Mary, (how) did you know?

In this era of fake news, how do you know what’s true?

We each have our preferred news outlets. We customize the news feeds on our phones. We cancel sources (and friends) who tell us things we don’t want to hear.

We say something is true “if it works for you.”

Of all the news that’s ever been delivered in all of history, the news Mary received from the angel Gabriel has to be among the hardest to believe.

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”  (Luke 1:31-33)

If we received an email or a text like this, we’d block the sender.

But Mary didn’t get to pick and choose her source. And I doubt she considered whether this news was going to “work for her.”

What Mary did was to thoughtfully process what the angel had told her. English translations say she “wondered” or “pondered.” In the end, she told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

The Christian faith cannot just be true “if it works for you.”

The Christian faith only works if it’s true.

Mary considered the source…an angel.

Mary considered the message in light of what she knew about God.

Mary chose to believe.

And that’s how she knew what the angel told her was true.

We had to celebrate

With the rise in cases of Covid-19, health officials have been warning us not to get together to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.

I’m thankful for leaders who work to protect us, I pray for them. But I wonder. What is the cost of minimizing the risk to our physical health?

What about our mental and spiritual health?

Luke 15 tells how the tax collectors and sinners “gathered around” Jesus. Seeing this, the Pharisees (which means “separatist”) muttered against him. In response, Jesus told three parables in which something was lost, a sheep, a coin, and a son. After each was found, there was, you guessed it, a celebration.

When the shepherd found his lost sheep and the woman found her lost coin, no explanation was needed. Everyone knew why they had to celebrate. “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” Jesus said.

But when his younger son was found, the father had to explain his joy to the older son. “We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

When Jesus brings someone home, it’s a cause for cosmic joy.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day didn’t understand. Most people today don’t understand either.

Jesus described our ultimate future as a great banquet where he is the host. When we gather for the Lord’s Supper, we get a taste of the joy in our ultimate future. And when believers gather for Thanksgiving, we get a taste of that joy as well.

When we gather to celebrate, there’s a health risk.

When we fail to gather to celebrate, there’s a soul risk.

Sometimes you have to celebrate.

When Dad paid the bills

When I was growing up in the 60’s, my Dad and I used to talk a lot about money. Actually, he would talk, and I would listen.

Dad was a pharmacist, and he and his two partners ran the corner drug store near our home. It was a classic old place with a marble soda fountain. The store provided for a decent living for the three men and their families, the delivery man and his family, and several clerks. 

But Dad always discouraged me from following in his footsteps. “Be a CPA”, he’d say. “They make $30,000.”

I don’t know how much Dad made, but it was a lot less than that. Back then, $30,000 seemed like a lot. Adjusted for inflation, it would be about $225,000 today.

Once a month, Dad would sit at his desk and pay the bills. I tried to avoid him on those days, because paying the bills always put him in a bad mood. He especially disliked paying for car repairs. “Never buy your first car,” he would say.

We had older cars that were frequently in the shop. We lived in an older house. I didn’t dress as nicely as some kids at school.

But I don’t recall any of that being a problem.

We had everything we needed and more.

We were content, except maybe for Dad when he paid the bills.

Then I grew up and starting paying the bills.

And no matter how much I got paid, and how many times I got promoted, it never felt like it was enough.

There is a reason Jesus talked more about money than anything else.

Jesus didn’t need money. He was God and didn’t need anything. Yet Jesus talked more about money that he talked about hell, and he talked about hell a lot.

Jesus knew there would always be someone who made more than us.

Jesus knew that the more we make, the more we consume. Luxuries become necessities. The more we make, the less content we are.

Jesus knew this happens to everyone, so we don’t realize it’s happening to us.

Are you giving away so much that it affects your lifestyle?

Are there things you can’t do, places you can’t go, things you can’t buy because you’re so generous? Unless the answer is “yes,” Jesus might not be first in your life.

You’ll never have enough, never be content, until he is.


The Pew Research Center recently released the results of a study which said that four out of ten registered voters do not have a single close friend who supports the candidate of the other political party. The results were almost identical for Democrats and Republicans. We’re not only divided by our political beliefs; we’re divided in our relationships too.

Thankfully, this is not the biggest problem in the church I serve. We are a city-center church with diverse political beliefs.

When politicians call for “unity,” what they usually mean is that they want you to drop your beliefs and adopt theirs. Is it really unity if I must change my beliefs to be your friend?

So how do you learn to get along?

There must be something greater that you agree on that binds you together.

Interestingly, Jesus talked about division all the time. In Luke 12:51-53 he said, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

When Jesus walked the earth, he claimed to be God incarnate. He didn’t leave us the option of just being our moral example. How can someone be our moral example while claiming to be God, unless he really is God?  

This is why Jesus called himself a divider. Most people can’t accept that Jesus is Lord.

But for some, it’s the greater something that we agree on.

And it binds us together.