As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. [NRSA: Galatians 3:27-29]
It is important for us to know some context of this area. More of a recognized state or region of the people who have Greek and Roman heritage. Thus, making it a place of blended culture and religions.
The region in what we now know as central and southern Turkey was in Paul’s time known as the region of Galatia. Historically a Greek formation, the Celts, were later occupied by the Roman empire in our period of the Apostle Paul and his missionary work in this area. It was more than a city, but rather an area with thirteen divisions. It is from the accounts in both Paul’s letter to the Galatians and in Luke’s recording in the Book of Acts, that we learn about this region.
Paul was extraordinarily successful in connecting the know cultures and religions and using those as entry points to show the inadequacies of the local gods with the One, universal God by belief in His Son. Paul is likely to have been building upon some missionary work from Peter and Sillas as his typical approach was to start with the Jewish communities at local synagogues, which were rare in the region of Galatia.
But what of any of this speaks to us?
Paul offers Christ to a diverse and divided culture that has been bouncing through generations of sweeping religious, political, and cultural changes. It is in this context that we see Paul being particularly helpful in transforming devotion into discipleship, and loyalty into faith and belief.
What if the world, the nation? Georgia? North Georgia? Our communities? Or our fellowship was so clothed in Christ, that the first thing we see in one another is Christ.
When you introduce yourself through writing, what is the first detail you would share about yourself?
- Would it be career?
- In some type of relationship?
- Having kids or grands?
- Would it be gender, or some other physical descriptor?
- Would it be your hobbies or talents?
- Most would say it differs by the context.
- Facebook: “Human, husband, father, pastor, writer, #humorinlife #foodie #techie #zippermerging #zoomevangelist”
- Twitter: “a sinful child saved by Christ, pastor, husband, father, writer, techie, foodie, neighbor, voter looking for humor, and humor in life. clergy.pro
- Business Card: “Sharing Christ and the Journey”
And how would you describe Rock Spring in 100 words?
Is their any church that would not consider starting with the words, “We are a friendly church” no matter if we were or were not.
Many times we are, Sometimes we are not, and sometimes most are friends, but always a handful on any give Sunday are distracted with something else in lives or on their heart.
- Would we share our missions because we are proud of our accomplishments or how much Christ has done for and through us?
- Would we list our activities we like or think others would like or how Christ shapes, guides, and challenges us?
- Would we describe what we enjoy about our worship, or how God is blessed by our praise and fellowship?
- Would we tell about how easy it is to visit and join, or how much work and devotion it takes to continue growing, serving, and following Christ?
Paul starts reminding the church: You are the baptized in Christ. You are clothed in Christ.
- Baptism is the sign of our adoption as sons and daughters of God, through and with Christ.
- Baptism is the moment we celebrate our life being more than our own.
- Baptism is our joining the family as heirs of the witness, work, and reward that God would bestow.
- Baptism is our spiritual birth into our heavenly citizenship.
- Baptism is not just something we hope people have done before they die, it is the belonging-relationship that we celebrate while we are living.
Paul is reminding the church that we are first responders to the fires burning in peoples hearts and minds, we have something better than Kevlar and Nomex, we are clothed with Christ who has died for us and lives for us to be in God, forever.
Paul encourages the church painting the warm quilt of love, faith, and prayer that surrounds us in the cold world, and the from the emptiness of being lost or alone. We are clothes with Jesus Christ who renews and restores and walks with us in all of life and death.
Paul is teaching the church to put on the arm, put on the baptism, put on the quilt, put on the strength, wisdom, and faithfulness of Christ because without it we are wearing the [Emperor’s New Clothes/ ‘naked’] instead that the world is selling as truth, safety, and meaning.
Once we wear the team uniform of Christ we are no longer divided; we become united in Christ.
If we are clothed by opinions, ideologies, data-points, peer-reviewed conclusions: all these change for day to day and as the context and balance of power shifts in the world. We are clothed in the life of Christ, don’t forget, don’t let go, don’t exchange it.
Think of all the descriptors in our lives: We rally around being in different camps: bulldogs, hound dogs, elephants, eagles, tigers, lookouts, Biscuits, owls, gophers, moccasin shoe, pickles, and our family favorite: Mighty, Fighting Okra from Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi.
We divide up by age groups: Gen Z, Millennials or Gen Y, Gen X, Boomer, WW2ers, Depressists. They all sound terrible. But we try to make generation distinctions to hopefully better understand when we actually labeling and dividing people with names.
The is one race. We are humans. We have different cultures, pigments of skin color, and varieties of traditions and assessments of our identities as individuals and groups. We are all creations of God’s handiwork, created, loved, and saved by God.
- We have some shared features, but all have different fingerprints, and DNA markers that show God creates, not simply to mass produce, but value us one at a time, here is our weakness and strength.
- We are free to choose to love God or run from God. But living and seeking God acknowledges our questions, failures and fears and ability, through the grace in Christ, we have a way together, in Christ.
- We are valued by God both 1) the unique person we are and 2) the whole fellowship we become in Christ.
This week’s realization: The following is not politically bias: In the most recent weeks, I have had more occasions to speak with people who are anti-church, anti-religion, religious in practice-but not thriving in spiritual fruitfulness. I offer a both/and observation. There are flaws in our country, but we continue to be the nation that immigrants desire to leave their home to live. There are divided opinions and bias news surrounding us from every side, but other nations continue to turn to us for support, technology, and protection. There laws that need to be added and improved, but our system of government has built a nation that can welcome, respond, and adapt because it is a both/and relationship: Holding fast to our roots AND continues to amend our flaws.
Paul is telling a region of none Jewish people to believe in a God who is working through the Jew’s messiah, Jesus, God’s Son, to bring hope, meaning, salvation, love, power, grace, and is continuing this work through ALL who are baptized and clothed with Christ. Not destroying the framework but building upon it the work of the church, that whole world may know God through us.
Whether is to church OR state, the foundations have provided the framework, that without it we would not have the opportunities we enjoy today.
- The State will never love us, only use or appease us.
- The state will never be our salvation.
- The State will never die that we might live, rather calling us to suffer for its life.
- Remember who’s uniform you have been saved to wear?
- Remember which team that has died for you?
- Remember it Christ that truly unites us and not common law, identity, or opinion.
- Be Not afraid, God is with us. Repeat these words of assurance with me: “Be Not Afraid, God is With us!”
- Don’t let the worldly division sum up your identity or communities. Be those clothed in Christ.
- Let the world see Christ, just as they have seen your sport team colors and generational style
- Let the world look to those who are clothed in Christ, as sinners who are made who by Christ.
- Let the world see God’s presence in the living our faith and sacrifice to follow and grow.
- Let the world see in this context, this time in history, the eternal love and power of Christ today!
- Be Not afraid, God is with us. Repeat these words of assurance with me: “Be Not Afraid, God is With us!”
In his letter to the Galatians, he appeals directly to their well-known love of freedom and independence (5:1) and repeatedly contrasts freedom of the spirit through Christ with the slavery offered by pursuing worldly pleasures. He even specifically cites behavior and sins long associated with the Galatians such as jealousy, drunkenness, liberal sexuality, and idolatry (5:19-20) and contrasts these with the freedom from vice and corruption offered by Christianity (5:22-24). His appeals worked well, and the Galatians were converted, exchanging Sabiazos’ and Cybele’s protection for that of Jesus Christ. Herm notes that “the Christian communities under the jurisdiction of the Drunemeton were among the oldest founded” by Paul and Galatia grew into one of the most vital Christian centers of the region (43).
The Galatians by this time were almost thoroughly Hellenized and had further substituted their Celtic-Greco customs with Roman beliefs and attitudes. Christianity replaced their old religion, and the temples were turned into churches. This same paradigm was repeated, with the addition of military force, following the Muslim Invasion of Anatolia in 830 CE when the populace was converted to Islam and churches became mosques. By this time, there was little left of the original Celtic-Greco culture of Galatia. Its name survives today primarily through the biblical epistle of St. Paul and, possibly, the suburb of Galata outside of Istanbul, Turkey. [Mark, J. J. (2019, October 24). Galatia. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/galatia/%5D
For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. [NRSV: Romans 14:7-13]
What are the best foods each holiday?
- Best tailgate food?
- Best Halloween candy?
- Best Thanksgiving side dish?
- Best Christmas food?
Look, we have just divided ourselves into different groups based on our preferences, heritage, and practice.
In the context of election if there is someone who will or has vote/d in all of the opposite candidates, why argue with them and divide your relationship? Which is more important to press someone to belief, or hold fast yourself and allow them to learn from your faithfulness?
- We get impatient
- We are lured to believe what we here,
- We trust opinions without review, and
- We stand on principles that are not grounded in God.
First, Paul is saying, don’t divide and create enemies over trivial things. Don’t close the door on a relationship just to be right. INSTEAD, be righteous in your own thinking and actions, AND surrender yourselves to CHRIST, and let God be the judge of things.
Part Two – be open to love everyone.
If God only loves and be-friends us when we are good and blameless, then God would have condemned us all long ago.
John 3, while we were yet sinner, he sent his son, to give his live for ours. Even though rejecting the sin, God embraces us in the hope that we learn from the life, and sacrifice of Christ and come to understand, believe, trust, and devote our lives to God, to Gods purpose.
Our denomination never lived into the motto, “Open hearts, minds, and doors” rather than hold one another accountable, and we adopted a new motto.
Part One – (Out of order because we typically think it is an afterthought or that we don’t need Spiritual growth or even Spiritual Maintenance.
Part One is that which we must master first: Accepting Christ has died and now lives for us personally, AND that we are surrendered to him with our own sin and struggle.
- Both parts are vital.
- Jesus both teaches the crowd of thousands AND feeds them.
- Jesus invited us to follow AND calls us to disciple others.
It’s not either-or. Our calling is to feed, clothe, and provide for those in physical needs, AND it is all to spiritually feed, spiritual clothing, and provide the spiritual Community for all.
Context of Romans: Paul, who wrote many letters as the social media of his day, shared this letter as his final letter. From this more mature place he becomes STRONG in CHRIST for himself, and TOLERANT of others less mature, so that his faith become his witness.
If I continue to sin, who, are we to judge any other person. Paul is clear that our job is NOT to be a spiritual judge. But we ARE to be passionate about building up the opportunities to transform our relationship as disciples. and leave the rest to God, who deals with us individually knowing the struggles and journey of every person. ( some laborers work all day some mid-day other the last our but all received the same reward.)
The Mature and reflective Paul
Even if some is wrong, be mature enough to to keep the relationship open, live out what you know to be true but do not make enemies.
Two people can be both wrong, and will also stand before God, whether they believe in God, accept God, or not.
Allowing someone the room to be wrong, but close enough to learn from being close
We belong to the lord
Whether people believe in God, God continues with love, hope, and waits in patience for each of us to come to know and to worship or reject God.
Ref. Isaiah 45:23> “every knee will bend and tongue confess or acknowledge” God is not only real, but also the author of life, love, and authority.
A mature player knows that tick tack toe ends up in a scratch more often than not and the two places that typically allow someone to win most every time. In card games, any strategy game the experienced player has the opportunity to teach the opponent to become a better player so that the game eventually is more Challenging and satisfying, OR they only play to win, which has glory at that moment only.
God is not gaming us, but is inviting us:
to AVOID being a stumbling block to others,
to be discipling others by welcoming and tolerating others,
and particularly ‘difficult’ relationships
As your neighbor the Charlie Brown Spiritual advice question: Q?
“Am I a Spiritual Blockhead?”
- Is my attitude
- or my behavior
- or my words keeping someone from seeing and know Christ lives in me?
A “Christian” high school played Frances’s volleyball team last night and just before the game, the other school was celebrating their victory over their last football game. The announcer said, “We are honoring our team for demolishing the competition.” Are we saying things that others hear, and doing things that others see, and closing relationship before they start or shuting doors, minds, and hearts from Christ.
- Don’t be a blockhead,
- don’t be a stumbling block,
- don’t be focused on the log with a speck in our own eye,
- be mature Christians.
- Be seasons in your own faith.
- Encourage, invited, inspire, inform, but don’t beat the sheep into submission. The Good Shepherd goes out looking until the lost are found and rejoices at THEIR return.
1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given the power to harm the land and the sea: 3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” 4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. 5 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, 6 from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, 7 from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.
The Great Multitude in White Robes
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!” 13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple, and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water. ’‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ” [NRSV: Rev 7]
This part of John’s vision, his portent into heaven is a glimpse. It does not answer all our questions, but it is intended to give us assurance and calls for endurance in the faith.
- From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
- from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
- from the tribe of Gad 12,000,
- from the tribe of Asher 12,000,
- from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,
- from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,
- from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,
- from the tribe of Levi 12,000,
- from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,
- from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,
- from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
- from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000
Exodus 24:4 NIV https://www.biblestudytools.com/exodus/24-4.html Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said. He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. [NRSA]
Summary of Numbers 2
1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.” [NRSA]
- On the east, toward the sunrise, Judah are to encamp under their standard 74,600.
- The tribe of Issachar will camp next to them. 54,400.
- The tribe of Zebulun will be next. 57,400.
- All the men in these three number 186,400. They will set out first.
- On the south will be the divisions of the camp of Reuben under their standard, 46,500.
- The tribe of Simeon will camp next to them, 59,300.
- The tribe of Gad will be next, 45,650.
- All the men in these divisions, number 151,450. They will set out second.
- Then the tent of meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps. They will set out in the same order as they encamp, each in their own place under their standard.
- On the west will be the divisions of the camp of Ephraim, 40,500.
- The tribe of Manasseh will be next, 32,200.
- The tribe of Benjamin will be next, 35,400.
- All the men in these divisions number 108,100. They will set out third.
- On the north will be the divisions of the camp of Dan, 62,700.
- The tribe of Asher will camp next to them, 41,500.
- The tribe of Naphtali will be next, 53,400.
- All the men in these divisions number 157,600. They will set out last.
Total Men 20 and older
All the men in the camps, by their divisions, number 603,550. (Plus women, children, and the Levites)
The Activity in Heaven – Praise and Welcoming Home
- Praise — holding palm branches Glory – singing, shouting, praying
- Wisdom – knowing and believing Thanks – accepting, affirming, appreciating
- Honor – respect Power – dependent on God
- Strength be to our God – Trusting God’s will and ways
- for ever and ever – eternity, (always and forever)
The Seal on the Foreheads
- The seal is a mark of authority
- It is the record of story
- It is the transference of authority
- It is being included in the story
- This Seal is the Mark of God, the marks of grace, the living-sacrificial lamb. Jesus the Christ.
There instructions to write the message: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength” were specifically instructed to post them on the house, wear them on your forehead, memorize them in you mind, heart, and soul. SO, that we might live our these instructions wherever we are.
Whose That Yonder Dressed in White?
- Those in white robes entering heaven, were more numerous that one could count. There is part of your answer about who goes to heaven. “from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb”.
- Heaven is a diverse collection of those who worship God, through Christ, but it is not diversity that is their ticket into heaven. They are entering as those wash and made whole through Christ.
- And Christ’s gift of grace is offered to the whole world. Only those who live the marks of faithfulness, those who wear “Christ’s seal”
- Just as the lamb upon the throne shone of the marks of sacrifice, so are the marks and signs of both those who have suffered the tribulation, persecution, and journey of life and still find Christ as their salvation and hope.
Do you see yourself in Heaven?
- If you and I are not much on praising, singing and worshiping God, we might not feel at home in heaven?
- If you and I are only thinking about God’s power but not trusting God’s power, we might not be at home
- If others don’t see the seal of Christ as plainly as they see our face, then we might not find a robe?
- If we are not daily, giving ourselves to Christ for strength, healing, forgiveness, power, and love, we only see a glimpse through John’s vision but have assurance of heaven includes us.
So what do we do?
- We do on earth what its made whole in heaven. The key is in the Lord’s prayer
- Give us your daily bread for our body and our spirit.
- Forgive us by the same standard we forgive others
- Face temptation and tribulations in Christ’s strength and not our own understanding or work
- Give our heart, soul, and strength to the Lamb, Jesus Christ, to make this day holy, and the next..
- Until Christ returns and offers the white robe and palm branches in the countless multitude.
White Robes are those who have been included in the family
Baptism, swaddling clothes and burial bands, made clean and bright by God who make us whole.
The Rag Man, Walter Wangerin, https://ecdu.dionc.org/dfc/newsdetail_2/2350072
“But then, on Sunday morning, I was awakened by a violence that shook me to the core of my being. Light – pure, hard, insistent light – slammed against my tear-stained face and demanded that I awake. When I was finally able to open my eyes, I blinked against the light and squinted in the direction of the pile of trash where the Ragman’s body had been. As I looked, I saw the last and the first wonder of all. The Ragman was there, yes! But he was no longer dead. He was alive! There he stood, folding the old army blanket carefully and laying it atop the neatly arranged handkerchief and jacket. Besides the scar on his forehead, there was no other evidence of what he had previously taken upon himself. There was no sign of sorrow or age, no evidence of illness or deformity. His body was whole and strong and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.”
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. [Rom 11:11-18]
Wendy and I recently watch an old classic movie “Mrs Miniver”. If you have not seen it I encourage you to check it out. It’s filmed black and white, but reflects the grey life before World War One in England in a middle class family.
The name sake of the film has a common fellow willing the contest with his rose that he has name name for his friend, Mrs Miniver.
It reminds me of my maternal grandmother. She too was industrious, compassionate, and resourceful like Mrs. Miniver. See loved raising and tending to roses, and often grafts prize roses into existing rose bushes to experiment with many varieties in her very small back yard.
The passage today is about the church being grafted into Jewish roots, through Christ, for the world whole world.
In the lifecycle of church denominations, social perspectives, and upheaval in government, we need to remember BOTH or roots and our opportunities.
Our roots are in Christ, what was the messiah for the Jews and the witness of Grace for the Gentiles. As I child I thought the Gentiles were just another geography group that. Attlee led with Israel, who must have come from the land aNd tribe of “Gentle.”
But Gentiles were not a tribe or separate government, but the category of ‘other’ compared to being Jewish. This there were those who children of Israel, and everyone else.
The olive tree was pruned to the roots and the church became the new branch that was grafted into the witness of God.
Paul’s words in chapter 11 are to both groups. Jews were called to trust and believe Jesus was their Messiah and the small group who did believe were joined with those non-Jewish, none children of Israel, who would now receive the blessing and benefits of the promise of God to Abraham, because they too believed Jesus was not just Messiah, but believed with their hearts that Jesus, is God in the flesh, offering grace and salvation for a future of living in God.
13-15)I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
A. The new branch, has its life connected through the roots of promise, covenant, and faithfulness.. with the purpose to 1) trust with their hearts, as a 2) witness to BOTH Israel and the world.
B. The pruning of Israel was to make room for where faithfulness would bear fruit.
The prophetic word is that God’s plans will continue, will we be ACTIVELY LIVING, BELIEVING, AND TRUSTING part of the blessing and trust, OR will we be blind to the voices of the world and words of the faith.
The thing I learned about roses from my grandmother is that they need a great deal of nature and pruning. The basic bush would serve as the foundation of most any variety, but without pruning the old root would show return and graft would fade without continual growth and maturing.
Long after she moved from that house I returned and looked in the back to see if the roses were still there. None of the prize roses, in the wild runner were twisted thick together along the fences.
The message for us has two parts. Are we serving as the old stump for what is God is doing and Are we pruning that which is not glorifying God?
Most directly: we have two tasks 1) are we staying connected to the foundation of our faith, are we still trusting Christ promises and expectations, and 2) are we growing toward God’s witness in the world or just taking up nutrients from those who are bearing fruit for the kingdom of God?
What does that look like in my life: 1) we can’t be part of Christ’s work and be separated from scripture. And 2) we neither can we stay the way things were NOR male things our way just be different.
Here is the test? How are we reconciling the holding in to Christ with the call of the Spirit to follow as the wind?
How are we both holding fast and living grounded in God AND responding to an ever changing world in need of salvation and redemption?
The basics: we hold one hand in the hand and heart of God through Christ, while we extend the other to show and live for the world that faith in world that seeks salvation, wholeness, and answers that it will only satisfy when they too are connected to God, through us.
The problems we will face:
1. No matter who wins the election the division, hatred, and condemnation of our neighbors is incompatible with our faith in Christ.
2. No matter how the general conference votes next year, we are called to stand firm in God, with a world that is running from God and from each other.
3. No matter what we hear that we consider to be “news” it is incomplete and empty without the Good News of God’s grace in Christ.
4. The unity’s that God seeks is not by worlds measure, but by being United in God’s promises, blessing, and salvation.
Anything less than these and we too risk being blinded, hateful, divided, excluded,and lost.
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.
- 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
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?
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.
“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 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.
• 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?
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…
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:
• sleepless nights,
Is this verse meant for today?
Our challenge by Paul is to live and operate by:
• 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?
• 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:
• 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
- Do not be yokes with unbelievers
- What do righteousness and wickedness have in common
- What fellowship can light have with darkness
- what harmony is there between Christ and Belial
- Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
- 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?
• 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
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
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
*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?
- 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.
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.
- 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,
- She has an overflowing word of truth guiding her actions
- She has an earthy vessel filled with joy worth sharing
- 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.”