Archive for October, 2011

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 “Don’t know much about Geography” JUMC 20111030

34:1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain — that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees — as far as Zoar. 4 The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 5 Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. 8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended. 9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses. 10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. 11 He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12 and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel. ~NRSV

I would guess that you may never have heard this passage as a stewardship text for a sermon, but it may very well be at the core of the practical side of our generosity.

Our fifth fruit as a faithful congregation is to be extravagant with our generosity.

Look at this text from God concerning Moses:

God takes Moses to a high mountain, Mt Nebo. It is a snow covered mountain. It is this snow that melts into the mountain and feeds the spring that becomes the Jordan river. It touches all the land from that point southward to the dead sea. It is the life giving water that waters the palms, the fish, the honey bees, the fish and the people.

From this vantage point Moses is shown the Mediterranean sea, the dessert to the east, the futile lands down the gordon valley all the way to the palms of Jericho in the south to the dead sea.

Like Simba in Disney’s Lion king, Moses is taken to his pride rock by his father Mufasa . Both God and Mufasa say basically the same line: “All that the light touches is our home.”

Moses sees the promised land with his own eyes. He has devoted forty years of not only leading but living with the people of God to reach this moment.

But Moses was not to set foot in it.

The Most extravagant gift is one that is shared and we receive nothing in return.

Here is a risky statement. Are you ready.

A gift that is reciprocated at some level is a balance paid and not a gift nor a choice.

A gift that is followed with something other than our life, is not a gift at all.

Our society is blind with getting a return on our investment. Getting a prize in box of Cracker Jacks, because the treat itself is not enough.

The new commercial for Coke Zero, teaches us to ask for our preverbal cake and the opportunity to eat it, because it wouldn’t be our party if we didn’t get our due.

This is our model of a human being EXTRAVAGANT GENEROSITY:

Moses orphaned, raised in a foreign culture. left his home land, married into another foreign culture, finds a happy life and is asked to leave his home to rescue the people who had made him an orphan in the first place. He leaves the ease of his home and business to devote forty years to leading a grumping and grumbling people through the dessert in search of a place that he only allowed to view and not claim for himself…

And there.. is the Stewardship heart of the text: It was not Moses’ to claim.

It was not Moses’ land. It was God’s place for God’s people.

Earlier Moses had gone to God when the people were without water, thirsting to death, and God sent Moses to speak before the people where God would provide water.

Moses did as commanded, but nothing happened, so he struck the rock, and did it again..and the water flowed. God was faithful, but Moses took the responsibility of God.

In that act of striking the rock instead of speaking Gods words, Moses gave witness of doubt. Rather than wait for God to provide, Moses took matters into his own hand, his own fear, failure, responsibility, work: and hit the rock, his rock of pride.

That story has been right there all these years and we usually focus on what appears to be an injustice.

It is that injustice, our thinking that what we have is “ours” that we loose our selves instead of finding who and whose we truly are.

Instead of injustice or waste, it is God’s continual and final word of Grace that Moses had extravagantly given himself TO GOD and GODS SERVICE, there was no exchange for it. Moses was at the same place at the day of his birth, claimed and love as one of God’s people.

So here we step closer to making our own affirmation of faith.

We may not see the end, but we are a vital part of the beginning of a new work.

It is a selfless gift to give because God shows us a need and we gain nothing from it.

.. feeding someone at Thanksgiving because we feed a warm glow in the recipients face vs. knowing God is working through us, to feed more than someone’s belly or tradition.

November 13 will be our commitment Sunday. We will be asking each individual to sign a commitment as a family or home to put Jesus Christ first. This will be a covenant service. We will bring these to worship and offer them to God as we prepare for a new year of ministry together.

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Tax Questions, Matthew 22 , JUMC, 20111023

Tax Questions, Matthew 22 , JUMC, 20111023

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

The Unanswerable question: Jesus’ test question.

His response is to look at the money.  “Show me the money.” Cuba Gooding Jr and Tom Cruise.

Money’s History.. for 5000 years money as a third party item of exchange has been present in some society. The SHEKLE was one of the earliest standardized measures of money, referring to approximately as pound of barley grain.

Coins while the Egyptians used goal bars in trade, the standardized use of coins did out come on the scene until about 700 BC as

Denarius 269 BC early roman coin. used for 400 years.

Bills of Exchange: based on paying back a debt owed.

Trade bead… glass or even coffee or even coacoa beans

Legal Tender: 1600s (17th century)

Exchange, OT and NT practice…Several issues are involved in this passage: It would have been unclean to have a roman coin in the temple and in the hands of the priests.

—Jesus test: is money to be worshipped?

there are taxes to be paid, the cost of living in the Roman empire. Pay for your streets and protection.

the question was intended to trick Jesus into saying taxes didn’t have to be paid. That Jesus’ kingdom was above the law of the land, and they wanted the romans to get him for teaching not to pay taxes.

There is the unaddressed question of where the scribes and teachers got a denarius. From temple conversations?

There is no escaping our civil duty… not only an issue of tax, but also of service tot he state.

3. what are the things that belong to god?

our hearts… putting god first, then we will be responsible with the rest.

4. be intentional in your spiritual growth. knowing, recognizing the things of God.

giving on purpose, planning to give.

How much does God want? All of our heart. Again, if all our heart is in God, the money follows. the time follows, the service follows, etc. Get the picture.

If you have a tax question, as the folks who spend their time studying up on the codes. If you have a faith question, as a a Jesus follower

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Matthew 22:15-22

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

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Deuteronomy 8.7-18 “Who Dealt This Hand?” JUMC 20111016

7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. 10 You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you. 11 Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 12 When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16 and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17 Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.   ~NRSV

One of the fun parts of my seminary experience was learned how to play the card game Rook, with two of the games master, Bob Winsted and Phil Schroeder. Every day at lunch the duo would allow mere mortals to test their memory and expertise. I think I won a few hands, but was never able to shoot the moon. These two are good clergy friends that did teach me that not everything about seminary is found in the classroom or the chapel.

We enjoy playing cards in our family. I don’t suppose Mr. Wesley would be too pleased, but we will leave that to another day. No matter the game you play, the hand you are dealt sets the stage for the results of the game.  Even the best card-counting professional bridge-hearts-hold’em player must consider what is given to them.

There is where we begin with this passage and a conversation about our promise to live a life of service as followers of Christ and members of this our United Methodist Church.

We live in a world where some folks have more than others: More money, talents, opportunities, and timing. Jesus reminds us that ‘there will always be people who are poorer.’ [paraphrased] So what are we to do?

  • Some would say: Leave it alone, allowing the haves to have and the not’s to…snot? That would be a mis-use of Jesus’ pronouncement.
  • Some would point to Jesus’ passion for serving the poor at all costs. Just get use to it.

Before jumping into a spiritual or political debate about poverty and wealth.. Let’s look back at this Old Testament pronouncement from God about what we have and what we do not have.

The heart of the passage is in verse 17-18:

[Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.]

It is rather straightforward, but we insist on twisting the thing up: If you have anything, it comes from God. If you have nothing, that too comes from God. At stake is the relationship between the two.

What would be like have a meeting in the fellowship hall and having the persons living in poverty in our county making a list in the paper and tell us how to make their lives right. Or the reverse, which will change lives?

Start with the foundation: All that any of us has, is ultimately from God’s good pleasure.

  • Start with the principle: Fairness is not the goal. Faithfulness is the goal.
  • Start with the certainty: We will always be called to serve those persons in need.
  • Start with the assurance: This is not someone else’s responsibility. It belongs to us all.

These are the corner stones for our ministry.

  • This is why we support the CERF house, because we have food, clothes, funds to give hurting folks help and hope.
  • This is why we send missionaries, because they don’t have neighbors who can help them with the supplies and support we can share.
  • This is why we take care of our families…right?

If we believe we are to take care of our family first: We must answer Jesus’ question to his mother, brother and disciples, “Who is my family? Who is my brother? Who is my mother?” ANSWER: Those whom I can reach who are in need, are my family.  (It’s both/and)

This month, we have been talking about the prospect of putting God first in our daily lives: [ On November 13th we will celebrate our stewardship, by putting our living on the line for God.] Part of putting God first, is not only with our money, but with our minds, and our attitudes.

SERVICE

At times, we focus on the questions that do not help us.

Q: Hav’nt I done enough?  A: Yes or No, is never the correct answer..

Rather:

Q: Am I doing what God needs me to do?  A: Rich or poor a-like, the answer is yes or no, but is not based on what I do or do not have.

  • Someone else could do what I don’t want to do. Vs. What if no one else is willing to step up, the need is real.
  • I don’t like getting my hands dirty. Vs. How will the dirty work get done if I don’t help?
  • I have been hurt, I deserve a break, or better yet, restitution with interest. VS.  Will I let pain continue to hurt me or anyone and do no-one good.
  • I’ve worked hard, now it is someone else turn to work. Vs. How can share my experience to train others.

 SO WHAT? Don’t forget what God has given, and seen us through. From that foundation, let us put first steps toward the life we share in Jesus Christ.

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Matthew 22.1-10. Another Invitation. jUMC. 20111008

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. ~NRSV

The wedding host would have not only provided a banquet, they would have even furnished the tux and gowns for their guests to wear. Therefore, those without the right garments were wedding crashers. Those who turned up their nose to the host.

 

 

 

 

 

HEAR THE Report of the servants sent to invite others. Come back with them or their excuse. {at the beginning of the service we will have volunteers go invite those who are absent or not attending anywhere to come to church}

To this day, the city and area of Cannan is a popular wedding location. There are dress shops and bakers and florist and decorators fill the shops through town. There are even a variety of appliance and home improvement stores in Cannan. Having a new or remodeled home was an important part of wedding celebrations.

Jesus tells a parable describing the relationship of God and us: it is like those who, though invited to the party found any number off reasons to not participate in the party. One of the primary vows we make to each other as a church is our commitment to participate in the life of the church.

 

 

 

 

This congregation becomes where we build our relationships, strengthen our families, and where we bring others into the family. To not PARTICIPATE in the family life is to affirm there is something more important than our faith family’s joys, struggles and life.

As we peel away the lays of the onion we call stewardship… Part of our faith-life is placing this community as a priority for/with our family.

When someone becomes hurt or disenchanted with our church we need to know about it so that we can collectively work out or differences. When someone looks at your life witness, your public actions, you are representing us all.

The RADICAL part of our Christian HOSPITALITY is that we welcome each other, even though we know the good and bad about each other. Part 1 of our Stewardship Journey is PRIORITY, Part 2 stops to look at PARTICIPATION. Be here, not there…

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Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 “The Big Ten” Who’s on First JUMC 20111003

1 Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance,  and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.”  -NRVS

God gives the Law so that we will know when we have sinner. This begs, “what is sin?”.

Sin is moving out of relationship with God. God’s trust and hope is that we will “Put God First.”

 In the positive, If you put God first…

  1. our stuff would not define us and drive us like it does.
  2. we would not put God’s name on our success nor our failures
  3. we would learn to rest in God and return to work restored
  4. we would honor our family commitments and relationships
  5. we would not murder.. anger and rage
  6. we would honor our marriage or our singleness
  7. we would be not take what is not ours
  8. we would tell the true
  9. we would be content with what we have.

HOMEWORK: Inventory your stuff. Go around with a camera, video or a notepad. Make a record of all your things, accounts, debts, investments, and sentimental stuff.. What am I worth?  Does God love me because of the things I have or does not love me because of what I do not have?

God trusts that you are worth dying for. Jesus Christ dies for our sins. This is not just about fulfilling OT prophetic words, so things match up as a proof. It is the very heart of God, being shown to us.

God gives us the laws, because God wants us to not sin.

CONTRARY TO POPULAR THOUGHT: Sin is not doing some thing wrong. Sin is doing something that separates our relationship with God.

God wants us to live IN RELATIONSHIP with God.

The Big Ten become the core markers that give us a clue if we IN and moving closer, or OUT and moving away.

Kids on the playground hid a folded piece of paper or a pocket toy that is designed as ‘it.’ The other kid walks around the yard receiving signals, “You’re getting hotter.” or “You’re getting colder.” until the one searching finds the treasure.

God wants us to find God’s heart. God wants us to move closer, getting warmer and hotter each day.

  •  When we move away, we call this sin.
  • When we move a tiny, insignificant step away.. we are still moving away.
  • Lost in Sin is a point in which we no longer ask, nor care, where God is, and in fact we trust that God does not actually matter in our daily choices and actions.

What is the way to the Heart of God? How do we put God first? 

  1. we would be content with what we have.
  2. tell the true, to others and especially to ourselves.
  3. claim what is ours and not the things or ideas of others. (Think for yourself in thinking about God.)
  4. honor our marriage or our singleness
  5. act like your life and the life of others is a precious gift, don’t keep the body, mind or spirit.
  6. honor our family commitments and relationships, that build up our relationship with God.
  7. rest in God and return to work restored
  8. Praise God, but don’t blame God for our success or our failures
  9. Trust God more than your stuff.

Here is where the rubber meets the road: Can we put God first?

That’s what we are going to look at, chew on, and work through this whole month.

Can I put God first?

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