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Archive for March, 2011

John 4:5-15, 24 “Do You Have a Bucket?” JUMC 03272011

4:5 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.”
24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” -nrsv

The Bucket List is a fun, dramatic, thought provoking film where Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman challenge each other to do all the important things they hoped to do in their life time before they “kicked the bucket.”

In this Lenten Season, we challenge each other to examine how we live out the live God has entrusted to us.

I continue to hear people talking about what they had given up for Lent. Frances and I had the great opportunity to cook with Chef Robert Irvine and Chef Lee this week. One of the other students in the class, seated next to Frances, would not eat any of the dishes containing meat. Frances asked her, why did you come to a cooking class if you are not going to eat the food.

Let us remind each other and others around us, that this season is a time to take on spiritual living and not simply give up something.

Yet our acts and practices of piety and self-denial do tap on part of Jesus’ message in this text from John. The body is not our greatest concern.  The bucket is not contain our salvation.

The woman at the well in Samaria, Sychar at Jacob’s well, asked Jesus if he has a bucket to reach the water. Jesus replies, in a matter of speaking, asking her, does the bucket you call your life reach deep enough to heal your own brokenness, sins, hurt, grief, and pain?

When we see a toddlers to young students absorbing knowledge, language and their environment we call them sponges.  Holy and able to take on more than themselves.

When we talk about the end of life, we move to a hard, solid, bucket with no holes and study handle. What happened along the way?

“Orbiting the Giant Hairball”, MacKenzie asks school children from kindergarten through sixth grade if they consider themselves to be artists. While the enthusiasm for creative free expression seems to run freely for the youngest children, the author notes some attrition from the idea starting with the second graders, and full-blown shame for artistic expression by the time he speaks to the sixth grade. The take-away from this exercise, says Kelley, is that we are all born with a high level of innovation, but it is the cultural norm to have these aspirations and pleasures flattened at a surprisingly young age. Kelley assures his audience that it is, indeed, OK to be an artist.

-in Kindergarten, everyone is an artist.  by second, not everyone, by sixth grade, only two hands go us. The kids raising hands looking to see if they are judged by the piers. Some one has told you its not ok to be an artist. Go home and remember its ok to be an artist, even if it causes people to raise their eyebrows.

Which gets us to the heart of the text: vs 24 of the 4th chapter of John’s Gospel of Jesus is the heart of the chapter:  24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

To know God, to know about God, to worship God, to be with God is a spiritual activity.

Jesus’ question to this woman is a question to us as well:  What are you doing to care for your spirit.

Cool, clean, ionized, vitamin-enriched, refreshing water will not quench the thirsty of the spirit. What are you feeding your spirit?

The conversation between Jesus and this woman at Jacob’s well continues with the self revealing of both characters.

In Jesus’ spiritual bucket, she is known, AND accepted, even though her spiritual living had been starving

Jesus’ reveals himself as the long awaiting Messiah, to a Gentile, woman, in public/day-light, in Samaria..

Exercise of Self Revealing: Stand in front of the mirror, alone, just you and God in your birthday suit.. and say, what a beautiful bucket God has made.

What am I putting in this earthen vessel?

What am I putting in my body?

What am I doing with the spirit that this body carries around?

What am I doing with the life God has entrusted with my care?

Confess our sins, and go tell our friends, neighbors and enemies…(put your closes on first)

Yes you have a bucket, is it enough? no. Is it pretty enough? strong enough? tough enough? perfect enough?

NO. Better focus on what goes in the bucket, first. That’s what’s most important to God.

Do well for your spirit and Leave the buckets for the well and tell everyone Christ lives in you!

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Matthew 4:1-11 40days-40nights JUMC 03132011

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”  Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.  -nrsv

The Workings of Temptation

1. There is a progression from small, to medium, to the larger. This is measured by the consequences: self, family-social-work circle, regional or global.

  • The little temptations crop up about things that are small. Thoughts about self or others. We agree with them or even ignore what needs to be confronted.
  • Little temptation usually question our personal value, individual strength or ability.
  • Little temptations usually have no witnesses and few immediate consequences.
  • Medium temptations begin to witnesses and consequences that could be twisted to be good, even though we know they are not truly helpful to self or others.
  • Big Temptations are much easier when we are able to justify the pile of little ones and occasional medium ones. We are the victims anyway, right?

2. There is a relentless and persistant repetition of temptation.

  • It is in the context of a vacation for rest and preparing that temptation comes to Jesus
  • It comes day and night, relentlessly.
  • The Devil doesn’t make anyone do anything. They are our thoughts, our perspectives, our evaluations, our trust, our contemplations.. In our mind and hearts we have the God given capacity to think, imagine terrible things.  We don’t need to blame anyone for that beyond our self.
  • As long as our minds our growing and challenging new discoveries, we will be confronted with the misuse of every good thing. It is the context and balance that goes with growth and goodness.
  • Wesley’s “Oh For a Thousand Tounges to Sing” Charles writes a request to God to “take away our power of sinning.” His brother John corrects him saying “take away our bent toward sinning.” Charles quickly prints and packs the books up to be sent to the American colonies. John offers to take them to the ship and stays up all night hand editing Charles hymnals. (folklore, maybe)

3. If it is regular and dependable and has a tendency to grow, if treated or ignored. It is best to address it one at a time, as it is presented, whatever the context.

  • Temptation is real.
  • Temptation is the moral questioning of self, others and God.
  • Temptation is a healthy test, unpleasant-but-helpful for personal, relational, and spiritual growth
  • Temptation is all in your head.. when the thoughts move to inappropriate actions, perceptions or values.. it is no longer temptation, it becomes sin.

SO WHAT ARE WE TO DO?

the tests, they are coming… study up and be ready to pass them as they come.

take them as they come

don’t assume they will lighten up or leave you when your resistance is low

Value the exercise as a spiritual sparing partner that will make you stronger when you stand your grown with God’s help, God’s word and Gods’ time.

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Luke 15:1-10 “Lose Yourself” JUMC 09122010

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ 3 So he told them this parable: 4‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance. 8 ‘Or what woman having ten silver coins,* if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’ -NRSV

There was a certain bank teller who had 100,000 in daily transactions. At the end of the day as the tallied her drawer she was short 10,000 dollars. So the went home and hoped it would show up tomorrow? Not.

There was a certain teacher who took 100 children on a field trip and one was left at the museum. The teacher called the parents and told them that their irresponsible first grader ran off and they would have to go retrieve the child themselves. Nope

There was a certain grand parent that had ten grand children coming over to their house for Christmas. The children were eager to share a delicious meal and to share Christmas gifts. When getting out the gifts there were only nine gifts, one grand child would just be disappointed this year.. (Grandpa said, so you think she’d like my denture cleaner?)

There was a certain baseball card collector who had all 523 of the American Tobacco Company’s Baseball card set, from 1909 to 1911, for an national interview on ESPN prior to the World Series. When live feed aired he opened the protective case and realized the Honus Wagner card was missing. He doubted that anyone would notice and continued with the interview undisturbed at the loss of the card that sold for $2.35 million. NO.

There was a person who was homeless got a third shift job watching cars at the dealership. The owner loaned him a car to drive to work . He could sleep all day and make $20 an hour watching that no one entered the lot during the night. If someone came on the premises they were to call the police and owner immediately. The very first night a gang show up and hot wired one of the cars and drove that Viper away. It was not the night watchman’s car; it was a rough and dangerous group. He tried calling the police and the owner but could not reach either. Should he leave the lot full of cars and the rest of the gang near by to race after the stolen car? Are you crazy?

There was a home owner who had two children. One stayed home to take car of the parents and all the affairs and business of the family and household. The other asked for their college fund during high school, dropped out of school, raced across the country and spent all the money in less than six months and was dumpster diving to find food.
Every day the parents would check emails, voicemails, mail box for a trail of bills and wonder what had happen to their youngest child. But knowing that they had the older child to care for them the rest of their days they gave up waiting and hoping and forgot the other child had ever been around… That’s not like Jesus parables..

The powerful part of Jesus’ parables are not in the story, but in the heart of the parable’s teaching.

The contexts of the parables are to address grumblings from the Pharisees and scribes. The teachers of the law, had joy in the traditions and they shared art of sticking in the mud. They were avoiders of a change and students of preservation and order.

Jesus went to the temple at age twelve and amazed the teachers as a child. As an adult his spending time with the unclean, non-religious folks was an insult in their eyes.

The message of Jesus is that everyone needs to hear the joy that God has a claim of love and grace, no matter what they have done or become.

The Pharisees and scribes held the responsibility of reaching the people. [The Pharisees were the more progressive group, as they allowed for the possibility of Resurrection after death, the Saddusees did not, that’s why they were Sad-you-see.

Just as the church, we hold the charge of teaching, sharing, witnessing and sharing the joy of Christ with everyone. This is our message. This is our mission. This is our work.

If you knew just one person who was sad and you could cheer them, would you reach out to them?
If you know just one person who was out of work would you help them look for work?
If you knew just one person who feels alone and scared of what waits from the test results could you hold their hand and heart while they wait.
If you knew just one person who had lost so much and you could love and befriend them even if they never got any of the stuff back because you cared about them and not their things, would you be their friend through the toughness.
IF you know just one person who was grieving and you could listen through their tears and grow with them in that valley of shadows, would you do it?

Hear the Good News! Jesus is interested in everyone, and sends his disciples to everyone.

Hear the Good News! God’s heart is joyful, God is laughing, God is beaming when do what Jesus did.

So what is God doing when we act like the Pharisees and scribes who were threaten by the example and call of Jesus? No so glad. Not laughing, not beaming so brightly..

SO WHAT. So what do we do with Jesus’ stories? Are they interesting children’s messages only?

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Lord, it is good for us to be here Matthew 17.1-9 JUMC 03062011

Matthew 17.1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

We were not on the mountain, but we are here in Jackson, GA, It is good for us to be here..

Peter, James and John: we can only speculate why it was only these three who go with Jesus up Mt Tabor to witness and experience Moses, Elijah and God’s blessing.

To have walked this trip would be a hilly, twenty eight mile hike. That distance is like walking from Jackson, GA to Conyers, GA. plus climbing up Stone Mountain at the the end of the walk. Why go on this outing? Why not take all twelve? Why these three?

Peter, probably one of the most wealthy people in the city of Capernum, must have had work and family responsibilities tugging at his attention. His home was located at the Sea, and was one of the largest homes in town. Jesus did well to go to Peter as a person of influence. But now that Peter had been traveling with Jesus, we might speculate that the demands of work and home were influencing his walk with Jesus.

Or it might have been Peter’s personality.. we see repeatedly that he responds to events quickly, but his follow through was questioned later in their relationship. Did Jesus know that Peter was more of a visual learner and needed to see things in a different way to get to his heart?

James and John, certainly had their father’s fishing business, on their minds. Only within the past few years have they discovered one boat dating back to the time of Jesus, uncovered because of the decade of drought in Galilee. This boat was constructed out of 14 different types of wood as trees were very rare in the area. To have owned a boat would have indicated the prosperity of James and John’s business. To have walked away from such a business would not have been easy and possibly something significant was needed to hold their attention.

Maybe it is far from remedial reasons. Possibly these three already had experience and skills that allowed them to comprehend and manage more than the others. The others might have been overwhelmed and only these three could hold the pieces together.

Again, all these are speculations. What we do know is that Peter, James and John are taken by Jesus to witness and experience a confirmation of Jesus’ authority and work. Jesus has a terrific meeting with Moses, the lawyer and Elijay the Marketing and Advertising department and they three disciples are witnesses of this meeting.

Peter’s commentary on the experience is that it is a good place to be. The experience was a once-in-a-lifetime, incredible moments to have witnessed. His second statement spoils the first.

He wants to build booths. Tributes, memorials, historical markers, trophies.. with name placards. Peter goes from being in the moment, an active participant, to a manager, a promoter, and a leader. His role is to be a follower, a participant, a witness..

It is good that we are here.  Right here, right now.

We were not on the mountain, but we are here in Jackson, GA, It is good for us to be here..

Transfiguration Sunday is the end of the season of Epiphany. A time of shifting our focus. Stopping the planning and reacting… to a change our journey.  If there is one thing I have learned so far from traveling 14 hours for 15 days and traveling 14 hours back home, is that as good as it was to be see first hand.. it is good to be right here, right now.

Not simple because it is home.

Not only because it is familiar or even safer.

It’s good to be here, because this is where Jesus is revealing himself, his word, and his work… through me and through you.

I would love for us to have a group go to share the holy places.. and there is a blessing in doing so.. but the reason we might go to see and be there..

is the difference it makes in being right here.

The lessons of the meeting on Mt Tavor/Tabor.. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. Jesus is the promise of the prophets. Jesus is God with us. so listen and follow.

We don’t have to go up the mountain to learn these things, but through the witness of Peter, James and John we learn what to do.

Listen.

It is good to be here that we might hear what God is doing.

So what is God doing..

God is getting ready to journey with us.

Suffer with us. Live and die with us.

God is running ahead of us, winning the race for our team so that we know it is good to be here.

This is what I want you to think and say and share when you are at church, when you are at home, when you are at work, when you are at school.

“that you can’t wait to hear what God is doing next in your life and in our lives together…”

I can’t tell you all that it will be, any more than Peter, James and John could tell the other disciples…

but we know what they know.

that Jesus is with us here, and that is what makes it good to be together.

Look around at the people God has called together to do God work..

The teaching is so simple, we miss it for the light show and bells and whistles:

God says to disciples.. Listen to Jesus.

We listen in scripture.

We listen through prophets and teachers.

We listen through divine, spirit filled inspiring songs, lights and sights

We can listen or we can speak.

The command is not to go tell.. it is to listen.

Hear the word of the Lord and be blessed with assurance.

Amen.

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