Advertisements

Ephesians 1:15-23 “Above Every Name”

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. [NRSV]

This text is part of the introduction section of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. He praises their faithfulness, wisdom and hope. He is grateful for their generous support of his ministry. And we may find it difficult to hear the first portion about any specific church today. While we would hope that were like that church the Paul describes. Some read Paul’s letters with a style of writing what he hopes for the church and not necessarily the reality of the church, based on the instructions and corrections contained in the following parts of his writing to the church. But I suggest that to sort out that discussion is not the focus of our reading today.

It is who we are at the world-wide, timeless church of Jesus -the Christ, present for the world that Paul affirms for our faith.

He reminds us of the Gospel Message:

God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.”  

Christ is the Authority:

The church has handed over the reigns of our authority contextual academic criticism and theological reflection, we have given up on deep commitment and lifetime covenants, exchanging what is trending, fun, entertaining and simple. Not that faith has be complex, but we have made the wall the define us so low and world-like that it is difficult to know when we are faithful and when we are not.

The result is that we don’t think we have to deal with authority. We base God’s loving authority on the cruelty of those who have misused authority in God’s name or in God’s image for their own purposes and blame God for the evil in the world.

The setting of Ephesus was the powerful center of worship of the Roman goddess Dianna at the temple of Artemis. This was a place one would go to make offerings for favor in futility, in family, crops, and wealth. Make your donation and you will be blessed with abundance. The Roman government found great wealth and devotion. The church would have been such a small size organization in the middle of Sin-City. (How many churches are located ON the stripe in Las Vegas? zero) The church at Ephesus was off-off-off “the Strip.” And Paul is speaking about the authority of Christ and the Church.

Which has the greater authority today? The United States of America or the Throne of God? Which can tax, imprison and offer your life? Both? But which one loves you? What one created the other? God is not the creation of humanity, God is the creator, designer, love, and judge of the world and all the nations of the world, in our time and all times. God trumps the United States of America. (That is not a back-hand political comment, that is the truth.)

As the church we given up so much of our authority and calling in the name of being fair, kind, and inclusive. These are not ours to relinquish but have given permission to not trust God’s authority in our lives. And we wonder why the church is not the center of our social life as it has been in the past.

We question who more and more people in our country less faith have, less understand, and less respect for the church… and it comes when the God’s People concede that there is a greater authority than God.

We have more freedoms than did the church at Ephesus and yet Paul is calling them to be faithful to God’s authority when there were so many reasons not to in that environment. Paul is not saying, “let’s just all get along.” He is not saying, “Why can’t we be friends.” He is not singing, “We are the World.”

Paul is saying God has power and dominion over all things. Period….and his list continues:

  • With Power and Dominion
  • Above every other name
  • In that age
  • And in our age
  • And in the age to come.

God is the top dog, the chief above all chief, the supreme head of the universe. Not because God is on a power trip, but authority comes from creation, design and love.

In particular, Paul encourages our trust in Christ’s Authority:

And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Because Jesus has given his life for ours, we follow his lead and call upon our lives.

The authority of Church is given by God, through Christ and continues through the Holy Spirit..

The problem we face is that at times we abused that authority

We allow others to abuse that authority

And rather than risk being wrong we hand over the power to governments, academies, armies and those who hunger for power who have the squeaky wheels of our collective attention.

  • Authority? We would rather be entertained.
  • Authority? We’d rather not be responsible.
  • Authority? We’d rather abdicate and take our chances that someone else will get it better than we would do.

That is not how God works.

  • God is the author of Authority.
  • God entrusts that Authority in Christ
  • Christ entrust that Authority in the Church and the ongoing body of Christ, present it the world
  • The Holy Spirit is our strength and guide to use God’s authority, AS the Church, for the work of God and glory of Christ.

The So What of this passage is to remind us that God is still in control; God remain the authority.

  • If we ever wonder why things are unfair,
  • If we wonder, why nations are at war
  • If we wonder, why people suffer under different governments
  • If we wonder, why there are those who hunger and thirst
  • If we wonder why there are terrorist, tyrants and evil in this world

The answer is that someone is not trusting God’s gracious and awesome authority.

What do we do about it.

  • We start with ourselves and our church. We stand for Jesus Christ.
  • We give our own affirmation, allegiance and trust to Christ.
  • We encourage one another under God’s grace, commands and love as the guide of our hearts, minds, souls and lives.
  • We show the world through our individual and local witness what it to be the body of Christ.

If we are not shine the light of Christ as a lampstand for the world to see, there is wonder why are fearful, diminished and feel powerless.

Paul says to the church then, and now.

You and I are the body of Jesus Christ, we will not be silenced, limited, or stopped by anything.

Authority is not the preacher’s, nor the congregations nor the conference, the authority is God’s through Christ.

For all that our church faces in this world, we need to reclaim our authority to lead the world to Christ.

  • We have the commandments of God
  • The life and grace of Christ
  • And the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit,
  • Don’t give up doing things the world’s way.

More next week…

Advertisements

, ,

Leave a comment

John 14:15-21 “See Me In You”

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” [NRSV]

The promise Jesus makes to us as disciples is be connected to the very Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in our spirits, our true self.

We are not simply the sum of amassed knowledge that artificial intelligence can replicate. We have an additional dimension to our self. In Christ, this spirit is born. Through Christ we are awaken and reborn as a spiritual –  new person.

The purpose of knowing and being connected in Holy Spirit is to that God does not want us to be left out, alone, powerless, or afraid. God remains with us because God is all about the relationship.

The Difference in Knowing About Jesus and knowing Jesus.

In the old standard Interpreter’s Bible there is the story of a student who runs into a previous professor from a decade ago at conference meeting. The student waits in line to speak with the professor, he introduced himself as a “one of your students.” To which the professor looked puzzled, thinking through the thousands of students in his tenure. He replied, “Sir, you may have attended my lectures, but you were not one of my students.”

We can know countless information and proof of the historical Jesus, but we can miss knowing Jesus for all the facts. Do you realize there are no letters or documents signed by Jesus? We have no original copy of the Ten Commandments. We don’t even have original copies of the Bible, not one of them penned by its author, and yet we place our faith in the scriptures and our lives in Christ and our hope in the Holy Spirit? How could we be so foolish or faithful?

The difference is that these resources of our faith lead us to meet the person of Jesus, the witness of God, the movement and strength of the Holy Spirit in people lives. It is not History’s job to prove Jesus, that falls on our shoulders. It is not the Academic Academy’s job to validate our claims and truths, that is the work of God in the Holy Spirit.

Graham Greek writes of a character in “The Power and the Glory” known as the whiskey priest who attempts to describe how God is at work as the Father and the son the Holy Spirit. He alludes to the rural western town where the barber is also the shop keeper and the deputy sheriff, wear differ hats as needed. The divine reality is that God wears all three hats at the same time, beyond all time.

God so longs for our heart/mind/soul/self to be loved, and love in return through all creation that God is working in us in every generation. Scripture is timeless because it God speaking to humanity. A humanity that sins, fails and fall short. Scripture is truth because it reflects God’s guiding those God chooses and those who choose God to tell the Good News of God’s workings. Scripture is power because it is the Holy Spirt speaking through the hearts, soul, minds, and self of the faithful to witness to all generations that God creates us in love, saves us through grace, and empowers and guides us to witness that love and grace to all the world: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are/is with us.

How do know the Spirit is in us?

the On the day that we are born anew in the Spirit, is the moment that we realize God is in Jesus, and Jesus is in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is in us, and we are in God, through Jesus in our Spirit.

The ability to make this connection is what the image of God is all about. God’s nature is not limited by physical features; God nature is beyond history, beyond matter, beyond science, beyond time. For God to be all knowing, seeing and loving, means that God is more than our perspective.

For me personally, I grew up hearing sermons, lessons, hymns, anthems, studies, songs, cantatas, programs, devotions and stories of faith in church, outside of church, at home and in my own devotion progress. While I was baptized as an infant, it was not until my thirteenth year, while at the chapel at Camp Glisson did I know in my heart that all these information had a connecting point that included me.

There have been other times that God has claimed and made a stabbing hold on my spirit to mark my journey. It is not only a new birth is the a new life with new milestones.

Today’s passage is about markers in this spiritual journey.

I have learned through thirty-six years of professional ministry that there are those with much less training and practice that have a deeper and more mature journey than my own. But we all share the same spirit. Jesus gives the promise of God’s Spirit to live in us, that we are awakened and born anew, and it comes through a process.

  • Love
  • Commandments
  • Revelation

We typically would think it is in reverse. If we had a powerful revelation, our own Damascus Road, or burning bush, or tree in the middle of the garden, or some powerful sign of healing that we would be devoted to keep God’s commandments. But it is just the reverse in Jesus teaching.

  • We learn that we are loved by God, not oppressed by God.
  • The tree in the Garden was given to make it simple, we misplace trust.
  • The law was given to keep us in bounds, but we rebelled.
  • The kings and prophets were given to define us, and we devalued our neighbors and enemies.
  • Jesus arrives and offers himself as our stand in for our oppression, lost trust, rebellion, pride and separation.
  • The Holy Spirit is given as part of our Spirit that we might know God is eternally with us, now and for eternity.

As I looked out my window, I saw the mighty wind blow the leaves and branches and trunks of trees, but I sat safely in my house, climate controlled and secure. Am I so protecting myself that I am not away of the Spirit I see in others?

Being in the Spirit, is being willing to face the winds with God’s help.

If our starting place to find the Holy Spirit is to be in love, we look to God’s self-vulnerability of creating people, male and female, and entrusting us with the possibility to love and trust or to reject and rebel, hoping we would choose relationship and trust in God, who loves us enough to give us that choice.

God loves us.

When we see that God loves us despite our flaws and failures. When we see that we are God’s children, the creation of God’s love, and all people are so created, we see God not only loves me, and you, but everyone. A love that immense is awesome beyond our capacity to express or understand, and yet this is what God has and is doing for us. God loves us. God so loves us that he gave his Son, himself for us, to not only prove that love but give love to our life.

And when see this love is real, the commandment become our response. But our failings continue as the choice to trust God is challenged in everyday.

God reveals his Spiritual Presence. Living, growing and giving witness in our heart, soul, mind, self.

If you have not seen God at work in someone’s life there are dozen in this church who can share with you how God is at work in their life.

If you have heard and seen God in the lives of others but you question about God in your life, this is where this passage speaks to us all. Hear the Good News.

God loves us. Not even evil, death or anything will stop that love, as seen in Christ

And God wants to move in with us wherever we go. The invitation is God’s – let God move you.

God be in me, Let your Holy Spirit feed and guide me. God give my faith life and fuel to burn passionately for you. Be in my mind, in my soul, in my thoughts and in my actions. Come Holy Spirit reveal yourself in me. Amen.

, ,

Leave a comment

John 14:1-14 “The Faith of Proof”

The proof that frequencies have a physical effect on matter in Hydrogen and Sand moved by sound. https://youtu.be/tFAcYruShow

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. [NRSA]

Our culture, even more than in the time of the first disciples long for PROOF.

The disciples are looking for proof. What is the proof of eternal life? What is the proof of heaven?

Are their streets of gold and pearly gate? Is it forty acres or one-mile square? Are their clouds, harps and banquet tables? I have long thought myself, that the great gathering of those who have died in Christ are raised to worship God would have a grand center of worship around the throne. In that congregation are stadium seats, reclining seats, with in-seat speakers and surround sound of the highest fidelity. The seating chart will be an unlikely arrangement. My guess is that while all the seats face the throne, those seated to our left and right are most likely those we least expect to be seated near. Therefore, we are given the commandment to love our enemies because we will be together for a very long time. Those seated in front of us are those who we didn’t expect to be there and those seated behind are those we looked forward to seeing the most, who have had our back in this life. I believe heaven is a grand reversal of much of what we expect and anticipated. But I don’t plan to be disappointed at all.

In our grief we look forward to being greeting and surrounded by loved ones that we miss who have gone before us. I too look forward to this with hope. But one clear thing that Jesus explains to disciples is this: That Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. And he will return to take us home.

The Proof of Science and Reason

What would cause us to find our way home? Our culture has seen an amazing advancement in the power of science and reason to affect the world. When faced with a tiny virus, and the threat of suffering and death, science and reason have convinced the world to shelter-in-place as a global community. When is the last time the church did something that caused the whole world to respond in unison?

We need to acknowledge the voice and trust of science and reason are passionately challenging our voice of faith, tradition, and God’s own self. Even when the quantum physic scientist drills down into the basic sub-atomic energies and sees the systemic order and mystery of every part of the universe and its interconnectedness and still calls it random chance, we know that voice is choose something other than the heart of a gracious God of love.

When we listen to the Academies and Congresses of power and see how the world responds to say that the Church has oppressed humanity in the past, is not guarantee that they have or can oppress the world even further away from God’s heart.

Science and Reason are not our enemies, but they are not greater than God. They are part of how we explain and understand the world around us. But it is God has created all thing in God’s order, in God’s timing, with God’s purpose, out of God’s love for us.

We need to be aware where the world has placed its trust, but we do not need to be afraid. We have God who remains God.

Two Simple Promises

Jesus does not want disciples to live in fear. This is clear from the prophets foretelling the Messiah, to the angles at Jesus’s birth, to his words to followers and disciples before and after his resurrection. When Jesus, who knows us best has gone to prepare a place for us, has our very best interest at heart, knows what we need. Therefore, the accommodations of heaven will lack for nothing we need. Secondly his promise is personalized. He knows what each us needs. Don’t worry about heaven or your time of being here or there. God has got you covered, here and now as well as then and there.

The second promise

Jesus makes the most clearly defined statement in scripture concerning himself:

  • I am,
  • the way,
  • the truth,
  • the life.

In the old testament,

Moses ask for God’s name to take to pharaoh. God says my name is: I am. Jesus adds to the name three others: Way, Truth, and Life. I am Life; I am Truth; I am the Way; I am.

These are names in which we trust.

There are some who ask, “Does that mean all the other religions lead people to hell?” My answer is this, “I am not judge, that is life to God and Jesus. I do believe that for those who have found God’s heart in various ways on earth will find themselves face-to-face with Jesus who is our trust salvation.”

I believe that many people who think their good deeds, good intensions, and leveraged attempts to buy faith will be disappointed that they have traded their lives here for torment of loneliness in the time to come.

Our calling is to share that which we know to be the way, the truth and the life to the great “I am” and trust God to reach those who do not believe us. But know that God desire to use our love and trust to reach others in this life.

The Word Made Flesh

God models this himself in Jesus. Jesus offers himself. Some will listen and believe others will not. God is not in the business of forcing faith or grace, but is patient, grace-filled and hopeful that we will come ot him through Christ.

Jesus offers his word, and if don’t take his word, take his works.

Also know God is expecting us to do even greater things that Jesus did with his life. (excluding the salvation piece, that’s Jesus alone does for us all.)

Jesus does answer the question of PROOF with a call to faith.

The Proof is turned on the disciples. His command is to Do the things that further his work, and God will provide and that will be the proof. Which makes our actions and God’s work, again with the actions of faith? We do them with the anticipation and hope that Christ will be revealed in and through us.

If we do not do the things of God toward others, then we close the heart of God and make it more difficult for us both to find God’s heat. The proof is in the faith.

Leave a comment

John 10:1-10 “The Risk of an Open Gate”

Church of the Transfiguration
Mt Tabor, Church of the Transfiguration.

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again, Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  [NRSV]

Sheep Herding Risk

Very few if any of us will shepherd sheep. We are much more likely to have cows, dogs, or cats. We may not have a herd, but we know the risk of opening the door or the gate and allowing out pets to go out. All manner of dangers awaits out the gate or door. from the mechanical, mischievous, and manageable ones. The coyotes that boarder our properties lay in wait. Driver speeding though neighborhood and country roads are distracted. Air borne contagions blowing at our windows and doors.

We found ourselves on the verge of leaving our shelter-at-home and wonder about the risk of opening ourselves to the risk of being exposed to infections and re-infections of the virus, and all manors of evil, sin, brokenness, grief, hurt and suffering.  If I were charged with herding sheep today, the herd would be at great risk. I lack the experience.

God’s Risk

Have you ever reflected upon the great risk God has entrusted in us? God has no desire nor need for smart robots to do God’s work or give God praise as a programed creation. God has made us from love, hoping that we would choose to love and trust God in return, and to show that love and trust to one another. We certainly fail, and God is gracious. God offers himself as the gate and door through that love and trust.

God risks children in the garden of Edan to be trusting of God’s graciousness and single command. The Tree in the middle of the garden is the central figure of that divine-human trust. God provides without request everything that we would need, surrounded in love and relationship, and asks of us to trust God more than we trust ourselves.

The sin in the garden is upon hearing something different from God’s instruction, that we forfeit our life in the moment of curiosity, disobedience, or selfishness.

What if the story had Adam and Eve exploring the garden together, and when confronted by the diversion of the slick talking snake, that they asked each other before acting alone? Of if divided on what to do in a giving situation asked God directly, what to do or what are the consequence of our choices, thoughts and actions. If we have learned anything in this time of quarantine, may it be that we need each other more than we ever realized.

I am the Gate

As our eternal remedy to sin and misplaced trust and the forfeit of our lives, Jesus offers himself as the gate, the way, back to God.

We think back the garden of Eden passage and know that after the failing to trust and communion, God sends Adam and Eve out, and set an angel with a sword to close the entrance back into the garden. 

While this is a fearful and passionate scene, their thoughts, actions, and choices bore fruit of rejecting God, trusting themselves above God’s heart and instruction. The consequence should have been death. But God continue to love them, and loves us even when we sin and reject by our thoughts, actions and choices.

All those who came before were not the way.

Jesus makes it plain to disciples. There are those who USE God’s trust and love are thieves and robbers. We like to blame the devil or find someone to blame for our irresponsibility with our lives. We want to blame our leaders, the wealth people and corporations. We find it easy to blame governments, but remember we are the one’s who selected to lead us.

Too many people are overwhelmed by the deep fighting in our political parties. One side blaming the other, day after day. Answer this question before we move on: If all the time, energy, and passion that we given to find the correct person or party to blame would be refocused on holding each other accountable to God’s love and trust. We would reopen to the doors of trust between each other, and with God.

The reality is we don’t. It is easy to point fingers, find flaws, and get rid of that which we in our own way. If you have a problem with me as a neighbor, as a friend, as a pastor, as a human being: is it better to gather our like-minded friends and supports and being to get me out their way or to sit down together, talk through our struggle and find the consensus of how to love and work together. I choose the latter and reject the former.

But how to do ever get to that place where we can restore trust, love, and relationship. Many times, we don’t but there is a way. Many times, we listen to others who offer what is easy in the moment, or less challenging of ourselves, and we steam ahead into campaigns of righteousness that robe our relationships of trust and love.

The church has placed on the second burning its goal of division in a time of pandemic. I pray that we have found in this time apart, a time of prayer, study and renewal, and return to impending threats of division with the confession that we have closed our hearts to those who think differently that we think and believe. In place of this division may we have a return to the heart of God and see that God has both an open-door policy of accepting sinners ALONG WITH an angel of accountability and consequence for misplaced trust. Our hope lies in the one who is the doorway, the gate.

The Gateway to Salvation

Those who enter by the gate of Christ find life, fulfillment, wholeness, belonging and salvation. If the great risk for God was for Adam and Eve to understand trust, love, and grace, then taking their lives for one action would end the whole expression of God. God is more interested in our relationship than our past. It is the great BOTH/AND.

God knows that we continue to make poor choices, we continue to surrender our lives for our own sake and not God’s.  God knows that we seek ill toward some. God know we are hesitant to forgive those who have trespassed against us. God know we only look at the manna we need for the day or a few days ahead, and that we grow tired and bored without the Garden, the trust, the ongoing work of the relationship.

God entrusts Adam and Eve with the work of faith and trust. All the other tasks and responsibilities were taken by God. The shelter-at-home has been a change at our household. We have shared more tasks and been forced to learn better communication and interdependence. We have find an ever great need to pray and seek each other’s grace, forgiveness and contributions. God is hoping in our time, that the Garden where we trust God and We work to be faithful, loving and trust of God and one another is fully known. Knowing how hard that is we have a clear picture of why we need the risen Lord in our lives.

The Big Risk

The gate is open to all. God has been about boundaries and grace throughout history. The Ten Commandments are boundary markers that let us know when we have crossed the lines of God’s expectation for our relationship with God, family and the world. The consequences may appear to have differing degrees, but frankly each has a ripping and separating effect on our trust and love of God.

We need to reclaim the GRACE that God has both boundaries of our thoughts, behaviors, and choices, and the GRACE to come running to him to restore our broken trust, love and forfeits of our lives.

Robber and thieves are sneaking if they are good at their vocations. The work in darkness. They come when we are absent. The take when we are not looking or paying attention. They distract and are persistent without compassion or concern for the value of others and their belongings.

God is risking to love, trust, and restore us knowing that we are just as likely to work in darkness, to be absent from God’s presence, absent from supporting and encouraging one another. We are likely to tire with our attention, we are easily distracted, we give up on persistence and looking ourselves when pressed.

If that does not prove God’s love for us, there is the clearest gift, that God lays down his life in Christ, for us, as the bridge, the gate, the passage, the ability to restore our relationship. God is willing to give his life for ours. That is the supreme gift of trust.

The Instruction to Disciples

What do we take from this parable? We not only see what great love God has for us, we also see how we are to love and trust one another. We see how we become gateways to Christ for others. And it is a BOTH / AND relationship.

While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.. While we are deserving of the world’s criticism that just a bunch of sinners, God is still working to transform our hearts, our faith, our trust, our relationships.

The church is the body of Christ, BOTH crucified and risen. We have a marks of sin and we also have the life, the hope, the joy, the trust, and love of God that gives us life, and life that is abundant.

Join me in naming someone who need to hear this BOTH / AND message and tell them this week.

,

Leave a comment

Luke 24:13-35 “Back in the Car”

Now on that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women in our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem, and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. [NRSV]
In these sequestered times we have tried to make every necessary trip to the store count. We make lists and confirm with everyone that we have pre-identified what we will need so that we can get in, and out, and return home with the most efficiency and the least risk of contact. Wendy has a Lysol protocol going out and coming in, with hand washing and sometimes clothes changing based on the destinations we have been required to visit. We have washed more clothes and dishes and take more showers than typical. So it is good that we don’t go out any more often than we have gone.
Invariable, there have been times that go out and return with the full detoxification procedure complete and in the process of putting things away, we realize we have either forgotten something on the list or we find an essential something that was not on the list and we have to turn around and go back to the store. It’s not that exciting to go back to the store to get detergent or vacuum cleaner bags, because that means that after the return trip and re-entry procedures we have chores and cleaning that await.
But if the missed item(s) are chocolate chips for the cookies we planned to bake or butter that makes everything taste better, or you hear from a neighbor that the delivery truck just arrived with a shipment of toilet paper… We are racing with excitement and eagerness.
Think how much more Cleophus and his wife are ready to go back onto the road, at night, to tell the other disciples and followers that Jesus was alive! He has risen! Just as the others had said, and that he had been sitting, talking, teaching, and eating in their home, that they were filled with two powerful emotions: REGRET and JOY.
Holding two such powerful feelings at the same time calls for juggling. One instant they felt bad that they had not recognized Jesus. The next moment, they could see their faith and hope fulfilled. Both emotions will ignite our adrenal glands and endorphins which can make one dizzy and confused.
We have held conflicting emotions this past month. Thrilled to have family time to be in each other’s company and frazzled and frustrated for being so long in each other’s company. The Joy and the Sorrows in one bowl.
This story occurred on the day of resurrection. A day that many people were with Jesus but did not at first recognize him. The women at the tomb, Mary, Peter and John, Cleophus and his wife, all were present with Jesus but were focused on something else.
I know we have all know this feeling. Frances looking for her keys, Wendy her phone, or me and my iPad: these familiar items can be withing five feet of our person and yet we have lost sight of them. We search our past steps and typically return to find them covered or placed just out of sight from where were first recognized they were lost.
We may look at Easter in this way. It was just around the corner and yet we celebrated at home, without the typical traditions, the flowers now faded, the decorations packed away if they were unpacked in the first place. It has already been two weeks and we are eager to see what the new road to exiting our captivity will be like.
Think about our time at home, as Jonah found himself in the belly of the great fish. He too was confined against his will, separated from friends, family, and co-workers. His captivity was part of God’s saving grace. Our ongoing prayers go with those families who have lost loved ones to the virus and for those front-line workers who are bringing comfort and healing to the vast majority of those who have borne this calamity. We all face what the world will look like when we get spewed back on the shore.
If you look back and imagine that past 5-6 weeks, what have you been able to do, accomplish, or start that you most likely would not have done, completed or begun? If you and I only look back and say, “I thought about writing a book, starting a project, spending more time in prayer or study”, and yet we never used this time; When will you take off 5-6 weeks from work to address these goals and projects?
Some may have some touch of regret for just surviving at this time and not thriving. Other may have completed many tasks, projects, goal and begun many new projects and have a great sense of joy and pride. Some have been working steadily in essential positions and this time has been a double duty that has been anything but a break.
This passage from Cleophus and his wife comes as those who looked back on an opportunity missed and still found joy in having lived through it in the presence of Jesus Christ.
There are many things about Jesus, his teaching, his habits and lifestyle that are not recorded in the scriptures; we have questions we certainly hope to hear answers in heaven. So remember that what IS included in the scriptures is no accident nor mistake. Cleophus and his wife, unnamed, are pivotal characters who recognize Jesus even though they were blind to Jesus sitting at their own table. Look around the table, or think about the times you have been sitting around the table, talking and listening, to others; here is where you and I are most likely to hear about Jesus, about God, about the Holy Spirit, about the church, about scriptures. At the table. It was in the breaking of the bread that this ordinary couple recognized the extraordinary news and reality of Jesus, the risen savior.
Take the remaining time in our sheltering at home to begin or confirm the habits of gathering at the table to break bread with Christ and your family, and yourself. For when we return to the new normal we will have the opportunity to share Christ with the world more freely and intimately. But we will have all the worldly distractions to cloud our sight and distract our attention. Use the time that has been granted by this great distancing to be sitting down with Jesus, in scripture and song and help us recognize Jesus with us, without the distractions, in preparation for being spewed up on the shore.
• In this same hour, tell someone what Jesus is doing in your life and faith.
• In this same hour read about Christ’s work and witness among us.
• In this same hour, pick up the phone and share the Good News with someone alone or afraid.
• In this same hour, sing songs of praise and celebrate Jesus’s work in your heart.
• In this same hour, look and listen and know Jesus is with you, and share that joy with the world!
We have at least 2-3 weeks remaining as we begin to reintegrate and return to the new normal. I say NEW normal because we can emerge from this set-back far ahead in our faith if we seeking the moments with Jesus now. The road ahead will be filled with work, worry and fear, we best be finding ways to recognize Jesus now.

Leave a comment

Act 2:22-32 “It IS Possible”

Key: God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

* But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know- this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. [Act 2:22-32]

Freed and Flipped

The particular news of Easter is not only that he is risen, but that he was freed from the power of death

  • He was freed from the limitation that death marks.
  • He not only is risen himself, but grants, and gives us the benefits of his resurrection. 

Peter: Tell of King David, beloved like, Terry Flemming, retelling that even he, as beloved as he was did not have the power to raise from the dead, nor to offer that to others.

  • David did have faith that God was with, 
  • We live with the knowledge and affirmation of Jesus, David only lived in hope that Jesus would come and deliver us.

David’s response of knowing God would provide as way was three fold:

  1. I will glad instead of afraid
  2. I will tell the world about God’s faithfulness
  3. I will live in hope that my soul out lives my body through the coming messiah.

David become a terrific example as one who has faith, but has not seen. (as Jesus instructed his disciples after the resurrection) 

We live in the fruitfulness of knowing both the promises fulfilled and the witness of the Resurrection. 

As we look around at the powerful work of winds, rain and storms and see the destruction and loss of life. This is not our end. There is more to life than propter, and even more than our flesh and bones.

As we look around the world and hear of great numbers of people suffering and dying, we know that our bodies suffer and our earthly tents will perish, but we have a greater hope and faith.

You and I, and all those who call on Jesus as Christ and Lord, know the faithfulness of that we are more than material wealth, more than Good works and deeds. We, even though we are sinful, doubting, selfish, and sometimes down right mean, God loves us enough to make what IS impossible for everyone else, possible for us, through Jesus death and resurrection. 

This is why Easter is not one Sunday, but the message of every Sunday. 

So what do we do with the Gift of a Resurrected Live, An Eternal life?

Peter wants us to learn from David:

  1. Don’t live being afraid. Fear can be a powerful driving force, but there is a greater force: Love. God loves us so much that he gives HIMSELF for us, NO greater gift or power is there but the someone lays down their life for one who is stranger, enemy, rebellious, distrusting, or doubting… God does this so that we will believe, trust and also love.

Don’t live in fear or by fear. Living trusting God in all things.I will tell the world about God’s faithfulness

2. I will live in hope that my soul out lives my body through the coming messiah.

The second thing after trust God is to live in HOPE. We don’t live having already been raised from the dead. We will all be confronted with death, but live knowing that is not our end. There is not our final destination, rather a necesary stop along the way that God has for demarking our journey.

Instead of being fearful, be dedicated to living in hope. Confirm that things are not right, or ripe yet, BUT hope keeps our eye on the fruit that will be coming in God’s season.

3. Tell the World about God’s faithfulness.

The greatest criticisms of the church today can be found in this one instruction.

  1. Either the world says we are hypocritical and don’t practice what we preach or
  2. They say we don’t trust what we believe and see no reason, based on our lack of hope and faithfulness we give witness.

Don’t be afraid, Live by Hope and TELL of God’s faithfulness.

It has never been about our faithfulness that God is praised. It is God’s faithfulness, revealed in the Easter Resurrection that proves God’s love for us and this is the GREAT NEWS that we are call to share.

When you hear words of fear come out of your mouth of the mouth of others:

Ask what is God’s promise regaurding such?

When we speak words of doubt, selfiishness, greed, anger, or division..

Ask What does Easter tell us about God’s love for us and our enemies?

Every conversation and every thought become an opportunity to flipped words of fear and hurt into a reminder of God’s love and grace

Every effort to praise and share the Good News is a witness of God’s victory in our lives together in God’s glory.

Get’s to telling the world what Easter means… not about the bunny or a single Sunday, but about the whole story for our whole purpose.. Jesus is Risen so that we

  • Have nothing to fear
  • Have assurance of God’s love and power
  • HAve Good News to share of God’s work in a broken, hurting and selfish world.

He lives indeed, He lives for you and me, and for all who will trust, receive and tell.

Leave a comment

Romans 8:6-11 “The Spirit Moves Us”

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. [NRSA]

Mrs Reid, my first grade teacher was such an inspiration in my life. She taught me to be see beyond the color one’s skin; she taught me to the values of sharing and respect. She taught me about single cell organisms and basic geometry. We also did the lima beans in the clear plastic cup over Spring Break. The seeds we plans, began to sprout before we left and when we returned they were to the top of the cup and by the end of the year they had been transplanted and bore more lima beans which Mrs Reid seasoned and served us to eat. A year long time of learning a simple lesson.

We are have what feels like a year of waiting on our hands, what can we do with the time? 

The Logic of the Flesh: When we only measure the world around us scientifically, we evaluate the monetary value, the about of weight, mass or volume of an item. We measure people by their size and characteristics, or values and behaviors. We calculate by time and season. We try to plan for the unexpected struggles. We enjoy the possibilities of the amazing bodies that are the primary way we experience the world, our past, present and projections of our future.
All these help us understand ‘part’ of what it means to be the persons we see as our self and one another. The marvelous bodies, in this physical world, are at the heart of our spatial identity in this physical world.
But we are more than physical we are also spiritual.
Every part of the physical world comes to an end. If we are content only acknowledging that as our singular existence then we are miss out both in the future and in the present.
Paul is teaching the church at Rome and us in our hearing, that we are unique from every other creature in the earth. We have not only a physical reality, we also are a spiritual reality. Two realms, one person. One is temporary and the other is eternal. Our unique opportunity is that through our experience in the Physical realm, along with the law and love of God, the grace in Christ and the guidance and breath of the Holy Spirit, we are shaping our spiritual reality.
At the end of our physical life we will have matured our spiritual self, or we will not have done so.
States simply as Paul says: If we only focus on the physical, then when the physical dies, as it surely will, what is left of us? Paul phrases our experience in terms of what occupies our mind. If you could be quite scientific and physically minded about how we spend our time, energy, emotion, intellect, and all the natural resources and relationships to what end? Is my Goal in life to be Wealthy? Happy? Content? Wise? Generous? Balances? Clean? Moral?
With effort, intentionality, drive, determination, and good choices, we might indeed become one or more of these things. But at our death can you take wealth, emotion, thought, deed, or anything to the grave? If at death we believe that we cease to be. Then are we simply maximize physical time, matter and the rules of physics for what purpose?
If someone chooses to be remembered for being a generous gazillionaire but at the age of 97 that was it. Or if a sinful struggling and lost soul comes to find the love of God, the grace of Jesus, and power of the Holy Spirit that comforts, heals and sustains them in this realm and for eternity, which is the greater way to focus our attention?
The Logic of the Spirit
The mind guided by the body is temporary. (The difference in Artificial Intelligence and Spiritual Reality)
It is quite likely we will find AI presenting us not only with the great convenience of not having to think, learn, nor remember. We can simply as Alexa, Siri, and Google – if not others, to search, think, calculate, suggest, and inform for us. If we ask machines of our creating to do our most valued work for us, what is that leaving us to focus our attention?
The mind governed by the flesh is
• hostile toward God,
• will not submit to God’s law, and
• cannot please God.
There are good uses for AI, if they are created more opportunity for us to focus our minds and attention on our Spirit.
A calculator, no matter how sophisticated and capable of great calculations is always limited by its power source, memory and output devices. A Spirit being has no need of power, but is fully dependent in trust of God.
What is a computer, tiny or vast, without its power supply. It is as dead as we are in the grave.
Good News
The mind guided by the Spirit is eternal. (We are Spiritual Beings in a physical realm/Experience/dimension)
The Mind Governed by the Spirit is
• born of the Spirit, connected to the source, connected to God, now and eternally
• are not bound by the realm of the flesh, the part of us that needs no food, no need to suffer.
• having God’s Spirit living in our Spirit – seeing physical is good BUT not the more important life.
• belong to God – finding our fit in the puzzle of god’s heart. Our family, our team, true full love.
The Certainty our Bodies will end.
• Even though our bodies will suffer and die, our Spirit is eternal, righteous and alive.
The Assurance that Christ alive
• The Same Spirit that was in Jesus is the same Spirit that is in us.
• God’s Spirit is working in our Spirit as our being, future, and strength.

(Rom 8:12-17) Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him, we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. [NRSA]

Which takes up back to the Spiritual Lock-in that has been assigned to us.
• There are some things I tire of looking at the same way, day after day.
• It has just been two weeks and we might have two more months. There must be more than TV, Housework, and cleaning.
• There have to be more than games, puzzles and trying to entertain one another.
• This is the opportunity of our century to set our minds on the things of Christ
• This is the great day of getting to know God, others in the church, and ourselves == in Christ.
I have spent, to the literal day, 35 years preaching, twice nearly every Sunday, leading bible studies and classes, writing Sunday School lessons, reading and continuing education in a life of being clergy. After 35 years I can’t find myself saying to God, “I know all that I need to know, I’m going to move on to something more important.’ God ALWAYS has more to reveal, more to stretch our minds and hearts AND bodies. I will spend the next 35 years doing some of the very same things, and some new things as well. God has more than wealth, more goodness, more than being correct, more than the sum of all the physical things I could do in my lifetime, God has more to reveal and experience in my life.
This is why we are eternal as Spirits.
So what’s our spiritual growth plan…
How much time do we spend reading the scriptures in a given day?
• Less than 2 minutes
• Less than 7 minutes
• Less than 15 minutes
• A half-hour
• An hour
• More than an hour?
Here is a good measure for our physical self:
• how much time do we spend sleeping – renewing our bodies? 6 hours
• How much time do we spend working to have wealth for our self and family? 8 hours
• How much time do we spend being informed and entertained in TV/phones 4 hours
• How much time do we spend procuring, preparing, consuming and cleaning? 3 hours
That leaves 2 hours for something else… If we set as a goal, throughout the day to spend 2 hours reading, praying, singing, serving/acts of charity, we would go from flirting with our faith to growing our faith.
That schedule is when the world around us is normal.
In our Spiritual Lock-in time
• On average 90 % of us are spending less time working.
• It cost no money to read the scriptures,
• sing songs of faith, listen to others sing songs of praise and hymns,
• praying is the most important and also cost no funds to listen and speak directly to with God.
• Could you imagine spending four hours a day growing your spiritual self?
• Compare that with our TV/Phone/Media time—
Notices I’m not suggesting to spend less time resting, being nourished and staying clean. There are typically what we cut short rather than work, play, and entertainment.
• Start simple: open the bible and reach a chapter. Make some notes or talk with someone about what you read.
• Pray for three minutes at mealtime, snack time, whenever you get water, coffee, tea, soda, ready for bed make some notes about what you prayed about throughout the day.
• Listen to worshipful music every chance you get. In the background surround yourself, in the foreground sing along and invite others to sing with you.
o Tomorrow read more than one chapter, and so on.
o Pray for five minutes at every break, then 6 or 7, and so on.
o Begin to add to your song list to learn new songs or find old songs that give your spiritual strength. Keep your mind on the Spirit. It is a simple prayer to start.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Ephesians 5:8-14 Lenten Quarantine Prepares Us

Join us on Facebook and YouTube for Worship at RSUMC


For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” [Eph 5:8-14, NRSA]

John 20:26-28 Jesus appears to the Disciples
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  [NRSV]

ref: Exodus 12:3-13 Called to be inside for Passover
 [NRSV]

Luke 17:12 Social Distancing
As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance [NIV]

Learning from the New Way of Life

As this new reality unfolds, I invite you to be prepare for the long haul. As an international, global, community we have begun a process that is not a vacation and not a fashionable exercise. We have a very moving story shared from Darin Queen who had the great opportunity to deliver, even through social distancing, the prayer quilt that we prayed over this past Sunday. The gentleman who received his quilt, has a variety of very difficult physical factors that are end of life status, and yet he claimed the quilt with a tearful yet smiling face, knowing that in even in his suffering, there are those praying for his joy, his life, his family, his present and his future.

God cannot be stopped by virus or any boundaries. God is working through us. Can I get an Amen? We are here to give God praise and to worship God’s calling each of us to find new ways of connecting with our families, neighbors and strangers to share God’s good for us all.

LENT

By tradition, we are in the season of Lent. This is a period of spiritually healthy self-denial. Who knew back on Ash Wednesday that we would be taking the opportunity of Lent so seriously. Rather than being trapped in our homes for an undisclosed period of time, think of these weeks and months as a time of spiritual renewal.

When would you have gathered with your family and friends, even if by remote connections, to spend as much time together in our busy lives?
When would you have taken time off of work and school, or limited time apart for more than a holiday’s length, to have the gift of sabbath rest?
It has only been less than two weeks and our daughter Frances has declared, if we have learned how to live more simply, connect more meaningfully, and cherish our blessing in this short of time, why can’t this become more of our reality, rather than our captivity.

Begin to reframe, [same picture, with different frame/boarder, changes the way we look at the subject being framed.] our quarantine as a gift of renewal and growth.

I’m getting ahead of Lent by reminding us of John 21, where it had been the second week after the resurrection and the disciples were gathering in a house, out of the public arena, behind locked doors. They were filled with doubts, despite and fear. There were in a self-quarantine that was opposed of their usual life. They had been traveling, working, witnessing and living as they pleased. Now afraid of being discovered and questioning their faith.. Jesus appears with them even though the doors and windows were shut.

Two Powerful Lessons in One

  • In our times of doubt, fear, depression and seclusion, Jesus is able and ready to appear with us.
  • The second is that Nothing stops the work of God, God’s goal for us is faith, belief, and trust.

At a Distance {Lk 17:12}

We look back and see those who in Jesus time who were plagued with the skin condition, lepercy, were separation for fear of contagion and we sent to live outside the city walls. It is Jesus who comes to those who are quarantined and offers healing and inclusion back into the community.

When we think it’s the end, why are we hoarding TP instead of Jesus?

One of my favorite meme’s of the week has been, Why is it when we thing great calamity is coming that we rush to buy toilet paper? Should it be Jesus that we cling to first?

WAKE UP

So all this gets us to our passage from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus: All this quarantine is a WAKE UP CALL to the relationships that are most important. This time is not only a slowing down of the business of our lifestyle, its s a WAKE UP to address the need to never be alone.

HomeWork for this Week:

  1. Therefore, this week find ways to bring light, hope, love and encouragement in every way that you can.
  2. stop conversations of blame, negativity, distrust and fear. Do not participate in them.
  3. look to Jesus to show up in our quarantine to reveal himself through study, song, prayer, encouragement, checking in with one another.
  4. Reframe these weeks and months ahead with the opportunity to clean up the darkness in our own faith, own homes, own thinking, to make room for the Jesus/Good News to be found in this season of spiritual retreat.

Leave a comment

Exodus 17:1-7 God Provides

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” [NRSA]

This is a helpful passage to hear at a time of fear, want, and uncertainty. The Hebrews have been lead by Moses out of slavery in Egypt, through the miracle of the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, the find themselves thirsty in a dessert.

One of the key definitions of a dessert is that water is not readily available. The fruit of the land is extremely limited and especially when a multitude of people are traveling together.

Even as spectacular and life changing it must have been to cross the sea, evade the enemy army and find themselves on dry land while their oppressors drown. The daily need for food and drink challenge the best experience of faith. We were just remembering how Jesus had been fasting in the wilderness, a dessert place, having spent forty days and thirty-nine nights in the most defining spiritual experience of his life. At the very moment of dealing with the basic needs of life and death, we are confronted with the temptation to fear and doubt.

We look around today and find ourselves being tested by the effects of a virus.
Healthy humans ‘harbor an average of five viruses’ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282751
It is well established that our bodies possess gut bacteria that is beneficial for health. Now, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, have found that our bodies are also home to an average of five viruses responsible for numerous illnesses, although it is unclear whether they have positive or negative implications for health. Strains of HPV were found in around 75% of participants’ skin samples and 50% of nose samples, while new strains of the virus were found in both skin and nose samples. “Most everyone is familiar with the idea that a normal bacterial flora exists in the body,” says study co-author Dr. Gregory Storch, a virologist and chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the university. “Lots of people have asked whether there is a viral counterpart, and we haven’t had a clear answer. But now we know there is a normal viral flora, and it’s rich and complex.” The findings, which form a part of the Human Microbiome Project funded by the National Institutes of Health, were recently published in the journal BMC Biology. The research team, led by Kristine M. Wylie, PhD, an instructor of pediatrics at the university, collected 706 samples of bodily fluids from 102 healthy adults aged 18-40. The samples were taken from participants’ [skin and all openings.] All participants were closely screened to ensure they had no viral infections, and they were eliminated from the study if they had had been diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV) in the past 2 years, or had a form of active genital herpes in the last 2 months. For each sample, the researchers used high-throughput DNA sequencing that enabled them to detect a wide range of viruses. Expect in-depth, science-backed toplines of our best stories every day. Seven families of viruses identified, including HPV and herpesvirus Among 92% of participants, at least one virus was detected, with some participants harboring around 10-15 viruses. On average, each participant harbored five viruses. The researchers say they were surprised to find so many. “We only sampled up to five body sites in each person and would expect to see many more viruses if we had sampled the entire body,” says Wylie. From the samples, the team detected seven families of viruses. These included viruses responsible for non-sexually transmitted herpes – herpesvirus 6 and 7. These viruses were detected among 98% of participants who were sampled from the mouth. Strains of HPV were found in around 75% of skin samples and 50% of nose samples, while new strains of the virus were found in both skin and nose samples. Around 38% of female participants had HPV strains in vagina samples, with many of these harboring strains associated with increased risk of cervical cancer, such as HPV 16 and HPV 18. The researchers also identified adenoviruses – responsible for pneumonia and the common cold – in the majority of samples. It is possible, the researchers note, that the viruses identified were lurking infections from years before. But Wylie says that dormant viruses usually reside in cells rather than bodily fluids, which is where the viruses were found in this study. Commenting on their findings, the team says: “This study is the first to use high-throughput DNA sequencing to describe the diversity of eukaryotic DNA viruses in a large cohort of individuals who were sampled at multiple body sites. This analysis demonstrates that there is a ‘normal viral flora’ in generally healthy, asymptomatic individuals.” They admit that it is unclear as to whether the viruses are beneficial or detrimental to health, but they hypothesize that the viruses may boost the immune system’s response to harmful pathogens in some cases, while increasing the risk of infection in others. “It’s very important to know what viruses are present in a person without causing a problem and what viruses could be responsible for serious illnesses that need medical attention,” says Dr. Storch. “While more research remains, we now have a much clearer picture of the communities of viruses that naturally exist in healthy people.”

So What?
That means that at any giving time we have from one to over a dozen virus at work in our bodies; some working to build up our immune systems and others might threaten our life.
How do we know when we are at risk? What are the risks? What does God plan to do with us as a global people in the threat of virus, thirst, or any other struggle that faces our mortal experience?

Look at the context of our present global circumstance:
SARS, AVIAN, SWINE, MERS, EBOLA, ZIKA, EBOLA, CORONA – These are not connected to politics, but when we politicize or look to blame the sin of infection, we will never find a cure, love our neighbor, much less love our enemies. Every epidemic has a tragic effect on those who are not able to survive and those who suffer through the effects of each occurrence. When obsess our time on the fear of virus and illness we are admitting that we have no faith, we have no hope, and we have no trust in God to provide.

Tragically, this virus has become infamous within the brewing global kettle of blame and rage that makes illness and suffering the main story rather than where our strength, hope, and help comes.
Pslam 121:2 [NRSA] I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
It’s a word that Moses and those afraid and thirsty in the dessert had forgotten since the parting of the sea.

My Help Comes from the Lord
It’s a word of encouragement the world needs to hear and trust. God is working through researchers and healers to deal with symptoms, causes and cures.
God is working through the church to remind the world that God will provide a way through this struggle and all our struggles.
Our Challenge to one another and all those we can influence:
1. Only check the news once a day, and only long enough to find out if the overall plan of prevention has changed.
2. Spend the hours you might devote to news watching and social media reading to prayer, study and Christian fellowship.
3. When you hear or see someone obsessing on the news, call them out to spend their lives with greater care:

a. Live, Love and Share the Good News Christ is offering us everyday. GOD WILL PROVIDE
b. God provides through medicine, through governments, and despite governments.
c. Trust the Voice of God more than voice of those who are selling fear and promising death.

4. There is no diminishing those who have died, those who are suffering from this virus, but know there are
a. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from bad politics and ungodly politician agendas
b. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from heart disease, cancer, poverty, trafficking and self-imposed evils.
c. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from meth, alcohol, and all sorts of substances,
d. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from sin and separation from God and neighbor.
5. THE HOPE AND ANSWER IS THE SAME: God will Provide

LET THE WORLD HEAR YOU SAY THESE WORDS: God will Provide.

In our Text from the Exodus: God says to Moses, “Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” God has a plan, God has a way, God has a process, God is at work behind the scenes, AND God is at work in the People of God, those willing to listen, trust and carry out God’s instructions and message.

Footnote: Moses asks the faith question after the water flows: “Is the Lord among us or not?This is our word!

Leave a comment

Matthew 4:1-11 “Tempted and Tested”

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. [NRSA]
Temptation
You can check it off your to-do list! We ALL understand temptation. We know what it means to want something that is not good for us, or not ours, something that is selfish. We all cross back and forth over the fence of what is right and wrong.
What does it mean to us for JESUS to be Tempted?
The SHORT answer is: “Knowing that Jesus has experienced what we experience means 1) we can identify with him; 2) we see how he deals with temptation, and 3) because he is faithful in over-coming temptation that he is our means hope in our struggles.
How was Jesus Tempted?
In Matthews remembering, he tells us several things about temptation:
1) It begins with small, daily, personal needs and ideas.
2) It has a social and community influence that our personal dealings with sin affect the community.
3) Also, that temptation is something we can expect to deal with all of our lives, everywhere we go.
Summary: Temptation is progressively more powerful, it effects self & others, its a problem with everyone, everywhere.
Temptation vs. Sin
Temptation is how we deal with the thoughts, plans, and attitudes that occur before our behaviors
As Methodist we have foundational [Articles of Religion] that have not changed since the beginning of the church. [I ask for your forgiveness for neglecting to teach them more often.]
Article VII — Of Original or Birth Sin “Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.” [Sin is the corrupted nature of every person, we are broken off from the original relationship with God, righteousness, and are most likely to sin and to sin ongoing.]
Article IX — Of the Justification of Man “We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.” [Our only chance to be righteous, in full relationship with God, is through faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior: This is what it means to be made just or righteous, by God work through Christ and our trust in that work on our behalf.]
Article XII — Of Sin After Justification “Not every sin willingly committed after justification is the sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore, the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after justification. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and, by the grace of God, rise again and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned who say they can no more sin as long as they live here; or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.” [ Sin is possible after we have given our trust and faith in Christ, as we test and are tempted to not trust in varying degrees; we need to recognize that affirming our faith is our continual response for all our days. ]
In summary of these three Articles:
• We are born in a broken and sinful world
• We are just as familiar and willing to sin as Adam and Eve were
• We are just a good at sinning even now that we have Christ as our hope and strength not to sin
• Jesus Continues to be our path to living in ways that are Godly, Righteous, in Right-Relationship with God.
• And that dealing with Sin and Temptation are a daily work of confession, rededication and renewing our trust in Christ.
So, we have this foundation along with all the assumptions that we know all about temptation, know how to tempt and how to successfully give into our temptations. SO WHAT?
Let’s look at temptation in a spatial example: If God is a point A, and standing her next to A I am as close to God as I can be, with my eyes, my heart, my mind, my attention, my focus, my everything devoted to God there are other things that I choose to distract, make room, compromise, or accept along with God.
Single lens / bi-focal / tri-focal glasses: I have multiple options, near by but different ones hold different objects in focus.
What are the core areas of responsibility for each of us?
a. We have our faith in God above all else – we must deal with the sin in our own eye before we look elsewhere.
b. We have our family, our household, our realm of influence or responsibility. – learn to look to God with family
c. We have the larger community in which we live and benefit. – learn to look to God with community.
d. We have the world — learn to look to God with the world.
No matter where our attention or responsibilities are directed our hearts, words, work, need to lead with our trust in God, our faith in Christ, our following in the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus turns to scripture with every presentation of temptation as a context for prioritizing what is RIGHTEOUS, Good, Godly, in-right with God.
Jesus reminds himself:
• if I had every daily necessity met, I still would not have the heart of God.
• If I all the support, attention and help of everyone in the whole community, I would not have God.
• If I had the power, wealth, possession of the whole world, I would not have God.
Jesus beings in the Word,
• God is more than happiness of my body
• God is more than the acceptance or approval of other
• God is more than the powers and wealth of the whole world.
I Choose God. I choose God. I choose God.
The response to Temptation is to Choose God instead.
The power of scripture is the voice of God to guide our path, to remind us of grace, to open us to the holy Spirit, to connect us with the message of salvation, to retell the way of salvation, to remind us to love, serve, forgive and worship.

Scripture
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” James 1:14-15.
• “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
• “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” Galatians 5:16-17.
• “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4.
• “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11.
• “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11.
• “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” Psalm 119:9.
• “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9.
• “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” Job 31:1.
• “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15.
• “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8.
• “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11.
• “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6.
• See the sin that you are tempted to as worthless, ugly, and unbearably sinful:
• “Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” Colossians 3:6.
• “You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 97:10.
• “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7.
• “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Matthew 4:10.
• “… For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:14-18.
• “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.
• “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” Romans 6:11-12.
• “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.
• “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4.
• “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:14.
• “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.
• “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” Hebrews 5:7.
• “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6.
• “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12.
• “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” 1 Peter 5:8-9.
• “… choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” Hebrews 11:25.
These are but a few.
We pray in the “Lord’s Prayer” for God to “lead us not into temptation” but it more appropriate to ask God to meet us in the face of temptation.
The lesson on Temptation is clear:
• Count a pop quiz, test or defense every day
• Be ready to respond in God’s Word
• Trust God to Provide the Way.

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: