Archive for November, 2010
36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of
the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. (NRSV)
Beginning with THIS Sunday, our church, has the mission to make certain that OUR community is ready for Christ to be the center of Christmas.
December 25th is a family time. It is a gift and card time. It is a decoration occasion. It is a meal and travel season. Christmas is music genre. a tree and light festival. Christmas is an economic backbone.
Christmas is many things to many people. WHAT IS CHRISTMAS TO YOU?
These 4 weeks before Christmas have become our time to Re-focus & Remember It is easy to say: Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays. (Google theme) It is easy to wear pins and don bumper stickers and break out ties or sweaters. It is easy to say: Jesus is the Reason for the Season…
The text is a warning about the uncertainty of Christ’s return. When one third of the world focuses on some aspect of Christmas
Christ Mass is Christ (greek) mass (latin) is the day to worship Jesus. 1038 (wiki) reports the first recorded name for the day of worship, known as Christmas.
In a Theological Context, Easter is the Primary day of worship for us as Christains, Christmas is about celebrating, not just baby Jesus, more so it is the desire of God to be with us.
Christmas thus began as a day of worshiping God who want to move in with us. Paul’s calls for our response to be Spiritual rather than physical.
Rm13:11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Instead of recalling the little Christ child, shepherds and angels worship.. In a world taking Christ Worship into A-mass-ing of things with little Christ.
Stop the Blindness
What are we to do? Take the text from Matthew…
Two people will be shopping, one will be looking for the deal and the prize, one will be looking for the opportunity to share Christ.
Two people will be working, playing, eating, one will be completely absorbed by pain, worry or fear. The other will be able to lets go and move on with the Spirit.
Two people will be singing the same carol, one will hear that Christ is near, the other will be passing time until its over. (sounds of faith, over at noon)
When do we start? Take from Romans…
The night is far gone, the day is near..
The point is NOW. Living like we are Worshiping Christ daily, and every day will be Christmas.
Challenge you to Worship Christ daily: Read daily… open anywhere in the NT. Challenge you to invite one person to worship Christ with you, everyday.. Challenge you to wrap a gift of Christ, for every gift you give to someone else.
Theme: We have work to do, What are you sitting here with so much to be done.
6 Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, 8 and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. 9 This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. 11 For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 13 Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.
My first job was working on my grandfather’s farm. He paid $20 a week. We got up at dark, at a full breakfast, fed the chickens, hogs and cows. We fueled up the tractors and checked out all the equipment we would use for the day and set out into the fields to plow, plant or harvest. We would eat lunch and watch, “The Young and the Restless” (as it was the only channel that his thirty foot antenna would receive so far out in the country. Back to fields until six and it was time put us the tractors, wash up and get to the table for dinner. We would look forward to Sunday as it was a day of rest.
I had a few self-employed jobs raking leaves, cutting grass and occasional garden tilling, it was a seasonal cash-only enterprise that was not very dependable nor sustainable as a student. I was relieved to find an opening at Connelly’s drugs store, making drug runs to customer who preferred home deliveries and later I moved up in the company from drug runner to soda jerk. It was there I learned the secret receipt for Pimento Cheese and thick malted milk shakes.
Later I worked at Holloway’s department store, Mr and Mrs Holloway just visited us in worship a couple of Sunday’s ago. Then I got to spin some record and read the news paper on the local AM radio station. In college I worked in the computer lab and as a summer camp counselor at Glisson in Dahlonega.
I had planned to enter the field of pharmacy and following Dr Connelly’s example of caring for folks at the pharmacy counter. But while on a UMMen’s mission trip to Monterrey, MX I received a clear call that my work would be in the church. And since 1984 I have known what direction my work would take. Since that time I have served near Cartersville, Covington, Gainesville, Atlanta, near Athens, Marietta, Fairburn, Blue Ridge and now Jackson, 9 congregations, 4000+ church members, 2600+ sermons, 200+ weddings, 400+ funerals, 200+ baptisms and confirmations… and I have more than a decade and a half waiting.
I am thankful that the church has given me a vocation of work that facilitates my calling into ministry. But I am not the only minister in the church. You are not only surround by ministers, you are a minister as well.
The United Methodist Church appointed called, trained and examined over a 7 year process clergy to serve in churches. We are to administer the sacraments, preach the Word, and give spiritual and administrative leadership to the congregation. In my career the role of clergy has transformed from pastor-preacher into some hybrid of a professional administrator charged with being pastor, orator, peace-maker, teacher, lawyer, fund-raiser, preacher, spiritual guide, singer, actor, counselor, janitor, as well as target for blame and visionary for folks who resist change. The work is different in every week and every year in every ministry setting.
I have a philosophy of ministry, an understanding of my call to ministry, and this is it: My work is to make sure your work is done. If you are not working the work of the local church in Jackson and around the world, then I’m not doing my job very well. That means most of the time, my job is to work myself out of the jobs you give me and give the work back to you, the church.
Paul’s words to the church a Thessaloniki are words point toward the church and to the members within our flock, both then and now.
Probably the most familiar of sayings about who does the work around a church:
There is the 20/80 rule. 20 % of the people do 80 % of the work.
The Preacher and Staff do the work, that’s why we pay them to do it for us.
Paul reminds us that the work of the church is to be shared by everyone.
No, not everyone is called, nor able to all things.
But none are called to be retired.
None are too new or too inexperienced.
None are given a free pass, excused absences, or
Paul starts with a COMMAND. Thou SHALL work..
Following is as necessary as Leading.
Studying is as important as Teaching.
Praying is as crucial as Singing.
Giving is as powerful as Serving.
Forgiving is as essential is Assurance and Justice.
Some are Living in Idleness. Some Busybodies. Some of not any work at all.
Should these folks wear name tags? NO, they need to jump up and help out.
Command to get working: Not for praise, Not to earn a place, rather because they already have a place—in the church and in the kingdom.
We are people of the resurrection.
Jesus, even prior to his death on the cross teaches about power and purpose of the resurrection.
First, the resurrection is the affirmation that life is not limited by this life in these bodies.
Second, the life we are living now is the life we will continue to live…
Also, Jesus speaks of being worthy of the resurrection. Worth is determined by God’s love for us.
AND, God is concerned for our living and not our death.
Death comes to every body, but the spirit is what lives on.
In Joy or in Despair.
Making a Joke of the Resurrection. Who will she sit with in heaven.
Conservative Jewish teachers who didn’t believe in the resurrection; propose a scene in heaven:
A woman marries a man with 6 brothers. He husband dies,
and it is the custom that the next un-wed brother would marry to care for the widow. With no fault of the either the wife or the brother, they are wed, and he dies. This trend continues until she has married all seven brothers.
The question is posed: in heaven who will be her husband?
(No one asks why did the brothers keep marrying this husband killer)
Jesus’ answer is that marriage is not required in heaven.
Marriage was a contract of support and inter-dependence.
Heaven is a relationship where we are made whole through God.
Q: Will I know my family and loved ones in heaven? Sure! Certainly.
But marriage is no a contract we will needed.
(At first this appears to be unsettling and discomforting to grieving spouses.)
Remember, the TEACHERS were giving a hypothetical situation:
FOCUS ON THE LESSON ABOUT RESURRECTION AND NOT MARRIAGE…
Which is greater? Earthly contracts or Divine Salvation… Uhh?
What’s the big deal about the resurrection?
We come to this All Saints day to honor and remember those who
Live on beyond our worries, burdens and fears.
(Heaven is not limited by the bonds and rules of this age)
We live on, in anticipation of what God has in store for us all.
Don’t let rules of life steal your living for God. No tears, fears, dying
20:27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 20:28 and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 20:29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 20:30 then the second 20:31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 20:32 Finally the woman also died. 20:33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” 20:34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage 20:35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 20:36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 20:37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 20:38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” – NRSV
Audience: Trust in themselves and those who regard others with contempt
Parable: Pharisee vs Tax Collector
As people with a strong work ethic it is hard to get to the heard of this passage.
• We celebrate those who pull themselves up by their own boot straps
• We value those folks who follow the rules and don’t buck the system.
• We encourage good behavior and clean living.
• We reward perfect attendance.
We hear about this fellow who tithes and fasts and we want to give him a medal.
Who find’s God’s love and power in the story?
The one who already knows or who dares to come in.
We know folks who say things like:
• I’ve already got that Jesus thing covered.
• I’ve already been baptized, confirmation. I go to church all the time.
• I love God and Jesus, but not the church.
Faith is important but my work, family, money, time are more important at the moment.
Which gets us to the heart of God?
Spiritual trust or Mental decision or Good Behavior?
Is it something I do or something God is doing through the Spirit in me?
I believe this is where most Church folks get tripped up.
We are taught give our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness as member vows.
These are good and important things.
But these do not make us Christian or Methodist or even faithful on their own.
The are our RESPONSE to Christ first being in our lives, not what we do to earn our way in.
A second part of this passage is who DESERVES to be with God?
Those who do acts-of-piety or those who stumble in from the place of sin?
Fast 2x week, tithe with pride vs One who steals from the poor.
Look what I can do vs. Don’t look at what I have done
Q: Why does the tax collector come to the temple to pray in the first place, if they feel so unworthy?
A: The difference between the two who came to prayer is that one come only out of pride or habit, the other comes to worship.
For all that effort on the part of the dutiful leader, the had come for themselves.
The tax collector had come looking for God.
A Third part is the passage is the value of self and others.
God I thank you that I am not like other people.
You can feel better know there is someone out there worse off than you.
At least I’m not as bad off as (fill in the blank)
• Q: Who does God celebrate most, One lost or 99 who know better?
• A: The shepherd finding the One rejoices and celebrates with friends.
Finally is the core teaching of this text:
Reward comes to the humble.
The proud already have the reward they will receive.
One could read this passage and say:
• “it doesn’t matter if I do good.”
• “I don’t have to fast, tithe or come regularly to church.”
• “I want to take the publican – the tax collector plan and come when I need to come.”
JUSTIFICATION: Good Methodist Word – Christ’s work saving Us.
But here is the heart of the text… once we experience humility we find the door to God’s heart. All the faithful practices of the church and faith and traditions become our response to finding God.
• Tithing is not something we are born doing.
• Fasting goes against our physical programming.
• The church is called to be Christ’s body on earth made up of sinful folks like us.
SO WHAT: Mulligan time, come as you are. Practice Lord have mercy on me a sinner. Lawd, Hav’ Me Cry.. Lawd, Have Me become 2nd & you 1st.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’
13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
–NRSV Luke 18:9-14
19He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ 9 Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’ (-NRSV)
In the book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning tells the story of a man who had sinned greatly. His church excommunicated him, and he was forbidden to ever come into the church again. He repented. He wanted healing, so he went to the Lord, as the story goes, and said, “Lord, they won’t let me in because I am a sinner.” To which the Lord replied, “What are you complaining about, they won’t let me in either.”
The point of the modern parable was a good one: Poor sinners never fare well in churches that refuse to admit that we are all sinners and in desperate need of a salvation that is out of this world.
The Jewish Rabbinical religion of the first century offered little to ragamuffins.
Church that bases faith on what we can do to get right with God, what customs and rules we must keep to earn God’s favor, never do welcome such sinners. Such religion is still popular. You can gather a crowd if you just go around telling folks they must do this and do that: making faith simple, ease, and comfortable.
Zacchaeus means Pure. The tax collector, who had all the money and none of the joy or peace he sought was named Pure.
1. You name does not save you.
Zacchaeus goes up to see Jesus, but not necessarily to be seen. If you climb up a tree, you would generally be hidden by leaves and branches.
2. Some people what to know about Jesus, but are afraid to know Jesus.
Zacchaeus receives a direct invitation of Christian Hospitality.
3. Church is for worship, home is where the heart is.
Make yourself at home with Christ.
When Zacchaues sees, understands, experience, that Jesus includes
Folks even like Zach.. When Zacchaues is SEEN by Jesus..
Zacchaeus responds as a witness of a transformed heart.
4. He gives out of his sinful abundance.
It is said of the old preacher, Sam Jones from nearly a century ago, should we take money from knowing it comes from the proceeds of gambling and whiskey? He reply, CERTAINLY! The devil has had it long enough.
There is a response of Justice when Zacchaeus has been justified by Christ…
That is made whole by Christ, Zach’s response is to look at the whole of his life in Christ.
I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.
My beloved, I want to lift up this Jesus to you. Some of you are seated in these pews today, but in reality you are in a Sycamore tree, looking, searching, hoping to catch a glimpse of mercy. He is here. Our Savior who came for us, who died in our place, and who rose again that we might have life, is here today. Why don’t you come on down? Why don’t you, in your heart of hearts, right now, accept His divine invitation? He sees you, He welcomes you, and He will transform you.
This is the ministry of the Church. This is your work as Christians. To go to the places where Zacchaeus’ hide, to look at them with the eyes of Christ, to welcome them, and to go where others refuse to go. For you see, Zachaeus’ Gospel is my Gospel and yours. It is the Gospel we need to be proclaiming in our world, in our nation, in our homes.
Father, we are all ragamuffins. We are all twisted in parts of our souls. But, we thank You that You see us, You welcome us, and You will change us. Some of us have experienced that years ago.
But today we have lost the luster of grace. Restore it to us today, Lord. Some of us are burdened in our sins, our past, and our shame. We are still twisted. I thank You, Lord Jesus, that today, You are still bending down in Your amazing grace to give us the kiss of forgiveness.
Help this church to announce the Gospel of Grace to this community and as they join with other churches, to publish this Good News to a world of Zacchaeus’ looking and searching for mercy. In Your Name. Amen.