Luke 6:17-26 Woe! The world is upside down

He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. [NRSV]

Woe to you who are Blessed, Blessed are those who are without.

Contrasting Matthew’s account of the Be-attitudes and Luke’s account as blessings and woes we have the differences of spiritual deprivation and material want.

So here Luke recounts a message of warning about faith. Rather heading this as a prescription list of do’s and don’ts, we have almost the punchline of a parable.

This seesaw of woe and bless is a lesson and warning to be people of faith and trust in Christ.

Quite simply, those who are hungry and thirsty have a different perspective on where to turn for wholeness or fullness. If you have nothing it is easier to see that what you need most is not something you can satisfy or supply yourself.

HUNGRY?

Those who are hungry are at a place of not being able to satisfy them selves and they know their own emptiness.

Remove your assumptions about political agenda about poverty as this is not spiritual word for governments it is directed toward disciples.

Disciples need to be asked where do you find your hunger a d thirst for want satisfied? In food? Drink? Wealth? Social position? Social identity?

THIRSTY?

If we who are spiritually empty going to attempt to fill our body’s will we find blessing? Is it temporary or eternal?

There is more:

In addition to physical needs Jesus places our emotions in the cross hairs

Woe to those who remain an emotional mess when Jesus is offering hope, peace and community.

If we are weeping from grief, jealousy or envy where will we find peace?

Are we look around and listen there is no shortage of weeping, hatred and exclusion. The remedy is not simply to toughen up, ignore those who persecute us and make our own group of like-minded films t comfort us. These are the world solutions.

Disciple First

Jesus is offering himself to the disciples first so that we may offer Christ to the world.

The core operation of the church is not to get people to confess Jesus. While that can be a measure of a starting point, Jesus is blessing the trust that follows belief.

  • Do you trust Jesus or your money
  • Do you depend on the worlds approval or being included in the kingdom
  • Do you think you can have your cake and the kingdom too

These woes are are not to the casual one who overheard the Gospel or those who received healing or feeding in the crowds.

Jesus is asking us as disciples:

  • how is God feeding you?
  • What do you thirst for, is it spiritual or physical
  • Are your emotions guiding your mind or is the Holy Spirit
  • Which s you value more belonging to the crowd or the party or the popularity the world attempts to offer or is Jesus enough

Woe to us if we are fooling ourselves.

We might convince ourselves but the world see through us

Are we expecting someone to spoon feed us or are we working to be fed through word, service, witness, worship, etc.

We are likely to prefer Matthews. Be-Attitudes to Luke’s woes because the warning is to us as believers more than it is to the world.

Jesus’s wors are to disciples AND the crowds, and the world

A Word and Witness to the World

The reason Jesus starts with disciples getting right side up is that we are sent to witness and encourage the rest of the world

What does the church have to offer a world that is divided, hurting and addicted to social media?

We are called to be a community of sinners seeking Christ as our strength and promise.

The blessing comes AS we share the journey.

It’s not that we perfect the life and then go out. That’s impossible.

But if we only eat and never feed we are not blessed, we are poor

If we satisfy ourselves and our neighbors thirst, weeps, is hated, or ignored then neither of us are blessed

The world says that money and politics and ideology are our blessing

Jesus says woe to those who hunger and thirst when those change, fail and go against the kingdom.

There is a challenge to take the discoveries of the 21st century and learn to relate the powerful blessing of Christ that are timeless. Much of the modern world’s theology is post-modern. A crazy term. I think the shorts definition is that so many believe they have outgrown religious life and are satisfied looking for fulfillment elsewhere.

If we are not strong in faith ourselves we have nothing to share with a world that has move past what it never found, trusted or resolved.

The debate splitting the denomination is evidence that the faithful lack a handle on being grounded in Christ, if we were we would not have been dragging our feet for forty four years on the same debate. It is our calling to place our trust in Christ and proclaim what we hold true by faith.

Share the blessing by sharing the journey, Christ in your heart and you heart given to those who hunger, thirst, weep and search for the heart of Christ through you.

Otherwise Jesus would have never needed disciples, that just how Christ works.

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13 The Greatest is the Hardest

blancobello image: https://flic.kr/p/rxAQ2u

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSV]

These verses are the definitive description of the extremes and expressions of love. Love is indeed the greater power. Love is the great gift. It is freely give, but requires all things to be fully experienced and shared. To be loved takes no effort on our part as the recipient. Yet, it means the most to make good on its reality.

What or Who do you love?

To love a thing, or an idea, or a goal, or a dream, is an impossible investment of love. To say I love donuts, mashed potatoes or country-fried steak may reveal a passion for carbohydrates, but these items will never return love to me.

I can more appropriately say I extremely enjoy the taste, experience of flavor of these items but to love them is to invest in something that can never return love, which will ultimately lead to an emptiness when the temporary fullness passes.

To say that I love my job, my house, my car or my hobbies is also a misinformed valuation. These treasures surely provide, means, space, access and interest in my life, but they will never have the capacity to complete the circuit of love I might try to bestow.

More than semantics, Love should be reserved and invested in persons and relationships that have the potential to love.

God loves us.

What does it say about US and about God, that God loves us enough to trade God’s-self for us on the cross?

God does no see us a objects in creation. We are more than bird, tree, day, night, snow days, or sunshine.

You are my Sunshine.. as important as sunshine is for light, warmth and vitamin D. The sun does not love us knows nothing of us although we depend on it continually. It is not the source of our being loved, but it is a gift from the one who does love us.

The Son, for love

God loves us enough to exchange our inability to return love, so we can love. Our society has doubled-down on being able to so definitely define and determine and self-declare every detail, label and category except for the most stubborn of them all: for example..

“Sinner”

Every human that has ever lived has failed to be loving, kind and worthy of the existence we have been born into. Even those in the most deplorable of conditions has value, chromosomes, living and multiplying cells of possibility that are not self-willed into being.

We are born into a world filled with every example of those who precede us with some level of brokenness, self-focused not compassionate moments, some more than others, and some we assume are continually so bent.

I have yet to have business card printed that state my name and underneath that name says sinner.

John Thomas Brantley: Sinner

I profess to this be true and claim it in my daily prayers, but I don’t introduce myself this way. Before I met Wendy, a host of friends, family and church members set me up with people to date. (Worst were those who had dreamed of being a pastor’s wife, yikes!) I finally printed up a card that came closest to the plain “Sinner” card.

On the front it listed in 30 words the reason I would be a good, safe and decent person to spend time with. One the back of the card we 30 word of confessions what to expect when I was not presenting my front side. I presented this card two four women at the end of the first date. Two of them never called back. One called back to ask for a copy because they lost it and wanted to show their friend, but was not interested in a second date. Wendy met for the lunch two days later.

The old tourism catch-phrase from the Virginia board of Tourism stated: VA is for <heart/emoji>. Imagine the bumper sticker from God that reads: “Life with God is for “Sinners” with an emoji of our own face.” We don’t like to see ourselves as such. And if we do we spiral in depression and self-hate which is not the purpose of acknowledging our trouble with loving God.

I have trouble love God and Loving my neighbors.

If I love my neighbors it is typically because they are easy to love and we share things in common. If my neighbor is very different I tend to be cautious and hesitant until we find some common ground. Our common ground with all humanity is that we all have moments where we love ourselves more than we love God or our neighbors and some of us have more times we don’t love even ourselves.

Most of this we probably know in our heads.

The church, the governed, our neighbors and even our families are begging to be loved, valued, included, shown compassion, taught what is meaningful, corrected when we are lost, listened to, trusted, and the like.

The admonition from Paul to the church to model loving one another in the ways we find God loving us:

  • Don’t talk about love and not actually love.
  • Don’t talk about your expertise becase your not always perfect.
  • You may know I love, but do you know those who need love around you?
  • You are a person of faith but others are watching when we don’t model faithful speaking and acting.
  • Don’t let our stuff and wanting stuff get in the way of actually loving others.

Ask some to be totally honest and ask all these each day:A

  • Am I patient with you others around me?
  • Do you experience kindness from me?
  • Am I jealous?
  • Do I look out for what’s good for me before others?
  • Am I as wonderful as I think I am?
  • Have you seen me be arrogant?
  • When was the last time you saw me treating someone rudely?
  • Is it my way or the highway?
  • What do I sound like when I’m irritable?
  • Do I cheer when my enemies get what’s coming to them?
  • Do I celebrate when God shows up?
  • Does my faith show in all things?
  • Am I always hopeful?
  • Am I committed to see our relationship through the hardest things and times?

That is a heck of a check-list.. This makes it easier to simply claim the business card and acknowledge, Yes, Lord! Have mercy on me a sinner!

Here the Good News: God loves us while we are still sinning.

God doesn’t want us to keep living in these broken ways, but that does not stop God from loving us. God does not give up!

Application Time

Who in your life needs to hear these words? Who in your areas of influence needs to see God showing love through you to them?

The best marker in journey of learning to love are the moments we love like an adult loves. A child loves because she or he needs. And adult loves not only from the point of need, but also because we know that self-love is never enough. We need God’s help. We need the power of God’s Spirit surging through us, because our Sinner List of when we are not loving shows we have the capacity to try, but not the frequency to make it through.

Loving in the Mirror

If we look in the mirror and see only our own reflection we will fail. The task it to seek God through us.. and we will love for ever.

The Greatest thing is the hardest.

You can do it, in Christ!

Come to the table, and start allowing God’s love to shine through you afresh and anew.

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Luke 4:14-21 Year of the Lord

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [NRSV]

Do you think that 2019 will be reviewed as a “Year of the Lord”?

In a season of division unlike we have seen in the country and the church since 1840s it does not look as if this is a prime candidate. But what made that year that Jesus stood in the synagogue and declare Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled in their hearing?

The defining factor was Jesus.

The Year of the Lord is time that Isaiah described as a time of reversal of justice and injustice, I time of economic restoration, AND a time of return to God’s righteousness and praise.

If we measure any given year from our markers and standards we will certainly fall short. Yet, if God is making the measure and transformation then true Greatness will prevail. 

Might we learn from history or are we self-fated to repeat what we are unwilling to learn?

ref For nearly 100 years, the Methodist Episcopal Church was divided into northern and southern wings.  Sixteen years before the southern states seceded, the southern Annual Conferences withdrew from the denomination and formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  What could have caused such a split?

From its earliest days, Methodists debated the issue of slavery.  More precisely, they tried to decide what relationship the church should have to the peculiar institution in a country where slavery was legal, and in some parts of the country, widely supported.  Methodist conferences even before the first General Conference spoke out against slavery, suggesting that clergy who held slaves should promise to set them free.  Several General Conferences struggled with the issue, first pressing traveling elders to emancipate their slaves, then suspending those rules in states where the laws did not permit manumission.  By 1808, General Conference threw up its hands, finding the subject unmanageable, and gave each Annual Conference the right to enact its own rules relative to slaveholding.

The denomination remained divided on the subject of slavery, with some northern Methodists becoming more convinced of slavery’s evil and some southern Methodists more convinced that it was a positive good.  Other southerners felt that any denunciation of slaveholding by Methodists would damage the church in the South.  They were caught, in effect, between church rules and state laws.

The spark that caused the division came when Bishop James O. Andrew, a native and resident of Georgia and a former member of the South Carolina Annual Conference, married a woman who had inherited slaves from her late husband.  Many northern Methodists were appalled that someone with the responsibilities of a general superintendent of the church could also own slaves.  This was the main topic of debate when the General Conference convened in New York City on May 1, 1844.  The six week session would be the longest General Conference in Methodist history.

Bishop Andrew learned of the impending conflict as he traveled to New York, and he resolved to resign from the episcopacy.  However, the southern delegates persuaded Andrew that his resignation would “inflict an incurable wound on the whole South and inevitably lead to division in the church.”  When the conference convened, Bishop Andrew was asked for information on his connection with slavery.

Bishop Andrew explained that first, he had inherited a slave from a woman in Augusta, Georgia, who had asked him to care for her until she turned nineteen, and then emancipate her and send her to Liberia, and if she declined to go, then he should make her “as free as the laws of Georgia would permit.”  The young woman refused to go, so she lived in her own home on his lot and was free to go to the North if she wished, but until then she was legally his slave.  He also inherited a slave through his first wife who would also be free to leave whenever he was able to provide for himself.  Finally, his second wife brought slaves to the marriage, but he disclaimed ownership of them.  “I have neither bought nor sold a slave,” he told the General Conference, “and in the state where I am legally a slaveholder, emancipation is impracticable.”

A group of northern delegates proposed a resolution that the bishop was “hereby affectionately asked to resign.”  Some took the position that the bishops were officers elected by the General Conference and could be asked to resign or deposed by majority vote.  Others took the view that it was a constitutional office and bishops could be removed only by judicial process.  A substitute resolution by one of the bishop’s friends, an Ohioan, asked the bishop to desist from exercising his office as long as he was a slaveholder.  After a 12-day debate, other efforts at compromise, including one that would have allowed Andrew to serve wherever he would be welcomed, failed when it became apparent that the New England conferences would secede if it passed.  One of the prominent speakers in the debate was William Capers, who was the leader of South Carolina’s delegation and a future bishop.

The motion asking Andrew to desist from serving as a bishop ultimately passed, 111-69.  General Conference then worked through the beginnings of a plan of separation.  Annual Conferences throughout the South sent delegates to a convention in Louisville in May 1845, where they formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  For the next 94 years, the two strands of the Methodist Episcopal Church operated separately.  Their separation was one of the turning points on the road to the Civil War, for the Methodist Church was one of several national churches and institutions that broke apart because it could not withstand the growing tensions surrounding the divisive issue of slavery.

http://blogs.wofford.edu/from_the_archives/2013/01/30/how-the-methodist-church-split-in-the-1840s/

The Prayer for our Delegates is that we all seek for God to Show Up, Speak the Witness of God, and cause us to listen to God rather than seek our own solutions, answers and salvation.

Jesus goes on in Luke’s account to tell the folks: I’m guessing you want me do another miracle like the water turned to wine, but know the Lord shows up in the lean times as well:

24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. 31 He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. 32 They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. [LK 4:24-32,NRSV]

In these days of leveraged famine over government shut downs, remember there were times of greater injustice and greater lean and God was working through them as well.

What agitates might be what leads us to find Salvation

The neighbors who wanting the Lord’s Day to be great for them, missed the point that its about seeing God’s revealed. 

Jesus confirms that he is declaring the year the Lord Shows Up. He reads the prophetic words of Isaiah and announces that he, himself, would be the fulfillment of the prophecy. Jesus declares that He is the Word: [I] am the hope of the oppressed, the healer of the sick, and the key to set free those forgotten in darkness. Bold words from the hometown hero.

Imagine hearing this sermon from one of our youth who grew up at Rock Spring, went away from some time but returned to the region and they stop one Sabbath to share a Bible text and sermon. Their message was an announcement that they had arrived ready to reveal the Year of the Lord.

For some the message is that “we” are the ones who bring the work of “our” kingdom, but this passage reminds us that it is Jesus who does the revealing, and Revealing God’s domain, and we are called to response to God’s righteousness and reign. (we get it twisted and backwards.)

The year of the Lord speaks of God’s timing to show up.

Jesus declares God is in their presence, Isaiah describes what it looks like when the faithful allow God rule their trust and lives.

  • Does Jesus describe the year of the Lord as the year the Stock Market has it’s the highest performance? 
  • Does the year of the Lord look like the time that everyone in the community agrees with our words and witness? 
  • Does the year of the Lord known when we get our difference worked out?

The Year of the Lord, is every year since Christ has come, the sermon is about our receiving the Lord’s goodness and will as our own or making our own way and calling it God’s on our terms and in our own time.

Isaiah 61:1-11  The Year of the LORD’s Favor 

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORDfor the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches, you will boast. 7 Instead of your shame, you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace, you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. 8 “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness, I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.”10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

Time to Make it the Lord’s Year and not Ours.

From Isaiah word, the year of the Lord is not only a reversal of the world’s sense of justice and equity, there is also a time of reward for the end of robbery and covenant breaking, with the reward being double the loss. The prophet speaks of the Lord being clothed with Salvation and righteousness, as a bride and groom are adorn with crowns and jewels. 

The image of a planted seeds becoming a garden, so will the Lord spring up righteousness and praise for all the nations of the world to see and hear.

My Resolutions to loose weight, keep to a budget, organize our stuff and responsiblities

vs. 

Being resolved to Christ, and him crucified

Living as one saved rather than saving for to live when we think we can manage.

Jesus Declares: Let God order our lives and Right will follow AND God is to be praised for it.

Do you think that 2019 will be reviewed as a “Year of the Lord”?

In a season of division unlike we have seen

Jesus confirms that he is declaring the year the Lord Shows Up. He reads the prophetic words of Isaiah and announces that he, himself, would be the fulfillment of the prophecy. Jesus declares that He is the Word: [I] am the hope of the oppressed, the healer of the sick, and the key to set free those forgotten in darkness. Bold words from the hometown hero.

Imagine hearing this sermon from one of our youth who grew up at Rock Spring, went away from some time but returned to the region and they stop one Sabbath to share a Bible text and sermon. Their message was an announcement that they had arrived ready to reveal the Year of the Lord.

WOW! The good and the terrible. Good that evil and injustice would come to a reversal (Isaiah 61:1-4) and that the those who loved the Lord with all their heart and mind and strength and soul would lead the world in praise. (Isaiah 61:5-11).

Remember this passage is about Jesus, but we imagine our response to God showing up as one who hears these words from our hometown perspective.

The portion of Isaiah’s prophetic word that is quoted in the Luke passage is the first half of message. Luke wants us to see the transformation of the oppressed, but the other half, speaks of the response and responsibility of the faithful to Jesus work and witness.

Jesus is boldly announces justice for those who have been oppressed. The rest of the story talks about when the world looks like when God’s People live in a world where God is trusted and followed.

For some the message is that “we” are the ones who bring the kingdom, but this passage reminds us that it is Jesus who does the revealing, we are called to response.

The year of the Lord speaks of God’s timing to show up.

Jesus declares God is in their presence, Isaiah describes what it looks like when the faithful allow God rule their trust and lives.

  • Does Jesus describe the year of the Lord as the year the Stock Market has it’s the highest performance?
  • Does the year of the Lord look like the time that everyone in the community agrees with our words and witness?
  • Does the year of the Lord known when

Isaiah 61:1-11  The Year of the LORD’s Favor 

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORDfor the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches, you will boast. 7 Instead of your shame, you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace, you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. 8 “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness, I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.”10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

The New Year is now, 1/12th in the books. Is this the year of the Lord?

From Isaiah word, the year of the Lord is not only a reversal of the world’s sense of justice and equity, there is also a time of reward for the end of robbery and covenant breaking, with the reward being double the loss. The prophet speaks of the Lord being clothed with Salvation and righteousness, as a bride and groom are adorn with crowns and jewels.

The image of a planted seeds becoming a garden, so will the Lord spring up righteousness and praise for all the nations of the world to see and hear.

Isaiah word speaks of a time when the People of God becoming that full community where not only are the oppressed made whole, but the whole community becomes “a praise of God’s righteousness.

The news of Jesus’s miracle of turning water into wine had made it home before Jesus arrived.

Will this be a Year of the Lord?

ref For nearly 100 years, the Methodist Episcopal Church was divided into northern and southern wings.  Sixteen years before the southern states seceded, the southern Annual Conferences withdrew from the denomination and formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  What could have caused such a split?

From its earliest days, Methodists debated the issue of slavery.  More precisely, they tried to decide what relationship the church should have to the peculiar institution in a country where slavery was legal, and in some parts of the country, widely supported.  Methodist conferences even before the first General Conference spoke out against slavery, suggesting that clergy who held slaves should promise to set them free.  Several General Conferences struggled with the issue, first pressing traveling elders to emancipate their slaves, then suspending those rules in states where the laws did not permit manumission.  By 1808, General Conference threw up its hands, finding the subject unmanageable, and gave each Annual Conference the right to enact its own rules relative to slaveholding.

The denomination remained divided on the subject of slavery, with some northern Methodists becoming more convinced of slavery’s evil and some southern Methodists more convinced that it was a positive good.  Other southerners felt that any denunciation of slaveholding by Methodists would damage the church in the South.  They were caught, in effect, between church rules and state laws.

The spark that caused the division came when Bishop James O. Andrew, a native and resident of Georgia and a former member of the South Carolina Annual Conference, married a woman who had inherited slaves from her late husband.  Many northern Methodists were appalled that someone with the responsibilities of a general superintendent of the church could also own slaves.  This was the main topic of debate when the General Conference convened in New York City on May 1, 1844.  The six week session would be the longest General Conference in Methodist history.

Bishop Andrew learned of the impending conflict as he traveled to New York, and he resolved to resign from the episcopacy.  However, the southern delegates persuaded Andrew that his resignation would “inflict an incurable wound on the whole South and inevitably lead to division in the church.”  When the conference convened, Bishop Andrew was asked for information on his connection with slavery.

Bishop Andrew explained that first, he had inherited a slave from a woman in Augusta, Georgia, who had asked him to care for her until she turned nineteen, and then emancipate her and send her to Liberia, and if she declined to go, then he should make her “as free as the laws of Georgia would permit.”  The young woman refused to go, so she lived in her own home on his lot and was free to go to the North if she wished, but until then she was legally his slave.  He also inherited a slave through his first wife who would also be free to leave whenever he was able to provide for himself.  Finally, his second wife brought slaves to the marriage, but he disclaimed ownership of them.  “I have neither bought nor sold a slave,” he told the General Conference, “and in the state where I am legally a slaveholder, emancipation is impracticable.”

A group of northern delegates proposed a resolution that the bishop was “hereby affectionately asked to resign.”  Some took the position that the bishops were officers elected by the General Conference and could be asked to resign or deposed by majority vote.  Others took the view that it was a constitutional office and bishops could be removed only by judicial process.  A substitute resolution by one of the bishop’s friends, an Ohioan, asked the bishop to desist from exercising his office as long as he was a slaveholder.  After a 12-day debate, other efforts at compromise, including one that would have allowed Andrew to serve wherever he would be welcomed, failed when it became apparent that the New England conferences would secede if it passed.  One of the prominent speakers in the debate was William Capers, who was the leader of South Carolina’s delegation and a future bishop.

The motion asking Andrew to desist from serving as a bishop ultimately passed, 111-69.  General Conference then worked through the beginnings of a plan of separation.  Annual Conferences throughout the South sent delegates to a convention in Louisville in May 1845, where they formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  For the next 94 years, the two strands of the Methodist Episcopal Church operated separately.  Their separation was one of the turning points on the road to the Civil War, for the Methodist Church was one of several national churches and institutions that broke apart because it could not withstand the growing tensions surrounding the divisive issue of slavery.

http://blogs.wofford.edu/from_the_archives/2013/01/30/how-the-methodist-church-split-in-the-1840s/

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Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Baptism of Our Lord Sunday

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” [NRSV]

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts..

It is my prayer that we see Jesus showing up in St Louis next month to make clear the direction of our Methodist future.

With the same uncertainly AND hope the people were anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promise to show up and lead the people.

Our text is about John the Baptist’s ministry of repentance for preparation. I offer that the United Methodist Church has been kicking-the-can on human sexuality for over forty years without repenting for not being better prepared for the struggle, division and need for spiritual leadership in this year. In these generations have we been looking for the gifts of discernment? Have we been open to God’s way of communicating grace and boundaries? How have we prepared to express the eternal love of God in an ever changing world?

The people in Israel were waiting for a Messiah, a king, who would right the wrongs of their current reality and restore Israel. Many were gathering to be baptized by John in expectation that something would soon happen — the Messiah was coming.

Is in John’s message, we are acknowledging that we have been quick to point fingers of blame and drawn out lines in the sand, WITHOUT, learning how to show the power of loving all sinners.

Epiphany is a season of claiming our “Greater Gifts”, and today we will be exploring how baptism, as a “first gift” from God, leads us in life toward paths of discovering and rediscovering God-given gifts, activating those gifts through the Holy Spirit, understanding how our gifts are interrelated to the gifts of other disciples in the body of Christ, and how important it is to stay true to the heart of our God-given gifts — the love of God in Christ.

So what about this gift of baptism?

Some of you may have never been baptized. Later in the service, we want to give you an opportunity to sign up to be baptized next week if you feel God calling. Some of you were baptized more recently; some recently confirmed the baptism of your childhood; and for some, perhaps it has been many years since your baptism.

What do you remember leading up to that moment? Or, what did your parents or guardians tell you about that moment? Who was present? What did it mean to them?

I told him I wanted to follow Jesus my whole life and I thought it should start with being baptized. In those moments, the sanctuary became a thin space. The heavens did not open, but I felt God’s presence all around. As Wesley said, “my heart was strangely warmed.” On January 9, 1983, I received the gift of baptism and was forever changed. As a matter of fact, I remember telling my good friend Kevin about the experience right away. He was also a Christian, and he told about his experience of baptism, showing me a silver cross around his neck. In our young friendship, our faith was not something we talked about. In that moment, we shared God’s gift to us, and our joy was complete.

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Luke 2:1-11 Wedding Wine

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, andthe mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invitedto the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him,”They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, whatconcern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mothersaid to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standingthere were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holdingtwenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars withwater.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Nowdraw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where itcame from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the stewardcalled the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good winefirst, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But youhave kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of hissigns, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believedin him. [NRSV]

https://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/the-cana-wedding-wine-jars-apparently-still-exist-and-archaeologists-think-they-ve-found-them.html

The Serving the Best Stuff

In John’s Gospel, it is no random mistake that we see Jesus beginshis ministry of miracles, celebration and salvation on the third day.

On the third day… in creation, God creates that seas and the dry land and places trees and vegetation of every kind with it’s seed, and declares it to be good.

On the third day, Mary and the other women arrive at the empty tomb and experience the reality of the resurrection and become the first witnesses and evangelist of the resurrection.

On the third day of Jesus’s public ministry follows the calling and gathering of his disciples and they are invited to a wedding.

Why is Running Out of Wine Important?

This is remembered as the wedding where they ran out of wine. Some had said they were not planning for all of Jesus’s disciples and only added them at the last minute and the twelve extra families overwhelmed the plus-two budget when Jesus shows up as Mary’s plus-one with a plus-two dozen. This might explain why Mary turns to Jesus to fix the problem.

INTRO Mary introduces Jesus as a problem solver to community.

What is the problem? It is more than a lack of wine, it is a matter of hospitality. Mary empathizeswith the bride and groom and family and knows that a shortage of wine would endthe celebration.

Wine is fruit of fermented grapes, from a vineyard, with vinesand branches, which grew grapes that contained seeds that had producing fruitsince the third day of creation she announces to the world that Jesus has cometo fix the problem that confronts us with the gap between good seed and good soiland the absence of fruit for the celebration.

Are you tracking the images of vineyards, vines and branches,good seeds planted and good seeds created, and the problem is an emptiness, avoid, a chasm that only Jesus has the solution.

The instructions in following Jesus are to do whatever he says.

His first words are something to the affect: I’m not at thetemple, were are not at the synagogue, its not been revealed to me when toreveal my true self. “I’ve just gotten by core staff on board and we have notworked all the details out.”

Mary insists that Jesus is the solution, the answer, the salvation to the problem.

Mary had been pondering in her heart and mind for decadesand she put the pieces together and encourages Jesus to step forward and letthe glory and power show.

NOTE: I find it very interesting that Jesus reveals the solution without it being about himself. Jesus is pointing and connecting us with God.

He uses clay water pitchers just as God use the clay vessels like us.

He uses servants to use what is known for purification,baptism and cleansing and has them fill the empty pots with cold water, a cupof cold water for those who are lost across a great chasm.

He sends them to the chief stewards, the chief priest, to Pilate,to Herod, to those who know fully about emptiness and shows them vessels fullof the solution.

The solution was the wine which would be poured out for the world,for the forgiveness of sins, that becomes our communion with God, throughChrist, who makes whole the void and emptiness of sin and brokenness.

The Chief Steward does not go to Jesus, he does not go to the servants, he goes to the bride and bridegroom.

This is where the praise for the greatest prize, the undeserved,the unrecognized has been saved for this moment. This indeed was Jesus’s momentto reveal God’s glory, and the rest of the story… all the way from creation’s goodness,the emptiness of sin and, the wholeness of salvation.

This is not just a wedding, it is the platform for the Glory of God to be known.

It is for this reason that the church and marriage havebecome a target…

The people are created good, every person is a precious giftof God, and we are all created for one another as God’s servants, but this storyis about the hospitality of the bridegroom.

Hospitality is a relationship of service to those in need.

Jesus shows up at the perfect time to serve those who are inneed.

  • when the joy, fellowship and community are threaten to end,
  • The need is when the fruitfulness is empty,
  • the wine was the solution (double meaning intended)

So What?

  • So drink Jesus up!
  • Be hospitable to others
  • Find hope that Christ is transforming us from water into fruitfulness

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Matthew 2:1-12 “Find” Epiphany Sunday

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                                Lectionary Readings *Vanderbilt Epiphany Sunday 01-06-2019

Isaiah 60:1-6

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.  May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more. ..May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gift. May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.

Ephesians 3:1-12

This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you,  and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words,  a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ.  In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:  that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

This year we arrive at Epiphany as the exclamation mark of Jesus’s birth. Beyond the historical events of Jesus’s birth is OUR response to the reality of God-with-us now. In the moments and experiences where we ‘find’ Jesus ourselves:

What are our responses?

Will we find him in the journey that awaits?

Will we start something new or wait a better sign?

In this week we stop to recognize three important foundational legs to being the year:

  1. What is our star? our signs? How is God trying to be ‘found’ in the world?
  2. Will we take action to meet him or hope he shows up on our terms?
  3. How will we honor him when we recognize him, how will we say thank you?

What is our sign: Bill Engvald, comedian and friend of Jeff Foxworthy, uses the tag line about find if someone says something foolish without hearing the words that are coming out of their mouths: Example, [ In the lost luggage section of an airport… Agent said, “Can I help you?” Bill said, “Yes ma’am, the airline lost my luggage.” She looked Bill right in the eye and said, “Has your plane landed yet?” He replied, ”No, princess, I’m having an out-of-body experience! I’m just checking on it before it arrives! : Here’s your sign]

It would be nice if we had signs that we wore to let people know what was going on inside our hearts and minds. For a time people would wear black for an extended period of time to remind the world their were grieving the loss of a loved one, but now we put on a happy face and tell the world I’m Just fine.

If someone is feeling forgotten, alone or unappreciated they could wear a hat with a large exclamation point on top. We would could then be more intentional about supporting, befriending and recognizing them and their needs.

In most every Bible study I have shared the wisdom of a renown Christian educator, Dick Murry, who share the “bunny-ears-running-off-into-the-woods hand sign” is fair game to use when someone is dominating the discussion in a class.  I have received that signal and shared it as well.

If someone is anxious or nervous, it would be good to see a gauge that revealed the gasket was about to blow, so we could help support a change of state.

What are the signs that inform and inspire us to find God?

  • At time this is the role of scripture, but we have to be reading and digesting it to do so.
  • At times there are songs and music that draw us to heart or lead us to praise.
  • At times there are opportunities of service and sharing that allow Christ to show up around us.
  • At other times it is opposite:

Sometimes it is in the darkest of our fears, when can find no stars present, what do we do?

we must allow room for grace to show us..

Epiphany : is a preventative call:

  • to live looking for signs,
  • anticipate God’s revealing,
  • watch with hope

The special word for this week is “Find.” In both Isaiah 60:1-6 and Matthew 2:1-12, there is movement toward the new king who was born in Bethlehem. According to Isaiah’s prophecy, the land of Israel will witness how “nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn”(v.3). The text makes reference to young camels of Midian and Ephah and Sheba will come with gold and frankincense to proclaim the praise of the Lord (v. 6,7). In the gospel of Matthew, the visit of the magi is also about rendering praise not to a land, but to a newborn king.

In these texts, there is an invitation to give honor, glory, and praise to God, who has acted in favor of the covenant people and who has come to us through the Messiah. In the gospel, the wise men from the East have had a brief encounter with King Herod. We know that Herod had an ulterior motive when having what seemed like an honest and sincere conversation with these visitors. He was intending to begin a search for the newborn king to get rid of him (vv.13).

Once they went to Bethlehem and were welcomed by Joseph and Mary, the first thing they did was kneel and honor the newborn child.

QUESTION:

Does my/your spiritual journey that take us to meet Jesus or are we distracted along the way?

Where are the places we must stop in our spiritual journey and how do we get back on track?

KEY:

Does our daily living point us toward where God wants us to go?

What is our response to finding Jesus? The wisemen offer praise, honor, and gifts. How are we inspired to offer our time, talents, gifts, service, participation and witness?

What is the taking the place of the star in guiding us toward finding Christ in our daily lives?

Where is the prevenient grace working ahead of us to show us the way?

Are we seeing the signs God gives us? Are we interpreting God’s signs to follow? Are we taking the action to find him? Are we taking gifts of praise for when we arrive or wait until we stumble upon him and be empty handed?

As we begin 2019

  1. Where do we expect to ‘find’ and experience God this year?
  2. What direction and actions do we need to begin this journey?
  3. What are we taking with us in anticipation of praising and honoring God when we find him?

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Phil 2:1-13 Share Faith in the Absence

man and woman divorce drawing torn apart

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  [NRSV]

Sharing a Hymn of Faith

Paul draws on the words of a song of praise in the newly started Church in his letter. Just as we bring together the emotions, memories, and relationships through which we have shared when we sing, (copyright notation assumed)

  • Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like, me I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
  • I come to the garden alone, while the due is still on the roses and voice I hear falling on my ear The Son of God discloses, and he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.
  • Shackled by a heaven burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame. Then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same. He touched me, oh he touched me, and oh the joy that floods my soul, something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.
  • Lord I life your name on high, lord, I love to sing your praises, you came from heaven to earth to show the way, from the cross to the grave, my debts to pay, from the grave to the sky, Lord I lift your name on high.
  • and {This is the day, tune} let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross

We have no idea of the tune of the hymn/song Paul includes, but he brings a tradition of worship to help strengthen the disciple’s faith.

The Power of Singing our Faith

https://takelessons.com/blog/health-benefits-of-singing

Physical Benefits

  • Singing strengthens the immune system: According to research conducted at the University of Frankfurt, singing boosts the immune system. The study included testing professional choir members’ blood before and after an hour-long rehearsal singing Mozart’s “Requiem”. The researchers noticed that in most cases, a number of proteins in the immune system that functions as antibodies, known as Immunoglobulin A, were significantly higher immediately after the rehearsal. The same increases were not observed after the choir members passively listened to music.

  • Singing is a workout: For the elderly, disabled, and injured, singing can be an excellent form of exercise. Even if you’re healthy, your lungs will get a workout as you employ proper singing techniques and vocal projections. Other related health benefits of singing include a stronger diaphragm and stimulated overall circulation. Since you pull in a greater amount of oxygen while singing than when doing many other types of exercise, some even believe that singing can increase your aerobic capacity and stamina.

  • Singing improves your posture: Standing up straight is part of correct technique as you’re singing, so with time, good posture will become a habit! As your chest cavity expands and your shoulders and back align, you’re improving your posture overall.

  • Singing helps with sleep: According to a health article in Daily Mail Online, experts believe singing can help strengthen throat and palate muscles, which helps stop snoring and sleep apnea. If you’re familiar with these ailments, you know how difficult it can be to get a good night’s sleep!

Mental and Emotional Benefits

  • Singing is a natural anti-depressant: Singing is known to release endorphins, the feel-good brain chemical that makes you feel uplifted and happy. In addition, scientists have identified a tiny organ in the ear called the sacculus, which response to the frequencies created by singing. The response creates an immediate sense of pleasure, regardless of what the singing sounds like. Not only that, but singing can simply take your mind off the day’s troubles to boost your mood.

  • Singing lowers stress levels: Making music in any form is relaxing. Singing releases stored muscle tension and decrease the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in your bloodstream.

  • Singing improves mental alertness: Improved blood circulation and an oxygenated bloodstream allow more oxygen to reach the brain. This improves mental alertness, concentration, and memory. The Alzheimer’s Society has even established a “Singing for the Brain” service to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s maintain their memories.

Social Benefits

  • Singing can widen your circle of friends: Whether you’re in a choir or simply enjoy singing karaoke with your friends, one of the unexpected health benefits of singing is that it can improve your social life. The bonds you form singing with others can be profound since there’s a level of intimacy naturally involved.

  • Singing boosts your confidence: Stage fright is a common feeling for new singers. However, performing well and receiving praise from your friends and family may be the key to eventually overcoming your fears and boosting your self-confidence. With time, you may even find it easier to present any type of material in front of a group with poise and good presentation skills.

  • Singing broadens communication skills: According to an article in The Guardian, singing to babies helps prepare their brains for language. Music is just as important as teaching reading and writing at a young age to prevent language problems later in life. If you enjoy writing your own lyrics, honing this talent can improve your ability to communicate in different ways!

  • Singing increases your ability to appreciate accomplished singers: Sometimes, you don’t realize how difficult something is until you try it yourself. As you grow from an amateur to an intermediate student and beyond, you’ll be looking to the masters for inspiration. You might even find a new style of music to appreciate that you wouldn’t normally listen to!

Spiritual Benefits  

https://www.businessballs.com/health-and-wellbeing/singing-for-personal-and-group-development-1725/

 

  • Singing is actually a form of meditation, praise, and faith-sharing.
  • When we sing, we shift focus and thinking away from our selves/usual life happenings and concerns, towards something ‘other-worldly’.
  • Singing is a way of bypassing your ego to acknowledge your soul.
  • Singing helps us to ‘let go’, just as in other forms of meditation.
  • Sally Garozzo says, “When you surrender to your voice within, you transcend your physical self.”
  • A peculiar and powerful effect happens when you stop singing. There is a moment when you ‘come back into your body’? Singing is a very spiritual activity. It touches and stimulates some very basic instincts – primeval feelings – the effects of singing are at a deeply unconscious level, which in normal day-to-day work-type activities are impossible to reach.
  • Singing is also wonderful for relationships and connecting people spiritually and naturally:
  • Singing brings people together. People ‘feel the love‘ that singing generates.
  • Singing unites factions, religions, and races.
  • Singing creates positive energy and a happy mood and that’s infectious and transparently good for everyone.
  • The delights of singing go beyond merely enjoying the beauty of your own vocal talent. All of these health benefits of singing may make you want to join a choir or start taking voice lessons right away! It doesn’t matter whether you become a world-class singer or not; have fun with it, and do you what you enjoy!

Hymns/ Praise Songs, / Psalms and other /Translation of secular songs toward God

  • Use the message of our salvation is the core message,

But in the context of a song, use worship and songs of the faith to keep you on task and in tune with God and the work we share.

The Specific instruction in this text in what to do in the times of absence: I know what we do when we gather for worship on Sundays, but what about when we alone. at work school or in the face of temptation?

The instruction and encouragement are for us to sing the faith story.  Faith sharing through singing songs of faith in Christ.

Divide in groups of four and five, pick a first, second and third choice of your favorite song/hymn of faith… write them down and pick a spokesperson to represent your group.

Each spokesperson to come of front and lead us in a verse or chorus until we have sun all 10-15 or more songs.

WHAT DO WE DO IN THE ABSENCE of the fellowship?

  • Sing the songs of faith we sing when we are in fellowship/worship
  • As encouragement to ourselves
  • As a witness to others
  • as a praise to God

DO IT UNTIL

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

Home Work: So get out there and start singing your faith, sing out loud, sing out strong, don’t worry if its not good enough for anyone else to hear, sing for God. [Carpenters, Perry Como]

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Healing Not Division Mark 3:20-35

HouseDivided

..and the crowd came together again so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” [NRSV]

It is worth noting that if you ‘Google’ the phrase, “a house divided” first reports quotations of President Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech and only as a second or third listing does the search report the words of Jesus found in Mark 3:20-35. (Matthew 12:25, Luke 11:17)

But keep in mind is President Lincoln, drawing on the passage from Jesus that his audience would have instantly recognized as such. Thus crossing the lines of faith and government calling on a divided people to look ahead, beyond the chasm of disagreement to the hope he expresses later in the same speech:

“The Presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever might be.” (*)

He called for the people to have hope in finding unity whatever would be decided, North or South, slavery or no slavery, Left or Right.  Indeed this passage from Mark’s Gospel likewise calls us to focus much less on what divides us and cling to that which binds us.

This is an Interesting discussion and teaching on the division of the family.

Many things divide families: Money, Politics, Selfishness, Debt, Apathy, and Addictions

Many things threaten families: The things, ideas, beliefs and enemies that do not have the best interest of the who ‘whole’ family will always offer solutions that attempt to satisfy themselves over the family.

  • Half of all families end in divorce is confirmation that neither the church nor the society model a strong family model.
  • Drugs and Alcohol addictions and the lifestyles that follow never build up the family, except for those who band together to take advantage of one another.
  • The quest to have the things, the house, the toys, the style, the technologies and have us place our dreams and hopes in objects that rust, wear, fade, decay and must be continually replaced, repaired and remade.
  • The family is a threatened and undermined with the more individualistic our society and world becomes.

One lie we about technology is that it brings families together. While it is true that distance for the moments we choose to connect, there are more moments that family members are in close proximity to one another, yet each watch different screens, devices, and distractions. The lure is that these ‘things’ can help connect us, but they also isolate us.

Many things entice families:

Also, there are other relationships, temptations, desires and goals that entice both individuals and families to seek love, happiness, joy, and peace in things that are temporary, unattainable and evil, even in the name and intent of being good for the family.

Mark reminds us Jesus’ words that evil, satan, and all persons consumed by evil, will work divide the people of God.

  • This passage is about Jesus’ own family worried that Jesus was not getting enough to eat, (Mary must have been stereotypical mother… you need to eat Jesus)
  • Second the religious leaders threatened by the crowds and the teaching and healing Jesus was negatively affecting their crowds, teachings, and support, so they called him names and try to demonize Jesus, saying he was bad, he could do nothing good, he will be filled with evil, even, in fact, THEY were the ones doing this to Jesus.

What do you do when your own family, your community and your faith leaders are divided against one another and you as well? The tendency is more isolation and withdrawal. Wrong answer.

Here we finally get to Jesus’s teaching about how to overcome the division:

FORGIVENESS:

God is graciously ready to forgive the strongest of people who have done the most unthinkable things with two things occur: 1) They remember the powerful and wonderful gives of God’s grace is real and actually available for us all. 2) When the most self-righteous, the most self-reliant, the most selfishly focused person recognized they have not been doing what is faithful to God, to God’s people nor to themselves. We take God up on the grace, confess our brokenness and turn back toward a life in God.

God doesn’t force this on us, but stands ready and hoping we choose to reconcile to God, to return to the heart of God, to stop the divisive talk, the hurtful behavior, the attacking thoughts and untwist our hearts and minds and words toward God’s word and God’s love.

THE EXCEPTION: What is the unforgivable sin?

The sin we will not acknowledge as sin. The evil we re-name, re-frame, dress up to look and sound good and righteous but are not found in God. Thus we are saying God can’t make me whole, God can’t save me. God can’t be in my life. God doesn’t care. God is made up an idea to satisfy weak and illogical fearful masses. God is not with us.

When we think, believe, act and say these things God will not force us to believe, God will not make us believe or trust or repent. God is willing to allow us to move so far that we no longer recognize that God is still with us.

Here is the test? As long as I am offering my thoughts, actions, future, self to God all sin is forgivable, but if we don’t want it, God’s not going to force.

The gift is MEANING. It means something when e choose to let God love and claim us, even when we have rebelled and divided and demeaned and harmed ourselves and others by leading each other away from God.

The example follows that Jesus’s flesh and blood family come to take him home, to save him from the ridicule and threat and he REDEFINES family. The family is about being blood-kin in the saving blood of the lamb that was slain. The family is those who acknowledge we have sinned, been completely self-focused, self-identified, self-determined, self-made, self-righteous, self-absorbed, self-funded, self-driven, self-saving, STRONG but with the wrong strength.

  • The strong family is the family trusting God with our problems.
  • The strong family is the family that is revealing God’s story and hope to a divided world.
  • The strong family is the family uniting in following God’s call, word, and love.
  • The way out of the division in our family is to NOT write one another off but to reach out to one another offering Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we don’t know what divided or divides us, but we clearly experience the consequence. It is actually unimportant to blame and get back to the original cause. Our hope is in what we are becoming, together, in Christ.

  • Where there is division: We have the opportune time to confess our sins and seek God’s leading.
  • Where we separate” We have but to turn to Christ and invite our neighbor to join us in Christ.
  • When you hear someone say: She or He is nothing but evil, then join them on a journey to share the Heart and Word of God.
    • This is our calling.
    • This is our gift of grace
    • This is our family

Be filled with God’s word AND heart, be forgiven in Christ, Be strong in the word and Holy Spirit.

#wayforward #GC2019UMC #UnitedinChrist #allsinnersmatter

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Luke 2:41-52 Lost in Three Days

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Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.

Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.

Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. [NRSV]

Jesus’s Childhood: Normal yet Extraordinary

This text is the only text where Jesus’ life between infancy and adulthood is recorded. Although a very brief description of these years, it gives us enough to think about him as a normal boy, trained well in the traditions of Judaism.

This is one of the most human and divine stories in the life of Jesus. On one hand, what parent has not a moment of experiencing a lost child story. Susanna lost in Belk department store, happily watching Barney in the children’s section. Or Luke at Turner field without his seat tickets and all the entrances began to look alike after a trip the men’s room. Or Frances…

On the occasion of Passover, Jesus’ parents, along with many other faithful Jews, took the journey to the city of Jerusalem. At some point on the return trip back to their home, they noticed Jesus was missing. They thought twelve-year-old Jesus was among the travelers. After a three-day search, to their surprise, they found Jesus in the temple in the middle of a conversation with religious teachers.

Typical of a concerned parent, Mary questions Jesus about his disappearance. She must have been very worried and upset because he had stayed in Jerusalem. Mary says, we’ve been “searching for you in great anxiety” (v.48). To which, Jesus replies, “Why were you searching for me?” Any parent would have responded with a, “What do you mean, ‘Why?’ We are your parents.” Every child know the drill. But this is the fascinating thing about this text: it enhances Jesus’ humanity, and it gives us a small, but significant entry into his family, “the holy family.”

The word for this week is “Search.” Mary and Joseph search for their lost child, Jesus. Jesus is on a search for answers; he is developing into adulthood, and—above all— discovering his mission as Son of God. I know this presents serious questions for some people regarding Jesus’ nature as both human and divine. For some, the question is, “Didn’t he understand his own divinity?” For others, the question is, “If he understands his divinity, how authentic was his experience as a human being?” The text reads, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor” ( v.52).

The epistle to Hebrews affirms Jesus’ experience as common to all other human beings, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (5:7-9). Thus, like any other human being, Jesus learned to obey his Heavenly Father. And so, we find him learning the ropes of his faith, and perhaps deepening his understanding of who is and what he is called to do as the Messiah.

The presence of the parents and the dynamic of family interactions make this text very accessible. Concerns about family life, child rearing, spiritual formation, faith discoveries, family rules, and communication between parents and youth are places where the theme of “search” can surface. Even Jesus was under the tutelage of a family; he had questions and was thirsting for truth and meaning. Jesus shows depth and maturity as a young twelve-year-old boy.

We are not privy to the content of his interaction in the temple, but he is both “listening to them and asking them questions.” Additionally, he had a grasp of the faith and tradition as “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (v. 47).

This passage brings back memories of my visit to Israel. I had a chance to approach the Western Wall (or wailing wall). We carried in our pockets a list of petitions from our group to be inserted between the stones that make up the wall. We began our journey toward the wall in the middle of a huge crowd made up of hundreds of men praying. Many of them stood in circles sharing questions and answers, under the tutelage of either a rabbi or an elder Jew.

In the text, we see a very Jewish moment, with Jesus and his parents caught in between Jesus’ search for answers and Mary and Joseph’s search for their son. For us Christian listeners in the twenty-first century on this first Sunday after Christmas Day, we have an invitation to continue our search for depth and greater maturity in our faith journey.

Like Jesus, we want to have the freedom to raise questions and to share our view on things spiritual. It would be wonderful if every faith community could be that place where people would feel they could go on their own to find answers. We will always be surrounded by self-appointed leaders who like fathers and mothers will question our whereabouts, our independent thinking, or our going in the opposite direction.

There is a juggling act in this text: The important of family life and the and the uncontainable and inevitable coming of age of all human beings, and the reminder that like Jesus, we also must be about our heavenly parent’s business.

As a mother and a father, God wants us to give an account of our whereabouts, but at the same time wants us to explore, discern, ask questions, and search for answers.

In practical terms, Scripture, prayer, worship, small-group Bible studies, hymns, praise songs, serves of others, meditation, and all kinds of spiritual discipline are important tools to help us continue our search.

From different angles, this text in the Christmas season can lay a foundation for what is yet to come in the next several weeks as we see Jesus becoming an adult and fully engaged in his messianic mission.

Weekly Sermon are a chore and a Joy

I offer to you there is a weekly joy and chore about preparing sermons. Sermon preparation is a spiritual discipline in itself. The exercise of immersing in the text week in and week out can be a tedious task. It can also become monotonous and a matter of doing the job as opposed to an adventure in learning new things about ourselves, about God, and about the applications of our faith in the real world.

I have confidence that not every sermon is a homerun and not everyone listens to my words. But I truly hope that the text of Jesus being an ordinary person, with ordinary parents, finds himself not with his birth-family but with his spiritual family.

This text can motivate us to give ourselves permission to explore biblical, theological, and church matters.

Consider a presentation on the reality of family life, coming of age, and independent thinking in our children. By the same token, also consider a homiletical lesson on subjects such as: sensitivity on the part of spiritual elders toward young inquiring minds and the importance of providing spaces for in-depth discussions on faith matters.

Urgency of being Lost

The questions for us has the urgency of knowing that what we teach the next generation can be lost in a matter of days up assuming someone else has them covered or that someone else is responsible or that someone else with watching after the children while we do our own thing.

What are you and I doing to be assured that no one is left out, left behind in their spiritual journey?

Where better for us to be but in the fellowship of witnesses, teachers and co-learners at the church/temple to be about our heavenly father’s call upon our lives.

Look at the next three days. Give three step, three steps mister…

  • What can you do to be more informed about your faith in the next three days
  • What can you do to be clear that those in your family/ circle of influence are growing in faith
  • What strength, joy, hope and love will come if we do nothing and just go about our regular routines.

As the new year approaches: Look at your Spiritual Growth in three day periods:

  1. What can I do today
  2. What will I do tomorrow
  3. Who will God place in my path the day after and will I be ready to listen, teach, serve or share my faith?

 

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Isaiah 9:2-7  Luke 2:1-20 Christmas Eve—Arrive

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For Christians, Christmas Eve is a moment of open arms— as a midwife who extends her arms to receive the newly born child. As the church, we also extend our arms to receive Jesus once again, with all that he has to offer: an incomparable love, a huge smile, the smile of God over humanity and directed individually at every human being.

My left-handed catcher’s mitt is a bit of an oddity to most. Being left-handed in baseball, except in rare cases, means exclusion from the position of catcher. This is due in large part to the game’s counterclockwise flow. There have only been 30 left-handed throwing players who caught in at least 1 defensive inning. If you exclude the seven men who only caught in a single game, then you’re talking about just 23 players. If you count only those guys who caught 100 or more games in a career, you’re down to exactly five left-handed throwing catchers. However, if you’re only counting career catchers (minimum of 800 games caught), then you have exactly one and that is Jack Clements. To have a youth sized left handed catchers mitt is an invitation for someone to take on something miraculous.

Christmas Eve is a time of wonder, anticipation and glowing hopeful faces. Unfortunately, even on the night of Christmas Eve, there are thousands of people who cannot or will not smile back. In the first place, they don’t seem to see Jesus in all the festivities.

  • Maybe what they truly capture is Jesus crying, as any other baby does throughout the world.
  • In pain and in sorrow, throughout the world, there are precious little babies, precious elderly men, and woman, young people who are lacking food, shelter, jobs, loved ones; therefore, they are not smiling on Christmas Eve.
  • Some carry the full emptiness of loss and grief that allow for now room in the inn.
  • Still, in many of those places, because of deep faith, they also extend their arms to the arriving Jesus.

Both Scriptures for this day have the element of receiving. A baby has been born, and it has made an extraordinary difference. A variety of activities take place at church and home: Christmas plays, concerts, family dinners—all celebrating the birth of the Messiah.

43 The text from Isaiah 9:2-7 is a short poem full of hope, in spite of whatever days of suffering may have preceded. Christians see this promise fulfilled in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (Lk. 2:1-20). The Israelites themselves went through harsh divisions between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. There are many other historical events behind this text that the preacher will most likely not have to time to address. Perhaps the most important aspect that needs to be underlined on Christmas Eve is the inauguration of a new day that is the centerpiece of the occasion. The Israelites heard from Isaiah of a new day after experiences of war, division, and captivity. Christians will hear a message of the birth of a baby that makes a difference in the world. Paradoxically, we still hear about wars; a great segment of humanity experiences hunger, strife, squalor, and poverty. But still, the message of Christ’s birth has resulted in schools, hospitals, orphanages, agricultural work, public demonstrations against injustice, corruption, and discrimination. Baby Jesus has been in the hearts of the innocent, the elderly, the terminally ill, and those who have just his followers.

There is much to celebrate on Christmas Eve. I can still savor the special foods shared by family and friends. I can picture a night of worship that included the choir and the drama team. Afterward, people went home to meet with more family members. In certain places, gifts will be opened on Christmas Day; but in others, right at midnight or before, while the children are still awake.

What an extraordinary event. And what a formidable opportunity for evangelization, the sharing of the good news. In both Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-20, we are given the foundation for a message of hope through the coming of a very special baby. With the arrival of Jesus, there is the promise of freedom for those in bondage, justice on behalf of those who have been wronged, light in a world of darkness, deliverance from the rod of the oppressor. No one could stop God’s sovereign will, “While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child” (v. 6).

God is in charge of history; no one can stop God from bringing redemption to the world. Galatians 4:4-5 has the same tone of an unstoppable moment, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.”

That we are adopted and made part of God’s covenant people, that we have become sisters and brothers of Jesus, that we have the blessing to open our arms to the One who has arrived, is a fascinating message. Amid the powers that be to proclaim that the One who has come is at the same time, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting

44 Father, Prince of Peace, with an ever-increasing authority, with the promise of peace, and an agenda of justice and righteousness is at the same time good news and bad news —good news for those who long for deliverance; bad news for those who have placed the chains of oppression and violence on others.

In the gospel text, the newborn child disrupted— in a good way —the lives of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and even the angels. The whole universe is engaged in offering praises to the One who is God’s best gift to the world. The angels sing, “glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favors” (v.14).

For the Sports fans: What has been a favorite play to watch? A quarterback has the game-winning ball and passes or throws it into someone else’s hands, they receive it and run with it. That is where Christmas Eve begins.

For those who run to mailbox: and find the long-awaited check, acceptance or notice of the final zero balance, that news confirms the efforts of the past and pave the way for a new beginning.

For those who have heard Good News this year: The beginning of

For those have received God’s Word in their hearts:

For those who feel that they have seen nothing God, or lost the hope, or were somehow left on the island of misfit toys: Christmas Eve is where the Good News Begins for us all!

God the Lord of all Creation has come to be born into our history, into our hearts, into our futures. Tonight we stand ready to receive Christ:

Now is the time to receive the package, receive the gift, Receive new life, renewed hope, new healing, new possibilities, renewed promises, renews covenants.

In Receiving Christ we take on the responsibility of caring for Christ throughout our lives and the places we go.

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