of the song, translated “my soul magnifies the Lord.”

Luke 1:46-56

This song is the Magna Carta of early Christian songs. It poignantly describes the Messiah that was anticipated and would live in Mary’s womb until His birthday.

Here’s a little background:

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:39-45)


And Mary said: (Luke 1:46a)

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, (Luke 1:46b-47)

Ps. 34: 3: Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.

Ps. 35: 9: Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.

Isa. 61: 10: I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

1 Sam. 2: 1– 2: Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the lord; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

Hab. 3: 18: yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will be joyful in God my Savior.

for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. (Luke 1:48a)

1 Sam. 1: 11: And she [Hannah] made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

1 Sam. 9: 16: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.”

Gen. 29: 32: Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

From now on all generations will call me blessed, (Luke 1:48b)

Gen. 30: 13: Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.

Mal. 3: 12: “Then all nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the lord Almighty.

for the Mighty One has done great things for me— (Luke 1:49a)

Deut. 10: 21: He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.

Ps. 71: 19b: You who have done great things. Who is like you, God?

Zeph. 3: 17: The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

holy is his name. (Luke 1:49b)

Ps. 111 :9: He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (Luke 1:50)

Ps. 103: 11: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.

Ps. 103: 17: But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’S steadfast love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.

Ps. 100: 5: For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)

1 Sam. 2: 7-8: The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’S, on them he has set the world.

Ps. 89: 10: You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.

Prov. 3: 34: He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

Job 12: 19: He leads priests away stripped and overthrows officials long established.

Ezek. 21: 26b: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low.

Ps. 107: 9: For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:54-55)

Isa. 41: 8-9: But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham, my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, “You are my servant”; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

Ps. 98: 3: He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Mic. 7: 20: You will be faithful to Jacob and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.

2 Sam. 22: 51: He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:56)

So What?

Mary is a singer. She is a song writer. She is a student of the Bible. She is a worshipper.

We know the story. We know what happens…but she knows only what was told to her by the angel. This is a pregnant teenager—likely—in a culture that despised unwed moms. It may sound romantic to be the mother of Jesus, but she also would experience not only His death but threats to her own life. The awe and wonder of Gabriel’s announcement was surely tempered by the certain death of her own social standing. The humble, pure girl would be treated like a harlot.

Cradle - Cross - Crown

When Mary conceived, the world was awaiting a Messiah to fix the brokenness caused by sin and death. Jesus failed to meet the expectations of the Jews, arriving not as a warrior king but a vulnerable baby. Rather than killing His enemies, He was killed by them and even prayed for them as He hung on a cross meant for criminals.

Advent is all about waiting. Mary did it. The Jews did it. Today we do it as we await His return. It won’t be as an infant so tender and mild but as the powerful King of kings and LORD of lords. During this time in-between, we remember His first entrance into our world, His accomplished mission on the cross, His triumphant resurrection, and His departure to prepare a place for us.

This season’s celebration is not simply about the birthday of the King but what that life means for us today—grace, forgiveness, life, hope, joy, meaning, purpose, and peace.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

The Call: Woman of Obedience, 23 November 2014

Big Idea: Mary is not just for Catholics, but an obedient girl who responded to the call of God.

Summary:
The story of the birth of Jesus begins not on Christmas Day, but nine months or so prior. An angel calls Mary and announces her assignment (she really has no say in the matter!). She understandably asks the obvious question (v. 34) but does not object (as we will see next week). Has God called you to do something? It may not be as significant as giving birth to the Messiah, but are you being obedient to the smaller assignments He has given to you? Why did God choose Mary? It was likely because she was a woman (girl?) of obedience prior to the assignment.

keywords: calling, mission, obedience

Key Scripture: Luke 1:26-37

Introduction: Call

When someone calls you, what do you do?

That’s a vague question, right? It depends upon who calls and how. Two hundred years ago if you wanted to call a person you could use your voice or possibly a letter, one a bit more instantaneous than the other!

Then the telephone. We still have a land line. We almost never answer it, especially before political elections! If you ever call my house and we hang up on you, don’t take it personally! I’ve always tried to be respectful to people when they call. Half the time it’s not even a human on the other end. I sometimes pick up and just listen, waiting for a voice, then hanging up if there’s much more than a moment of silence on the other end. You might say I’m not very responsive if you call me on my home phone.

The same is sometimes true for the office phone. Caller ID is a blessing! Perhaps a third of the calls to the church office are telemarketers, another third are people in distress asking for money, and the final third are people calling for other purposes.

My cell phone is different. When it rings, I almost always respond. I don’t get too many telemarketers (knock on wood!). If my wife or one of my kids is on the caller ID, I almost always respond.

Have you ever noticed sometimes the phone is more important than the person in front of you? It’s amazing how tempting it is to let a phone call with a human take precedence over the human with whom we are interacting. I try to never interrupt a live conversation for a phone call unless it is my immediate family. That’s why they created voice mail!

Have you ever heard your name called in a public place? Your name may be the most important word in the world. It grabs your attention immediately. Perhaps you’ve heard your name over the PA system in a store or someone yelled your name across a parking lot. It’s unexpected, surprising, and sometimes rather fun. My father-in-law is the king of this! He retired to Florida and it seems every we talk with him he has another story of some old military buddy or high school colleague he encountered near his home.

Imagine a stranger called your name. They came to you and said, “Greetings!”

I’d probably run or tell them I’m out of cash if they wanted my money!

Imagine being a teenage girl and suddenly you’re confronted by…an angel!

Angels are real. The Bible is full of them. One third left to follow satan when he was kicked out of heaven for his pride, a failed coup attempt against God.

Have you ever met an angel?

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel
to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-28)

This is great new! First, the angel is very friendly. “Greetings.” Then Mary is told she is highly favored. Who wouldn’t want an angel to announce that to them? Then Mary is told the Lord is the her.

Imagine you go for a walk in the park and a friendly angel announces God is with you and you’re highly favored. What could be better?

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. (Luke 1:29)

Greatly troubled at his words? It doesn’t say she was troubled by the appearance of a ghost. She was troubled at the angel’s words.

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

Mary was afraid. Perhaps angels can be scary! He repeats Mary’s favor with God. David is mentioned again…and Jacob, too. Gentiles tend to skip over these details, seeing them as unimportant facts, but as a Jew, they were significant. Prophecy clearly stated the Messiah would be a descendant of David. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the beginning of the people of Israel.

Matthew states it this way:

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose
mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:1-16)

Last week we talked about women and how they have not always been given the freedom, recognition, responsibility, and opportunities afforded to men. Here is the family tree of Jesus. It’s not too exciting at first, but notice the women included—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba…and Mary.

Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes or alleged. Ruth was a foreigner. Bathsheba committed adultery—or was a rape victim. It’s startling that these women would be specifically mentioned (since each man listed had a mom!).

The repeated phrase “The father of” shifts with Jesus since Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but He was born of Mary.

For about 400 years God had been silent, the inter-testamental period between the old and new. Then the aged Elizabeth gets pregnant and now the virgin Mary is with child.

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

Very good question!

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:35-37)

Mary

With few exceptions, “Mariam” has been tossed aside by Protestants except for the month of December when we let her sit in the nativity scene beside the baby Jesus. Not wanting to “worship” her as Roman Catholics are often accused of doing, we ignore her faith, obedience, and important role throughout the life and death of Jesus. This series will strive to uncover the character and narrative of one of the Bible’s most underrated figures and one we are to call “blessed” (Luke 1:48b).

Why do we virtually ignore Mary? For some it is a reaction to Catholics. Contrary to some rumors, Mary was not a Roman Catholic!!! If Mary is overrated by Catholics, she is underrated by Protestants. Aside from being the mother of Jesus, she found favor with God and was carefully chosen to bring the Messiah into our world. As my professor Scot McKnight says, “We are Protestants; we believe in the Bible; Mary is in the Bible; we need to believe what the Bible says about Mary.”

Mary was obedient, not only in giving birth to Jesus (did she have a choice?!) but she clearly lived a life that honored God. She was undoubtedly faithful in the small things that allowed her to be chosen for a most monumental task.

So What?

What about you? Are you highly favored by God? I can promise you God is with you. That was His promise. Matthew’s final recorded words of Jesus—known as the Great Commission—say this:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Notice two things:

  • Jesus wants His followers to obey…and teach others to obey. Obedience is God’s love language.
  • He promises to be with us. Always. Psalm 139 is one of many explicit passages about God’s omnipresence—His ability to be with us always and everywhere. We are never alone. Never.

What is God saying to you today? What are you going to do about it?

Those two questions will determine not only your present but your future. God is not mad at you. He’s not trying to harm you or make your life miserable. He’s a great, loving Dad who can be trusted—even when He’s not understood.

One of the great things about Thanksgiving is the way it reminds us how we are truly blessed. Every good and perfect gift is from the LORD.

My prayer for you and me is that we would trust and obey. He’s calling you to obey. He’s calling me to obey. Have you heard His voice? If not, perhaps it’s time to spend more time with Him—in prayer and study of His Word.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Women in the Bible, 16 November 2014

Big Idea: Mary is not just for Catholics, but a crucial Biblical character worth imitating alongside many other godly women.

Key Scripture: Matthew 1:1-16

Introduction

I want to talk about
women. I’m particularly fond of one beautiful woman, my wife, my best friend, and the mother of our three adult children. We have been married for more then 24 years and there’s (at least) one thing I’ve never heard her express: complaint about being a woman.

It’s no secret that throughout history women have been treated as second-class citizens. The exact origins are unclear to me—aside from the possibility that average men are more physically strong and capable of using and abusing force and violence to achieve their objectives.

Although we think nothing of women owning property, voting, or leading corporations, women are often paid less than men for similar work…and we have yet to have a woman lead our nation as president. According to one
Newsweek study, the USA ranks eighth in the world in terms of opportunity for women (Iceland is first followed by Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, and Norway). The worst country is Chad, followed by Afghanistan, Yemen, The DR of Congo, and Mali. (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/09/18/best-and-worst-countries-for-women-from-iceland-to-the-u-s-to-pakistan-and-afghanistan.html)

Today women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and are killed for honor in Pakistan.

It’s easy to point fingers at the “world,” but the church has not always treated women favorably. In many churches and denominations, women are restricted in areas of leadership, understandably on the basis of some of Paul’s writings in the New Testament. What has always bothered me, however, is the double standard when women can go overseas and lead churches but are forbidden from doing much of anything in a USA congregation.

Just for the record, I have struggled more with the issue of women in leadership than any other issue. I respect many that hold to a conservative view and many that are very progressive. We’re not going to delve into Paul much today, but I want to suggest the restrictions he placed upon women were specific women in specific churches at a specific time, not necessarily universal instructions for every woman for all times. Were that the case, we would be in great violation at Scio. For instance,

Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? (1 Corinthians 11:13)

As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:33b-35)

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. (1 Timothy 2:11-13)

Men and women
are different.

Male and Female

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man.” (Genesis 5:2)

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ (Matthew 19:4)

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ (Mark 10:6)

“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” wrote one bestselling author! We are different, but it cannot and should not be said that men are superior to women.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Here’s the formal statement by our denomination, the Christian & Missionary Alliance:

Women may fulfill any function in the local church which the senior pastor and elders may choose to delegate to them consistent with the Uniform Constitution for Accredited Churches and may properly engage in any kind of ministry except that which involves elder authority.

  • from the Manual of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, H1, Statement on Church Government, 4. Form of Government, d. Local Church, (5)

Junia(s)

Years ago I wrote a paper on the subject of women in ministry when I was doing my master’s degree. I received an “A” but the professor wrote, “What is your opinion on the subject?” I tried to faithfully present both sides of the argument—and the spectrum. Apparently I presented the viewpoints without revealing mine. My paper was based upon one verse in the last chapter of the book of Romans.

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Romans 16:7, NIV 1984)

There’s one problem with this verse. The fourth word is actually
Junia. There is no evidence that any man had the name Junias! This verse says Junias is outstanding among the apostles. Since apostles were thought to not be women and Junia was a woman, the name was changed to Junias, therefore making it a male name.

So Junias is a man who didn’t exist with a name that didn’t exist in the ancient world!

Early translations of the New Testament into other languages showed Junia as a woman but Martin Luther turned her into a man! He wasn’t the first, but was influential in the name/gender change.

The Bible we possess is not in the original language, nor do we have the original manuscripts. We have English translations derived from composites of various manuscripts. This does not mean the Bible is unreliable, but it does mean the 66 books didn’t fall from heaven, leather-bound in English!

Notice…

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Romans 16:7, NIV 2011)

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (Romans 16:7, NASB)

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (Romans 16:7, KJV)

My professor, Scot McKnight, and most scholars “are reasonably confident” we have the original words in about 98% of the New Testament, and the few questionable issues do not deal with essential matters of our faith.

So Junia is an outstanding apostle. Priscilla taught Apollos. Phoebe was a deacon.

Women in the Bible

Why are we talking about Junias in a series about Mary? Mary is not the first prominent woman in the Bible. Throughout this series we will examine her story, her character, and her significance. We all know she was Jesus’ mom, but let’s look at His family tree.

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:1-16)

Here is the family tree of Jesus. It’s not too exciting at first, but notice the women included—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba…and Mary.

Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes. Ruth was a foreigner. Bathsheba committed adultery—or was a rape victim. It’s startling that these women would be specifically mentioned (since each man listed had a mom!).

The repeated phrase “The father of” shifts with Jesus since Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but He was born of Mary.

Mom

Each year we celebrate Mother’s Day. It’s a special day filled with emotions for most of us, feelings of warmth and love for some, grief and loss for others. Moms are special. We honor them. If your mom is special, imagine how special Jesus’ mom must be.

Series Introduction

With few exceptions, “Mariam” has been tossed aside by Protestants except for the month of December when we let her sit in the nativity scene beside the baby Jesus. Not wanting to “worship” her as Roman Catholics are often accused of doing, we ignore her faith, obedience, and important role throughout the life and death of Jesus. This series will strive to uncover the character and narrative of one of the Bible’s most underrated figures and one we are to call “blessed” (Luke 1:48b).

Why do we virtually ignore Mary? For some it is a reaction to Catholics.

As Scot McKnight says, “We are Protestants; we believe in the Bible; Mary is in the Bible; we need to believe what the Bible says about Mary.”

For Further Study

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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