Ezekiel 18 Fair, Good, or Just?

crop kid weighing on scale
Justice in the Balance of Righteousness / Photo by KS on Pexels.com

The word of the Lord came to me: 2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? 3 As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die. 5 If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right— 6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period, 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8 does not take advance or accrued interest, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between contending parties, 9 follows my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances, acting faithfully—such a one is righteous; he shall surely live, says the Lord God. 10 If he has a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, 11 who does any of these things (though his father does none of them), who eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 takes advance or accrued interest; shall he then live? He shall not. He has done all these abominable things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself. 14 But if this man has a son who sees all the sins that his father has done, considers, and does not do likewise, 15 who does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, 16 does not wrong anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no advance or accrued interest, observes my ordinances, and follows my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, he dies for his iniquity. 19 Yet you say, “Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?” When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20 The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own. 21 But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? 24 But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die. 25 Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26 When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27 Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28 Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live. [NRSA: Ez 18:23-25]

  • Ecclesiastes 3:17 I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.”
  • Hebrews 10:30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
  • Hosea 12:6 But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.
  • Proverbs 21:15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.
  • Proverbs 28:5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.
  • Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
  • Psalm 37:27-29 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. 28 For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed ; the offspring of the wicked will perish. 29 The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.
  • Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
  • Isaiah 30:18-19 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! 19 People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.
  • Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
  • Psalm 106: Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.
  • Deuteronomy 16:20 Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.
  • Leviticus 19:15 “ ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
  • Psalm 33:5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
  • Isaiah 51:4-5 “Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: Instruction will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. 5 My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.

What is Justice?

Justice bears fruit of God’s righteousness.

We experience justice when we are doing what God has determined what is right – this is known as righteousness.

If we live, aware that God has revealed how to live rightly with one another, and we follow God’s idea of what is righteous, we find God to be forgiving, gracious, and we find the wholeness of our purpose.

Typically, we general divide it up Justice into an either-or condition. In doing so, we empty it’s true power.

We do need to distinguish our understanding of civil justice and divine justice. At times they can be the same things, but not always. When civil justice does not reveal what God has determined is good and right for humanity, but we will come back to this in a moment. For now, I ask us to focus on divine Justice.

Recap: Divine Justice is living, behaving, and conducting our relationship in the way God has instructed, we call Justice. When someone has been injured by another person, the just thing to do is to show mercy, help make them whole, and do so in a spirit of love and mutual respect.

In a civil case someone might grudgingly pay a fine and give restitution to a victim but there is no expectation that God will be revealed in the process, and there is no expectation beyond the payment or the terms of the contract or sentence. The parties are likely still enemies even though the justice has been served.

For divine justice, many times, we separate the righteousness from the justice: we say things like, “She is a good woman.” “He is a good citizen”, or “They are kind.” In so doing, we can confuse the good in our goodness with the righteousness of God’s goodness.

In our civil context, the laws of one country might define what is good in that nation that is not considered good in another. And as a further extension, when individual people have different ideas of goodness, that might be good for the one person or even good for both parties, but not aligned with God’s righteousness at all.

We are called to be more than good citizens, we are called to be Godly neighbors.

In the very familiar parable of the good neighbor, it is the person who shows compassion, mercy, and self sacrifice that Jesus confirms with the disciples and crowd. So as we think about Justice, our actions, attitudes, and relationships are  to be in God’s eyes even if the world’s expectations differ.

Divine Justice is always understood through God’s Goodness and no other context. Throughout the scriptures, the examples of God working through our human experience has the goal of revealing our trust and dependance on God’s direction for us. Therefore, the big difference between those who define Justice being civil or contextual and independent of faith in God only know a slice of what is just.

Round Two. Even within Divine Justice, we typically split the meaning in a hybrid of civil, contextual AND partially divine.

Examples

  • A: There are those who are high on keeping the rules, laws and teachings of scripture, but are unkind to their neighbor and might be more unkind to their enemies. OR
  • B: There are those who are high on caring for the person who is poor, the widow, the orphan and the oppressed but don’t want to some slack on keeping the rules, statutes and laws of righteousness and settle for the world’s good mark of neighborliness.

Question: HOW Do we keep both parts together.  Righteousness and Mercy

The prophet Ezekiel gives several instructions in his conversation with God about Justice:

Learn from the witness of others… Children learn from parents by their good example or from their bad examples.

Be a good example for others… once you find God’s righteousness, be a light, a witness, a teacher, a model of mercy.

At the core is the need to repent and start fresh

REPENTANCE

To repent is to not only acknowledging or own up to our sins, injustice, and self-driven motives and actions, we are promising that we will devote ourselves to the righteousness God is expecting. Looking for the do-over, mulligan

Which is better to have someone say the words “I apologize” or to have the person treat you will respect and love?

The power is not in OUR words, it is in doing what GOD expects of us. We begin by confessing and then working by God’s help and grace to keep God’s righteousness as our guide.

Repentance is when we see that we are sinful, broken, wrong, hurtful, and have not done what God expects AND tell God and those we have been unjust toward, AND we begin to stop doing what we were doing and living God’s ways, by God’s rules, to reveal God with our living in all our relationships.

How do you impose divine Justice on someone who has been unjust toward you? Typically, most things in the civil, in the world’s control are swayed by power and money. That is why we pay fines and restitutions.

But take my favorite example of collecting speeding fines on Burning Bush road. For how many years have officers been writing tickets to have people slow down on that road and yet people continue to speed on that road? The people on live on that road, who drive through those curves to get home to their families. I think it would be better to have speeders and their families out gathering trash on the roadside while cars zoom past and see what physical danger lurks around each corner firsthand. If you believed a family was standing at the road’s edge just around the corner it would be a better deterrent because it connects the danger of harm or life and property rather than just the loss of money or access to the roadway. In this case the Just thing is to connect the unjust behavior with the reality of life and death consequences. This connected command to not kill to the unjust actions that speeding on those blind curves creates.

Ezekiel is relaying a conversation with God to the people of God.

  • Don’t settle for being good, be godly
  • Do keep God’s righteousness as the guide.
  • Learn from the good and bad examples we have conducted in the past, knowing God is ready to forgive and offer new life.
  • Another confusion is the difference between Fairness and Jusitice.

Which would you prefer: Fairness or Justice?

FAIRNESS: While we are created with equal value to God, we are born uniquely ourselves, and therefore some with greater strength, some with more talents, some with compassion, and some who are weaker, stubborn, and some less aware of the needs of others.

Repeat: we are equally love by God, but are created uniquely different from one another. So what would farness look like? Everyone would need to have the same strength, same talents, some capacity to reason and learn, it’s not just fair access to wealth and power.

Justice: is not getting evening or balancing the material resources, that is the civil, contextual answer.

JUSTICE: We do live in a universe where God is Just, and seldom fair.

When politicized Justice, we risk making it about civil goodness but the power is not likely God’s, it’s some political power.

God’s message for Ezekiel is to that showing Justice is our way of showing one another hos God’s purpose, work, will, statutes, commands, and examples bring hope, light, fellowship and God’s intended relationship with one another.

We hear the word justice throw around more than usual these days.

Our test is this: Is the justice being sought something that reveals God’s righteousness, or just power for a person, a movement, or the government. If it does then it is missing God and will be imperfect and incomplete.

The world in which we live we will always experience unfairness. Justice for the weak, the forgotten, the lost is to be found, remembered, and valued in the community.  The BLM movement in its inception was to accomplish these things: a people who were feeling unheard, forgotten, and undervalued in society, collectively gathered a voice. The question of justice is to measure if GOD’s righteousness is found and witnessed. If not then its not justice.

FAIRNESS vs CIVIL JUSTICE vs GOD’s JUSTICE

There is not another diverse nation in the world, now or in history, that have more civil rights and protections for those oppressed anywhere, at any time. But there is not an assurance that we are in the right, if we are not reflecting God’s goodness, what is God’s will, What is God’s heart.

Justice for those who are oppressed, but it is also for the unjust to learn how to become just, to learn how to not oppress. If the widow has a home, the hungry have food, the lost have a community, the naked some clothes, but they don’t see God’s goodness transform those who oppress, overlook, overpower, neglect, or do harm.

  • Just is for the restoring of nations not simply a system of fairness.
  • Once we receive justice, there is no more oppression.
  • One someone is convinced of God’s righteousness and the consequences of God, then justice is complete.
  • God is good at forgetting the past, on purpose, that is the grace part,
  • God is hoping we will start fresh everyday, not holding the past over one another.
  • God expects us to choose right, and hopes we repent, but does hold us accountable..

God’s Justice has Grace and Accountability.

So what do we do with this passage?

Ez. 18:31-32

Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

  • Ask for forgiveness, for sins against others AND God.
  • Know God desires to give us life and not death,
  • But if we are not finding God’s righteousness AND justice.. then we will die from our sin.
  • Hear the Good News Christ died for us,
  • Turn and live in Christ Jesus, our hope and salvation.

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Matthew 20:14-16 Who Matters to God?

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“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
20:14-16 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” [NRSV: Matthew 20:1-16]

One of the pearls of the Lord’s Prayer is that ask God to help us experience the kingdom of heaven on earth. This is best revealed in the body of Christ, the church, the Koinonia Fellowship.


The Greek word Koinonia appears 19 times in most editions of the Greek New Testament. The NASB this word is translated “fellowship” 12 times, “sharing” 3 times, and “participation” and “contribution” 2 times each.
• Acts 2:42: “in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread,”
• Romans 15:26: “Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints”
• 1 Corinthians 1:9: “whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ”
• 1 Corinthians 10:16: “we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The”
• 1 Corinthians 10:16: “we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”
• 2 Corinthians 6:14: “unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
• 2 Corinthians 8:4: “gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the”
• 2 Corinthians 9:13: “of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto”
• 2 Corinthians 13:14: “of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with”
• Galatians 2:9: “and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the”
• Ephesians 3:9: “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from”
• Philippians 1:5: “For your fellowship in the gospel from the first”
• Philippians 2:1: “if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels”
• Philippians 3:10: “resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his”
• Philemon 1:6: “That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by”
• Hebrews 13:16: “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such”
• 1 John 1:3: “ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly”
• 1 John 1:3: “and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and”
• 1 John 1:6: “we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk”
• 1 John 1:7: “the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the”

We have been talking about this fellowship for a couple of months, this unity, this calling of the church that God on us, for the world and us, calls for labor, hard labor. Today is the moment we place the other bookend on the topic and look back to see if we are any closer to revealing the Kingdom of God.

There are times that a few can do a majority of the work. The good ole’ 20-80 rule. Not only in the church but in other institutions, congresses, organizations and associations, a few people typically are the focal point and/or the driving forces, but there are sometimes that every member of the group is needed.

This passage from Matthew is one of those times that Jesus share the parable of the laborers as a description of expectation of our fellowship as the Christian church, the body of Christ, the witness of the Kingdom’s work in the world, the Koinonia Fellowship.

Text Summary: 20:1-13
Building and Experiencing the Kingdom of God on earth:
At about 9 in the morning, the landowner goes looking for those who work in the vineyard. Aren’t you glad to hear that heavenly work starts about 9:00 in the morning? For some of you, that means it’s ok to sleep longer than you do, and for others its time to wake up.


The Fruit of working it the vineyard was a day’s wage; the agreed rate of fruit, reward, payment for the amount of work that is estimated to be accomplished in a day’s time deserves a fair wage.


As the day goes along either the worker’s labor has proven to be not enough, the task given has increased, or both. And more laborers are needed.


If the vineyard’s task is to gather all the harvest, the hourly rate that is agreed to as fair at one time if different at different points in the process of production. If a storm is looming that would destroy the vineyard, the urgency of completing the task increases the value of the time to finish the whole task.


Clarification. The church’s task is to live as a fellowship of people who are living like they are heavenly citizens while also living as earthly citizens for the purpose of witness, invitation, and discipleship of those who are not living as heaven citizens, in preparation of actually living in heaven.

Back to the Vineyard: at Noon, Three, and Five, the need for more workers is at steadily increasing demand as the task of completing the harvest before the Storm destroys the vineyard… the value of those who are coming to work later is as equally as valuable to the owner of the vineyard.

The Twist
The Twist of Value comes at the end of the day: Remember the parable of the talents? One received 5 talents, another 2 talents, and the third, 1 talent.
The Twist at payment time comes when workers who worked longer expected to be paid extra and/or expected the other workers who worked fewer hours to receive less.

Check-in Questions:
• Who agreed to work for the wage and fruits offered? Every laborer who worked in the vineyard.
• How many laborers were needed to complete the harvest? All off them.
• To whom does the vineyard belong? Not the laborers. It belongs to one who owns the land, the plants, the press, the baskets, the tools, the one who paid the taxes, invested in the whole endeavor who offers the labor in the first place.
• The Vineyard owner.

Lessons learned from the Text:


Salvation part B: I am not the only worker God needs. God is genuinely interested in all persons. God is not needing one group, one period in history, or race, or culture, and not us ALL.

Yes, All injustice toward any person is sinful. No matter the reason, race, or purpose. But, it is NOT a racist statement to say that ALL LIVES MATTER. It is NOT Christ-like to say that one group matters more than all the rest. That is not a political declaration, that is a grace-filled truth of the Gospel.

The Kingdom of heaven is like a vineyard owner who pays all the laborers/workers the same fruit, the same pay, the same reward, the same.

The pay is NOT the value of the labor. The payment is for hard work from everyone to participate and complete the vineyard owner’s work.

If the first, second, or third shift could have completed the task they fourth round laborers were never needed, but the reality is that FAIRNESS is not how the landowner operates.

All the laborers were needed.

The Vineyard Owner is more interested in the harvest being complete than distributing earthly wealth fairly. REPEAT.

The Vineyard Owner is more interested in being generous with all the labors.

The Vineyard Owner needs the workers on every shift and at every stage of the process.

The TWIST comes when those who are not God, saying they know what justice, fairness, and equality is from their earthly perspective.
Simply stated: God is more interested in everyone know the love and grace of Jesus Christ, that every person who knows Christ is give both the CHALLENGE and the OPPORTUNITY to witness, welcome and disciples those who don’t know the GRACE and LOVE of Koinonia Fellowship in Christ and the Kingdom’s agents here on earth.

The focus on fair wages swings the focus from completing God’s purpose over own individual goals. Earthly wealthy, blessing, reward OVER earthly wealth, blessing, and reward.

So finally, we get to today’s text of scripture: Matthew 20:14-16
“Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
What do we learn about the kingdom of God from this passage? And our part in God’s work?


Important Questions
These questions will help you in this post-modern generation figure out if you are part of Christ’s koinonia fellowship or some other fellowship: Listen carefully…
• To whom does the world belong?
• Do all people MATTER to God?
• Does ONE group of people MATTER more than another?
• In the kingdom of heaven, who makes the rules about fairness, grace, love, blessing, value, and meaning? Is that up to God or is that up to each person?


I started this long series on Koinonia Fellowship in response to the events that have surrounded us from every side concerning RACISM and the events of unfolding in our country and the nations around the world.

For John T Brantley: Sinner, male, husband, father, pastor, neighbor, citizen, and human being. I accepted to be devoted to the heavenly work at age 13, I had been put to work all my life, but accepted for myself to work for the kingdom of God for the following 43 years at the wage, that is the very same wages offered to the thief on the cross and I offer to you today. THE WAGES, the Blessing, the grace, the offer — remains the same.

Christ died for us while we were still sinners so that we could know what the heavenly life was like NOW -AND- for eternity. I cannot complete the work alone, it takes the whole KOINONIA FELLOWSHIP. There we go full circle.

We are committing our lives to Christ for the purpose of our salvation, we are ALSO, included in the labor of bring others to know the same grace and salvation.
I would twist the offer earthly to say, “We’ll I’m saved, you figure it out if you like.” That is not the covenant, contract, agreement… There is the part B.

This passage is clear: The sooner we gather all harvest, all God’s harvest, the sooner we all get to be in heaven together. The salvation I enjoy and depend is the vineyard to be shared. It is not my story but God’s story of grace and love in Christ, shared through me – that I share, just you are to share yours, — God is working to reach others.

Bring Koinonia Home

To in bringing these chapters on Koinonia Fellowship to a close for now.. we are prepared to place ourselves in finishing God’s race, gathering God’s harvest, finding God’s lost coins, sheep, and children. When we all get to Heaven…

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2 Corinthians 6:3-18Christ Focused Living

We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also. [2 COR. 6:3-18 NRSV]

The context for these words are for a time that salvation is needed.

When we have a year of locus in Africa, fires in Austria, flooding in China, global rise of earth quakes, global economic and political unrest, AND a pandemic and all its effects, this would be a GREAT time for some salvation! Am I right?

Paul is describing a time when the church is facing:

afflictions,

hardships,

calamities,

beatings,

imprisonments,

riots,

labors,

sleepless nights,

hunger”

Is this verse meant for today?

Our challenge by Paul is to live and operate by:

purity,

knowledge,

patience,

kindness,

holiness of spirit,

genuine love,

truthful speech, and

the power of God”

The tools we use are “weapons of righteousness for

the right hand and for the left;

in honor and dishonor,

in ill repute and good repute.

When we are faithful in living, thinking and behaving in these ways in response to our faith we can expect:

Thank you?

Praise?

Affirmation?

Wealth?

Ease from problems?

No! This is the list we think and the world expects

The reality of believing, thinking and acting this way:

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;

as unknown, and yet are well known;

as dying, and see—we are alive;

as punished, and yet not killed;

as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;

as poor, yet making many rich;

as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

This is why we don’t always operate from these:

purity,

knowledge,

patience,

kindness,

holiness of spirit,

genuine love,

truthful speech, and

the power of God”

And yet we wonder why we feel that:

don’t see God at work,

Why the church is facing division,

And is cast off as irrelevant to the worlds agenda

Where do we correct our mission and faith with God’s gifts as our hope and treasures?

Purity comes from God, not ourselves

Knowledge comes from God not our creation

Patience is God’s work

Kindness, holiness, love, truth… all come from God

The challenge is to be filling “in God”,

As the chaos and disorder,

the darkness and distraction,

the division and injustice

All these are not good things,

these are not life giving,

these are not truth

These are the fruit of seeking meaning without God

But how?

  1. Do not be yokes with unbelievers
  2. What do righteousness and wickedness have in common
  3. What fellowship can light have with darkness
  4. what harmony is there between Christ and Belial
  5. Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
  6. What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?

For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

[2 Cor 6:14-18: NRSA]

A Koinonia fellowship is at its strongest for the world when not dependent on the world.

Citizenship has been a treasure through history. The only reason Paul was not executed for the many things he did that were disobeying the Roman laws was that his citizenship provided him some measure of due process under the law.

But Paul is discussing a dual citizenship that we balance. When we try to serve two master and they are in agreement everything appears to be good, but when our worldly citizenship conflicts with our heavenly citizenship, and we are not choosing God, we are ultimately choosing chaos and death.

Don’t hear my words as the freedom to be disobedient. Recall the list of choosing Gods ways over the worlds ways:

purity, – without sin, how other than Christ?

knowledge, – make a brain and order the universe first

patience, – how many years has God been patience with us

kindness, – mercy is being kind when not deserved

holiness of spirit, – we are not holy without God

genuine love, – unconditional, not self serving love

truthful speech, and – truth threat comprehends the above

the power of God”. Our only answer

It begins in the awareness that we out of bounds (in sin relation)

That following prayer and confession

That follow repentance and change of thinking and behaving

That follows aligning with God and not with the world when there is disagreement with God

We are an society of achievement, wealth, and power…

We are quick to give loyalty to whose who have the greatest

And we trade for God.

I have been surrounded by this pass for the past two weeks:

(Not just the familiar vs 14)

2 Chronicles 7: 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house so that my name may be there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 As for you, if you walk before me, as your father David walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I made covenant with your father David saying, “You shall never lack a successor to rule over Israel.’ 19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from the land that I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And regarding this house, now exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished, and say, “Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, “Because they abandoned the Lord the God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore he has brought all this calamity upon them.’ “

We cannot say we have not been warned?

Do you want to show the world our only hope and salvation?

purity,

knowledge,

patience,

kindness,

holiness of spirit,

genuine love,

truthful speech, and

the power of God”

Do you want to hand over our salvation to technology, governments, and the dreams of worldly leaders? Then count on even more

Who do we serve because they are holy, knowing, patient, merciful, genuine, love and filled with divine power over the universe?

Who will you serve?

Who will we serve come Sunday afternoon? And M-S?

The answer is too simple:

The prayer for every day – throughout the day and night.

This is our hope and strength

This is what God is wait for from the whole world:

Lord have mercy on me a sinner.”

“Model and make my life your today, for your will.”

“You are my hope and salvation”

“I forsake, yield and give back to the world what is the worlds”

“Use my life today for your work and witness”

We must first be in Christ to focus on the world else we are blind to the worl

OR

keep fighting, crying, dividing and dying.

It remains our choice… isn’t God patient? Good?

Hand over the reigns of your heart, and soul, and strength

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Known for singing John 12:12-15

A Koinonia Fellowship is know for singing.

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” [NRSA: John 12:12-15]

John’s Gospel recounts Jesus’s arrival on what we usually think of as Palm Sunday. Today, I invite us to look at this passage as the response of the people when God comes near.

His Eye Is on the Sparrow

Bill Gaither|Songwriters: GENE BARTLETT, CHARLES GABRIEL, C.D. MARTIN © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home, When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.”

Colossians 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Precious Lord Take My Hand (Tommy Dorsey:1938]

Ps 16:8 I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Thomas Andrew Dorsey was born in Villa Rica, a small rural town near Atlanta, Georgia. In 1919 he moved to Chicago. Most of his musical training was in the church, but he also studied and played jazz and blues. He later combined jazz and blues with religious texts, giving birth to gospel music. In 1931, along with Magnolia Lewis-Butts and Theodore Roosevelt Frye, he established the first gospel choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Chicago. He went on to lead the gospel choir at Pilgrim Baptist Church, which he led for 60 years. Dorsey was also instrumental in founding the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses (NCGCC) in 1933. The convention taught choirs all over the country how to sing gospel music. [Dianne Shapiro, from “Gospel” in Encyclopedia of Chicago (accessed 8/12/2020)]

Precious Lord, take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand, I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m lone, Through the storm, through the night, Lead me on to the light, Take my hand, precious Lord, Lead me home

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

Deuteronomy 33:26 There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, majestic through the skies. [NRSA]

How Great Thou Art, [Boberg: 1885]

Swedish traditional melody and a poem written by Carl Boberg in 1885. It was translated into German, then Russian, then into English Stuart K. Hine, who also added two verses of his own. It was made famous by George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows during the Billy Graham crusades.

Oh Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed, Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art, Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art

Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart

Reckless Love, written by Caleb Culver, Cory Asbury, and Ran Jackson

Before I spoke a word, you were singing over me, you have been so, so good to me. Before I took a breath, you breathed Your life in me, You have been so, so kind to me O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, O, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine, I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away, O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, the Lord,

James 5:13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.

Lord I lift Your Name on High: written by Rick Founds in 1989.

Lord, I lift Your name on high, Lord, I love to sing Your praises, I’m so glad You’re in my life, I’m so glad You came to save us

Psalm 95:1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

What a Beautiful Name, written by Ben Fielding and Brooke Ligertwood

What a beautiful Name it is, What a beautiful Name it is, The Name of Jesus Christ my King, What a beautiful Name it is, Nothing compares to this, What a beautiful Name it is, The Name of Jesus

Exodus 15:1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: “I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. [Variation of Pharaoh, Pharaoh, let my people Go from Louie, Louie using the tune and variant words from 1963 hit version by The Kingsmen.]

Revelation 11:1 NRSA Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Come and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there,

O Come to the Altar, written by Chris Brown, Mack Brock, Steven Furtick, and Wade Joye

Are you hurting and broken within? Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin? Jesus is calling, Have you come to the end of yourself, do you thirst for a drink from the well? Jesus is calling, O come to the altar, The Father’s arms are open wide, Forgiveness was bought with, The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Micah 5:4 NRSA and he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth;

 Great are You Lord, written by David Leonard, Jason Ingram, and Leslie Jordan

You give life, You are love, You bring light to the darkness, You give hope, You restore, Every heart that is broken, And great are You, Lord, It’s Your breath in our lungs, So we pour out our praise, We pour out our praise, It’s Your breath in our lungs, So we pour out our praise to You only

John proclaims that when we see God, when we need God, when we praise God, when we thank God, When share God: We sing

Amazing Grace: v3 John Newton 1779,

The Lord has promised good to me. His Word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.

He Lives: 1933 by Alfred Henry Ackley.

He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

Here I am to Worship:by singer-songwriter Tim Hughes

Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness, Opened my eyes, let me see, Beauty that made this heart adore You, Hope of a life spent with You, Here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down, Here I am to say that You’re my God

May the world know that we are the body Christ as we go out sing.

  • Sing in Joy, sing sorrow
  • Sing in times of faith and doubt
  • Sing in the presence of God and when we are in the far country
  • Sing on Sunday and on the darkest night
  • Sing when you know the words and tunes, and sing when you are learning new songs
  • Sing the praise of God, Follow the Spirit, Sing that the world know our heart belongs to Christ

Copy-write for lyrics and information credited to authors and writers. There is no intent to misuse or miss credit anyone. If this record needs additional notation please advise. CCLI# 1403064: Rock Spring UMC

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Luke 9:51 In My Mind I’m Gone to Jerusalem

Garden of Gethsemane

*A Koinonia Fellowship is focused on the God’s Presences

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” [NRSA: Lk 9:51]

Why one verse?

This verse is the central turning point in the Gospel of Luke. Everything in the first half of Luke is leading to this moment, and everything following leads to the cross.

We all are grateful for the formative works of grace, the loving relationships, the moments of study, service, and worship that shape our lives to the point in which we recognize God’s love for us personally. Our moment of salvation was accomplished in Christ millennia ago, but there are moments in our own relationship with God in Christ that we accept and acknowledge this in our lives personally.

And within this moment we may at first begin this transformation spiritually, physically, or mentally, but today we make the turning point in Jesus’s life and ministry and learn more about our own journeys.

This one first holds the most dramatic actions of Jesus “setting his face on Jerusalem.” 

It is not that Jesus has learned everything at this point, and no further testing or temptation would follow, it is the defining moment that we dedicate the remaining days on this earth to the work of God in our lives.

I had grown up going to church all my life. I mean my earliest memories are being with church families, doing church activities, worship and fellowship dinners. I played at the church, I ate at the church, I took naps at the church. I had a desk in my father’s office made where I did my work while he did his. I am privileged, not because I’m (white-middle-class-educated-male), I’m privileged because I have been surrounded by people devoted to serving, worshiping, seeking Christ from my earliest years. 

On one hand, there are those who are overloaded by this and rebel after a childhood of church. 

I found strength from Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, confirmation leaders, choirs, drama teams, worship teams, and summer camp… In fact, it was a camp Glisson that I put all the pieces together and recognized all the words, songs, and services were calling me personally to the heart of Christ. 

Every day since that Thursday evening, I have been growing toward God’s heart. Now some days I have grown stagnate and even run the other way at times, but I have never been out of God’s sight and grasp. 

The mission trips, the call to ministry, the school work, the line of congregations, dissertation, and daily work of being a United Methodist minister can point back to a pew, on the second row on the right-hand side of the chapel, where the heart was turned toward Christ. 

Your journey has been different from mine, and no one person’s journey is to that of someone else. My advisor at Gammon Seminary, Jonathan Jackson, was a classmate of Martin Luther King Jr.  He shared that he struggled to be like Martin but could never live up to the dedication that Martin expressed and he felt that he had failed himself and God. In his heart he heard God speak, clear as day, telling him. I only needed on Martin and I only need one Johnathon Jackson, set your path on becoming Johnathon. 

Jesus spent much time preaching, healing, teaching and traveling, until Luke 9:51. When he set his face on Jerusalem, he had a singular mission. 

What did it mean to head to Jerusalem?

For Jesus particularly it meant the precious gift of the cross and his glory and grace for us. But, why did thousands journey to Jerusalem through the years and millions still today?

Why Jerusalem?

  • Jerusalem is the place where Abraham offers his adult son, his only son, as an offering to God. 
  • Jerusalem is the place of the temple, the art, the holy of holies, the dwelling place of God where God’s people came to worship, make offerings, and find the home that was guided by the Holy Spirit to rest. 
  • Jerusalem is the place of pilgrimage. The spiritual journey of walking in the steps where generations of previous worshippers and servants have traveled to learn, find, and celebrate God’s power and grace.
  • Jerusalem is filled with demarcations of other religions and that is no different as Egyptian, Babylonian, Roman, and Muslim faiths and cultures have known its power and significance. 
  • Jerusalem for Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s love revealed on the cross.
  • We could have political discussions about Jerusalem today, and 
  • Jerusalem for us is the tourist destination for some, territory to defend and protect for others, but what is it for us in Rock Spring?

Jerusalem is a witness of God’s promises and presence fulfilled

  • It is the call to worship
  • It is the reminder that God has a purpose for us in Christ
  • It is the living history to shape our present and our future.
  • It is the promise of restoration, resurrection, and return to take us home.
  • Jerusalem is the place that Christ has promised to first reveal himself when he comes. 

Off all the signs to anticipate it is not weathers, wars, and fammon: THE sign is the coming of Christ for the children of God, for the church, for the elect, for the righteous. 

What’s the big deal about Jerusalem?

If we say we have no need for Jerusalem, we have no need to be looking for Christ.

The Koinonia Fellowship is the people of Christ who anticipate Christ’s return today and every day until he comes.

  • Jerusalem continues to be a place of learning and preparing
  • A place of prayer and service
  • A place of worship and spiritual connection…

The key is looking there for the moment Christ’s face is revealed again to us. 

  • We know Jesus in the words of a song
  • We know Jesus in the words of scriptures
  • We know Jesus in the hands of loving service
  • We know Jesus in the symbols and rituals of our faith
  • We know Jesus in the fellowship of the Church…

But there is coming the moment that Jesus’s face will be set upon those who he will come to take with him to the place he has gone to prepare for those who believe and trust.

It is much more important to seek the face of Christ than the signs of the end.

  • For all those who wonder if the wars and rumors of wars,
  • The unrest in ours and all the nations of the world
  • The signs of nature and politics that begin to fit into place,

Therefore, our task is to not wait to find for ourselves that moment of turning and yield, giving ourselves to accepting Christ

And for those who have accepted we are called to lead, encourage, and disciples others who are struggling to find Christ for themselves.

The church may be in a stressful and even oppressed time, yet we are all-the-more needed to help a word that is lost in politics, fear, worry, shame, sin, and self to find that Christ indeed has died and lives for them.

Imagine facing these weary days without the promises of Christ? We cannot be true to Christ and ignore the spiritual hunger and spiritual blindness of those wandering through these days. 

Our mission, work, and calling is now and always to make disciples of Jesus Christ, which means helping people turn their hearts to Christ, the cross, Jerusalem, and grace God has revealed for us all.

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John 4:1-30 Crossing Limits to find True Living

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria.  So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, “I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”  Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. [NRSA: John 4:1-30]

This passage is about crossing lines and boundaries to include people in the kingdom of God.

One example we look back 100 years, with the 19th amendment to see the constitution amended to include women voice their power through voting. This was an important crossing a boundary for women and men. We take for granted that all citizens have the right to vote. It was unjust to limit any citizen’s power of choice and accountability.

  • It takes persistence and taking disappointment and turning it into momentum,” she said. “These women were masters at protesting, but they were never just protesters. They used all the tools of democracy and learned to use the system to change the system.” Elaine Weiss, author of “The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote.”

Today, a hundred years, hence, why would anyone cheapen the work done to secure that vote buy opening our elections to fraud.  I genuinely believe those who fought for the right to vote would not want anyone to water-down the fruit of their suffrage. The change occurred because women and men followed up the protest with social and political action for the common good of the nation.

While sitting in a waiting room I happen to watch one scene from the most recent version of the movie, Wonder Woman, (Warner Bros. 2017). Which conveys the classic battles of good verses evil and the reversal of power between women and men.

Jesus is living in a world where men did not talk with women in public, in different cultural context, in the middle of the day, and yet this is very scene we see Jesus speaking with the women at the well.

It is assumed by most bible scholars that the only women who went gather water in the middle of the day were those who had been shunned by the other women, that she had some past, history, reputation that by her choice to avoid the other women or by being excluded by other women, she was at the well at noon.

Jesus orders her, give me some water. Next Saturday is annual conference, and we will have the historic opportunity for that body of the church to meet virtually for the first time. Dylan is our church delegate and representative. We are both registered and ready to login this Saturday for an all-day online meeting. Wow!?

Had it not been for Covid-19 we would again be meeting in Athens, Georgia for this meeting. Going to Athens is probably why Dylan agreed to be our delegate, (joke.) It is typically extremely hot in Athens in the middle of the summer and they bishop always reminds the conference to stay well hydrated. A few years ago it was unbearably hot, and many people had passed out from the heat, and the bishop said these words, “There are plenty of places in Athens to get a drink and I want you all to drink a lot.” I do not think he had in mind that Athens has the most per capita bars in the state, and that in that context he was telling the delegates to go drink. He caught himself and corrected. “Water, people, go drink a lot of water.”

I would gather that it was hot in the noon day sun when Jesus met this woman at the well. He was thirsty. She had the bucket. This is where an enormous conversation of grace, invitation, and salvation are opened for this woman, the disciples, for us, and the world.

  • Jesus is geographically at the limits
  • Socially at the limit
  • Politically at the limit
  • Gender limits

It is at this four-way junction that two people meet as strangers and leave as brother and sister.

The conversation Jesus has with this woman is ultimately about truth.

  • The Truth of being at a crossroad.
  • The Truth about social and political boundaries
  • The Truth her life
  • The Truth about God and her relationship with God.

This is where we meet this passage:

  • Think of the political differences in our own congregation and even in our families.
  • Think of the social differences in our community and even our church family.
  • Think of the community differences that divide us.
  • Think of the sins that diminish our joy, the baggage we carry ourselves that keep us from getting too involved.

Jesus’ remedy for all this division is to reveal the truth about what on the inside.

Our guilt, shame, brokenness, hurt, grief, history, reputation, emptiness, failures, and all matters of sin.

With all that mess on the table, there is the invitation to drink the water of eternity.

  • Do you want to live forever in guilt?
  • Do you want to live be carrying the burdens of shame, fear, hurt and grief?
  • Do you want to filter every joy through the past judgement of others?
  • Do you want to only be satisfied in this ONE moment of thirstiness? Or be satisfied for eternity?

In this passage there are no signs of miracle, there is no ritual of drinking. there is no further conversation between the woman and Jesus.

  1. She leaves her water jar at the well and runs to tell those who had rejected, persecuted, harmed, and been harmed by her and to her,
  2. She has an overflowing word of truth guiding her actions
  3. She has an earthy vessel filled with joy worth sharing
  4. She will be physically thirsty again, but she will never be the same spiritually.

This passage begs of us to ask “Is my spiritual jar filled with the love of Christ or am I focused on the emptiness of by clay jar, my body, my world, my brokenness?”

This passage calls us to say, if we are filled with the good news of Jesus Christ in our live how are we responding to world around us?

This passage calls us to see past our failures and differences and find the common ‘living-water’ in Christ.

Therefore, it is the same story and invitation as always: Christ has come to give himself for us that nothing separate us from the love of God. Not politics, not social media, not customs, not cultures, not history or present day. God offers us this living water as well. Drink it up!

Every time you drink a glass of water say this prayer: “I know that Messiah is coming, he will proclaim all things to us” and hear Jesus say, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you now.”

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Luke 4:1-14 Lead by the Spirit

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.’ ” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. [NRSA: LK 4:1-14]

Do you remember being held by the hand when you were young?

Crossing the street?

Guided through the grocery store away from the sugary sweet cereals? 

Taken into school, the doctor’s office, or some place you’d rather not be on that day?

At times, being held by the hand is a comforting experience.

Holding hands with a spouse or some one special in your life.

As an adult holding the hand of a child in your care.

Facing difficult news or a time of suffering, holding someone’s hand is a way of communicating connection, empathy, and affection.

As an adult child, I look back and wish I could hold my father’s hand, and be guided by my grandmother in stressful points along life’s journey.

I recall a witty youth director asking if we believed in “Pre-marital-interdigitation?” [hand holding] it was using a larger than usual vocabulary word to being a conversation about signs of affections.

This passage is a rare occasion where we see someone leading Jesus by the hand, and leading Jesus by the Spirit.

Led by the Spirit

Often overlooked in this passage is the supernatural method of traveling from place to place by means of the Spirit. We understand the Spirit to be God’s invisible presence that gives breath, power, direction, and guidance to us.

Jesus and the Devil visit three locations. A dry and barren place in the wilderness near Jericho where Jesus had been spending over a month in prayer, fasting, and preparation for his ministry. The second was an extremely high mountain vantage point where the two could see the kingdom and empires of the world. The third spot was atop the temple in Jerusalem. 

Is this passage a figurative narrative? Are they simply visiting this perspective in a mental exercise of “What if?”

 4:1-14

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.’ ” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’  and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”  Jesus answered him, “It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. [NRSA: LK 4:1-14]

Do you remember being held by the hand when you were young? 

Crossing the street? 

Guided through the grocery store away from the sugary sweet cereals? 

Taken into school, the doctor’s office, or some place you’d rather not be on that day?

At times, being held by the hand is a comforting experience.

Holding hands with a spouse or some one special in your life.

As an adult holding the hand of a child in your care.

Facing difficult news or a time of suffering, holding someone’s hand is a way of communicating connection, empathy, and affection.

As an adult child, I look back and wish I could hold my father’s hand, and be guided by my grandmother in stressful points along life’s journey.

I recall a witty youth director asking if we believed in “Pre-marital-interdigitation?” [hand holding] it was using a larger than usual vocabulary word to being a conversation about signs of affections. 

This passage is a rare occasion where we see someone leading Jesus by the hand, and leading Jesus by the Spirit.

Led by the Spirit

Often overlooked in this passage is the supernatural method of traveling from place to place by means of the Spirit. We understand the Spirit to be God’s invisible presence that gives breath, power, direction, and guidance to us.

Jesus and the Devil visit three locations. A dry and barren place in the wilderness near Jericho where Jesus had been spending over a month in prayer, fasting, and preparation for his ministry. The second was an extremely high mountain vantage point where the two could see the kingdom and empires of the world. The third spot was atop the temple in Jerusalem. 

Is this passage a figurative narrative? Are they simply visiting this perspective in a mental exercise of “What if?” 

Is this passage a literal account of the pair visiting different locations in moment of an instant?

What do we know about the Spirit?

The spirit is not bound by the rules and limitation of the physical world. We are so very worldly minded that we might be quick to not hear this account as the literal hyper-drive of motility. But to assume this was only a mental journey, dismisses God’s ability to bring order out of chaos and breath life into dust. 

Most likely, even if we read this with a more literal perspective, we assume this type of activity is for Jesus and the devil only? 

Isn’t it odd that the devil is the doing the leading, in the spirit.

This suggests that God’s spirit and all it’s power and mystery is not limited to those who are good or even mature in the ways of God. The devil uses God’s words, tools, and mysteries to twist our imager of God.

This is a particularly important detail to remember. 

The power of evil people, evil spirits, evil organizations, and institutions to use the words of goodness, value, and even love to give a twisted view of God’s work in the world, and in our lives.

As we interpret the good and evil we experience in the world it is important to be clear on who is leading us, and where.

How do we decern the difference?

In Jesus’s example he repeatedly compares scripture with the reality presented and measure the current reality with the timeless power of God’s word. 

The three twisting of God’s word by the devil are: • If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” • “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”• “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’  and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’1. The first is a command to prove to the world, but the world’s standards.2. The second is a command to use authority for one’s self-interest, power, and glory.3. The third is to ignore the reality of the human experience and skip the struggle.

Three things that are the antithesis of God’s work of love, grace, and salvation through Jesus. 

In the span of our lifetime, we are collectively experiencing an unprecedented season of what it means to be Children of God, Christians, living a faithful life. 

We are conforming to the world’s expectation for the church to be irrelevant, calling our purpose and calling one of privilege and exclusion, and making it easy for us to say and do nothing or suffer the chastisement of shame, blame, and division. 

We are going on six months of saying that it is unhealthy for us to gather in public as a church, but the public can be trusted to go to the home supply, grocery, protest, and businesses that have “sin-taxes.” We have taken for granted the freedom of worship and assembly. While we have complied in the name of health, is it possible for us to fulling do the work of the church from home for the rest of the forceable future? As soon as vaccines are developed and tested, isn’t it likely we will have the next virus or flu that will keep us separated and subjugated to the world definition of vital or essential? 

Don’t miss interpret my words that I deny the threat of contagions and infections, but step back and see how quickly we comply with the most radical transformation of the church in the blink of an eye for a risk factor ofless than one percent of the population. We were not as motivated by starvation, war, and political genocide. 

If we think for a moment about the greatest risks for death: When we have heart disease, diabetes, obesity, emphysema, and being over eighty, have always been at-risk groups even before covid-19. Certainly, those with these conditions are already at greater risk and faced with a deadly virus with added features, it would be something to work to avoid, but at what cost. It is seemingly impossible to find the number of people ding from these conditions this year that are not attributed to precisely infection by Covid-19. 

If I have the typical symptoms of the above conditions and went to the doctor for healing and relief and tested negative, how likely would the doctor say, well you are likely ‘asymptomatic’ go quarantine yourself. 

Hear the words of the devil in the context of Covid-19: • Do no harm is more important than do all the good you can.

It is more loving to shut down the church, than the church risk spreading the illness because if infections increased you have caused people to suffer and at worse contributed to their death, shame for even considering non-compliance.• Let’s trust the authorities. Who grants and verifies authority? Of the CDC? WHO? White House? Media? Numbers? • Science knows best in all matters of social assembly• The only agenda is the health of the world• Only Some people are important• My opinion has more authority than God.

Jesus’s respond to the twisting of Words.

First, remember that the devil was using the occasion of Jesus’s weariness as a timely moment to break through Jesus’s work.

The devil was leading Jesus. (Jesus doesn’t give in to the devil, but that doesn’t stop the devil from trying to influence him.)

Jesus turns to scripture: 

One does not live by bread alone.’• We are more than bread and food. We are children of God worth God’s love, sacrifice, grace, and redemption.• God is most interested in our eternal relationship and not just the struggle of our physical moment.

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’• There is one authority that is greatest. • That is who are to trust with all of our heart, mind, and strength.

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’• People, organizations, and powers, will try to lead us astray• Choose to be lead to the green pastures and still waters of God love.

So what of our being lead by the world instead of God 

We are more than the life of this body. • We will all face death and it is most important to be in love with God, neighbors, and enemies

We can’t control temptation, but we can trust God with our lives• God is greater than all other authority. Worship God

If there is a time that we need to worship, praise, study, pray, encourage, be spiritually strong it in times of our greatest weakness and threat.• The World will always test, tempt, twist, and make it easy to worship our will over God’s will

The Big So What: • We trust God’s word in helping us determine if are doing more ‘harm’ or more ‘good’ staying at home or living in the world?• Is our worship limited to the building and to Sunday?• Who is the greater authority in our daily lives? In times of crisis? • Who do we follow? • How long can we be lead by the devil before we give up, give in, or forget God and God’s word as our strength , authority, and foundation?

Words to Remember

You are more than your body. You are created in the image of God, to be God’s treasure.

You are called to worship God and not two masters, rulers, -a divided house cannot stand.

You are very likely to trust yourself and the world if left along – encourage one another and be strong in the Spirit.

What do we know about the Spirit?

The spirit is not bound by the rules and limitation of the physical world. We are so very worldly minded that we might be quick to not hear this account as the literal hyper-drive of motility. But to assume this was only a mental journey, dismisses God’s ability to bring order out of chaos and breath life into dust. 

Most likely, even if we read this with a more literal perspective, we assume this type of activity is for Jesus and the devil only? 

Isn’t it odd that the devil is the doing the leading, in the spirit.

This suggests that God’s spirit and all it’s power and mystery is not limited to those who are good or even mature in the ways of God. The devil uses God’s words, tools, and mysteries to twist our imager of God.

This is a particularly important detail to remember. 

The power of evil people, evil spirits, evil organizations, and institutions to use the words of goodness, value, and even love to give a twisted view of God’s work in the world, and in our lives.

As we interpret the good and evil we experience in the world it is important to be clear on who is leading us, and where.

How do we decern the difference?

In Jesus’s example he repeatedly compares scripture with the reality presented and measure the current reality with the timeless power of God’s word. 

The three twisting of God’s word by the devil are: • If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” • “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”• “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’  and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’1. The first is a command to prove to the world, but the world’s standards.2. The second is a command to use authority for one’s self-interest, power, and glory.3. The third is to ignore the reality of the human experience and skip the struggle.

Three things that are the antithesis of God’s work of love, grace, and salvation through Jesus. 

In the span of our lifetime, we are collectively experiencing an unprecedented season of what it means to be Children of God, Christians, living a faithful life. 

We are conforming to the world’s expectation for the church to be irrelevant, calling our purpose and calling one of privilege and exclusion, and making it easy for us to say and do nothing or suffer the chastisement of shame, blame, and division. 

We are going on six months of saying that it is unhealthy for us to gather in public as a church, but the public can be trusted to go to the home supply, grocery, protest, and businesses that have “sin-taxes.” We have taken for granted the freedom of worship and assembly. While we have complied in the name of health, is it possible for us to fulling do the work of the church from home for the rest of the forceable future? As soon as vaccines are developed and tested, isn’t it likely we will have the next virus or flu that will keep us separated and subjugated to the world definition of vital or essential? 

Don’t miss interpret my words that I deny the threat of contagions and infections, but step back and see how quickly we comply with the most radical transformation of the church in the blink of an eye for a risk factor ofless than one percent of the population. We were not as motivated by starvation, war, and political genocide. 

If we think for a moment about the greatest risks for death: When we have heart disease, diabetes, obesity, emphysema, and being over eighty, have always been at-risk groups even before covid-19. Certainly, those with these conditions are already at greater risk and faced with a deadly virus with added features, it would be something to work to avoid, but at what cost. It is seemingly impossible to find the number of people ding from these conditions this year that are not attributed to precisely infection by Covid-19. 

If I have the typical symptoms of the above conditions and went to the doctor for healing and relief and tested negative, how likely would the doctor say, well you are likely ‘asymptomatic’ go quarantine yourself. 

Hear the words of the devil in the context of Covid-19: • Do no harm is more important than do all the good you can.

It is more loving to shut down the church, than the church risk spreading the illness because if infections increased you have caused people to suffer and at worse contributed to their death, shame for even considering non-compliance.• Let’s trust the authorities. Who grants and verifies authority? Of the CDC? WHO? White House? Media? Numbers? • Science knows best in all matters of social assembly• The only agenda is the health of the world• Only Some people are important• My opinion has more authority than God.

Jesus’s respond to the twisting of Words.

First, remember that the devil was using the occasion of Jesus’s weariness as a timely moment to break through Jesus’s work.

The devil was leading Jesus. (Jesus doesn’t give in to the devil, but that doesn’t stop the devil from trying to influence him.)

Jesus turns to scripture: 

One does not live by bread alone.’• We are more than bread and food. We are children of God worth God’s love, sacrifice, grace, and redemption.• God is most interested in our eternal relationship and not just the struggle of our physical moment.

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’• There is one authority that is greatest. • That is who are to trust with all of our heart, mind, and strength.

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’• People, organizations, and powers, will try to lead us astray• Choose to be lead to the green pastures and still waters of God love.

So what of our being lead by the world instead of God 

We are more than the life of this body. • We will all face death and it is most important to be in love with God, neighbors, and enemies

We can’t control temptation, but we can trust God with our lives• God is greater than all other authority. Worship God

If there is a time that we need to worship, praise, study, pray, encourage, be spiritually strong it in times of our greatest weakness and threat.• The World will always test, tempt, twist, and make it easy to worship our will over God’s will

The Big So What: • We trust God’s word in helping us determine if are doing more ‘harm’ or more ‘good’ staying at home or living in the world?• Is our worship limited to the building and to Sunday?• Who is the greater authority in our daily lives? In times of crisis? • Who do we follow? • How long can we be lead by the devil before we give up, give in, or forget God and God’s word as our strength , authority, and foundation?

Words to Remember

You are more than your body. You are created in the image of God, to be God’s treasure.

You are called to worship God and not two masters, rulers, -a divided house cannot stand.You are very likely to trust yourself and the world if left along – encourage one another and be strong in the Spirit.

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Deut. 6:1-9 “Love is It”

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. [NRSA: Deut 6:1-9]

Love is the answer.

The Greatest Commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, and with all you soul, and with all your might.

The Key commandment, the one rule that binds them all. Is to love God.

It is the simplest instruction. Love God, Trust God, Depend on God. Follow God. Love God. Say these aloud to God with me: 

·         I love you God

·         I trust you Lord

·         I depend on you Jesus

·         I believe you are my Savior

·         I follow you Holy Spirit.

·         I love you God.

The First instruction is to learn, remember and to recite the nature of our relationship with God.

“God I love you.”

This instruction is simple and direct profession of faith. But it goes a bit further than just loving God.

The instruction is to love God with our whole heart.

Think of the pie charts from school and business meetings. If the whole pie is dedicated to loving God how much is left to love others people and other things?

If the whole pie indicated the amount we are the devote our heart and soul to God what part is lift for being a fan of something else?

If the whole pie reflect that all our energy, strength, and resources are going to God, how much is left over for things other than God.

SURELY THIS IS NOT WHAT GOD MEANS!

If this one commandment is to summarize all the others, it does mean that we devote the fullness of who we are to God, as a sign of our love, trust and devotion.

Reality Check

Who can do this? This is where grace comes to the rescue. We have all sinned and fallen short! 

This is the heart of our target. Some days we do better than others, but our goal remains the same, to love God completely.

There are other things that fall under loving God. 

·         Trusting God’s word. 

·         Caring, protecting, and witnessing to our families, to the community and to the world.

·         We love God by caring for God’s creation. 

·         We love God by seeking justice and showing mercy. 

·         We love God by feeding those who are hungry, 

·         clothing those who are naked, 

·         friending the lost, lonely, and hopeless. 

·         We love God by gathering to worship

·         We love God by using the body, the spirit, the talents, the mind, the gifts, the time entrusted to us to show both God, the world and ourselves what it means to live as a person of love.

There is no great love, than a person to give their whole life for another

THIS is what makes Jesus’s death on the cross the most powerful witness of love

To give to us, those who squander the treasures and time of our life looking for purpose and meaning and God has already revealed that purpose to us. 

To love.

Favorite Prayer in Seminary: “O God, you love is so big, thank you for your bigness.” Amen. 

What does it take for us to do a better job remembering our purpose, goal, and JOY is to love God?

·         Keep these words in your Heart.

·         Teach by modeling these words to each generation

·         Keep them when you are at home and wherever you travel

·         Close and Start the Day with them on your lips

·         Wear them on your hand

·         Wear them on your head

·         Write them on your door and gate.

A modern translation might be: memorize them and recite them in your household, as you begin and end the day. Keep them on your home screen, in your bathroom mirror and in your car rear view mirror. Wear them as you would wear clothes and jewelry, teach them to everyone you meet and live by them everywhere you go.

Love God with all of your heart, soul, and strength.

The Power of a Post-it Note

·         Put one on your bathroom mirror and remind God ever time you wash you hands, brush you teeth, shave or make up your face.

·         Put one on the dash of your car

·         Put one in your wallet on your debt and credit card

·         Take a picture of one and make it your screen background

·         Have you ever written a reminder on your hand hoping it won’t sweat off before you get the list of things from the store?

Having a visual reminder increases connection of memory and action dramatically.

Having a visual remind, a physical touch, and audible sound is the strongest way to remember to act in a certain way.

Try this: Clap you hands, and say “I love your God, Help me to love you more.” A good strong clap, awakens our nerves and sets to memory our words with out actions. The next time you clap you hands or hear others clap their hand, you will bring together a reminder to love God and love God more.

If not clapping, snap you fingers, touch  you ear, squeeze you finger, some action to have reinforce the reminder, 

·         Sometime we need it in front of our eyes: 

·         Sometimes we need to hear the words:

·         Sometime we need to connect our breathing with love so we remember how often we are to love.

Writing on you hand and head

Personally, I have never been a fan of tattoos. In saying that I risk alienating many people. I don’t love anyone any less for having one. I have seen tattoos fifty years after they have been installed and they communicate something very differently. I have see people live with names of people they have divorced. I have seen people cover themselves with images that have one meaning at the beginning that are a regret that are carried daily. What most these days are very detailed, colorful and great works of art, there seem to more reasons not to carry such a permanent billboard for most of the images people receive.

But I can also heart this passage from Deut 6 and see how people might literally take to heart the instruction to write God’s commandments on their hand or head. But I have only seen a fraction of tattoos that ink this commandment or images reflecting God.  While tigers, reptiles, birds, and skulls are all part of God’s creation, I’m not hear these images inked as a testimony of our love for God. 

I risk opening this conversation because some people will take this instruct literally and see the process of using their bodies as a place to witness God’s love in that is unseen in their hearts, minds and souls. And so if a tattoo is telling the world of your devotion to God then that is bold and definitive witness.. But most religious tattoos are in places easily hidden. I know the art of Tattooing is ancient, one of the reasons why it is considered to be taboo, (taboo tattoos) is the practice associate with temple worship of pagan gods with fertility practices. As your pastor, I’m not saying never get a tattoo. I am saying this passage calls us to let the world know who we love with our whole heart, whole soul, and all our strength. And if the world can better see God’s love in you with a reminder in inked in your skin, then that’s a permeant way to say to God, to yourself and to the world: I love you God! Just know there is pain, risk of infection, cost, and in fifty years It might not be as legible. 

Throughout the generations Jewish families have a mezuzah at the front door with a small scroll reminding them of this passage. Some traditions literal tie box with the a scroll of this passage on their forehead. We are more familiar with WWJD bracelets and other pins, rings, jewelry — all are tangible ways to remember.

So what do we do with this passage today?

We remember our highest purpose and the meaning of our lives is to love God.

If you are or know someone who is searching in this “time of craziness” help them get on the track of learning to Love God, for the first time or renewing that love.

We Love God, and ask God to help Love even more.

We encourage one another, by reminding ourselves and others through physical and spiritual ways. We not only can pray, we can send someone a loving reminder, a gift, “agape” – something that has no expectation of love return, just a something that opens door to sharing love.

The more the world says to fear, hid, withdraw, prepare for the worst.. the more you and I need to encourage one another to love.  The more evil abounds, the more love we need to conquer it.

This is the promise of God; the simple commandment. Love and it will go well. Hate and it will not go well.

When I feel the hate, fear, dread, worry, rage…. Make that my prayer: Oh Lord Jesus my savior and friend: make this evil remind me of your love and teach me to love as you have loved. Love is the way. Love is the answer. Love is our foundation. Love is our salvation. God’s love is big enough for whatever the world want to throw our way. “I love you God.” 

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MT 5:43-47 Loving you is going to hard

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [NRSA: Matthew 5:43-47]

Koinonia Fellowship is hard

a.       We are already doing what is hard these days, why tackle something else that is hard?

b.       It is the one thing that God has commanded us to do.

c.       It is the motivation on God’s part that provides for our own salvation.

d.       Finally, we see what heaven is like, every time we love someone who is difficult to love.

e.       And if do don’t want to love then we are not likely to enjoy, being the body of Christ, heaven, nor eternity with God and the al People of God.

Typically this is how the conversations start: 

Q: Preacher, When it comes to loving our enemies, the favorite example, “do you mean we are suppose to love someone like Hitler?”

A: the easy to say, but difficult to do answer is: a 100% yes!, but..  

Interruption: 

If you are sharing a conversation with someone and they respond to you by saying, “Yes, but ..” then 99% of the time they think they are being polite or kind, and follow up explaining why your wrong with their perspective. It is a good way to start or continue an argument or have someone stop communicating?

Return to the example

In this case, our answer to the radical question, “Are we we suppose to love someone like Hitler?”, will answer with this question: “is there someone who need to learn how to love more than a Hitler?” 

In this case, the yes is a Yes!, and the “but” is a qualification that it is not easy to follow through in action with the words about being loving. 

In the example of Hitler, there is nothing acceptable about his beliefs, leadership, behavior, or role in history. Someone filled with evil is not our excuse to judge them and skip loving them as the person of God’s creation that has become so twisted. 

Our role is not to judge, it is to be witness to a world of sin, evil, corruption and  destruction, a doorway to the grace of God.

How easy it was for people to adopt the group think, to fear retaliation, to not want to take a stand, to exchange the words of faith for the compliance of the community. But let us not be stuck on the character of history.

We have plenty of people that we would not want to have lunch with, not want to invite into our homes, not what to sit next to – even in church. If you started a list of people be careful because these may be the very people God is calling you to reach out with your witness of love and grace.

This is where the words of love come to life and reveal what we hope for in heaven.  

Daily we are surrounded with the push and pull of people calling for us to be politically intolerant of someone else. There is not a parable, teaching, or example where Jesus says for us to divide up people in the groups and to hate one and love the other. That’s the task of politics these days.. It is not our command, goal, or charge.

Action 1

The First step is to have a reversal prayer: When I hear some, I try my best to give that moment to God. Sometimes I fail, and social media is vicious. I am hopeful we will soon no longer be dependent on FB to provide our streaming. (we will share it on multiple platforms, but no longer require people to use FB to share our worship, that’s like only using wine in communion for those who struggle with alcohol, an aside.)

When we are confronted with someone difficult to love or to think of in a loving way, begin to look at them as God see them. God loves us while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us before we ask for his help. Someone who is our enemy be based on something about them, ourselves, or both. 

The prayer is this. “God help me to see the world from their perspective, your perspective, and see the sins and evil in my own life. Transform us all to your will and heart. Amen.” Or something toward seeing these three perspectives.

The second action is not just pray but make a first step toward loving.

An action is not simply a good thought and a hurried prayer. Allowing the words of our faith and heart to marinate with God’s word and love, prepares us to begin with INTENTIONAL steps of loving, reconciliation, forgiveness, invitation, opening dialogue. 

For those stuck on the Hitler example, there are times that were a mortally at risk for showing love. What would Germany have looked like if every person stepped forward in love rather than either joining the crowd or keeping to themselves?

The End of Days:

It has been the most frequent question I have been asked in the month of July. I offer the two things we do know from scripture: While no one know the hour or the day, we all can see the seasons and signs.

Behind that question is desire to have some order in the chaos we experience in the world. The more hurricanes, tropical storms and tornados, flooding and earthquakes in China, pandemic threats, political ultimatums, and the drama of being on the winning side, not to mention that threat to split our denomination…

a)       Its fair to ask is this it? If yes, then we just need to hang on and be faithful a little while longer, 

b)      If no, we don’t have to deal with the tribulation AND all this chaos.. 

People are asking this because they want to know is God going to show up and fix things?

Is God going to speak those words to justice and healing to the nations?

Is God going to let us suffer and die, ask the persons with leprosy outside the city?

Is God hearing our suffering and struggles, our fears and lack of control? 

Do God love us?

Is God’s love based on events of the world, or is God’s love for us greater than all the chaos??

Step 1. Reversal Prayer, Step 2. Taking the first steps in ACTing in love. Step 3.

Do not measure love by the world’s standards. 

We need God’s love most when we are not pacified by being part of the majority.

We need God’s love most when its not easy to see with our eyes and heart alone.

We needs God’s love when we are afraid, broken and pressed down more than when we can manage.

And if “WE” need that much love, then so do our enemies.

Go back to the idea of a list of enemies. Don’t list them all, but who are the first three people who you picture or name when you hear enemies. (Don’t list groups of people, name the first personal names that fill you heart and mind.)

1.       Pray for that person all day, all afternoon, all evening. Ask God to help you see the world and you from their perspective. Pray for God to transform their heart and your heart to find some point of grace between you.

2.       Pick up the phone, reach out in person/at a distance, write a prayerful email, send a love letter to that person telling them what you are praying for them and yourself. Make the first step.

2B. To not act, to not take the first step is to not trust God’s love to heal. Try and fail is rewarded, ignoring is participating in the lie that we are loving as we have been loved.

3.       The Reward for loving first, is the treasure of seeing who God deals with us in Christ. God has no idea if we will love back, God has been disappointed many times… And yet, it is that never failing love that is my only hope and grace. 

We don’t have to love people’s ideas, behaviors, choices… and we don’t have to give them what they want us to give them to prove our love… the love is what we are commanded to do by God, with God, for God. 

Failure is to not try loving because we are afraid, or have failed before. Koinonia people love because Christ loved us first, and continues to love us always. Hear the Good News and live it!

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1 Corinthians 13 “Love Always”

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. [NRSA: 1 Cor 13]

This chapter is both wonderful and intimidating. We love it and we held to its words and love.

Paul calls us to “love like we are family.” 

Families do not always agree. Families fight, divorce, hold grudges, abuse, neglect… why in the world would we want to love like a family’s love?

Too often we label our failures of trying to be a loving family as the standard. Therefore, we confuse reality with the model that is before us.

Instead of modeling family experience, we look to the fellowship God reveals for us:

Loving as Paul describes is 

1) a love based in God. What is love? Look and listen to God for God’s examples of love and loving relationship.

2) a love that can hold people in relationship even when their thoughts and behaviors are out of bounds. (I love you even though you are doing ‘wrong’ or thinking ‘wrong’.

3) a love that is not grounded in emotions but loves us in relationship to God even when you and I both have failed to love as God loves.

The Framework of God’s family: Based in Love, Loving the sinner, Love is Eternal

It’s important to clarify: I family operating on God’s love will look like the love described in this chapter. And, a Church family or koinonia fellowship, operating on God’s love, will look and sound like the relation described in chapter 13. But it is not automatically true.

We are a church denomination, that has actively talked about divorce for 22 years. We have been more focused on trying to keep the family together than learning to love the sinners despite their sins. We have aligned ourselves in the those who are correct and those who are wrong, blaming each other for the current reality. WHEN the reality is that we have accepted this lie as our truth.

The Church has always been called to be Christ’s body and not ours. It even sounds awkward to hear ourselves say: RS Church is Christ’s church, we usually say, “RS Church is ‘my’ church.” My service, my music, my class, my friends, my history, my offering, my, my my… 

Christ came to give himself for sinners. He always named the sin, and forgives the sinner, so that new life my eternally be in God.

Talking about loving people and actually loving people is the difference in saying the latest slogan or catch phrase about who we love, or who we support is not, in itself, AND loving enough to actually stay in relationship with God’s strength. This is to love as Paul describes. It is not at easy when we deal with the worst in each other.

Marriage

There is a reason that many couples include this passage in their wedding ceremony as it is the description of the type of relationship that are setting as their measure. At the foundation of a marriage it is a good base to start. When half of all marriages end in divorce we must reexamine how we love. 

Love sets boundaries for everyone in the relationship. When we are out-of-bounds, we break the relationship of love. Through GRACE God works to redevelop trust and rebuild. But our continued disobedience leads us to end relationships. Sometimes ending a relationship is the only way we can move forward.

Social Love

In society, we recognize that we might love our enemies, but their behaviors so violate trust and respect that we incarcerate them to separate them from others. This is not the model of love, but it is the accountability of not loving.

•             Just as God is revealed in creation, in the purposeful design of creation, with its order, beauty, and seasons of life, death, and renewal of life. 

•             God’s love can be seen throughout creation, in God providing for what we need not only to eat and drink, but to challenge and expand our minds, and to live together in community.

Pieces are the Whole

Wisdom, knowledge, faith, sacrifice are all parts of the relationship, but love is the reason behind them all. Prophecies, knowledge, physical nature all need to mature, but only mature in love.

Reclaiming the Heart and Hope for our Relationships

Love is..  (This activity ALWAYS requires God’s help, when we are on our own, we our out of bounds)

Love is patient; kind; not envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, not selfish, irritable, nor resentful; it rejoices in doing what is Godly, what is true. It bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things; Love never ends. 

Starting with Confession

Which of these do we struggle?

Proactive

Օ – Patient

Օ – Kind

Օ – Rejoices in Truth

Օ – Seeks what is Godly

Օ – Bears

Օ – Believes

Օ – Hopes

Օ – Endure

Reactive / opposite

Օ – Envious / Content

Օ – Boastful / Humble

Օ – Arrogant / Respects

Օ – Rude / Kind

Օ – Selfish / Selfless

Օ – Irritable / Care

Օ – Resentful / Appreciative

Which do we experience from others most?

Proactive

Օ – Patient

Օ – Kind

Օ – Rejoices in Truth

Օ – Seeks what is Godly

Օ – Bears

Օ – Believes

Օ – Hopes

Օ – Endure

Reactive / opposite

Օ – Envious / Content

Օ – Boastful / Humble

Օ – Arrogant / Respects

Օ – Rude / Kind

Օ – Selfish / Selfless

Օ – Irritable / Care

Օ – Resentful / Appreciative

What are the correlations and connections with what we struggle and the struggles of others?

Are they connections that begin in opposition? Then we know where to ask for God’s help.

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSA: 1 Cor 13]

Patient and Kind, Truth and Godliness

Bears and Believes, Hopes and Endures

Content and Humble, Respects with Care and Kindness

Selfless and Appreciative. Love is forever.

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